Sunday, May 31, 2015

John 6:30-31 comments: what kind of proof do you need?

30  They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31  Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

Israel was founded by signs and wonders.

Deuteronomy 7:19  The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.

The Jews required a sign as proof.

1Corinthians 1:22  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

These Jews demand proof in the form of signs and are either unaware of the miracle at the wedding at Cana or the miracle of the loaves and the fishes or unimpressed. Tough crowd, huh? They refer to God’s miraculous feeding of the Hebrews in the wilderness by manna (see Exodus 16:4, Psalm 105:40, and Nehemiah 9:15).

Exodus 16:15  And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat…31  And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

What was it? That would be an interesting Bible study.

Psalm 74:12 ¶  For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13  Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. 14  Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

Psalm 78:24  And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. 25  Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.

What was manna, this miraculous food from heaven? Whatever it was, it was definitely one of those amazing events that God poured down on the Hebrews to prove who He was and that He had control over natural events to change and manipulate them at will.

Do you seek after a miracle to prove God, or are you like the Greeks who wanted an argument, a piece of logic to justify their belief?

    John 20:25  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

    26 ¶  And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27  Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28  And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29  Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

If your faith is contingent upon waiting for a sign from the heavens or an argument of reason from a scholar then you probably don’t believe at all in a real, living God but moreso in a concept of God, an idea not an entity. American Christians have more faith in their faith than in God which is why we talk about the power of prayer rather than the power of the one prayed to, as if speaking to an empty room as a placebo effect meant something other than that you are deranged.

God is not the subject of scientific investigation because He is a real person, if you will, with a will and will reveal Himself to whom He desires and when He desires. Judging by what He has said in His Book it doesn’t appear that He cares to sit for an interview with a theoretical scientist (1Timothy 6:20) at Cern, Switzerland or to put on a fireworks display for your entertainment like the wizard, Gandalf, in Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

In the Jewish mind here in this passage God was like a football coach and, remember, you’re only good as your last game. So, what have you got for us today, God? Are you like that?

Friday, May 29, 2015

John 6:28-29 comments: salvation predicated upon belief alone

28 ¶  Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29  Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Biblical Christianity is not a religion of works. We can’t work to get saved nor can we work to stay saved. Salvation is predicated upon belief.

Acts 16:30  And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Romans 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

    12 ¶  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek [a Gentile: a non-Jew as the dominant culture of Paul’s world was a Greek one]: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

However, we are called to good works once we are saved.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Good works from the Christian’s perspective are defined as acts of charity and love.

1Timothy 5:10  Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

1Timothy 6:18  That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

James 1:27  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Read the entire chapter of 1Corinthians 13 and Romans 12 and 1Thessalonians 5:11 and onward.

Good works include the uniting together regularly as the body of Christ in worship. With the development of modern technologies this becomes even more a possibility for even people unable to physically attend a physical worship service.

Hebrews 10:24  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

But, it is belief, not good works that saves a Christian. It is Christ alone that keeps them saved as we will find out later. All other teachings of modern churches are based on control and manipulation and are not Biblical. Not your church membership, not your church attendance, not your generosity in giving, nor your diligence in Bible reading and prayer can save you. Only trusting in Christ can do that.

John 1:12  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

John 6:22-27 comments: Creator, Messiah, Christ, and Prophet

22 ¶  The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; 23  (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) 24  When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. 25  And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26  Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27  Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Note the key piece of verse 22 missing from modern Bible versions based on the Critical Text of Westcott and Hort in the heritage of German Enlightenment Theology and the fallacious “science” of Textual Criticism. The only boat was the one, “whereunto his disciples entered,” until other boats came from Tiberias.

The people are determined to be where Jesus is. Would it were so that American Christians had such a determination and desire to be with Jesus every day; where He is in attitude in obedience to the Father and where He is in presence in His written word, and where He is in eternity, in the Heaven of heavens. The crowds also passed over the sea in boats to pursue Him. When they found Him they asked when it was that He had passed over the sea. But, He didn’t answer their question directly, only questioning their motives.

Jesus tells the crowds to work for food that doesn’t rot away, food that leads to eternal life, setting up later statements. He then declares that that food comes from Him, calling Himself the Son of man, and that God the Father has sealed Him as that deliverer. As Peter said;

Acts 4:12  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

The son of man with a small “s” is used several times in the Old Testament to refer to man in the flesh, born by natural processes (Numbers 23:19; Job 25:6; 35:8; Proverbs 8:4, etc. etc.) The Son of man, capital “S,” is used in Ezekiel, chapter 2 and beyond, as the prophet himself is called by God. Along with the small “s” son of man, the phrase is used over 90 times in the book of the prophet Ezekiel referring to the prophet as a human person born of natural processes and particularly as a special Prophet born in the flesh accomplishing God’s special purpose.

