The Gospel of John: A Mandate to Remember.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.” (John 10:40-42)

I love studying history. Always have! As a child and a high school student, and then later on as a high school history and Bible teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed learning and teaching the truths of history: especially American history.

I recently re-watched a DVD series from Focus on the Family entitled The Truth Project. It was produced in 2006 and features such Bible teachers and apologists for the Christian faith as Del Tackett, R.C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias and Os Guinness. It is designed for small groups in order to equip believers with a comprehensive and biblical world view.

One of the episodes in the series features a lecture by Dr. Tackett on the importance of achieving accuracy in our study of history. Particularly, biblical history. As I watched with a fresh and renewed awareness, I paid particular attention to the following statements.

  • “What you believe in the present is determined by the past. Therefore, history becomes increasingly important.”
  • “If I can changed your historical context, I can change the way you view the present. This is the power of historical revisionism.”
  • “He who controls the past controls the future.”
  • People without a heritage are easily persuaded.”
  • “God has given us a mandate to remember.” (See Joshua 4:1-7; Judges 2:1-15; Isaiah 464:8-11; I Corinthians 11:23-26).
  • “Our problem is that we are forgetting what we should remember and we keep remembering what we should forget.”

One quote about the importance of remembering past events comes from the writings of George Santayana, a Spanish-born American author of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” What he meant was that remembering the past is necessary to avoid repeating past mistakes. This truth can be applied not only politically, economically, and culturally but also theologically and spiritually in our walk with God.

Sir Winston Churchill said something similar when he wrote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We must always look forward, but we have to understand our history in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past. I have seen too many instances where people continue to pursue wrong courses of action because they do not take the time to think critically about what has happened in the past.”

Today’s text reveals that Jesus withdrew from the hostile Jewish religious leaders and went across the Jordan into an area known as Perea. Perea was a region immediately east of the Jordan River, northeast of the Dead Sea and southeast of Galilee. Perea was also notable because it had been the location of John the Baptist’s ministry (John 1:28). It was in this location that the people received Jesus much more favorably. This is probably because John the Baptist had prepared the people there. Even though by this time John was dead, He was still having an influence in people’s lives as they remembered his witness. Many believed in the person and work of Jesus Christ because of the Holy Spirit’s continuing work through John the Baptist.

Isaiah 46:8-11 says, “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

Within the context, the prophet Isaiah records God declaring the readers are to recall: 1) all the past history of fulfilled prophecies, as well as 2) miraculous deliverances such as that from Egypt, and 3) providential blessings Israel has experienced. All of these are ample evidence that he alone is God. How much more so today when Jesus calls the church to remember His sacrifice on the cross through the ordinance of Communion (I Corinthians 11:23-26).

Dr. Michael Horton, professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California and author of the book Christless Christianity, was recently asked in an interview what he considered to be the greatest threat to Orthodox (biblical) Christianity today. Dr. Horton replied:

“Shallowness. It is far worse than heresy. At least heretics take the gospel seriously enough to distort and deny it. And heresy always makes the church think more deeply about what it believes and why it believes it. However, shallowness is deadly for the Christian Faith.”

“If you just need some helpful advice, encouragement, inspiration, and uplift from your religion, you just need enough water to get your feet wet. A few slogans and insights will suffice. But Christianity bets all its chips on certain events that happened in history. “If Christ is not raised,” Paul said, “then we are of all people the most to be pitied.” After all, he says, we are false witnesses-perjurers-and Jesus is a fraud. You have not lived a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life if Christ was not raised from the dead; you’ve been duped, and we’re accomplices in that, Paul said (1 Corinthians 15).” 

Dr. Horton concluded by saying, “The gospel is not a religious feeling, a spiritual journey within, or pious advice. It is a story in the words of the British playwright Dorothy Sayers, “the greatest story ever told.” From this unfolding drama of redemption from Genesis to Revelation arise doctrines, which lead to wonder and thanksgiving, motivating grateful love and service to our neighbors. All of this requires that we submit to the discipline of listening, understanding, and growing in our faith.”

History, and particularly biblical history, is not a field of deep weeds which are best avoided. Rather, God commands His children to remember the truths of the past in order to avoid mistakes in the present which will impact the future.

God has given us a mandate to remember.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: I said, you are gods.

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.” (John 10:34-39).

