“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which 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 was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:9-14
For over 400 years the nation of Israel had not heard a prophetic voice from the Lord. For over 400 years there was the awful and strange sound of silence. Being familiar with the Scriptures the people of Palestine knew that a Divine promise had been made through the prophet Malachi. “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple” (Mal. 3:1).
For over 400 years men and women clutched this promise to their hearts. They watched and they waited. One generation was born and grew to maturity only to pass away for another generation. The sands of time ran through the hourglass of observation year after year. And yet, for all the waiting, the people of Israel in the land of the Philistines did not lose hope.
One day, a rumor was heard. In the desert dwelt an unusual man. He ate locust for food and wild honey. Material items held no attraction for him. He preferred to wear the skins of animals instead of soft clothing.
First one and then another individual made a journey into the desert area to hear the man with a message. All who listened were in agreement on one point, here was a man sent from God. It began to be whispered. The Divine promise was finally being fulfilled. The Messiah was about to appear.
Unfortunately, some people became confused. They wondered if John was the Light God had promised to send into the darkness. The answer was no. As the people listened John made it very clear that he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of the true Light (John 1:8). John was speaking of the Messiah who would come speaking words of intellectual and moral illumination.
Such a Light was needed because of the condition of the human heart. John understood that a spiritual form of darkness veils the soul from seeing the shining glory of God.
“When the sun is shining in all its beauty, who are the ones that are unconscious of the fact? Who needs to be told it is shining? The blind! The same is true in spiritual matters. When the Light of the world comes into the midst of men, who needs to be told that the true Light is present? The spiritually blind!” (A.W. Pink).
Scripture records the sad situation. The Creator came to the created and was not known. The world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not (John 1:10). The Eternal One of glory was not recognized.
It is a tragic scene that is set before us and we ask, “Why?” “Why did the world not know Him?” The Bible reveals the answer by declaring the true status of the natural mind of man.
The Bible declares that every person is born physically alive but spiritually dead. Every beautiful baby is stained by original sin. The Psalmist said, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51).
King David, who wrote these words, understood the extent of man’s problem. By birth every person is born with a natural inclination to do wrong. No one has to teach a child to lie, to steal, to be selfish or to hurt another child. No one has to tell a Martha Steward to cover up her crimes, if indeed she has committed them, or to tell a Sammy Sosa to fabricate a ridiculous cover story as to why he used an illegal bat in baseball. At moments like these in the national consciousness it becomes painfully clear that we are of our father Adam, and of our mother Eve who lied, and tried to covered up the wrong that was done.
Every form of sin comes to our minds and actions very naturally. The manifestation of the sin nature can be held in check to some extent, by external pressures, but individuals still remain rebellious by nature with an inclination towards evil. A fundamental bent towards wrong is in the soul like a caged animal. It wants out. And if the expressions of evil are held in check one way, a new avenue will be sought to release the inclinations of the heart.
Several years ago, a Hollywood film director was asked where he got his idea for the scary scenes in his movies. “I get them from reading the daily newspapers,” he said. “Nothing I could think of is scarier than the reality of life.” That is a valid statement. What screenwriter would have thought of a plot whereby a father injects his own child with the AIDS virus to kill him so that the father does not have to pay child support to the mother? That event happened in 1998 here in America. Our souls truly wander about in moral darkness. The only question is the degree of evil that one will be bold enough to do.
Here then is why the world did not see Jesus, and why so many in the world still do not see Jesus as they should, apart from a divine illumination in the heart. The natural man in the world, the natural woman in the world, the natural young person in the world is born spiritually impaired. The natural person is born blinded to spiritual truth. Ephesians 5:8 explains. “For ye were sometimes darkness.” And then, to make matters worse, John 3:19 says that men love their darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. People love to do evil.
But here we must be careful. In the Bible, evil is not restricted to the obvious wickedness such as murder, rape, pornography, covetousness, robbery, brutality, and stealing. There is religious evil as well.
Religious evil offers man a heavenly way to go to eternal destruction. Religious evil is the substitution of human wisdom for Divine wisdom. Religious evil is taking the very Word of God and giving it new meaning. There are men and movements in every generation who do not hesitate to redefine historical biblical truth.
That was the situation with the Pharisees and the Scribes during the days of John. These highly educated religious people took the Law of Moses and gave it new meaning. Instead of looking for a Messiah to save them from their sins, they set about to establish their own righteousness.
They would in essence save themselves by keeping the Law. As a result, when Jesus came to the religious leaders as the Messiah, they received Him not. Why? Because their self-centered hearts had become blinded to the truth, that salvation is of the Lord. The scribes and Pharisees thought they were better than other people, and so of course they would be saved.
They hated the thought that salvation comes to the soul through an alien righteousness. They refused to believe that it is not by works of righteousness, which we can do, but by God’s great mercy we are saved. But oh how men hate that simple thought.
I was once given a sermon to listen to from a friend who was excited about the message he had heard. I listened to the message and was grieved for as the Pastor set forth what he said was the plan of salvation, it was all man centered. There was no call to repentance and worse, the natural will of man was exalted.
In contrast to the popular presentation of a man centered gospel stands the Word of God to teach the truth. The truth is this. Salvation does not come to a soul because of blood relationships (John 1:13). The new birth is not hereditary. Nor is the new birth based on the will of the flesh, which is the will or decision of man (John 1:13). That is an impossibility, for the natural man has no positive inclination towards God that is acceptable in His sight until he has been born again.
