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!