The Gospel of John: My Father is the Vinedresser.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:1-4).

What did Jesus mean when He compared Himself to a vine and for that matter, a true vine? The word “true” (ἀληθινός; alethinos) means genuine or real along with not being imaginary. The word “vine” (ἄμπελος; ampelos) specifically refers to a grapevine. Jesus spoke of a fruit bearing vine. Coupled together these two words, Jesus was expressing the inward and intimate fellowship He has with each of His disciples: then and now.

When Jesus said He was the “true vine” this presumes that there are those who pretend they are either true vines, or connected to such. But in reality are liars and deceivers. This would mean Satan who is the father of lies (Genesis 3; John 8:44) along with those who follow him (I John 2:26).

Jesus then said that “and my Father is the vinedresser.” The noun Father, from the Greek word πατήρ (pater) in which we derive our English word “paternal” meaning fatherly or a male parent, is a specific reference to God the Father. Jesus refers to Him as “my” Father. Jesus also made this reference to the Father in John 5:18 wherein the Jews rightly concluded that Jesus was making Himself equal with God.

Jesus said the Father “is the vinedresser.” The little word “is” means the Father presently, actively and singularly exists as something or someone. That someone God the Father is compared to is a vinedresser.

A vinedresser is a tenant farmer, a share-cropper or even a gardener. He is a person who works the land by digging into the ground for agricultural or gardening purposes. Where I live in Indiana, there are multiple  farms owned and tended to by dedicated farmers. In a more modest way, one of my favorite hobbies is working outside my house during the spring, summer and autumn seasons. I thoroughly enjoy working in my flower beds and landscaping my front and backyard.

A background commentary to Jewish history indicates that “The Old Testament and Jewish literature sometimes portrayed Israel as a vineyard (e.g., Isaiah 5:7), or less frequently as a vine (e.g., Psalm 80:8; Hosea 10:1), and God as the vine grower. A golden vine in the temple symbolized Israel’s power, and Jesus may here portray the disciples as the remnant of Israel (see comment on 15:16). The most basic point of the imagery is the obvious dependence of branches on the vine for their continued life.”

Isaiah 5:1-7 says. “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.  I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!”

God the Father is characterized as one who carefully protects the vine and the fruit of the vine. In the Old Testament, Israel was known as the vineyard of God. However, it failed to produce the fruit of righteousness. Rather, it produced the wild grapes of sinfulness.

However, by being the true vine Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God. Jesus is the fruitful servant who will accomplish God’s purposes for salvation and glorification of God’s people. God the Father’s people are those joined to the true vine, Jesus Christ, by the sovereign grace of God alone, through the sovereign gift of faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. This is ultimately for the glory of God alone.

How does God the Father protect the fruit of the vine, which are those joined to the true vine, Jesus Christ? The answer Jesus gave may surprise you. Take time today to thank God for joining you to the vine, Jesus Christ. May the fruit of righteousness be seen in you today.

More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: I AM the True Vine.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:1-4).

John 15 begins with the seventh, but not the final “I Am” statement by Jesus. The first was “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35). The second was “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12). The third was “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7-9). The fourth was “I am the good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). The fifth was “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26. The sixth was “I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:1-6). Again, Jesus used the significant phrase “I Am” (ἐγώ εἰμί; ego eimi) to indicate that He presently and actively exists as Yahweh Incarnate.

What did Jesus mean when He compared Himself to a vine and for that matter, a true vine? The word “true” (ἀληθινός; alethinos) means genuine or real along with not being imaginary. The word “vine” (ἄμπελος; ampelos) specifically refers to a grapevine. Jesus spoke of a fruit bearing vine. Coupled together these two words, Jesus was expressing the inward and intimate fellowship He has with each of His disciples: then and now.

As one commentator explains, ““Vine,” is applied metaphorically by Jesus to Himself in the NT (Jn. 15:1). The allegory of the vine tended by the gardener, from which the sap flows into the branches, denotes in the first instance the inner fellowship of the disciples with Jesus, which rests on their utter dependence and in which they must abide and bring forth fruit (v. 4ff.). It then denotes the intensive nurture of the community of disciples by God (v. 1ff.).”

For Jesus to say that He is the “true vine” presumes that there are those who pretend they are either true vines, or connected to such, but in reality are liars and deceivers. This would include Satan who is the father of lies (Genesis 3; John 8:44) along with those who follow him (I John 2:26).

The Epistle of Jude describes those who are described as united to an untrue vine and are also within the church. Jude 10-13 says, “But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”

Dr. John MacArthur provides an insightful explanation of this significant metaphor of the vine and the branches. He says, “Through this extended metaphor of the vine and branches, Jesus set forth the basis of Christian living. Jesus used the imagery of agricultural life at the time; i.e., vines and vine crops (see also Matt. 20:1–16; 21:23–41Mark 12:1–9Luke 13:6–9; 20:9–16). In the OT, the vine is used commonly as a symbol for Israel (Ps. 80:9–16Isa. 5:1–7; 27:2–6Jer. 2:21; 12:10Ezek. 15:1–8; 17:1–21; 19:10–14Hos. 10:1–2). He specifically identified himself as the “true vine” and the Father as the “vinedresser” or caretaker of the vine. The vine has two types of branches: 1) branches that bear fruit (John 15:2, 8), and 2) branches that do not (vv. 2, 6). The branches that bear fruit are genuine believers. Though in immediate context the focus is upon the 11 faithful disciples, the imagery also encompasses all believers down through the ages.”

