We were speaking about right standing with God. We have pointed out that the whole Bible has to do with this one thing. All the things that are in the Bible from the beginning to the end have to do with standing right with God. We have seen that the whole race in Adam does not stand right with God. Therefore, by nature we are all wrong people. Christians know that best. They know quite well that naturally we are wrong. Not only that we do wrong and speak wrong, but we are wrong. Our natures are wrong. We have no right standing with God. That is, as we have seen, the meaning of the word “righteousness”.
But Jesus came into this world as the right Man. He is the right Man, He has right standing with God. You should read the gospel by John in the light of that. John’s Gospel especially, shows us how Jesus had a right position with His Father. So, there is a wrong man and a right Man. I think it was Martin Luther who said that Jesus is God’s right Man. Well now, this evening we’re going to be occupied for a little while with the Right Man.
There are two things with which we begin and we are in the Gospel by John. First of all, the Son of God is presented to us as God’s thought concerning man. He is immediately brought into view as the personal expression of God’s thought concerning man. Everybody will agree with that! We would all say, yes, He is the right Man.
The second thing that comes out in this Gospel is that what is true of the Lord Jesus as Man, is to be made true of all the children of God. The Gospel is that God has made His Son the ground of our right standing with God. The apostle Paul put it this way: that He, Jesus, is made unto us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption from God. Is there anything more that you want than that? Made unto us wisdom; righteousness... right standing with God; sanctification; redemption. He is made all that to us. We, therefore, are to be made like unto God’s Right Man.
Now this afternoon we just pointed out that John’s Gospel begins just as the book of Genesis begins: “In the beginning God...” and we know that that beginning was of the creation. The beginning of the creation was God. Now John says about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, that all things were created by Him, through Him and unto Him and without Him was not anything created that has been created; so that He is the beginning of the creation. Now John takes up those very words and takes them from the natural creation and puts them on the spiritual creation. He applies them now to what Paul calls the new creation in Christ Jesus. And there Paul says, “If any man is in Christ, there is a new creation”. Let me repeat: the new creation man is to take the image of God’s ideal Man. So John sets us on the course of the new creation and I think this evening we shall only be able to speak about perhaps one feature of the new creation.
You’ll notice this thing: the new creation, the spiritual creation, follows the course of the old creation in principle. That will become clear immediately. Now we look into this Gospel by John. What do we find? We find that first of all John introduces the new creation and he makes Jesus Christ the first Man of this new creation. And then right through this Gospel John tells us what this new Man is like.
What are the features, the characteristics of this new creation Man? And as I speak I want you to just remember that you are supposed to be that. We are not only speaking about something that’s in the Bible. We are not only speaking about some great system of truth. We are speaking about men and women and I suppose we all come into that category! Is there any other category here tonight? And you’ll remember when God created man He created women also, but He called them both “man”. So you women are men! You cannot just step aside and say, “Well, he’s talking to the men”. We’re talking about ourselves. If we are children of God we are looking at our own portrait and we’re going to ask ourselves, “Well is that true of me? Am I like that?”
What is the first thing in the creation? Do you remember? “In the beginning God... God said... Let light be.” The first thing about the old creation was light. Now look at the Gospel by John. Just pick up the first chapter of John’s Gospel, do remember that John did not write his Gospel in chapters. It was many, many centuries afterward that a Frenchman made out the chapters. Of course it’s very useful but sometimes it’s misleading. When John wrote his Gospel he wrote straight on without any chapter divisions. He did not write a chapter on one subject and then another chapter on another subject and then another chapter on some other subject. He was writing about one thing. And as he went on he was just developing this one thing. It is very important that you should recognize this.
John, when he wrote this Gospel, was a very old man. All the other apostles had gone to the Lord and John had spent some time at the end of his life in exile on the isle of Patmos. We do not know exactly how long he was there, but he was there long enough to write the book of the Revelation. I think he was there much longer than that for he wrote his Gospel after he had written the book of the Revelation. I’m not saying that he wrote the Gospel on the isle of Patmos, but my point is this: John had had a very long life and a very full life. He had been with Jesus all the time He was here - that is, while Jesus was teaching and working - and he says at the end of his Gospel, “If all the things were written down that Jesus said and did, the world would not hold the books”.
Now, John had all that and in his exile he had had plenty of time to think. He was very much occupied with all that he had come to know. This Gospel of John’s which was the last writing of the New Testament, contains all this that John had. That is, behind this Gospel was all this great knowledge that John had. These are not just things that he wrote down. This writing is full of a tremendous knowledge, spiritual knowledge; a knowledge which God had given him.
I’m saying this because we must realize that there’s very much behind everything that John puts down here. There is so much more of meaning than John put into words and what we have to do is to get into the meaning. Now, having said that, we come to his Gospel and this presentation of God’s Right Man. What is true of the Lord Jesus is to be made true of every child of God.
Now, you are familiar with this Gospel, I expect you could tell me what is in it. Could you tell me what is in chapter 1? All that is in chapter 1? Chapter 2? Chapter 3, yes Nicodemus, we know all about him! Chapter 4 yes, the woman of Samaria, we know her. And so we could go on with the chapters. Well, let us get into this more deeply.
