The Gospel of John: A Disciple of Jesus, Part Three.

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? The biblical definition for discipleship is to be a follower. In the Christian context, discipleship means to be a follower of Jesus. It means to not only follow Jesus’ teachings but also to emulate or mimic His character.

In Jesus’ day, discipleship entailed literally following one’s master. You followed him as he walked, you ate when he ate, you sat when he sat and you slept when and where he slept. We saw this in John 1:35-42.

In John 1:43-51 we see Jesus selecting two more disciples. Peter, Andrew and we assume John are already following Jesus. Jesus then finds Phillip and commands him to follow. The text tells us that Phillip was from the town of Bethsaida, which John mentions was the city, or hometown, of Andrew and Peter.

The text indicates, or at least implies, that Phillip was unhesitatingly willing to immediately follow Jesus. Additionally, Phillip appears to immediately and unhesitatingly go to his friend, Nathanial, and compel him to become a follower of Jesus also. Unlike Phillip, Nathaniel is a bit more reserved and skeptical of becoming a disciple of Jesus.

Nathaniel’s first response to Phillip’s news that Jesus could be the Messiah was whether anything good could ever originate from the Town of Nazareth. Phillip’s reply was simple but profoundly wise. He said, “Come and see.”

As one commentator explains, “The New Testament tells us clearly that Nazareth was an insignificant, even despised, town. Even fellow Galileans looked down on Nazareth, as is evident in the response of Nathanael when Philip told him about finding the Messiah (John 1:46). Plainly, Nathanael could not believe that the promised Savior would come from such a humble locale. Nathanael, it should be noted, is likely the same person as Bartholomew, who is listed among Jesus’ twelve disciples in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14). Bartholomew means “son of Tolmai,” so his full name would have been Nathanael son of Tolmai.”

Jesus uses all kinds of people to be His disciples. He uses the timid, the shy, the brash and the bold. The key question is are you willing to follow Jesus no matter your personality? What is your answer?

Jesus also uses His disciple from, and in, humble circumstances. Are you willing to go where Jesus wants you to serve and do what He wants you to do in serving Him? What is your answer?

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: A Disciple of Jesus, Part Two.

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? The biblical definition for discipleship is to be a follower. In the Christian context, discipleship means to be a follower of Jesus. It means to not only follow Jesus’ teachings but also to emulate or mimic his character.

In Jesus’ day, discipleship entailed literally following one’s master. You followed him as he walked, you ate when he ate, you sat when he sat and you slept when and where he slept. We see this in John 1:35-42.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “The simplest definition of disciple is one who directs his mind toward specific knowledge and conduct. So, we might say that a disciple is a learner or pupil. The Greek philosophers—people such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—had disciples. Socrates described himself ultimately as a disciple of Homer, the person Socrates regarded as the greatest thinker of all of Greek history.”

Dr. Sproul continues, “Jesus was a rabbi and, of course, the most important peripatetic teacher and disciple-maker in history. Wherever He walked, His students would follow. At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, He chose particular individuals to be His disciples. They were required to memorize the teachings that He spoke as He walked. What’s more, people didn’t file an application to get into the School of Jesus. Jesus selected His disciples. He went to prospective disciples where they were, whether in the marketplace or at their place of work, and give this simple command: “Follow me.” The command was literal—He called them to drop their present duties. They had to leave their work, their families, and their friends in order to follow Jesus.”

In John 1:43-51 we see Jesus selecting two more disciples. Peter, Andrew and we assume John are already following Jesus. Jesus then finds Phillip and commands him to follow. The text tells us that Phillip was from the town of Bethsaida, which John mentions was the city, or hometown, of Andrew and Peter.

One commentator explains, “While Mark 1:21, 29 locates Peter’s house in Capernaum, John relates that he was from Bethsaida. Resolution centers in the fact that Peter (and Andrew) most likely grew up in Bethsaida and later relocated to Capernaum in the same way that Jesus was consistently identified with his hometown of Nazareth, though he lived elsewhere later (Matt. 2:23; 4:13Mark 1:9Luke 1:26).

