John 1:6-8

Verses 6-8 as a whole: Keddie notes the importance of fanfare to the introduction of heads of state. This is Jesus’ fanfare: the ministry of John the Baptist. This passage introduces us to the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Godet well describes the connection to verse 5: “There appeared a man…,” can only be thus mentioned with the design of giving through history the proof of the thought declared in ver. 5.” The outline of the passage is given by Dodd (quoted in Boice): 1. John is not the Light; 2. John was sent to bear witness about the Light so that 3. all might believe through him. This is the outline of John’s testimony in the rest of chapter 1: verses 19-28- John is not the light; 2. verses 29-34- John points to the Light; 3. verses 35-51- John’s witness produces the first disciples. Note also the contrast between John the Baptist and the Word (see Hendriksen, p. 76): “was” verses “came;” “Word” versus “man;” “is God” versus “commissioned by God;” “is the real light” versus “testifying about the light;” “is the object of trust” versus “being the agent through whose testimony people might come to trust God.” The Word is the truth, but it becomes known to us through witnesses (Keener). Note the differences between the John of John’s Gospel and the John of the Gospels: his sole task was witnessing, in the eyes of the apostle John (McHugh). Luther writes: “It has always been the world’s misfortune to be infested with wiseacres and smart alecks, self-styled lights who explore their own way to heaven and presume to be the lights of the world, to teach it, and lead it to God. John warns against this.” This passage shows the immense important of the ministerial office, and yet also its limitations (Schaff). Ministers aren’t doing their job unless they point to Christ.

6. The verb “there came” has as its prime significance the fact that it places John’s ministry among those “all things” that have come about through the Word (McHugh). It is a continuation of the plan of creation (Michaels). The fact that John was sent is the main thing behind the significance of John. This word has in its focus a specific task, and the idea of authority of the (divine!) sender is also present (McHugh). This also establishes his credentials (Keddie). He was sent as a forerunner. Of course, he was the first prophet that God had sent in quite a long time (Godet). Hengstenberg notes that the name of John is significant here (the Lord is gracious). From the other gospels we know that his testimony started even in the womb (Origen).

7. John’s sphere of concern narrows here from all creation to the world of humanity (Brown). The concept of witness is exceptionally important to John. In fact, the entirety of John’s Gospel could be viewed as a trial narrative. The idea of a witness is that it is competent testimony concerning firsthand experience (Lenski). There is also the idea of commitment: a witness commits himself to a certain interpretation of the events: no commitment, no witness (Morris). Schnackenburg notes that John sees all faith as a result of testimony. It is pathetic that the world would need to be told about the light. Only the blind have to be told that the sun is shining (Pink)! It is not Christ who needs human testimony, but rather the world’s darkness (Henry). Henry says, “John was like the night watchman that goes round the town, proclaiming the approach of the morning light to those that have closed their eyes, and are not willing themselves to observe it.” Bultmann notes that here it is simply the purpose of the witness that receives stress. Only later on will there be a discussion of its content. The world’s witnesses are only false witnesses. However, Jesus’ witnesses not only clear Jesus of any wrong-doing, but actually put the entire world under judgment (Painter, quoted in Keener). The Samaritan woman (4:39), the works of Jesus (5:36, 10:25), the Old Testament (5:39), the multitude (12:17), the Holy Spirit and the apostles (15:26ff), and God the Father Himself (5:37, 8:18) are all witnesses to the Christness of Jesus (Barrett). There are 7 witnesses, just as there are 7 signs and 7 “I Am” statements. There are also 7 discourses. Imagine then, the courtroom scene, with John calling his witnesses, one after another, in order to testify as to the status of Jesus Christ. This directly serves John’s purpose (20:31). John’s purpose in witnessing to Christ is that all might believe in Jesus through his testimony. Many authors have noted that since several of Jesus’ disciples came to faith through John the Baptist’s ministry, and also since John’s ministry prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, it could, with only a little exaggeration, be said that all Christians can trace their spiritual ancestry through the ministry of John the Baptist (Tasker).

8. John’s witness to Christ is vitally important when it is recalled that many in that day thought that John was the light. John himself knew that he wasn’t the Light, and he was constantly bearing witness to the otherness of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus was the one true Light. John was a lamp, not the light (5:35). Hendriksen notes that Christ is the light whereas the Baptist is only the reflector. John is like the moon, whereas Jesus is like the sun. John the apostle was himself a disciple of John the Baptist at one time (Bernard). Hutcheson notes the importance of having a calling that is sent from God, and also that the minister’s job is to point out Christ, not to draw attention to themselves. Keddie notes that it is quite possible to follow the wrong man, even if that man is on the right track (Acts 18-19). All true possessors of the Holy Spirit function as witnesses to the grace of God, as John did (and as his name signified). Boice notes that “God regards your testimony as being important enough to be included among all those other monumental testimonies to the person and work of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” What are we doing as witnesses?

