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Lesson 33: Seeking Jesus Rightly (John 6:22-36)

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November 3, 2013

What are you seeking for in life? We all seek happiness, but where are you looking for that happiness? Some think that they will find it in financial success or a satisfying career, and so they devote themselves to those pursuits. Others think that they will find happiness in sex. They become enslaved to pornography, or they go from one partner to the next. Many try to find that pleasure in alcohol or drugs, only to destroy their lives. Some seek happiness through marriage and children. While a happy family is a blessing from God, it should never become our main source for happiness, because we can easily lose it through death. And often our families can be the source of great pain. As Solomon makes clear in Ecclesiastes, any earthly thing that you seek to satisfy the inner void is like chasing soap bubbles. You catch one only to have it burst in your hand.

The Bible is clear that our ultimate source of happiness and pleasure is found only in God. David wrote (Ps. 16:11), “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Jesus told the disciples (John 15:11), “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” We will find fullness of joy and pleasures forever when we seek God.

A. W. Tozer begins his spiritual classic, The Pursuit of God ([Christian Publications], p. 11), by pointing out “that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.” As Paul says (Rom. 3:11), “There is none who seeks for God.” Tozer adds (ibid.), “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.” Thus we can’t take credit for our pursuit of God.

And yet at the same time, the Bible clearly exhorts everyone, including the ungodly, to seek the Lord. Isaiah 55:6-7 calls to us,

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

So there is a mystery here: no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44), and yet we are commanded to come to Jesus and to seek Him diligently. We begin by seeking Him for the mercy of salvation and we keep seeking Him for the grace to live in a manner pleasing to Him. It’s a lifelong quest. The prophet Hosea said (6:3), “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” The apostle Paul echoes that (Phil. 3:7-11), where he says that he has counted all of his former gains as loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ. Even though he had known Christ for about 25 years when he wrote that letter, he admits that he had not yet attained what he desired. Then he added (Phil. 3:14), “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Tozer put it like this (ibid., p. 14, 17),

Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking…. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.

In our text (John 6:24), many of the people whom Jesus had fed with the loaves and fish “came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.” The morning after the miracle, they couldn’t find Jesus. They knew that He had not left in the boat with the disciples and that there had not been any other boats there the night before. But they couldn’t find Him. So when some small boats from Tiberias came there, these people got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. Their question when they found Him (6:25), “Rabbi, when did You get here?” shows that they couldn’t figure out how He got there because they didn’t know about His walking on the water to the disciples.

Jesus could have replied, “I got here early this morning after I walked on the water to the disciples and joined them in the boat.” That answer would have caused some jaws to drop! But Jesus didn’t answer their question. Instead, He confronted them because even though they had gone to a good bit of trouble to seek Him, they were seeking Him wrongly. They sought Him because they wanted a political Messiah to bring peace and prosperity. By reversing their negative example into a positive one, we can learn how to seek Jesus rightly:

Seek Jesus for the right reason, by the right route, and through the right relationship to give you eternal life.

These Jews were seeking Jesus for the wrong reason: They wanted Him to provide them with material comfort, not with eternal life (6:22-27). They were seeking by the wrong route: works, not faith (6:28-29). And, they were seeking Jesus as the new Moses, to provide them with what they wanted, but not as the satisfying bread of life whom they could know personally (6:30-36).

1. Seek Jesus for the right reason: Desire eternal food, not temporal food (6:22-27).

Jesus confronts the multitude (John 6:26): “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” He means that they had missed the true significance of the miracle that He had just performed. Rightly understood, the miracle of the loaves and fish should have turned them to Christ as their Messiah, who could satisfy their spiritual hunger for time and eternity. But, as one commentator put it (Lange, cited by F. Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of John [Zondervan], 2:18), “Instead of seeing in the bread the sign, they had seen in the sign only the bread.” Their minds were on the temporal and material, rather than on the eternal and spiritual. They wanted their stomachs filled, but they weren’t seeking Jesus for eternal life. They had no sense of their sin or their need to be reconciled to the holy God. They sought Jesus only for what He could do for them materially.

Jesus’ words here obviously refute the popular heresy that it is God’s will for every Christian to be financially prosperous. The false teachers who promote this damnable teaching are preying on people’s greed. Sadly, this teaching is rampant in many poor countries, as well as in the United States. It deceives people into thinking that their real need is more money, when in fact their real need is the eternal life that Jesus offers. So, Jesus becomes Aladdin’s Genie to help you get what you want out of life. But He isn’t the Savior from sin, who satisfies your soul whether you are rich or poor, living in a nice home or locked up in a cold prison cell.

So Jesus exhorts (6:27), “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Jesus doesn’t mean that you should quit your job and take a vow of poverty. The Bible commends hard work and commands us to provide adequately for our families (Col. 3:23; 1 Tim. 5:8). It does not condemn having earthly riches, although it does warn about the dangers of riches (1 Tim. 6:8-10, 17-19).

Rather, Jesus is showing us by way of contrast where to put our focus. As He said in Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Or, as Jesus graphically illustrated with the parable of the man who wanted to build bigger barns to store his wealth, but who died that very night, to end up rich in this world’s goods, but to die poor toward God, is a huge mistake (Luke 12:15-21). We should not be so caught up with working to put food on the table that we neglect working for “the food which endures to eternal life.”

I’ll comment more on this when we look at 6:28-29, but note the irony of Jesus’ statement that we should work for this food that endures to eternal life, and yet at the same time, the Son of Man gives it to us. It’s the same as when Jesus exhorted His hearers (Luke 13:24), “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” Or (Matt. 11:12), “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” There is a lot of effort involved in “striving” and “taking the kingdom by force.” And yet at the same time, Jesus gives living water to the spiritually thirsty and the true bread of eternal life to the hungry (John 4:10; 6:27, 32, 35).