The text indicates, or at least implies, that Phillip was unhesitatingly willing to immediately follow Jesus. Additionally, Phillip appears to immediately and unhesitatingly go to his friend, Nathanial, and compel him to become a follower of Jesus also. Unlike Phillip, Nathaniel is a bit more reserved and skeptical of becoming a disciple of Jesus. We’ll see why tomorrow.

Jesus uses all kinds of people to be disciples. He uses the timid, the shy, the brash and the bold. The key question is are you willing to follow Jesus no matter your personality? What is your answer?

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: A Disciple of Jesus.

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)” (John 1:35-42).

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? For many, it may mean to be a part of a local church or the denomination to which that particular local church you attend belongs. Therefore, for certain people being a disciple of Jesus means being a Catholic, a Lutheran, a Methodist or a Presbyterian.

For others, being a disciple of Jesus entails being involved in full-time ministry. Therefore discipleship means being a pastor, an evangelist, a teacher or a missionary.

However, the biblical definition for discipleship is to be a follower. In the Christian context, discipleship means to be a follower of Jesus. It means to not only follow Jesus’ teachings but also to emulate or mimic his character.

In Jesus’ day, discipleship entailed literally following one’s master. You followed him as he walked, you ate when he ate, you sat when he sat and you slept when he slept. We vividly see this in today’s text from John 1:35-42.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Although the verb “follow” usually means “to follow as a disciple” in the writing of the apostle (v. 43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 20, 22), it may also have a neutral sense (11:31). The “following” here does not necessarily mean that they became permanent disciples at this time. The implication may be that they went after Jesus to examine him more closely because of John’s testimony. This event constituted a preliminary exposure of John the Baptist’s disciples to Jesus (e.g., Andrew; 1:40). They eventually dedicated their lives to him as true disciples and apostles when Jesus called them to permanent service after these events (Matt. 4:18–22; 9:9Mark 1:16–20). At this point in the narrative, John the Baptist fades from the scene and the attention focuses upon the ministry of Christ.”

I have often heard that there are three types of disciples. First, there are false disciples. These are they who pretend to be a disciple of Jesus but in reality they are not converted. Jesus acknowledged this truth when He said, “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 thorn bushes, 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.” (See Acts 20:17-38; Jude 1-25). Judas Iscariot, though one of the original twelve disciples, was a false disciple (John 13:1-11).

The second type of disciple is the clandestine or secret disciple. This type of disciple, though truly converted, does not want anyone to know they are a follower of Jesus Christ. They remain secretive of their faith at home, at school, and/or at work. Joseph of Arimathea is described as such a disciple by the Apostle John in John 19:38 which says, After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.”

Finally, there are the committed disciples. These are the ones who are truly converted and who boldly and fervently speak of and live out their faith in Jesus Christ. Of the original twelve, eleven were in this category. There was up to 120 disciples who comprised the original followers of Jesus (Acts 1:15) prior to the Day of Pentecost and the birth of the church (Acts 2).

Being a dedicated disciple does not mean that you never make a mistake or commit a sin. However, when mistakes and sins are committed, what follows is genuine confession and a repentant heart (John 1:9). Jesus spoke of such disciples when in Matthew 16:24 it records, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

John 1:35-42 mentions the first three of Jesus’ committed disciples. They are Andrew, Andrew’s brother Simon, who Jesus renamed Cephas or Peter, and John the Apostle, who is not specifically named. It was Andrew and ostensibly John who were two of John the Baptist’s disciples. When they heard John the Baptist declare that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the immediately began following Jesus.

The obvious question I ask of you today is what kind of disciple are you? Which of the three categories of disciples describe you? Are you a false disciple, a secret disciple or a committed disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Testimony by John the Baptist, Part Four.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34).

