Dec 292016
 

The Light Shines in the Darkness

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)

The Evangelist John opens his gospel by pointing us back to the beginning (of Genesis) where in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth by speaking: “And God said”. The Evangelist reveals that God’s Word is a person – the Son – eternally begotten of God the Father. (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God in three distinct persons, who created heaven and earth.)

In his Prologue, the Evangelist lays two foundations for his gospel: (1) to clearly establish Christ’s divinity as God’s Word made flesh; and (2) to focus the reader on the power of the Word. This power was exercised by Christ throughout His earthly ministry when, for example, he raised Lazarus from the dead by the simple command: “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). But the power of the Word is also active in the written Word, as the Evangelist tells us near the end of his gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

That the Church has endured and grown to the size it is today, having led billions of souls to Christ over the course of her history, is a miracle and testimony to the power of the Word. For Christ and His witnesses do not preach to a willing or even a neutral world. Our world is shrouded in darkness. It is spiritual darkness that resides naturally and universally in the human heart, separated from God and captive to the powers of sin, death and the devil.

Christ enters into the world as Light (i.e., the Word) which shines (i.e., speaks or preaches) in the darkness. Using the analogy of natural light, it is as if someone flipped on a light in a dark room, but the room stays dark. Or, it is like a blind man sitting in a dark room: someone flips on a light, but the blind man remains in darkness despite the fact that the light is shining brightly on him.

The Evangelist tells us concerning the Light that the “darkness has not overcome it.” Other translations have “darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5 NASB). Both translations convey the opposition that the Word faces from the world. On the one hand, the darkened heart does not comprehend the Word. We do not comprehend because in our natural blindness we love “the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:43) On the other hand, the world, which would like to silence the Word, cannot overcome or extinguish Him because He is divine. Jesus said: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18)

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)

It appears that God is in something of a pickle. How can He illumine darkened hearts with life, which neither comprehend Him nor wish to hear from Him? Claims of a Trinity, Incarnation, a crucified Messiah, and an empty tomb all register as fantasies and foolish fables to hearts darkened by sin and corrupted human reason. Reason cannot comprehend or accept any of it. Therefore, the Gospel cannot save us by a decision or assent according to reason, but only by faith which is above reason. For in no other way can the light of the Word illumine a darkened human heart.

The Evangelist tells us that the difference between those of Christ’s own people who did receive Him and those who did not receive Him was a matter of faith in His name (Jesus means “Yahweh saves”). Neither group received Him according to reason. If reason was a factor, the highly educated among the Scribes and Pharisees would have flocked to Christ. No, it is faith alone that gives birth to a child of God.

Let Christ instruct us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) Faith in the Gospel destroys the darkness of human reason and illumines the heart with God’s grace, forgiveness, peace and mercy. Faith converts an enemy to a child of God. Faith enables us to receive the mysteries of the Trinity, Incarnation, Christ’s atonement for our sins and His resurrection. Faith comes from hearing the Word (Rom 10:17). Therefore, let us continue to hear, digest and retain the powerful Word, by which He illumines our hearts with grace upon grace. Amen.

Glory to God on high!

 And on earth peace, good will toward men.

 We praise You, we bless You, we worship You!

 We glorify You, we give thanks to You for Your great glory!

 O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty!

 O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ!

 O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father!

 You take away the sins of the world! Have mercy on us!

 You take away the sins of the world! Receive our prayer!

 You sit at the right hand of God the Father! Have mercy on us!

 For You only are holy! You only are the Lord!

 You only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,

 Are most high in the glory of God the Father! Amen.

  43 Responses to “Jeans’ Gospel: The Light Shines In the Darkness”

  1. Reasonable Christianity is what we find prevalent in America today:

    Osteen is the epitome. Hence his new title: “Think Better, Live Better: A Victorious Life Begins in Your Mind” If Christianity could deliver that, wouldn’t becoming a disciple of Christ be very reasonable even wise?

    But, Osteen’s success (and others) have spawned more subtle forms of Reasonable Christianity:

    Diets
    Purposes
    Super natural gifts
    Freedom from addiction
    Prosperous and safe nation
    Good kids
    Great marriages
    Political constituencies
    Etc.

    Some call reasonable Christianity the “prosperity gospel”, others “theology of glory”. But what they all have in common is doing the reasonable thing. Many in America have fashioned Christianity into a good deal; a religion with rewards commensurate with sacrifice.

    But, would people in America become Christians if the only thing God promises us in this life is His forgiveness of our sins, His joy and peace, and His suffering and cross? If this is in fact what Christ promises, then what is the impact on His Church of the way reasonable Christianity is being marketed in America?

  2. Jean – very good article. Many folks do not understand the darkness or the darkness. All of us were in the darkness, because at the fall we no longer had the ‘image of God’ – we had no light. Jesus came to be that light and to restore that ‘image of God.’

