Statisticians tell us that our world’s current population exceeds seven billion people. That is a seven with nine zeros.
Those same statisticians tell us that in all of human history, approximately 105-110 billion people have ever lived. That is one hundred and five with nine zeros.
Of that one hundred and five billion, some have been male and some have been female. Some have been red and yellow and black and white. Some have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs.
However, there is no more significant birth than that we celebrate this time of year, and that is the birth of Jesus Christ. This morning, we consider the first Christmas.
I hope and pray that all of you will have an encouraging and joyful Christmas this next week. However, when we think about the first Christmas, there were some other emotions that we were prominent.
In Luke 1:29 and 34, Mary was worried and confused.
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was…34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
In Matthew 1:19, Joseph was hurt and brokenhearted.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
In Luke 2:9, the shepherds were afraid.
9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Regardless of your Christmas this year, I want you to know that as evidenced by the first Christmas, God wants to share eternity with you. Think about that. God didn’t just create for 70 and 80 and 90 years of living on earth. He created you for billions of years of living with Him in eternity. We know that because of the first Christmas.
- The First Christmas was Detailed by God, Matthew 1:18-21.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Verses 18-25 of Matthew 1 tells us of the first Christmas in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke 2 also speaks of the first Christmas.
Our story today begins with Joseph and Mary. We know that Joseph was probably a carpenter. As for Mary, she very well could have been a young teen ager at this time. It was not uncommon for Jewish girls to be married as young as twelve years of age.
Verse 18 says that they were betrothed. This would be similar to our engagement but more significant. Jewish families would often arrange the marriages of their children. The prospective groom’s family would enter a contract that included paying money to the bride’s father for wedding expenses.
After the arrangement, the couple was considered to be in the betrothal period. This time could last up to one year and served as a probationary period. Even though the couple was considered married at this point, they did not live together and were not physically intimate.
After the probationary period, the groom would send for the bride, and a weeklong wedding feast would ensue. This was a weeklong celebration that included both families and the community.
Once the wedding feast was over, the bride and groom would finally consummate the marriage physically. However, at this point, up and to this point, they had kept themselves pure, but verse 18 introduces a dilemma for Joseph. It was revealed that Mary is pregnant. The problem was that Joseph was not the father.
Joseph had two options. If Joseph wasn’t the father, the only other human explanation was that Mary had been unfaithful. Believe it or not, the OT allowed capital punishment for adultery or he could choose to quietly divorce her.
As you can see in verse 19, his initial choice was the latter. He was going to quietly divorce her because even though it appeared that he had been wronged, he was a kind and compassionate man.
But how did all this happen? Verse 18 simply says, “She was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” This was a miracle by the Spirit of God.
The conception of Jesus was miraculous. It was mysterious, and it was marvelous. It was in no way sexual or improper.
Science cannot explain it. Our finite minds can’t comprehend it. However, the Holy Spirit accomplished it.
A third detail to note about the birth of Christ is the message for the world.
Mary was going to have a baby boy who was to be named Jesus, and here’s the message for the world and how we know that God wants to spend eternity with us. Jesus was going to save His people from their sins.
Please don’t miss the implication. The implication is that we are sinners and separated from God because of our sin. In other words, we are in need of a Savior because we cannot save ourselves. Therefore, God made salvation possible for anyone who would turn from his or her sins and turn to Jesus Christ in faith because He created us to spend eternity with Him.
If you are here this morning and you’re trying to live a good enough life to save yourself, it will never happen. We can’t be good enough, but we don’t have to be. We only have to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
- The First Christmas was Described Long Ago, Matthew 1:22-23.
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Beginning in verse 22, we see that the birth of Jesus was declared long ago by the Lord and through His prophets. In other words, the birth of Jesus is a fulfillment of prophecy.
Even though these men were human, it was God, the Lord, speaking through them. Therefore, these prophecies were made by God but through men and about the Savior.
Dave Reagan’s Lamb & Lion Ministry says there are at least 19 fulfilled prophecies in the birth of Christ, but I’ll just remind you of three.
Micah 5:2, 2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Luke 2:4-6, 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.
Isaiah 9:6, 6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Matthew 1:21, 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Isaiah 7:14, 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Matthew 1:23, 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
- The First Christmas Demands a Response, Matthew 1:24-25.
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
In the last two verses of Matthew 1, we see Joseph’s commitment to the Lord, and that commitment is seen in one word, “obedience.”
We see that here and elsewhere.
Look at Matthew 2:13-14. What did Joseph do? He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt.
Look at Matthew 2:19-21. What did Joseph do? He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.