Without doubt, this is a difficult concept to communicate. It is a hard point to comprehend according to Church history, as the following story illustrates. About the year 360 AD a baby was born and named Pelagius. The child grew into a religious monk of great learning with high moral character. When he was about 40 years old, Pelagius went to the city of Rome only to be physically shocked by the lax morals of professing Christians. Pelagius endeavored earnestly to raise the ethical standards by affirming the responsibility which men have before God. All of that was very good.
Then Pelagius went too far in his thinking and his teaching. He started to deny the doctrine of original sin and man’s hereditary guilt. In other words, Pelagius began to deny that men are born physically alive but spiritually dead. Pelagius wanted to contend that men by virtue of their reason and free will, have the power to avoid making any unrighteous choice. Man is not bound to sin by birth.
Here was and is the theological problem. If Pelagius was right, then the will of man could, in and of itself, choose to be righteous. If men can choose, in and of themselves to be righteous, then they can chose to be born again. They can choose the time, the place, the date, and the circumstances of their own new birth. What God wills in the salvation of the soul no longer matters. Man can in essence, save himself.
Having gathered a following around him based on the idea of a free will, Pelagius left Rome in 410 AD and went to North Africa. While there a good man heard about the teachings of Pelagius and was disturbed. His name was Augustine. With a desire to preserve the purity of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone,
Augustine began to vigorously oppose the teachings of Pelagius, which exalted the will of man over the will of God. He reminded Pelagius and his followers that John 1:13 speaks of those “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
In order to settle the growing division between Pelagius and Augustine and those who followed each, two church councils were called to debate the issues involved. There was the Synod of Mileue and the Synod of Carthage. In the year 416 AD both Synods condemned Pelagianism as the error for which it was.
Unfortunately, error does not die easily, for the pride of man insists that he must be having something to do with his own salvation. The recorded minister’s message on the tape I was given so long ago boasted, “The night I was saved I knelt and said, Jesus, if you will take me, I will take you. I took Jesus, and He took me.”
While that statement has a nice sound to the flesh, such an understanding of salvation puts man and God on an equal footing. What sounds appealing to the natural flesh is an offense to Almighty God who alone will be the Saviour of the soul.
Listen now to another minister of the gospel of grace who reflects more accurately the historic position of the Christian faith. Writing on the words of Psalm 3:8, “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord,” C.H. Spurgeon had this to say.
“This verse contains the sum and substance of [Calvinistic] doctrine. Search Scripture through, and you must, if you read it with a candid mind, be persuaded that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is the great doctrine of the Word of God: ‘Salvation belongeth unto the Lord.’ This is a point concerning which we are daily fighting. Our opponents say, ‘Salvation belongeth to the free will of man; if not to man’s merit, yet at least to man’s will;’ but we hold and teach that salvation from first to last, in every iota of it, belongs to the most High God. It is God that chooses His people. He calls them by His grace; He quickens them by His Spirit, and keeps them by His power. It is not of man, neither by man; ‘not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.’ May we all learn this truth experimentally, for our proud flesh and blood will never permit us to learn it in any other way.”
“Rise, my soul! Adore and wonder!
Ask, ‘O why such love to me?
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Savior’s family:
Thanks, eternal thanks to Thee.”
Those who see the Light of truth that salvation is of the Lord are called Christians. We say again, a true Christian receives Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour.
Christ is not a creed.
Christ is not an act of baptism.
Christ is not Church membership.
Christ is not a cultural way of life to remember.
Christ is a Living Saviour who saves people from their sins.
To be a Christian is to be in Christ. Matthew Henry explains. “To be a Christian indeed is to believe on Christ’s name; it is to assent to the gospel discovering and consent to the gospel proposal, concerning Him. Believing in Christ’s name is receiving Him as a gift from God. We must receive His doctrine as true and good; receive His law as just and holy; receive His offers as kind and advantageous; and we must receive the image of His grace, and impressions of His love, as the governing principle of our affections and actions.”
“Are you a Christian?”
“Have you believed in Christ for salvation?”
“Have you received His doctrine?”
“Have you accepted His rule of law?”
“Have you responded to His love?”
The evidence of salvation is manifested in several ways.
First there is a new love for holiness. The Christian loves what God loves and God loves righteousness. “Be ye holy for I am holy,” says the Lord. And the Christian humbly prays, “Lord, make me as pure and clean as a person can be this side of heaven.”
Second, the occupied pew is a sign of salvation. When the Word of God is preached, the Christian wants to hear it. When that which is able to save the soul is stated, the ears of the righteous are open to receiving it. The Psalmist writes, “I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psa. 122:1). Those whose hearts are not right with God certainly do not want to go into the house of the Lord.
Third, the offering of prayers in public and in private is a sign of salvation. God is a prayer hearing God who delights to fellowship with His people. Billy Graham has said that heaven is filled with answers to unasked prayers. There are spiritual treasures not yet given because they have not been asked for.
A love for righteousness,
a longing to know God’s Word,
a desire to pray,
these are some of the signs of salvation.
These are some of the characteristics of those who know the Light of the world and the truth of the gospel message.
If you have never received salvation why not, right now, accept what God offers and that is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Salvation is based upon free grace, not man’s natural free will. To see this is to see Christ as the Light of the World.
Today, the gift of eternal life is being offered. Come to Christ. Come to the Father through Christ the Lord. May God in His mercy grant each of us the grace to understand and the power to believe and be saved, for time and for eternity. Amen.