We have much more to glean from this text but we will conclude today with this thought: Are you joined to the true vine, Jesus Christ, by grace alone, through faith alone? If not, then you are not joined to the true vine. If you are, then what kind of fruit is Jesus producing through you for His glory and honor?

More to come!

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Observations from a Soy Bean Field.

“And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.” (John 14:29-31)

I am writing this article during mid-October. The leaves are changing, the temperature is cooling and the harvesting of soy beans is occurring in many Indiana fields. It is one of the final harvesting’s which occur at this time of year. Soy bean harvesting occurs approximately 85 days after planting. Depending on the crop and the condition of the field, there have been times I have witnessed farmer’s working their field well into November.

One of the characteristics I have also observed is the amount of dust that fills the air when a late harvest occurs. Whether it is dry corn, or the aforementioned soy bean field, the air is often filled with the resulting dust from the harvested crop. Depending on wind conditions, the dust may be carried for miles.

What does this illustration have to do with Jesus’ words to His disciples? It may appear to the casual reader that what Jesus said is like dust in the wind; indiscriminate without any rhyme or reason.

John Calvin writes, “Although for a time He (Jesus) seemed to speak to the deaf, yet it afterwards appeared that His words were not scattered in vain, or, as we may say, in the air, like it was a seed thrown into the earth. Now as Christ speaks here about His word and the accomplishment of events, so His death and resurrection and ascension to heaven are combined with doctrine, that they may produce faith in us.”

Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection beforehand to His disciples in the upper room so that they would be thoroughly convinced, following these events, that He was who He said He was: God in the flesh and One who was in sovereign control.

Jesus told them that His conversations with them were coming to a quick conclusion, at that immediate time, because the events He spoke of were about to occur. However, He wanted them, and us, to know that in spite of the circumstances, Jesus was in sovereign control.

Jesus said, “for the ruler of this world is coming.” This is Jesus’ reference to Satan. Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Jesus spoke these words because He knew that as He was arrested and crucified, the disciples might begin to think that someone else, namely, the devil, was sovereign over what was transpiring. We see evidence of this in John 14:30. Jesus said He would not be talking much longer with them because “the ruler of the world” was coming. He was referring to Satan, the evil one under whose power the world was bound (I John 5:19). Satan had tempted Judas to betray Jesus (John 13:27), and soon more men, under the devil’s thrall, would arrive to take Jesus captive (18:1–11). The time for His teaching was growing short, so our Savior said there was not much time left to speak to His disciples.”

Jesus said, in reference to the devil, that “He has no claim on me.” Jesus meant that Satan does not possess Him or own Him. Dr. John Walvoord writes, And yet Satan had no hold on Jesus. Sin leads to death (Rom. 5:12, 21a; 6:16), and sin and death give Satan a hold over people (cf. Heb. 2:14–15; Rev. 12:10). But since Jesus is sinless, Satan cannot claim Him for his kingdom of darkness. Satan thought Jesus’ death was a victory for him, but actually it was Jesus’ victory over Satan (John 16:11; Col. 2:15).”

Augustine said, “The whole world therefore, from the highest heavens to the lowest earth, is subject to the Creator, not to the deserter; to the Redeemer, not to the destroyer; to the Deliverer, not to the enslaver; to the Teacher, not to the deceiver.”

“But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.” Jesus reiterated to His disciples that all which He had done, and would do, was in obedience to His Father’s will. What He had told them at the Well of Sychar (John 4:34) remained true in the upper room and as they would depart for the Garden of Gethsemane.

Regardless of what you and I face in our lives, we can be sure that God remains in sovereign control, as He was in the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Whether it be a soy bean or you and me, God is in control. Whether it be 85 days or 85 years, God remains sovereign. Hallelujah!

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Peace!

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:27-28)

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines “peace” as follows: Total well-being, prosperity, and security associated with God’s presence among his people. Linked in the OT with the covenant, the presence of peace was conditional, based on Israel’s obedience. In the prophetic writings, true peace is part of the end-time hope of God’s salvation. In the NT, this longed-for peace is understood as having come in Christ and can be experienced by the believers.”

In the Old Testament, the word Shalom, the most prominent OT word for “peace,” possessed a variety of meanings. These include wholeness, health, security, well-being, and salvation. Peace could also apply to an equally wide range of situations. This includes the individual (Psalm 37:37; Proverbs 3:2; Isaiah 32:17), the relationship between people (Genesis 34:21; Jos 9:15) nations (e.g., absence of conflict—Deuteronomy 2:26; Joshua 10:21; 1 Kings 5:12; Psalm 122:6–7), and the relationship of God and people (Psalm 85:8; Jeremiah 16:5).