There are several portions within John’s Gospel that may not be as familiar to believers as other portions. Most Christians are familiar with John 3 and perhaps even the chapters pertaining to the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). But within John, there is a section which may be obscure to many within the church. It has to do with Jesus’ response to the religious leaders in John 10 and His statement to them that “you are gods.” What does this phrase mean?

The phrase is taken from Psalm 82:6 which indicates to us that Jesus held a high view of the Old Testament Scriptures. Psalm 82:1-7 says, God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah! Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains, “Quoted from Ps. 82:6 where God calls some unjust judges “gods” and pronounces calamity against them. Jesus’ argument is that this psalm proves that the word “god” can be legitimately used to refer to others than God himself. His reasoning is that if there are others whom God can address as “god” or “sons of the Most High,” why then should the Jews object to Jesus’ statement that he is “the Son of God” (John 10:36)?”

Even this biblical argument would not dissuade the religious leaders from trying once again to arrest Jesus. Jesus, however, escaped from their hands (cf. 5:13; 8:59; 12:36). No explanation is given by John as to how Jesus escaped.

Pastor Burk Parsons concludes, “Civil authorities have been given the right to bear the sword by God Himself (Rom. 13:1–7), so they have a kind of “divine” authority that has been delegated to them. We know, however, that earthly judges often fail to do justice. Christ, on the other hand, possesses divine authority inherently according to His divine nature. He never fails to do justice, and we trust Him knowing that where earthly justice fails in this life, divine justice will prevail in the next.”

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Testimony of Unbelievers.

“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10:31-33).

I cannot recall how many times I have been asked to defend and locate in Scripture Jesus’ claims to be God. Thus far, we have taken note of several times John’s Gospel records Jesus’ claim for deity. These include the familiar “I Am” statements which include Jesus’ words found in John 10 that He was not only the “Gate” for the sheep but also the “Good Shepherd” of the sheep.

I would submit that not only did Jesus claim to be God but His enemies understood and recognized that He claimed to be God. This would explain their response on at least three occasions in John’s Gospel where the religious leaders plot and plan to execute Jesus for such a claim (John 5:18; 8:59; 10:31).

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Nothing could better identify someone as a false prophet than for him to claim that he was God. So, it is evident that the Jews believed Jesus was claiming to be deity when He said, “I and the Father are one,” because they took up stones and charged Him with blasphemy (John 10:30–36). Modern cults try to argue that Jesus never claimed to be God, but the response of the Jewish authorities shows that they recognized exactly what He was teaching about Himself.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “For the third time John records that the Jews attempted to stone Jesus (see 5:18; 8:59). Jesus’ assertion (10:30) that he was One with the Father affirmed his claim to deity and caused the Jews to seek his execution (v. 33). Although the OT permitted stoning in certain instances (e.g. Lev. 24:16), the Romans reserved the right of capital punishment for themselves (John 18:31). Nevertheless, out-of-control Jews attempted a mob action in lieu of legal proceedings (see Acts 7:54–60).”

There was no doubt in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders that Jesus was claiming to be God. Therefore, if unbelievers do not believe Jesus’ disciples when they claim that He is God (Romans 9:1-5; I Timothy 1:17), perhaps we should direct them to what Jesus’ enemies understood about who He claimed to be.

Dr. Sproul concludes by saying, “If Jesus were an ordinary mortal, His claims of deity would be blasphemous. But His works prove that He was sent by the Father and attest to the veracity of His words that He is the incarnate Son of God (vv. 37–39). Moreover, Jesus’ claim of unity with the Father was unique. While believers can say that they are in God and God is in them (3:21; Rom. 8:9), this mutual indwelling is not the same as that of the Son and the Father. Augustine of Hippo comments: “The Son says not, ‘the Father is in me, and I in Him,’ as men can say it. For if we think well, we are in God; and if we live well, God is in us: believers, by participating in His grace, and being illuminated by Himself, are in Him, and He in us. But not so is it with the only-begotten Son: He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; as one who is equal is in him whose equal he is. . . . Recognize the prerogative of the Lord, and the privilege of the servant. The prerogative of the Lord is equality with the Father: the privilege of the servant is fellowship with the Savior.”