We have thus far seen what John the Baptist testified regarding himself. But what did he testify to people regarding the Lord Jesus Christ?

John 1:29 says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The phrase “lamb of God” (ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ho amnos tou theou) appears only twice in the New Testament, both occurring in the Gospel of John (John 1:29, 36). In each case, John the Baptist speaks the phrase when he sees Jesus coming toward him. The title, Lamb of God, refers to Jesus being the ultimate Passover Lamb (Exodus 12), the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, the “lamb” sacrificed daily in the temple (Leviticus 1:4; Exodus 29:38–46) and the fulfillment regarding the “lamb” Abraham offered in place of Isaac (Genesis 22).

While John the Baptist’s use of the word lamb as a sacrifice was very familiar to the Jews and could include all the previously mentioned meanings (see yesterday’s blog), John also used this expression as a reference to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to atone for the sins of the fallen world. This theme of sacrifice and substitutionary atonement the Apostle John carries throughout his writings (John 19:36; Revelation 5:1-6; 6:16; 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 12:11; 13:8; 14:1, 4; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7; 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3.) as do the other New Testament writers.

What else did John the Baptist say about Jesus in this context? After declaring that Jesus is the Lamb of God, John the Baptist continues by saying that Jesus is also the eternal Son of God.

First, John declares that Jesus existed before him. Humanly, we understand that John the Baptist, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, was conceived and presumably born six months before Jesus (Luke 1:11-33; vs. 26). However, John understands that the One to whom he has declared the Lamb of God ranks before him because He existed before him. The word “ranks” (γίνομαι; ginomai) means to exist or to be. John testifies to the eternal existence of Jesus Christ.

Second, John reveals that this One who existed before Him, God the Father would identify by a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It seems that John did not realize that his cousin Jesus Christ would indeed be the prophesied Lamb of God. However, God the Father revealed to John, and he therefore testified, that “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “God had previously communicated to John that this sign was to indicate the promised Messiah (v. 33), so when John witnessed this act, he was able to identify the Messiah as Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:16Mark 1:10Luke 3:22).”

This would ultimately lead John to declare that not only was Jesus the Lamb of God but also that He was, and is, the eternal Son of God. Dr. MacArthur continues by explaining, “Although, in a limited sense, believers can be called “sons of God” (e.g., Matt. 5:9Rom. 8:14), John uses this phrase with the full force as a title that points to the unique oneness and intimacy that Jesus sustains to the Father as “Son.” The term carries the idea of the deity of Jesus as Messiah (John 1:49; 5:16–30; cf. 2 Sam. 7:14Ps. 2:7; see notes on Heb. 1:1–9).”

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “This is John’s way of reporting the heavenly voice that accompanied the heaven-sent Spirit. ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).’ While ‘Son of God’ was used variously by ancient Jews (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:1-7) and Gentiles (Mark 15:39), the Baptist’s witness, that of the last of the prophets of the old order (Matthew 11:11-14) is clear. Jesus is the Son of God, the ‘only begotten Son from the Father (vs. 14). The purpose of the fourth gospel is to draw readers to this conviction (20:31).”

Again, we must always acknowledge that the Bible openly declares that Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God with us. He is God in human form. He is to be worshiped, trusted, and honored as God. Are we testifying this truth to others? May we do so today!

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Testimony by John the Baptist, Part 3.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34).

We have thus far seen what John the Baptist testified of himself. But what did he testify to people regarding the Lord Jesus Christ?

One of the most striking images of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ found in the Scriptures is that of a Shepherd. Additionally, related to this shepherd image is Jesus Christ being the Lamb of God.

John 1:29 says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” What did John the Baptist mean when he commanded the people to pay attention and to listen to him declare that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?

The phrase “lamb of God” (ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ho amnos tou theou) appears only twice in the New Testament, both occurring in the Gospel of John (John 1:29, 36). In each case, John the Baptist speaks the phrase when he sees Jesus coming toward him. The title, Lamb of God has four possible meanings.

