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A Study of Christ - John 1:4

With this study, we continue our examination of the prologue of John's Gospel.

John 1:4 - Life and Light

4In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Thus far in this chapter, John has introduced Christ as the Word, as God, and as Creator; in this verse, we see Christ as Life and Light. John begins: "In Him was life." John goes further here than in the previous verse. In verse 3, John spoke of Christ as creator: "Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made." In this verse, He is "life". To be a creator is one thing; to impart life is much more. You and I can create, in some sense--works of art, poetry, music, sculpture; magnificent towers, bridges; technological wonders; etc.--but we are far from giving life. Oh, some arrogant men think that they come close to being life-givers by programming up a computer to imitate human thought, but they are deluding themselves if they think they have a prayer of truly creating life or consciousness in any form. Only through Christ is anything alive on this earth. "In Him was life." Life is not inherent in creatures, but imparted by the power of Christ. Our tent of flesh, bones, blood and muscle is as worthless as a sack of sand without the God-given gift of life.

Life is the most important aspect of creation. It is life that distinguishes the works of God from the works of man, and this fact applies not only to physical life, but also to spiritual life. We have spoken of Christ's ability to impart physical life, as Creator of the universe, but John is speaking of more than physical life. Note that John does not say that life is "by" Him, or "through" Him, but "in Him." Physical life comes "through" Christ, but "in" Christ we have spiritual life, resurrection life, eternal life, and life abundant. Christ said: "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63), and "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25), and "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16), and "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Only Christ can bring forth physical life, and only Christ can bring forth new life, life eternal. "In Him was life." Life: first on this earth, then in the new heavens and new earth.

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men." In the Bible, "life" and "light" are often associated. For instance:

The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1)

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Ps. 36:9).

For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life. (Pr. 6:23).

Christ Himself referred to Himself as light and life: "When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, `I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'" (John 8:12); "Jesus said to [Martha], `I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" (John 11:25-26). And so, it is appropriate for John here to associate Christ's life with light: "...and that life was the light of men."

It is interesting to study how many qualities of light mirror qualities of Christ:

* Light enables us to see, and Christ enables us to discern spiritual things.

* Light is pleasant, promoting peace of mind, and so the work of Christ on the cross, reconciling us to God, gives us peace of mind.

* Light fills completely any void open to it, and so, if we empty our soul to Christ, He who "fills everything in every way" (Eph. 1:23) will fill it.

* Light, especially bright light, is glorious; Christ is "the radiance of God's glory" (Heb. 1:3).

* Light does not mix with darkness, but rather conquers it; Christ has conquered the darkness of this evil world.

* Light warms the body; Christ warms the soul.

* Light makes clear the path; Christ, through His life, also made clear the path we should follow.

* Light exposes; Christ, through His life, exposes the sin in our lives.

John here, when he says "...and that life was the light of men", is primarily speaking of Christ's life as a spiritual light (drawing men to God), and a moral light (showing men how to live). The spiritual light that Christ provides draws men to God, leading them to salvation. Men are incapable of knowing God and coming to God on their own. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). But through the Spirit of God, giving us "the mind of Christ" (I Cor. 2:16), we can know God's glory, God's greatness and God's will. "For God, who said, `Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Cor. 4:6).

The moral light provided by Christ shows men how they should live. Christ through His life is our example of a life lived in total obedience to God. No one else has lived up to the standard that Christ set. His life is the supreme example concerning how we should live. Also, Christ is a moral light to us in that through His teachings, He gave us the internal requirements of the law. The Law of Moses commands us not to murder (a command concerning external actions); Christ expands on this and says: "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment" (Matt. 5:22). The Law of Moses commands us not to commit adultery (a command concerning external actions); Christ expands on this and says: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). So Christ, as a moral light, teaches us the internal implications of the external requirements of the law.

Note that Christ's life was "the light of men." Mankind is unique among the creatures of the earth in that he has been blessed by God with the spiritual and moral light of Christ. Man's dominion on earth is due to this light. Mankind's achievements on earth, far above the achievements of any other species on earth, are due to this light. Likewise, the failures of mankind--the evils perpetrated by men upon men--are due to the rejection by men of this light. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

Father, we thank You for this light. May we be guided by this light. Open our hearts to the light of Christ so that we may know You, commune with You, and live in obedience to You, serving You with all of our lives. May Your light shine on all men, and Your glory be evident to all. In the name of Christ, who is "the light of the world", we pray these things, Amen.

(Due to a special issue next month, our study of John's Prologue will continue in two months.)

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