In Him Was Life- John 1:2-5

Verses 2-5 as a whole: Do the terms “life” and “light” have a creation or salvation connotation in these verses? Hendriksen, Hengstenberg, Hughes, and Lenski all agree that salvation is the connotation of these words in this context. This passage proves the divinity of the Son by His manifestations of creative power (Hutcheson). How does this prove the thesis of 20:31 (that the Christ is Jesus, and that by believing, we might have life in His name)? If the Messiah is going to be powerful enough to save us from our sins, then He has to have re-creative power (Keddie). The flip side of that is that here we learn about the exceeding sinfulness of sin. “Let us often read these first five verses of St. John’s Gospel. Let us mark what kind of Being the Redeemer of mankind must needs be, in order to provide eternal redemption for sinners. If no one less than the Eternal God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, could take away the sin of the world, sin must be a far more abominable thing in the sight of God than most men suppose. The right measure of sin’s sinfulness is the dignity of Him who came into the world to save sinners” (J.C. Ryle). McHugh says it well: “One may then recall that in Gen 1, the creation proceeds from day to day, in a careful logical succession, establishing the conditions in which living things may grow until on the sixth day, when all is at last ready for the completion of the work, God creates the land-based beasts and finally the human race. In Genesis, all these things, from the first creation (light) to the last, were brought into existence through God’s Word. So in the Fourth Gospel. All proceeds towards the restoration of life for the entire human race on the sixth day of the final week of Jesus’ earthly life, with Paradise Restored.”

Verse 2: “Houtos” (“This one”) implies “none other” (Beasley-Murray). Lenski also argues that this sums up verse 1 in one word. This verse says that the relationship of Jesus with the Father is eternal (Bernard). Westcott tells the profound truth that it is not only the Father and the Son (as persons) who were responsible for the creation of the World. But it is also their relationship that was involved (God speaking through His Son, the Word). Of course, we know from Genesis 1 that the Holy Spirit was involved as well. Creation was a result of the eternal fellowship among the persons of the Trinity.

Verse 3: This verse states the same thing twice, once positively, once negatively (Barrett). The “all things” is completely comprehensive of all created things. There is great comfort from this verse, in that nothing is outside God’s control, if nothing is outside His creative power (Schaff).

Verses 3-4: A punctuation issue: does “which came to pass” go with verse 3 or verse 4? An example of the former is the ESV: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” An example of the latter is the NRSV: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being, etc.” Most translations have the phrase go with verse 3. In favor of having it go with verse 4 is that “any thing made that was made” sounds a bit redundant. One could answer to this objection that this phrase could be consciously excluding the Word Himself as someone who was begotten, but not made. He was not created, but was rather the Word by Whom all things were created. In favor of having it go with verse 3 is that it is difficult to know what “What has come into being in Him was life” actually means (so many commentators). To this it could be answered that in Christ’s person and work the way of salvation has come into being. The new creation that Jesus accomplished in the resurrection is life (for us!) that has come into being in Him. I marginally favor the latter reading (with verse 4), but it’s certainly not a hill on which I desire to perish.

Verse 4a: “The life which was eternally in the Word, when it goes forth, issues in created life, and this is true both of the physical world and the spiritual world” (Bernard). Hutcheson says that “the life of all living creatures was ‘in him’ as in the fountain cause, as the stream is in the fountain, and the rays of light in the sun.” Keddie says that “the logic of the text is that the Creator of life must be the very essence and definition of life.” Keener notes that the Jews believed that life and light both resided in the Torah. That belief would be in contrast to what John teaches here. Meyer argues that any and all kinds of life are here included.

Verse 4b: See Genesis 1:3 (“Let there be light”) leading to John 8:12 (“I am the light of the world”) (Bernard). Of course, light is what makes it possible for life to exist (Kostenberger). It also leads to a choice which has to be made. See Boice, vol 1, pp. 46-47, for a good illustration of the difference between lesser lights and the great light of Jesus Christ.

Verse 5: Note the present tense of “shines” (Bernard). “Darkness” has an ethical quality here (Barrett). Brown interprets “the darkness” to be the fall in Genesis 3. Hengstenberg adds that the darkness is both a deficient religious condition and also the end result, hence darkness implies death. Ambrose tells us that the darkness is not a protection, since the light will always expose what is done in darkness. Isaiah 9:2 (“the people walking in darkness have seen a great light”). Light and darkness are opposites, but not of equal strength, contra dualism (Bruce). Besser (quoted by Lenski) says “In Christ is the life-light, outside is the night of death.” He now shines in us (Lenski). See 12:35 (“Walk while you have the light”) for application (Lincoln). John does not leave us in suspense: the story has a happy ending (Michaels). Luther notes that this verse hurls a thunderbolt against all human reason, since the light exists only in Jesus, not in us. In us is darkness. The so-called Enlightenment isn’t.

Verse 5: (Translation issue: is “katelaben” to be translated “overcome” or “comprehend”?) Maybe it plays on the two meanings (Barrett). Hendriksen argues a litotes here emphasizing the absolute antithesis between darkness and light. Perhaps the best translation is one that incorporates both connotations: “mastered” is my favorite way of translating the term.

In the Beginning- John 1:1

References to names in parentheses are references to the commentary written by that individual and are cited according to their comments on that passage, unless otherwise noted.

Verse as a whole: Genesis 1:1 is the obvious background (Godet writes, “Moses descends the stream of time and reaches the creation of man (ver 26). John, having started from the same point, follows the reverse course and ascends from the beginning of things to eternity”), Proverbs 8:22 (on which, see Bultmann, who says, “She is pre-existent, and is God’s partner at the creation. She seeks a dwelling on earth among men, but is rejected: she comes to her own possession, but her own do not accept her.”), 1 John 1:1-4. The “en” is expressive of “continuous timeless existence” (Bernard).

