You are currently browsing the daily archive for July 16, 2011.

Again, another New Testament passage omitted from the standard three-year Lectionary.  Yet we need to hear what John the Baptist says as he heralds Christ, now also in Judea.

This passage, along with the other Forbidden Bible Verses — also essential to our understanding of the Bible — is beautiful.  John the Baptist tells those with him — and us — about Jesus’s divinity and of God’s sovereignty.  I do not understand why these verses are not part of public worship in Catholic and mainline Protestant churches.

Today’s passage is from the King James Version.  Commentary is from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John 3:31-36

31He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

 32And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

 33He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

 34For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

 35The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

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

———————————————————————————————-

In last week’s post we looked at verses 18-22, the end of Jesus’s rebuke of Nicodemus on the matter of disbelief through the darkness of sin versus faith in the light of Christ.  If you haven’t yet read it, it’s a passage that you won’t want to miss.

Today’s post continues with the historical transition from John the Baptist’s prophecy and ministry to Jesus’s.  Verse 22 tells us that Jesus would be leaving Jerusalem for Judea to walk among the people there and baptise them.  He has left the big city with its intellectuals, scholars and legalists for the villages and countryside where John the Baptist has been.  This is the only historical biblical account of the timeline between the last Old Testament-style prophet — the first in 400 years — and the arrival of the Son of God as an adult in the midst of the people.

Preceding these verses was a passage featuring a debate on purification (verse 25).  It involved John the Baptist and at least one other Jew. Translations differ; John MacArthur believes it was one instead of several, although the plural could collectively refer to the one Jew questioning and other Jews who were followers of John the Baptist.  In verse 26 they announce to John that Jesus is now in the same vicinity.

John the Baptist’s disciples do not really grasp that his work is only to foretell the coming of Christ amongst them.  They are of the mistaken impression that two concurrent and competing ministries are in play.  So, John the Baptist explains what God sent him to do: proclaim Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.  In verse 30, John the Baptist explains that his ministry will be drawing to a close in favour of Jesus’s:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

That means the amount of activity and followers that John the Baptist has must move to Jesus.  And now Jesus is there to meet them and to baptise them via his disciples (John 4, coming soon in another post).

In verse 31, John the Baptist uses two expressions twice: ‘He that cometh from above / heaven is above all’.  He is referring to Christ in a way that indicates to the crowd, ‘Don’t follow me anymore, follow Him.  He is now amongst you.’  This will be John the Baptist’s last message.

John MacArthur notes that a formal transition is part of Jewish tradition, and this might have been another example.  This is what he has to say about Jewish weddings in reference to verse 29, where John the Baptist discusses the bridegroom and the friend of the bridegroom, the best man:

You say, “What is this all about?” Well John says I am the best man, see. In Hebrew weddings it’s very interesting. The shoshpen(?) or the friend of the bridegroom took the hand of the bride. Not for long. His job was to put the hand of the bride into the hand of the bridegroom, a little ceremony that ended up the marriage. And then they were sent into the bridal chamber, the party was over, everybody went home. That was the climax of the wedding. When the shoshpen took the hand of the bride, placed it in the bridegroom’s hand and his job was done, he just faded out. That was it. And John says that’s me. Jesus Christ is pictured here as the bridegroom, Israel like a bride. John says I’ve taken the hand of the bride, put it in the hand of the groom, I’m done, goodbye. I’m going to sit around and say, “Oh, I want to be the groom.” I want to go, I’m done and it’s my joy to do that. The best man doesn’t stand around crying, at least not normally. It may have happened. But he did his job.

In verse 32, John the Baptist laments that few people are really listening to Jesus and accepting Him as their Messiah, their Saviour.  He says ‘no man’, but by then, a number of people believed in Him; it’s just that the number was statistically insignificant, when viewed in terms of who He was.  The numbers should have been far greater, and this is what John the Baptist is attempting to convey.  ‘He is Lord of all,’ he is saying, ‘He is truly the Son of God, as God the Father promised to you.’  We saw this refusal to believe in my analyses of John 5, where Jesus Himself tells the Jewish hierarchy who He is and still they remain obstinate: John 5:18-23, John 5:24-30 and John 5:31-47.

