The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Word, uttering forth the thought and will of God in the hearing of mankind; of the Divine Life, quickening the world from spiritual death; of the Divine Light, scattering human darkness, and bringing in the morning of an immortal day. No terms can be too lofty in which to welcome the advent of the Son of God - a theme worthy of praise forever ardent, of a song forever new.
I. CHRIST IS IN HIMSELF THE TRUE LIGHT.
1. As distinguished from, though symbolized by, physical light. When you watch for the morning, and see the crimson dawn fill all the east with promise of the coming day; when from the hill top at noon you scan the landscape where valley, grove, and river are lit up by the splendour of the summer sun; when you "almost think you gaze through golden sunsets into heaven;" when you watch the lovely afterglow lingering on snow clad Alpine summits; when by night you watch the lustrous moon emerge from a veil of clouds, or trace the flaming constellations; - then, remember this, Christ is the true Light.
2. As contrasting with false lights. It is said that upon some coasts wreckers have been known to kindle misleading lights in order to lure confiding seamen to their destruction. Emblem of teachers and of systems that deceive men by representing his bodily and earthly interests as of supreme importance - that bound his horizon by the narrow limits of time, that tell him that God is unknowable. Opposed to such is that heavenly light which never leads astray, and never pales or sets.
3. As distinct from the imperfect lights, in which there was Divine truth, although but dim. There were in such philosophy as the wise and lofty-minded heathen produced, rays of truth which came from God; but these were mingled with the smoke and mists of human error. The Hebrew prophets proclaimed Divine truth and inculcated Divine righteousness; yet they were lost in the Christ who fulfilled them, as the stars are quenched before the rising sun.
4. Christ was the true Light, as revealing the truth concerning God and his character and purposes of mercy; as pouring the lustre of moral purity over a sin-darkened world; as diffusing abroad spiritual life, and with it spiritual brightness, gladness, and hope. He is both luminous and illuminating.
II. CHRIST IS THE LIGHT COMING INTO THE WORLD. In himself he was and is the true Light; but we have reason to be grateful, because, as the Sun of Righteousness, he has arisen upon the world with healing in his wings.
1. This light came into the world even before the advent - has always been streaming into human nature and human society. Reason and conscience are "the candle of the Lord," by which he lights up our inmost being. He who first said, "Let there be light!" having provided that which is natural, did not withhold that which is spiritual.
2. Yet this "coming" was especially in the earthly ministry of our Redeemer. Conversing with Nicodemus, Jesus said, "The Light is come into the world;" and before the close of his ministry he cried, "I am come a Light into the world" - expressions exactly corresponding with the language here used by John. It was to a world which needed him, which was in darkness and the shadow of death for want of him, that the Saviour came. His whole ministry was a holy, gracious shining; and in his light there were many who loved to walk.
3. The Divine light did not cease to come into the world when Christ ascended. In fact, at first, the world generally neither welcomed nor even recognized its Divine Enlightener. Only after the vain attempt to quench the heavenly light did men learn its preciousness and power. From the celestial sphere this glorious and unquenchable Luminary casts its illumining and vivifying rays in a wider sweep. Christ has by his Spirit been constantly "coming" into the world, and with ever-extending beneficence, and has thus been delivering men from the horrors of a moral midnight gloom.
III. CHRIST IS THE LIGHT THAT LIGHTETH EVERY MAN. The largeness of this language quite accords with the teaching of the New Testament generally.
1. There is in every human breast a Divine light - the light of the Word - not dependent upon human forms of doctrine. A ray from heaven will guide all those who look for it, and who are ready to be led by it.
2. The purpose of Christ's coming into the world was that all men might through him enjoy spiritual illumination. The need of such enlightenment is apparent to all who consider the ignorance and sinfulness of mankind, calling for both a revelation of truth and supernatural motives to obedience. Jews and Gentiles both, if in different measure, required a new and spiritual daybreak. Christ came "a Light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the Glory of God's people Israel." Not merely all the nations of men, but all classes and conditions, and even all characters, needed this Divine shining. Those whose eyes were turned to the light found in him the fulfilment of their desires. Those who had been trying to content themselves with darkness, in many cases learned to cherish a better hope, and came to enjoy a purer satisfaction. PRACTICAL APPEAL. The day has broken, the sun shines; Christ, the true Light, lighteth every man. Yet it is for each hearer of the gospel to decide whether he will accept the light and walk in it, or not. The mere shining abroad of spiritual light is not enough; there must be an eye to behold the celestial rays, and that eye must be opened by the influences of the Spirit of God, that it may welcome the sacred sunlight. There are still those who love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. For such, until their hatred or indifference towards Christ be changed, the day has dawned, and the Sun has risen, in vain. - T.
