In John 1:6-8, the apostle John says this:
“6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.”
In this passage, John describes the preparation for the Lord Jesus Christ’s public ministry. He has just described the pre-incarnate person and work of Christ, and now he brings into view the preparatory work for His public ministry, which occurred not long before He began to publicly do miracles and teach.
This passage may be divided into 6 main sections:
- The Instrument
- His Origin
- His Identity
- His Work
- His Purpose
- His Subordination
In the first part of verse 6, John describes the instrument of the preparation: “There came a man . . .” This is the instrument that God chose to use to prepare people for the public ministry of His Son: a man. This word is translated from the Greek word, anthropos, which literally means “human being”. The phrase “there came” has the idea of “there came into being”. It’s not just that this man came onto the scene, but that he actually came into existence.
However, what is most significant about this part of the verse is that the focus begins upon a man. What is a man even? Genesis 1:26-28, 2:7, and 3:22 tell us:
“26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” – Genesis 1:26-28
“7 And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” – Genesis 2:7
“22 And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever . . .” – Genesis 3:22
These passages tell us that man:
- was made in the image of God
- rules over the animals
- subdues the earth
- was formed out of dust from the ground
- has the breath of life from God
- knows good and evil
However, this is not all. Besides all this, Psalm 51:5 tells us that man comes into being in iniquity, and is in sin from the moment of conception:
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity;
And in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Finally, Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart of man is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick:
“9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?”
What a wonder that God would choose a man to prepare people for the public ministry of His Son.
Secondly, John describes this man’s origin: “. . . sent from God . . .”
What does this mean?
Mark 1:2-3 tells us that this man was prophesied about in the Old Testament:
“2 Even as it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
Who shall prepare thy way;
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Make ye ready the way of the Lord,
Make his paths straight . . .”
Further, Luke 1:7-13 tells us that this man was sent through a miraculous conception:
“7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
8 Now it came to pass, while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9 according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”
Thus, He was sent by God’s Word and by God’s miraculous work.
Thirdly, John describes this man’s identity: ” . . . whose name was John”. Why does the apostle John tell us this? So that we will recognize who he’s talking about: John the baptist. Also, he tells us this to reveal what John’s work was all about — in Hebrew, John is Jochanan, which means “Yahweh (or Jehovah) has shown undeserved favor”. God showed His grace through John.
This is seen in Luke 1:57-58a, in which the Lord displays His great mercy, or grace, toward Elizabeth, through the miraculous conception of John:
“57 Now Elisabeth’s time was fulfilled that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbors and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her . . .”
Fourthly, John describes the baptist’s work: “7 The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light . . .”
Here again, John is saying that John the baptist “came” or came into being, but now he says that the reason John came was for “witness”. What does this mean? Well, the next part tells us: that he might bear witness of the light. What does it mean that he would bear witness? It means that he would provide his testimony to something and someone. That is, he would present eyewitness evidence in support of an argument. And what is that argument? The whole argument of the gospel of John, as John puts it in chapter 20, verse 31:
” . . . 31 but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name”.
However, in the verse we’re looking at, John says that the baptist came to bear witness of the light. What is that light? It’s the same light that John talks about in John 1:4-5:
4 In him [God the Word] was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.”
This light is the light of God’s Word, life, and truth, which is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, the light to which John bore witness was the Lord Jesus Christ — he was giving eyewitness testimony to who the Lord Jesus Christ was, and what He would do.
After telling us what the baptist’s work was, John next tells us what the baptist’s purpose in bearing witness to Christ was: “that all might believe through him”.
Now, who is the “all” here? We must be very careful about this, lest we should insert a meaning for “all” that’s not there. Could John possibly have been bearing witness to Christ so that every individual that lived on earth at that time would believe through him? Certainly not, since he didn’t leave the tiny area around the Jordan River and Jerusalem in which he ministered for the entire duration of his life. Also, nowhere does the New Testament, or the Old Testament, tell us that John ever preached to Gentiles.
Rather, the “all” must be limited only to Jews, and only to those Jews who actually believed in the light through him. Why do I say that? Because the word, “might,” in “The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him,” means “would therefore” or “would conditionally”. There is no uncertainty in this word, “might”. Is there any uncertainty in the first part of this verse: “The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light . . .” Certainly not — he came into existence for witness, that he would bear witness of the light. The same is true of his purpose in doing so. He bore witness to Christ, so that all would believe through him.