It is established in John up to this point that Jesus is not only the Creator (John 1:1-3), but also God in the flesh, the only time this ever happened in history (John 1:14-18), and He is the Messiah, the Christ (John 4:25-26), and the Prophet that Moses predicted (John 6:14). This is probably one important reason why scholars have tried to separate the Gospel of John from the canon as it is so clear in its declarations of Christ. It is also stated clearly that to believe Him, on Him, and in Him is the key to salvation and to deny what He has said is to bear the wrath of God.

John 3:36  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Monday, May 25, 2015

John 6:15-21 comments: It is I; be not afraid

15 ¶  When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. 16  And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, 17  And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. 18  And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. 19  So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. 20  But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. 21  Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

Many fundamentalist preachers make the nonsensical statement that the Jews were saved in the Old Testament by looking forward to the Cross as the Christian is saved in the New by looking backward to it. Here is one of the many verses that show this is ridiculous. The Jews were looking for a conqueror, a king to lead them out of domination by Rome and into the status among the kingdoms of the world they had been promised. Here are Jesus’ own disciples after His resurrection.

Acts 1:6  When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Messianic fervor was rampant in first century Judea and among the Jews everywhere. People calculated according to the popular chronology of the day that the age was on the threshold of the appearance of the Messiah.  Later, it would be said that a Messiah ben Joseph would appear and suffer and die for his people and then a Messiah ben David would appear in victory and conquest. The Jews did not see the appearance of the same Messiah to suffer and die, and then to return from the dead in victory. They were not looking forward to the Cross at Jesus’ time but looking forward to Israel’s lost greatness to be restored and the vindication of the people. This is clear by many statements of clueless disciples when Jesus would predict His death. (11)

Later in John we will get into the declaration of Jesus’ kingship, probably sarcastically, by Pilate.

In this passage we see Jesus’ command over natural forces, as well as time and distance itself, as He walks on water and immediately causes the ship to arrive at its intended destination.

The disciples take a ship without Jesus and a just a great wind or even a storm comes up. Wind and storm are synonymous.

Job 27:21  The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth: and as a storm hurleth him out of his place.

Mark 4:37  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

Luke 8:23  But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.

It is then they see Jesus walking on the water, which terrified them. But Jesus says this wonderful statement to them that is the source of great inspiration for the Christian, “It is I; be not afraid.”

Once he was received into the ship, the ship was immediately at their destination. There are 8 furlongs in a mile so they had traveled less than four miles while the Sea of Galilee is approximately 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, 33 miles in circumference.  What is revealed to us is that God has power over time and distance. Consider this when you read about the farthest reaches of space appearing to be 45 billion light-years from earth, a light-year being the time it takes light to travel in one year, as well as the ridiculous theory that the universe is 15 billion years old.

(11) Rabbi Hillel Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel (New York: Macmillan Co., 1927), 5&84.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

John 6:1-14 comments: 5 and 2

1 ¶  After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2  And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 3  And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 4  And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. 5  When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6  And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7  Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9  There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10  And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11  And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12  When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13  Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 14  Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

Verse 1 says the Sea of Galilee as also called the Sea of Tiberias. Tiberias was built on the western shore of Lake Galilee by Herod Antipas as his capital and named in honor of Emperor Tiberius who reigned from AD14-37 (Luke 3:1- Tiberias is the Greek name for the Latin name Tiberius, a versus u). Eventually, the Sea of Galilee was also known by that name. After the fall and destruction of Jerusalem it became a center of learning. The Jerusalem Talmud came from there and it became the center from which the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible was edited. (9)

We are told here that people followed him, a great multitude, because they saw miracles, physical miracles where people who were sick were healed. Sickness that isn’t hidden in hospitals and clinics but goes untreated because doctors are financially inaccessible and the level of medicine is nothing near what it was in a metropolis like Rome would have been evident all around. It would have been evident in despair, lesions, bloody sores, broken limbs, blindness, scabs, and other crippling physical conditions, particularly among the poor. Those people born with mental deficiencies and challenges would have had to compete with those thought to be “normal” for their daily bread and just plain survival. This is a big deal and not to be dismissed lightly. The suffering of the poor in the poorest countries on earth is unbelievably awful, even today. When Christ healed a sick person there was certainly rejoicing, not the cavalier attitude that many people seem to have when they are spiritually healed at the moment of salvation.