Logos: John introduces the term with no explanation (Westcott). This implies that people would have had a good idea of what it meant. “As a word is a means of revealing a man’s mind to others, so Christ hath revealed the Father in his own person” (Hutcheson). Pink expands on this, and says, “He is God’s alphabet, the One who spells out Deity, the One who utters all God has to say…Christ then, is the One who has made the incomprehensible God intelligible…The Scriptures reveal God’s mind, express His will, make known His perfections, and lay bare His heart. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus has done for the Father…It is only in Christ that God is fully told out.” If you want to know God, then study Jesus (Pink and Boice).” “Logos” implies inward thought and outward speech (Barrett). This is “ratio” (thought) and “oratio” (speech) (Keddie). Michaels (quoted by Kostenberger) says, “Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks the word, but in the prologue he is the Word, the personal embodiment of all that he proclaims.” Bultmann writes “In the O.T. the Word of God is his Word of power, which, in being uttered, is active as event.” He further writes that no silence preceded the Word. Notice that the word of God is creative and revelatory (Barrett). Isaiah 55 tells us that God’s Word is effective for accomplishing His purpose. Why the term “logos?” J.C. Ryle notes various possibilities, all of which feed into this concept: “the wisdom of God, the express image of the Father, the subject of OT prophecy, and the speaker and interpreter of God’s will.” It is also true that God does not communicate His essence to us: it must be mediated (Meyer). “The deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God; if this be not true the book is blasphemous” (Barrett). Therefore the whole of the Gospel needs to be read in light of this verse (ibid.). In fact, connecting 20:31 with this passage yields the following thought: “the one I want you to believe in, because the Christ is Jesus, this Jesus is also the pre-incarnate God Himself, the one responsible for all creation.”

Clause 1: “In Gen. 1:1 ‘In the beginning’ introduces the story of the old creation; here it introduces the story of the new creation. In both works of creation the agent is the Word of God” (Bruce). “Beginning” denotes the period before creation (Brown). Carson notes, “Since Mark begins his Gospel with the same word, ‘The Beginning,’ it is also possible that John is making an allusion to his colleague’s work, saying in effect, “Mark has told about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; I want to show you that the starting point of the gospel can be traced farther back than that, before the beginning of the entire universe.” Notice the difference between “was” and “became” (Bernard). This clause refutes the Arians, who say that there was a time when then Son was not.

Clause 2: Kostenberger says (connecting the first clause with the second) that “Since the Word existed in the beginning, one might think that either the Word was God or the Word was with God. John affirms both.” Here John “may already be pointing out, rather subtly, that the ‘Word’ he is talking about is a person, with God and therefore distinguishable from God, and enjoying a personal relationship with him” (Carson). Not only does the “pros” establish a relationship between God and the Word, but also it distinguishes the two from each other” (Brown, quoted in Kostenberger). See also Genesis 1:26. This refutes the Sabellian heresy (which denied distinction of persons).

Clause 3: Jesus did NOT falsely claim to be God (see 10:33, 5:18). Keener says, “Jesus did not ‘make himself’ God; he shared glory with the Father before the world began.” NEB translation is excellent: “What God was, the Word was.” This refutes Socinians and Unitarians.

Anarthrous “theos” comments: If “theos” had the definite article “ho,” then it would have implied that “no divine being existed outside the second person of the Trinity” (Barrett). Note Colwell’s rule, which refutes the JW’s. Colwell’s rule, applied in this instance, is relatively simple. There are two nouns in the nominative case. To discover which one is the subject of the sentence, and which is the predicate, simply look for which noun has the definite article. In this case, “logos” has the definite article, and is therefore the subject of the sentence, even though it comes after the word “theos” in word order.

The Purpose of the Gospel of John

John 20:31 is the thesis and purpose statement of the Gospel of John: ταῦτα δὲ γέγραπται ἵνα πιστεύ[ς]ητε ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ 
θεοῦ, καὶ ἵνα πιστεύοντες ζωὴν ἔχητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ. My translation agrees with D.A. Carson’s understanding of this verse. I translate it this way: “These things have been written so that you might believe that the Christ is Jesus, and so that when you believe, you will have life in His name.” Most translations of this verse reverse the subject and predicate in this way: “These things have been written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ,” etc. The problem with the latter translation is that the definite article goes with “Christ” and not with “Jesus.” Typically, when you have a copula (a verb form of “is”) connecting two nouns in Greek, the one with the article is the subject, and the one without is the predicate, regardless of word order. That is Carson’s argument, and I agree with him. The difference may seem small, but the implications are fairly large for the understanding of John as a whole.

The translation “that Jesus is the Christ” implies that you could say many things about Jesus, and one of them is that He is the Christ. The translation I favor implies that you could claim many people to be the Christ, but that Jesus is the only one Who can be proven to be the Messiah. In other words, is John primarily written to Gentiles (which the translation “that Jesus is the Christ” favors), or primarily to Jews (which the translation “that the Christ is Jesus” favors)? On either supposition, of course, John does not ignore the other people group.

The theological implications run this way: believing that the Christ is Jesus (knowing what we know about the Old Testament expectations concerning the nature of the Christ) brings with it life in His name. I can’t think of a more important thing to believe in life and in death.

Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life

John 11:1-44 

They say that there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. The only thing is that death doesn’t get worse every time congress meets. But if you look everywhere around you, people are saying that death is the end. The Grim Reaper. You could even say that those people who believe that there is a Resurrection think that it is far off, and not of much help in the present time.

The fact is that death is an intruder. Death does not belong in the created realm. God did not create the world with death in mind. Death is a punishment for sin, the sin of all humanity. Sin brings forth death, as the apostle James has it. So often, we look around at the world and say, “Why did death have to come to this person, or that person? Why didn’t God stop it?” The question we should really ask ourselves is, “Why did we sin?” If we want to know who is responsible for bringing sin into the world, we have to place the blame squarely on our own shoulders. We can’t blame God for punishing sin. If He didn’t punish sin, then He wouldn’t be God. God is not the author of sin. Humanity is. Oh sure, we had a little help from Satan. But the blame rests with us. Satan didn’t fall in the garden; Adam and Eve did. The old saying goes like this: In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. Adam was a representative for the human race.