  3. One other thing to highlight the magnitude of Jesus’ coming. You quote John 1:11-13 – here we see the end to the Abrahamic Covenant. Boom – done!

  4. Thanks MLD. The gospels and epistles do present a very bleak picture of the human race.

    One thing Romans 1 brings out quite well, is that the darkness of the human heart is so fallen that we actually (in our natural state) call good evil and evil good. So our wisdom is foolishness. This makes it quite impossible for us unaided by His grace to honor God or order His creation

  5. Many say we have not lost the image of God, but that it has only been damaged. They hold out for some individual goodness that can be appealed to to repent and choose Jesus.

  6. MLD,

    Notice the all caps clause:

    “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, but of God.”

  7. “Therefore, the Gospel cannot save us by a decision or assent according to [human] reason, but only by faith which is above [human] reason. For in no other way can the light of the Word illumine a darkened human heart.”

    insert “human” and i can pretty much agree, but i do not find/have not found the walk as a Believer (insert born-again, perhaps) UNreasonable at all… unfathomable and beyond comprehension in some areas, but this walk is not at all UNreasonable… we are not – and i’m pretty sure that is not what is meant – we are not puppets

    ahhh, the reasoning of the Lutheran mind… but i find Jean’s questions at comment #1 well worth pondering… 🙂

  8. There is only one kind of reason … just plain old reason.
    Isaiah 1 = “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: ”

    There is no ‘human’ reason and then separately a ‘god’ reason.

  9. There is faith and reason, which correspond to Spirit and flesh.

  10. I feel sorry for churches that do not use the lectionary and / or the Church Calendar. No telling where most will be this coming Sunday.

    Sunday is the 8th day after Christmas and it is the day of the circumcision and the naming of our Lord (Luke 2:21) – followed on the 6th with Epiphany and the coming of the Magi followed by Sunday the 8th with the Baptism of Jesus — all proclaiming that the Light has come into the world.

    Here is a good article on the circumcision of Jesus and shedding his blood.

    http://www.1517legacy.com/brorerickson/2016/12/a-bridegroom-of-blood/

  11. Bror’s article is beautiful. MLD, thank you for sharing.

  12. Many say we have not lost the image of God, but that it has only been damaged. <<<

    This is correct.

  13. Amen! Good teaching Jean. Thank you. Love your prayer

  14. Which is why the EO denies Original Sin – that it was not passed down and you can fix the problem..

    Xenia, what do you do with this passage from Genesis 5? “This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”

    It would seem that after the fall there no longer is an image of God – but now only man’s own image.

  15. Dusty,
    Thank you. I wish I could take credit for the prayer at the end, but it is an ancient hymn. One we sing at my church virtually every week.

  16. Jean…great article. MLD, great analysis. Please pray for my family as grace and forgiveness is sorted out this holiday season.

  17. I agree with Xenia. Or better, she and I agree with James (and theologians from all sorts of denominations).

    But Marty always did have a problem with the book of James, right?

  18. MLD, I do not think you have a good grasp on the EO doctrine of sin.

    We differentiate between “image” and “likeness.”

  19. Without necessarily disagreeing with Jean’s commentary about light and darkness in terms of the opposition from the world to the Gospel, or the sinful human heart in its depravity, all of which I affirm, may I just point out that the verb in the text, translated “has not overcome it” from verse five of John One is in fact an aorist tense, and highly doubtful to be the rare use of a gnomic aorist.

    Jean’s commentary is all about an ongoing, present tense, battle. (Note: The Evangelist tells us concerning the Light that the “darkness has not overcome it…..the opposition that the Word FACES from the world. On the one hand, the darkened heart DOES not comprehend the Word. We DO not comprehend…On the other hand, the world, which would like to silence the Word, CANNOT overcome or extinguish Him because He is divine.)

    May I humbly suggest that this is more eisegesis than exegesis, and rather that verse five should better be understood as speaking to a point in the past when the darkness did not overcome the light.

    May I suggest, it is a reference to the resurrection, when the “the hour of darkness” at Christ’s betrayal, trial, scourging and crucifixion was conquered by the Light.

  20. Steve, once again you amaze me – the denial of original sin? Come now – crack open a book.
    Denying that we have lost the image of God renders the cross useless. Is that just God bridging the gap between what we can accomplish with a damaged image – that gap where we fall short? You are correct, others do believe this – mainly Mormons.

    James is speaking to believers who have had the image restores. So what do you make of Genesis 5?

  21. My seminary anthropology class had as its textbook a work from the late Dr. Anthony Hoekema – who was in fact a professor at Calvin Theological Seminary for 20 years and a Dutch Reformed pastor for more than a decade prior.

    This staunch Cavinist (and his book) agrees with Xenia and me.

    You see MLD, sometimes you can’t just dismiss stuff as “well that is what the EO says” and of course nobody in CC circles has a grasp on theology…..

