Study Notes 9-30-12

Here are my notes from Sunday’s class.  We talked about the dual nature of Christ, touched on justification, and even (of course) the gospel.  Enjoy!

John 7:20-31

7:20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”

At this point we see that those who were pilgrims to Jerusalem (coming in from the Diaspora) didn’t have an understanding of the full picture of what was going on with the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.

7:21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it.

Last time Jesus was in town, a year ago, He had healed a lame man (cf. 5:1-15) and I think that most scholars feel this is what He is referring to.  This had made such an impression on them that they still remembered Him for it.  For not only had he made a “man’s whole body well”, but He had healed that man on the Sabbath, which had caused an even greater disturbance.

Boice sets the scene, “What Jesus had done in the north was not really much in the minds of these religious leaders. But there was not one of them who had forgotten that on his last visit to Jerusalem a year before, Jesus had violated their understanding of the Sabbath by healing a paralyzed man. That was work, according to their understanding.”  He went on to say, “If Jesus could do such things of the Sabbath, he was obviously dangerous. He was a sinner, and he was teaching others to sin. At the time of this miracle the leaders had, therefore, tried to kill him. Jesus had escaped.  But he had now returned, and they remembered.”

7:22-23 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. [23] If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?

Legalism gives Birth to Hypocrisy

Admittedly, this example that Jesus gives puzzled me a little bit until I started to dig into the context, and read what others had to say about it. Here’s what James Boice has to say on the matter:

His argument went something like this. It was the law of the Old Testament that a male child should be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth (Lev. 12:3). Naturally, the eighth day would often fall on the Sabbath. But it was the teaching of the rabbis, recorded in the Mishnah, that, ‘everything necessary for circumcision’ could be done on the Sabbath day. ‘Well’, said Jesus, ‘don’t you see what you are doing? You say that you fully observe the law that was given to you through Moses, including the laws concerning the Sabbath. The laws of the Sabbath forbid work, and you have interpreted that to mean every kind of activity except that which is absolutely necessary to save life. Technically, this should exclude circumcision. Yet you permit it, and it is right that you do. Moreover, you notice that circumcision is a form of mutilation. How hypocritical then for you to blame me for curing a man’s body, making it whole, when you for the sake of religion actually mutilate it on the seventh day!’

When he mentions “mutilation” Boice might be making a good point, but perhaps missing the deeper significance (literally “sign” relevance) of circumcision.  For instance, as Wellum and Gentry note in their biblical theology on the covenants, “circumcision, as a physical act, signified the removal of the defilement of sin, the cleansing from sin, and it pointed to the need for a spiritual circumcision of the heart.”  Given this, perhaps deeper meaning, what Christ is doing in healing an entire man on the Sabbath is essentially a much grander way of showing His power to cleanse us from our sins (this is probably also closer to Sproul’s interpretation, though I don’t think he is very clear explaining it).

This is a difficult and rather intricate legal argument that Jesus is making here, but it points to the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders at the time.  And, as Boice points out, what Jesus is saying in essence is that their “legalism gives birth to hypocrisy.

This is why I labored the point in prior sections that the law cannot save us, but only lead us to Christ.  The reason, of course, is that the law is always condemning us.  But the gospel is always bringing us into a saving knowledge of Jesus’ work on our behalf – so that while we were “yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  So even though we have all violated the law – a law which so many people want to try and live every day by still – we are found with favor in the eyes of God because of Christ’s work, not ours (Eph. 2:1-10).  For no man is justified by the law because no man can keep the law (Gal. 3:11), and this is why we need the gospel. We need Christ’s work, His righteousness, credited to us (to our account).

How are we Justified?

This is a good opportunity to just briefly remind us of why and how we are justified. We covered this just last week, so I will not spend too much time on it.  But we are not justified by our work in keeping the law, but rather in the life, cross work, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We must also be sure to make a distinction between justification and sanctification/transformation.  Christ’s work (His righteousness/His merit) is imputed to our account, as it were, and therefore in the final analysis we are counted as “righteous” before the throne of God.

In his new book on the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, R.C. Sproul explains the classical Protestant view on imputation as drawn from Scripture:

When Paul explains the doctrine of justification, he cites the example of the patriarch Abraham.  He writes: “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’” (Rom. 4:3 citing Gen. 15:6). In other words, Abraham had faith, and therefore God justified him.  Abraham was still a sinner. The rest of the history of the life of Abraham reveals that he did not always obey God. Nevertheless, God counted him righteous because he believed in the promise God had made to him. This is an example of imputation, which involves transferring something legally to someone’s account, to reckon something to be there. So, Paul speaks of God counting Abraham as righteous, even though, in and of himself, Abraham was not yet righteous. He did not have righteousness inhering in him (‘Are We Together?’, pg. 43).

But that doesn’t mean that we are sinless, perfect people.  As Jerry Bridges rightly points out, the Holy Spirit is still working in us to affect this transformation. Bridges says that the Holy Spirit brings conviction, creates desire, and creates change. He enables us and abides in us so that with Christ’s help (John 15:5) we are able to do the things that please Him.  In this way we are being made righteous and more and more like the Son everyday (2 Cor. 3:18).

