Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Blood of the Grape


"When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him." John 2:9-11

   "When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew...." Christ never made much show in His miracles. Here, something unheard of has just been done and no one but the servants know who is responsible for such wonders. Every Christian should emulate the humility of their Lord. Far too many people desire to have their pride boosted by constant recognition. Such behavior was not found in Jesus.
   "...the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." Obviously, this practice was unheard of as indicated by the governor's surprise. That which Christ offers always exceeds in excellence any substitute that man can conjure up.
   "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee...." Lastly, we must consider the picture of this miracle. Why did God choose the first miracle to be that of water being turned into wine? The word for miracle here is often rendered sign in the Authorized Version. Everything Jesus ever did here on earth has significance. This first sign (miracle) has some valuable lessons for us today as well as to those in Bible days. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:1, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." This verse is Millennial in its context. It speaks of the salvation offered freely to all who are willing to believe in the Messiah. At the second coming, Israel will be converted as a nation (Zech 12,13) and will enjoy the salvation of their Messiah all through the Millennium. The wine spoken of here in Isaiah signifies the joy and sustaining power of such a salvation. When Christ came the first time, He offered the nation of Israel the kingdom. This miracle pictured the joy of the kingdom. The wine that could be freely attained through faith in the Messiah of Israel.
   However, this miracle also pictures something else. It pictures the blood of Christ. In Matthew 26, Jesus said that the blood of the grape pictured His blood. In this very first miracle of the world's Redeemer, we see a beautiful picture of the vehicle by which man's redemption would be accomplished, the blood of Christ. How appropriate, that the first miracle performed should be one in which the blood of man's redemption is seen, the blood shed by the One who came "to seek and to save that which was lost."
   "...and His disciples believed on Him." "They believed on Him, the disciples of Him." This would be a word for word rendering. The aspect of their belief is emphatic. They humbled their hearts and recognized Christ for Who He is. May we do the same.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Power in the Miracle


"And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it." John 2:6-8

   The Jewish custom was to wash often during meal times and so this water was to serve for that purpose. The exact amount is somewhat difficult to calculate with great accuracy, but it would have been in the neighborhood of thirty gallons. In these next few verses, Christ will demonstrate His absolute authority over His creation. We will now see the power of the miracle. "Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim." Mary had told the servants to do exactly as Jesus told them, so they follow His orders and fill waterpots full of the water used for purifying (cleansing). "And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it." "Begin to draw out now, and bear and keep on bearing...." This is the idea of these two commands in the Greek. No shortage of wine existed once Christ had intervened. Put somewhat poetically, perhaps the water blushed at the face of its Creator and became wine. Pure, simple water became the nourishing and rejuvenating blood of the grape. This miracle demonstrates the omnipotence of the Messiah of Israel. Nothing is too hard for God. All of creation was brought into existence by means of the Son (Col. 1:16); therefore, this miracle shows clearly that the Son had put on human flesh for the redemption of mankind.
   At this juncture, it becomes necessary to digress somewhat. Many struggle with this passage because they believe it leaves room to say that Jesus made alcoholic wine. This is not possible, because the same God that condemns the consumption of alcohol and warns of its dangers (Pr. 20:1, 23:29-35) is the same God that made this wine. God also warns of giving people intoxicating drink in Habakkuk 2:15; therefore, He would not contradict Himself by doing so in this passage. Another point to remember is that the word for wine here is very generic, and context, the rest of Scripture and cultural significance must be considered before assuming the wine spoken of is intoxicating. Simply stated, consuming alcohol has proven over and over to be both disastrous and far from edifying. It is not a holy practice by any means and the thrice Holy God would never condone drinking, in moderation or to excess. To assume Jesus made alcohol here is worse than blasphemous.
   So we have here an awesome picture of the power of the Messiah. We who claim to be His children would do well to contemplate the power of this miracle. It demonstrates to us that nothing is too hard for our Savior. We can rest in His ability.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

His Ways Are Not Our Ways


"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;
and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called,
and His disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine,
the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee?
Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants,
Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." John 2:1-5

   This passage has been the object of many who wish to justify the ungodly practice of drinking alcohol. In so doing, many have cast a slur upon the holiness of God and have robbed themselves of the great spiritual lessons contained in these next few verses. The first eleven verses of chapter two will be examined in three different sections. First, in verses one through five, we will look at the purpose of the miracle.
   "And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there...." The third day seems to be counted from the time when John first introduced Christ in chapter one. Mary must have had some affiliation with the married couple since she was invited. "...and both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage." The verb for called is singular in the Greek. It may be that Jesus was invited but the newly gathered disciples were not expected and so this may have placed a strain on the supply of food and drink. "And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine." This was more than a simple remark on the part of Mary. She was strongly suggesting that Christ manifest His Messianic proprieties and declare Himself for who He is. Mary's motives may have been right and pure, but our thoughts are not God's thoughts, and very seldom is our timing His timing. The purpose of this miracle was not to make an open assertion of His kingship. In His earthly ministry, Christ was always subject to the will of the Father. His reply is interesting. He says, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." This sounds harsh in our modern English, but woman is used here in a tender sense. A similar use can be seen in Matthew 15:28. Jesus tenderly but firmly demonstrates to Mary that He is under the rule of His Father and not under the rule of her own will. The following verses will show that Jesus was not adverse to meeting Mary's desires, but He first made it clear that His purpose in so doing was not her purpose. Many times we as God's people desire a need to be met, but before God will meet it, He must first correct our purpose and motive. Christ demonstrates here that all things must be done according to the timing, will and motives of our heavenly Father. Mary did not lose faith in the deity of Christ; she simply commands her servants, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." This is a trusting command. Mary knew that whatever Jesus commanded would be the best course. Catholicism boldly declares Mary to be over Christ when this passage of Scripture asserts quite the opposite. Mary was a sinner saved by grace and acknowledged as much in her prayers recorded in the gospel of Luke. Here, she once again shows her submission to the ultimate purposes of God. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The All knowing, Ever present, All powerful Jesus!

"Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!  Nathanael saith unto Him, Whence knowest Thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.  Nathanael answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.  Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.  And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." 
John 1:47-51

