The Gospel of John, part 4, The Light and the Witness
Sep 12, 2019
Another main theme in John’s gospel, which he introduces in John 1:4, 5 is that the living word was light:
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Light dispels darkness. To John, walking in darkness was to live without the truth, because light is truth. More specifically, John was referring to the truth of creation and the re-creation. In both cases, the light of God overcomes the darkness.
Christ’s purpose was to manifest the glory of God in the earth. The glory is seen first in the light that was spoken in Genesis 1:3. Without light, there is no glory for the earth to reflect. Yet “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Therefore, Christ came into the world as a Reflector to bear witness of the light of His Father.
The First Creation
In Genesis 1:1, 2 we read,
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was [became] formless and void [tohu va bohu], and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
Isaiah 45:18 tells us that God “did not create it a waste place [tohu] but formed it to be inhabited.” Hence, we ought to understand from Genesis 1:2 that it BECAME a “waste place” at some point AFTER God created it. In the original creation, God “formed it to be inhabited,” which seems to imply that men lived on earth in a previous civilization. From the archeological and historical clues that yet remain, that civilization was quite advanced.
Yet some disaster struck the earth, plunging that original civilization into chaos and back to the proverbial “stone age.” It appears that there were survivors in various parts of the earth, for when Cain was exiled, he was afraid “that whoever finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:14). God’s response was to protect him, for we read in Genesis 4:15,
15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, lest anyone finding him should slay him.
Was Cain afraid of his own family? When he traveled “east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16), did he expect to meet family members who had preceded him? That seems very unlikely. It is more likely that he found people from a prior civilization and that his name Cain, or Kina, or China, was named for him, as Mrs. Sidney Bristowe asserts in her book, Sargon the Magnificent.
Cain was married at some point and fathered children (Genesis 4:17). Where did she come from? Was she his sister? In fact, who did Seth marry in order to carry on the family line? Scripture is largely silent, but all of this points to the idea that Adam was not the first man on earth. There were others before him, but Adam was a special creation, given the calling to rule the earth and to bring order out of chaos, to reflect the image of God, and to shine the light in darkness. His sin, however, made him part of the problem, which required another “Adam” (i.e., Christ) to restore all things, so that the glory of God might fill the earth according to the divine purpose.
No time frame for the earlier civilization is given in Scripture, of course, because it was not particularly needful for us to know. Our focus should be on the present time since Adam, who was given the calling and authority to restore all things. History and Time, as we know it, properly began with the first Adam, and again with the Last Adam, for the re-creation of the heavens and the earth properly began with Christ’s resurrection.
In Genesis 1:3 we read about the first word (logos) by which the earlier chaos was brought back into divine order:
3 Then God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.
As we have already stated, Christ was “the Firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), begotten by the Father. As the mirror Image of His Father, Christ was the double witness through whom (dia) all things were created. In other words, the Father created all things through Christ, who was the Memra, the personal embodiment of the living Word.
In the Word was life, which essentially defines personality by heavenly standards. One might say that the Word had a life of its own. The Word was not just composed of vibration or frequency in a clinical or scientific way of speaking. All spoken words are conveyed through frequency, as is light itself. Hence, the frequency of the first Word (Memra/Logos) also produced light.
John equates light with truth, anticipating John 14:6,
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through [dia] Me.
Even as all things were created through (dia) the Son, so also must all men approach the Father through (dia) the Son. Jesus is “the truth,” that is, the light. John 1:4, 5 introduces us to the idea that the Memra was life and that this life was also light. This set the stage for the sixth miracle-sign, where Jesus healed the man born blind (John 9:1). The key lesson in that story is found a few verses later, where Jesus says in John 9:5,
5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
In healing the man born blind, He manifested the glory of God in terms of light, because the blind man could finally see the light. His physical healing signified something much greater—healing spiritual blindness through the light of truth.
Likewise, in John’s first epistle, which in many ways was a continuation of his gospel, he defines light in terms of knowing truth and walking in fellowship with the Father through Christ, whose blood has cleansed us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Darkness, on the other hand, is the chaotic condition of an unregenerate man who refuses to acknowledge the truth of his sinful condition as well as the remedy that Christ has made for him (1 John 1:7).
Therefore, when God spoke “light,” the Son essentially said “amen,” and the perfect double witness established light (truth) in the world. This light was not merely words that were true. The light was a living Person coming into the world. Physical light thus provided earthly evidence of an invasion (or incarnation) of spiritual Light in the Person of Christ. This light opens the eyes of the blind, who walk in darkness. While healing from physical blindness is important and certainly has the power to change one’s entire life, healing spiritual blindness is even more important, for it establishes fellowship with God. Seeing one’s family and friends is good but seeing God (through Christ) is even better.
John the Witness
John 1:6-9 says,
6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through Him. 8 He was not the light but came that He might bear witness of the light. 9 There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
John’s calling and position was not to be the Christ, nor was he the Memra. He simply bore witness of Christ, who is the light. It is therefore self-evident that a double witness is not the same person as the one he is witnessing. Likewise, the same is true of the Memra, who bears witness to the Creator. Jesus Christ is the double witness of His Father; John bore witness of Christ. So John said truly in John 1:20, “I am not the Christ.”
Hence, John’s crowning achievement was to baptize Jesus, because baptism, as established in Leviticus 14:1-7, was where a priest bore witness that God had already healed a leper. The priest was not called to heal the leper through baptism but was called to baptize him “if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper” (Leviticus 14:3).
In other words, baptism was meant to provide an earthly witness to a heavenly reality. So when Jesus healed lepers, He told them to present themselves to the priest so that they could inspect him and bear witness that God had healed them already. Luke 5:14 says,
14 And He ordered him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, for a testimony [marturion, “witness”] to them.”
Many picture this as a former leper giving his personal testimony to the priest. However, this is actually about the priest bearing witness to the congregation or community that he is no longer a leper and no longer needs to shout “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever someone approached him. The leper, being healed, was then cleansed for seven days and pronounced clean for the third and final time on the morning of the eighth day.
Baptism was a formal cleansing ritual that was used in other contexts as well. Priests baptized themselves at the laver before entering the sanctuary. Common people baptized themselves (hands) before each meal (Mark 7:3). Jesus needed no cleansing, yet He understood that the prophecy in the law required Him to be baptized (Matthew 3:14, 15).
So John bore witness of Christ, proclaiming Him to be “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). This set the stage for a later encounter with those who objected to His healing a man on the Sabbath. They said that He could not be from God, because He was "breaking the Sabbath" (John 5:18). The implication was that He could not be the Messiah, nor could He be the Memra, the Living Word. But Jesus countered this, saying in John 5:33-36,
33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth…. 36 But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
John bore witness, but men might discredit John’s witness if they thought that Jesus was a lawbreaker. Jesus did not violate the law, for doing good on the Sabbath—even if it requires some work—is not a violation of the law, if one understands the purpose of the law. The people viewed the Sabbath in rigid terms that the rabbis had defined, but their views were not consistent with the mind of God. Hence, Jesus remained sinless, even though many of the Jews claimed that He was a law-breaker.
The irony was that the people believed John the Baptist to be a genuine prophet, but most of them, in the end, failed to believe his witness that Jesus was the Christ.
This is part 4 of a series titled "The Gospel of John" To view all parts, click the link below.