RSS

John 1:18 – The Begotten

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. – John 1:18 KJV

In John 1:17 the bridge between the law and grace is explained.  Moses knew that grace and truth were part of God’s character (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15).  The attributes of God in the Old Testament are manifest and fully disclosed in Christ Jesus, the Incarnate Word.  Yet, even Jesus said in John 5:46-47, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”  Moses wrote about Christ?  Yes, He did.  This is so important for folks to see that Jesus is God.  He was not ‘God’s only begotten Son’ as some call Him.  He was ‘the begotten’ of God which is very different.  Begotten does not mean ‘born’ of God.  Christ was God.  The Father sent his very heart to us in a package of flesh.  F.F. Bruce said, “What God was, the Word was.”

This truth is duly important because it corresponds to the parable of the rich man in Luke 12.  As the rich man was in torment, Lazarus was ‘in the bosom’ of Abraham (the friend of God).  When he requests that Abraham send someone to warn his brothers, what did Abraham say?  “They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them hear them.”  John the Beloved is diligent in proving that from the writings of Moses to the end of the prophetic age, Christ was written about well before His coming.  If those who were seeking did not believe Moses or his writings, how could they, or would they believe God himself?

In verse 18, the Christ reveals the Father to us.  No man has seen God.  Even Moses had not seen God face-to-face.  Rather, he was allowed to see the afterglow of His glory.  A sight so awesome that Moses was changed from that moment.  The impact of this vision reflected in his physical appearance that others would also know Moses had an experience (Exodus 32:22, 33:20, 34:10, Numbers 12:8).  The glory that was too awesome for Moses to behold came and walked among men and women.

The term used here is monogenës theos that translates ‘God only begotten’ or ‘the only begotten’  —> God alone.

Verse 18 is a repeat of the truth found in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  His very logos, the essence of all that God is, came and dwelt among men.  The begotten exists in the Father’s bosom:  the heart of the Father.  Only one who knows God fully can make him fully known.

No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. – (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22).

Exëgeomai – to tell or to narrate (the root of the word ‘exegesis’)

In John 1:18 this word is used to describe Christ and the same language is used in Luke’s writings (Luke 24:35; Acts 10:8; 15:12,14; 21:19).  Jesus is the exegete of  Father-God.  He declares Him, which is why he is called the “Ultimate Prophet”.  The Old Testament prophets declared the Lord and served as the messengers or ‘mouth piece’ of God.  Jesus WAS God.  He ends the prophetic era by coming in the flesh and declaring HIS words directly to humankind.  The same that was declared by prophets of old is confirmed by the words of Christ.

For thousands of years, people have attempted to distort these truths.  Just a few weeks ago, a Muslim group in Columbus, Ohio purchased a billboard advertisement stating, “Jesus is Muslim.”  This is false on two fronts:  historically and scripturally.  Islam did not form as a religion until 600-700 A.D.  Christ’s life, death, and resurrection predates the Islamic faith by hundreds of years.  False advertising is nothing new.  People do it all the time.  The unfortunate part is that many who do not research may drive by this billboard and believe it.  Perhaps they were never interested in history itself?  They have no desire to read about the ancients.  For this reason, they are easily deceived.

(Note:  As of April 7, 2014, those billboards were taken down in Columbus after a demonstration by Christians.  Link:  http://www.westernjournalism.com/jesus-muslim-billboard-taken/)

This advertising just before the Easter holiday is at cross purposes for the Islamic push to end Easter Egg hunts in communities and forbid their children to participate in celebrations of Jesus.  One Muslim man told his stepson that Easter was ‘devil worship’ and they would not observe this holiday in their home.  How will they explain this billboard when they attempt to end Easter celebrations?  Is anyone researching?  No one may pick up on this piece of false advertising because folks do not stay informed enough to know.  Thankfully, the billboards were removed.  How many read them and believed before it was taken down?

The same is true of Christians who fail to study and cannot give a reason for the hope that they have in Christ.  Without studying, it is easy to be deceived.  John the Beloved took the time to explain the Christ to us.  His prologue (vv. 1-18) contains sufficient information that you could read these 18 verses and come away with enough evidence for someone to make a decision about Christ.  John did his homework.  He gave good reasons for his hope in Christ.  In modern terms, these verses might read like this.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hereby present to you, the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the begotten of God.  His very Logos and Incarnate Word is all powerful, made all things, and came in the flesh to dwell among us.  He declares the Creator-God to us; in that, when He speaks God speaks.  He speaks Life.  Grace and truth come by Him and through Him.  Know this and rejoice, dear reader.  Your Messiah has come!  Look to Moses and remember His writings.  Look at the life and ministry of this man called Jesus of Nazareth.  He is the branch!  Salvation has come to us.  And, He did not send a substitute or a prophet.  He came in the flesh!

