Foundational Framework Part 71 - The Great Commision Part 2

Foundational Frameworks.png

“Our young men are going into the professional fields because they don't 'feel called' to the mission field. We don't need a call; we need a kick in the pants. We must begin thinking in terms of 'going out,' and stop our weeping because 'they won't come in.' Who wants to step into an igloo? The tombs themselves are not colder than the churches. May God send us forth.” -Jim Elliot

In Christ, a brand new Life has been made available. It is one of His power, His message, His forgiveness, His love, and His presence in this present evil age. The interval between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the birth of the Church is an interesting but understandable one. Jesus’ call for them to “wait for what the Father” (Acts 1:4b) has promised, being the coming of the Holy Spirit, places the eleven in a time where patience was paramount. However, they do not waste this time, opting to appoint another to take Judas’ place, making them twelve again (Acts 1:21-26), and spending this time in prayer along with other believers (Acts 1:14). But Jesus’ prescription to “wait” was necessary because the twelve needed power to accomplish the mission that He was placing before them. 

Acts 1:1-5.The book of Acts is Luke, Part II. Luke, the physician, addresses “Theophilus” once more (Luke 1:3), explaining the contents of his first letter. In his Gospel account, Luke had documented all that Jesus “began to do and teach until the day when He was taken up” (Acts 1:1b-2a). This refers to Jesus’ miracles and instructions while on the Earth bodily, lasting up until the time that He was crucified, resurrected, and had ascended (Luke 24:51-52). 

In Acts 1:3, Jesus is said to have presented Himself alive “by many convincing proofs,” furthering the case for His bodily resurrection. We are then told that a period of forty days took place between His bodily resurrection and His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9), in which He was speaking with the apostles regarding the Kingdom of God. Why would the subject matter of the Kingdom of God be the focus of His post-resurrection/pre-ascension ministry to the apostles?

From Matthew 21:43we see that Jesus makes a definitive claim against the nation of Israel, stating, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” This was not a declaration that the Kingdom was to come in the establishment of the Church, nor that the kingdom had come in some “mystery form” while Jesus was ministering on Earth, but that the fruits that would have been, and will be produced in the Kingdom when it comes would be produced in the Church Age as a sign of judgment against them. Israel’s unbelief had cost them a first-century start to the Kingdom of God in which the Messiah would be reigning on the throne (Matt 12). This statement would have some bearing on Jesus’ conversation with the apostles, no doubt. But this does not mean that the nature of the kingdom has changed in some capacity. It is still literal, still political, still earthly, and still to come in the future.

Some have concluded that the Kingdom of God came with Jesus and was established in a “spiritual” sense while He was on Earth. Peters writes, “Is it conceivable, can it be credited, that such special chosen ones, upon whose testimony the faith of others was to be founded, should, aftertheir own preaching, afterall their private and public instruction for several years, and afterthe particular ‘forty days’ (Acts 1:3), ‘speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,’ be ignorant of the fact (if it be as alleged) that a promised Kingdom was (as eminent theologians now gravely inform us) actuallyin existence?

No! such a supposition is damaging, fatally so, to preachers and Teacher, and cannot possiblybe entertained.”[1]

The apostles were not aware, in any fashion, that the Kingdom of God had come. In fact, we see Jesus moving in a different direction, yet one that is consistent with His teaching during the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), which was taught at a time “post-rejection.” In Acts 1:4, Jesus calls the apostles together and tells them to “wait for what the Father had promised,” being the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15). Jesus then connects the Spirit’s coming with the words of John the Baptist. “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). 

In Matthew’s Gospel, John’s words are recorded where he says, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). Notice the similarity with Jesus’ words in Acts 1:5speaking of John baptizing with water. Yet Jesus goes on to speak of another baptism, that being of the Holy Spirit. In John’s case, we see the mention of being baptized with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” This should not be understood as relating two separate baptisms, but one and the same.

We must remember that the word “baptism” needs context in order to determine what is meant by the original author. Not every mention of “baptism” is speaking of an immersion in water. The meaning of baptism is that one is immersed in, or identified with, something. This is the case that we find before us. If we move forward to Acts 2:3, we read, “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.” This captures the baptism of which John the Baptist and Jesus spoke. To be baptized with fire is to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is not a water baptism, but a fire baptism, a spiritual identification with the Holy Spirit. 

At the present time, the apostles had no power. Therefore, they could not minister effectively as Jesus had called them to do. So, He told them to wait for the necessary Power to arrive.

Acts 1:6-8. The apostles “coming together” in Acts 1:6 speaks to the event of 1:4 where we are told that Jesus “gathered them together.” Note the nature of their question to the Lord. “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). This question is revealing in at least two ways. First, the anticipation of the apostles’ question tells us that the kingdom had not yet arrived, that it was still forthcoming. Second, the apostles understood that the coming of the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it was a kingdom that was to be “restored” to Israel. 

The word “restored” means “to change to an earlier good state or condition, restore, reestablish,” and “to return someone to a former place or relationship, bring back, give back, restore.”[2]The apostles understood that only Jesus, the Christ of God could restore this Kingdom, being that He is its King. We must ask ourselves what the apostles might have been thinking of when considering an ideal time of reigning in Israel’s history. Without question, their conception of the “Kingdom of God” is the time of David and Solomon’s reign when Israel was at its most prosperous on the Earth.

Peters writes, “The tenor of the narrative shows that in alltheir conversations respectingthe Kingdom nothingwas said that changedthe faith of the apostles. They still held the belief that they had authoritatively preached. The proof is found in the question (v. 6), “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?” This is admitted by all—very reluctantlyindeed by some commentators and writers—to mean that they still believedin a restoration of the Davidic throne and Kingdom under the reign of the Messiah. The reply of Jesus, as we already had occasion to observe, confirmstheir belief; for instead of rejecting their idea of the natureof the Kingdom, He takes that for granted as substantially correct, and only refers to the timewhen it should again be restored to Israel as something reserved by the Father, thus meeting the question proposed which related to the time.”[3]

Undoubtedly, Jesus’ emphasis on the subject of the Kingdom of God is what had brought this question about. However, now was not the time for the Kingdom to come. It would be at another time. It was not wrong for the apostles to ask Him about it, and He does not rebuke them for their inquiry. However, Jesus does redirect their thinking and He starts by affirming that the Father has another time planned for the promised Kingdom to come (Acts 1:7). This was the Father’s business. The timing of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not to concern them, which is a point that would have saved our “date-setter” friends a lot of trouble. Instead, Jesus set a mission before the apostles, and by extension the Church, that was to be what occupied their time until the coming of the Kingdom. “He does not tell them their kingdom is abandoned, or merged into a spiritual conquest of all nations: He plainly infers that every promise of God is still intact; but assigns to them the immediate ministry of the new gospel age.”[4]

Jesus tells them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8a). This point resonates with Jesus’ earlier call for the apostles to “wait for what the Father has promised” (Acts 1:4b). What is most often neglected in many contemporary observations of this verse stands as its most indispensable part. It is the essential element to all effective ministry, and yet it is often glossed over. Tozer notes, “Some good Christians have misread thistext and have assumed that Christ told His disciples that they were to receive the Holy Spirit and power, the power to come after the coming of the Spirit… Christ taught not the coming of the Holy Spirit aspower; the power and the Spirit are the same.”[5]He goes on to say, “’Ye shall receive power.’ By those words our Lord raised the expectation of His disciples and taught them to look forward to the coming of a supernatural potency in to their natures from a source outside themselves. It was to be something previously unknown to them, but suddenly to come upon them from another world. It was to be nothing less than God Himself entering into them with the purpose of ultimately reproducing His own likeness within them.”[6]

God the Spirit is the power that accomplishes the task at hand. This is why Jesus mentions it first before telling His disciples that they would be His “witnesses” (martyresbeing where we get the English word “martyrs” from). A “witness” is one who testifies to what they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20; 1 John 1:1, 3). Jesus would ask of the Father and the Father would send forth the Power needed to testify to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that all who believe in Him would be saved from the wrath of God to come. This is a message that will not suffice without the power that IS the Holy Spirit. A message fueled by the flesh meets fear and intimidation and will yield no results. Fruit cannot be expected from dead things. However, the Spirit, living, active, indwelling, and leading the believer in Christ cannot help but to produce fruit because therein lies all of the power.

There are four arenas that are presented for the testifiers of Jesus Christ to go. First, we have “Jerusalem,” which would be considered the place of the apostles’ “home base operations.” For the believer in Christ, it would be the place where you are. Start where you are in testifying about Christ. There is no better place than where you find yourself currently to begin being obedient to this command.Second,we have “in all Judea,” meaning the region that contained Jerusalem. One might liken this to their “county” in America, or one’s province if you happen to find yourself in France, for instance. This calling would be to go beyond the city and into the rural areas, the regions that lie around the place where you find yourself. 

Third, Jesus mentions “Samaria,” and does so close on the heels of “Judea.” Samaria was the middle region in between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. However, this was a place that Jews avoided at all cost, seeing that it was made up of people who were the offspring of Jews and Gentiles cohabitating. The Jews of first century Israel despised Gentiles and considered them “unclean” at best (See Acts 10:9-18, 34-35, 42-45). This gives us a better understanding. Jesus is saying, “go where you normally wouldn’t go.” Think about who you disagree with. Maybe you have some hidden prejudices that keep you from certain people or certain places. Jesus says go beyond those and see that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. Every person living is a sinner in need of salvation, and Jesus has freely provided salvation for every person. Every person needs to hear of His free gift of eternal life.

Finally, Jesus calls us to be witnesses “even to the remotest part of the Earth.” How far do we go? Forever. We keep going and we do not stop going. Our lives are not ones of staying but of going and all four arenas need to be told of the love of God in Christ Jesus. One doesn’t need to be a missionary; one just needs to be obedient. We don’t need any formal training; we just need to be willing to talk. There doesn’t need to be any special planning; there just needs to be a willingness to be used where you are. There is no need for psyching ourselves up for the task; we always have the authority and presence of Jesus Christ and the indwelling Spirit. Our greatest concerns in leaving this command undone is our greed, fear, unwillingness, worldliness, and pride. All of these are the SELF-LIFE and all of these call for our repentance, for all of these keep us from going and testifying of the death and resurrection of Christ. All of these keep the lost from being saved.  

In writing on the prophet Jonah and his call from YHWH to go to the city of Nineveh and preach there, Merrill writes that “the mission strategy is somewhat different from the normal Old Testament pattern inasmuch as Israel was essentially to be a magnet to which the peoples would be attracted and thus attracted to Israel’s God. In Jonah’s case the command was to go, anticipating perhaps the New Testament centrifugal model of the church reaching out to the ends of the earth with the gospel message (Matt 28:19-20; cf. Acts 1:8).”[7]This is an excellent observation. Just as Jesus had already said, we are to “Go!” The Church of God is not to be a stagnant entity that causes others to marvel at its pomp and circumstance, but a people thriving in the New Life that Christ gives and powerful due to the Holy Spirit’s presence, going and reaching out to the lost. The church’s focus is to be as much outward (evangelism) as it is inward (discipleship). One can easily see that the latter gives way to the former and the former supplies the latter. This is God’s glorious plan for the Church to move forward. In fact, it is the only plan.

Acts 1:9-12.This section is straight-forward. Finishing this command, Jesus ascends into heaven out of the disciples’ sight. His last words before leaving them was that they were to be His witnesses, all around the world until His kingdom comes. Last words are important. Out of all of the things that Jesus could have communicated to them, He told them this. This is how important “being His witnesses” is to Him. And so it is today with us.

Upon ascension, two angels appeared and told the apostles that Jesus would return to Earth in the same way; descending from the clouds. He will come again! He is now preparing a place for His people (John 14:2-3). He will come again and receive us unto Himself and we will be with Him always. In the meantime, we are to be about His business: testifying to the salvation that He has provided and making disciples. 

If we were to combine the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and the call to be Jesus’ “witnesses” in Acts 1:8, we would say:

Every believer in Jesus Christ is a ministerto the Body (Matt 28:18-20) and amissionaryto the world (Acts 1:8).

The focus of the believer is twofold, calling the unsaved to be saved and for the already saved to go on being saved. This is evangelism and discipleship, justification and sanctification, being saved from the penalty of sin and continually being saved from the power of sin in our lives, receiving eternal life and experiencing abundant life, coming into relationship with the Father through the Son and experiencing fellowship with Him on an ongoing basis, answering the invitation to know Him and enjoying intimacy with Him, having peace with God and experiencing the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, being granted a holy position before Him and cultivating a holy practice in Him, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and abiding with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

There is no other goal, no new vision or revelation, no new program to employ, no other way of relating. It is evangelism and discipleship, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of all that flows out of the Church. 

The greatest fulfillment that we will ever experience in this earthly life is in getting a taste of the Life to come as we testify about Christ and teaching believers about His glorious grace! It is all about Him, not us. Our greatest ambitions cannot compare to the glorious riches that we already possess in Christ. Are we taking advantage of those benefits, or has SELF blocked our access to the depths of His grace?

Make the wise decision to heed the Word of God: share Christ with the lost knowing that the power of the Holy Spirit is with you, and make discipleship a priority, knowing that the authority of Christ and His continual presence will never leave you. 

God has made Himself known by His Word. How blessed we are to be His people and to share in making Him known to the world!

[1]George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus, the Christ, vol. 1 (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884), p. 366.

[2]BDAG, p. 111.

[3]Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, vol. 1, p. 430–431.

[4]Lewis Sperry Chafer, The Kingdom in History and Prophecy(Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1936), p. 72.

[5]A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man(Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015), p. 91.

[6]Ibid., p. 93.

[7]Eugene H. Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), p. 499.

Foundational Framework Part 70 - The Great Commission Part 1

Foundational Frameworks 70.png

If the crucifixion and resurrection serve as the message of the good news about Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit when He comes at Pentecost is the power that enables the believer to effectively share that message (John 16:7; Acts 2), then a methodology is needed for seeing this happen day in and day out. Thankfully, God has provided our marching orders in what is commonly known as the Great Commission.

Before diving in, we must consider the word “commission” since it has been almost unanimously attached to this section of Matthew’s Gospel. Looking for a definition, we find:

1.    the act of committing or entrusting a person, group, etc., with supervisory power or authority.

2.    an authoritative order, charge, or direction.

3.    authority granted for a particular action or function.

4.    a document granting such authority.[1]

To be commissioned, or to receive a commissioning, is to be entrusted with something, supplied with orders about what one has been entrusted with, and having a greater authority that now accompanies you because of the commissioning received. 

Every believer in Christ has been entrusted with a task that always lies before us, along with Divine orders which accompany that task, and the Divine authority placed upon us for the successful execution of that task. This is complete and without exception. So, what is this task?

Matthew 28:16-17.This scene is centered on the rendezvous point previously set forth in Galilee as was told to Mary Magdalene (Matt 26:32; 28:7, 10; Mark 14:28; 16:7). When we remember the Apostle Paul’s comments regarding Jesus’ appearance to “more than five hundred brethren at one time” from 1 Corinthians 15:6a, it would seem that he is alluding to this meeting in Galilee. We know that Jesus’ appearance to Paul (1 Cor 15:8; Acts 9:3-5) did not occur until well after the ascension of Christ, and the other two instances mentioned after the appearance to “more than five hundred brethren” in 1 Corinthians 15 are appearances to James and then to the eleven (1 Cor 15:7). This sequence allows for the mountain appearance in Galilee to include not just the eleven as mentioned in Matthew 28:16a, but also many more disciples totaling over five hundred in all. 

This understanding is significant because it bolsters the commissioning of Jesus Christ to believers beyond the apostles. One could read this verse and wrongly conclude that such a command was meant for only that place and time and that the eleven were “special people,” being unlike us today, therefore they alone have received this special commissioning. But any attempts at exemption would be unfounded. To be frank, and to also say this in love, the excuses that we often use to justify our disobedience to the written Word of God are nothing short of abhorrent before our holy God and Creator. Such inferior reasonings are put forth to assuageour consciences, putting out of our minds that we are rejecting the conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit. 

When this myriad of disciples came to the mountain and the Lord Jesus appeared to them, many worshiped Him (meaning “to prostrate oneself, to have adoration”) while others doubted (Matt 28:16-17). The word for “doubtful” here is distazōmeaning “to have doubts concerning something, doubt, waver” and “to be uncertain about taking a particular course of action, hesitate,”[2]and is used only one other time in Matthew 14:31 when speaking about Peter doubting the Lord once he was out on the water. It would seem that both definitions could be applied in this situation, with some of the brethren doubting that the Lord Jesus had been resurrected (which corresponds with the first definition), and this leading to a subsequent doubting of His commissioning to follow (corresponding with the second definition), though the first definition would be best suited as the intended meaning of the author.

Matthew 28:18-20.Every phrase that Jesus speaks is of the utmost importance and deserves our careful attention and complete understanding. Let us consider Jesus’ words.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and one earth,”(Matt 28:18b). Our first observation would be the emphatic entrusting of authority to Jesus Christ. “All” speaks to the totality and completeness of a thing. “All” is a key word in this passage, with four occurrences, with every one of them instilling confidence for the task being commissioned.  In having “all authority,” we understand that there is no bit of authority that has not been granted to Him in regards to the heavenly or earthly sphere.

The heavenly is that in which demons and angels war. As seen before, “Satan is the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), and the ruler of this world (John 14:30). The earthly realm is where we live now, and where Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8b). The demonic influence, the world system that Satan has orchestrated (Acts 26:18), and the lust and pride that exude from our fallen nature (1 John 2:16) would all be included.   

The first grand truth of this commissioning is Jesus’ place in the midst of all of this. It is one of “authority.” “He spoke as one already in heaven with a world-wide outlook and with the resources of heaven at his command.”[3]This authority stands as the promised power of the Lord Jesus Christ, being mentioned first in order to correctly set the stage for the commissioning that would follow. Had Jesus not said this (meaning that He did not have this authority), His Great Commission would be one that would only have the flesh serving as its power, and the power of the flesh is only toward sin (Jas 1:14-15), having no real power at all (John 6:63; Rom 8:8). Charles Stanley writes, “We can confidently bring the truth of Jesus to the world because we have Jesus’ divine authority to back it up. Our job is to be His faithful messengers; His job is to prosper His Word.”[4]

“Go therefore…”(Matt 28:19a). The word “go” is a passive aorist participle which is typically explained as conveying “not a command to go, but the assumption that the listener will automatically be going. In other words, the idea expressed is ‘as you are going.’”[5]Some may say, “As we are going about throughout life,” or, as the marginal note of the NASB reads, “having gone…” “Going” is commonly explained as the first of three participles (along with “baptizing” and “teaching”) used that constitutes what it is to “make disciples.”[6]

However, Greek grammarian Robert H. Mounce has considered this argument and disagrees. While the word “go” in Matthew 28:19a is, in fact, a participle, its function should not be interpreted as a noun, as would be a possibility in English grammar (commonly known as a gerund). He writes that the participle is “picking up the mood of the main verb. Since matheusate(“make disciples”) is an aorist active imperative, poreuthentesshould be translated ‘Go.’ Jesus’ instructions are proactive; we are to move out into the world, not simple [sic]make disciples when we happen to be there.”

He goes on to state that he “found that in the New Testament there are twenty-seven occasions where poreuthentesis followed by a main verb in the imperative mood. The result? In every case the participle should be translated as an imperative.”[7]From this, we can conclude that “make disciples” (as will be discussed in the next section) stands as the main imperative verb, but the participles of “go,” “baptize,” and “teaching” are all to be considered as imperatives that stem from the main verb.

Why does this matter? This understanding shows us the importance of each facet being listed. “Go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” are all carrying the mood of the imperative to “make disciples.” Each piece should be considered as a command with the same weight as “make disciples.” We ARE to “go,” we ARE to “baptize,” and we ARE to “teach,” because our lives, from the moment that we trusted in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, are to be lived in obedience to the task of making disciples that has been placed before us. This means that we are to be a people who have been called to intentional living. We are to do this by the power granted in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are to confidently move forward because the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ is never apart from us (Matt 28:20b).

The use of “therefore” points us back to the fact of “all authority” being given to Jesus. Jesus alone has been given all authority by the Father. No church, creed, theological system, or denomination has any power whatsoever. All of the power/authority necessary is that of the Lord Jesus, and only by His authority is there power to accomplish the task.

“make disciples of all nations…”(Matt 28:19b). With the phrase “make disciples” we have the main verb and plain imperative listed. To be clear, an imperative is a command, and this command is being issued in light of the authority given to Jesus. The word “disciple” is pathēteuō in the Greek which means “to cause one to be a pupil, teach,”[8]with the idea of giving many convincing proofs while also beseeching or begging people to follow Christ in greater understanding so that their lives are changed. For those who are unregenerate (lost), this, of necessity, implies that we are actively telling others about Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Again, this is the importance of intentional living.

As we move forward in this passage we will examine the “what” of making disciples, but the question that always overwhelms the believer’s mind is “how.” How do I make disciples? This is a legitimate question that is partially answered in the “what” of baptizing them in the name of the Trinity and teaching them what Jesus has commanded (Matt 28:19c-20a). But to give a larger view that answers the “how” question, we must always look to the sufficiency of the Word of God. We would do well to pay attention to verses like 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says,

 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

The Word of God equips the disciple so that “every good work” can be handled adequately.

We also find in 2 Peter 1:3 that, 

“…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

While the Holy Spirit is the power, the “true knowledge of Him” would be gained through the Word of God. 

These two passages alone give us the textbook from which the believer in Christ is to be discipled. While sound supplementary materials are helpful, they are no replacement for the Word of God, for it is the Word of God that is used by its Author, the Spirit of God, to enact change in the believer from the inside out, conforming each one of us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). 

A good summary verse for discipleship can be seen in Colossians 1:28 which says,

“We proclaim Him (Jesus Christ), admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”

“Teaching every man” would have its basis in God’s Word, for Christ is the subject of written revelation, being the One that we are proclaiming. Any admonishment that one would receive must come from a source greater than ourselves because we are in need of discipling as well. The goal of educating believer’s in God’s Word and calling upon the Holy Spirit to enact such truth in their lives is for thepurpose of presenting them as mature (“complete”) in Christ. We want God’s people to be walking with Him daily, depending upon Him everyday, because that is what God wants. We were not designed to be apart from Him. 

With “make disciples” we also see the second of four “all” statements with “all nations,” being the boundaries to which we are to “go” in making disciples. There is something to be said for local discipleship, and it should most certainly be occurring amongst every saint within the local church body. “All nations” calls for us to branch out to every people group. One cannot deny that the thrust of this passage calls for this process of making disciples to be stretched beyond comfortable walls. Every nation on Earth should have the opportunity to be discipled by the truths of God’s Word. “All nations” includes every nation, and every nation should be led to, and educated in, the Truth which is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

With “make disciples” being the imperative in this passage, the direction of the Christian is clear. “Any activity unrelated to or inconsistent with this assignment is, in terms of Jesus’ commission, a failure to carry it out.”[9]Thinking through what we understand of the Judgment Seat of Christ, it is no doubt that whether or not we were using our time to “make disciples” while on Earth will be a primary consideration for the Lord Jesus Christ. 

“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”(Matt 28:19c).

In this passage we have Jesus advocating the authority of the Godhead, also known as the Trinity. All three are included, with Jesus considering Himself equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. All three are God, being three in Persons, but One in essence. 

 “The order is that they have first become disciples through personal faith in Him, followed by baptism as their personal confession of their faith, and a pledge of discipleship as acknowledged members of the body of believers.”[10]This ordinance is the identification of the believer with Christ in His death and resurrection. Just as Jesus has died for sins, so the believer is publicly expressing that he or she has died to sin, and just as Christ was raised from the dead to a new life, a resurrected life, so too is the believer raised to a “newness of life” (Rom 6:4b). This identification is crucial, being an outward expression of what has already taken place in Christ. One can easily see the importance of this ordinance being explained to the believer so that they are mindful of all that Christ has done in giving them “new life” and their full accepted place as now being “in Him” because of Him and His sufficient work.

These are beautiful and necessary blessings for the disciple to understand and embrace! 

“teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”(Matt 28:20a). 

The third participle (which, again, takes on the mood of the imperative verb of “make disciples”) is the necessity of teaching. It should be noted that this teaching is unto a particular point: that the one being taught would become a regular observer of the things being taught to them. This helps us to understand that the idea of teaching goes beyond that of simply relaying information and then expecting them to “get to work.” If we follow the section on to the end, we would see that what is being taught to them are all the things which Jesus commanded. This holds the key! Jesus’ commands are meant to be followed, not simply understood. From this we can conclude that the one teaching Jesus’ commands to another must be “observing” those commands as well. This encourages the one beingdiscipled and creates an atmosphere of mutual edification between believers. 

It must be quickly noted that this is the third “all” statement. All that Jesus commanded must be taught. This command is clearly stated, and while we will momentarily see that some things are not applicable to the Church Age, it does not change the fact that those things should be taught, for all Scripture is God-breathed.

The word “observe” is tēreōmeaning “to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard,” “to cause a state, condition, or activity to continue, keep, hold, reserve, preserve,” “to persist in obedience, keep, observe, fulfill, pay attention to.”[11]Observing all that Christ has commanded is for the disciples to persistently retain, uphold, and obey what Christ has set forth as His orders to the disciples. From what we can understand about the Gospels, we know that there was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry when He no longer offered the kingdom to Israel and began looking forward to His death and resurrection (Matt 12). Thus, we would conclude that what Jesus has taught His disciples that does not relate to the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom as being presented to Israel in the first century should be consider as applicable teaching that has carried over into the Church Age. 

For instance, we know that Jesus’ teaching in John 13-16, with its emphasis on love and obedience, should be considered as valid commandments that hold for the church today. While there would certainly be a need to consider the progressive revelation of this section and the fact that the Holy Spirit would be indwelling them in Acts 2, we can certainly see that the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of a new dispensation does not negate the commands that Jesus is giving them. They would be the bedrock of the Church at itsbirth in Acts 2 at Pentecost in Jerusalem. These foundational commands would serve as the core of the teaching that would be threaded through every believer. It is Jesus’ teachings that should be considered as the main content (along with the Old Testament) when we are reading that “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42a). 

Another vital observation here is that we must understand that discipleship is relational. It involves being with other believers in Christ. If we were to define discipleship, we would say that it is life invested into life in order to cultivate Life in the here and now. It is one believer meeting with one (or more) believers for the purpose of encouraging the Abundant Life that Christ has provided to be the “hope and stay” of each of our lives. 

Earl Radmacher once wrote, “one of the greatest problems of evangelicalism today is that many Christians who are saved are not beingsaved, that is, they are not growing in Christ and dealing with sin in their lives. Many American Christians are in the spiritual nursery feeding on milk. We desperately need to get believers out of infancy and into the infantry.”[12]Discipleship combats the impoverished state of personal holiness that is saturating the fabric of today’s Christianity, saving us from the power of sin in our daily lives. Believers are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). This is the pursuit of holiness. 

Our lives have been redeemed, and we are declared righteous by God, but this does not mean that our conduct has become righteous. Any Christian that has been saved for five minutes can attest to this. The “renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2) happens through regular time in the Word of God, prayer, and mutual periods of fellowship, all of which take place in making disciples. For the sake of holiness, it is our responsibility to disciple and to be discipled so that we are“speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspectsinto Him who is the head, evenChrist, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:15-16). 

Christ is our Life and He wants to live His life through each one of us. Only that which He produces in our lives is pleasing to the Father. This can be seen clearly in a basic observation from a well-known verse regarding the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Notice that this is not your fruit. It is the Spirit’s fruit in your life. We have nothing to do with it. We simply set aside ourselves because of the acceptance of God’s Word as the only Truth in existence, and move forward trusting what God has said rather than what man has said, or how we feel. Yielding to God’s Word and allowing Christ to be our All in All is what brings about the Spirit’s fruit. This is living a life that we could not otherwise live because it is Christ living His life through us. These are the types of results that we should see in ongoing discipleship. 

For some of us, we know that we are supposed to make disciples, but many of us do not because we have believed that we don’t know how. No doubt that this is an honest reply, but it stems from a deceptive line of thinking. Many believe that they must be a well-seasoned teacher of the Bible, a rugged missionary with years of experience, or a seminary student on the brink of graduation. One’s personal specialization or gifting is not under consideration with this imperative to “make disciples.” This line of thinking has placed the question of obedience on whether or not one feels that they are qualified for the task rather than paying attention to what Jesus has commanded. This type of well-intentioned reply has SELF at the center, not Jesus Christ. This leads us to Jesus’ closing comments.

 “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age”(Matt 28:20b).

Tony Evans notes that beyond the eleven disciples, and the “more than five hundred brethren at one time” (1 Cor 15:6a), that there was a third group that met with the Lord Jesus on the mountain in Galilee, who were meeting there in spirit. “This includes all believers from that day until Jesus comes again. How do I know we are part of the Great Commission meeting? Because Jesus said His commission to make disciples is in effect ‘even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20), which hasn’t come yet. So the Lord’s instructions are for us too.”[13]Jesus’ encouragement of being with us until the end of the age means that He is ever-present during the Church Age. This is the second bookend in contrast to the power that His authority promises to the believer in Christ.

Read verse 18-20 again. Notice that the believer has two promises that bookend his or her four responsibilities.

A.   ALL AUHTORITY HAS BEEN GIVEN TO JESUS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH- v.18b; This is the promise of His power.

1.    GO- v.19a

2.    MAKE DISCIPLES- v.19b

3.    BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE TRINITY- v.19c

4.    TEACHING THEM PERSISTENTLY TO RETAIN, UPHOLD, AND OBEY WHAT CHRIST HAS SET FORTH- v.20a

A’.  HE IS WITH US ALWAYS, TO THE END OF THE AGE- v.20b; 
       This is the promise of His presence.

Do we believe this? Jesus is with us. Now. And will be until the Church is raptured. He is here, always available, and ever-welcoming our reliance on Him to make the difference in our lives as we disciple one another. This section contains the last “all” statement, being thatJesus is “always” with the believer. This is more than His attribute of being omnipresent. This speaks to the necessity of His presence in accomplishing the task of making disciples. All that we do is to be done in faith (Rom 14:23). This includes making disciples. Followers of Christ are not made in the power of the flesh. Only the power that Jesus supplies can complete this task so that it is approved by the Father. Fleshly methods are the devil’s tools. We must heed the Lord’s promises and be quick to hold them fast!

Are we making disciples?

If not, why not?

Jesus has commanded it, giving the promise of both His power and His presence in the process.

Personal inadequacy is an unacceptable excuse because leaves Jesus’ command undone, and makes the decision to obey based on us and not Him.

If you are not in a discipleship relationship, ask a dear beloved brother or sister today. Unite together for mutual encouragement and edification, reproof and correction, as only the Word of God can administer it. Look for the Holy Spirit to be your Guide and to “lead you into all truth” (John 16:13b).

Let us GO, and MAKE DISCIPLES, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Trinity, and TEACHING them to persistently retain, uphold, and obey what Christ has set forth in His Holy Word.

[1]“Commission,” Dictionary.com, [online], Accessed on 24 April 2019.

[2]BDAG, p. 252.

[3]A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament(Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Mt 28:18.

[4]Charles F. Stanley, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version(Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005), Mt 28:18–19.

[5]Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), p. 1963.

[6]See D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p. 595.

[7]Robert H. Mounce, “The Participle as Imperative (Monday with Mounce 12),” Zondervan Academic, [online] at https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/the-participle-as-imperative, Accessed on 24 April 2019.

[8]BDAG, p. 609. “It is important to avoid the implication of duress or force, that is to say, one should not translate ‘force them to be my disciples’ or ‘compel them to be my disciples.’ This might very well be implied in a literal translation of a causative such as ‘to make.’ In order to avoid a wrong implication of a causative, it may be important to use some such expression as ‘convince them to become my disciples’ or ‘urge them to be my disciples.’” -Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 470.

[9]D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16–20,” Bibliotheca Sacra149 (1992): 348.

[10]Hiebert, “An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16–20,”: 350.

[11]BDAG, p. 1002.

[12]Earl D. Radmacher, Understanding Christian Theology, ed. Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), p. 883–884.

[13]Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), p. 901.

Foundational Framework Part 69 - Evidences of the Resurrection

It has been said by many that the key component of the Christian Faith is the historical event of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. While the crucifixion provides the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world (John 1:29), the resurrection of Christ vindicates His death as being approved by God. For all of the accusations that Christ sustained both in His earthly life and while hanging on the cross, the very notion that He was raised from the dead and was appearing to many as proof served as the grounds that demanded their silence. Torrey once wrote, “The crucifixion loses its meaning without the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the death of Christ was only the heroic death of a noble martyr. With the resurrection, it is the atoning death of the Son of God. It shows that death to be of sufficient value to cover all our sins, for it was the sacrifice of the Son of God. In it we have an all-sufficient ground for knowing that the blackest sin is atoned for. Disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christian faith is vain.”

Foundtional Framework 68 - The Cross/Altar of Christ

Foundational Frameworks 68.png

The earthly life of Jesus Christ is nothing short of remarkable and we only have a fraction of all that He did and said as recorded in the Word of God. But we have no reason to feel short-changed, for what we have is more than enough Light. It proves His claims, vindicates His Person, leads men and women to salvation, and heartens the child of God to pursue Him in living a holy life. The fulfillment of prophecy alone in Jesus’ earthly life is enough to stagger the mind of the most educated man, seeing that the time gap between the foretelling of an event and the actual occurrence of the event in His earthly life is 400 years in the least to some 1500 years at the most. The following is a list of forty-five of the most significant messianic prophecies that were fulfilled during the first advent of Christ as recorded by Mark Hitchcock.

1.    He was born of a woman (see Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4).

2.    He was a descendant of Abraham (see Genesis 12:3, 7; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16).

3.    He was of the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:10; Hebrew 7:14; Revelation 5:5).

4.    He was of the house or family of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Luke 1:31-33; Romans 1:3).

5.    He was born of a virgin (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23)

6.    He was called Immanuel (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).

7.    He had a forerunner (see Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1; Mathew 3:1-3; Luke 1:76-78).

8.    He was born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5-6; Luke 2:4-6).

9.    He was worshipped by wise men and given gifts (see Psalm 72:10-11; Isaiah 60:3, 6, 9; Matthew 2:11).

10.  He was in Egypt for a season (see Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15).

11.  His birthplace was a place where infants were slaughtered (see Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18).

