Study Notes 10-13-13: To Know Me is to Know My Father

14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus is the Beauty and Radiance of the Father

First, Jesus is saying here that I am so much like the Father, that once you know me, you will know the Father.

Hebrews tells us that, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3a), and Paul adds, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15a).

John testified that the disciples beheld His glory, “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) and Peter said, “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16b).

To really understand how Jesus is like the Father is difficult to know. But I think we can assume that in His character (His characteristics and personality etc.), ontology (His being and questions of His eternity etc.) and substance (what His is made of etc.), He is the same as God the Father. This was the subject of much debate in the 3rd and 4th centuries, and was finally settled (for the most part) at the Councils of Constantinople in 381 and Chalcedon in 451 where it was agreed upon and affirmed that Christ is of the same “substance” (homoousios) as the Father, although He is a different “person” (this is just a summary and doesn’t do the debate justice, obviously).

His Gracious Self-Disclosure

Secondly, I was struck this week as I was studied this verse by something that Leon Morris said in his commentary on John:

Throughout the Old Testament, as Dodd has pointed out, the knowledge of God is not normally claimed. It is looked for as a future blessing, or people may be urged to know God, but it is very rare indeed to find assertions that people know God (as in Ps. 36:10). John sees this whole situation as changed in Christ. As a result of what he has done (“front now on”) his followers really know God. It is a revolution both in religious experience and in theological understanding.

John provided context for this in chapter one:

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:18)

This is what theologians call “progressive revelation” because God has progressively revealed Himself to mankind. He did so most fully in the incarnate Son, and He continues this work in the abiding Spirit who takes up residence within His children.

As I began meditating upon the heart of Christ to make known the Father to us, and the obvious desire for the Father for Christ to reconcile us to Himself, it just blew me away. Contrasted against my sinfulness who am I to deserve such a gift? Why does He want to know me? How is that possible?

Let us simply reflect on the intimacy Christ has given us with the Creator of all things. That somehow we can have a personal relationship with God, and get to “know” Him. That, in fact, to know Him is what we were created for. These truths just leave me speechless.

This was the mission of Christ, to reveal the Father to sinful men as He had never been revealed before. His gracious self-disclosure ought to bring us to worship, and leave us with thankful hearts today.

Note the Eschatological Shift…Things Are Different Now

Lastly, (and really flowing from point two) the eschatological significance of Jesus’ words “from now on” can’t be underestimated. Like in Romans 8:1 where Paul sees a significant redemptive-historical shift (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”), Jesus says that ‘from now on you will have a relationship with the Father unlike ever before because I have “made Him known.”’

Herman Ridderbos says, “Jesus connects their knowledge of the Father and their life in fellowship with the Father not only to the future but above all to the faith experience they have received in their earthly contact with him.”

Therefore, unlike at any other time in the history of humanity, God’s people will have an unprecedented intimacy with their Creator, and it will come through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Show Us the Father

For the Jews, the ultimate blessing was to see the Father’s face. They lived in the hopes of one day seeing His face. As R.C. Sproul says, “It was as if Philip said: ‘Jesus, we’ve seen some fantastic things – You changed the water into wine, You fed the five thousand, You walked on water…But now, please give us the big one, then we’ll be satisfied. Do just one more miracle. Peel back the veil and let us see the face of God.’”

The sentiment that Philip expresses here is probably best expressed in the Aaronic blessing in Numbers:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.
(Numbers 6:24-27)
 

We also see this in Moses who asked God to allow him to see Him in His glory. Do you remember God’s response? Let’s read it together:

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.” (Exodus 33:18-23, ESV)

This reminds us again of what John said at the beginning of the gospel, “No one has ever seen God (John 1:18a).”  John Frame says this verse “means that no one has ever seen God apart from his voluntary theophanic-incarnational revelation. ‘God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known’ (1:18b).”

If the Jews lived longing to see God’s face, how much more ought we who have His Spirit living within us live Coram Deo (before the face of God).

14:9-11 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? [10] Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. [11] Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

You can just feel the heart of Christ here and I’m sure Philip could as well. It seems to be a tone of exasperation, or at least a gentle rebuke. I don’t think its fair that we judge these disciples too harshly though – would we have been any better able to discern what Jesus was saying? Given the world around them, they were actually picking up ten times more than all the other men who had decades of scholarship and theological training under their belts.

