Leviticus 1:1-2

It’s All In The Blood!

Leviticus is all about the animal sacrifices and other offerings that God’s people were to make. The focus is on “blood.” This is not new. God initiated blood sacrifice when he provided lamb skins for Adam and Eve after the fig leaves failed as an adequate covering for the shame of sin. Then Cain tried to bring another offering of the ground. Nor fig leaves, but bloodless. God did not accept it. Abel offered a blood sacrifice from his flock. God accepted that sacrifice. There is a well-known passage in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” Leviticus begins with some specific instructions to Moses to pass on to the children of Israel. It begins, “The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.’” The “herd” would represent cattle, and the “flock” represents smaller animals like goats and sheep.

Many of the sermons I’ve heard and preached on Leviticus had to do with the value of our offerings. Indeed, in an agricultural society, cattle and sheep were of most importance for people’s livelihoods. God insists that all our offerings cost us something. “The famed pastor W. A. Criswell told the story of a father and his son who went one Saturday to the local county fair where they splurged on the midway rides, the games, and plenty of cotton candy. The next morning the father and his son attended the Sunday church service, and the father placed a pittance in the offering place as it passed. ‘What did this teach the lad?’ Dr. Criswell rhetorically asked. The sad lesson learned that morning was that the county fair’s amusements were more important than the worship of God. King David said it best: ‘I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing’ (2 Samuel 24:24). Every person should give and should give sacrificially to the Lord’s work if there is to be true worship.”[1] Baker applies the passage to us similarly. He writes, “In an agricultural society where wealth and the very maintenance of life were measured in livestock, these animal presents came from the very life necessities of the people. By comparison, have not our gifts to the Lord at times become trivialized and cheap, not costing us? Does money, which is the ordinary form which offerings take today, really cost anything to many in today’s society? What would, in fact, be a sacrifice for those with abundant financial resources? Might not our time, our work, our service cost us more than cash in some cases?”[2]

With all the sacrifices we could make to God in response to such sermons, I must ask, “Where is the blood?” I don’t bleed when I give or serve. All of that seems to be no more than fig leaves that I attempt to use to cover up my guilt. An innocent life must be offered for the guilty. The animal sacrifice pictures for you and me the one sacrifice of blood that takes away our sins. That’s what John the Baptist meant when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus, the innocent one, gave Himself as a blood offering for our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Animal sacrifices have stopped with Jesus Christ. Animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. The only basis on which an animal sacrifice could provide forgiveness of sins is Christ. He would sacrifice Himself for our sins, providing the forgiveness that animal sacrifices could only illustrate and foreshadow. This is the actual application of the blood offerings in Leviticus. Appreciating this in our lives moves our hearts in gratitude to give to God and others!

[1] Mathews, Kenneth A. 2009. Leviticus: Holy God, Holy People. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Baker, David W. 1996. “Leviticus.” In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, edited by Philip W. Comfort, 2:16. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Exodus 1:2-5

God Keeps His Promises

As we begin our journey through the book of Exodus, we’re introduced first to the twelve patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Jacob, Israel. The opening five verses say, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.” It doesn’t recognize the order of their birth except for the first four sons of Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaiden, then gave birth to Dan and Naphtali. Zilpah, Leah’s handmaiden, then birthed Gad and Asher. Leah again has two sons herself. They are Issachar and Zebulon. Finally, God opens the womb of Rachel, and she brings forth the two favorite sons of their father, Jacob: Joseph and Benjamin. Except for the last two, we know a lot about them. They were a motley crew and as they were starving to death during a famine in Canaan, there was very little to commend them. Ryken says they were not very powerful in comparison to the people around them “Nor could this ‘dirty dozen’ claim to be any more righteous than anyone else. Their family history was a sordid tale of treachery, philandering, and violence. Their father Jacob had betrayed his brother Esau by tricking him out of his birthright. Like father, like sons: By getting rid of Joseph, Jacob’s boys had tried to deny their father’s blessing. The most despicable of all was Judah, who had sex with his daughter-in-law Tamar. The sons of Israel were all sinners—ordinary mortals.”[1] They were very much like the rest of us.

