From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
November 26, 2012
The Source of Life
‘In Him was life and the life was the light of men.’
There is an inherent risk when someone, who claims to be explaining a verse to you, tells you that he has changed his mind about what the verse means. You may well ask, “How do I know he will not change his mind again?” Yet I must confess that I have had to change my mind on what I thought this verse was teaching.
I had thought that the meaning of the verse was that the Lord Jesus came into this world and His life was a display of truth and gave light to men. But I have had to rethink that and to come to a different conclusion. The reasons for that are several: Notice that the verse occurs immediately on the heels of a statement about His creatorial power (v 3). As well, the verb (sorry for technicalities) is in the same tense as the verbs of verses 1 and 2, suggesting an indefinite period in the past.
So what then is this verse telling us? It is telling us that life, life in its essence, life underived and unoriginated has dwelt eternally in Him. That life gave rise to the creation which is all around us and became light for men.
Men ponder if there is life outside our world (they might more accurately ask if there is real life on planet earth). The truth is that true life, real life, is only found outside our world in Him. He is life in all its fullness and reality.
That life infused life into creation and became a testimony to humanity. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that His eternal power and godhead are revealed through the grandeur of creation. But here, in John 1, it is the fact that life must be derived from life — that there is, outside our creation, a source of life which gave life to everything.
This light shined into the darkness of humanity, but the darkness “comprehended” it not. Commentators differ on the meaning of “comprehended,” with suggestions ranging from “overcame” to “understand.” But in either case, the revelation of light which came from creation was not received and humanity plunged deeper into darkness. What will happen in the verses which follow reveal the magnitude of divine grace, and the goodness of God to us. As we rejected the revelation given in creation, He sent an even greater, clearer, and more tangible light. He refused to leave us in our self-chosen darkness. He sent His Son.
1. The light-darkness motif of John will continue throughout the Gospel. Notice the many mentions of darkness and notice that it is not only the absence of light but the presence of evil. Then note the statement concerning Judas in John 13:30, “He went out and it was night.”
2. Compare this with John’s introduction in his first epistle, 1John1:1-5. He refers to it there as “that eternal life which was with the Father … ”