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John 1:12 – Presenting the Gospel

I have been thinking about what the Bible says about being saved. Since my college years, I have been leaned more toward the side of God’s sovereignty and the doctrines of election and predestination. These doctrines are clearly taught in the Bible. But there are also passages that talk about man’s responsibility. A sinner must repent of his sins and put his faith in Jesus. In my mind, this is hard to put together. God chooses to save but man must respond.

I have also been thinking about how to present the gospel in a way that makes sense to people. One idea is to speak the truth and then trust in the Lord to work in the person’s heart. The Bible tells us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” So, in one sense, we can rely on God to use the Bible verses we share with people and expect it to work. But then we see Paul seeking to persuade people of the truth. There is no doubt that he was trusting in God to work in the person’s heart. But he was also working hard to persuade them of the truth. With that in mind, I am wondering if how we present the gospel is somehow making it more difficult for people to believe.

With all of that in mind, I have an idea. I think that each time we talk to someone about the Lord, we need to be careful to tailor our conversation to the situation. Perhaps one conversation may be like Jesus and Nicodemus while another is like Jesus and the woman at the well. Tonight, I would like to look at the one Bible passage and try to see how it can be used for presenting the gospel. Let’s take a look at John 1:12 and then see how we can present the gospel with it.

  1. The context

    Jesus is presented as the Word of God (John 1:1-3).

    “John is introducing Jesus with a word or a term that both his Jewish and Gentile readers would have been familiar with. The Greek word translated ‘Word’ in this passage is Logos, and it was common in both Greek philosophy and Jewish thought of that day. For example, in the Old Testament the ‘word’ of God is often personified as an instrument for the execution of God’s will (Psalm 33:6107:20119:89147:15-18). So, for his Jewish readers, by introducing Jesus as the “Word,” John is in a sense pointing them back to the Old Testament where the Logos or “Word” of God is associated with the personification of God’s revelation.

    And in Greek philosophy, the term Logos was used to describe the intermediate agency by which God created material things and communicated with them. In the Greek worldview, the Logos was thought of as a bridge between the transcendent God and the material universe. Therefore, for his Greek readers the use of the term Logos would have likely brought forth the idea of a mediating principle between God and the world.

    So, essentially, what John is doing by introducing Jesus as the Logos is drawing upon a familiar word and concept that both Jews and Gentiles of his day would have been familiar with and using that as the starting point from which he introduces them to Jesus Christ. But John goes beyond the familiar concept of Logos that his Jewish and Gentile readers would have had and presents Jesus Christ not as a mere mediating principle like the Greeks perceived, but as a personal being, fully divine, yet fully human.”1

    To summarize this point, John refers to Jesus as “the Word” to show that this is how God revealed Himself to the world.

    Jesus is presented as the Light of the world (John 1:4-9).

    Our church just installed a motion activated light near the front sidewalk. It was installed so that people could see better when walking from the church entrance to the parking lot. In John 1:4-9, we see Jesus referred to as the Light of the world. When God revealed Himself to the world by sending the Word into the world, His life was like a light to people. The world without God is filled with the darkness of sin and the ignorance of what is truly right or wrong. As Jesus spoke to people, they were made aware of their sin and need for Jesus as they compared how they lived and what they thought to what Jesus said and did.

    Jesus is presented as someone who was not received by many (John 1:10-13).

    How did people respond when the Word was revealed to the world? The shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and the wise men responded well, but not many others did at the beginning. Many of the religious leaders didn’t accept Him as true because they had a convoluted idea of what God required. Even though the Word had made the world, the world didn’t recognize Him. But some did. Some received and believed Him and became children of God by being born of God.

    Jesus is presented as the Word who became flesh (John 1:14).

    When we read that the Word became flesh, it is talking about how God became a human and revealed Himself to us. This is referring to when Jesus was conceived miraculously and was born to a virgin. But it doesn’t stop there. He was fully human and lived among people who saw Him. John says that they saw two things about Him. The first is His glory as God. This must be referring to when John and two other disciples saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain. At that point, they saw him shining in His divine glory as God. The second is how He presented Himself to the world. He was full of grace and truth. This means that Jesus was gracious to people and told them the truth.

    Questions:

    Would John 1:12 make sense without knowing who Jesus is?

