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.
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.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John’s account of Jesus coming into the world is very different from the other gospels. Matthew and Mark and Luke (the synoptic gospels) tell the story of Mary and Joseph, and of the angels and the shepherds, and of Herod and the wise men, and of course of Jesus born in Bethlehem.
That’s not John’s story. John starts with the eternal Son of God.
John makes very clear that the Son of God is God. Some people who don’t read the Bible very much say that the Bible nowhere claims Jesus is God. That’s obviously false. John writes that the Son of God is God, and that Jesus is the Son of God.
He goes on to teach that Jesus is the Creator. Again, some people have the idea that God the Father created everything by the Holy Spirit and that the Son just sat around and watched. That is also false. God the Son is just as much the creator of the universe is God the Father and of the Spirit. Nothing that the Father created was created without the Son.
Today I want to focus our attention on the important language that John uses. He states that the Son of God is the “word.” “Word” is a translation of the Greek word logos. That was a very important word in the Greek language. The logos is the word.
In downtown Santa Cruz we have a bookstore called Logos. That’s an appropriate name for a bookstore, since logos is rightly translated “word,” and books are full of words.
But logos often had a deeper meaning to the Greeks.
Many of the Greeks believed that behind our physical world is another world, an invisible world that is the true world. The most famous person who believed this was Plato.
They believed that our present world was chaotic, anarchic, without meaning. But behind this physical world is the true world, which they called the world of the Forms or the Ideas. This was the correct world that our world (without meaning) should be made to conform to. The task of smart people was to work to change our physical world into the pattern set forth in the ideal world.
This is where the logos comes in. The logos for the Greeks wasn’t just the word; it was universal reason; it was an organizing principle of all the world. It made order out of chaos. It was the rational principle in man that allows all of us to think and communicate and make sense and understand each other. In all this chaos and anarchy surrounding us, the logos, the principle of unity and reason, holds everything together.
John turns this idea on its head. When John says that the eternal Son of God is the word, he means that Jesus is the logos. He’s making an amazing — and comforting — point to the ancient world. They thought that the logos was a principle that was just a part of the universe. John is saying that the logos isn’t a principle, but a Person. He’s teaching that if you want to understand the universe, you have to know Jesus Christ!
The logos as the light
Now you can understand why John talks so much about Jesus being the light (vv. 4–10). The Greeks knew the world was full of darkness. They looked around them. They saw the evil in the world. That’s why the were wars and famines and diseases and death and sadness and tragedy. But they didn’t understand why this darkness was here. They just thought it was a part of the natural order of things. John knew that the darkness was because of sin. And the Son of God came to get rid of the darkness, that is, to get rid of the sin.
Did you see that John says the Son illuminates everybody who comes into the world (vv. 4, 9–10)? This is very important.
The question we Christians sometimes hear is, “What about all the people who haven’t heard about Jesus the Christ? How can God hold them responsible and judge them?” John gives the answer: they may not know Jesus’ name, but they do know the light. They know the truth of God and his goodness (see Rom. 1). Yet, though they see the light, they reject the light and choose to stay in darkness (vv. 10–11). Even the Jews, God’s own chosen people, decided to stay in their sinful darkness. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If we’ll only receive the light, receive Jesus the Messiah, we’ll become the sons of God. God will bring us out of the darkness and into his family.
So, everybody who has been born knows the light. They can choose light or darkness. I’d they choose darkness, they stand under God’s judgment. The great news is that this isn’t the way it has to be. If they’ll only act on the light they see, God will get the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. If they receive him, they’ll walk in the light.
This light is the logos, and I want to concentrate more fully on it this Advent season, because if we don’t understand it, we won’t grasp one of the main reasons Jesus came into the world.
Two Kinds of Christians
A helpful way to explain this is to talk about Genesis 1–2 Christians and Genesis 3 Christians. (That’s the language of Anthony Bradley.) His point is that Genesis 1–2 Christians see man’s great calling as bringing glory to God by worshiping him and serving him bringing everything under his authority for his glory. Their calling is chiefly about the present world. We might call the Genesis 1–2 Christians the worship Christians.
Genesis 3 Christians see the tragedy of human sin and the glory of the gospel. They see our great calling as getting people saved and ready for heaven. Their calling is mostly about the future world. We might call the Genesis 3 Christians the evangelism Christians.
Now the fact is that both of these views are correct, and both are necessary. It’s a both/and and not an either/or. We must be worship Christians, and we must be evangelism Christians.