Rejoice in the work John has done in explaining the Logos of God to us.  And, make a commitment today to study the Bible more.  Be able to spot false advertising about Jesus when you see it.

Be blessed!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Bible studies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bridge Over Troubled Water

In my distress, I cried unto the Lord and he heard me.” – Psalm 120:1 KJV 

 

Richard usually does morning chores alone before he wakes me and Jimmy arrives.  A severe weather alert woke me a few days ago.  Heavy winds and rain brings debris with it.  Debris that clogs our bridge and takes the water over the road.  Richard and I have cleaned the bridge works out before.  I tip-toed out of bed, showered, dressed, made coffee for two, and woke Richard.

Everything about that morning was backward!  He always bring ME coffee.  The animals come first so the bridge would be the final task of the morning.  Crossing the sodden earth to the tobacco barn, we both heard the cries of a lamb in trouble.  Its mother was calling for it to return and once round the side, we saw why.  The lamb wiggled its way out of the run-in shed and into the adjoining paddock.  It was foxy enough to sneak out but clueless about getting back to the warmth and safety of its mother.

Lambs are skittish around people unless you have bottle fed them.  They are not trusting and frighten easily.  Richard went into the paddock with the lamb and asked that I walk gingerly along the fence line.  My steps should urge it toward the gate and to safety.  The wee one went a few steps then froze, bleeting at the sight of her mother.  Her cries grew desperate with the mother’s urging.  Just a few more steps to safety and she – stopped.  Her cry for salvation sprang the mother into action.  She bolted through the gate passed Richard to her lamb who immediately began to feed.  A few moments later, we were able to get them back with the flock.

Throughout Scripture, God’s children are referred to as sheep.  And when I looked at that frightened lamb, I saw me.  I was so scared at times that it blinded me to opportunity, to salvation.  Frozen by confusion, paralyzed with fear, we march in place when we should run to our Savior.

Like the little lamb, we are unable to save ourselves.  Our weakened state only complicates things.  The hunger taxes our limbs.  Any movement is a chore.  The Savior hears our cry and bolts through the gate with wild eyes brimming with love and mercy to aid the lost lamb.  When we cannot come to Him, He comes to us as a mother spurred by the cries of her hungry babe.  He fords the golf that separates the soul from salvation and bears the soul over FOR us.  Grafting us to the tree of Life, He lifts our burdens, and fills our souls with nourishment.

Are you feeling locked out of the fold?  Have you wandered and long to be back safe in the arms of love?  Cry out to Him.  He will bolt through the gates and meet you where you are.

<

p style=”color:#333333;”>Be blessed.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Bible studies

 

John 1:17 – Level Ground at the Foot of the Cross

WHY IS THE GROUND LEVEL AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS?
John 1:17

“For the law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”

This verse is straightforward but deep.

LESSON

Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant. God kept His promises and established a New Covenant with humankind: the covenant of grace. Gone are the Old Testament set of laws, which were impossible to keep. No longer is blood sacrifice required to atone for sin; the Lamb of God shed His blood for me. Jesus paid it all and took my place. Now, I walk in the love of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). No one comes to God except through Christ Jesus. Romans 3:9-20 states by the deeds of the Law (good works) no man is or can be just in the sight of God. Our best efforts are not good enough in the presence of a thrice holy Father (Isaiah 64:6).

For believers, this is the gist of the passage here. Is there more to discuss than these simple and very comforting words?

Yes, and I would like to discuss them because naysayers abound in the world. These are the folks who in their attempt to discredit God and the Bible will throw an Old Testament law at you and say, “Oh, well the Bible says to do this too but I don’t see you doing this or that. You eat things that the Bible says are unclean and do everything the book says that you should not. Yet, you tell me that you believe God’s Word and you don’t even do what it says.”

Man has trouble enough maintaining or keeping the norms set by them to judge others (Romans 2:1-3). How can one then keep the law set forth by a divine being whose ways and thoughts are higher than those of humans?

Before Christ became the ultimate substitute the people of Israel lived by the letter of the law (given by Moses) but when Truth came by Jesus Christ, His sacrifice allowed us live by grace through faith in the SPIRIT of the Law. Christ never abolished the law; he established the Law and added to it the Covenant of Grace.

Moral good works and religious good works are filthy rags before God. Salvation is by grace through faith (Acts 16:30-33; Galatians 2:16) and nothing can we do to earn what Christ died to give us freely. And, if it is free then why does man strive so to earn what does not require labor but love (Ephesians 2:8,9)? In Romans 3:24 the word ‘freely’ means “gratis” – there is no cost to us.

Some will tell you to ignore these folks. It is not always wise to ignore them. Most are begging for an informed answer. They heard someone else use the slur and thought it was clever. While the nonbeliever sits there thinking that he has the Christian by the tail, it’s the opposite. The Christian is looking at this person in pity because they aren’t knowledgeable enough to know they’ve been misled by the ‘clever sayings’ of other unknowledgeable people.