12.  He was zealous for the Father (see Psalm 69:9; John 2:17; John 6:37-40).

13.  He was filled with God’s Spirit (see Isaiah 11:2; Luke 4:18-19).

14.  He was a mighty healer (see Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1; Matthew 8:16-17).

15.  He ministered to the Gentiles (see Isaiah 9:1-2; 42:1-3; Matthew 4:13-16; 12:17-21).

16.  He spoke in parables (see Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:10-15).

17.  He was rejected by the Jewish people (see Psalm 69:8; Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11; 7:5).

18.  He made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (see Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4-5).

19.  He was praised by little children (see Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:16).

20.  He was the rejected cornerstone (see Psalm 118:22-23; Matthew 21:42).

21.  His miracles were not believed (see Isaiah 53:1; John 12:37-38).

22.  He was betrayed by His friend for thirty pieces of silver (see Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 25:14-16, 21-25).

23.  He was a Man of Sorrows (see Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 26:37-38).

24.  He was forsaken by His disciples (see Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 56).

25.  He was beaten and spit upon (see Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67; 27:26).

26.  His betrayal money was used to purchase a potter’s field (see Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10).

27.  He was executed by means of piercing His hands and feet (see Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34, 37).

28.  He was crucified between criminals (see Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38).

29.  He was given vinegar to drink (see Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34).

30.  His garments were divided, and soldiers gambled for them (see Psalm 22:18; Luke 23:34).

31.  He was surrounded and ridiculed by enemies (see Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:39-44).

32.  He was thirsty on the cross (see Psalm 22:15; John 19:28).

33.  He commended His spirit to the Father (see Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46).

34.  He uttered a forsaken cry on the cross (see Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46).

35.  He committed Himself to God (see Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46).

36.  He was hated without a cause (see Psalm 69:4; John 15:25).

37.  People shook their heads as they saw Him on the cross (see Psalm 109:25; Matthew 27:39).

38.  He was silent before His accusers (see Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12).

39.  His bones were not broken (see Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-36).

40.  He was stared at in death (see Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 27:36; John 19:37).

41.  He was buried with the rich (see Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60).

42.  He was raised from the dead (see Psalm 16:10; Matthew 28:2-7).

43.  He was and is a High Priest greater than Aaron (see Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:4-6).

44.  He ascended to glory (see Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8).

45.  He was and is seated at the right hand of the Father (see Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 10:12-13).[1]

In this list, we will quickly notice that #22-41 involve His betrayal, crucifixion, and death. One’s personal study of the above references would certainly be humbling and fruitful, yet it is what was accomplished IN the event of Jesus’ death that unifies the Scriptures and proclaims the heart of God for His fallen creation. 

In the cross, God is talking to mankind, displaying the atrocities of sin, the debt incurred, the payment demanded, and the necessary Provision graciously supplied. In every way, the cross of Jesus Christshould incite a sober sense of helplessness, an otherwise-untapped appreciation, and an instant swell of humility.

“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isa 45:22). It is with this verse that the whole process of the Foundational Framework began. It resonates straight from His heart, demonstraing the call of God Himself to the human race. We are often wandering, listless, and needy, yet wanting and scheming and lustful, all of which blind us from our bankrupt condition and separated status from the Almighty. 

God’s love for the world is still complete, unending, and unwavering despite our prideful justifications for our sin. The actual event of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ tells the story of God’s relationship with mankind in communicating a picture, a sacrifice, and a testimony. Herein lies the grand marker of all history and existence stretching to the farthest reaches of the universe. 

The cross is the centerpiece of all time, space, and existence. 
In the cross, God speaks.

A Picture

The prophet Isaiah writes, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa 53:4-6). 

The cross is a vivid and horrifying picture of our iniquity. We are told that He was chastened for our “well-being” (v.5b). This word means“completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.”[2]This line asserts the idea of substitution. The chastening of a child is for the correction of wrong done and for the future hope that their choices will be different. What would a father want more for their child than to live a peaceful, sound, and complete life? (See 1 Tim 2:1,2). This “chastening” fell upon Another, though it was to be administered in full force to us. Was it not OUR griefs (v.4a), OUR sorrows (v.4b), OUR transgressions (v.5a), OUR iniquities (v.5b), OUR going astray (v.6a), OUR turning to OUR own way (v.6b), and OUR iniquity (v.6c) that demands a recompense? And yet He steps into OUR place, receiving OUR punishment.  

The Savior was “struck down” (“smitten” in v.4d) by God with our transgressions being the cause for His judgment. The word “iniquity” in v.6 is translated consistently as such in the major English translations with the exception of the NLT, which uses “sins.” This Hebrew word encompasses the idea of guilt, and the punishment that is due for being guilty. 

God is righteous. No one can argue, for the basis of such an argument would need to supply a righteous standard than is greater than that of God Himself. No, God IS righteous, so we cannot presume that sins are simply passed over without Him taking notice.

Clearly, Isaiah is finding fault in those who have “gone astray” like sheep, having “turned to his own way” (v.6). Each of these descriptions point to the human propensity for selfish and sinful things. At the core, it is always a matter that originates in the heart, is fueled by our pride (ego), and seen in our daily living. Warren Wiersbe captures the thought in mind, writing “we are sinners by choiceand by nature. Like sheep, we are born with a nature that prompts us to go astray; and, like sheep, we foolishly decide to go our own way. By nature, we are born children of wrath (Eph. 2:3); and bychoice, we become children of disobedience (2:2).”[3]Whether in position or practice, we are emphatically stained with sinfulness.

This points us to an earlier truth depicted in the book of Leviticus.

In Leviticus 16, we find the requirements for Israel in offering an atonement for the sins of the people. While the whole chapter should be studied in great detail, some pertinent points in relation to the cross of Jesus Christ give us a greater comprehension of the picture of man’s sin that God was painting. In 16:2-3, we see that Aaron could not simply walk into the Holy of Holies without bringing what was required. Most significant is the bull that was needed to enter the presence of God (Lev 16:3, 6). This bull was sacrificed for the personal sins of the priest who would offer the sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the people. 

This fact is reinforced in Leviticus 16:11“Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself.” The need for Aaron’s atonement is mentioned twice in this verse, magnifying the sin of the priest and the need for atonement which would bring him back into a clean state before the Lord. While a thorough cleansing and a change of garments was also required to enter YHWH’s presence (Lev 16:4), it is the need for atonement that truly cleansed Aaron so that he could perform the necessary duties in bringing blood to the mercy seat for the atonement of the people. 

Sin is so thorough and so wretched that even the one serving as the intercessor, and making the offering for sins between YHWH and Israel, needed atonement. This is not so with Jesus. Hebrews 7:26-27tells us that “it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for allwhen He offered up Himself” (emphasis added). The sinlessness of Jesus makes Him a better priest who offers the necessary requirements for our atonement. 

In Leviticus 16:29there is a direct command as to when and how this “Day of Atonement” is to be observed. What is striking is the Lord’s pronouncement that “you shall humble your souls and not do any work.” This point is not simply about rest for the individual, but signifies that any work done would be in complete contradiction to the work that was being preformed on their behalf with the sacrifice of the lamb (Lev 16:9). YHWH understands man’s inherent propensity to justify himself, fix his own wrongs, and supply for his own needs. But when it comes to the matter of sin, which has greatly separated man from his Creator, God will have none of it. 

The works of man are not, and never will be, sufficient to atone for his sin. Robert Lightner captures this egotistical drive, writing “man has sought to make himself acceptable to God in a thousand different ways, but it still cannot be done. The ladder of human works is well-worn but too short. No man has or ever will reach God’s presence by climbing its rungs. Every such attempt, however small or large, is evidence that the condemned sinner does not really believe he stands condemned.”[4]

Did you catch that last part? The very idea that man can reconcile his relationship to God through “trying harder” or “doing better” is an admission that his condemnation before YHWH is merely partial or simply defective, rather than total and complete. 

At this point we must ask, “What does atonementmean?” The word “atonement” iskipperin Hebrew and would be most commonly understood today in relation to the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur being the “Day of Atonement.” Kipperis used 16 times in Leviticus 16 alone. It means “1. cover over, pacify, propitiate, 2. cover over, atone for sin, 3. cover over, atone for sin and persons by legal rites.”[5]
Notice that in each definition supplied, the concept of “cover over” is first, serving to remove the barrier that sin creates between God and man. 

Previously in Lesson 11, we saw a simple chart that helped us understand the facets of atonement. 

Substitution- Something living dies in place of the guilty party.
Propitiation- The offering satisfies the demands of a holy God.
Forgiveness- The debt has been met and is no longer an issue.

The picture painted before us in Scripture is that sin requires death and necessitates atonement so that man can stand in right relationship with YHWH God. This atonement was only found in the offering of another, for man can never atone for his own sin. 

A Sacrifice

In his book on the Tabernacle, M.R. DeHaan writes, “The altar is the Cross, the starting point of our experience of salvation.”[6]Many have viewed the cross as an execution device, and while it is very much that, there is something more taking place than just torture and death. The shedding of blood, Divine Blood, is being administered due to the sins of the world. The author of Hebrews tells us that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22b). This brings us back to the concept of atonement as stressed in Leviticus 16.

Why blood? What was significant about the necessity for blood in relation to sin? Again, this is a foundational truth first seen in Genesis 4:10where YHWH tells Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” In Genesis 9:4we find, “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood,” showing us that the life of a creature is found in the blood of a creature. In Leviticus 17:11we read, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” The Hebrew word for “life” is literally translated “soul,” which can be verified in all of the major passages that speak of one’s blood as being their “life” (See Deut 12:23). 

If we go further along to Leviticus 17:14, we read “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life.” DeWitt explains, “Since the blood is the literal vehicle of all life, whether animal or man, only it could adequately typify life, and give full meaning to God’s provision for the expiation of our sins, as well as the efficacy of Christ’s blood.”[7]Therefore, it is Christ’s perfect, law-abiding, God-honoring earthly life that is given as a sacrifice for the sins of the world; sins that He did not commit.

The conclusion may be that the demand for blood by a holy God is repulsive, abhorrent, and vile. But is this not what our sin is unto God? Nothing in sin is worthy, precious, or valuable. Nothing of sin is condoned. All sin is a personal offense to the Lord of glory, for it creates a thick-walled isolation between the Creator and His uniquely-designed creature. Thus, it is bright, red blood being presented before Him that demolishes the barriers that sin creates. We are told this fact in Ephesians 2:14-16. It states:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups (Jew and Gentile) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividingwall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two (Jew and Gentile) into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (emphasis added).

The blood of Jesus is the remedy for sin. Death, and this being the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, is the penalty for sin. It is the consequence for rebellion against God. D.L. Moody gives an illustration of the importance of this consequence:

“Suppose there was a law that man should not steal, but no penalty was attached to stealing; some man would have my pocketbook before dinner. If I threatened to have him arrested, he would snap his fingers in my face. He would not fear the law, if there was no penalty. It is not the law that people are afraid of; it is the penalty attached.

Do you suppose God has made a law without a penalty. What an absurd thing it would be! Now, the penalty for sin is death: ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ I must die, or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that, it doesn’t teach anything. And that is where the atonement of Jesus Christ comes in.”[8]

Atonement is truly a God-send, placing all of the deserved punishment on Another so that the guilty may be absolved of all wrongdoing.

A Testimony 

There is an inseparable link between the grace of God and the love of God. Both are what He is, and both are demonstrated in the cross. With the death of Jesus, we find an undeserved Provision (grace) anda visual depiction of the lengths to which God would go to reconcile His creatures to Himself.  

The manifestation of the Creator’s love for His creatures is shown in the death of Jesus Christ in place of the world, though they are fully culpable for their wrongdoing. This incredible transference (known as “imputation”) has been referenced through this series, and for each of these significant statements, we should ponder and worship the Most High God and His infinite mercy in providing a Savior for an ill-deserving people.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21).

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet 2:21-24).

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).

The cross of Jesus Christ is a testimony of God’s love for people even to the point of great personal cost. Jesus Christ is the substitute for our sins taking upon Himself the death that we all deserve. He loves us and He wants to be with us. Does that sink in? He loves you and me totally and sufficiently. 

Only the perfect life of His Son could overcome the separating effects that sin had caused in the Garden of Eden. And now God’s precious and costly gift in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ stands as the means of providing it freely to everyone who has ever lived, for every sin, including yours and mine, having been dismissed from our accounts permanently. Let’s turn to Jesus’ words on the cross.

Seconds before Jesus took His last breath, He was offered sour wine. Looking to John 19:28and seeing that this is a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21, Jesus took the wine. While He had refused a drink that acted as a sedative earlier (Matt 27:34), He now accepted this drink to quench His thirst so that He could declare that the debt incurred before God had been settle and satisfied. In John’s Gospel, we read, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). 

“It is finished.” This Greek word means, “to complete an activity or process, bring to an end, finish, complete,”[9]and was found to be the stamp of a satisfactory payment rendered on many sales receipts. It has been noted that the “perfect tense denotes the certainty of the fact.”[10]Some render this “paid in full,” having nothing left required or expected. No more lambs, no more blood, no more need or want. 

Jesus has finished the work that He was sent to do; to give His life, dying on the altar of the cross, as the Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29). 

We must remember, no one took His life from Him. No one forced their will against His and caused Him to submit to these unjust proceedings. Jesus tells us in John 10:17-18“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it  again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” This shows His willingness to die; His willingness to be the atonement on our behalf.

_______________________

In the cross, through the selfless giving of His Life, Jesus, God in the flesh, communicates:

A pictureof what the sin of mankind looks like in God’s eyes and the “covering” that we desperately needed;

A sacrificeof perfect blood that contains the very life of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, dying as our New Testament lamb;

A testimonyof the ever-abounding and unceasing love of God for His creatures, supplying the very means of rectifying all offenses that we have created. 

“In no way can the love of God be so clearly, beautifully and convincingly set forth as in the fact that God makes plain to the sinner his condition and peril, and then shows him the way of escape, having, in His great mercy, Himself provided it at infinite cost. Now, at this point the Gospel comes in as indeed good news, showing God’s love for the sinner.”[11]

[1]Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012), p. 31-33.

[2]Brown, Driver, Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 1022.

[3]Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), p. 138.

[4]Robert P. Lightner, Christ: His Cross, His Church, His Crown (Taos, NM: Dispensational Publishing House, 2018), p. 90.

[5]Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 497.

[6]M.R. DeHaan, The Tabernacle (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 9.

[7]Roy Lee DeWitt, Teaching from the Tabernacle(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), p. 126.

[8]D. L. Moody, Anecdotes, Incidents, and Illustrations(Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1898), p. 78–79.

[9]BDAG, p. 997.

[10]Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), p. 2121.

[11]Evangelist L. W. Munhall, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 161.

Foundational Frameworks Part 67 - The F-Train Part 3

This is a continuation of last weeks sermon and the notes are the same but they are included below.

Foundational Frameworks 67b.png

We have been physically born into a life that we cannot live because our only option in handling the problems of life is to do so sinfully. We must die to this life, and that is only possible by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are born into this world, we are dead to the things of God (Eph 2:1-2). But God makes us alive to Him at the moment that we believe in Jesus (Eph 2:5). This means that we have, in turn, died to sin, and have been raised to a newness of life.

The believer in Jesus Christ is placed “in Christ” at the moment of faith. This establishes the believer with a new identity, being a new creation, and now having a glorious standing of righteousness before a holy God. Jesus’ perfect provision is our distinct privilege.

Do we reallybelieve this? Our answer is predicated on our belief in the truthfulness of God’s Word, for in it are the factsof all history, seen and unseen, natural and supernatural, past, present, and future. 

Reality finds its meaning and purpose only in God’s holy Word.

Why are we Missing the Power to Live the Christian Life?

For many, Scripture seems disconnected from the “reality” of our modern age causing us to reluctantly dismiss the biblical record of the Holy Spirit’s work as borderline fiction. Such unbelief in the Bible’s accuracy has robbed us of the Spirit’s power in our lives. If we are not believing in what God has already said, why would we believe that He would work gloriously among us? When we render the Word of theLord as being mundane and ordinary, the Lord passes us by, just as He did in Nazareth. We are told haunting words by Matthew, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt 13:58). However, the Spirit’s power has been freely given to all who believe in Christ being freely available in abundance, and yet it lies dormant because of our unbelief, and more particularly our unbelief regarding what God has said in His holy Word. 

The believer in Christ is already “in Christ!” Thus, our position before God is one that is established in victory because Christ is victorious over sin, death, and the grave. His win is the provision for our lives to “win” also. Van Gelderen explains, “As children of God, Christ is living in each of us right now… Faith turns what is true provisionally into experience practically. We simply must choose to depend on the reality of the words declared by God in order to access the benefit of what God says is so.”[1]

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Believing His Word, moment by moment, is what it means to “abide,” and abiding in Christ is the answer to our power problem. Jesus references His own abiding in the Father in John 15:10. He tells His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just asI have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (emphasis added). Just as Jesus’ life was a model of constant obedience to the Father, so our lives in abiding in Christ must be one of constant obedience to Him. This is not a “do more, try harder” approach, but a “trust Him fully” way of thinking. No one obeys a command without believing it to be true. So it is with the relationship of “believing” and “obeying” in the Christian Life. This means that His Word is paramount and there are no worthy competitors. With His Word being our chiefconviction, we find our lives full of the Spirit’s power because all has come under submission to His will.[2]

R.A. Torrey brings understanding to Jesus’ words regarding the power that is available when the believer is abiding in Christ. He writes, “If we are to obtain from God all that we ask from Him, Christ’s words must abide or continue in us. We must study His words, fairly devour His words, let them sink into our thought and into our heart, keep them in our memory, obey them constantly in our life, let them shape and mold our daily life and our every act.

This is really the method of abiding in Christ. It is through His words that Jesus imparts Himself to us. The words He speaks unto us, they are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we meditate much upon the words of Christ, and let them sink deep and find a permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in their neglect of the words of Christ.”[3]

Image 3-24-19 at 8.32 AM.jpg

Power in the Christian Life is NEVER our power, but the power of the Spirit flowing through us because we are in full dependency of the  Word of the indwelling Christ. We must well-remember that Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, and this Person operates and is who He is in complete consistency with His Word. This is a sound and consistent factto rest ourselves upon.

Factshave power, and those facts are found ONLY in God’s Word. When we speak of facts, we are speaking of authority. Understanding this, every situation, decision, and concern must have an authority in place. Therefore, it must be brought to the Word of God. It is the engine that provides the power for the F-Train to move forward. The remaining cars of faithand feelingshave no real power. Therefore,they only lead in wrong directions and to wrong responses. Their proper place is in submission to the authority (facts), for only the authority has power.

Sadly, there are many instances in life where God’s Word is not the authority. This finds the other cars of faithand feelingscompeting for the lead position, and in turn, stalling all progression and growth in the Christian Life. Let’s look at the problems that are created when God’s Truth is removed from the forefront of our lives.

When “Faith” is the Lead Car

This is a particularly sensitive area for many people because it strikes at the core convictions that one holds dear. Some have “grown up this way,” or “that’s just the way we do it,” or “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.” You get the picture. Using the above rationales are really a defense mechanism to excuse sin. Some of the common phrases that are identifiers of this are:

·      I believe…

·      I think…

·      You ought to…

·      You shouldn’t…

·      Well, everybody does/believes/etc.

·      Well, they say… (who are “they”?)

All of these have one thing in common: they are rooted in man’s opinion, having no foundation for their assertions, stemming from the biased minds and corrupted hearts of created, fallen beings. Each statement makes a man-centered assumption about how life should be or how situations and relationships should be handled, but fall seriously short when asked to provide a greater reason for these convictions other than, “Well, that’s just what I think ought to happen.” Life’s decisions should not be based on shaky ground.

Only God is True. Only God is Eternal. Only God is the Creator. Therefore, His commentary and interpretation of existence, as foundin the Bible, is the final authority, telling us the Truth (facts) about everything.

Though the person is obviously “believing” in something (faith), the object of their belief is not the Word of God. Therefore, it is considered unbelief, regardless of motives or heartfelt sincerity.

Paul stresses the maturity that comes from a church body that is benefiting from the implementation of the Word of God as they are being taught it. He writes, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). The “trickery of men” and “deceitful scheming” are the false convictions (faith) that stem from a sinful mindset. The Word of God must be at the forefront if we are to think correctly about life, existence, relationships, eternity, etc.

“I’m Religious”

Many people portray a sincere “faith” and they communicate this by stating, “I’m religious,” “well, my faith is my own,” or something like “you believe in your god and I will believe in mine.” Another favorite is, “I think that god would…” In each of these statements their convictions about deity are revealed, demonstrating a god who has been fashioned according to their personal expectations. The very idea of deity has been diluted seeing that man is really in control. This is exactly the type of deity that the human race clamors after… one that can do or not do, be or not be, everything that the person who worships it wishes that it would do or not do, be or not be. Who is REALLY superior in this relationship?

The self-serving nature of such diminished faithhas shown itself in all religions, being nothing new. Looking at Acts 17:22-27, we find Paul’s words to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Mars Hill. He notes that they are “very religious” (17:22). Faithis not their problem. They very much believe in a whole lot of gods, beings, and deities (17:16b). But as stated before, because their belief was not placed in the Wordof God, it is actually unbelief. Paul also notes one altar that was “to an unknown god” (17:23). Notice that this was a place of “worship” (feeling) that had an ascribed object as its focus (“an unknown god”) who is without identity or substance, having no foundation (unlike the factsof God’s Word). Yet, they were “very religious” (faith). 

How does Paul correct the F-TRAINof the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers?

Paul tells them the facts. Follow the train of thought (no pun intended): 1. God made the world (17:24a). He is the Creator of all things. 2. He is the “Lord (Master) of heaven and earth” (17:24b) who is beyond temples, structures, and altars (17:24c). 3. He is not served with human hands because He is self-sufficient and is in need of nothing (17:25a). 4. He is the one who gives the human race life and breath. He is the Life-Source (17:25b). 5. God created them, and every man who has ever lived (17:26a), and He alone determines the when and where of their existence (17:26b) so that every person would know Him personally (17:27). 

Paul gave these “very religious” people an engine (facts) to get their F-TRAIN moving. He immediately identified the problem that Athens was facing. They had faith, though it was faithin the wrong object (unbelief), and by worshiping these “unknown” gods and having an air of superiority (Acts 17:21), they had feelings(worship) that were being dictated by their misdirected faith/unbelief. What they needed was something worth believing in; something sure and certain; something worthy of devotion. So, Paul introduces to them their Creator (facts) so that they can believe in Him (faith) and worship (feelings) the right and true Object. 

It is essential for faithto always be found in the facts, for faithwill always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it. “Worship” (literally “worth-ship”) ascribes value to an object. If you are enthralled with a celebrity, it is because you believe (faith)that they have done well and you are ascribing a higher value to them. The feelingthat proceeds out from that conviction (faith)is elation, pride,or what have you, because worth has been ascribed to this object. Faith will always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it.

Misplacingfaith in something other than God’s Word leads to worship being ascribed to something other than God. This is the fabrication of idolatry in the heart, leaving one’s affections unchecked with trust and worth being issued to an object of complete inferiority. All things are less than God. Jeremiah the prophet exclaims, “There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might” (Jer 10:6).

Identity Crisis

One of the greatest cries among this current generation is “Who am I?” This question is a result of banning the Creator God from the education of children, and thus banning His given purpose for our identities. Today we are seeing a flesh-led quest for identity in YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., as well as the gay, lesbian, and transgender movement. Shock and awe are the calling cards of the culture and conformity is demanded in the name of originality (notice the contradictions that these worldviews create).

It was obvious that the Spirit wanted us to know our identities up front. Only twenty-six verses into the first chapter of the Bible we read, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen 1:26-28).

With His Word, God established the unchanging factof our identity. Every person is made in His likeness and in His image. This Truth holds great weight and significance, showing the Creator to be full of care and creating us for a purpose. Yet, our nation’s suicide rate among young people is skyrocketing. Could it be that the quest for “Who am I?” has already been answered by God, but the problem is that many are led to believe (faith) something else, leading to feelingsof inferiority, insignificance, and marginalization?

This is a factthat is true for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. For the believer, they have an extra advantage, with the Holy Spirit residing in them and leading them into all Truth (facts- John 16:13). These factskeep us grounded in trying times, for we have the risen Lord hiding us with Himself in the Father (Col 3:3). The believer has died to this life of sin and has been raised to a newness of life, being given a new identity by being “in Christ!” How helpful this is in such confusing and trying times. Handley Moule captures this, writing, “In temptation, in spiritual languor and decline, in care and perplexity and toil, let me draw upon the fact – not the feeling but the fact – of ‘Christ in me.’”[4]

When “Feelings” are the Lead Car

The idea that “feelings” can be the lead car are more of an excuse than a reality. What is meant by this is that all feelingsare actually a result of what it is that we are truly believing (faith), or what we are valuing as the “most true” concept at any given time. By believing something other than God’s Word, we have settled for a lesser truth that is really no truth at all because it is not God’s Truth (facts). 

In a situation where a heinous crime is committed because of someone’s reaction to something that they were surprised with, we may describe such rash actions as a “blind rage” (feelings). However, if the police believe that the person had pondered this crime for some time before committing it, they would call this “premeditated,” meaning that they had been believing (faith) this to be the right response for some time.We often phrase the reasons for our beliefs about something as “well, I feelthat…” when feelings are actually the result of our faithin a matter. When a reason is asked for why we did something wrong, we usually respond with a feelingsanswer: “I felt like I had to…” Many times, we find that the only way that we can express ourselves is in terms of feelings.

It would seem that the three most prominent feelingsthat we are faced with are doubt, anger, and revenge.

Doubt

InMatthew 11:2-6, we return to the moment where John the Baptist struggled with doubts (feelings) about Jesus being the Promised Messiah. Though he himself had been His forerunner, John’s present situation made his susceptible to doubts (feelings), finding himself in a prison at the order of King Herod, all because he stood up for the truth (facts). “Are You the Expected One,” he asked through his disciples, “or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:3). John’s feelingsabout his current situation had taken the place of the lead car, causing unbelief (faith) in who Jesus is. When we find ourselves in difficult situations, and especially in situations that are going to go on for some time, we may be tempted to lose faithin the facts

As a model example, Jesus does not scold John for his doubt (feelings), but turns his attention to the factsof Scripture: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt 11:5). All of this was happening in John’s day, yet, knowing the Scriptures, John would have understood that the prophecies of the Messiah as told by Isaiah were being fulfilled (Isa 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). Therefore, Jesus was placing the facts at the front of the conversation so that John would have faithin them, and in light of this new stability, his feelingswould change.

Assurance

This is true for those Christians who are struggling with an assurance of salvation. Whether it is where they are in life, their past sins creeping up to beat them down, or some ongoing sin in their lives that they just can’t shake, many Christians, who are eternally secure in Christ, frequently doubt their salvation. They feellike they are not saved. 

Because they are not willing to conclude that they are lost shows that they are not fully buying in (faith) to the idea, but they are struggling, nonetheless. In this case, feelingsare leading the train, faith is being placed in those feelings, which will ultimately cause a reinterpretation of the facts, concluding in something like “Jesus will only keep me saved if I am a good person who only commits little sins.” By letting their feelingstake the lead car, and by believing those feelingsas truth, the F-TRAINis now traveling backwards with the factsbeing reinterpreted by their feelings

Is this factual? What does the Truth (facts) say about this matter?

There are many verses and whole passages that could be cited that speak to the eternal, forever security of the believer in Christ, but we will only choose two, and with minimal elaboration. First, Romans 8:38-39states, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, not even ourselves, can separate us from the love of God. This is a fact; a Truth with power to propel us forward if we would only believe (faith) what God is telling us. If we do, we will not just feelsaved, we will feelblessed!

Another good passage that needs little explanation is 2 Timothy 2:13. It reads, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” The word “faithless” here actually means, “to have nobelief, disbelieve.”[5]This means that even if we are unbelieving in our lives, the Lord remains faithful to His promise of eternal life to us. Lea and Griffin explain this writing, “Paul was asserting that despite human unfaithfulness God’s saving purpose has not retreated. Timothy and all those with him were to continue their endurance that they might experience God’s blessing. Paul did not state these words to open the door to apostasy and disobedience but to soothe a troubled conscience and to provide encouragement to return to God.”[6]God is always faithful to His promises (facts) and He has promised us eternal life.

Anger

Anger is a big one! Everyone struggles with getting mad, and sometimes at the littlest things. However, being angry is not the real issue. As stated above, anger is the result (feeling) of a conviction (faith) that we are holding tightly. For those who seem to have a habitual problem with anger, their ultimate issue is the need to have control in situations. This is derived from a pride problem that believes (faith) that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Only their way is the correct way, and everyone else is “ignorant, stupid, uneducated,” or “means well, but they really don’t know what they are talking about.” This is pride, and when pride does not get its way, and a situation is not able to be controlled in the manner that “we think” (faith) it should be controlled, we get angry (feeling).

Pride is the exact same sin that the devil had/has (Isa 14:13-14). It is a natural conclusion to see that this should have no part in us. Pride asserts one’s rights and fosters entitlement (faith). We feellike we deserve something or should be listened to because of who we are or what we have done, but these are really the convictions that we hold dear (faith). None of this is acceptable before the eyes of the Father. 

Instead, we are to humble ourselves before Him. How do we correct the problem of our cars getting out of order when it comes to anger?

James 1:19b-20states, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Being rash (feelings) never works. What we should seek in every situation is for God’s righteousness to shine forth and be the center of attention. Only He is right (facts), we are not. Our anger (feelings) will not accomplish His righteousness in any situation. Therefore, anger must be abandoned as a suitable option in handling conflict. By holding fast to this Truth (fact) and believing (faith) that it is in fact true, our feelingswill come to a place of humility knowing that it is possible for God’s righteousness to be displayed in every trial. This is not a “maybe” situation, but a certainty that rests upon our submission to His Word (facts). Will He not do what He has said?

Biblically speaking, it is not wrong to be angry if you are angry about the right things. Ephesians 4:26-27says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” You can be angry about something and not sin. But the way to allow for anger to become sin is if you are not dealing with it properly. If it is prolonged, the devil will grab a foothold in your life. Being angry because of the abortion problem in the United States is a real and right reason to be angry. Being angry because you were lied to is a legitimate reason because truth (facts) has been bypassed for falsehood. But each of these situations needs to be addressed in the heart and brought before the Lord. They are not to fester and grow to an unhealthy dynamic. You see, feelingsare not bad when they are properly placed at the end of the train because of the faiththat you are exercising in the Truth of God’s Word (facts).

Revenge

We’ve all been there. When someone has wronged us, they need to pay! So, we devise ways in our mind that they are going to pay, how we wish to see them pay, or how we are going to make them pay(feelings). The factis, we have been wronged and we will not allow ourselves to be treated in such a horrible fashion (feelings). So, obviously revenge is the best option… or is it?

In Romans 12:19, Paul writes, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” This is Truth (fact). We may feeldisenfranchised in some way, but we must remember that the Lord knows all things and that He will bring all situations to justice. By claiming (faith) this Truth (fact), we can now rest (feeling) in God’s care, knowing that He will take care of what or who has wronged us with much greater precision than we would ever be able to muster in our sinful flesh.

______________________________________

Q: Do you believe what God has said about who you are, your current situation, the choices that you are making, or the handling of your future? If not, why not? 

Q: Where did God get it wrong? Where has His Word misspoken? How has He failed you in the past convincing you that you cannot trust Him anymore? 

Such questions should expose the root of the real reason why we are not trusting what He has already said in His Word. We are either convinced that there is a greater truth than what He has said about a particular matter (faith)or we know that His Word will keep us from the excitingly sinful situation that our flesh wants to participate in (feelings). Such conclusions dismiss the factsaltogether, exchanging God’s revealed Word for our sinful desires. 

___________________________________

It is possible to abide in Christ. We can experience the fullness of who He is because He is in us. In looking to Him as the Truth, and therefore looking to God’s Word as given through Him, we are submitted to His facts. He is so much more than many of us initially think or believe. 

Let’s close by illustrating this with a personal account of this grand realization. Charles Trumbull (1872-1941) was the editor of the Sunday School Times periodical. He was a committed and devout man, constantly championing the cause of Christ for some twenty years before He fully grasped the significance of Christ in him. He obviously knew the Word and all that it taught of Christ and the Christian Life, but he came to realize that he was not confidently convinced of what it was actually saying to him about the nature of Christ’s Life in relationship to his person. 

In the profound little booklet The Life That Wins, we find his personal testimony in coming to this profound realization. He writes, “I had always known that Christ was my Savior, but I had looked upon Him as an external Savior, one who did a saving work forme from outside, as it were; one who was ready to come close alongside and stay by me, helping me in all that I needed, giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I knew something better than that. At last I realized that Jesus Christ was actually and literally withinme and that He had constituted Himself my very life, taking me into union with Himself- my body, mind, and spirit- while I still had my own identity and free will and full moral responsibility. Was not this better than having Him as a helper or even than having Him as an external Savior? To have him, Jesus Christ, God the Son, as my own very life. It meant that I need never again ask Him to help me as though He were one and I another, but rather simply to do His work, His will in me and with me and through me. My body was His, my mind His, my will His, my spirit His- and not merely His but literally a part of Him. What He asked me to recognize was that ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.’ Jesus Christ had constituted Himself my life- not as a figure of speech, remember, but as a literal, actual fact, as literal as the fact that a certain tree has been made into this desk on which my hand rests. For ‘your bodies are members of Christ,’ and ‘ye are the body of Christ.’”[7]

The F-TRAINis a simple illustration that points to this greater truth. Christ, the Word of God, is telling us the Truth (facts) about life, reality, and Himself. His Word is giving us the answers, the factsabout every situation. By believing (faith) upon what He has already told us, we find heights previously unknown and provision much deeper than first assumed. How can humility and gratitude (feelings) not be the result of such amazing grace? “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11b). To live our lives in the light of His Truth (facts) is to have Him live His Life through us. This is most certainly a Life worth living!