That was the true Light.I. CHRIST IS THE TRUE LIGHT. This is seen when we reflect that —
1. He is the source of all the knowledge we have of the Divine Being — His relation to us, His infinite love, and the wonderful plan of salvation He has devised.
2. He is the source of all the knowledge we have of the life beyond.
3. He is the source of all the consolation we experience under the pressure of trial.
II. HE LIGHTETH EVERY MAN.
1. The general direction which the beams of the true Light are here directed to take is a marvellous instance of His condescension. The noble chandelier which floods the throne-room of the palace with its dazzling light throws not a single ray into the murky gloom of the squalid courts not far away. That Christ, the true Light, should dart His beams downwards to this abiding-place of sin is part of the wonderfulness of the gospel which we preach.
2. To Him we owe the gift of reason, which is one of the two great foundation stones of natural religion.
3. He has placed within us the gift of conscience — God's eye and voice, a witness against ourselves.
4. The proclamation of the gospel in every land.
III. THE TRUE LIGHT IS MADE EVIDENT FROM THE WORKING OF HIS SPIRIT AND GRACE.
(H. W. Price.).
I. The light of NATURAL REASON, which He has given us to cultivate and improve, for the benefit of ourselves and others, especially in the great concerns of religion. This light, which even the Gentiles had, was sufficient to have led them to the knowledge of the true God, and, by the visible works of the creation, to understand His "eternal power and Godhead" (Romans 1:10).
II. The light of REVELATION. By this light His will has been made known to us in the Holy Scriptures; the religion of nature commenced revealed; and the lesser light of natural reason was not extinguished by, but absorbed in, revelation. This further light was typified to us by the Shechinah in the tabernacle, and by that bright cloud by day and pillar of fire by night which conducted the Israelites through the wilderness.
III. The light of the GOSPEL: and this is represented by that noblest and brightest of all the heavenly luminaries, the Sun; Christ Himself, who is therefore styled "the Sun of Righteousness," having now arisen on His Church "with healing in His wings." This is the light which constitutes our present day.
IV. The last and most perfect light of all will be that of GLORY, which shall never set, nor ever change. But this light none shall ever behold who neglect the use of those lesser lights, who advance not gradually from reason to revelation, from revelation to faith, from faith to glory.
(Wogan.)I. Its NATURE. "True," not the genuine as opposed to the false, but the substantial, the essential, the original, the permanent, as opposed to the shadowy, phenomenal, derived, transitory.
II. Its INFLUENCE. Set forth —
1. Intensively, it lighteth.
2. Extensively, as reaching to every man, i.e, to all mankind, in the sense that its light exists for all, and to some degree shines on all, and to all souls who inwardly admit its beams.
III. Its CONDITION, described as —
1. Coming into the world, i.e, in process of passing from a Divine and Eternal into a human and temporal mode of existence, and —
2. Coming into His own, i.e, as unfolding His glory before the theocratic people.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)I. He is UNDECEIVING light, the true light in opposition to all the false lights of the Gentiles.
II. He is REAL light, true in opposition to ceremonial types and shadows.
III. He is UNDERIVED light, true in opposition to all light that is borrowed, communicated, or participated from another.
IV. He is SUPEREMINENT light, true in opposition to all that is ordinary and common.
I. FROM WITHIN, i.e, in the intuitive conceptions of the mind.
1. This light is internal, shining in the mental constitution of every man. What was life in the Word pre-incarnate was light or reason in men.
2. This light is innate in every man. "That was the true Light which lighteth every man as he cometh," etc., is a translation of many scholars. God takes care to write His name on the soul of every man; human nature bears the sign-manual of its Maker in its deepest constitution (Romans 1:19, "in them").
3. This light is Divine, the same in its nature as that which illuminates God Himself. The light proceeding from the sun is the same as that which resides in the sun.
4. This light is persistent. It continues to shine notwithstanding the Fall and its consequences "lighteth," present tense.
II. FROM WITHOUT, in the revealed doctrines of Christianity.
1. It is a supernatural light: not unnatural, or contranatural, for the most perfect correspondence obtains between the natural and the supernatural. Railway companies often possess running powers on each other's property, and the natural and the supernatural often run their trains on each other's lines. The latter is only an extension of the former.
2. It is a perfect light: true, i.e, the complete as opposed to the imperfect, the full as opposed to the partial. Christ is this; not a ray wanting. You may see God through the creation, but you may see Him in Jesus Christ.
