There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. — John 1:6-13.
John is a human witness sent from God. He came to give his witness or testimony concerning the Light. The world cannot see and John was appointed by God to be a witness to the Light. John was not the light, but came as a witness so that all could believe in Jesus through John’s testimony (vv.6-8). He was sent for this purpose because the people, having lived in darkness for too long, had become blind!
This problem has not changed even today. People are still blind and lost in the darkness. They cannot see the light and they need people to point them to the light.
The True Light (v.9)
There are many things that are portrayed to the world as light, that is, the thing that will bring enlightenment, deliverance, freedom, or release.
Jesus is the true or genuine light. He is the true light that enlightens every person. Everyone has opportunity to be enlightened by the light. The light did not shine on just a few. The light shone on the whole world. The light is not limited.
He is the true light to restore Israel and act as a beacon to the nations so that the salvation of the Lord may reach the ends of the earth. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation of “the coming One.” He is the One who was coming into the world.
Rejection of the Light (vv.10-11)
Jesus was the light and He was living in the world. He was living in the world that He created among the people He made. Remember that there was not anything made that was made (v.3). He was in the world He created but the world did not know Him. What irony! What sorrow! How could this be?
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (v.10), reveals the tragedy of the human situation. He came to His own creation. They should have known Him! He came to His own people, but they did not receive Him. He came to the very people who God adopted as His own possession, the Jewish people, but they did not recognize Him, know Him, or receive Him. This was the message of the apostles throughout their ministry, as seen in the very first recorded sermon (Acts 2:22-23). Israel rejected its Messiah. Israel rejected the light. Israel rejected its Maker. He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.
Receiving the Light (vv.12-13)
In the midst of this sorrowful, condemning statement which leads us to think that all hope is lost, a glimmer of hope is offered. Not everyone rejected the light. Some received Him!
“But as many as received Him” (v.12). — The world’s hatred of God and rejection of Christ cannot overrule or thwart God’s plan. Some will receive him. God knew that after sending his Son to redeem us from sin that some would receive Him.
John explains what it means to receive him: “those who believe in His name.” Believing in his name is what it means to receive him. Believing does not mean some sort of intellectual acknowledgement of His claims. Receiving Jesus means that He is the ground of our salvation. Jesus is the foundation of our hope. It is His righteousness, His perfection, and His love that is credited toward us before the Father.
Consider the contrasting statements in this paragraph. His own did not receive him. What did they do? They did not accept Him as the means of access to the Father. They did not believe that in and through Him was light and life. They did not surrender their lives to follow Him. Those who did receive Him, accepted Him as the means of access to the Father. They do believe that in and through Jesus is light and life. They did surrender their lives to follow Jesus because they accepted Him as the Savior and put their hope and trust in Him.
Receiving Jesus results in an amazing event. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” This is fascinating! The end of the story is not tragic rejection, but the grace of acceptance. To those who believe, Jesus gave the right to become children of God. The word “right” can also be understood as “freedom” or “authority.” They were given the freedom or the authority to become God’s children. Divine authorization is given to them to become what no human effort could accomplish: becoming God’s children. Only God can do this. We have no right to be his children. We are in the darkness. We have been blinded by the god of this world. We are full of sin. We have no rights. We have no freedom for we are enslaved to sin. We have no authority for anything before God. We are like the prodigal son who recognizes that he has no right to be a child of the father any longer. To those who receive Him, Jesus gives the right and privilege to become God’s covenant people, a privilege lost by the Messiah’s own people. There is a change of status that occurs. That is why John says “the right to become” not “the right to be.” We are moving from darkness to light. The author of this gospel will describe this change as passing from death to life (John 5:24). We have been given the privilege to become the covenant people of God. Jesus has granted the authority to belong as his children.
We have no right or authority to be his children (v.13). John describes how we become children of God. Notice there are three negatives to make sure we fully understand what it means to be born of God.
We are born not of blood. — This right does not come by blood lineage. Being born a Jew does not give this right. Being a physical descendant of Abraham does not provide the authority to be a child of God. There is no hope or rights by tracing your lineage. The Jews thought that by tracing their lineage to Abraham that they were children of God (Luke 3:8). The apostle John announces that this is not the case.
We are born not of the will of the flesh. — Further, the works of the flesh do not give us the right to be a child of God. None of our external efforts can cause this to happen. The Jews believed that their various external works brought them into a relationship with God. They believed that the works of the flesh, like circumcision and the keeping of various ceremonial laws like eating clean and avoiding unclean foods, placed them in this covenant relationship. But there is no act that we can take that authorizes us to become children of God. We are lost in our sins. We are in the darkness. We are dead in our sins and trespasses. We are outside the covenant because we are violators of God’s will.
We are born not of the will of man. — It does not matter how much we want to be in a relationship with Jesus. Desire does not overcome our sins. We can be as good as we want to be, try as hard as we can want to be with God, but our condition before God does not change. The problem of sin remains the same.
We are born of God. — This is God’s doing. God has done through Jesus what no one could do. We needed help and that is why the Light was sent into the world. Only the blood of Jesus is able to move us from the status of dead in our sins to children of God.
Our heritage does not move us from death to life. Our desire does not move us from being dead in our sins to being children of God. No system of works can change our state before God.
The concept of being “born of God” is an important theme is John’s writings. The phrase “born of God” is found nine times in John’s epistle. In this gospel account, John will explore the idea of being born of God more thoroughly in chapter 3 when Jesus speaks with Nicodemus.
Being born of God is the way to transition from darkness to light, from death to life, from dead in sins to children of God. Receiving Jesus is the only way to become children of God. Jesus is the true light. By His will and His life it is possible for us to become children of God. But we must receive him, which means that we surrender our lives to follow him because He is the foundation of our faith, our hope, and our very lives.
Knowing what God has done for us through his Son leads us to no longer practice sin, love each other, and strive to live up to great privilege of being his children.