Study Notes 4-15-12

3:31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

John MacArthur really lays out convincingly that this section of scripture is all about the preeminence of Christ.  He says that there are 4 or 5 different ways in which the scripture shows this, and I’m going to create sub-headings here for each one since it was so good, and I will write my own thoughts underneath his sub-headings.

Christ is declaring to us the absolute authority and singularity with which He reigns.  If you are a sinner, lost without Christ, this is a terrifying truth.  If you are a Christian, held closely to the bosom of Christ, this is a magnificent truth, it is a beautiful truth, for He is your sovereign.  He is sovereign, He is sufficient, and He is supreme.  As Abraham Kuyper once famously said, “Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Now onto the first heading…

First: Christ had a Heavenly Origin

  • His claim to be divine is at the essence of His supremacy.  If He is divine, then His words have a force behind them that ordinary men’s words would not have.
  • If you are to tell someone you’re above all, it indicates that you have more authority than anyone else.  This is the kind of statement that causes some secularists to call Christ an “ego-maniac” and the like.  And surely He would be, if He did not have the right to claim the things He did about Himself.  Similarly, these are the kinds of statements that cause us to deal with what kind of man Jesus was.  Josh McDowell, the famous Atheist turned Christian-apologist, said that we must all deal with Jesus in some way and that we end up either having to call Him “liar, lunatic, or Lord.”
  • This is something that every non-believer must be confronted with, and it’s the same question that Jesus put to Peter “who do you say I am?”  Your response to that question will reveal whether or not you will spend eternal life with Christ or not.

3:32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.

Second: Christ Knew the Truth First Hand

  • Being divine, and having come from heaven, He would have heard God’s words first hand.  Being both God and man, He understood the will of God for mankind perfectly.  He was able to testify to God’s words with perfect accuracy because He was in the presence of God, but also because He was/is God!
  • When we start to think about Christ “hearing” testimony, we quickly begin to picture in our minds the conversation between members of the Trinity from before the world was created.  We don’t exactly know how they communicate one to another since they all have the same mind.  These are the kinds of things that men cannot know; they are mysteries fall too deep for us to plum.  But Christ realizes this, so He speaks in ways that He knows we’ll comprehend, and this is why He was a great “rabbi” because He could communicate the heavenly things so well, and yet the heavenly things were so wonderful that many in His day didn’t have a clue what He was talking about, and we’re still unpacking them today.

3:33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.

Third: Christ’s Testimony Always Agreed with God

  • Naturally, if Christ is God, then He will always agree with what God has to say because He is agreeing with Himself. Though it is difficult for us to grasp the complexity of the trinity, the doctrine of the trinity is well established in these verses. All three forms of the Godhead are mentioned in this section.  Each member of the Godhead is mentioned as unique, and yet each one is mentioned as part of the One whole true God.
  • As to the text, we see that John is presenting us with a reality, and that reality is that if we accept the testimony of Jesus, then we must necessarily accept the premise that what God says is true, and therefore whatever Jesus says is true.  Once we agree (“set our seal to”) that God is the very essence of truth, we necessarily have a basis for putting our trust in the testimony of His Son.

3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

Fourth: Christ Experienced the Power of the Holy Spirit Without Limit

  • Because Jesus is divine, He was filled with the Spirit during His time on earth – and not just a little power of the Spirit, but power “without measure.”  This is an incredible thing to think on.  I have no doubt that the Spirit of God was working in compliment to His own deity to perform many of the miracles that He performed on earth.  I have no idea how this worked, but we read that it happened, and we know that it happened, and we know that Christ had the Spirit without limit.
  • As Boice points out, some have erroneously thought this passage means that God gives the Spirit to believers without measure, but that is obviously not the case as our own experience bears witness.  It is also preposterous to think that mere humans without the nature of divinity (as Christ had) could possible contain the fullness of the Spirit.  If this were the case, we would see miracle after miracle.  Lastly, we know it is not the case because we are such sinful creatures that the Spirit of God, while striving with us, is often ignored by our disobedience.  We do not tap into the power of the Spirit nearly as much as one would expect who had the full and unlimited power of the Spirit “without measure.”