   This last passage of chapter one is a marvelous passage indeed.  In these last few verses we will see that Christ boldly demonstrates His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.  "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"  Who could know such facts concerning men save Him Who looketh on the heart (I Sam. 16:7)?  Nathaniel was obviously a believer since Christ made such a statement.  Though Nathaniel was unfamiliar with the specific identity of the Messiah, he was obviously trusting in the work of the Messiah.  Here Jesus plainly shows His omniscience.  Each and every believer should ask themselves what Christ would audibly say in public concerning their heart.  Jesus said that Nathaniel had no guile.  This means he had no deceit or treachery.  Though no man's heart is pure in and of itself (Jer. 17:9), this man had a clear conscience before God and was walking in fellowship with Him. 
   "Nathanael saith unto Him, Whence knowest thou me?"  This was a logical question for a mere mortal, but Jesus is anything but a mere mortal.  "Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee."  The wording is unmistakable.  At the time Nathaniel was under the fig tree, Christ was actively seeing him.  The action of Nathaniel sitting under the fig tree and the action of Christ seeing him are simultaneous.  Jesus here demonstrates His omnipresence.  Proverbs 15:3 says, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good."  Christ is identifying Himself with the all-seeing Jehovah of the Old Testament.  No believer is hid from the eyes of God (nor any unbeliever).  The Spirit of Christ is carried inside of every Christian.  The believer's body is the inner sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (I Co. 6:19).  The believer is the property of Christ.  We must glorify Him in ALL that we do.  No sinful activity, thought, or motive has any place in the life of a Christian.  We belong to the One Whose eyes are in every place beholding our evil and our good.  Let us live like He sees us because He does!!
   Nathaniel, stunned by this declaration, makes a very appropriate statement, "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel."  Rabbi has the meaning of master or lord.  It is an honorary title still used by Jewish people today.  He calls Christ, the Son of God, declaring His deity, and the King of Israel, declaring His sovereignty.  Christ is indeed the sinless Son of the living God spoken of prophetically throughout the Old Testament (Ps. 2, Pr. 30:4 etc.).  He is also the King, and He will reign on the earthly throne of David in the Millennial Kingdom (Ps. 24, Rev. 20:1-6, Luke 1:31-33).  Israel as a nation rejected Him at His first coming, but at His second coming, they will mourn their sin of rejection and turn to Him as a nation (Rom. 11:26, Zech. 12-13). 
   "Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these."  Christ is letting Nathaniel know that such acts of power are nothing for God.  "And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."  In this second verse the verb ye shall see is in the plural in the Greek.  The King James translators brought this out by using the personal pronoun you instead of thou.  Christ is referring to more people than just Nathaniel.  He goes on to make a reference to Genesis 28 where Jacob saw the vision of the angels of God ascending and descending upon a heavenly ladder.  In this last verse, Jesus brings out His omnipotence.  Jacob's dream had the LORD God Almighty standing at the top of the ladder and saying to Jacob, "I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."  Though this passage in John is no doubt somewhat difficult, the following facts cannot be doubted.  God promised Jacob that in his seed, all families of the earth would be blessed.  He promised the same thing to Abraham.  This promise is made possible through Jesus Christ the Messiah.  No matter the lineage, every person who is willing to accept Christ is eternally blessed by being adopted into the spiritual family of God.  When a person is saved, they are immediately accounted to the spiritual family of Abraham since they exercised the faith of Abraham, faith that pleases God (Gal. 3:7-9).  This author is not saying that this is all there is to this passage, but he is saying that Christ was declaring His omnipotence by identifying Himself as the One Who is able to bring upon Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the world, the blessing promised in Genesis chapter 28.  God told Jacob in his dream that in his seed, all families of the earth would be blessed.  Christ is the fulfillment of that seed and He is boldly identifying Himself with this event in Jacob's life.  In Christ, and only in Christ, can all families of the earth be blessed.  
   What a wonderful Savior!!  He is the All knowing, Ever present, All powerful JESUS!!! 


Monday, December 19, 2011

An Appeal to the Will

"The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me.  Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.  And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."  John 1:43-46

   "Relative truth" is a popular concept in society today.  Absolute truth is put down and spoken against.  Most would rather believe that each person has the liberty to decide for themselves what is truth for them.  The Word of God does not follow this line of thinking.  Imperative statements are an intimate part of the Bible.  God routinely makes direct commands to mankind in order to move man's will to make a choice.  If men do not have clear cut truth to follow, they will wander aimlessly, and they will never know what their Creator expects of them.  In these verses, God allows us to see three imperatives that challenged the wills of two different men.  Their choice to obey these commands forever changed their lives.  We would do well to heed the message for today. 
   "The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee...."  Here we find a transition in Jesus ministry.  Up to this point, He had been in the southern part of Israel, Judah, but now He moves to the most northern part, Galilee.  When the text says "Jesus would" it has the meaning of strong desire.  Christ was fully minded to go into the northern parts of Israel.  "...and findeth Phillip and saith unto him, Follow Me."  At this juncture, Jesus is making a direct appeal to the will of Phillip.  Christ speaks to him with authority.  He does not "suggest" that Phillip follow Him.  He is not giving Phillip an alternative to make a second best choice.  Christ's plan for Phillip is that he follow, and so He speaks with all the authority that is rightly His.  Similarly, God does not offer multiple plans for men in the Bible.  For instance, God says that Jesus Christ His Son is the only way to heaven.  In order to be delivered from sin and hell, men have but only one choice, repent and believe the gospel.  God deals in absolute truth and we as Christians must deal in absolute truth.  When counselling others the only deliverance we can offer them is obedience to the Bible.  If they reject this, they will not find true deliverance.  Phillip could have chosen not to follow Jesus.  If he had, his life would have been disastrous; however, he humbled himself and responded obediently to God's command.  May each and every one of us humble ourselves and obediently respond to the truth of God in Scripture.  God wants every one of His children to follow Him; let us make the choice of Phillip. 
   "Now Phillip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter."  Bethsaida means house of fish.  This small town was located on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee.  "Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  The verb we have found is in the perfect tense in the Greek.  Phillip is absolutely certain that Christ is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.  His loyalties have been transferred to the Son of God, and he is now a dedicated disciple.  Few professing Christians today demonstrate the dedication and loyalty to Jesus that Phillip shows here.  It is probable, that many who call themselves Christians are not.  They have never truly submitted themselves to the command "Follow Me," but rather they hold on to the Christian religion as more of a good luck charm and Christ is not their Messiah but simply an idol on the shelf, to be used for selfish motives. 
   "Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?...."  Nazareth, being a garrison town, was known for its corruption and ignorance.  How amazing, that God should choose such an unlikely place for the upbringing of the sinless Lamb.  This demonstrates the truth that God "hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise...and base things...and things which are despised, hath God chosen...that no flesh should glory in His presence (I Co. 1:27-29)."  God does need the riches and intelligence and culture of men to work His will.  The more difficult the odds, the greater the glory to God. "...Phillip saith unto him, Come and see."  These are the other two of the three imperatives mentioned.  Phillip was challenged by Christ to follow and now Phillip is challenging Nathanael to put aside his human reasoning and prejudices and Come and See the truth of God.  Had Nathanael followed his heart, he would have missed a tremendous blessing, but instead, (as we will see in the coming verses) he submits his will and follows the challenge to come and see.  Christians often miss a true blessing by following their own understanding.  God often challenges His children to do something that seems unreasonable or illogical and yet, He has a purpose and plan in it all (Genesis 22), something veiled to human sight.  The only way that Nathanael could avail himself of God's blessing was to put aside his own feelings and reasonings and faithfully and humbly follow.
   God is a God of commands, and yet every command that He gives is for the good of mankind.  The sooner we learn to submit our wills to the challenges of His commands, the sooner we will find true peace.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Stone

"One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.  And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone."  John 1:40-42

