Studi biblici/Giovanni 1:10-18/John 1:10-18

Da Tempo di Riforma.

Evangelism: nothing else but Christ

The need of having always a vocabulary at hand

When we hear any word, we should not automatically accept its meaning as face value, or presume than the person who uses it, means the same thing as we think it means. We live in an age where the meaning of the words and their use is uncertain, susceptible to being bent and twisted according to convenience and the ideological presuppositions of their users.

"The objective" and “the absolute” are now denied and have been replaced by “the subjective” and “the relative”. This is why we must always be on the alert and wary of deception coming even from what we think are trusted sources such as the media, government, science or even official church organisations. We would like to trust these, but we cannot always do so now. For this, we need discernment, an ability to think for ourselves, independently. Often discernment is hard work as we must carefully evaluate, analyse and compare the actual meaning of the words we hear. We need, as it were, to keep a dictionary, at hand.

In committed Christian circles, the word “Gospel” (Good News) is considered clear in its meaning and evangelism, an established duty, rooted in a Biblical commission. Often, nevertheless, by Gospel and evangelism, spoken about and undertaken, we are confronted with very different and often unstated meanings and questionable practices. We need the Gospel to be preached and evangelism to be undertaken, but what is it meant by “Gospel”. We cannot accept any “evangelistic activity” as good and dutiful without evaluating its content and how is it undertaken. The discerning must ask this question: “Is it really true and consistent with what the New Testament means by “Gospel” and “evangelism”? Those who are not satisfied with slogans and have an in-depth knowledge of the New Testament, will soon realize that there is a substantial discrepancy between what the New Testament means by the gospel, the "good news" for excellence, and what today, in different churches and places, is defined.

There are “false gospels” around. Many chuches do offer false gospels, “other gospels” and hide behind "half-truths". The problem, nevertheless, is not new. The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Christians of Galatia:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel – not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell [in the strongest terms]! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell!"(Galatians1:6-8).

Evangelizing, or sharing the Gospel of grace, is what the four evangelists par excellence do in the New Testament, each one of them with their own style, and accent. They centre everything they say on Christ, on His credentials as Lord and Savior, His work and the "effect" He produces on those who rely on Him.

The biblical text

The Biblical text submitted to us today is part of the famous prologue of the Gospel according to John. John, in his characteristic style, presents us with different and specific “evidence” intended to commend the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ and the Saviour of the world. They are evidence and witnesses that, although they are not all the possible ones, have one goal only, namely what he says at the end of his Gospel: "Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31). In particular, John speaks of the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, in Jesus of Nazareth. To evangelize means to present the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, in order that He might be accepted and followed. Then "things will really change", of this too we have ample testimony, then, and now. Let’s read the text of John 1:10-18 and let's look at it carefully. It could be considered a miniature of the whole Gospel:

"He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. But to all who have received him, those who believe in his name, he has given the right to become God’s children – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God. Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known." (John 1:10-18).

The rejection of the world

“He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him” (10-11).

John the Evangelist does not speak of the birth and childhood of Jesus, but places his origin and existence back in time, in God’s eternity. The eternal Son of God, a "component" of God's Essence and the Author of Creation itself, who visits in the person of Jesus of Nazareth the land that He gave to His chosen people which belongs to Him. He is not, however, recognized by the majority of the people of Israel, who had represent and serve Him in this world and who were actually waiting for the promised Messiah. He cames to the house he owns, but those who live in it, did not receive Him.

You could say the same for the world. The eternal Son of God visits, personally, in Jesus of Nazareth, the world He had created and which belongs to Him. His, in fact, are all human beings. They carry His image and are designed to enjoy communion with God and serve Him. The most part of the people, however, do not recognize Him as such. He comes in the house he owns, but those who live there, do not receive Him. Why? Because human beings are rebel creatures who aim to "have no masters," who want to be independent and “god” to themselves. In doing so, their mind is darkened and distorted by sin and the Fall, and even miracles will be not able to persuade them otherwise:

"Although Jesus had performed so many miraculous signs before them, they still refused to believe in him" (John 12:37).

For them, even the "light of the world" is incomprehensible [1] due to being spiritually blind. The Light of the knowledge of God shines on everyone, but most people do not see it. The most characteristic reaction to the Word, indeed, is that of denial and indifference. They say: "We do not want this man to reign over us." People assume that without Him, life will be more exciting, interesting, sweeter, more enjoyable, more profitable and free: they will be masters of their own destiny.

Acceptance and sonship

"... But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God." (12-13).

The opposite of rejection is acceptance. When Jesus came, not everyone rejected Jesus. There were some people who gladly welcomed Him and received Him as their Lord and Saviour, the rightful king who comes to claim what is His by right. For these, He has a wonderful gift: he gives them the right, the authority, to become children of God.

