You are currently browsing the daily archive for January 14, 2012.

This post ends our study of passages from the Gospel of John which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary, making them part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to our understanding of Holy Scripture.

The remaining chapters are in the Lectionary, read during Holy Week and Eastertide, with one exception — John 20:19-31 — which I wrote about in 2010. (At that time, I was choosing passages at random as I came across them.) It’s another memorable reading which deserves our attention.  It tells the story of Doubting Thomas and ends with these beautiful verses:

Why This Gospel Was Written

 30Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

 31but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Next week, I shall begin studying John’s letters to his own flock. These come after Peter’s letters and before Jude’s near the end of the New Testament. He has much to say about the importance of obeying Jesus’s commandments and avoiding false teachers.

Today’s passage comes from the King James Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (here and here).

John 16:25-33

25These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.

 26At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:

 27For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

 28I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.

 29His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.

 30Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

 31Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?

 32Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

 33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

————————————————————————————

In last week’s post on John 16:16-24, which took place after the Last Supper, just before Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane for His final hours prior to His arrest, He told the Apostles that He would soon be leaving them. Yet, their sorrow would be turned to joy. He also instructed them to pray — make their heavenly requests — in His name.

Today’s verses conclude that discourse and elaborate on the Christian themes of faith, hope and love.

Readers well acquainted with John’s Gospel and those who have been reading it through this series for the first time will know by now that the Apostles had a childlike faith. They did not understand much of what Jesus taught them. Consequently, He had to express teachings in simpler ways that they could understand.  Even then, His attempts were not completely successful.

He alludes to this in verse 25, telling them that although He had to speak in ‘proverbs’ — here meaning parables and analogies — the time was coming when this would no longer be necessary. He means that the descent of the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost would open their minds to a greater understanding of divine truth.

In verse 26, Jesus adds that at that point they can begin to make their own requests of God the Father — in His name (John 16:24). Heretofore, Jesus petitioned God on their behalf. As John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

you don’t need Me, you don’t need to come to Me as it were and have Me beg God, just go in My name‑you belong to Me, and He loves Me so much that whatever you ask in My name for My sake He’ll do it for you. We come into the presence of God and are received as He would receive His own Son, do you know that? That’s a fantastic thought. You have the instant and total access to God’s presence as a Christian.

Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to follow the Roman Catholic practice of asking Mary to ask Jesus to ask God for our needs.  We go, as an Episcopalian acquaintance of mine put it to me many years ago, ‘straight to the Source’.

Jesus explains (verse 27) that God loves us especially because we have loved His Son and believe that God sent Jesus to us.

In verse 28, Jesus repeats what He has said many times before throughout this Gospel narrative: He came from God the Father into our world. However, His kingdom is not of our world, hence, He will be returning to His heavenly home to rejoin His Father.

The Apostles say that they have understood what Jesus has just said (verse 29), although, as those who read the following chapters of John will see, their understanding is still naive and imperfect. They desert Him in His time of need and flee the scene.

In typical human hubris they add that they understand Jesus’s full divinity (verse 30).

Jesus, in His divinity, knows what will happen next and, in verse 31, asks, essentially: ‘Do you really believe that?’ He adds (verse 32), that the time — the ‘hour’ of which He has spoken so frequently in this Gospel — has now come.  And, He tells them plainly that they will run away and hide out of fear. They will be afraid of being arrested as accomplices against the authorities — religious and secular. Each will go his own way — every man for himself — to hiding places in Jerusalem in a quest for survival and self-preservation. Meanwhile, Jesus, whom they have called ‘Lord’ and ‘Master’, will be alone before meeting His horrifying fate.

Yet, Jesus adds that, as terrible as the ensuing events are, He will not truly be alone. His Father will be with Him throughout his suffering and death on the Cross.

He concludes (verse 33) by saying that He has taken the time to give this discourse to the Apostles in order that they be encouraged to carry on His message and that, whatever happens, they should recognise that they have peace in Him.  The world will treat them mercilessly — some would die as martyrs for the faith — but as He will die for the sins of the world, He will have overcome sin.  And so shall we if we believe in Him.