While acknowledging that Jesus claimed to be God does not in any way mean that people will accept such a claim to be true. However, I think we can dispense with the erroneous suggestion that Jesus never made such a claim to be God. Indeed He did and His enemy’s reaction proves it.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Security of the Believer.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)

I am convinced that the Bible promises that all those who place their faith in Jesus Christ receive eternal life and will never perish (John 3:16). This promise is at the heart of the Gospel message of why Jesus came to provide a substitutionary atonement for our justification and glorification (Romans 8:28-30).

One of the most beloved statements, of what is often referred to the eternal security of the believer, is found in John 10:28-29. If comes from the spoken, and recorded, words of Jesus. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

A true believer in Christ is identified by three characteristics in John 10:27. They understand the Gospel or the revelation of Jesus (I Corinthians 2:1-14). This is only possible by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). Second, Jesus knows them. To know means that Jesus acknowledges believers belong to Him. Third, true believers obediently follow Christ (Ephesians 2:10). They demonstrate their covenant relationship with Christ by a changed life lived for Christ.

In light of this condition, Jesus gives a promise. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Dr. John Walvoord writes, This is one of the clearest statements in the Bible that one who believes in Jesus for salvation will never be lost. Believers sin and stumble, but Jesus as the perfect Shepherd loses none of His flock (cf. Luke 22:31–32). Eternal life is a gift (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:10; Romans 6:23). If one has it, he has it eternally. They shall never perish is a strong affirmation in the Greek meaning that they will indeed not ever perish”; cf. John 3:16. The security of the sheep is found in the ability of the Shepherd to defend and preserve His flock. Such security does not depend on the ability of the frail sheep. No one can even snatch His sheep out of His hand. “Snatch” is harpasei, related to harpax (“ravenous wolves, robbers”).”

Not only does Jesus promise what He will do, but also states what God the Father has already done. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

Dr. Walvoored continues by stating, My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. That is, no one is strong enough to snatch any of Jesus’ flock from the Father’s hand (or from Jesus’ hand, v. 28). As the NIV margin states, verse 29a in many early Greek manuscripts reads, “What My Father has given Me is greater than all.” The thought of the verse in either case is that the Father who is omnipotent secures the flock by His power and protection. God’s plan of salvation for Jesus’ flock cannot be aborted.”

God the Father and God the Son are in complete and perfect harmony. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Both have the closest possible unity of purpose in the complete salvation and deliverance of sinners saved by grace alone, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

As Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John, “We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because He holds tightly to us.”

John Calvin states, The salvation of all the elect is not less certain than the power of God is invincible.”

Pastor Buke Parsons concludes, “To believe that those who have truly trusted in Christ alone for salvation can be finally lost is to imply that the Lord is not strong enough to hold onto us, which calls His omnipotence into question. If we truly believe that God is all-powerful, we will believe that no one who actually rests in Christ will ever be lost.

A friend of mine, who was primarily responsible for mentoring me as a new believer in Christ, often remarked to me that John 10:28-29 could be personalized by substituting our own names in place of the personal pronouns found in the text. Therefore, the text would read as follows: “I give them (Tom) eternal life, and they (Tom) will never perish, and no one will snatch them (Tom) out of my hand. My Father, who has given them (Tom) to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them (Tom) out of the Father’s hand.”

Take time today to claim the promise Jesus makes in John 10:28-29 is yours. May this text bring you lasting and blessed assurance.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: A True Shepherd, Part Two.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:1-6)

What are some of the characteristics of a true and faithful shepherd? The qualities which a literal shepherd of sheep in ancient and present Israel certainly apply to the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to his followers or disciples. In the immediate aftermath of healing a man born blind in John 9, and the dialogue which followed with the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees, Jesus shared a parable in John 10:1-21 regarding a typical or faithful shepherd and his relationship to his sheep. One of the most significant characteristics of the shepherd was being a guardian and protector of the sheep.

The IVP Background Commentary states, It (John 10) is based on Old Testament images of God as the shepherd of Israel (Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23:1; 28:9; 77:20; 99:6; Is 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11–31), of Israel as his flock (Psalm 74:1; 78:52; 79:13; 100:3) and of abusive or unfaithful religious leaders as destroyers of his flock (Jeremiah 23:1–2; Ezekiel 34). Faithful human shepherds (Jeremiah 3:15) included Moses, David (2 Samuel 5:2; Psalm 78:71–72) and the Davidic Messiah (Micah 5:4).”