[1]John Van Gelderen, Experiencing Jesus: Personal Revival Through the Spirit-Filled Life(Ann Arbor, MI: Revival Focus, 2017), p. 105-106.

[2]See H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 65-71.

[3]Reuben Archer Torrey, How to Pray(Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company, 1900), p. 71–72.

[4]H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 54.

[5]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 57.

[6]Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p. 211.

[7]Charles G. Trumbull, The Life That Wins(Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2015), p. 20-21.

Foundational Framework 67 - The F-Train Part 2

Foundational Frameworks 67.png

We have been physically born into a life that we cannot live because our only option in handling the problems of life is to do so sinfully. We must die to this life, and that is only possible by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are born into this world, we are dead to the things of God (Eph 2:1-2). But God makes us alive to Him at the moment that we believe in Jesus (Eph 2:5). This means that we have, in turn, died to sin, and have been raised to a newness of life.

The believer in Jesus Christ is placed “in Christ” at the moment of faith. This establishes the believer with a new identity, being a new creation, and now having a glorious standing of righteousness before a holy God. Jesus’ perfect provision is our distinct privilege.

Do we reallybelieve this? Our answer is predicated on our belief in the truthfulness of God’s Word, for in it are the factsof all history, seen and unseen, natural and supernatural, past, present, and future. 

Reality finds its meaning and purpose only in God’s holy Word.

Why are we Missing the Power to Live the Christian Life?

For many, Scripture seems disconnected from the “reality” of our modern age causing us to reluctantly dismiss the biblical record of the Holy Spirit’s work as borderline fiction. Such unbelief in the Bible’s accuracy has robbed us of the Spirit’s power in our lives. If we are not believing in what God has already said, why would we believe that He would work gloriously among us? When we render the Word of theLord as being mundane and ordinary, the Lord passes us by, just as He did in Nazareth. We are told haunting words by Matthew, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt 13:58). However, the Spirit’s power has been freely given to all who believe in Christ being freely available in abundance, and yet it lies dormant because of our unbelief, and more particularly our unbelief regarding what God has said in His holy Word. 

The believer in Christ is already “in Christ!” Thus, our position before God is one that is established in victory because Christ is victorious over sin, death, and the grave. His win is the provision for our lives to “win” also. Van Gelderen explains, “As children of God, Christ is living in each of us right now… Faith turns what is true provisionally into experience practically. We simply must choose to depend on the reality of the words declared by God in order to access the benefit of what God says is so.”[1]

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Believing His Word, moment by moment, is what it means to “abide,” and abiding in Christ is the answer to our power problem. Jesus references His own abiding in the Father in John 15:10. He tells His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just asI have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (emphasis added). Just as Jesus’ life was a model of constant obedience to the Father, so our lives in abiding in Christ must be one of constant obedience to Him. This is not a “do more, try harder” approach, but a “trust Him fully” way of thinking. No one obeys a command without believing it to be true. So it is with the relationship of “believing” and “obeying” in the Christian Life. This means that His Word is paramount and there are no worthy competitors. With His Word being our chiefconviction, we find our lives full of the Spirit’s power because all has come under submission to His will.[2]

R.A. Torrey brings understanding to Jesus’ words regarding the power that is available when the believer is abiding in Christ. He writes, “If we are to obtain from God all that we ask from Him, Christ’s words must abide or continue in us. We must study His words, fairly devour His words, let them sink into our thought and into our heart, keep them in our memory, obey them constantly in our life, let them shape and mold our daily life and our every act.

This is really the method of abiding in Christ. It is through His words that Jesus imparts Himself to us. The words He speaks unto us, they are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we meditate much upon the words of Christ, and let them sink deep and find a permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in their neglect of the words of Christ.”[3]

Power in the Christian Life is NEVER our power, but the power of the Spirit flowing through us because we are in full dependency of the  Word of the indwelling Christ. We must well-remember that Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, and this Person operates and is who He is in complete consistency with His Word. This is a sound and consistent fact to rest ourselves upon.

Image 3-24-19 at 8.32 AM.jpg

Facts have power, and those facts are found ONLY in God’s Word. When we speak of facts, we are speaking of authority. Understanding this, every situation, decision, and concern must have an authority in place. Therefore, it must be brought to the Word of God. It is the engine that provides the power for the F-Train to move forward. The remaining cars of faithand feelingshave no real power. Therefore,they only lead in wrong directions and to wrong responses. Their proper place is in submission to the authority (facts), for only the authority has power.

Sadly, there are many instances in life where God’s Word is not the authority. This finds the other cars of faithand feelingscompeting for the lead position, and in turn, stalling all progression and growth in the Christian Life. Let’s look at the problems that are created when God’s Truth is removed from the forefront of our lives.

When “Faith” is the Lead Car

This is a particularly sensitive area for many people because it strikes at the core convictions that one holds dear. Some have “grown up this way,” or “that’s just the way we do it,” or “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.” You get the picture. Using the above rationales are really a defense mechanism to excuse sin. Some of the common phrases that are identifiers of this are:

·      I believe…

·      I think…

·      You ought to…

·      You shouldn’t…

·      Well, everybody does/believes/etc.

·      Well, they say… (who are “they”?)

All of these have one thing in common: they are rooted in man’s opinion, having no foundation for their assertions, stemming from the biased minds and corrupted hearts of created, fallen beings. Each statement makes a man-centered assumption about how life should be or how situations and relationships should be handled, but fall seriously short when asked to provide a greater reason for these convictions other than, “Well, that’s just what I think ought to happen.” Life’s decisions should not be based on shaky ground.

Only God is True. Only God is Eternal. Only God is the Creator. Therefore, His commentary and interpretation of existence, as foundin the Bible, is the final authority, telling us the Truth (facts) about everything.

Though the person is obviously “believing” in something (faith), the object of their belief is not the Word of God. Therefore, it is considered unbelief, regardless of motives or heartfelt sincerity.

Paul stresses the maturity that comes from a church body that is benefiting from the implementation of the Word of God as they are being taught it. He writes, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). The “trickery of men” and “deceitful scheming” are the false convictions (faith) that stem from a sinful mindset. The Word of God must be at the forefront if we are to think correctly about life, existence, relationships, eternity, etc.

“I’m Religious”

Many people portray a sincere “faith” and they communicate this by stating, “I’m religious,” “well, my faith is my own,” or something like “you believe in your god and I will believe in mine.” Another favorite is, “I think that god would…” In each of these statements their convictions about deity are revealed, demonstrating a god who has been fashioned according to their personal expectations. The very idea of deity has been diluted seeing that man is really in control. This is exactly the type of deity that the human race clamors after… one that can do or not do, be or not be, everything that the person who worships it wishes that it would do or not do, be or not be. Who is REALLY superior in this relationship?

The self-serving nature of such diminished faithhas shown itself in all religions, being nothing new. Looking at Acts 17:22-27, we find Paul’s words to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Mars Hill. He notes that they are “very religious” (17:22). Faithis not their problem. They very much believe in a whole lot of gods, beings, and deities (17:16b). But as stated before, because their belief was not placed in the Wordof God, it is actually unbelief. Paul also notes one altar that was “to an unknown god” (17:23). Notice that this was a place of “worship” (feeling) that had an ascribed object as its focus (“an unknown god”) who is without identity or substance, having no foundation (unlike the factsof God’s Word). Yet, they were “very religious” (faith). 

How does Paul correct the F-TRAINof the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers?

Paul tells them the facts. Follow the train of thought (no pun intended): 1. God made the world (17:24a). He is the Creator of all things. 2. He is the “Lord (Master) of heaven and earth” (17:24b) who is beyond temples, structures, and altars (17:24c). 3. He is not served with human hands because He is self-sufficient and is in need of nothing (17:25a). 4. He is the one who gives the human race life and breath. He is the Life-Source (17:25b). 5. God created them, and every man who has ever lived (17:26a), and He alone determines the when and where of their existence (17:26b) so that every person would know Him personally (17:27). 

Paul gave these “very religious” people an engine (facts) to get their F-TRAIN moving. He immediately identified the problem that Athens was facing. They had faith, though it was faithin the wrong object (unbelief), and by worshiping these “unknown” gods and having an air of superiority (Acts 17:21), they had feelings(worship) that were being dictated by their misdirected faith/unbelief. What they needed was something worth believing in; something sure and certain; something worthy of devotion. So, Paul introduces to them their Creator (facts) so that they can believe in Him (faith) and worship (feelings) the right and true Object. 

It is essential for faithto always be found in the facts, for faithwill always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it. “Worship” (literally “worth-ship”) ascribes value to an object. If you are enthralled with a celebrity, it is because you believe (faith)that they have done well and you are ascribing a higher value to them. The feelingthat proceeds out from that conviction (faith)is elation, pride,or what have you, because worth has been ascribed to this object. Faith will always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it.

Misplacingfaith in something other than God’s Word leads to worship being ascribed to something other than God. This is the fabrication of idolatry in the heart, leaving one’s affections unchecked with trust and worth being issued to an object of complete inferiority. All things are less than God. Jeremiah the prophet exclaims, “There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might” (Jer 10:6).

Identity Crisis

One of the greatest cries among this current generation is “Who am I?” This question is a result of banning the Creator God from the education of children, and thus banning His given purpose for our identities. Today we are seeing a flesh-led quest for identity in YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., as well as the gay, lesbian, and transgender movement. Shock and awe are the calling cards of the culture and conformity is demanded in the name of originality (notice the contradictions that these worldviews create).

It was obvious that the Spirit wanted us to know our identities up front. Only twenty-six verses into the first chapter of the Bible we read, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen 1:26-28).

With His Word, God established the unchanging factof our identity. Every person is made in His likeness and in His image. This Truth holds great weight and significance, showing the Creator to be full of care and creating us for a purpose. Yet, our nation’s suicide rate among young people is skyrocketing. Could it be that the quest for “Who am I?” has already been answered by God, but the problem is that many are led to believe (faith) something else, leading to feelingsof inferiority, insignificance, and marginalization?

This is a factthat is true for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. For the believer, they have an extra advantage, with the Holy Spirit residing in them and leading them into all Truth (facts- John 16:13). These factskeep us grounded in trying times, for we have the risen Lord hiding us with Himself in the Father (Col 3:3). The believer has died to this life of sin and has been raised to a newness of life, being given a new identity by being “in Christ!” How helpful this is in such confusing and trying times. Handley Moule captures this, writing, “In temptation, in spiritual languor and decline, in care and perplexity and toil, let me draw upon the fact – not the feeling but the fact – of ‘Christ in me.’”[4]

When “Feelings” are the Lead Car

The idea that “feelings” can be the lead car are more of an excuse than a reality. What is meant by this is that all feelingsare actually a result of what it is that we are truly believing (faith), or what we are valuing as the “most true” concept at any given time. By believing something other than God’s Word, we have settled for a lesser truth that is really no truth at all because it is not God’s Truth (facts). 

In a situation where a heinous crime is committed because of someone’s reaction to something that they were surprised with, we may describe such rash actions as a “blind rage” (feelings). However, if the police believe that the person had pondered this crime for some time before committing it, they would call this “premeditated,” meaning that they had been believing (faith) this to be the right response for some time.We often phrase the reasons for our beliefs about something as “well, I feelthat…” when feelings are actually the result of our faithin a matter. When a reason is asked for why we did something wrong, we usually respond with a feelingsanswer: “I felt like I had to…” Many times, we find that the only way that we can express ourselves is in terms of feelings.

It would seem that the three most prominent feelingsthat we are faced with are doubt, anger, and revenge.

Doubt

InMatthew 11:2-6, we return to the moment where John the Baptist struggled with doubts (feelings) about Jesus being the Promised Messiah. Though he himself had been His forerunner, John’s present situation made his susceptible to doubts (feelings), finding himself in a prison at the order of King Herod, all because he stood up for the truth (facts). “Are You the Expected One,” he asked through his disciples, “or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:3). John’s feelingsabout his current situation had taken the place of the lead car, causing unbelief (faith) in who Jesus is. When we find ourselves in difficult situations, and especially in situations that are going to go on for some time, we may be tempted to lose faithin the facts

As a model example, Jesus does not scold John for his doubt (feelings), but turns his attention to the factsof Scripture: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt 11:5). All of this was happening in John’s day, yet, knowing the Scriptures, John would have understood that the prophecies of the Messiah as told by Isaiah were being fulfilled (Isa 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). Therefore, Jesus was placing the facts at the front of the conversation so that John would have faithin them, and in light of this new stability, his feelingswould change.

Assurance

This is true for those Christians who are struggling with an assurance of salvation. Whether it is where they are in life, their past sins creeping up to beat them down, or some ongoing sin in their lives that they just can’t shake, many Christians, who are eternally secure in Christ, frequently doubt their salvation. They feellike they are not saved. 

Because they are not willing to conclude that they are lost shows that they are not fully buying in (faith) to the idea, but they are struggling, nonetheless. In this case, feelingsare leading the train, faith is being placed in those feelings, which will ultimately cause a reinterpretation of the facts, concluding in something like “Jesus will only keep me saved if I am a good person who only commits little sins.” By letting their feelingstake the lead car, and by believing those feelingsas truth, the F-TRAINis now traveling backwards with the factsbeing reinterpreted by their feelings

Is this factual? What does the Truth (facts) say about this matter?

There are many verses and whole passages that could be cited that speak to the eternal, forever security of the believer in Christ, but we will only choose two, and with minimal elaboration. First, Romans 8:38-39states, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, not even ourselves, can separate us from the love of God. This is a fact; a Truth with power to propel us forward if we would only believe (faith) what God is telling us. If we do, we will not just feelsaved, we will feelblessed!

Another good passage that needs little explanation is 2 Timothy 2:13. It reads, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” The word “faithless” here actually means, “to have nobelief, disbelieve.”[5]This means that even if we are unbelieving in our lives, the Lord remains faithful to His promise of eternal life to us. Lea and Griffin explain this writing, “Paul was asserting that despite human unfaithfulness God’s saving purpose has not retreated. Timothy and all those with him were to continue their endurance that they might experience God’s blessing. Paul did not state these words to open the door to apostasy and disobedience but to soothe a troubled conscience and to provide encouragement to return to God.”[6]God is always faithful to His promises (facts) and He has promised us eternal life.

Anger

Anger is a big one! Everyone struggles with getting mad, and sometimes at the littlest things. However, being angry is not the real issue. As stated above, anger is the result (feeling) of a conviction (faith) that we are holding tightly. For those who seem to have a habitual problem with anger, their ultimate issue is the need to have control in situations. This is derived from a pride problem that believes (faith) that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Only their way is the correct way, and everyone else is “ignorant, stupid, uneducated,” or “means well, but they really don’t know what they are talking about.” This is pride, and when pride does not get its way, and a situation is not able to be controlled in the manner that “we think” (faith) it should be controlled, we get angry (feeling).

Pride is the exact same sin that the devil had/has (Isa 14:13-14). It is a natural conclusion to see that this should have no part in us. Pride asserts one’s rights and fosters entitlement (faith). We feellike we deserve something or should be listened to because of who we are or what we have done, but these are really the convictions that we hold dear (faith). None of this is acceptable before the eyes of the Father. 

Instead, we are to humble ourselves before Him. How do we correct the problem of our cars getting out of order when it comes to anger?

James 1:19b-20states, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Being rash (feelings) never works. What we should seek in every situation is for God’s righteousness to shine forth and be the center of attention. Only He is right (facts), we are not. Our anger (feelings) will not accomplish His righteousness in any situation. Therefore, anger must be abandoned as a suitable option in handling conflict. By holding fast to this Truth (fact) and believing (faith) that it is in fact true, our feelingswill come to a place of humility knowing that it is possible for God’s righteousness to be displayed in every trial. This is not a “maybe” situation, but a certainty that rests upon our submission to His Word (facts). Will He not do what He has said?

Biblically speaking, it is not wrong to be angry if you are angry about the right things. Ephesians 4:26-27says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” You can be angry about something and not sin. But the way to allow for anger to become sin is if you are not dealing with it properly. If it is prolonged, the devil will grab a foothold in your life. Being angry because of the abortion problem in the United States is a real and right reason to be angry. Being angry because you were lied to is a legitimate reason because truth (facts) has been bypassed for falsehood. But each of these situations needs to be addressed in the heart and brought before the Lord. They are not to fester and grow to an unhealthy dynamic. You see, feelingsare not bad when they are properly placed at the end of the train because of the faiththat you are exercising in the Truth of God’s Word (facts).

Revenge

We’ve all been there. When someone has wronged us, they need to pay! So, we devise ways in our mind that they are going to pay, how we wish to see them pay, or how we are going to make them pay(feelings). The factis, we have been wronged and we will not allow ourselves to be treated in such a horrible fashion (feelings). So, obviously revenge is the best option… or is it?

In Romans 12:19, Paul writes, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” This is Truth (fact). We may feeldisenfranchised in some way, but we must remember that the Lord knows all things and that He will bring all situations to justice. By claiming (faith) this Truth (fact), we can now rest (feeling) in God’s care, knowing that He will take care of what or who has wronged us with much greater precision than we would ever be able to muster in our sinful flesh.

______________________________________

Q: Do you believe what God has said about who you are, your current situation, the choices that you are making, or the handling of your future? If not, why not? 

Q: Where did God get it wrong? Where has His Word misspoken? How has He failed you in the past convincing you that you cannot trust Him anymore? 

Such questions should expose the root of the real reason why we are not trusting what He has already said in His Word. We are either convinced that there is a greater truth than what He has said about a particular matter (faith)or we know that His Word will keep us from the excitingly sinful situation that our flesh wants to participate in (feelings). Such conclusions dismiss the factsaltogether, exchanging God’s revealed Word for our sinful desires. 

___________________________________

It is possible to abide in Christ. We can experience the fullness of who He is because He is in us. In looking to Him as the Truth, and therefore looking to God’s Word as given through Him, we are submitted to His facts. He is so much more than many of us initially think or believe. 

Let’s close by illustrating this with a personal account of this grand realization. Charles Trumbull (1872-1941) was the editor of the Sunday School Times periodical. He was a committed and devout man, constantly championing the cause of Christ for some twenty years before He fully grasped the significance of Christ in him. He obviously knew the Word and all that it taught of Christ and the Christian Life, but he came to realize that he was not confidently convinced of what it was actually saying to him about the nature of Christ’s Life in relationship to his person. 

In the profound little booklet The Life That Wins, we find his personal testimony in coming to this profound realization. He writes, “I had always known that Christ was my Savior, but I had looked upon Him as an external Savior, one who did a saving work forme from outside, as it were; one who was ready to come close alongside and stay by me, helping me in all that I needed, giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I knew something better than that. At last I realized that Jesus Christ was actually and literally withinme and that He had constituted Himself my very life, taking me into union with Himself- my body, mind, and spirit- while I still had my own identity and free will and full moral responsibility. Was not this better than having Him as a helper or even than having Him as an external Savior? To have him, Jesus Christ, God the Son, as my own very life. It meant that I need never again ask Him to help me as though He were one and I another, but rather simply to do His work, His will in me and with me and through me. My body was His, my mind His, my will His, my spirit His- and not merely His but literally a part of Him. What He asked me to recognize was that ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.’ Jesus Christ had constituted Himself my life- not as a figure of speech, remember, but as a literal, actual fact, as literal as the fact that a certain tree has been made into this desk on which my hand rests. For ‘your bodies are members of Christ,’ and ‘ye are the body of Christ.’”[7]

The F-TRAINis a simple illustration that points to this greater truth. Christ, the Word of God, is telling us the Truth (facts) about life, reality, and Himself. His Word is giving us the answers, the factsabout every situation. By believing (faith) upon what He has already told us, we find heights previously unknown and provision much deeper than first assumed. How can humility and gratitude (feelings) not be the result of such amazing grace? “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11b). To live our lives in the light of His Truth (facts) is to have Him live His Life through us. This is most certainly a Life worth living!

[1]John Van Gelderen, Experiencing Jesus: Personal Revival Through the Spirit-Filled Life(Ann Arbor, MI: Revival Focus, 2017), p. 105-106.

[2]See H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 65-71.

[3]Reuben Archer Torrey, How to Pray(Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company, 1900), p. 71–72.

[4]H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 54.

[5]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 57.

[6]Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p. 211.

[7]Charles G. Trumbull, The Life That Wins(Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2015), p. 20-21.

Foundational Framework 66 - The F-Train Part 1

Foundational Frameworks 66.png

What does it mean to “abide?” When Jesus calls us to “abide” in Him, He is calling us to “remain, stay put, continue on, cling to.” He alone is the object to which we are to abide, and He alone is the Source of supplying our growth and the ability to bringing forth fruit. It must be clearly recognized, though our society fights it tooth and nail, that Jesus supplies the power, that Jesus brings the growth, and that all ability in bearing fruit is Jesus' ability. He is our nourishment and nothing else.

John 15 shows Jesus likening Himself to a Vine and designating His followers as branches (15:4). Jesus wants to do great things with us; God-things through us. This is only possible by abiding in Him, looking to Him for nourishment, direction, power, and fruit. “Self” has no place in abiding in Him. Abiding takes the place of “self” in every area, for when one abides in Christ, they are steadfast in their position as a creature in need of everything and submitting his or herself to the Creator who supplies everything. Abiding strips us of our pitiful sufficiency, which is really no sufficiency at all, being only a poor and broken substitute for the genuine article made freely available in Christ. 

Our broken substitute my give off the appearance of genuine holiness and reliance upon the living God, but our ornate mausoleum will always reveal the dead bones of “self” and the sad remnants of the flesh. The only need in the Christian Life is the full acceptance of all that the believer already has and is in Christ. The key is dependency.

Abiding is based on the acceptance of the truths of living the Christ-Life as seen in God’s Word. This is what Bishop Handley Moule calls the “dethronement of self”[1]because we have been confidently convinced that there is a better Answer, being a better Source of nourishment in every single area of our lives.

Every Christian knows that this is the answer to the deep longing that gnaws away at the soul. The intimacy that satisfies is our insatiable desire, and we acknowledge this repeatedly by the events and relationships that we choose to surround ourselves with. Being in Christ, this is only heightened to a previously unknown extreme, having understood something of the goodness of Jesus in forgiving sin and giving the one who believes eternal life. Great and glorious are these blessings and both are exceedingly abundant in their provision, such that we will not be able to understand them on this side of Heaven, and though having glorified bodies, we may still be found lacking in our comprehension when we are “with Him always.”

Because of our flesh, many of us need incentive. We need to be convinced that the decision to abide is worth making if we are going to make it. This should not be surprising. As we have brought up repeatedly, Jesus had to tell His disciples, those who were following Him closely, that if they loved Him, they would keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21). 

If abiding is essential, what are the present benefits for the believer when they are abiding in Christ? According to John 15:1-11, they are:

·     Bearing Fruit- (15:2, 4, 5)

·     Effective Prayer- (15:7)

·     The Father is Glorified- (15:8a)

·     “Come into Being” a Disciple- (15:8b)

·     The Joy of Jesus in us- (15:11a)

·     Our Joy is Made Full- (15:11b) 

There is nothing but gain to be had in abiding in Christ. All that is listed above is holy and pure, and right, both in the here and now and in eternity.  

ATTITUDE & PERSPECTIVE 

The Apostle Paul writes of this intimacy in a way that would be deemed as the delusional writings of a madman when he states, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my ownderived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faiththat I may know Himand the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:8b-11, emphasis added). 

Some may read this and conclude that Paul is speaking of justification and that his main thrust is what his life must look like in order to go to heaven when he dies. But this view places one’s works and behavior as an indispensable ingredient to eternal life, expelling entirely the notion that it is a free gift (John 3:16; Rom 5:15, 18). The context shows us that the righteousness in view is a practicalrighteousness and not the positionalrighteousness of justification. 

In living his life, Paul understands that any “righteousness” of his own is not righteousness at all. He best deeds are sin without Christ at their center. All that he may have gained in this life is concluded to be trash before the Lord. Such things, if deemed important, could usurp his dependency in all that Christ is for him, thus becoming a god. Material goods, and immaterial values like “intuition,” are but daily distractions and barriers to the risen Christ living His glorious life through the apostle. This approach to life will always be unsatisfying, and Paul knows it. This is why he champions “faith” as the only path to practical righteousness.

Paul’s desire is to “know Him,” with “know” speaking to an experiential knowledge. Paul’s thoughts look to “the power of His resurrection,” not His death. Wuest notes this well, writing, “The tense causes us to translate, ‘to come to know by experience.’ Paul wants to come to know the Lord Jesus in that fullness of experimental knowledge which is only wrought by being like Him. He wants to know also in an experiential way the power of Christ’s resurrection. That is, he wants to experience the same power which raised Christ from the dead surging through his own being, overcoming sin in his life and producing the Christian graces.”[2]Paul is speaking of the Life of Christ being lived through him. 

Paul also speaks of the “fellowship of His sufferings,” which point to living in the trials of this life with the perfection of Christ’s Life always at the ready. This returns the believer to the nature of trials. Trials provide the opportunity to trust in the God of glory. Believing in Jesus resulting in the forgiveness of sin and a receiving of the gift of eternal life is the greatest need in all of existence, but for some reason it is there that we stop in our belief and handle the smaller, temporal situations of life with unbelief. In Romans, Paul rationalizes the absurdity of this approach, writing, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). The sufficiency of the greater promise of eternal life, ensured by the perfect shedding of His blood, exposes our unbelief when we conclude that our lesser worries are not covered by Him. Essentially, we are saying that He did not “save to the uttermost” (Heb 7:24-25, ESV).

Paul also speaks of his conforming to Jesus’ death as being the means to attaining “the resurrection from the dead.” Again, the “works-salvation” crowd will quickly pipe up to say that unless a person iswilling to conform to the death of Christ in their daily life, they will not attain this resurrection, thus showing themselves as being unsaved.[3]This conclusion obviously violates the foundational principle that salvation is by “faith alone,” but also fails to give the proper attention to the word “resurrection” in v.11. 

The word that is normally used for “resurrection” is anastasis, but the word that Paul uses here is bekanastasis, with ekmeaning “out of.” Dillow explains that ek“intensifies the noun; it is an ‘out-resurrection,’ a ‘full resurrection,’ a fuller experience of resurrection life. This is the prize/reward of the games that is awarded by the judge. It is his reward for faithful service.”[4]Paul uses this word intentionally in reference to the eternal outcome of the one who abides in Christ. For them, there will be reward, a fullness of eternal life, and opportunities granted to rule and reign with Christ. The time of self-denial will be difficult in the present, but worth it in the end (Rom 8:18). 

From Paul’s words in Philippians 3, we can see that our obedience in abiding in Christ gives us a fuller life in the future. 

HOW?

How does the Christian “abide” in Christ without wavering to the right or to the left? To put it plainly, the only way to abide is by applying the Word to our lives. This is often mistaken as a call to “do something,” but this is a works answer to a faith problem. To abide, the believer is to yield to the commands, precepts, and promises of the Word of God, believing them to be true in spite of their circumstances or environment. We simply need to “get out of theway” of Christ living His Life through us and submit to His leading as plainly stated in the Word of God.  

There are three basic tenets that, when placed in the proper order, have guaranteed our desired end. Let’s look at each one briefly, focusing on the main points of each, and then provide a simple illustration, that will help in the application of these tenets. 

Image 3-24-19 at 8.32 AM.jpg

FACTS- When we speak of “Facts,” we are speaking of truth. The question being asked is “What is real?” When we speak of ultimate truth, we are speaking of a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only what God has said is true, and that He “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:2a), showing that Christ is the pinnacle revelation of God speaking. Jesus Christ is everything that God wishes to say to the human race. As noted before, all of the Old Testament prepares us for Him, while the New Testament explains the fullness of Him. 

All unbelief is a suppression of Truth, though the truth has been clearly revealed (Rom 1:18-20). The world system has been orchestrated by Satan to fool all people into believing that there is “more than one truth,” that “all roads lead to God,” that “it might be true for you but it is not true for me,” and in turn has de-personalized Truth from the Person of Jesus Christ. This deceitful philosophy has caused an epidemic of neglect in one’s personal responsibility to a Sovereign Creator. 

When dealing with “Facts,” the question to answer is: 

“What has God said?”

FAITH- “Faith,” as discussed previously, is a confident conviction that something is true. To believe is to be persuade of the certainty of a thing. The Bible gives us this definition in Hebrews 11:1- “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In quoting segments of Lane’s commentary on Hebrews, David Allen writes, “Faith is the objective grounds upon which subjective confidence may be based. Such faith springs from a personal encounter with God. This kind of faith enables one to venture into the future ‘supported only by the word of God.’”[5]

While objective, faith is also passive, accepting that which is deemed “true” by the one believing. Seeing that this can result in either “belief” or “unbelief” (depending on the object in which one is believing), we can see the necessary connection between “Faith” and “Facts” as indispensable in moving the believer to “abide” in Christ. To believe in the wrong thing is to be found in unbelief, regardless of the level of sincerity. One’s belief is only as good as the object in which they are believing. Thus, when we are trusting in Christ’s Word in how we live our daily lives, our “Faith” is found to be exceedingly valuable because of the Object that it has rested upon. 

Many have rejected the idea that “Faith” is objective, settling instead for a more palatable expression that confuses “Faith” with “Feelings.” This immediately gives way to the subjective, and in doing so, has rationalized the whims and desires of the sinful heart as standing fully justified in the eyes of the one wrongly-believing. Any consideration for what is really true about a matter has been abandoned because of the conviction that comes with it. In light of this, how one “Feels” becomes a safer answer, eliminating the idea that there is Anyone to answer to. 

For instance, there are many people who do a poor job of raising their kids. They knew better (“Facts”). So, in order to escape the “Facts,” which demand a “Faith” response due to the irrefutable nature of those “Facts,” unbelief takes over and justifies itself with the idea of how they “Feel” that children ought to be raised. “Faith” is seemingly moved into the subjective, but it is the person’s “Feelings” that are leading the way. What an unworthy guide they are. In this way, negligence is rationalized as an acceptable approach to childrearing because the parent simply does not “Feel” like parenting today. The results of this approach are being seen today on our university campuses, jails and prisons, and within the workforce.

When dealing with “Faith,” the question to answer is: 

“What do I believe about what God has said?”

FEELINGS

“Feelings” have their place. Let’s not conclude that “Feelings” are wrong simply because they are “Feelings.” “Feelings” are only wrong when they are leading our decisions and direction. Our God is a God who feels (Gen 6:6), and emotions are a gift from God so that we are able to express ourselves. However, “Feelings” are not to be the captain of the ship; Truth is. When the “Facts” of Truth are understood, and when they are accepted by believing in them (“Faith”), our “Feelings” should follow and flow out from our “Faith” in the “Facts.” When our “Feelings” are in the lead, every action that follows is irrational and dangerous.

In speaking to a friend of mine who serves as a biblical counselor, he stated, “This generation is so deceived and indoctrinated with following their feelings or their ‘heart.’ It’s so anti-Christ,” and he is right. “Feelings,” serving in the place of our reason for why we are doing something, is an approach that is completely dismissive of the Person of Truth. Think about it: when was the last time that we pulled back from a situation and said with confidence, “If I wouldn’t have followed my feelings here, this would have never worked out to the glory of God.” Never. We have never said this in any situation because when our “Feelings” take the lead, our pride becomes the dominant factor, and all direction and every decision is contorted to satisfy our secret need to have control. 

When “Feelings” are in the lead, we are abiding in the Self-Life. This makes it impossible to abide in Christ.

When dealing with our “Feelings,” the question to answer is: 

“How should I feel now that I have believed in what God has said?”

THE F-TRAIN

Each of these three areas lends themselves to a simple illustration that helps us to think rightly about abiding in Christ.

First, God’s Word must lead the way. It is Truth. Jesus is Truth. And Truth declares the “Facts” of reality, whether known or unknown; natural or supernatural. “Facts” are the engine of the F-Train. “Facts” are always true, and Truth has power. Therefore, they always provide a foundation that is unshakable. If the engine is not up front, the train has no power leading it and it cannot move forward.

“Faith” is the middle car (the boxcar), attached firmly to the engine, allowing for the “Facts” to propel the train forward. The middle car simply relies on the power of the car in front of it to get it where it needs to go. If the box car were to be in the front of the train, the engine would be strained in trying to move the car forward and progress would be greatly hindered, if not stopped altogether.

“Feelings” are in the caboose. It is the final car in the series, bringing up the rear, and contributing nothing in propelling the train onward. This is because every “Feeling” is without a foundation by itself. It is simply attached to the boxcar, enjoying the ride, with confidence that the engine will bring the cars that follow it safely to the proper destination. 

For now, it is enough to know that the Christian can only move forward in abiding in Christ if the “Facts” of God’s Word are leading the way, our “Faith” is firmly plugged into those “Facts,” eliminating the pockets of unbelief that suddenly appear. With the first two cars in place, our “Feelings” become the outcome of our “Faith” in the “Facts,” rather than the lead car which would ultimately lead us off the rails. 

“Faith” and “Feelings” have no power to move forward with God, so when either one is thrust into place as the lead car, all forward motion is lost. The ramifications of getting these cars out of order will be discussed in the next lesson.

What is the key to clicking all of the cars into their rightful place?  

THE KEY TO ABIDING

Our Christianity, and by this I am referring to how we live our lives as Christians in this present age, is largely of self. With the constant barrage of “customizable” options and the tailoring of our surroundings to make us comfortable and safe, we have all but uninvited Jesus to be our All in All in every situation. We have missed the Spirit’s leading that the obedient path is often the inconvenient path, and it is only deemed so because we view it with biased eyes. With our immediate futures being unknown, and our neglect to hurriedly hold Christ’s hand as He leads us to the next opportunity for growth and grace, we have dictated our ineffectiveness on the grounds of every reason but a biblical one. 

And then we wonder why we are not effective. 

We seem perplexed by the power that we read about in the Scriptures and the seemingly one-dimensional nature of our present-day Christian existence, and we ask, “Is this all there is?” Our short-sightedness has been brought on by our refusal to submit to God’s Word. 

