Division because of Jesus

Division because of Jesus

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:40-53

Introduction:

We have come to an interesting transition in the Book of John: Some of the people believe Jesus is the Messiah. Others believe He is the promised “Prophet.” But the Pharisees and the Rulers of the temple derided those who believed, and, as a group, they completely rejected Him. So, a  great division was growing because of Jesus. He did nothing negative, to cause such a division: He shined the Light of God. Some were drawn to the Light, some were confused about the light, and some fled from the light, hating it, and fearing it.

Who is Jesus?

40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying (previous passage), said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ…

These were the people who were drawn to the light. And these are the questions everyone ultimately must answer: “Who is Jesus?” and, “What will I do with Him?” There were many identifying “marks,” provided in advance, through the prophets: the place of His birth, His family lineage, details about His ministry, etc.

Some of the people tried to use those prophecies correctly. Earlier, we saw that some had asked, “When the Christ comes, will he do more than this man?” (Implying that He was fulfilling the prophecies, and they were asking, “How many of these prophecies does He have to fulfill before we acknowledge Him?” (Good question!)

Where Did He Come From?

Others answered, also using scripture: “…But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?

42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?”

These were also trying to use the scripture correctly: they had a serious question! In their question, they demonstrated that they did have some knowledge of God’s Word. (Micah 5:2 says He was to be born in Bethlehem. Jeremiah 23:5 says He was to come out of David’s lineage.)

All they would have had to do, then, was ask, “So, Rabbi: please tell us: where were you born?” His answer could then have been checked in the temple genealogies, and they would have had their answer! (He was born in Bethlehem.) But they didn’t ask! (Interestingly, after AD 70, they could no longer check: The temple, along with all the records, was lost! So, today, if someone claims to be the messiah, they cannot prove or disprove his claim. The records have been destroyed.)

The Division

43 So there was a division among the people because of him. 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.

(What a wild division! Some wanted to worship Him, follow Him, and learn from Him. Others wanted him arrested and executed.)

45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

It is interesting to see that the officers, whose job it was to arrest “bad guys” were still receptive enough to discern that not only “Jesus is not a ‘bad guy,’” but that His teaching marked Him as a genuine prophet, at the very least. They were awed enough by His words that they turned and went back without attempting to arrest Him. They said, “No man ever spoke like this man!”

And the Pharisees accused them of being deceived.

47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

Notice that their primary argument was “No important people believe in Him! The peasants believe in Him because they don’t know the Law! Only ignorant people believe in Him!” You see, no one made an honest investigation to His claim. They simply condemned Him as a charlatan and a false prophet.

Does Consensus equal Truth?

Stop and consider: When is it a valid argument, to say “No important people believe in Him?” or, “No Modern Scholar believes that!” At some point we may fall into the trap that claims, “Consensus equals truth.” Does that mean we should just “discard the voice of the scholars?”

No: their studies can be very valuable. Just as the findings of honest Science (Archaeology, especially) support the Bible. It is fine to look at the world with open eyes, but be sure that the light source is God’s Word. Our primary concern needs to be “ What does God’s Word actually say?”, not “what does everyone else think?”

There was a time when no one believed that there were “rivers” in the Ocean: powerful currents flowing in cyclical patterns in the oceans. Ironically, the man who initially discovered them, only thought to look for them because he believed the Bible to be God’s Word. He read Psalm 8:8, 9, where it said, The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”

Research Confirmed God’s Word

The man was a naval officer, and his first thought was, “That can’t be! There are no paths in the sea!” But he stopped; and said, “No, this is God’s Word: If He says there are paths there, then they are there! It remains for us to find them!” (Good attitude!)

So, he got permission and funding, and he began the research that eventually began the mapping of the ocean currents. Soon, ships were knowingly seeking out these currents, to make their journeys easier and faster; thus far more profitable. Today, of course, we use satellites and radar, and other means, to map where the currents are on a constant basis, as well as how fast they are flowing, their water temperature, etc.

And, that knowledge gave birth to research about air currents. Today, aviators know exactly where the jet stream is at any given time. Airline travel to the east can be very fast, as the planes may be pushed by a tailwind of nearly 100 miles per hour. Travel to the West is slower, not having that advantage…but at least they know how to avoid having a terrible headwind fighting them. But it all began because one man believed God’s Word..

There is nothing wrong with Science. There is a problem with the human predisposal to use any evidence found, to attempt to disprove God’s Word. Satan will join you in that effort, just as he did in the Garden of Eden, whispering to Eve, “Thou shalt not surely die!” But we do not have to fall prey to that sort of thinking: If God’s Word is the first and final authority, in your studies, then the Holy Spirit will keep you out of trouble.

Nicodemus Used God’s Word Correctly

 50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

Nicodemus was thinking along the right lines: He said, “Hadn’t we ought to hear Him out and find out what He is up to, before we condemn Him?” You see, Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Nicodemus knew his audience: He knew they knew this principle. But they did not want to hear it:

 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

Limited Understanding Produces Wrong Answers

Here the Pharisees and chief priests displayed the limits of their knowledge of the Word, because the prophet Jonah actually did come out of Galilee. (2nd Kings 14:25 “…which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.” The town of “Gathhepher” was not only in Galilee, but was actually quite close to Nazareth.)

So, I first wondered, “Is it possible that they only meant that there was no prediction of a future prophet arising out of Galilee? (Surely it is possible they also thought that: but then we are back to the issue of “Why don’t we find out where He is from, instead of just assuming?” No one bothered to ask! They were not seeking the truth: they only wanted to silence Jesus!) 

However, I looked up the phrase translated as “ariseth” and it turns out that it is a “past participle:” It literally means “out of Galilee, no prophet has arisen.The truth is, they forgot about Jonah. I kind of like the fact that they specifically forgot about Jonah, because that is the prophet Jesus finally pointed to, as a harbinger of his own death, three days in Sheol and His resurrection. They forgot Jonah!

53 And every man went unto his own house.

So, at that point they simply quit discussing the matter. They all went home.

Division Today

We see division increased beyond measure, today, largely for the same reasons: people don’t search God’s word for answers, or, when they do, they use the Word incorrectly. They make accusations against other people without investigating far enough to find reasonable answers.

And, when Jesus was teaching, what did He say about the division that would occur? Did He predict that His teaching would produce peace? No, quite the opposite: He said that His teaching would bring terrible division. But the problem was not within the teaching: it was in the response of Humans to the light of God.

Jesus Predicted Division

Matthew 10:34-36

34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

We don’t like reading passages like this: they are uncomfortable. But there is another voice, in 2nd Timothy, assuring us that it is a living reality, whether we like it or not!

2nd Timothy 3:1-5

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

We have read this prediction for centuries, but today we see it has become more of a living reality than ever before. We can hardly stand to read the news, because of the constant human tragedy around us. And, when one tries to speak against the evil in the world, one finds themselves to be accused of being evil, though they have spoken for righteousness.

Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, initially. Everyone claimed they wanted it to come; that time when God would rule on Planet Earth, the enemies would be gone, and even the wild animals would be at peace. 

But when He presented Himself as the King, and began teaching the values of the Kingdom, thus shining the light of God into everyone’s lives, they broke into three factions immediately, which eventually sorted itself into two: Those who loved the light and were drawn to it, versus those who hated and feared the light, and wanted to extinguish it.

We see that same separation today, and the middle ground (those who are confused by the light) is rapidly shrinking. The divide is becoming sharper and deeper year by year. So, what are we told to do about that division?

Shine as lights!

Philippians 2:14-16 says, 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

We are commanded to not be the source of problems, but to do all things without arguing and complaining. The result is that we are to be without blame; and not the source of any harm.

We are to behave as the Sons of God, because we are the Sons of God. We are to behave well enough that no one has a rebuke for us apart from the fact that we follow Jesus. (Remember, in Daniel chapter 6, Daniel’s 120 worst enemies, who all wanted him dead, could find no fault with him beyond his relationship with the God of Israel.)

The fact that we live in “the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” should only provide a contrast against which we shine, reflecting the light of God. I am told that jewelers, to show their fine gemstones, put them on a dark velvet background, and shine a strong light on them. The gems gleam in the light, and the darkness behind them remains dark. We are “gems” in God’s hand, and He asks us to reflect His light in the darkness of this world.

And what are we to do, as we shine? We are to “Hold forth the Word of Life!”

Holding Forth the Word of Life

We are to offer the Gospel, the hope of eternal life, and of freedom from the tyranny of sin. The fact that we demonstrate the truth of that promise daily, is how we shine…and offering that same deliverance to those around us is the rest of the job.

Will everyone love it? Nope!

Most will ignore it: Some will verbally attack us and try to shut us up. There may be other forms of division that show up, as well. But this is the assignment we have been given, and we can either obey, or rebel. Shine, or fail to shine! Share the Gospel, or fail to do so! There is no middle ground.

Lord Jesus, please deliver us from our apathy and indecision. You have called us to shine in the darkness of this world, and to hold forth the Word of Life. Help us to grasp the absolutely critical necessity of obedience to Your command, and to walk with you in obedience and faith.

The Living Water Throughout Time

Living Water, Throughout Time

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:37-39 (compare Jeremiah 2:12, 13; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Psalm 46:4; John 4:14)

Introduction

We have talked about this subject, before: probably five years ago, but we need to address it again. There is a rather “obscure” concept brought up several times in the Old Testament, without much explanation. It is sometimes used in such a context that it seems it could have no particular spiritual interpretation.

In its most common usage, the literal meaning of the Old Testament phrase “living water,” is just “flowing water.” (In other words, a stream; not a stagnant pool, a bucket of water, or, as stated in Jeremiah 2:13, a cistern.) Often the people were told to wash something in living water, or to do some ritual “over living water.” In those cases, it seems the context would make “flowing water” the correct understanding. But how about in Jeremiah 2:12, 13?

12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. 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.

God says it was a “two-part” sin that Israel was committing. They turned away from God, who was the source of “living water.” And, they made for themselves cisterns…and (ironically,) the cisterns were cracked, and couldn’t even hold water! What is the comparison he is making?

“Living Water” or Cracked Cisterns?

The water in a cistern might have begun as clean rainwater, but it was caught on a roof, perhaps, and we funneled into that tank we call a cistern. Whatever debris was on the roof will hopefully be washed off before we begin channeling the water into the cistern, but traces will still be there. And, with time, whatever impurities were included will build up. If any of them were biological impurities, (bird-droppings, insects,bacteria, etc.,) they will multiply. That tank of water will be pretty unwholesome, and probably pretty unappealing.

So, when Jeremiah makes that comparison, he may only be saying that the LORD is a source of constantly replaced and completely healthful flowing water. In contrast, whatever is in the cistern is questionable at best. And, of course, even in that context, it is clear that He is not talking about ordinary “water,” but something of spiritual significance. Because of what we see in the rest of the Bible, it also seems that there must be a much deeper, much more significant meaning to the phrase “living water.” But whatever God is offering, it is far to be preferred over whatever they have stored up for themselves in their cracked cisterns.

The Power and Limitations of Living Water

In Ezekiel 47:1-12, (read it!) we see the vision Ezekiel was given regarding the temple in the Millennial kingdom. Water is flowing from under the altar, and one stream heads off to the east, toward the Dead Sea. On the way there, it cleanses everything it touches, and it produces Life everywhere it goes. The places that are not touched by this water remain lifeless and sterile, and remain a source of salt, but will not support life. But the Living Water flows all the way to the Dead Sea, and the Dead Sea is no longer Dead!  

What was once literally dead, with virtually nothing surviving there, is to be healed by these living waters, and not only will it be made “livable,” but it will swarm with life! It will be commercially fishable! So, a “picture” is beginning to appear, regarding the power and the limitations of “living water.”

Every piece of ground it touched was cleansed and began to produce life. Plants and trees grew all along the banks of this water. Fish could live where that water flowed. The water was clean and healthy to drink. But anywhere the water was not allowed to touch, that land remained unfruitful and dead.

So, what else do we know about that River coming out of Jerusalem?

The River From the Altar

Psalm 46:4 “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.”

There is no question that this passage refers to the Temple. Probably the first thing to observe, then, is that, currently, there is no River flowing out of the Temple Mount. But, as we will see elsewhere, there will be such a river!