70 people went down to Egypt. In the Book of Acts, Steven says there were 75 people. The Septuagint has a different figure. No one can count the number of words written about this detail. They are like stars in the sky! Skeptics use it to support their contention that there are errors in the Bible so many apologists go to great lengths to explain the differences. One web blogger does an excellent job and deals with every possible scenario. It is a horribly boring read! But his conclusion is priceless, “I say somewhat tongue in cheek: If this question were posed to me by a Bible skeptic, I feel sure that upon recounting all of the minute details of the various arguments to vindicate Stephen and/or reconcile the numbers, said skeptic would have fallen asleep or at least daydreamed through half so that they could not adequately counter my arguments. In the event that said skeptic had remained alert and still offered objection, I would point out the fact that the actual number of Jacob’s direct descendants that went to Egypt (66) is agreed upon by both the Greek and the Hebrew. The only thing that is disputed is whether or not Joseph’s extended family should be included, and if so, which ones. I’d also point out that the number doesn’t matter in the overall scheme of things anyway.”[2]

Verse five ends with the statement that all the descendants of Israel, Jacob, were now in Egypt along with Joseph. The original readers of this book were most likely the whole company of the Exodus that Moses took with him from Egypt to the wilderness. This was a massive number. Stuart says, “The main point of the first part of the verse being simply to inform the reader that the great nation of Israel that came out of Egypt numbering many tens of thousands had gone into Egypt numbering only seventy. The first readers of the book were people who belonged to the huge exodus nation, for whom Moses composed the narrative. This little detail was a reminder of the faithfulness of God to his promises. The background of this great host was traceable to a single man’s family.”[3] That single man was Israel who had come from the promises of God to Isaac and Abraham. God is faithful to keep his promises. John Piper concludes one of his sermons, “Nothing, not even nature, can cut the suffocating bands of anxiety from our soul, except one thing, the promises of God. Neither valium nor any other tranquilizer can compare to hearing God say, “Be content with what you have, for I will never fail you nor forsake you.”[4]

[1] Ryken, Philip Graham, and R. Kent Hughes. 2005. Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] https://truthsnitch.com/2017/06/21/many-jacobs-descendants-went-egypt-70-75/

[3] Stuart, Douglas K. 2006. Exodus. Vol. 2. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Piper, John. 2007. Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.

Genesis 7:1

Salvation is by Grace through Faith

Several people in the Bible are said to be “righteous.” Job and Noah are two Old Testament examples. The way Genesis 7:1 says it, one might think that Noah was righteous because of his good works. It says, “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.’” Then you read Paul’s comment in Romans 3:10-12, “There is none righteous, no not one.” He’s getting that from Psalm 14:1-3 which says, “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

There is a difference between being “declared” righteous and actually being “righteous.” In our understanding “being righteous” is living a perfect, or close to perfect life and is related to our behavior. But the Hebrew verb used here is more judicial than practical. It is the judge speaking from the bench and dismissing the charges. It’s not that there weren’t any. They are just dismissed. Exell explains the Hebrew adjective, “Which signifies ‘to justify, make appear just, declare just;’ and, hence, gives to the adjective something of the same forensic force, ‘justified.’ The evangelical importance of this can scarcely be overstated. To be just is to be right in point of law, and thereby entitled to all the blessings of the acquitted and justified. When applied to the guilty, this epithet implies pardon of sin, among other benefits of grace.”[1] So even guilty people, like you and me, can be justified. God offers this justification to us on the same basis that he declared it upon Noah.