19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
Joseph obeyed personally. Joseph obeyed in his marriage. Joseph obeyed in his parenting.
Unfortunately, he is often the forgotten man of Christmas.
We don’t ever hear Joseph speak. Therefore, we don’t ever hear him quoted. We don’t normally sing about Joseph. We sing about Jesus and Mary and the angels and the shepherds and the wise men and Bethlehem, but not generally about Joseph.
However, Joseph shouldn’t be a forgotten man. His response to the first Christmas should be commended and followed.
How will you respond this morning to the first Christmas? Remember, God wants to spend eternity with you. We know that because Jesus came to save His people from their sins.
If you have never received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will die in your sins and spend eternity in hell separated from God. However, if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your lostness and has given you faith to believe, would you call on Jesus this morning to save you?
For others, your response to the first Christmas needs to be obedience. Will you be obedient to forgive someone who has hurt you? Will you be obedient to say, “I’m sorry?” Will you be obedient to loving your spouse? Will you be obedient to obeying your parents? Will you be obedient to be baptized as Jesus was? Will you be obedient in uniting with a local church? Will you be obedient in sharing the message of the first Christmas?
In our brief time so far in John’s gospel, we have considered John the Apostle, and we have considered Jesus the Word. This morning, we are going to turn our attention to John the Baptist.
- The Message of John the Baptist, 1:19-23
19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
We see in 1:19 that John was beginning to gain popularity to the degree that the Jews sent priests and Levites to find out more about him. They wanted to see who was the source of all the hype, and they went to him and asked, “Who are you?”
Before we go any further, let’s consider also what Mark and Luke say him.
Luke 1:14-17, 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
He was set aside to be a Nazirite which meant he wouldn’t cut his hair or touch anything dead or drink any alcohol. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit. He would be a forerunner to the Messiah like Elijah was, and he would help get Israel ready for the Christ.
Luke 1:57-66, 57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. 59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him.
He was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth. As a Jew, he was circumcised. He was chosen by God to be named John and chosen for his mission.
Luke 1:76-80, 76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; 79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” 80 So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
He would be a prophet of God. He would speak the message of salvation. He lived in the desert until his public ministry.
Mark 1:6, 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
He was a rustic dresser with camel’s hair and a leather belt while eating locusts and honey.
Now we return to our primary text to see how John answered this question of “Who are you?”
First, he denied that he was the Christ. The construction of the sentence shows his emphatic denial of being the Christ, the one to save Israel of her sins.
Second, he was asked if he was Elijah. Even though he could be compared to Elijah and even though he certainly was a like Elijah in multiple ways, he denied being Elijah.
Third, he was asked about being the Prophet. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15, and notice how the NKJV capitalizes Prophet.
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.
Yes, John was a prophet like Moses, but again, he was not THE Prophet.
However, if he wasn’t the Christ and he wasn’t Elijah and he wasn’t THE Prophet, then who was John the Baptist?
John answered with the utmost humility. He said he simply was a voice as he pointed back to another Old Testament prophet. He quoted from Isaiah 40:3.
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.”
Simply put, John’s message was get ready. Get ready for the promised Messiah.
In Old Testament times, workers were sent a head of the King’s entourage to smooth the ground and make the dirt roads or the way as easy and smooth to travel on as possible. That was John’s message. Get your lives ready for the Lord.
- The Method of John the Baptist, 1:24-26b
24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water.”
John had a very specific method or demonstration for his message. He baptized folks.
Let me take just a moment to clarify the meaning of words. If you drink Dr. Pepper religiously, I would bet that you also agree that Dr. Thunder is not Dr. Pepper. Yes, they are both brown, carbonated beverages in maroon cans. However, Dr. Thunder is not Dr. Pepper.
The word baptize means immerse. It doesn’t mean sprinkle, and it doesn’t mean pour. Therefore, what our Methodist and Presbyterian and Luther friends do at the church, even though it is down in a church and uses water, sprinkling is not baptism.
However, it was strange because he wasn’t baptizing Gentiles converting to Judaism. He was baptizing Jews.
The Pharisees noticed this and wonder why. Specifically, they wanted to know what gave him the right to baptize anyone since he didn’t have a special title like Christ or Elijah or the Prophet.
Rather than even talking too much about his baptism and what it meant, John wanted to talk about his Messiah.
By the way, I will be sharing in the coming weeks what is the difference between John’s baptism and Christian baptism.
- The Messiah of John the Baptist, 1:26b-28
but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
According to the end of verse 26, Jesus was evidently present or at least close by. However, the Pharisees didn’t know Him.
As John said last week, even though Jesus was younger than John by six months, He was to be preferred because He has always been. He is God.
