Study Notes 8-12-12

John 6:46-47

6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

It is a well-known fact that no one can see God and live – for this is one of the first things that students of the Bible learn as they read through the Old Testament.  Moses records for us the words of God in response to Moses’ request to look on His holy face.  The exchange went like this:

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” [19] And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. [20] But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” [21] And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, [22] and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. [23] Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”(Ex. 33:18-23)

The Father does not rebuke Moses for wanting to look upon His glory, indeed He grants him an amazing opportunity to get to know Him more; for Moses wanted to know God more intimately, and this is a desire God wants us all to have. Moses wanted to bask in the glory of who God is in all of His awesome holiness. But God explains to Moses that if he were to look upon the glory of His holiness he would perish.

We get an idea of the power of this holiness in Isaiah 6 when we read about the Seraphim who have six wings – two of which are for covering their eyes.  These creatures have never sinned, and are holy beings, yet they cannot stand to look directly into the holy resplendency of God.

But Christ says here that there is one person who can look on the holiness of the Father: that is the Son.

Sinclair Ferguson makes the connection between this passage in Isaiah 6 and how John describes the “Word” in chapter 1 of the gospel we’re reading now.  Here’s what he says:

It is in stark yet glorious contrast to this (the Seraphim in Is. 6) that we find John opening his Gospel by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” (pros ton theonliterally ‘toward God’).  Do you see the picture here? If the Son is “toward God”, He must be face to fact with Him – alone (with the Spirit) able to bear the intensity of the Father’s gaze. That face is all-consuming love, and burns to destruction all in the object of its gaze that is not itself perfect love. Thus, He gazes on His Son. All creatures must cover their faces or avert their eyes. Only the Son (always in and with the Spirit) is able to love in return with an intensity that preserves His from being consumed by the holiness of the Father.

Jesus Himself states that He has “seen” the Father in John 8:38, “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Only when we have a true sense of the powerful, awful, holiness of God the Father can we truly understand what it means that Christ says “no man has seen the Father” and also simultaneously comprehend that He (Christ) alone has the ability to view Him face to face in perfect holy communion.

This difference between the creaturely and the divine is how Christ chooses to punctuate His teaching on the mode of salvation.  It is as if He is saying, “no one comes to the Father unless we (The trinity) teach Him, and in case you have a problem with the order of this, let me remind you of your place in the order of creation!”

6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Morris notes, “For the third time in this discourse there is the solemn ‘I tell you the truth’. Jesus’ main concern is with life and how people obtain it, not with his own person. Now he solemnly repeats the way to life.”

What is the upshot of all of this?  What is it that results in being “taught” and “drawn” by God?  The result is that you will believe, and like the golden chain in Romans 8:28-30, we see that it leads inevitably to a result.  That result is the obtaining of eternal life.  For if we are united with Christ in His death and His resurrection (Rom. 6), and if He has desired for us to come and be with Him and see Him in His glory (John 17), then it is a necessary precondition that we have eternal life with Him.

This verse isn’t stating that we wouldn’t have eternal souls without belief in Christ, for man is made in God’s image (Gen. 2:27), but rather that we will have eternal “life” in Christ.  Life is the word we use to identify with that which is eternal blessedness with Christ forever.  Those who do not have eternal “life” actually could be said to have something of an eternal “death” because they will continually suffer the consequences of their separation from God and His blessedness.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we notice the shining doctrine of Solus Christus. Solus Christus is the doctrine that states that it is in Christ alone which our salvation lies.  In Him alone we find all of our sufficiency for life in God.

Monergism.com has an excellent blurb on this doctrine and states, “Christ’s all-sufficiency means, by implication, that we are insufficient of ourselves. Indeed the Scripture says “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5.  We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father. We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.”

Michael Horton gives a good historical background to the this doctrine:

In the Middle Ages, the minister was seen as having a special relationship with God, as he mediated God’s grace and forgiveness through the sacraments. But there were other challenges. We often think of our own age as unique, with its pluralism and the advent of so many religions. But not too long before the Reformation, the Renaissance thinker Petrarch was calling for an Age of the Spirit in which all religions would be united. Many Renaissance minds were convinced that there was a saving revelation of God in nature and that, therefore, Christ was not the only way. The fascination with pagan philosophy encouraged the idea that natural religion offered a great deal–indeed, even salvation–to those who did not know Christ.

The Reformation was, more than anything else, an assault on faith in humanity, and a defense of the idea that God alone reveals Himself and saves us. We do not find Him; He finds us. That emphasis was the cause of the cry, “Christ alone!” Jesus was the only way of knowing what God is really like, the only way of entering into a relationship with Him as father instead of judge, and the only way of being saved from His wrath.

But not only is our salvation resting firming on the work of Christ, but as evangelical Christians, we believe that the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation is all about Christ.  As Martin Luther said, “(Christ is the) center and circumference of the Bible.”

So when Christ calls us to “believe” in Him, He is calling us to put our full faith and trust in Him and His work, and to lay aside any ideas that we can add anything to our salvation, and also to lay aside any ideas that we can add to His words.  In this verse, He is saying, in affect, “I have just laid out the truth about salvation and of heaven, and in order to have these things you must believe what I say is true, and also you must believe in me.  You must place all your faith and hope on me alone for these things.”

Finally, when Christ seals his teaching here with this verse, He is doing so on the heals of some difficult (some say “hard”) sayings.  Some of these are sayings our own class has struggled with.  But Christ doesn’t say, “if you’d like to believe in My sovereignty over salvation that’s fine, but regardless you need to believe in my words.”  No indeed.  For the two are invariably intertwined and cannot be separated.

Christ is saying in this discourse that:

  1. I am all sufficient for life here and in heaven
  2. I am the most satisfying thing you will ever experience
  3. God, not you, makes the choice over who will be saved
  4. In order to believe to me, you must have God’s help
  5. You aren’t going to believe in me unless you’ve been given faith from God to believe me
  6. In order to be saved you must believe in my words

What seems like a circle is in fact a linear line that starts with God in eternity past (Eph. 1:3-14) continues with God’s quickening us (John 3), drawing us (John 6:44) and ends with His keeping us in His bosom until the day of glorification (Romans 8).

Jesus, in affect, has said to his audience that they must believe to be saved but that those listening will not believe. The reason they can’t believe is because they love their sin more than they love God.  In order to believe we must be quickened by the Spirit of God and given faith, which we then place on our Lord.  Placing this faith on Christ is what results in salvation, as we see from above.

Getting back to the heart of what Christ is saying specifically in this verse, J.C. Ryle says, “He that would have his sins pardoned and his soul saved must go to Christ for it.”

The utter simplicity of the gospel message here is perhaps easily missed in our discourse because of how many other important things Christ has said, but I think its so important that we remember the simplicity of the Christian faith. There is no series of objectives, no rites, no hoops that we need to jump through, as the Catholics erroneously believe, there is simply Christ and Christ alone.  He alone is our sufficiency, and our only “work” is to believe (John 6:28).

 

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