McGee says, “Why was Noah righteous? It was by faith, just as later on Abraham was counted righteous because of his faith: Noah believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. That is the reason God saved him.”[2] It’s faith that pulls the cart of salvation, not works. Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this, he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” In my view, Noah could not have saved himself. Daniel could not have saved himself from the lions. Job could not save himself from the trials and struggles brought upon him by Satan. I agree with my Lutheran brother, “Noah, Daniel, and Job could not save themselves, nor the Jews, nor us from anything. In fact, they had no righteousness of their own. Their righteousness was not that of human works, but it was a gift of God’s grace received by faith.”[3] That’s why Paul can tell the Ephesians, “It is by grace you are saved, it is not of works lest any man should boast.” The Evangelical Presbyterian Church has a similar statement on this subject, “Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifies them in His sight.”[4]

[1] Exell, Joseph S., and Thomas H. Leale. 1892. Genesis. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary. New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[2] McGee, J. Vernon. 1991. Thru the Bible Commentary: The Law (Genesis 1-15). Electronic ed. Vol. 1. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] https://lutheranspokesman.org/2013/03/01/noah-daniel-and-job-cant-save/

[4] https://epc.org/about/beliefs/?

Revelation 1:1

The End is Near!

The title of the last book of the Bible comes from the very first line in its text. It says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” Commentators make much of the phrase “of Jesus Christ.” They ask is this a “subjective genitive or an objective genitive?” In plain language, they are asking if Jesus is the subject of the revelation or is He the object. Is it about Jesus or is it from Jesus? Charles says, “The genitive here is subjective. The revelation is given by Jesus Christ to John.”[1] Others will say it is an objective genitive and it is about Jesus. Why the discussion? Isn’t it both?  I agree with Trail, “It means both that Jesus Christ is the one who is revealed and that it comes from him.”[2] Arnold is with us, “It also declares that this divine revelation is from Jesus (its source) and about him (its content).”[3] Some see it as a fifth Gospel. “Most of us read the four Gospel books to hear the recorded words and deeds of Christ. Yet few of us think about reading Revelation for the same reason. That is a mistake. Revelation is an epistle from Jesus Christ that not only records his words but also his deeds throughout. In this sense, it is like a fifth Gospel book.”[4]

This is the “Apocalypse!” That’s the first word in the Greek text that is usually translated as “revelation.” It is all about an unveiling of something that has been hidden but is now being revealed. What is it uncovering? Brown says, “The Apocalypse is of His (Jesus’) second advent, and the preliminary events.”[5] John says it is about things that are to take place soon. It is about the future. We see the chain of the delivery of this revelation is from God to Jesus, to an angel, to John who is now passing it on to us. Wilcock says, “The Title tells us that this book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ given by God to his servants. If I am one of those who serve him, then this book is for me, however irrelevant its contents may seem when I first glance through it.”[6] The chain of delivery continues throughout history and reaches us.

About 2000 years have passed since the Revelation of and about Jesus was given to us through the angel and John and passed on from generation to generation. It is hard to grasp how it will all “take place soon” as John says. Many ignore the book to some extent because they fear since so much time has passed the Bible is not reliable. In my life, it feels like the days just crawl by sometimes, but the years fly by. At 76 I can vouch for the fact that it is coming soon. After my heart attack not long ago, I’m more conscious of my mortality than ever. Michaels has some good things to say about this, “Anyone who has faced the prospect of imminent death, whether from illness or accident, and then recovered knows how precious life then seems. The colors of the world are brighter and its contrasts sharper. Everything around us is etched more deeply than before in our senses and in our memories. When we assume that life will go on forever, one day often blurs into another, but when we are reminded that it has an end, every moment and every perception can come alive.”[7] This is what the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” can do for us all. In verse 3, God promises a special blessing to all those who read this book. That might be what He means.

[1] Charles, R.H. 1920. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St John. Vol. 1. International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T&T Clark International.

[2] Trail, Ronald. 2008. An Exegetical Summary of Revelation 1–11. 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: SIL International.

[3] Arnold, Clinton E. 2002. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Hebrews to Revelation. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] https://wyattgraham.com/revelation-is-a-fifth-gospel-in-which-jesus-fully-reveals-himself/

[5] Brown, David, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson. n.d. A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation. Vol. VI. London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited.

[6] Wilcock, Michael. 1986. The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[7] Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1997. Revelation. Vol. 20. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jude 1:1

You are Called, Beloved and Kept!