    I don’t think it would make sense. Presenting a list of requirements (receive and believe) without knowing Who needs to be received and believed would not make sense. When presenting the object of our faith, we need to know who He is.

    Would John 1:12 make sense without verse 13?

    While there is a required response, nothing would be possible unless God is involved. Note that they didn’t become children of God by physical birth or by someone’s will. It was God that made it happen. This is why I often like to say, “as God works in your heart” when talking to someone about the Lord. Saying a prayer or making a statement or saying I believe doesn’t make is happen without God’s input.

  2. The terms

    I have been listening to Danny Orlis books on Audible while I travel. In those books, the Christians tell unbelievers about their need to confess their sins and trust in Christ. Each book uses the same terms. I understand what they are saying. It is similar to repent and believe, but I wonder if repeatedly using those terms may lose its effectiveness. Saying them over and over again without Bible verses to support the terms may make us feel like we are presenting the gospel when we are actually just repeating words that only make sense to us.

    They received Him.

    At a particular point in time, these people received Jesus instead of rejecting Him. They understood who He was and accepted Him as such. What did they receive Him as? They received Him as the Word of God. He was the One sent by God the Father to reveal Himself to the world.

    They were given the right to become children of God.

    When I was in high school, we had a friend with whom we had a lot of fun. When I suggested that he be adopted into the family, my father said, I don’t know about that. He was the father and only he could adopt someone into the family.

    The same is true about becoming a child of God. This is something only God can do. This is tied into the new birth which is more fully explained in John 3. However, the idea here is clear. Only God can allow someone to become His child. But it will only be someone who received Jesus and…

    They believed in His name.

    The second response from people was belief in Jesus’ name. What exactly does this mean? “Faith, as the Bible uses it, is not just head knowledge. Many people ask, ‘You mean all that I have to do is say that I believe?’ Yes … but let’s see what that implies.”2 Today we don’t speak like this: Do you believe in His name? But back then, “‘Name’ [was] a common expression to denote the entire person, including what he stands for and represents (see John 15:21; 17:26; Acts 4:12).”3 With that in mind, we understand that this is similar to what receiving means. The people who received Jesus and became children of God were those who believed in who Jesus is.

    Questions:

    What terms are usually used when presenting the gospel?

    The usual terms I hear used are accept Jesus, believe in Him, turn from your sin, repent, confess your sins, pray, ask Jesus to save you, etc.

    Do you think it is important to use the same terms as the Bible does?

    I would suggest that the terms used by God in the Bible are important. While we may need to “translate” them into modern English so that people can understand them, we should try to use the same ideas and words used in the Bible so that people get God’s truth accurately.

  3. The presentation

    It is nice to have a concise way to present the gospel. Trying to talk to someone about their need and fitting everything into one conversation may take longer time than we have. But our presentation of the gospel needs to have enough information in it for the person to understand. So, if we were to base a presentation of the gospel on John 1:12, we would do well to include the information from John 1:1-14 so that the person listening has a full understanding of what that one verse means.

    If taken in order, the presentation would go as follows:

    Explain who Jesus is.

    Jesus is the Word of God, the message from God to the world. He is also God who created the world and became a man. He is the Light of the world who shows us how sinful we are when compared to God.

    Explain the required response.

    To become one of God’s children, each person must receive and believe. This involves receiving Jesus for who He is and believing in His name, what He stands for. To receive and believe, you will need to read more of the Bible to find out who Jesus is and what He said.

    Explain what God does.

    When you come to the place where you receive Jesus and believe in Him, you can be confident that God has brought you to that point. It is not something you can work up your self or that you earn by anything you do or are. Instead, it is God changing you from the inside and making you His child.

    Questions:

    What would be missing if you only shared verse 12?

    You would be missing the context that explains all that someone needs to receive or believe about Jesus.

    What happens if you run out of time?

    While each Christian wants other people to become a child of God, there may not always be time to finish a presentation of the gospel. Sometimes you may be planting the seed while other times you may be reaping the harvest. Don’t rush thing. Trust the Lord to do His work in their lives.

Footnotes

1 Gotquestions
2 McGee 373.
3 Kent 32.

Bibliography

Kent, Homer A., Light in the Darkness, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974.

McGee, J. Vernon,

Rienecker, Fritz, and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976.

“What do John 1:1,14 mean when they declare that Jesus is the Word of God?” as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Word-God.html on 1/7/2024.