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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45 am service, 2007-03-04

Text: John 1:1-18

The title of this morning's message is 'Basking in the light of the Son.' You may have noticed that there is a pun here on the word 'Son.' Some people love to go basking in the sunlight at a beach either to warm their bodies or to give their skin a brown tan. This is especially so in colder climates where there are much fewer days of sunshine than we have here. I think we in Singapore are usually more interested in cooling ourselves off with air-conditioning than with soaking up the blazing rays of the sun. But though we may not care too much for sunbathing, that does not diminish the great importance of sunlight to us.

Life would be impossible without the light of the sun! Even though it comes from a source which is 150 million km away, it virtually provides all the energy to sustain life in the world. Its power is marvelously harnessed through the ingenious machinery of photosynthesis to produce sugar molecules and hydrocarbon chains out of air and water. All our food and fossil fuels were generated through this in sufficiently large amounts to keep us and all our machines going. 

It should amaze us what awesome energy and power God has invested in sunlight. The power of sunlight is the power that drives the water cycle, without which we would have no fresh water. Think of the devastating winds of a typhoon or hurricane - they are also powered by the rays of the sun. If some disaster were to suddenly stop the earth from receiving any sunlight at all, life would soon cease and all things on earth would freeze and come to a dead standstill! All these facts about sunlight helps us now to appreciate better the importance of another kind of light - an eternal, supernatural light that is of far greater importance to life: The light of God's only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This happens to be one the great themes of the Gospel of John. Beginning today we will embark on an expository study of this book. It was written by the youngest of the 12 disciples of Jesus, who also became the one who was closest to the Lord ('the disciple whom Jesus loved'). And John, the son of Zebedee, as he was called, outlived all the rest of the apostles and lived to a ripe old age. Five books of the Bible were written by him, including the fourth Gospel.

John's Gospel was the last of the four gospels to be written (between 80 - 100 AD) and it is quite distinct from the other three. While the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were designed to provide readers with a detailed historical account about the life and works of Jesus Christ, John's Gospel was designed to establish more fully the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. It was written with one main purpose, which is stated at the end of the book: 'are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.' (John 20:31). Knowing this helps us now to understand what we should hope to gain through this entire series of sermons from the Gospel of John. Firstly, it can convince sinners to believe in Christ for salvation. It will benefit those who desire to know how they can be rescued from eternal death through trusting in Jesus Christ. Thus John's Gospel is always recommended to seekers and new Christians for their personal study. 

Now, those of us who are already saved can also benefit much from this study of John's Gospel - to remind us about the grounds for our belief. It does not do us any good to have a blind belief in Christ. We ought to be constantly reminded how firm and unshakeable the grounds for our belief really are. And more importantly, we need to know the One we believe in very well. It is only by knowing Jesus Christ well through His Word that we can be fully 'persuaded that He is able to keep that which we have committed unto Him against that Day' (2 Timothy 1:12)! It is only by knowing Him whom the apostle John wrote about in the most exalted tones that we can live by faith in Him daily and have a closer walk with Him! 

And perhaps there may be others here who have already known the Lord Jesus for years and have also enjoyed many precious intimate moments with Him. But somehow it is not the same right now. Christ does not seem to be as real and as close to you as He was before. If this is true of you, the revival that your soul needs may come from a fresh study of your Lord and Saviour in the Gospel of John. This is one book that helps Christians to 'turn their eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face.' With these goals in mind, we shall now embark on our study of John's Gospel.

Let us begin by turning to John chapter 1 and read from the first verse to verse 18. Here in this passage we can discover three great reasons why we should believe in Jesus Christ: Firstly because He is our true Light. Secondly, because He gives us divine Life. And thirdly, because He fully Reveals God to us. Let us consider the first reason:

I. Jesus is Our True Light (vv.1-9)

The key to understanding this first section of our passage is found in the word 'true' of v.9. This word bears the idea of what is real and original, like a prototype which becomes the model or standard for all the rest that come after it to follow. This means that there can be only one original, true Light. Whatever other lights there may be are not the true Light. At best they are just mere copies, mere images or reflections of the true Light. And none of these other lights can ever take the place of the true Light, who is Jesus Christ.

This was the case with John the Baptist, who is mentioned in in vv.6-8. John the Baptist was truly a great prophet in his time, bringing hundreds of people to repentance by his fearless preaching and daring even to confront wicked kings and princes about their sins. John was most definitely a servant or messenger of the Lord, and therefore many would look to him as their light. About 20 years after his death, Paul the apostle found some of his followers living in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19). In fact there is a small sect today (about 50,000 strong) known as the Mandaeans living in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, who follow the teachings of John the Baptist to this day! Although John the Baptist was obviously a light from God, he was not the true Light. He was one of the many lights and witnesses that God had given to man. How do we know this? By looking at the different ways in which he and Christ are introduced here.