What does it mean to work “for the food which endures to eternal life”? J. C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:347) sums it up well:

How are we to labor? There is but one answer. We must labor in the use of all appointed means. We must read our Bibles, like men digging for hidden treasure. We must wrestle earnestly in prayer, like men contending with a deadly enemy for life. We must take our whole heart to the house of God, and worship and hear like those who listen to the reading of a benefactor’s will. We must fight daily against sin, the world, and the devil, like those who fight for liberty, and must conquer, or be slaves. These are the ways we must walk in if we would find Christ, and be found of Him. This is “laboring.” This is the secret of getting on about our souls.

As always, Ryle cuts to the quick! Evaluate yourself in light of his words and put them into action. Figure out how to rearrange your busy schedule so that you take the time and effort to work for the food which endures to eternal life.”

Before we leave these verses, note three important truths here about Jesus. First, Jesus knows your motives. He saw right through this crowd that was seeking Him for the wrong reasons and He lovingly confronted and exhorted them in the way they needed to change. When Jesus confronts your wrong motives through His Word, pay attention and respond with repentance. He’s doing it because He loves you, not to hurt you.

Second, Jesus gives spiritual food to those who seek Him properly. He could not do this if He were not God. He knows exactly what you need to grow in Him and He will give it to you when you diligently seek Him for it.

Third, Jesus is God’s only approved source of spiritual blessing. He says (6:27b), “For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” A seal in that day authenticated a document and showed that the owner of the seal approved of it (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 359). D. A. Carson explains (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 284), “The idea is that God has certified the Son as his own agent, authorizing him as the one who alone can bestow this food.” So don’t fall prey to any false teaching that diminishes the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Seek Him for the food that endures to eternal life.

2. Seek Jesus by the right route: by faith, not by works (6:28-29).

John 6:28-29: “Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’” Their question picks up on Jesus’ command not to work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life (6:27). John Calvin explains (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 243), “By the works of God we must understand those which God demands, and of which he approves.”

Again, Jesus is using irony here. He does not mean that faith is a meritorious work on our part that somehow commends us to God. The Bible is clear that faith itself is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29). Rather, Jesus is picking up on their question about works and saying, in effect, “The only ‘work’ that you can do is not to work, but rather to believe in Me, the one whom the Father has sent to provide salvation through My death and resurrection.” As Calvin again explains (ibid., p. 245),

Now faith brings nothing to God, but, on the contrary, places man before God as empty and poor, that he may be filled with Christ and with his grace. It is, therefore, if we may be allowed the expression, a passive work, to which no reward can be paid, and it bestows on man no other righteousness than that which he receives from Christ.

Seeking to be right with God by works rather than by faith alone is probably the most common spiritual error in the world. All false religions, including some that go under the label of “Christian,” teach a works-approach to salvation. They may teach that we are saved by faith, but not by faith alone, but by faith plus works. But if that is true, then we have grounds for boasting in ourselves. And, the question is, how many works do you have to add to your faith to be saved? The Bible is clear that those who are saved by faith in Christ always produce good works as a result (Eph. 2:8-10; James 2:14-26). But it is faith in Christ alone that saves. As Paul put it (Rom. 4:4-5), “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

So to seek Jesus and the food that endures to eternal life, come to Him as a guilty, helpless sinner and trust entirely in what He did for you when He died on the cross. If you want to fly somewhere, you’ve got to entrust yourself totally to the pilot and the airplane. It would be ridiculous to insist on going into the cockpit and helping the pilot fly the plane, especially if you are not a trained pilot. Even so, it’s crazy to tell God that you’re going to help Jesus save you by your good works when He has said that He will save all that trust in Him. Don’t trust in your own good works to justify you when you stand before God someday. Rather (Acts 16:31), “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Thus there is nothing more important to seek for in life than to seek for Jesus and the eternal life that He can give. Seek Him for the right reason: you need eternal food, not temporal food. Seek Him by the right route: by faith and not by works.

3. Seek Jesus through the right relationship: Hunger for Him to satisfy your soul (6:30-36).

These Jews, who have just the day before eaten the miraculous loaves and fish, ask Jesus an incredible question (6:30): “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?” They go on (6:31) to mention that their fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. Behind this request for a sign was the Jewish expectation that when the Messiah came, He would renew the miracle of the manna (Morris, p. 361).

So in spite of Jesus’ miraculous feeding the 20,000, they’re asking for more: Jesus fed a large crowd; Moses fed the entire nation. Jesus did it once; Moses did it for 40 years. Jesus provided ordinary bread; Moses gave them “bread out of heaven.” So they’re saying, “Okay, Jesus, you gave us a little sign. Let’s see You do a big one, like Moses did! Then we’ll believe in You!” Ryle (pp. 361-362) astutely comments,

They were always deceiving themselves with the idea that they wanted more evidence and pretending that if they had this evidence they would believe. Thousands in every age do just the same…. The plain truth is that it is lack of heart, not lack of evidence, that keeps people back from Christ.

Jesus responds by correcting them. He says (6:32-33), “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” He is saying, first, that it wasn’t Moses who gave them the manna; God did. And, second, the manna wasn’t the true bread, because people who ate it still died. But Jesus, whom God sent, gives eternal life to the world, that is, to all people everywhere who believe in Him.

The Jews’ reply focuses on the material, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (“Lord” here should properly be translated, “Sir.” They were not acknowledging Jesus to be Lord, as 6:36 makes plain. They just wanted Jesus to be their free meal ticket.) Jesus’ reply tells them who the true bread is and how to get it (6:35): “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” This is the first of seven “I am” metaphors in John (8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). I’ll say more next time, but for now note what an astounding claim this is. Jesus is saying that He is the source of eternal life and the sustainer of that life for whoever comes to Him and believes in Him.

These Jews were satisfied with their religion and rituals that had come down to them from Moses, so they had no hunger for the living bread that Jesus offered. Before you are hungry to eat of the living bread God has to open your eyes to your true condition: Without Christ you are spiritually starving. In Christ’s day, bread was the main staple in their diet. You could not live without bread. In the same way, you cannot live eternally in the presence of the holy God without Jesus Christ. The Father sent Jesus to this world to bear the sins of all who believe in Him. Without Him, you’re under God’s righteous judgment.