Pastor Burk Parsons explains that, “When we hear the word shepherd, we typically think of a gentle, mild-mannered man in a relaxed posture surrounded by sheep grazing in a serene valley with beautiful hills. But that’s only part of the picture. Shepherds are first and foremost guardians and protectors of the sheep. They must be gentle and strong, tender and courageous, caring and fierce. Today, in many parts of the world, as in the ancient Near East, shepherds are some of the most skilled hunters and warriors among their people.”

I discovered that shepherds carry not only rods but also staffs (Psalm 23). What I once thought were two words referring to the same instrument, I discovered I was mistaken.

The rod was a short club that could be thrown with great speed at a fast-approaching predator. The rod was also used to discipline the sheep when they were fighting, to examine the sheep, beneath their wool, to ensure they were free from skin diseases, and to also number the sheep (Ezekiel 20:37).

The staff, on the other hand, was a much longer, narrow rod with a crook on the end that was used for many purposes. It was primarily used to guide the sheep and to rescue them from thickets or from the crag of a rock.

The shepherd’s rod and staff were always visible to the sheep. The shepherd always walked and dwelt among his sheep, rather than sit on a hillside overlooking the sheep. He was always with them. His rod and his staff, the tools he used to guard, rescue, and protect his sheep, were a constant comfort to his flock. In John 10, Jesus describes in His parable the characteristics of the true shepherd.

First, true shepherd enters by the gate to the sheepfold and not by another way, as would a thief or a robber. During the cold winter months, sheep were kept inside a pen at night. The pen, or corral, usually had a stone wall, which might have briers on top of it.  Remember, winter was approaching at the time of the Feast of the Tabernacles (John 7-9). Jewish law distinguished thieves from robbers in that the former broke in, whereas the latter often lived in the wilderness and would have no reason to enter the sheep pen other than by the gate. Jesus said, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.” Jesus is the true shepherd of believing sinners.

Second, the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” We follow and hear the voice of the Lord when we obey His Word.

What is true of literal shepherds is also true of our spiritual shepherd: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true Shepherd and Savior of our souls. His voice, or word, we are to follow and obey.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Shepherd of your soul? Are you following Him by obedience to His Word: the Bible?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: A True Shepherd.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:1-6)

The immediate question that should come to mind is exactly to whom is Jesus speaking? His statements occur within the same preceding and immediate context of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the subsequent debate with the Pharisees. This is important for us to know because Jesus begins His discourse on being the door and the good shepherd with the words “truly, truly.”

As we have observed in previous articles, repetitious statements in the Scriptures are placed in the text for emphasis. John’s record of Jesus’ statements carry particular importance regarding who He is and what He will do on behalf of His people who He calls “sheep.”

The word “truly” comes from the Greek word ἀμήν from which we derive our English word Amen. The word means an affirmation that something is true and indeed real in the sight of God. To repeat the word emphasizes the importance of what Jesus is going to say and how true it truly is.

The text begins by Jesus saying, ““Truly, truly, I say to you.” Jesus is invoking His own authority in speaking and giving revelation about Himself. He does so because He is God and has the privilege and power to do so.

It should be noted that the pronoun “you” is in the plural form. Jesus could be speaking to not only the man born blind but also to the common people along with His disciples.

However, John 10:6 gives us a greater insight as to whom Jesus is addressing. The verse says, “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” Both pronouns “them” and “they” are also in the plural form. It is therefore reasonable to assume that these are the same people Jesus begins speaking to in vs. 1. The only thing said about these people is that “they did not understand what he was saying to them.” While this statement could refer to the common people who initially questioned the blind man, it makes more sense to understand that Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees.

Consider the contrasts Jesus provides in using the sustained metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep. He identifies some people as thieves, robbers and strangers. He then refers to the shepherd of the sheep. It is he to whom the sheep will follow because he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out of the sheepfold or enclosure.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, Jesus spoke in vv. 1–30 using a sustained metaphor based on first-century sheep ranching. The sheep were kept in a pen, which had a gate through which the sheep entered and left. The shepherd engaged a “gatekeeper” (v. 3) or “hired hand” (v. 12) as an under-shepherd to guard the gate. The shepherd entered through that gate. He whose interest was stealing or wounding the sheep would choose another way to attempt entrance. The words of Ezekiel 34 most likely form the background to Jesus’ teaching since God decried the false shepherds of Israel (i.e., the spiritual leaders of the nation) for not caring properly for the flock of Israel (i.e., the nation). The Gospels themselves contain extensive sheep/shepherd imagery (see Matthew 9:36Mark 6:34; 14:27Luke 15:1–7).