As Christians, we should be ready to give ‘a reason for the hope that we have’ in Christ. Unsatisfied with a simple explanation of what God has done for us, seekers inquire about when, who, where, and how. Let’s talk about ‘how’ this is significant.

DIGGING DEEPER

Christ is the Ultimate Prophet and John the Beloved draws upon the writings of Moses from John 1:1-18. HOW is Christ the ultimate prophet? From the time of Moses, God puts His Words on the tongue of a messenger. When Christ came, He was the Word Incarnate – the ultimate and almighty voice of God.

“In the beginning was the Word” letting the reader know that the Word is God, the Word was God, and all things are made by him. By Him, all things consist. John affirms the Deity of Jesus, draws upon Old Testament prophecies and draws us into the attributes of Christ proving He was God. Moses was the first prophet, messenger of God, and the first to record the promise of a Messiah (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:15; John 5:46-47).

Moses is revered as the father of prophecy, the father of the Law. The writer reinforces Jesus is the Christ by reminding Jewish people of the blood atonement required for sin and the promise of a Messiah. It is impossible to keep the Law. The Law was never intended as a substitute for the Messiah; rather, the Law reminds us that we need a Messiah, a substitutionary atonement (Galatians 3:24).

WHY IS THE GROUND LEVEL AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS?

It represents a timeline from the beginning to the end. The mediator/median is Jesus Christ and His substitutionary atonement. All those who followed the Lord and sought righteousness prior to Christ’s Coming were redeemed looking to the Coming of the Messiah (Romans 4:9-11). Those saved during and after Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection are saved looking back on the finished work of Christ.

John 1-17-pic

 

Behind and before, the mediator is Christ. In Him, lies the key to everything past, present, and future. Without him, man unknowingly reduces him or herself to a jumbled ball of nervous impulses and base responses. Why would humankind degrade themselves to such an extent? To what lengths will a man go to justify his sin? Yes, he will even tear off his own face to avoid a holy God whereby He must answer. It does not have to be this way. He came in love.

Do not let your stubborn heart rob you of the greatest gift ever given to us.
Why is it level at the foot of the Cross? It is ground zero for the soul. Anyone can reach this destination. Grace is never beneath or below, never out of reach, but always at hand. It is designed to reach the uttermost and the guttermost but when we stand there, we are all equals in His Love. That is just what is so amazing about grace.

The Christian glories in what we do not deserve, and cannot earn, but in Him, we gain because He loved us and gave Himself for us!

Why is the ground level at the foot of the Cross? It is the ONLY WAY by which we can be saved from eternal damnation. It is the ONLY path. There is no hill to climb or valley to forge. There is no slippery slope with caverns full of goblins whereby we must pass to enter the Celestial City. It is a level and straight road to the grace of God. A road that anyone can find and travel down to meet your Messiah (John 8:24; John 14:6).

This is a walk of faith in Christ or it is nothing at all. He promises to not drive anyone away (John 6:37). It is a free gift and we receive it by faith.

Faith is duly significant here.
1. Faith is the vehicle whereby we believe God’s promises.
2. Faith is the empty hand that accepts the gift without trying to add humanistic morality or religious good works or self-made piety to it.

By GRACE THROUGH FAITH means that we accept the gift as it given not as we think it ought to be.

Meditate on His love and grace right now.. Take off any self-righteous or judging garments worn by your soul. Accept what he offers and do not add anything to it. His gift is ALREADY perfect. It’s the easiest recipe in the world: just add FAITH.

Question:

Is National Israel different from Spiritual Israel? See Romans 9:6 and Romans 9:30-33

Meditate on Romans 3:21-26 this week

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Bible studies

 

Tags: , , , ,

John 1:16 – Wave on Wave

And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace (v. 16).

‘Of his fullness’

The fullness of Christ is intense when we consider all that He is, all that He made, and the divine provision for humankind.  The psalmist David spoke of His fullness many times.  Psalm 24 is a fitting example of David’s thoughts on the subject.  Everyone has memorized Psalm 23 but I challenge you to memorize Psalm 24 this week!

Lake Michigan - Lighthouse

 1 The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. 3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacoba. Selah. 7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates- ; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. (Psalm 24)

Lighthouse Beach - Lake Michigan Rocks

I grew up on the banks of the Ohio River.  This large mud bottom expanse that spills out into the Mississippi River is all this girl knew about large bodies of water until I moved to Chicago in 1985.  I knew a forbidding and deep abyss that everyone heralded but also respected.  It has its own beauty as far as long and winding rivers go but it could not compare to the mysterious beauty of Lake Michigan in Chicago.  At 19, I was invited to Northwestern University for a party.  A group of us went out later and sat on the beach with its majestic boulder lined water front.  The light house intrigued me and the boulders were so high that I couldn’t see the water line from where I stood.  I ran to the rocks and clambered up to watch the waves crash, wave on wave, over and over again.  In that moment, I learned what the word ‘awesome’ meant.  It was no longer a word that my girlfriends used to describe a new outfit.  No, it was more than I understood before.

