In this passage John introduces us to a man who has the distinction no person other than Christ is given in the scriptures. This man, John the Baptist, had a distinction that no one else in the world had other than Christ. Luke 1:15 tells us "for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit." John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of God from his mother's womb.
Spirit-filled is a term that is widely heard in the church today and many claim to be filled by the Spirit of God. The deceiver, however, is always sowing his tares among the precious wheat of the church, so it may prove helpful to understand the Biblical attributes of a Spirit-filled individual in order to discern our relationship to God in this area. John the Baptist is the ultimate example of a Spirit-filled believer, so let us look at his life through the eyes of John the Beloved, compare his life to ours individually, and see if we indeed are Spirit-filled.
John begins passage with the words "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." The Greek word in this text for sent is (ἀποστέλλω apŏstĕllō) from which we get the word apostle. So John was an apostle of God the Father. He was sent from God on a mission (the word apŏstĕllō implies the action of going forth on a mission) his ties were not with this world but with the Father. This is seen in his life style. He was not dependent upon this world for his well-being but his dependence was on the Father. He wore a coat of camels hair a belt of leather - there was nothing man-made about the clothing he wore. His food was locusts and wild honey - he was not dependent on Giant Markets, Wise Store or Wegmans to sustain him.
The same can be seen of other spirit-filled believers that the scriptures introduce us to. Christ, unlike John the Baptist, partook of what this world had to offer but He did not place any dependence on it and when He died He owned only the clothes on His back and even they were taken from Him. The only kingdom He left to His descendents was a spiritual one. Likewise Paul, who had everything a man could desire in this life counted it as nothing for the privilege of leading people to Christ.
Philippians 3:7-9 tells us: " 7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through the faith of Christ the righteousness from God based on faith."
(1). Being filled means there is room for nothing else. Would you feel you have lost all, if all you have been given by this world was taken away? If so you are not filled with the Spirit of God, for His Spirit has no ties to this world goods and they count for nothing in His kingdom.
John then tells us that this man came for a witness, to bear witness of that light that all through Him might believe. The Spirit of God has been sent to this world to proclaim Jesus Christ and to conform God's children into the image of Christ. Those who are filled with His Spirit then have the same function. The burning need of their life is to be a witness for Christ in order to lead others to Him. This witness will make them notorious, for the Spirit that dwells in them is a discerner of good and evil and has no part with political correctness.
(2). The Spirit-filled individual will reach out in love to all men but will be hated by the world. John the Baptist was beheaded, Christ was crucified and Stephen was stoned yet their witness remained strong because they were filled with the Spirit. Do you proclaim Jesus Christ in all areas and at all times in your life regardless of the circumstances or repercussions? If not you are not filled with the Spirit of God.
(3). He was not that light but was sent to bear witness of that light. John the Baptist realized it was not about him it was about Christ. His admonition to his disciples was that that his influence in their lives needed to decrease while Christ's increased. That was his joy and that will be the joy of the Spirit-filled believer. Is the sole desire of your life to be famous or is it to make Christ famous? If your desire is to be lifted up before men then you are not filled with the Spirit.
We are sojourning in a materialist world. The ruler of this world is constantly presenting us with the lie that spiritual fullness is directly tied into material wealth. He tells us that we are the true light and it is our desire that must be realized in this world. When we buy into this lie the Spirit of God is replaced by the spirit of self and the everlasting joy of salvation is replaced by a never ending need for self gratification. Verse 9 tells us it is Christ alone who is the true light of the world. In and of ourselves we have no quality of light that will help this world. It is only when we become vessels for the Holy Spirit and allow that light to fill us, that the world around us will be influenced by the truth of Christ. To Him alone all glory, honor and praise are due. Allow Him to fill and control your life.
John begins verse 10 with an indictment against the human race. We will probably all agree that man was the highest order of created beings that God placed on the earth. Yet sin has caused us to fall so far that, spiritually speaking, we have become dumber than rocks and have lost the ability to recognize our Creator's presence. He was in the world, this world that was made by him, and the world knew Him not.
The condemnation does not stop here. Even those who were called by God to announce Christ's coming did not receive Christ as the promised Messiah. Fifteen hundred years of teaching by the prophets did not break though the sin of Israel's heart and they too joined the rest of the world in rejecting their creator. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. The word receive in this passage is paralambanō and gives the meaning of an action of acceptance by a party toward something. The Messiah was present and offered Himself as the Messiah to the people but they lacked the righteous ability to reach out and take the gift offered.
We are a helpless and hopeless race, so fully defiled by sin that there is absolutely no hope for us. We cannot even reach out to take the gift of salvation when it is offered. We are like the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision. We have no leaning toward eternal life in us. BUT!! Don't you just love that word! But as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God.
The word receive in this verse is different than the word used for receive in the verse before. Lambanō can have the meaning of catching or having without any action on the part of the receiver. We catch a cold without reaching out to receive it and we have our physical attributes without selecting which attributes we desire to have. So the question arises, are those who receive Christ like the dead bones of Ezekiel, who are given life without any action on their part or do they need to act in righteousness, reaching toward God, before He gives them the ability to become the sons of God? Is the "receiving" John speaks of in this verse based on the desire of the recipient or on the desire of the Life-giver?
John continues, "even to them that believe on His name." Again the question arises, is this belief necessary for becoming a son of God or is it a proof that we have become sons and daughters of God? These questions have been the center of debate in the church since its inception. Does man have the ability to reach out and procure salvation or is he dead in his sin and unable to make the move toward God? Who is the sovereign power in the universe when comes to our salvation? Is it God or is it man? If God desires all men to be saved and all men are not saved then God ceases to be sovereign, for the sovereign power always gets what he desires. If man makes the choice, he overrides the desire of God and becomes the sovereign power in the universe when it comes to salvation.
John answers these questions for us in the next verse. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Our being made sons of God is dependent only on God. We do not inherit from our parents (not of blood). We, in our flesh, do not possess the will to desire it (nor of the will of the flesh). We do not receive it because someone desires it for us (nor of the will of man). It is only the desire of a sovereign Creator that brings us into son-ship with Him. Man's position concerning salvation is not a matter of availability it is a matter of inability. Salvation is available to all men, they just have the inability to reach out and take what is offered. Being in sin they are spiritually dead, so life must be given to them in order for them to make any move toward Christ or acknowledge His lordship in their lives.
It only after we have been reborn from above that we have the ability to acknowledge the truth that John leaves us with in the 14th verse. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Tens of thousands were present when Christ walked this earth, they saw His works and heard His words, yet the majority of them rejected Him as the promised Messiah even though they had the law and the prophets to show them the way. Any attempt to reach the hearts of the unsaved without the intervention of His Spirit first renewing their minds will result in failure. Only the renewing of our hearts will enable us to believe the truths found in God's Word.
Is Christ living in your heart? Do you acknowledge Him as Lord of your life? Do you see Him as the full source of grace and truth? If so you have God alone to thank for this revelation and the eternal life that attends it. If you do not, it is God alone who can open your eyes to this truth.