There is, however, a brook, off to the east, called the “Brook Kidron.” The name “Kidron” means “Turbid: thick with roiled sediment.” (Even the particular word translated “brook” means a choked creek in a narrow ravine…not a “pretty little stream, running across a lovely, sunny meadow.”) So, we have a tight little ravine, with a muddy creek running in the bottom of it, whose waters are “turbid: thick with roiled sediment.”

There is also a tributary to the Kidron, draining the valley of Hinnom, to the south of the city…which used to be the city garbage dump. It was the place they threw the carcasses of criminals and of unclean animals. That place was so foul that it became the “mental image of Hell,” to the Hebrew imagination. The place was called Gehenna, because everything about it was a picture of the eternal lostness of the unrighteous dead.

The Current Path of the Brook Kidron

So, the Brook Kidron flowed from somewhere between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem, through a nasty, narrow ravine, down to the southeast corner of the old city, and it was joined there by whatever water drained Gehenna. Then it turned left and flowed pretty much straight to the Dead Sea, across salt-flats, marshes, and desert, but never producing much in the way of life. And, of course, once it reached the Dead Sea, there was no further life at all. The Dead sea has no outlets. Once the waters reached the Dead Sea, there was no way out of that “end-result.” I hope you are starting to see some “pictures,” here.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see that when the priests cleansed the temple, they threw the filth into the “brook Kidron.” When they broke down the idols, they threw the pieces into the brook Kidron. The Kidron seems to be a kind of  “Condemnation Creek;” it is joined by the drainage of their idea of hell: Gehenna, and then it winds its way across the desert, down to Eternal Death. In short, it is beginning to look a great deal like the condition of the Lost Human soul!

How does any of this apply to the question of Living Water?

Jesus offered the “Spring of Living Water”

In John 4:14, Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the City well, outside Sychar. He offered her a Spring; a source of Living Water, which He said, if she drank from it, would “well up unto eternal life.”

Initially, she was thoroughly confused by His offer. She wanted that water, but had no idea how to get it. But eventually, she believed in Him and found that she had drunk from that well. Does it say that, specifically? No; it says that she wanted to “drink from that well,” but she did not know what He meant. Afterward, it says that she and many others “believed on Jesus:” they placed their dependance on Him as their Messiah. And, here in John chapter seven, we are going to see what He meant.

“Come unto me and Drink”

In John 7:37-39, Jesus made a very public offer to “anyone who thirsts,” to come and drink.

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, {Pentecost! What a great connection!] Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Jesus said, “as the scripture hath said…” He may have been referring to Isaiah 58:11, where God promised that the people would be “like a well-watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Or He could have meant the passage in Proverbs 10:11, saying that the “mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.

But He pulled together all the Old references to Living Water, in this verse, and was kind enough to let us know exactly what He meant, so that we are not coming up with “Human-tainted explanations” of all kinds. It says that he spoke regarding the Holy Spirit, “…which they that believe on Him should receive.”

How does this apply to the Old Testament Prophecies?

Two weeks ago, during Bible Study, we saw that the “best commentary on the Word of God is the Word of God.” In this case, in spite of the “etymological fact” that (in the Old Testament) the phrase“Living water” possibly “just means ‘flowing water’,” we can see that “flowing water” cannot possibly be what Jesus meant, here in John 7, nor in John 4, because He said it would result in a flowing spring from within the person, providing eternal life. (Plain old “flowing water” can’t do that!)

Possibly even the water in Ezekiel 47 has some special properties, though it does not specifically say so. Flowing from under the altar would seem to hint that it might, at least. And the fact that “everything lives, when touched by that water” seems to hint that way, too. That River will be flowing out of Jerusalem, during the Millennial Kingdom, fulfilling Psalm 46:4.

We also see, here in John 7:39, that Jesus was specifically referring to the indwelling Holy Spirit. That relationship between the Believer and the Holy Spirit did not begin as a “normal” state of affairs until the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. With that explanatory note, let’s go back and look at the other passages again:

Looking Back

In Jeremiah 2:13, if God is the only source of spiritual life, namely, via the Holy Spirit having an effect, even on the lives of Old Testament Believers, then “storing up spirituality” was an exercise in futility. There is no “vessel”, certainly not a cracked cistern, which can hold a store of the Holy Spirit, nor even the effect that He has on a life. It has to be renewed daily! Turning away from the true source of life to find some sort of man-made self-sufficiency, is a pretty terrible idea. But people still do it today!

If the stream in Ezekiel 47, coming out of Jerusalem, is a “picture” of the “Living water” of the Indwelling Holy Spirit, then both Psalm 46:4 and Ezekiel 47:1-12 make a different kind of sense than we first understood (just knowing that there will be a physical river flowing out of Jerusalem.) What if those passages, too, are in some way linked to the living water of John 7:36-39? What if they, too are at least a “picture” of something far beyond just “Physical water?”

Back to the Riverbank

We saw in Ezekiel 47, that the water went from ankle deep, just 500 yards outside Jerusalem, to swimming depth in less than a half mile. And then we see that Ezekiel was taken back to the riverbank on dry ground, to consider what he had seen.

A Living Timeline

I would like to take the liberty of seeing a “picture,” here: when we first became believers, although we already were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we were also very immature: we were only “ankle-deep” in the Stream of Life being offered to us.

Time passed: and, as we grew, and learned to walk with the Lord, the stream reached our knees, possibly pointing to our prayer-life, or our heartfelt worship of the Living God.

More time passed, and it says the water reached the loins. (Some translations render this as “hips, or waist…and the Hebrew word is mothnayim, which probably does just mean “hips or waist.”) But I like to think of it as how we begin to reproduce as believers: That we are created to bear permanent fruit, in leading others to Christ. (Remember, there is only a “picture,” here: perhaps I am not seeing things clearly.)

Sometime later… “Afterward

But the next thing we know, at so,me point in our growth, the water is over our depth: we can no longer “wade” in this water: we have to swim. And usually, when a person is swimming, only their head is visible. They are fully suspended in the water they swim in.

Now, I fully recognize that I am “taking liberty” with the text. I don’t often do such things, and I don’t want to cause any confusion. But I would like to observe a few more things, tracking the idea that somehow, this River may be a picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer.

Final Observations

The first thing to see is that the angelic messenger took Ezekiel back out of the flow and stood him on the riverbank. It is always possible to become a “castaway;” still saved, still indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but in terms of service, “set on the shelf.” Standing on the riverbank, looking out across the vastness of God’s Work and His love, and wondering why we feel so dry!

The next thing to see is the result of the free flow of that water. We see that it cleaned out the Kidron, because it provided a new source: a new headwater! It washed away the vile flow from Gehenna, and, though it still turned and flowed toward the Dead Sea, it produced life all the way there, only missing the places where it was not allowed to flow, and the end result was that instead of the eternal death of the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea was brought to life, and Eternal life and Eternal value was produced in its place. Death has lost its sting!

What about Us?

This is what is supposed to happen in the believer’s life! We have a new Head (Jesus!)…a new source of life (Jesus!) And that life should overflow through all of our old life-course, transforming it into a fruitful garden for God, producing new life at every turn, offering sustenance and healing to everyone around us. The places in our lives where we “hold back,” not allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us, will simply remain dead and unfruitful. But the end result, regardless of all else, will be the eternal life that Jesus promised. That is where the River is Going!

Jesus gives a River of Living Water. How we choose to use it will depend upon the individual. Some press deeper, feeding on the Word and growing in Love and Faith. Others “dabble around in the shallows,” never really desiring to become more like Jesus: never truly desiring to be transformed by His Grace, His Word, His power. And many of us are in between, vacillating between zeal and apathy. We run at a fitful pace, sometimes sprinting ahead, then being frustrated when it turns out that the Lord was going a different way. Sometimes we lag behind, and then we are prone to attack by spiritual predators.

Results

But Jesus said that River of life, that Spring of Living Water was supposed to change us, springing up unto Eternal life. If that isn’t happening, then we need to examine ourselves to find out why.

If you have received the Lord as your Savior, then His Living Water should be flowing out of you to all those around you. And the Flow of that Living Water in your own life should be cleansing and renewing life in all parts of your life.

What changes us?

God says His Word, by the Holy Spirit, is the one agent guaranteed to change our lives. He also commands that “as newborn babes,” we are to “desire the sincere milk of the word,” that we may grow thereby.”

Many of you have already seen the Word and the Spirit transforming your lives or the lives of those around you. None of us are finished with that process. We are called to press on, get off the Riverbank, and get into deeper water…quit wading, and learn to swim!

Lord Jesus, draw us along in your path, following closer to you, and learning to walk as You walk. Transform our lives into Your likeness, and teach us to thirst for your presence, the only source of the Living Water.

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

Ye shall seek me and Not Find Me

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:31-36

Introduction:

Last week we examined Jesus’s disclaimer that “My doctrine is not Mine but His that sent me.” We were able to see that the doctrine we are assigned to teach is also not ours, but His (Christ’s) who sent us. John 20:21 says, “Peace be unto you: As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you!” And, in Matthew 28:19-20, we see that the command is given in a self-perpetuating form. The Apostles were to teach their students (us) to do exactly as Jesus assigned them.

In spite of the crowd’s general response to His teaching that He was the Son of God (They attempted to “nab” him) some were actually beginning to absorb His message, and look at His miraculous works, and believe Him!

Some Believed!

31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

These who believed were asking the others, in effect, What would it take to convince you??” They were satisfied in their own minds that this “Jesus” was fulfilling the prophecies, and that He very likely was the “real deal!” And, whether openly or secretly, it says that many believed His message… they believed in Him as their Messiah.

Some sought to silence Him!

But that sort of talk spreads! It quickly got back to the ears of the Pharisees and Chief Priests. They were not interested in investigating His claim. They wanted Him silenced. So, they sent officers to arrest Jesus. (Now, is it possible, that, at this time, that this is how they might have begun an investigation? Theoretically, perhaps it is possible.

But they proved, a little later, that it was never their intent to honestly investigate His claim that He was truly the Messiah. They wanted Him silenced! How do I know? Because when He publicly raised the dead, in John 11, those same enemies were there, and their response (in John 12) to a “bona fide” raising to life of an unquestionably dead man, was that they conspired to kill both Jesus and Lazarus!)

 32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.

Remember, we already saw, last week, the result of sending those officers. They went back empty handed. But, in the few verses immediately following lasts week’s message, we see Jesus perplexing the crowd once again:

33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. 34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

Ye shall seek Me and not Find me!

How would we have taken this remark, today? There have been numerous people in our times, who simply “dropped out of sight:” They disappeared for many years, in some cases, and were thought to be dead. But they were later discovered in another place, living under a different name. Perhaps we would have thought that to be the case, here. All someone has to do today, is abandon their identity, get on a bus, hitchhike, walk, etc., and put down roots elsewhere. To do it permanently, of course, requires some illegal measures to assume the identity of someone else.

But, in those days, travel was not easy, cheap, or fast. There were no identity cards, and no computers, so, there were no “magic tricks” needed, in order to change names. The problem was that travel was slow, and dangerous…and there was always someone who would recall having “seen someone,” and put the pursuers back on the trail again.

So, the Jews had legitimate questions as to how Jesus intended to “disappear.”

35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? 36 What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?

It is interesting that, the very next day, He was teaching almost the same things, and they were asking similar questions, and getting a little closer to the correct answer, thinking that somehow He was predicting His own death.

In John 8:20-24, it says, 20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come. 21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

Deaf Ears and Blind eyes

Jesus once again informed the people that He was about to leave, and that they would not be able to follow. The previous day, they supposed that perhaps He was going to travel to the Jews in the dispersion among the Gentile nations….and that they simply would not be willing to follow. But they have had time to think it over, and have realized “that can’t be it.”

However, they seem to have ignored what He had plainly told them!  He said, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me!” He told them where He was going! They utterly ignored that part of what He said! They were so committed to the opinion that He was Not “God in the Flesh,” that His clear statements as to His origin and destination fell on deaf ears!