Now that is bad news for humanity. Well, it isn’t exactly news. We should have known it for a long time. But we are extremely prone to forgetting the fact that death exists because of sin. What we have to realize now, though, and what our passage today teaches us is that death is a defeated enemy for those who believe in Jesus Christ. Let’s take a close look at our passage, focusing on verses 17-27, but starting with the first part of the chapter.

The NIV has mistranslated verse 6. That is why I didn’t read it quite the way it was written. In verse 5, we see that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The NIV says in verse 6 that, despite this fact that Jesus loved them, He stayed an extra two days where He was. This gives us the impression that we don’t know why Jesus delayed. But this is not what the text says. The text actually says, “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Therefore he stayed where He was for two more days.” It is because He loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, that He let Lazarus die! This sounds very strange to our ears. But Jesus explains Himself in verses 14-15: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” It is plain that Jesus already knew that Lazarus was going to be resurrected from the dead. His purpose, then, in staying where He was for two more days, was so that His disciples, and Mary and Martha, would believe, and have their faith confirmed by a mighty miracle.

That leads us to verse 17. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days by the time that Jesus got there. This is significant. Four days in the tomb meant that death was completely irreversible. Jewish thought at the time said that the soul hovers over the body for three days, but on the fourth, the soul doesn’t recognize the body anymore, and so leaves it. John doesn’t necessarily believe that, but his point is that Lazarus was completely dead, and was starting to decompose.

Martha hears that Jesus is near, and she runs out to meet him. She says to him what she and Mary must have said many times to each other during the three days they had waited for Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” It is important to realize that Martha is not reprimanding Jesus for His delay. Even if Jesus had started right away, Lazarus would still have been dead by the time He got there. She does not say, “Lord if only you had gotten here sooner.” Instead, she says, “Lord if only you had been here.” It is regret, not reproach.

Then Martha shows that she has at least some faith. She asks Jesus implicitly to petition the Father for the resurrection of Lazarus. Now, some doubt that that is what Martha means, especially in the light of verse 39, where Martha objects to opening the tomb, because of the smell, plainly indicating (it is thought) that Jesus cannot resurrect Lazarus from the dead. However, what is happening here is that Martha wavers in her faith from hope to grief. She oscillates between the two. It is quite probable that she thought that Jesus might be able to do something about Lazarus even now, though she has nagging doubts.

In verse 23, we see Jesus giving us a wonderfully ambiguous statement. Jesus wants to draw out Martha’s heart, and so He gives a statement that mentions the general resurrection at the end of time. Does Jesus mean to include the resurrection that He is about to perform? Whatever the case, Martha obviously does not understand where Jesus is going with this. She must have heard from the Jewish people about the general resurrection, which is something that Pharisees believed. Martha is a little disappointed, when she replies in verse 24, “I know already about the general resurrection.” It is as if she is saying, “Lord, have you come to tell me what I already know?”

An then comes the real shocker. You see, Martha thought, and so often do we, that the resurrection is a long way off. We think that it is more difficult for God to do a miracle here and now, than it is for God to resurrect people on the final day of judgment. Martha had her thoughts on the present time, thinking that Jesus was not powerful enough to resurrect Lazarus right now, even though she thought He might be able to ask His Heavenly Father for that favor. So what Jesus says is a real shock: the Resurrection is a person, not so much an event! Now, of course, Jesus has just affirmed that the future resurrection is an event that will surely come to pass. However, what He is saying here is that Resurrection power resides in Jesus! The Resurrection is a person! What Jesus is saying is that resurrection power belongs only to Jesus as God. Now, one needs to be resurrected in order to have life, which is why Jesus says immediately afterward, that He is the Life. Resurrection leads to life. Where Christ is not present, there is death. Where Christ is, there is resurrection and life, a fact that Jesus is about to demonstrate in a dramatic fashion.

Here is where the unbeliever stumbles. The unbeliever cannot believe that death could be defeated. Death is the end, according to them. Only by faith can anyone accept that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. There are two ideas that Jesus explains here. The first is resurrection. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” That refers to the physical time-point of death, and then the time point of physical resurrection. Physical death is no longer the end of the story. There is resurrection, brought to light by Jesus Himself. The second idea is life, spiritual life. That is what verse 26 is talking about: “whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” That is talking about th person who lives spiritually, and thus that person will never die spiritually. So, verse 25 is talking about physical death and resurrection, and verse 26 is talking about spiritual life and the immortality of the Christian soul.

And now comes the question: “Do you believe this?” Do you, here and now, facing death all our lives, believe Jesus’ words? Do you believe that Jesus is your only comfort in life and in death? Do you believe that you must be born again spiritually? Do you trust in Jesus? If you do not, there is no hope for you. There is no hope that there is anything beyond death that is good. No unbeliever has any hope. That is why Paul says that the Christian’s grief is not like the unbeliever’s grief. An unbeliever grieves without hope.