    Sometimes you Lutherans need to look in the mirror… 🙂

  22. Nowhere have I stated (or ever taught) a denial of original sin, man’s fallen depravity, or any such thing.

    This is why I need to stay out of the Lutheran theology class on this blog…..

    Lesson learned (again)

  23. Steve, you said you agreed with Xenia – the reason that the EO does not believe in original sin – in the way protestants do is because they believe that the image of God has been marred and the original sin although affecting the world stayed with Adam & Eve.

    But you didn’t cough up anything about Gen 5.

  24. Which is why the EO denies Original Sin – that it was not passed down and you can fix the problem<<<

    See, this is an ignorant statement. Forgive me for saying so, but it is. We absolutely do not believe "we can fix the problem."

    Some versions of the original sin doctrine (maybe not yours) says that we inherit not only death and an inclination towards sin but we also inherit Adam's guilt. The Orthodox believe we inherit the results of Adam's sin but not his guilt: we are guilty of our own sins, not his. Nevertheless, we will sin and we will die, as we are his children.

    All people are created in the image of God. That is one of the main reasons we are to show respect to all humans as they bear His Image, even if it is marred beyond recognition. When we are baptized (and this is where Steve will disagree) the image is restored.

    "Likeness" has to do with Theosis (Union w/ God).

  25. And I am also not inclined to follow MLD down this rabbit hole.

    Anyone interested in this topic, Google is your friend. Search “Theosis” or “Ancestral Sin.”

  26. the Genesis 5 passages says both likeness and image together – so what are you going to do with that?

    Xenia – remember, I did not say anything about the EO and their position until you jumped into my statement. I was trying to stay neutral in my comments to Jean.

    So… the rabbit hole is yours.

  27. Xenia and MLD,

    I don’t think it would be fruitful to debate original sin or the image of God, because it would be an undertaking just to agree on a common set of definitions. The real issue in John 1 is whether Jesus encounters a world (whether in 30 AD or 2016) which neither understands Him nor desires Him for the reasons Paul lays out quite nicely in the first 2-1/2 chapters of Romans. John calls it darkness. I think he does because notice what John rules out in verse 13:

    “he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

    John rules out ancestry, works and free will. Thus, whatever you might call it (and John calls it “darkness”) it is opposed to Christ.

  28. “you shock me with the most vile theology, which astonishes, vexes and saddens me beyond belief.”

    Wow, what could of been a beautiful thread turns into a theological food fight. Smh.

  29. Jean, re #28
    Except that what I brought up originally about the lost image of God defines the darkness of the darkness that needs (still present tense) to be overcome by the light. Some seem to hold that the darkness is really more light twilight.

  30. Linnea, praying for your family

  31. Scooter Jones,

    I apologize to you, Steve Wright, and anyone else who was offended by my comment #27.

    Michael, if you have the capability, please delete my #27.

    I will leave it to the reader to decide for whom John is speaking in the Prologue.

  32. Jean, it’s all good. This is a give and take discussion. This is how we learn from each other.

    MLD can be hard sometimes but it comes from a good place.

  33. Thanks Dusty. I’m very happy whenever you pop in. And you’re welcome any time. 🙂

  34. That goes for you to steve , it’s all good . We learn fr each other with the back and forth…sometimes it is one word that you may be thinking of definition 1 and the other person is thinking of definition 3 and the two of you see it from a different angle. You know tthe three blind men descibing an elephant but from three different angles.

  35. Why thank you Jean! 🙂 I’m happy to be welcome here

  36. MLD, “light twilight” what do you think of that? Isn’t darkness just that….darkness?

  37. You all are bringing a lot to the table. MLD, steve,xenia and Jean. Thank you

  38. You are such a great encourager, Dusty! God bless you. 🙂

  39. i am reading here tonight and wondering how light and darkness need to be debated… all the ramifications and applications are wonderful… light illumines both good and evil and leaves us without excuse, if we close our eyes and refuse what we don’t like to see

    agreeing with Xenia, dusty IS a great encourager here… and wise 🙂

  40. dusty @30….thank you. It’s been a rough week.

  41. Father, bless MLD, Jean, Xenia, John 20:29, and Linnea today. Lighten their load and give them peace. Continue to be with them in wisdom and knowledge. Bless them today i pray.

  42. Lord add steve to my list. Bless him today as well.

  43. Xenia wrote @ #24:
    “The Orthodox believe we inherit the results of Adam’s sin but not his guilt: we are guilty of our own sins, not his. Nevertheless, we will sin and we will die, as we are his children.

    Even though I’m not EO, I believe this too, in direct opposition to Augustinian theology.
    Don’t get me wrong, Augustine wrote other things that I do agree with, but at day’s end, not this (original sin).
    Theologians and holy men have written vast tracts of stuff and I’ll give it a listen, but ultimately, I’ll do my own homework, use critical thought, and keep my own counsel on what I sign onto or don’t sign onto.
    I trust in Messiah’s very person and nothing more.

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