“Coming to Jesus” and “believing in Jesus” are parallel here. They explain what Jesus means in 6:53 when He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. It means to trust in Jesus’ death as the complete and final payment for your sins. Jesus says that the result of coming to Him is that we will not hunger and the result of believing in Him is that we will never thirst. This does not mean that we will not still long to know more and more of the riches of Christ. Rather, it means that when we truly believe in Jesus, we are satisfied with Him. We have all spiritual blessings in Him (Eph. 1:3). We are complete in Him (Col. 2:10).

Conclusion

Sadly, these Jews were seeking Jesus for the wrong reason: They wanted Him to provide for their material needs, but they didn’t see their spiritual needs. They sought Jesus by the wrong route: works, but not faith. They sought Him through the wrong relationship: They wanted Him to be the new Moses, the new political leader to bring in peace and prosperity, but they didn’t want to come to Him personally in faith to satisfy their spiritual hunger. Jesus states the tragic result (6:36): They had seen Him and yet they did not believe.

What are you seeking for in life? Jesus is the only one who can provide true soul satisfaction, both in this life and for eternity. But perhaps you’re seeking Jesus wrongly: You want Him to provide for your temporal needs, but you don’t sense your desperate spiritual need for Him as the living bread to give you eternal life. Even worse, maybe you aren’t seeking Jesus at all. You’re a heartbeat away from standing before God in judgment, and yet you don’t even see your desperate condition. Cry out to God to open your eyes to your greatest need. Come to Jesus and you will not hunger. Believe in Him and you will never thirst.

Application Questions

  1. How can we help unbelievers to see that their main need is for eternal life, not for temporal goods or pleasures?
  2. A Roman Catholic friend argues that James 2:14-26 proves that we must add our works to faith in order to be saved. How would you answer him? What Scriptures would you use?
  3. To do well in a demanding career, you must devote much time and effort to it. How does John 6:27 apply in this situation?
  4. Reread J. C. Ryle’s comments (pp. 3-4) on how we should labor for the food that endures to eternal life. How can you best apply his prescription?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2013, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)

Set Your Heart Upon Your Ways (Haggai 1)

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After many long years in exile, a remnant of the Jewish people returned to Israel eager to resume life in the promised land. Their first order of business? To rebuild the Temple of the Lord. But after nearly twenty years, the Temple still lay in ruins and the people had entered a period of despair and decline. At that time, the prophet Haggai stepped onto the scene with a surprising message that re-centered the people's priorities. Nearly 2500 years later, Haggai's first sermon remains just as fresh in an age of misplaced priorities and endless busyness.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship, Spiritual Life

Lesson 8: The Study of the Holy Spirit

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You might as well try to hear without ears or breathe without lungs, as try to live a Christian life without the Spirit of God in your heart. ― D. L. Moody

Introduction

Someone once articulated that the average church member’s understanding of the Holy Spirit is so vague it is nearly non-existent. Imagine a conversation with a Jehovah witness (JW); it might go something like this. JW: The word Trinity never appears in the Bible and is a myth. Christian: While you are correct that the word Trinity itself never occurs in the Bible the Bible teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are separate persons but one God. JW: The Holy Spirit is merely God’s “active force”1 kind of like electricity but not a separate person. Christian: Really! I am not sure; that doesn’t sound right. I will have to get back to you on that.

Whether we know it or like it or not non-trininitarian groups are confronting Christians with such issues like this every day in person and in writings posted on the internet. A Unitarian website tries to convincingly offer thirty four “biblical” and historical reasons why the Holy Spirit is not a person.2

The study of the Holy Spirit in theological terminology is called pneumatology. The study of the Holy Spirit raises certain basic questions. Who is the Holy Spirit? What is the biblical evidence for the personhood of the Spirit? What did the Holy Spirit do in regard to creation and revelation? What is the Holy Spirit’s role in a person’s conversion and sanctification? What about spiritual gifts? These are some of the issues that this lesson is going to cover.

The Personhood and Deity of the Spirit

First things first. The Holy Spirit is a member of the Trinity and as such is a person. The Spirit has attributes that only a person could have. He has intelligence (1 Cor 2:10-13), feelings (Eph 4:30), and a will (1 Cor 12:11; Acts 16:6-12). He prays (Rom 8:26). He does miracles (Acts 8:39). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3). He can be insulted (Heb 10:29). He teaches and directs (John 14:26; Acts 8:29; Rom 8:14). Let’s look at two of these examples. In 1 Cor 12:11 Paul describes the Holy’s Spirit’s role in distributing spiritual gifts: “It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things” (1 Cor 12:11). Here the Holy Spirit is seen “deciding” what gifts to gift to each person. In other words, the Holy Spirit has a will, which is one characteristic of a person. In Acts 5:3 the Holy Spirit is directly equated with God. Here in the early formation of the church Peter is rebuking two individuals who state that they had given more than they actually had: “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!’” (Acts 5:3-4). Notice two aspects about these verses. The first is that the Holy Spirit is lied to. This means that the Holy Spirit is personal. You cannot lie to a table or to electricity because it is not a person. The second aspect is that lying to the Holy Spirit is equated with lying to God. This means that the Holy Spirit is God.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament: Creation, Revelation and Filling

In the very first verses of the Bible the Holy Spirit is seen as involved in the creation of the universe. There we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water” (Gen 1:1-2). In another place Elihu says to Job: The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4 cf. Gen 2:7). In fact the Hebrew word for “spirit” (ruach) can also be translated as breath or wind. The same is true in Greek (pneuma) in the Greek Old Testament and Greek New Testament. The significance of this is that breath is what gives life to a body.

In regard to the revelation of God’s word the Holy Spirit also has a role. In citing Psalm 2 Peter and John state “Master, who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather, ‘Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot foolish things” (Acts 4:25). Here the Psalm is said to be by the Holy Spirit though David. The human author David is described as the intermediate source of the message while the Holy Spirit is the source that channeled it to him. In citing Psalm 95, similarly the author of Hebrews states, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! (Heb 3:7). In this passage even though the Psalmist writes the message the Holy Spirit “says” it.