  This event (by context) takes place in Judea.  The actual calling of Peter as recorded by Matthew takes place in Galilee at some point after these events (see Matthew chapter 4).  "One of the two which heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ."  Andrew, convinced that Jesus is the long-awaited ,seeks out his own brother.  Based upon the prophecies of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27), it is very likely that many Jews were eagerly looking for the Messiah.  The name Messiah is Hebrew in its origin and means the anointed one.  The name Christ is Greek in its origin and means the same thing.  Andrew shows a spiritual interest in his brother by bringing him to Jesus.  Each and every Christian should have the spiritual welfare of their fellowman first and foremost in their hearts.  Too many believers are content with shallow relationships centered around idle talk and hobbies.  Hobbies and common interests can be used to open doors, but the ultimate goal should be to get our acquaintances to the feet of Christ.
   "And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him...."  The word for beheld here means to fix one's gaze upon.  Christ always takes a keen interest in people.  He is love.  While we often glance over others and their associated needs, Jesus never fails to take a keen interest in people regardless of their appearance or spiritual condition.  He is ever so compassionate.  "...he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone."  Cephas is a Greek transliteration from the Hebrew word which means a rock or stone.  The verse says that the interpretation of Cephas is "a stone."  The word for stone here is literally Petros from which we derive the English name of Peter.  At least two different words for rock exist in the Greek.  The first is petros which means a piece of a larger mass.  The second is petra which means a large mass of rock.  Jesus does not call Simon the Rock.  Only one Rock exists and that is Almighty God (Deut. 32:4, Ps. 18:2, I Co. 10:4).  Jesus says rather that Simon is a piece of a larger mass, or a stone.  He indeed was greatly used to build the church.  His character, though often hasty and proud, was solid.  Christ used this man of stout character to help found the church upon the true Rock which is Christ.  This principle is clearly seen in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said, "...thou art Peter (petros); and upon this rock (petra, Christ Himself) I will build my church...."  Peter's character, though infected by sin and failure, was one of firmness and dedication; however, the Church is built upon no man, but upon Christ Himself.  Though Peter would temporarily wander back to his former trade of fishing (Matt. 4), he is here exposed to his Messiah, thanks to Andrew, and will soon become a dedicated follower.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Come!

"Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!  And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.  Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest Thou?  He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour." 
John 1:35-39

   "Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!"  At this juncture of Scripture, we see disciples beginning to follow Jesus.  The text says that John was looking upon Jesus as He walked.  This word means to fix one's gaze upon (see Acts 1:11).  John's attention was fixed upon Christ.  His motive was to point people to Jesus.  Far too many Christian's have their attention fixed upon something other than Christ.  Professing believer's will fix their attention upon worldly lusts, popularity and fame, but few choose to fix their full attention upon the Lamb of God.  We need to emulate John's example in that his attention was fixed upon the Messiah, and he did not hesitate to point his followers to Christ.
   "And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus."  The two disciples leave John and accompany Christ.  The word for follow here akoloutheo and it has the sense of following as a disciple.  This is brought out more as the same word appears in verses 40 and 43 where the sense of following as a disciple is clearly seen.  John did not hesitate to point to Christ those who had attached themselves to him.  People will often attach themselves to believers for various reasons.  The motives of people are not always well directed and perfectly pure, but we, as God's servants, must gently lead others to the true Source of help. 
   "Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?"  God does not ask questions for knowledge.  He is knowledge.  He asks questions for the benefit of men.  Questions can prompt a person to think in ways that declarative statements cannot.  Jesus says, "What seek ye?"  What are our motives for following Christ?  Some follow for relief of pain.  Some follow in an attempt to escape consequences.  Some believe that following will gain popularity.  Christ wants followers with pure motives.  He wants servants as followers.  Proud people cannot be true followers of Christ.  "What seek ye?"  It is a question that we would all do well to answer properly.  The disciples simply reply, "Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?"  God is ever so patient with our deficient answers and lack of understanding.  Christ's reply to their question is beautiful.  He says, "Come, and see."  The imperative for come is in the present tense.  This has the idea of come and keep coming.  God is a God of comes.  In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  He offers spiritual rest and help to the hell bound sinner who is unable to rescue himself.  In Revelation 22:17, the Bible says, " And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."  The Spirit of God is knocking at the hearts of sinners this very day, convicting them of sin and saying to them, Come!  God wants us to come to Him.  He is a God of redemption, One who desires to loose the prisoners, but a man can come to God only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ the Lamb.  So Jesus says, Come!  He wanted those two disciples to follow and to keep on following.  The second command of see is aorist tense.  It means to begin an action not already in progress.  These men had not yet seen where Jesus was staying and He wanted them to see. 
   The text goes on to say that they saw where He dwelt.  The tenth hour would be approximately 4pm.  Let all who have a desire to be saved from their sins Come! and follow Jesus!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Sacrificial Lamb of God

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.  This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me.  And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him.  And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God."  John 1:29-34

   "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God...."  Here John the Baptist recognizes Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of the Father.  In making this statement, John was boldly declaring that sin requires a sacrifice, and Christ is the only acceptable sacrifice.  Before this point, an animal was the only thing thought of as a sacrifice for sin.  At this point, John brings to light the teaching of Isaiah 53, the Old Testament passage where, for the first time in the Scriptures, a Man is seen as the substitute for the sins of a man.  The word for Lamb here is only used in reference to Christ as the sacrificial Lamb.  The other references are John 1:36, Acts 8:32, and I Peter 1:19.  All of these verses use this Greek word amnos in reference to Christ as God's sacrificial Lamb for the sins of mankind.  Christ is the only One referred to as God's Lamb.  Outside of Christ's blood, God's wrath toward the sinner cannot be appeased.  Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life (John 14:6). 
   The passage goes on to say, "...which taketh away the sin of the world."  The word for taketh away has the idea of taking up, or lifting up.  Christ took upon Himself the sins of all mankind (Isaiah 53:11).  He took sin upon Himself and became sin for man (II Co. 5:21), so that all who are willing to repent and trust Christ can escape the damnation of eternal Hell. 
   "This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me."  John is boldly declaring the preexistence of Christ and thereby supporting His deity.  Though born after John in a physical sense, He has always been because He is the eternal Son of God. 
   "And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water."  The tense of the verb knew is Pluperfect.  This means that an action occurred in the past with the results of that action continuing to a certain point and then terminating.  Before John baptized Christ, he did not know the identity of the Messiah of Israel.  God chose for Christ to be nationally identified as the Messiah through the mode of water baptism.  John goes on to say, "And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him.  And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."  At Christ's baptism, the Holy Trinity is seen.  This picture is more clear in Matthew's account.  God the Father announces that He is well pleased in His Son as the Spirit descends from heaven in the form of a dove and dwells upon the Savior.  Again, John says, "and I knew Him not."  This verb is also Pluperfect in tense as previously discussed.  Up to this point, John did not know the identity of Christ; however, through absolute obedience to God's instructions, John the Baptist could confidently identify God's chosen Lamb.  Other methods of determining the Messiah may have been possible.  Elizabeth (John the Baptist's mother) knew that Mary was the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1).  Yet, God gave specific directions to His servant for identifying Christ.  John followed God's word to the letter and found the Messiah.  God's word always takes precedence over any experience, or known fact.  God's word trumps all and any authority, for it is the supreme authority.
   The last part of the verse says that Christ is He which "baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."  The moment a person places their faith in Jesus as their Savior, the Spirit of God seals and indwells that believer (Ephesians 1:13).  God is the only One who can give His Spirit.  Though He chose to give it through certain apostles during the transitional book of Acts, God is the giver of His Spirit.  Any charismatic event that would claim the Spirit is given by a man is false doctrine.  After the passing of the apostles, the delayed giving of the Spirit to the believer is no longer seen.  At the moment of salvation, all believers have all of the Spirit of God they will ever need or ever get.  Each believer can walk in the Spirit each day if they so choose.
  John finishes by saying, "And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God."  God's directions were followed, John stood in amazement as he watched the Spirit of the living God come down upon the Son, and John knew, at that point, that this is indeed the Messiah.  The verbs for saw and bare record are very strong in their tense.  John has seen and he has born witness that Christ is the Son of God, and this truth will forever be relevant.  John is completely convinced at this point that Jesus is the Christ.  He introduces Christ as the Lamb and concludes with Christ as the Son.  What love, that God should give His only begotten Son to be a sinless Lamb for sinful men!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Blindness of the Pharisees