Lighthouse Beach - waves

I purposed in my heart to reach the light house and took off running across the boulder tops unafraid of what one slip of my foot might mean.  I skipped along anyway.  I ran my heart out until I reached the final boulder at the end.  The shoreline had hidden the divide between the promontory where the lighthouse stands and the rocky shore line on which I ran.  However, I could see all of it, in its majesty, shedding light onto the rocky coastline warning boats of its brief inlet, steering them to safer and deeper waters.  I never forgot the waves and each Winter, I returned to the shoreline.  However, it was always in a different place.

Lighthouse Beach - Lake Michigan

 

Sometimes, I went to Greenwood Beach in Evanston or to Montrose Harbor downtown that held the bragging rights for being the most romantic spot in Chicago.  Greenwood Beach was a long held favorite and I would wait until January or February to go when I could watch that tide roll in frozen on my feet, wave on wave.  Soft white pillows of awesome lining the sandy shore and with each wave another layer of awesome bared its soul.  Years later, more regulations were set and I couldn’t get as far out as I wanted to because of the tide.  Mesmerized by the water, I imagine some could be swept out and never found.  The current was strong.  I admired it but I also had to respect it; it was greater than me, just like God.  And the childlike love and faith offered by that lighthouse long ago reminded me of how swiftly a lost soul runs to God without care or concern.  You just run to the light because on the rocky shores of life, it is the only thing that makes sense!  And, you run your heart out until you are safe in the arms of Jesus.

The True Light

The True Light

It’s hard for me to describe in words what those stolen moments by the lake meant to this mud bottom river girl.  It is even more difficult for me to describe in words all that God is, what is the fullness of the Lord, and the enormity of His grace.  John wasn’t just speaking of the fullness of Christ in that He was fully man and fully God.  He was fully God, fully our Creator, fully HE who set the planets in motion, and gave us our being.  The originator of all things drawn into a tiny package that comes in human form that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.  That we might experience grace – wave on wave!  Who is this King of Glory?  He is the LORD strong and mighty!

For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell…

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of hisa dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that inb all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mindc by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:[1] (Colossians 1:12-24)

Read Colossians 1-2 for a greater blessing.

And grace for grace.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2:5).

In Christ’s sacrifice, we find the purest love that meets the needs of suffering humanity.  The depraved soul finds grace and safety in the loving arms of Jesus Christ.  Burdens are lifted and placed upon the shoulders of One able to bear them for us.  From the foundation of the world, our solace is found in God.  And, the grace extended to those who heed His tender call comes in fervent waves, wave on wave – grace for grace.  The language here presents to me a vast and mighty rolling ocean.  The waves of grace crash on the shores of life; the tide keeps rolling in and when its work is finished, the sins are covered.  Blanketed in the waters of His goodness and mercy.  Some may feel those waves are not high enough to cover the sin they have committed.  However, He is enough!  From the highest to the lowest, His love reaches and eternally proceeds from Him!

I challenge each of you this week to walk onto the shoreline of your life.  Wait for the tide; watch it roll in each night.  Examine your life before the waves of grace took you out to sea and cleansed you of all unrighteousness.  And, each time we miss the mark, there’s another wave of grace!  Right there, waiting for you to step into the water.  He’s right there.  Let Jesus take you and remake you.  If it’s been awhile since you recalled that moment when grace washed over you and filled you with His presence, take time today.  Remember.  Have revival.  Praise Him today because even in the storm, there are waves of grace.

Be blessed!

Digging Deeper
Read Colossians 1-2 and Ephesians 1-4 and meditate on the fullness of Christ before heading to the next lesson.


a O Jacob: or, O God of Jacob

a his…: Gr. the Son of his love

b in…: or, among all

c in…: or, by your mind in

[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Col 1:12-24). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Bible studies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

John 1:12-14 / Part 3 – The Word Became Flesh

John 1:14 – Part 3 / The Word Became Flesh

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.[1]

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…

In God’s sending His very logos, the Word of God to Earth to dwell among us, the move ‘to us-ward’ was made by Him (John 1:14).  From Creation, He moves toward humankind despite Adam and Eve breaking fellowship and creates a means of escape from our terrible plight (Genesis 3:15).  When ‘the Word became flesh’ a promise made became a promise kept and prophecy was fulfilled.  Have you ever loved someone and wished you could take up residence in their body?   A secret compartment where you might hide would come in handy!  If only we could hop inside and zip ourselves up – forever with our love in body and spirit!  My finite mind imagines this deep intimate love mimics the Father’s infinite love for humankind.  Loving us so much that he took up residence in a house of flesh; and, wanting never to leave nor forsake us, He indwells the believer until at last we meet Him in Glory. 

