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Lesson 70: The Final Notice (John 12:44-50)

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October 19, 2014

A wife opening the mail said to her husband, “The bank says that this is our last notice. Isn’t it wonderful that they’re not going to bother us anymore?” (Michael Streff, Reader’s Digest [5/92])

It’s never wise to ignore final notices! That’s true of bill collectors, but it’s especially true if you ignore God’s final notice. You may think that it’s wonderful that God won’t bother you anymore. But as Paul warned the Athenians (Acts 17:31), “[God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” So when God sends a final notice, it’s best to pay attention!

Our text represents Jesus’ final notice to the Jews who had not believed in Him. We don’t know when He spoke these words. There is nothing here that He has not already said. His words serve as a review of some of the key truths that John’s Gospel has emphasized to this point. But these are His last words to unbelieving Israel before He was crucified. The next five chapters are spoken privately to His disciples. Since this is Jesus’ final notice, we all should pay attention! He gives four reasons why we should believe in Him. In His words:

Believe in Me because I am one with the Father, I am the light, My words will judge all that reject them, and I speak the Father’s commandment that is eternal life.

Note that “Jesus cried out” these words (John 12:44). John used that verb of Jesus when He cried out in the temple at the Feast of Dedication (John 7:28, 37). It means to shout in a loud voice. It’s more than simply teaching. It’s an exhortation or strong appeal to His hearers to pay attention to these truths. He didn’t want them (or us!) to miss the message.

1. “Believe in Me because I am one with the Father” (John 12:44-45).

John 12:44-45: “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.’” Jesus is affirming His essential unity with the Father. In John 10:30, He plainly told the Jewish leaders, “I and the Father are one.” In John 10:38, He said that they should “know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” In John 8:19, Jesus rebuked His critics, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” There is an essential unity between the Father and the Son.

This does not mean what those who hold to modalism teach, that Jesus and the Father are merely different modes of the same God. (The modern “Jesus only” teachers, of whom there are several in Flagstaff, teach modalism.) Throughout John we have seen that Jesus distinguishes Himself from the Father, while yet asserting their essential unity. Here He affirms again (John 12:44, 45, 49) that the Father has sent Him, which would be nonsense if they are the same person. But He also affirms that He and the Father are so closely identified that to believe in Him is to believe in the Father and to see Him is to see the Father. By these words, Jesus clearly is claiming to be God, yet distinct from the Father.

We can never fully understand the doctrine of the trinity, which is why several of the cults deny it. They want a “god” that they can logically understand. But the trinity is clearly taught in the Bible (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 1:3-14; 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 20-21). We can summarize it by three statements (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology [Zondervan], p. 231; I encourage you to read his chapter on the trinity): “(1) God is three persons. (2) Each person is fully God. (3) There is one God.”

Grudem amplifies and supports each of these points from Scripture. The first point means that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are distinct from one another. They are three persons, not three manifestations of the same person. We saw this distinction between Jesus and the Father in John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The fact that Jesus was “with God” distinguishes Him from the Father. But the statement that “the Word was God” shows that Jesus is fully God.

The Bible also shows that each person of the trinity is fully God (see Grudem, pp. 233-238). Obviously, the Father is God. Jesus prayed to Him as the only true God (John 17:1-26). There are many proofs that Jesus, God’s Son, is fully God (see Grudem, pp. 543-554). John 1:1 asserts this, as well as John 1:18, where Jesus is called “the only begotten God” (according to the best manuscripts; “only begotten” is better translated “unique” or “only”). In John 20:28, Thomas exclaimed to the risen Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” If he had been mistaken or swearing (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim), Jesus would have strongly rebuked Him. But rather, Jesus affirmed Thomas’ faith and affirmed that his confession should be the confession of everyone who believes. And, Scripture also teaches the full deity of the Holy Spirit (in the trinitarian verses listed above; also, Acts 5:3-4; Ps. 139:7-8; 1 Cor. 2:10-11; John 3:5-7; see Grudem, pp. 237-238).

But the Bible not only affirms that God is three persons and that each person is fully God. It also affirms that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4): “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (See, also, Isa. 45:5-6, 21-22; 44:6-8; Rom. 3:30; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19).