As in Jesus’ day, there are many false teachers who present themselves as shepherds of the sheep or pastors of the people of God. However, they are in reality spiritual thieves, robbers and strangers. We need to be discerning as to the true nature of these charlatans or imposters. They truly do not care for the people of God but rather only themselves and the fulfillment of their various sinful appetites.

One way of identifying such false teachers or false shepherds is by observing what or who they emphasize. Do they speak of themselves or do they point the congregation to Jesus Christ? Do they seek to dominate what the congregation does or does not do? Do they place themselves as the final authority rather than the Word of God? Do they have a teachable spirit or are the condemning of everyone who disagrees with them and their ideas?

Important questions to consider in discerning whether you, or someone you know, are under the ministry of a false teacher or shepherd. More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Capable Speaking; Incapable Understanding.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)

At first, we might not recognize that John’s reference to the Jewish Feast of Dedication was actually a mention of the celebration of Hanukkah. Hanukkah, which means “to dedicate” in the Hebrew, celebrates the Israelite victory over the Syrian leader Antiochus Epiphanes IV around 165 B.C. The festival, even today, celebrates and remembers the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Festival of Lights.

As one historian explains, “In c. 170 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes IV conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the Jewish temple by setting up a pagan altar to displace the altar of God. Under the leadership of an old priest named Mattathias (his family name was called the Hasmoneans), the Jews fought guerrilla warfare (known as the Maccabean Revolt—166–142 B.C.) against Syria and freed the temple and the land from Syrian dominance until 63 B.C. when Rome (Pompey) took control of Palestine. It was in 164 B.C. on 25 Chislev (December approximately), that the Jews liberated the temple and rededicated it. The celebration is also known as the “Feast of Lights” because of the lighting of lamps and candles in Jewish homes to commemorate the event.”

John not only tells us about the setting but also the season: “it was winter.” Two months had elapsed since Jesus’ last confrontation with the Jews (7:1–10:21) at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2), which was in October. Jesus again returned to the temple area. John wants us to understand that the cold weather most likely prompted Jesus to walk on the eastern side of the temple in the sheltered area of Solomon’s porch. This location, following Jesus’ resurrection, became the regular gathering place of Christians where they would proclaim the gospel (see Acts 3:11; 5:12).

It was during this holiday celebration that the Jews, specifically the Jewish religious leaders, once again began harassing Jesus. The phrase “gathered around Him” means to surround and to press in on every side. You get the sense of a mob atmosphere filled with growing antagonism and animosity.

The Jews continually said to Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” They command Jesus to identify Himself to them as to whether or not He is the Messiah. Imagine the arrogance of created beings demanding and commanding the Creator to do something.

Jesus responded by saying, ““I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”

There are three cause and effect statements found in John 10:25-26. They communicate volumes on the clarity of God’s revelation to fallen man and fallen man’s inability to comprehend God’s revelation.

The first statement is “I told you and you do not believe.” Jesus stated many times in many meaningful ways to the Jewish religious leaders that He was the Messiah. He used, for example, statements such as being the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the Light of the World (John 8:12), and the Gate and the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). He even declared to them that He was Yahweh (John 8:58), to which they took up stones to stone Him for blaspheme (John 8:59). Their response was continual unbelief. They refused to trust, depend, commit and worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The second statement is “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” Jesus not only stated on many occasions that He was the Messiah but He also demonstrated miraculous power which belongs to God and God alone. He stated He was the Bread of Life in the immediate aftermath of feeding a multitude with two fish and five loaves of bread (John 6:1-21). He stated that He was the Light of the World immediately prior to healing a man born blind (John 9). Jesus’ works gave testimony and support of the truth of His words and claims to be God.

The third statement is “but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” This final statement explains the condition of the religious leader’s hearts and why they refuse to receive Jesus as the Christ (John 1:12-13). They do not believe because they are not elect. God has not chosen them unto salvation (John 3:1-8; 6:37-65). It is not that they will not believe, it is that they cannot.