Dependency is the key to the Christians life. Apart from Him we can do nothing. If we wanted to use a more biblical word that usually scares Christians silly, we would say “submission.” Our lives, our worries, our fears, our families, our preferences, and our recreational time, are all lived out with self at the center, and a dependency on Christ is nowhere to be found. Submission ends such independence.

The self-life crowds out the New Life that Jesus wants to live through us. We have come to believe, or have always believed, that each of these areas is compartmentalized as their own area separate from the influence of Christ. It is only by receiving the implanted Word that we are able to see that there are greater horizons for each of these areas, such as we could never fathom because we have kept them separated from Truth, and this Truth is none other than the LordJesus Christ Himself. Can we really expect to direct our families in the right way when we are not even inviting Jesus to the table? Let’s be honest, we ultimately doubt His power. We ultimately doubt His ability. And we ultimately doubt His goodness. Pure dependency is the cure that our unbelief desperately needs, for He is truly all-powerful, fully able, and uncompromisingly good. Thankfully, Paul models dependency for us.

In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul is writing of the vision of the third heaven that he was blessed to receive (2 Cor 12:2-4). With such revelation came the need to keep Paul humble, for otherwise, he would boast in himself, his knowledge, his status in relation to God, and his privileges. Though this grieved Paul, and though he sought for relief (2 Cor 12:8), he was brought to a grand conclusion, with Jesus telling Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” To this, Paul exhibited the lesson learned, writing “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor 12:9b, emphasis added). Our clamoring for self-sufficiency, the protection of our “personal time,” and our striving for safety and security is ultimately rooted in our unbelief, robbing the opportunity for Christ’s power to be seen all-sufficient for us. 

Again, the key is dependency, and apart from depending on Him, we should not expect anything of God in our lives. We may strive to “conjure Christian appearances,” but such striving is fleshly and antagonistic to His sufficiency in all things. We must come to terms with the fact that He IS, that He is ABLE and that He is GOOD, desiring only the best for His children. We must believe Him!

[1]H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 25.

[2]Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 93.

[3]Thomas R. Schreiner & Ardel B. Caneday, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2001), p. 111.

[4]Joseph C. Dillow, “Degrees of Glory” in A Defense of Free Grace Theology: With Respect to Saving Faith, Perseverance, and Assurance, ed. Fred Chay(The Woodlands, TX.: Grace Theology Press, 2017), p. 365.

[5]David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), p. 543.

Foundational Frameworks Part 65 - Abiding in Christ

FF65.png

Being not without controversy, there are two dominant interpretations of Jesus’ teaching on the “Vine and branches.” First, those branches that do not “bear fruit” (John 15:2), who are “thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:6), are considered those who are pseudo-Christians, being without genuine faith, as those who had never truly believed.[1]The second view sees those who do not bear fruit and who are eventually burned as genuine believers, having a union with Christ, but who are failing in their communion with Him. Such believers are justified. However, their intimacy and fellowship with Him is not growing because they are not “abiding” in Christ. The idea of being “burned” speaks to discipline, and not the Lake of Fire.[2]

It is this last view that holds the greatest credibility, both in John’s Gospel and within the bounds of Scripture as a whole. Therefore, it is the viewpoint that will be endorsed and explained here.

John 13-16 finds Jesus teaching His disciples and encouraging them before His betrayal and arrest. Soon He would be gone, and they would need to carry on. But how? The Lord’s explanation of the indwelling Holy Spirit would certainly be of some comfort to them. But when a flood of emotions rush upon a person unexpectedly, much of what is valued can be quickly forgotten. When our emotional state has been heightened into a “fight or flight” condition, rational and steadfast truths can easily fade into the background. This is most certainly true for the eleven disciples of our Lord.

In troubled times, obedience is paramount. This is a theme that carries the reader into John 15, with Jesus stating “but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me” (John 14:31a). Obedience testifies to the world system about the love that we have for God. This was Jesus’ greatest desire, seeing that He was always in submission to the Father. In disputing the two possible viewpoints of this text, Jesus’ words bring clarity. Jesus “abides” in the Father. Therefore, believers should abide in Him as well. While further justification for the “fellowship/communion” view will be supplied as we work through the text, it is clear that Jesus has love on His mind, which He has shown to be demonstrated through obedience (John 14:15, 21). 

John 15:1-3.Jesus begins this significant teaching by stressing two designations in the form of an analogy. First, Jesus describes Himself as the “true vine,” with the surrounding context giving us little in understanding the necessity of Jesus using the adjective “true” in distinguishing Himself. Many have referred to the comparison made of the nation of Israel to a vine in the Old Testament (Jer 2:21). This is quickly followed up with the idea that Jesus, in His perfect obedience, is everything that Israel should have been unto God the Father. But this association seems forced, being without much merit when considering the context and the events that would soon follow. 

Since this pericope is focused on the importance of “abiding,” Jesus’ words may be a “setting apart” from other possible competing influences that would seek to draw away the devotion of the eleven. If the believer is to “abide” in anything, let their abiding be in Christ! 

The second designation refers to the Father as the “vinedresser.” This is geōrgosin the Greek, being a compound word with ge meaning “land, soil,” and ergonmeaning “work.” Literally, this word speaks of God the Father as One who is working with the soil, or in this case, a worker of the vine. 

The importance of the Father as the vinedresser is a designation that encompasses more than what might be readily understood by the reader. Jesus’ analogy is deliberate and no point of consideration is wasted. The weight of this description is captured well by Derickson and Radmacher: “A vinedresser is more than a mere farmer. His work is not like the typical farmer, who simply plows up a field, plants a crop, harvests it, and waits for next season (We are speaking simplistically here). Grapes are more than an annual crop. They are individuals. A husbandman must know all about grapes, how they grow, what they need, when they need it, and what produces the best health as well as production in the plant. But, to be effective, they not only must know the right things, but they must nurture their plants with loving care.

The vinedresser’s grapevines remain with him for decades. He comes to know each one in a personal way, much like a shepherd with his sheep. He knows how the vine is faring from year to year and which ones are more productive or vigorous than others. He knows what they respond to and what special care certain one’s need. Every vine has its own personality. And the vinedresser comes to know it over the years. The vinedresser cares for each vine and nurtures it, pruning it the appropriate amount at the appropriate times, fertilizing it, lifting its branches from the ground and propping them or tying them to the trellis, and taking measures to protect them from insects and disease.

So, when Jesus calls His Father the Vinedresser, He is describing Him in terms of His relationship and attitude as well as His actions in the lives of the disciples… To call Him a vinedresser is to tell them He cares for them personally and is wise to know exactly what to do to make them fruitful. With such a Vinedresser, the branches can experience complete confidence and security.”[3]

Thus established, the Father works through the Vine (Jesus) for the health and productivity of the branches in bringing forth fruit. In 15:1-11, we see the idea of bringing forth fruit of some kind (whether “much fruit” or “more fruit”) or not bringing forth fruit six times. From this we can conclude that the Father’s skilled and loving involvement in seeing that the branches are bearing fruit is a dominant theme.

In 15:2, Jesus addresses the product, or lack thereof, of the branches. He begins by stating “every branch IN ME” (emphasis added) demonstrating the location of the branches at the time of expected productivity. This argument alone should be enough to dismiss the notion that fruitless Christians are not really saved. While the comparison of the branches being representative of the eleven is not made clear until 15:4, the fact that the location of the branches being “in Me,” with Christ being the One speaking, does not change. Hart notes that “elsewhere in the New Testament, nonbelievers are never said to be ‘in Me (Christ)’ in any sense of the term.”[4]Jesus’ words are clear that both the productive and unproductive branches in 15:2 are in Him, dismissing the idea of pseudo-believers. 

One of the greatest evidences promoting the “pseudo-Christian” interpretation is that the branch that “does not bear fruit” is taken away (John 15:2a), which is the rendering of every major English translation of the Bible with “cuts off” (NLT) and “removes” (HCSB) being some of the variants available. However, this is not the onlyway to understand the Greek word airō, and most certainly not the way to understand how a vinedresser would initially deal with a branch that is not fruit bearing. It would seem that many of the presumptions that stem from the meaning of being “burned” in John 15:6 have controlled the decision to translate airōas “takes away,” as can be seen in the study notes of the NET translation.[5]Noting this bias, Boice writes “Undoubtedly, their translation has been made to conform to what they know or believe is coming in verse 6, but the translation is not the best or even the most general meaning of the Greek word airowhich lies behind it.”[6]

At this point, the deliberate nature of Jesus describing the Father as the “vinedresser” becomes essential to understanding the text properly. The word airōis shown to have the following meanings, which are mostly decided upon by the surrounding context of the passage in question. Note the following:

1.to raise up;

a.to raise from the ground, take up: stones, Jn. 8:59; serpents, Mk. 16:18; a dead body, Acts 20:9.

b.to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand, Rev. 10:5; the eyes, Jn. 11:41; the voice, i. e. speak in a loud tone, cry out, Lk. 17:13; Acts 4:24, (also in prof. writ.); to raise the mind, i. q. excite, affect strongly (with a sense of fear, hope, joy, grief, etc.); in Jn. 10:24 to hold the mind in suspense between doubt and hope, cf. Lücke [or Meyer] ad loc.

c.to draw up: a fish, Mt. 17:27 (Hab. 1:15); Acts 27:17; anchors from the bottom of the sea, Acts 27:13, where supply; cf. Kuinoel ad loc.; [W. 594 (552); B. 146 (127)].

2.to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised, to bear: Mt. 4:6; Lk. 4:11, (Ps. 90 (91):12); a sick man, Mk. 2:3; Mt. 11:29 (Lam. 3:27); a bed, Mt. 9:6; Mk. 2:9, 11 sq.; Lk. 5:24 sq.; Jn. 5:8–12; Mt. [10:38 Lchm. mrg.]; 16:24; 27:32; Lk. 9:23; Mk. 8:34; 10:21 [in R Lbr.]; 

15:21; Rev. 18:21; to carry with one, [A. V.take]: Mk. 6:8; Lk. 9:3; 22:36. Both of these ideas are expressed in classical Greek.

3.to bear away what has been raised, carry off;

a.to more from its place: Mt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23, (be thou taken up, removed [B. 52 (45)], sc. from thy place); Mt. 22:13 [Rec.]; Jn. 2:16; 11:39, 41; 20:1.

b.to take offor awaywhat is attached to anything: Jn. 19:31, 38 sq.; to tear away, Mt. 9:16; Mk. 2:21; to rend away, cut off, Jn. 15:2.

c.to remove: 1 Co. 5:2 (cast out from the church; tropically: faults, Eph. 4:31, Jn. 1:29, [36 Lchm. in br.], to remove the guilt and punishment of sin by expiation, or to cause that sin be neither imputed nor punished; but in 1 Jn. 3:5 is to cause our sins to cease, i. e. that we no longer sin, while we enter into fellowship with Christ, who is free from sin, and abide in that fellowship, cf. vs. 6.

d.to carry off, carry away with one: Mt. 14:12, 20; 15:37; 20:14; 24:17 sq.; Mk. 6:29, 43; 8:8, 19 sq.; 13:15 sq.; Lk. 9:17; 17:31; Jn. 20:2, 13, 15; Acts 20:9.

e.to appropriatewhat is taken: Lk. 19:21 sq.; Mk. 15:24.

f.to take away from another what is hisor what is committed to him, to take by force: Lk. 6:30; 11:52; Mt. 13:12; 21:43; 25:28; Lk. 8:12, 18; 19:24, 26; [Mt. 25:29]; Mk. 4: (15), 25; Jn. 10:18; 16:22.

g.to take and apply to any use: Acts 21:11; 1 Co. 6:15.

h.to take from among the living, either by a natural death, Jn. 17:15 (take away from intercourse with the world), or by violence, Mt. 24:39; Lk. 23:18; Jn. 19:15; Acts 21:36; with the addition of Acts 22:22; of a bloody death inflicted upon one, Acts 8:33 (Is. 53:8).

i.of things; to take out of the way, destroy: Col. 2:14; cause to cease: Acts 8:33 (Is. 53:8).[7]

Notice that the idea of “taking away” (#3, b.) stems from the understanding “to bear away what has been raised” (#3), and does not assume a negative connotation. The instances before this speak of being “raised up” or “to take up or carry for one’s self,” all of which happen to fit the cultural, historical, and contextual implications of this passage in likening the Father to a vinedresser. 

Viticulture, being the cultivation and care of grapevines, is a meticulous calling, as described above in Derickson and Radmacher’s comments. But the specifics of bringing a branch that is not bearing fruit into a place where fruit can be produced is often overlooked or totally dismissed as a course of action that the vinedresser would take, opting instead to dismiss the branch into the Lake of Fire.

In viticulture, a branch of the vine that was not bearing fruit was usually due to the branch coming off the trellis and resting on the ground. Being on the ground, the branch now has a disruption in receiving the nourishment that is needed to be productive. Desperately in need, the branch develops sprigs that plug into the ground seeking moisture for nourishment. Now the branch is dependent upon the ground for its sustenance, and though inferior, has attached itself as the sole means of getting nourishment. That which is produced from this inferior source is worthless at best. The vinedresser must get involved personally in order to give the opportunity for maximum production to the fallen branch. However, this is not an easy, or immediate process.

Caring for the branch, and wishing to restore it to its greatest source of nourishment from the vine, the Father slowly begins separating the fallen branch from its inferior dependency. To do this, the branch is lifted only slightly without breaking the sprigs attached to the ground. He then places a small rock under the branch in order to keep it lifted, slowly weaning the branch from its inferior source of nourishment. Over the next few days, the separation of the branch from the ground becomes more gradual until all dependency is removed and the branch can once again be restored to the trellis where a maximum flow of nourishment can occur, being provided from the vine. This illustration shows the Father’s loving care in slowly separating the believer from inferior sources of nourishment so that they are fully dependent upon Christ alone.

This is not a novel understanding. Hart explains, “The verb translated takes awaycan just as easily be translated ‘lifts up,’ denoting the Vinedresser’s action in stimulating growth in a fruitless branch (God helping a fruitless believer to produce fruit). In the viticulture of Israel, late fall was the season for removing dead branches (v.6). The springtime (the time of the upper room message and Jesus’ death) was the season to ‘lift up’ fruitless branches from the ground to encourage productivity.”[8]Being on the move (John 14:31b), it very well could have been that Jesus and His disciples were passing a vineyard at the time of this illustration. They could easily see the difference between those branches that had fallen to the ground and those who had remained on the trellis and were bursting with production. 

The Father takes those who are in a position of fruitlessness and gives them the opportunity and provision to grow. This is an opportunity that should not be wasted, but is a grand invitation to draw near to the Father and to be used for His purposes, ones that will display a

striking testimony (John 14:31a), bringing Him great glory and honor before men.

The second point in John 15:2 speaks of those branches that are bearing fruit and being productive. Such branches are “pruned” in order to have a greater productivity. This word is kathairōand is an obvious wordplay off of airō(“lifts up”) in the previous clause. It means, “to cause something to become clean, make clean, literally of a place that has been swept,… to remove superfluous growth from a plant, clear, prune of a vine.”[9]This is similar to the English word “catharsis” and is understood as a cleaning that takes place. Some have associated this cleansing of the productive branch as divine discipline,[10]but this hardly makes sense. Why would the Lord discipline a branch that is properly plugged into the vine, remaining steadfast in where it was placed, and receiving the correct nourishment so that production is rightly occurring? 

Instead, this “cleansing” would be better understood as divine “testing” that is being introduced into the believer’s life. Trials are God’s means of developing His people into mature saints. Note James’ words when he writes, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:2-4). Notice that the outcome of letting “endurance have its perfect result” is that the believer becomes “perfect and complete” (“mature” and “blameless”), having all that he or she needs. Hodges notes, “James is referring to the way trial and testing apply ‘fire’ to our faith, so that it can come through the ‘furnace’ of trouble cleansed of any dross or impurity from the flesh. Like gold that has been refined, faith can be purified from the selfish motives and misguided perceptions that often distort and weaken it. God can use trouble to accomplish justthat.”[11]Such testing always asks the question of belief or unbelief of the believer. Trials can rid the believer of the self-life and move us into a greater dependency on Him. Those who choose to believe God’s Word in the midst of their trials are those who will “bear more fruit” (John 15:2b). 

In John 15:3, Jesus states that the eleven are “already clean” (katharos- “being clean or free of adulterating matter, clean, pure”[12]) and this is because of the word that He has spoken to them. This may seem to be an out-of-place comment, but it finds its connection in John 13:10which states, “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’” The following verse records John’s commentary that the one who is not clean is the betrayer, Judas (John 13:11). Having left the group in John 13:30, Judas’ absence allowed for Jesus to give a much more concentrated teaching to those who were justified. Their being “clean” in 15:3 speaks to their justification, having been declared righteous by God after responding in faith to Christ. Justification had placed them in a position of unconditional acceptance before the Father, connecting them to the Vine, Jesus Christ. Now their responsibility would be to abide in that Vine in order to experience Life to the full.

John 15:4-6.With 15:4 the word “abide” is introduced for the first of ten mentions in this passage. “Abide in Me, and I in you.” In Greek, the word “abide” is menōmeaning “to remain in the same place over a period of time—‘to remain, to stay.’”[13]That to which the disciples are told to “abide” is in Christ. This imperative draws theimmediate implication that abiding is not automatic, even though the eleven are “already clean” (15:3). Jesus clearly delineates between one’s justification and their sanctification. His call to abide “in Me” is to explain the means for having a beneficial experience in the here and now by bearing fruit that will give God glory. This nourishing communion is a means of total blessing to the believer in Christ, having the power of God’s provision flowing to them and producing fruit through them. Augustine writes, “The relation of the branches to the vine is such that they contribute nothing to the vine, but from it derive their own means of life; while that of the vine to the branches is such that it supplies their vital nourishment, and receives nothing from them. And so their having Christ abiding in them, and abiding themselves in Christ, are in both respects advantageous, not to Christ, but to the disciples.”[14]

In understanding what is meant by “and I in you” (John 15:4b), we should not attempt to understand this apart from the preceding context either. In the previous chapter, Jesus was clear about how to cultivate an intimate fellowship with Himself and the Father. John 14:21finds Jesus stating, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose (emphanizō-revealing clearly in detail; moving from the sensory to the cognitive in being fully known) Myself to him.” It is obeying that equates to abiding, and it is by abiding that one bears fruit. Such obedience is what cultivates intimacy with the Father and the Son. This is synonymous with “fellowship.” “To abide in Christ is, on the one hand, to have no known sin unjudged and unconfessed, no interest into which He isnot brought, no life which He cannot share,” states Scofield. “On the other hand, the abiding one takes all burdens to Him, and draws all

wisdom, life and strength from Him. It is not unceasing consciousness of these things, and of Him, but that nothing is allowed in the life which separates from Him.”[15]Such a view is in complete alignment with everything that the New Testament espouses in “walking in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 25), “walking in a manner worthy” of our calling in Christ (Eph 4:1), and “walking in love” (Eph 5:2). All known sin must be confessed and every hinderance must be laid aside to ensure that “abiding” is a constant condition of the branch. 

This example is seen again in Jesus’ response to Judas (not Iscariot) in John 14:23when He says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” In essence, abiding is the believer remaining intimate with the Father and the Son in obeying the Word of Christ, keeping what has been commanded (John 14:15, 21, 31). The Word of Christ is central and paramount to intimate fellowship with the Godhead. In abiding, the Word must abide in us (15:7a). When this happens, not only is greater intimacy experienced, but “more fruit” is produced!

The example that accompanies this truth in John 15:4b is plain: A branch cannot produce anything if it does not abide in the vine in order to receive the provision for such production. Neither can a believer produce anything of benefit if he or she is not abiding in Christ. A believer is not self-nourishing. As the Scriptures clearly state, the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63; Rom 8:8). Just as absurd as it is to expect for a branch to produce fruit while separated from the vine, so is it equally absurd to expect the believer in Christ to produce fruit when we are not operating in connection with Christ. Independence from Christ in any situation, at any time, is sin.

John 15:5 clarifies the intended parties in this analogy. Jesus is the vine, the eleven (and being that this is a truth that is true of the Church Age believer as well, all believers in Christ would be included) are the branches. By abiding in Christ, one produces “much fruit.” The opposite of this is very much true as well. Jesus states, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (15:5b). “Nothing” here is ou oudeiswith ou being a negative adverb and oudeis meaning “no.” One should expect absolutely nothing if they are not abiding in fellowship with Christ. Such disconnection leaves the believer in a barren state. Robertson succinctly concludes, “There is nothing for a broken off branch to do but wither and die.”[16]This is precisely what is concluded by Jesus in John 15:6.

Jesus unfolds the consequences of those who do not abide in Him. The analogy is consistent, seeing that branches that have been separated from the vine and are no longer “abiding” are not good for anything other than kindling. Their sole purpose is to bear fruit, and once that has been rendered obsolete, they are no longer able to be used. Those branches that are not bearing fruit, after having been carefully and lovingly separated from their inferior means of securing self-nourishment and given the grand opportunity to become exceedingly productive only to spurn it, eventually dry up. Since nourishment is no longer flowing through them, they are only a sad representation of what they could have been had they remained in Christ.

Again, it must be stated, fruit bearing is the sole purpose of the disciple of Christ. Having denied themselves that purpose by refusing to abide, they are gathered and burned, for that is the only thing that they are good for. With many, the analogy of being “burned” immediately conjures disturbing images of hellfire and brimstone, and forces a theological conclusion on many that the lack of fruit in abeliever’s life is grounds for eternal damnation. Such conclusions are unbiblical for two reasons. First, salvation is based on the finished work of Christ and whether one has believed in Him or not (John 3:16-18; 5:24; Acts 16:31). Second, if hellfire were the result of not bearing fruit, salvation becomes ultimately contingent upon one’s works or lack thereof, and the work of Jesus performed on the cross 

would have to be considered insufficient to save, which violates Romans 3:21-28, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:18, just to name a few.

Since damnation is not in view, how should we understand this? Dillow writes, “a fruitless branch is lifted up to put it into a position of fruit-bearing. This does not contradict verse 6, which states that a branch that does not abide is ‘thrown away,’ literally ‘cast out’ (ballō exō). This would suggest that the heavenly Vinedresser first encourages the branches and lifts them in the sense of providing loving care to enable them to bear fruit. If after this encouragement, they do not remain in fellowship with Him and bear fruit, they are then cast out.”[17]God does not force obedience upon His children. He will direct them, even lead them, educate them, implore them, exhort them, and challenge them, but He does not force them. 

When such beckoning and education is not met with a favorable response, the Lord has no problem disciplining His children (Heb 12:5b-11). As the Vinedresser, the Father is longsuffering with His children, desiring what is best for them and setting them up for maximum success with all that has been provided for them in Christ. But there are many Christians who spurn the Lord’s loving care by clinging to the self-life. Such consequences are disastrous and can range from loss of intimacy with the Father and Son (John 14:24), physical death (1 Cor 5:5; 11:28-30), and loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:15). To be “cast out” and “burned” is not to lose one’s salvation, otherwise the promises of Jesus would be a lie (John 3:16; 10:27-30).

John 15:7-11.In v.7 we are given greater revelation as to what Jesus meant when He stated “I in you” in v.4. As stated previously, the Word of God is paramount. It is how Christ abides in us. Our abiding and His Word “dwelling richly” in us (Col 3:16) is followed up by a fantastic statement: “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7b). Jesus has just handed His disciples the keys to an effective prayer life; one that actually brings results with God’s fingerprints clearly shining along the way. The Word of God is the will of God, and when one is abiding in Christ and His Word is abiding in them the result is “the effective prayer of a righteous man” which “can accomplish much” (Jas 5:16b). The concept of abiding is now better understood as a life being marked by practical righteousness (sanctification) and not only positional righteousness (justification).

John 15:8 explains that the Father is glorified in the abiding disciple because they are bearing much fruit. Is this not the chief end of all of history? Ryrie notes that “Scripture is not man-centered as though salvation were the main theme, but it is God-centered because His glory is the center.”[18]Some have stumbled over Jesus’ words here in stating that one would “prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8b). The common approach is to conclude that the one who does not bear much fruit is not truly saved, with the absence of fruit being the deciding factor. The word “prove” is ginomaimeaning “to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being.”[19]The issue that is often overlooked is the difference between a believer and a disciple. This is plain because all that surrounds this teaching is with a strict emphasis upon those who are already believing. When the branch bears much fruit, the Life of the Vine is plainly seen by all. Thus God is glorified when the believer in Christ has forsaken thatwhich hinders his or her growth and has embraced God’s Word for living one’s daily life. No one can speak against the fruit with an honest conscience because it has its origin in the Vine!

Whereas the abiding of Christ’s Word was brought forward in John 15:7a, so now the theme of “love” is reintroduced in John 15:9. Five times in v.9 and 10 do we find the mention of “love.” Leading off this series is the example of the Father’s love for the Son. Divine intimacy is the first picture offered. Such an image draws the mind back to John 14:10 with the Father abiding in Christ, John 14:20 which speaks of the “already” loving communion that the Father and Son experience perpetually, and John 14:31 where Jesus speaks of His personal obedience to the Father’s will so that a testimony is promoted to the world. Every verse shows this communal love that is a daily experience between the Father and Jesus. In the same way, Jesus has loved His disciples, teaching them, leading them, bearing with them, guiding them, healing them, and demonstrating for them the sacrificial service that they are to have.

Jesus then issues the imperative to “abide in My love” (John 15:9b). Where else would they go? Where would be a better place than remaining in the love of Christ? Following up this command is the “how” of abiding in Christ’s love. John 15:10a states, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love.” This harkens back to John 14:15 and 21, showing that love is truly demonstrated because the commands of Christ are valued as being the ultimate truth, and therefore worth rearranging one’s life in order to experience a fullness of Life in the here and now.

The second half of John 15:10 draws the reader’s attention back to the truth of John 14:31. Jesus sets the tone for what it is to abide; to be walking in intimate fellowship with the Father. While the world has defined many things as “love,” Jesus defines it as obedience. To love the Lord is to obey Him. To demonstrate that one does not love the Lord is to not keep His Word (John 14:24). It is impossible to abidein Him if we are not keeping His Word. While obedience has no bearing on one’s justification, it has everything to do with whether a believer in Christ is experiencing the saving power of God in their daily life. This only comes about by pursuing intimacy with Him daily, moment by moment.

In John 15:11, Jesus gives the reason for this indispensable principle of abiding in Him. “Joy” is a word that is far fetched in this day and age. Few of us experience genuine joy. By and large it is a word that is absent from our vocabularies and our lives. Unless we are singing “Joy to the World,” we have little to do with “joy.” Abiding in Christ accomplishes two things. First, it establishes the joy of Jesus Christ in the disciple. It is a joy inexpressible. It is joy divine! Second, the joy of Jesus Christ makes our joy “full,” meaning that it is a supernatural joy that is abounding in our being. It is this truth that led John to pen the epistle of 1 John. In it he writes, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:1-4, emphasis added).

Notice the interplay between “fellowship” and “joy.” John was experiencing in his daily life the fellowship that exists between the Father and the Son, and such wonderous fellowship produces joy! John’s desire is that every believer would experience this great joy and so have fellowship together with them as they fellowshipped with the Father and the Son. The entire epistle of 1 John is written to tell the believer in Christ how they can have fellowship with Christ so that they would experience this inexpressible joy! This is seen plainly in John’s borrowing of the “abide” concept in 1 John stretching from 2:6 to 4:16. The call is to abide, for in doing so, sin become a non-issue and intimacy with the Lord abounds! 

Are we experiencing inexpressible joy; such that is radiating through us, where God is glorified and we are made full? 

Are we abiding in Christ? An uncertain response is confirmation that we are not. If this is the case, what have we allowed to move us out of the abiding communion that the Father has so gracious given to us? 

Where are the areas of unbelief that are keeping us from bearing much fruit?

In pondering all of this, J. Oswald Sanders offers a cogent statement for the Christian to ponder: “It is a sobering thought that we… are as close to Christ as we really choose to be.”[20]What better place is there to be than abiding in Christ?

Jesus’ call to “abide” is only made clearer in the use of the vine/branch illustration. Ponder this relationship for a moment: Contact is essential. Proper nourishment comes about from consistent contact with the Vine. The Vinedresser assures that every care and precaution is taken so that the greatest opportunity for fruitfulness can be experienced by the branch stemming through the Vine. When contact stops, nourishment stops. The flow is meant to encourage total dependency. This is what it is to abide in Christ; a total dependency on Him where whatever needs to be accomplished in our lives is accomplished because His supernatural nourishment is flowing through us with the Father helping it along. In this way, the branches are understood to be seamless with the Vine. This is Christ living His Life through us! 

Again, Sanders offers his thoughts, writing “It would seem that admission to the inner circle of deepening intimacy with God is the outcome of deep desire. Only those who count such intimacy a prize worth sacrificing anything else for are likely to attain it. If other intimacies are more desirable to us, we will not gain entry to that circle.”[21]

[1]See John MacArthur Jr., ed., The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Word Publishers, 1997), p. 1615, and David J. Ellis, “John” in The International Bible Commentary,ed. F.F. Bruce (England/Grand Rapids: Marshall Pickering/Zondervan 1986), p. 1255-1256.

[2]See Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), p. 3–6, and Joseph C. Dillow, “Abiding Is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1–6,” Bibliotheca Sacra147 (1990): 44–53.

[3]Gary Derickson and Earl Radmacher, The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus(Salem, OR: Charis Press, 2001), p. 152–153.

[4]John F. Hart, “John” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham(Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), p. 1649.

[5]NET Notes on John 15:2, “takes away” with emphasis added- “In Johannine usage the word occurs in the sense of ‘lift up’ in 8:59 and 5:8–12, but in the sense of ‘remove’ it is found in 11:39, 11:48, 16:22, and 17:15. In context (theological presuppositions aside for the moment) the meaning ‘remove’ does seem more natural and less forced (particularly in light of v. 6, where worthless branches are described as being “thrown out”—an image that seems incompatible with restoration).-Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible; The NET Bible(Biblical Studies Press, 2005).

[6]James M. Boice, The Gospel of John, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), p. 227

[7]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 16–17, with the Greek elaborations removed for ease of reading.

[8]Hart, “John,” Moody Bible Dictionary, p. 1649.

[9]BDAG, p. 488.

[10]See Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Jn 15:2.

[11]Zane C. Hodges, Arthur L. Farstad, and Robert N. Wilkin, The Epistle of James: Proven Character through Testing(Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1994), p. 19.

[12]BDAG, p. 489.

[13]Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon,p. 728.

[14]Augustine of Hippo, “Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John,” in St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. John Gibb and James Innes, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), p. 345.

[15]C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Study Bible(New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), Jn 15:4.

[16]A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament(Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Jn 15:5.

[17]Dillow, “Abiding Is Remaining in Fellowship”: 51.

[18]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism, Rev. and expanded. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), p. 48.

[19]Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 115.

[20]J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God(Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 18.

[21]Ibid.

Foundational Framework 64: O.S.A.S.

FF64.png

Can someone lose their salvation? There are few doctrines that are more divisive than the doctrine of eternal security. Eternal security states that the one who believes in Jesus Christ is completely and totally secure for all eternity in their salvation and that nothing can sever this relationship whether in this life or in the Life to come. This doctrine is often referred to as “once saved, always saved.” 

Foundational Verses for Security

In sharing the good news that salvation is provided freely by Jesus Christ, John 5:24is an excellent verse that clearly establishes the issue. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has Eternal Life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” There are two major points that Jesus addresses and a result that follows. 

First, the person must hearthe good news about Jesus Christ. This is consistent throughout the New Testament (Acts 15:7; 18:8; Rom 10:17; Eph 1:13). One cannot believe in what they have not heard, so it only follows that we must tell people about Jesus Christ. Have they heard that Jesus, the Son of the Living God, has provided salvation for them full and free?

If they answer “yes,” we now move to the second point. Have they believedGod’s Word about Jesus providing salvation? To “believe” is to have a conviction that something is true. It is faith. Hebrews 11:1 states that faith “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” From this simple definition, we can see that "faith" is a confident conviction that something is true. Concerning the good news, the object of our “confident conviction” is Jesus Christ. Do we believe what God has said about Him? Are we confidently convinced that He alone can save us?

(It is important to note that in this one verse, the condition for salvation is clearly displayed, being “faith.” This is all that Jesus requires. “If there are hidden conditions to salvation other than the simple request of faith, Jesus would be guilty of deception.”[1])

If the answer to this question is “yes,” we then ask them what they now have. The answer is clear in John 5:24- Eternal Life. This verse uses the word “has” which is a present-tense verb. Eternal Life is something that one has at the moment of faith in Christ. This is not a gradual process or a "time of testing," but an immediate fact. D.L. Moody wrote, “Salvation is instantaneous. I admit that a man may be converted so that he cannot tell when he crossed the line between death and life, but I also believe a man may be a thief one moment and a saint the next. I believe a man may be as vile as hell itself one moment, and be saved the next. Christian growth is gradual, just as physical growth is; but a man passes from death unto everlasting life quick as an act of the will—'He that believeth on the Son hatheverlasting life.’”[2]

The next point to consider is that Jesus clarifies exactly what He means in stating that the one who believes in Him “does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24b). Our previously certain reservation in the Lake of Fire has been dismissed due to the free pardon that is offered by the perfect work of Jesus. The one who believes in Christ will never be judged for their sin. It has been paid for in full!

It must also be noted that the believer in Christ “has passed” out of eternal death into Eternal Life. This is a verb in the perfect tense, meaning that it is “a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present.”[3]This means that Eternal Life is a present reality for the one who believes and is a permanent possession beyond this life into the Life to come. Death has been dismissed, being gloriously replaced by the gift of Eternal Life that Jesus freely gives.

Another foundational passage is found in John 10:27-30. This is commonly referred to as the “double-fisted grip of God,” and rightly so, for in it is the reinforcement of the believer’s eternal destiny directly from the mouth of the Lord Jesus. 