When Jesus says (John 12:45), “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me,” He is affirming what John 1:14 states: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Also, John 1:18 states, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Jesus repeats this in answer to Philip’s request for Jesus to show them the Father (John 14:9), “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” So to know God, you must know Jesus. As 1 John 2:23 affirms, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”

Thus the first reason that we should believe in Jesus is because He is one with the Father. You cannot deny Jesus’ deity and at the same time believe in the one true God. And to deny Jesus’ distinction from the Father (as in modalism) is to deny the one true God. To believe in Jesus as God is to believe in the Father who sent Him, which is the only faith that results in eternal life (John 17:3): “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

2. “Believe in Me because I am the light” (John 12:46).

John 12:46: “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” Again, this is a restatement of a truth that has been repeated throughout John. John 1:4-5 affirms, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:9 calls Jesus “the true Light, which coming into the world, enlightens every man.” John 3:19-21 refers to Jesus as the Light:

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

In John 8:12, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” In John 9:5, just before He opened the eyes of the man born blind, Jesus repeated, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” And in John 12:35-36, Jesus again taught:

“For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”

This means that the world without Christ is in spiritual and moral darkness. They do not understand the things that the Spirit of God has revealed in God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:14). They are darkened in their understanding and excluded from the life of God (Eph. 4:18). This does not mean that unbelievers lack all wisdom about how to live or that they do not at times hold to some valid truths about God. Due to common grace (so that the world does not self-destruct!), God grants even to unbelievers some wisdom and some light. But any light that they may possess is hopelessly mixed up with spiritual and moral confusion.

For example, unbelievers typically believe certain truths that they like, but reject other truths that are offensive to them, even though Scripture clearly teaches both truths. They will believe that God is love, because we all like that truth, but they reject that He is absolutely holy and righteous and that He will judge sinners, because they don’t like that. But God cannot be loving without also being just and righteous. An unjust judge who lets rapists go free because he “loves” them is neither righteous nor loving. If God is God, then He must be both loving and just.

The same applies to the way the world constructs its view of morality. If we abandon God’s Word, which is the only reliable standard for morality, we’ll grope in the darkness. For example, according to a 2013 Gallup poll (gallup.com/poll/162881/ older-americans-moral-attitudes-changing), among 18-34 year-old Americans, 49% think that pornography is morally acceptable; 72% say that sex between an unmarried man and woman is acceptable; 74% say that gay or lesbian relations are acceptable; and 71% say that having a baby outside of marriage is acceptable. And it would be naïve to think that those views stay outside of the church! A 2009 Barna survey (barna.org/barna-update/21-transformation/252-barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years#) showed that only 46% of “born again” Christians believe in absolute moral truth!

As D. A. Carson points out (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 337), “The light metaphor is steeped in Old Testament allusions.” Psalm 27:1 declares, “The Lord is my light and my salvation ….” The psalmist begs God (Ps. 44:3), “O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me.” Psalm 119:105 affirms, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Isaiah (60:19-22) predicts a glorious future (fulfilled in Rev. 21:23-24) when believers will not have the sun for light, because (Isa. 60:19) “you will have the Lord for an everlasting light.”

In 1 John 1:5, the apostle declares, “This is the message that we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Thus for Jesus to state (John 12:46), “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness,” is to claim to be God. He is claiming to be just as holy as God is. He is claiming to have the power to deliver those who believe in Him from Satan’s domain of darkness (Col. 1:13). Either His claims are false, in which case He is a deluded man or a deceiver. Or His claims are true, in which case you should believe in Him.

Thus Jesus says, “Believe in Me because I am one with the Father. Believe in Me because I am the Light of the world.”

3. “Believe in Me because to reject My words means that you will face judgment on the last day” (John 12:47-48).

John 12:47-48: “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.” Again, Jesus is stating truths that have repeatedly been taught in this Gospel:

John 3:17-18: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

John 5:22: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son ….” In verse 27, Jesus repeats that the Father “gave Him [the Son] authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.”

John 5:45-47: “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

John 8:15-16: “You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me.”

