Saturday, November 28, 2009

Light Enters into Darkness (Jn. 3:19-21)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 22nd November 2009 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 3:19-21

In this age Christianity face challenges from many fronts which were not existent during the Reformation, e.g. evolution, deism, existentialism, logical positivism and postmodernism. We need to recognise the tricks of the enemy in this age to appreciate the difficulties the church is facing. And we need to find the truth implicit in the Bible as the weapon sufficient to meet the challenges of the age.

John faced the challenges of his era alone when he was old. Back then there were four main challenges. The first one is political persecution.

During the Roman occupation only the Jews stubbornly would not call Caesar lord. They had very strong nationalism which could not be subdued by the Romans. In the end the Romans compromised and allowed Jews to be the only people who were exempted from calling Caesar Lord. The Jews were allowed religious freedom. They called Jehovah Lord. The Roman empire was not interested because Jehovah was invisible. But when the Christian Jews started to call Jesus Lord, it became an issue and Christians were persecuted.

The second challenge was philosophy. Roman empire was influenced by Greek philosophy. The intellectuals despised the Christians. Thirdly, the church also faced deception from false religion. The gnostics presented false gospels and used many prominent Christian names as the title of their gospels. They started before Paul was dead which Paul had denounced in his epistles. But they continued to spread their teaching after Paul’s death. John was one person fighting for the truth in his old age. Hence many terms in the gospel he wrote were absent from the rest. He wrote about love, life, light, Son of God which the other three gospels seldom mentioned. His writings were significant in bringing the church into deeper and fuller understanding.

Christians believe in one God, the eternal, victorious, good God, who is full of light. This view is unlike the gnostics who believe in a dualistic universe where light and darkness takes one equal status.

We do not have the capacity to understand everything our Lord has taught. But when challenges come, we ask what the Lord has taught about this to enable us to have victory over the challenges. And we are reminded of His teaching. Hence we are to hold on fast to the truth that has been passed on to us. The Word of God is so profound that it is sufficient to answer our questions. It is the masterkey that enables us to face challenges that we cannot face with our own strength. Therefore it is very critical to hold on to the Scripture as the truth and revelation from God. The last challenge of extra-biblical revelation is therefore the most dangerous as it destroys the foundation on which we stand.

John did not compromise and was very stern towards the heretics. After v.18, John placed focus on light and darkness which is different from the Gnostic view.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (Jn. 3:19-21)

He tells us about the monotheistic Light. It is active and dynamic. It has influence. It invades. Light enters into darkness. Darkness does not enter into light. After 400 years, Augustine gave us an important teaching. Light exists and darkness is the absence of light. Righteousness is an object but unrighteousness is the absence of righteousness. In dualistic view, both light and darkness have the same status. But in Augustine’s view, they do not have the same status. Sin is the falling short of glory of God. It is the situation when glory is absent.

John 3:19 implies that the world has no light therefore it needs the light to shine into it. When the light shines, it comes to influence, illuminate and change the world. When Jesus proclaims we are the light of the world, implicitly there are three principles: (1) the world is dark so our existence has value because we are the light of the world, (2) Christians need to live dynamic not passive life to influence instead of constantly being influenced by the world and (3) we need to be self-sacrificing moment by moment to bless others. When the candle is burning giving light it is actually burning itself.

What does it mean when the Bible say God is light? It says the light will go into darkness and influence all that is dark. It will never be influenced by darkness. Light can chase away darkness.

What is the relationship between light and darkness?

There are a few possibilities: (1) Light chase darkness so darkness runs away, (2) darkness hides because it is afraid of the light, (3) darkness is destoyed by the light.

If darkness escapes when light comes, is it escaping at the same speed of light? If light is faster than darkness, what is the space of light and darkness interaction? If darkness is faster than light, what is the gap between the light and darkness? If they are the same speed, then wherever light comes darknes disappears at the same time. This is closer to Augustine’s view. He believed that darkness is the absence of light. Hence sin is where the glory of God is absent. Sin cannot then be considered as an object.

If darkness hides when light comes, where does it hide? If darkness is destroyed, then does darkness exist in the first place? Where is its existence?
It is similar to the concept of life and death. Isa. 25:8 writes that death is swallowed up by life. Life will swallow up death. In the same way darkness has been swallowed by light. There is no turning around when life swallows up death. We know what kind of resurrected body we will have when we witness the resurrected body of Christ.

Because the deeds of men are evil they love darkness rather than light. It is unnatural for darkness to reject light. In nature, wherever there is light darkness would surrender. But spiritually, Jesus (the Light) was rejected by men who lived in darkness because the deeds of men were evil. When shines light upon the hearts of those who are doing evil, they would hate the light. Will we escape when light shines upon us?

Those who do good deeds would come to the light so that it may be plainly seen that what they do have been done through God. In the end Jesus, the Light of men, was crucified. But darkness could not overcome light. He was resurrected on the third day. On the Last Judgement, the light of God will swallow up darkness. All unrighteousness would be corrected.


At 3:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John 3: 1-21 is, in fact, a summary with specific outline of the whole gospel in terms of PURPOSE, MANNER, TIMING, FOLLOW-UP and EXAMINATION of "being born again".

This is the challenge facing Christians today. Much is lost in such a piecemeal approach fragmenting the passage into more or less disconnected parts.

At 1:55 AM, Blogger Anders Branderud said...

Re. the use of the term "Christian Jews":

To differentiate, A logical analysis (found in ( is the website of the only legitimate Netzarim-group)) (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of all extant source documents of “the gospel of Matthew” (which is a redaction of Netzarim Hebrew Matityahu (which was perfectly in harmony with Torah) and anti-Torah) and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

Judaism and Christianity have always been two antithetical religions, thefore the terms “Jewish Christians”, “Christian Jews”, etc., are oxymorons.
The mitzwot (directives or military-style orders) in Torah (claimed in Tan’’kh (the Jewish Bible) to be the instructions of the Creator), the core of the Judaism, are an indivisible whole. Rejecting any one constitutes rejecting of the whole… and the Church rejected many mitzwot, for example rejecting to observe the Shabat on the seventh day in the Jewish week. Examples are endless. Devarim (“Deuteronomy”) 13.1-6 explicitly precludes the Christian “NT”. Devarim 13:1-6 forbids the addition of mitzwot and subtraction of mitzwot from Torah.

Ribi Yehoshuas talmidim Netzarim still observes Torah non-selectively to their utmost today and the research in the previous mentioned Netzarim-website implies that becoming one of Ribi Yehoshuas Netzarim-followers is the only way to follow him.

Anders Branderud


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