Jesus refers to believers as His “sheep” in John 10:27. It is clear from 10:26 that those who are considered “sheep” are those who have believed in Jesus. They know His voice and they follow Him. In v.28, Jesus plainly states that He gives them “Eternal Life.” Notice that this is a gift and not something that they have earned. One cannot earn their salvation. May it be stated clearly: Eternal Life IS salvation. What else could it be but Life from the dead for those who were formerly separated from God by their sin nature? By its very name it is forever.

Verse 28 is so emphatic regarding the impossibility of one losing their salvation that the translators of the HSCB translated this as “and they will never perish —ever!” In the Greek, this is what is known as an “emphatic negation” because “never” is the translation of ou mēand is included with “perish” being the aorist subjunctive, which is “the strongest way to negate something in Greek,” because it “denies a potentiality”[4]regarding the loss of one’s salvation. Wallace goes on to note that “ou mē rules out even the idea as being a possibility,” while stating in the next paragraph that “especially in John: what is negatived is the possibility of the loss of salvation.”[5]Grammatically, it is an absolute and undeniable impossibility to be lost again.

In v.28b-29, Jesus uses an illustration that involves His ability to securely keep those who are His, and the Father’s ability (being “greater than all”) to do the same. The one who is Christ’s sheep is held firmly, without needing to fear removal, in His perfect hands, while the Father also holds these same sheep in divine security. He then reveals that He and the Father are one (v.30), signifying their complete unity. Christ’s sheep are shielded by His hands while also being gripped in the grace of the Father. Robertson expounds on this, writing, “No wolf, no thief, no bandit, no hireling, no demon, not even the devil can pluck the sheep out of my hand.”[6]Though some have claimed it to be possible, even the believer him or herself cannot remove themselves from the double-fisted grip of God’s grace. The promise of Christ is certain and sure.

While many other passages could be expounded upon, these two sections are sufficient to prove the point. The one who hears the good news about Jesus and is confidently convinced that it is true receives Eternal Life as a free gift, having passed from total separation from the Father into a living union with Him.

The Difference Between Security and Assurance

Eternal Securitycan be easily understood from the verses in Scripture that promise Eternal Life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:37, 40, 47). Plainly put, if Eternal Life is not forever, what else could it be? John 3:16 is clear. The one who believes in Jesus has Eternal Life. Therefore, Eternal Security is a biblical doctrine that is as sure and steadfast as its name, being based on Christ’s merits and not on our performance or lack thereof.

Assurance of salvationis a different subject only because it is the person's viewpoint of their salvation. For instance, one may hear the Gospel and believe and understand at that moment that they have been eternally saved, meaning that they are eternally secure. At that moment they have assurance of their salvation. But let's say that an hour later they participate in some heinous sin, anafterwardds they have great anxiety about the authenticity of their salvation, concluding that someone who "truly believes in Jesus" would never sin like that (which is complete nonsense). That person may no longer haven a assurance of their salvation. However, this feelingdoes not change the factof their salvation. They are still eternally secure. 

Heinous sins are not greater than the grip of God’s grace. David’s sin in having Uriah murdered to cover up his fornication with Bathsheba is considered by most to be one of the worst sins in all of history. However, David writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12). 

This section, along with the rest of the psalm, makes it clear that David had sinned greatly against the Lord. However, he cries out for a restoration of the “joy of Your salvation” and not for a saving-again to take place. David did not lose his salvation by committing this atrocious act, but he did fracture the ongoing fellowship experience that he had enjoyed with the Lord, and it was this sense of loss, coupled with the conviction that Nathan the prophet brought to David (2 Sam 12:1-15) that caused him to cry out for restoration. This is something that can happen to us as well. 

To the surprise of many, ongoing sin in a believer’s life does not nullify their salvation either. Take the church in Corinth, who had a man that was openly sleeping with his stepmother, a sin that pagans did not even dare to commit (1 Cor 5:1). Paul takes this sin seriously, as we should all sin, but he does not question the man’s eternal destiny. He writes, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5, emphasis added). If this man loved this lifestyle so much, he was to be dismissed from the fellowship of the church. However, though this sin may lead to physical death, he was still spiritually secure in his salvation.

In the case of habitual sins or “unusual” (sometimes declared to be “big” sins), our assurance can waver because our emotions have taken control, moving our focus off of Christ and onto ourselves. In our minds, the issue of Heaven or Hell has just become a matter of us keeping our conduct, morals, and secret thoughts in a straight line. This leads to a fear-based approach to God, certain depression because of our failures, and repeated feelings of inadequacy that we are just not good enough to be saved. This makes living one’s daily life a constant attempt to be accepted rather than resting in the believer’s “already-acceptance” because Christ’s finished work has been fully accepted.

This can be seen in the actions of John the Baptist, who was considered by Jesus to be the greatest person ever born of a woman (Matt 11:11a). While in prison, John had heard about the miracles that Jesus was doing. He then sent some of his disciples to Jesus with a very revealing question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt 11:3). This is an incredible inquiry, for John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ (Luke 1:17), who was filled with the Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15b), and who declared when seeing Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29b). But with this question, it is clear that he had lost his assurance. 

When hearing this inquiry through John’s disciples, Jesus responds stating, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deahearsar, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matt 11:4-6). Jesus’ reply pointed John to all that was spoken of the Messiah in the prophecies of Isaiah (Isa 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). At no time did John lose his salvation, but his current situati,on being in a prison ce,ll had caused him to lose sight of who Jesus was, momentarily robbing him of his assurance. Jesus reminds Him that He is the One who fulfills the promises of the prophets; a response that was guaranteed to restore his assurance.

A person’s present situation, whether pleasant like a summer’s day or revolting like a Roman prison, is not indicative of one's eternal standing with Gd, and is most certainly not the basis of their eternal security in Christ. One’s salvation is based upon the Savior’s finished work, not the saint’s mistakes and successes. To conclude that salvation is “true,” “genuine,” or “authentic,” based on the performance of the individual is to state that the individual’s performance is necessary (indispensable) in order to complete (or make valid) that person’s salvation. 

If this were true, we must ask, “So what of the cross?” Why did Jesus die if I only need to do my part? Why couldn’t I just do more so that Jesus could have done less and would not have had to suffer so much? This reasoning is ludicrous, and the conclusions and arguments that surround this line of thinking are fallacious. Ultimately, this conclusion would state that what Jesus did on the cross was not effective enough, satisfying enough, or sufficient enough. His death was lacking, needing our submission and obedience to complete it. This is nothing short of blasphemy.

This is the plainly stated word of God on salvation and the assurance that should accompany one’s faith in Christ. To look elsewhere is to lose one’s assurance of the Eternal Life that they possess as a free gift from God. Our surroundings are in no way a grounds for acceptance before God. George Pentecost writes, “It is not in the fact that you are a descendant of a saintly father, a child of believing parents, for, as old Matthew Henry says, ‘Grace does not run in the blood;’ nor is it that you have membership in the visible Church of Christ; nor is it to be found in delightful frames and feelings—in a word, not even a genuine Christian experience constitutes your ‘title-deed.’ Where then are we to bottom our hope? Why, just in the naked bare Word of God. It is written, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me hatheverlasting life,’ etc. (John 5:24). Straight to the record do we appeal for a final test as to our possession in God.”[7]

Another point to consider is that eternal security is not the same as the Perseverance of the Saints. The Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine that came about shortly after the Reformation in the 1500s. In simple terms, it states that those who artruely believers in Christ will persevere in their faith and good works until their dying day. For those who do not persevere, it is either concluded that they were "never truly saved," as the Calvinists would conclude, or that they had "lost their salvation," as held by Arminians. From what we have seen so far, one should quickly see that the “proof of salvation” has been refocused upon the works of the individual, having been taken off of the sufficient work of the Savior. 

It is easy to see that for those who believe in the Perseverance of the Saints, this doctrine holds the hands of assurance closely, often causing them to vacillate. An example can be seen in remarks involving assurance that are made by John Piper, a prominent proponent of the Perseverance of the Saints. He states, “I know people, and I would say this about myself, for whom the greatest threat to my perseverance and my ultimate salvation is the slowness of my sanctification. It’s not theoretical questions like ‘Did He rise from the dead?’ or the problem of evil. I’ve got answers. But why I sin against my wife the same at age 62 that I did at age 42 causes me sometimes to doubt my salvation or the power of the Holy Spirit.”[8]

Notice that Piper’s doubts are due to his inability to perform at a higher (more sinless) level. For him, his works are in view, and being as such, Christ’s finished work is not. Focusing on our personal works will always lead to doubts about one’s eternal destiny because we know that the standard is too high and that even our greatest works fall far short. Only Christ can give us the assurance that we need. We must look to Him only, always!

Doctrinal Considerations

Justificationbefore God is an essential doctrine of Christianity that is closely linked with imputed righteousness and eternal security. Justification, which is sometimes referred to as “positional sanctification,” is when God declares one righteous because they have responded in faith to Jesus Christ. The merits for acceptance by Him are those of Christ. One’s faith is simply the channel by which those merits are applied. This means that God now sees the believer in Christ as one who is positionally spotless and blameless in His sight (though this does not mean that our daily practice is such, which is referred to as our progressive sanctification).

The connection between justification and eternal security is an inseparable one. J.I. Packer writes, “God’s justifying decision is the judgment of the Last Day, declaring where we shall spend eternity, brought forward into the present and pronounced here and now. It is the last judgment that will ever be passed on our destiny; God will never go back on it, however much Satan may appeal against God’s verdict (Zech. 3:1; Rev. 12:10; Rom. 8:33–34). To be justified is to be eternally secure (Rom. 5:1–5; 8:30).

The necessary means, or instrumental cause, of justification is personal faith in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord (Rom. 4:23–25; 10:8–13). This is because the meritorious ground of our justification is entirely in Christ.”[9]This leads us to the imputed righteousness of Christ toward the believer.

If an understanding of justification were not enough, the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousnessshould settle the issues surrounding “losing one’s salvation.” The word “imputation” means “charging to an account, used in the Bible with legal reference to sin and salvation being recorded by God… ‘to set down in a record or a ledger.’ In relation to the doctrine of salvation the word is consistently used in a legal sense.”[10]Christ has died for the sin of the world (John 1:29), satisfying the debt of sin by His blood (Rom 3:25a), and making the very righteousness of God a firm reality for the one who believes in Christ (Rom 3:21-22). This shows that the necessary and effectual work has been done by Jesus Christ, and our acceptance of this glorious truth as being the channel of faith which applies His work to our accounts before God. Jesus has taken and paid for our sin successfully. In turn, He credits us with His righteousness, being the very righteousness of God Himself. Second Corinthians 5:21 states it this way: “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that (REASON GIVEN) we (those who believe) might become the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus).” 

To say that one can either lose or forfeit their salvation would be to say that the righteousness of God which had been “charged to the account” of the one who believed could be suddenly rescinded. Since those who believe in Jesus have been given the “right to become children of God” (John 1:12b), this means that the believing one has ownership (rights) in this claim to be God’s child. To suddenly remove this standing is nothing short of theft, leaving the believer an orphan. Such an act would establish the believer’s sin, or apathy, or waywardness, or negligence, or whatever has led to their acceptance being revoked as containing more power than the promises of God in declaring us righteous. The power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in redeeming us would be a loan at best. Such thinking is blasphemous and paints God’s redemptive acts in the same light as pawn shop merchandise and thrift store seconds. 

In our previous study, there was much to be considered regarding the believer’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, especially in the change of relationship that happened with the institution of the Church Age Dispensation (Acts 2:3-4). Jesus had previously stated that the Spirit was with the disciples (John 14:17b) but was also quick to say that He would soon be “in you” once the Son of Man was glorified (John 7:39; John 14:17c). Unless Jesus left them, they would not benefit from this new intimacy that He was sending to them (John 16:7). 

Now that the Holy Spirit takes up residence within the one who believes in Christ, and if it were possible that one could lose their salvation, would we not be concluding that our will or sin would have the ability to evict the Holy Spirit of God from our being? Would this not make the guarantee of Christ in sending the Spirit to be in us “forever” (John 14:16b) a false statement? If this were true, how could we trust anything that God has told us? It should be obvious that such thinking is thoroughly disconnected from what has been plainly stated in God’s Word.

The Common Objection

There are many who rail against eternal security, stating that if someone believes that they will never lose their salvation, it automatically becomes a license to sin. If there is no threat of the possibility of eternal damnation hanging over the believer’s head, they will become “hell-raisers,” since they are without restraint or consequences. This assumption is common, but unfounded. 

First, at the moment of faith, the Holy Spirit indwells the one who believes. This alone makes the person different, with God Himself ready to change that person to be more conformed to the image of Christ from the inside out (Rom 8:29). This is when the longing “for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet 2:2) should begin taking place.

Second, the freeness of salvation and the security that Christ promises should yield a response of gratitude if understood correctly. Grace is costly to God, but it is absolutely free to us. We have undeservingly been rescued from a certain destiny in the Lake of Fire, and the means of securing such a glorious pardon were provided by the perfect Life and sufficient death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. The only reason why this blessed doctrine would yield a life of havoc and chaos would be largely because the Church failed to teach sound Bible doctrine to their congregants in love and truth. Discipleship is commanded by the Lord Jesus (Matt 28:18-20) and this relationship should be saturating the local church, aa s believer is teachinanother g believer all that Christ commanded. It is life invested into life in order to cultivate Life in the here and now.  

Third, to claim that there are “no consequences” for a wayward believer’s actions is to dismiss the seriousness of the Bema, the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is where believers will “be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). The Christian Life is a time of stewardship for the believer, where he and she are training now for an opportunity to reign with Christ in the Kingdom to come (2 Tim 2:12a; Rev 2:26-27). 

This recompense (literally- “to pay back”) is in response to our deeds, “whether good or bad.” Don’t miss this last part. Both good and bad that we have done while believers on Earth will be paid back by the Lord. Those good things will be rewarded (1 Cor 3:14) but those they things that are bad will bring us shame. However, such shame is regret for not living for Christ in opportunities where we could have been greatly used by Him for His glory and purposes. It is not a loss of salvation as Paul makes clear (1 Cor 3:15). Additionally, just because one is a believer in Christ does not mean that earthly consequences for wrong actions have been exempted. We are all still responsible. 

Finally, and most importantly, the Bible teaches otherwise. At no point in any passage of any book of the Bible do we see that someone can lose their salvation. It simply isn’t there.

Well, what about that one passage…

Those who believe that you can lose your salvation have certain “go-to” passages that seem to state that someone can be lost again. A favorite would be the passages that refer to “falling away” (Matt 13:21; 24:10; Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:12). In each of these passages, a consideration of the context will show that a believer losing their salvation is NOT what is being discussed. While many would disagree, a “backsliding” Christian is a real thing, though biblically we would consider them “not walking in the Spirit” or “out of fellowship with the Lord.”

Another set of passages that is often referred to is Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-27. In each of these, again, context points to the Christian who is being negligent of the salvation that they already have. In Hebrews, the issue is that the Christians that are being written to are considering returning to Judaism in order to avoid being persecuted for their faith in Christ. The unknown author of this book writes to show them that all that they would be returning to (the Law, Moses, angels, sacrificial system, etc.) are inferior compared to what they now have in Christ because Christ is the fulfillment of all of these things. He proceeds in showing them that there is divine discipline for disobedience, but great reward for faithfulness unto Christ Jesus during this difficult time. Both of these passages can be easily cleared up when the big picture is in mind.

Again, though the Bible does teach a loss of reward for unfaithfulness to Christ, it does not teach a loss of one’s salvation.

Just how secure am I?

The Scriptures have unfolded a glorious “union within a union” that takes place the moment that one trusts in Jesus Christ.

#1- Christ IN You

Colossians 1:25-27; 3:3. The mystery that was previously hidden but has now been made known is the mystery of the Church Age and the fact of the indwelling Christ in the believer. We must understand that neither Chrit, nor the Holy Spirit for that matter, ever indwelled anyone prior to the beginning of the Church Age dispensation in Acts 2. But the Church is His Body, and He is its Head (Col 1:18). This was a glorious truth that was previously unknown ithe n Old Testamet, but is now fully disclosed (mainly through the writings of Paul, but not exclusively).

Christ is IN the believer, and His residing IN the believer is our hope of glory! MacDonald notes, “We have no other title to heaven than the Savior Himself. The fact that He indwells us makes heaven as sure as if we were already there.”[11]This truth is only enhanced in Colossians 3:3, where we see that our life is hidden with Christ in God. This is our eternal union with the Son and the Father, which speaks to our glorious position of acceptance that we received when we believed.

#2- The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 1:13. The Apostle Paul tells us plainly that we were “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” This verse draws our attention to the “ordo salutis” (order of salvation) where one hears the Word about Christ, believes that Word, and is instantaneously placed “in Christ,” while simultaneously receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Who seals the believer “as a pledge of our inheritance” (Eph 1:14). 

A good transition verse that covers the believer’s sealing with the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith and their instantaneous relocation to being “in Christ” is seen in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22which reads “Now He who establishes us with you in Christand anointed us is God, who also sealed usand gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” This word “pledge” is significant, meaning “an earnest, i.e. money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will subsequently be paid.”[12]The Holy Spirit of God resides in the believer forever (John 14:16b) as a promise of the great glorification to come.

#3- The Believer is IN Christ

Ephesians 1:3-14. While v.13-14 are addressed above, we cannot read this passage without being struck by the importance and blessing of being “in Christ,” “in the Beloved,” and “in Him.” This is the glorious position that the Body of Christ has as a present reality.

Romans 6:11, 23. Paul tells us that we are “alive to God IN Christ Jesus” (6:11). This is because LIFE is found only in Christ Jesus, being something that existed with Him before the world began (John 1:4). In 6:23, we see the same thing: Eternal Life is IN Jesus Christ.

#4- The Believer is IN the Father, IN Christ

Colossians 3:3; John 10:29. Christ, who IS our Life has hidden us with Himself in God the Father. The Father has a grasp on us that is equal to that of the Son. We are safeguarded within Him and held tightly by Him.

The believer is indwelt with Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith, while simultaneously made alive and placed “in Christ” as a new spiritual location before the Father, in whom the believer also finds him or herself resting, being fully immersed and gripped by His grace.

Let us close with the wonderful words of assurance from the Apostle Paul: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” -Romans 8:38-39.

Rejoice!

[1]Charles C. Bing, Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response, 2ndEdition(Xulon Press, 2010), p. 58. 

[2]D. L. Moody, The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody, ed. Emma Moody Fitt (East Northfield, MA: The Bookstore, 1900), p. 229–230.

[3]Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology(Lexham Press, 2013; 2013).

[4]Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 1996), p. 468.

[5]Ibid. 

[6]A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament(Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Jn 10:28.

[7]George F. Pentecost, The Fundamentals: A Testimony of the Truth, vol. 4, ed. R.A. Torrey (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 276–277.

[8]As quoted by Philip F. Congdon, “John Piper’s Diminished Doctrine of Justification and Assurance,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Vol 23(2010), p. 61, footnote 3.

[9]J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), p. 165.

[10]Bruce A. Demarest, “Imputation,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), p. 1024.

[11]William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1999.

[12]Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 75.

Foundational Framework 63: The Holy Spirit Part 5

Foundational Frameworks.png

There are two final mentions regarding the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse that reflect some of the greatest truths of His being and presence in the Church Age. First, we must address the surrounding context before reaching John 16:7-15.

One of the greatest hindrances to an accurate understanding of the Scriptures can be found in the “mental break” that occurs when we venture from one chapter of the Bible to another. This difficulty is more prominent than what we may initially realize. Instead, we must formulate our understandings based on the flow of thought as the biblical author has recorded them so that we are embracing each subject in its given order without allowing for the introduction of 16:1 (for example) to cause us to think that a new subject has suddenly been introduced. While this may happen in regular books, this is often not the case with the Scriptures.

In John 16:1, Jesus reveals the reason for His exposition of the reality and nature of the Holy Spirit as seen in 15:26. The confidence that should accompany the knowledge of the Holy Spirit’s presence among them should help keep them from “stumbling.” This word is mē skandalizōwhich upon pronunciation will cause one to think of the English word “scandal,” and rightly so. The mē (pronounced may) is a “particle of negation” that “denies the thought of the thing, or the thing according to the judgment, opinion, will, purpose, preference,of someone.”[1]Putting this together we have the rationale behind Jesus’ words and the desired effect that He sought for them to have on His disciples. This teaching on love, persecution, and the Holy Spirit would rid them of any stumbling block, impediment, or scandal if they would only heed them. His promises were enough to sustain them through the turmoil that would soon transpire. The Spirit of truth is who will guide and comfort them amid persecution, hatred, and affliction (John 15:18-25), all while testifying through them concerning the oracles of God (John 15:26b-27). 

Jesus then continues the theme of persecution, explaining the social and religious rejections that they will undergo (John 16:2), even stating that those who murder them will do so under the guise that their actions are a means of glorifying God (John 16:2b). Such actions, and the skewed justification that accompanies their violence, will be the result of their genuine ignorance of the truth, not having known the Father or the Son (John 16:3). “Persecution is certain, but there is not the slightest hint that the disciples should retreat into safe havens and cease witnessing about Jesus. In fact, just the opposite is expected. And to make their witnessing effective the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth or authenticity, is promised to them to support them in their witnessing.”[2]While not every believer will be called to give their very life for the sake of Jesus Christ, some will, and in doing so will be greatly rewarded for their faithfulness (Matt 5:10-12).

Jesus’ comment in John 16:4 is meant to instill confidence in His disciples, though their surrounding conditions would seem bleak. Constable gives a better understanding, writing, “The memory that Jesus had forewarned His disciples would enable them to realize that things were not out of control when they seemed to be. This remembrance would really strengthen their faith in Jesus rather than weakening it.”[3]Any who have ever experienced persecution can relate to the fear and anxiety that accompanies the choice to stand for Jesus. The Master’s words were meant to comfort them in this time, giving them a steadfast “rock” to cling to. Jesus also notes that He did not tell His disciples these things at the beginning due to His physical presence. This comment foreshadows His absence, as will be seen in His crucifixion, but also leaves the reassurance of His Word with them, which never passes away (Luke 21:33).

Jesus understands that His time to depart is drawing near (John 16:5) and that this news has filled His disciples with grief (16:6). It would seem that Jesus’ remark that the disciples had not asked Him where He was going shows that their sorrow had overwhelmed them in their present situation. How would they continue on without Jesus? Could they? Who would guide them? Teach them? Answer their questions? Provide for them? They would be without Him and their relationship with Him was seemingly coming to an end. The disciples’ present emotion had eclipsed Jesus’ promise to provide them with power.

Jesus was not content to let this line of thinking continue, though He knew that their emotions would get the best of them and lead them in a direction of denial (in Peter’s case), distance (in John’s case), and absence (the other nine disciples). Such sorrow brings Jesus’ words to the antidote that He had been holding up before them this entire time: The Paraklētos!

John 16:7.Jesus’ statement in v.7 seems almost beyond comprehension. In light of persecution (John 15:18-16:4), and that being coupled with the fact that He would be leaving them, Jesus reveals that His absence is an advantageous change for His disciples. The word used for “advantage” is the Greek word sympherō,which is a compound word with sym being used as a prefix that denotes “togetherness, to be coupled together, or assembled,” and pherōmeaning to “bring, carry, brought.” This gives the meaning of something that is “profitable,” “expedient,” or “beneficial.” “What a statement!” writes John Van Gelderen. “Jesus said it is more advantageous for us if He departs so that His Spirit could come and be our personal companion. For us to ignore this personal relationship with the Spirit is to despise our Savior’s throne gift: the gift of the Spirit that He sent from His throne on the Day of Pentecost.”[4]

No doubt that Jesus’ statement would be met with unbelief. The disciples’ minds were probably still fixated on His words that He Himself would be absent (“sorrow”-John 16:6). But this is what must happen in order to place the disciples (and us by extension) into a more “beneficial” position. This advantage is Holy Spirit power, the Supernatural working through the temporal, the Blessing blazing forth through the mundane. The Spirit of truth is the central source of positioning us in such a way as to be pleasing to God in our thoughts and actions, operating in perfect harmony with the Scriptures that He has inspired (2 Pet 1:21).

It must be noted that there is a divinely set timeline and progression in place that must transpire for the Spirit to come. This can be understood from John 7:39 where we read, “the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Jesus’ “glorification” is a process that was ignited in John 13:31-32 after Judas had left to betray Him. This “glorification” is contingent upon timing, a pivotal moment that Jesus addresses in John 17:1, 5, noting that the hour had now come (17:1) and that the glory that would be bestowed upon Him at this time was the same glory that He had enjoyed with the Father before the world was created (17:5). From this, we can conclude that the “glorification” in mind is Jesus’ death for sin, His resurrection, and His ascension to the Father, seeing that the Holy Spirit brings about a dispensational shift in Acts 2:3-4 by coming uponthe disciples, filling them, and residing in them from that moment forward.

The “Helper” must come. Since we have the progressive revelation of the New Testament, we understand fully that all that must be done in establishing the Church must be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what the book of Acts is all about. Many Bibles have given this book a title like “The Acts of the Apostles,” but this is misleading to say the least. The book of Acts is about the acts of the Holy Spirit as the empowering God, who grows His Church through His indwelling and supernatural work through believers in Christ. The “sending” of the Spirit is once again in complete alignment with God’s intended plan for history, with a people (The Church) who are “producing the fruits” of the kingdom, though the kingdom has been postponed as a result of Israel’s national rejection of their Messiah (Matt 21:43; 12:24, respectively).

John 16:8-11.Jesus now unfolds the Spirit’s convicting ministry. This is what the Spirit is doing in the Church Age. The explanation also provides a better understanding of the “advantageous” opportunities that the Spirit affords beyond simply residing in the believer. 

Of first observation, Jesus states “when He comes,” which obviously speaks of the events of Pentecost (Acts 2:3-4), being the birth of the Church, the Body of Christ. This is the time that the Spirit will begin this special ministry. 

Second, we see that the action of the Spirit will be that of “conviction.” This word iselenchō, meaning “to convict, refute, confute, generally with a suggestion of the shame of the person convicted,”[5]with “convict” being the overwhelming choice of many major English translations (NASB95, NKJV, ESV, HCSB, CSB, NIV84). 

Finally, the audience that will receive this convicting work of the Holy Spirit is identified as “the world.” This word (kosmos) has a wide arrayof meanings, but due to the surrounding context, we can understand this as the Spirit’s work of conviction in relation to unbelievers. This is a sound conclusion when noting that the areas of conviction are going to be in regards to sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8b) with each area being expounded upon by Jesus in John 16:9-11. This clearly shows the recipients of such messages as being those who are in need of divinely-imparted Life. These three areas must be carefully considered, for when the Spirit comes, He will indwell the believer in Jesus Christ from that moment forward (John 14:16b). This means that these three areas of conviction will be addressed through the believer in Christ. 

Every believer is indispensable to the administration of the convicting work of the Spirit. This work can manifest itself in many ways through the believer, but all will be brought forth with the goal of bringing the deeds, philosophies, and plans of the world into full exposure as works of evil and unrighteousness. The Holy Spirit is a light through the believer, and when the believer is walking in the Spirit, this light pierces the darkness of this present age, holding it accountable for its unbelief, and projecting a beacon of hope that is answered in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us consider each one.

First, we have the area of “sin” in John 16:9. Sin is the problem. It is always the problem. It has always been the problem. Many people have thought, and with good intentions, that something else is the issue, whether it be poverty, disability, insignificance, race, creed, work environment, spouse, kids, in-laws, etc., and so this is where the time, attention, money, focus, and energy goes with feeble attempts to try and “make a difference” so that life, work, and relationships will be improved. This is exactly what Satan wants within the Church because it completely avoids the central pitfall of sin.

The issue, every issue, regardless of what it is, finds its nucleus in sin! Satan wants us polishing the leaves and pruning the branches rather than focusing on the root. He wants us instituting programs and formulating plans to give people a better life, rather than identifyingand bearing down on their ongoing sin and its origin in the sin nature that is successfully flourishing within them (Rom 5:12, 19). He delights in us prescribing people with a checklist for achievement rather than shining a light on the quicksand that is devouring them. 

Q: Why is sin the first area in which the Holy Spirit will bring conviction upon the world?

A: Unbelief (John 16:9b). This is how we know that the word “world” in John 16:8 is referring to those who are unregenerate. They are lost and they do not have Life, and we know that they do not have Life because they do not believe. The greatest sin that one can have is unbelief. Jesus states it plainly: “because they do not believe in Me.” Seeing that the Gospel of John uses the word “believe” 98 times, and that by his own admission, John wrote his gospel account with the goal of leading the lost to faith in Christ (John 20:30-31), it should be no surprise that he is emphatic about the main problem that needs to be addressed. The whole human race is guilty before an Almighty Creator of whom they must give an account (Rom 3:19-20). The world is “judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Condemnation is already certain for those who do not believe. 

How does this concern the saint in whom the Holy Spirit dwells? This is the first point that needs to be addressed when discussing spiritual matters with a lost person. As with the other two areas that will be discussed, this is the first matter presented where the Holy Spirit will bring conviction. Our evangelism should seek to be in alignment with where the Spirit is working. Since Jesus has revealed this wonderous truth to us, we know that this is the perfect place to start. We cannot work apart from Him and “hope” that He will overlook our denial of where He is already actively working, expecting Him to bless us in spite of our “alternate” approach. 

Our time should not be wasted in looking for “someone to come in and do something.” The Holy Spirit works through the believer in Christ. This means you and me. This is an important opportunity that has been afforded to us by God. Reverend George C. Grubb writes, “the most awful thing that a man can do is to have a doubt about the credibility of Jesus, to wander on in the darkness of his own delusions. How the world needs that conviction today; and the world can only get it through seeing Christ shining out of you. The Holy Spirit does not act immediately on the world; He always acts mediately through the members of the Body of Christ. Why is the world not convicted of sin? Because the Spirit of God has come in such little power to us. Do not be blaming the world; do not be finding fault with the world always. ‘People are so Gospel-hardened,’ you say; they are not Gospel-hardened: they have not seen the shining Jesus in you.”[6]

The issue is “sin,” being the destitute position that lost individuals are currently in due to their unbelief about Jesus. The Spirit’s work will always be through the born-again believer, for it is out of His residence that He seeks to address these matters. This leads us to the second area of conviction.

“Righteousness” is listed with the explanation that Jesus will “go to the Father and you no longer see Me” (John 16:10b). The idea of Jesus going to the Father is something that has been occasionally referenced throughout this discourse (John 13:36; 14:1-6, 19, 28; 16:5), so the theme is not unusual. What does Jesus mean in stating that the reason for this second avenue of conviction is because Jesus is going to the Father?

To answer this, we must slow down and meditate upon what Jesus is communicating to the eleven. The Son of God is leaving Earth. He will be crucified, buried, resurrected, and then will ascend before their eyes into heaven (Acts 1:9). If we will recall, the timing of the beginning of the Spirit’s convicting ministry is noted in John 16:7. Jesus must first “go away,” which clearly speaks to the events that will shortly transpire. Having “gone away,” the Spirit of truth will then“come,” and His coming will be advantageous because of the convicting ministry that He will give the disciples in the world upon His indwelling of them. Thus, we see that Jesus’ comments about going “to the Father and you no longer see Me” (John 16:10b) speaking to the time of His absence and the Spirit’s presence. We can conclude that the Spirit of God, residing in the believer, will be the representative of righteousness in Jesus’ place through us. This becomes increasingly clear when we think back to Jesus’ initial comment that the Spirit would be “another Helper” (John 14:16), being one that is like Him. 

We, as vessels who have the Spirit of God within us, are the instruments of righteousness in this world, as we walk in the Spirit and abide in Him. Such submission allows for the Spirit’s conviction of righteousness to be displayed as something wholly different than what this sinful world would consider “right” or “true.” An example of this can be seen in Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 2:13-15. It reads, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” 

Such selfless submission is the “will of God” because it is in alignment with “doing right,” and “doing right” will become a convicting display of righteousness that will silence the Church’s critics. Deep down, they recognize “right” when they see it, and such a display, being in alignment with the Holy Spirit, causes a conviction that results in their having nothing to say. Does this not preach today! Our culture is all about independence and individuality, which are used as excuses to be defiant and unruly. Sadly, I am speaking of many of the attitudes that permeate the American Church. How the Spirit of God would speak if we would simply understand that He is looking for opportunities to convict the world of what is truly “righteous” so that such conviction would amplify the world’s need for a Savior. Are weas those who have the Holy Spirit, a help or a hindrance in the mission that God is desiring to do in the world?

Our third area of conviction is “judgment” (John 16:11). The reason given is the fact that the “ruler of this world has been judged.” This is an astonishing statement seeing that the death of Christ had not yet occurred, and yet here is Jesus speaking already of the Devil’s certain condemnation. The words used for “judgment” and “judged” are krisis andkrinō respectively. Each holds the understanding of “a separating, sundering, separation; a trial, contest, judgment; i.e. opinion or decision given concerning anything, especially concerning justice and injustice, right and wrong.”[7]Judgment is a separation that takes place based on a standard that has been set, but not met

Having been instrumental in plummeting the human race into sin (Gen 3), Satan has assumed the right of rulership over this present age, as confirmed by the mouth of the Lord Jesus (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11b). The original call was for man to “have dominion” (Gen 1:26, 28), but sin caused a forfeiture of the right to rule as God’s representatives on Earth. This world is now governed by principalities and powers that will give an account for their stewardship over the Earth in due time (Ps 82). “That great enemy of truth is now living on borrowed time. Judgment will come, but the focus here is on an awareness that the prince of this world now stands condemned.”[8]The judgment of Satan is a foretaste of the judgment that will come upon all who do not respond in faith to Jesus Christ (remember, this convicting ministry has its audience in the “world”- John 16:8b).

The judgment that will come upon this world is a legitimate promise with the condemnation of Satan as evidence. Just as he is already judged by God, being an invisible, celestial being, so will the world be judged who has had the greater opportunity to hear and respond tothe Gospel of Jesus Christ. The already-judgment of the greater being guarantees the certain judgment of the lesser beings.