First, John is making reference to Jesus being the Passover lamb (Exodus 12). This is perhaps the strongest contender, as the Apostle John applies the Passover lamb imagery to Christ at His death (John 19:36; Exodus 12:46). Additionally, John’s Gospel dates Jesus’ death to the time of the slaying of the Passover lambs (John 18:28; 19:14, 31). However, the Passover sacrifice was not specifically about taking away sin.

Second, John the Baptist is comparing Jesus to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. The Suffering Servant of Yahweh bears the sins of the people of Israel (Isaiah 53:6–12) and is described as a lamb (ἀμνός, amnos) led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32; 1 Pet 1:19). John 12:38 cites Isaiah 53:1 in application to Jesus.

Third, the “lamb” sacrificed daily in the temple (Leviticus 1:4; Exodus 29:38–46). The Greek word “lamb” (ἀμνός, amnos, see John 1:29, 36) appears 75 times in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), mostly in reference to the lamb sacrificed daily to make atonement for the sins of the people.

Fourth, the “lamb” Abraham offered in place of Isaac (Genesis 22). One commentator explains, “The account in Genesis clearly uses substitutionary and sacrificial language (Genesis 22:13), and the New Testament authors invoke this account as foreshadowing Christ (Genesis 22:16; Matthew 3:17; Romans 8:32). However, Genesis does not present this sacrifice as taking away sin. In addition, the actual animal that was sacrificed in place of Isaac was a “ram” (κριός, krios; Genesis 22:13).

While John the Baptist’s use of the word lamb as a sacrifice was very familiar to Jews and could include all the previously mentioned meanings, John used this expression as a reference to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to atone for the sins of the fallen world. This theme of sacrifice and substitutionary atonement John the Apostle carries throughout his writings (John 19:36; Revelation 5:1-6; 6:16; 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 12:11; 13:8; 14:1, 4; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7; 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3.) and those of the other New Testament writers.

Paul describes Christ as the Passover lamb that has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7). This reference, however, uses the Greek word πάσχα (pascha) “Passover, Passover lamb,” not ἀμνός (amnos). Luke and Philip identify Jesus with the lamb (ἀμνός, amnos) of Isaiah 53:7 in Acts 8:32. Peter calls Christ the “precious lamb (ἀμνός, amnos) unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19).

The text of John 1:29 may offer the best explanation of John the Baptist’s intended meaning in calling Jesus the Lamb of God. It is He who will take away the sin of the world. To take away (αἴρω; airo) means to remove, to execute, to carry off and to destroy. What is taken away, removed and eventually destroyed is the sin of the fallen world. Sin (ἁμαρτία; hamartia) means evil and guilt. John is declaring that it is Jesus and Jesus alone who, as the lamb originating from God and only God, will remove the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin which besets fallen sinners.

In reality, Jesus fulfills all four possible explanations of the title “Lamb of God. One commentator explains, “In the OT passages referring to a lamb, nearly all of them speak of sacrifice (85 out of the total of 96). Combined with a reference to the taking away of sin, it is difficult to see how a reference to sacrificial atonement is to be rejected. Characteristically the lamb in Scripture puts away sin by being sacrificed. “God’s Lamb” means that this provision is made by God himself. A reference to sacrifice seems undeniable, but a connection with any one sacrifice is hard to make. All that the OT sacrifices foreshadowed, Christ perfectly fulfilled. God’s Lamb puts sin away finally.”

Your only Son no sin to hide
But You have sent Him from Your side
To walk upon this guilty sod
And to become the Lamb of God

Your gift of love they crucified
They laughed and scorned Him as He died
The humble King they named a fraud
And sacrificed the Lamb of God

Oh Lamb of God, Sweet Lamb of God
I love the Holy Lamb of God
Oh wash me in His precious Blood
My Jesus Christ the Lamb of God

I was so lost I should have died
But You have brought me to Your side
To be led by Your Staff and Rod
And to be call a lamb of God

Oh wash me in His precious Blood
My Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.