3:35-36 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. [36] Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Fifth: Christ Received all Authority from the Father

  • If Jesus is divine, as we have reasoned from above, then it means that everything He has to say is something we need to be paying attention to.  He has all authority.  By way of analogy, it reminds me of when I was growing up and my parents would go out for the evening, leaving us with a babysitter.  The babysitter was not (in our view) endowed with all of the authority that our parents had.  Though she may have been acting as a sort of regent of my parent’s authority, I certainly didn’t take her word as having the same power as my parent’s word.  My parents were the supreme authority.  And by way of extension to this analogy, if my mom gave me an order, and testified to me that my father was in agreement with her on this matter, I certainly believed her.  Why?  Because my parents were a united front.  Anything my mom said my dad agreed upon and vise versa.  They had the same mind, and there was no disunity between them.
  • So it is with the authority of Christ – and so it ought to be with us by way of extension.  That is to say that we are co-regents with Christ on this planet.  We reign with Him.  Paul says that we have the mind of Christ, and that is because we have the Spirit of Christ who is the one giving us the thoughts of the mind of Christ.  Furthermore, we are being conformed into the image of Christ. Now, we don’t perfectly represent the mind and authority of Christ, just as my babysitter didn’t perfectly represent my parents.  I remember a few times when babysitters did really foolish things and said foolish things that my parents would never have approved of.
  • In verse 36 John tells us that whoever believes in Christ will reap eternal life.  There is a connection here between obedience and belief, and disobedience and wrath.  Note that it isn’t as though our actions reap a reward immediately upon their execution.  That is to say that the word “remains” indicates that we are already going to incur the wrath of God – it is the de-facto state of affairs for humanity until we do something about it (believe in Christ).
  • Lastly, it’s important to remember that we’re talking life and death here.  The Bible is a book that deals with the most difficult matters human beings have to deal with in life. When we read about what Christ said, it isn’t the story of a man who wasted His words talking about things that were fleeting.  So as a consequence, when we study the Bible we end up confronting these “ultimate” issues.  And if we read the gospels, this is especially true.

A Few Questions to ask ourselves:

  1. If Christ is supreme over my life, am I striving toward pleasing Him with my life?
  2. If Christ is supreme over all humanity, am I striving to present my family to Him as ones cleansed by the Word of God?
  3. If I believe that this man Jesus’ message is truly from God, what steps am I taking to obey it?

How do we teach this to our children? Here’s an example: Today we talked about Jesus and about His nature – who He is as a person and how He learned everything He knew from God the Father before He even came to earth.  Because His message was from God, and because God is completely truthful in everything He says and does, that means that Jesus’ message to us is completely truthful, which means that we need to pay very close attention to what we learn in the Bible about Jesus (Heb. 2:1) and what He says.

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2-26-12 Study Notes

1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

  • Note the divine imperative here.  He doesn’t ask, He tells Philip to “follow me.”  This reminds me of the efficacious work of the Spirit when He calls us to follow Christ – He lifts the blinds on the windows of our heart and causes us to see Christ for who He is.

1:44-45 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. [45] Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

  • Again we see that Philip and the other disciples are convinced (at least very nearly convinced) that they have found the Messiah.  This connoted both an understanding of the law and the prophets, and an attitude of expectation at Jesus’ arrival.
  • Nathanael is said to be the same person as Bartholomew.  Bartholomew was a surname and Nathanael was a given name.

1:46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

  • Nazareth was not a very important town, but it doesn’t seem that Nathanael’s opinion was necessarily universal.  As Morris says, “It is not a famous city, but we have no reason for thinking it was infamous. We should probably understand Nathanael’s words as the utterance of a man who could not conceive of the Messiah as coming from such an insignificant place.”

1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

  • This is the first of two statements where Jesus seems to show a sort of super-human intellect.  But it is more than intellect of a “super-human” kind.  It is obviously knowledge that only the Divine Being could know.
  • The fact that Jesus used the term “Israelite” is interesting because its not the word used most in this gospel – usually the word “Jew” is used, but Jesus is using the covenant name of the nation and the one closely identified with Jacob – significant because Jacob is the character that best ties in this whole final passage.
  • When Jesus says there is no “guile” or “deceit” in Nathanael, it harkens our minds back to Jacob who was himself a deceiver.  Jesus is basically saying, ‘here is an Israelite in whom there is no Israel!’  He is praising Nathanael for being a straight-forward type of guy.

