Monday, December 27, 2021

John 3:16-21 (NASU) Who in the world is saved?


16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

I looked up “world” in several Greek lexicons. The Greek word is kosmos and has several definitions. It can mean the earth, the universe, or the inhabitants of the world or even a smaller subset of people. An interesting side note is that the word didn’t always have these various definitions. According to Homer and Plato it meant “order” or “ornament or adornment.” Plato in later writings and other later uses started using it as world in the sense of an ordered system. 1 Peter 3:3 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes” is the only place it is not translated as world but uses the older definition or adornment.[1]

·       Did God love the world i.e., the planet so much that he sent Jesus?

·       Did God love the world i.e., the orders of society or other institutions so much that he sent Jesus?

·       Did God love the world i.e., all the people on the planet so much that he sent Jesus?

·       Did God love the world i.e., all unbelievers so much that he sent Jesus? (Redundant with the previous because we were all unbelievers at one time or another.)

·       Did God love the world i.e., a subset of the unbelievers so much that he sent Jesus?

How are you going to decide which of these options fit when you find a verse like John 3:16? You can look at different commentaries or books on theology. However, if you want to really know, you only need to look at the Bible and find other versed to find the correct theology. Doing so reveals that the last option is the correct one. This is supported by the following verses, note the emphasis added in each:

·       Luke 19:10 – For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (NASU).

·       Romans 5:8 – But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (ESV).

·       2 Corinthians 5:19 – That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (ESV).

·       1 Timothy 1:15-16 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (ESV).

 All these verses emphasize that Jesus came to save sinners. But the question is whether or not this means all sinners, everyone, everywhere. That would be the casual reading of the verse. But Acts clearly defines who out of all the sinners in the world will believe. And it is only those who believe who will have eternal life so it is obvious that many do not believe and in fact refuse to believe.

·       Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. NIV

In addition to Acts, we have the testimony in Luke that God gives peace to those with whom he is pleased. God is certainly not pleased with everyone. If that were so would not have passages that show evil people are enemies of God.

·       Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" ESV Jesus did not say he came to the earth to bring peace to everyone. Matt 10:34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. ESV

Peace with God comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t come from our trying to be good or performing some sort of liturgical practices.

·       Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. ESV

 We only have peace with God when we are justified by faith. The question has to be raised, is everyone justified by faith?

God gave his one and only Son. This is the will of the Father. It is a sacrifice, and it is one the Jesus fully accepted both as human and divine. The Father didn’t force Jesus to the cross. He willingly went even though he dreaded it. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2 NIV).

I could go on about the one and only Son, but that was covered in chapter 1. We should be aware at this time that Jesus is God incarnate and the second member of the Trinity. We don’t have to keep working through that.

17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

Whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life. Verse 16 explains some vital facts. It indicates that salvation is secure. One you are saved, you will not perish. A believer has eternal life. They don’t have one-year life or ten-year life but eternal life. Every word in God’s word is important. You can’t call it eternal life if you are saved for a few years then fall away and perish. Jesus repeats this in John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (NIV).  Have you ever seen anywhere in Scripture where Jesus didn’t tell the truth?

Verses 16 and 18 elaborate on who is saved, for whom Jesus’ sacrifice is effective. It is effective for everyone who believes. It is not effective for those who do not believe. If it were, then they too would believe. Now if world in verse 16 means all people, then his sacrifice would cover everyone for it would be unjust for God to punish anyone who doesn’t believe. But Jesus also says that unbelievers are already condemned in verse 18.

World is repeated twice in Verse 17. It may be confusing to say that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world. He didn’t have to and the reason he doesn’t have to is made clear in the following verses. Everyone who doesn’t believe is already condemned. Since they are condemned, he doesn’t have to rub their noses in it.

Based on this rather loopy analysis, the world cannot be interpreted to mean everyone on the earth.

·       Verse 16 – it must mean those whom God has called to eternal life – a subset of all sinners.

·       Vs 17 – the first occurrence could be all people or all who are called to eternal life.

·       Vs 17 – the second occurrence must be only those who are called to eternal life.

19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

Why is it that some don’t believe, and others do? Because Jesus is the light; he has come into the world. His light exposes the deeds of darkness. Evil people don’t just ignore Jesus; they actually hate him. They hate him because his very presence exposes their sinfulness as it did with Peter. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8 ESV).

Peter was exposed to Jesus and recognized his sin. If he had not been called by God for salvation, he would have expressed his hatred for Jesus just as the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders did.

On the opposite side of the Jesus haters are those who live by the truth. “What is truth,” Pilate asked (John 18:38). Jesus has told us he is the truth. So those who live by Jesus, those who have him living in them, who are born again by his Spirt are the only ones who can come to the light. Note carefully that verse 21 does not promote salvation by works. It promotes that salvation brings about good works as God works in a person.

[1] Thayer's Greek Lexicon, PC Study Bible formatted Electronic Database, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.

Monday, December 20, 2021

John 2:23-3:15, Miracles, Born Again, God’s Timing

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,  25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man (John 2:23-3:15 NKJV).