Jesus often sat to teach. This was a sign of authority even in the early church. Kings sit on a seat or throne to dispense judgment (Acts 25:17). A cathedra in Latin is a chair or in Greek a seat. For the Pope to speak ex cathedra those words have the full authority of his position in the Roman Catholic Church. Roman governors sat to dispense Roman justice (John 19:13). The Apostles had their own seats when they came to visit the house churches of the New Testament.

The early church leader, Tertullian, said;

Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones (or chairs, seats) of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings (original letters) are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. (10)

 Jesus taught both sitting and standing as is evidenced by the so-called Sermon on the Mount starting in Matthew 5 and the similar sermon He gave standing in a plain beginning in Luke 6:17.

Passover was near and Jesus, knowing what He was about to do, asked a question of Philip, setting up what was about to happen. There are five thousand men. Often a count is made not counting women and children. This device of counting only men can, perhaps, be traced to the census one would take to see how many able-bodied men were available to fight in war, as you can read in the Old Testament.

Matthew 14:21  And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

But, there were only five loaves of bread and two fishes, which a young boy had brought with him, available. So, it is clear that the crowd had not brought their own lunch like some unbelieving people would insist.  

It is a very important point in verse 11 that God uses His men and women to do work on the earth and any Bible version that leaves out, “he distributed to the disciples,” is probably one of those that can safely be thrown in the trash as counterfeit. The verse is corrupted in the critical text of Westcott and Hort based on two of the most in-error manuscripts known to Bible scholars, Codexes Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and the Bibles that flow from that sewer.

God performs miracles all the time in this world by using people that are obedient to Him. On a general human level he has unknowing people do His will. Do you think the doctor cured you? Guess again. Do you think the mechanic replaced your exhaust for free of his own accord? Wrong. And as far as Christians are concerned people are fed, clothed, sheltered, and given the gospel of salvation all over the world, not by an angel of the Lord glowing brightly in God’s glory and seen by all but by simple, believing, and obedient Christians who seek to do His will.

When you help at a rescue mission God is working through you in a much greater sense than the doctor and the mechanic mentioned previously because you are giving the gospel of salvation to those you are feeding. Jesus gives you the word to distribute to feed their souls as you feed their bodies.

On another level, this passage points out that God can take a little and do much with it. He can take what appears to be an insignificant, even ridiculously small amount of resources and make serve as if they were a great abundance. When was the last time one of us thought we couldn’t do anything useful because we didn’t have enough money, couldn’t speak well enough, write well enough, were successful enough, or had a high level of education. Didn’t Moses try to use his lack of speaking ability as an excuse while Paul admitted he was a terrible speaker but so what?

God can take whatever little we have and make it do the work of much, if we are obedient to Him.

For the skeptic and the atheist, altruism and kindness don’t have an evolutionary benefit. Evolution requires that you seek your own and let others be damned. What is important, according to evolutionary theory, is that you succeed and others fail. But, here, the story is not about competition for limited resources. Noticing there are only five loaves and two fishes everyone doesn’t start killing each other over who will get to eat it. No, the story is about compassion and God’s power over natural events. As the Book of Job teaches, God manually runs natural events and performing a miracle from our point of view is a simple matter for Him.
It is said here that Jesus is that prophet spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. He has now been called and called Himself the Messiah, the Christ, and the expected Prophet of God.

Twelve baskets of bread, perhaps signifying the twelve tribes of Israel, are left over. Maybe this also signifies the distribution of God’s word around the world from a small start. But, I believe there is a plain question that can help us each day.

As I heard a gifted preacher once ask, what will you do with your 5 and 2?

(9)  Unger, Archaeology and the New Testament, 130.

(10) Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 36, Peter Holmes, transl. Early Christian Writings, (accessed 5.22.2015).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

John 5:31-47 comments: honor only from God

31 ¶  If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32  There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. 33  Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34  But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35  He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 36  But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. 37  And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38  And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39  Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40  And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41  I receive not honour from men. 42  But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43  I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44  How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

Jesus declares that He is not just stating that He is the awaited Messiah. His identity as God in the flesh, the Son of God, has been revealed by John the Baptist, whom they respected. But, Jesus is not satisfied with the witness of a man, even one who was very important, in order that the people might be saved. Jesus’ own works declare His identity, the works given by God the Father for Him to complete on earth. This is very important as He proved Himself by His obedience even unto death and by His resurrection from the dead and declaration of salvation for all who believed what He said about Himself.

God the Father has been a witness, as well, although only John the Baptist heard Him. Until now, the people have not heard God the Father nor seen Him. Everything, though, is changed and nothing will continue as it was. If God’s word is in them they will believe on Christ. If not, they won’t. The Jews who believed that through the Scriptures they had eternal life and a physical resurrection, also had to understand that Christ is in that expectation, as the origin of it. Sadly, the overwhelming majority would not come to Him so that they could have eternal life.

