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.