In verse 33, John the Baptist says that whoever believes in Jesus truly believes in God.  This verse and verse 36 are particularly important to us today.  How many of us know people — nominal Christians — who say, ‘I believe in God.’  Yet, they do not believe in His Son.  John the Baptist is saying that if you do not believe in Jesus, then you don’t really believe in God.

Matthew Henry says (emphases mine):

The gospel of Christ is not a doubtful opinion, like an hypothesis or new notion in philosophy, which every one is at liberty to believe or not; but it is a revelation of the mind of God, which is of eternal truth in itself, and of infinite concern to us.

Anyone who believes in God but has a tough time believing in Jesus must pray for help to turn this around, because Scripture tells us that denying Jesus — and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32) — are grounds for eternal damnation.

On the use of ‘seal’ in verse 33, Matthew Henry explains:

By believing in Christ we set to our seal, First, That God is true to all the promises which he has made concerning Christ, that which he spoke by the mouth of all his holy prophets; what he swore to our fathers is all accomplished, and not one iota or tittle of it fallen to the ground, Lu. 1:70, etc. Acts 13:32, 33. Secondly, That he is true to all the promises he has made in Christ; we venture our souls upon God’s veracity, being satisfied that he is true; we are willing to deal with him upon trust, and to quit all in this world for a happiness in reversion and out of sight. By this we greatly honour God’s faithfulness. Whom we give credit to we give honour to.

John MacArthur says:

If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you believe the truth about God. And if you believe the truth about God, you must believe in Jesus Christ. Why? Because God said that is My beloved Son. Now either you believe it or you don’t. So don’t say, “Well, I believe in God, and I certainly have been a believer in God, all my life I’ve been a believer in God.” I hear this all the time, it’s ringing around in my head. No you don’t believe in God unless you believe in Christ who is the full expression of God. If you believe in a God less than the true God, you don’t believe in God at all. So a man who believes the truth about God and rejects the truth about Christ is kidding himself.

This ties in with verse 34.  John the Baptist says that He whom God sent speaks God’s words and has the presence of the Holy Spirit — all the time.  Man, because of his innate depravity, has the Holy Spirit speaking through him only on occasion.  Sin gets in the way.  But Jesus is perfect.  He and His heavenly Father are in perfect agreement on everything.  If you hear Jesus speak or see Him act, it is watching God at work.  Note John 5:19, where Jesus says:

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

‘Likewise’, meaning not ‘in a similar manner’ but ‘exactly the same’.

There is another aspect to that verse, not dissimilar, but pertaining to the prophets.  They, too, had the Holy Spirit, but not in as perfect a way as Jesus.  So, John the Baptist is saying that as venerable and blessed as they were, they were servants of God, whereas Jesus is the Son of God.

The next verse — 35 — is a treasure to read and upon which to meditate:

The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

Keep in mind verse 33 and the following one, verse 36, when you do so.

In verse 36, John the Baptist says that his followers — and we — must believe in Jesus in order to merit eternal life.  If we do not, we will incur the ‘wrath of God’, culminating in eternal damnation.  Note the words ‘shall not see life’.  This is not a temporary punishment. Nor is this verse a universalist proclamation saying we’ll get to Heaven whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  No, we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and put our faith in Him.

As Matthew Henry explains:

He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life. Note, 1. It is the character of every true Christian that he believes on the Son of God; not only believes him, that what he saith is true, but believes on him, consents to him, and confides in him. The benefit of true Christianity is no less than everlasting life; this is what Christ came to purchase for us and confer upon us; it can be no less than the happiness of an immortal soul in an immortal God. 2. True believers, even now, have everlasting life; not only they shall have it hereafter, but they have it now. For, (1.) They have very good security for it. The deed by which it passeth is sealed and delivered to them, and so they have it; it is put into the hands of their guardian for them, and so they have it, though the use be not yet transferred into possession. They have the Son of God, and in him they have life; and the Spirit of God, the earnest of this life. (2.) They have the comfortable foretastes of it, in present communion with God and the tokens of his love. Grace is glory begun.

Pray to Jesus, ask for His help, receive Him in Holy Communion and, as Matthew Henry says, really confide in Him.  He is there for us, today and always.

Next week: John 4:1-4

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