Jesus did not expect any honor or prestige from mankind. He did not expect to be feted in palaces by emperors and kings or honored in the temple. He did not need man’s approval to fulfill His mission, only God the Father’s.

Jesus stated that He knew that the people He was talking to did not truly love the God who created them. He came in His Father’s name and the Jews would reject Him, as a result. They did receive, though, many false messiahs who declared themselves to be the one to lead their people to triumph, coming in their own names, delivering their own message.

People seek the honor of men and not the honor of God only. Conservative churches are not concerned with the service demanded in the New Testament for Christian churches in caring for the needs of those among them who are weak, sick, or in need. See Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35; 2Corinthians 8:14; 9:12; Ephesians 4:28; James 2:14-17 and contexts.  In America, we have turned that over the government. We are now only interested in new church members, changing the service of God to simple obedience to men and to the needs of the organization, not the people growing in grace and truth and being ambassadors for something other than paranoia, fear, and political faction.

Like David’s wicked census of his kingdom, we want numbers, to be approved of men, and are not willing to be seek honor only from God. We must see results. Jeremiah would not do as a pastor over a church today. Neither would Jesus. Americans are all about success; the most home runs, the most touchdowns, the number of paying fans in the stadium, the most votes, the number of decisions for Christ, how many are you running in Sunday School, etc. etc. Honor only from God doesn’t always appear obvious on this earth, in this life. Churches tell others about the “sweet bye and bye” but want their rewards now. Being faithful to God’s word, no matter how many faces shine up from the pews, is what is needed across the land, faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (1Corinthians 4:1-2 literally).

Verse 45 makes a very important point, that we should look for Christ in the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses. There are many types and allegories of Christ and Christ Himself in those books. Jesus is saying that if the Jews had their hearts where they should be they would see Him in Moses’ writings. Since the Jews did not believe Moses’ writings they were not going to believe Jesus’ spoken words.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

John 5:17-30 comment: Christ, the judge of the world

17 ¶  But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. 19  Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. 20  For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. 21  For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. 22  For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23  That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. 24  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26  For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27  And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28  Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29  And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 30  I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Jesus has given the Jews a second reason to wish His death now.  By calling God His Father He had made Himself equal with God. Paul referred to the implications of this.

Philippians 2:5  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

Jesus is the physical body of God. First, the word image is the physical appearance or likeness of someone.

Genesis 1:26a  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

And Jesus is the ultimate image of God’s person.

Hebrews 1:3a  Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person…

Colossians 1:15a  Who is the image of the invisible God…

2Corinthians 4:4  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Mankind was created based upon the form of the Lord Jesus Christ, standing upright, two arms and hands, two legs, head and face. We have the appearance of God as Genesis 1:26 reveals. Adam would have been the most like Christ in appearance but with his sin and fall each generation after him would have been genetically inferior to the original and while Adam was made in the image of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, directly his offspring would have been made in his image in that the deterioration caused by sin had its pernicious effect.

Genesis 5:3  And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:

A number of geneticists have questioned how mankind could have survived has long as he has with all of the deleterious mutations that mankind collects with each generation. This is even more evidence of how we have not been on this earth for the hundreds of thousands of years they claim in their theories. (8)

Jesus will soon declare that to see Him is to see the Father and that He pre-existed Abraham referring to Himself with the name God ascribed to Himself when first speaking to Moses, “I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)

John 14:9  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

John 8:58  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Verse 19 begins to give us Christ’s mission on earth. He obeyed the will of the Father who is the soul of God, the seat of self-identity and will. Even though, as we were told in the first chapter of John He is that very God, He as God in the flesh, fully man and fully God, subordinated Himself to the will of the Father. Christ came to obey God the Father so that all men would look to Him as an example and for salvation. There is no other way to God.

John 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Acts 4:12  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Just as God did and will raise people from the dead Christ gave eternal life to whomsoever He chose, a proof-text for Calvinism if read as a standalone text and not in context with all the other verses on God’s will and salvation being for all men and women. But, we must remember God’s desire;

1Timothy 2:4  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Christ will judge the world at His second coming. All men and women must honor Christ, God in the flesh, as they do God the Father in Heaven, so judgment is His.

Matthew 28:18  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

2Timothy 4:1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

To believe in God and to obey Christ’s words and believe what He said about Himself is the guarantee of eternal life. Christ was being proclaimed to a dead world, whose consciences were seared and whose spirits did not know God, and those that heard and obeyed His call would live.