Some commentators agree with what Bateman says, “The letter begins with Jude identifying himself in a self-effacing or unassuming manner.”[1] The first verse reads, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” He argues the Greek word “Doulos” should not be translated as servant but as slave. That obscures its “precise significance in the language of the first century.” He argues that the term was more of a “legal status” than a designation. They were seen as property. They couldn’t own property because he or she was property and would be inherited by the heirs of the owner. “Slaves were also grouped along with animals. Even in Judaea during the time of Jesus, the slave was on a lower level of humanity. Jude’s description is rather significant in light of the early to mid-60s when large numbers of Judaean peasants were in servitude to landlords.” Yet some suggest that it is a title of honor like it was for Moses in the Old Testament and some of the prophets. They claim to be God’s spokesmen. Davids says, “It is not a term of humility per se (“I am just a nobody”), but an indication that in their eyes their status comes, not from themselves but from the one to whom they belong and whose delegate they are.”[2] Whichever view one takes it is clear that Jude was identifying himself as under the authority of another. In his case, it is his own brother which would take more humility than usual. Being under authority is a crucial element for Christians. Helm says of Jude, “He is modeling Christian maturity for every reader—strikingly by the third word in the English text. That he does so with such matter-of-fact joy ought to be encouraging. Never think it wrong or demeaning to identify yourself as one under authority. There is great sweetness in living by God’s design.”[3]

Jude clearly recognizes Jesus as the Messiah. In the early church that was predominantly made up of Jewish believers, this was the sign of a true Christian. One must acknowledge that Jesus was the one talked about throughout the Old Testament and seen as the savior of the world. Of course, when Stephen made that assertion in Acts 7, he was stoned to death by the Jews. As the brother of James, Jude was also the half-brother of Jesus. The zealous Jews who nailed Jesus to the cross and later killed Stephen were opposed to applying this title to Jesus. It marked Jude as a legitimate believer in Jesus to the Jewish community as a whole. This made him a target, but it also made his message more acceptable to the Christians to which he was writing.

Jude applies three titles to his readers. First, they are the “called.” Charles Spurgeon had some good observations about how God is the initiator of our salvation. He writes, “I believe the doctrine of election because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterward. And He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.”4 Second, they are “beloved in God the Father.” Finally, they are “kept for Jesus Christ.” Helm puts these three words together and says, “The fullness in the phrases ‘called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ only deepens our sense of good fortune. Incredible—loved by the Father, kept for the Son, and called by the Spirit. Called, beloved, and kept. Like a river, the words when put together flow effortlessly, soothing weary listeners in need of shoring up their faith.”

[1] Bateman, Herbert W., IV. 2015. Jude: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Edited by H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Davids, Peter H. 2006. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

[3] Helm, David R. 2008. 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

4 Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954), p. 227.

3 John 1:1-2

Prayer for Soul Prosperity

As John began his 2nd letter, so did he begin his 3rd letter. He refers to himself simply as “The Elder.” He writes, “The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” By dating this letter, it appears that John was the only Apostle left alive. Most commentators agree that it was probably John’s last Epistle penned before his death sometime around 90 AD. If the term “Elder” referred to those Apostles who exercised authority over many churches, it’s easy to understand why John called himself “The” Apostle. All the rest were dead by that time.

John is writing to the “beloved Gaius.”

Paul addressed one of his prison epistles to Philemon, and here John addresses his 3rd Epistle to an individual named “Gaius.” Osborne observes,  “Several people with the name Gaius are mentioned in the NT: (1) a Macedonian traveling companion of Paul (Acts 19:29); (2) a native of Derbe in Lycaonia, who traveled with Paul from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 20:4); (3) a prominent believer who hosted Paul and the whole church in Corinth (Rom 16:23; 1 Cor 1:14). The Gaius in 3 John was probably a different person than these three inasmuch as “Gaius” was a common name in those days.”[1] Instead of the literal “beloved,” some translations say “my dear friend.”  As a dear friend, John is legitimately concerned for Gaius and tells him that he is praying for him. Maybe John is setting an example of how we should pray for each other.

John prays that all will go well with Gaius.