3. It is a universal light.(1) It enlightens every man that cometh into the world. The perfect is always universal. "Go ye into all the world." The Sun of Christianity is as all-pervasive as the sun of nature.(2) It enlightens every man that goeth out of the world. It can penetrate the blackest recesses of the dark mountains along which you are descending, and dissipate the mist of the swelling flood, and illumine your way right into the unseen.(3) It enlightens the world into which you are going. " The Lamb is the light thereof."
(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)
I. THROUGH NATURE. "In the beginning," before there was ear to hear or mind to understand — the mind of God was speaking with itself. There was a Word. Then —
1. The Word is spoken of as bringing the world into being, i.e, God's Word found utterance in creation. A word is an expression or a work. The most expressive of all are not those which the lips speak. The American sculptor gazed upon the sky upon a summer's morning. He went about haunted with the memory of it. It was a necessity for him to express it. Had he been a poet he would have thrown it into words; a painter, on canvas; an architect, into a building; but being a sculptor his thoughts and syllables were expressed in stone. This world is God's sculptured work whereby He speaks out Himself.
2. This creation is a pervading immanence. " He was in the world." Creation is not the work of a Divine watchmaker, who winds it up, leaves it to go by itself, interfering now and then in great emergences called miracles. He is in the world, the life of all that is. The world is the form of which Christ is the Personality. The beauty of the sea-shell and of the field-flower is the loveliness of God. The world is an everlasting anthem hymning God's secrets.
II. THROUGH MAN.
1. Universally: "lighteth every man." Just as the sunlight shines on all, more intensely in the tropics, more feebly at the poles, yet shines on all. Your reason and conscience are the God within you. Thus the Fathers spoke of the wisdom of Plato and others as the unconscious Christ within them. Thus, too, in the Old Testament rulers and judges are called "gods" (John 10:35, 36).
2. Specially: "He came to His own." The distinction is between those who received the light common to every man and those who received the special illumination which entitled them to be His own — the Jewish people, the inspired people. Inspiration is God's acting on man's higher spirit — his worship and reverence. There is an inspiration of genius, but the inspiration of the prophet is another thing altogether. The Jews were not great statesmen, artists, scientists; but the thought of God, the sanctity of duty, moral and spiritual truth were in them as in no other nation on earth.
III. THROUGH THE INCARNATION. God manifested Himself not through what Jesus taught or spoke, hut through what Jesus was and did.
1. Christ was not a transient theophany like the burning bush, the Angel of the Covenant, or the Shechinah glory.
2. But God Himself in man and with man for ever. The application is —(1) That all that can be known of God is through a revelation. The light of revelation is not contrary to, but complementary of, the light of nature.(2) That revelation is progressive. In the world; with the world; made flesh. In the world unconsciously in nature; nearer in man; nearest in Christ; the time is coming when He will be still nearer, "when we shall see Him as He is."
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)I. EVERY MAN COMES INTO THE WORLD WITH A LIGHT IN HIM. Dim in infancy, but ready to be fanned by educational influences; dark in heathenism., but glimmering amongst fogs of superstition. This light reflects —
1. On social obligation. Every man has the sense of right and wrong.
2. On religious worship: the sentiment of a God is universal.
3. On future retribution: reference to a future life of reward and punishment instinctive. That all men have their light is clear —(1) From history. Its rays may be seen in the best heathen, in their sacred books, and even amongst the most degraded tribes.(2) From the Word of God (Romans 1.). It is absurd to deny its existence because it burns dimly under the glass of ignorance, and never throws a false hue on duty and destiny, etc. Any light is better than darkness. A manuscript may contain truth, although part may be torn away.
II. THE LIGHT IN EVERY MAN IS FROM CHRIST. This fact —
1. Exalts Christ as the Creator of souls (ver. 2). He puts this inextinguishable light in them.
2. Reveals the responsibility of heathens. They are not in utter darkness. It is amongst them in these elements of truth by living up to which they may be accepted of God. Thus heathen salvation is not independent of Christ.
3. Furnishes an argument for the congruity of Christianity with human nature. Both the natural and the gospel light come from one source in Christ and harmonize with each other.
4. Supplies a motive to extend the light of the gospel Although Christ gave men natural light, He saw their need of a higher light, and became flesh and died to give it.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
(Theodore L. Cuyler.)I. HOW FAR IS THIS TRUE? Is it not rather sin which explains it? Its facts meet us everywhere, and sum up the life of the individual and the nation. We see them and feel their curse. But do they explain all? Are there not stirrings of the awakened conscience, longings of the soul for its lost innocence, better hopes, holier resolves, efforts to lay hold of God? Whence have these come? From the Light. Sin, so far from interpreting life, is its confusion. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." But sin has obscured it all; caused its power and promise to be wasted, changed its blessing into a curse, quenched its light in darkness. A saved soul — that is consistent; a lost soul — there is bewilderment in the very thought. We cannot understand our own being till Christ gives us light; then our darkness passes, and the true light shineth.