In God’s infinite mercy He gave the authority to give life and to execute judgment to Himself in the person of Jesus Christ because, as a man and sharing in our struggle and suffering, He related to us. It is just that Christ exercises judgment on man because at the same time He was God, He was also man. This is not some highly elevated entity perched on Mount Olympus but someone who walked among us; sweating, hungry, tired, and sore. This is someone who suffered death.

The dead will come forth from their graves and be judged by Him. This is God’s will. In His humanity Christ did not seek the will or knowledge or a man. This is not humanism. He suffered as a man but sought after the will of God. This is our example, to bear the tempest and troubles of our humanity but to seek the will of God, as clearly stated in the Bible, in all things, to bear the judgments of God in all things, to declare the promises and the commandments of God in all things, all the while submitting to God in our mortal peril.

(8) Alexey S. Kondrashov, “Contamination of the Genome by Very Slightly Deleterious Mutations: Why Have We Not Died 100 Times Over?” Journal of Theoretical Biology, (1995)  175, pp. 583-594.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

John 5:1-16 comments: healing a man on the Sabbath

1 ¶  After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5  And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7  The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10  The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11  He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12  Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13  And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14  Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15  The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16  And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

As Jesus returns to Jerusalem for a feast-day another interesting point about reality and the human condition is revealed. If you remember in Job we learned that God is absolute sovereign over the universe and no good or bad thing or even what we consider a natural event happens to anyone anywhere unless He either permits it to happen or causes it to happen. He even points out to Job that man’s awareness of something is irrelevant for it to be true as He causes things to happen in places where there is no man (Job 38:26).

Here, in this passage we have a miracle that occurs regularly presumably before and possibly after the Lord’s life on earth. An appearance of one of the sons of God in heaven oversees and causes a healing miracle in this pool on a regular basis. How many out-of-the-ordinary events, whether good or bad, take place on earth like this that we chalk off to randomness or just plain luck that are actually caused by supernatural agents?

This man with the infirmity that rendered him impotent, meaning powerless, had been that way for a long time. He was waiting for someone to carry him to the healing water. Well, now, the healing water, in a manner of speaking, came to him. Jesus asked the question all men and women are asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The man’s answer was the excuse that there was no one to carry him to the healing. We were completely unable to come to God on our own before we were saved. There was no capacity in us to believe without the Holy Spirit’s prompting and preparing our spiritual hearts. Our free will was so tainted by the corruption of sin that our soul was weak and impotent, unable to even drag itself to Christ.

It was then that Christ came to us. Here, this Jew is not even required to have faith before he is healed but after he is healed he is called to believe and obey. He has already been healed but he could still lay in his own filth and lament that there was no man to carry him if he had not heard and obeyed when Jesus said, “Take up thy bed, and walk.” The issue for the unsaved before Christ is not whether they accept every doctrine of the Bible or believe what I believe or what you believe right now. But, are they even willing to be made whole and will they take up the symbol of their weakness and walk at Christ’s and by Christ’s command?

So many people aren’t willing to be saved. Their sin is eating them alive but it is, after all, theirs and they are used to it, even proud of it as a mark of their identity. Maybe they are afraid of having to give up something or maybe they are convinced that they’ve gone too far to be saved. If you want to be healed then believe Christ and act on it when He says to get up and walk. At some point we are confronted with a question and a command. Wilt thou be made whole? If the answer is yes then respond to Christ’s command and get up and go.

Christ’s free gift of salvation is there for us. We, in a sense, are already healed. But, we have to  receive it for it to be of any effect. We are helpless, unable to even drag ourselves to the Cross. We must only believe and follow through with the faith we are then given. I could not drag my feeble carcass to Christ, so He came to me.

Wilt thou be made whole?

The Jews, like all people bound to ritual, duties, and performance rather than genuine faith and worship, criticized this healed man for carrying his pallet on the Sabbath day. So, it is with many Christians today who are more concerned about how something appears than someone’s true response to a work of God in that person’s heart. There are other examples in the Gospels of the Jews being critical of things done by Jesus and His disciples on the Sabbath day.

Mark 2:23  And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24  And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25  And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26  How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27  And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28  Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

When Jesus saw the man again He warned him not to sin. This could be a lesson for us who have been delivered from sins over which we had no control. Do not return to what you’ve been freed from as you can be given to it tenfold. You think the state you were in was bad when God took the desire for alcohol away from you. You might despair if you knew what would happen if you now willingly go back to it so as not to appear judgmental to the old crowd you hung out with before you were freed from its bondage. You have no idea how bad it can be if God removes His hand of blessing from you for your lack of regard for what He did for you.

15 and 16 tell us that the Jews sought to persecute and even to kill Jesus because, according to the Law, He had violated the Sabbath.

