The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Exegetical Compilation: John 1:1-18

[Note: part of my [url=]Exegetical Commentary series.]

John 1:1-18

v.7: “This one [John the Baptist, sent with a mission from God, per v.6] came for a testimony, that he might bear witness of the Light [the life within God, including within the Son of God], so that all might believe through him.” Or possibly “through Him”, depending on whether the pronoun refers to belief through the witness of the Baptist, or refers to belief through the Light Himself. Either or both interpretations could be accepted in various ways by all three basic soteriologies.

Where the soteriologies differ is whether the Son (through His human agents or otherwise) will succeed in His mission to bring all to belief (Kaths yes, Arms no), or whether that was really the Son’s mission to begin with (Kaths yes, Calvs no). Arminians would usually restrict the mission to all humans, not all rational intelligences, and so actually be secretly Calvinistic on this point, just with a wider scope of the chosen elect (and without Calvinistic assurance of God’s victory!)

Another possibility for Calv interpretation, and perhaps for Arm interpretation, is that while testimony about Christ may and should be preached to all persons (even to rebel angels, if they exist), this does not necessarily mean an evangelical appeal for repentance unto salvation. It may only mean testimony to various factual statements about Christ (such as that the Word is emphatically God, etc.) Kaths (and most if not all Arms), however, would expect such factual testimony to include the intention of God, in and as Christ, to save all rebels from sin, and so would be obligated as ambassadorial representatives of Christ to truly (and not only formally or facetiously) extend the exhortation to repent and “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20) to all sinners.

The grammar here does clearly indicate a purpose of God parallel to another purpose in immediate context (introduced with an identical {hina}): God sent the Baptist {hina} he might bear witness to the Light. The question is whether God’s fulfillment of one purpose (sending the Baptist to testify and prepare the way), counts as evidence that God shall fulfill the related parallel {hina} purpose (all will come to believe in Christ).

v.9: “This [Light, which was not John the Baptist but which he came to bear witness to, per v.8] was the true Light Who is enlightening every person who is coming into the world!” (Or possibly, “Who, coming into the world, is enlightening every person!”)

Kaths and Arms would have no problem with the scope of this verse, but it might be considered direct counter-testimony to at least some Calvinistic notions, specifically ones which involve denying that the Holy Spirit acts to “enlighten” the non-elect in any regard.

The notion here is that if the Holy Spirit actually helps a sinner see (spiritual) light, then the Spirit is providing at least a little empowerment to accept truth and repent. But if a soul is given even a little empowerment, then (per Calvinistic and Universalistic salvation theories) we can trust the Spirit to keep persisting at this until the soul is saved from sin, however long it takes, even if the sinner persists in squinting his eyes against the light. This verse only testifies to the scope of the Light’s enlightenment, however, not to the persistence of God for the sinner to accept the light.)

v.11: “Unto His own He came, but those who are His own did not accept Him.”

A Calvinist would have no problem affirming that God will eventually save “His own” even if they currently do not accept Him; or alternately might regard this as ontologically “His own”: God came to everyone, for even the non-elect are His own in that sense, but God did not empower them to accept Him. However, the Light enlightening every person implies some empowerment to choose to accept Him. At any rate, this verse indicates that all have sinned and rejected God, even those who are God’s own.

Those who do accept Him (as noted in the following verses) are given authority to be heir-children of God. This does not mean they are merely adopted into God’s family, however, as though God was not their Father in the first place, for “those who trust into His name” are described as “begotten not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but of God!” The cultural concept (as in Galatians 4) is that “His own” (from verse 16) are actually children of God, just as nothing came into existence by any other way than by God (and just as the Light enlightens everyone), but are not mature children yet. Until they are mature they do not have authority from the Father to inherit. Whether they ever will mature or not, and follow and acknowledge God, is another question; certainly they won’t unless God empowers them.

v.16: “For we all received from that which fills Him, and joy for joy!”

The Evangelist may only be talking about “all we Christians” here, especially since the verb indicates an intentional reception by hand (possibly referring thus to the Eucharist – the Word became flesh and dwells as in a holy tent among us and we behold His glory).

However, verse 17 goes on to say that joy and truth (or reality) came into being through Jesus Christ. Why is this important? After all, it doesn’t say there that all persons receive truth through Jesus Christ, or anything else for that matter!

No; but verse 16 does say that “we all” have received from that which fills Him. What fills Him? {charis} and {alêtheia}, as stated back in verse 14. Moreover, we either give {charis} for {charis} received from Christ, or we receive {charis} for {charis} we give.

It cannot be that we fill Christ with {charis} (much less with original self-existent Life!) from which we receive in return–unless supernaturalistic theism is false, and besides that would run against the whole ontological thrust of the GosJohn prologue, including just afterward in verse 17, where {charis} comes into existence at all through Jesus Christ. The {charis} must come first from Christ to us, and then we give it.

The other contextually plausible option of action-direction is that we receive {charis} from Christ when we give {charis} to other persons who, like ourselves, have been created by Christ: a notion that has strong relationship with statements in the Synoptics concerning mercy and forgiveness: we shall be given mercy / forgiveness / {charis} (usually translated “grace”) if we give this to other persons.

Does the “we” in “we all” here at verse 16 provide local support for reading an exclusion in favor of Calvinistic elect into locally previous verses? No, because all three branches of soteriology (broadly speaking) can easily agree with the “we all” referring to loyal Christians here.

While the GosJohn prologue doesn’t seem to testify to the persistence of God at saving sinners from sin, it does testify heavily toward the scope of God’s intention to save sinners, and doesn’t deny the persistence of God in salvation at least. It also perhaps hints at the mercy-for-mercy grace of God testified frequently in the Synoptics: if we do not act to give God’s mercy to others, God will not give mercy to us. But that doesn’t mean we are convincing God to give us mercy originally, for we can be heir-children of God only if God begets us (not by the will of man). Even God’s own may reject the coming of God, while still remaining His own; and the category of “God’s own” is closely connected with the absolute ontological supremacy of the Father and the Son as God, without Whom not one thing exists which has come into existence, and from Whom come joy and truth, and the Light of Whom enlightens every person (even if the person rejects the coming of the Light. Which John, or possibly Jesus Himself in dialogue, will have more to say about later.)

Members are encouraged to add more discussion on these verses below, including alternate interpretations and links to other places (especially on this forum) talking about these verses in relation to salvation from sin.

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