At this point, you might say, ‘That’s all well and good, Churchmouse, but what about me sitting and reading this today? What is it telling me except a story about Jesus and the Apostles?’

There are a few important messages which all of us can take away.  Matthew Henry says that reading small amounts of Scripture and absorbing what it says can help those new to the faith:

These two great truths are here, [1.] Contracted, and put into a few words. Brief summaries of Christian doctrine are of great use to young beginners. The principles of the oracles of God brought into a little compass in creeds and catechisms have, like the beams of the sun contracted in a burning glass, conveyed divine light and heat with a wonderful power. Such we have, Job 28:28; Eccl. 12:13; 1 Tim. 1:15; Tit. 2:11, 12; 1 Jn. 5:11; much in a little. [2.] Compared, and set the one over against the other. There is an admirable harmony in divine truths; they both corroborate and illustrate one another; Christ’s coming and his going do so. Christ had commended his disciples for believing that he came forth from God (v. 27), and thence infers the necessity and equity of his returning to God again, which therefore should not seem to them either strange or sad. Note, The due improvement of what we know and own would help us into the understanding of that which seems difficult and doubtful.

He also advises us not to be too harsh on friends and associates who desert us in our time of need:

The disciples had continued with Christ in his other temptations and yet turned their back upon him now; those that are tried, do not always prove trusty. If we at any time find our friends unkind to us, let us remember that Christ’s were so to him … Christ knew before that his disciples would thus desert him in the critical moment, and yet he was still tender of them, and in nothing unkind. We are ready to say of some, “If we could have foreseen their ingratitude, we would not have been so prodigal of our favours to them;” Christ did foresee theirs, and yet was kind to them.

Furthermore, we would do well to remember that our comfort in this life is never assured, which is another reason to ensure that we further our relationship with Christ during the good moments so that we can be assured that He is with us in times of crisis:

When our faith is strong, our love flaming, and our evidences are clear, yet we cannot infer thence that to-morrow shall be as this day. Even when we have most reason to think we stand, yet we have reason enough to take heed lest we fall … The hour was already come, in a manner, when they would be as shy of him as ever they had been fond of him. Note, A little time may produce great changes, both concerning us and in us.

Some of my secular readers find Buddhism and other Eastern religions attractive. I, too, dabbled in Buddhism even though I was attending church regularly. The quest for ‘inner peace and stillness’ attracted me. But, at the end of the day, Buddhism didn’t adequately address the world to come, certainly when compared to Christianity. Yet, it is no wonder, in this age of death, destruction and inhumanity, that we turn to existentialism and nihilism — then, perhaps, to the ‘nothingness’ offered by some Eastern faiths. In our unbelief, we Westerners develop a certain hardness of heart and mind towards almost everything, even if we don’t think so. And we see that followers of some other world religions are subjects of perpetually angry, impersonal gods whom they must appease at every turn.

Yet, the Christian — and the person new to the faith who asks of Christ, ‘I believe, Lord, help my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24) — has the adoption by God the Father through the belief in His Son. John MacArthur explains in this sermon:

That’s philet, philet is a family love, it’s a deep affection, In the Greek form is a duative present, you know, it’s a continual. God just keeps on really having a deep affection for you. Now He loves in a divine sense the whole world, right, John 3:16. But He has a really deep, warm, fatherly caring affection for those who love Jesus. And that’s why He hears and answers their prayers. They’re part of the family. He cares for them. God loves all men, then with a divine love, but He has a special deep intimate warm love for those who love Jesus. I like both those loves, don’t you? I mean, I’m glad He loves me with a universal divine love because that love made Him give me Christ … You’re worth something to God. You’re the highest prize that He ever claimed in the universe, do you know that? When the angels fell, He never redeemed them. When men fell, He set everything in motion in the universe to redeem those men back

So many Christians have the idea that God has a whip, you know, that He’s after them, and that it’s a horrible brow‑beating existence … “Don’t do that or God won’t like you.” Oh, that’s terrible to say that‑that’s a lie. If you’re a Christian God likes you. He doesn’t like you because of you … He likes you in spite of you anyway. (Laughter) So many Christians are beaten down with inferiority feelings and persecution complexes and feelings of inadequacy and nobody likes me, you know, and kind of down‑in‑the‑mouth. Get it into your head‑‑God likes you a lot if you’re a Christian. He has a deep, warm, tender loving Fatherly affection for you. If you have a saving love for Jesus, if you believe that Jesus came from God, if you believe the redemptive plan in Jesus if you’ve given love for Jesus Christ, God has a love for you that is deep and warm and it is real, and it is personal, and it is intimate.