– Twila Paris

May we truly say in our behavior and words today, worthy is the Lamb Who was slain.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Testimony of John the Baptist, Part Two.

“And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (John 1:19-28).

What does humility look like? Is humility found primarily in one’s appearance? Perhaps! In the case of John the Baptist, who is the subject of today’s posted biblical text, his clothing was certainly nothing you would find people wearing at the Grammy’s or the Academy Awards. Matthew and Mark described John’s appearance: he wore a camel-hair cloak with a waist belt made of leather (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6).

Maybe humility is reflected in one’s diet. A humble diet may reflect the humility of the one eating. Eric Enstrom’s painting entitled Grace is one of the most familiar portrayals of a believer’s humility and dependence upon God for daily sustenance. You may be familiar with the portrait of an old, white haired man praying at a table in which sits a Bible, a pair of reading glasses, a bowl of soup and a loaf of bread. Correspondingly, Matthew and Mark described John’s diet as one which consisted of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6). Not something you might find listed on the menu board at Culver’s.

Perhaps humility has more to do with one’s attitude towards God, other people and for that matter, towards oneself. The Apostle Paul defined humility as viewing others as being better than ourselves (Philippians 2:1-4) as opposed to viewing yourself as being better than others.

When the priests and Levites, who the Pharisees sent, asked John questions about who he really was, he told them who he was not. He told them he was not the Christ, or the Messiah. He told them he was not Elijah come back to life, as some suspected would occur. He also told them he was not the Prophet, who is mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy 18.

When they continued to press the issue, John identified himself as such: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (Isaiah 40:1-3). Additionally, in comparing himself to Christ he said, ““I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27).

Matthew 11:11 records Jesus saying, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

 Greatness, according to God, is not based upon one’s clothing or diet. Rather, greatness in the kingdom of heaven is based upon the humbleness of one’s attitude in recognizing that we are slaves and Jesus Christ is the One we serve. He is our Master.

May this mind be in you as was also in Christ Jesus. Read and meditate upon Philippians 2:5-13.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Humbling Scripture, isn’t it?

 Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Testimony of John the Baptist.

“And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (John 1:19-28).

Who was the greatest prophet in the Bible? Isaiah? Jeremiah? Ezekiel? What about Daniel? Neither of these men, as significant as they were in biblical history and the revelation of God, are regarded by Jesus Christ as the greatest prophet? Rather, Jesus Himself testified that the greatest prophet who ever lived was John the Baptist.

Luke 7:24-28 says, “When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater (prophet) than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer, is an important individual in each of the Four Gospels. He is identified with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and understood as the forerunner to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Reference to John is the first point of unity among the Four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all give a somewhat similar account of John’s person, preaching, and activity, though varying in some details.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John the Baptist is arrested and imprisoned before Jesus’ public ministry begins (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:20). In John’s Gospel, Jesus begins his ministry before John’s arrest (John 3:23-24). John the Baptist underscored his acknowledgment of one greater than himself who was to come baptizing not with water but with the Spirit (Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17; John 1:26-27).

 

John the Baptist certainly demonstrates the attitude of humility. He pointed people to Jesus Christ and not to himself.

John was born into a priestly family and belonged to the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:5). His father was the priest Zacharias and his mother was Elizabeth, a relative of Mary (Luke 1:35-38), the mother of Jesus. He began his ministry in the Jordan Valley when he was approximately 29 or 30 years old (Luke 1:26; 3:21-23), and boldly proclaimed the need for spiritual repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah and served as his prophetic forerunner (Matt. 3:3Luke 1:5–25, 36).

The Gospels portray John as a prophet who came out of the desert to proclaim the advent of the Kingdom of God and issue a call to repentance (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:1-20). Matthew and Mark describe John’s appearance and diet: he wore a camel-hair cloak with a waist belt made of leather and he dined on locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6).