John 9:39: “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

John 12:31: “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”

There is no contradiction between Jesus’ statement in John 3:17 that He did not come to judge the world and His statement in John 9:39 that for judgment He came into this world. He means that the primary purpose in His first coming was not to judge the world, but to provide for the world’s salvation through His substitutionary death on the cross. But as John 3:18-21 shows, the concept of judgment is implicit in Jesus’ coming, because the light divides people into those who come to it and those who hide from it. Christ’s second coming will be for judgment, as the Book of Revelation makes clear. On that day, all who have rejected Jesus will cry out to the mountains and the rocks (Rev. 6:16), “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”

Please note that Jesus says plainly (John 12:48) that there will be a “last day” and that it will be a day of judgment. But Jesus also offered a sure way to escape that awful day (John 5:24): “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

But we need to be very clear about what Jesus means by hearing His word and believing in Him. In John 12:47, He describes the person who will eventually come into judgment as one who “hears My sayings and does not keep them.” In verse 48, He says that this person “rejects Me and does not receive My sayings.” Genuine saving faith is obedient faith. Jesus warned (Matt. 7:21), “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

So there is a last day and it will be a day of judgment. But here Jesus is giving a final notice to those who were rejecting Him that His first coming was a day of grace. Both the warning of judgment to come and the appeal to believe in Jesus now are expressions of God’s great love for sinners.

John Calvin is often caricatured as a cold-hearted theologian who denied human choice and believed that God chose the elect and damned the rest, so there’s nothing you can do about it. But listen to Calvin’s comments on Jesus’ appeal to His enemies here (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], pp. 50, 51):

Why then does Christ not choose to condemn them? It is because he lays aside for a time the office of a judge, and offers salvation to all without reserve, and stretches out his arms to embrace all, that all may be the more encouraged to repent…. No man, therefore, is condemned on account of having despised the Gospel, except he who, disdaining the lovely message of salvation, has chosen of his own accord to draw down destruction on himself.

Calvin paraphrases Jesus saying (in John 12:48; ibid. p. 51):

“Burning with ardent desire to promote your salvation, I do indeed abstain from exercising my right to condemn you, and am entirely employed in saving what is lost; but do not think that you have escaped out of the hands of God; for though I should altogether hold my peace, the word alone, which you have despised, is sufficient to judge you.”

So Calvin here pictures the Savior stretching out His arms to embrace all sinners who will repent and believe in Him. (I might add that those who rail against Calvin have seldom read Calvin!) Jesus gives one last appeal:

4. “Believe in Me because I faithfully give you the Father’s commandment that is eternal life” (John 12:49-50).

John 12:49-50: “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” Here, again, Jesus repeats truths that we have already read in John:

John 5:19: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”

John 7:16: “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”

John 8:28: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”

John 8:38: “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father….” (See, also, John 8:26, 40; 14:10, 24, 31; 15:15).

Jesus is asserting that He was not an original religious genius who dreamed up His own message. Rather, He was the faithful messenger of the Father who sent Him.

Note, also that Jesus emphasizes twice that the Father gave Him a commandment as to what to say and speak and that this commandment is eternal life. This underscores that God is the ultimate and final authority. He doesn’t give divine suggestions or helpful hints for happy living. So in one sense, while Jesus is giving a passionate appeal for His enemies to believe, in another sense He is giving them God’s commandment to believe. And this commandment focuses on the most important matter of all, namely, eternal life: Believe in Jesus because He is one with the Father; He is the light; His words will judge all that reject them; and He gives us the Father’s commandment that is eternal life.

Conclusion

A man received a “Second Notice” from the IRS that his tax payment was overdue and that unless it was immediately forthcoming, he would face legal action. He hurried to the IRS office with his payment in hand and said, “I would have paid sooner, but I never received your First Notice.”

The clerk replied, “We ran out of ‘First Notices.’ Besides, we discovered that the ‘Second Notices’ are much more effective.” (Source unknown)

Jesus’ words here are God’s Final Notice. It’s a call to believe in Him for salvation before that coming last day. Don’t ignore the notice!

Application Questions

  1. Must a person believe in the trinity to be saved? Why/why not?
  2. Does Jesus’ claim to be the light mean that there is no light at all in false religions? How would you answer a person who said, “I glean truth from all the world’s great religions”?
  3. Jesus states that if we do not keep His teaching we will face judgment. Since no one keeps His word perfectly, does that mean that we will all face judgment? Use Scripture to support your answer.
  4. Why did Jesus repeatedly emphasize that He did not speak on His own initiative, but only spoke what the Father commanded? What was He getting at by saying this?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

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

Related Topics: Christology, Faith, Soteriology (Salvation), Trinity

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