Remember, several times, in the last few weeks, we mentioned that it is possible to become “judicially blind” if we disregard the Light of God’s Word. It is also entirely possible to become “judicially deaf,” if we ignore His Voice long enough. God calls, constantly, and the human race has either ignored His voice or fled from His presence. In John 10: 27, 28 Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish!”

How can we recognize those who “hear His voice?” John 1:12 says they “received Him.” They accepted Him for what He said He was. They took His Word for the things He taught. They heard His voice, and they followed Him.

John 3:19-21 “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

So, the Light of Christ is shining in the World, and some turn to that light. Others flee the light. Those who respond favorably to the Light of God’s Truth become increasingly sensitive to light, and they begin to seek more light; stronger light, so that they can better see the path before them. Those who hate the light, and reject it, eventually deny that it exists: they prefer to hear echoes of their own hearts, rather than hear answers from the heart of God.

Hearing Echoes of Our Own Hearts

I remember reading of an exchange that happened on a golf course, outside the clubhouse. A wealthy, self-important golfer was asking the resident “Golf Pro” for advice about his swing. The Pro initially tried to give honest, clear answers, but the man kept arguing, saying, “No, I think the problem is (…something else.)” (Whatever it was…)

Another golfer was listening, nearby, and noticed the change, when the Golf Pro began to agree with the wealthy patron, that his self-analysis was correct. Eventually the wealthy golfer walked away, satisfied. Then the second golfer privately questioned the Pro: “Why did you agree with him? Everything he said was wrong, and you knew it!” The Golf Pro replied, “Mister, I learned a long time ago to not give ‘answers’ to someone who is only looking for ‘echoes.’ He didn’t want correction; he wanted confirmation! So that’s what I gave him!”

In Romans 10:3, we see what the problem was: “For they, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” They were so intent on establishing their own “rightness,” that they were blind to the overwhelming “Rightness” of the Son of God!

Jesus had told them where He was going, but they were already blind to His Deity, and blind to the evidence that He was the true Messiah. So, He warned them that where He was going, they could not follow. To his disciples, in John 13:36, He said, “…you cannot come now, but you will come later!” But to these unbelieving Jews, he flatly told them that they could not come.

John 8:22-24

22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. 23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

The next day, in answer to the same question, He told them that He was not of this World, but that they were of this world. And He clearly warned them that if they failed to believe that He was who He claimed to be, they would die in their sins!

What does the Future Hold?

In 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 we see that something is coming, which we call the “Rapture.” We speculate about the different possible responses the World may have to the disappearance of millions of people. But what we know, (from 2nd Thessalonians 2:11, 12) is that (future tense) God will send the World a strong delusion, so that they will believe a lie.

They will not recognize the truth and “believe,” after having seen the rapture, though I have heard people say, “Oh, if I see that, I will believe!” No, they won’t! The only ones who will believe during the Tribulation are those who either did not hear or did not understand the Gospel, before the rapture. A careful reading finds that the (future tense) strong delusion, is directed to them who (past tense) “…did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

This is why the Jews were warned, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins!” They had the most powerful witness to the truth of God in the history of the World: And they were blind to it!

What About Us?

We don’t want to be blind to the provision of God in our lives, nor to His correction, as He uses His Word to convict our hearts and to change us into His likeness. We don’t want to be deaf to His pleading, as He attempts to lead us in the paths of righteousness. All through the Bible, we see the warning that there will come a time when God allows us to “go our own way,” and we, like Samson, will reap the consequences of our sin. (Remember, Samson was a believer!)

Among the groups to whom He spoke, some of the people actually believed. We will meet them someday, as they eventually became the early Church. But others, in every generation, have rejected everything He said, and hated Him for saying it!

We see that today, as well, as we try to share our faith with others. But, Jesus said, “If the World hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Left Behind, and Lost

Jesus was about to go back to His Father, and He warned the unbelievers that they would not only be “left behind,” but that they would “die in their sins!” I’m not sure that we can fully grasp the hopelessness of one who “waits too long,” and “sees the door close,” so to speak, knowing that God is no longer extending His mercy, and only eternal judgment remains.

That is not a comfortable message, but it is the “Ultimate bad news” making the “Ultimate Good News” of the Cross to be Good News at all! If it were not for the enormity of our sin, and our lost estate before God, then the Salvation He offers would seem of lesser importance, and His death would seem tragic instead of being the greatest act of heroism the universe has ever seen.

Once we realize our lostness, and see Jesus as our only Hope, then the Gospel of Christ becomes the center of our lives.

May God help us to focus on the Person of Christ, and see ourselves reflected in His face, not seeking our own way, but truly seeking His!

My Doctrine isn’t Mine, but His who Sent Me

My Doctrine is not Mine, but His that Sent Me

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:14-25

Introduction:

Last week, we focused on Jesus’s “negative” statement that “My time is not yet come. It was the fact that Jesus had a very exacting life to live, with almost no deviations He could make. We compared it to the fact that our lives are not choreographed, and that the length of our lives could vary quite a bit, depending on choices we make. But we also saw that, regardless of the choices we make, our lives are still in God’s hands. Many who have lived pure, righteous lives in the last two centuries, have died young. They were victims of tropical diseases, because they chose to follow God’s leading and take the Gospel to a place it had never gone before. All we can do is to choose to obey God, and to trust Him for the outcome.

But this week we will focus on another “negative” statement: “My Doctrine is not Mine!”

My Doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me

14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

Jesus was teaching in the Temple, not in the marketplace, or the local Synagogue. The Jews heard Jesus teach, right there in the temple, and they were astonished at His teaching, His Grace and His wisdom, etc. (Remember, This was not the first time that people were astonished at his wisdom: when he was twelve years old, he visited with the elders in the temple, and they were amazed at His precocious grasp of spiritual things. And again, when he was about thirty, (Luke 3:23; 4:16-30) He had taught in the synagogue in Nazareth, and they were amazed at His gracious words…and then tried to kill Him when he pointed out their multiple failings to have recognized the prophets of the past.)

What was the source of the teaching?

The people recognized that Jesus lacked “Formal Education.” They knew who he was, at least some of them, as we see in verse 27. It may have been a fairly superficial knowledge, but they at least knew Him well enough to know that he had very little formal education, and they may have known his background, that he was “Jesus, the carpenter’s son.”

In his home area, everyone knew him, as we see in Mark 6:3, and they were offended when He taught. Some of those from Nazareth were there in Jerusalem, for the same reason that He, Himself was there: It was the feast of Tabernacles, and all the Jews went there.

But they were amazed that He could teach with such power and grace, and Jesus heard their collective question between themselves, and, though it had not been directed to Him, He replied: “My doctrine is not Mine but His that sent Me.” Then He went on to explain to them how they could recognize His message as God’s Word, and how to recognize a prophet sent from God.

How Can We tell the Difference?

 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

Jesus said that if any person was willing to do the will of God, them he or she would have the spiritual insight to know whether Jesus was truly transmitting the thoughts of God, or was “just teaching his own thoughts.” He said that the primary clue would be found in the motive of the teacher: He said, “he that speaketh of himself (on his own authority) seeketh his own glory.”

Jesus sought no glory, and never “took up an offering.” He sought neither glory nor gain.

False teachers are all too willing to accept credit for all that they do (and more) and to tell you how “superior” their relationship with God is, boasting of all the wonderful things God has done through them. Frequently, if one is alert at all, there are also some fairly recognizable and clearly ulterior motives: Something that “feeds the flesh.” It could do so in a wide variety of ways.

Personal Glory and Personal Gain

Some are in “the ministry” for personal gain…and they see every church and every believer as a potential “market” for whatever they are attempting to “sell.”  For some, it is less “corrupt,” but they still see the “ministry” as being “just a job:” a way to earn a living. They see it in the same light as any other career: as a job, rather than a calling, to which all else must take second place. So, if another church offers more money or better benefits, it does not hurt their conscience to leave the flock which had been entrusted to their care, and just “grab a better job.” And, if that is what the “ministry “ is really supposed to be about, then no one can fault them.

I once had a young man tell me that he intended to become a “youth pastor.” So, I asked him why; and he freely told me that “They get to go on lots of outings, rafting trips, concerts, and so forth, all paid for by the church!” (The word “pastor” means shepherd: you are supposed to be feeding the flock! Some do it better others, but that is the central command to shepherds!) I felt sad, and sickened by his response, but he was a very young man, and I barely knew him, so I did not push very hard, trying to dissuade him. And I was told years later, by a mutual friend, that he had eventually changed, and now pursued ministry for the sake of ministry: I hope that it is true.

But whatever other ulterior, fleshly, worldly, or even demonic motives false teachers may have, they definitely want “honor” for their efforts. In Matthew 6:5; 23:7-12; Luke 20:46, 47, Jesus addressed such people personally, saying that they were hypocrites: they loved the honor, and the respectful greetings in the marketplace, they loved to be called “Rabbi.”

(This is still a trap today: “Ah, good morning, Pastor Smith! Good to see you, Deacon Jones!”)  But Jesus said they were also preying on the people they were supposed to serve, seeking to buy out the properties of widows, and not caring for the poor, but rather, enriching themselves. This directly echoes the condemnation God extended to the false shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34:3, “Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.”

God condemned those false shepherds of that age, and He condemns such behavior today! He sees His Flock—the believers of all history—as being His personal possession: and anyone who mistreats that flock, He sees as a predator, endangering His flock.

This is why Jesus condemned such people as “Wolves in sheep’s clothing.” In Matthew 7:15, He said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Today, in the Church Age, we are warned of “false teachers.” 2nd Peter 2:1, says, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. The Lord sees these teachers as predators who “fleece” His Flock, or who draw them away from Him, away from His truth and His guidance and His care. He does not take this lightly; and neither should we.

What about the Law?

Jesus drew the crowd’s attention back to the prime accusation the Jewish leaders made against Him: They said that He was teaching people to break the Law. They said because he healed on the Sabbath, he was a lawbreaker. But He reminded them that none of them kept the Law. He didn’t go into a lot of detail in this passage, though He did in other places. Here, He only said that none of them kept the Law, but they wanted to kill Him for “breaking the Sabbath.”

19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? 20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

This is where the people (perhaps some of the conspirators) denied that anyone was seeking to kill Him, and they accused Him of being demon possessed. But, looking ahead to verse 25, we see that the crowd absolutely knew that the authorities were seeking to kill Him. (incidentally, the word translated “devil” here (v. 20) is the Greek word “daimonion,” meaning an “evil spirit,” and used almost exclusively in reference to demon-possession.

21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.

This is in reference to the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda: John 5:16-18 says that they absolutely had wanted to kill Him after he healed the man on the Sabbath, and then, when He defended His actions, by saying that His Father (God) was working that day, on the Sabbath, they more vehemently sought His death, because He claimed (truthfully) to be the Son of God.

What about the Sabbath?

Knowing that the reason the authorities had originally (a year earlier) sought to kill him was the issue of the Sabbath, Jesus brought up a logical argument to support His having healed on the Sabbath: The Law of Moses required that all male Jewish children be circumcised on the eighth day after birth: no exception was made for the eighth day falling on the Sabbath.

22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) (circumcision goes back to Abraham, far predating Moses.) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

He shows the logical “disconnect” in the response of the Jewish religious authorities. But in so doing, He evidently “joggled the memories” of those who had been there the year before, and they all realized, “Oh, now I remember! This is the one who got in so much trouble last year!”

25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?

It is interesting how human memories can be so selective: Everyone seems to have forgotten what happened the previous year, with the man Jesus healed and the response of the rulers at that time. There were other healings He had done at about that same time, but the one on the Sabbath was the one over which the trouble had begun. The people of Jerusalem definitely knew!

Why were the Authorities silent?

26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

So, the next logical question in their minds was. “Look, He is teaching openly, in the Temple! So, why aren’t they doing anything? Why aren’t the religious rulers getting right down here and arresting him?”

It was logical that they should ask, “Do they know something we don’t know? Is He really the Messiah? Are they afraid to confront Him??” and we see in the following verses that people were beginning to believe in Him. In the next passage, though, beginning in verse 32, we see that the Jewish rulers actually did send officers to arrest Him, but they went back empty handed, saying “No man ever taught the way this man teaches!”

What was different about Jesus?