This, being the third area in which the Spirit will convict the world, also finds the believer in Christ as the channel by which this conviction will come. The judgment of the unbelieving world is a certain event that will transpire at a future time for those who are without the Life of God in them. This judgment is deserved because such Life has been freely provided for all (John 1:29; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2). This judgment is to the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:11-15). 

Many have objected to this in stating, “How could a good and loving God send anyone to a place of eternal torment? He doesn’t seem so loving.” This question misses the point entirely. Everyone, regardless of who they are, was already destined for the Lake of Fire because of sin. God, being under no obligation, provided a certain rescue from this otherwise unavoidable destiny. God does not send anyone to the Lake of Fire. He alone has provided the way out of the Lake of Fire. Jesus Christ is His answer to the sin problem that had guaranteed our eternal destiny in the Lake of Fire, and faith in Christ cancels our appointment for this judgment and places us in a position of full acceptance before a righteous God. God is the Rescuer of people from the Lake of Fire. People are already condemned because of their unbelief (John 3:18). God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, seeks to rescue the lost and give them Life!

Sin, righteousness, and judgment are three indispensable points that must be explained when sharing the Gospel with the lost. It is the three areas in which the Spirit is already working. It is the three topics that need to have the greatest understanding so that the unregenerate person can better grasp their bankrupt condition before a holy God (sin), the standard of righteousness that exists and that is made freely available to them by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (righteousness), and the judgment that awaits those who do not receive the free gift of Life that Jesus Christ offers (judgment).   

John 16:12-15.Jesus cannot tell the disciples anymore because they cannot bear them now (John 16:12b). Surely the idea of the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit upon the world was enough to occupy their thinking for a lifetime. Instead, Jesus returns to some familiar language, reinforcing what He had previously conveyed about the Spirit’s identity and coming. The Spirit is the “Spirit of truth” who will guide the disciples (and us by extension) into all truth, seeing that truth is who He is and the standard by which He abides. This “guiding into all truth” is in complete harmony with Jesus’ words in John 14:26 where He will “teach you all things,” speaking of the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

In the same form and fashion of Jesus’ approach (John 5:19-23, 26-27, 30-32; 10:31, 37-38; 14:7-12), we are told that the Spirit will not say anything that is not in total harmony and submission to the Father (John 16:13b). Both Jesus and the Spirit are in subjection to the Father’s will. Just as Jesus’ earthly life demonstrates what it is to walk by faith (in the Spirit), so the Spirit is in complete compliance with these truths, seeing that all truth comes from God. 

We are also told that the Spirit will “disclose” what is to come to them. This word “disclose” is not the same as “disclose” in John 14:22, but is a different word, being anangellowhich is a form of what we commonly understand as “angel,” which means “messenger.” The word anangellomeans “an announcement” or “making something known.” The Spirit will make what is to come “known” to them. This is not speaking to the crucifixion and resurrection, because the announcement of His resurrection was met with unbelief (Mark 16:11, 14). Borchert writes, “wide-ranging speculation is eliminated by remembering that these words were written as a Farewell message to anxious disciples who feared the imminent loss of Jesus, their physical companion and guide. But the future was also an unknown page for them, since these Paraclete passages indicate that the coming times would be traumatic for them and that in such times the disciples would need the truthful and authentic Spirit to guide them through their forthcoming wilderness.”[9]Such pain would still have Jesus’ promises.

The Spirit always points to Jesus Christ (John 15:26b-27). Those things that belong to Christ will be “disclosed” (anangello- “announced, made known”) to the disciples (John 16:14b). Again, this is in keeping with truth. Reading further, we see that those “things” are such that the Father has shared with the Son, giving Him “first-rights” ownership of them. The Spirit, being perfectly God, in turn reveals them to the disciples. All of this is in perfect compliance with explaining the truth about Jesus Christ.

What has Jesus taught us about the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel?

·     He is a “Helper” in the same manner as Jesus (14:16)

·     He is sent from the Father by request of the Son (14:16; 15:26)

·     He will be with us forever (14:16)

·     He is the Spirit of truth (14:17; 15:26; 16:13)

·     The world cannot receive Him (14:17)

·     He was “abiding” with the disciples in Jesus’ time (14:17)

·     He will be “in” them at a future time (14:17; 7:39)

·     When He resides “in” them, streams of living water will flow out from their innermost being (7:38)

·     He will be sent in the Name of Jesus (14:26)

·     He will teach them all things (14:26)

·     He will bring to their remembrance all that they had been taught (14:26)

·     He will testify about Jesus using believers to do so (15:26-27)

·     Jesus must go away for the Spirit to come (7:39; 16:7)

·     The Spirit’s arrival is “advantageous” for believers (16:7)

·     The Spirit will convict the word of sin, righteousness, and judgment (16:8-11)

·     The Spirit guides us into all truth (16:13)

·     The Spirit speaks only of what He has heard from the Father (16:13)

·     The Spirit will disclose the things to come to us (16:13)

·     He will glorify Christ (16:14)

·      He will disclose those things that come from the Son, and that were given to Him by the Father, to us (16:14-15)

Are we in step with what we have learned about the Holy Spirit? 

His ministry tous is revealing things about Christ, leading us and teaching us in all truth, and bringing to our remembrance the things about Christ in the proper time. 

His ministry throughus is the conviction of the world regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Are we in step with these things? Does our own personal sin hinder the conviction of the world’s sin that the Spirit is seeking to convey?

What was Jesus’ reason for sharing all that He did about the coming Holy Spirit? Though we are on the other side of the crucifixion, the disciples were not. They were being told that their beloved friend and mentor, the One whom they believed to be the Christ of God (Matt 16:16), was leaving them. Yet, they did not understand how He would leave them, even though He told them plainly (Matt 16:21; Luke 18:31-34). Imagine the looks on their faces when Judas’ kiss set off a firestorm of hostility. One of their own had betrayed the Son of God.

The Spirit was given to be a Friend, Helper, Comforter, and Counselor who never leaves (John 14:16). He is always there and He can keep us from stumbling (John 16:1) if we rely upon Him. He is a Teacher of truth and a Guide who leads us and makes us effective in ministry (John 14:26; 16:13) Most importantly, He is God; and isn’t it just like God to give of Himself for the love and care of His people.

[1]Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 408.

[2]Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), p. 162.

[3]Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Jn 16:4.

[4]John Van Gelderen, Friendship with the Holy Spirit (Ann Arbor, MI: Revival Focus Ministries, 2015), p. 42.

[5]Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 202.

[6]Keswick’s Triumphant Voice, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, Ltd./Zondervan Publishing House, 1963), p. 376-377.

[7]Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 361.

[8]Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), p. 300.

[9]Borchert, John 12–21, p. 170.

Foundational Framework Part 62: The Holy Spirit Part 4

Foundational Frameworks.png

This lesson continues examining Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit during what is commonly understood as the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). While the entirety of these chapters should be carefully studied with much prayer and meditation, our concern will be with the specifics of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the incredible relationship that He brings to the believer in Christ.

First, we must consider the context of the passage at hand. With chapter 15 comes Jesus’ teaching on what it is to “abide” in Him. This is something that will be covered in detail later, but it would be good for the sake of context to read v.1-11. 

Starting in John 15:12, the commandment as expressed in 13:34-35 is reiterated, beginning an inclusiothat persists unto John 15:17. “An inclusio is a literary device that marks off a section of material by putting ‘book ends’ at the beginning and end. This literary device alerts the reader to look at everything between the two similar, or identical in this case, statements as a single unit of thought.”[1]

Thus, within the bookends of loving “one another” we find the subjects of “greater love” being defined as giving one’s life for his friends (15:13), that friendship with Christ is contingent upon keeping His commands (15:14) and that His disciples are considered His friends, seeing that Jesus has made all things known to them as His Father has revealed them to Him (15:15). We also read that the eleven were chosen by Christ for the purpose of “bearing fruit” and that their fruit would “remain” (menō same word for “abide”), for with such “remaining/abiding” one’s prayers are answered, seeing that they are in fellowship with the Father (15:16).

Jesus then communicates that they should expect persecution and hatred because of their affiliation with Him (John 15:18-27). Accusations and violence against the believer is never a result of the believer him or herself, but is always because of Christ (15:21). He alone is the reason for reproach because what He speaks is always true (See also John 7:7). Jesus also explains His complete identification with the Father, noting that those who hate Him hate the Father as well (John 15:23-25).

Because of the works that Jesus performed in front of their eyes (John 15:24a), their accountability had been jettisoned to a maximum level, seeing that the Spirit was testifying through Jesus’ works that the kingdom of God had come upon Israel (Matt 12:28).[2]These works are also understood biblically as being the evidence of God abiding in Christ (John 14:10b). It is with the context of persecution, hatred, and heightened accountability that we step into Jesus’ continued comments about the Holy Spirit.  

John 15:26-27. Once again, the word “Helper” is used by Jesus, being the same word as mentioned before in John 14:16 and 26. The Parakletos, the One who has been “called to one’s side,” is perfectly God as seen in the Person of the Holy Spirit. While much of the importance of this word has already been conveyed, we must still recognize the false, modern-day stigmas that usually surround the Person of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit is usually understood as either being less than the Father and the Son, an influence that causes people to act irrationally, convulsing and rolling around on the floor, or altogether forgotten for the fear that He may be real and may actually enact some change in the life of the believer. Erdman sets the record straight, writing, “He is God as Creator. (Gen. 1:2; Psa. 104:30; Job 26:13; Luke 1:35.) He is one with God as Jehovah (Lord) in providential leading and care, and susceptible of grief on account of the unholiness of His chosen people. We cannot grieve an ‘influence,’ but only a person, and a person, too, who loves us. (Psa. 78:40; Eph. 4:30.) He is one with God as Adonai (Lord), whose glory Isaiah beheld and John rehearses, who commissioned the prophet and sent forth the apostle. (Isa. 6:1–10; John 12:37–41; Acts 13:2; 20:15–18.) In these Scriptures one and the same act is that of Jehovah and of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.”[3]The Holy Spirit is to be embraced as being one in essence with the Father and the Son, equal and eternal, yet commissioned with a particular responsibility that unearths itself in Jesus’ teaching in John 15:26.

Not only is the Spirit identified again as the “Helper,” but is also spoken of again as “the Spirit of truth” as seen previously in John 14:17a. This is, of course, consistent with the character and essence of the Spirit because He is perfectly God. In addition, Jesus notes that He will send the Spirit to His disciples “from the Father” (John 15:26b) which pairs perfectly with His previous statements of asking of the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:16) and that the Spirit is sent by the Father in the name of Jesus in John 14:26. Again, the Holy Spirit is the specially requested and divinely sent blessing of Jesus Christ to His followers for the purpose of leading them into all truth, aiding, comforting, and teaching them all things. 

Jesus also mentions that “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26c).  The word “proceeds” means “to move out of an enclosed or well-defined two or three-dimensional area—‘to go out of, to depart out of, to leave from within.’”[4]Initially this understanding may seem like a redundancy of all that we have examined thus far from Jesus concerning the Spirit, but that is precisely the point. Our minds must be convinced about the truths of the Spirit’s divinity, His equality with the Father and the Son, and His “oneness” as part of the Trinity. He is not something less than the Father and Son. He is perfectly God!

Jesus’ words in John 14:26b state that the Spirit “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” This statement is further enhanced in 15:26c because the Spirit will also “testify about Me.” This comment must be kept within the preceding context of persecution. The Spirit of God always points to Jesus. He never points to Himself. In the middle of slander and oppression comes the opportunity to speak on behalf of Jesus’ Name, and the Spirit is divinely commissioned to bear witness to who Jesus is and what He has done for the world in paying for their sins with His own blood. This is seen in the connection between 15:26 and 27 with Jesus stating that the disciples would also testify because they had been with Him from the beginning. We must not think that there are two separate testimonies going on; only two separate entities (Spirit and the disciples) that are testifying to the same things, with the Spirit enhancing and directing the testimony as dispensed by the disciples.

To think that what needs to be said of Christ can be said with power and confidence because the Church Age believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit should encourage all of us to look for opportunities to speak lovingly and boldly for His Name. He has given us of Himself to “bring to your remembrance” (John 14:26b) what you and I should say. He will aid us divinely in testifying about Christ our Lord!

[1]Gary Derickson and Earl Radmacher, The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus(Salem, OR: Charis Press, 2001), p. 198, footnote 2.

[2]The word for “sin” in John 15:24 is harmatianand is better understood as “guilt.” Jesus’ signs were from the Holy Spirit, bringing a greater accountability upon the Jews. However, this verse does not mean that if Jesus had never worked wonders that the Jews would not have sin. His miracles increased their accountability.

[3]W. J. Erdman, The Fundamentals: A Testimony of the Truth,vol. 2, ed. R.A. Torrey and A.C. Dixon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 338.

[4]Louw and Nida, p. 186.

Foundational Framework 61: The Holy Spirit - Part 3

FOUNDATIONAL FRAMEWORK. PART 61

Foundational Frameworks.png

Jesus’ earthly ministry was undeniably blessed by the Holy Spirit, being clearly seen in His birth (Matt 1:18, 20), to His appearance at Jesus’ baptism (Matt 3:16), to being the One who was granting Him the power to work miracles before the people (Matt 12:28). It is Jesus’ earthly life that sets forth the model for what it is for one to walk in the Spirit, abiding in the Father (John14:10b), with the intimate fellowship-relationship with the Father being cultivated through obedience to His commandments (John 14:21).

In what is commonly known as the Upper Room Discourse, we find five mentions of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ teaching which provides clarity about His Person and ministry.

John 14:16-18. Chapters 13-16 and Jesus’ prayer in chapter 17 serve in preparing His disciples for His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Having commissioned them with a “new commandment” that called them to “love one another even as I have loved you” (John 13:34), Jesus then exhorted His disciples to “believe” in Him. We should not take this to mean that they needed to be saved so that they would go to heaven when they died, but that they needed to keep their confidence in who He is as the Messiah of God (Matt 16:16). With the events that would soon transpire, this was not the time for unbelief! His oneness with the Father is one aspect that is put forward to ground them in right thinking (John 14:7-11), but even if this wasn’t something that they had convincingly understood, at least His works testified to His Person as the Christ (John 14:11), which are actually the works of the Father (John 16:10b), which were also the evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28).

In v.16, Jesus turns the conversation to the importance of the Holy Spirit, Who would be sent because the Son will ask the Father to do so (John 14:16a). The Spirit is presented to the disciples as “another Helper,” seeing that Jesus would qualify as the first “Helper.” It is with this particular word that our greatest understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit takes place.

The term “Helper” is the Greek word “Paraclete,” which means “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge,” or “one who pleads another’s cause with one.” This word can also be understood as “a helper, succorer, aider, assistant.”[1] This compound word is made up of para which is a preposition of proximity that means “to come alongside” (as we have seen in “parable”), and kletos meaning “to be invited or called.”[2] This would give us the understanding of “one who is called alongside.”

Explaining this, Torrey writes “The word so translated is Parakleetos, the same word that is translated ‘advocate’ in 1 John 2:1; but ‘advocate’ does not give the full force and significance of the word etymologically. Advocate means about the same as Parakleetos, but the word in usage has obtained restricted sense. ‘Advocate’ is Latin; Parakleetos is Greek. The exact Latin word is ‘advocatus,’ which means one called to another. (That is, to help him or take his part or represent him.) Parakleetos means one called alongside, that is, one who constantly stands by your side as your helper, counsellor, comforter, friend. It is very nearly the thought expressed in the familiar hymn, ‘Ever present, truest friend.’ Up to the time that Jesus had uttered these words, He Himself had been the Parakleetos to the disciples, the Friend at hand, the Friend who stood by their side.”[3]

The various English translations have sought to capture all that this word encompasses: “Helper”- NASB95, ESV, NKJV, “Counselor”- HCSB, NIV84, CSB, “Advocate”- NET, NLT, NRSV, and “Comforter”- KJV, ASV, Darby, Young’s. Regarding the secular usage, Derickson and Radmacher write, “As a legal term it referred more to the friend who goes to court with the defendant than to a professional advisor or attorney.”[4] Such analytical information paints the picture of an inseparable relationship that is God Himself, standing beside the believer at all times (all the while residing in the believer at the moment of faith starting in Acts 2), aiding, guiding, consoling, and uplifting, just as Christ did when He was physically present with His disciples. The idea that Jesus conveys as “another Helper” shows that the Spirit will be much like Himself, yet closer, and according to the end of verse 16, eternally present with the believer always.

This pertinent point must not go unnoticed. The Holy Spirit is ALWAYS with the believer in Christ. Never is he or she without help, comfort, guidance, or care. We are never alone! He is always present, active, and available. At the time that this was spoken this was not the present reality, but it is something that is a reality now. Turning to John 7:37-39 helps in understanding this.

John 7:37-39. It seems odd that Jesus would suddenly stand up in the middle of a meal and begin yelling out profound and lofty statements, which could have very well been perceived as narcissistic utterances by the mass of people. However, the details of v. 37 unfold the significance of this action. Hart writes, “According to the Talmud, (Sukk 4.9), each day during the Feast of Booths… a priest would carry water from the spring-fed Pool of Siloam to the temple and pour it out on the altar in expectation of the coming Messiah.”[5] Being the last day of the Feast of Booths, Jesus used the symbolism of the priest’s actions to proclaim Himself as the long-awaited Messiah, the very Giver of Life.

In v.38 Jesus clarifies the metaphor of what He means by coming to Him to “drink,” stating that it is the one who “believes” in Him. The result of belief would be “living water” that would flow out from the innermost part of the person. The imagery is simple but profound. Not only was Jesus speaking of being the Messiah of Israel and the Giver of Life, but He is also speaking of something that is satisfying, quelling all wants or needs, being abundant in quantity and quality.

One of the things that is extremely helpful in the Gospel of John is that John will occasionally provide a verse or two of commentary in order to clarify Jesus’ comments. This is a blessing to us as readers because John’s comments were recorded, as with all Scripture, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so we know that his remarks are in perfect alignment to provide us with better understanding.

In v.39, John tells us that the “living water” that will flow out from the one who believes is in reference to the Holy Spirit “whom those who believed in Him were to receive,” indicating a future tense “receiving,” speaking to the definite indwelling of the Spirit that would take place at Pentecost in Acts 2.

Finishing out the verse, we also learn why this glorious privilege had not been bestowed upon believers during Jesus’ earthly ministry. John writes, “for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7:39b). The Lord’s timetable is precise. Jesus must first be glorified, which according to John’s Gospel, seems to be in relation to His death and the results of it for God’s glory (John 12:16, 23, 28; 13:31, 32; 17:1, 5; & 21:19- concerning Peter). This corresponds remained perfectly with the arrival of the Holy Spirit occurring after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

Moving back to John 14:16-17, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17a), and then makes the comment that the world cannot receive Him because it does not “see” nor “know” Him (14:17b). This statement resonates with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:14, stating that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Those who are dead, being separated from a relationship with the Creator, cannot see, know, or receive the things of the Spirit. The very idea of the Spirit of God is considered a foreign intrusion into a methodically-designed, God-hating world system. Our present age operates by a mindset that all exists within the natural and physical realm, esteeming this is all that there is, and rejecting any notion of a greater reality in that of the supernatural. This is often labeled as “naturalism.” The Spirit of God is quickly labeled as an apparition of the “delusional religious fanatic” so that He can promptly be dismissed from being a legitimate entity with which the world must contend. The natural man would not dare entertain the idea that He is God.

The advantage of the disciples is that the Spirit has been “abiding” with them, and Jesus quickly notes that the Spirit “will be” in them referring to the Pentecost event, just as we saw as referenced in John 7:39a. The word “abide” is a favorite of Jesus and John, as recorded by the latter, being used throughout his Gospel and Epistles (John 3:36; 5:38; 6:56; 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10; 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 27, 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24; 4:12, 13, 15, 16; 2 John 2, 9). This is the Greek word menō, which means to “remain, stay…” being understood as “a person or thing remains where he, she, or it is.”[6] So the Spirit has with the disciples, but a greater assimilation will occur when He resides “in” them.

Jesus finishes this section reassuring these men that He will not leave them without guidance, described by the term “orphans” in the NASB (John 14:18). Other translations use “comfortless” (KJV, AV) and “desolate” (RSV). It is clear by this point that Jesus is leaving them, yet He is not leaving them in the sense that they will be without His presence, guidance, and care. The emphasis is still upon the Spirit being “another Helper,” which will replace Jesus in a physical sense, but will only enhance Jesus’ message and ministry to them in another sense. This is a profound paradox, but one that every believer should find comforting with sufficient grounds to elicit praise! Our Savior is always taking care of us in extraordinary ways whether acknowledged by us or not.

John 14:26. Two things are obvious from considering Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14:19-25. First, obedience to Jesus’ commands are a demonstration of our love for the Savior. This is a countercultural message in the world today. We hear of “free love” and that “we should love everyone,” and even the Beatles pressed the issue, stating that “love is all you need.” Yet, Jesus explains that for one who is in a relationship with Him to actually embrace His words in such a way as to where their life is transformed, their choices are different, and their thinking has been altered, is to demonstrate love for the Lord Jesus Christ. While the Savior freely loves us (Gal 2:20), this love is demonstrated by the selfless sacrifice seen chiefly in the giving of Himself to redeem sinners. This is truly a “greater love” (John 15:13).

Jesus tells His disciples plainly what it is to love Him (John 14:15, 21 [x2], 23, 24, 28). Here we find the second observation, with John 14:21 and 23 showing that a love for the Savior by keeping the commandments leads to a greater intimacy with the Father. Jesus states that the one who obeys Him is the one who “loves” Him, and the one who loves Him is loved by the Father, to which Jesus will then love with the expressed end being that He will “disclose” Himself to them (John 14:21). Jesus “disclosing” Himself to the obedient saint is emphanizō meaning “to cause something to be fully known by revealing clearly and in some detail—‘to make known, to make plain, to reveal, to bring to the light, to disclose, revelation.’”[7] The footnote that accompanies this definition gives even greater clarity about what transpires when love for the Savior has motivated one’s obedience. It states that “all of these meanings involve a shift from the sensory domain of seeing, causing to see, or giving light to, to the cognitive domain of making something fully known, evident, and clear.”[8] Plainly put, obedience leads to a greater intimacy with the Father and the Son (See also Col 1:9-10).

Jesus’ teachings on what it is to love the Savior, and the guaranteed growth in one’s intimacy with the Father and Son, are what surround His referencing the “Helper” again in John 14:26. Here, Jesus again qualifies what He had previously stated in v.16-17: that the “Helper” is the Holy Spirit, and that the Father will send Him. The remark is also made that the Spirit would come “in My name” (John 14:26b), which harkens back to the “another Helper” designation (John 14:16b).

At this point, Jesus reveals two additional details about the capability of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

First, the Spirit will “teach you all things” (John 14:26b). “All things” speaks solely to God’s truth. The Spirit, being perfectly God, cannot teach the believer that which is not true. No, He is “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17a) and all that He affirms corresponds perfectly with who He is without contradiction. What we understand about God in general, concerning His impeccable character and His divine attributes, are all positioned upon the fact that He IS truth. Therefore, He defines what truth is because only He is true. One cannot forget that the Holy Spirit is perfectly God, therefore all that is true of God is equally true of the Holy Spirit.

This is further understood when reading 1 John 2:26-27 which states “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (emphasis added). The correlation between “all things” and truth is perfectly consistent with the Spirit’s very being and is positioned in this passage against the idea of “those who are trying to deceive you.”

The second detail revealed is that the Spirit will bring to remembrance all of the things that were said to them by Jesus. No doubt that Jesus taught His disciples many wonderous things (John 21:25), both in word and in deed. The Spirit would be necessary to bring about the proper truth at the proper time for the opportunity of maximum obedience for their lives. This would speak to His present ministry of illumination in the disciples’ (and in the believer’s) life. With a command like “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:18-19a), the Spirit would be necessary in relating this wealth of information as disciples were being made.

The Spirit bringing about remembrance would also be necessary in the documentation of the Scriptures, which found men being “carried along” by the Spirit of God (2 Pet 1:21). The Spirit’s ministry of remembrance is why we have the Old and New Testaments today.

Finally, many men of God have been called upon to witness in various situations (whether threatening or not), and to testify of Christ Jesus with their lives hanging in the balance. Even Jesus told His disciples “when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say. On the contrary, whatever is given to you in that hour—say it. For it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). There will be times in our lives when the conversation will turn to spiritual matters, and no doubt there will be many who will quickly speak emphatically about things that they are truly ignorant of because they do not know God. These opportunities find the Spirit giving us boldness, love, tact, and the words that are necessary to provide sound reasoning from God’s Word to an otherwise fruitless conversation. The Spirit will bring forth passage after passage and verse after verse, showing the truth of God’s Word to be undeniable and irrefutable.

The Holy Spirit is truly a remarkable blessing from our glorious Father. His mercy in sending the Spirit to us for our help, comfort, and aid continues eternity’s theme of a gracious Sovereign who desires for His children to be well-kept in Divine arms. Packer describes this beautiful gesture, writing, “we can only appreciate all that our Lord meant when He spoke of ‘another Comforter’ as we look back over all that He Himself had done in the way of love, and care, and patient instruction, and provision for the disciple’s well-being, during His own three years of personal ministry to them. He will care for you, Christ was saying in effect, in the way that I have cared for you. Truly a remarkable person!”[9] Such grace deserves our greatest praise!

[1] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 483.

[2] BDAG, p. 549.

[3] R. A. Torrey, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 332.

[4] Gary Derickson and Earl Radmacher, The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus (Salem, OR: Charis Press, 2001), p. 123.

[5] John F. Hart, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), p. 1629.

[6] BDAG, p. 630.

[7] Louw and Nida, p. 337–338.

[8] Ibid., p. 338, footnote 9.

[9] J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1979), p. 58.

Foundational Framework 60: The Holy Spirit Part 2

Foundational Frameworks.png

John 3:1-2. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, which means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were the “Supreme judicial council of Judaism with 71 members, located in Jerusalem.”[3] We are also told that he was a teacher of Israel (John 3:10) who came to Jesus by night. This late visit was undoubtedly made so as to go unnoticed by his peers. The first words we have recorded from his mouth are “rabbi,” meaning “teacher” (See John 1:38), which should interest us considering Nicodemus’ position among the Jewish people. Quoting Moulton and Milligan, Vincent writes, “We may be sure that a member of the sect that carefully scrutinized the Baptist’s credentials (1:19–24) would not lightly  address Jesus by this title of honor, or acknowledge Him as teacher.”[4] Such an address gives us an understanding that Nicodemus’ visit was one of sincerity and not for the purpose of assault or accusation.

Nicodemus’ use of the plural in “We know that you have come from God as a teacher” (John 3:2b) shows that this was a subject of discussion amongst the Pharisees. Not only was it concluded that Jesus was a teacher and that YHWH had sent Him, but that the signs that He performed were a testimony to the uniqueness of His ministry and person, serving as a statement that God was with Him (3:2c). In light of what is later concluded by the Pharisees in Matthew 12:24, we see a solid witness against the anti-belief of accusing Jesus of wielding the power of the devil. Also in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:28, we see that even the signs that He had performed in His early ministry already served as a testimony that “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” being done by the power of the Spirit of God.

For the Pharisees, there was no excuse. All of them should have responded as Nicodemus did because God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ along with the signs that He performed are Biblically assessed as sufficient revelation.

John 3:3-6. Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ conclusion about Him in stating that one must be “born again” in order to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3b). While much has been written on the phrase “born again/born from above,” it is clear that something needed to happen in Nicodemus’ life in order for the kingdom of God to be a reality for him. The theological term for “born again” is “regeneration,” a vital term that can be understood as meaning “receiving spiritual life, that is, eternal life. Christ is this life (Jn 14:6). We only receive this life as we receive Christ, who then may be said to be in us, ‘the hope of  glory’” (Col 1:27).[5] All men are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and this is a fact regardless of the dispensation under consideration. However, it must be clearly stated that in Jesus’ earthly ministry, regeneration and the baptism of the Holy Spirit were still two separate things and they did not become something that occurs at the same time at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ until after the founding of the Church in Jerusalem in Acts 2. In that time period, we see a noticeable transition that takes place between OT saints (who were saved and justified before God by faith, yet were without the Holy Spirit), and those who are Church Age believers after the events of Acts 2, with the book of Acts demonstrating that the Holy Spirit would come upon already believing individuals as an evidence of their redemption (See Acts 19:1-7 for an example).

Jesus’ use of the term the “kingdom of God” is consistent with every mention that we have seen in Scripture thus far. Therefore, this orthodox Jewish teacher and prominent societal figurehead would have automatically been drawn to the future, literal time of Messiah’s reign on Earth as He sat upon the throne of David, ruling with a rod of iron (Ps 2:9a).

It is clear from Nicodemus’ response in John 3:4 that he is unsure of what Jesus has just said. His reply shows his logical progression in thinking through only the physical. Can an old man be reborn? Is it possible to retreat into the womb only to appear again? All of this was nonsense, for such feats were impossible.

However, Jesus restates His antidote adding further clarification for Nicodemus’ sake. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Now we have the introduction of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in connection with the kingdom of God. According to Jesus both “water” and the “Spirit” are necessary for this birth, not one physically reentering the womb.

In this verse, we can also see that Jesus has connected the idea of “seeing” the kingdom from v.3 with “entering” the kingdom in v.5. While our previous lessons have shown that “entering” the kingdom must be understood by its surrounding context to be speaking to either one’s justification or sanctification, it is obvious from this context that justification is in view.

The idea of being born “of water and the Spirit” has seemed to confuse many regarding what it means to be “born again.” For example, in referring to the Old Testament overtones of this idea in the Greek, Barry writes, “Ezek 36:25–27 clearly combines the imagery of cleansing by water with inner renewal by the spirit (pneuma) from God.”[6] However, this cannot be correct because Jesus does not say “of water by the Spirit,” but “water and the Spirit.” There are obviously two births that must happen, not just one.

Another explanation finds Borchert going to great lengths to explain the idea of being “born of water and the Spirit.” He writes, “the linkage between water and Spirit would have been familiar to the Jews since both are related to the theme of life. For a people like the Jews, who lived on the edge of the desert, water was an indispensable requirement of life (e.g., Exod 15:22–27; Pss 23:2; 42:1; 63:1), and even Christians viewed heaven as having a life-endued stream flowing from the throne of God (Rev 22:1). Concerning the life-giving Spirit, one only needs to be reminded that the breath of God brought life to Adam (Gen 2:7), and the Spirit/wind/breath of God brought life to dry bones (Ezek 37:1–14).”[7] This understanding has been concluded from specifically chosen examples in the Old Testament. Borchert’s view finds friction in that his example of Christians in the first century and their understanding of how to view “water” is derived from the book of Revelation, which had not yet been written at this point. Why not connect the “Spirit” in John 3:5 to the “Spirit” being upon King Saul or David? With no clear direction given in the text that we should understand the water and the Spirit in light of the Old Testament, we must conclude that such interpretations have no credible merit.

So what is the answer? Most reasonably, and in maintaining a consistent, literal interpretation, it would seem that Jesus provides the explanation in John 3:6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, being a “natural” or “carnal” birth. However, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, which aligns itself perfectly with the need for one to be born of “water and the Spirit” in order to “enter the kingdom of God” (3:5b). Thus, being “born of water” is one’s natural, physical birth. One must be a flesh and blood human being. This would exclude animals and demons, if for no other reason than that Jesus did not die for them. However, He did taste “death for every man” (Heb 2:9). Being “born of the Spirit” would be “regeneration,” which is something that must be elaborated upon, which Jesus does in 3:7-16.

John 3:7-13. At this point, Nicodemus’ mouth must have been standing open. Jesus tells him not to be amazed (3:7). The new birth that takes place by the Spirit is likened to the wind (3:8). MacDonald writes, “Just as no one can fully understand the wind, so the new birth is a miraculous work of the Spirit of God which man is not able to comprehend fully. Moreover, the new birth, like the wind, is unpredictable. It is not possible to state just when and where it will take place.”[8] What is astonishing is that Nicodemus is seemingly ignorant of these truths (3:9). Such ignorance causes Jesus to ask, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” (John 3:10). How could one who holds the responsibility of leading  Israel in their understanding, worship, and devotion to YHWH not know these truths? Obviously, Jesus is upset with Nicodemus’ inadequacy regarding spiritual things.

He then elaborates that He is testifying to what He knows and sees, which probably has a connection to Jesus’ later statements like “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34) and “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30). Jesus’ testimony and words are in complete consistency with those of the Father because they are from the Father and not from Jesus Himself. Such statements show us that, though He is equal with God, being perfectly God Himself, He was intentionally subservient to God, humbling Himself to do the Father’s will. In this example, Jesus shows us how to live a life on Earth that is walking with God at all times.

Nicodemus’ greatest problem is that he does not accept Jesus’ testimony (John 3:11b), though He is testifying about what He knows and sees (John 3:11a). He continues in stating that Nicodemus’ rejection of earthly things shows that he cannot begin to understand “heavenly things” (John 3:12b). Jesus can testify to these things because He is the Son of Man, the One who has ascended and descended to and from heaven (John 3:13). These statements are lead to the necessary means of being “born again” by the Spirit.

“If Nicodemus couldn’t grasp the meaning of spiritual truth as conveyed by concrete analogy, how would he do so if it were couched in an abstract statement? No one had ever entered into heaven to experience its realities directly except Jesus himself, the Son of Man, who had come from heaven. Revelation, not discovery, is the basis for faith.”[9] John 3:13 shows Jesus testifying to His own credibility as a sound witness to those things that He is conveying; namely that being born again is a spiritual truth that is necessary to “see/enter” the kingdom of God. He knows this because He has ascended into, and descended from, heaven.

John 3:14-15. Meeting Nicodemus where he is, Jesus draws from a historical account that every Israelite would have been immediately familiar with- the serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:1-9). After being given the victory over the Canaanites (21:3), the people became impatient and began to complain about their situation. To discipline them, fiery serpents were sent among them and some of those who were bit died (21:6). In acknowledging their sin, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. The Lord had Moses make a bronze serpent and place it in the midst of the people. Those who looked upon it would live, even though they had been bitten (21:8-9).