However, as one pastor explains, “Christ’s sheep—the elect—on the other hand see in Jesus’ words and works that He is the Messiah and Savior.” They are able to do so because they are born again by the Holy Spirit (John: 1-8; I Corinthians 2:10-14).

How do you know whether you are elect unto salvation? Do you believe Jesus’ recorded words and accept His recorded works as testimony of His identity as God and Savior? If you do, it is because God chose to regenerate you by the power of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Gospel. Therefore, give God all the glory for what He has done solely by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Great Divide!

“There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21).

When I was a youth pastor in West Michigan for nine years one of the most exciting and much anticipated annual youth activities was our Michigan vs. Michigan State Party. It involved members of the youth group, and youth group adult leadership, dressing in their favorite team colors, either maize and blue or green and white, enjoying delicious food which my wife Diana prepared and watching the Michigan/Michigan State Football game. Those in the youth group, whose team lost, provided refreshments to their fellow youth group winners at the following Sunday evening’s youth social.

An important part of the gathering was decorating our basement for the event. Streamers, tablecloths, napkins, cups and plates were adorned with each university’s respective colors. One place where Diana and I were able to purchase these supplies was at a store called The Great Divide. As you entered the store, one half was green and white while the other half was maize and blue. It was a pretty awesome place which contributed to our young people having a lot of fun. Oh by the way and in case you’re interested, this year’s game is October 20 at East Lansing. Go Blue!

On a much grandeur scale, there arose a great divide between the people hearing Jesus’ words that He was the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep only to take up His life again by His bodily resurrection. This was not the first time this great divide occurred (see John 7:1-13) about who Jesus was and what He would accomplish.

One commentator explains that, “Jesus has said several times in John 10:1–16 that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. When the gospel goes forth and the elect hear it, there is no doubt that they will believe. Those who are not His sheep will not hear His voice. They will not follow Him to the end; they will either reject Him outright or, having never had saving faith to begin with, will go out from His people and abandon their profession (1 John 2:19). The last three verses of today’s passage provide something of an illustration of this point, as they show many of the Jews again rejecting Jesus (John 10:19–21). Assuming that they never came to saving faith later on, these individuals were clearly not among the sheep of Christ.”

The great divide regarding who Jesus is continues to this day. It is not a frivolous issue or a fun game. There are those who have faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Others reject Him. This great divide is also an eternal one with eternal consequences: life or death. On which side of the great divide are you?

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: I Lay Down My Life; I Take it Up Again!

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, it is easy to think that He was, or could have been, simply a passive participant in everything which occurred during His trial, scourging, humiliation, crucifixion, death and resurrection. John 10:17-18 indicates otherwise.

In this text, Jesus emphatically says three times that he lays down His life. Note the principle of repetition, To lay down (τίθημι; tithemi) literally means to remove or deposit. In this context, it refers to Jesus sacrificially dying on behalf of the elect. It is because of His sacrificial obedience, that the Father has a special love for the Son.

While Jesus states three times in today’s text that He lays down His life, He repeats that He also will take it up again. To take it up again (λαμβάνω; lambano) means to receive, to take hold or to grab. Jesus will sovereignly and actively take back His life at the resurrection which He voluntarily relinquished at the crucifixion. In brief, Jesus was in sovereign control of His circumstances and in perfect submission to His Father.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “In John 10:17, Jesus notes that the Father loves Him because He lays down His life. Here we see a glimpse of the eternal and reciprocal love between the Father and the Son. The Son loves His Father so much that He is willing to accept the charge to surrender His life for His people, and the Father loves the Son so much that He gives Him this charge for the sake of the Son’s final glory (see 8:54; 12:27–32). Commentators also note that we should read John 10:17 as having a purpose clause: Jesus laid down His life in order to take it up again. He died in order to rise again, for without the resurrection, the crucifixion accomplishes nothing. Christ had to rise again for our justification (Rom. 4:23–25).”

Dr. Sproul continues by saying, “The willingness of the Father to send His Son is paralleled by the Son’s willingness to die. Although wicked men certainly played a part in the crucifixion of Jesus (Acts 4:27–28), they did not force death upon Him. He died under His own authority, allowing others to kill Him. At no point in our Lord’s passion was He not in control of its events. His death was no accident of history but was the accomplishment of the divine will.”

John Calvin comments, Christ “does not die by constraint, but offers himself willingly for the salvation of his flock.”