Exodus 31:14  Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. (notice by parallel phrasing that the definition of “be cut off from among his people,” is, “be put to death.”)

At a different time, Jesus will try to inject some common sense into this thought.

Luk 14:1 ¶  And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2  And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3  And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4  And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5  And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6  And they could not answer him again to these things.

It is important to remember God’s intentions in how we should regard His instruction, either as unthinking robots and mini-tyrants or as men and women using reason and thoughtful application through prayer and submission to Him.

2Corinthians 3:6 ¶  Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7  But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8  How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9  For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

In Paul’s argument in the book of Romans he points out that the Jews had the Law, the oracles of God, and in not obeying them they still believed themselves superior to the Gentiles who by accident, in their customs and culture, might obey the Law more than the Jews. So, who then was justified, the willfully disobedient Jew or the accidentally obedient Gentile? He then points out that no one is justified by the Law but that is only faith in Jesus Christ that justifies. Read the first few chapters of Romans again carefully.

Jesus made an interesting point elsewhere;

Matthew 21:28 ¶  But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29  He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30  And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31  Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.  

Who will be justified then? Certainly, not someone who is slavishly devoted to a rule or outward appearance, the heart of which he or she neither understands nor cares about. The Jews were devoted to the Sabbath regulation but only insomuch as that devotion justified their behavior. As Christians are today they were selective in their observation of the Law. Today, we are so much more concerned with the sin that is characteristic of another’s life and usually blind to our own sin. One person justifies his or her divorce while condemning another person’s fornication. One person justifies his or her gossip while condemning another person’s absence on a Sunday.

As in the case of the Jews in this passage so it has been throughout Christian history, that rigidity in regards to the letter of the Bible or church doctrine has led to murderous intent on the part of so-called followers of Christ. They sought to kill Jesus because He did not honor the Sabbath as they thought He should, even though they, in practice, didn’t live up to their own unreasonable expectations.

There is an important standard that Jesus set, to judge others by the same standard you judge yourself.

Matthew7:1 ¶  Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The Jews condemned Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath, and yet there was not a one of them who wouldn’t have rescued their own child or beast from harm on that very day. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

John 4:43-54 comments: the nobleman's son lay dying

43 ¶  Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. 44  For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. 45  Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast. 46  So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47  When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48  Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49  The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50  Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51  And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52  Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53  So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54  This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.

The Galileans had been witnesses to what Jesus did at the feast and received Jesus based on what they saw. Returning to the region where He had turned water into wine He was met by a nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. This man asked that Jesus would come to heal that son. Jesus then, in verse 48, makes an important point about these Jews. The Jewish people were born in signs and wonders.

1Corinthians 1:22  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

Deuteronomy 6:20  And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you? 21  Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand: 22  And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes: 23  And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.

Verse 50 makes an important point about the nature of salvation that is consistent throughout the Bible. In order to be justified before God in spite of your moral failings and your weaknesses and your sin you must believe what He said. You must believe His words, His promises, and His statements.

Noah believed what God said and he and his family were saved from a worldwide cataclysm in a picture of our salvation. Abraham believed God’s promises and became the progenitor of races of people and the faith tradition that led to Christ.

Romans 4:20  He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21  And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22  And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

His life and his Psalms show that David, in spite of his moral failings, believed God and never worshipped other gods. The Prophets believed God and spoke His words to the people of Israel. The essence of faith is trust and belief that God will perform what He has spoken in His Bible, including what Jesus says about Himself and what the Apostles, particularly Paul, say about Him. Our problem is that we tend to misrepresent what God has promised to ourselves and others and take things assigned to the Jews in a physical, earthly kingdom to the church in a spiritual kingdom that is not of this world. Faith is destroyed when preachers make guarantees of prosperity and a painless existence for Christians that are not promised in God’s word, not revealed by the lives of His noteworthy saints, and not borne out by the lives of those dedicated to God throughout history.

God did not promise to heal you of your cancer in this life nor did He guarantee you that your child would not die before you. He made no promise that you wouldn’t grieve or suffer loss. He promised you sweet, life-changing fellowship with Him in this life (John 14:23), comfort from Him that you can give to others (2Corinthians 1:4), and eternal life with Him (John 10:28) among other things but at no time does He promise the Christian that loved ones won’t die or that he or she won’t succumb to the diseases that are common to mankind or suffer difficulties that are common to human beings.

