John 1:1–5, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
During these coming three Sundays I hope to bring three messages from John 1:1–18 before our own Christmas message. The Christian purpose of this season is to focus our attention on the great reality described in verses 1 and 14. At the end of verse 1 John says, "The Word was God."
And at the beginning of verse 14 he says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Everything we are and believe as Christians depends upon this: that Jesus Christ is God and Jesus Christ is man. Fully God and fully human! So even though Christmas may not be taught in the Bible, the Christian meaning given to Christmas is the very foundation of the Bible.
And the goal of the Bible and the goal of God in becoming human and the goal of this gospel of John are all the same. John 20:31 says, "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."
So if these messages are going to be faithful to John's purpose in this gospel, my goal must be to help you believe in the Son of God and have eternal life. That is what you should pray for me. We begin tonight with verses 1–5 and I think I can make the point of these verses clearest by discussing them in reverse order.
Verse 5 says, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." Another place John uses this Greek word is in John 12:35 which says, "Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you." This is what I would call the "invincibility of light." It is not overcome. So you could label verse 5: "Light is triumphant over darkness."
But why is this so? Why does darkness not overcome the light? How can we be sure that this light will go on and overcome darkness? This is what verses 1–4 are written to answer. There are three reasons why the light will triumph over the darkness. So let's focus for a moment on the conflict of light and dark in verse 5 and then learn why there are three reasons in verses 1–4 why light will win.
Light Triumphs over Darkness. When John says in verse 5 that "the light shines in the darkness," he means that the Word has become flesh. Jesus has come into a dark world and is the light of the world.
Right here in John 1:9-11 it says, "The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not."
So it's clear that Jesus is the one spoken of. He is the light in verse 5. He is the one who shines in the darkness. In John 8:12 Jesus says, "I am the light of the world."
The darkness is the world of evil and unbelief and death and judgment. John 3:19 says, "This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." So darkness is the power of evil and unbelief.
And that power of evil and unbelief you can find everywhere you go, at your work, when you have fun, when you study at the university, when you listen to the radio, when you see a movie and when you hear people talk. Darkness is not just crime, darkness is anything that does not believe in Christ.
This Makes a Tremendous Difference. So what verse 5 is saying is that Jesus Christ, the light of the world has entered into the darkness of evil and unbelief and death, and this darkness does not overcome Jesus. Now that makes a tremendous difference to those of us who believe in Jesus.
In John 12:46 Jesus says, "I have come as light into the world that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." So all believers have passed from darkness to light. Paul said in Ephesians 5:8, "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light".
John 12:36 says, "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of the light." When you believe in Jesus, not only do you leave the darkness and enter the light; you actually join the family of the light—you become children of the light.
So it makes a tremendous difference to us which one triumphs, the light or the darkness. And that's what verse 5 makes clear: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." The light will triumph and that means Jesus will triumph and all those who believe in him, the children of the light, will also triumph.
We need to hear this now in America and Indonesia, because darkness seems to be gaining ground on numerous fronts. More and more often we read stories of conditions that 30 years ago would have been unthinkable.
We hear of a pair of lesbians, Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart (who were trained at Luther Northwestern Seminary), who were called as co-assistant pastors of St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco. Michael Hiller, another pastor at that church said, "This is not an issue of morals . . . it's an issue of justice."
Study what he says carefully. They embody the spirit of our age. When justice is divorced from morality, when rights of individuals are separated from right and wrong, the only definition you have left for justice is the right for every individual to do as he pleases. And the end of that road is anarchy and barbarism.
We are moving fast in that direction as a culture. But I will stake my life on the truth of John 1:5. The light shines in the darkness—Jesus shines, the gospel shines, the church shines—and the darkness will not overcome it. How can we be sure? John gives us three reasons.
1. The Light Is the Life of the Son of God. Consider verse 4: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." This means that the light that shines in the darkness is the light of life. John 8:12 says, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
The life of the Son is the light of the world. The first reason the light will triumph over the darkness is that that light lives. It is living light. What does that mean? Well, if the life of the Son of God is the light that shines in the darkness (which is what verse 4 says), then there are at least four things we can say about this light.