Nonetheless, Jesus gets the attention here of the entire group (the word “you” is plural in the Greek, and so He is speaking to the entire group and not just Philip), and doubles down on what He had just emphasized about the unity of the Godhead.

The Nature of the Trinity: Diversity, Unity, and Equality

Jesus says that, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” and then “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  How are we to understand this correctly and clearly?

First, within the Trinity we must understand that there are three key principles to keep in mind if we are to rightly understand the nature of God: Diversity, Unity, and Equality.

Statements of Unity are obvious in this passage: “The father is in me”, “The father who dwells in me” “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Diversity is assumed in that Christ is referring to a different person than Himself when He refers to the “Father” – for instance He says, “I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” Therefore, we assume that just as there is unity, there is diversity.

Finally, there is also Equality within the Godhead. The Son and the Father and the Spirit are equal in power and being and substance. However, they have different roles. It is to the nature of these diverse roles that Christ speaks when He says “I do not speak on my own authority.” He is not saying that the Father is “above” Him in rank, but rather each person of the Godhead plays a different role in the execution of their redemptive plan. The Son is not subordinate to the Father in rank, but is submissive to the Father in role.

This is difficult to get straight in our minds without slipping into some kind of heretical error, and I’ve found that word pictures always end up leading to promoting either modalism, or some kind of monophysitism.

“Miracles are Christological Sign-Posts”

Lastly, Jesus says that if they can’t find the faith to believe what He is saying about the nature of the Godhead, then at least believe because of the “works.” What does this mean? Why should miracles “convince” them? Well, its not necessarily about “convincing” or showing off power.

As D.A. Carson says:

Thoughtful meditation on, say, the turning of the water into wine, the multiplication of the loaves or on the raising of Lazarus will disclose what these miracles signify: viz. that the saving kingdom of God is at work in the ministry of Jesus, and this is in ways tied to his very person. The miracles are non-verbal Christological signposts.

Leon Morris is also helpful, “Faith on the basis of miracles is better than not faith at all. In John the characteristic of the miracles is not that they are wonders, nor that they show mighty power, but that they are ‘signs.’ For those who have eyes to see they point people to God.”

The power that has been manifested in the ministry of Jesus is evidence that He is not only from God (as even Nicodemus and the Sanhedrin understood cf. 3:2) but that He in fact is God.

14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

It certainly must have bewildered the disciples (at this point at least) to have heard Jesus say that they would do even greater works than what He had done. But as F.F. Bruce says, “His promise indeed came true: in the first few months after his death and resurrection many more men and women became his followers through their witness than had done so during his personal ministry in Galilee and Judea.”

Morris comments, “After his departure his followers were able to influence much larger numbers of people and to work in widely scattered places.”

We will do “greater” works than Him in that we will be spreading the gospel empowered by the spirit to millions of people for thousands of years.

His disciples can do this “because” He went to the Father, namely because He would send “another helper” – the Holy Spirit – which we will shortly discuss.

Some stumble over the idea that the disciples could have done “greater” works than Christ, but once we understand what Jesus means by “greater”, there is no issue here. First, perhaps its better for us to think of “greater” as “more” rather than “better”.  As John MacArthur says, “The greater works to which Jesus referred were not greater in power than those He performed, but greater in extent.”

But secondly, the phrase is not quite so offensive when we realize that it is not as if what we do is superior in anyway to what He did, because what we do is not of us in the first place. Our work is not our work; it is His. It is him who is working through us.

Therefore, when he says “greater works than these will he do” (notice he’s talking to the “believer” and not specifically just to the disciples here in his immediate presence – there is a definite look toward legacy here) he says that because its him who will be doing the works of salvation through us!

The emphasis is not on miracles of healing but on the miracle of salvation, as MacArthur says, “…those physical miracles were not primarily what Jesus had in mind, since the apostles did not do more powerful miracles than He had. When the Lord spoke of His followers performing greater works, He was referring to the extent of the spiritual miracle of salvation.”

And so it is that He will be glorified in and through us. He will continue His work of saving the lost on earth until He comes back again. As Morris says, “…in doing their ‘greater things’ they were but his agents”, and so too are we.  What a great privilege!

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.