But, the essence of faith is believing what God said and in this passage He promised this Jewish nobleman his son would be healed and it was done. This was the second miracle after the wedding in Cana where He turned water into wine.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

John 4:27-42 comments: the Christ, the Saviour of the world

27 ¶  And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28  The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29  Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30  Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. 31  In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. 32  But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33  Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34  Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35  Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38  I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. 39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 40  So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. 41  And many more believed because of his own word; 42  And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

The Samaritan woman, in verse 29, declares her belief that Jesus is the Messiah. Matthew Henry believed that there was probably a lot more to the conversation than was reported due to her declaration that Jesus knew everything about her and told her such. However, there is another possibility, that being that her relationships with men defined her life and her declaration that Christ told her, “all things that I ever did,” simply shows that He struck a nerve that revealed her heartbreak, her despair, and her resignation to the life her culture and her own failings had dealt her.

There are things we have experienced caused by our own faults and sins and by the unreasonable expectations and actions of others that define our lives. Christ, now through His words in His Book, like a laser beam, cuts through all of the layers upon layers of self-deception and unrealistic expectations to get to the problem of how we have defined ourselves. Some think they are just wonderful people, full of accomplishments and self-satisfaction, deserving of respect and even obedience. Others realize they have failed miserably in life and nothing was what it appeared to be. The first person is harder to get through to as he or she is their own god. The second person may believe that they are too wicked to be saved. Both deny God’s power and sovereignty over their lives. But, with God, all things are possible.

Jesus’ disciples do not understand His reference to His food being doing God’s will in verse 34 as He says, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”

Job 23:12  Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Deuteronomy 8:3  And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Luke 4:4  And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Jesus here, in reference to His own Jewish disciples having a field of Jews and Samaritans ripe for His gospel and for salvation, also lays out a sort of mini-version of the popularly named, “Great Commission.”

Matthew 28:19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

He told His disciples after His Resurrection and before His Ascension.

Acts 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

He also gives a reference to the part each person may have in the salvation of others, as Paul talks about to the Corinthians.

1Corinthians 3:5 ¶  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7  So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8  Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9  For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 10  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

It is interesting that He stayed with the Samaritans two days. Could this be a double reference to two days in Hell preaching to the lost and rising on the third?

Matthew 12:40  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

1Peter 3:18 ¶  For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19  By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20  Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Hosea 6:2  After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

1Corinthians 15:4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Many Samaritans, based on their experience with Christ and hearing His words, although hated and despised by the Jews, believe and make the declaration that He is, “the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

Thursday, May 7, 2015

John 4:1-26 comments: Jesus declares that He is the Messiah

1 ¶  When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2  (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) 3  He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.

    4 ¶  And he must needs go through Samaria. 5  Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6  Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7  There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8  (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9  Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10  Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11  The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12  Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13  Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14  But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15  The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16  Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17  The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18  For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19  The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20  Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25  The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26  Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

They had to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. Look at a map. At Sychar Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well while the disciples went to buy food. Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink which sort of stunned her as a Jew would not associate with a Samaritan.

In 2Kings 17:6 we find that Israel experienced the Assyrian policy of massive removal of conquered peoples and were moved to the cities of the Medes. 2Kings 17:24 shows that Assyria put people of other ethnicity from other parts of their empire in their place in Samaria. In verse 25 and on we can see that because of difficulties those displaced people had in the former Israel that one of the former priests of Israel who had been removed was sent back to teach the new inhabitants about God. However, the resultant religion was a mixture of pagan and Jewish and due to their not being Israelites, Jews, ethnically, they were held in contempt by the Jews.

2Kings 17:32  So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places. 33  They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence. 34  Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel; 35  With whom the LORD had made a covenant, and charged them, saying, Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them: 36  But the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a stretched out arm, him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship, and to him shall ye do sacrifice. 37  And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the law, and the commandment, which he wrote for you, ye shall observe to do for evermore; and ye shall not fear other gods. 38  And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. 39  But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies. 40  Howbeit they did not hearken, but they did after their former manner. 41  So these nations feared the LORD, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.

Jesus asks her for water and then starts to move the conversation toward faith by the phrase, “living water.” This is a masterful example of how a simple, everyday activity can be turned into a witnessing opportunity to save someone’s eternal soul from an eternity of agony. Imagine how often a Christian can take everything from washing clothes to trimming one’s yard to a baseball game and make it a lesson in salvation for the person he or she is trying to reach. Lessons of faith often need to be paralleled to something a person understands as many people today will look at you blankly “like a cow looks at a new gate” when you jump right into questions using words you use at church among other believers.

Isaiah 12:2  Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.3  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Jeremiah 2:13  For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 17:13  O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.

She still doesn’t get the reference so Jesus explains it starting in verse 13. Still not quite getting it the woman asks for this water. Jesus then gives her a sign by revealing his knowledge of the defining condition of her life, her multiple marriages and the fact that she is currently living with someone to whom she has not made either a private or a public commitment for life. It is possible the man she is with now is legally married to someone else, as well.