I’m going to take one line. John takes more than one line, he takes first of all, the line of the works of Jesus; what he calls “the signs”. We all know that that is John’s particular and peculiar name for miracles. John says that these miracles were signs. None of these works of Jesus were just things in themselves. They were not only meant to show what power Jesus had, they were meant to teach some deep spiritual lesson. And that lesson is concerning this new order of mankind. Well we’re not going to follow that line, there are eight signs in John and if you know anything about Bible numbers you will at once recognize that there’s something in that. Why should John, seeing that there were works enough to fill books that would fill the whole world, why should he only choose eight? Not only eight, but eight! Well, I’ll leave you to work that one out.
I want to get on with the other line, it’s the line of the words that John used. John selected special words for his purpose. We have seen what his purpose is, the new, right kind of man. Now he chooses words in relation to the right kind of man. I don’t want to give you too much detail, as it is I want the whole week for this conference! But there’s this technical point: John uses far fewer words than any of the other gospel writers. John’s vocabulary in this gospel is smaller than Matthew, Mark or Luke. John seems to have been definitely confining himself to a few special words. If his words are fewer, they are more weighty than all the others put together.
What are his words? I think as I mention them you will agree with what I’ve just said. They are mightier words than anywhere. Light. Life. Truth. Knowledge. These are a few of John’s special words. Now we are just going to use what time we have left on that first word. We are going to speak about new creation light. I’ve asked you to look at the first chapter of John, would you like to put a mark under the word “light”? If you do, it will seem to blot out everything else. Of course we ought to read it, but that word “light” is everywhere in that chapter and it is connected with the Lord Jesus.
Now John, after chapter one, is going on to show that a characteristic of this new creation man is heavenly light. There are three words in John which have the same meaning: Light, Knowledge, Truth. We will not deal with them all in particular, but we’re going to speak about spiritual light.
The birthright of a child of God is heavenly light. John will take great pains to show that outside of the Lord Jesus, the world is in darkness. And he will show us that even religious Israel is blind. They’re all in darkness. They’re all away back there before the creation where darkness was over the face of the earth. No one outside of Christ, be they very religious Nicodemus or anyone else, is in the new creation light.
The second word: knowledge. In this book the phrase “to know” occurs fifty-five times. I’m not going to give you the number of times each of these words occur, you can make them out, it will be a nice little study for you: how many times does “light” occur right through this gospel? How many times does “truth” occur right through this gospel? But there is only one other word that occurs more times than the word “to know” and that is very interesting. The word which occurs more times than any other, is the word: “world”. “The world” occurs seventy-eight times. It stands over everything else and: “The whole world is in darkness...”
Well, let us leave the word “light” for a minute, come to this word “to know”. We are trying to get at the nature of spiritual knowledge. Although the word “to know” occurs fifty-five times, it does not always mean the same thing. There are two words in the Greek translated “to know”. I was just fascinated as I studied these two Greek words, I got down to the fifty-five times of the word and then I found that they divided themselves into two; two groups.
Two Categories of Knowledge
One category of this Greek word means knowledge which you have by being told. Knowledge which comes to you by observation. Knowledge which you have by reading and that may even be reading the Bible. Quite a lot of people know what is in the Bible. They can tell you just all that is in every book of the Bible. They know because they’ve read it, or they have heard by lectures. That is the kind of knowledge that they have. Now that kind of knowing is here in John’s Gospel. That is objective knowledge.
But there is the other group which is subjective knowledge, knowledge that you do not get by information but knowledge which you get by revelation. It is to that knowledge that the Lord Jesus referred in John when He said that when the Holy Spirit was come, He would take the things of Christ and show them to you. How does the Holy Spirit show the things of Christ to us? How does the Holy Spirit show us this right Man? Not by information but by inward revelation. The apostle Paul calls the Holy Spirit a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.
I'll give you a very interesting illustration of this, we go back here to John the Baptist. John the Baptist comes up in chapter one of John. John the Baptist is speaking about Jesus. He says that, “There comes one after me, the latches of whose shoes I’m not worthy to unloose”. Now note: John said “Whom I knew not. I knew him not.” ... “John, what are you talking about? Jesus was your cousin! You knew that Jesus was alive, He was in your very family circle, and you, John, are saying you’re thirty years old and you didn’t know Jesus? What do you mean?” Now you and I may find that a problem! Jesus was the cousin of John after the flesh and John is saying he didn’t know Jesus. Ah, but the people of those days knew what John meant because he chose this special word, not knowing naturally, by information as in the family, but he used this other word: intuitive knowledge, spiritual knowledge.
John knew Jesus, he knew who Jesus was, that is as to his own family and cousin, but he had not yet come to the knowledge that Jesus was the Son of God. Then John says this, “He that sent me to baptize, the same said unto me, Upon whom you see the Holy Spirit alighting, that is He.” Holy Spirit knowledge is different from natural knowledge. Don’t you think that is an interesting and very impressive example of two words, two kinds of knowledge? Natural knowledge and spiritual knowledge. They belong to two different worlds. Natural knowledge is just the knowledge that you have by information or relationships. Spiritual knowledge is that which you have by revelation of the Holy Spirit in your heart.