"And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.  And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that Prophet?  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth One among you, Whom ye know not; He it is, Who coming after me is preferred before me, Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.  These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." 
John 1:24-28

   We see here that the priests and Levites sent to question John were from the Pharisees.  Throughout the Gospels, this group of Jews is noted for their self-righteousness and unbelief.  In these few verses of John, their blindness is clearly shown.  They ask John why he is baptizing if he is not "that Christ, nor Elias (Elijah), neither that prophet."  The two words translated that are definite articles in the Greek text.  Therefore, they can be understood as the.  As noted earlier, these men were confusing "The Christ" and "The Prophet."  They are one and the same (Deut. 18:15, Acts 3:20-22).  John's answer is interesting.  He lets them know that he simply baptizes with water (symbolizing repentance, see Matt. 3:11), and proceeds to point out the fact of their disbelief in the One who has the power of spiritual baptism.  He says, "I baptize with water: but there standeth One among you, Whom ye know not."  The two verbs in this passage, standeth and know, are in the Perfect tense.  This tense carries with it the idea of action completed in the past with the results carrying on into the future.  The Christ child had come.  He was now in their midst.  They knew of His birth in Bethlehem.  This is the group who explained the prophesy of Micah to king Herod when Jesus was born (Matt. 2:4-6, Mic. 5:2).  And yet for all this, they had chosen to reject Him; they were rejecting Him now (ye know not), and in their present frame of mind, they would continue to reject Him.  Christ was in their midst, and yet they had not known Him, they were not knowing Him then, and unless they repented, they would never know Him.  This disbelief and pride was the reason for John's rebuke to them in Matthew chapter three.  John then points out Christ's deity and says, "He it is, Who coming after me is preferred before me...."  Even though Jesus was born approximately six months after John (Luke 1:36), He has existed from all eternity.  He is the Word and He is God.  He created John; therefore, John unashamedly upholds the Lord's worthiness and declares his own unworthiness by saying , "...Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose."  The Pharisees were challenging John's ministry of baptism, and John immediately addressed their root issue of unbelief in the One Who was standing among them, the One Who is God in the flesh.  
   We find here in this passage a valuable principle.  This principle teaches us to avoid surface arguments and cut to the heart of the issue.  Unbelievers and carnal Christians will often attempt to distract with frivalous questions and vain arguments.  The spiritual child of God needs to have discernment and learn to keep the main truths in view.  Repairing the hole in the bucket will eliminate the need to clean up the spilled water.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Make Straight the Way of the Lord

"And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?  And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.  And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?  And he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No.  Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?  He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias."  John 1:19-23

As John begins his ministry of pointing people to the coming Christ, the Jews in Jerusalem send out their own in an attempt to determine who John is.  Humble and not desiring to gain any glory for himself, John emphatically denies that he is the Christ.  The Jews were obviously well aware of the fact that a Messiah was coming very soon.  Doubtless, they were familiar with the timeline laid out in Daniel 9:24-27.  They then ask John, "Art thou Elias?"  This is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Elijah.  They wanted to know if Elijah had returned in the flesh.  John simply says, "No."  He was not Elijah reincarnated.  Indeed, he came forth in the "power and spirit of Elijah," but he was not the fulfillment of the physical coming of Elijah as promised in Malachi 4:5.  John's ministry and Elijah's ministry are parallel and follow the same spirit and intent but they are two separate events.  The Levites and priests then ask John, "Art thou that Prophet?"  In the Greek, a definite article accompanies Prophet; therefore, a specific prophet is being identified and not just a prophet as some study Bible notes indicate.  The Prophet these Jews were referring to is the Prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18: 15 where Moses declares, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken."  Again, John denies and says, "No."  Apparently, these men did not realize that Christ and The Prophet were one in the same.  They stated their questions to John as though these two positions were separate.  Perhaps somewhat frustrated, they then ask John, "Who art thou...what sayest thou of thyself?"  John then gives an answer that is in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 and says, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord...."  The word cry here means to shout aloud.  What was John shouting aloud?  "Make straight the way of the Lord!"  From the very beginning, Israel's history had been blackened by the sin of apostasy and un-thankfulness.  At the time John said this, they were steeped in self-righteousness and pride.  The letters of the Law and their own conceit had become their God.  The heart of God's Law had been casually brushed over.  His precepts had been ignored for centuries the nation was floundering in self-righteousness and pride and John cries out "Make straight the way of the Lord!"  What is he saying?  His message was a simple message of repentance, not only to the Jews but to all who would listen.  The Bible says in Acts 19:4, "...John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."  God used John to prepare people's hearts unto repentance so that they could turn to Christ in humble faith and receive forgiveness of sins.  Repentance means to change one's mind.  Bible repentance is a change of mind and heart about one's sin and direction.  This naturally results in a change of action.  Repentance is realizing that we are wrong about our sin and that God is right.  No one comes to Christ without realizing he is a sinner and wanting to do something about it.  Repentance is not a work, it is a heart acknowledgement that something must be done about one's sin problem.  Thus, God sends John to declare that all who would come to Christ in humble faith must prepare a path for Him in their heart.  This is not the message these priests and Levites were looking for.  They did not want to hear about their sin and need to be cleansed by the blood of the spotless Lamb.  They were only interested in remaining the spiritual authorities.  The verse that John quotes here from Isaiah says, "...Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."  O how God would have all bow the knee to Him in humble faith!  Many want Jesus in their life as a religion but few are willing to prepare in the desert of their wicked hearts a highway for God.  In this very first chapter, John declares that men are to humble themselves in preparation for the coming of the Lamb.  Sin abounds, men are self-righteous, the Roman world at this time is steeped in Paganism and John cries out, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord!  The Messiah, the Lamb, is coming.  Acknowledge your sin and put your faith in Christ."  For those who are in Christ, this message has great application.  Revival won't come to a Christian's heart until they are willing to make a highway for God in the barren desert of their feeble life.  We need to bow the knee to the King of kings and be obedient to Biblical truth on a daily basis.  Preparing a highway in the desert of our Christian lives is being willing to walk in the Spirit daily.  It is saying to God, "What is in my life that needs to go, or what is not in my life that needs to be added?"  It is being sensitive to God's desires and commands.  Simply put, It is to humble ourselves before God and accept His ways over our own.  May every one of us fear God and prepare in the deserts of our needy hearts a highway for our Redeemer and King!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Son's Exegesis of the Father