First, the light of life has energy and power because the life of the Son has energy and power. Second, the light of life has purpose and motion. It is not static like a lamppost or a lighthouse on the shore. This light plans and moves, it shines now here, now there. It is alive with the life of the Son.
Third, the light of life grows and expands. That is the way the life of the Son of God is. Psalm 36:9 says, “For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.” Once the light rays start coming out of this light, they extend farther and farther. Fourth, the light of life begets offspring. John 12:36 says, "Believe in the light, that you may become sons of the light."
So the first reason the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it is that this light is living—it has energy and purposefulness and growth and reproduction. It is not a static thing, like a stoplight that can be ignored. The light that shines in the world today is the very life of the Son of God.
To which someone might say, "So what? Isn’t it possible that the powers of darkness are just as strong as his life?" That leads us to the second reason we can be sure the darkness will not overcome the light.
2. The Life Is the Life of the Creator of All Things. It's given in verse 3: "All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made."
Now the "Him" in this verse is the same Him as in verse 4: "In Him was life and the life was the light of men." So the point is this: the energetic, purposeful, growing, reproductive life that shines in the darkness is the life of none other than the One through whom all things were made. The life that shines in the light is the life of the Creator.
So we know that the powers of darkness are not as strong as this life because this life created the powers of darkness. Verse 3, "Without him was not anything made that was made." And no created thing is more powerful than its creator.
Someone might say, "Isn't a nuclear bomb more powerful than the men who created it? Beloved, there is an infinite difference between, on the one hand, making a bomb out of materials that exist already and which are controlled by laws you did not write, and on the other hand, creating out of nothing the very materials of the universe and the laws that control them.
If you can make something out of nothing, you can always turn that something back into nothing. And therefore the Creator always has the upper hand in his world. He will always triumph because He has all the power.
And the powers of darkness know this, because when Jesus came to the Gergesenes to the demon possessed in Matthew 8:29, they cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"
Luke 22:53 says, “When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” God allowed them to do what they did otherwise they can do nothing. But they know that a specific time is set up for their destruction and for their everlasting consignment to hell. They know very well that the light will triumph.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it, first, because the light is the light of energetic, purposeful, growing, reproducing life, and, second, because that life is the life through whom everything was made—and that also includes the angelic powers that fell into darkness.
3. This Light and Life Is God. That leaves one last reason for why we can be sure that the light will not be overcome by the darkness. Not only is the light a living light, and not only is the life of this light the life of God's Word through whom he created all things, but this Word, this life, this light is GOD! And no one can overcome God Almighty.
John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." "The Word was with God" means that they are distinct Persons and can fellowship with one another. But "the Word was God" also means that they are one God, not two.
We hold fast to the biblical mystery: God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have such a unity that they are one God, and not three, and such a distinction that they are three Persons and not one.
In the beginning, in that beginning, the only beginning we can know about is the creation, because before creation there was no beginning, there was no time, there was no starting of anything for God existed in eternal existence. So in the beginning, the only beginning we know, is the beginning of God's creation which was the Word.
That is a marvelous statement that surpasses our ability to understand it. We just accept it. When the heavens and earth were created the Word already existed. From all eternity it was already there.
The practical point is this: the light cannot be overcome by the darkness because
1. the light is alive—it's the light of life; and
2. through this life—this living Word—all things were made; and
3. this living Word is God.
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 anything made that was made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” So take heart, be encouraged. Christ has overcome the world of darkness.
John 12:36 says, "Believe in the light that you may become sons of the light." Take the offensive this season. Raid the darkness. It cannot overcome you as the children of light.
When you know and love Jesus Christ, there's always hope. This world holds no fear for me. People talk about the terrible disasters that are coming; I don't believe that I'll ever experience those things.
I believe Jesus Christ cares for His own people and I believe that long before all of that breaks loose, Jesus is going to take His people, his sons of light, out of this world. I have no fear because my hope is in Him, in His resurrection hope.
Do you believe in this living light? Are you children of light? Does His light shine brightly in your life right now from Monday till Saturday? Are you too overcoming any darkness in your family life with His Light? If not, study His Word and pray, Amen?
Let us remember this light as we are reminded again what Jesus did for us when he ate the Last Supper with His disciples as a symbol of His sacrifice for our sins on the cross.