Receiving Jesus into one’s life, is equivalent to "believing in His name." Believing does not mean only "admit" that He is Lord and Savior, but to receive Him into our life, welcome Him gladly in our hearts as Lord, as the only one who can really enlighten us and restore us to our original function. He arouses in us a light that illuminates not only our hearts, but it also contributes to enlighten those around us. The expression: "His Name" sums up all that He is. Believing in His name means accepting the revelation of who Jesus is. His name means "God saves." God saves from sin (and its consequences which is bondage, not freedom) all those who entrust themselves to His person and work, as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Sin leads to tragic consequences, in time and in eternity and above all, it is the infringement of His Law. Sin, in fact, is the transgression of the moral laws to which God has subjected human beings, for their life and for their integrity. Jesus came to take upon Himself the penal consequences of our sin and to regenerate us, morally and spiritually in order reconcile us with God. Believing in Him means relying completely on Him, recognizing our moral and spiritual state as miserable sinners, condemned and lost, giving up any claims. “Believing in Jesus” is not just intellectually accepting the facts that the Gospel of Christ announces to us. “Believing” implies, on our part, an act of “trusting abandonment” to Him and full obedience to his teaching. “Faith” in the Gospel of St John is viewed in terms of a living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ that begins with the reception, as we subscribe to everything that Gospel declares about Him.

Relating with faith and obedience to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ means establishing a special relationship with God, that of His authentic children. Being children of God is not a fact of nature, but “a right” acquired by receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Of course, there is a sense in which all human beings are “children of God” as creatures generated by Him, just as the animal kingdom are his creations. John and the rest of the New Testament writers, however, do not refer to this definition of God's children. Being God’s children implies above all a moral and spiritual "likeness to God” and His Christ in the context of the steady Covenant relationship He sealed and is aware of the commitment it requires from us. With our rebellion and sin, this relationship has been interrupted. The creational covenant between God and the human beings has been shattered. With Jesus, however, this relationship becomes possible, once again. Jesus reconciles us with God and through Him, we regain the right to be regarded as children of God. All those who are associated with Jesus, the eternal Son of God par excellence, are adopted by God into His family and regain the legal right to everything this sonship implies.

This is not a natural right that arises from “a blood line” or physical descent, similar to the one Israelites had from Abraham and of which they boasted [2]. It is not the result of a natural birth, as the one that comes from being simply human. It is not the result of a human decision, not even ours, but of a spiritual “rebirth”, a regeneration that God works in those to whom He grants grace and leads to Christ. This is a right to sonship, based on a spiritual regeneration effected sovereignly by God. Those who are in communion with Christ can say,"For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight11 in love" (Eph. 1:4). The “adoption in Christ” is a promise that the whole New Testament refers to: "Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire" (2 Peter 1:4).

So there are two faces of this "coin". First, we accept Christ and then God accepts us in Christ. This changes the whole of our existence, including our legal standing before God, and this step will have immutable eternal consequences for us. “To believe in Christ” means to be involved in a complete existential experience which engages all of our being. “Believing in Christ” is a trust-based relationship with Him that changes us and, since it is legally established, gradually leads us to be more like Him morally and spiritually, in communion with Him, since we are “grafted branches” that receive His lifeblood and that eventually produce good fruit, to His glory.

With us a glorious Life

"Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father" (14).

The Word, that always existed with God before the world was created, became a human being: this is the most concise biblical statement that we have in the Bible concerning the incarnation. Jesus not only had a human [3] appearance, He actually has become man [4], human "flesh", while fully retaining His divinity. The verb "to become" usually implies a complete change, but not in the case of Jesus, who has not ceased to be God's Word. "Flesh" in Scripture can have different meanings, but here it simply means "human being" or "human nature”. "The eternal Son of God assumed human nature, but did not share the condition of the sinner, that is common to us all, after the Fall.

You might as well say that the Son of God assumes the human nature as it was before the Fall, the people we were meant to be, creatures in full communion with God.

The Apostle John does not say that the Son of God “assumed a body” but that he has become a human being. The humanity of Jesus is real and genuine. The Son of God "took up residence", among humanity, literally "temporarily planted his tent" among us, in similar terms to when God dwelt with Israel during the Exodus, revealing himself in his tent (or tabernacle [5]). Solomon thought it impossible that God could dwell on the earth ("God does not really live on the earth! Look, if the sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this temple I have built!" [6]). But that is exactly the case with Jesus! For the first time, here, John explicitly equates the Word with Jesus, but will no longer use this term. He will simply use the name of the historical Jesus. As the eternal Son of God was the creative Word of God and executor of the will of Father, so the Son of God is incarnate God. He exercises the same powers and reveals the Person of the Father.