"No man hath seen God at any time; 
the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, 
He hath declared Him."  John 1:18

No mortal man can look directly upon the face of God and live (Exodus 33:20).  His holiness is far too awesome for sinful man.  Even the holy seraphims must cover their faces with their wings when in the presence of God's holiness (Isaiah 6:1-3).  Truly, no man has ever seen God, face to face.  What is He like?  Men need only look to Jesus in order to gain an answer to this question, because Jesus Christ is God.  This passage clearly declares the deity of Jesus Christ.  The text says, "...the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father...."  John the Baptist is making this statement.  At the time he made it, Jesus was walking on this earth, and yet John says that "He is in the bosom of the Father."  How could Jesus be on the earth and yet in heaven with God?  This concept cannot be fully grasped by mortal minds, but it stands as a great witness to Christ's deity.  He is fully man and yet He never failed to remain fully God.  The last half of the verse says, "...He (Christ) hath declared Him (the Father)."  This verb declared is very important.  Its noun form is where the English word exegesis comes from.  It means to explain, interpret, tell, report, or describe.  Jesus interpreted to all men what God is like.  We do not have to see God face to face on His throne in order to understand Him as best we can.  All we have to do is look to Christ, the Lamb of God.  Jesus told Phillip in John 14:9, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?"  Phillip failed to realize, as many Christians often do, that to behold Christ is to behold the perfection, holiness, love, and power of the Father.  Christ never once had a wicked thought.  He never once committed any act of sin.  His motives were pure, and His plans perfect.  He healed thousands upon thousands.  He gave sight to the blind and salvation to the believing.  He cleansed the lepers and restored the sick.  He commanded creation and it fell at His feet in obedience.  He now sits in heaven and guides the affairs of His people.  He knows every thought and motive of man.  He cannot fail or make a mistake, and someday He will return in clouds of splendor to put down every enemy.  Yes, truly Christ has exegeted the Father.  In Him we can all know what God desires of us and how much He loves us.  Through Him we can have a relationship with God.  Through Him we see the holiness and love of God.  No man has seen God at any time, but don't be in despair, because Christ the Son has revealed Him!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

John's Declaration of God's Grace

"John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, 
He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me.  
And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.  
For the law was given by Moses, 
but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." 
John 1:15-17

The word cried in this verse is interesting.  The grammatical construction is such that emphasis is placed upon the culmination of the action.  John's declaration that Christ, God's Anointed, had come was irreversible.  The Son of God has come into the world and the effects of that are eternal.  The world's calendars revolve around His birth.  Two times in the year (Easter, Christmas) the world shuts down because of events in His earthly life.  Indeed!  Christ has come.  The text goes on to say "...He that cometh after me is preferred before me...."  John was born six months ahead of Christ (Luke 1:36), and yet, Christ has no beginning of days nor end of life.  He is preferred before John and everyone else.  Christ is preeminent in all things (Col. 1:18).  He is the eternal God and no man could truly be before Him.  That is why John goes on to say "...for He was before me."  The word for was here is indicating continuous action in the past.  Before John was ever conceived, Christ was being God in eternity past.  John says "...for He was before me."  This is the Greek word protos which means first.  John is attesting to the fact that Christ is preeminent by saying that He is first in position.  Every Christian would do well to give Jesus Christ a protos position in their life and thinking.  Too many people live their lives as they wish without even thinking that the Savior may have a different plan.  John now moves on to describe the abundant riches of Christ's grace.  "And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace."  A literal rendering of the text would read "And of the fullness of Him, We! all we have received...."  The spiritual fullness which Christ offers is available to all who will trust Him as their Savior!  The word for fullness here has the idea of completeness, needing nothing more, that which contents.  Only Christ can content the spiritual void in a person's soul.  Great emphasis is placed on the fact that this fullness is available to us.  We! and not just We! but all we have received of this fullness.  Because Christ came to earth to redeem mankind, all men have the opportunity to partake of this fullness if they will only believe on Christ as their Savior.  But not only have we received of His fullness but also He imparts grace.  Grace is unmerited favor.  God shows grace to man by offering him forgiveness of sins in Christ.  No one deserves to be forgiven.  Salvation is a gift of grace, and what grace it is!  The wording here is interesting.  The text reads "...and grace for grace."  The word for is anti.  This preposition means against, instead of, on top of, in place of.  The idea here is that grace keeps coming!  It can never run out because when one pile of grace is used up more just keeps taking its place!  Grace on top of grace.  God's grace and mercy are abundant enough and sufficient enough to save anyone.  John the Baptist reflects for a moment on the Law of Moses which is really the Law of God.  Here we learn an important lesson about the Law in God's plan for man.  He says "For the Law came by Moses...."  This isn't any old law, this is the Law as embodied in the Old Testament.  Here we learn two things about the Law.  First, it was given by God.  The word for came here is passive.  Therefore, a literal translation would be "For the Law was given...."  Man did not derive it.  It was given to him.  Next we learn that God was the Author of this Law.  The text reads "For the law came by Moses...."  The prepositional phrase by Moses means through Moses.  Moses was the intermediate agent.  He did not create this Law.  It was given to Him by God (Exodus 31:18).  So the Law was given by God through Moses, and its purpose was always to point out man's sin.  Through the Law, God wanted all men to realize that they have failed to meet His standard, and thereby repent (Galatians 3:14).  The means of salvation is not through the Law but through Christ.  "...but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."  A definite article is included with both grace and truth, so it literally reads the grace and the truth.  Christ defines grace and truth.  The Law points out man's sin (the letter killeth...2 Co. 3:6), and the grace of God in sending His Son to die for man's sin offers life to all who will believe in Christ (but the spirit giveth life...2 Co. 3:6).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Incarnation of the Word