     It is interesting that Jesus performed miracles after cleansing the temple. It’s like he is now going full bore into his ministry. The miracles are not recorded but the results are. Many believed in his name. Point – the miracles are not as important as the results, bringing people to saving faith. This is a big problem with some of the current miracle workers. They are doing it to get donations. Sure, some people get saved but you have to wonder what kind of faith they have. The same applies to these that believed in Jesus. As we continue in John, we’ll find out about their faith.

     Jesus would not commit himself to them. He didn’t trust them and wasn’t about to let the crowd try to maneuver the direction of his ministry. He knew what was in them. At this point, I take this to mean that they were wanting to follow him because of miracles to get the things they wanted but didn’t have any deep desire to live godly lives or have a salvific relationship with him. They wanted a conquering Messiah See John 6:15.

     This is the setting for Nicodemus’ visit. Jesus doing miracles, people believing in him for something, and Jesus being cautious about it all.

3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

     I hear a lot about how Nicodemus came at night because he was afraid of being seen talking to Jesus. Afraid of his position, his reputation and being a teacher of Israel, he was supposed to be able to root out any imposter. There is credibility to this thought. But I don’t think his only reason was out of fear of being seen, but humility. Look at all the other instances in Scripture where the Jews and Jesus butted heads. It was all in public. If he wanted to confront Jesus or test him to show that he was not the Messiah, he would have come during the day and publicly to get the accolades for doing his job.

     If he came during the day and in public, he would not have the opportunity to get answers and have a true dialog. No, coming by night was the only way he could have a good face to face with Jesus, away from the crowds. He came to learn, not confront. That’s the way we need to come to Jesus, to his word.

     Nicodemus’ confession includes all the leaders. While he personally may have believed this, it is interesting he said, “We.” Whether the rest of the council agreed with him is up for speculation, but their recognition that a miracle worker must have God with him was probably true at this time. Though they didn’t understand how God was with him and what God was going to do with him.

     The conflicts with the Jewish leaders grow as Jesus’ ministry grows. It isn’t automatically full-blown antagonism. The same the same thing happens with each of us. We are reasoning creatures and often change our opinion as we gather more information, or we become stauncher in our opinion.

3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

     Jesus immediately deflects the praise and gets to the heart of the issue. The miracles are peripheral. At the center is the kingdom of God. Believing that the miracles attest to Jesus having God with him is not enough to enter the kingdom of God.

     Born again. This is new. The Old Testament didn’t have this concept of being born again from above. While there were plenty of verses that talked about God giving us a new heart, this would have been something quite strange to Nicodemus. So he naturally talks of physical birth.

     The word for again is translated more often as “from above” than “again.” Also, from top to bottom and from the beginning. It shouldn’t surprise us that Nicodemus didn’t understand. We would not have either.

     Of course, Jesus used this word to teach. As Steve Lawson clearly teaches, Jesus is using it to explain that those who enter the kingdom of God can only do so when God works in their lives. When He causes their spirits to be born. It is the Holy Spirit who moves and regenerates those who are chosen for salvation. We have no idea who they are until they show signs of a new birth. Even then we sometimes can be fooled by imposters.[1]

4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"

     Nicodemus is stuck in the physical world. Being teacher of Israel, he should have been more aware of the spiritual implications that Jesus was explaining. However, the Holy Spirit had not yet opened his mind.

     Jesus’ rebuke about not understanding these things shows that Nicodemus and, in fact, all the Jews should have been able to see this from the Old Testament. Jesus is telling him that he isn’t born again because he didn’t understand. So Jesus goes back to physical metaphor of the wind representing the Holy Spirit. He should have understood this. It was clear. The Holy Spirit works in ways we don’t know. He enlightens our eyes when and where he chooses. We can’t predict it, but we can certainly see the results. So far, Nicodemus has not shown the enlightenment that comes from the Holy Spirit.

10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?  11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.  12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

     Jesus now switches from “I say to you” to “we speak.” He isn’t teaching this from his own human knowledge but from the Father and what he knows as being part of the Trinity. He is clearly telling Nicodemus that he is the Messiah, the Son of Man described in Daniel.

     He is telling Nicodemus that he must look to Jesus and believe in him if he is ever to be saved. He gives him clues about what will happen, his crucifixion without which there would not be eternal life for anyone. These words must have stuck with him as he attempted to give Jesus a fair trial in John 7:50 but was shut down by the others in the council. Then he finally comes forward in John 19:39 to help bury Jesus. It is all in God’s timing. The wind of the Holy Spirit finally blew on Nicodemus.

     Is today God’s Timing for you? Has the Holy Spirit blown on you so that you understand who Jesus is? Do you understand that you must do more than acknowledging that you believe about Jesus but must surrender to his sovereign rights over you? Do you realize that your ability to do this comes from the Holy Spirit working in you before you can make a decision to follow Jesus? Finally, if you are willing and want to surrender to Jesus, then you have been born again. If you haven’t already, then make it formal by praying for forgiveness for your sins, committing to repentance, and surrendering to Jesus as your Lord.