John baptized those who repented of their sins and at the same time announced the coming of one after him who would be greater than he and would baptize with the Spirit. Thus, John is cast into a role like Elijah’s (Matthew 11:7-15; 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Malachi 4:5-6), as one who prepares for and announces the advent of the Messiah (John 1:6-8, 19-36).

John was beheaded by Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9). When he was informed of Jesus’ ministry, Herod thought it was John the Baptist come back to life.

One commentator writes, “Further attestation to the effectiveness of the ministry of John the Baptist is found in Acts, where on two occasions Christians encounter disciples of John who, after being further instructed, are received into the church (Priscilla and Aquila meet Apollos in Acts 18:24-28, and Paul meets twelve such disciples, perhaps associated with Apollos, in Acts 19:1-7). Thus, the prominence of John’s ministry is attested by the care with which the Gospel writers compose their accounts of him, the fact that Herod deemed it necessary to have him killed (the historian Josephus also reports, with somewhat different details, that John was executed by Herod in the fortress of Machaerus near the Dead Sea), and the fact that some years after Jesus’ death Christians still encountered people (in Asia Minor!) who knew only ‘the baptism of John.”

 John’s appearance and attitude reflected his humility as a servant of the Lord. It occurs to me that humility is a characteristic of leadership sorely lacking in the church today. When others accuse someone else of lacking humility, or being proud, they themselves are demonstrating the very pride, or lack of humility, they accuse others of respectively having or not having. I must be careful in writing what I just wrote, lest I fall into the same category of prideful accusation.

I encourage us all to read and meditate upon Philippians 2:1-4. May we all be a little more like John the Baptist, who was very Christ-like.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: One Savior Exists, Part Five.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains four basic or fundamental truths. Remove any one of them and you possess a less than complete biblical gospel. This results in a fundamentally flawed message which is incapable of providing salvation for anyone from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin.

What are those four fundamental truths? They are (1) God exists; (2) Sin exists; (3) Salvation exits; and (4) One Savior exists to provide salvation: Jesus Christ. To remove any of these four truth statements is to seriously compromise the Gospel.

These four essential truths of the Gospel are located throughout the Scriptures. However, the text which I draw to your attention is John 1:1-18. Identified as John’s prologue to his gospel, these 18 verses contain some of the most crucial statements found in Scripture regarding the Gospel and the personal identity of Jesus Christ. The first portion of the prologue is John 1:1-4: God Exists! The second portion is John 1:5-8: Sin Exists. The third portion is John 1:9-13; Salvation Exists! The fourth and final portion is that One, Savior Exists: John 1:14-18.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

It is not sufficient to just believe that God exists, that there exists within you a sinful nature and that God offers to save you from that sin. What must also be believed is that Jesus Christ is the “only” Savior available to sinners. He is to be the sole object of one’s trust, dependence, commitment and worship unto salvation.

I witnessed a baptism several years ago in which a young lady being baptized by a fellow pastor testified that she believed in God. In fact, she said she had always believed in God. That was her testimony. That may be fine as far as it goes, but her testimony was not a proclamation of the gospel and I seriously wonder whether she understood the gospel. Without a confession that one is a sinner and that salvation from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin is only by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, one’s testimony is no better than a demon’s (James 2:19).

John the Baptist’s testimony was centered in the person of Jesus Christ. Even though John was six months older than Jesus humanly, John confessed that Jesus was God when he said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.” John did not just acknowledge that God existed, but also that Jesus is God.

It is by Jesus Christ, the eternal God who became man, that sinners such as we receive grace upon grace. This statement stresses the importance of grace that has been displayed by God toward mankind, especially believers (Ephesians 1:5–8; 2:7) in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

One commentator explains, “Grace was present under the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant advent of Christ and His teaching through His Apostles show us grace in greater measure. We now have more insight into the depths of God’s mercy in sending His Son to die for sinners. We receive a greater measure of the Holy Spirit than the Old Covenant saints had. Let us rejoice to be partakers of the New Covenant and look to Christ for the fullest revelation from God.”