"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." John 1:14

At this juncture, the deity of the Word as been well established. God now boldly declares the doctrine of the Incarnation. The Son of God took upon Himself a physical, human body. And the Word flesh became is a literal rendering. Flesh is emphasized in the first part of this verse. God wants us to be certain of the fact that Christ became a man in order to pay for the sins of man. The verse goes on to say that the Word dwelt among us. The root for this word means a tent, booth, or tabernacle. The noun form is used in Matthew chapter seventeen when Peter said to Jesus, "...let us make here three tabernacles...." The thrust then is the fact that the Son of God literally pitched His tent among us. Any doctrine supporting the belief that Jesus did not have a human body is not derived from Scripture. In a thrilling tone, John interjects, "...and we beheld His glory...." John stared upon, examined, and physically saw the glory of Christ! This glory was not even His full glory, but what was seen was indeed magnificent and unmistakeably Divine. He goes on to say, "...the glory as of the only begotten of the Father...." The word of appears after the word begotten. This word for of carries with it the meaning of from the side of, the originator of something. This is one more attempt of Scripture to show the deity of Christ. He is the one from alongside the Father. He is the Father's only begotten. The word only begotten is not referring to birth but rather preeminence. Christ is above all things. He is the one whom the Father wishes to have preeminence over all things (Colossians 1:18 ...that in all things he might have the preeminence.) And what is part of this glory that Christ possesses? Grace and Truth. He does not just possess grace and truth, but He is full of grace and truth. John the Baptist gives the same testimony in verse seventeen when he says "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Grace is unmerited favor. It carries with it the idea of imparting something to someone who is undeserving. Christ is willing to impart salvation to all who will believe in His name. Salvation could never be earned. Nothing a person could ever do would satisfy the payment of his sin, but Christ, the One full of grace, is willing to rescue the soul which is humble enough to acknowledge Him as Savior. Yet, if grace were not wedded to truth, it would not be holy grace. The standard of truth does not go away. God takes a keen interest in truth. With the Almighty, truth is not relative. God is not concerned with whether or not truth is popular or received by men. He is truth. Though He is full grace, if this grace is rejected, the truth will judge the sinner who is worthy of eternal damnation (John 12:48). Grace without truth is compromise. The one who accepts Christ has, in Christ, received what his sin deserves (II Corinthians 5:21 "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."). The one who rejects Christ, will be cast into hell, and will, there in damnation, receive what his sin deserves by being eternally separated from God in a place of extreme torment. What a beautiful balance! Christ is ever so gracious and yet ever a lover of truth! Out from the midst of His holy character pours a love for mankind that enables all who will believe in Him to be saved, and yet even though He loves all, those who reject His grace cannot escape His truth. No wonder God moved John to write "...full of grace and truth...."!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Belief in the Word (continued)

"Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:13

The relative pronoun which is referring back to the ones which believe in His name in the previous verse. This verse declares that first of all, the spiritual rebirth is not of blood. No one is born saved. No one can inherit salvation based upon their lineage. When the proud Pharisees and Sadducees came to the baptism of John, he rebuked them for their proud heart and said, "...think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Matthew 3:9)." These men counted on one thing; they were the physical descendants of Abraham. The fact that they were proud, cruel, hypocritical and worldly made no difference to them. They considered themselves worthy of entrance into the kingdom of God because Abraham was their father. But God declares this type of thinking to be false doctrine. God cares nothing for lineage. He is concerned about the attitude of the heart. Secondly, the verse declares that the spiritual rebirth is not of the will of the flesh. Paul, speaking of the depravity of the human flesh declares, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7:18)." This wicked old heart of ours will never will to be saved. Every time, apart from the Spirit of God drawing a man, it will choose that which is wicked (this is not to say that we have no free will to choose to believe in or reject Christ). No, this sin-ruined old heart of ours cannot lead us into the way of eternal life. Thirdly, the verse declares that the spiritual rebirth is not of the will of man. Apart from God, none can find their way to eternal life. God did not consult man for his advice concerning the provision for eternal life. Man is so proud that if he could choose a way into heaven, it would be based upon his good works. Many people will argue against God's simple plan of salvation as found in the Bible, but God does not need our input or advice. Faith in Christ is the only way to escape hell and no one's will can change that. How then does the spiritual rebirth take place? By the power of God. Only God has the power to change a man from a condition of being dead in sin to being alive in Christ. The moment an individual bows the knee to Christ in faith, the Spirit of God comes into that person forever and a spiritual transformation takes place. "In whom (Jesus) ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13)." The spiritual rebirth is wholly and only the work of God. It has nothing to do with pedigree, or the supposed goodness of man. God alone receives the credit for the miraculous work of spiritual rebirth. The truth of this verse makes the following verses found in Isaiah 56:3-5 all the more a blessing to the heart. "Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Belief in the Word

"But as many as received Him,
to them gave He power to become the sons of God,
even to them that believe on His name:" John 1:12

In stark contrast to the previous two verses, God gives us this wonderful promise, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God...." People cannot be saved without personally receiving Christ. Some people reject the Gospel, some tolerate it, and some use it. Picture a Christian out witnessing in the neighborhood. He comes to one door and presents Christ and is told to leave; this person has boldly declared his rejection. The man goes to the next door and presents the Gospel. This time the person to which he is speaking does not ask the man to leave. Instead, he listens (or at least appears to), occasionally glancing around with a look in his eye that says "when will this person be quiet." The Christian man persists in his presentation of the Gospel and asks his neighbor if he is willing to pray and ask Jesus to save him. His neighbor, in an effort to end this awkward moment, agrees, and so they both say a prayer together. This person has tolerated the gospel, but he has not received it. Lastly, the man goes to a third door. This house looks somewhat more rundown than the others. The front yard is littered with trash and it appears as though no one has kept up on things for quite some time. After he knocks, a young lady answers the door. She appears to have had a very rough life and seems in need of help. The man asks if he may present the Gospel and she accepts. She makes a confession (perhaps with tears) and says that she would like to come to church. Before the man leaves, the young lady shares with him a number of personal problems and declares that she hopes the church will be able to help. She comes to church, receives the help she is after and then promptly leaves the church and returns to, or shall we say continues in, the same unregenerate lifestyle. What happened? Though not always the case in such instances, this young lady used the Gospel, but she did not receive it. She got what she wanted and then left.  In order to become a son of God a person must receive the Word. This involves repentance and faith. Two things which are doctrinally inseparable (Acts 20:21). The Bible goes on to say that "...as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God...." The word here for power means authority, ability, the right to. Born in sin and hopelessly lost, how could anyone expect to receive the authority and right to become a spiritual son of the living God? It can only be done through Christ's blood. God says in Isaiah 54:17, "This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." No man can boast that he possesses his own righteousness. The key into heaven is through the righteousness of Christ (II Corinthians 5:21). Christ has the power to save. God is the only Lawgiver Who is able to save and to destroy (James 4:12). The Christian who gets a hold of this truth will tend to see himself in a humbler light. The word for son here literally means child. What love is this that God would want such wicked sinners as us to be His dear children? The verse goes on to say, "...even to them that believe on His name." Humble faith in the Son of God is all it takes to be saved from the wrath to come (Acts 16:31, Joel 2:32).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Rejection of the Word

"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him,
and the world knew Him not.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not."
John 1:10-11

"In the world He was...." would be a literal translation. What could be more joyous for the created beings of God than to have God Himself right in their midst! "...and the world through Him came into being (literal translation)...." The Creator of the world, in the world! Surely the world would recognize the One who created it. Surely the world would give God the reverence due unto His holy name. However, this is not the case. "...and the world Him did not know." This is again a literal translation and the placing of Him is emphatic. The world system has never known God and never will. A popular philosophy of today says that a Christian can enjoy the things of the world and the things of God, when, in fact, they are diametrically opposed one to the other. The curse that haunts this tired old world due to sin prevents it from gravitating toward anything which is indicative of true light. This wicked old world is not a friend of grace and never will be. If it would not accept the Savior, it will not accept the saved. "To His own came He (literal again)...." Surely if any would recognize the Son of God it would be those who were supposed to be closest to Him. Israel had been borne out of Egypt on eagles wings (Exodus 19:4). God had brought them into Canaan and subdued the land before them. They possessed the Law, the Temple, and supposedly the relationship. If any on the face of the earth at that time should have known the Word it would have been Israel, but what does the text say? "...and His own Him they did not receive (literal)." Him they did not receive? Is it possible? Could such a sophisticated form of religion be so completely nonspiritual as not to recognize God Himself? The answer is yes. Israel had everything except a relationship with God. They possessed all the religious trappings, but they lacked the humble heart of belief. Their faith was in their ability to attain righteousness and not in God's ability. They enjoyed what religion offered them but they did not desire to be changed by the Spirit of God. It is no different today. The world (especially America) is steeped in religion but few have the relationship. The gate to eternal life is indeed narrow and most do not find it (Matthew 7:14). The way to eternal life is not a friend of pride. One might be tempted to shake his head at the sin of rejection shown by Israel in this passage, but let us never forget that the same heart of rejection is alive and well in so-called Christianity today. If our Savior were to walk into a church service today, would He be recognized? Would any be able to spiritually discern God in the flesh while they were engaged in their wicked music and self-satisfying forms of worship? Would any be interested in the humble and self-sacrificing example set forth by Christ, or would most gravitate toward the man-centered message of self-pleasing which is so prominent today? If our Savior were to come in the flesh again as He came the first time, would He have any more friends today in mainstream religion than He had then? The Bible tends to argue against it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Light's Witness (continued)