The "glory" of Jesus is His divinity as it was manifested to his disciples [7]. The character and qualities are like those qualities that make any son similar to his earthly father, only that in the case of Jesus, this correspondence is exact [8]. It is during the episode of the Transfiguration that the glory or divinity of Christ appears to Peter, James and John [9]. The character and likeness of Jesus with the Father is unique. He is the "only begotten." [10] Although we become in Him “children of God”, we will never be quite like him, as he is "the only one of its kind,"

The glory or divinity of God is characterized by "grace and truth", ie literally "kindness and truthfulness."[11] The Incarnation was the greatest possible expression of God's kindness to humans and the best way to accurately communicate this truth, to the limited human understanding. However, not everyone understands this communication. Neither the kindness nor the truthfulness of Christ may be known, in themselves, apart from a personal and sovereign revelation from God, because indwelling sin prevents this. It is sin that has the effect of disabling the natural man from seeing and understanding what is quite rational, and obvious.

A superabundant grace

"John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another." (15-16).

John the Baptist bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the Christ to the Apostles. John also gives seven explicit testimonies of Jesus ”identity” [12]. John expressly declares the superiority of Jesus over him. The superiority of Jesus resides in His pre-existence with the Father, and then His divinity. The testimony of John is very important in his gospel [13] and we believe on the witness of the Apostles. The glory or divinity that Jesus manifests is also apparent in His kindness and truthfulness (v. 14), but the fullness of that grace has different expressions in and are multiplied in the life of a believer. It is as, in the sea, wave follows wave: grace is the “water” that washes the believer, with subsequent blessings. The grace of God in Christ can satisfy every authentic human need [14].That "grace upon grace" (the original expression in John’s Gospel) can also mean that with Jesus there is much more grace available than that displayed when the people of God received the Law through Moses.

A harmonious life as possibile

"For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ." (17).

Moses was the means through which God gave His Law to His people. Jesus Christ is the means through which God manifests abundant grace and truth (kindness and truthfulness). What God dispenses through Jesus (salvation) is superior to what God had dispensed with the moral law.[15] The Law is a blessing for the lives of the people of God because through it they can live in perfect harmony with God, and with one another in society. Nevertheless, because of the disabling power of sin, man will never be able to achieve the desired peace with God. Indeed, it will prove to be “a curse” for him. Grace in Christ gives man a peace that by itself could not be achieved through the Law. This happens in order that we enjoy the blessings resulting from obedience to the law. Only grace is the enabling force.

What God had shown to be holy, through His revelation in the Torah, so now Christ shows in the Incarnation. The Torah (the Law) was a finger pointing to Christ, to mark in His grace, the path that Christ's faithful have to follow, the path of life and communion with Him[16]. John’s expression does not mean: "law bad, grace good,” but "The law is good, and grace is even better”.

We are therefore faced with two different times, two different "economies" not in the sense of two different ways of being saved, but two moments of the same reality. They chart the way (the Law) and the strength to follow it (grace). Even in the Old Testament, salvation was by grace (looking to the future, Christ). The '"water" of the Old Testament (which was good) gets better when Christ turns it into wine (the best), a truth proclaimed by Jesus in the miracle at the Wedding at Cana [17].

God fully revealed

“No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known" (18).

There are many passages in Scripture that speak of people who have had direct experience of God through visions, theophanies or anthropomorphic representations [18]. They are always mediated experiences because no human being can expect to see God, in His essence. To Moses, God also says: "My face must not be seen" (Exodus 33:23). Only one, the Christ, was before God and can reveal his face, completely. He was "in the bosom of the Father," meaning that He always had a close relationship with Him from eternity so that He himself mysteriously can and should be considered “God”, or, as we have expressed it, as a "component" of God.

God is invisible not because he is not real but because our senses are not able to perceive Him. Our eyes can only see only a part of the reality of God: the rest is inaccessible to us. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy” [19]. It's only through the spiritual sense, the ones that are given to us by regeneration, which we can expand our vision, just as technological tools can expand our perception of physical things.

The Revelation of God in Christ is therefore the most accurate that anyone in the world could give us. He is the ultimate Revealer of God. In Christ, the eternal Logos of God enters into our reality, as one of us, passionately involved with us. Communion with Jesus becomes for us communion with God. Jesus had always been "in the bosom of the Father," likewise we can be in communion with Him just like John at the Last Supper, when he had leaned on Jesus 'breast, "was reclining in the bosom (or “lap”) of Jesus” (13:23 literal translation).