John understand who he was in light of who Jesus was. John was not even worthy to untie His sandals because Jesus was the promised Messiah. Jesus was John’s Messiah. Jesus was and is the Christ!
What does all of this mean for us this morning?
First, like John the Baptist, my message is get ready for Jesus. If you have never received into your life as Lord and Savior, One you rely on and commit to and obey, I invite you to do to receive Him.
Second, if you have been saved and you claim Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life, are you ready for His return? You’re not if you’re living in sin. You’re not if your relationships around you aren’t in order. You’re not if your life is not well pleasing to Him. See 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
We find ourselves in John’s Gospel this morning, and please find chapter one and verse fourteen. Today, I want to share a message with you entitled, “What Makes Jesus Special?”
In the recent Sundays, we have asked, “Who Is the Real Jesus” and “Are You a Child of God?” In answering today’s question, I want you to see five realities that make Jesus special.
- His Humanity, 1:14a
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…
We know that John is talking about Jesus when he uses Word. Jesus is the mouth of God, and that verse reminds that He was God in the flesh.
He didn’t lose His deity, but God took on humanity. Jesus ate and drank and slept and went to the bathroom and got hungry and tired and fished and cooked.
The word “dwelt” literally means tabernacled and comes from the Old Testament referencing when the presence of God was in the Tabernacle. See Exodus 40:34.
34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
This reality is also described by Paul in the Philippians 2:5-8.
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Finally, we will celebrate and sing about this reality next month. Wesley wrote in Hark the Herald Angels Sing:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
- His Deity, 1:14b
and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The end of verse one reminds of Jesus’ deity. Not only is He fully man, but He is also fully God as He is God’s Son.
We are children of God if we have received Jesus as Lord and Savior. However, God only has one Son, and it is Jesus.
However, don’t think that Jesus’ deity somehow began. It has always been, and we learned that from 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with God, and the Word was God.
Paul reminded the Colossian Church of Jesus deity in Colossians 2:9.
9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
Finally, He is gracious, and He is the truth. Whatever He says and does or said and did is right.
- His Exclusivity, 1:15-16
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
In verse fifteen, we are reminded that John the Baptist bore witness or testified of Jesus. We saw that last week.
Notice what else John said. He said Jesus was preferred or superior to him. What is ironic about that?
In the OT, the older is presumed to be superior. How is older John the Baptist or Jesus? John the Baptist is six months older than his cousin Jesus.
Therefore, it would be assumed that John the Baptist is preferred or superior. However, it is Jesus because He was before John. How is that? Jesus is eternal.
In verse sixteen, John the Apostle reminds us who have received Him as Lord and Savior are blessed again and again. That is what grace for grace means. When one act of grace or God’s blessing ends or runs out, another one begins.
- His Generosity, 1:17
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
In the OT, the law was unable to save. It was impossible to keep. No human could perfectly keep all six hundred plus laws for a lifetime.
However, the law did make it perfectly clear that humanity needed a Savior. His name is Jesus. See Galatians 3:24.
24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Jesus perfectly kept the law for thirty-three years and was a sinless Savior. Consequently, our faith in a sinless Savior is how we are made right with God.
The law was not generous. However, Jesus was generous and full of grace and truth.
- His Intimacy, 1:18
18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
Verse eighteen can be a little confusing. What John means is that no one has ever seen the fullest essence of God.
However, because of Jesus’ intimacy with the Father, He is able to declare or explain or literally exegete Him.
When John speaks of Jesus’ intimacy with the Father, he compares it to his intimacy with Jesus. See John 13:34.
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
John was intimate with Jesus. However, Jesus was more intimate with the Father.
In light of how special Jesus is, if you haven’t received Him today, would you?
If you have received Him today, would you point others to Him specifically with your words?
Last Sunday morning, we began looking at John’s gospel, and we were answering the questioning of who is the real Jesus. Today, we continue in chapter 1 and answer another question. Are you a child of God?
This morning, not only will we continue to talk about Jesus, but John the Apostle of Love introduces us to another John. If you have your Bibles, would you please join me in John 1:6, and please stand in honor of God’s word.
- A Man Named John, 1:6-8
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
First of all, consider his dawning in verse 6. John the Apostle moves from the heavenly to the earthly in introducing us to another John. However, this is not John the Apostle but John the Baptist.
Even though that is never how John the Apostle describes the Baptizer, we know that any time you see the name John in this gospel, it is referencing this man of John 1:6 as John the Apostle never names himself in this gospel.
Verse 6 tells us that John the Baptist came from God. God is his dawning or origin or source.
