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John 1:4

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

In him was life - Many MSS., versions, and fathers, connect this with the preceding verse, thus: All things were made by him, and without him was nothing made. What was made had life in it; but This Life was the light of men. That is, though every thing he made had a principle of life in it, whether vegetable, animal, or intellectual, yet this, that life or animal principle in the human being, was not the light of men; not that light which could guide them to heaven, for the world by wisdom knew not God, 1 Corinthians 1:21. Therefore, the expression, in him was life, is not to be understood of life natural, but of that life eternal which he revealed to the world, 2 Timothy 1:10, to which he taught the way, John 14:6, which he promised to believers, John 10:28, which he purchased for them, John 6:51, John 6:53, John 6:54, which he is appointed to give them, John 17:2, and to which he will raise them up, John 5:29, because he hath the life in himself, John 5:26. All this may be proved:

  1. From the like expressions; 1 John 5:11, This is the promise that God hath given unto us, eternal life, and this life is in his Son: whence he is styled the true God and eternal life, 1 John 5:20; the resurrection and the life, John 11:25; the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6.
  • From these words, John 1:7, John came to bear witness of this light, that all might believe through him, viz. to eternal life, 1 Timothy 1:16; for so John witnesseth, John 3:15, John 3:36.
  • And hence it follows that this life must be the light of men, by giving them the knowledge of this life, and of the way leading to it. See Whitby on the place. Is there any reference here to Genesis 3:20; : And Adam called his wife's name Eve, חוה chava, Ζωη, Life, because she was the mother of all living? And was not Jesus that seed of the woman that was to bruise the head of the serpent, and to give life to the world?

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    In him was life - The evangelist had just affirmed John 5:3 that by the λόγος Logosor “Word” the world was originally created. One part of that creation consisted “in breathing into man the breath of life,” Genesis 2:7. God is declared to be “life,” or the “living” God, because he is the source or fountain of life. This attribute is here ascribed to Jesus Christ. He not merely made the material worlds, but he also gave “life.” He was the agent by which the vegetable world became animated; by which brutes live; and by which man became a living soul, or was endowed with immortality. This was a “higher” proof that the “Word was God,” than the creation of the material worlds; but there is another sense in which he was “life.” The “new creation,” or the renovation of man and his restoration from a state of sin, is often compared with the “first creation;” and as the λόγος Logoswas the source of “life” then, so, in a similar but higher sense, he is the source of “life” to the soul dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. And it is probably in reference to this that he is so often called “life” in the writings of John. “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in him self,” John 5:26; “He giveth life unto the world,” John 6:33; “I am the resurrection and the life,” John 11:25; “This is the true God and eternal life,” John 5:20. See also 1 John 1:1-2; 1 John 5:11; Acts 3:15; Colossians 3:4. The meaning is: that he is the source or the fountain of both natural and spiritual life. Of course he has the attributes of God.

    The life was the light of men - “Light” is that by which we see objects distinctly. The light of the sun enables us to discern the form, the distance, the magnitude, and the relation of objects, and prevents the perplexities and dangers which result from a state of darkness. Light is in all languages, therefore, put for “knowledge” - for whatever enables us to discern our duty, and that saves us from the evils of ignorance and error. “Whatsoever doth make manifest is light,” Ephesians 5:13. See Isaiah 8:20; Isaiah 9:2. The Messiah was predicted as the “light” of the world, Isaiah 9:2, compared with Matthew 4:15-16; Isaiah 60:1. See John 8:12; “I am the light of the world;” John 12:35-36, John 12:46; “I am come a light into the world.” The meaning is, that the λόγος Logosor Word of God is the “instructor or teacher” of mankind. This was done before his advent by his direct agency in giving man reason or understanding, and in giving his law, for the “law was ordained by angels ‹in the hand of a mediator‘” Galatians 3:19; after his advent by his personal ministry when on earth, by his Spirit John 14:16, John 14:26, and by his ministers since, Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    The plainest reason why the Son of God is called the Word, seems to be, that as our words explain our minds to others, so was the Son of God sent in order to reveal his Father's mind to the world. What the evangelist says of Christ proves that he is God. He asserts, His existence in the beginning; His coexistence with the Father. The Word was with God. All things were made by him, and not as an instrument. Without him was not any thing made that was made, from the highest angel to the meanest worm. This shows how well qualified he was for the work of our redemption and salvation. The light of reason, as well as the life of sense, is derived from him, and depends upon him. This eternal Word, this true Light shines, but the darkness comprehends it not. Let us pray without ceasing, that our eyes may be opened to behold this Light, that we may walk in it; and thus be made wise unto salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ.
    Ellen G. White
    SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (EGW), 1130

    In every possible way Satan sought to prevent Jesus from developing a perfect childhood, a faultless manhood, a holy ministry, and an unblemished sacrifice. But he was defeated. He could not lead Jesus into sin. He could not discourage Him, or drive Him from the work He had come to this earth to do. From the desert to Calvary the storm of Satan's wrath beat upon Him, but the more mercilessly it fell, the more firmly did the Son of God cling to the hand of His Father, and press on in the blood-stained path (Manuscript 140, 1903). 5BC 1130.1

    When Jesus took human nature, and became in fashion as a man, He possessed all the human organism. His necessities were the necessities of a man. He had bodily wants to be supplied, bodily weariness to be relieved. By prayer to the Father He was braced for duty and for trial (Letter 32, 1899). 5BC 1130.2

    4 (chs. 10:18; 17:3). Christ's Life Was Unborrowed—“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” It is not physical life that is here specified, but eternal life, the life which is exclusively the property of God. The Word, who was with God, and who was God, had this life. Physical life is something which each individual received. It is not eternal or immortal; for God, the Lifegiver, takes it again. Man has no control over his life. But the life of Christ was unborrowed. No one can take this life from Him. “I lay it down of myself,” He said. In Him was life, original, unborrowed, underived. This life is not inherent in man. He can possess it only through Christ. He cannot earn it; it is given him as a free gift if he will believe in Christ as his personal Saviour. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3. This is the open fountain of life for the world (The Signs of the Times, February 13, 1912). 5BC 1130.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 1, 296

    Christ, Creator and Life-giver

    [This article appeared in The Signs of the Times, April 8, 1897.]

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    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 464-5

    By one who listened to these words, they were long afterward re-echoed in that sublime passage, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.” “That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:4, 5, R. V., 9. And long after Jesus had ascended to heaven, Peter also, writing under the illumination of the divine Spirit, recalled the symbol Christ had used: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19. DA 464.1

    In the manifestation of God to His people, light had ever been a symbol of His presence. At the creative word in the beginning, light had shone out of darkness. Light had been enshrouded in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, leading the vast armies of Israel. Light blazed with awful grandeur about the Lord on Mount Sinai. Light rested over the mercy seat in the tabernacle. Light filled the temple of Solomon at its dedication. Light shone on the hills of Bethlehem when the angels brought the message of redemption to the watching shepherds. DA 464.2

    God is light; and in the words, “I am the light of the world,” Christ declared His oneness with God, and His relation to the whole human family. It was He who at the beginning had caused “the light to shine out of darkness.” 2 Corinthians 4:6. He is the light of sun and moon and star. He was the spiritual light that in symbol and type and prophecy had shone upon Israel. But not to the Jewish nation alone was the light given. As the sunbeams penetrate to the remotest corners of the earth, so does the light of the Sun of Righteousness shine upon every soul. DA 464.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Sons and Daughters of God, 281

    In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:4. SD 281.1

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