In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit filled individuals for various kinds of service and in some cases this filling is explicitly seen as temporary. A good example of the temporary nature of the filling of the Spirit in the Old Testament occurred in the life of Israel’s first king, Saul. The record of it starts in the book of First Samuel: “Then the spirit of God rushed upon Saul and he prophesied among them” (1 Sam10:9). But later after Saul’s disobedience to God the Spirit of God departed from him: “Now the Spirit of the Lord had turned away from [departed] Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Sam 16:14). Apparently, the next King of Israel, David, learned from Saul’s example. After David’s sin of adultery (and murder) with Bathsheba he recorded a prayer found in Psalm 51, “Do not reject me! Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me” (Ps 51:11). David did not want what happened to Saul happen to him. However, a temporary filling of the Spirit seen in the Old Testament era should not be confused with the baptism of the Spirit in the church age (Acts 2). This baptism is a permanent act of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. So Christians can be assured that the Holy Spirit will not be taken from them (cf. Eph 1:13-14).

The Work of the Holy Spirit in regard to Man’s Salvation

The Bible also describes the Holy Spirit as very active in man’s salvation. In fact, the Spirit is indispensable for anyone to be saved. His work can be divided into three general categories of activity: his pre-conversion work, conversion work and post-conversion work.

The Pre-Conversion Work of the Holy Spirit

Prior to anyone placing his or her faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is involved in setting the conditions that allow for someone’s faith response to the gospel. One of these roles is the convicting of sin and truth. John states, “And He (The Helper = Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:8-10; NASB). One could supplement this idea with the concept that the Holy Spirit speaks to individuals though the preaching of the gospel. Paul writes to the Thessalonians “our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess 1:5).3

The Conversion Work of the Holy Spirit

Regeneration may be defined as “the impartation of new life” or “the washing of the new birth.” This washing and new life is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. The primary verse that supports this is from Paul’s letter to Titus. He states, “He [God] saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). While some theologians place regeneration prior to faith which results in conversion, it’s probably better to see regeneration as equated to conversion itself. In Acts Peter states, "Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Here, the gift of the Holy Spirit is conditioned upon repentance in relation to the gospel preaching of Peter.

Upon conversion the believer in Jesus Christ is said to be baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. This baptism is a one time event in which metaphorically speaking Christ becomes our head and we are joined with believers as fellow members of the body. Paul states, “For in [or by] one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). This baptism forms our union with Christ and with fellow believers. Related to the baptism of the Spirit is the indwelling of the Spirit. Upon and after conversion, the Holy Spirit indwells the life of the believer. Paul reminds the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). In the book of Romans Paul adds, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). One could say that the indwelling Spirit is the definition of a Christian.

Believers, who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, are also sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14). Sealing communicates God’s mark of permanent ownership on us. The Holy Spirit is also described in these verses as a pledge or down payment that insures that God will complete his salvific work in us.

Spiritual Gifts

Lastly, every person who has been born again receives a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit. Paul writes: “Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all” (1 Cor 12:4, 7). This leads us to the very large topic of spiritual gifts and their use in the life of a believer. In some cases unfortunately this is a topic comes with a lot of questions and even controversy. Lists of spiritual gifts occur in Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. The gifts are listed in the order in which they are given.

Romans 12

1 Corinthians

Ephesians 4

Prophecy

apostle

 

apostle

Service

prophet

 

prophet

Teaching

teacher

evangelist

Exhortation

miracles

pastor

Contributing

gifts of healing

teacher4

Leadership

helps

 

Mercy

gifts of leadership

 

 

different kinds of tongues

 

 

message of wisdom

 

 

message of knowledge

 

 

faith

 

 

interpretation of tongues

 

 

discernment of spirits

 

We can begin the process of studying spiritual gifts by describing points of clarity and agreement from 1 Corinthians 12-14. The first point is that each Christian has at least one spiritual gift (1 Cor 12:7). It’s not that some Christians have gifts and some don’t. Second, it’s the Holy Spirit who decides what gift(s) he gives to each person. We may want to have one gift or another but it’s the Holy Spirit who decides on the distribution (1 Cor 12:7-9). It’s not what we want but rather what he wants. Thirdly, gifts are to be used for the “benefit of all” (1 Cor 12:7). Gifts are not given primarily for the benefit of the gift holder but rather as a ministry for others. Spiritual gifts are not to be self-focused but rather others focused. Fourthly, not all people have the same gift. This is Paul’s point at the end of 1 Cor 12 where he asks a series of questions where the expected answer is no.5 For example, “Not all speak in tongues do they?” The answer is that no not all have the gift of tongues. Lastly, gifts are to be exercised in love. As Paul states, exercising gifts without love is like an annoyance of banging gongs or symbols (1 Cor 13:1).

Most evangelical Christians are at least somewhat aware that there are questions and points of difference and disagreement regarding spiritual gifts. For example, is God giving all gifts today, such as the gift of apostleship, prophecy, tongues, or healing? The gifts of apostleship and prophecy are foundational to the church and on which the church is built. Paul writes regarding the church “you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” (Eph 2:20; cf. Heb 2:3-4). One criteria of apostle in the early church is that the person saw the resurrected Jesus (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor 9:1). Unless Christ made a special appearance as he did to Paul on the road to Damascus this criteria would not be replicable today. There is no explicitly clear statement that some gifts have ceased but one must also compare the claim of possessing a certain gift with Scripture. What is the nature of the gift in the Bible? What is its purpose? How did or does it function? Comparing claims of how the various gifts operate with the Scripture itself is the best way to determine a claim’s validity or lack thereof. God can give any gift anywhere at anytime but the question to consider now is, “Is he giving all gifts today?” To answer this question, we need to compare the claim closely with the Scripture. Lastly, for most evangelicals even if one does not hold to all the gifts functioning today this does not rule out God doing miracles directly such as healing in response to prayer (James 5:13-18). My own view though is to be very cautious about accepting claims of apostleship or prophet or other “sign” or “revelatory” gifts. These were gifts of authority, infallible prediction, miracles/signs, and revelation that God used in the founding of the church.

