John A. Broadus
In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:4,5
Every attentive reader
must have been struck with the introduction to the Gospel of John. It is calculated and
designed to give more correct and exalted conceptions of the dignity of him who became our
Redeemer-that we may recognize his claims upon our love and obedience. Who can fail to
take interest in the inspired account of such a subject! From the very nature of the
subject, the passage contains much that is difficult-but without going beyond our depth,
without wild and vain speculation, we may find our profit in dwelling upon the various
parts of this introduction, which will come up in the process of explaining and commenting
upon the verses read.
I. In him. Whom? The Word. Consider
1. The allusions to his pre-existence and divinity. We may suppose (with reverence) that sacred writers often had great difficulty in finding suitable terms-never more than here. The term "Word" (logos) had come to be much used to denote an exalted being, sup-posed to have a very intimate relation to the Deity. Later Jewish writers identify or at least connect this logos with the word of God-especially Philo, who is said to have employed the term frequently, and to have referred to a peculiar use of it made by Plato. In the speculations which were already becoming rife in Asia Minor, the term was largely employed to express various ideas of a divine being which were absurd and even blasphemous. Now the apostle adopted the term as coming nearest, not sanctioning these erroneous notions, but making such statements as were calculated to correct them-setting forth the real and true Word, in opposition to all false and fantastical notions.
(a) This exalted Being existed in the beginning.
(b) He was with God-intimate communion, enjoyment of glory and blessedness.
(c) He was God. Plain, explicit, unambiguous. Numerous other statements like it.
(d) Repeated statement that he was with God, seems to refer to the distinction of persons-the Word was God, and the Word was with God. How much the Scriptures explicitly declare concerning the divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and yet that God is one. Terms "person" and "Trinity" are of human choosing, but the best perhaps that we can find.
(e) He was the Creator of all things.
2. His incarnation-"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth-and we beheld his glory," etc. A real incarnation-"forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also" etc.
II. "In him was life." Various terms employed in this introduction, Which require and would repay a careful study, comparing especially the apostle's own use of them elsewhere. Besides Word, we have life, light, darkness, grace and truth, the world, etc.
Life-Cf. John 5:26. "As the Father hath life in himself, even so," etc. I John 1:1, 2.-"Of the Word of Life; for the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." Thus he is represented as the self-subsisting source of Life, the fountain of life.
Again, as appointed to impart spiritual life. John 14:6. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." I John 5:11. God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. In him is life then, in the most extensive sense.
III. "And the life was the light of men." The vitalizing, fructifying principle. Light used in Scripture is expressive of knowledge and happiness.
1. Knowledge. As sight is the chief means of gaining knowledge of external world, so very naturally light is the emblem of knowledge in general. He has given knowledge.
(a) Of immortality. So much more certainly and distinctly known.
(b) Of the attributes of God, and our relations to him.
(c) Of the way in which guilty man may be justified and saved. Notice this especially.
2. Happiness. What a world of darkness is ours-not simply mental, but spiritual darkness! He the Sun of Righteousness. Think of the happiness derivable from knowledge of the coming life. Still more happiness comes from knowledge and personal experience of tne way of salvation.
The true Light, which coming into the world, lighteth every man. Not Jews alone, but "a light to lighten the Gentiles"-his mission is not restricted in its design, whatever may be true of its actual application.
IV. "And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." (Received it not.) Men are in the spiritual ignorance and misery which belong to sin.
1. These received not the light. The world, made by him, yet knew him not. His own received him not. Often they who seem specially favored, do most utterly reject the Saviour. They loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
2. We may rejoice that the statement could not be made without exception-there have always been some to receive him. To them he gave the right, privilege, to become the sons of God-to as many as received him, and not Jews alone. And these were not such by virtue of any natural birth, but by spiritual birth-born of God. Cf. "born of water and of the Spirit," the pure birth of the Spirit.
And now, my friends, do not wonder that I have failed to give any very clear and complete conceptions of these great truths; these are things the angels desire to look into-they shall he our study through eternity. Who can grasp the vast ideas here shadowed forth-who comprehend the mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation-or appreciate all that is meant here by life, by darkness and light? A full comprehension and appreciation is reserved for the coming state. But we know enough for all the ends of life, all the wants of our spiritual being, if we will receive the light, and act upon it. To which class shall we belong, those who receive, or those who reject, the Light of the World, the only Saviour?
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