4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Verses 4 and 5 continue to mark the connection of the Word to the deity of Christ. The One who created the world has both life and light in Him. These verses also allude to the coming of Christ into the world (the incarnation). He came with “life” and “light.” These two themes are common in this gospel.
4 In Him
God grants eternal life “in Him” (the Word or Christ). He is the source where we obtain eternal life (Jn 5:26; 11:25) because from all eternity He has possessed eternal life. There is a contrast between life “in Him” and not in Him. The highest kind of life comes from Christ—eternal life. This kind of life is intrinsically different from all other forms of life. Life was not created, but it existed eternally in the Word who became flesh.
Jesus not only possessed life; He was and is the source of life. “Life” became manifest in the incarnation; that life gives the light of revelation. In the gospel of John (except for 11:9), light always refers to revelation that Jesus offers (John 8:12). The presence of Jesus reveals who God is.
The word “was” indicates that the Word originally had eternal life. He had the self-existence of life eternal because He was God. Only God is self-existent; that is, He has life in Himself. This is what distinguishes the Creator from the creature. God never came into being because He always was. Jesus said, “I am,” stating that He is everlasting and eternal. Eternal life always existed in Christ.
The gospel of John uses “life” 36 times. The Greek always uses it for eternal or spiritual life. Physical life does not reside in the Word, the second person of the Trinity. God is not physical but spiritual (Jn 4:24). Eternal life has no beginning and no end.
and the life was the light of men [humanity].
“Light” is God’s absolute truth or reality of God’s purpose and plans. Eternal life is the source of light.
Light is God’s truth found in Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). He provides truth and direction. We need light for our life. Jesus exposed darkness by coming into the world. When He manifested Himself to the world, the world saw a revelation from God. The life that Jesus gives refers to person, purpose, and principles from God.
“Life,” eternal life, does not properly belong to mankind but to the Word, to Christ. It is something that comes from outside humanity into the human experience by the incarnation.
We cannot separate life and light in an absolute sense. Light is the manifestation of someone who possesses eternal life. The life of Christ gave light to men (1 Jn 5:10-11). It was available to all men (Jn 3:36; 10:28; 14:6; 20:31).
To possess God’s life is to have the capacity to fellowship with Him.
To possess eternal life is to be exposed to God’s light, God’s truth and reality. Jesus has the ability to grant eternal life to those in darkness. Human systems of thought cannot find eternal life by trying to lift themselves by operation bootstraps.
People are born spiritually dead (Eph 2:1,2). Apart from Christ no one can have spiritual or eternal life. He is the source of eternal life. He dispels darkness. We can receive this life through the Son (1 Jn 5:10,11).
…whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Co 4:4)
Our soul finds its fundamental purpose in the life of Christ. Every idea that does not correspond to that reality is a lie.