The true light, which enlightens 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 (John 1:9-13).
In this section of John’s Gospel, we see that the apostle is already defining and clarifying some terms that he is going to be using throughout his Gospel. And the apostle is not shy about his usage of terms, and he uses them in such a way that, though they can be interpreted different ways when standing on their own, they can only have one interpretation in their context.
The first term we encounter is translated in the English Standard Version as everyone. In v. 9, the apostle writes, “The true light, which enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” The literal rendering of the term is all men (panta anthropon), and we can already see that certain interpretations of its usage will not fit into its context. The everyone, the all men of this passage is the exact same construction that Paul uses in his first letter to Timothy, where he writes:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (panta anthropon), for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people (pantas anthropous) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:1-4).
And while we do not have time to exegete 1 Timothy 2 in this present discourse, it can be gathered that, just as in 1 Timothy, John’s use of the word must be understood in its context to be rightly understood.
What then is the apostle attempting to convey when he says, “The true light, which enlightens all men”? Was he saying that everyone who has ever lived from Adam to Christ’s Second Coming was enlightened by Christ? Was he even saying that everyone who was born after Christ received this sort of enlightenment? From the text in which this all men is spoken, I think it is clear that the apostle was not trying to convey this meaning at all.
Why? Well, in the very same breath that the apostle writes about the true light that enlightens all men, he writes, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” That’s interesting. The very light that enlightens all men, which we presume is enlightenment to the knowledge of the truth of God and of himself, comes into the world–the very world that he created–and the world did not know him. In other words, the world was not enlightened to the Christ, thus when they saw him they rejected him. Even more, the apostle writes, “He came to own, and his own people (i.e. the Jews) did not receive him.” So the text flows like this, “Jesus, the true light, who enlightens all men, came to a world who did not know him and to his people who did not receive him.”
Well then, who in the world is this all men about whom the apostle is speaking? In its context, it seems as though the apostle is using all men in the same way that the apostle Paul uses all men in 1 Timothy 2, namely that Christ enlightens all kinds of men. In 1 Timothy 2, we are given the expression all men, but then the apostle clarifies what he means by writing, “For kings and all who are in high positions” (v. 2:2). In other words, Jesus has not come into the world to save a singular type of men, but he has come to save all types of men—whether poor or rich, foolish or wise, Jew or Gentile, white or black—Jesus is the Savior of them all, and thus there is therefore now no distinction.
Now, the divide of which we have been speaking is made clearer in the following verses, “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.” Here, we see something absolutely glorious unfolding. We see that Jesus Christ has come to into the world as the true light, who is unknown by the world and rejected by his people, yet to those who he has enlightened, that is men from all types of backgrounds and ethnicities, he gave them the right to be the children of God! Let that sink in. If you are reading this and are rejoicing in the salvation that Jesus Christ has wrought, chances are that you are not of Jewish descent. You were not born into the physical covenant that God had made with Abraham and you are not under the History that God had appointed for the lineage of Abraham. Yet here you are, rejoicing in Jesus Christ, the Son of David and are through Christ a child of God through faith. Why? Because Jesus Christ has come into the world enlightening all men, not merely those who were of the seed of Abraham. You who had no inheritance, now have an Inheritance that is undefiled; you who were cast off and rejected, have now been brought into the fold of God; you who had no rights, now have the right to be called children of the Most High God. What a glorious reality!
How then is this enlightenment, this extension of the right to believe and to be called children of God, brought about? The apostle writes that this is brought about in those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” In other words, there is nothing that is in any man that can bring this benefit of Adoption in Christ about. It is not based upon one’s blood line (even the blood line of Abraham), it is not based on one’s fleshly works or efforts (cf. Rm. 9:16), and it is not based upon on our “free” will, but it is based solely upon the will and pleasure of God. In other words, if you have believed in Christ and have been adopted as God’s child, it is not based upon anything that you have done. If you have, God has granted you all of these good things, and there is no room for you to boast. You have become a part of the all men who have been enlightened by the True Light, and were it not for the grace of God and his glory, you would have been like the world who did not know Christ and the Jews who did not receive him. Praise him for his grace!
Father, we thank you that through Jesus Christ you have given us who had no claims, no rights, no pedigree, no goodness, or anything that would commend us in your sight the right to be called your children. We thank you that you have enlightened us by your grace through your Spirit to the truths of the Gospel, and through that we have believed and have been saved. Let us never forget this glorious Gospel that you have preached to us, and let us ever be mindful of the former wretchedness of our natural state. Amen.
Categories: Through John