John the Baptist is introduced with the words of v.6 'There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.' Please compare this now with the words of the first verse: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' Can you spot the differences? Firstly, we see that John's existence had a beginning: he appeared at a particular time in history. Christ, on the other hand had no beginning, for He was already in existence in the beginning. 

Secondly, we see that John was a man. Christ, on the other hand, is God Himself. Thirdly, John was sent from God - that implies his subordination to God. Christ, on the other hand, was with God - that implies His equality with God. Fourthly, according to v.7, John 'came for a witness, to bear witness to the Light.' His role depended entirely on the One whom he bears witness to. The role of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, depends on nothing at all, because v.3 says, 'without him was not any thing made that was made.' All things find their origin and purpose in Him, and depend upon Him for their existence.

Dearly beloved, with such clear contrasts between Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, we can now understand better why Christ is called the true Light. He far exceeds every other light through which God has given eternal truths to man. In the course of human history many great luminaries have emerged. Each race, country, and culture has produced its own exceptional people - their prophets, sages and wise men - people who have provided them with some wisdom and glimpses of eternal truth. They are certainly worthy of some attention. But none of them are worthy enough of the trust and honour that should be given to the only original true Light for all mankind.

Besides this, according to Matthew 5:14, we Christians are called the light of the world. Like John the Baptist we too are sent from God to bear witness to the world, and so we must let our light shine before men. But even if we were to do this extremely well, none of us will ever have the unique distinction that belongs to the one and only true Light for all mankind. That distinction belongs only to our Lord Jesus. As the true Light, Jesus is the only One who is worthy of the fullest trust of every man. This is the point of the statement in v.9 'That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.' Jesus Himself said, 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.' (John 8:12)

What should this mean to us? It means that if you have not trusted in Jesus yet for your salvation, you ought to do so right now, because He is your true Light. Please stop entertaining the common but utterly false notion that there are many different ways to God or that all religions can lead to the same God. This is not true. The only way to God and to eternal life is through believing in Jesus Christ. And that belief must be totally exclusive, because believing that Christ is the true Light means you can no longer regard any other faith or religion to be your true Light. And believing that Christ is your true Light will also lead you to discover that He is the only One who can give you divine Life. This leads us now to the second reason for believing in Christ:

II. Jesus Gives Us Divine Life (vv.10-13)

That is the main thrust of verses 10-13 of our text. Firstly we see our dire need for divine life. It is found in the cold response given to Jesus by the world and the Jews when He came. It says that Jesus was in the world which He had made, and yet the world at large did not know Him. And Jesus came to His own people, but they did not receive Him. In fact they despised, abused and crucified Him. 

What do these responses show about the world and Israel? They bring out the darkness of sin. Verse 5 tells us that 'the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.' Why were they unable to comprehend and receive the Lord Jesus Christ? It is because sin had made them dead and totally unresponsive to God their Maker! This is the awful effect that sin has on all mankind even to this day. Every unsaved person is dead to God and to the things of God. They make no sense to him. And the worst thing is that he does not know that he is dead. He thinks that he is very much alive. But he actually needs life most urgently, and that life can only come from believing in Jesus Christ. 

John 1:12 says, 'But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.' Now, please observe that the verse does not stop there. It continues in v.13 by saying, 'Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' This part is extremenly important because without it, there would be no answer to the question: If the world did not know Him and even Christ's own people did not receive Him because of sin, how then can anyone at all receive Him and believe on His name? All are in the same uncomprehending darkness. If your darkness keeps you from comprehending the Light, how can you ever receive that Light? 

Verse 13 gives us the answer - you must be born again, and this new birth will give you a new nature - one that is no longer dead but alive to God, one that is able to comprehend, receive and believe in Christ! And this new birth is something that only God can do to you. No one has the power nor even the desire to work his own new birth because all are dead in sin. It is only by the sovereign grace of God that a sinner has the ability to receive Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. 

We will be dealing a lot more with this truth of the new birth when we come to the third chapter of John's Gospel. But for now it is important for us to consider how we may apply this truth. It is applied by examining ourselves to see if we have truly been born of God. How can you tell if you are born of God? There is no birth certificate that you can refer to, to determine this. However verse 12 provides 3 helpful clues: Firstly, have you received Christ? Was there a time in your life when you had personally asked Jesus to save you from sin and give you eternal life? Secondly, have you become a child of God? A child naturally bears some resemblance to his parents. Has your character and conduct changed over time to bear more and more resemblance to the image of God? 

Is there also an inward conviction from the Holy Spirit assuring you that you are God's child, and prompting you to call Him your heavenly Father? Thirdly, do you believe on the name of Jesus? The word 'believe' used here in v.12 is found in a form that implies continued action in the original Greek NT. This implies a faith and dependence on Christ that endures. Have you persevered in trusting in Christ? 

