This can be a source of confusion for new readers. John the apostle is the one writing this book. He is not the John mentioned in these two verses. This is John the Baptist.
John was sent from God. You may recall the story from Luke chapter 1. John's father Zacharias was a priest serving in the temple when the angel Gabriel appeared to him and said,
Luke 1:13-17 ..."Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb. And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
John was sent from God to be a witness of Jesus Christ. That was his whole purpose - that everyone would believe in Jesus.
John was not the light. What light? Remember last week we read that in Jesus...
John 1:4-5 ...was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Jesus was the light of men, not John. That's actually an important point, because many people thought John was the guy when they saw how powerful his preaching was and how massive his ministry was.
But no, Jesus was the light. Jesus came and shined light on every person. You see, every one of us is in darkness. 2Corinthians 4 tells us that the devil,
2Cor. 4:4 ...the god of this world, has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
We are blind. And the light of Jesus Christ shines on us, inviting us to have eternal life. But our darkness doesn't comprehend the light. However, although we cannot see the light of Jesus Christ, if we believe it and receive it by faith, we can finally see that light.
Remember verse 3 from last week, which told us that
John 1:3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Jesus Christ was the creator of the world.
Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth...
He is the Creator, but when He came to the world, the world refused to recognize Him.
Then He came to His own - the Jews. Certainly His chosen people would receive Him. He had put so many signposts in the Scriptures over the years, that certainly they would recognize Him instantly and rejoice. But no, the Jews refused to receive Him. The world rejected their own Creator, the Jews rejected their own Deliverer.
But some in the world did receive Him. And all who receive Him become children of God. They become born again.
They are not born of blood. You can't be a child of God by blood. It doesn't matter who your ancestors were or whether you had a priest in the family. It doesn't matter if your parents are Christians, or your kids are. You cannot become a child of God by blood.
They are not born of the will of the flesh. It's not about straightening up your life and deciding, "Hey, I'm going to stop being so sinful. I'll quit drinking, smoking, and cussing, and then I'll be a child of God. No one becomes a child of God by the will of their flesh.
They are not born of the will of man. No one can force you to become a child of God. Maybe your wife has been wanting you to become a Christian. Maybe someone at work has been telling you about the gospel. Maybe your neighbor has been debating for the existence of God. But none of those things make you a child of God. They desire you to have life, to see the light, but they cannot force you into becoming a child of God.
They are born of God. They were born once into the world, and then they are born of God. When we get to chapter three, we will discuss this in more detail. At that point, Jesus will say,
John 3:7 ..."You must be born again."
John 3:3 ..."Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Let me pose this question to you: Have you been born again? Ask yourself: am I still living that same old life of darkness? Or have I seen the light of Jesus Christ? Have I been born of God into a completely new life? The Bible tells us that...
2Cor. 5:17 ...if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Are you still the same old person, living in darkness? Blinded in your sin? Your bloodline doesn't matter, straightening up your life doesn't do it. Other peoples' desire for you to be saved can't accomplish it. You must be personally and individually born again. Do it today - become a child of God.
The Word became flesh. Remember that another title of Jesus Christ is "The Word of God." He was God Himself up in heaven, but He became flesh to come and be with us on earth. Every Christmas you hear the story - about how Jesus came to earth, being born as a baby by the virgin Mary. God had said hundreds of years before,
Isa. 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."
Immanuel means, "God with us." Jesus Christ, the most holy God, came to be with us, by being born of a virgin.
He dwelt among us. That word "dwelt" in Greek is "skay-NO-o." It means "to fix one's tabernacle." Literally, what this sentence says is that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. For those of you in the Exodus study, that should bring up a prophetic picture that we haven't yet examined.
Have you wondered why God didn't have them build a temple? Why did He have them build the tabernacle, a portable tent? Because the Israelites were living in tents. He came to them where they were. He dwelt among them as they dwelt - in tabernacles. Just as God tabernacled with them in the wilderness, so the Son of God became flesh and tabernacled among us.
I'd like to pause and ponder this description of Jesus Christ: "Full of grace and truth," because as Christians, we are called to be imitators of Christ. When we see attributes in Jesus, it is essential that we grasp them and make them our own.
