Commentary by Fred Pruitt
Gospel of John, Study 4, Chapter 1:12, As Many As Received Him
1:12a But as many as received him …
In a way, our lives are really a succession of events in which we progressively have the opportunity to “receive Him” throughout the whole of our time – from birth to physical death. This is not to deny for any of us a particular moment of conversion – a new birth experience, or being “born again,” as Jesus told Nicodemus later in this gospel.
If we have experienced such a moment or event, like the apostle Paul we might see that as the originating point of light for our whole lives. In one direction, we see that light radiating from that point backward illuminating all our pre new-birth days, when we walked in ignorance and darkness and were blind to the light of God. But in the other direction, we see that life shining from that point forward to a yet unseen end, enlightening each successive moment as we increasingly become aware of God and by that increasing awareness, grow in grace and understanding until the revelation of the Total – that He is All, and is in all.
But along that road which is the way of Christ in all of us, there are also very many other moments of reception, in big and small things, as we move from faith to faith and glory to glory.
That is what life is. It is not some formal religious moment, frozen in time, when we were “born again,” but a continuously occurring newness of reality, which we have not so much embraced for ourselves, but rather we discover that it has embraced us. That reality is not a formal religious system or even a person, as we normally perceive a person to be, whether we consider that person divine or human. At the very bottom-most ground of all things, or what we might think of as the headwaters of this reality, there is One Divine Person WHO IS. This Person we call Father, and He has expressed Himself eternally in and by the Son of His love, Who as that expression of the Father, contains in Himself all the mysteries of the knowledge and wisdom that is God. Then by that Son as His eternal perfect out-raying of Himself, through the Spirit appear all the forms and varieties of things and creatures, created and sustained in Him as self-propagating wellsprings of His love and eternal nature.
Therefore, we must use “person” to describe this new reality, because there is no life in the universe if person is not at the center – for what other purpose would life exist, except for the expression of and benefit of person?
That is why the scriptures say that after the first commandment, “To love the Lord thy God with all thine heart ,” the second commandment, and thus all the law and the prophets, is fulfilled by loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Simply put, it is ALL about person. Divine person as universal, and human person as particularly expressing that universal at this moment in time, with this situation, this need, this path, this negative and this positive. A “universal God” Who is everywhere is wonderful, but God particularly right here and now in this form and expression (my form, your form, and the situation at hand) as Love, is an outside-our-minds miracle, and the utter surprise of true joy! That is God’s purpose in creation: that the creation, meaning us, in its willing harmony with God, would express in thought, form and action the invisible imperceptible eternally unseen God. In Him, we are that!
This is the entire purpose of all creation. It is the whole inner meaning of the Fall and our Redemption from it. It is the raising of man out of the dust of the earth to the right hand of the Majesty on High.
Now really, it is an eternal impossibility to raise a creature made of dust to those heights, for no such creature could ever be capable of it. It would be absolute obliteration to that creature. And it would have remained forever the same impossibility – except by an unlikely and completely astonishing phenomenon: the poured-out blood and the pierced, broken and spent human body of Jesus of Nazareth. This was a man who lived in our human history, whose mother and father everyone in Nazareth knew, thus making him forever one of their own, a true son of man. And by virtue of the fact he was theirs, makes him ours also, since we are the children of all those who are before us.
It was by his visible sacrifice on a certain day in our human history, that made public, open and plain for the entire world to see and hear of God’s eternal invisible reality. He brought out into the plain, common view of human visibility that which was true before the world began. This is the universal inner truth of everything: that from the center of the Living Holy God, and therefore out of the center of everything everywhere, the Christ lives in and out of that center in intercession continually reconciling all things to God. What happened once in human history, is a continuous eternal event of reconciliation and intercession.
That is what happens in us every moment, throughout our whole lives, every day from morning until night. We are at all times almost violently dragged inward into the Truth of Who He IS as our own inner Truth. Over and over and over we find out HE IS our own personal inward “what is.” Nevertheless, at the same time, by that growing inner awareness, we are simultaneously shoved outward as a demonstration of the Truth that we already are in Him, by simply being the selves he has made us to be in the present moment – in other words, to just be ourselves. Our choice has perhaps long ago settled that we are His. Now he carries us along in abiding in Him, and we are not able to tell where we have come from or where we are going, only knowing every moment Christ alone, since to live is Christ. And as he is, so are we.
What is inward in us is our real truth. If we are of Christ then we find truth inside us. It is that simple. It does not matter how we may settle the matter if we are of Christ or not, but it must be settled within us. Only we can do it for ourselves in ourselves. Even if we participate in a church meeting or service, even if we say some formal prayer, we must know for ourselves that we have transacted with God. I am not speaking of hearing voices or seeing visions. Nor am I speaking of experiencing any particular feelings or goosebumps, or any sort of emotional or religious state. If we are of Christ we just know it. But if we do not know it, we are driven on and on until we find out that we really do, indeed, know it. It is the most precious thing in the universe, and is worth the loss of everything we know and are, to know truly that we are his and he keeps us in his hand.
This truth of Christ is a truth that takes no prisoners, so to speak. In some circumstances, (most circumstances in this world, actually), it is possible to substitute for truth something that is not truth. In fact the world excels at that. But the truth which is in Christ and is Christ has at its basis stark honesty, something to which none of us can completely attain. Still, the lack of ability to attain it, does not change the fact that this honesty is the absolute beginning prerequisite for the truth of Christ. People who seek that honesty, even if they in their minds do not do it in the name of or pursuit of God, nevertheless are not far from the kingdom of God.
For this truth, there are no more games. There is no substituting vain whimsical concepts that we imagine God must be. We may like a nice God, a fair God, a God who is this or that which we think surely a kind, loving and fair God would be, but 2+2=4, and it is not changeable according to our liking. There is no making truth up ourselves by picking and choosing features and benefits like deciding what personal computer to buy. One cannot shop for the best deal on truth – or God – because truth is simply truth and can be no other than what it is. It is available without price as a gift to anyone who wants it, and at the same time, real truth costs everything we have and are to possess it.
If we have settled the matter that we are Christ’s and are of Christ, then we can begin to know that we are of the truth. Jesus came and was the truth in walking, talking, living and breathing flesh. He didn’t just give them chapter and verse, impressing them with his impeccable theological arguments, but was himself a human man full of love, grace and truth. He now becomes that same love, grace and truth in all of us who receive Him.