Jesus’ use of this historical incident serves to communicate the spiritual truth of one being born again. Jesus likens the “lifting up” of the serpent by Moses in the wilderness to His own “lifting up” that must take place on the cross (John 3:14; also 12:32-33). Jesus then supplies the reason that He must be lifted up in John 3:15 stating, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (ESV). Just as the people whose veins were circulating with venom were told to look upon the bronze serpent that Moses had crafted so that they could live, Jesus tells Nicodemus, with sin coursing through his being, that in order to be born again he must “look” (believe) upon Jesus and live.

Look and live! That is the requirement. This “looking” is encapsulated in the word “believe,” being pisteuō in the Greek, meaning “to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in.”[10] This meaning is consistent with the idea of “conviction” and “assurance” as found in Hebrews 11:1. The result of believing is having “Life” in Him, which is eternal life. As told in John 1:4, the Life is in Christ Jesus, and only in Him; and by believing in Him, one is then given this Life.

This life is eternal in that it can never be lost, since it is found in Him (Christ). Upon believing in Jesus Christ, one is imparted with Life, and this Life comes from being born again by the Spirit.

Hawley writes, “While it is Biblically true that apart from Christ, the unregenerate (along with the regenerate) can do nothing to merit God's favor, faith is not meritorious and the Bible clearly teaches that regeneration is the result of faith, not the other way around.”[11] The one who believes is regenerated, meaning that they are now alive to God, have been born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6).

John 3:16-18. This truth is then elaborated upon, and there is some debate about whether this elaboration (which stretches to the end of the chapter) is that of John the author, or a continuation of Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.

While well known, the truths of v.16 are paramount. God loves people. This is the motivation behind Him supplying a Savior for the world. People are unable to save themselves and will never be redeemed apart from some sort of intervention. God’s love sends forth His Son to live perfectly and to die perfectly for those who are imperfect. This death provides the satisfaction necessary so that justice is upheld, wrong is paid for, and guilt is extinguished. The death of Jesus Christ makes righteousness available to all who believe. This “belief” is not something that is only possible by a few, but all may believe, seeing that their sins have been paid for in full. Belief in Jesus guarantees that they will not perish but have now been given “eternal life” because they have been born again by the Spirit.

Verses 17 & 18 provide clarification. In fact, v.17 speaks of God’s reason in sending His Son, namely for the purpose of saving the world. Apart from Jesus coming to Earth, there is no salvation for the human race. Jesus Christ is God’s provided perfection for the infinitely ill-deserving. His first coming was not about judgment but providing salvation for the world. However, His second coming will be a  visitation of judgment in which the world will not escape (Rev 1:7, 13; 11:18; 14:7; 19:1-2, 11).

But with v.18 we find that judgment is not an issue for the one who has believed in Jesus. It is only those who have not believed that are in danger of judgment. For them, the free pardon from sin’s penalty, power, and presence that Jesus supplied in His death and resurrection has not been applied. By believing (faith), this pardon is applied, and forgiveness of sin occurs. This situation is so certain that judgment is “already” upon the unregenerate person, and the cause for this condemnation is the same pitfall that has plagued mankind from the beginning: Unbelief.

Jesus Christ is the Name above all names. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When one believes in Jesus that person is born again. The Holy Spirit makes that person alive unto God, regenerating them so that they are now a forgiven and full accepted child of God.

Foundational Framework 60: The Holy Spirit Part 1

Foundational Frameworks.png

Though much is revealed in the Word of God regarding the Spirit of God, much of it seems to be misunderstood and/or abused for one’s own purposes and notoriety. A brief examination of the Spirit in the Old Testament and the Gospels will prepare us for Jesus’ teachings on the Spirit in John chapters 3, 14, and 16.

A Brief Overview of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

The Hebrew word for “spirit” is rauch, and can be understood as speaking of the Holy Spirit, but is also commonly understood as "breath, wind, spirit,”[1] with each context determining the meaning.

The first occurrence of the Spirit of God comes in the midst of the Creation narrative. In Genesis 1:2 we read, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” At the beginning of the Bible we are introduced to God’s Spirit, present and active at the creation account. The second occurrence of the Spirit of God is seen in Exodus 31:1-5. “Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, 18in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.’” In this instance, Bezalel is “filled” (literally “full”) of the Spirit of God for the purpose of constructing the Tabernacle, all of its items for worship, and all of its furniture according to the exact specifications of YHWH (See also Ex 35:30-31). There is no indication that this “filling” persisted beyond the completion of the task at hand, and it is understandable why Bezalel would need this divine assistance, seeing that the entire concept of the Tabernacle and its artifacts are merely “shadows” or replicas of the Temple and its various items of worship that are already a reality in heaven (Heb 8:4-5, 9:1-10, 24). Divine enlightenment by the fullness of the Spirit ensured that the work was an accurate representation.

It is worth consideration that Joseph’s “skill as a ruler” was due to having a “divine spirit” (Ex 41:38). This is the conclusion reached by Pharaoh. This shows us that such wisdom and understanding is a manifestation of the Spirit’s presence, just as it was with Bezalel in Exodus 31:1-5.

In Numbers 11 we finds another incident of complaining among Israel. It is clear that the Spirit was upon Moses and that the same Spirit would be distributed by God upon the elders of Israel in order to distribute the burden of dealing with Israel’s issues (v.17). Those seventy elders on whom God distributed the Spirit all prophesied as a result (11:25, 26). This act lead to an objection from Joshua, but Moses expressed his zeal for this wonderful occurrence, stating “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num 11:29).

Joshua is later appointed as the heir to lead Israel, being one who already had the Spirit of God upon him (Num 27:18). Reading this verse, one may be struck by the wording which states “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” Did the Spirit of God reside “in” Joshua? (We must note that the use of a capital “S” in translating “Spirit” is a translator’s choice). There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit was upon Joshua as is evident in Deut 34:9 with the specifics being that he was “filled” with the Spirit. However, it is the preposition “in” that troubles us, since it is apparent that the Holy Spirit dwelling “in” someone was something that is strictly characterized by those in the Church Age dispensation and not before it. The answer may lie in the semantic range of the Hebrew word being used, which occurs 14,428 times in the Old Testament. While the dominate meaning of this word is “in,” it can also mean “with, on, among, by, when, at, into,” or “against.”[2] Consistency regarding the context of the entire Old Testament would tell us that the Spirit of God is “on” His people, but the Spirit indwelling a person is a clear distinctive of the Church Age believer.

This examination of the presence and functions of the Holy Spirit is not meant to be exhaustive, but there are two more occurrences that coincide with one another that will increase our understanding so that we are better equipped to grasp Jesus’ teaching.

The first King of Israel was Saul of Kish, a man on whom it was said “the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man” (1 Sam 10:6, see also v.10). Later we read that “the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry” (1 Sam 11:6). The threats of Nahash the Ammonite would not go unpunished and Saul assembled all of the able-bodied men to defeat them (11:11). The Spirit of God drove King Saul to fight for righteous causes, saving Jabesh-gilead from their enemy.

Saul’s actions under the Spirit’s guidance are important because of his later disobedience which is chronicled in 1 Samuel 15. Being confronted by Samuel, Saul confesses his motives behind his sin,  stating “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice” (1 Sam 15:24). Samuel’s response it chilling. He tells Saul, “you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel” (15:26), and “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you” (15:28). Saul’s failure to obey YHWH’s commands caused him to forfeit his right to be king. But this wasn’t the only consequence to his disobedience.

In 1 Samuel 16:1, Samuel is commanded to go and anoint a son of Jesse as the next king of Israel. This man is David. In 16:13 we read, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” Knowing what we do from the New Testament, this is a joyous occasion. However, the next verse should be heavily considered, seeing that Saul’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is brought to an end. “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him” (16:14). Just as the Spirit of God had come upon Saul, so was the Spirit removed because of His failure to obey God’s commands.

This brief examination from the Old Testament shows us that the Holy Spirit would bless, guide, and even cause men to prophesy while also granting knowledge, wisdom, and skill for the tasks that the Lord desired to see accomplished. It is also clear that the Spirit could be removed due to disobedience.

A Brief Overview of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels.

In the New Testament, the importance of the Holy Spirit is placed at the forefront once more. In Matthew, we see that He is the One who brings about that which is conceived in Mary’s womb (Matt 1:18, 20). John the Baptist’s case is interesting, with the angel Gabriel stating that John will be “filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). During his ministry, John tells the Jews that the Messiah will baptize them by “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11).

Upon baptizing Jesus, John sees the Holy Spirit descend upon Him like a dove (Matt 3:16). The Spirit then leads Jesus into the wilderness to undergo temptation (Luke 4:1).

Returning from the wilderness as led by the Spirit (Luke 4:14), Jesus begins His teaching ministry in the synagogue at Galilee. Upon opening the scroll of Isaiah, He states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). In quoting Isaiah 61:1, Jesus shares that the Holy Spirit being upon the Messiah is something that was prophesied of old.

While all of these instances are intriguing, it would seem that John’s Gospel provides some of the greatest truths about the Holy Spirit in connection with the believer in Christ. For this first part of our consideration of the Holy Spirit, we will examine John 3, while giving a greater consideration to Jesus’ teaching in John 14-16 later.

John 3:1-2. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, which means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were the “Supreme judicial council of Judaism with 71 members, located in Jerusalem.”[3] We are also told that he was a teacher of Israel (John 3:10) who came to Jesus by night. This late visit was undoubtedly made so as to go unnoticed by his peers. The first words we have recorded from his mouth are “rabbi,” meaning “teacher” (See John 1:38), which should interest us considering Nicodemus’ position among the Jewish people. Quoting Moulton and Milligan, Vincent writes, “We may be sure that a member of the sect that carefully scrutinized the Baptist’s credentials (1:19–24) would not lightly  address Jesus by this title of honor, or acknowledge Him as teacher.”[4] Such an address gives us an understanding that Nicodemus’ visit was one of sincerity and not for the purpose of assault or accusation.

Nicodemus’ use of the plural in “We know that you have come from God as a teacher” (John 3:2b) shows that this was a subject of discussion amongst the Pharisees. Not only was it concluded that Jesus was a teacher and that YHWH had sent Him, but that the signs that He performed were a testimony to the uniqueness of His ministry and person, serving as a statement that God was with Him (3:2c). In light of what is later concluded by the Pharisees in Matthew 12:24, we see a solid witness against the anti-belief of accusing Jesus of wielding the power of the devil. Also in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:28, we see that even the signs that He had performed in His early ministry already served as a testimony that “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” being done by the power of the Spirit of God.

For the Pharisees, there was no excuse. All of them should have responded as Nicodemus did because God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ along with the signs that He performed are Biblically assessed as sufficient revelation.

John 3:3-6. Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ conclusion about Him in stating that one must be “born again” in order to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3b). While much has been written on the phrase “born again/born from above,” it is clear that something needed to happen in Nicodemus’ life in order for the kingdom of God to be a reality for him. The theological term for “born again” is “regeneration,” a vital term that can be understood as meaning “receiving spiritual life, that is, eternal life. Christ is this life (Jn 14:6). We only receive this life as we receive Christ, who then may be said to be in us, ‘the hope of  glory’” (Col 1:27).[5] All men are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and this is a fact regardless of the dispensation under consideration. However, it must be clearly stated that in Jesus’ earthly ministry, regeneration and the baptism of the Holy Spirit were still two separate things and they did not become something that occurs at the same time at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ until after the founding of the Church in Jerusalem in Acts 2. In that time period, we see a noticeable transition that takes place between OT saints (who were saved and justified before God by faith, yet were without the Holy Spirit), and those who are Church Age believers after the events of Acts 2, with the book of Acts demonstrating that the Holy Spirit would come upon already believing individuals as an evidence of their redemption (See Acts 19:1-7 for an example).

Jesus’ use of the term the “kingdom of God” is consistent with every mention that we have seen in Scripture thus far. Therefore, this orthodox Jewish teacher and prominent societal figurehead would have automatically been drawn to the future, literal time of Messiah’s reign on Earth as He sat upon the throne of David, ruling with a rod of iron (Ps 2:9a).

It is clear from Nicodemus’ response in John 3:4 that he is unsure of what Jesus has just said. His reply shows his logical progression in thinking through only the physical. Can an old man be reborn? Is it possible to retreat into the womb only to appear again? All of this was nonsense, for such feats were impossible.

However, Jesus restates His antidote adding further clarification for Nicodemus’ sake. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Now we have the introduction of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in connection with the kingdom of God. According to Jesus both “water” and the “Spirit” are necessary for this birth, not one physically reentering the womb.

In this verse, we can also see that Jesus has connected the idea of “seeing” the kingdom from v.3 with “entering” the kingdom in v.5. While our previous lessons have shown that “entering” the kingdom must be understood by its surrounding context to be speaking to either one’s justification or sanctification, it is obvious from this context that justification is in view.

The idea of being born “of water and the Spirit” has seemed to confuse many regarding what it means to be “born again.” For example, in referring to the Old Testament overtones of this idea in the Greek, Barry writes, “Ezek 36:25–27 clearly combines the imagery of cleansing by water with inner renewal by the spirit (pneuma) from God.”[6] However, this cannot be correct because Jesus does not say “of water by the Spirit,” but “water and the Spirit.” There are obviously two births that must happen, not just one.

Another explanation finds Borchert going to great lengths to explain the idea of being “born of water and the Spirit.” He writes, “the linkage between water and Spirit would have been familiar to the Jews since both are related to the theme of life. For a people like the Jews, who lived on the edge of the desert, water was an indispensable requirement of life (e.g., Exod 15:22–27; Pss 23:2; 42:1; 63:1), and even Christians viewed heaven as having a life-endued stream flowing from the throne of God (Rev 22:1). Concerning the life-giving Spirit, one only needs to be reminded that the breath of God brought life to Adam (Gen 2:7), and the Spirit/wind/breath of God brought life to dry bones (Ezek 37:1–14).”[7] This understanding has been concluded from specifically chosen examples in the Old Testament. Borchert’s view finds friction in that his example of Christians in the first century and their understanding of how to view “water” is derived from the book of Revelation, which had not yet been written at this point. Why not connect the “Spirit” in John 3:5 to the “Spirit” being upon King Saul or David? With no clear direction given in the text that we should understand the water and the Spirit in light of the Old Testament, we must conclude that such interpretations have no credible merit.

So what is the answer? Most reasonably, and in maintaining a consistent, literal interpretation, it would seem that Jesus provides the explanation in John 3:6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, being a “natural” or “carnal” birth. However, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, which aligns itself perfectly with the need for one to be born of “water and the Spirit” in order to “enter the kingdom of God” (3:5b). Thus, being “born of water” is one’s natural, physical birth. One must be a flesh and blood human being. This would exclude animals and demons, if for no other reason than that Jesus did not die for them. However, He did taste “death for every man” (Heb 2:9). Being “born of the Spirit” would be “regeneration,” which is something that must be elaborated upon, which Jesus does in 3:7-16.

John 3:7-13. At this point, Nicodemus’ mouth must have been standing open. Jesus tells him not to be amazed (3:7). The new birth that takes place by the Spirit is likened to the wind (3:8). MacDonald writes, “Just as no one can fully understand the wind, so the new birth is a miraculous work of the Spirit of God which man is not able to comprehend fully. Moreover, the new birth, like the wind, is unpredictable. It is not possible to state just when and where it will take place.”[8] What is astonishing is that Nicodemus is seemingly ignorant of these truths (3:9). Such ignorance causes Jesus to ask, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” (John 3:10). How could one who holds the responsibility of leading  Israel in their understanding, worship, and devotion to YHWH not know these truths? Obviously, Jesus is upset with Nicodemus’ inadequacy regarding spiritual things.

He then elaborates that He is testifying to what He knows and sees, which probably has a connection to Jesus’ later statements like “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34) and “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30). Jesus’ testimony and words are in complete consistency with those of the Father because they are from the Father and not from Jesus Himself. Such statements show us that, though He is equal with God, being perfectly God Himself, He was intentionally subservient to God, humbling Himself to do the Father’s will. In this example, Jesus shows us how to live a life on Earth that is walking with God at all times.

Nicodemus’ greatest problem is that he does not accept Jesus’ testimony (John 3:11b), though He is testifying about what He knows and sees (John 3:11a). He continues in stating that Nicodemus’ rejection of earthly things shows that he cannot begin to understand “heavenly things” (John 3:12b). Jesus can testify to these things because He is the Son of Man, the One who has ascended and descended to and from heaven (John 3:13). These statements are lead to the necessary means of being “born again” by the Spirit.

“If Nicodemus couldn’t grasp the meaning of spiritual truth as conveyed by concrete analogy, how would he do so if it were couched in an abstract statement? No one had ever entered into heaven to experience its realities directly except Jesus himself, the Son of Man, who had come from heaven. Revelation, not discovery, is the basis for faith.”[9] John 3:13 shows Jesus testifying to His own credibility as a sound witness to those things that He is conveying; namely that being born again is a spiritual truth that is necessary to “see/enter” the kingdom of God. He knows this because He has ascended into, and descended from, heaven.

John 3:14-15. Meeting Nicodemus where he is, Jesus draws from a historical account that every Israelite would have been immediately familiar with- the serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:1-9). After being given the victory over the Canaanites (21:3), the people became impatient and began to complain about their situation. To discipline them, fiery serpents were sent among them and some of those who were bit died (21:6). In acknowledging their sin, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. The Lord had Moses make a bronze serpent and place it in the midst of the people. Those who looked upon it would live, even though they had been bitten (21:8-9).

Jesus’ use of this historical incident serves to communicate the spiritual truth of one being born again. Jesus likens the “lifting up” of the serpent by Moses in the wilderness to His own “lifting up” that must take place on the cross (John 3:14; also 12:32-33). Jesus then supplies the reason that He must be lifted up in John 3:15 stating, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (ESV). Just as the people whose veins were circulating with venom were told to look upon the bronze serpent that Moses had crafted so that they could live, Jesus tells Nicodemus, with sin coursing through his being, that in order to be born again he must “look” (believe) upon Jesus and live.

Look and live! That is the requirement. This “looking” is encapsulated in the word “believe,” being pisteuō in the Greek, meaning “to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in.”[10] This meaning is consistent with the idea of “conviction” and “assurance” as found in Hebrews 11:1. The result of believing is having “Life” in Him, which is eternal life. As told in John 1:4, the Life is in Christ Jesus, and only in Him; and by believing in Him, one is then given this Life.

This life is eternal in that it can never be lost, since it is found in Him (Christ). Upon believing in Jesus Christ, one is imparted with Life, and this Life comes from being born again by the Spirit.

Hawley writes, “While it is Biblically true that apart from Christ, the unregenerate (along with the regenerate) can do nothing to merit God's favor, faith is not meritorious and the Bible clearly teaches that regeneration is the result of faith, not the other way around.”[11] The one who believes is regenerated, meaning that they are now alive to God, have been born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6).

John 3:16-18. This truth is then elaborated upon, and there is some debate about whether this elaboration (which stretches to the end of the chapter) is that of John the author, or a continuation of Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.

While well known, the truths of v.16 are paramount. God loves people. This is the motivation behind Him supplying a Savior for the world. People are unable to save themselves and will never be redeemed apart from some sort of intervention. God’s love sends forth His Son to live perfectly and to die perfectly for those who are imperfect. This death provides the satisfaction necessary so that justice is upheld, wrong is paid for, and guilt is extinguished. The death of Jesus Christ makes righteousness available to all who believe. This “belief” is not something that is only possible by a few, but all may believe, seeing that their sins have been paid for in full. Belief in Jesus guarantees that they will not perish but have now been given “eternal life” because they have been born again by the Spirit.

Verses 17 & 18 provide clarification. In fact, v.17 speaks of God’s reason in sending His Son, namely for the purpose of saving the world. Apart from Jesus coming to Earth, there is no salvation for the human race. Jesus Christ is God’s provided perfection for the infinitely ill-deserving. His first coming was not about judgment but providing salvation for the world. However, His second coming will be a  visitation of judgment in which the world will not escape (Rev 1:7, 13; 11:18; 14:7; 19:1-2, 11).

But with v.18 we find that judgment is not an issue for the one who has believed in Jesus. It is only those who have not believed that are in danger of judgment. For them, the free pardon from sin’s penalty, power, and presence that Jesus supplied in His death and resurrection has not been applied. By believing (faith), this pardon is applied, and forgiveness of sin occurs. This situation is so certain that judgment is “already” upon the unregenerate person, and the cause for this condemnation is the same pitfall that has plagued mankind from the beginning: Unbelief.

Jesus Christ is the Name above all names. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When one believes in Jesus that person is born again. The Holy Spirit makes that person alive unto God, regenerating them so that they are now a forgiven and full accepted child of God.

[1] Richard Whitaker et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament: From A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, Based on the Lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius (Boston; New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906).

[2] See Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 88–91.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Sanhedrin,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), p. 1902.

[4] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), p. 89.

[5] Merrill F. Unger, The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), p. 23.

[6] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Jn 3:5.

[7] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), p. 174.

[8] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1478.

[9] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 48.

[10] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 511.

[11] Grant Hawley, The Guts of Grace (Allen, TX: Bold Grace Ministries, 2013), p. 158.

Foundational Framework 59: Living a Worthy Life Part 3

Foundational Frameworks.png

The concept of rewards in the coming kingdom of heaven can be found on almost every other page in the New Testament. However, there are many who do not value this doctrine as an essential segment of their theological understanding. That is to say, this doctrine is considered insignificant in the grand scheme of God’s plan for the ages. But a careful reading of the New Testament will prove this notion to be false, and almost embarrassing that it would be discarded or discredited as nominal in any way.

The doctrine of rewards finds great significance in one’s theological understanding because it allows for grace to remain grace without any inclusion of works. One of the greatest arguments against those who promote a “grace gospel” is that this “grace” is too free because it requires nothing of the individual needing salvation except that they believe the Gospel. These opponents would state that unless an expected result is required, such as a submission of one’s life, the repentance of all of their sins, or the desire to give up all that they have is present, they are not truly saved.

The tension that is created between grace and works often manifests itself in contradictions. For example, A.W. Pink writes, “If it be true that no attempt to imitate Christ can obtain a sinner’s acceptance with God, it is equally true that the emulating of Him is imperatively necessary and absolutely essential in order to the saints’ preservation and final salvation.”[1] This could be understood as saying “you can’t do anything to be saved, but in order to be truly saved you must do something.” The Gospel is not about what the sinner does, but what the sinner needs.

A sinner is saved by the grace of God alone, who was not obligated to supply a solution to our sin problem. From out of His profound love, the Creator God sent His only Son to die as a substitute for our sin, which paid the enormous penalty that we had incurred as sinners and made the perfect righteousness of God available to all who believe (have faith) in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone that one is saved, receiving all that he or she was lacking. This includes the complete forgiveness of all sin, a wholly new Life, relief of all guilt and shame, reconciliation and full acceptance with his or her Creator, the perfect righteousness of God credited to them, and eternal life that is guaranteed beyond this present existence which can never be lost.

The doctrine of rewards extinguishes the tension between faith and works. While one is saved by faith alone, there are consequences for how the believer lives in light of what he or she understands from the Scriptures. Every child of God is responsible for conducting their lives according to the truth of God’s Word. When they are faithful in what the Lord has asked of them, they receive a reward (1 Cor 3:14). But if they are unfaithful, whatever “good works” that they may have thought that they had will be burned up and the believer will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:15). Thus, there is a very real and serious consequence for believers who live unfaithfully to the Lord, but it does not infringe upon or impugn His unconditional acceptance of them in Christ Jesus.

The opportunity to earn rewards is something that is wholeheartedly condoned by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 6:1, 17-18, 20; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:35). But the doctrine of rewards is not a personal “padding of the wallet” in the kingdom, for self-servitude will not be rewarded (Matt 6:2, 5). Rewards are to be done in service to the Lord Jesus Christ with “His name’s sake” as the heart’s motivator. The Christian Life is a responsibility to be stewarded, not a stage to be applauded. Many have believed that receiving a reward is only possible by an extreme act of obedience, but Jesus tells us that “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41). Simply caring for those who are serving Christ earns one a reward.

We can clearly see that the Christian Life is one of faithful stewardship in light of the teachings of Scripture. Thankfully, Jesus taught on this subject in order to reorient much of the wrong thinking that may have been present among the Jewish people, and even His disciples, in the first century. While Luke 19:11-27 is similar to the parable taught in Matthew 25:14-30, the surrounding context of Luke 19 calls for this teaching to stand on its own merit.  

Luke 19:11-27. The parable that Jesus taught in Luke 19:11-27 follows His interactions with Zaccheus in 19:1-10. However, this parable may be slightly connected with Zaccheus’ situation in that he may have been present when this parable was taught, and Jesus’ use of the “mina” would have been something that he could have directly related to considering his background as a tax collector. Whether these connections are legitimate or not, Luke supplies us with a two-fold reasoning for why Jesus was teaching this parable. First, Jesus was “near Jerusalem” (19:11b) which is a detail that finds its significance later in the chapter when His “triumphal entry” takes place (19:28-40). This first point must be pondered because of the events that surround it.

Jesus’ entry into the city was anything but “triumphal.” For Jesus, this was a time of great grief and sorrow. While His disciples were rejoicing and shouting as the Son of Man passed by the Mount of Olives just outside of the city (19:37-38), Jesus began weeping at the sight of Jerusalem (19:41). The message of the disciples was “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (19:38), Jesus’ words capture the rejection of the Jewish people, the postponement of the kingdom of heaven on Earth, and the judgment that awaited the Jews because of their rebellion (19:42-44). Jesus knew what could have been had Israel accepted her Promised Messiah, but the leaders had spoken for the people (Matt 12:24), and though His miracles testified that the kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt 12:28), they rejected their Christ, which plunged the Jewish people into a “partial hardening” (Rom 11:25b), having the truth hidden from their eyes because of their unbelief (Luke 19:42b; Matt 13:10-17).

The second reason given for Jesus teaching this parable was that “they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately” (19:11c). This would explain the joyful celebration of the disciples in 19:37-38. As one reads through this parable, it becomes very clear that the kingdom will come at a later time, and that the “nobleman” must go away to receive this kingdom and then come again, now having possession of it, in order to establish it in the country from which he left. This justifies Jesus’ sorrow in Luke 19:41b-44, seeing that the Jews did not “recognize the time of your visitation” by the Messiah (19:44). Unbelief has postponed the kingdom. Instead, the Jewish people will be disciplined for their unbelief (19:44b). Thus, Jesus’ parable will serve to dispel the notion that the kingdom was to appear at His entry into the city of Jerusalem.

Starting in 19:12, Jesus speaks of a nobleman who travels to a “distant country” for the purpose of receiving a kingdom “for himself.” After receiving this kingdom, the nobleman would then return. The details here must be carefully noted, especially in light of the current-day belief that the kingdom of heaven is “already” here in a spiritual form, but “not yet” here in a physical form. Theissen notes, “Consistency of interpretation demands that we hold, not only that the nobleman must return in person, but also that he will set up his kingdom in the country from which he departed. In other words, we must insist that Christ is not now sitting on the throne of David in heaven and ruling over his people on earth from that sphere, but that He receives the kingdom in heaven, returns to earth, and then sets up the kingdom on the earth.”[2]

Having a general understanding of what Scripture tells us about the Messiah and the promise of His future return to establish His Kingdom, it is not hard to connect the dots and see that Jesus is this nobleman, the “distant country” would be during the interadvent age between His ascension and return when Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55-56), preparing a place for all believers (John 14:2-3) while making intercession for the saints (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25). Before Jesus Christ returns to the Earth, He will have received the kingdom of heaven and His return will mark the establishment of that kingdom on Earth.

What is interesting about this parable is that its contents were not hard to relate to by those in the audience, considering that the successor to Herod had done the same thing. Robertson explains, “Apparently this parable has the historical basis of Archelaus who actually went from Jerusalem to Rome on this very errand to get a kingdom in Palestine and to come back to it. This happened while Jesus was a boy in Nazareth and it was a matter of common knowledge.”[3] As we will see in 19:14, the “citizens” did not want the nobleman to rule over them, just as it was with the Jews and their response to Archelaus assuming command. While Jesus is not speaking of Archelaus, the concept would be familiar to those living in the first century.

Luke 19:13 shows the nobleman calling ten of his slaves (“servants”) together before he leaves with each one being entrusted with a must “mina.” A mina is “a Greek monetary unit worth one hundred denarii.”[4] A “denarii” (also known in some cases as a “drachma”) is the equivalent of 100 days wages. With this, he gives them specific instructions: “Do business with this until I come back” (19:13b). Hodges explains, “Here lay the central point of the parable. The interadvent period which the parable proclaimed could be used to advantage. It was a time for investment. More than that, it was a time for investment directly related to the coming kingdom of God. Therefore, Zacchaeus needed to hear the parable at this crucial moment in his life. But so did everyone else in the audience as well.”[5] This speaks to the stewardship of the nobleman’s resources, which he entrusted to his slaves with the expectation that they would be faithful with what was entrusted to them.

This “principled story-telling” has a vital application for us today. While our Master is away receiving the kingdom, we His servants are to be engaged in His business with His resources while He is away. We are to be faithful and wise with what He has entrusted to us, keeping in mind that it is ultimately His and that there will be a day in which He will return and settle accounts with His servants, receiving unto Himself the return that was earned while He was away.

In Luke 19:14 we have the introduction of a group of people whom Jesus has not mentioned yet, the “citizens.” This group is said to have hated the nobleman, raising a protest against His rulership over them through a “delegation.” No doubt the citizens are the Jewish people and the “delegation” would be the Pharisees who were leading the charge against their Messiah in verbalizing the nation’s anti-belief (Matt 12:24). For the time being, the citizens are placed in the background of the parable while Jesus explains the events surrounding the nobleman’s return (Luke 19:15).

The timing of this event is precise, with Jesus noting that the man had received the kingdom. This comment places this moment after Jesus has assumed the right to reign, but before He has brought His servants to account at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 19:6-10). The nobleman is ready to inquire of his servants regarding the business that they conducted while he was away and the return that they had received with the money that he had entrusted to them.

While there are ten slaves that were given one mina each (19:13), we have only three that are brought to account, with each demonstrating a different level of return with what they were entrusted. With the first slave, we find that he was able to make an investment that gave a 1,000% return! The nobleman commends this servant, saying “Well done, good slave” (19:17a). This slave’s faithfulness over the small amount that he had been given was then greatly rewarded by the nobleman who set the slave over ten cities in his kingdom (19:17b).

The second slave comes before the nobleman and presents a 500% return (19:18) to which the master replies by granting this servant rulership over five cities (19:19). One cannot help but to notice that the public commendation of “Well done, good slave” is absent from this scenario. This slave, who earned half the return that the first slave earned, does not get the privilege of hearing these words from the nobleman’s mouth.

At this point, it should be clear that those who are faithful in this life, being about his Master’s business until He comes to bring us all to Himself (John 14:2-3) will receive rewards and reigning responsibilities that are much greater in magnitude than what we were entrusted with while on Earth. Thiessen cites Godet in explaining this: “In Luke the one point in question is to settle the position of the servants in the economy of glory which is opening, and consequently to determine the proportion of faithfulness displayed during the time of labor and probation which has just closed.”[6] Christ desires to share the regal responsibilities of His kingdom with His companions, but they must be faithful stewards who have proven themselves. One would not in clear conscience entrust their estate to a slothful and wayward child, for the outcome of such unbridled wealth in the hands of an irresponsible soul would be guaranteed devastation. Though related by blood, and though greatly loved, they would not be worthy of possessing such an opportunity. Their life’s record has shown them to be unworthy.

What is the “mina” in the life of the one who is a disciple of Christ? There are many who have considered the “sharing of the Gospel” as the focus of what has been entrusted to the slave and that “doing business” (19:13b) would be evangelism, but we must conclude that this is not the only way that one can be faithful to that which God has entrusted to us. Believers have a responsibility to love one another (John 13:34-35), forgive one another (Eph 4:32), build up one another in love (Eph 4:15-16) and encourage one another daily (Heb 3:13). While there is so much more that would be considered in the realm of Christian faithfulness, the point is clear that the believer in Christ is not just a missionary to the world, but is also a minister to the Body of Christ. The first two accounts show that diligence and faithfulness should be the attitudes of all who would hope to reign alongside Jesus Christ in His coming kingdom.

In Luke 19:20, a third servant approaches the nobleman but his response is entirely different than that of the first two slaves. Coming before the master, the third slave returns the exact same mina that was entrusted to him before the nobleman left to receive his kingdom. The slave reveals that he had hid it away in a handkerchief. The third slave then divulges the reason for his negligence in not “doing business” with the nobleman’s mina, citing “fear” of the nobleman “because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow” (Luke 19:21b). The word “exacting” is the Greek word austēros meaning “harsh, rough, rigid,”[7] which has led to the transliteration of “austere” in the KJV.

The charge is that the third slave did not want to risk losing what he had been given because he understood the nobleman to be harsh and rigid, taking those things which are not his and plundering the goods of others others for personal gain. Having returned the same mina that he had been given, the thought may have been “Well, at least I didn’t lose it!”

At this point, a few questions need to be answered.

First, has there been anything in the telling of this parable that would lead one to believe that the nobleman was a short-tempered tyrant who plundered the goods of others?               No.

Second, throughout this parable have we not seen that the nobleman’s actions are in direct relation to that which the Lord Jesus will do in leaving to receive a kingdom for Himself and then returning again to establish it at the place from whence He left?          Yes.

Would we conclude that the Lord Jesus Christ is a short-tempered tyrant who plundered the goods of others?       I don’t think so either.