So once again, we see that as human beings we try to justify ourselves by the law, and our view of the law.  We tend toward legalism.  But as believers we must be very cautious not to do this; we must remember the gospel in all things, and at the heart of this gospel is the centrality of Christ and His work for us in His life, death and resurrection.  I do not think we can talk enough about this, so I will continue to bring it up whenever Christ discusses how the law interacts with the gospel.

7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Finally we see Christ’s admonition to be discerning in judgment.  Note that he says that we are to not judge simply by appearances – this, of course brings to mind how God told Samuel to not judge His new king by outward appearances (1 Sam. 16:7). So Jesus is doing the same here; He is admonishing them to not judge as men judge, but to judge as God judges (God’s judgment is always “right” and just/righteous judgment).

In light of this, and as Christians living under the New Covenant, we should ask ourselves these types of questions:

  • Is my parenting being informed by legalism, or by the gospel?
  • Is my marriage based on gospel principles, or on legalistic expectations of our mates?
  • To I hold others to the high standard of the law without affording them the grace Christ gives them in the gospel?

7:25-27 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? [26] And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? [27] But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”

Here we see the reaction of the people to Christ’s preaching in Jerusalem, and His ministry as a whole, I think. Their reaction is mixed.  The first thing they note is that their leaders are seeking to kill Him (whereas others of them didn’t seem to understand this cf. vs. 20).  MacArthur makes a distinction between the people in verse 20 and those in verse 25.  He says that the people in verse 20 are pilgrims coming to Jerusalem, whereas the folks in verse 25 must have been those living inside Jerusalem who were well aware of their leaders’ intentions.

The second thing the people note is that their leaders won’t debate Jesus openly – as we talked about before, this was because every time someone tried to debate Jesus they got shut down.  The Scripture that comes immediately to mind is this:

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.  (Luke 20:27-40)

This of course set the people to asking, “Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?”  This is the key verse of this section in my opinion.  The people are starting to figure out that their leaders may not be fully accepting of a man that may actually be the long awaited Messiah.  So they sense potential corruption in their leaders. This is a very dangerous time politically for the leadership of the Council.

The last thing the people ask is why it is that they know where Christ is from.  This seems odd in hindsight, but we need to understand how they viewed the coming Messiah, and what pretences they were holding in their minds.

The people got this idea of ‘no one knowing from where the Christ will come’ from tradition, and popular opinion, as well as what MacArthur calls a “misinterpretation of such passages as Is. 53:8, ‘who will declare His generation?’ and Malachi 3:1 ‘The Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.’  Several commentators also say that the apocryphal book of 4 Esdras informed the people’s thinking on the matter, “He said to me, ‘Just as no one can explore or know what is in the depths of the sea, so no one on earth can see my Son or those who are with him, except in the time of his day.’” So since they knew something of Jesus’ background, they assumed that He couldn’t be the Messiah.

Of course this popular belief didn’t square with what the Old Testament teaches us about the Christ coming from Bethlehem.  MacArthur notes that this was “a point that others in the crowd would later acknowledge(d) (verse 42).”

7:28-29 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. [29] I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

The Dual Nature of Christ

The first thing that we see here is that Christ doesn’t correct their misunderstanding of the Old Testament, but “instead, He responded by directly confronting their heard-hearted unbelief (MacArthur).”

Then Christ goes on to reiterate what He had said before about authority, namely that He did not come of His own, but He came instead from the Father.  He was giving all glory to the Father, and pointing to God the Father as His divine source of authority.

One of the signs of His authority and that He was coming directly from the Father (God) was His divine knowledge.  All of this knowledge had been given to Him directly by God.  This is something we talked about before, but I failed to mention much about exactly how He got this knowledge, and the importance making a distinction between the divinity of Christ, and the humanity of Christ. Not that the distinction is important as a thing in and of itself, but rather it is important that we understand (as best we can) the nature and person of Christ.  It is important because we don’t want to slip into wrong thinking about our Lord, and it is these types of statements He is making here that lead us to ask important questions like “how could Christ have known all of this, and yet not known the time of His own second coming (Mark 13:32)?”

These are important questions, and ones that tend toward the person and nature of Christ, and we should briefly address them here.

When we talk about the person of Christ, the first thing we need to understand is what I hinted at above – His dual nature. As Bible-believing orthodox Christians, we affirm that Christ is vera homo, vera Deus” which is to say that He is truly man and truly GodOne person with two natures.  As Sproul says, “If we are to have a correct understanding of Jesus, we have to understand that His divine nature has all the attributes of deity while the human nature has all of the limitations of humanity.”

Wayne Grudem says that some of the key aspects of His humanity included the virgin birth, His human body, His human mind, His human soul (which I like to define as “the mind, will, and emotions”), His human appearance to mankind (others near Him saw Him as human).  Grudem also lists several aspects of His deity: The direct scriptural claims He made, His miracles of healing, His power over nature, His eternity, His omniscience, and His immortality (among others).