While God revealed Himself to Moses, He has chosen Jesus Christ to be the fullest revelation of Himself. Hebrews 1:1-4 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

God has given believers in Jesus Christ a greater measure of His grace under the New Covenant because it features the pinnacle of God’s revelation: Jesus Christ. He is the incarnate Word (John 1:18).

Have you repented of your sins and trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Unless your trust for salvation from sin is solely in the person and work of Jesus Christ, your faith is not better, or worse, that a demon’s (James 2:19). Please consider this.

Soli deo Gloria!    

The Gospel of John: One Savior Exists, Part Four.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains four basic or fundamental truths. Remove any one of them and you possess a less than complete biblical gospel. This results in a fundamentally flawed message which is incapable of providing salvation for anyone from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin.

What are those four fundamental truths? They are (1) God exists; (2) Sin exists; (3) Salvation exits; and (4) One Savior exists to provide salvation: Jesus Christ. To remove any of these four truth statements is to seriously compromise the Gospel.

These four essential truths of the Gospel are located throughout the Scriptures. However, the text which I draw to your attention is John 1:1-18. Identified as John’s prologue to his gospel, these 18 verses contain some of the most crucial statements found in Scripture regarding the Gospel and the personal identity of Jesus Christ. The first portion of the prologue is John 1:1-4: God Exists! The second portion is John 1:5-8: Sin Exists. The third portion is John 1:9-13; Salvation Exists! The fourth and final portion is that One, Savior Exists: John 1:14-18.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

Finally, Jesus Christ is not only God in the flesh, who dwelt among human beings on earth, who was and is glorious, and the only beloved Son from God the Father, but also He is full of grace and truth.

To be full (πλήρης; pleres) means to be complete or lacking nothing. Jesus Christ was complete grace and truth. Grace (χάρις; charis) means to show undeserved kindness. Truth (ἀλήθεια; aletheia) in the context means that Jesus Christ is the true and real revelation of God.

The Holy Spirit brought the truths contained in Exodus 33–34 to John’s mind. This was the occasion when Moses asked God to display His glory to him. The Lord replied to Moses that he would make all His “goodness” pass before him, and then as He passed by, God declared, “The LORD . . . merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 33:18–19; 34:5–7).

These two attributes of God’s glory, grace and truth, which are displayed by the Son, emphasize the goodness of God’s character especially in relationship to salvation. Jesus as Yahweh of the OT (John 8:58; “I AM”) displayed the same divine attributes when he “tabernacled” among men. (Colossians 2:9).

We continue to refer to Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon when he writes, The apostle however points to a surpassing excellence in Christ the tabernacle, by which he wondrously excels that of the Jewish Church, “full of grace and truth.” The Jewish tabernacle was rather full of law than full of grace. It is true there were in its rites and ceremonies, foreshadowing’s of grace, but still in repeated sacrifice there was renewed remembrance of sin, and a man had first to be obedient to the law of ceremonies, before he could have access to the tabernacle at all: but Christ is full of grace—not a little of it, but abundance of it is treasured up in him. The tabernacle of old was not full of truth, but full of image, and shadow, and symbol, and picture; but Christ is full of substance; he is not the picture, but the reality; he is not the shadow, but the substance. Herein, O believer, do thou rejoice with joy unspeakable for thou comest unto Christ, the real tabernacle of God. Thou comest unto him who is full of the glory of the Father; and thou comest unto one in whom thou hast not the representation of a grace which thou needest, but the grace itself—not the shadow of a truth ultimately to he revealed, but that very truth by which thy soul is accepted in the sight of God. I put this forth as a matter for you to think over in your retirement. It might have constituted the divisions of the sermon, but as I want more especially to dwell upon the glory of Christ, we leave these observations as a preface, and go more particularly to that part of the subject where the apostle says, “We beheld his glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus Christ must be thought of by His followers as more than just their best friend. Rather, He is God. May we worship and reverence Him as such.