Now, we all know people that are graceful. They are constantly giving you what you don't deserve, for that is grace. They'll bend over backwards not to hurt your feelings. They think of the Scripture that says,
Eph. 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.
In desiring to give grace to people, though, they often will never be up front with you about an issue because they just can't imagine ever being harsh. They're so loving that you never know where you stand with them. They'll never confront you about your sin. They're like silent martyrs, taking everything upon themselves. Some of you here today are like that.
Then there are the people that are truthful. Oh so truthful. The truth hurts, but they don't care. It's their calling in life to tell you that your breath is bad, that your clothes don't match, that you're getting awfully fat. They even quote Jesus, saying,
John 8:32 ..."The truth shall make you free."
They'll tell you exactly what they think about you and everyone else too. They're like steamrollers, rolling right over people and crushing them for the cause of truth. Some of you here today are like this. (I know, because you hurt so many people with your truth, that I hear about it in counseling.)
Both extremes are wrong. Jesus Christ was full of grace AND truth. Are you so truthful that you're not graceful? Are you so graceful that you're not truthful? Either way is off balance. Never be so graceful that you're not truthful, but never be so truthful that you're not graceful. Pray about it.
The amazing thing about John the Baptist's witness is that he says, "He existed before me." Remember that John had been born several months before Jesus was. But John knew that Jesus was preeminent - that before the beginning of time, Jesus existed.
In chapter 8, we'll see the Jews arguing with Jesus. Jesus tells them,
John 8:56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
"Wait a second! Abraham lived thousands of years ago, mister! How can you say that?"
John 8:57-58 The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."
John the Baptist knew this already and said, "He existed before me."
Grace is God's unmerited favor - Grace is that He loved us when we were unlovable, that He saved us when we were unsavable, that He forgave us when we were unforgivable. Not only has He loved us, not only has He forgiven us, not only has He saved us, but we have received of His fulness - His complete abundance. The riches available in Christ are surpassing and unfathomable (Eph. 2:7; 3:8). He has blessed us so abundantly - He has given us grace upon grace. Grace on top of grace, grace added to grace.
On our Thursday night studies, we have been going through the book of Exodus. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to give to the people. These were rules and regulations that the people had to adhere to in order to have fellowship with God. But of course, they continued to sin, and that sin had to be covered for the people to have fellowship with God. So as we continue through the Law, we'll learn in Leviticus about the complex system of offerings that had to be sacrificed in order for the people to have fellowship with Him.
But their sin couldn't be erased, only covered. So what the Law of Moses couldn't accomplish, Jesus did. He offered Himself as a sin offering, just as Abraham had prophesied:
Gen. 22:8 ...God will provide Himself the lamb for the burnt offering...
He offered Himself to completely cleanse His children from all sin, as we read:
1John 1:7 ...The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
So when John says that...
John 1:17 ...the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ
...He is not putting down the Law of Moses. He is comparing the old covenant with the new covenant, the ongoing covering of sin with the once-for-all erasure of sin, the incomplete righteousness by works with the complete righteousness by faith.
Let me ask you something: what would you do if you actually saw God? Would you freak out? Would you fall on your face? Would you change your ways?
It is true that no one has seen God at any time, at least not God the Father. Remember when Moses requested a glimpse of God?
Exod. 33:18-20 Then Moses said, "I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!" And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!"
To actually view God in these mortal bodies would mean instant death. Moses was only allowed a glimpse of the fading glory of God after He had passed by. That alone was enough to make his face glow in the dark!
Now there are times when we read that people see God face to face. Some examples include Hagar in Genesis 16, Abraham in Genesis 18, and Jacob in Genesis 32. It was actually Jesus Christ they saw. No one has seen the Father, but they have seen the Son. The Son has explained, has revealed, the Father. Remember the conversation Jesus had with Philip...
John 14:8-9 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father..."
Now let me ask you again: what would you do if you saw God? Jesus Christ is the image of God. To see Him is to see God. What did you think you would do if you saw God? Would your life change? If you claim to be a Christian, has your life changed? Have you truly seen God?