So, what exactly does John mean by “all”, then? All types and kinds of people. Consider these descriptions of who believed through him:
This is Zacharias, the baptist’s father, talking to the baptist as a child:
“76 Yea and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High:
For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people
In the remission of their sins,
78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us,
79 To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death;
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
In this passage, Zacharias prophesies that John will give God’s people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. It is only those who believe in Christ who have their sins forgiven. Zacharias says nothing of those who hear John, and yet do not believe through him.
Also, Luke 7:24-29:
“24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind? 25 But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. 26 But what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
Who shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there is none greater than John: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of God is greater than he. 29 And all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.”
Here, we see the multitudes, and all the people justifying God because they were baptized with John’s baptism, showing that they believed through him. This multitude of people of all types, including publicans, or tax collectors, and even disciples of John himself, like Andrew and the apostle John, believed in Christ through John the baptist. God brought John into existence, so that he would bear witness to Christ, so that all types would believe through him.
Finally, John the apostle tells us of the baptist’s subordination: “He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.”
Lest anyone should be confused, John the baptist was not the light about whom he testified. He only testified about the true light, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, how does this passage apply to us?
Notice first that the one who was sent from God to bear witness to the light was simply a human being. God is in the business of sending people to bear witness to His Son. If you’re a human being, then God can use you in this respect.
Second, this passage says that John came into existence as a witness to people, so that he would bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. That was one of the main purposes of his very existence at that time — to testify to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is one of the main purposes of the existence of every Christian on this earth. If you’re a true Christian, then you a witness of Christ, and are to be ready to testify about Christ whenever you ought to.
Third, this passage also says that one of the purposes of John’s existence was that people would believe in Christ through him. This is one of the believer’s purposes as well. We are to live in such a way that the Holy Spirit can use our words to make people believe in Christ.
Fourth, this passage tells us that John the baptist wasn’t the light. Neither are we the light. Our light is to lead people to the light, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to shine in such a way that people will see Christ in our words and in our behavior.
Finally, notice that in all of this witnessing and testifying about Christ, that this can’t be done without actually sharing words with people. We cannot testify about Christ without words, but neither can we truly testify about Christ without christlikeness.
Are you absolutely certain, without any doubt whatsoever, that you know what the good news of Christ is? Please make sure:
Your Creator, God the Father, sent God the Son, His Son, to the earth, to become a man, without ceasing to be God. This man was Jesus of Nazareth, who lived the perfect life, perfectly pleasing the Father. Then, He was arrested by men, who were appointed by the Father to do so, and was nailed and hung on a cross. Although Jesus was perfectly pleasing to the Father, the Father ordained this event to happen to punish Jesus by making Him slowly die on the cross, and by treating Him as if He had committed our sins against His Father, all because of our sins against Him, which make us deserve physical, eternal, and spiritual death from God. For three hours, the Father crushed and forsook Jesus, putting Him to grief, because of our sins against Him. In so doing, Jesus satisfied the Father’s wrath and justice against sins. Then, He died, and was buried shortly after. His body lay in a grave for about 2 days, and then, He physically rose from the dead, and appeared to the apostle Peter, to the 11 apostles, to about 500 people at one time, to James, to all the apostles, and to the apostle Paul, during a period of 40 days, after which He ascended into heaven. The apostles then turned the Mediterranean world upside down with their new lives and preaching, revolutionizing the Mediterranean world, and undergoing incredible persecutions, while at the same time winning more and more converts, who gladly went to their deaths because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s command to all people everywhere is to change the way they think about God, about the Lord Jesus Christ, about His death, about His resurrection, about themselves, and about their sins, and to depend only upon the Lord Jesus Christ, His death because of their sins, and His resurrection as the only grounds for His forgiveness of their sins and His gift of eternal life. If you have changed the way you think, and depend only upon the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for your sins, and His resurrection for God’s forgiveness of your sins, and your peace with God, then you will be saved from His wrath. If not, God has fixed a day on which He will judge you in righteousness through the Man He has appointed, having provided proof for all people by raising Him from the dead. If you fail to obey God’s command to repent and depend on the Lord Jesus Christ, then He will eventually cast you into eternal hell, and punish you for the sins you’ve committed against Him. Right now is the time to make sure that you have changed the way you think about the Lord Jesus Christ, and that you are only depending upon Him, His death for your sins, and His resurrection from the dead for His forgiveness of your sins. Depend upon Him, and you will be saved from His wrath.