Dearly beloved, if you examine yourself with questions like these and you are able to answer them affirmatively and with all honesty, then you have good reasons to rejoice in your salvation. No one should assume that they are saved on any grounds other than these. No one gets saved by joining a church or by attending its services regularly. No one gets saved by being born into a Christian family. As Jesus Himself said to Nicodemus, 'Ye must be born again.' (John 3:7) 

And if you are now convinced that you have been mistaken about your salvation, and you need to be born again, please do not wait to settle this matter with the Lord. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ right now. And how can you believe? Through hearing the Word of God as it is preached to you. Romans 10:17 says, 'faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' You have already heard two reasons why you should believe in Christ: Firstly He is your true Light. Secondly, He gives you divine life. As we come to the last 5 verses of our text we will find one more compelling reason that must convince us to believe in Him:

III. Jesus Reveals God to Us Fully (vv.14-18)

Verse 14 begins with the words, 'And the Word was made flesh.' (See 1 Timothy 3:16 'God was manifest in the flesh') These are the most important words to our ears in this whole passage, and perhaps even in the whole of Scripture! Why? Because they express so well the mystery of the incarnation: That in Jesus Christ, the all-present, all-mighty and all-knowing God was manifested in our own frail human flesh. 

Here is the greatest mystery of all time: How can God become a frail and mortal creature? This frailty becomes even more pronounced when we consider that He did not become flesh immediately as a full-grown man, but as a newborn baby. There is really no stage of growth where a man's frailty is more evident than at the time of his birth. When a newborn baby has just emerged from its mother's womb, it needs all the tender loving care that it can get in order to survive. And the question to ask is: How can it be possible for the all-powerful God to be reduced to this?

The difference between deity and humanity is so infinitely vast that many who have tried to understand the incarnation through their own human reasoning have failed to grasp this truth. This is why false doctrines concerning either the deity of Christ or the humanity of Christ have ravaged the church from time to time. In the 2nd century there were the Gnostics who believed that it was not really God who became flesh in Jesus, but only one of His lesser emanations. At the same time there was another group, called the Docetists, which believed in the full deity of Christ, but completely denied His humanity. In the 4th century there were the Arians who denied the deity of Jesus, and today there are many cults (e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons) that do the same. The reason for the emergence of all these heresies is always the same: It is the inability to accept with simple child-like faith what the Bible plainly teaches about the incarnation: 'The Word was made flesh.'

To us who believe in the incarnation, this is not merely a doctrine to be defended, but a precious truth to be fully appreciated and applied in our life. For it is through the incarnation that we have now received the fullest revelation of God. God did not lose any of His divine attributes when He was made flesh. He entered into a new dimension of existence through the gateway of human birth, but He fully retained His divine nature, while taking on an additional human nature. Hence Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. That makes Him God's ultimate and final revelation of Himself to us, which is clearer and sharper than any other mode of revelation - whether by the Old Testament Law that Moses gave to Israel (v.17), or by the prophets, or by visions and dreams. 

If we can liken revelation to viewing a picture, then all the earlier modes of divine revelation would be like looking at an old 3 inch x 5 inch low-resolution photograph, which does not show much detail. That is what we had to be contented with back in the early days of monochrome photography. The ultimate revelation of God when He was made flesh would then be like watching a high definition moving image on a 60 inch screen where even the tiniest details can be seen most clearly. This is definitely much better than the all earlier low-resolution photographs we used to look at. And we thank God that this is the kind of revelation of Him that we now have in Christ: God manifested in the flesh!

One result of God being manifested in the flesh is that His disciples who walked with Him, talked, ate and lived with him for about three and a half years could testify in v.14 that they had 'beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father' and that they had all received of His fullness and grace for grace (v.16). According to v.15 even John the Baptist was able to recognise the eternal God revealed in Christ, since he testified, 'He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me.' The last part of this may not have made much sense to the people who heard him at that time, since it was generally known that John the Baptist was at least 6 months older than Jesus. By saying that Jesus existed before Him, John was showing Christ's pre-incarnate existence as the eternal God.

In addition to all this Jesus Himself said plainly, 'he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father' (John 14:9). And verse 18 of our text states the same truth so well: 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.' Jesus came to declare God, to tell out God. That is why John designated Him in our text as the Word (V.1 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'). This designation comes from the word 'logos' which the Greeks used to express the ideas of reason and creative control, the principle which controls the universe and animates the world. When used in the Bible however, the keynote idea of logos is divine revelation. And here it is used to designate God the Son as the ultimate and final revelation of God to all mankind. Just as we use words to express our thoughts to others, so the Son expresses God to us. Just as our words reveal our heart and mind to others; so the Son expresses, manifests and shows God to us.

Now, what should all this mean to you? It means that through the Son of God you can now know God and walk closely with Him. Earlier on we saw that Jesus is the only true Light who shines the knowledge of God right within our hearts. We have also seen that He gives us divine Life from the moment we are born again, and thus we are now spiritually alive and able to comprehend the things of God. Dearly beloved, if you are truly born of God what priority do you give to knowing Him? Do you spend sufficient time to bask in the light of the Son? Or are you allowing the cares of this world to rob you of the blessings of having a close walk with Him? If the Lord has spoken to your heart and convicted you through His Word, please do something about it.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25