The Post-Conversion Work of the Holy Spirit

What is the role of the Holy Spirit following conversion? The filling, empowering and guiding of the believer is included in this part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. While the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs once at conversion, the filling of the Spirit can happen multiple times after conversion and also is commanded. In Acts after Paul’s conversion we read, “But Saul (also known as Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at him” (Acts 13:9). Here the filling of the Spirit is at the forefront propelling Paul’s ministry and happens well after his conversion recorded in Acts 9. To the church at Ephesus Paul writes, “And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). Here the filling of the Spirit is given as a command to be followed. In this analogy the Spirit is compared negatively to wine. The point is don’t let wine control you but rather have the Holy Spirit do so. Closely related to being filled with the Spirit is being empowered with the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:16, 22-23). It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that enables Christians to live lives obedient to God. Lastly, not only does the Holy Spirit fill and empower but he also leads or guides the believer in Jesus Christ. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14).

Symbols of the Holy Spirit

A final area of discussion is that of some instances where the Holy Spirit is referred to in the Bible with a symbol. Four prominent symbols that refer to the Holy Spirit are the dove, fire, wind and water.6 Each one communicates something different about the Holy Spirit. When looking at a symbol, one must be careful to make sure the context is identifying the symbol with the referent you are considering in this case the Holy Spirit. For example, even though the Holy Spirit is identified with a dove in Matt 3:16 it would be an interpretive mistake to see the Holy Spirit in every place a dove is referred to in the Bible. In Genesis 8:8 Noah sends out a dove to see if the flood waters had receded, but one should not interpret this as Noah sending out the Holy Spirit.

Dove

Probably the most recognizable symbol of the Holy Spirit is the dove that appeared at the baptism of Jesus. It is recorded in all four gospels (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Matthew writes, “After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming on him” (Matt 3:16). The dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit communicates beauty, gentleness, and peace. The dove also comes from above, perhaps suggesting coming from heaven.7

Fire

Another symbol of the Holy Spirit is fire. In the Bible, fire can communicate the Lord’s presence (Exod 3:2), purification (1 Pet 1:7) or judgment (Lev 10:2; Heb 12:29) depending on the context. The most explicit passage that refers to the Holy Spirit as fire is in Acts 2. “Now when the day of Pentecost had come, . . tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4). In a similar analogy, Paul commands the Thessalonians, “Do not quench the Spirit” (NASB; I Thess 5:19). Disobedience to the Spirit is like throwing water on a fire.              

Wind

The Greek word for Spirit (pneuma) can also be translated as breath or wind. Perhaps then it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit is seen and compared to as wind. Two verses in the New Testament communicate this.8 In Acts 2:4 Luke writes, “Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting.” And in John 3:8, John describes, “The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." The image of wind communicates that the Holy Spirit is powerful, invisible, immaterial and sovereignly blows where he intends.9

Water

Lastly, water is also an image of the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes this explicit connection on one of the feast days of Israel. “On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, `From within him will flow rivers of living water.' (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified)” (John 7:37-39). As physical fresh water is needed for physical life, the living water of the Holy Spirit is needed for spiritual life.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Christians should not be afraid of the Holy Spirit but rather look to the Spirit for guidance and spiritual strength. The Holy Spirit is alive and active today in the lives of both believers and unbelievers.10 As Christians, we are to be eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit is our permanent indwelling companion, gifting us to serve others and empowering us to live the Christian life. He is to be respected, followed and cherished.

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you respond scripturally to someone that said that the Holy Spirit is just an impersonal force like lightening?
  2. In Psalm 51 David prayed to God to not take the Holy Spirit from him. Why did he pray this? Could God take his Holy Spirit from us today?
  3. Does God communicate to us through his Holy Spirit apart from the Bible? If so, how and how can we be sure what the message is?
  4. How should the indwelling Holy Spirit affect our daily lives?
  5. Can people perform miracles today the same way that the apostles did in the first century?
  6. How would you decide if a spiritual gift is being used in an authentic manner or not? Has some gift ever been claimed where you thought something was not biblical about it?

1 http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20091101/myth-god-is-a-trinity (Accessed December 27, 2012).

2http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/articles/holy-spirit/34-reasons-why-the-holy-spirit-is-not-a-person-separate-from-the-only-true-god-the-father (Accessed December 27, 2012).

 

3 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 639.

4 While some people see one gift of “pastor-teacher” here based on one Greek article in the original language it is probably better to see two separate gifts due to the fact that the words are plural and teaching is seen as a separate gift in Romans 12. See Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 284.

5 And God has placed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, gifts of healing, helps, gifts of leadership, different kinds of tongues.  Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform miracles, do they? Not all have gifts of healing, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they? (1 Cor 12:28-30).

6 Walvoord lists several others including “clothed with power”, oil, the earnest or pledge, the seal, and the servant Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, 18-25.

7 Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, 19.

8 One could also add though 2 Peter 1:20-21, “Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Here the Holy Spirit “carries along” men and the imagery may suggest a ship being powered by wind. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, 24.

9 Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, 24.

10 For more information on the Holy Spirit today one could see Daniel B. Wallace and M. James Sawyer, eds. Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? An Investigation into the Ministry of the Spirit of God Today. Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Discipleship, Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit), Spiritual Gifts, Spiritual Life

Judges: A Drifting People, A Delivering God

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This sermon series on the book of Judges was preached by Jeff Miller at Trinity Bible Church in 2013-2014. Click on an individual sermon for an abstract of the message and to access both audio and video of the message.

Related Topics: Character of God, Discipline, Failure

1. God Conquers Unfinished Obedience (Judges 1-2)

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Judges: A Drifting People, A Delivering God (part one)

The Book of Judges is primarily a story about God, not human leaders. It warns of the danger in forming alliances with our unbelieving culture or worshiping their gods. The book records God sovereignly permitting His people's enslavement, and then graciously empowering flawed people as His chosen instruments of rescue. God's long-term patience repeatedly witnesses His people's cycle of rebellion and repentance, while He faithfully delivers them from their oppressors. That His mercies are new every morning should not be regarded as an excuse for us to do what is right in our own eyes. Instead, it should increase our awe and allegiance for God.

