This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:4-5 (NKJV)
The word life is used more than 45 times in the book of John. It is one of the dominant themes of the gospel. The gospel of John contains several consistent contrasts referenced throughout the book. Two of these dominant themes of the gospel introduced in these two verses are life versus death and light versus darkness.
There are three Greek words used for life whenever we see that word in the New Testament.
- Bios – This is where we get the word biology. It refers to the physical life of man.
- Psuche – The word psychology comes from this Greek word. In the New Testament, psuche life generally refers to man’s internal state, the heart, our mind, will, and emotions.
- Zoe – This is the word most often used in the gospel of John. Zoe life is the uncreated life of God. It is a higher dimension of life that does not originate in this world.
The Word, or Logos, of God, holds within Him the zoe life of God. In John 3:16, when we read about eternal life that God gave us through His only Son, it is zoe life. John 3:16 is not talking about simple immortality. It is eternal life from God. When John describes the zoe life of God that is inherent to His Word, He is describing a life separate from the earth, separate from mortality. It is life that is born from the heart and will of God. Zoe life is a dimension of living separate from the earth. Nothing on the earth can impart zoe life. Zoe life comes from the Word of God alone.
A human being is born through the lives of other human beings. His life consists of circulatory, respiratory, and other biological systems (bios life). That life is further defined and understood by his experiences, traumas, and achievements (psuche life). But zoe life requires the human being to connect his being outside of time, space, and experience. It is not biological or psychological. It is spiritual. It requires a connection to the heart, will, and direct influence of God.
Zoe life is the light of men. Imagine Adam opening his eyes for the first time after his creation. His eyes opened into a world of complete unknown and discovery. The breath of life which God breathed into Adam was the capacity for consciousness. That consciousness, or awakeness, opened Adam’s eyes to the world around him, to God, and even to himself. He was asleep and not really even alive until the consciousness came.
For all the advances of science and philosophy over thousands of years of human civilization, our consciousness remains a mystery. The greatest human minds have struggled to explain and define it. One neuroscientist recently tried to explain consciousness:
Consciousness is everything you experience. It is the tune stuck in your head, the sweetness of chocolate mousse, the throbbing pain of a toothache, the fierce love for your child and the bitter knowledge that eventually all feelings will end.
That is a good start, but it is not enough. Consciousness, the light of men, is beyond awareness and beyond our individual perspectives and imagination. Consciousness is a qualifier and quantifier for human life, and so far, it is impossible to measure.
But according to John, even the consciousness of humanity is not comparable to the consciousness of humanity awakened by the zoe of God. The Word of God came to man to awaken us to a new level of life. It is eternal life, unending and uncontainable.
This is the ultimate mission of Christ. He came to give life and light to men. He came into a world trapped in darkness. We think we are awake, but we are not. We think we are alive, but we are living in death. We are living in the curse of fallen darkness and blindness. The Word brings the zoe of God to awaken us to a new level of consciousness. It is a level of life where we live in the light of God, and we are no longer captives of the darkness.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 (NLT)
Grasping these definitions of life and light in the gospel of John is essential to understanding the scope of what John describes in the rest of the book. The light and life described by John contain hints at the freedom, victory, and dominion that Christ came to bring us to. These were not mere political objectives but a new way of existence for humans who chose to live in the light of God rather than the darkness of this world.
The gospel, or the good news, is the awakening of our lives to a higher level of consciousness inside the heart of God!
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