Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 December 18, 2022
“To Those Who Received Him”
We, in the earlier installments of this sermon series, heard of the Word (1-5), the Lord Jesus Christ, Who existed from eternity past, was instrumental in creation, and is the light, the life of men, shining in the darkness—the realm of evil and sin. Moreover, the darkness overcomes not Him. We also heard of the Word’s forerunner (6-8), John the Baptist. He came as a witness for a testimony to Jesus. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness about the light.
Today we hear that Jesus, the true Light, was coming into the world. We also hear both of the varying receptions that Jesus received and of the blessing accompanying one of those receptions. Let us learn more of these as we hear the Word of God read and proclaimed once again in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The true light which enlightens everyone, Jesus, was coming into the world. We recall Jesus’ own testimony concerning Himself: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). Jesus stands in contrast to His forerunner, John the Baptist, who was not the light, yet was a crucial witness to Him (8).
Alas, many people of Jesus’ day received Him ill. He came into the world (Greek kosmos [kosmoV]). Not only does the Greek word rendered world connote the physical creation, but it also connotes a world system hostile to God and a people both ensnared by that system and alienated from God.1 Even though the physical creation came to pass through Jesus, those of the world system, ensnared by it, knew Him not. Furthermore, He came unto His own people, in His own domain—His Old Testament Church—and, by and large, they received Him not. He was the One to Whom the Law and the Prophets testified and pointed. He was the fulfillment of their Messianic hope—and, yet, by and large they received Him not. If this ended the narrative, then it would be tragic beyond speech. Happily, the narrative ends not here, but the Apostle John, led by the Holy Spirit, continues in glorious vein.
John continues, “But to all who did receive Him….” Some, indeed, received Jesus well, and, consequently, they are children of God. This blessed occurrence, and state, came not because of human activity or pedigree (…not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man). They are children of God because they are born of God. In John 3 (esp. vv. 1-8), Jesus talks with Nicodemus about birth from above—of second birth (Greek anothen [anwqen]). This is not natural birth, as Nicodemus erroneously surmised, but supernatural birth. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the instrumental means of this supernatural birth—a faith that itself is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-10). To those who exercise this God-given faith, God gives the right—yea, the authority (Greek exousia [exousia])–to become children of God, with all the privileges and responsibilities appertaining thereunto.
The true Light has come, in Jesus Christ, into the world. He shines in the darkness, and the darkness neither has understood Him nor overcome Him. Many, however and alas, will remain in darkness because they embrace not the Lord Jesus in saving faith. This occurs, in some cases, through ignorance: they know Him not because they have not heard of Him at all, or they have not heard of Him intelligibly, or something else. This occurs in other cases, sadly, through defiance: they receive Him not simply because they will not, as Jesus tells Nicodemus, and us, saying, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (3:19). Though the light shines, and the darkness neither understands nor overcomes Him, still many linger under the realm of sin and evil.
Yet others have received Him, and will receive Him, by believing in His Name. To them—even the likes of many of us—He gives the right to become children of God. To them who receive Him, and to us who receive Him, come all the blessings of being children of God. The life that Jesus gives, which flows from Him, is abundant, as He Himself says, “The thief comes but for to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (10:10). This abundant life has many facets: among them are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.2 The life that Jesus gives also is eternal (3:16). It never ends, despite all the sights and sounds of this life to the apparent contrary. Again, this life that Jesus gives does not come naturally, but it comes—and it comes supernaturally. In view, then, of all our triune God is—and in view of all that we stand to gain by virtue of union with Him—the question of the ages hangs for our initial or ongoing answer, “Will you receive Him, or continue to receive Him, today—even this very moment?”
1Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).
2These are the benefits listed in answer to question 36, The Westminster Shorter Catechism, to wit, “What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?”