The Scriptures contain several references to the doctrine of peace. Here is but a brief sampling.

  • Isaiah 32:16-17 – “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”
  • Jeremiah 16:5 – “For thus says the LORD: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the LORD.
  • Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • Philippians 4:7-9 – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

It is this peace that Jesus gives. It is a freedom from worry and to possess a mind, emotions and a will which is filled with tranquility. It is the result of a covenant relationship with God, through the person and work of Jesus Christ by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

This truth was especially important for the disciples to realize hours before Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. It is also a truth which disciples of Jesus today must realize.

One Bible scholar writes, “The word “peace” reflects the Hebrew “Shalom,” which became a greeting to his disciples after the resurrection (John 20:19-26). On a personal level this peace, unknown to the unsaved, provides supernatural calm and comfort in the midst of trials (Philippians 4:7), and enables God’s people to respond to others in harmony (Colossians 3:15). The greatest reality of this peace will be in the messianic kingdom (Numbers 6:26; Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 9:6-7; 52:7; 54:13; 57:19; Ezekiel 37:26; Haggai 2:9; Acts 10:36; Romans 1:7; 5:1; 14:17).”

Believers in Christ have this peace from God because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Ephesians 2:21-23). We must always remember this truth in our times of trouble.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, Jesus has secured peace between His people and the Father, so we can have peace in this world. It is not that we will not face difficulties but that our difficulties will not crush us, for we know that we are at perfect peace with God. Let the peace Christ gives you grant you confidence this day that He is with you, that He loves you, and that He is working for your good and His glory.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Helper.

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26).

As we continue studying the Gospel of John, we come away with the ongoing realization that Jesus spoke, taught and preached by His own authority. While Jesus often did quote Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; 4:14-21) and appealed to it as authoritative, He often appealed to His own authority as God. Such is the case with many portions found in John’s Gospel. Such is the case with Jesus’ words in this section of John’s Gospel known as the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). Such is the case with today’s text from that discourse.

Jesus begins to summarize what He has thus far said to His disciples. His reference to “these things” referred to all which Jesus has said since the beginning of John 13. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.” At this time, Jesus did not refer to the Old Testament Scriptures to verify what He said was truth. Rather, He referred to Himself as the authority that what He had thus far said was true and real.

However, Jesus then made a decisive promise when He referred to the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Jesus already mentioned the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-17. He identified the Holy Spirit not only as the Helper but also as the Spirit of truth. In  today’s text, Jesus identified three more particulars concerning the Holy Spirit.

First, God the Father was the one responsible for sending the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,…” The promised Holy Spirit would continue to speak of the person and work of Jesus Christ. As the Helper God the Father sent, the Holy Spirit would not teach or do anything contradictory to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is especially important to remember today when people will often seek to validate their sinful behavior by saying the Holy Spirit led them to do such and such when such behavior clearly contradicts Scripture.

Second, the Holy would teach all things to the disciples: “he will teach you all things.” Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would provide instruction to Jesus’ disciples at some future date.

Third, the Holy Spirit would also be personally involved in the development of the New Testament Scriptures: “and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” This is a vital biblical text regarding the inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of the New Testament. As believers in Christ, we trust the Apostle’s account of the words and works of Jesus Christ because those words were brought to their remembrance by the Holy Spirit God.

Dr. John MacArthur comments that, “The Holy Spirit energized the hearts and minds of the apostles in their ministry, helping them to produce the NT Scripture. The disciples had failed to understand many things about Jesus and what he taught; but because of this supernatural work, they came to an inerrant and accurate understanding of the Lord and his work, and recorded it in the Gospels and the rest of the NT Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:162 Pet. 1:20–21).”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Peter 1:20-21 says, Knowing this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible is not a book produced by human authors but rather the divinely inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God. While the Holy Spirit God used human writers to produce sacred Scripture, the very words are sourced from and ultimately belong to God. Let us treat this words as such and seek to not only read and understand them but to also apply them in our lives.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Faith that Says but does not Do.

“Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24)

We have been examining several cause and effect statements Jesus made to His disciples in the upper room hours before His crucifixion. Today, we look at another such cause and effect statement but one with negative overtones. It stands to reason that if obedience to Christ is the primary evidence of a believer’s conversion and love for Christ, then a lack of love for Christ is evidenced by an individual’s disobedience to the Word of God.

“Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” There you have it. A simple but significant statement of evidence for the lack of authentic saving faith. How do we really know if someone is a true believer in Christ or one who simply pretends to be? Jesus made it very clear. The person who does not consistently obey the Word of God, or God’s commandments, is not a true believer. Therefore, the individual in question, in spite of protests to the contrary, is not converted.

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 7:15-20 by using the image of good or bad fruit to illustrate the discernment between true and false teachers. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

What Jesus meant was that an unconverted individual will be recognized by their lack of obedience to God’s Word. They may pretend to be a believer, even a spiritual leader, but their true nature will eventually be evident.

