If the world, including God’s people, lived in darkness at the time of Jesus, how could God expect anyone to comprehend who Jesus really was? Is darkness able to comprehend light? Can both exist together? Reason alone would tell us that darkness exists where there is no light, and where light exists, there can be no darkness. This is a paradox. Is it not? History shows that men did believe Jesus, but not all. Nevertheless, how could any have believed in him, if the tools of understanding whereby we could recognize our Savior were taken away by a wrong worldview?
John gives us the answer in the fourth section of his prologue:
John 1:10-13 KJV 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.
Here John shows agreement with his previous two sections, showing, though the world was created through the Word, the world didn’t recognize him when he came into the world (John 1:10). Moreover, though the Word took to himself a people out of the world that he called his own and taught them through Moses and the prophets, even these people (the Jews) didn’t receive him, showing that the darkness of men’s reasoning had extended to them, as well. Even the teaching of the then modern Judaism hid the truth of God from men, so that men couldn’t readily recognize their God though he stood before them (John 1:11). So what happened? Verse-12 says that some men did receive him—how was this done? John has Jesus come into a world of darkness in which the light of God’s truth doesn’t really exist in application. So, how can anyone comprehend light?
First of all, John introduced John the Baptist in verse-6, and he was given a message that was meant to wake the people up and have them face their sins, which have separated them from their God—the Light of the world (cp. Isaiah 59:2). Repentance is the beginning. John shows us that we must first admit that we don’t really know God, and that unless he reveals himself, neither can we know him. Even John the Baptist had to admit to his own astonishment upon seeing the Messiah was Jesus. I think John was caught by surprise when the Spirit of God shown upon and remained above Jesus (John 1:32-33). John mentioned twice that he didn’t know Jesus was the One who was to come (John 1:31, 33). You would think of all people, that the very prophet who was to herald the coming of the Messiah would be able to recognize him once he saw him. Nevertheless, even John needed the help of God to know that Jesus was that Light who had come into the world. Can you imagine the power of false doctrine, which is the darkness of this world? This world was in such a state by the time Jesus came into the world that the very people of God needed help to see past what they had been taught in order to recognize the Truth standing before them!
Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians that our receiving Jesus is totally through the help and guidance of the Spirit of God. Notice:
Ephesians 2:1-10 KJV And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (7) That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (emphasis mine)
Notice Paul says that, originally we were dead in sins. This answers to John’s darkness. The dead have no life or light, for they are in total darkness—Paul’s analogy of the unrepentant sinner. This describes us. Nevertheless, when we had no light (life), God quickened us (gave us light or life) in order to enable us to believe (cp. verses 5 & 8 above). It was not within our capacity to recognize Jesus, without God first giving us his new life (light), whereupon we believed, but remember, this ability was not ours; it was given us by God (verse-8). Thereby, through the will of God, we believed and were saved.
This is exactly what John says in his Gospel, but using other phrases. Notice in John 1:12-13 we were given the power to become the children of God in that we were born (i.e. reborn) not through inheritance as though we had a right to become God’s children (answering to “We were born not of blood”). Neither did we become God’s children through the power of our own will, i.e. we couldn’t work for it and earn it (answering to “nor by the will of the flesh). Finally, we could never become God’s children through the will of those in authority over us, i.e. by the command of our father, husband, king or teacher etc. (answering to “the will of man). No, we are God’s children only because God desired it. He willed it and gave us the ability to recognize and receive Jesus—something the world does not and cannot have.
The very faith we have in Jesus is ours through the grace of God. Without the power of God working in us we could never have recognized Jesus and received him—even the Baptist needed the Light from above coming upon Jesus and remaining on him before he was able to understand and believe. Wow, what a testimony to the power of darkness and the power of God to break through it and save us!