Why did the officers go back empty handed? What was so special about Jesus? They had heard hundreds of teachers before, but this one was different. Matthew 7:29 and Mark 1:22 both say that “He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Jesus didn’t need to insert disclaimers, saying, “Well, the best authorities and scholars all say…” He was the best authority: It was His Word that He was teaching! And what we have seen, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is that God’s Word is what changes lives: God’s Word is powerful and alive and penetrates through to our deepest heart-secrets. No one could hear Jesus and not be affected!

Were they all affected in the same way? NO! Not at all! The same sunlight that softens wax hardens mud! The same daylight that causes night-creatures to take cover, causes creatures of the day, whether birds or butterflies, to wake up and get busy living! God calls us children of the light, and children of the day, and He calls us  to wake up and get busy living!

The Doctrine is not Ours but His that sent us!

We have nothing of our own to offer. Every atom of our bodies and of the whole universe already belong to God. He has chosen us in Christ, to be ambassadors for Him. And the message we bring is not ours to choose: The Gospel is clearly spelled out, and He says it is His only means by which to save souls. Romans 1:16 makes that completely clear.

When we share the Gospel with another person, attempting to do the job we have been given, we do not have the authority to “water down the message, and make it more palatable.”

Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” If we shrink from presenting the Gospel unadorned, and unsweetened, then the reality is that we are “ashamed of the Gospel.”

Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Are you ashamed of that message? Are you uncomfortable with it? Do you admit to yourself that this message is what we are sent to share, and that being an ambassador for Christ is the only job He has given to us?

We need to come to grips with the simple fact that, as Jesus said, “The doctrine is not mine but His who sent me!” I do not have the option to stray off into other messages, whether it is just my personal opinion, or things of political expediency, or social acceptability. I have no such option!

Jesus admitted that, in spite of His supreme authority as God in the Flesh, He still presented the message He was sent to present: not just His own ideas. And, when we do the same, preaching, teaching, and sharing His  message, not some clever thing we thought up on our own, then we can expect that the result will be to God’s Glory, and for His Gain.

We need to take hold of that single concept, accept the fact of our universal calling as ambassadors of Christ, and then step out with the doctrine of Christ, and share it without shame with anyone who will listen. Then we can cheerfully and confidently leave the results up to Him.

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts that the message of the Gospel did not originate with us: It is Your doctrine, Your message, and Your assignment to the Church. Help us to respond in faith and obedience.

My Hour is not yet come, but yours is always ready!

My Hour is not yet come, but yours is always ready!

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 7:1-9; John 7:25-30; John 8:20

Introduction:

Sometimes we wonder why things happen, and how they fit into God’s “Wonderful plan” for our lives. I used to use the “Four Spiritual Laws” tracts, written by Bill Bright, but I eventually quit using them for several reasons:

Problems with Tracts

For one thing, the central premise, (“God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life) is technically true, but, from most people’s perspective, it is seriously flawed: Yes, God loves you and Yes, He has a wonderful plan for your life, but it may or may not feel or look very wonderful to you. And you may not always be conscious of His loving care in your life.

For example: every single one of His apostles (with the possible exception of John) were eventually executed. How wonderful was that? Millions of His followers, since that time, have been persecuted, had their children taken from them, their belongings confiscated, and have suffered imprisonment or other forms of persecution for their faith in Him. Millions have died horrible deaths, rather than disown Him. How wonderful does that sound? So, that was one problem: I was uncomfortable with the core message.

The real issue though, which caused me to quit using that tract entirely, was that it left out the core issues of the Gospel, and its message centered on “how much better things would be if you knew Jesus,” and it finally concluded, “Pray this prayer and receive Christ.”

What is the Gospel?

That is not what the Gospel says! The Gospel says, “Place your faith in His blood sacrifice for your sins and be saved.” There is no mention of “praying a prayer:” the issue is faith: place your faith in the death and the burial and the ressurection of Jesus Christ!

The result of the Gospel is also described: “It has been given unto you in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)

You see, that sort of thing doesn’t find its way into very many tracts. It is not attractive-sounding! The fact is, as a newborn believer, you have already “chosen a side” in a spiritual war that, previously, you didn’t even know existed, and now life is getting worse, (maybe) not better, in certain areas. Hopefully, you have grown in your faith at least a little, and are able to enjoy your relationship with the Savior, regardless of circumstances. That, alone, is the key to Christian Joy.

But, if you were thinking that your circumstances were supposed to improve, and that “nothing bad would ever happen to you again;” then, you were in for a very rude shock! Probably, you got through the early disappointments as part of the “learning curve,” but maybe other people have been pestering you with questions, like: “How could a Loving God allow these things to Happen?” Perhaps you have asked that question yourself.

Let’s read what Jesus said about some of these things.

My Time is not yet Come

John 7:1-9

1After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jew’s feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.

For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee

One of the first things we see in that passage is that the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus. Jesus knew that, and (as we see later) it was common knowledge in at least some circles, though it was denied by the ones who actually conspired against him.

Jesus’s physical half-brothers (they were the offspring of Joseph, by Mary…listed by name in Mark 6:3)  were urging Jesus to go up to Jerusalem and show Himself to the general population at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Worldly Counsel

In a way, this made good sense, from a human perspective: IF Jesus wanted (and He did not) to make himself “known openly” (i.e. “get famous”) then there could be no better time: All the serious Jews in the world would be at that feast. If you wanted to get noticed by the Jews, that was the time and the place to do it!

But fame was not Jesus’s primary motive. He had a job to do, and it involved walking a very narrow path (think “tightrope”) to the Crossnot to fame and fortune. He hinted at this, earlier, in John 4:34, saying that His primary passion was to do His Father’s Will. He confirmed this later at Gethsemane, saying “Not My will but Thine be done.”

The other thing as we already saw, was that Jesus already knew the Jews wanted to kill him. It seems that his brothers were not yet fully aware of this. And, as John points out, in verse 5, they also did not yet believe in Him, themselves. He was just their “eldest brother, “and He was not behaving as they thought an “eldest brother” should behave. (Evidence in scripture suggests that Joseph had died, and that Jesus was now the head of the household.) They thought He should be “leading the charge,” and making their family more successful.

Jesus’ Counsel

His reply to them was that they could head on up, but that He would not be leaving yet. He explained, “My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come.”

This isn’t the only place He made such comments. You may remember, He told Mary nearly the same thing, in John 2:4. “…mine hour is not yet come.” And there were other times, later on, when the comment was made that, “his hour was not yet come.” (John 7:30; 8:20)

What was Jesus telling them?

Let’s break it down a little. He said four things:

  1. My time is not yet come
  2. Your time is always ready
  3. The World cannot hate you
  4. The World does hate me; because I testify of it that its works are evil

Why did He say, His time had not yet Come, but theirs was always ready?

Jesus is perhaps the only person in History whose every step was choreographed. It was impossible for Him to do other than the directive will of God, because He, Himself, was God in the Flesh! Every step he took, and every word He spoke was exactly what He was directed to do by God the Father, because He was God the Son! And the two were in perfect agreement.

When we say we want to do God’s Will, we often simultaneously express the regret that we don’t always know what He wants us to do. All I can do is fall back on the Written Word, to see the general assignment for the church-age believers, and then trust Him to lead me as I seek to follow Him. Jesus didn’t have that problem: He knew His Father’s will!

Jesus Knew The Will of God

So, Jesus knew the Jews wanted to kill him, and that they were watching for him at Jerusalem. The brothers didn’t believe, yet, that He was the Messiah. Possibly they would have been in danger, there, just by being with Him in Jerusalem. Also, He knew it was not yet time for him to be glorified in death, so his entrance was going to be quiet, this time.

But, in contrast to His “choreographed” life, our lives can be shut down at any time. We are not on a tightrope, as He was. God gives us a great deal of latitude, in decision making. He also gives us a whole Bible full of directions as to how to make good decisions and how to gain wisdom so as to correctly apply knowledge. He also warns us that bad decisions can be fatal. James warns us, too, saying that our lives are like a vapor, and they can disappear in an instant, even if we are making the best decisions we can. We have no promise of tomorrow.

But Jesus knew exactly how long He was going to live, and He knew exactly what to do at all times. None of us can say that about ourselves.

Why would He say, “The World Cannot Hate you?”

He told His natural brothers, “The world cannot hate you,” but later, through John (1st John 3:13) He said, Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”

Is that a contradiction? No, it isn’t! Jesus’s physical, biological half-brothers had not yet believed in Him, so they still “belonged to the World.”

In John 15:18, 19, speaking to the Eleven, Jesus said, “18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

So, as long as we were unbelievers, we were accepted by the World (to one degree or another) as being one of their own: but now that we have placed our trust in Jesus, we no longer belong to the World.  Now, they see us as enemies! We smell like Jesus, now, and they don’t like that!

Jesus’s brothers still fit in just fine, but Jesus’s disciples didn’t fit in at all! (And we don’t!)

Why does the World Hate Jesus?

Back in John 1:4, we saw that Jesus was the only source of light and life to the Human Race. The next verse says, “and the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.”  (in this context, the word translated “comprehend” is better understood as “overpower.” Yes, it is true that the darkness does not “understand the light,” but the connotation is that “the darkness has never been able to extinguish the light.”)

We are given to understand that this light is more than just physical light: photons, light waves, etc. It is the Moral light of God’s Presence. 1st John 1:5 says, God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

The World Hates Light!

So, in John 3:19, when Jesus said, “This is the Condemnation, that light is come into the World, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil,” we have no trouble understanding that Jesus was not referring to “people whose eyes are hurt by bright lights,” but rather, the pattern of evil in the world, that hates to be exposed.

Jesus is the Light of the World: (He says so in John 8:12!) So, as physical light dispels darkness because it is in its character to do so, Jesus has exposed the evil of the World from the beginning. And the World hates Him for that, alone. They don’t hate him for healing people: they hate Him for exposing them as sinners. They don’t hate Him for doing Good: they hate him for exposing the fact that they are doing evil!

But He was on a time-table—a schedule! Notice what happened when He went up to Jerusalem, later:

John 7:25-30

25Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? 26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? 27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. 29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. 30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

Six points:

  • The people recognized Jesus as the one whom the authorities were seeking to kill.
  • They marveled that Jesus taught openly, and the authorities did nothing.
  • The people speculated that possibly the authorities knew that He really was the Messiah.
  • They did not know the Word very well: they thought no one would know the Messiah’s origin: But the scriptures are very clear as to “Where He would come from.”
  • Jesus told them, “Yes, you do know me…but you don’t know the One who sent Me!
  • Then they all tried to take Him, but they failed: “because His hour was not yet come!”

It is an interesting little story, isn’t it? He knew when His “hour” was, and they did not, but they still could not take Him, “because His hour had not yet come.” (It almost looks as though God was in control, doesn’t it?)  And, the same thing happened in the next chapter, when Jesus taught about His own testimony and that of His Father.

John 8:20 says,

20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

It seems we are not in control of what happens around us! All His enemies wanted to arrest Him and wanted Him dead, but they couldn’t do it! In John 7:32-46, we see that officers were sent to arrest him, but they hung back, and listened to him. They eventually went back empty-handed, and the chief priests asked, “Why have ye not brought Him?” But the officers could only reply “Never man spake like this Man!” The authority of God was shining through Jesus in such a way that humans (even the officers His enemies had sent to arrest Him) were awed by Him!

So, “Who is in control, here?”

This passage should begin to teach us of the authority of God over all things, including our own lives, and it should help us to submit to that authority, rather than constantly protesting against it, saying that “it is not what we wanted.” (We argue with God a lot!)

If we can accept that this is the honest Word of God, and if we can see that nothing could be done against God’s Messiah, except as it completely fit His timetable, then it should give us a sense of confidence about our own future.

Our Confidence

As Romans 8:31 says, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” And, in that case, Romans 8:28 also becomes a reality. We love to quote the first half of that verse, saying, “And we know all things work together for good….” But we seldom quote the last half: “…to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

We can rest easy in God’s Will, if the latter half of that verse is true about us, but without it, the first half is very questionable. Jesus said, “…your time is always ready.” We don’t know how much time we have left to serve the Lord. We can keep wasting time, and thinking we will “catch up tomorrow.” But we are not promised tomorrow. I am directing this at myself as much as anyone else. We need to use our time wisely.