Related Topics: Character of God, Discipline, Spiritual Life, Worship

Lesson 34: The Certain Success of Jesus’ Mission (John 6:35-40)

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November 10, 2013

Although it sounds heretical to ask, have you ever wondered whether Jesus failed in His mission? His mission was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). And yet, Jesus left this planet with only a small band of followers compared to the vast numbers, both in Israel and around the world, who remained lost. After 2,000 years of church history, there are still thousands of people groups that have not heard the gospel, and even among those who have heard, the majority of the world’s population remains unbelieving. So did Jesus fail? Has God’s purpose failed?

I would hesitate to raise the question at all, except that the apostle Paul raised it in Romans 9. In light of the Jews’ widespread rejection of Jesus as their Messiah and Savior, Paul deals with whether God’s promises to Israel have failed. He answers that God’s promises have not failed, because God never determined to save all Israel, but only an elect remnant. Also, the salvation of that chosen group does not depend on the fallen will of man, but on the sovereign working of God. As Paul says (Rom. 9:16), “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” And, God does not have mercy on all (Rom. 9:18), “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” Paul shows that God’s purpose to glorify Himself by saving His elect and judging the wicked cannot fail.

That is Jesus’ point in our text. These verses occur in the context of those who ate the miraculous meal of the loaves and fish asking Jesus to do a greater sign so that they may believe in Him (6:30). They want Him to go one up on Moses, who gave them the manna (6:31). Jesus corrects their impudent demand by pointing out that it was the Father, not Moses, who gave them the manna. Also, the bread that God is giving now is not just temporary food to satisfy their stomachs, but the true bread out of heaven to satisfy their souls (6:32). And, unlike the manna that God gave Israel in the wilderness to sustain life for a few years, the true bread out of heaven gives eternal life to the whole world (6:33).

But these Jews were still focused on the temporal when they asked Jesus to give them this bread (6:34). They wanted a lifetime supply of food. Jesus replies by offering Himself as the bread of life who satisfies everyone who comes to Him and believes in Him (6:35). But even though they had seen Jesus, they still did not believe in Him (6:36). That’s the context for Jesus’ words in 6:37-40, where He takes comfort in God’s sovereignty over the salvation of sinners (cf. Luke 10:21-22). The point is, those who reject Jesus do not thwart God’s sovereign plan.

Also, note that after Jesus gives this extended discourse on being the bread of life, some who had professed to be His disciples stumble over what He says and stop following Him (6:60, 61, 66). If Jesus had been trying to build a large following, He could have become discouraged over this. But His focus was on the Father’s will and the fact that He had come to do that will (6:38). There is nothing more certain than that God will accomplish His purpose (Isa. 46:10; Job 42:2). That purpose centers on the fact that He has given a large number from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation to His Son. Jesus will see the result of the anguish of His soul because He poured out Himself to death and bore the sin of many (Rev. 5:9; Isa. 53:10-12). So when people rejected Jesus, even those who had professed to be His disciples, He rested in God’s sovereign plan for the ages.

As a teacher of God’s Word, I must do the same. I hope not, but it’s possible that some of you will hear this message and say, “I’m out of here!” I’d appreciate it if you’d talk to me about what Scripture teaches on this, but usually people just leave. Many who profess to believe in Christ do not like the biblical truth that God sovereignly chose some, but not all, for salvation. They say, “That’s not fair!” They believe that God wills to save everyone, but people by their free will cast the deciding vote. God’s hands are tied to actually save anyone, because He can’t override man’s free will. So according to them, the success of God’s eternal purpose rides on whether sinners choose to respond to Jesus.

But Jesus soundly refutes that error in our text. God’s sovereign plan to glorify His Son does not rest on the sinful will of man, but on God’s mighty power to save all whom He chooses to save. If sinners have a part in their salvation, then they can share the glory with Christ. But as Paul argues in Ephesians 1:3-12, God chose to save us so that we would be “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (1:6). God predestined us “according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory” (1:11-12). By the way, if God cannot override the fallen human will, you should give up praying for the salvation of the lost. Why pray if God can’t do anything about it?

So while it may be hard to get our finite minds around it, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty over our salvation runs through all Scripture, alongside the doctrine of human responsibility. God determined before the foundation of the world to put Christ on the cross, and yet the evil men who did it were responsible for their sin (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). God determined before the foundation of the world to give a chosen bride to His Son, and yet all people are invited and commanded to believe in Jesus. Remember, this doctrine is a part of God’s inspired Word, which is for your spiritual benefit (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If you resist it or dodge it or try to explain it away, you’ll be spiritually impaired. Even if you don’t understand it, you need to submit to it (Rom. 9:19-20). While all Scripture is equally inspired by God, our text reports the very words of the Lord Jesus. His point here is:

Jesus’ mission to save and keep all whom the Father has given to Him will certainly succeed.

Christ offers eternal life to all (6:35), but not all believe (6:36). All those whom God has given to Jesus will come to Him (6:37a). He will save them and keep them for all eternity (6:37b-40).

1. Christ offers Himself as the living bread that gives eternal life to all who believe in Him (6:35).

John 6:35: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” As Leon Morris points out (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 366), Jesus’ words are not an abstract statement, but rather an appeal for people to come to Him and believe in Him. As I mentioned last week, this is an astounding claim that no mere man could make. Jesus says that if we will come to Him and believe in Him, He will eternally satisfy and sustain us spiritually.

It’s important to affirm that the doctrine of election does not in any way restrict offering the gospel freely to all. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:16). The Bible ends with this open invitation (Rev. 22:17), “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” The Bible never says, “If you’re one of the elect, come.” It invites every sinner to come to Jesus just as you are and know that He will welcome you. But …

2. People are so hopelessly lost in sin that they will reject even the best reasons to believe (6:36).

I might add, “Even religious, morally upright people are so hopelessly lost in sin that they will reject even the best reasons to believe.” Jesus was speaking to religious, moral Jews. They were zealous about keeping the Sabbath and the many Jewish rituals. Yet here they’ve seen Jesus miraculously provide bread and fish for a huge multitude and they’ve watched Him heal many of their sick, but Jesus’ tragic assessment is (6:36), “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.”