The important word here is dwelt as it has Old and New Covenant significance.  The Greek word σκηνόω [skenoo /skay·no·o appears five times and means, “1 to fix one’s tabernacle, have one’s tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle. 2 to dwell.[2]   This was not the first time God pitched his tent among us.  Each time, the Authorized Version translates it “dwell”.  Other versions translate this “pitched his tent among us” which is a more accurate translation than the KJV’s translation “dwelt”.  A more literal translation of the Greek here points the student back to the Tabernacle (Exodus 25; Exodus 40:34), the Temple (I Kings 6; Isaiah 6:1-3), and the promise that God would return to dwell in the midst of His people (Zechariah 2:10)!  Through verse 14, the writer of this Gospel takes great care in being clear.  Proof again the Christ was the Son of God lies in His ability to don flesh that He might pitch his tent among us.  As the prophet Isaiah declared his name would be Immanuel which means ‘God with us’.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 KJV).

Dr. Oliver Green wrote, “Christ took up His ABODE in flesh; flesh did not become the Word but the Word became flesh…The human nature of Christ Jesus is the ark of the New Testament, uniting the eternal God and man forever.”[3]  Christ Jesus being the God-man or the Second Adam bridges the gap between the natural and the supernatural making salvation possible.  F.F. Bruce writes, “The truth of God incarnate safeguards the Christian doctrine of God the Father and the Christian doctrine of man as well as the doctrine of the person of Christ.”[4]  Without an incarnate Messiah, Christianity is just another religion with a god who is not real but imagined whose powers rise and fall according to the weight the human assigns to each.  Yet, God comes forward and says, ‘let them make me a sanctuary…that I may dwell in their midst.’

(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)

In the book of John, seven witnesses are mentioned (if we include Christ as his own witness).  In the prologue (vv. 1-18) John the Baptist figures prominently as a witness to the Trinity of the Godhead at the baptism of Christ.  The word ‘begotten’ in the Greek does not mean ‘born’.  This word means ‘unique, the only one of its kind’.  

full of grace and truth

The Messiah comes to Earth full of grace and truth.  He does not come to judge the world but to draw sinners to repentance.  How we perceive God matters a great deal.  Is God an ogre or is he a benevolent ruler?  The gospel writer informs us that he is full of grace and truth – there is no lie in the truth.  While truth is proving ground for all souls, the grace of God is our mediator.  In Him, we also find a divine balance.  The truth in our lives may damn us but God’s grace is able to save us.  A beautiful portrait of His grace and truth is displayed in how he deals with the woman at the well.  Christ knew all she’d done beforehand; yet, she confessed anyway.  Christ forgave her and said, “Go and sin no more.”  In Christ’s day, her sins brought the penalty of stoning.  The mercy at the feet of the Father is more gracious than what is given us by other humans.  Time and again, we find the love of Christ displayed in a way that is humanly impossible.  Yes, human beings will say they love unconditionally – until the conditions become game changers.  Then, everyone will agree the game changing circumstance gives the person a right to withdraw affection.  Christ is able to love the unlovely, without reserve or malice, when a human finds that hard to manage once for all.  This is the beauty of Divine Love.  We cannot receive such love other than at the feet of Jesus.

Free Will and Election

The question of free will or election of the saints brings God’s love into question.  Not, in that, it questions that He loves; rather, it questions how He loves and whom He loves.  In my 30 years studying God’s Word, I do believe this argument is born from misunderstanding the concept of election and ‘the elect of God’.  How we define election determines how election is perceived.  To swiftly say that God loves some and not others is grossly inaccurate.  Humanity is His creation.  We are His masterpiece.  To infer, the Creator hates the created defies logic and goes against Scripture and the nature of God (2 Peter 3:9).  When we paint God in such a corner, we have opened the floodgate of scrutiny and delivered humanity a demon instead of the Savior of mankind.  No matter how eloquent our words or proper our dissertations may be, the nonbeliever sees a preferential God with a thirst for blood and destruction.   

The Dutch theologian, Jacobus Armininius, disagreed with John Calvin who wrote, The Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Armininius taught theology at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) and wrote papers openly refuting how Calvin interpreted Romans 9 in the New Testament.  Yet, he never denied there was an elect but demanded that the catechism and the confession be rewritten for the church despite his belief in the elect of God.  His refutations of Calvin despite his fence riding opened the gates for salvation through “justification by faith”.  Both schools embraced salvation by grace; the question became to whom the grace was extended.

Note:  This debate came about from the thoughts of two theologians.  Always bear in mind the Word of God is the final authority on matters.  Theologians merely have opinions or interpretations, which may or may not be consistent with God’s Word.  This writer is also giving her opinion on this heated debate within Christendom.  Always proceed with caution and depend on God’s Word for understanding.