Some theologians say that Christ laid aside some of these attributes and so while being human didn’t possess many of the divine attributes – the so-called “kenosis” theory derived from Phil. 2:7.  But this has been proved to be a misunderstanding of scripture (see Grudem’s systematic theology pg. 549-552). In fact, the theory completely misunderstands the context of the text.  The text isn’t talking about Christ’s emptying Himself of His deity, rather in humility, emptying not grasping onto (“a thing to be grasped”) the rights of His deity.  This “emptying” is addressing His attitude and complete surrender to the will of God.  I’m reminded of Heb. 12:2 which tells us that Jesus endured the “shame” of the cross while looking forward to the “joy” of being reunited with the Father.  He actually “despised” the shame of the cross, and yet submitted to the humiliation of the thing on our account.  Christ didn’t empty Himself of His deity, but only the right to be worshiped unreservedly by those who He breathed into creation. Because in heaven there is none who do not bow the knee to this King – and so it will soon be on earth at the close of this age!

Continuing on this same theme, Scripture shows us that the Christ was the Word, and that while He was made flesh (John 1:14), it doesn’t say that Christ stopped being the Deity.  Michael Horton explains: “The verb ‘became’ (egeneto) here does not entail any change in the essence of the Son. His deity was not converted into our humanity. Rather, he assumed our human nature.”  He continues, “Each nature is entirely preserved in its distinctness yet in and as one person” (Heb. 2:14-17).

So if Christ was vera homo vera Deus, how did his humanity know/have supernatural knowledge?  Sproul answers, “It came from the communication of the divine nature to the human nature.” I think Horton is helpful here as well:

When we give due attention to Christ’s humanity as the servant of the covenant, more spece opens up for the person and work of the Spirit. There is no mention in the gospels of Jesus’ divinity overwhelming his humanity. Nor do the gospels refer his miracles to his divinity and refer his temptation or sorrow to his humanity, as if he switched back and forth from operating according to one nature to operating according to another. Rather, the gospels routinely refer Christ’s miracles to the Father and the Spirit, accomplishing their work in and through Jesus Christ.  Jesus was conceived by the Spirit, was filled with the Spirit, grew in wisdom and understanding by the Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the desert for his temptation and was there upheld by the Spirit, and spoke what he heard from the Father and as he was empowered y the Spirit. Jesus is therefore not only God turned toward God, but humanity turned toward God in the power of the Spirit.

Therefore, His human nature was not omniscient, but in His divine nature He was obedient to the Spirit and could therefore “know all things” that the Spirit gave Him from God.  In this way, Jesus was divinely omniscient.  He had a well of knowledge that was eternal. This is why He – in His humanity – didn’t know the time of His second coming.  The divine nature of Christ didn’t communicate it to His human nature (we don’t know why…but it is not for us to question the “why” of God!). Therefore, he could rightly and correctly say He didn’t know. Horton says, “Without surrendering his divinity (which included omniscience), the eternal Son fully assumed our finite humanity.”

Again, Sproul explains, “There were things that Jesus didn’t know, but whatever He taught was impeccable, because He never taught on the basis of His own human insight. So the Christian church has understood for centuries that, touching His human nature, Jesus is not omniscient, but He is infallible, because if He teaches something that isn’t true, then He’s held accountable.”

This is an extremely hard concept to understand. But it is important to realize that all things that Christ knew He received from the Father.  He had a divine communication with His Father.  He and the Father were of one mind, and the teaching authority of Jesus came directly from God the Father.

NOTE: The doctrine of Christ’s deity and human nature was affirmed at the Council of Nicea in 325 where a formal statement on the nature of the Trinity was written down and at the Council of Chaldedon (451) the doctrine of Christ’s “one person in two natures” was affirmed.

NOTE: For more information about this see Michael Horton’s Systematic Theology, or Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

A Stinging Indictment

What He said after that, however, was the greatest rebuke of the conversation.  He states, “him you do not know” speaking of the Father. Here Jesus is looking at the religious leaders and telling them in no uncertain terms that they do not know the God they claim to be representing.

He is not merely saying, “you have misinterpreted Scripture” but that “you don’t even know the God of the Scriptures!”  BOOM!  This must have just infuriated them to no end.  What a stinging rebuke.

7:30-31 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. [31] Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The reaction of the crowd at this point is mixed – many believed in Him, but the leaders’ reaction makes a lot of sense doesn’t it?  They are fixated on arresting him. They wanted to take Him down! But because of the providential work and plan of God, “no one laid a hand on him.”

No one was going to take His life from Him – no one – unless He laid it down.  Look at what John 10:18 says, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

So Jesus Christ came to speak truth into the world, and when He did so He was misunderstood, and hated by the world.  This is why his brother’s didn’t believe that He was the Christ, and why the religious leaders didn’t believe He was the Christ – they were of the world, and they didn’t know God.

Some truths to take away from this:

    1. Jesus has authority to do what He pleases
    2. Jesus had authority over His life, and He has authority over your life as well – both spiritually and physically.  Isn’t this a great truth?
    3. If you know God, you know Christ – by knowing Christ you know the Father.  What a great truth!
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