II. It is not only true that salvation in Christ is the end which alone makes human life intelligible — THE LAW OF LIFE IN CHRIST IS THE LAW ACCORDING TO WHICH WE WERE MADE. The self-devoted Saviour is "the Light which lighteth every man." Men resolve every motive into selfishness. Men are always seeking, it is said, to please, themselves. But this only confuses. There is an impulse of self-denial which cannot thus be explained away. The father labouring for his little ones, the mother watching over her sick child's couch, do this for love's sake, and not to please themselves. The patriot denies himself for his country's good; we are often ashamed of our comforts when we reflect on the wants of others. The impossibility of living a life wholly selfish, the inspirations of pity, the passion for self-devotedness find their explanation in Christ. In Him we see the self-devoted life, the only true and blessed life for man. As Christ was it would be well for us all to be; that is what God would have us all be. All falls into harmony now; this is the true light.
III. If we turn from the quenchless impulse of devotedness to the QUENCHLESS IMPULSE OF WORSHIP; if we ask how it was that amidst the degradations of heathenism and the corruption of the Jews, faith itself did not die out; if we ask how it was that though philosophers often seemed on the verge of proclaiming that all religion was only a fiction useful for civil government, men could not rid themselves of reverence; if we ask how it was that in even the worst superstitions of idolatry something may be often seen which strangely suggests to us the gospel revelation; again we are reminded that Christ, "the true Light which lighteth every man," was in the world. He would not let them sink into utter godlessness. He preserved in them some little longing for the true, awoke in them some dissatisfaction with the false.
IV. FROM THE CROSS COMES THE LIGHT WHICH INTERPRETS THE DEEPEST AND MOST MYSTERIOUS FACTS IN HUMAN LIFE. The selfishness of pride is crushed as we recognize ourselves saved not by our own righteousness, but by Him that bore our curse. We have murmured that we should bear a doom for Adam's sin: Christ bore the doom for Adam and for us. We have murmured at our birth into a state of sin and suffering. But Christ was born into it for us. Our Christian life is interpreted here. If we are restless amid our pleasures, if we cannot be happy, if we are yearning to be better, it is because the Word is within us pleading with us to receive Him. If we have not been allowed to sink amidst temptations, to rest in a life of ungodliness, and if there be in us purer feelings and holier aspirations, these seek their fulfilment in Christ.
(A. Mackennal, D. D.)
(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)
(H. F. Beecher.)
Sermons by the Monday Club.That only is "light" which lighteth another; and that, therefore, which should "light" everybody is the True, Original, Primal "Light." Nature teaches it. You cannot conceive of "light" which does not emit. It must propagate itself. The moment that "light" does not shed itself, it is gone out. There is no propagation in darkness. Darkness is naked. A dark room does not darken a light room; but a light room will lighten a dark one. And the more "light," the more it brightens — up to that Perfect "Light" which "lights" everything. The sun "lights" the whole world. Christ is the Sun of God's moral system. When the world was four days old, God gathered all the "light" — which vibrated and was diffused in the atmosphere — into one great centre: or, more accurately, He made for all that "light" one great reflector to "rule the day"; then He made another reflector for the sun — the moon, "to govern the night." When the world was four thousand years old He gathered all moral and spiritual "light" — of the law, of prophecy, of grace, of love, of hope — which was scattered and indistinct before, into one grand depository; or, more accurately, He gave a perfect mirror, to give back all His own lustre and glory, to be the ruler and arbiter of the Gospel Day (Hebrews 1:1). And then God made a reflector of that Divine luminary — the Church; the Church, to catch and disseminate its rays in a dark world; the Church, to rule and govern the world's night.
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
(H. W. Price.)
(H. W. Price.)
Sermons by the Monday Club.How can this be true when there are, and always have been, so many who live on still in darkness? First, it was God's intention that "light" should be all-pervasive, and it does not make that intention untrue if, through the negligence of His people — to whom it was committed to carry it out — it has not yet taken place. The orb of day is not less the "light" to the universe, because you choose to eclipse it with your little hand. Neither is Christ less "the true Light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world," because they, to whom it was given, have not transmitted its beams. But, evil as things are now, it is impossible to calculate what may be the indirect rays of "light" which have reached, from the gospel, through the whole earth. There is a twilight of truth in almost every superstition and every error. Is that dim twinkle a refraction from the cross?
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)
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