There have always been competing schools of thought concerning the Bible and its message.  Differences of opinion fueled the Renaissance and sparked the Reformation.  And, Calvinists are still fighting the Arminians; and, for what, I ask?  There are many reasons why but one has to wonder if this endless debate is worthy of our time when so many need reached with the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  No one reaches consensus or gracefully concedes; and, in certain circles, this argument remains poker hot.  Someone once said, “What is the view like at 30,000 feet?”  The other man said, “Everything is flat.”  At what point does the bickering between schools of thought seem altogether flat to God? 

In the quest to clarify or defend the Bible and its message have our lives degraded to that which does not glorify Him?  In pursuit of bringing the truth to the masses did the believer lose his/her witness?  Then, one must determine from this distorted witness if truth can grow, spread its seed, and reap a harvest worthy of God?  Arguing a fine point about whether God draws you or you draw near to God matters little really.  The point is whether the soul meets God at all.  One human cannot discern what other humans will accept or reject Christ (or if you prefer, were chosen to accept Him).  No matter what position the believer holds, believers must fulfill the Great Commission.  Adherents to both views are not exempt from spreading the Word that Christ took our place, he was our substitute, and now sits at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us that we too may share in eternal life with Him.  No one is exempt from the command to witness and bear fruit.

If you have accepted Christ, I praise God that you are sheltered safe in the arms of the One who loves more purely than another human ever could (Psalm 91:1,2).  John 6:44 tells us no one comes except the Spirit draw him or her.  Yet, the merciful Lord also tells us in His Word that if we draw near to Him that He will draw near unto us (James 4:4-12).  Which passage is correct?  Both.  God cannot contradict nor deny Himself (see John 2:21; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2).

How can both be true?  I wrestled with this for years because while the Bible is rife with verses that declare the free will of the soul there are an equal number of passages that discuss ‘the elect of God’, souls that are ‘predestined’, and the ‘many who are called but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14).  In that particular parable, we see the calling translates ‘invitation’.  So, the guests receive a divine invitation and ‘many are called’ – this refers to all of humanity.  Not everyone responds but note it is of their own will that they respond but ‘few are chosen’.  Not everyone attends the party and those who decide to show without a wedding garment – covered in the blood of Christ – are not permitted.  Hypocrites who claim to be Christians but have not received Christ will be cast out.  The feast is for God’s children and those who are not clothed in His righteousness and covered by His blood (wedding garment) will not dine at the Lord’s table.  Note also the language of this parable:  ‘many are called…’ and in John 1:12 we see “…as many as received him”.  In both instances, the word ‘many’ refers to ‘everyone’ in these verses.

Can a sovereign God create a human being and give him free will and not interfere in the human’s choice?  If God directs the affairs of mankind, is he a micro- or macro-manager?  All these questions and more must be answered when we wrestle with these concepts. I believed in the free will of the believer for 20 years before embarking on an in-depth study of the works of Arthur W. Pink.  By the end of my study, Pink changed my position.  I was convinced that men were predestined.  Ten years went by and more questions presented themselves.  Changing doctrinal positions is never a tidy affair; there were loose ends.  After a thorough study the last six years, I believe that both are Scriptural.  There is equal Scriptural representation for both views; therefore, I feel it is up to the Christian to find the fork in the road where these views meet. 

The argument of free will versus election hinges on the sovereignty of God, which is just one of God’s attributes.  God is many things.  Studying the attributes of God or the doctrine of God is encouraged for those who wish to dig deeper.  Some believe that if God is absolutely sovereign then one cannot possess free will.  They add that If God absolutely directs the affairs of humankind then what place would human will, or the exercise of it, have?  To be fair, supporters of Arminianism (free will) run the risk of downsizing God with their rhetoric before the debate is finished.  While this is not their intent, the resounding ‘me,me,me’ that comes across in the argument almost drowns out the truth they wish to convey (they are equally supported with Scripture).  Conversely, supporters of Calvinism run the risk of making God an ogre who loves some, not all, and wants to see certain people roast in hellfire. 

Can this be?  The Bible tells us that God is love (I John 4:7,8), that God is good (James 1:13-14), and cannot commit evil acts nor does he tempt any one.  The Calvinist must grapple with the genus of evil and whether God causes a man to sin.  If humans do not possess free will, how does a human sin?  If a sovereign God directs the affairs of men, even their thoughts, then is that which drives a man to sin – God?  The Bible tells us that this cannot be; so, we must take a different path.  We have hit a logical dead end.  Yes, we have because God cannot lie, is truth, does not tempt anyone, and is good. 