People do not reject Christ because they lack solid evidence for believing in Him. Sometimes skeptics will say, “Show me a real miracle and I’ll believe.” No, they wouldn’t. People reject Jesus because they love darkness rather than light (3:19-21). People apart from Christ are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3). They cannot understand spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14) because Satan has blinded their eyes (2 Cor. 4:4).

In John 8:43, Jesus asks the unbelieving Jews, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?” He answers His own question, “It is because you cannot hear My word.” He did not say “because you will not hear My word,” but “because you cannot hear My word.” That’s why He says (John 6:44), “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (also, 6:65). Because of sin, it’s impossible for anyone to believe in Jesus apart from God’s opening their blind eyes (Rom. 3:10-18). In the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn, before Christ sends His “quickening ray,” we are “fast bound in sin and nature’s night.” Leon Morris writes (ibid., p. 367), “People do not come to Christ because it seems to them a good idea. It never does seem a good idea to natural man. Apart from a divine work in their souls (cf. 16:8) men remain contentedly in their sins.” Yet at the same time, we are responsible for our unbelief. So, then, how can anyone be saved?

3. All whom the Father has given to Jesus will certainly be saved (6:37a).

John 6:37a: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me ….” This refers to the elect, whom the Father chose before the foundation of the world to give to His Son. Jesus refers to those the Father has given Him in 6:39 and in 10:29 (see, 18:9). He repeats it five times in His prayer in John 17:

John 17:2: “… even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”

John 17:6 [2x]: “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”

John 17:9: “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours ….” (Note that the Father has not given everyone in the world to Jesus, but only some.)

John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”

Many argue that the elect, whom the Father gives to the Son, are those whom God foreknew would believe in Christ by their own free will. But as we’ve seen, left to their own fallen will, none would choose to believe in Christ. Furthermore, the foreknowledge ruse robs God of His sovereignty and makes man sovereign. But the Bible is clear that God did not make up His plan for the ages after He saw what sinful people would do!

John Bunyan wrote a wonderful book on John 6:37, “Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ” (in The Works of John Bunyan [Baker], 1:240-299). He makes the point (pp. 256-257) that Jesus’ statement here is unconditional. It will happen without exception because it rests on God’s will, which He is able to accomplish. It’s sometimes called “irresistible grace.” This does not mean that God drags people to Christ kicking and screaming against their will. No one comes to Christ unwillingly. Rather, it means that God makes sinners willing to come to Christ (Ps. 110:3). When Paul preached the gospel to Lydia, we read (Acts 16:14), “And the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” If God had not opened her heart, she would not have responded favorably.

If you have believed in Christ, it’s because the Lord opened your heart to believe. You believed because the Holy Spirit imparted new life to you, apart from anything in you. You believed because in His sovereign grace, before the foundation of the world the Father chose you in love to give to His Son. All whom the Father has given to Jesus will certainly be saved. No sinner can thwart God’s mighty will to accomplish His purpose (Ps. 115:3).

4. Salvation is absolutely and finally secure for all whom the Father has given to Jesus (6:37b-40).

These verses are a wonderful foundation for assurance of salvation for all who have come to Jesus and believed in Him. Note four things:

A. Jesus will keep all whom the Father has given Him (6:37b).

John 6:37b: “… and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.” That phrase is often understood, even by the greats like John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon (who has at least seven sermons on this verse), to mean that Christ will welcome all who come to Him. That is certainly true, whether it’s the thief on the cross or Paul, the persecutor of the church. But I agree with D. A. Carson (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 290) that that is not the meaning of this phrase in its context. Rather, what Jesus is saying is that all that the Father gives to Him (who will surely come to Him) He will certainly keep or preserve unto eternity. In modern terms, He won’t “kick out” any whom the Father has given to Him.

There are two reasons that this is what Jesus means here. First, the Greek verb translated “cast out” in almost all of its parallel occurrences refers to casting out something that is already “in.” For example, John uses it (9:34) to refer to the Pharisees expelling the man born blind from the temple (cf. 3 John 10). Second, the next three verses show that this is Jesus’ meaning. He repeatedly emphasizes that He will eternally keep all whom the Father has given Him.

At Christmas, you may receive a gift that you have absolutely no use for (except for a white elephant gift to unload on some poor victim at next year’s Christmas party). Jesus doesn’t do that with the gifts that the Father gives Him. He uses a strong double negative (in the Greek text) to underscore that He will keep every gift from the Father. If you have believed in Jesus, you’re one of God’s gifts to His Son. (Don’t let that go to your head!) As a member of Christ’s body, He will tenderly nourish and cherish you (Eph. 5:29).

B. Jesus will keep all whom the Father has given Him because He came down from heaven to do the Father’s will (6:38).

John 6:38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus bases the success of His mission not on whether or not people respond to Him, but rather on the fact that He came down from heaven (John 6:33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58), where He shared the glory of the Father (17:5), to do the Father’s will, which is absolutely certain. If any whom the Father gave to the Son do not make it to heaven, it would mean either that Jesus was incapable of performing what the Father commanded Him to do or that He was flagrantly disobedient, both of which are unthinkable (Carson, p. 291). But what is the Father’s will?

C. The will of the Father who sent Jesus is that of all that He has given Him, He lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day (6:39).

John 6:39: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” “The last day” is a phrase that occurs only in John (5:28, 29; 11:24; 12:48). It means that Jesus will keep us until we’re in heaven. Morris states (ibid., p. 368), “This thought is of the greatest comfort to believers. Their assurance is based not on their feeble hold on Christ, but on His sure grip of them.”

You may wonder, “What about Judas or what about the disciples in John 6:66 who turned away from Jesus?” The answer is, they never truly believed in Jesus. In John 17:12, Jesus prays with reference to the twelve, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” There are many like the seed sown on the stony ground or the thorny ground, who spring up and at first look genuine, but when trials and temptations hit, they wither and die (Matt. 13:20-21). They never truly believed in Christ. But those to whom Jesus gives eternal life will never perish (John 10:28).

D. To sum up, the will of the Father is that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life and Jesus will raise him up on the last day (6:40).