Following this illustration, Jesus then stated the matter most forcefully and directly when He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “The barrenness of this sort of faith demonstrates its real character (cf. v. 20)—the faith that says but does not do is really unbelief. Jesus was not suggesting that works are meritorious for salvation, but that true faith will not fail to produce the fruit of good works. This is precisely the point of James 1:22–25 and 2:26.”

Jesus’ words in John 14, as well as in Matthew 7, are not just His alone but also God the Father’s. There is harmony between the Father and the Son.  

True followers of Christ not only meditate upon God’s commandments, but also endeavor to live by them. They do so because they truly love Christ and this is because God the Father truly first loved them (I John 4:7-11).

May people see our love for Christ as we obey Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Love and Obedience.

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:21-23)

Following Christ and loving Christ go together like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, and milk and cookies. Please forgive my silly analogies but with all of these examples, the principle I’m endeavoring to illustrate is that in many instances you really cannot have one thing without the other.

Just as certain foods complement each other, so it is with loving Christ and following Christ. We may tend to think that we are moving forward in our sanctification, but we make little progress if our love for Christ is not fundamentally grounded in our obedience to the Scriptures.

Throughout this series of articles from the Gospel of John, you have heard me saying that the grammatical principle of cause and effect is apparent the John’s account of the life of Christ. So it is in today’s text.

To begin with, Jesus Himself said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” Jesus made a similar statement in John 14:15. We may sing loving worship songs to Christ, we may write well received books for Christ, and we may even teach, preach or listen to wonderful messages about Christ, but if our obedience to Christ is shallow and inconsistent, we are missing the point of what it means to be a Christian.

Romans 1:5 says, “through whom (Christ) we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Once again, Jesus emphasized the need for the habitual practice of obedience to his commands as evidence of the believer’s love for him and the Father (see note on v. 15). This is consistent with the teaching of James 2:14–26 that true saving faith is manifest by works produced by God in the transforming, regenerating power of the Spirit. Those works are expressions of the love that the Spirit pours into the believer’s heart (Rom. 5:5Gal. 5:22).”

Another cause and effect statement Jesus makes is that whoever loves Christ, and evidences this love by obedience, that individual the Father in turn will love. This love by the Father for the believer will result in Christ loving the believer even more than He already does. Jesus will also manifest Himself to the believer. This means that Jesus will make Himself fully known.

As Dr. Warren Wiersbe explains, “As the believer yields to the Father, loves the Word, prays, and obeys, there is a deeper relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!

This love for Christ is in harmony with not only God the Father’s love for Christ but also His love for us. Jesus promised that if any disciple of His loved Him and proved it by keeping, or obeying, the Word of God, these disciples were to know that God the Father will love them, come to them and make His and Christ’s home with them. What a wonderful harmony of fellowship and community.

As a colleague of mine in the ministry explains, To have the commandments of Jesus is not merely to possess the Scriptures but to seek to make these commandments part of ourselves. Lovers of Christ reflect deeply on His commands and endeavor to obey Him in the power of the Spirit.”

Okay one more analogy. Following Christ and loving Christ go hand in hand like Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. There may be many imitators, but there is nothing like the original.

Obedience to Christ is the biblical evidence that we love Christ. May people see your love for Christ today.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Union with Christ.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:18-20).

In the midst of anxiety, worry and fear (John 14:1), Jesus informed His disciples that He would not leave them like, or as, orphans. The word “orphan” (ὀρφανός; orphanos) does not simply mean a child without parents (Mark 12:40; James 1:27). It also means one who is without friends and helpers.

Jesus then says “I will come to you.” This statement is directly related to His previous statement about Jesus not leaving His disciples like orphans. It is best to interpret Jesus’ meaning here as a reference to both His bodily resurrection and the future indwelling ministry by the Holy Spirit, which occurred on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

The disciples would see Jesus again following His death and burial (John 20:19-29). In fact, believers were the only ones who did see Jesus following His resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-8). Additionally, Jesus would be with His disciples through the Spirit’s indwelling (John 16:16; Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 8:9; I John 4:13).

Because Jesus would resurrect from the dead, He was able to promise each and every disciple of His that they too would possess eternal life (Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 3:1-4). Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “In Scripture, our eternal life is tied to the resurrection of Jesus. He is the first fruits of the resurrection of the dead, guaranteeing our resurrection as well ( I Corinthians 15:20). On account of His resurrection, we live because He lives, so in John 14:18-19, Jesus was likely referring to His post resurrection appearances.”

Jesus promised that in the day of His resurrection, His disciples would understand the unity which exists not only between God the Father and God the Son, but also the union believers have in Christ and with Christ.

Pastor Burk Parsons explains that this union with Christ is one of the most neglected biblical truths within the church, yet one of the most significant.