What does this have to do with Advent? Plenty. We read in Matthew and Mark and Luke about Jesus coming into the world to save his people from their sins. This is Genesis 3 Christianity.
But we read a different angle, a different perspective, in John 1. This is why we have more than one biblical gospel account. In John 1 we see both Genesis 3 Christianity and Genesis 1–2 Christianity. Jesus is Savior of the world, but he’s also the light of the world, the logos of the world, the interpreter of the world.
You see, our problem isn’t just that sin exposes us to God’s judgment. Sin doesn’t just pollute our morals. Sin also blinds our eyes to why we’re here in this world. Sin confuses us about why we’re here. You see this in plenty of movies, especially sc-if movies. Sinful humanity wants to explore outer space because they have no clue on this earth why we’re here. So they go trolling in outer space to find meaning.
And so because man turns away from the logos, turns away from the light, turns away from Jesus, he stumbles in darkness. History is littered with man’s stumbling in darkness.
The cost of turning away from the logos
The West turned away from the logos and now is awash in abortion and sexual immorality and unwed pregnancies and divorces and broken (“blended”) families and pornography and socialism and euthanasia and sexual abuse and materialism and commercialism and greed and exploitation of women and thieving Wall Street bankers and thieving Main Street borrowers and sex-slave trading and racism and on and on.
Hitler exterminated 6 million European Jews.
The Marxists exterminated entire generations in Russia and China and Cambodia.
Islamic nations turned away from the logos and ended up degrading women and dehumanizing men and knowing nothing of God’s grace in their society, only of law.
Closer to home, among people around us, we can observe what turning away from the logos, the light, has accomplished. Look at those unbelievers around us.
They live for the weekend. They have no biblical understanding of work as being God’s blessing, good in itself. They thus grumble most of the week. Work is a prison.
They look at sex as merely recreational rather than as re-creational. They see children as an impediment to their personal gratification. They therefore miss the joy of personal sacrifice for others.
They have faith in man and no faith in God and thus have no true assurance or security. So they turn to drugs and alcohol to mask their anxiety.
Women resent men and hate men and try to replace men and then lose the wonder and joy of the complementarity of sex — of man and woman loving and enjoying and sacrificing for and needing one another.
Men objectify and debase and abuse women and turn them into playthings and never know a woman’s love and loyalty and care as one of the greatest gifts that God intended for man.
Children grow up to resent “the older generation” and rebel and cut themselves off from the wisdom of their parents and grandparents and others with experience.
Older folks dismiss younger folks and don’t care for them or listen to them and to their views and their needs and, in acting this way, they cut the cord to preserving intergenerational experience and wisdom.
In turning to darkness, they don’t know their God-established place in the world.
Turning away from the logos, the light, is a perilous choice with lethal consequences. I don’t need to prove that to you — those tragic consequences surrounding us prove it to you.
The Genesis 3-only evangelicals
We evangelicals often haven’t helped ourselves. We’ve often been Genesis 3-only Christians. We’ve divided life into the sacred and secular. We’ve given God our hearts on Sunday and given the world our minds on Monday through Saturday. We don’t think though what it means to follow Jesus the Christ in education and in voting and in economics and in entertainment and in medicine and in health care and in science and in technology. So we live two-layered lives. The upper story of heaven is the layer to access on Sunday mornings. But then we live in the lower story of the world the rest of the week. We see the light on Sunday, but we’re willing to stumble in the darkness away from church.
And so we live by worldly standards when we decide about vacations and artificial insemination and credit card debt and social media and business ethics and biological evolution and dating and dancing and body modification and investments. These are things we assume the Bible doesn’t say anything about. But actually, it says a lot about such things, at least in basic principle. And to live in the light means to live in all the light, not just the Sunday morning light.
Jesus didn’t come 2000 years ago to be the Sunday morning light. He came to be the light of the world, all the world, all the time. He came to be the light as far as the darkness is found, and since the darkness is everywhere, the light must be everywhere.
The message of John 1 isn’t just that Jesus saves the world from hell and damnation. He also saves the world from its utter, dark meaninglessness. He saves from stumbling in darkness, not knowing why we’re here. He saves us from living our lives on a mad quest for “finding our purpose in life.”
He saves us not just to go to heaven, but to worship him, and to work so that all creation worships him. He saves us to work so that all of life brings tribute to the Triune God and that all creation glorifies him.
John 1 teaches us that Jesus isn’t just the Savior of the world. He’s also the meaning of the world.
That, too, is our Advent message.