In fact, what we see is that the third slave’s description of the nobleman is completely off base from who he really was. What we find out when listening to the third slave’s explanation is that he did not know his master very well at all and proceeded to live his life on a false presumption of his master that kept him from experiencing great things when his master returned. This is a tragic result! Being ignorant of his master’s character, the slave lived in fear, complacency, and slothfulness. Had he known his master more intimately, he would have served him with joy knowing that “He who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23). Again, Godet (as quoted by Thiessen) has captured the third slave’s situation with clarity noting that he is a “believer who has not found the state of grace offered by Jesus so brilliant as he hoped,—a legal Christian, who has not tasted grace, and knows nothing of the Gospel but its severe morality.”[8]

The nobleman responds to this excuse by calling the man a “worthless slave” (19:22a), which is probably better translated as a “wicked” or “evil slave.” While one may be quick to conclude that the declaration that this slave is “worthless/evil/wicked” would communicate that he was obviously “unsaved,” our attention must be drawn to the fact that this slave was as much a part of the nobleman’s house as the other two who were brought to account for the business that they had done. Not only that, but this third slave was also entrusted with the same amount as the other two. This remark against the slave is the conclusion that the nobleman makes due to his inactivity and unfounded excuses for slothfulness. Simply put, he did not know his master intimately, and because of this his assumed misrepresentation of his master’ character caused him to do nothing with what he was given.

That the third slave’s description is a solid misrepresentation of the nobleman’s character can be seen in the master’s response in Luke 19:22b, which is posed in the form of a question: “Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?” It is as if the nobleman is responding by saying, “is this who you really think that I am?” He then reasons with the third slave that if this was the presumption by which he was operating, “why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest” (Luke 19:23)? The least that this man could have done was invest it at the lowest level possible so that even the smallest amount of interest would have been gained. However, he did not. This tells us that either the man was lying in his reasonings with the nobleman and was actually lethargic and slothful, not caring about the responsibility entrusted to him, nor in serving his master, or that his unfounded mischaracterization of his master had paralyzed him from making the least of wise decisions that would secure gain for the nobleman.

Regardless of the reason, his mina was confiscated and given to the most profitable slave (19:24). The “bystanders” (19:24a) are astonished at this act, seeing that the first slave already has ten minas. The nobleman explains that those who “have” will be given more, and those that have not will lose even those things that they have (19:26). The failure of the third slave to be diligent in his responsibilities has led him to a moment of shame before his master. One cannot help but to reflect on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:15 which state, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Finishing this parable, the nobleman speaks of his “enemies” (Luke 19:27) and clarifies their identity as those “who did not want me to reign over them,” speaking of the “citizens” in Luke 19:14. As identified earlier, this is (by and large) the nation of Israel who had rejected their Messiah, leading to a postponement of the kingdom of heaven. These enemies are brought before the nobleman and slaughtered for their rejection of him. This should not be surprising, considering that much is said in the Old Testament regarding the judgment that will befall the Jews because of their rejection of God and which occurs right before the establishment of the kingdom on Earth (Jer 30:4-9; Ezek 20:33-38).

On a broader scale, Jesus’ return will bring about the slaughter of all who have rejected Him as can be clearly seen in Revelation 19:15-21. We are told that Jesus will “strike down the nations” (Rev 19:15), that the birds will gorge themselves on the flesh of kings and mighty men who had rebelled against Messiah (Rev 19:17-19), and that the rest “were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him” (Rev 19:21). All who reject Christ and are rebellious of His reign over them will be put to death. These are unbelievers who will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

However, the servants/slaves are wholly different than the “citizens/enemies” in this parable, with Jesus drawing the necessary distinctions. This is most notable in that the servants are judged first (representative of the Judgment Seat of Christ) and the “citizens/enemies” are judged later (representative of the Great White Throne judgment). To sum up the eternal destinies of the parties involved in this parable, Wilkin writes, “Good servants will rule with Christ fully. Half-hearted servants will rule with Him in a more limited way. Wicked servants won’t rule with Christ at all, though they will be with Him forever. Unbelievers will experience the second death and will spend eternity in the lake of fire.”[9]

With the third slave’s misunderstanding of his master, we could conclude that the more that you are intimately acquainted with Jesus, the more that you will faithfully serve Him with joy, knowing that He desires to reward you richly for the service that you have rendered (Rev 22:12). This third servant, having full rights and equal responsibility within the house of the master, was declared “wicked” because of his sloth and negligence. Therefore, he suffered loss, for even what he thought he had was taken away.

The application is clear.

The Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted His work to His people. While He is away receiving the kingdom for Himself, we are to be doing business: loving one another, praying, studying His holy Word, living His holy Word, forgiving one another, encouraging one another, structuring our lives to be led in holiness and faithfulness to wherever He may lead us, and making disciples of all nations.

Thiessen commissions us writing, “Let us also ‘carry on business’ till He come, in order that we may hear His ‘well done,’ and receive a reward when He comes!”[10]

How will your conversation with the Master go when He returns and settles accounts?

[1] Arthur Walkington Pink, Eternal Security (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2005), p. 75.

[2] Henry Clarence Thiessen, “The Parable of the Nobleman and the Earthly Kingdom (Luke 19:11-27),” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol 91 (1934): 184.

[3] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Lk 19:12.

[4] Louw and Nida, p. 62.

[5] Zane C. Hodges, A Free Grace Primer: The Hungry Inherit, The Gospel Under Siege, Grace in Eclipse, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2011), p. 335.

[6] Thiessen, “The Parable of the Nobleman”: 188.

[7] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 84.

[8] Thiessen, “The Parable of the Nobleman”: 190.

[9] Robert N. Wilkin, “Two Judgments and Four Types of People (Luke 19:11–27),” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 25, no. 48 (2012): 20.

[10] Ibid.

Foundational Framework 58: Living a Worthy Life Part 2

Foundational Frameworks 58.png

Jesus offers the believer an opportunity to have ownership in the coming Kingdom of Heaven. A great deal of Jesus’ earthly teachings and interactions pointed toward this opportunity. Before examining a passage that clearly speaks to this fact, a short review is imperative.

In the previous lesson, we looked at Matthew 13:44-46 which dealt with two parables that were communicated to the disciples in private and involved scenarios where something of great value had been found and the one who found it sold everything that they owned in order to make it their own. Jesus’ point in both parables is clear: When you come across the truth of the kingdom of heaven, do whatever it takes to make it your own. Sell all that you have, forsake all that is less, and lay hold of the opportunity to have ownership of the kingdom of heaven. It will certainly cost you, and to some the cost will be great, but this cost is but a minuscule inconvenience when compared to the brilliant glory and bursting riches that await you in the coming Kingdom of Christ.

Whatever it takes, it is most certainly worth it!

Before entering into our first case study on this truth, we must also review the Parables of the Soils because it tells us of the different types of reception that occur when one has come across the “word of the kingdom” (Matt 13:19). A believer’s reception of this truth can have four possible results, but only one “bears fruit” (Matt 13:23b). All others, let us be warned and fully aware, fail to enjoy this end.

Parable of the Sower Chart (Matt 13:19-23)

Image 1-13-19 at 3.28 PM.jpg

With these results in mind, we turn to Matthew 19:16-30.

Matthew 19:16-22. The scene begins with a man who comes to Jesus asking a question in regards to what “good thing” he could to do “obtain eternal life” (Matt 13:16). This question may be disturbing to some readers since it obviously gives this idea that “eternal life” can be earned by works and no one would argue that the man is asking Jesus a “works” question. Jesus questions the man’s inquiry about what is “good,” tells the man that only God is good, and then proceeds to answer his question (19:17). In this way, Jesus is communicating clearly that He is God, seeing that He can provide a perfect answer to this man’s question.

Many have understood this interaction as the man’s inquiry into what must be done to be saved, which deems the man as a “lost” person. Commentators will note that Jesus gives the man some of the commandments from the Law of Moses (19:18-19) in order to show him what an awful sinner he is. When the man replies that he has kept these things since his youth (19:20), he is obviously lying and Jesus goes for the jugular by calling on the man to part with his personal portfolio so that he will demonstrate a “true desire” to have “genuine salvation.” Because the man walks away greatly troubled, these commentators have concluded in their application to us that we must be willing to give all that we have in order to go to heaven when we die, and because the rich young ruler was unwilling to part with his wealth, he will spend an eternity in the Lake of Fire. In short, they have taken this passage as an evangelistic encounter.[1]

We must be aware that “eternal life” is not always understood in the Scriptures to be speaking ONLY to the free gift that one receives when they believe in Jesus (John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24; 6:47, 54; 10:10a, 28; Acts 13:46, 48; Titus 1:2; 1 John 5:11-12). “Eternal life” can also speak to a quality of life to be experienced in the here and now by believers as they “abide,” surrender, or submit to the Lord’s Word (John 10:10b; 17:3; 1 Tim 6:12; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:20). But “eternal life” can also be understood as the believer in Christ having a rich inheritance in the coming kingdom, which is considered to be the “end” of our salvation (Matt 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Rom 2:7; 6:22; Gal 6:8; Jude 21). From this evidence we can see that the phrase “eternal life” can be used concerning our justification, sanctification, or glorification, and that the context of the passage will determine the intention of the author in using this phrase.

Also in question is the word “obtain,” which is the word echō in the Greek and would be better translated as “have.” Whether “obtain” or “have,” the point is clear that the man wishes to possess eternal life for himself (this same scenario is recounted in Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18 with the words documented as “inherit eternal life”). This does not deal with the lost getting saved, but with the saved obtaining a rich entrance in the kingdom of heaven.

How do we know this to be true?

Jesus’ reply to this question gives the man a “works” answer. The man in question obviously knows that he is lacking something due to the nature of his initial question (19:16) and his response to Jesus’ recommendation (19:20). Jesus’ call to keep the commandments was not to force a condemnation upon the man’s inadequate living, but to point him in the direction of cultivating interpersonal relationships. Loving others is a clear indication that we love God (John 13:34-35; 1 John 7:7; 2:5; 4:7). Jesus was also not calling on the man to keep the commandments in order to earn acceptance with God. Jesus was showing him that in keeping these commandments he was propagating fellowship with God.

The second way that we know that this exchange is regarding “eternal life” as this man’s quality of glorification is in verse 21 when Jesus tells him, “If you wish to be made complete…” This Greek word is teleios meaning, “brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect.”[2] Louw and Nida define this word as “pertaining to having no defect whatsoever.”[3] This word speaks to being “perfect,” but can also be understood as being “mature, fully-grown” (Jas 1:4).  

Jesus calls the man to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and to come and follow Him on His journeys. Jesus even goes so far as to tell this man that if he does what Jesus has asked of him, he will have “treasure in heaven” (19:21). Having inquired about having/obtaining/possessing eternal life, Jesus’ directive is to give all that he deems precious in order to lay hold of eternal life, much like Jesus’ words to the disciples in Matthew 13:44-46 when He speaks of those who gave all in order to make the kingdom of heaven theirs.

If this is what Jesus is telling the man, would it not make more sense to tell him how he can be a mature, fully-grown disciple who is complete, not lacking in anything rather than considering him to be a lost, unregenerate person and immediately calling him to be complete and perfect, being fully-grown and mature?

It would be foolishness to think that Jesus is calling this man to part with all of his possessions in order to be justified since the goal placed before the man is equated with “treasure in heaven” and “full maturity” or “completeness.” Such a conclusion accounts for the man’s “selling of his possessions” as part of what is necessary in order to be accepted before God. If this is the case, where does the cross of Christ come in? This view deems it as secondary, or only PART of what is necessary to complete the whole and to legally render the man as “saved.” No, Jesus’ answer is not a works answer because that is what is necessary to go to heaven when you die. He answers this way because this is the pathway to having a full experience in following Jesus so that he will have “treasure in heaven” (19:21b). This understanding corresponds perfectly with what Jesus taught the disciples in Matthew 19:44-46. Sell all that you have if that is what it takes to possess/have/obtain the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is calling him to start living the abundant life (John 10:10b).

This reply causes the man to end the conversation, and he leaves “grieving” (lypeō- distressed, sorrowful). The reason for his sorrow is provided by Matthew, noting that he “owned much property,” meaning that he had many earthly possessions, which could include land, or possibly an estate. This is a terrible occasion, considering what the man was giving up in the eternal so that he could maintain what he had in the temporal. We see the trappings of such motivations in the words that the Apostle Paul spoke to Timothy, writing “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim 6:9-10).

One last important point to notice is that Jesus equates “treasure in heaven” in 19:21b with the man’s initial question of obtaining “eternal life” in 19:16. Jesus makes this connection to provide us with a greater understanding of what is being considered (and continues to do so in the narrative) so that we are not confused or misled in our interpretation of this situation.

This rich young ruler would be someone who has heard the “word of the kingdom” (Matt 13:19a) but has allowed for the riches of this life to choke out his opportunity to not only become part of Jesus’ entourage, but to have great riches and rewards in the coming Kingdom. He would fall into category #3 in the Parable of the Soils.

Matthew 19:23-26. At this point, Jesus turns to His disciples and uses this situation as a teaching moment. “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (19:23). Notice that Jesus equated “entering the kingdom of heaven” to the situation that just took place. Before proceeding, we must observe that the call to “sell all” and the result being “treasure in heaven” (19:21) shows that the man’s question and Jesus’ answer were not in regard to whether or not the man was “saved,” so we must not let the term “entering the kingdom of heaven” deter us to think this.

Dillow writes, “In each place where entering the kingdom of God is mentioned, the call is always to those who have already entered it in the sense of personal salvation. What then do the entry sayings mean? When Jesus invites His believing followers to enter the kingdom of heaven, He is obviously not inviting them to accept the gospel and be saved. They are already saved. Instead, this invitation to enter the kingdom involves a call to enter a rich experience of life; to enter a kingdom way of living (discipleship) by seeking the kingdom way of life; and to enter in to higher status in the future reign of the servants.”[4]

Jesus further elaborates upon His point by giving an illustration about the difficulty of “a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (19:24a). This expression is known as a “paroimia” which is a “way side saying, a trite expression, a common remark, or a proverb.”[5] This expression was used to communicate “a thing very unusual and very difficult.”[6]  This has often been communicated as an opening in the wall surrounding Jerusalem that required for the camel to get down on his knees in order to pass through into the city.[7] While this may be a commonly accepted explanation, some scholars believe that there is no evidence to conclude this.[8]

Regardless, the point in Jesus’ use of paroimia is clear: Those who trust in their riches in this life will find great difficulty in obtaining a rich entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This is due to their wealth becoming their security, hope, and the answer for every problem. Why pray and wait on the Lord when you can simply buy a solution to your problem? When one is called to follow Jesus, proceeding forward can only be done by faith in the Son of God. This is much like the argument in Galatians 3:1-3. We are not justified by faith alone and then proceed to grow in our Christian walk by another means than faith in Christ. Our growth is predicated upon faith alone in Christ alone, just as is the case of our justification. Divided interests when faced with the opportunity for a rich entrance in the coming Kingdom is an incongruent concept.

With verse 25, we see that the disciples’ response to Jesus’ application is one of shock! In the first century, the Jews would have concluded that material wealth was a sign that God had greatly blessed that family. Jesus’ comment has shattered this stereotype, opting instead to promote trusting in Christ which gives way to obedience in following Him.

The idea of being “saved” should not be thought of as “go to heaven when you die,” but rather “saved” from a worthless life, a life of little value in the coming Kingdom. We know this to be true because of the indicators found in 19:16 with “obtaining eternal life,” 19:21 with Jesus equating “treasure in heaven” with the man’s desired conclusion to “obtain eternal life,” 19:23 with Jesus’ use of the “kingdom of heaven” as the primary subject under consideration in this section, and with 19:24 demonstrating that the “kingdom of heaven” is the same thing as the “kingdom of God.” At no time do we have any allusions to the cross of Christ, the blood of Christ, or the sacrifice of Christ. The only sacrifice called for in this section is found in relation to the rich young man selling his possessions and following Jesus (19:21).

What is the answer to the disciples’ question? With man, obtaining eternal life in the kingdom of heaven is impossible, but with God all things are possible, including a rich person having a rich entrance into the coming Kingdom. If the one who is rich is not trusting in their riches but is trusting in the Lord, such an entrance is possible! They have matured to the point of understanding that the flesh will profit nothing (John 6:63; Rom 8:8) and that the things of this world are fleeting and all will burn in the end (Ps 52:7-9; 62:10b; 1 Tim 6:17; 2 Peter 3:10-18). It is much like what we read in Proverbs 11:28, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.”

Matthew 19:27-30. At this point, Peter asks a question concerning himself and the group obviously provoked by this incident that they had just witnessed and Jesus’ subsequent teaching in light of the results of the rich young man’s choice. If what Jesus just concluded was true, where did this leave the disciples? They had walked away from their businesses (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and had obviously left their families (Matt 8:14). In Peter’s own words, the had left “everything” to follow Jesus (Matt 19:27). Peter understood that he and the other disciples had been obedient and had “paid the cost.” What would be the return on the decision that they had made?

Jesus’ reply is not harsh, or rebuking, but He unfolds the beauty that awaits those who sacrifice to follow Christ because they should be expectant of something in return for their service to Him. “Rather than upbraid Peter for what may seem like a selfish request, Jesus assured him that the life investment he and the other disciples had made (16:24–28) would have dividends ‘a hundredfold’ (v. 29).”[9] Jesus tells His disciples that in the “regeneration” they will be in positions of judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel (19:28). What is meant by the term “regeneration” is clear, seeing that Jesus gives us a time indicator in stating that it is a period “when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne.” We know this to be speaking of the Millennial Reign of Christ (Rev 19:11-20:6).

This word “regeneration” is palingenesia in Greek meaning a “state of being renewed, with focus on a cosmic experience, renewal.”[10] It has been translated in English as “renewal” (NIV, CSB), “new world” (ESV), and even the “Messianic Age” (HCSB). Thayer understands it as “that signal and glorious change of all things (in heaven and earth) for the better, that restoration of the primal and perfect condition of things which existed before the fall of our first parents.”[11] Scofield writes of it as “the re-creation of the social order, and renewal of the earth (Isa. 11:6–9; Rom. 8:19–23) when the kingdom shall come.”[12] Clearly, Jesus’ meaning is consistent with the subject at hand, being the coming Kingdom of Heaven, the Millennial Reign of Christ.

Jesus then adds that anyone who has left that which they have loved behind for the sake of Christ’s name will receive “many times as much” (NASB), which is probably better understood as “a hundred times” (NASB margin) or “a hundredfold” (NKJV, ESV). Two things must be noted in this statement.

First, a sacrifice of this magnitude must be made with the proper motivation fueling it. That motivation is clearly stated as “for My name’s sake” (19:29b). The person forsaking that which is comfortable and secure hoping to receive accolades or fame from such a sacrifice will receive nothing. However, the one who deems Christ as “worthy,” meaning that He is worth following wherever He may lead them to go, is one who will receive a great reward for the sacrifice that they have made. This type of obedience demonstrates the proper motivation and the humble heart of the one serving Christ.

Second, the use of the term “a hundredfold” should draw our minds back to the Parable of the Soils, especially the fourth soil in Matthew 13:23. We are told that those who “understand” the word of the kingdom will be the ones who “bear fruit” in various increments, and in some cases, it will be a hundredfold.

Jesus speaks of a second result regarding those who leave their loved ones for Christ’s sake. They “will inherit eternal life” (19:29c). This is precisely what Jesus was calling the rich young ruler to do: sell his possessions and follow Him so that he would have “treasure in heaven” (19:21b). This phrase “inherit eternal life” perfectly corresponds with the rich man’s initial inquiry in Matthew 19:16 about how to “obtain eternal life,” especially when compared with the parallel accounts in Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18. There is a cost in this life for following Jesus, but if one is willing to pay it for the sake of Jesus’ name, it will yield great dividends beyond our comprehension in the life to come!

Jesus finishes His reply by stating that “many who are first will be last; and the last, first” (19:30). Parting with our loved ones or ridding ourselves of our valuables for the sake of Jesus’ name would be things that would place us in the category of “last” in this present age. Such people are considered lunatics. But we must remember that the world knows nothing about the joy that stems from those who not only have peace with God from their justification, but the peace of God resting over them because they are in the center of God’s will for their lives. To the world, belief in God, much less parting with one’s “stuff” to follow Jesus Christ, is written off as “fanatical” without being given a second thought, and because it is spiritually motivated and lacks the “glamour” that dictates so much of the decisions that carnal people make, it must be discredited and demeaned, and the message of those who have “left all” is denied.

Those who are last in this life will be first in the life to come. Those who are first in this life, meaning that if they are believers in Jesus Christ but are living for themselves (Eph 5:11-12), persisting in sin and disobedience (Eph 4:17-20; 1 Tim 1:29-20), are only carnal in their Christianity (1 Cor 3:3-4; Titus 3:9-10), and are unwilling to part with the things that they hold dear if called upon by the Lord to do so (Matt 19:21), they will be last in the coming Kingdom of Christ.

What is Jesus calling you to do so that you will have treasure in heaven?

[1] See MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 1276–1277, Alan P. Stanley, Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2006), p. 188-211, John F. MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1988), p. 78-88.

[2] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 618.

[3] Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 705.

[4] Joseph C. Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings (Monument, Colorado: Paniym Publishing, 2012), p. 253.

[5] E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), p. 755.

[6] Ibid.

[7] See James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), p. 447.

[8] See Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p. 299–300; David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 252.

[9] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1999), p. 1177.

[10] BDAG, p. 752.

[11] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 474–475.

[12] C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), p. 1026.

Foundational Framework 57: Living a Worthy Life

Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
The glory of God is the centerpiece and goal of all existence.
God’s glory is maximally realized in the promised, coming Kingdom.

Foundational Frameworks 57.png

Our study of Matthew 13 and the “word of the Kingdom” (Matt 13:19) continues with the last three parables being given in a private setting. In 13:36, we are told that Jesus left the crowd of Jews that He was previously speaking to and entered again into the house from whence He had come to teach in parables in the first place (13:1). Jesus began speaking in parables after the rejection of the works of the Holy Spirit (which testified that the Kingdom of God had come upon the Jews) by the Jewish leaders (Matt 12:24, 28). Before moving on we must remember two very important points connected to Jesus’ style of teaching.

First, Jesus spoke in parables as a means of judgment against the Jewish people. Those who had rejected Him during His earthly ministry would have the “mysteries of the Kingdom” hidden from their understanding. Jesus’ method of teaching (parables) involved a principled story-telling that was to convey important truths regarding the Kingdom of God and was such that would obscure the meaning to those who had rejected Him as their promised Messiah. Jesus explains, “I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13). He then proceeds to tell His disciples in 13:14-15 that resorting to this method is actually a fulfillment of prophecy. The hardened hearts of the Jewish people had earned them further ignorance and missed opportunities to have in their possession what YHWH had always promised them. It was a sad affair that Israel had earned because of their unbelief and disobedience, but one that the Lord Jesus would see through in truth, not compromising His judgment of them despite His profound love (Matt 23:37-39).

The second important point involves the flipside of Jesus’ parables in that they are described by Him as revealing “the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven,” with this revelation being something that the disciples were privy to because of their acceptance of Him (Matt 13:11). The Eleven (minus Judas- John 13:27) had already placed their faith in Jesus and now He was granting them more understanding regarding His Coming Kingdom (Matt 13:12). In this they were greatly blessed, for many prophets and “righteous men” had desired to see and hear all that they had before them in that moment, but had not (Matt 13:16-17). This moment in time held an unveiling of previously unknown truths regarding the earthly reign of Christ from the throne of David, and of all of the devout Jews of Israel’s history, this rag-tag group of anxious and doubting men were the recipients of its message.

Grace certainly abounds as the Lord sees fit for His divine purposes with no regard to status, occupation, or merit.

Matthew 13:44. In this parable, Jesus speaks of “the kingdom of heaven” being like a treasure that was hidden in a field. This would have been a concept that the disciples would have been able to relate to. In the first century there were no banks or safes in order to store valuables, so the one who possessed such things would have to hide them in the ground.[1] In this teaching, a man finds the treasure and hides it again. Joy over his discovery motivates him to sell all of his possessions, and in doing so, he purchases the field.

At this point, it should be noted that the popular interpretations of this passage have consisted of mainly two viewpoints. The first interpretation is that the “treasure” is Israel and that the Messiah is the “man.” Upon finding her, Jesus goes and “sells all that he has,” symbolizing His going to the cross, and in turn buys the field (which is connected to “the world”- v.38a) with His blood. Along with this, some have considered that Israel being hidden in the field and the field being considered a necessary purchase relates to the Jews being dispersed throughout the nations of the world.[2] While this is a popular understanding among many who are of the dispensationalist viewpoint, there are some concerns regarding this interpretation.

First, while the “man” may be interpreted this way due to a previous parable (Matt 13:24b, 37), this does not necessarily need to be the case, and is an educated assumption at best.

Second, while Israel is often referred to as God’s treasure in the Old Testament (Ex 19:5; Deut 26:18; Ps 83:3 [where the word for “treasured” is more literally translated as “hidden”]; 135:4), there is no indication that the Lord “stumbled across” them, buried them again, and then needed to purchase a vast expanse just so they would be His permanently. From all indication that one would receive in reading through the Old Testament, Israel already belonged to God (Isa 43:1).

Third, the emphasis being placed upon Israel as the ones needing redemption limits what transpired at the cross. This would only make sense if Jesus had died only for the sins of the Jews, but Scripture speaks to so much more than this (John 1:29; 1 Tim 2:4-6; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2).

Finally, this parable, by its very introduction, not to mention all of the other parables in Matthew 13, have nothing to do with the cross of Christ and His death for sinners. However, it does have everything to do with “the kingdom of the heavens,” keeping in perfect step with the parables that Jesus spoke beforehand. This should be sufficient enough evidence to see that this parable is not speaking of Jesus purchasing the world through the cross in order to possess Israel.

The second major interpretation is that Jesus is telling these men that if they want to have eternal life it will cost them everything. With this view, the “kingdom of heaven” has been equated with “eternal life.” Therefore, they (and by extension “we”) must be willing to sell everything in order to gain heaven. The issues with this understanding should be both obvious and alarming, yet it is considered a legitimate understanding of the text by some who even go so far as to acknowledge the free gift of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone only to then include the “give up everything” call of discipleship as necessary and indispensable to the equation.[3] Such atrocities in Scripture, theology, and logic are too easily excused with the label of “paradox.”

Let us stop and acknowledge the violence that occurs in embracing such a claim, being found to muddy the foundation of the Christian Life and murky the waters of the atonement of Christ.

Salvation is a free gift, and one that is offered freely because it has already been purchased by Another- the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:29; 3:16; 5:24). This free gift is received by personal faith alone (John 1:12; 6:47). If this free gift costs the recipient anything it ceases to be a gift and becomes a transaction (Rom 11:6). This gives the recipient of the “costly gift” the right to lay claim to it because of what they were required to give for it. It is no longer a gift that was totally undeserved, but has now become an item that is to be rightfully possessed because of the personal price paid. This is NOT the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world and rose on the third day in order to freely offer eternal life to anyone and everyone who would receive it, and to do so “without cost” (Rev 22:17).

A friend of mine stated the issue this way:

If someone thinks that they have to give Christ something (i.e., commitment, surrender, obedience, etc.) in order to receive eternal salvation, then they are attempting to enforce a bilateral contract, namely an agreement formed by an exchange of a promise in which the promise of one party is consideration supporting the promise of the other party.[4]

The idea that the gift of salvation is something that we must be willing to “sell all that” we have in order to obtain it is nothing short of heresy because it makes our actions and obedience a necessary part in accomplishing the whole of our redemption. This blasphemous conclusion would rightfully qualify the one needing salvation as a co-redeemer with Christ, seeing that this view considers Christ’s work on the cross as insufficient to fully save. To necessitate any works on the part of the one needing saving is heresy.

With that being said, what would be a more consistent interpretation of the parable of the treasure in the field? To answer this question, there are two important factors that must be grasped before proceeding that will greatly aid in clearing the path for a greater understanding.

First, the audience for these series of parables has changed. Beforehand, we saw the Master speaking to the crowds which were the ones who had rejected Jesus’ message (Matt 13:1-9, 24-35), but here we see His audience as the Twelve, being those who had accepted His message. We must remember that Jesus is turning away from the Jews because of their unbelief. Even though Judas is present, this group of men would go on to be the bedrock that the Holy Spirit would use in establishing, discipling, and nurturing the coming Church in sound doctrine (Acts 2). The Eleven are “already clean” because of the Word that Jesus had spoken to them (John 15:3), thus they are in a prime position to receive the “mysteries of the Kingdom” with greater understanding; an understanding that will give way to bearing fruit (Matt 13:23b).

Second, the focal point of Jesus’ teaching has not changed, that being the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt 13:44, 45, 47). Though the audience is different, we should not assume that the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” has changed its meaning since Jesus entered the house. However, we would be correct in considering that what Jesus is going to communicate to the Twelve regarding the Coming Kingdom will concern itself with things directly pertaining to them since the crowds are no longer present. With this audience, the purpose of judgment has been removed from Jesus’ use of parables. However, Jesus still continues to teach in parables, meaning that the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt 13:11) can be further understood, resulting in the “abundance” that comes from receiving more revelation about the kingdom because the disciples were the ones who already “had” in the first place (Matthew 13:12a is very important in understanding this concept).

With this second point, we must also consider the contextual argument of this entire pericope.

Jesus began Matthew 13 with the Parable of the Soils and provided an explanation of this parable in 13:18-23. The subject of this first parable is the “word of the Kingdom” (13:19) and the various types of reception this message receives from those who hear it. Each type of reception creates a reaction. While the first message was “snatched away” by Satan so as to render no understanding (13:19), the second and third groups receive the message and even embrace it, but end up abandoning it due to persecution and affliction (13:21) or due to the cares of this present age and the greed that permeates one’s being overshadowing its significance (13:22). However, it is the final soil who receives the word of the Kingdom and who hold fast to it because they have “understanding” (13:23). This “understanding” results in fruit that brings forth “a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (13:23b). It is this last group that is in view when Jesus is speaking with His disciples about the treasure hidden in the field (13:44a) and the pearl of great value (13:46a).

 

 

In summation, this parable of the hidden treasure in the field is:

1.     still spoken of in the parabolic fashion of teaching,

2.     spoken privately to the disciples of Jesus in the house (Matt 13:36),

3.     still regarding the subject of the “kingdom of heaven” whose meaning and contents have not changed at all from the Old Testament understanding of the literal, physical, theocratic reign of the Messiah for 1,000 years on the Earth from Jerusalem as He sits upon the throne of His father David as prophesied (2 Sam 7:16; Luke 1:32-33), and

4.     it is a truth that, when understood, will bring forth a bountiful result of fruit from the disciples (Matt 13:23).

Here we have a biblical maxim that is a foundational point throughout all of the Scriptures: With more revelation comes more responsibility, and such responsibility in understanding greater revelation from God in His Word demands a response so that one’s life is now operating from the convictions that have just been learned.

In this way, God is glorified!!! This is what God’s truth is supposed to do in the lives of believers. When we are given a greater understanding of God’s will (which is His Word), we are responsible for embracing this truth and conforming our lives accordingly.

In this private setting with those who have chosen to follow Him closely (John 6:67-69), Jesus explains to them the surpassing worth of the kingdom of heaven, especially in comparison to any of their personal possessions. One author notes, “The central truth being taught is the immense value of the kingdom, which far outweighs any sacrifice or inconvenience one might encounter on earth.”[5] The urgency of the man, the motivation conveyed that sparks his action (“and from joy”-Matt 13:44b), and the extreme exchange that the man is willing to make for the treasure all point to a relinquishing of lesser things in order to own something greater for one’s self. Robertson agrees: “The point here is the joy of discovery of something of supreme worth. The kingdom, like the treasure, is worth more than all a man’s possessions. He may well sacrifice these all for it.”[6]

Matthew 13:45-46. While the following parable contains many similarities to the parable of the hidden treasure, there is one major difference that must be noted. In 13:44, the man in the parable found the treasure, but there is no real indication that he was looking for it. However, when he found it, he went to extreme measures to accumulate the cash necessary to purchase the field containing the treasure. In 13:45-46, the merchant is actively looking for pearls of great worth. When he comes across a pearl that holds immense value, he sells everything he has in order to obtain it.

Jesus’ general point is clear: Whether you are looking for the kingdom or not, once you come across it, give everything that you own in order to possess it for yourself. So often we believe that the things that we possess are the markers for greatness in this life. Many are enthralled with money, social status, keeping up with their peers, or desperately trying to maintain a fake image among others. Jesus is stating that whatever you have held dear or esteemed as “worthy,” give it up for the sake of personally possessing something of infinite value. Do whatever it takes, at all costs, to possess the kingdom.

The immense value of the kingdom of God is something that is stressed throughout Jesus’ ministry. While many passages address this fact, looking at the Sermon on the Mount briefly will give one a clear and convincing picture. Notice the following verses:

Matt 5:3- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 5:10-12- “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed

are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matt 5:19-20- “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 6:33- “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matt 7:21- “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

In each instance listed, we see that the “kingdom of heaven” is associated with an attitude, disposition, or a general way of life that the person is called to live. These instances call for self-discipline, meaning that the believer who would “enter the kingdom of heaven” would be the one who has understood the “word of the kingdom” and is willing to position his or herself in such a way that the pleasures and trappings of this life are unworthy endeavors that will keep us from the richness that is available in the Life to come.

Also notice that “entering the kingdom” is associated with “rewards in heaven” (Matt 5:10-12). This is Jesus’ point in the private parables of Matthew 13. He desires for His disciples to have a “rich entrance” into the kingdom of heaven. He calls them to a way of life that will lead to ruling and reigning alongside Him in the millennial kingdom.

He calls us to do the same. Jesus invites His followers to follow Him through persecution and sacrifice to a maximum return in the Life to come that broadcasts God’s glory throughout all existence!!!

Where will you be in the kingdom?

[1] James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), p. 438.

[2] See John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Galaxie Software, 2007), p. 104–105; Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, Expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 1538; William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1258.

[3] See John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says “Follow Me,” Electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Academic and Professional Books, Zondervan, 2000), chapter 12; Robert James Utley, The First Christian Primer: Matthew, vol. 9, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), p. 121.

[4] Kevin Hobby, personal correspondence, 30 December 2018.

[5] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1997), Mt 13:44.

[6] A. T. Robertson, Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1911), p. 171.