Born among cattle, in poverty sore,
Living in meekness by Galilee’s shore,
Dying in shame as the wicked ones swore:
Jesus, wonderful Lord!

Weary, yet He is the world’s only rest,
Hungry and thirsty with plenty has blest,
Tempted He promises grace for each test:
Jesus, wonderful Lord!

Friend of the friendless, betrayed and denied,
Help of the weak, in Gethsemane cried,
Light of the world, in gross darkness He died:
Jesus, wonderful Lord!

Chorus:
Wonderful, wonderful Jesus!
He is my friend, true to the end;
He gave Himself to redeem me–
Jesus, wonderful Lord!
—Paul White

 Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: One Savior Exists, Part Three!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains four basic or fundamental truths. Remove any one of them and you possess a less than complete biblical gospel. This results in a fundamentally flawed message which is incapable of providing salvation for anyone from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin.

What are those four fundamental truths? They are (1) God exists; (2) Sin exists; (3) Salvation exits; and (4) One Savior exists to provide salvation: Jesus Christ. To remove any of these four truth statements is to seriously compromise the Gospel.

These four fundamental truths of the Gospel are located throughout the Scriptures. However, the text which I draw to your attention is John 1:1-18. Identified as John’s prologue to his gospel, these 18 verses contain some of the most crucial statements found in Scripture regarding the Gospel and the personal identity of Jesus Christ. The first portion of the prologue is John 1:1-4: God Exists! The second portion is John 1:5-8: Sin Exists. The third portion is John 1:9-13; Salvation Exists! The fourth and final portion is that One, Savior Exists: John 1:14-18.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

The glory of God often is revealed as bright, refulgent light (Exodus 24; Isaiah 60; revelation 21). John could very well be referring to his experience, along with his brother James and friend Peter, of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17). However, Jesus also manifested His glory through miraculous signs (John 2:11).

This glory was of the only Son from the Father. John testifies to the doctrine of Trinity in this statement, as he had in John 1:1. Jesus, the Word, and God in the flesh manifested on earth the same essential glory as the Father in heaven. God the Son and God the Father are one in essential nature (cf. John 5:17–30; 8:19; 10:30).

Notice that John uses the adjective “only.” The term “only” has the idea of “singular uniqueness.” Jesus Christ is loved by the Father like no other.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “By this word, John emphasized the exclusive character of the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Godhead (cf. 3:16, 181 John 4:9). It does not refer to origin but rather unique prominence; e.g., it was used of Isaac (Heb. 11:17) who was Abraham’s second son (Ishmael being the first; cf. Gen. 16:15 with Gen. 21:2–3).

Finally, Jesus Christ is not only God in the flesh, who dwelt among human beings on earth, who was and is glorious, and the only beloved Son from God the Father, but also He is full of grace and truth.

To be full (πλήρης; pleres) means to be complete or lacking nothing. Jesus Christ was completely grace and truth. Grace (χάρις; charis) means to show undeserved kindness. Truth (ἀλήθεια; aletheia) in the context means that Jesus Christ is the true and real revelation of God.

The Holy Spirit brought the truths contained in Exodus 33–34 to John’s mind. This was the occasion when Moses asked God to display his glory to him. The Lord replied to Moses that he would make all his “goodness” pass before him, and then as he passed by, God declared, “The LORD . . . merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 33:18–19; 34:5–7).

These two attributes of God’s glory, grace and truth, which are displayed by the Son emphasize the goodness of God’s character, especially in relationship to salvation. Jesus as Yahweh of the OT (John 8:58; “I am”) displayed the same divine attributes when he “tabernacled” among men. (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus Christ must be thought of by His followers as more than their best friend. Rather, He is God. May we worship and reverence Him as such.   

Soli deo Gloria!