What is this" good news”, then, that the Christian Church is called to communicate and live? There are many Christians and churches who misunderstand it and replace it or enhance it with their own ideas, rituals, institutions and programmes. There are those who do their best to spread these ideas, even using the most advanced techniques of propaganda and advertising, as if the Gospel were a commercial “product” to be hawked in the marketplace. Rather than true evangelization, we are dealing with a hoax, something misleading, carried out with more or less good faith, but still a “false gospel”, “tending to good” and seeming to be “plausible”.

The test of whether this is the Gospel of Christ, is whether a “Gospel” is entirely directing us to Christ and his cross, adhering to the Scriptures and also to nothing “more sophisticated” considered “equal”, “added” or “extra”. This is the mark of a false Gospel. False Gospels, like false prophets fail to deliver glory to God and his Christ.

The real Good News, as had been intended from the outset, it is essentially a message that focuses on God and Jesus. The Gospels and the entire New Testament evangelize or share the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth and His credentials. They testify that he is the rightful Sovereign and Creator of all things who, in an act of amazing condescension, entered, personally, this world of rebels hostile to him, through sin, in order to recover many to Himself.

In Jesus, God dwells for a time among mankind, containing in Himself all grace and truth, which He gives with both hands. While the greater part of people disclaim and reject Him, He grants to a number chosen people from among them, the grace of salvation by enabling through faith their spiritual and moral regeneration, like a new birth. This is not something that would ever be possible with human effort or even human will. This is so that they repent of their sins, welcome Him gladly and follow him on the path of renewed and fruitful communion with God God gives them “the right” to become God's adopted children by granting them all privileges and blessings that belong to Christ to whom all the prophets and apostles testify. Just as God has prepared this salvation through the historical experience of the people of Israel through Moses receiving the law of justice and harmony, in Jesus, He accomplishes it giving grace upon grace to all those who follow Him. He makes himself known : he who always was "in the bosom of the Father" makes known to us like no other “the face of God”' so that God through him, makes himself also known today. He calls us, by His grace, to communion with himself.

The mark of the true Gospel in the life of a true believer is that this special, divine “work” does not remain without effect or evidence in those who are involved in it.

Paolo Castellina, January 3, 2014

Text and Sermon for 05/01/2014 - 2nd Sunday after Christmas - Epiphany. Additional Texts: Psalm 147:13-20, Jeremiah 31:7-14, Ephesians 1:3-14.


  • [1] Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? And aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? "(Matthew 13:55).
  • [2] 8 John, Romans 4, Galatians 3.
  • [3] John is opposed to Docetic trends which claimed that Jesus was only a human appearance, as if God could not have directly to do with humanity.
  • [4] Philippians 2:5-9.
  • [5] Exodus 25:8-9, 33 : 7, 11.
  • [6] 1 Kings 8:27.
  • [7] Exodus 33:22, Deuteronomy 5:22, Isaiah 60:1, 1 John 1:1-2.
  • [8] "... being in very nature God, did not consider being equality with God something to be grasped "(Philippians 2:6).
  • [9] Matthew 17:2-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36.
  • [10] v.. 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4 : 9.
  • [11] See verse 17.
  • [12] Others are: Nathanael (John 1:49), Peter (John 669), Jesus heals the blind man (John 9:35-38), Martha (John 11:27) and Thomas (John 20:28.) If we add the testimony of Jesus himself, we have a total of seven clear.
  • [13] v.. 6-8, 19-36.
  • [14] "... and he said to me," My grace is is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made ​​perfect in weakness. " Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me "(2 Corinthians
  • [15] 12:9)."Moreover the law has intervened to multiply the trespass, but where sin abounded, grace abounded much more so that, as sin reigned through death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (...) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Romans 5:20-21, Ephesians 2:8).
  • [16] "These are the commandments, the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, because put them into practice in the country in which you prepare to go over to possess, so that you may fear your God, the Lord, observing, all the days of thy life, thou, and thy son and thy son's son, all his laws and all his commandments that I give you, that your days may be prolonged. Hearken therefore, O Israel, and be careful to put them into practice, so that is good to you and you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you "(Deuteronomy 6:1-3).
  • [17] John 2:1-11.
  • [18] Exodus 33:21-23, Isaiah 6:1-5, Rev. 1: 10-18; Exodus 33:20-23, Deuteronomy 4:12, Psalm 97:2, 1 Timothy 1:17, 6:16, 1 John 4:12.
  • [19] Through philosophy, as well as through science, we to speculate on the origin of things and the world, we try to give a reason for everything, when in reality many things beyond our understanding and our investigative tools here ... Hamlet theorized the existence of things unknown to us and quantity form and exceed the most daring visions of the philosophers. Poses in front of the finiteness of human thinking and the infinity of what 'you can explore and discover through the senses and beyond them.