Lord Jesus, draw us along to number our days, and to recognize how short our lives are in light of eternity. Help us not to waste the opportunity You have given us to work beside you in your field, and to serve as Your ambassadors in this life.

To Whom would we go?

To Whom would we go?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:67-71

Introduction:

We looked at a sad story last week, where many (possibly the majority) of Jesus’s disciples left off following Him and went back to their old lives. We saw that not all of those who remained were believers, and we concluded that very possibly some of those who walked away truly were believers.

We ultimately concluded that all the “dividing” lines that we try to establish, saying, well, “so and so must not be a believer” are not necessarily dependable…that we can only examine out own hearts and ask, “Have I actually received Christ as my Savior? Have I placed my dependance on His blood as my only hope for salvation?” That is where the true dividing line exists, and it is invisible to our eyes.

I can’t see your heart, and you can’t see mine. In the long run, we can get a pretty clear idea, if the person confesses that they are a sinner, and that Jesus died for them…and we then see their actions and words matching that profession of faith. But the only one about whom we can be sure is ourselves. God says He wants us to know that we have eternal life.

What about those who stayed with Him?

66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

We are not told what percentage walked away. What we do see is that Jesus addressed His twelve chosen disciples, chosen to be apostles, and asked them where they stood.

67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter’s Reply: “To whom shall we go?”

 There are three points to mention here, in Peter’s answer:

  • Lord, to whom shall we go? Peter felt that he had no other options. I recall having that same thought, as a new believer. Someone asked me “Why Christianity? Out of all the World Religions, what makes you think that Christianity is right, and the others are wrong?” I thought for a moment and finally replied, “I don’t know about all the other religions. Maybe the others are OK too… I’m not comparing. I only know that this is where I get off the bus! This one is my ‘stop!’ This is where I stand.” In subsequent years, God continually has confirmed that my decision was correct, and wise.

    Years later, having been asked to sing in a wedding in Colorado, I had to “get off a bus” at a deserted bus stop in the middle of the night, in a snowstorm in Granby, Colorado. I knew this was the stop I where was told to get off, but there was no one there to meet me. All the buildings were closed, and there was no shelter. But I got off the bus, believing that this was my stop. Everyone else on the bus went on without me, and I stood there alone with my bag, in the dark and the blowing snow.

    As it turned out, the bus had been much delayed by the road conditions, and I had arrived very late. The people waiting for me had gone back home briefly, but they were on their way back. In about fifteen minutes, they came sweeping into the parking lot in a large, heated four-wheel-drive truck, and we all drove off to safety, and a warm house.

    But I had some time, there in the parking lot, to reflect on the nature of faith: I had nowhere else to turn. Had I stayed on the bus, and gotten off at a “safer” place, my friends would have had no way to find me. (This was long before cell phones existed!) Peter knew he had nowhere else to turn as well. This was his “stop,” too!
  • Thou hast the Words of Eternal Life! Peter knew there was something different about the teachings of Jesus. He had already come to believe that Jesus was The source of Eternal Life. How? Perhaps from the sermons he heard in Sychar, where Jesus led many Samaritans to faith. Perhaps seeing Jesus walk on water, and getting to take a very short stroll on the waves, himself. Perhaps taking part in the feeding of the Five Thousand, the day before. But, somehow, in the course of all the teachings and miracles, Peter had come to a personal faith in Jesus as the Messiah…the Christ.

    More specifically, he knew that the Words Jesus spoke were the key to his salvation: He believed in Jesus for the Words He had preached, which matched up with the Works He had done, and were born out by His gracious, loving behavior as their teacher and friend. Had there been any doubt about it, the doubts had probably been removed by Jesus’s comments immediately before, in verse 63: “…the Words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are Life.” Peter had caught on: He knew Jesus was the source of life!
  • And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God! That is quite a confession of faith! I’m not sure how Peter came to that conclusion. Somewhere along the line, he had come to the correct conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah. It probably started back in John 1:41, 42, when his brother Andrew told Peter that Jesus was the Messiah. Maybe even earlier, when John the Baptist declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the World…but I don’t know for certain that Peter heard that comment.

    It is even possible that Peter had overheard the conversation with Nicodemus, where it was declared that He had come into the World to save the people, and that he came as God’s Son, with that mission in mind. If he did, then that would explain the conclusion that he and all but one of the other disciples had drawn. But as I read the exchange in John chapter 3, it rather sounds as though the conversation with Nicodemus might have been in private…or maybe not. We aren’t told.

Jesus’s Response

So, how did Jesus respond to this confession of faith? (Ah, that’s nice! I was getting worried about you, there!) No, Jesus knew their hearts. His question had given Peter an opportunity to testify, and, possibly for the other disciples to respond as well. (Maybe they all just nodded…we aren’t told.) But Jesus spoke to address the fact that not all of them believed: He knew their hearts.

70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

What a strange reply! Part of the reason for this reply might have been to let Peter know that not all of them believed: That Peter really couldn’t speak for the whole group, though most of them might have agreed with Peter. Probably all of them would have verbally agreed at that point. But it isn’t until chapters 13 and 15 that Jesus spells out what the issue was. Judas was not a believer and never would become one.

Possibly, also it was to begin warning Judas that Jesus knew his heart. The word he used (translated “devil”) could be translated “accuser,” or “slanderer.” It could have indicated that he was a traitor… in any case, it meant that Jesus, Himself, has made a deliberate choice, specifically to fulfill prophecy. He had chosen, among His twelve closest companions, the one who would prove a traitor. So, that was out in the open. They all knew there was a traitor in the camp, but they had no way to know who it was, nor any way to defend against his eventual treachery.

Devil? Demon? Satan?

By the way, the word translated “devil,” here, is the Greek word “diabolos:” it is used 38 times in the New Testament, and 35 times, it is translated “devil,” while twice it is translated “false accuser,” and once a “slanderer.” 

(The word for “demon” is from a different Greek word, “daimonion”… and it is used 60 times, and translated “devil” all but once. It carries the idea of an evil spirit, and is sometimes applied to Satan, but usually in the context of demon possession.)

Accuser?

There are other words translated “accuser,” so we don’t want to jump to the conclusion that anyone who accuses should be called a “devil.” In fact, the “Evil One,” called “that old Serpent, and Satan, and the Devil,” is called the “accuser of the brethren.” (Revelation 12:9, 10) But it is not this same word: it is the Greek word, “kategoros:” it is used seven times, and every time it is translated “accuser”…and never in a righteous sense.

The verb form, “kategoreo” is used 21 times and almost always in a very negative sense: people falsely accusing Jesus or the disciples. In John 5:45, Jesus cautioned the people that He himself would not be accusing them before the Father…Moses would, because they rejected what Moses said. That is the only counterexample: all the rest are people accusing harshly, trying to get someone else in trouble.

So, when we are acting as accusers (and it happens!) we are behaving like the “Accuser of the Brethren.” We ought to feel quite uncomfortable with that position! It is not fitting that a follower of Jesus should behave like Satan, the Enemy of our souls. It is not fitting that we should take an adversarial stance toward other believers at all. We are to be striving toward keeping the unity of the faith…not attacking one another. Give that some thought!

What about Judas?

Jesus called him a “devil” in this passage, meaning an accuser. In another passage, Jesus referred to him as the “Son of Perdition,” the only one Jesus lost, of the twelve, and it had been planned ahead of time, to fulfil prophecy. Did Judas have a choice? Ironically, yes! I believe he did!

But In His complete foreknowledge, Jesus chose one whom He knew in advance would make this choice, and placed him in the ideal location to betray Jesus. Was it entrapment? No, Judas acted entirely of his own will, right up until he became possessed by Satan, personally. There is only one other person in Scripture called the “Son of Perdition:” it is the Antichrist, and, interestingly, he also is said to be indwelt by Satan, personally.

No one is forced to reject Christ

Each made their own choices, just as Pharaoh originally hardened his own heart against God, but there came a time when God “held him to it,” and God hardened his heart, to bring about the destruction of Egypt.

As I mentioned last week, there are some people—believers—who think Judas “lost his salvation.” But Jesus makes it clear from the very beginning, that Judas was never a believer: he was never saved; never cleansed!

Peter and the other apostles had come to the conclusion that Jesus truly was the son of God. And, when He demonstrated His authority over the physical world (walking on water, calming the storm, etc.) it terrified them, because they were only barely beginning to unserdtand His Deity.

What about Peter?

In one situation, (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33) Jesus addressed Peter as “Satan.” He said “…get thee behind me, Satan!” (WHY?) Peter had attempted to step in and tell Jesus not to go to the Cross. But that was the whole reason Jesus came! So…what did Jesus mean, by calling Peter “Satan?” The name “Satan” means “adversary.”

Peter was behaving as an adversary to the plan of salvation. He did not know it, because he did not understand Jesus’s plan at all. Jesus makes it clear that Peter was thinking entirely humanistic thoughts, not aligning himself with God. But he did not say that Peter was acting like the devil—he was acting like a man! The entire human race has been in opposition to God’s plans ever since the Garden of Eden!

Was Satan involved?

Did it mean that the “real” Satan was somehow involved? Not necessarily, but we can’t rule it out, either. In Acts chapter five, he stirred up two believers, Ananias and Sapphira, to lie to God. Satan can stir up believers to be adversaries against one another, and against God’s agenda.

We want to avoid that, obviously. We want to be walking closely enough with God and in close enough fellowship with one another, that it is very hard to drive a wedge between us.

Peter was simply wrong, and Jesus called him on it! It is interesting to see, though, that Peter had just been called “blessed” by Jesus, (Matthew 16:16) because he had stated, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”  But seven verses later, he was in trouble for shooting off his mouth in opposition to God’s plan of redemption for the whole world. Could Satan have inspired that? Maybe…but Jesus only said he was “thinking like a man!”

What about Us?

We know we have no one else to whom we could turn, and we are not looking for another. We believe that Jesus is the Only Savior, and God in the Flesh, and God’s chosen sacrifice, for our salvation. We know that he was named the “Lamb Slain from the foundation of the Earth.”

We know that 1st John 5:11-13 assures us that “…this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

Not only can we know that we have eternal life, but God says He wants us to know!

So, What Now?

Since we know all that, and we have placed our faith in Him, we need to consider how to act as though we are “On His Team.”

God is “on our side,” as we see in Romans 8:31 “If God be for us, (and He is!) who can be against?” but the question remains: Are we on His side? It is possible for us to be drawn away and behave like an accuser, or behave like an adversary! We saw that in Peter’s life and that of Ananias and Sapphira! We are warned against such behavior, throughout the New Testament, and we want to avoid that behavior, at all cost!

How do we Learn to Walk with God?

We need to deliberately steep ourselves in the Word of God, continually allowing the Holy Spirit to reshape our lives and reshape our thinking, so that our thought patterns change. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit of God, so that we are constantly in tune with Him, and at peace with one another. We need to be on the lookout every day, moment by moment, to see God’s leading and direction in our lives.

Yes, we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. So, let’s allow Him to reshape our lives to be a continual honor to His name.

We see in Psalm 119:9 that God says the only means by which we can cleanse our lives is by applying His Word to our lives. He offers no other way…and even that only works by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and by faith. We literally have co one else to whom we can turn, and He gives us only a narrow pathway in which to follow Him. We need to follow, step by step!.

Lord Jesus please use your Word, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to transform our hearts and make us over into Your image. Cleanse our lives. Raise us up as Your ambassadors, to honor You in all things.

Separating believers from unbelievers

Separating believers from unbelievers

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:60-66 (context; verses 52-59); John 5:24; John 10:27, 28

Introduction:

We have come to a “crisis,” in John chapter 6: Jesus had just taught that His flesh and blood were necessary for people to have eternal life. Earlier, we explored why this was such a hard thing for the Jews to accept. But there are different options in how we respond to hard teaching. Knowing that a teaching is either true, or partly true, or false, we have to decide how to respond. We can compare against God’s Word to see if it is true. That is what the Berean believers did in Acts 17:11. But, even after we know it is absolutely true, we have to decide how to respond.