John 6:40 sums up what Jesus has been saying: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” Again, this is a staggering claim that Jesus has already made (5:28-29), that He will raise us from the dead on the last day so that we will be with Him forever.

Note that rather than referring to those whom He will raise up as those whom the Father has given to Him, here Jesus goes back to the invitation mode of 6:35. There it was “he who comes to Me” and “he who believes in Me.” Here, it is “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him.” “To behold” implies knowledge of who Jesus is. You can’t believe in one you know nothing about. John wrote this gospel to show us who Jesus is—the Christ, the Son of God—so that we may believe in His name and have eternal life (20:31). It’s interesting that none other than John Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 254) here calls “madmen” those who seek salvation in what he calls “the whirlpool of predestination,” rather than by faith in Christ. He’s saying, to be saved, don’t probe into whether or not you’re one of the elect. Rather, focus on answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” and on the basis of the apostolic witness, put your trust in Him.

Conclusion

Some preachers do not teach on God’s sovereignty over our salvation because they say that it’s too controversial or divisive. Some argue that these doctrines are just theoretical theology that have no relevance for how we live. I’ve heard seminary professors say that you should never talk about the doctrine of election with unbelievers, because it will drive them away from Christ.

Yet here Jesus speaks plainly about election as He confronts these unbelievers (He will do it again in 10:26). The thought that you may not be one of God’s elect should drive you in panic to believe in Jesus! Also, God’s sovereign election is a comforting doctrine for us who truly believe in Jesus because it’s the foundation for our eternal security. Jesus will keep all whom the Father has given Him. His mission will not fail.

God’s sovereign election the only doctrine that produces true humility in us as we give all glory to God, who graciously saves unworthy sinners (1 Cor. 1:18-31). The doctrine of election encourages us to share the gospel even with immoral, idolatrous “Corinthians” (Acts 18:9-10), because God will save all whom He has purposed to save. And, Jesus’ words here give comfort to preachers who preach on God’s sovereignty, only to have people leave the church, which I hope that none of you will do!

Application Questions

  1. Some say that the doctrine of election discourages evangelism and missions. Why is this false? What Scriptures refute it?
  2. Some argue that if sinners can’t believe by their own free will, it is mockery to encourage them to believe. What Scriptures refute this error?
  3. Since some (like Judas or those in John 6:66) seem to be saved for a while and then fall away, how can we know that our faith in Christ is the real thing?
  4. Should we assure a professing Christian who is living in sin that he is eternally secure in Christ? Why/why not? Which Scriptures give guidance on this?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2013, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Assurance, Character of God, Christology, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

Lesson 46: Satisfying Bread (Luke 9:10-17)

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Jesus continually showed Himself to be a provider for those in need. He did so in some of the smallest ways through personal individual relationships, it happened miraculously such as in this passage where He fed a large crowd, and it took place in a complete way for people though His work on the cross. In all cases, He showed Himself to be the bread that everyone needed. Pastor Daniel shows in this message that we, on our own accord, are unable to satisfy the physical and spiritual needs of others and ourselves; Christ is the only solution as the all-satisfying bread of heaven. He points out that Luke, in both his gospel account and the book of Acts, narrates the story of Jesus and the early church in such a way that continually displayed how instructions were given to people, how they found that they could not accomplish what was required, and that they needed the continuous flow of the life-stream of Jesus Christ for their own satisfaction and the satisfaction of others.

Summary by Seth Kempf, Bethany Community Church Staff

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

Lesson 47: Confessing the Crucified Christ (Luke 9:18-22)

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A shining moment by Peter was followed by difficult words from Jesus. The great truth that Jesus was the Messiah contained also the startling news that the same would suffer, die, and be raised. This was who Jesus was and this was what Jesus came to do. Pastor Daniel points out through this text the necessity of our coming to accept the fullness of who Jesus is and not who we are comfortable with Him being. First, it is not enough for us to confess that Jesus is a great teacher or prophet. Second, it is not enough for us to confess that Jesus is the Christ. And finally, we must confess the suffering, rejected, dying, and resurrected Christ. Daniel wraps up this message through delivering the encouragement for each and every person, on an individual basis, to recognize his/her need for a Savior. It simply is not enough to come close to the truth while never submitting fully to it.

Summary by Seth Kempf, Bethany Community Church Staff

Related Topics: Christology, Discipleship, Soteriology (Salvation)

Lesson 48: Death and Discipleship (Luke 9:23-27)

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Jesus was a master at grabbing his disciples’ attention through counter-intuitive statements and plays on words. Consider the passage at hand, “whoever would save his life will lose it…” In reality, some of the most challenging directives that He ever gave rose out of statements like this one. Being a disciple then and being one now meant and means that we are willing to have our minds bent and challenged in ways we would not have sought out on our own. Daniel shares in this message what Scripture brings out as the true meaning of discipleship, stating, “Becoming Christ’s disciple does not mean making some modifications to your current life but rather means your immediate and violent death.” In fleshing this out, he makes the following points: 1) Discipleship begins when your life ends. 2) You and your life cannot both be saved.

Summary by Seth Kempf, Bethany Community Church Staff

Related Topics: Discipleship, Soteriology (Salvation)

Lesson 49: Christ’s Glory Revealed (Luke 9:28-36)

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Spending time with Jesus was certainly not a run-of-the-mill experience for the disciples, but the day of the transfiguration had to be one of those moments that made the top-five list in the minds of Peter, James, and John. And while seeing Jesus, Moses, and Elijah speaking together would likely elicit a period of silence from any beholder, Simon, true to form, spoke his mind; after such, God, true to form, realigned the focus of everyone there. Pastor Daniel helps us to see from this passage how it is that we are to come to see Christ, fully God and fully man, who calls us to follow Him. God had made clear to the disciples that, while Peter (and probably any of them) would not have fitting words in the face of the glories of Christ, this Son, this Chosen One, deserved their full attention and devotion. Such is the call on anyone who would be a disciple.

Summary by Seth Kempf, Bethany Community Church Staff

Related Topics: Christology, Discipleship

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