“The believer’s union with Christ has long been a neglected doctrine in many churches, yet it is a central doctrine in Scripture. God’s Word teaches us that we are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and that we are united to Christ by God’s justifying grace alone through our faith alone because of the atoning death of Christ alone ( John 15:4-7; I Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 12:1-2; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; Philippians 3:9; I Thessalonians 4:16; I John 4:13).”

Parsons continues by explaining that, “The nature of this union is not only that we are in Christ but that He is in us (John 6:56; Romans 8:9-10; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27). The theological implications of our union with Christ are astounding, and it is Christ Jesus Himself who taught us what they are. In John 15, Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5). At the root of our sanctification is our union with Christ.” 

Therefore, since all believers in Christ are not only united to Christ but also to one another, let us therefore love one another as we love Christ and Christ loved, and loves, us.

Soli deo Gloria!                                                                

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Help!

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (I John 14:15-17).

One of The Beatles’ most popular and familiar songs was also the title of their second film. The song, and film, are entitled Help! The lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney are as follows.

(Help) I need somebody
(Help) not just anybody
(Help) you know I need someone
(Help)

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
(Now) but now these days are gone (these days are gone) I’m not so self-assured (and now I find)
Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

My independence seems to vanish in the haze
(But) but every now and then (now and then) I feel so insecure (I know that I)
I know that I just need you like I never done before

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

The word “help” means to provide assistance, relief, comfort and service to another person in need. Concurrently, a “helper” is one who provides such assistance, relief, comfort and service.

When Jesus told His disciples that the Father would give them another helper, He meant a helper (παράκλητος; parakletos) who would also intercede, encourage and prove to be an advocate for the disciples. Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The Greek word specifically means another of the same kind, i.e., someone like Jesus himself who will take his place and do his work. The Spirit of Christ is the Third Person of the Trinity, having the same essence of deity as Jesus and as perfectly one with him as he is with the Father. 

Jesus made several identifying characteristics of this helper. What are they?

First, the helper would be with them forever. The helper would be eternally with them.

Second, the helper would be the Spirit of truth. This is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit.

Third, the helper or Holy Spirit cannot be received by the fallen world. The reason is that the fallen world is at odds with the Holy Spirit and cannot understand who He is and what He does (I Corinthians 2:14).

Fourth, the Holy Spirit, who was with the disciples, would soon indwell the disciples. In fact, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is one common characteristic each Christians equally shares (Romans 8:9).

Pastor Burk Parsons explains that, Because the Spirit of truth has been given to us, we can be confident that the truth will remain in us. He will keep God’s people from falling into soul-condemning error, and He does that by illuminating God’s Word to us and by moving us to study divine truth, which the Lord has given us in the Holy Scriptures. Let us thank Jesus for the gift of the Spirit, and let us ask Him to bless our study of His truth.”

The Holy Spirit is always there when we need “help!”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Christianity 101.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

What it means to live for Christ is best summarized by Jesus’ words in John 14:15. In this cause and effect statement, we have basic Christianity. The word “basic” means elementary, plain, simple and essential. John 14:15 is the core truth of what it means to live a Christian life.

The causal portion of John 14:15 reads as follows: ““If you love me…” The word “if” (ἐάν; ean) implies a condition that if, or since, something is true or real, there will be a corresponding consequence because a certain preceding condition is true. In this particular verse, the particular condition is loving Christ.

The word “love” is from the Greek verb ἀγαπάω (agapao). This is a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is a present and an ongoing love. It is a love not based on the emotions of the moment but rather it is a commitment of one’s will perhaps in spite of one’s emotions. It is a resolute love. A determined love. A self-renunciation type of love.

The object of such a love is not a pastor, a church, or a particular fellowship of believers but rather Jesus Christ. If the believer truly loves Christ as described in today’s text, there will be an assured consequence Jesus said. There will be a certain result of such a love for Christ.

The effect or result of such a love for Christ is stated as follows: “…you will keep my commandments.” The phrase “you will keep” is one word in the Greek: τηρέω (tereo). It is a future active verb which means that an obedience to Christ in the future is based on a preceding love of Christ in the present. Obedience to Christ is the result of first loving Christ and love for Christ is based upon God the Father’s love for us (I John 4:7-11).

How do believers display their obedience to Christ?  By keeping or obeying His commandments. The word “commandment” (ἐντολή; entole) are those imperatives Jesus Christ or God gives us in His Word: the Bible. Obedience to God’s Word is the evidence Jesus gives that we truly love Him.

Today’s text cannot be removed from its particular context. This statement by Jesus is framed by His previous words to His disciples that they will do greater works than He. However, whatever greater works we see unfold in the disciples lives and ministry in the Book of Acts, the foundational work for Christ is obedience to the commands of Christ.

It is appropriate that the Holy Spirit used the Apostle John to reiterate this basic truth throughout John’s first epistle. Reflect and meditate on what the Spirit says through the apostle.

  • “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:6.
  • “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” I John 2:3-6.
  • “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” I John 2:29
  • “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” I John 3:9-10.
  • “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” I John 3:21-22.
  • “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” I John 3:24.
  • “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” I John 4:21.
  • “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” I John 5:2-3.