Balking at Hard Teaching

60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

We already read the context for this passage: the verses immediately before: That was a hard passage to understand. But, for two reasons, this is also rather hard to grasp, even for believers today: The first reason is the sadness we feel, as we read that many of Jesus’s disciples abandoned their devotion to Him. They walked no more with Him! Yes, that is sad…and it still happens today! The other thing that makes it a hard passage, is that we tend to equate salvation with discipleship, and the two are not the same.

Salvation and discipleship are not the same

This is a hard concept, but let’s consider Judas: he was a disciple, but was not a believer! Jesus pointed this out in John 13:10, 11, when He said “ye are not all clean.” And after Judas left, in John 15:3, He said to the remaining eleven “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” All twelve had heard the same words…the difference was that Judas had not believed in Jesus as his Savior.

There are others in scripture who were believers, but who were not disciples. Lot was a saved man, but did not walk with God: he did not “follow Jesus” (that is what a disciple is…a follower.) And there were many others. Why might someone fall into that category?

Other Biblical Examples

Are there Biblical examples of real believers “balking at hard teaching?” Are there Biblical examples of real believers who “ran away from God?” Sure, there are!

  • John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus, saying that he himself needed to be baptized by Jesus. But he changed his mind, and he went ahead and obeyed.
  • Peter initially refused to have Jesus wash his feet…but he changed his mind and obeyed.
  • Jonah initially refused to go to Nineveh, but (with some convincing) eventually he changed his mind and went…(still in a bad frame of mind, but he went and he obeyed.)

Do you see a pattern there? These were genuine believers who stumbled over the command of God, but they repented. (That is what “repentance” is…changing your mind: turning around, going back, and doing what you should have done.)

Believers or Unbelievers?

So, as we read John 6:60-66, are we reading about believers or unbelievers? Notice that it says they were disciples. Remember that the word “disciples” only means “followers.” They were following Jesus, but their reasons for following varied wildly. He had just taught that his flesh and blood were necessary for their eternal life. That specific teaching was difficult enough that people still struggle with it, today.  But they had a choice to make:

  • They could accept it (and accept the fact that they couldn’t fully grasp His meaning),
  • They could argue about it, trying to force it to “make sense” to human minds, or
  • They could flatly reject it as unthinkable.

Some argued, and complained that it was a hard saying; difficult to grasp. But Jesus knew their hearts: He knew who believed and who did not. He also knew who would eventually betray him. If we sneak a peek at the verses ahead, we see that Judas was there, as one of the Twelve: He stayed with Jesus when others left! But he still was not a believer. So that is not necessarily the dividing line. So how did Jesus respond to their complaint that this was “a hard saying?”

Jesus had just told them that His flesh and blood (as pictured in the Passover Lamb) were absolutely necessary to their salvation, and that faith in Him was the only entrance into eternal life. They had a hard time with that statement. There are many, still today, who struggle with the concept that Jesus is the only way God offers for Salvation. They argue against it, saying “all the billions of people who do not believe in Him cannot all be wrong: they could not all be lost!”

Is there anything “wrong” with Jesus being the only way of salvation?

This is an emotionally attractive, but completely illogical reply: As far as we know there is only one “cure” for many deadly diseases. What shall we say of all the millions who have died from malaria, the plague, polio, or any other deadly disease? “Well, it just isn’t fair: there must be another way!” No, the hard truth is: they either get the medicine to save their life, or they die.

There is a new treatment available that can cure Hepatitis C: it is effective on a high percentage of people, but it is extremely expensive, so it simply will not be available to all those who suffer from that disease. (Lesser treatments can hold it at bay, but cannot cure it. But this cure is financially out of reach for most people…The Gospel is free, to all!)

Today, there is a single, “collective antivenin” which is effective for about 85 of the 140 different species of venomous creatures in Australia. The government has tried to make it as widely available as possible, so people who are bitten have a chance to get it and save their lives: but if they can’t get to where it is, or, if they refuse to accept it, they will surely die! There is no other way! That is just reality! Romans 5:12 may not sound “fair,” either, but it is a fact: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death by sin, thus death passed upon all, for all have sinned.”

The Blood of Jesus was shed, once for all, as God’s only solution for the lost state of the Human race. The Church has tried, over the years, to make that Salvation available worldwide. There are only two barriers: our reticence to share it with others, and their unwillingness to believe in it. And that’s the teaching they stumbled over, in John 6:31-51.

Jesus Tested the Character of their Faith

Jesus asked, “You think that was hard? What will you think when you see Me physically ascendback into Heaven where I came from?” Why is that a test? They already balked at the “hard teaching” that “faith in His blood is our only hope for salvation.” Now He pointed out why He was their only hope: He is God in the flesh! He was the Deity they claimed to worship.

You see, so long as we see Jesus as “strictly human,” no matter what else we may attribute to Him, we will struggle with His authority, we will question His unique, exalted position, and we will resent the fact that other people are actually worshipping the Person we see as a man. I once had a pastor tell me, “I don’t want people praying to Jesus!” (Why did he say that? Evidently he did not believe Jesus was the true God, in human form.)

Can a true believer deny the deity of Christ?

Is it possible to be a believer and not know that Jesus is God in the flesh? Yes, it is, and there are many who do struggle with that concept, but it requires that one be seriously ignorant of God’s Word, to miss that point.

On the other hand, some do see that truth in Scripture: but they struggle with it, and eventually rebel against it, denying His Deity. In their case, I question the reality of their faith in Him as the Savior, since they reject the fact of His Person; the fact that He is truly God in the Flesh. Is it possible that they are really believers, and just badly deceived? Yes…I believe it is possible. But I would be very concerned about how they arrived at that point.

The Jews, who heard Him, actually should not have had a struggle with that idea: They had the prophecy from Isaiah 9:6 saying that “the Son” who was promised to them, would be called “The everlasting Father!” Give that some thought! I cannot “explain” how the Son should be called the “Everlasting Father!” But there is no argument: It is simply stated as a fact, and it is to be simply accepted! (Or…you can reject it, and walk away. And that is what many of them did.)

The Question of the Deity of Christ

The fact that Jesus truly is God is a core teaching of the Bible. (John 1:1, 3, 14, 18)

  • He was the Creator God who made all things material or immaterial. (John 1:3)
  • He was the Speaking God who walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, and spoke with Adam and Eve. (John 1:18)
  • He was the Promising God who ate Abraham’s food, and talked with him face to face.
  • He was the Judging God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18, 19)
  • He was the Miracle-working God who judged Egypt and rescued the children of Israel.
  • He was the Creator of all things, the Eternal Judge of all things, and the Promised Savior. (John 1:3; 1:14; 5:22; 5:24; 10:27, 28)

Either this is all true, or the Bible is not true. Either this is all true, or Jesus is not the Savior. That is a simple fact. There are no “degrees” of truth here.

Why reject this doctrine?

All of the cults speak highly of Jesus, calling Him a Mighty Spirit Being, a Great Teacher, a Prophet, even a “lesser god,” in some cases, but they can never admit that He is literally the Sovereign, Almighty God!

You see, if they admit that Jesus is truly God, then they also have to admit that they, themselves, are not the servants of God. And they have to face the facts: they, themselves, are under His Judgment. Jesus hinted at that, by stating that they were going to see Him ascend back into heaven. And they decided that was just too much! So, they quit!

How can I know I am saved?

I have known people who apparently were genuine believers, but who abandoned their faith. Their lives reflected that loss. They were sad wrecks of what once had been a glorious reflection of God’s Grace. Are they still saved? How can we know for sure, in our own life?

If there has ever been a time in your life when you placed your hope in Jesus’s blood as your only hope for salvation, trusting in Him alone for forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, then you are saved, and you cannot be lost. (John 5:24 says If you have believed in Him, then you have eternal life, and you shall not come unto condemnation, but have crossed over from death unto life”)

1st John 5:11-13 clearly teaches that God wants you to KNOW that you have eternal life.

What happens if I don’t follow Jesus?

Even if I truly am “one of His sheep,” if I do not walk with the Shepherd, I am in constant danger of attack by my enemies and I cannot avail myself of His protection. I am “enlisted in His army,” but I am refusing to wear the armor He commanded me to put on!

Jesus said, “My Sheep hear my voice, and they follow me, and I know them, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

“Following the Shepherd” is the normal walk for a believer. Failing to follow Him does not negate His promise of eternal life, but it does “void the warranty” on his guidance and protection.

There are consequences!

If I fail to follow Jesus, then the very least I can expect is unfruitfulness. The next thing I can expect is the absence of Joy and Peace. You see, even though I am a believer, if I am no longer walking with Jesus, then I am not benefitting from the relationship “in the here and now.”

That is what happened, here in John 6:60-66. Some of those disciples may have been true believers…but some were not. Jesus knew which were which. We do not. But we can examine our own hearts and see where we stand with God…and decide where we ought to be, and what we need to change, to get there.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to our own condition as believers and encourage our hearts to change, to repent, to go back and follow you.

How Can We Eat of His Flesh?

How Can We Eat of His Flesh?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:53-59 (Context: v. 47-52)

Introduction:

As we study our way through the Gospel of John, we occasionally run into peculiar passages, difficult to understand, and sometimes hard to accept. This passage is one of them, partly because it has been seized upon to push the notion that the Lord’s Table is literally cannibalism: That we are called to partake in a feast on human flesh and blood. It has been used by some to support their religious stance, and by others (in response to them,) to accuse the entire Church of gross malfeasance and evil thinking.

The very first thing we need to do when we run across any difficult passage is to read the entire context: What was the whole passage saying? What is it teaching?

Eating the Bread of Life

Beginning in verse 47, we see that Jesus clearly said, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” Keep that in mind as we read the following passage which could seem to contradict that first, clear statement. Remember that this is God’s Word, and it all has to agree: if something seems to be a contradiction, then the chances are very good that we are misunderstanding something.

Verse 48-51. Jesus continued, saying, “I am that bread of life.” In keeping with what He had taught in verses 33-35, He reiterates that He is the Bread of Life. But in verse 51, it would be very easy to draw the conclusion that physically eating His flesh is how we gain eternal life! Please! Read verse 47 over again! He says we enter into eternal life by faithbelieving in Him!

At that point, his audience was beginning to grumble amongst themselves, questioning Jesus’s statement: They thought that they were being invited to physically consume His physical flesh. (They said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”) (verse 52)

Meanwhile, we keep re-reading that context, in verse 47, and we see it constantly reaffirmed that we are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing, as Paul also tells us, in Ephesians 2:8, 9.

But they were struggling with this whole concept; (and He hasn’t even hit the hard part yet!)

Eating His Flesh and Drinking His Blood

Jesus’s reply to their complaint really pushed them over the edge. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”

This was the real kicker: You remember, eating human flesh was specifically condemned in Scripture, and, even more specifically, drinking blood—any blood—was absolutely forbidden.

Eating Blood was a Crime!

Leviticus 17:10-14 spells out in no uncertain terms that drinking blood, or even eating meat that had not been properly bled out, was a capital offense. Why?  Because the blood was given to them as a sacrifice on the altar, to cover their sins! (KJV says “atonement’…it means “covering.”) Why was that important? Because the animal sacrifices were limited to covering sin, temporarily. Only Jesus’s Blood could take away sins. That is what He came to do! He came to save us from our sins by taking them away!

So, if animal blood was sacred, and if eating it was a capital offense, (meaning a crime for which they would kill you) how much more sacred should we consider the literal Body and blood of the Savior?

This was the problem the Jews were having with what Jesus taught. It seemed to directly contradict one of the key commandments God had given to Israel.

What was Jesus really commanding?

Keep in mind that Jesus is the Author of both the Old Testament and the New Testament: He was not “changing his mind” about the sanctity of blood. He was comparing Himself to the Passover Lamb: Each family took part in the blood on the night of the Passover: They killed that little lamb, they caught that blood in a basin, they dipped a bunch of Hyssop in that blood, and struck it onto the lintel and the two doorposts. (I love reading this, and physically going through the motions (or at least in my mind,) realizing that they were huddled in faith, under the same blood of the cross which we claim for our redemption.

But as individuals within each family, they were required to make the sacrifice personal: they were each to eat of that flesh, acknowledging that the blood on the lintel and the doorposts was shed for them personally. They were saying, “It was shed for me, personally, and by eating that sacrifice, I am confirming that I am under that blood: that my faith is in the completed work of that Lamb!”