I want to read a passage to you, as it is extremely relevant to our passage here in John 11. This is John 5:19-29:

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 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. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out– those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

Jesus is talking about Lazarus here, and about all Christians. The resurrection that Lazarus experiences is symbolic of the spiritual resurrection that all Christians experience when they come to faith. Have you experienced this resurrection? If so, then you have only one death, and that death is a defeated enemy. Christ Himself has defeated death by being raised from the dead. You only have one death, but two resurrections: the resurrection of the soul, which guarantees the second resurrection, that of the body. If you do not believe, then you have only one resurrection to look forward to. And it will be such that you will wish you hadn’t been. You will prefer annihilation to being resurrected to eternal punishment for sin. Do not delay in coming to Christ. You do not know whether you will be alive tomorrow. You can shrug all this off as hogwash, and go back to your wicked ways, or you can sit up and listen to God speaking. He says, “Let the Christian come forth from his tomb of sin.” It is then that you take off your sinful grave clothes, and put on the spotless white robe that has been washed in the blood of the Lamb. The dead shall hear the voice of the living God. It does not matter what your past life has been. It does not matter what bad choices you have made. Everyone is dead in their trespasses and sins, as Paul makes so abundantly clear in Ephesians 2. But if God can conquer death, if He can call out to Lazarus, and the dead man hears and obeys the voice of the living God, then God can change you. Now is definitely not too late. But take care, this may be your only opportunity. “Sinner, come forth!”

John 15 and the Federal Vision

John Barach has the most entertaining and rhetorically flourishing comment on this passage. In talking about the branches that eventually cut off, he says “These branches were not stuck to the tree with Scotch tape.” The only problem with this quotation, rhetorically speaking, is that it should have been duct tape. Although, I don’t know if that would have worked rhetorically, come to think of it. Duct tape is too strong. The quote, by the way, is in AATPC, pg. 150, line 47.

Here is the text: 1. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7. If you abide in me, andmy words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

It is the contention of the FV folk (and Norman Shepherd: see Call of Grace, pp. 89-90), that the passage makes no ontological distinction between branches that stay in, and branches that get thrown out. Barach, for example, says that “they were genuinely in Christ, but they were taken away because they failed to abide in Christ” (AATPC, pg. 150, lines 47-48). He qualifies this statement in lines 51-52 with this statement: “According to Scripture, not everyone who is in the covenant has been predestined to eternal glory with Christ.” So Barach is not claiming that the temporary “in Christ” status of the eventually-apostatizing-branches is equivalent to decretal election. He does equate this status to covenantal election in lines 68-70 on page 151. So, it would be God’s choosing of Israel/church which is in view. Barach does not limit this covenantal election to corporate status, however. He goes on in line 89 to say that covenantal election applies to individuals as well. So the question boils down to this: what, precisely, are the benefits which in-covenant but eventually apostatizing people have? Are they “saved?” My contention is that FV authors claim too much for this covenantal status. Barach claims that it is fine to say of these people that Christ died for them (lines 149-152 on page 153); Wilkins claims all the ordo salutis benefits for these apostates on page 59 of _Federal Vision_. Christ died only for the elect, and the ordo salutis benefits apply only to the elect, as has been said by the WCF in previous posts.

But we must deal with a critical issue here in the exegesis of John 15. What about the warnings? As Norman Shepherd seemingly wisely indicates: “If this distinction (outward and inward branches) is in the text, it is difficult to see what the point of the warning is. The outward branches cannot profit from it, because they cannot in any case bear genuine fruit. They are not related to Christ inwardly and draw no life from him. The inward branches do not need the warning, because they are vitalized by Christ and therefore cannot help but bear good fruit” (Call of Grace, pp. 89-90). R. Fowler White has the answer to this. It is decisive. He says “The warnings of God’s Word, as a means of grace, retain their integrity because the decree of election is realized through them, not apart from them…when the warnings against apostasy and wrath come, we are not to presume our election and to ignore them; rather we are to prove our election by trembling at the threats of God’s Word and embracing its promises.” In the face of this clear exposition of the value of the warning to the elect, Shepherd’s criticism of the traditional position falls utterly to the ground.

Exegetically speaking, there are several indications that there are ontological distinctions within the covenant, and I am picking my words very carefully here. Some branches are “fruit-bearing,” and others are not. This indicates an ontological distinction. I used to work on an apple orchard. When pruning apple trees, there are branches that grow straight up, but will never bear fruit. These are called “suckers.” they grow differently from fruit-bearing branches. They are pruned away, since, far from growing in any positive direction towards fruit-bearing, they actually steal sap away from the fruit-bearing branches. However it be interpreted, the suckers that are there in the vine are not doing the vine any good whatsoever. They are fundamentally different from the fruit-bearing branches. At the risk of pushing the analogy too far, what is the sap? It is not saving grace. These branches are attached to Christ’s body, the church, not by Scoth tape. They really are part of the visible church. Plainly here, the vine is the visible church, which includes the elect and those who are not. But these branches are fundamentally different. In fact, the branches that do not bear fruit are dead branches. The same is true in the parable of the wheat and tares. They both grow up together in the visible church. But the tares are never wheat! So also here, the branches that do not bear fruit never bear fruit.

John 8:58

Here is the Greek text:

 εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.

Followed by the English translation (ESV): “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The New World translation has this: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.’” The Watchtower organization has argued that there is no relation at all of this verse to the famous “I am that I am” of Exodus 3:14. But there are several points to notice here which they do not address in any way, shape, or form. First of all, the tense of their translation is completely and utterly wrong. If John had wanted to say that Jesus existed before Abraham did in the past (but not including any idea of eternal pre-existence), without any confusion on the score, he had no fewer than three tenses at his disposal: aorist, imperfect, or perfect. The NWT reflects what would be a perfect tense. The Greek is PRESENT TENSE. It indicates ongoing existence before Abraham was. God does not exist in time the same way that we do. God is both transcendant and immanent in time. The way to express this is to say that in the past God is (present tense). The NWT translators knew this, which is why they completely changed the meaning into something finite.