Therefore, as believers in Christ, our lives are to be lived in gratitude for not only who Jesus is, but also for what Jesus historically accomplished on the bloody cross and in the empty tomb.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: I am the Good Shepherd, Part Two.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16).

Once again, let me remind you that when repetition occurs within Scripture it is placed there for emphasis. As my previous sentence is intended to stress a subject’s importance through reminder, so also what Jesus says in John 10:14-16 is intended to remind us of the importance of He being the good shepherd.

Jesus says a second time that He eternally exists as the good shepherd. He involves what has become the familiar phrase “I am” (ἐγώ εἰμί; ego eimi) to indicate that He is not only the good shepherd but He is also the self-existent God of the universe. As both, He eternally watches over His sheep by protecting them and leading them like a shepherd.

Not only does Jesus protect and lead us but He says He also knows us. This knowledge or understanding is a present and active knowledge. It is not just knowing about someone (Romans 1:21) but rather having intimate knowledge with someone. Jesus compares this intimate knowledge of His sheep with the intimate knowledge God the Father has with God the Son and God the Son has with God the Father.

One commentator explains, “Today’s passage expands on that picture of intimacy. Jesus tells us that He is the true and good shepherd who knows His sheep (vv. 14–15). Jesus is not an aloof leader or distant figure who is barely aware of His people. Instead, our Good Shepherd knows us by name and with an intimacy that parallels His knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of Him. No one, not even we ourselves, knows us better than Christ does. And just think of what a marvelous thing that is. Jesus knows us far better than we know ourselves, including the worst parts of us—and He still loves us.”

There are parts of my life that very few people are aware of, and some portions only my wife knows about. Then there are those very intimate categories of which only I am aware and am reluctant to share. I am sure you can also identify with me that there are portions of your life that you want to keep a secret. The embarrassing parts or the weak areas where temptation occurs most frequently. Jesus intimately knows everything about each one of us. In spite of this, He eternally loves as His sheep.

It is also within this portion of John 10 that Jesus indicates that not only are Jewish people part of His sheepfold, but also Gentiles. How encouraging is that? Jewish and Gentile sheep will hear and respond to Jesus’ call to believe, as John 10:16 indicates. Jesus possesses sheep among Gentile nations and when the Gospel is proclaimed these elect join the visible flock—the church. As one pastor writes, “Divine election makes one a sheep, and the elect show that they have been chosen by hearing the gospel and following Christ.

John Calvin writes, “How is it that the Father knows His Son? Christ simply declares that, so far as He is the bond of our union with God, He is placed between Him and us; as if He had said that it is not more possible for Him to forget us, than we should be rejected or disregarded by the Father. As the same time, He demands the duty which we mutually owe to Him, because as He employs all the power which He has received from the Father for our protection, so He wishes that we should be obedient and devoted to Him as He is wholly devoted to His Father, and refers everything to Him.”

As Jesus was devoted to save us as our good shepherd, may we resolve to serve Him as His redeemed sheep.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: I am the Good Shepherd, Part One.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)

On the heels of declaring that He is the door of the sheep, Jesus then declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd. This is the fourth of seven recorded statements found in the Gospel of John which depict Jesus’s deity. 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). Again, Jesus uses the significant phrase “I Am” (ἐγώ εἰμί; ego eimi) to indicate that He presently and actively exists as Yahweh Incarnate.

The Shepherd metaphor is one of the most familiar in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, God is called the Shepherd of His people (Psalm. 23:1; 80:1–2; Ecclesiastes 12:11; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10). As such, Jesus is the Good Shepherd to His people, and He came to give His life for their benefit (cf. John 10:14, 17–18; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 5:2, 25; Hebrews 9:14). The New Testament also identifies Jesus as the “Great Shepherd” (Hebrews 13:20–21) and “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).

In announcing that He is the good shepherd, in contrast to the false shepherds in Israel’s history who Jesus compared to thieves and robbers (John 10:7-10), Jesus lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus will willingly go to the cross on behalf of the sheep or the elect. This is a direct statement affirming substitutionary atonement (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus act of laying down His life for the sheep is in direct contrast to those so-called spiritual leaders, in Jesus’ day and in ours, who are compared to a hired hand. The hired hand does not have the same commitment, or love, for the sheep as does the Shepherd.