This is a general prayer for favorable life circumstances. Life is complicated for everyone, and I expect it was for Gaius. Although modern advances make our lives more difficult, relationships never change. We all have those complications. John is praying that these situations are pleasant in Gaius’ life. I take comfort in thinking that John might even care for my well-being. I would expect that when John asks, “how are you?” he really wants to know. I should learn something from that.

John also prays for Gaius’ health.

Specifically, he prays, that you may enjoy good health. At many of our church prayer meetings, this is a primary concern. Recently, we’ve struggled with a Covid pandemic, and we’ve all had it, or we know those that have had it. We’ve prayed for people to recover from this quickly with no lasting effects. We’ve also prayed for more severe afflictions like cancer and life-threatening things. It’s good to lift each other up regarding our health.

But John also prays for the Gaius’ soul.

I’ve wrestled with what John means by this. In the Church, it seems that the “soul” refers to that inward part of man that can connect with God. Case suggests, “We can say that John’s concern is for the inner being of Gaius, in all of its functions related to mind, emotion, will, and faith.”[2] The way this prayer is worded, it appears that John is saying my prayer is that “you may be as prosperous and robust in spiritual matters as you are in bodily and material things.”[3] There is such a thing as soul prosperity that does not have to be connected with material or physical prosperity. According to Paul, contentment in whatever life circumstances we find ourselves in is great gain. I can see that in the prison cell in Philippi where Paul and Silas were locked up yet singing hymns. I want that soul prosperity, wouldn’t you?

[1] Osborne, Grant, Philip W. Comfort. 2007. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 13: John and 1, 2, and 3 John. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Case, David A., and David W. Holdren. 2006. 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude: A Commentary for Bible Students. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.

[3] MacLaren, Alexander. 2009. Expositions of Holy Scripture: 1 John 5, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

2 John 1:1

Truth and Love

The opening verse of John’s letter is a little different. He ignores the custom of identifying himself in detail and gets right to his subject matter. He begins, “The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth.” John introduces himself simply as “the elder.” The Greek word is the one from which we get Presbyter. Some argue that he simply means “the old one.” Others say it is an official title for an office in the larger, universal church. Some will say that John is simply using it to say that he is old because it’s in the singular. When it’s used to refer to church leaders, it’s always in the plural. But I don’t think that matters much. He’s one of the many, and by the time of this letter, he is indeed an older man. Both could be true.

He’s writing “to the elect lady and her children.”  A side note about these two Greek words is made in the Translators Handbook. It says, “The Greek words used here have been interpreted by some as proper names (“Eklektē” and “Kuria”), but this is highly improbable.”[1] Is John addressing a specific lady and her household, or is he addressing a local church and its members? There are solid arguments for both sides of this discussion.  James Boice writes in support of it being a personal letter. He says, “A personal address of this kind is what would be expected in so short and straightforward a letter. Moreover, if the recipient is not an individual, then the address must be symbolic of something else, and it hardly seems necessary to read a symbolic message or meaning into so short a text.”[2] But Thompson says, “The congregation to which he is writing is designated metaphorically as the chosen lady and her children; we would say ‘the church and its members.’ Regularly in the Scriptures, Israel or the church is designated as a woman or the bride of Yahweh or Christ.”[3] Kruse also adds some reasoning for this opinion: “The letter closes with the words ‘the children of your chosen sister send their greetings’ (v. 13), which appears to be a way of conveying the greetings of the elder’s Christian community to his readers.”[4] Then Palmer says, “I find it hard to agree with the church theory. It makes better sense in my view to interpret this letter in its most obvious sense, as a letter written by John to an esteemed friend and her family. The fact that no city designation is made also supports this view.”[5] I think both are correct. Many of the early churches met in people’s homes. Lydia had a church in her home. Philemon had a church in his home. So John addresses the household family and those that gather together at that home church.