1:48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

  • This says something of the divine knowledge of Jesus during His time here on earth.  There is an ongoing argument among scholars as to how much Christ knew or could have known in his humanity.  Some ask the question: if he was fully human, how could his human mind have known what The Deity knows?  The question is worth asking, though we may never know the answer.  It is certainly obvious from the Scriptures that Jesus knew a lot – though it is my opinion from reading the Bible throughout the years that He didn’t use His full omnipotence while on earth.  For example, while on earth He said that only the Father knew the date of His second coming.  It is this kind of statement that leads me to think that He laid aside some of His divine omniscience.

1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

  • Note the way that Nathanael ties the two concepts of the “Son of God” and the “King of Israel” together.  I like this because it signifies both His deity and His humanity.  It also signifies His authority and kingship.
  • Keep in mind that Nathanael had just been identified as an “Israelite”, and now Nathanael is identifying Jesus as the “King of Israel” – he is submitting to His authority.
  • And by the reaction we read here, he seemed to understand right away that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies.

1:50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

  • In this verse we’re given a hint from Jesus that the best is yet to come.  This is a fitting statement for the beginning of what would end up being the most exciting and world-altering three years ever lived by a man on earth.  Jesus’ ministry here on earth was a shower of one miracle after another.  Teaching after teaching by Christ flowed forth the divine wisdom with a profundity that forever changed the course of history for humanity.

1:51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

  • This is a clear reference to Jacob’s ladder – which is amazing to see the fulfillment of this from thousands of years prior (Gen. 28:10-17).  According to Jonathan Edwards, the passage serves as an analogy to what Christ fulfilled in bringing to us in Salvation and the Covenant of Grace.
  • The sleep that Jacob takes symbolizes death (spiritual death), and the rock he lays his head upon symbolizes Christ. The ladder is God’s Salvation and the Covenant of Grace, which was ushered in with Christ.  The ladder is the only way to heaven, though men desire to make their own ladders of self-righteousness, which only lead to destruction.  The rungs of the ladder are the ordinances and promises of God – they are strong enough to keep us and hold us as we climb upwards toward heaven.  The ladder, of course, leads to heaven.  It takes us to God who is far above the earthly sin and trouble of this life.
  • As Christians it is our mission each to day to climb the ladder.  Edwards says, “don’t rest is what you’ve attained.”  He also points out that there is great happiness – ultimate happiness – awaiting us at the top of the ladder, and that every man desires to reach that happiness.  Our souls all desire to be happy in God.
  • Lastly, let’s examine this title, “Son of Man.”  As Morris reminds us, “In the gospels it is used by Jesus as His favorite self-designation, occurring in this way over 80 times.
  • The term is derived from Daniel 7:13-14.  So why did Jesus like this title?  Leon Morris gives us four reasons:
  1. “Because it was a rare term and one without nationalistic associations. It would lead to no political complications.”
  2. “Because it had overtones of divinity”
  3. “Because of its societary implications.  The Son of Man implies the redeemed people of God.”
  4. “It had undertones of humanity. He took upon Him our weakness.”
  • Morris concludes, “It was a way of eluding to, and yet veiling his Messiahship, for His concept of the Messiah differed markedly from that commonly held.”

 

How do we teach this to our children?  If you were to tell your children on the way home today that you learned about how Jesus was and is the Word of God, what would you say?

EXAMPLE:  Today we learned about how the first disciples were called.  We also learned about the name that Jesus liked to use for himself (the Son of Man).  The title ‘Son of Man’ indicates that Jesus is divine, and that He’s also human.  The Jews who were listening to Jesus teach would not have thought much about this title (for older children: it was a title disassociated with any preconceived political or society notions) so they wouldn’t have had any incorrect thoughts about who Jesus was or who He was describing Himself to be.  We also learned about how Jacob from the Old Testament saw a ladder reaching all the way to heaven.  On the ladder there were angels going up and down – almost like a stairway.  Jesus said to His disciples that they would see angels walking up and down “on” the Son of Man – on Him!  What Jesus meant by this was that He was the great ladder (or stairway) that connected heaven and earth.  Our only way to get to heaven is by Jesus and His salvation.