Monday, December 13, 2021

John 2:13-22 Cleansing, Zeal, Reformation


John 2:13-22 (NIV)

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.

    To understand what is going on, we need to look at the Passover in the Old Testament. This is one of the feasts that required every male to come to Jerusalem. Passover was part of the Feast of Unleavened bread. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26, regarding bringing tithes to the temple, they were told that they could sell their tithes of animals, grain, produce, and then buy whatever they wanted then present it at the temple. Part of the reason for this is that these feasts included eating and drinking and therefore they had to buy the produce and not just give the money.

    In particular, at the Passover, those who arrived from a long distance had to buy a lamb. All sacrifices of animals had to be without blemish and the priests were the ones who determined if an animal was fit for the sacrifice.

    The requirements to bring regular offerings and the offerings’ physical requirements is what led to the abuse in the temple that Jesus was addressing. 1) The priests would only accept offerings that were bought from their cohorts. 2) The prices for these unblemished offerings were exorbitant. 3) People who brought money from other nations had to exchange the money for the local currency – another place that the established hierarchy could gouge the people. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was that they were doing all this inside the temple courts.

    How do we apply this to our lives and the church?

    We should not come to church with the idea of networking with people to make money. I haven’t seen this for a while, but people from one particular multilevel company used to be really good at this. They met people, invited them to their system and made a lot of money while the lower echelon paid the pipers. It still happens with other companies also, insurance sales and people trying to peddle their business.

    Churches have an obligation not to be distracted by things such as making money. Selling things to the congregation like books etc. except to cover expenses of providing them.

    Churches and pastors should never be in the position of selling indulgences such as the Catholic church has done, or prayer cloths with blessings attached. All these things are distorting and undermining what the church is all about. This is not to say we should never let people know what we do for a living. We should be offering our businesses to other and using the businesses of others in the church but not for inordinate gain or expectation of deep discounts. If anything, we should be giving our church family the best deal possible. The abuse comes when the main reason for going to church is to get business, not to worship God.

15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

    Take note of how he dispersed the marketeers in the temple. We know that Jesus is sinless and it is demonstrated in this action. He chased the people and animals out. They would be able to recapture their animals. He scattered the money changers coins. They could pick them up again. But the doves, which would have flown away not to be seen again, he made them take them out. No one suffered loss at this action.

    There are times when we need to “cleanse the temple.” Had Luther caved to the political pressure of his time, the Reformation may have been delayed. It would have come, but it would have come by someone else (Est 4:14). If we see something within our churches or our society that needs to be reformed to biblical principles, we must weigh how important our position is. Is it something that needs to be said to raise awareness of other Christians or confront a serious issue in society? Or is it simply causing more uproar in a world of uproar? Is this something that should be kept between you and God (Rom 14:22) or is it something that requires a confrontation such as Paul had with Peter (Gal 2:11-21). Reforming the church always brings controversy but sometimes it is necessary. It should never be taken lightly. Reforming is not revolution but bringing it back to biblical standards.

17 His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

    John quotes from Psalm 69:9 about Jesus’ zeal. What I find even more interesting is the two verses preceding it.

For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face.  I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother's sons; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me (Ps 69:7-9 NIV)

    This is like a forecast of Jesus’ ministry. The leaders scorn him and, had he not been sinless, surely it would be deemed as shame. His brothers certainly rejected him as the Messiah and taunted him (John 7:2-5).

    Part of the reason that Christians are scorned and taunted about their faith is their zeal for living godly lives. You never (or hardly ever) see Christians being persecuted or singled out as crazy if they are blending in with the rest of society and doing the same thing they are.

18 Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"

    Then enter the Jews again to demand some proof to have the right to do as he did. The religious establishment doesn’t like it when Christians go against their traditions or expectations of what is proper. They were pretty sure that they wouldn’t get one. It was simply their way of trying to intimidate Jesus. It isn’t any different than unbelievers who say they won’t believe in Jesus unless they get a sign. It is an excuse to cover up their own sinful desire to remain in control of their rebellion from God. Had the Jewish leaders really wanted to know where Jesus got his authority, they would only have to go back and ask John the Baptist again. He had already pointed them in the right direction, and they had rejected it.  

19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."  20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

    Jesus’ response is of course recognized by us and stated by John as a reference to his resurrection. However, had we been there at that time we would have been as confused about his statement as the Jews were. We need to be careful about condemning those who are not yet saved. They don’t have the Holy Spirit and they don’t know Scripture. They operate on human reasoning and that is always dangerous. We need to be careful not to operate on human reasoning also. For Proverbs 28:26 says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (ESV).

    It isn’t until we have had our minds renewed by the Holy Spirit that we can understand Jesus. The disciples didn’t understand it at the time, so why should the Jewish leaders? Just as Nicodemus was stuck thinking about physically being born again, so these were stuck in the physical and couldn’t see the spiritual.

    We must work diligently developing our spiritual vision. As Paul said, “We fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Cor 4:18 NLT). We can only do this when the treasures of our hearts are in heaven (Luke 12:34). Then we will not need any physical signs to convince us.