Object Lessons in Scripture

Do we physically “eat Jesus’s body?” No! Do we actually “drink human blood?” No!! absolutely not!

We can further see that in 1st Corinthians 10:4, God declares that the Rock in the desert—that Rock which supplied the millions of gallons of water necessary for the survival of the Children of Israel and their livestock—that Rock was Christ! It does not say “a picture of Christ:” It says it was Him! And they all drank their “life-supply” from Him, personally.

In John 4:14 and in John 7:37-39, Jesus gave us some hints about “drinking from Him.” He told the woman at the well, in John 4, “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.”

In John 7, on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus cried out, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

What is the answer?

So, what should we conclude about the statement regarding “eating His flesh and drinking His blood,” here in John chapter Six? Given both the immediate context of verse 47 and the remote contexts of chapters 4 and 7, what should we understand that Jesus was saying in chapter six? There are huge numbers of people who ignore the context and conclude that the elements of the Lord’s Table literally become the Body and Blood of the Lord, and that we are committing a literal act of cannibalism, as well as defying the Lord’s clear command to not drink blood.

If we examine the facts of the night when the Lord’s Table was instituted, we see two key things:

When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper:

  1. He was living in his physical body: He blessed, and broke, and offered them unleavened bread, saying “This is my Body, which is broken for you…” When people today speak out against recreational drug use, they may hold up an egg, saying “This is your brain” and then they fry it, and say, “This is your brain on drugs! Any questions?” But NO one answers, “What? My brain is a chicken egg?
    Jesus set out unleavened, blessed, broken bread as an object lesson regarding His coming sacrifice. The disciples felt no confusion about the relationship between that physical bread and His physical Body. They knew that Jesus intended an object lesson.
  2. His blood was in His veins, keeping His body alive! That is what God said it was supposed to do, in Leviticus 17:11 “The life of the flesh is in the blood!” As long as Jesus’s Blood was in His body, He was alive, and we were still in our sins. But when His blood was poured out on the ground, satisfying the righteousness of the Holy God who sent Him, then He died, and our sins were fully paid for: He cried out “Tetelestai!” (It is Finished! Paid in full!”) But His Blood had to be poured out, for that to happen.

Without the pouring out of His Blood, we would still be lost.

The moment you trusted Jesus’s shed blood as full payment for your sins, He took your sins away forever. (Think back again, now, to verse 47: How did He say we are to gain everlasting life?) “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” But in Hebrews 9:22 He says, “Without the shedding of Blood there is no remission.” Without His voluntary, physical, one-time sacrifice, we would still be lost.

But we do not “re-crucify Jesus” when we take communion. I was at a funeral where the presiding priest actually said, regarding the Eucharist, “this is our sacrifice, and Jesus is our victim.” My friends, that is blasphemy! Jesus said, in John 10:18, “No man taketh my life: I lay it down of myself” He is not our “victim:” He is our Kinsman-redeemer. Yes, my sins are why he went to the Cross, but He went there voluntarily on my behalf.

And He did it once, for all eternity. It was never to be repeated, and never to be continued. It was finished at the Cross!

How do we “take part in this sacrifice?”

  1. How do we initially take part in that sacrifice? We enter in by faith, by believing in Him as our Savior: Jesus said that is what God requires, in John 6:29, and 6:47. This is a good example of why it is so important to read the context in which a verse appears…not just the one verse or passage, by itself.
  2. How do we “feed on Him on a continuing basis?” We do so by continuing to feed on His Word, believing that His blood has cleansed us. (In John 1:1-3, 14, and Revelation 19:13, He is identified as being the Living Word of God.”) 1st Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”
  3. We continue to drink of the fountain that He has opened as we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us.

But we commemorate that sacrifice when we take Communion. We do not reenact it!

The Lord’s table is not a sacrifice, at all! God says very specifically that Jesus died once for all, and that His work as the sacrifice was completed on that Cross. Hebrews 10:10, 12 says, “…we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all… this Man, after He had offered One Sacrifice for Sins, forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”

He still acts as our High Priest, but He does not continually offer more sacrifice. His work was so completely finished that it says in Hebrews 1:3  “When He had by himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High.” (Where could the High Priest sit? There was only one “seat” in the Holy of Holies…it was the Mercy Seat… the top of the Ark of the Covenant! God’s throne!) So what we see here is thatJesus, God the Son, completed His work as our high Priest, and sat down in the throne with God the Father.

Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Table?

1st Corinthians 11:25-26 says, “Do this in remembrance of Me…as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death until He come.” It is a commemoration only, and a physical, outward demonstration of something that happened historically, and which has taken effect inwardly, and continues to take effect as we walk with Him.

Lord Jesus, please help us to completely understand the sharing that takes place in the Lord’s table and to see it as a holy fellowship before your throne, as well as a testimony to one another as well as the Unbelieving World.

The Continual Demand for Proof

The Continual Demand for Proof

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:30; Matthew 12:39; Judges 6:17, 36-40; 1st Corinthians 1:22, 23; John 20:29

Introduction:

As we read God’s Word, one of the things we really enjoy seeing, is all the miracles: the wonderful things God has done, either to save his people, or to sustain them, or, in some cases, just to reassure them.  Once in a while, we see someone in scripture asking for a sign. And when God gives it to them, we think, “Well, I’d like one of those, please!”

That is a common feeling among believers, and, when we read of people whose plea for such a thing was granted, we tend to think that must be the “normal way to relate to God:” That, perhaps, in fact, He just loves to “whip out a miracle” anytime we want one! I want to caution believers against that kind of thinking. Let’s see what God’s Word says about the subject, beginning right where we left off, in John 6:30, where the Jews asked Jesus for a sign.

“What sign showest thou, then, that we should see and believe thee?”

Remember, the people who said that, here in John 6, were not looking for a “path to faith:” They had already been filled with the loaves and the fishes, and, in fact, they had wanted to take Jesus by force and make him their king. (That’s wrong thinking, too, by the way! Jesus was God in the flesh! You do not tell God what to do, nor try to force His hand!)

But the point is that they had just seen a fairly major miracle! And all Jesus had done, in verse 29 was to assure them that faith in Him was what God required. So, in that case, does their demand look like faith, or unbelief? It was definitely unbelief! In fact, as Jesus elaborated on the theme of Himself being the Bread of life, here in John 6, we see that many of his so-called “disciples” abandoned Him completely. They did not believe Him!

What about Gideon and his “Laying out a fleece?” (Twice!)

We often hear people say, “Put out a fleece! Ask God to direct you!” That sounds quite spiritual, and sometimes God actually honors it, especially for new believers or in circumstances where we really don’t have enough information to make a decision, and we are just asking for directions.

But, open your Bible to Judges chapter six, and read the story of Gideon: God had appeared to Gideon personally, in the form of the “Angel of the LORD.” And God had given him a direct command, as well as full assurance that He would back him in his obedience.

What did Gideon do? Look at verse 17: “Show me a sign that is really You, telling me all this!” So, God gave him the sign he asked for, and he thought he was going to die, because he had seen God! (Verses 21-23) But God reassured him saying, “Peace be unto you: you will not die!”

So, Gideon began to obey. But, by verses 36-40, he was back to asking for signs again. And God honored the request again! But we need to see that his request was an act of unbelief: God had already told him what to do! There was already more than sufficient information for him to make a good decision. He was acting in unbelief, trying to get out of the job God gave him!

What does Jesus say about people demanding a sign?

In Matthew 12:38, the Scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for yet another sign. Bear in mind that these were the same people who had just accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. These were definitely not “believers, looking for additional direction:” These were Jesus’s enemies, putting Him to the test (again!) And His response is very instructive: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the Prophet Jonah:” This is how Jesus feels about that sort of attitude and request.

But, what makes it “faith” one time and “unbelief” another time?

In John 4:48, Jesus made a similar admonition. He was speaking to a man who asked Jesus to heal his dying son. Notice that Jesus used the plural “you” (KJV, “ye”) when He reproached the unbelief: He said “Except ye (plural) see signs and wonders, ye will not believe!” As a group, this seemed to be true of the Jews…they continually doubted Jesus and wanted another sign. (Paul confirms this in 1st Corinthians 1:22, 23, and says to preach the Gospel, instead!)

But this man begged Jesus to come anyway: And Jesus said, “Go thy way, thy son liveth!” And the man believed Jesus, and he turned around and went home! Do you see the difference? As a group, they were not believing God…they constantly yammered for another sign! But this man believed Jesus when Jesus said the miracle had happened and he turned and headed home, in faith. He had not been looking for a sign, like everyone else: He already believed Jesus, enough to make the 24-mile hike, each way, from Capernaum to Cana, to ask Him to heal his son.

The Actions of Faith:

It was a long walk back to Capernaum. He was probably struggling, every step of the way, to keep believing. He had left “Jesus the healer” back at Cana, and he was getting further and further away from Him. But he was obeying by faith, and doing what he was told to do!

You see, Faith is an obedient response to a revealed truth! Faith is not about “feeling.” God speaks, and we put our faith in His Word: not in our feelings about His Word. So, that man kept walking, being obedient, regardless of what he felt…and his servants met him on the way home saying, “Your son got well!” So he asked what time the change had occurred, and they told him: and then he knew that the healing had happened at the very time Jesus said the son was healed! In the following verses God says that the end result was saving faith for that whole household.

But, what about Thomas?

For the last 2000 years, History has condemned Thomas as a doubter, just because he asked to see for himself. Remember that all the other disciples had already seen the resurrected Jesus, face to face. All Thomas asked was that he be given that same privilege. And Jesus gave it to him! But there was a small admonition given along with the answered prayer.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” But then Jesus gave the whole group even more signs, so that at least these eleven started off with plenty of proof. (And yet: in John 21, most of them took off to become commercial fishermen again, because Peter suggested it. And Peter received the rebuke that time.)

Compare Thomas to Peter:

Let’s keep in mind, too, that Jesus invited Thomas to shove his hand into His side; the gaping hole left by the Roman Spear! Whatever it took, Jesus wanted Thomas to believe. Tradition tells us that Thomas served faithfully his whole life and died a martyr. (Can I prove it? Nope. I have no scriptural evidence.) My point is that Thomas was not “refusing to believe.” He just wanted his faith to be built on something stronger than the testimony of his fellow disciples: He wanted to see Jesus just as they all had done. I don’t see that as being worthy of our condemnation.

Peter, on the other hand, had seen the resurrected Christ, and had been called away from the fishing boat at least twice already…Jesus’s rebuke to him came after he had all the above experiences and all the “proofs” from Jesus, because he decided to go back to his old job. Had he intended to permanently go back, or was it just intended to be a “short cruise to get some operating funds?” We don’t know: but he led the other disciples with him, and Jesus called him out on it, asking whether he loved Jesus more than the fish. Asking whether he was more committed to Jesus, as his Lord, than he was to commercial fishing.

What should we do instead of looking for signs? Preach the Gospel!

1st Corinthians 1:17-25

Paul made it clear in this passage (especially verses 17 and 23) that the “preaching of the Cross” was the central message of everything his ministry had to offer. Believing that Gospel resulted in the believer being placed into the Body of Christ, as a permanent member, or part, of the Body of Christ…the Church. This is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit…the true baptism that identifies us permanently with Jesus, in His Death, and Burial and resurrection. (See 1st Corinthians 12:13)

He goes on to say that the typical Jewish response of that time was to ask for a miraculous sign, as a confirmation. The typical Gentile response was to require that it all “Made Sense” to them. It had to “sound like wisdom.”

Human “wisdom” or God’s Wisdom?

The core issues of the Gospel may offend what “makes sense” to me, as a Gentile:

  • That someone else could be punished for my sins and satisfy the justice of God.
  • That Jesus would die for those he knew would reject him anyway (and most people do!)
  • That a Holy, all-powerful God, would even take notice of such an insignificant race, let alone deliberately subjecting himself to physical, spiritual, verbal, and emotional abuse for them, seems beyond comprehension.

So, if it all had to ‘make sense’ to me,” I would still be lost, along with those in verse 18: (“The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness:”)But since I confess from my heart that “The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (verse 25,) I now fall into the group of people the World calls “fools.”  And that is just fine!