The critical thought is that John loves them, as do all who “embrace the truth.”Does the phrase “Whom I love in the truth” mean that John is saying his love is genuine? Does he mean that his love, and the love of others of like faith, are based on their shared faith in Jesus? I take it to mean the latter. We’ve stepped out of a broader world where love is based on attraction, family relationships, or friendship into the circle of believers in Jesus.  The Love that John is talking about is “More than mere sentiment.  It does not lean on the attractiveness of its object.  It rests on the Truth Himself, Jesus the Lord.  Christian love rests on Christian truth.”[6] Smalley says, “Here is a congregation of believers which has its basis in the truth of Christ, and which is bound together by mutual love. Their truth and love are, or should be, typical of the Church in general.”[7] John, the Elder, addresses all of us who believe in Jesus.

[1] Haas, C., Marinus de Jonge, and J. L. Swellengrebel. 1994. A Handbook on the Letters of John. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Boice, James Montgomery. 2004. The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Thompson, Marianne Meye. 1992. 1–3 John. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Kruse, Colin G. 2000. The Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.

[5] Palmer, Earl F., and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. 1982. 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation. Vol. 35. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[6] Richison, Grant. 2006. Verse by Verse through the Books of 1, 2 & 3 John. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems.

[7] Smalley, Stephen S. 1984. 1, 2, 3 John. Vol. 51. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

1 John 1:1

Who is Jesus?

It didn’t take long after the church began that heresies began to arise. Many of them centered around the person and work of Jesus himself. Today some reject Christianity in general but more frightening to me is the fact that many professing Christians reject the clear biblical teachings regarding the deity of Christ. A “2020 survey conducted by Ligonier Ministries, a Florida-based Reform Church nonprofit found that 52 percent of U.S. adults say they believe Jesus Christ is not God — a belief that contradicts traditional teachings of the Bible through the Christian church, which state Jesus was both man and God. Nearly one-third of evangelicals in the survey agreed that Jesus isn’t God, compared to 65 percent who said: “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.”[1] The Ligonier ministries issued a public statement affirming their confidence in the Deity of Christ as contained in the teachings of the Bible. They begin their statement, “We confess the mystery and wonder of God made flesh and rejoice in our great salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. With the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son created all things, sustains all things, and makes all things new. Truly, God, He became truly man, two natures in one person.”[2]

The other side of that heresy is that God was not fully man. The “radical distinction between our bodies and our spirits led Gnostics to twist the early church’s understanding of who Jesus was and is. The Gnostics saw Jesus as a messenger bringing the special knowledge of salvation to humanity’s imprisoned soul. They believed that when Jesus came to earth, He didn’t possess a body like our own; instead, the Gnostics taught that He only seemed to have a physical body. This was a denial of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation—the belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.”[3]

In his first letter, the Apostle John attacks the Gnostics. He jumps right into his refutation with the first verse. He writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” The “word of Life” that John is talking about of course is Jesus himself. You might remember his Gospel where he said, “The Word became Flesh” referring clearly to Jesus. He says four things that are important for us to remember. First, it was from the beginning. This looks back to his Gospel as well as the first verse in the Bible which beings “In the Beginning.” Before anything was created, Jesus was there. Second, “which we have heard.” This involved the physical sense of hearing. Then he adds “which we have seen with our eyes.” This was not an illusion. It was real. Well, maybe Jesus was just an apparition. John says, “we have touched with our hands.” The eyewitnesses, most of whom were tortured to get them to deny what they heard, saw, and felt, died without changing a word of this testimony. According to early tradition, John was boiled in oil better never changed a word of this testimony. Thompson says, “Clearly, he wishes to underscore that what he is bearing witness to is no figment of his imagination, no invention of his own. He wishes to set before his readers the life that is in Jesus Christ.”[4] The question that Jesus posed to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” is addressed to all of us in each generation. What do you say?

[1] https://www.newsweek.com/52-percent-americans-say-jesus-isnt-not-god-was-great-teacher-survey-says-1528617

[2] https://www.christologystatement.com/

[3] https://insight.org/resources/article-library/individual/mind-over-matter-the-heresy-of-gnosticism-both-then-and-now

[4] Thompson, Marianne Meye. 1992. 1–3 John. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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