Dr. John Walvoord provides excellent insight into this particular text when he writes, “In contrast with the Good Shepherd, who owns, cares, feeds, protects, and dies for His sheep, the one who works for wages—the hired hand—does not have the same commitment. He is interested in making money and in self-preservation. If a wolf attacks (harpazei, lit., “snatches away”; cf. this same verb in v. 28), he runs away and his selfishness causes the flock to be scattered. Obviously he cares nothing for the sheep.”

Israel had many pseudo prophets, ungodly kings, and false messiahs. The flock of God suffered constantly from their abuse (Jeremiah 10:21–22; 12:10; Zechariah 11:4–17). The church today suffers from the same such abuse by pseudo shepherds, or pastors, who care nothing for the flock except what they can receive from them. This ought not to be but unfortunately is at too many churches in which too believers are hurt by too many false leaders.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The depth of our Savior’s love is seen in His willingness to die for us. As the Good Shepherd, He lays down His life for us (v. 11). Ancient shepherds might, in the course of defending their flocks from predators, end up dying, but when it happened it was an accident. Shepherds did not go to their flocks every day with the intention of dying for them. But Jesus came with the express purpose of dying in place of His sheep. And note that He dies only for His sheep. He does not lay down His life for other flocks, but only for His own. His atonement is for His people alone, and it guarantees their redemption. Ezekiel 34:11–24 prophesied that the Lord God Himself would come as the messianic king and shepherd to redeem His people and provide for all their needs. John 10 helps us understand that the means by which He does this is by taking on a human nature and, as a man, suffering and dying in place of other men and women.”

Thank you Lord for being our Good Shepherd. Thank you for laying down your life for your sheep. Thank you that you are not a hired hand who does not care for the sheep. Thank you for graciously calling us into the fold.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: I Am the Door.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:7-10).

Beginning in John 10:7, Jesus utters the third of seven recorded statements found in the Gospel of John  which depict His deity. 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 is “I am the door of the sheep.”

As we have already noted in John 10:1-6, Jesus uses the phrase “truly, truly” in order to place great emphasis on what He is about to say. It is at this point that He announces to the people in general, and the Pharisees in particular, that He is the door belonging to the sheep. What exactly does Jesus mean by using this metaphor of a door?

The word door (θύρα; thyra) refers to an entrance or a doorway. Jesus uses it figuratively in John 10:7 to refer to Himself as the only means of access to salvation. He repeats Himself in John 10:9. In both instances, Jesus uses the present active phrase ἐγώ, εἰμί (ego eimi) to indicate the He is the eternally self-existent Lord of heaven and earth who is known as Yahweh. There can be no misunderstanding that Jesus is personally declaring that He is God.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Jesus then developed the shepherd/sheep figure of speech in another way. After a shepherd’s flock has been separated from the other sheep, he takes them to pasture. Near the pasture is an enclosure for the sheep. The shepherd takes his place in the doorway or entrance and functions as a door or gate. The sheep can go out to the pasture in front of the enclosure, or if afraid, they can retreat into the security of the enclosure. The spiritual meaning is that Jesus is the only Gate by which people can enter into God’s provision for them.”

In referring to those who came before Him as thieves and robbers, Jesus was referring to past and present spiritual leaders who endeavored to lead the people of God astray. They were those leaders of Israel who did not care for the spiritual good of the people but rather only for themselves. By contrast, Jesus alone provides security for His flock from these enemies of  God’s people.

Rather than those who come only to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus came that His sheep may have an exceptional life. This entails a life in which the sinner is not only saved from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin and eventually from the presence of sin.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “These two verses (John 10:9-10) are a proverbial way of insisting that belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God is the only way of being “saved” from sin and hell and receiving eternal life. Only Jesus Christ is the one true source for the knowledge of God and the one basis for spiritual security.

Pastor Burk Parsons states, “The sheepfold provides security for the sheep, and in verses 7–10, Jesus draws on this image to teach us about Himself. He tells us that He is the “door of the sheep” (v. 7). He is the one point of access to eternal safety and security. Only He is the gateway to pasture, to the sustenance of eternal life (v. 9). He is not like those false religious leaders who sneak into the sheepfold in order to destroy the sheep, but He is the gateway to abundant life (v. 10).”

Take time today to thank the Lord Jesus for being your source of security because He alone provides access to God the Father.

Soli deo Gloria!