Pastor Burk Parsons concludes by saying, “Our love for Christ does not merit salvation, and neither does keeping His commandments. But keeping His commandments reveals that we have been united to Him for salvation and possess the genuine love that is the consequence of genuine faith. Let us subordinate our desires to Christ today and seek to keep His law.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Greater Works!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

Jesus continued to instruct His beloved disciples in the upper room. This followed His various announcements concerning Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial and Jesus’ intention to go to the Father and that sinners may only do the same through personal trust, commitment, dependence and worship of Jesus Christ alone (John 13:21-14:11).

Jesus then instructed His disciples of three additional truths. We know that what Jesus said is truth because He said it wherein He also prefaced His statements with the phrase, “truly, truly” for additional emphasis. Notice that once again Jesus invokes His own authority as God with His use of the pronoun “I.”

The first truth Jesus said in today’s text is “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” Jesus said that those who belong to a particular class of people, that is those who believe in Him, will also do the works that Jesus has done. In fact, not only will believers do the works Jesus has done but they will also do greater works.

Jesus was not referring to His work of redemption which only He accomplished on the cross. Neither was He referring to a greater number of works or more spectacular works.

Rather, Jesus meant that the works the disciples would perform following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:1-11) would be greater because they would be done in what is referred to as the church age. The birth of the New Testament church began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) with the particular outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s ministry which is unique to this period. This includes the Spirit’s indwelling, baptism, regenerating, sealing, gifting, and filling of each believer in Christ.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but in extent. They would become witnesses to all the world through the power of the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) and would bring many to salvation because of the Helper dwelling in them. The focus is on spiritual rather than physical miracles.”

Secondly, Jesus said “whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Jesus made the first of two statements concerning prayer at this point in His discourse. His statement that whatever you ask in my name refers to praying in submission to and in recognition of Jesus as Lord and Savior. If believers pray according to the will and Lordship of Jesus Christ, Christ will fulfill the request. This will be done for one singular purpose: that the Father will be glorified in what the Son accomplishes at the request of believing disciples.

This parallels what the Apostle John records in I John 5:14-15 which says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

Finally, Jesus said “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Again, this statement refers to the will of God when Jesus used the phrase “in my name.”

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “In My name (vv. 13–14) is not a magical formula of invocation. But the prayers of believers, as Christ’s representatives doing His business, will be answered. John expanded this teaching in his first epistle. He wrote, “If we ask anything according to His will … we have what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15). To ask Me for anything in My name means to ask according to His will (cf. “in My name” in John 15:16; 16:23–24, 26).”

Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” May the Lord Jesus Christ be pleased with the work He does in and through His disciples. May we as disciples seek to glorify the Father as we serve the Son.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Whoever Has Seen Me has Seen the Father.

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” (John 14:7-11)

From the very beginning of his gospel, the Apostle John has set forth that Jesus Christ is the perfect expression and representation of God the Father. That is to say that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God in the flesh or in human form (John 1:14). Jesus Himself stated that He and God the Father are one (John 10:31). When Jesus stated that God was His Father He made Himself equal with God (John 5:18).

Jesus also revealed His identity as God by His teaching and work. Whether it was with the Woman at the Well (John 4) or with the multitude following the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6), Jesus’ instructions and miracles directly pointed to His revelation of Himself as the second person of the Trinity.

Therefore, Jesus tells His disciples in the upper room that those who have seen Him have also seen the Father. This revelation has occurred both by Jesus’ words and works.

Jesus said these words immediately after saying that He was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Jesus wanted His disciples to know and realize that He was not simply one way to God, or even the only way to God, but that He is God and the sinner’s salvation rests solely in His person and work.

Dr. R. C. Sproul states, “The sense here is that the disciples have known Jesus but have not yet truly realized that in knowing Him they know the Father. This is all about to change, for the disciples will soon enjoy a new realization that knowing the Son necessarily means knowing the Father. “From now on you do know him and have seen him,” our Savior says (v. 7b). This refers to our Lord’s impending atonement and how it will make plain to the disciples the kind of God they serve. In the giving up of the Son for our salvation, the disciples will see God for who He truly is—the God who holds nothing back in order to save His people but who even sacrifices His Son to redeem us. The Father does not spare His own Son, and the Son freely offers Himself up for our redemption, showing us the lengths to which He is willing to go for us and, therefore, His perfect mercy (Rom. 8:31–32; 1 Peter 2:24).”

In effect, only by knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior may we truly know God the Father.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art –
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father; thine own may I be,
thou in me dwelling and I one with thee.

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise;
thou mine inheritance, now and always;
thou and thou only first in my heart,
high King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of All.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)

Today’s text contains the sixth of the seven “I Am” statements the Apostle John recorded Jesus saying. The previous statements are found in John 6:35, 8:12, 10:7-9, 10:11-14, 11:25. The seventh is found in 15:1-5. This sixth “I Am” statement is arguably the most familiar of the seven.