The second point that they do not engage at all is the fact that what Jesus says here mirrors Exodus 3:14 ***precisely*** in the Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint, or LXX for short). They Watchtower people offer *zero* argumentation for why there is no connection, especially given the exact Greek correspondence between the two verses. I should mention that it is the first two words of the Greek in God’s words in Exodus 3:14 which I am talking about. The Watchtower people also fail utterly in their explanation of why the people picked up stones to stone Him. That happens when someone is uttering blasphemy. Jesus could have corrected their misunderstanding of His actions if He wasn’t claiming divinity. No, it is because He *was* claiming divinity that they picked up stones to stone Him.                        

John 1:1

John 1:1 is a passage completely misinterpreted by the New World Translation (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation), and by many other translations mentioned by Steve, which are not mainline translations, but are the work of individual anti-church Arians. Here is the Greek: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν λόγος, καὶ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν λόγος. The New World translation says this: “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Plainly, the New World translation says something quite different from most translations with which we are familiar. This translations seems to suggest that the Word (which we learn later is Jesus) is less than God. He is merely one of a pantheon of gods. This raises its own problems. But to kabosh this rendering, it is necessary to go into some Greek grammar. The phrase in question occurs after the second comma in the above Greek. Notice that “theos” (second word of the phrase) comes before ἦν, which is the verb meaning “was.” “Theos” (“God) is functioning as a predicate nominative. Stretch back to your grammar days and remember that a predicate nominative is the last word in the sentence “I am a pastor.” The subject is “I,” and the predicate nominative is “pastor.” In Greek, the predicate nominative can sometimes come before the verb, as it does here. When that happens, the word “the” does not occur with the predicate nominative. However, the noun should still be read as having the word “the” with it. This is the difference between “the God” (or just simply “God”) and “a god.” The New World Translation has twisted Greek grammar in order fit their preconceived notions about the non-deity of Christ. When you have two nouns connected by any form of the word “to be,” the definite article (“the”) tells you which noun is the subject, since word order doesn’t count in Greek. In other words, just because a noun doesn’t have “the” with it doesn’t mean that it should be interpreted as not having “the” with it, if that is clear. Clear as mud?

The Living Word

John 20:1-29
Once upon a time, a Muslim converted to Christianity. Some of his friends asked him why he had become a Christian. He replied, “Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down a road that suddenly forked in two directions. You didn’t know which way to go, but there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and the other alive. Which man would you ask about which way to go?” Mohammed is dead, but Christ is alive.

At the beginning of our text, all the disciples are depressed. The disciples were afraid of the Jews. They had locked themselves away in order to avoid the Jews. They thought it was all over. They thought they were next on the Jews’ hit list. In that state of mind they simply huddle together in a room with the door locked.

On Sunday morning Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She saw something that made her rather upset. She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. In those days, grave-robbers were everywhere. Grave-robbing had become so common a crime that the Roman emperor of the time imposed capital punishment on any who robbed graves. Mary was afraid that Jesus’ tomb had been robbed of the expensive linen and spices that had been used to anoint Jesus’ body for burial.

No sooner had she seen that the stone was rolled away, than she ran to tell Peter and John what had happened. (“The disciple whom Jesus loved” is another way of saying the apostle John.) This news startled the two disciples into a race to see who could get to the tomb first. John won. Notice that John got to the tomb first, but he did not go in first. Peter went into the tomb first.

It is interesting to think about why John did not go in. The reason has to do with how John views the tomb. He is thinking of the tomb as a new Most Holy Place. You will remember that in the old tabernacle and in the later temple, there was a most holy place, where only the high priest was allowed to enter, and even then only once a year. John views the tomb as a new Most Holy Place. How do we know this? From verse 12. Mary comes and stands weeping outside the tomb. Then she sees two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the foot. Have you ever wondered why John included that small detail? Why does John mention that there were two angels, one at the head, and one at the foot of where Jesus’ body lay? The answer lies in he Old Testament description of the Most Holy Place. See Exodus 25:10-22. In the ark of the testimony, the two angels were the two cherubim, one at one end, and one at the other end. So also in the tomb with Jesus. What was in the ark of the covenant? A copy of the Ten Commandments! A copy of God’s Word. John is saying to us that Jesus is the Living Word. Not only is He the Word of God, which we learn from John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” but he is also the Living Word, resurrected from the dead. You remember the story of the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus says that whoever drinks of the water that Jesus will give him will never die but have everlasting life, and that that water will become a well of water welling up into eternal life. Here in the resurrection story is where Jesus proves that to us.

Jesus proves that in Him, we all have access to the Most Holy Place. Mary can come in to that place. Women were not allowed into the Most Holy Place of the old temple. But in this new temple, all have access to the Most Holy Place. Remember that Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John adds a note that Jesus was speaking about the temple of His own body. Jesus was also saying that His body was the new temple. That is why the curtain of the temple was torn in two at Christ’s death. The ultimate sacrifice ha been made. No longer would the sacrifices of the Old Testament be required. Christ offered up Himself. It is really amazing that Christ is the great high priest, and He is also the sacrifice, and He is also the temple in which the sacrifice is offered. The entire Old Testament sacrificial system points to Jesus Christ. He is all we need.