And as His adopted sons and daughters, we shall come to enjoy eternity with Him in all glory.  Our comfort as Christians comes not in this life but in the next.

For those who have not been raised in a Christian home, the message of faith, hope and love is a strange one. Today’s secular culture makes it even more difficult to fathom. In this sermon from the early 1970s, John MacArthur recounts a story from his days in prison ministry in Mississippi (therefore, possibly the 1960s):

This is the worth of man … And to show you how important it is that a man feel his worth, we came across one boy who…who had devalued himself tremendously all through his life.  He had never had a family.  He didn’t know who his mother was, or who his father was, lived in orphanages and been passed around and he had acquired the name Saddy somewhere along the line.  And we were talking to him and he said his name was Saddy and that’s all, just Saddy.  They had given him a last name but all he ever knew was Saddy cause he was always sad.  He said, “There is no God, God doesn’t love me, nobody loves me.  All that you’ve been preaching and talking about is a lie.  We spent about 45 minutes with him and he came out of this room after he had talked to one of the young men who was on our little team and he had a smile from ear to ear and he was just beaming, you know.  And he ran over to me and he grabbed my hand and he started pumping it, and pumping it and saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” …  

He said, “I learned that God loves me and you love me.” 

See, I’ll never forget those words.  And it transformed his life because all of a sudden he had some value.  All of a sudden he mattered.  God loved him.  No wonder men feel the meaninglessness of life if there’s no loving God.  If you want to cross out God, if you want to X out God, you’ve got no reason to exist and you’re…you’ll know nothing but waste.  To be loved is the crown of life.  To be loved is the chief clue to the meaning of existence and that’s really where it all begins.

In fact, the Bible says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and you can’t really love your neighbor unless you love yourself.  You can’t estimate him correctly unless you have the right valuation on your own life.  You’re priceless to God.

In another story from that sermon, MacArthur illustrates that even simple conversation can generate a life-changing conversion:

Daniel Poling [clergyman and one-time editor of the Christian Herald] tells an experience that a man named Channing Pollock who was a playwright related to him.  Mr.  Pollock was … one evening collaborating with another author.  Pollock and he were working on a play.  And late one night in Pollock’s apartment in New York, they had been working into the wee hours of the morning and something in their conversation caused the friend of Pollock to ask him a question.  He said to him, “Have you ever read the New Testament?”  Pollock admitted that he hadn’t ever read the New Testament and they continued to work and didn’t say anything more about it.

After the friend had left in the early hours of the morning, Pollock couldn’t sleep because he kept thinking of the question, “Have you ever read the New Testament?”  Finally, getting out of bed and searching through his books, he found an old New Testament.  He sat down and he read straight through the gospel of Mark, which presents Jesus Christ, of course.  And after reading it he walked the streets of Manhattan until dawn.  

When he returned to his apartment exhausted, he related to Dan Poling that he said, “I found myself on my knees passionately in love with Jesus Christ”.  Now, see, that’s the commitment of faith.  It’s all right just to believe, that’s the beginning.  But to be passionately in love with Jesus Christ is the essence of real saving faith.  That’s the nitty-gritty.

If you’ve read this far, my sincere thanks. In conclusion, were you to ask me what books of the Bible you should read first, I would say the Gospels of Mark and/or John in the New Testament. Many men gravitate towards Mark, from what I have read. Then, I would recommend Acts.  For wise and timeless guidance on everyday life, go to the Old Testament and read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. May God bless those seeking to know our Lord Jesus Christ better, and may they find true peace through faith in Him.  In Jesus’s name we pray.

Next week: 1 John 2:3-11

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