The Calvinist feels the Arminian is haughty and blames his approach on the disease called ‘humanism’ infiltrating the Church unbeknownst to many and interpreting Scripture alongside the writings of Plato and Aristotle.  It becomes then not just a matter of Scriptural support but infiltration of humanistic teachings into the Arminian belief system when the Reformers believed in Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).   And, if theological must blame anyone, blame Sir Thomas Acquinas for his lofty ideas regarding intellect.

If you are unfamiliar with the Five Solas, click here:  http://www.theopedia.com/Five_Solas

It is my feeling that theologians past and present have missed the mark.  How we define “election” is the problem many have with election!  The term ‘free will’ appears nowhere in God’s Word but we do find ‘the elect of God’ mentioned many times.  However, the Bible is also clear concerning the will of man, the heart that is deceitfully wicked, the carnal mind, or the natural man.   So, if man has a will the Bible tells me this will desires earthly pleasure not heavenly pursuits.  In our Facebook group, a trivia question was posed:  Can you name a predestined person in Scripture who also exercised free will?  Several answered John the Baptist, Moses, Isaac, Daniel, David, Solomon, Samuel – and Samson.  Jonah comes to mind and every prophet of old.  Even the apostle Paul told us that when he willed to do good that evil was present with him.  The apostle James warns believers of that sinful side of ourselves and instructs believers in those works befitting a Christian.  Yes, man has a will but from birth this ‘natural man’ is inclined to his own wants and needs not the pursuit of God. 

The Bible tells us of many lives, called by God from birth to do His will not theirs, and we see those men also exercise their free will.  Even John the Baptist – the man ‘sent from God’ – doubted what He was doing and if Christ was really the Messiah for whom the people had waited and prophecy foretold.  John had a decision to make in prison.  He could either follow Christ and believe in Him unto death or reject the notion out of hand and beg for his release on the grounds of temporary insanity.  John the Baptist could have just as easily betrayed Jesus as Judas Iscariot (much earlier than planned) but he chose to remain faithful.  When your life is on the line, anything is possible.  Even Peter denied Christ three times before the cock crowed.  Was Peter not called?  Did Peter not follow?  Did Peter not receive blessing and instruction from Jesus himself?  Yet, Peter acted on his free will and openly DENIED him only to bitterly repent afterward.  Can both free will and election exist?  Yes, it can.  It does.  It must.  Students of the Word must diligently search the Scriptures to find where free will and election meet just as thoroughly as one researches where Paul and James also meet in their words.  If we fail in this task, we have not just done the body of Christ a disservice; we have done a disservice to God himself and fail in teaching the whole counsel of God.

We cannot ignore what makes us uncomfortable.  We seek to understand truth because the Word is truth.  He cannot deny Himself.  A lie cannot be found in Him.  So, where do these roads meet?  Election is not a means of salvation.  You are not physically born saved, holy, and indestructible; if some were, then Paul lied when he wrote Romans 3:10-23.  If anyone was, Christ had no need to die.  We are born into sin; we are dead in trespasses in sin until we give our lives to God and repent of our sin.  The Bible tells us the human will only desires evil and John 6:44 tells us that no one comes to God except the Spirit draw him.  Yet, Christ begs us “Come unto me”.  How do we get there?  It is true that we do not choose God; he draws us and then we choose Him.  That does not happen except the Word is preached or taught and the Spirit pricks your heart.  And from the blood of your wrongs, silent pain, and agony the sinner finds solace in the blood of Christ shed for him on Calvary because Christ has touched the seeking heart.  The soul then decides to follow or to remain.  Following Christ is a choice just like rejecting him.

The disciples were chosen by God and he said “Follow me”.  Yet, we know the Bible speaks of one rich man called to service by Christ who would not leave his family to follow Him.  When God pricks the heart, we still have a choice to accept or reject like the parable of the wedding feast.  Christ can send as many invitations to our hearts as He likes – that does not mean that we will attend the wedding supper.  Election is not a means of salvation but is “unto salvation.”  When God speaks to the heart, you have been elected for salvation.  He invites all of us.  Our conscience choice is the act of human will.  If it were any other way, then one must conclude that God did not make humans but robots.   Is election Scriptural?  Yes, it is.  Does man have a free will?  Yes, he does.  No, He did not but God is able to save us from our sin; however, He is not obligated to save us from the consequences of our sin (evil).

I hope my thoughts will get wheels turning.   This is a long study and as God’s Word reveals truth, as the Word is truth, other facets of these two schools of thought emerge.  I pray we can discuss them in love.

Be blessed!


[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Jn 1:14). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G4637). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

[3] Greene, Oliver B.  The Gospel of John, a commentary.  (Greenville.  The Gospel Hour). 1966 (36).

[4] Bruce, F.F.  The Gospel of John.  (Grand Rapids.  Eerdmans Publishing Co.) 1983 (40).

