7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 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:
He lights the life of every man!
Calvin says: “For since man lost the favor of God, his mind is so completely overwhelmed by the thralldom of ignorance, that any portion of light which remains in it is quenched and useless. This is daily proved by experience; for all who are not regenerated by the Spirit of God possess some reason, and this is an undeniable proof that man was made not only to breathe, but to have understanding.” Thus he takes the position that this is the only proper interpretation of “the light which lighteth every man”. My understanding of the verse would put the Light as another name for Jesus, stressing his divinity. I have always connected “the light in every man” as being the very image of God, in the form of the Spirit, and thus I am led to reflect on the job of the Spirit: to convict the world. But perhaps Calvin is right; I would not dogmatically build a doctrine around such an obscure reference. I would point out, though, that Christ uses “Light” many times to refer to himself, and I do not think that the light referred to here as being in men, can be said to emanate from any but Christ. The point of the verse seems to be that somehow men are still being “lit” by the light, coming from the image of God; whether it be something left, hideously marred by sin, or the work of the Spirit in every man, I know not. Perhaps in the end they are one and the same—the image that we were created in has a part of God in it, but apart from the further work of God, we remain unable to save ourselves.
The way that John begins his gospel here is compellingly different than Matthew or Luke, who were concerned with the human lineage of the Christ. John begins at once giving us the deity of Jesus, and thrusting us directly into learning what that divinity meant. Matthew particularly is more concerned with the prophecies being fulfilled, while John is far more interested in presenting Jesus as God. In reading the commentaries, many times I have seen the suggestion that John was answering the heresies developing in his time. Some were trying to take away the humanity of Jesus as they struggled with the concept of a being who was both fully God and fully man.
Matthew lets us know the world was expecting a ruler to arise from Judea. The Magi came from the east, not Judea, and inquired of Herod about the one born “king of the Jews”. Herod himself was alarmed enough to attempt to destroy all Jewish babies of that time. Where did that knowledge come from? McGee says: “Suetonius relates that “an ancient and definite expectation had spread throughout the East, that a ruler of the world would, at about the time, arise in Judaea.” Tacitus makes a similar statement. Schlegel mentions that Buddhist missionaries traveling to China met Chinese sages going to seek the Messiah about 33 a.d. (Life of Vespasian, c. iv.).”
(I cannot help but remark that today’s world is also seeing the arising of a leader. The Christians allege the time of Christ is near. The Catholics have prophesied the end of their popes to be but one more after this one. The Moslems are proclaiming the coming of the 12th Imam. The Mayan Calendar has certainly generated a lot of speculation; one has only to google 2012 to find endless wonderings about a calendar which seems to run out that year. Is not the general tenor of the world preparing for a change in world leadership?)
Why does John seem to skip over all of that, and present us with the deity of Jesus? I would think the reason might originate in two things that are quite simple. First, Jesus was the best friend of John. At times commentators have acknowledged this; I do not know why they did not think of it to explain, at least in part why John presents such a different picture of Jesus. John was called the beloved. It was he alone of all the apostles who remained with Jesus to the bitter end of the cross. Jesus gave the care of his own mother to John in one of his last cries on the cross. It seems that John, being more reflective than the impetuous Peter and others, had prior insight into the nature of Judas. One of the last comments of the resurrected Lord concerned John, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” John himself clarifies this remark in the end of his book. I would submit that John knew Jesus a bit better than any of the others. Somehow he gained insights into the nature of his best friend that others choose not to emphasize. He knew Jesus, and in knowing Jesus, he knew God. That is the message of John. McGee points out that the gospel of John hardly uses the term Christ, yet so plainly this is the gospel of the Christ, and we would expect Christ to appear many times. Instead Jesus is used almost throughout the gospel. Why? I would submit it was because of John’s friendship, that he knew the Christ, but he knew him as Jesus, his friend.
Update: Calvin states this as I would interpet it later in his commentary:
"But since the Evangelist employs the general phrase, every man that cometh into the world, I am more inclined to adopt the other meaning, which is, that from this light the rays are diffused over all mankind, as I have already said." I still wonder if that light, however distorted and marred inside natural man, is not the conviction of the Holy Spirit, attesting to who God is.
I promised to list some of the places in John where it shows that Jesus absolutely knew all men—knew that they would largely reject him. Yesterday I listed places where it is very clear that Jesus is offered to the world. Calvin himself says of this gospel: “They do not, indeed, omit to mention that Christ came to bring salvation to the world, to atone for the sins of the world by the sacrifice of his death, and, in short, to perform every thing that was required from the Mediator, (as John also devotes a portion of his work to historical details;) but the doctrine, which points out to us the power and benefit of the coming of Christ, is far more clearly exhibited by him than by the rest.”
Verses that show Jesus knew the hearts of men:
1) But Jesus would not commit himself to any, for he knew all men. He needeth not that any should testify of men, for he knew what was in man. (J. 2:24, 25)
2) but still you people do not accept our testimony. (J. 3:11)
3) This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead
of light because their deeds were evil. (J. 3:19)
4) He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony
5) yet you refuse to come to me that you might have life. (J. 5:40)
6) But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. (J. 6:36)
7) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise
him up on the last day. (J. 6:46)
8) For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and
who would betray him. (J. 6:64)
9) Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (J. 6:70)
10) For even his own brothers did not believe in Him. (J. 7:5)
11) Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me? (J. 7:19)
I think that is sufficient proof, that though the Lord gave himself as a sacrifice to the world, he knew men, and knew most would never receive His message.
Calvin, John (2009-06-03). Commentary on John - Volume 1 - Enhanced Version (Calvin's Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 576-578). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
Calvin, John (2009-06-03). Commentary on John - Volume 1 - Enhanced Version (Calvin's Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 327-329). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 99620-99622). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Calvin, John (2009-06-03). Commentary on John - Volume 1 - Enhanced Version (Calvin's Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 498-500). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
Jesus Paid It All
1. I hear the Savior say,
'Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.'
2. Lord, now indeed I find
Thy pow'r and Thine alone,
Can change the leper's spots
And melt the heart of stone.
3. For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim;
I'll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv'ry's Lamb.
4. And when, before the throne,
I stand in Him complete,
'Jesus died my soul to save,'
My lips shall still repeat.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
Lyrics: Elvina Mable Hall