He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
 That was the true Light,
which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
 John 1:8-9

John the Baptist demonstrated a spirit of humility and self-denial which we would all do well to emulate. The text reads, "He was not that Light...." Over and over again, John strongly affirmed that he was nothing more than God's messenger. He was not in the least bit concerned with fame or popularity. He told the Jewish messengers in verse twenty of this chapter "I am not the Christ." In chapter three he made this statement, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Surely John had, in every sense of the word, a true Biblical spirit of evangelism. How many men today who call themselves God's servants are more interested in building a name than spreading the gospel? In a spirit of pride they roam the land "seeking the uppermost rooms." From what we can glean of John's character in this book, it would be safe to say that if John could visit today's world, he would not be bumping shoulders with the "most elite" names in "fundamentalism." He would not attempt to make his face known in all the churches across the land. It is most doubtful that he would be more concerned with his accommodations than with the souls of men. No, in our time, John would most likely be roaming the streets and byways looking for lost souls. Undoubtedly he would hold the proclamation of the gospel on a higher plane than his own popularity. Yes, we have much to learn from John's humility and example. Quite often, the people that are known the least are doing the most. Many an unnamed evangelist, pastor, and teacher has done more for the edification of the church through their example of humility and sacrifice than could ever be done through ten thousand meetings adorned with the most elegant sermons. "...but was sent to bear witness of that Light." The conjunction but is indicating here strong contrast. It is emphasizing the great difference in principle between being the Light versus witnessing for the Light. None who are saved deserve some special accolade for obedience. Jesus said, "Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not (Luke 17:19)." Simply reflecting upon the undeserved nature of our salvation would do us well rather than feeling that the Lord "owes us something" for obedience. Every Christian must be a witness for Jesus Christ. "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Christ is the only true Light, so let us step back in humility and allow Him to shine into the hearts of men and women. Humankind cannot be enlightened (here rendered lighteth) to spiritual truth apart from Christ. He is the only Truth. People can be taught morals to some degree. They can be educated and polished up so that the rottenness within does not show through so badly, but without the Light, they are simply temporarily reformed sinners who are spiritually darkened. Christ in the heart brings spiritual enlightment. Many church attenders who do not have a taste for God's Word, and who will not obey it, have never been regenerated. They have not been enlightened by the true Light and so remain indifferent to spiritual truth. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (I Co. 2:11-14)."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Light's Witness

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light,
that all men through him might believe. John 1:6-7

The forerunner, John the Baptist, is here introduced. As Elijah was the prophet of God in the midst of an apostate Israel, even so is John, in the midst of a self-righteous nation, in a time when keeping the Law was taught as the means of obtaining eternal life. John came in the power and spirit of Elijah (Luke 1:17), but he was not Elijah himself (Matt. 17:11-12, John 1:21). Elijah will appear in person someday and fulfill in full the ministry which God has for him (Mic. 4:5-6, Matt. 17:11). The text reads, "There was a man sent from God...." If one was not concerned with smoothness, it could be said this way, "A man came into being which had been sent out from the side of God...." Long before John's birth, God had already purposed to make this man His messenger. We are reminded here of God's words to Jeremiah. "Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jer. 1:4-5)." Who is like God, which has the power to call men from the womb to a certain ministry? John was indeed a unique individual. The Bible tells us that he was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mothers womb (Luke 1:15). Long before John was even old enough to understand, out from the heart of God he came. The word rendered sent from is apostello and it means to send out with a message. This man was God's specific messenger. Unlike many liscentious and power hungry men of today who call themselves "God's messenger," John had God's stamp of approval. "The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe." The Light spoken of here is the specific Light of Christ. Christ is the Light and John was His witness, to prepare the hearts of people with a message of repentance. It says that the purpose of John's witness was so that all men though him (John) might believe. Here we see the heart of God in that He desires every man, woman, and child to be saved from the depths of hell. Hell was never intended for people but rather for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). Over and over in Scripture God declares that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.... (Ez. 33:11)." "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9)." The verb rendered might believe is in the subjunctive mood. This mood expresses potential and not necessarily reality. All men are created with an ability to believe, but the truth is, we must choose whether or not we will. God desires all to be saved, but He will force no man. Praise the Lord that He chose John to be such a faithful witness long before John even knew about it, and praise God that many Jewish souls were given the message of repentance and were prepared for faith in the Messiah!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Gospel of John: Christ is the Life and the Light

"In Him was life; and the Life was the Light of men.
And the Light shineth in darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not."
John 1:4-5