 
10 Comments

Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Bible studies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

John 1:12-14 / Part 2 – The Beauty of Becoming God’s Child

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he powerb to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. [1]

 Christ During His Ministry

BECOMING GOD’S CHILD

Christians cannot discuss the predestination of a soul or the free will of a believer without discussing salvation and how that is even possible.  In the third chapter of John, Nicodemus was very confused when Christ first said to him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3).  The word ‘power’ in John 1:12 actually translates ‘right or privilege’.  God gives us the right to become children of God.

‘to become…the sons [children] of God’

In the Greek, the word become means ‘to come into existence, to come to pass, to come into being’.  The right of salvation is allowed by Christ and is authored by Him.

‘even to them that believe on his name’ 

Believe – in the Authorized Version of the King James the Greek word pisteuō / pisteuō translates 239 times as ‘believe’ but also translates as ‘commitment’.  Most instances of this word correspond to a religious commitment that is made with an intellectual faith.  This is so powerful because it calls us back to those three forms of Light in the beginning:  natural illumination, spiritual illumination, and physical light.  The Lord God is Light; His imparting of that light to us provides the intellectual faith to make that spiritual commitment to Him.  The connection between our intellect and faith is never made within the secular world.  Many years ago, philosophers decided to separate the intellect and call it ‘reason’ and declare that it was separate from ‘faith’.  God gave you the intellect THAT you might have faith!

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

The Author of Reason asks us to employ our intellect, to decide, whether we should place our faith in Him.  Time and again, the Scriptures call on our ‘intellectual faith’ that brought us to the point where we knew that we needed God – something more than this world could offer.  Man’s separation of faith from reason paves the road to nowhere.

“Which were born…”

The word ‘born’ in Greek is gennaō / gennaō translates 49 times as ‘begat’ and 39 times as ‘born’.[2]  Conversion is spiritual ‘delivery’ with repentance being its labor pains; the promise of the Father brings forth New Life to all who believe [commit] in Him.

“Not of blood” - This has nothing to do with us; it is an act of the Holy Spirit.  Humans cannot earn their salvation; that which is begotten of the Father cannot also be ‘of the blood’ of humankind.  Only the blood of Jesus Christ covers our sin.  John is clear that Christ’s coming to Earth was not the result of human intervention but the providence of God.  It is a supernatural occurrence.

“Nor of the will of the flesh” – God’s sacrifice was not wrought of man’s desire or sinful lust.  Rather, the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary that she might conceive and bring forth a son who would be the propitiation for our sin.  Would Christ’s sacrifice have been acceptable to God if he was born ‘of the will of the flesh’?  Humans are born into sin; if we cannot atone for our sin, anyone else born ‘of the will of the flesh’ cannot stand in the gap for us.  The spiritual life granted us by faith in Christ is holy and sacrificial i.e. born of God.

“Nor of the will of man” – Christ’s coming was not prompted by the will of man then made so by the Father-God.  The Lord provided our substitute, the sacrificial Lamb, and humans had nothing to do with its timing.

“…but of God” – God alone is responsible for our conversion; there is nothing that we can do to merit salvation outside of His grace (Ephesians 2:8,9).  Humans had nothing to do with the Messiah’s coming.  The human’s only role is accepting the finished work of Christ on the Cross, repenting of our sin, believing in Jesus, and walking in obedience and love that we might grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  One of the first acts of obedience following repentance is believer’s baptism.  If we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments.  He set the standard when He was baptized of John; therefore, all believers should follow him in baptism.  Recall the three rites performed for conversion to Judaism under the Old Covenant?  New Testament conversion is a mirror image of the turning away, the adherence to God’s commandments, and the ceremonial washing that we might be clean before the Lord.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, “If a man love me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:20)

DIGGING DEEPER:

Salvation Scriptures
John 3:15-18; John 3:36; John 8:24; John 14:6
Romans 2:1-3; 3:9-20 then 3:21-26; 4:9-11; 9:6; 9:30-33;
Galatians 2:16; 3:24
Acts 16:30-33
Acts 4:12

Justification
Romans 1:16; 3:20; 4:1-9, 22-25; 5:1
James 2:10
Colossians 2:13,14
Isaiah 38:17; 43:25; Micah 7:19
Isaiah 53:4,5
Romans 5:8,9
Acts 13:38,39
Romans 3:28
Galatians 2:16

Adoption
John 1:12
2 Corinthians 6:18
John 20:17
Galatians 4:4,5
Ephesians 1:3-5
I John 3:1
Matthew 6:32
Romans 8:15, 17
Galatians 4:6,7
Hebrews 12:5-11

To be continued:  The Word Was Made Flesh

Be blessed!


b power: or, the right, or, privilege

[1]The Holy Bible: King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Jn 1:12-14). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] All Greek translations were taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Lexicon.

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Bible studies

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 101 other followers

%d bloggers like this: