Jesus: The Son of God

The-Son-of-God-became-man-to-enable-men-to-become-sons-of-God

John:  Part Two

America is study of oddities.  For example, in 2004, 84% of Americans identified themselves as “Christians.”  What’s odd is that just 82% of that number believed Jesus to be the Son of God and only 79% believed in the Virgin Birth!  How odd indeed.  There is a definite disconnect between one’s claim to be a Christian and one’s belief in the most basic of Bible doctrines:  the divinity of Christ.

Part of the problem is a lack of teaching.  Far too many church-goers in America attend churches with little or no solid teaching.  Churches light on teaching may make good clubs or places for good fellowship, but they produce dismal Christians.  Another problem is that a lot of self-identified American Christians are self-taught; they attend no formal church.  There is a belief that anybody can grasp Bible doctrines; that theological education and training aren’t necessary.   Who needs a church or a pastor?  Of course, since these folk are self-taught, they obviously didn’t get to the verses teaching the necessity of regular church attendance or the fact the God gave the church pastors/teachers…

At any rate, what a Christian thinks of Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance.  Is He divine?  Is He human?  Or is He both?

1.  A great confession, John 1:45-51

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all wait until the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry to bring out the truth of His divine nature.  John, however, places this truth at the very beginning in the form of a confession from one of the disciples.

(a)     Nathanael, the doubter, verses 45-48

At this juncture in John’s Gospel, Jesus decided it was time to move on, so He crossed over the Jordan and headed to Galilee.  During the journey, He found Philip, who would become the His latest apostle.  To Philip, Jesus simply said, “Follow me,” and he did just that.

Philip was one the Twelve that was consciously looking for the Messiah to come.  And he seemed to know Jesus was He.  Excitedly, the new apostle found Nathaniel, who was from Cana, to share the good news.  Looking at the order of the words spoken by Philip to Nathaniel, it becomes obvious that Nathaniel was going to be a hard sell.  Philip begins with a declaration that he has found the Messiah, and ends with the word “Nazareth,” which is the first word Nathaniel hears!

Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? Nathanael asked.Come and see, said Philip.  (John 1:46 NIV84)

 The two ideas – Messiah and Nazareth –  were to Nathaniel contradictory ideas.  “Nathaniel” means “gift from God” is and comparable to the Greek name “Theodore.”  Nathaniel was probably the “Bartholomew” of the Synoptics.  He was obviously well-versed in the Old Testament and believed that “nothing good ever came out of Nazareth.”  Fortunately for him, Philip was very insistent and didn’t give up.

(b)  Nathanael’s revelation, verses 49-51

Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.  (John 1:49 NIV84)

 Philip’s invitation to Nathanael, “Come and see,” is really an invitation from Jesus Himself.  The exchange between Nathanael and Jesus is at first glance quite humorous:

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false. How do you know me? Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  (John 1:47-48 NIV84)

Just what did that whole exchange mean?  Apparently, Nathanael had been sitting under a fig tree doing something.  But what?  Was he taking a nap?  The clue comes from what Jesus said in verse 51:

He then added, I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  (John 1:51 NIV84)

That is clearly a reference to Jacob’s experience  at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-17).  Maybe Nathanael had been sitting beneath the shade of the tree reading that very story; about Jacob, an Israelite who was truly filled with deceit.  To Jacob God granted great visions.  To Nathanael, who was not deceitful, would be granted even more:  a Divine revelation of who Jesus Christ really was:

Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.  (John 1:49 NIV84)

Where did Nathanael get that idea?  It must have come from the mind of God Himself.  This points to an important lesson.  Many people have no problem acknowledging the existence of God.  A lot of people without hesitation would answer the question, “Do you believe in God” in the affirmative.  But the real issue is not belief in God; even the Devil believes in God!  No, the question of the ages is:  “Who do you think Jesus is?”  The human mind rebels at the thought of God and Man existing in One Perfect Person.  It takes a work of grace for the human mind to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ.

2.   God sent His Son, John 3:16-18; 27-36

 John 3 is a most remarkable chapter for two reasons.  First, it is a prime example of why, sometimes, chapter breaks are not put in the proper place.  The last verse of chapter 2 is really a set-up for the conversations of chapter 3:

He did not need mans testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.(  John 2:25 NIV84)

There should be no break between that thought and the introduction of Nicodemus, a  man who he had never met Jesus, yet Jesus knew all about him.

The second reason John 3 is so remarkable is because of verse 16, a declaration that God sent Jesus, His Son.

(a)     A word for Nicodemus, verses 16-18

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”   (John 3:16 NIV84)

This is probably the most famous verse in the whole Bible, but it is really just part of a lengthy conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus.  It is also the very first mention of God’s love in John’s Gospel.  It’s a dominant theme, so it’s surprising it took three chapters to get to it!  The word to this noble Pharisee was that God was reaching out to the whole world; that God’s love is universal.  God’s love isn’t just for some, but for all people, everywhere.  This is the WHY God did what He did in sending His Son:  He loved.  The Greek word used for “love” here is egapesen, a love that does things for others with no thought for self.  It’s describes a love that would risk all for another; a love that counts no price too great if somebody else could benefit.  It really describes an absolute love.

That was the first word to Nicodemus:  the nature of God’s love.  The second word to this Pharisee is the requirement to believe.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son.  (John 3:18 NIV84)

We see the absolute necessity of making a conscious decision to believe in Jesus Christ.  Belief in God only gets a person so far.  Belief in Jesus Christ, with all that that entails, is what makes the difference in one’s life and one’s eternal destination.  Judgment and condemnation await all those who do not believe, but for those who do believe, those things irrelevant.

As succinctly noted by Joseph Mayfield, there is an “open door to life,” and it has three characteristics, all of which were explained to Nicodemus:  (1)  It is God’s great gift from above; (2) It comes only to the one who has faith; and (3) The alternative to life is God’s judgment.

(b)  The herald of God’s sending, verses 27-36

After the encounter with Nicodemus and after celebrating Passover, Jesus, along with some of His disciples, left Jerusalem and ventured into the countryside of Judea.  This period of ministry is unique to John – it’s not in the Synoptics – and it portrays the relationship that existed between Jesus and the man who heralded His coming, John the Baptist.  The thing about John the Baptist was that he knew who he was.

You yourselves can testify that I said, I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.  The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.  (John 3:28-30 NIV84)

John the Baptist was resolutely convinced of Jesus’s divine nature because of where Jesus came from.  In fact, the Baptist understood a very profound thing:

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.   (John 3:34 (NIV84)

The ministry – the very words and teachings – of Jesus did not originate in Him, but rather God poured out His wisdom and power into Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, John knew that his role role in the ministry of salvation is limited, but he had the wisdom (from God) to see that Jesus’ role was limitless because to Him alone has been given power over all things.

3.  The Son gives life, John 5:19-30

 (a)  Jesus defends His actions, verses 9-23

The big problem with Jesus in the eyes of the religious elite was not that He went around healing people, but that He did it on the Sabbath.  He seemed to do this deliberately, because each time He faced such an angry accusation, He used it as a “teachable moment,” usually to discuss His unique relationship with God.

Jesus gave them this answer: I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.   (John 5:19 NIV84)

In a sense, the accusing Jews were partly right and partly wrong:

For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  (John 5:18 NIV84)

Jesus was, in fact, making Himself equal with God!  But they were wrong in suggesting He was breaking the Sabbath.  The very fact that Jesus is the Son of God made violating the Sabbath an impossibility!

Jesus gives life because God gives life!

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.   (John 5:21 NIV84)

Jesus raised the dead, but that power came from God by way of the Holy Spirit.  The religious elite couldn’t debate the fact that Jesus raised the dead, but the fact that He did it on the wrong day really bent them out of shape!

The second part of this verse is the subject of Jesus’ preaching:  the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.  What that really means is explained in the verses that follow.

(b)  Jesus preaches the Gospel, verses  24-30

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”   (John 5:24 NIV84)

This simple statement explains what Jesus meant when He said that He gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.  Jesus was referring to spiritual life, not raising the dead.  And He was not saying that He was pleased to give life to some but not to others.  Whoever hears the Gospel and believes, to him Jesus is pleased to give life!  This was something Paul readily grasped:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.   (Romans 1:16 (NIV84)

The Gospel is life-giving.  When a sinner hears it, it begins a work in his heart, whether he knows it or not.  That work can be resisted.  A depraved nature can stifle the work of the Word; it can be ignored.  But it doesn’t have to be!  The Word – the Gospel – is the power of God for salvation!  Depraved man has the capacity to believe in what he is hearing; he cannot save Himself, but he can incline his ear toward the Gospel.  The hearing and the believing go together. They are always correlatives of the Word, that is, the Word is intended for the very purpose of being heard and believed.

He that hears and believes receives eternal, and this life literally flows from God, it is grounded in God, it joins the redeemed soul to God, and it leads to God (10:28). The very second a sinner receives this life he is made alive, literally born again. And the really exciting thing is this:  the physical death we will all one day experience only leads us into a fuller measure of this life.

 

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