Do you believe? John believed rather easily. All John had to see was that the grave-clothes were still there, and neatly folded, and put aside. That would not be the case if the grave had been robbed. If the grave had been robbed, then the grave-clothes would have been taken, or at the very least, left in a very untidy manner. Rather, the grave-clothes are neatly put aside as by someone who had no more use for them. Jesus Christ’s body had gone right through the grave-clothes. Christ now has a resurrection glorified body. John saw this and believed. It took a little longer for Peter to believe. And it took a lot longer for Thomas to believe. Thomas actually had to touch Jesus’ physical body in order to believe that Jesus had come back from the dead. Jesus says a remarkable thing at the end of that episode: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The question in front of us this morning is, “Do we believe?” We cannot see Jesus in person. We may see Him when we look at Jesus’ followers who do good in this world. But we cannot see Jesus resurrected and ascended to God in heaven.

What does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means to believe that Jesus is the Living Word, who is prophet, priest and king. It means to believe that Jesus, acting as prophet, has revealed God the Father to us. It means that Jesus as priest has offered up himself on our behalf. This is very important. You see, we sinned. We fell short of the glory of God. We decided that we wanted to play God. And so we took from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all. That is why we have death in the world. We all deserve the penalty of going to hell. That is justice. God is just, and could have sent us all there, and no-one could have called God a homicidal maniac. But God is also merciful. God had already decided that He would not leave mankind to utterly perish. Instead, He would provide a way of escape through his own Son, Jesus Christ. That meant that Jesus was fully obedient to the law. Jesus fulfilled the active demands of the law, doing everything the law required. Not only that, but Jesus also suffered the passive demands of the law, taking on our punishment, that we would not have to pay if we only believe in Him. Believing in Christ also means believing that Jesus Christ is king, that He has been resurrected from the dead, conquering sin and death in the process. It means believing that even now Christ reigns on our behalf.

All of this believing in Christ would mean nothing without the Resurrection. Without the resurrection, Christ is still conquered by sin and death. Without the resurrection, Christ is dead. But now, Christ has risen from the dead. That is where our hope lies.

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ have only one resurrection on the final day of judgment, and two deaths, one spiritual, and one physical. The spiritual death happens at the final day of judgment, and the physical death happens at the end of life here. Believers have only death and two resurrections. They have one physical death, but their spirit is resurrected, when they believe in Jesus Christ. That is why it is called new birth, passing from death to life. The physical resurrection occurs at the final day of judgment, when the believer’s body is reunited with the soul, and is like Christ’s glorious body. That is our hope. Our only hope of seeing God, and incidentally of seeing our loved ones again, is to believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Which man will you believe? The old man, the world, who tells you that there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead, who say that “dead men rise up never”? Or will you believe the man who is alive, Jesus Christ? Will you believe that His way is the only way? Will you believe that dead Christians rise up ever?

Jesus, Resurrection and Life

John 11:17-27
It is pretty amazing what children will say. Some children were asked about death, and these were some of their answers: Alan, age7, “God doesn’t tell you when you are going to die because He wants it to be a big suprise;” Raymond, age 10, “A good doctor can help you so you won’t die. A bad doctor sends you to heaven;” Marsha, age 9, “When you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven unless your teacher is there too;” and here is a very cynical Stephanie, age 9, “Doctors help so you won’t die until you pay all their bills.” What people all over the world say about death is that it is unavoidable. They say that there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. The only thing is that death doesn’t get worse every time congress meets. But if you look everywhere around you, people are saying that death is the end. The Grim Reaper. You could even say that those people who believe that there is a Resurrection think that it is far off, and not of much help in the present time.

The fact is that death is an intruder. Death does not belong in the created realm. God did not create the world with death in mind. Death is a punishment for sin, the sin of all humanity. Sin brings forth death, as the apostle James has it. So often, we look around at the world and say, “Why did death have to come to this person, or that person? Why didn’t God stop it?” The question we should really ask ourselves is, “Why did we sin?” If we want to know who is responsible for bringing sin into the world, we have to place the blame squarely on our own shoulders. We can’t blame God for punishing sin. If He didn’t punish sin, then He wouldn’t be God. God is not the author of sin. Humanity is. Oh sure, we had a little help from Satan. But the blame rests with us. Satan didn’t fall in the garden; Adam and Eve did. The old saying goes like this: In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. Adam was a respresentative for the human race.

Now that is bad news for humanity. Well, it isn’t exactly news. We should have known it for a long time. But we are extremely prone to forgetting the fact that death exists because of sin. What we have to realize now, though, and what our passage today teaches us is that death is a defeated enemy for those who believe in Jesus Christ. Let’s take a close look at our passage, focusing on verses 17-27, but starting with the first part of the chapter.
The NIV has a horrible mistranslation in verse 6. In verse 5, we see that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The NIV says in verse 6 that, despite this fact that Jesus loved them, He stayed an extra two days where He was. This gives us the impression that we don’t know why Jesus delayed. But this is not what the text says. The text actually says, “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Therefore he stayed where He was for two more days.” It is because He loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, that He let Lazarus die! This sounds very strange to our ears. But Jesus explains Himself in verses 14-15: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” It is plain that Jesus already knew that Lazarus was going to be resurrected from the dead. His purpose, then, in staying where He was for two more days, was so that His disciples, and Mary and Martha, would believe, and have their faith confirmed by a mighty miracle.

That leads us to verse 17. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days by the time that Jesus got there. This is significant. Four days in the tomb meant that death was completely irreversible. Jewish thought at the time said that the soul hovers over the body for three days, but on the fourth, the soul doesn’t recognize the body anymore, and so leaves it. John doesn’t necessarily believe that, but his point is that Lazarus was completely dead, and was starting to decompose.