  Christ's absolute deity is also seen in the fact that He is The Life and The Light. The text reads, "In Him was life...." The word here for life is zoe. This is not simply earthly, physical life. If God had intended that, He would have chosen the word bios (see I J 3:17, Mk. 12:44). This life is spiritual life. It is the type of life that truly matters. Physical life is temporal. The cares of this physical life are temporal, but spiritual life has eternal effects, and this spiritual life was continuously existing in Christ from eternity past. When He came to this earth in a human body, that same spiritual life was there, living within the Son of God. "...and the Life was the Light of men." Spiritual life is in the Son because He is The Spiritual Life. In this half of the verse, life has a definite article; therefore, particular identity is being shown. Jesus Christ is The Life. Our Lord used this same title for Himself in John 14:6 when He said, "I am The Way, The Truth and The Life...." Apart from Christ, no hope exists for spiritual life. Man may search far and wide, and dabble in every form of religion the world has to offer, but without Christ, his efforts are futile. The Jewish man may say he is a worshipper of Jehovah, but without placing his faith in the Messiah, God's Son, hell is his certain doom. The Jehovah's Witness, the one who is a Mormon, the Seventh Day Adventist, and all who diminish the doctrinal truth of Christ as The Life and The Only Source of life condemn themselves to an eternity in the lake of fire. Yes, Christ is the spiritual Life.
  Not only is Christ The Life, but He is also The Light of men. Again, the word light has a definite article, so specific identity is in view. Jesus proclaimed that He is The Light in John 8:12. God used John perhaps more than any other penman, to illustrate the truth that God is Light. Above all else, God is holy. Before John ever pens the words "God is love", he first spends approximately three chapters revealing that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." Because God is holy, He is love. If Christ were not above all else light, no truth would exist. Standards and absolutes would fall by the wayside. He would cease to be completely pure and holy if He were not first and foremost Light. The Light brings understanding and hope into this world of sinful men. The men here is anthropos which refers to human beings in general. Christ the Light is the answer for the problem of sin's darkness which has enveloped all mankind. "And the Light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." The verb shineth here is in the present tense and has the meaning of continuous action in the present time; therefore, it literally means "...the Light is shining in the darkness...." Christ the Light can never be extinguished! He shined in eternity past, He shines at this very moment and He will shine for all eternity. No matter what point in time we reflect upon our Lord, He is there, shining bright as the only source of true light. The next half of the verse is very encouraging. It reads, "...and the darkness comprehended it not." The verb comprehended means to overcome, or to overtake (see I Th. 5:4, J 12:35). The darkness which is referred to here is spiritual in nature. True darkness is not that which is presented on a moonless night. It is not experiencing the blackness of an underground cave. True darkness is that which floods the soul due to sin. True darkness was born, when Satan, in pride, shook his fist in the face of God and said "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Is. 14:14)." Man fell into this same pit of darkness when he decided that he knew better than God and in pride ate of the forbidden fruit. This darkness has plagued every human being that ever came into this world since the Garden of Eden, and it will continue to plague humanity until the end of this world. However, as evil as this darkness is it could not and cannot overtake and overcome the Light! Though Satan thought to be as God, He was cast from heaven, though He sought to destroy the coming Christ child by having the Judean babies destroyed, He failed. Though He attempted to tempt the Light with his powers of darkness, He was defeated, and though he will be allowed to unleash what would seem to be his limitless power during the Great Tribulation, yet the Light sits enthroned in the heavens and He will have the final say (see Ps. 2). The end of The Darkness is to be cast forever into the Lake of Fire which "is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 12:41)." Yes, throughout history, The Darkness has attempted to overcome The Light but it cannot. The verb comprehended it not is in the aorist tense and has the meaning of point-in-time action. The time of the action is not in view but rather the fact that action occurred. Therefore, the idea here is that the attempt of the darkness to overcome the Light has already failed. Try as the darkness may, its fate has already been decided by The LIGHT!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Gospel of John: Christ is Creator


"All things were made by him;
and without him was not any thing made that was made."
John 1:3

In verse three, John begins with another proof of Christ's deity: He is the Creator of all things. It says all things were made by Him. This preposition shows how God the Father created all things through, or by means of, God the Son. Christ is the intermediate agent in creation. God the Father brought all things into being through the Word, which is Christ. Genesis declares that God spoke the word and it was so. "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1:3)." God the Father created all things through the spoken word. Christ is the Word of God. Psalms 33:6 demonstrates this same truth, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." Only God has the power to create something out of nothing. Our Lord could be none other than God Himself if He is the Creator of all. Colossians chapter one parallels John chapter one beautifully. "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17)." Christ is the context of these verses in Colossians. Paul is asserting the deity of Christ as Creator in the same fashion as John here in verse three. John goes on to say, "...and without Him was not anything made that was made." Literally, "...not even one thing was brought into being which has been brought into being." Apart from Christ, nothing would exist. You cannot affirm to believe in God while denying any Biblical truth about His Son, for the Son is as much God as the Father is God. Deny the Son and you have denied the Father. "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also (I John 2:23)." The verb used in the last part of the verse, "...and without Him was not anything made that was made", is in the perfect tense. This tense stresses the fact that an action has been completed and the results of that completion continue. When Christ performs a work, it has a continuous effect. Nothing has been the same since His creation. For example, the souls which have turned to Him as their Savior will spend eternity in heaven, and the souls which have turned from Christ to sin will spend eternity in hell. Angels will worship Him forever around His celestial throne, or forever lament their sin of pride in the lake of fire. The works of Christ are powerful. He is not overcome by the things that affect us. He is God. He is the One who, at some point in the past, brought all things into being, and because of that, we are experiencing the effects of His creative acts to this day and will for eternity. Who or what has not been affected by His creative power? Only an unbelieving heart could not sit up and take notice of such power. So, not only is Christ God because He is eternal, but He is also proven to be God because He is the Creator.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Gospel of John: Christ is God

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God."
John 1:1-2

Notice that the Gospel of John does not start with the human genealogy of Christ according to His right to the Davidic throne as does Matthew. It does not discuss His human birth and show His family tree through David's son Nathan as does the Gospel of Luke. This is because the Gospel of John was given to us by God to clearly show that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. The life of Christ is not an ordinary biography. It cannot be truly begun nor can it be legitimately ended, because Christ is eternal. He has no beginning of days and no end of life (Heb. 7:3). In an effort to show the eternality of our Lord, John properly begins with eternity past. God says, "In the beginning was the Word...." The little word was here is very important. It does not mean that Christ the Word had a beginning. It is not saying that He was created first by God before all other things. This little word simply means was being. It is the imperfect tense in the Greek and is describing continuous action in past time. Before the beginning of time was created, before God decided that "the time was right" to create time, Christ the Word was already there being God. He did not come about at the time of creation because He was already continuously being God. "...and the Word was with God...." Christ the Word as God the Son is distinct in His Person from God the Father. This is shown by the word with. If the Word and the Father are one and the same Persons, the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity would be compromised. The Word was not being the Person of the Father, but rather was being with the Father. "...and the Word was God." The Word was being GOD! God is three Persons in One. He is not three distinct Gods. He is one God. Beside Him no god exists. In the Greek, the name God here does not have a definite article (ie. the). In light of this, some have attempted to translate this verse "and the word was a god." This type of mistake in translation stems from a heart of unbelief, an attempt to compromise Christ's deity. The Greek language is very specific, and such a translation does not come close to doing Scripture or the language justice. With Biblical Greek, if a noun has a definite article (the noun is articlular), identity of specific person is being shown. For example, "We went to see the statue of liberty." Only one statue of liberty exists. The one being referred to is obviously the one in New York City. If no article exists with a Greek noun (the noun is anarthrous), quality, character, or essence is being stressed. An anarthrous noun does not simply mean indefiniteness. For example, "Hatred is in his heart." No specific hatred is being identified, but rather the essence, or quality of an impure emotion. This is the case here in John 1:1. Christ's quality of absolute deity is being greatly stressed. "...and the Word was God (was the very essence, and character of God)." If the Greek text had read, "...and the Word was (the) God." This would have made Christ and the Father one and the same Persons. But since God is one God in three Persons, the Word is referred to as being as much God as the Father is God. And just in case we did not understand, John writes it again, "The same was in the beginning with God." The eternal Son of God, He which is from everlasting (Micah 5:2), was there being God when the beginning of this universe and all of its wonders came into existence, the eternal Son, there with the eternal Father in the beginning. The stage has been set. In this simple gospel, a book in which John used a vocabulary of approximately six hundred words to write, God clearly demonstrates, in ways that even a child could understand, that Christ is GOD in the flesh. To the proud of heart, this simple gospel is a continuous stumbling block, but to the humble it presents a wellspring of life!