God had been silent for approximately 400 years since Malachi, but now John the Baptist is introduced, and he will speak for God like an OT prophet.
Second, consider his duty in verse 7. John’s duty or mission was crystal clear. He came as a witness of Jesus or to testify about the Light that we know was Jesus. He didn’t come for any other reason. Remember what Matthew said in 3:1-3.
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’”
Third, consider his difference that we see in verse 8. John the Baptist was not Jesus. He was not the Light. He was different than the Light.
- The Light Who was Jesus, 1:7-11
7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
Last week in John 1:1-5, we identified Jesus as the Word and Light. We see that again today in verse 7. The NKJV helps us in our efforts by capitalizing Light in verses 7-9.
In thinking about light, we know that shines out the darkness and provides guidance and direction. Consequently, light is a beautiful illustration of Jesus.
He shines out the darkness in our hearts convicting us that we fall short of His sinless perfection and need Him as Lord and Savior. Once we believe, He then provides guidance and direction for life as we consider what would Jesus do and attempt to follow His lead.
As the true Light, He was the real thing and not a shadow or a representation. The OT pointed to the true Light and foreshadowed the true Light, but the NT revealed the true Light…the Light who was Jesus.
And when He came into the world, He gave light to every man. Now that statement can have at least two meanings. First of all, the reality of Jesus and who He was, a sinless Savior, enlightens every man and every woman to the fact that we are in need of a Savior. No one is excluded: rich or poor, male or female, black or white, educated or not. Man needed and still needs a Savior.
Furthermore, perhaps this verse speaks to a person’s conscience and an inherited ability to know the difference between right and wrong and good and bad. Remember what Paul wrote in Romans 1:18-21.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
This is what we call general revelation. Man can look around at God’s creation and know that there is a God, and man is not God. However, in order to be saved, man must receive God’s Special Revelation, which is the Light who is Jesus.
Verse 10 says that Jesus was in the world and even made the world. We said that last week as well. However, the world didn’t know Him. The world didn’t recognize Him as Messiah.
Furthermore, verse 11 says He came to His own people, the Jews, and they didn’t receive Him. They rejected Him, and Isaiah 53:1-3 prophesied that very reality hundreds of years earlier.
1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
- The Children Born of God, 1:12-13
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Beginning in verse 12, even though many rejected Jesus as the Christ, some received Him, and to them, He gave the right or privilege of becoming a child of God.
Let’s be clear about what this verse says. Not everyone has God as their Father, only those who have received Jesus, His Son, only those who believe in His name and His character, only those who have been born-again, born of God.
Did you catch that? We all aren’t God’s children. You aren’t a child of God unless you have received His Son.
What does it mean to receive Jesus? It is more than simply intellectual affirmation of His existence. It means to rely on Him, commit to Him, and obey Him.
To believe in His name is to believe that salvation is found only in Jesus. Remember what Peter said in Acts 4:12?
12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
To be born of God means to be born again. We all have been born physically, but to be born again and of God means to be born spiritually.
And just like in physical birth, you can’t make yourself be born again. That is God’s work. It is not the will of the flesh or the will of man. It is you answer the call to be saved, and God causing you to be born again.
Today’s invitation is very simple. First, there are some of you here today who have never received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and if you haven’t received Him, by default, you have rejected Him.
Consequently, you are not a child of God. Furthermore, if you died today, you would spend an eternity in hell because God would say He never know you because you haven’t received His Son. Will you receive the Light who was Jesus today? Will you rely on Him, commit to Him, and obey Him?
For those of you have received the Light, are you reflecting the Light? That was John’s duty, and that is our duty. Our duty and mission and goal should be to reflect the Light of Jesus in our lives, in our families, in our very being. Will you reflect the Light today?
If you have your Bibles this morning, I invite you to find John 1:1. Today, we begin our study of the Gospel according to John. If you are new to EBC or visiting EBC, for the foreseeable future, every Sunday morning except the one before Christmas and Easter Sunday, we will be here.
This morning, I want to build today’s message around three headings: the person of John the Apostle, the purpose of John’s gospel, and the prologue about John’s Jesus.
- The Person of John the Apostle
Even though his name is never mentioned specifically in this book, church history and tradition tell us that John is the writer of this gospel that bears his name. God’s Word tell us that John had a brother named James, and together, they were sons of Zebedee also called the sons of thunder.
Mark 3:17, 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”.
It is really amazing how Jesus changed John’s life and demeanor. When Jesus first called him, he was a son of thunder. He was brash and loud. At the end of his life, he was known as the Apostle of Love.