The act of marriage is the physical union of man and woman.

Genesis 2:24  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Matthew 19:5  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

However, ceremonial marriage or civil marriage is what most people mean when they use the word. We usually are referring to legal status, not the Biblical definition and the responsibilities to God and to each other surrounding the physical act.

She admits that Jesus must be a prophet and then defines one of the sticking points of difference between the Jewish religion and the Samaritan, where they worship. In verse 21, though, Jesus defines the New Covenant to come which, unfortunately, much of Christianity denies. There are no sacred spaces in Christianity outside of the believer’s spiritual heart. It is not Rome or Nashville where we meet with God. It is not the building set aside for the church to meet. We are not warranted to call God down to walk among us or to enter a wafer. He is either already in us by virtue of the new birth or we are lost. What we need is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The idea of defining as sacred a building, altar, or spot on this earth where God meets with us is as pagan as temple prostitution. Remember that there were no buildings set aside specifically for the church to meet in until well into the late second century. The New Testament church met in believers’ homes. It is important for the church to meet and it is even called for in the Bible but it is a heresy to declare the building sacred and imply that it is only there that the Christian meets with God.

The Bible-believer meets with God wherever and whenever he or she communicates with God either by Him speaking to them through His word or by their prayers directed to Him, not as automatons doing their religious duty but in an earnest, heart-felt effort to hear from God or to speak to Him.

Jesus emphasizes the spiritual nature of what Christian worship is to truly be when believers come together to worship as the body of Christ or when individuals meet with God on a daily or even hourly basis. Religious formality and ritual are not lifted up and glorified but a genuine communing with a living God who is not just an idea or a concept or some far away entity but now dwelling within each believer’s heart. Jesus is foretelling the nature of true Christian worship as opposed to the formalism of Judaism or the Samaritan religion which revolve around rules, regulations, and dry religious ritual.

Then, Jesus declares in unmistakable language that He is the awaited Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of the Jews and of all mankind. It is interesting that He chooses a woman from a hated ethnic group to whom He announces the most important fact of human history.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

John 3:22-36 comments: John's disciples question him about Jesus

22 ¶  After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 23  And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 24  For John was not yet cast into prison. 25  Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. 26  And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27  John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 28  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30  He must increase, but I must decrease. 31  He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. 32  He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. 34  For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 35  The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 36  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John’s disciples and Jesus’ disciples are baptizing people in the same vicinity. We learn in the next chapter that this is a collective or group reference as Jesus Himself is not doing the baptizing but it is under His authority.

Verse 27 is confirmed by Jesus in different ways. In talking to his disciples;

John 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

And in talking to Pilate;

John 19:11  Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

By reading the Bible literally we find the limitations of man’s free will and what he can actually accomplish and from where an action comes. We can allow God or we can allow darkness to work through us but, in spite of what we think, once we have chosen a path, we have little control over what we will face and we make those choices several times a day, even several times an hour in response to the consequences from previous decisions.

Luke 17:1  Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

John confirmed to his own disciples that he was not the bridegroom, who is Christ, with the church as His bride, but he is the friend of the bridegroom who has announced Him. John acknowledges that his time is short and Jesus, coming from heaven, will replace him who is of the earth. This is a clear prophetic reference to how the promises to the Jews under the Law were earthly promises while the promises that will be given to the bride of Christ are heavenly. The Jewish kingdom under the Law was promised land, peace, military power, and dominance if they obeyed, with the blessings of a successful life and conquest of their physical enemies. The Christian is not promised these same types of things for the weapons of our warfare are not physical (2Corinthians 10:4).  The misunderstanding of this has caused great evil in the history of Christianity as Christians tried to replace the Jews rather than move beyond them. Christianity, seeking earthly power and possessions, was the vehicle by which great oppression and violence was done, against the clear doctrines of Christ and Paul, His minister to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world (Romans 15:16). John Wyclif warned in his On The Truth of the Holy Scripture  back in the 1300’s that, “all human evil arises from a failure to venerate and understand Scripture correctly.” (7)

John said that Jesus speaks the very words of God and we would do well to listen to what He says, rightly dividing the words as we see the difference between what He says to beard-wearing, pork-abstaining, Sabbath-observing, Temple-going Jews before His resurrection and what He says through His ministers after His resurrection. As His mother said earlier to the servants at a wedding;

“Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

The person who believes on Christ is promised everlasting life.The person who does not believe that Jesus came from God and is, in fact, God, has God’s wrath abiding on him.

1John 2:22  Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

(7) John Wyclif, On The Truth of the Holy Scripture, transl. by Christopher Levy (1377 repr. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2001), 138.