Jesus informed His disciples while they are celebrating the Passover meal that He was going away (John 13:31-38). He informed them that He was going away in order to prepare an eternal dwelling place for them and all other believers (John 14:1-3). He even declared to them that they knew where He was going and how to get there.

Obviously, Jesus was teaching about heaven and going to God the Father. However, the disciples did not understand and grasp the significance of Jesus’ words. They were thinking literally. Thomas indicated this by his own words. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

This was the occasion in which Jesus made the following statement. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus does not refer to any other authority other than Himself when He makes this declaration concerning His identity.

Jesus said, “I Am the way…” Jesus used the same structural phrase (ἐγώ εἰμί; ego eimi) as previously noted by the apostle in five previous statements. He identified Himself as Yahweh, the self-existent God (Exodus 3:1-14). He then added the words “the way.” It is an emphatic structural form indicating that Jesus is the only road, path or thoroughfare to God.

Jesus then said, “I Am the truth…” At the same time that He is the way, Jesus is also the truth.  This refers to that which is real or that which corresponds to reality. He is truly God and what He says is true and real about how to be reconciled to God.

Thirdly, Jesus said, “I Am the life…” At the same time that He is the way, and the truth, Jesus is also the life. Jesus is the only way to truly be alive: physically, spiritually and eternally. He is not only the source of life but also the only way to truly experience life as it was meant to be lived: in fellowship with God the creator and sustainer of life.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “This is the sixth “I am” statement of Jesus in John (see 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 15:1, 5). In response to Thomas’s query (14:4), Jesus declared that he is the way to God because he is the truth of God (1:14) and the life of God (1:4; 3:15; 11:25). In this verse, the exclusiveness of Jesus as the only approach to the Father is emphatic. Only one way, not many ways, exist to God, i.e., Jesus Christ.”

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, The only way to get to heaven, the only way to be reconciled to God, is through Jesus. So, while the disciples do not yet fully know where Jesus is going, they know the way to get there because in knowing and belonging to Jesus they will be taken to the Father as well. This point is confirmed in John 14:6, which features one of the most important teachings regarding our salvation in all of Scripture. Jesus proclaims Himself as the way, the truth, and the life—the only way to the Father. Here we read perhaps the boldest declaration of the exclusivity of Christ ever spoken. There are no alternatives for redemption other than Jesus; only He can reconcile us to the Father.”

John Calvin comments that “if any man turn aside from Christ, he will do nothing but go astray; if any man do not rest on him, he will feed elsewhere on nothing but wind and vanity; if any man, not satisfied with him alone, wishes to go farther, he will find death instead of life.”

Finally, Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” This statement is known as a universal negative. There are no exceptions in coming to God the Father except by faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only source of life in all of its forms.

I recall an individual telling me once that there were many ways to get to the City of Detroit. You chose the way which you prefer. He then stated that it was the same with God. There were many ways to get to God. You choose the way you prefer. No one way is better than any other way to get to heaven. They are all equal.

The image of the wagon wheel comes to mind. Imagine the outer diameter of the wheel represents humanity. The inner hub represents God. The spokes, which are all of equal length, connect the outer rim to the inner hub. The spokes symbolize all the different, but equal, ways to get to God.

However, we must never deny the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father. This is what Jesus taught. This is what the Bible teaches (John 10:7-9; Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:24; Acts 4:12).

Let us resolve to never compromise this truth regarding the exclusivity of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: Let Not Your Hearts be Troubled.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

In the midst of uncertainty, John 14 provides the eleven disciples who were with Jesus in the upper room, and Jesus’ disciples today, comfort. This comfort for Jesus’ disciples is not only in the future return of Christ but also during a disciples’ life here on earth amidst toil and tribulation.

John 14 provides the church today with a series of wonderful passages of biblical truth and encouragement. How ironic for that to be the case when you understand the historical context in which Jesus’ discourse occurred.

Dr. John MacArthur contributes valuable insight when he writes, “The scene continues to be the upper room where the disciples had gathered with Jesus before he was arrested. Judas had been dismissed (13:30) and Jesus had begun his valedictory address to the remaining 11. The world of the disciples was about to be shattered; they would be bewildered, confused, and ridden with anxiety because of the events that would soon transpire. Anticipating their devastation, Jesus spoke to comfort their hearts.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” The word heart in the Greek (καρδία; kardia) refers to a person’s mind, emotions and will. In other words, a person’s inner self or soul. Jesus said to His disciples then, and now, to not let your inner self or soul be troubled (ταράσσω; tarasso), meaning mentally distressed.

What are disciples to do instead? Since they believe or trust in God the Father, they are also to believe and trust in Jesus Christ. To believe (πιστεύω; pisteuo) means not only to trust, but also to commit, depend and worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

As one commentator writes, Have the same trust in Me. What less, and what else, can these words mean? And if so, what a demand to make by one sitting familiarly with them at the supper table! Compare the saying in John 5:17, for which the Jews took up stones to stone Him, as “making himself equal with God” (John 14:18). But it is no transfer of our trust from its proper Object; it is but the concentration of our trust in the Unseen and Impalpable One upon His Own Incarnate Son, by which that trust, instead of the distant, unsteady, and too often cold and scarce real thing it otherwise is, acquires a conscious reality, warmth, and power, which makes all things new. This is Christianity in brief.”