It is John who was Jesus’ closest friends, and with Peter and James, formed His inner circle of three. It is John who was one of the first eye-witnesses of the empty tomb and the resurrected Lord. It is John, the beloved disciple, who wrote this book along with 1, 2, and 3 John and the Revelation making him the second most prolific writer of our New Testament only behind Paul.
- The Purpose of John’s Gospel
John 20:30-31, 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these 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.
The purpose of the gospel according to John is two-fold. First, it is apologetic. That means this book of the Bible makes a defense. John sought to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah. He did this through his 7 signs and 7 I AM statement.
Second, it is evangelistic. He invites Jew and Gentile alike to believe that Jesus is the Christ and accepting Him as Lord and Savior is the only way to have eternal life.
- The Prologue about John’s Jesus
Prologue simply means beginning. John even starts his gospel with, “In the beginning.” That is the same way that Genesis 1:1 begins.
It is also interesting with whom this gospel begins. Matthew’s gospel begins with Abraham. Mark’s gospel begins with John the Baptist. Luke’s gospel begins with Theophilus. John’s gospel begins with the Word or Jesus, and here are three truths about John’s Jesus, the real Jesus.
- Jesus is Equally God, 1:1-2.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
Verse 1 talks about the “Word.” If you will look down at 1:14, we know from this verse and following that the “Word” is Christ.
John 1:14, 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Christ was in the beginning, and He was with God. That literally means He was face-to-face with God.
Then, John took that idea one step further, Christ is God. The Father and the Son are two distinct persons, but the same God.
John testified to this truth throughout his gospel, but was explicit here. See John 1:18 and 20:28.
John 1:18, 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
John 20:28, 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
We also see this explicitly in Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church. See Colossians 1:15.
Colossians 1:15, 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
In verse 2, John simply summarized verse 1. Jesus was in the beginning with God.
- Jesus is the Eternal Creator.
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
Verse 3 tells us that all things came into being through Jesus. To say it negatively, nothing has ever been created apart from Him.
Regardless of when you believe the earth was created, whether thousands of years ago or millions of years of ago, Jesus was there, and Jesus did it. Jesus was the creator.
This is also the testimony of the rest of the NT. See 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2.
1 Corinthians 8:6, 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
Colossians 1:16, 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Hebrews 1:1-2, 1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.
Remember also that I said Jesus was the eternal Creator meaning that Jesus has always been. We can see that in how John contrasts Jesus, the Creator, with His creation.
In verse 1, was is the past tense of the verb to be. John uses it on 4 occasions in the first two verses. However, when talking about creation in verse 3, he says creation came into being. Jesus has always been or eternal. Creation came into being. Creation had a definite beginning.
- Jesus is the Effective Light.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Verse 4 tells us that Jesus was life, and the life was the light of men. The word for life here is not “bios,” which means physical life, but it is “zoe,” which means eternal life.
Also, notice that in these two verses, life and the light cannot be separated. They are synonymous.
Verses 5 says that light shines (present tense) and is still shining today, and it is shining in the darkness. However, the darkness cannot comprehend it.
Literally, the darkness could not overcome the light because the light is more powerful or effective. Satan tried to overcome Jesus with the cross, but Jesus overcame Satan with the resurrection. He is the effective Light.
Let me now draw three points of application from our text to our world of faith. First, to have the eternal life that John speaks of in 1:4, you can’t believe like our Jehovah’s Witness friends believe. Instead of translating the end of verse 1 as the Word was God, their copy of the Bible, the New World Translation, reads, “the Word was a god.” Jesus is not one God among many, but the one and only God, and you cannot believe otherwise and receive eternal life.
Second, to have the eternal life that John speaks of in 1:4, you can’t believe like our Mormon friends. They don’t believe that Jesus always has been but that He was created or born or begotten. They fail to recognize the reality of 1:1-2 and that He is eternal and has always been, and you cannot believe otherwise and inherit eternal life.
Finally, to have the eternal life that John speaks of in 1:4, you can’t believe like our Unitarian friends. They don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. He is one way among many ways. However, that is not what 1:4 says. In Him and only in Him is life, and He and only He is the Light of men, and you cannot believe otherwise and inherit eternal life.
My invitation is two-fold. First, have you trusted in John’s Jesus, the real Jesus for your salvation? Have you trusted in the Jesus that is God, the Jesus that is eternal, the Jesus that is creator and the Jesus that is the light of men? If not, will you trust Him today as Lord and Savior?
Second, if you are saved, will you let the real Jesus have complete control of your life to the extent that you become a bold witness for Him each and every day? There is so much misconception about Jesus, but John speaks of the real Jesus. Will you speak of the real Jesus with your family, friends, and coworkers?