Martha hears that Jesus is near, and she runs out to meet him. She says to him what she and Mary must have said many times to each other during the three days they had waited for Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” It is important to realize that Martha is not reprimanding Jesus for His delay. Even if Jesus had started right away, Lazarus would still have been dead by the time He got there. She does not say, “Lord if only you had gotten here sooner.” Instead, she says, “Lord if only you had been here.” It is regret, not reproach.

Then Martha shows that she has at least some faith. She asks Jesus implicitly to petition the Father for the resurrection of Lazarus. Now, some doubt that that is what Martha means, especially in the light of verse 39, where Martha objects to opening the tomb, because of the smell, plainly indicating (it is thought) that Jesus cannot resurrect Lazarus from the dead. However, what is happening here is that Martha wavers in her faith from hope to grief. She oscillates between the two. It is quite probable that she thought that Jesus might be able to do something about Lazarus even now, though she has nagging doubts.

In verse 23, we see Jesus giving us a wonderfully ambiguous statement. Jesus wants to draw out Martha’s heart, and so He gives a statement that mentions the general resurrection at the end of time. Does Jesus mean to include the resurrection that He is about to perform? Whatever the case, Martha obviously does not understand where Jesus is going with this. She must have heard from the Jewish people about the general resurrection, which is something that Pharisees believed. Martha is a little disappointed, when she replies in verse 24, “I know already about the general resurrection.” It is as if she is saying, “Lord, have you come to tell me what I already know?”

An then comes the real shocker. You see, Martha thought, and so often do we, that the resurrection is a long way off. We think that it is more difficult for God to do a miracle here and now, than it is for God to resurrect people on the final day of judgment. Martha had her thoughts on the present time, thinking that Jesus was not powerful enough to resurrect Lazarus right now, even though she thought He might be able to ask His Heavenly Father for that favor. So what Jesus says is a real shock: the Resurrection is a person, not so much an event! Now, of course, Jesus has just affirmed that the future resurrection is an event that will surely come to pass. However, what He is saying here is that Resurrection power resides in Jesus! The Resurrection is a person! What Jesus is saying is that resurrection power belongs only to Jesus as God. Now, one needs to be resurrected in order to have life, which is why Jesus says immediately afterward, that He is the Life. Resurrection leads to life. Where Christ is not present, there is death. Where Christ is, there is resurrection and life, a fact that Jesus is about to demonstrate in a dramatic fashion.

Here is where the unbeliever stumbles. The unbeliever cannot believe that death could be defeated. Death is the end, according to them. Only by faith can anyone accept that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. There are two ideas that Jesus explains here. The first is resurrection. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” That refers to the physical time-point of death, and then the time-point of physical resurrection. Physical death is no longer the end of the story. There is resurrection, brought to light by Jesus Himself. The second idea is life, spiritual life. That is what verse 26 is talking about: “whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” That is talking about th person who lives spiritually, and thus that person will never die spiritually. So, verse 25 is talking about physical death and resurrection, and verse 26 is talking about spiritual life and the immortality of the Christian soul.

And now comes the question: “Do you believe this?” Do you, here and now, facing death all our lives, believe Jesus’ words? Do you believe that Jesus is your only comfort in life and in death? Do you believe that you must be born again spiritually? Do you trust in Jesus? If you do not, there is no hope for you. There is no hope that there is anything beyond death that is good. No unbeliever has any hope. That is why Paul says that the Christian’s grief is not like the unbeliever’s grief. An unbeliever grieves without hope. The Christian grieves, knowing that it is not the end of their relationship with that person. It bears repeating: it is true to say that so-and-so is in a better place. That is true. But it is not the most helpful thing to know. It is the physical presence of that person that we miss. Therefore it is more helpful to say that if you believe in Jesus, then you will see that person again, touch his hand again, hug him again. See, if you believe what Jesus is saying here, then what you really believe is that that person is not dead! His soul is very much alive, thank you, and his body is merely waiting on the resurrection that will come at the final day, in order to be reunited with his soul. But he is not dead. He passed from death to life, as Jesus says in John chapter 5. I want to read this passage to you, as it is extremely relevant to our passage here in John 11. This is John 5:19-29: “Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 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. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out– those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” Jesus is talking about Lazarus here, and about all Christians. The resurrection that Lazarus experiences is symbolic of the spiritual resurrection that all Christians experience when they come to faith. Have you experienced this resurrection? If so, then you have only one death, and that death is a defeated enemy. Christ Himself has defeated death by being raised from the dead. You only have one death, but two resurrections: the resurrection of the soul, which guarantees the second resurrection, that of the body. If you do not believe, then you have only one resurrection to look forward to. And it will be such that you will wish you hadn’t been resurrected. You will prefer annihilation to being resurrected to eternal punishment for sin. Do not delay in coming to Christ. You do not know whether you will be alive tomorrow. You can shrug all this off as hogwash, and go back to your wicked ways, or you can sit up and listen to God speaking. He says, “Let the Christian come forth from his tomb of sin.” It is then that you take off your sinful grave clothes, and put on the spotless white robe that has been washed in the blood of the Lamb. The dead shall hear the voice of the living God. It does not matter what your past life has been. It does not matter what bad choices you have made. Everyone is dead in their trespasses and sins, as Paul makes so abundantly clear in Ephesians 2. But if God can conquer death, if He can call out to Lazarus, and the dead man hears and obeys the voice of the living God, then God can change you. Now is definitely not too late. But take care, this may be your only opportunity. “Sinner, come forth!”

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