Jesus then makes this remarkably remembered and endearing statement. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Notice how many times Jesus uses the personal pronoun “I.” Six times in verses two through four. Christianity is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. If we uttered these words as our own we would be blaspheming. However, for Jesus to utter these same words and promises is the essence of biblical truth and the gospel.

Dr. MacArthur explains that, “His departure would be for their advantage since he was going away to prepare a heavenly home for them and will return to take them so that they may be with him. This is one of the passages that refers to the rapture of the saints at the end of the age when Christ returns. The features in this description do not describe Christ coming to earth with his saints to establish his kingdom (Rev. 19:11–15), but taking believers from earth to live in heaven. Since no judgment on the unsaved is described here, this is not the event of his return in glory and power to destroy the wicked (cf. Matt. 13:36–43, 47–50). Rather, this describes his coming to gather his own who are alive and raise the bodies of those who have died to take them all to heaven. This rapture event is also described in 1 Cor. 15:51–54 and 1 Thess. 4:13–18. After being raptured, the church will celebrate the marriage supper (Rev. 19:7–10), be rewarded (1 Cor. 3:10–15; 4:52 Cor. 5:9–10), and later return to earth with Christ when he comes again to set up his kingdom (Rev. 19:11–20:6).”

The way that Jesus refers to is His own substitutionary death, burial and resurrection on behalf of sinners. This salvation becomes a reality for sinners through the instrument of God-given faith and faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Its basis is the sovereign grace alone. Its purpose is that God alone would receive all the glory.

Take some precious moments today to thank Jesus for preparing a place for you in heaven. Take time to thank God the Father for graciously choosing you to be a recipient of His love and mercy through Jesus Christ. Take time to praise and glorify God for this unspeakable gift.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Where are You Going?

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” (John 13:36-38)

Even those with just an elementary knowledge of Scripture have probably heard or read about Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus Christ immediately prior to His crucifixion. Equally true is people’s awareness of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s self-same denial. The account, which is also recorded in Matthew 26:34-35; Mark 14:30-31; Luke 22:33-34, occurred during Jesus’ upper room discourse with the disciples.

If you have been following our study in the Gospel of John, you know that we are presently in John 13. The apostle writes that Jesus humbled Himself by washing each of His disciples’ feet: including Judas’. He also announced that one of His disciples, Judas, would betray Him.

With emotions running high, as you might imagine, Jesus then stated, in John 13:33 that He was going away and where He was going the disciples could not come. As usual, Peter spoke first in response and said, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”

Notice that Jesus did not say that Peter, and presumably all of the other eleven disciples, could not ever go to where Jesus was going. He said, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Take note of the word “now.” The word “now” is an adverb and means presently or immediately. We should also note that the personal pronoun “you” remains in the singular form indicating that Jesus was particularly speaking to Peter at this moment.

Jesus told Peter that while He was going to go to the Father, Peter could not go at this time, but would do so “afterward.” The word “afterward” is also an adverb and means later. Jesus was saying to Peter that while Jesus’ earthly work was coming to a conclusion, Peter’s was just set to begin. The apostle would have much to do before it was time for him to follow Christ to heaven. This would include Peter’s own martyrdom (John 21:18-19).

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “His (Jesus’) work was nearly finished; theirs was just beginning (Matt. 28:16–20Mark 16:15Luke 24:47). Particularly, Peter had a work to do (John 21:15–19). Only Jesus, as the sinless sacrifice for the trespasses of the world, could go to the cross and die (1 Peter 2:22–24). Also, only he could be glorified in the presence of the Father with the glory that he possessed before his incarnation (see John 12:41; 17:1–5).

However, and this is where the text takes a decisive turn, Peter was not satisfied with Jesus’ answer. He once again sought to elevate himself and boldly announced “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”

Ouch! In response to Peter’s dramatic declaration was Jesus’ reasoned response pertaining to Peter’s trust and confidence in his own strength. Jesus used the familiar phrase “truly, truly” to emphasize that His predictive words were emphatically true. Rather than lay down his life for the Lord at this moment in his life, Peter would deny he even knew Jesus. It would be an act similar to Judas betraying Christ. Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Peter is undoubtedly sincere, but he does not know his own spiritual weakness and vulnerability to fear.”

Do you know your own spiritual weaknesses and vulnerabilities? Whatever we do for the Lord, we cannot and must not seek to so in our own abilities and strength. We must ever recognize our dependence upon Him. We must always recognize our responsibility to glorify Him.

2 Corinthians 4:5-7 says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

As clay pots, let us continually depend on the One who uses us for His own glory. He even uses our failures.

Soli deo Gloria!