If you'll read through John and watch the Lord Jesus, you will be impressed with how He knew things. John says about Jesus, “He knew what was in man” that was not because He’d been to college and studied humanity. In the universities of America they have a faculty called “Human Relationships”. That is not the kind of knowledge that Jesus has about man. He knows man in an inward way. He looks at a man and He knows what kind of a man that is, what that kind of man will do, what you can expect of that kind of man. He knows it all. He knew Nicodemus. He knew Pontius Pilate, and Pontius Pilate knew that He knew Him. He knew Herod, yes, He knew... but He knew by spiritual knowledge.
How did He know the life history of that woman of Samaria? You know, you remember how He made her tell her story, He said to her, “Go call thy... husband”. She said, “I have no husband.” “Thou hast rightly said I have no husband, thou hast had five husbands and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” How did He know that? I don’t think He’d ever lived in the town of Sychar in Samaria. Now you see what I mean.
The Lord Jesus of course, was perfect in this way; perfect in spiritual knowledge. He was taught by the anointing Holy Spirit. We are not like that perfectly, but every true child of God right from the beginning should have that faculty of spiritual knowledge. And it works on this ground: we should know inwardly what belongs to the wrong man and what belongs to the right Man. We spoke about this this afternoon, the Holy Spirit in us tells us what is of Christ and what is not of Christ. I must try to illustrate what I mean and yet perhaps to do so seems to imply that you haven’t got any spiritual knowledge; but it won’t hurt to illustrate in a simple way.
There are some things that stand out in my own life in this matter. I came to the Lord in a very real way when I was about seventeen years of age. I had a very real experience of the Lord. I was full of His joy but naturally I was a young man who always liked to make a joke of things. I liked to say something funny about everything. That is, I liked to make people laugh. So if there was anything that I could turn into a joke, I did it. Now, I came to the Lord and then I went on the Lord’s Day to the Lord’s table; first real Lord’s Day table and I partook of the loaf and the cup. The service closed. We went outside. The first thing that I did when I got outside was to make a joke to a friend of mine. I got him laughing so much that he didn’t know what to do with himself! But when that happened, all my joy went. It was as though I had lost all my salvation.
I felt so bad that I went home, I got on my knees and I asked what had happened to me. And it came to me so clearly, “You had been handling the most sacred emblems, you had been occupied with the things of most solemn meaning, you’d held in your hand the symbol of the Body of Christ and a symbol of the blood of Christ and a few minutes afterward you could be carrying on like that! These two things don’t go together.” Well I got that right with the Lord, but I learned a life lesson.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying it is wrong to be joyful, but you know what I’m saying. That belonged to the old man who does not distinguish between what is natural and what is spiritual. And the Lord is against mixture. There’s a lot in the Bible about that you know, the Old Testament will tell us something about that, “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass”. Ox is a clean beast and an ass is an unclean beast. “Thou shalt not wear a garment of wool and cotton”. Mixed! Wool makes perspiration and perspiration is of the flesh. Cotton is the white robes of righteousness. God says you must not mix these things up; God hates mixture. That ought to be one of our earliest lessons in the Christian life.
Much later in life I had another experience. I was now a preacher and I was making up many sermons. I really did belong to the Lord but one day I got my sermon ready and I thought that a certain quotation from a certain writer would give a real point to my sermon. So I got on with my sermon, started to preach, then at a certain point I introduced my quotation and the bottom fell out of everything. It was as though I was just left to myself. I struggled to finish the service. I went home and asked the Lord what was wrong. And before the Lord I went over that sermon and noticed the point where everything went wrong, where the Lord left me alone. It was that quotation. The Lord said, “Where did that come from?” And I thought oh, it was So-and-so who wrote that. And that man was a rank modernist; he did not believe in the fundamental things of the Christian Gospel; I am not with anybody who uses that stuff. You see the point?
Well the point is this: that the Holy Spirit can teach us, He can make us know what belongs to the wrong man and what belongs to the right man. John in this gospel draws a distinction between that knowledge which comes by the letter and that knowledge which comes by the Spirit. “The letter killeth, the Spirit maketh alive”.
Well, my time is gone for tonight. I cannot give you spiritual knowledge. I cannot make you know the Lord in this way. I can only tell you the truth. But this is our spiritual education as disciples of the Lord who are being taught by Him. One of the great lessons of our new creation is this: learning to know the Lord spiritually; learning to know the things of Christ in our own hearts and not just by reading or hearing. This is the true light. The Lord Jesus demonstrated this when He gave sight to the man born blind in chapter nine. What did that man say afterward? “I do not know this and that. I do not know. But one thing I do know, once I was blind now I see. I know that!” But that’s the result of a miracle, that is supernatural sight. So the Lord demonstrated the truth of heavenly light for a new creation.
What can you do? I cannot give it to you but I can tell you that this is the truth of God and God’s purpose is that it shall be true in us: “Grant to me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ”. You will find that you are brought into a realm that is inexhaustible. You will see far more at the end of a long life than you’ve ever seen before. I will leave it there for the present.