It is OK for the World to be offended by the Gospel, and to call us “Fools!

“We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness.”

  • It is OK for people to disparage us for believing Jesus! They disparaged Him as well!
  • It is OK for the world to hate what we teach: they hated what Jesus taught as well!
  • It is OK for us not to have all the answers: Jesus HAS all the answers, and He did not always give them to people. Sometimes He instead posed a more appropriate question, and left them to “stew in their own juice,” so to speak.

Is it OK for us to “ask for a sign?” And if so, When?

I don’t see the apostles “asking for signs,” at all, but God gave them anyway, on a number of occasions, in the book of Acts. What were the common factors, when He did so?

  • Usually (if not always) it happened when there were unbelieving Jews present,
  • Usually (not always) it happened when the Gospel first went into an area.
  • Without exception it happened to confirm the message that was being preached. It was not just for the comfort or entertainment of the believers.

People died, and were not raised from the dead. People got sick and were not miraculously healed. Bad things kept right on happening to good people. By this I mean: “becoming a believer” did not provide a “get well soon” card from Jesus. Paul had an ailment of some sort (I believe it had to do with his eyes, because of Galatians 4:13-16, and 6:11) and He asked God three times to take away this ailment: And what happened? God told him to stop asking!

Miracles do Happen!

But, when the Gospel was becoming established in the Mediterranean area, there were a number of miraculous interventions by God, which served to confirm the message of the Apostles. I have known a few missionaries, too, who have told me of strange things God did, when the Gospel first went into some remote places. These seemed to be genuine Divine intervention. Sone undoubtedly saved the lives of the missionaries. Others were just very peculiar, and unexpected.

Were they “miracles?” I can’t say, for sure: But the timing was certainly “exquisite” in some of the accounts! And they always served to confirm the Authority of the Gospel.

So, When is it appropriate to ask?

When we have exhausted our Biblical sources of information and we still have a difficult choice to make, I think it is just fine to ask God for special direction of some sort. But if we already know what He says, and we are just hoping He will “change His mind,” then it is completely inappropriate to ask for miraculous direction. (That is unbelief and rebellion!) Finally, please remember that it is entirely possible that there will be two choices that are equally pleasing to God, and within which we are perfectly free to just choose the one we want.

Does God answer with miraculous signs today? Yes, I believe He does: but I think it happens most often among brand new believers. My observation is that the “old soldiers” are to press on and set a good example in spite of hardship. I am aware of counterexamples, but they usually happened on mission fields where the servants of God were already “way out on a limb,” from human perspective, and God just brought all the circumstances together for His Glory.

Lord Jesus, build our faith through obedience to Your Word. Teach us to follow you faithfully, not demanding that You prove Yourself. Help us to step forward in faith and Obey Your Word.

Salvation, Faith and Baptism: What does the Bible Say?

Faith and Baptism

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

Linked Concepts

Salvation:

Ephesians 2:8, 9;

Faith:

John 6:29; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:25;

Baptism:

1st Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3, 4; 1st Peter 3:21;

Introduction:

Because this morning we have a baptism to conduct, we are taking a short “side-excursion,” to teach on Faith and Baptism: The two concepts have been linked from the beginning of the Church age, but are also frequently misunderstood, and wrongly taught, as a result.  This morning, before we actually baptize anyone, we hope to connect the two concepts carefully and scripturally, to clear up questions believers may still have.

Salvation: By Grace, through faith, or, by Grace through faith plus something?

Ultimately, this is probably the key question: How does God save sinners? We read about Abraham, in Genesis 15:6, and find that when Abraham “believed God,” God reckoned his faith as righteousness. We find this repeated and amplified in Romans 4:3. We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing!

In Ephesians 2:8, 9 we get our key verses describing how we are saved: “For by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” But the information regarding faith is much more widespread, all through both the Old and the New Testaments. In our Wednesday night study in Numbers, we saw the complaint God had against Israel. It was that, in spite of His numerous signs, and proofs and provisions in their lives and well as the judgments on Egypt, etc. they did not believe Him.

Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”

Romans 3:25 specifies that Jesus has been set forth as the propitiation (the satisfaction of God’s righteousness and justice) through faith in His blood.

In John 6:28, 29 the Jews asked Jesus, “what work shall we do that we might work the works of God?” His answer was “This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent.”

In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas answered the Philippian Jailer’s question “What must I do to be saved,” with the clear statement, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

One may point out that most of these early believers followed faith with water baptism. True! But salvation occurred the moment they believed!

Two Ordinances

As believers, we see that two ordinances have been given to the Church: Water Baptism, and The Lord’s Table. We explain the nature of the Lord’s Table every month when we take communion, but we haven’t talked much about baptism. Both are an outward testimony of something that has already occurred inwardly, and a physical, visible demonstration of a spiritual, invisible reality.

Testimony of The Lord’s Table:

Through the symbols of the bread and the cup, Communion testifies that “Jesus died for me! His body was torn and broken for me, and His Blood was shed for me!” As believers we take part in communion to testify of His sacrificial death, until He comes. That means we also express our confident assurance that He is indeed returning!

When we celebrate communion, we are testifying that Jesus’s blood was the full payment for our sins. (Remember the Passover Lamb: the people who placed themselves under the blood of that Lamb for protection against the Wrath of God, did not just “stand there and watch:” they each ate of that lamb!)

We eat (as we were told to do) as a commemoration of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the whole world. By faith we are laying our hands upon that sacrifice, and claiming it as the substitute for our own lives. And in doing so, we honor Jesus before the world, proclaiming His death until He comes.

Testimony of Baptism

Two kinds of Baptism

There are two types of baptisms taught in the New Testament: one of them is absolutely necessary for salvation, but has nothing to do with water. The other does involve water, and is in no way required for salvation…but it does stand as a matter of obedience, even if we don’t fully understand it.

Baptism by the Holy Spirit

Turn to 1st Corinthians 12:13. This chapter is entirely given to understanding the gifts of the Spirit, and how He, the Holy Spirit, builds the church by giving appropriate gifts to each believer. He makes the choice as to who will do what task, and, just as individual cells in a body are not given the option to choose their individual tasks or locations in the body, believers are given their assignments by God, the Holy Spirit. (We also saw this in our study in Numbers, by the way.)

Without going into a lot of detail about the gifts of the Spirit, this verse, in the midst of the larger passage, tells us a key point: every single believer has been “Baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.” That is what makes you a “Member” of the Body of Christ.

Membership and Baptism

When we talk about “Church Membership,” this is the only kind of membership God ever addresses. Every member of the Body of Christ is expected to find a local assembly of like-minded believers and attach themselves to that assembly and serve there, as a functioning part of the Body of Christ. Every member is to function as a member.

Some churches have a “membership roll,” as if they are a country club, or something. No such idea is suggested in scripture. Some churches literally require that you be water-baptized (again) into that church, for membership. This also is unbiblical.

Some require that you be “vetted” by their governing board, and deemed “worthy” to be a part of their organization. I personally find that repugnant: If Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, which made me clean enough to stand before a Holy God, and address Him as Father, is not enough to make me “worthy” to be in some human outfit, then I don’t belong there!

(Is there “church discipline” in the Bible? Yes, but it has nothing to do with membership. We will discuss that at another time.)

Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ is the only kind of baptism necessary for salvation, and it occurs the moment you place your faith in Jesus as your Savior, even if you are unaware that it is happening. So, let’s talk about the otherkind of baptism: water baptism.

Water Baptism

First, let’s address the actual meaning of the word, “baptize.” The Greek word for “baptize” is pretty much just “baptize.” Our problem is that when the first English Bibles were being published (particularly the King James Version which was “authorized” by King James, the monarch of England, and the head of the Anglican Church,) since they had to not contradict the Church of England, the translators could not write in the actual meaning of the word for baptism.

The Church of England (scarcely removed from Catholicism at the time) was practicing baptism by sprinkling, while the actual meaning is “to dip!” The Greek word “baptizō”means “immersion!” The intensive verb “baptizō” is the most frequent derivative of the root “baptō”, which is translated, and is always translated “Dip.”

In the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, by Lawrence O. Richards (pp. 100-101,) under Baptizō, it says: “Baptō is the basic verb. It means ‘to dip in’ or ‘to dip under.’ It is often used of dipping fabric in a dye. Baptizō is an intensive form of baptō. From early times it was used in the sense of immersing.”

So… had they consistently translated the word to what it actually means, John the Baptist would have been John the Dipper! But when Jesus “dipped” the sop in the cup, and passed it to Judas, the word “baptō” actually was translated (“dip”); and no one calls that a baptism!

Baptism is Immersion for Identification

So, the concept involves immersion, and the result of that immersion is to fully identify the thing being dipped, with the substance it was dipped in. The sop Jesus gave to Judas was permanently soaked in whatever was in the cup. Cloth dipped in a pot of dye is permanently identified with that specific pot of dye. In fact, all the cloth that came through that specific pot is together identified as a specific “dye-lot.”

According to 1st Corinthians 12:13, if you were born again through faith in Jesus’s Blood, then The Holy Spirit has immersed (baptized) you into the Body of Christ: you are permanently identified with Him in every way. And so is every other believer. We are all from the same “dye-lot!”

Jesus came to John the Baptist to be water baptized so that He would be identified with John’s message: John preached the Gospel of the coming Kingdom—the promised “Kingdom of Heaven,” which is the 1000-year reign of Jesus on earth. Jesus is the Promised King! So, He was identified with the Promised Kingdom through that baptism.

Baptism is Obedience

We practice water Baptism for the same reason as we practice Communion: we were told to do so! Communion commemorates the reality of the Gospel, applied to each believer. Baptism commemorates the fact that the Holy Spirit has already placed us into the Body of Christ.

He has already immersed us into Jesus, so that we are fully identified with Him, forever, in every way. We practice water baptism once, as a believer, to testify of our new position in Christ. It is not how we “join a church,” or “repent of our sins” or any other such thing. This is a believer’s baptism. It is a public testimony of what already happened.

What happens if you don’t get baptized? Nothing, as far as I can see: But Jesus commanded the Eleven to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

There is a spiritual “chain reaction,” there, which requires that this command, called the “Great Commission” be our marching orders, just as it was for the eleven. And that includes believer’s baptism. So, even though we may not really be sure how it works as a testimony, we do practice water baptism by immersion. We do not require it of anyone, and we only offer it when it is requested.

Is Baptism necessary for Salvation?

People sometimes protest that 1st Peter 3:21 “…clearly says baptism now saves us!” In the context, though, Peter was talking about the people on the Ark with Noah, who were “saved by water.” Those people were permanently separated from the lost world around them by the flood, because everyone else died in that flood: they were saved from that judgment by God, through the Ark, which is a terrific picture of Jesus! Peter says that “in like figure (a “similar picture”) baptism now saves us…”

What kind of Baptism Saves us?

(And how could it save us? Do you really think getting “dunked in water” can separate you from God’s judgment of the world?) No, it can’t! But getting placed into the Body of Christ can and does! “All in Adam die, but all in Christ shall be made alive!” 1st Corinthians 15:22)

This verse in Peter is in reference to the Baptism of the believer by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ. The same is true of Romans 6:3, 4, where it says that we’ve been baptized into the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No water was involved in either case!

It is interesting to read 1st Corinthians 1:10-17, where we can see how the Apostle Paul felt about water baptism. He saw that water baptism had already fostered divisions among the brethren: (“Paul baptized me!” “Well, Apollos baptized me!” …etc.)

How did Paul feel?

Paul said he was thankful he had only baptized a handful of them, and concluded that “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” Paul did practice water baptism, but it did not have a very high priority in his mind. The reality (being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ”) came about through the preaching of the Gospel. Water baptism was just a picture of the real thing: a testimony that it had occurred.

Water baptism does not require any special clothing or ritual; no oath-taking nor any other such thing. Upon public confession of faith in Jesus, and in His finished Work at the Cross, a believer is fully qualified for water baptism, as a step of obedience and a testimony of the new birth.

We will proceed on that authority!

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts and minds, and use this service to strengthen our commitment to You. Raise us up to walk with You and to work with You.

I am going to have the two applicants give their own testimonies now: