Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 05 (“I Am the Good Shepherd”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 03 March 2019)

  1. INTRODUCTION:

We are reading in the Gospel of John again today and we are looking at the 8 “I Am” statements of John. Seven times, John records Jesus proclaiming Himself with the introductory formula “I am”and once where Jesus did not start with “I am”, but said, “Before Abraham, I am,”meaning that Jesusexisted before Abraham who had died perhaps 2000 years prior to Jesus and that Jesus also equated Himself to God, taking the holy name that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Ex.3:14), and which was so holy that the people of Jesus’ day would not even utter it out loud.

  • The first “I am” statement that Jesus made, was… ~ “I am the bread of life.”We said that just as bread sustains our lives physically, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the One who sustains us spiritually and eternally. 
  • We have considered the statement, “I am the light of the world.”This statement gives us a radical claim which calls us to a radical discipleship (anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness)which guarantees for us a radical promise (but will have the light of life). 
  • Last Sunday we considered Jesus’ saying, “I am the door.”We said that this tells us that Jesus is the one and only door that must be entered into salvation, and that the door is open, but He will not force any to enter. 

This brings us to the fifth statement, which is actually a continuation of the illustration on shepherding begun in the previous statement (“I am the door”), namely, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:

  • The Good Shepherd (vss.11,14-18).
  • The Hired Hand (vss.12-13).
  • The Divided Jews (vss.19-21).
  • SCRIPTURE READING:

John 10:7-21 ~ “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 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.” 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

We see in our Scripture passage that Jesus explains the illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals.

  • THE GOOD SHEPHERD (vss.11, 14-18):

First, we see Jesus claims to be the “good” Shepherd and He expands on this statement by sharing with us the characteristics of a “Good Shepherd.”

The word “good” in itself is interesting – it means “good”in the sense of being morally good; but it also means “beautiful,” “winsome,” “lovely,” “attractive,”or even “possessing all and whatever qualities make the object described a good thing or the person a good person.”Moreover, if we compare Christ’s “I am the Good Shepherd”with His parallel claims to be the “the True Bread”or “the True Vine,” we also see that the word means “genuine” or “true,” as opposed to “false” or “artificial.”

When we look at the expression by Jesus, namely, “I am the GOOD Shepherd,”we recognise Jesus as the good, beautiful, winsome, lovely, attractive, true and genuine Shepherd.

Jesus goes on to describe His character by looking at two relationships, namely:

  • His relationship with the sheep(10:7, 9, 10b–11, 14–18):The first relationship that He describes, is His relationship with His sheep. 

Just to recap again – who is His sheep? In Matt.25:32 the word “sheep” is used symbolically to represent God’s people ~ “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”Jesus’ sheep are those people who heard His call and believe in Him ~“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out”(John 10:3) and John 10:27-28 ~“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

  • Entrance to man’s salvation:We’ve already seen in 10:7, that Jesus is the entrance to man’s salvation ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”Jesus is clear about the fact that He provides the door by which the sheep may enter into eternal rest.
  • Jesus meets the needs of His flock:Jesus also allows His flock to go in and out, and find green pasture (10:9). Here, Jesus puts the emphasis on His function in the salvation process of His sheep and that He brings His sheep out of the consequences of their sin and into the blessing of God, the blessing is described in terms of green pasture. This sheep that enters the fold through Christ will be able to go in and out and have all its needs met.
  • Jesus gives life:Jesus gives them life in all its fullness (10:10b). In contrast to Jesus, we see in vs.10 that the thief steals sheep out of selfish gratification – he steals and kills the sheep. Christ by contrast came for the benefit of the sheep. He came that they might have Life ~ “…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31).
  • Jesus lays down His life: He lays down His own life for them (10:11). For a third time in the space of seven verses, Jesus again, in vs.17, mentions the fact that He is laying down His life for His “sheep” (10:11, 15). Jesus wants to stress the fact that His sacrifice is the means of our reconciliation both to God and to one another. John, in 1 Joh.3:16 also refers to this ~ “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Warren Wiersbe explains this as follow –“Under the old dispensation (Old Testament times), the sheep died on the altar for the shepherd as a burnt offering before God; but now the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ) dies for His sheep! Five times in this conversation, Jesus clearly affirmed the sacrificial nature of His death (John 10:11, 15, 17–18). He did not die as a martyr, killed by men; He died as a substitute, willingly laying down His life for us.

The fact that Jesus said that He died‘for the sheep’ must not be isolated from the rest of Biblical teaching about the Cross. He also died for the nation Israel (John 11:50–52)and for the world (John 6:51). While the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the salvation of the world, it is efficient only for those who will believe.”

In vs.18, Jesus clarify two very important aspects of His authority in laying down His life for His “sheep”: 

  • His death was voluntary:The first is that His death was totally voluntary. His power was such that no human hand could have touched Him had He not permitted it. We can see in several versus that Jesus at that stage had already avoided capture or execution (5:18; 7:44-45; 8:20, 59; 10:39; 11:53-54). Only when He declared that “the hour has come”(12:23) was it possible for his enemies to arrest Him.
  • He took up His life again:The second aspect is His authority to lay down His life and take it up again. The death of Jesus was voluntary, and not as it might seem, being killed (a sort of indirect suicide); it was part of a plan to submit to death and then emerge from it victoriously alive. Anyone can lay down his life, but only the Son of God can at will resume His existence. He was acting in accord with a divine plan that involved a supreme sacrifice and a manifestation of divine power. 
  • His motivation – His love for the Father:The entire plan was motivated by His love for the Father and His readiness to carry out His father’s purpose. “Authority” in this instance means that he was not the helpless victim of His enemies’ violence, but that He had both the right and the power to become the instrument of reconciliation between man and God and between Jew and Gentile.
  • He knows His sheep (vs.14).In the Gospel of John, the word “know”means much more than intellectual awareness. It speaks of an intimate relationship between God and His people ~ “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”(John 17:3). 
  • He knows how to minister to His sheep:The shepherd knows his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to minister to them.
  • He knows our names: Jesus not only knows how to minister to us, but He also knows our names ~ “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). 
  • He knows our natures:He also knows our natures. While all sheep are alike in their essential nature, each sheep has its own distinctive characteristics; and the loving shepherd recognises these traits. One sheep may be afraid of high places, another of dark shadows. 
  • He knows our needs:A faithful shepherd will consider these special needs as he tends the flock. Because He knows our natures, He also knows our needs. Often, wedo not even know our own needs! Psalm 23 is a beautiful poetic description of how the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. In the pastures, by the water, and even through the valleys, the sheep need not fear, because the shepherd is caring for them and meeting their needs. Have you ever realised that the first verse and the last verse of Ps.23, is like the two pieces of bread that forms a sandwich? These two verses “sandwiches” the contents of the Psalm ~ “…I shall not want. …forever.”Jesus provides us with everything we need from now into eternity.
  • His relationship with the Father(10:15–17):Jesus says in Matt.11:27 the following about His relationship with God the Father… ~ “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”In similar fashion,…           

–      He seeks the same intimacy between Him and us:Jesus seeks the same intimacy, between Him and His children in vss.15-16. 

              –      He is praying for us:He wants to see the same profound and intimate relationship of love and care, between Him and His followers – that is why He is praying in Joh.17:21 as follows ~“…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

I said in the beginning that in our Scripture passage, Jesus explains His illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals. We’ve looked at the characteristics of “the Good Shepherd.”The second individual that we will be looking at, is “the Hired Hand”in vss.12-13.

  • THE HIRED HAND (vss.12-13):

Last Sunday, we looked at the thieves and robbersin vss.8 and 10 and we’ve seen that their purpose is to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but here in vss.12-13 Jesus refers to the characteristics of a hired hand.

No one expects sheep to be responsible for themselves. Owners hire shepherds or “hired hands”for that purpose and especially during night times when the sheep were in a sheepfold. A shepherd’s job, or the owner’s job is to accept responsibility for the safety and well-being of his flock and the same disposition or attitude was expected from “hired hands,” but most of them only took that to the point where it would threaten their personal safety, rightly deciding that their life is worth more than that of a sheep. A few would be willing to risk their lives to protect their sheep, but our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, knowingly and willingly died to save us, because there was no other way.

Who or what is“a hired hand”? The Greek word that’s been used here, μισθωτός(misthõtos) says exactly what the English says – “a hired hand”or a “wage-worker;” or a “hired servant,”who is hired to perform a job. These “hired hands” in terms of shepherding, were usually people who looked after the sheep during the night, while they were in the sheepfold or pen. Night times were the dangerous times, because that was usually the time that robbers and wolves would come to steal or catch the sheep.  

Jesus contrasted Himself to the hireling who watches over the sheep only because he is paid to do so. But when there is danger, the hireling runs away, while the True Shepherd stays and cares for the flock. The key phrase is the words in vs.12 “…who does not own the sheep.”The Good Shepherd purchases the sheepand they are His because He died for them. They belong to Him, and He cares for them. By nature, sheep are stupid and prone to get into danger; and they need a shepherd to care for them.

  • THE DIVIDED JEWS (vss.19-21):

How did the listeners respond to this message? “There was a division therefore again among the Jews”(10:19). Note that word“again”(John 7:43; 9:16). The old accusation that Jesus was a demoniac was hurled at Him again (John 7:20; 8:48, 52). People will do almost anything to avoid facing the truth!

Since Jesus Christ is “the Door,”we would expect a division, because a door shuts some people in and others out! He is “the Good Shepherd,”and the shepherd must separate the sheep from the goats. It is impossible to be neutral about Jesus Christ; for, what we believe about Him is a matter of life or death(John 8:24).

Jesus’ fourth declaration was the most startling of all ~ “I am the good Shepherd”(10:11). The crowd were upset and divided because of Jesus’ declaration.

  • Some judged Jesus (10:19-20):Many in this hostile crowd judged Him to be demon-possessed and mad (7:20; 8:48, 52). They labelled Jesus as a demoniac. The worst of characters is put upon the best of men. He is a distracted man, he raves and is delirious, and no more to be heard. They also ridiculed the other listeners in the audience, asking them… ~ “…why listen to him?”(10:20).
  • Some defended Jesus (10:21):Other people, though perhaps far in the minority, stood up for Jesus and defended Him. They still had the healing of the blind man in mind and told and asked the others who judged Jesus, with a rhetorical question – in other words, they asked a question to make a point rather than to get an answer… ~ “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”(10:21). These were brave people. The masses were against Jesus, but these handful of people believed in Jesus as the Messiah and they swam against the stream in order to defend Jesus. Matthew Henry says the following about this rhetorical question: “Neither mad men nor bad men can work miracles. Devils are not such lords of the power of nature as to be able to work such miracles; nor are they such friends to mankind as to be willing to work them if they were able. The devil will sooner put out men’s eyes than open them. Therefore, Jesus had not a devil.”
  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

In order for us to sum up what we’ve learned today, hear the following: Because of Jesus’ intimate relationship with His Father and His intimate relationship with His flock..:

  • He meets our needs. When you experience needs – do you really believe this? 
  • He gives us life – How often do you think and pray about this fact?
  • He lays down His life for us – What is your response to this Truth?
  • He is faithful– Do you apply this fact at all times?
  • He knows us– Are you always aware of this?
  • He seeks the same intimate relationship with us, that exists between Him and the Father – What a wonderful reality! – He seeks an intimate relationship with you!
  • He is praying/interceding for us – when we pray, we are not praying alone – we are in the midst of a holy conversation – when we pray, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also praying AND God the Father is listening – what an incredible, holy conversation and moment when we are praying!
  • He reconciled us with the Father– Do you really believe this, or are you always “fishing in the pond of past sins?”

The message of this parable is that Jesus is the true shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd who was willing to die and did die for those who put their faith in Him. Any other person who claims to be the true shepherd is a robber or thief. He or she is a false shepherd. This was a powerful message to the Jewish religious leaders who considered themselves to be the true shepherds of God’s flock. This is a wonderful message for anyone who seeks peace with God and security in eternity. Jesus is the Door to eternal salvation and He is the Good Shepherd who cares, watches, and protects those who believe in Him.

If you have already “entered through the gate,” there are however two warnings that we must take note of:

  • Listening to the wrong voice:The first of these dangers is listening to the wrong voice. In John 10:3 Jesus says that the Shepherd calls His sheep by name and leads them out. Notice that beautiful phrase, “He leads them.” Most modern shepherds drive the sheep. They walk behind the sheep and have “a dog or two”to keep the sheep in line. Not Jesus; He leads the sheep. The way that He leads them is not by the fact that they see Him but rather that they hear Him. The danger then is to follow the wrong voice.

The thieves of our day are the liberals, the Post Modernists, those who teach that there is another way, or many ways to be saved; those who teach that all religions ultimately lead to the same place. That is contrary to God’s Word. Another false voice is that of prosperity preachers who teach that God wants you to be wealthy, healthy and have all of your carnal desires met, and the reason you are sick or weak is your own fault. The first danger is listening to the wrong voice.

  • Seeking to enter through the wrong door:The second danger is seeking to enter by the wrong entrance. Jesus claims to be the exclusive gate. The only other way into the sheep pen is an illegitimate way: the way of thieves and robbers. We have already mentioned false religions and the like under the first danger. Likely the great danger of seeking the wrong entrance is seeking to enter the kingdom of God without the church. This is the notion that someone can be a part of the universal church without being faithfully involved in a local church. This is the teaching that says that you can live a healthy Christian life without the communion of the saints, without accountability, without corporate worship, and most dangerously, without the means of grace – the preaching and sacraments.

Beloved, beware of the dangers.

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10 Things the Woman Married to Your Pastor Wants You to Know

AUGUST 10, 2018  | Shari Thomas 

Lucas and Mia were a natural fit for the small but growing church in Tribeca. Everyone knew them for their vibrant personalities. Lucas demonstrated leadership finesse. Mia had an exceptional ability to winsomely engage cynics and intellectuals. The couple nurtured a growing network among New York City’s business elite.

Within 24 months of their arrival the church was thriving. But Lucas and Mia were not. Eight months later Lucas announced they were leaving. They vacated their apartment in five days.

Why do couples like this leave the ministry? Of the many rumors that swirl around a pastor’s resignation, we don’t often consider the hardship that ministry places on the pastor’s wife and on their marriage. We easily acknowledge that the happiness of both marriage partners affects marital health. Yet we’ve been slow to correlate how the well-being of a pastor’s spouse affects the long-term vitality of the church.

Women married to pastors face unique challenges. Keeping the following in mind (along with a commitment to regularly pray for her and her marriage) could affect your church more than you realize.

1. She’s Her Own Person

She’s not an appendage of the pastor. She may even have differing political, social, and biblical views than her spouse. But she’s in a position where sharing those views could negatively affect her husband’s job.

Allow her to be who she is. You might be surprised and delighted to discover how different she may be from what you assumed.

2. She Has a Calling

It might not be what you expect, and she may still be figuring it out. Many women consider their husband’s call to a specific pastoral position as a joint calling for both of them. Others do not. And some women married to pastors are hoping someone, anyone, will tell them what their ministry should be, in hopes of not disappointing others.

Confused? So are we. After years of serving in pastoral ministry, some women confess a sense of loss, of not even knowing themselves. They were too busy serving where needed. On the other hand, others may be minimally involved in church ministry with a calling focused outside the church.

3. She May Struggle Financially

In one of our local Parakaleo groups, we were discussing financial hardships and laughing over the ingenious ways we’ve stretched a dollar. I asked how many had ever been on food stamps because of ministry salaries. Half the women raised their hands. I was reminded of how delicate the financial situation is for many women in ministry.

4. She Shares Her Husband with the Whole Church

Depending on the size of the church and whether there are other competent staff members, pastors can be on call 24/7. Family dinners, holidays, and vacations are often interrupted by crisis situations. While some of this disruption can result from unhealthy boundaries in the pastoral home, ministry constantly involves crises.

When you meet a pastor’s wife who seems unusually wise, is her own person, and can speak truth in kindness, you are in the presence of a woman who has come through fire.

Especially in high-risk areas, the pastor is often the first person called during suicide attempts, when someone is jailed, when a church member is in an abusive relationship, when a marriage is breaking up, and so forth. Even celebratory events such as weddings, sporting events, and baptisms still take time away from the pastor’s family. Pastoral couples are honored to be involved in their congregants’ lives in this way. Just be aware that their time is limited for good reason.

5. She Is Harmed by Gossip

Gossip is idle talk or rumors, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. Gossip doesn’t have to be malicious. A simple rule of thumb is to not tell other people’s stories. Let them be the purveyor of their own information. If you hear information from someone about another person, consider a kind way to stop the gossip chain: “You know, I bet Marjorie would want to tell that story herself.”

If it’s malicious gossip, take a hard stand: “Regardless of how bad this situation has become, I don’t want to participate in gossip. Will you go with me back to the person speaking about this and help me stop it?” While I can laugh about it now, at times I discovered through gossip at church things about myself that even I didn’t know.

6. She’s Living with Unrealistic Expectations from Others (and Herself)

Well, who isn’t? Whether it’s our moms, kids, boss, or difficult neighbors, we all experience the pressure of expectations. But consider if you were also living with the expectation of being at church every time the doors opened. What about being told how you should dress? How your children should act? What is appropriate to say or not to say? How you should spend your money? How many people you should invite to your home for dinner? You would be surprised how often women married to pastors are criticized for these things.

Many women married to pastors also work full-time, participate in several church ministries, meet with couples for premarital or pastoral counseling, and attend community functions. It’s already a full life. Your pastor’s wife often needs to be reminded that the only audience that finally matters is the audience of one—her heavenly Father.

7. She Probably Finds Friendships in the Church Tricky to Navigate

It’s virtually impossible for her to know if her church friendships exist because someone is drawn to her or because of her husband’s role. Many women discover, when their husband leaves a pastoral position, that people they thought were friends really weren’t. They assumed the Christmas cards, social invites, long conversations over coffee, or trips to the beach were due to friendships. It’s devastating to discover that, without his role, the friendship was never really there.

The same happens in the reverse. Congregants may think they were closer friends with the pastoral couple and discover a similar scenario when the pastor and family leave. It’s painful for all involved. Rich friendships can still be enjoyed, but it requires maturity and an understanding that some topics are off limits.

8. She’s Harmed by Criticism of Her Husband

Pastors have been told they don’t work hard enough, disciple enough, preach well enough, visit congregants enough, and so on. Everyone has his or her own job description of what a pastor should do. Almost no one realizes the impossibility of meeting these expectations. How many hours should a pastor work? Fifty? Eighty? There’s plenty to be done and usually no one stopping him except his wife. When he’s criticized for not doing enough, she can feel guilty for trying to help him maintain healthy boundaries.

Pastors often share with their wives a disgruntled leader’s comments or what was said in a contentious meeting. But she isn’t part of the conversation when a situation is solved, often doesn’t even know if it’s resolved, and is left without a safe space to process the situation.

And unlike spouses in many other professions, these are the same people with whom she worships. When you meet a pastor’s wife who seems unusually wise, is her own person, and can speak truth in kindness, you are in the presence of a woman who has come through fire. Learn all you can from her, even if it’s just through observation.

9. She Lives with Stress and Ambiguity

Ambiguity is endemic to ministry. For the pastoral family, the system is not clear. All members of the family participate either directly or indirectly in the church. There is some role expectation from the congregation, which must be fulfilled by the pastor, the wife, and even the children. This level of ambiguity causes high levels of stress for pastors’ wives. Consider showing her the same compassion you would extend to someone who has recently received hard news. Why? Because this has likely been her experience on any given day.

Unlike others experiencing sorrow, however, she probably is unable to share the event and its effect, or process it with others in the church. Hearing that a trusted staff member plans on resigning, that a key church leader is having an affair, that the church can’t pay its bills, that her husband’s job is in jeopardy, that her closest friend decided to no longer attend church, are the kinds of revelations women in ministry face on a regular basis.

Not all women married to pastors experience all of the above. Many enjoy a wonderful, caring church community. And most of the pastors’ wives I know enjoy working in tandem with their husbands to see God’s kingdom advance in their city.

Regardless of the differences, the item all women married to pastors has in common is number 10.

10. Her Righteousness Comes from Christ

She, like you and me, doesn’t get her righteousness from measuring up to the standards of others, from her church attendance, from knowing Scripture, or from how much money she does or doesn’t spend on her wardrobe. If she has trusted Christ for her salvation, in God’s courtroom the verdict has been given. Her flaws, mistakes, shame, and sin were placed on Jesus Christ. He took on himself what she deserved. And what’s more, God gave her Christ’s righteousness. Pastors’ wives have been given the verdict of righteous, beloved daughters.

Article with recognition – “Together for the Gospel” – https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-things-woman-married-pastors-know/

Editors’ note: 

A version of this article appeared at sharithomas.org.

Shari Thomas is the executive director of Parakaleo. With an educational background in theology, education, and international church planting, she co-founded Parakaleo in 2005. Shari and her husband, John, have partnered together in church planting in the United States and abroad for 34 years. They currently reside in New York City, where John is the senior director of training for Redeemer City to City.

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 07 (“I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”)

Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 07 (“I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 17 March 2019)

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

John 14:1-14 ~ “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 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. 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. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

  • INTRODUCTION:

       Two of the most remarkable statements by Jesus are found in one verse, i.e. 14:6 ~ “I am the way, the truth, and the life”and “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”These statements were made whilst in discussion with His disciples, as He prepared them for His impending death (14:1-4), which prompted questions by Thomas and Philip in 14:5 and 7-9. 

In making such statements, Jesus claims to be three things: 

1.    “The Way,

2.    “The Truth” and…

3.    “The Life.” 

Let’s take a closer look where we first observe that Jesus says He is “The Way.”

2.      THE WAY:

In the preceding chapter (chapter 13), a dramatic situation and intense conversation took place in a room where Jesus and His disciples enjoyed the Passover meal – this was the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. We see in 13:1 that Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world and return to the Father. At that stage, the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Jesus (13:2). In 13:5, Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. 

We also see in 13:11 that Jesus, for the first time addressed His disciples as “little children” – a term of endearment. And He used it only after Judas had departed. He told them that He would be with them only for a little while longer, because He was about to die on the cross. They would seek to find Him, but would not be able to follow Him, for He would return to heaven. The Lord had told the same thing to the Jews, but He meant it in a different sense. For the disciples, His departure would only be temporary. He would come again for them (John 14). But for the Jews, His leaving them would be final. He was returning to heaven, and they could not follow Him because of their unbelief. One of the most important instructions in the Bible, was given to Jesus’ disciples in 13:34, when He said ~ “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” 

In another incredible announcement, Jesus told Peter that he will deny Jesus three times – the same Peter of which Jesus later would say in ~ “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt.16:18). What love and grace from Jesus towards the man who denied Him three times!

At this stage, the disciples were completely bewildered and discouraged, because Jesus had said He was going away (7:34; 8:21; 12:8, 35; 13:33).

To comfort the disciples, Jesus gave them several exhortations along with promises. In 14:1 He says ~ “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me”  

In 14:1-5 Jesus also told His disciples that they must believe in God and in Him and their hearts must not be troubled, because eventually they would come to Him. He told them He would prepare a place in heaven for all believers and would one day return for them (14:1–3). Jesus assured them that they knew full well where He was going and how to get there (14:4). What is more, He comforted them by saying that He personally is going to prepare a place for them (for every believer) in His Father’s house (in heaven).He also promises them that He will come back one day to take them to Himself. In short, the whole point of Jesus’ suffering and death is to prepare a place for them in heaven, and to take them safely there.

Trust in God is the one true remedy for anxiety. Jesus completed the remedy for their concern by painting a beautiful portrait of the life that awaits them upon their reunion with Him.

Thomas however, makes a remark and puts a question to Jesus in 14:5 ~ “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”Thomas’ statement and his question reflects the perplexity (Afrikaans:“radeloosheid”) of the Eleven Disciples. They would remain puzzled until Jesus’ death and resurrection and until the advent of the Spirit. They had all the information but they could not put it together.

In response to Thomas’ remark and question, Jesus answers Thomas by saying ~ “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

It is clear, the Father’s house is the disciples’ destination, but Jesus is the way to get there, but the exclusiveness of Jesus’ pronouncement is clear in the final words of vs.6 ~ “Nobody comes to the Father except through Me.”(14:6). By using this phrase, Jesus is establishing that knowing Him is not only the ultimate meaning and fulfilment of life on earth, but the only way to really know the Father in heaven ~ “Nobody comes to the Father except through Me.”

With these words, Jesus stressed that salvation, contrary to what many people think, is notobtainable through many ways. Only one Way exists, clearly stated in Acts 4:12 ~ “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”and 1 Tim.2:5 ~ “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”Jesus is the only access to the Father because He is the only One from the Father ~ “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man”(John 3:13).

 3.      THE TRUTH:

Apart from the fact that Jesus says, "I am the way, He also adds to this, “I am the truth.”

The question is, what is truth? And how can we know truth? In a postmodern world that denies that truth can be known, the question is more important than ever to answer. What is truth?”

In defining truth, it is firstly helpful to note what truth is(I will only name 5 from a list of 9 from the website,“GotQuestions.org”): 
• Truth is not simply whatever works. Lies can appear to “work,” but they are still lies and not the truth - we call this pragmatism. 
• Truth is not what makes people feel good. Unfortunately, bad news can be true. 
• Truth is not what the majority says is true.
Truth is not simply what is believed. A lie believed is still a lie. 
Truth is not what is publicly proved. A truth can be privately known (for example, the location of buried treasure).

       The Greek word for “truth” isἀλήθεια(“alētheia“), which literally means to “un-hide” or “hiding nothing.” It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. One of the most profound and eternally significant questions in the Bible was posed by an unbeliever in John 18:38. Pilate – the man who handed Jesus over to be crucified – turned to Jesus in His final hour, and asked, “What is truth?”It was a rhetorical question, a cynical response to what Jesus had just revealed ~ “I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.” John MacArthur defines truth as follows: “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God.’ Even more to the point: ‘Truth is the self-expression of God. That is the Biblical meaning of truth.

In the Old Testament, “the way of truth”is a life lived in conformity with God’s law ~ “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me” (Ps.119:30). In Ps.86:11, “way”and “truth”occur in parallelism: “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth.”In Ps.16:11, the notions of way, truth, and life are combined ~ “You have made known to me the path of life.”A life devoted to walking in truth, in turn, will have eternal consequences ~ “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave”(Prov.15:24). 

There is a difference between telling someone about the truth and living the truth before them. The one who lives the truth literally becomes the truth. Jesus Christ is the Embodiment of truth. He is the picture of truth. God not only talks to man about Himself, God shows man what He is like in the person of Jesus Christ. Man can look at Jesus Christ and see a perfect picture of the truth of God. We also see in John 1:14 that Jesus is the Word ~ “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus Christ is therefore the embodiment of the truth and He is the truth. Jesus therefore, told the disciples that apart from the fact that He is the only way to God and His eternal Kingdom, that He is also the truth and the truth will set them free ~ “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32). We must therefore, abide in Christ; be like Him; become like Him and in order to do that, we must be in His Word.

4.      THE LIFE:
Jesus also says that “He is Life.” This saying also draws us back to the shepherd analogy of John 10:10 ~ “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ... “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Here Jesus is not only painting a picture of how He defends and leads His sheep, but also foreshadowing His death on the cross. His death on the cross that will lead those who believe in Him to eternal life ~ “...whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:15).

Christ Jesus is the life. He is the source of life, both spiritual and eternal. Those who receive Him have eternal life because He is the Life.
  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

How can sinners ever hope to get to heaven? Through Christ! We read in Luke 15:11-24, the story of the Prodigal Son. Like the sinner, the boy was lost (Luke 15:24), ignorant (Luke 15:17), and dead (Luke 15:24). But he came to the father! (Luke 15:20) He was lost, but Christ is the Way; he was ignorant, but Christ is the Truth; and he was dead (spiritually), but Christ is the Life! And he arrived at his father’s house when he repented and returned.

There is hope for all of you who are not saved or sure of your salvation. Christ Jesus is the answer, because He is the Way, and the Truth and the Life. And for you who are saved? Like the disciples, Jesus wants to assure us that He is presently preparing our place in the Father’s House and that He will come back and take us to the Father’s House – what a glorious expectation!

In these hard and difficult times, we must remember that this life is not the primary point. This life is not our ultimate goal and does not encompass the entirety of who we are.  This life is a mere drop in the ocean of eternity and serves as the starting block on the marathon that leads us to our goal of eternal life.  We can slow it down, we can spend time money and energy working to fight against it, but we can’t stop it from marching forward. 

We can live this life, in fact, we must live this life in such a way that we are not chasing things that don’t last but chasing the things that do last and have eternal significance. This type of life has eternal impact not only for us but for untold others around us.

When Jesus refers to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life, He is giving us a better way to live our lives through Him. He is showing us that through following Him daily in faith, He will lead us to a better, richer, more meaningful life than we could ever find on our own.

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 06 (“I Am the Resurrection and Life”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 10 March 2019)

  1. INTRODUCTION:

So many times, when attending a funeral service of a friend or a family member, we hear beautiful tributes about the deceased and empty and even insincere, comforting words directed to the next of kin, but seldom do you hear anything about God’s sovereignty; about the Gospel; about everlasting life in Christ Jesus; about the resurrection; about God’s glory. Is the reason for this, because there is no hope in and through death, or is it because people don’t know anything about God, the Gospel, eternity, sin, salvation, righteousness and judgment? In today’s Scripture reading we will see that there is indeed hope in death – BUT with one or two conditions.

During the previous 5 Sundays, we’ve been looking at five “I AM”statements by Jesus, namely:

  • “Before Abraham, I AM”
  • “I AM the Bread of Life”
  • “I Am the Light of the World”
  • “I AM the Door,”and last Sunday we’ve been looking at the statement,…
  • “I AM the Good Shepherd.”

This brings us to the sixth statement, namely, “I am the Resurrection and Life.”

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

John 11:17-27 ~Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

About fifty to fifty-five years after Jesus’ crucifixion, John wrote his Gospel and in John 20:31 he cites the purpose of the writing of this Gospel ~ “…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  Unlike the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), John’s purpose is not to present a chronological narrative of the life of Christ but to display His deity. John sought to strengthen the faith of second-generation believers and bring about faith in others, but he also sought to correct a false teaching that was spreading in the first century. John emphasized Jesus Christ as “the Son of God,”fully God and fully man, contrary to a false doctrine that taught the“Christ-spirit”came upon the human Jesus at His baptism and left Him at the crucifixion. 

In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:

  • Martha’s Loss (11:17-19).
  • Martha’s Frustration (11:20-21).
  • Martha’s Faith (11:22-27).
  • MARTHA’S LOSS (11:17-19):

In chapter 11 we read about the raising of Lazarus. The persons involved include Lazarus, Mary and Martha, the disciples, and friends of the family who happen to be present on this occasion. Each has a part to play in the ongoing story of Jesus revealing Himself as the Word made flesh, who came to redeem us from the curse of physical and spiritual death. This is the seventh and final miracle listed in the Gospel, and is also the climax of them all. The previous six miracles mentioned in this Gospel were the water turned to wine (demonstrating Christ’s control of nature); the healing of the nobleman’s son (showing His power over disease and sickness); the healing of the paralytic (showing that Jesus is able to deal with the ravages of Satan); the feeding of the 5,000 (showing how man lives by more than bread alone); Jesus walking on water (showing how Christ has all nature under His control and command); the raising of Lazarus (revealing Jesus as the author and “Giver of Life”) and 7th, the resurrection of Jesus.

The signs and wonders performed by Jesus, brought His disciples to faith and then continued to strengthen their faith. It also intends to do the same for the reader of John’s Gospel. The people gathered in Bethany however, were now more concerned about Jesus’ care for those who have trusted in Him, than for the strengthening of their faith. Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was sick. Word reached Jesus in time for Him to travel the brief distance in order to arrive in time to heal Lazarus. Instead of going, Jesus purposely waits until Lazarus has died (11:1-6). 

About fifteen years ago, my wife was involved in a motorcar accident and when a friend of mine phoned me, informing me about the accident, I couldn’t get to her fast enough. The reason was simple: I love my wife and her well-being would be of paramount importance in that moment. Was the fact that Jesus did not go to Lazarus immediately, because He did not care? We will see the answer to this question later.

We see in verse 19 ~ “…and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.” The family of Lazarus must have been well-known in Jerusalem, since many “Jews” (not followers of Jesus) came to comfort Martha and Mary (both followers of Jesus) over the loss of Lazarus. Usually sympathisers would come to the bereaved family for some time in order to comfort them and to attend the funeral by forming part of the procession going to the grave. These processions composed of relatives, friends, and sometimes hired mourners who accompanied the body to the grave; and mourning usually lasted for several days afterward.

The time between Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ arrival in Bethany was four days. Presumably the time required for the journey of the messengers and the time needed for Jesus’ return to Bethany would be approximately the same. Also, two full days intervened between their arrival where Jesus was and His departure for Bethany (11:6). After three days all hope of the resuscitation from a coma would be abandoned; and in the hot Palestine climate, decay would have begun.

As already mentioned, Jesus intentionally waited for two days, before He went to Bethany and John tells us in vs.6 why Jesus did that. The answer lies in the word “so” at the beginning of 11:6. This little word presents us with cause and effect. What follows the word “so” is the effect and what precedes it, is the cause. In this context, the cause before the “so” is to be found in 11:5, namely ~ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”His love for these three family members caused Him to wait for His friend to die, instead of rushing to his sickbed. At first glance, this does not make sense. Let’s look further to the context – look at 11:4 ~ But when Jesus heard it He said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’”Jesus knew that his friend’s illness would result in death, but not end in it. That is because Jesus also knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead and that he would be filled with life again. This is why He waited. He wanted Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and His disciples to experience something that would completely change them for the rest of their lives.

Jesus’s disciples, and most probably Lazarus and his two sisters as well, had seen Jesus heal plenty of people and that is most likely the reason why Martha asked Jesus to come quickly so that Lazarus could be healed. 

Jesus however, wanted them to experience something much more. He wanted them to see that He has power over death because that is what they would need to know about Him when they would witness His death on the cross and His body lying in the tomb. Jesus knew that when they experience Lazarus’ dead body coming to life again, they will grow spiritually in leaps and bounds and that they will develop saving faith in Him.

Further down in 11:15, Jesus tells His disciples the following… ~ …for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”Jesus’ delay leads to His disciples’ faith, which in turn will lead to God’s glory – 11:4 ~ This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

The resurrection of Lazarus is a wonderful demonstration of the power of Jesus, foreshadowing His resurrection, and the recreation of us into a new life in Jesus ~ “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh”(Ezek.11:19).

  • MARTHA’S FRUSTRATION (11:20-21):

According to 11:20 it seems as if Martha was cross with Jesus, because He was notified in time of Lazarus’ sickness in order for Jesus to come to Bethany and heal Lazarus, but Jesus only turned up, two days after Lazarus’ burial. 

When Jesus eventually arrived in Bethany, Martha the elder sister and sometimes more, blunt and confrontational than her sister Mary, went and met Jesus outside the village (11:30), whilst her sister Mary was quiet and contemplative (Afrikaans: “nadenkend”)and staying inside the home. Although Martha was very polite by calling Jesus, “Sir” one can detect an undertone of frustration and even reproach, when she says in 11:21 ~ “…if you had been here…”

The problem was that Martha’s faith was imperfect. She thought Jesus could only heal Lazarus if He was bodily present. She did not realize that He could heal a man from a distance, still less that He could raise the dead. Often in times of sorrow, we talk like Martha. We think that if such and such a drug or medicine had been discovered, then this loved one would not have died. But all these things are in the hands of the Lord, and nothing happens to a person (especially with God’s children) without God’s permission. 

Not only was Lazarus and his sisters a close knitted family, but he was the sole bread winner of the family and without him the two sisters would suffer. In all circumstances we must know and believe that God loves us especially in difficult circumstances. Those who are part of the family of God can claim the promise in Rom.8:28 ~ “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” We can rest in the fact that our God is actually able to work all things for our good, even when we cannot readily see how that may happen and even if our “Lazarus dies.”.

  • MARTHA’S FAITH (11:22-27):

When Martha met Jesus outside the village she sounded frustrated, but she completes her sentence now with words of faith… ~ “…my brother would not have died.”  This is an affirmation of her faith in Jesus’ healing ability. This is emphasized in 11:22 when she said ~ “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” She has however, definitely not expected Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, since in 11:39 she objects when Jesus wants to roll open the tomb. We can paraphrase Martha’s words as follow: “If You had been here, You, could have healed my brother. Nevertheless, I still believe in You, that God works through You mightily.”Jesus however, does not keep quiet and He forces Martha into an even deeper conversation by responding in 11:23 ~ “Your brother will rise again.”

When Martha says in 11:21-22 ~ “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” and in 11:24 ~“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,”it is clear that she believed in the Word of God and she based her believe on the words in Dan12:2 ~ “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”She however, misses the point that Jesus hinted that He is going to raise Lazarus from the grave shortly. But even more significant is the fact that she accepts Jesus’ statement that He is the resurrection and the life (11:25-27). 

Jesus continues and explains what it means that He is the life. “And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”(11:25b). When a Christian is spiritually brought to life, he will never die again – his body might die, but it also will be raised again. His soul will live forevermore in fellowship with God. This second phrase confirms the first. What is the best evidence that you have been “spiritually resurrected”? You are “spiritually alive”.

When we die now in this life, our body goes to the ground and our soul goes to heaven. Our souls are conscious, fully sanctified, and in the presence of God. This time is called the intermediate state. We are awaiting the final state, when the body will be resurrected and united to the soul and will be transformed like Christ’s glorious body, to inhabit the new earth. This is what Martha first had in mind in 11:24. But Jesus isn’t talking about the final resurrection. He is saying that He Himself is the resurrection and the life. 

Apart from Jesus’ third I Am” statement (“Before Abraham, I am” – John 8:58) this now is the third time Jesus spoke an “I AM” statement in the presence of a miracle. He was the bread of life after He fed the five thousand. He was the light of the world after He healed the man born blind. Now He is the resurrection and the life as He raises Lazarus from the dead. The implication of the others was, if you believe, you won’t be hungry, you won’t be in the dark, but now, you will not die.

The Father has bestowed on Him the power to have life in Himself, and to bestow resurrection life on whomever He will ~ “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…. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.”(5:21, 26)- (another prooftext for election).

But Jesus doesn’t just say that He gives resurrection and life! He is so closely associated with resurrection and life that He says “He IS” the resurrection and life in His own person. The power that will grant resurrection and life on the Last Day is resident within Jesus’ person now! (Theologians call this “realized eschatology”). When we believe in Jesus, we are united with Him; we are “in Him.”And so His resurrection power and life power become ours when we are saved. The result is eternal and spelled out in 11:25b-26a ~ “…Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die…”

In His conversation with Martha, the Lord said to her ~ “You do not understand Me, Martha. I do not mean that Lazarus will rise again at the last day. I am God, and I have the power of resurrection and of life in My hand. I can raise Lazarus from the dead right now, and will do it.” Then the Lord looked forward to the time when all true believers would be raised. This will take place when the Lord Jesus comes back again to take His people home to heaven. At that time, there will be two classes of believers. There will be those who have died in faith, and there will be those who are alive at His return. He comes to the first group as the Resurrectionand to the second as the Life. The first group is described in the latter part of verse 25 ~ “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”This means that those believers who have died before Christ’s coming will be raised from the dead.

  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

Essentially there are two “I am”statements in our text: “I am the resurrection,”and “I am the life.”Christ proclaims this and then explains what they mean ~“Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”(11:25b). 

Jesus uses this sad event of Lazarus’ death and resurrection. to overview the purpose for His earthly ministry.  

  • The first purpose of Lazarus’ sickness and death was to glorify God (11:4). We need to learn that we are not the centre of the universe – nor is our home, our church, our children, etc. Everything is to be for God’s glory.
  • The second purpose of Lazarus’ sickness and death was to show Jesus’ great love (11:5). He loved Lazarus and his sisters and He went to them and raised Lazarus from the grave. We must remember that God is love – also in the hour of our crisis and need ~ “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you”(Jer.31:3 NKJV).

·      The third purpose of Lazarus’ sickness, death and resurrection is to show us the necessity for waiting upon God (11:6)We cannot dictate to God when to act, nor how to act.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and if we believe in Him, not only will we live forever – but we will also begin to live the life of Jesus now. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (11:25).

This is the great message of joy that we anticipate when we believe in Him, we areguaranteed everlasting life, but not just later – now already. We begin to live the life of Jesus, the moment we believe.

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 05 (“I Am the Good Shepherd”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 03 March 2019)

  1. INTRODUCTION:

We are reading in the Gospel of John again today and we are looking at the 8 “I Am” statements of John. Seven times, John records Jesus proclaiming Himself with the introductory formula “I am”and once where Jesus did not start with “I am”, but said, “Before Abraham, I am,”meaning that Jesusexisted before Abraham who had died perhaps 2000 years prior to Jesus and that Jesus also equated Himself to God, taking the holy name that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Ex.3:14), and which was so holy that the people of Jesus’ day would not even utter it out loud.

  • The first “I am” statement that Jesus made, was… ~ “I am the bread of life.”We said that just as bread sustains our lives physically, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the One who sustains us spiritually and eternally. 
  • We have considered the statement, “I am the light of the world.”This statement gives us a radical claim which calls us to a radical discipleship (anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness)which guarantees for us a radical promise (but will have the light of life). 
  • Last Sunday we considered Jesus’ saying, “I am the door.”We said that this tells us that Jesus is the one and only door that must be entered into salvation, and that the door is open, but He will not force any to enter. 

This brings us to the fifth statement, which is actually a continuation of the illustration on shepherding begun in the previous statement (“I am the door”), namely, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:

  • The Good Shepherd (vss.11,14-18).
  • The Hired Hand (vss.12-13).
  • The Divided Jews (vss.19-21).
  • SCRIPTURE READING:

John 10:7-21 ~ “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 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.” 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

We see in our Scripture passage that Jesus explains the illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals.

  • THE GOOD SHEPHERD (vss.11, 14-18):

First, we see Jesus claims to be the “good” Shepherd and He expands on this statement by sharing with us the characteristics of a “Good Shepherd.”

The word “good” in itself is interesting – it means “good”in the sense of being morally good; but it also means “beautiful,” “winsome,” “lovely,” “attractive,”or even “possessing all and whatever qualities make the object described a good thing or the person a good person.”Moreover, if we compare Christ’s “I am the Good Shepherd”with His parallel claims to be the “the True Bread”or “the True Vine,” we also see that the word means “genuine” or “true,” as opposed to “false” or “artificial.”

When we look at the expression by Jesus, namely, “I am the GOOD Shepherd,”we recognise Jesus as the good, beautiful, winsome, lovely, attractive, true and genuine Shepherd.

Jesus goes on to describe His character by looking at two relationships, namely:

  • His relationship with the sheep(10:7, 9, 10b–11, 14–18):The first relationship that He describes, is His relationship with His sheep. 

Just to recap again – who is His sheep? In Matt.25:32 the word “sheep” is used symbolically to represent God’s people ~ “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”Jesus’ sheep are those people who heard His call and believe in Him ~“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out”(John 10:3) and John 10:27-28 ~“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

  • Entrance to man’s salvation:We’ve already seen in 10:7, that Jesus is the entrance to man’s salvation ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”Jesus is clear about the fact that He provides the door by which the sheep may enter into eternal rest.
  • Jesus meets the needs of His flock:Jesus also allows His flock to go in and out, and find green pasture (10:9). Here, Jesus puts the emphasis on His function in the salvation process of His sheep and that He brings His sheep out of the consequences of their sin and into the blessing of God, the blessing is described in terms of green pasture. This sheep that enters the fold through Christ will be able to go in and out and have all its needs met.
  • Jesus gives life:Jesus gives them life in all its fullness (10:10b). In contrast to Jesus, we see in vs.10 that the thief steals sheep out of selfish gratification – he steals and kills the sheep. Christ by contrast came for the benefit of the sheep. He came that they might have Life ~ “…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31).
  • Jesus lays down His life: He lays down His own life for them (10:11). For a third time in the space of seven verses, Jesus again, in vs.17, mentions the fact that He is laying down His life for His “sheep” (10:11, 15). Jesus wants to stress the fact that His sacrifice is the means of our reconciliation both to God and to one another. John, in 1 Joh.3:16 also refers to this ~ “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Warren Wiersbe explains this as follow –“Under the old dispensation (Old Testament times), the sheep died on the altar for the shepherd as a burnt offering before God; but now the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ) dies for His sheep! Five times in this conversation, Jesus clearly affirmed the sacrificial nature of His death (John 10:11, 15, 17–18). He did not die as a martyr, killed by men; He died as a substitute, willingly laying down His life for us.

The fact that Jesus said that He died‘for the sheep’ must not be isolated from the rest of Biblical teaching about the Cross. He also died for the nation Israel (John 11:50–52)and for the world (John 6:51). While the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the salvation of the world, it is efficient only for those who will believe.”

In vs.18, Jesus clarify two very important aspects of His authority in laying down His life for His “sheep”: 

  • His death was voluntary:The first is that His death was totally voluntary. His power was such that no human hand could have touched Him had He not permitted it. We can see in several versus that Jesus at that stage had already avoided capture or execution (5:18; 7:44-45; 8:20, 59; 10:39; 11:53-54). Only when He declared that “the hour has come”(12:23) was it possible for his enemies to arrest Him.
  • He took up His life again:The second aspect is His authority to lay down His life and take it up again. The death of Jesus was voluntary, and not as it might seem, being killed (a sort of indirect suicide); it was part of a plan to submit to death and then emerge from it victoriously alive. Anyone can lay down his life, but only the Son of God can at will resume His existence. He was acting in accord with a divine plan that involved a supreme sacrifice and a manifestation of divine power. 
  • His motivation – His love for the Father:The entire plan was motivated by His love for the Father and His readiness to carry out His father’s purpose. “Authority” in this instance means that he was not the helpless victim of His enemies’ violence, but that He had both the right and the power to become the instrument of reconciliation between man and God and between Jew and Gentile.
  • He knows His sheep (vs.14).In the Gospel of John, the word “know”means much more than intellectual awareness. It speaks of an intimate relationship between God and His people ~ “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”(John 17:3). 
  • He knows how to minister to His sheep:The shepherd knows his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to minister to them.
  • He knows our names: Jesus not only knows how to minister to us, but He also knows our names ~ “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). 
  • He knows our natures:He also knows our natures. While all sheep are alike in their essential nature, each sheep has its own distinctive characteristics; and the loving shepherd recognises these traits. One sheep may be afraid of high places, another of dark shadows. 
  • He knows our needs:A faithful shepherd will consider these special needs as he tends the flock. Because He knows our natures, He also knows our needs. Often, wedo not even know our own needs! Psalm 23 is a beautiful poetic description of how the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. In the pastures, by the water, and even through the valleys, the sheep need not fear, because the shepherd is caring for them and meeting their needs. Have you ever realised that the first verse and the last verse of Ps.23, is like the two pieces of bread that forms a sandwich? These two verses “sandwiches” the contents of the Psalm ~ “…I shall not want. …forever.”Jesus provides us with everything we need from now into eternity.
  • His relationship with the Father(10:15–17):Jesus says in Matt.11:27 the following about His relationship with God the Father… ~ “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”In similar fashion,…           

–      He seeks the same intimacy between Him and us:Jesus seeks the same intimacy, between Him and His children in vss.15-16. 

              –      He is praying for us:He wants to see the same profound and intimate relationship of love and care, between Him and His followers – that is why He is praying in Joh.17:21 as follows ~“…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

I said in the beginning that in our Scripture passage, Jesus explains His illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals. We’ve looked at the characteristics of “the Good Shepherd.”The second individual that we will be looking at, is “the Hired Hand”in vss.12-13.

  • THE HIRED HAND (vss.12-13):

Last Sunday, we looked at the thieves and robbersin vss.8 and 10 and we’ve seen that their purpose is to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but here in vss.12-13 Jesus refers to the characteristics of a hired hand.

No one expects sheep to be responsible for themselves. Owners hire shepherds or “hired hands”for that purpose and especially during night times when the sheep were in a sheepfold. A shepherd’s job, or the owner’s job is to accept responsibility for the safety and well-being of his flock and the same disposition or attitude was expected from “hired hands,” but most of them only took that to the point where it would threaten their personal safety, rightly deciding that their life is worth more than that of a sheep. A few would be willing to risk their lives to protect their sheep, but our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, knowingly and willingly died to save us, because there was no other way.

Who or what is“a hired hand”? The Greek word that’s been used here, μισθωτός(misthõtos) says exactly what the English says – “a hired hand”or a “wage-worker;” or a “hired servant,”who is hired to perform a job. These “hired hands” in terms of shepherding, were usually people who looked after the sheep during the night, while they were in the sheepfold or pen. Night times were the dangerous times, because that was usually the time that robbers and wolves would come to steal or catch the sheep.  

Jesus contrasted Himself to the hireling who watches over the sheep only because he is paid to do so. But when there is danger, the hireling runs away, while the True Shepherd stays and cares for the flock. The key phrase is the words in vs.12 “…who does not own the sheep.”The Good Shepherd purchases the sheepand they are His because He died for them. They belong to Him, and He cares for them. By nature, sheep are stupid and prone to get into danger; and they need a shepherd to care for them.

  • THE DIVIDED JEWS (vss.19-21):

How did the listeners respond to this message? “There was a division therefore again among the Jews”(10:19). Note that word“again”(John 7:43; 9:16). The old accusation that Jesus was a demoniac was hurled at Him again (John 7:20; 8:48, 52). People will do almost anything to avoid facing the truth!

Since Jesus Christ is “the Door,”we would expect a division, because a door shuts some people in and others out! He is “the Good Shepherd,”and the shepherd must separate the sheep from the goats. It is impossible to be neutral about Jesus Christ; for, what we believe about Him is a matter of life or death(John 8:24).

Jesus’ fourth declaration was the most startling of all ~ “I am the good Shepherd”(10:11). The crowd were upset and divided because of Jesus’ declaration.

  • Some judged Jesus (10:19-20):Many in this hostile crowd judged Him to be demon-possessed and mad (7:20; 8:48, 52). They labelled Jesus as a demoniac. The worst of characters is put upon the best of men. He is a distracted man, he raves and is delirious, and no more to be heard. They also ridiculed the other listeners in the audience, asking them… ~ “…why listen to him?”(10:20).
  • Some defended Jesus (10:21):Other people, though perhaps far in the minority, stood up for Jesus and defended Him. They still had the healing of the blind man in mind and told and asked the others who judged Jesus, with a rhetorical question – in other words, they asked a question to make a point rather than to get an answer… ~ “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”(10:21). These were brave people. The masses were against Jesus, but these handful of people believed in Jesus as the Messiah and they swam against the stream in order to defend Jesus. Matthew Henry says the following about this rhetorical question: “Neither mad men nor bad men can work miracles. Devils are not such lords of the power of nature as to be able to work such miracles; nor are they such friends to mankind as to be willing to work them if they were able. The devil will sooner put out men’s eyes than open them. Therefore, Jesus had not a devil.”
  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

In order for us to sum up what we’ve learned today, hear the following: Because of Jesus’ intimate relationship with His Father and His intimate relationship with His flock..:

  • He meets our needs. When you experience needs – do you really believe this? 
  • He gives us life – How often do you think and pray about this fact?
  • He lays down His life for us – What is your response to this Truth?
  • He is faithful– Do you apply this fact at all times?
  • He knows us– Are you always aware of this?
  • He seeks the same intimate relationship with us, that exists between Him and the Father – What a wonderful reality! – He seeks an intimate relationship with you!
  • He is praying/interceding for us – when we pray, we are not praying alone – we are in the midst of a holy conversation – when we pray, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also praying AND God the Father is listening – what an incredible, holy conversation and moment when we are praying!
  • He reconciled us with the Father– Do you really believe this, or are you always “fishing in the pond of past sins?”

The message of this parable is that Jesus is the true shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd who was willing to die and did die for those who put their faith in Him. Any other person who claims to be the true shepherd is a robber or thief. He or she is a false shepherd. This was a powerful message to the Jewish religious leaders who considered themselves to be the true shepherds of God’s flock. This is a wonderful message for anyone who seeks peace with God and security in eternity. Jesus is the Door to eternal salvation and He is the Good Shepherd who cares, watches, and protects those who believe in Him.

If you have already “entered through the gate,” there are however two warnings that we must take note of:

  • Listening to the wrong voice:The first of these dangers is listening to the wrong voice. In John 10:3 Jesus says that the Shepherd calls His sheep by name and leads them out. Notice that beautiful phrase, “He leads them.” Most modern shepherds drive the sheep. They walk behind the sheep and have “a dog or two”to keep the sheep in line. Not Jesus; He leads the sheep. The way that He leads them is not by the fact that they see Him but rather that they hear Him. The danger then is to follow the wrong voice.

The thieves of our day are the liberals, the Post Modernists, those who teach that there is another way, or many ways to be saved; those who teach that all religions ultimately lead to the same place. That is contrary to God’s Word. Another false voice is that of prosperity preachers who teach that God wants you to be wealthy, healthy and have all of your carnal desires met, and the reason you are sick or weak is your own fault. The first danger is listening to the wrong voice.

  • Seeking to enter through the wrong door:The second danger is seeking to enter by the wrong entrance. Jesus claims to be the exclusive gate. The only other way into the sheep pen is an illegitimate way: the way of thieves and robbers. We have already mentioned false religions and the like under the first danger. Likely the great danger of seeking the wrong entrance is seeking to enter the kingdom of God without the church. This is the notion that someone can be a part of the universal church without being faithfully involved in a local church. This is the teaching that says that you can live a healthy Christian life without the communion of the saints, without accountability, without corporate worship, and most dangerously, without the means of grace – the preaching and sacraments.

Beloved, beware of the dangers.

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 04 (“I Am the Door of the Sheep”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 24 February 2019)

  • INTRODUCTION:

In today’s teaching, we will be looking at the 4th“I AM” statement by Jesus. He again uses Old Testament language to define His own Person and His work. When He uses the “I am” formula, He uses the formula of the statement that equates to the Old Testament language for GOD.

We have already looked at three of the eight “I Am” statements of Jesus, namely I am the Bread of LifeI am the Light of the Worldand Before Abraham, I am. Today we are going to look at the statement that Jesus makes in John 10, “I Am the Door of the Sheep.”

We must also take note of the fact that Jesus expresses another very important “I Am” statement when He calls Himself “theDoorand in the same conversation, Jesus also calls Himself “the Good Shepherd.It is important to distinguish between the two different statements. However, it is essential to note that although we distinguish between them or appreciate their difference, they cannot be separated from each other, because they are so closely related.

The first one of the two is the statement “I am the Door…,”but let’s look at the context of these two statements. Just before the 2nd“I Am” statement by Jesus, He healed a man born blind. After that He proclaimed that He is “…the Light of the world”(8:12). The religious leaders of the Jewish community were furious about this miracle and especially after Jesus claimed, “…before Abraham was, I am”(8:58). Instead of rejoicing about a member of the “Jewish Church”and abrother of the leaders, that was burdened since his birth with blindness, they were furious with Jesus, they wanted to kill Himand they excommunicated the healed man. In the light of this situation, the Pharisees were supposedto be the good shepherds to their flock, but were characterisedby their lack of appreciation and happiness for this man,becauseJesus proclaimed Himself as the “Good Shepherd.”

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

John 10:1-10 ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheepAll who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” 

  • BACKGROUND:

Shepherds faced the ongoing challenge of teaching their sheep and goats to obey their commands. Even so, good shepherds took tender care of the animals in their charge, even giving them names to which they would respond. In the evenings the shepherd would lead his flock to a pen (Afrikaans: “kraal”) where he would add his small flock to another one, or more than one, because these pens would contain several different flocks of sheep and therefore various shepherds would come in and out of the pen. 

These pens or sheepfolds were either made of tree branches, or rock and on top of the walls, were long spiky thorns in order to protect the sheep from thieves or wild animals which could come and harm them during the night. There was also a gate through which the sheep were taken in and out the pen and most importantly, for the shepherd to enter. There was also a gatekeeper that was sitting at the gate or in the pen, looking after the sheep during the night and guarding the gate – he was not the shepherd, but the guardian of the gate. We must remember that the entrance to the place of safety for the sheep is the “door”(or gate).

In the mornings the shepherd would open the gate and call his sheep by their names. The sheep knew and recognised their master’s voice. When they heard him calling, they would go to the gate and follow him out into the field. This reminds us of 10:14, 16 ~ “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me… 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice…”

In today’s Scripture reading, we see that Jesus says, “I Am the Door of the Sheep.”We will look at the topic of Jesus’ fourth “I Am” statement, by following three main points:

  • The Open Door (10:1-4).
  • The Shut Door (10:5).
  • The True Door (10:6-10).
  • THE OPEN DOOR (10:1-4):

In 10:1-4, Jesus says that when fetching his sheep, a true shepherd comes in through the gate or the door, and the gatekeeper or porter recognises him. The thieves and robbers could never enter through the door, so they had to climb over the wall and enter the fold through deception. But even if they did get in, they would never get the sheep to follow them, for the sheep, as we’ve already seen, follow only the voice of their own shepherd. The false shepherds can never leadthe sheep, so they must stealthem away.

What is another function of a door, more specifically, what is the function of the gate/door in this parable of Jesus? In the original Greek, the word that is used, is θύρας(“thyras”) or “thyra”which refers to an entranceway into a building or a structure. The same word is used in Mark 16:3 ~“And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”These are literal uses of the word “thyra,”but here in John 10:9, the word is used in a figurative way, referring to Jesus as the means of access to salvationIn John 10:9 the emphasis is upon the door as a passagewayand not as an object closing off an entrance. Literal translations of ‘I am the door’may often lead to misinterpretation, since the term used for ‘door’is likely to refer to a literal door rather than to the entranceway, thus suggesting that Jesus Christ functions primarily to prevent passage rather than making entrance possible. In this instance however, Christ the Door, functions as a passageway. 

In many cases we have a figurative use of “to open the door,”which can refer to both God and man as opening the door – man opens the door to God by repenting, and God opens the door to man by giving him opportunities (e.g., for intercession or repentance), or by granting grace. Man opens the door to Christ in a religious sense in Rev. 3:20, i.e., by penitent obedience (Afrikaans: “berouvolle gehoorsaamheid”). In relation to God the expression finds a place in missionary usage in a twofold sense – God opens a door for the missionary (Col. 4:3, for the Word), through which he can enter, by giving him a field in which to work (Col. 4:3), and on the other hand,  He opens a door of faith to those who come to believe (Acts 14:27), by giving them the ability of believing. 

If God’s opening of the door signifies the giving of grace, the opposite figure of closing the door, which expresses the irrevocable loss of an opportunity (Rev.3:7; Matt.25:10; Luke 13:25), carries a sense of judgment. The power of Christ to open and to shut (Rev. 3:7) shows that He possesses full authority, since grace and judgment are both in His hand.

When Jesus opens the door and He calls His sheep by their names, they follow Him out of the pen to green pastures.

In this “I am”statement, Jesus colourfully points out to us the exclusive nature of salvation by saying that He is THEdoor,”not Adoor.”Furthermore, Jesus is not only our Shepherd who leads us into the “sheepfold,”but He is the ONLYdoor by which we may enter and be saved (John 10:9). Jesus is the only means we have of receiving eternal life. There is no other way ~ “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”(John 3:16). 

  • THE SHUT DOOR (10:5-6):

Jesus makes it clear in vs.1, that any religious leader who offers salvation other than the teachings of Christ, is a “thief”and a “robber”“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”  

If someone asks us what we will do when confronted by “a thief and a robber,”then we can quote vs.5 to him ~ “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”As a door in the literal sense, provides a way of separation. There are those who try to come into “the fold”without coming through the door, they are to be ignored and even resisted. Rather than provide the way of access into God’s fold, Jesus says in Luke 11:52, that these thieves and robbers ~ “…take away the key of knowledge…”and, because of the interest in only themselves, according to Mark 12:40, they…~ devour widows’ houses…”  Moreover, they are like the hired man mentioned in John 10:12-13 ~ “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”Many ministries and “pastors” in our days are like this – they don’t care for their flock, or others, and they try to entice and solicit these people for their own interest and well-being.

The problem with Jesus’ audience was that they did not understand the figurative saying. They understood the nature of shepherding, but they failedto grasp the spiritual point Jesus was making. Theywere therefore prone to heresy and enticement.

  • THE TRUE DOOR (10:7-10):

Because the people did not understand what Jesus was saying, He used a new illustration. He was no longer speaking about the door of the sheepfold, as in vs.2. Now He was presenting Himself as the door of the sheep. It was no longer a question of entering the sheepfold of Israel, but rather the picture was of the elect sheep of Israel coming out of Judaism and coming to Christ, the Door. He was the way out of dead religion and into life. A door divides, secures, opens, gives access. Jesus is the door – the door of grace.

If a man wishes to enter where God is, he must enter through the Door (i.e. Christ Jesus). A man enters God’s sheepfold only through the Door of Christ, for Christ is the only Door into God’s presence ~ “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’”(John 14:6).

The proof that Jesus is the only Door and that all others are false doors, are the sheep themselves. The sheep do not hear the voices of “false doors,”not if they are the real sheep of the Shepherd. The real sheep of God know the Shepherd’s voice and have the ability to discern it. If they hear the voice of a false shepherd, they know that he and his sheepfold are false. His voice and message is not the voice and message of the “True Door,”the Son of God Himself.

We must take 10:10 very seriously, because the thief only comes to “kill, destroy and steal.”He is a liar and he gives you what you think you need, but the price you pay is your soul! He does not love you, he does not want to protect you and he does not want you to enjoy eternal life. Jesus came to give you life and according to 10:10 to have life abundantly! This abundant life that Jesus refers to in 10:10, has nothing to do with health and wealth, but it has everything to do with the eternal life that Jesus gives. He gives this life in ever-growing abundance to His redeemed.

  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

In the context of this 4th“I AM” statement, Jesus is telling us that He is not only the shepherd of the sheep, but also the door of the sheep. When Jesus says, “I am the door,”He is reiterating the fact that only through Him, salvation is possible.

The cross of Christ is the turning point in life and what you do at that point determines where you spend eternity. Will you pass through the Door into eternal life? Those who believe on Jesus Christ enter into eternal life and enjoy God’s presence for all eternity. Those who reject Him and refuse to pass through His Door go into eternal separation from Him forever in hell.

Your response to Jesus Christ as the Door determines your eternal destiny. Will you walk through that door by faith today and receive His gift of eternal life?

In chapter seventeen, Jesus said that He knows His sheep because they have been given to Him by the Father (17:29). But He not only knows us individually, He knows all about us. He knows that we are sinners and went ahead and died for us on the cross (Rom.5:6-8)~ “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

There are not many or different doors or ways to God. There is only one Door ~ “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (10:9).

To enter through the door is the same thing as to “eat”Jesus, “drink”Jesus, or to “come”to Jesus. You must believe in Christ or trust in Him personally to be saved. We are not trusting in things to be saved. The Door is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He becomes ours through believing in Him. The only thing necessary is to believe or trust in Jesus Christ. Have you believed or trusted in Him for everlasting life?

The man born blind had nothing; he was a beggar. He was nothing; people pushed him out of the synagogue. But this is the very man Jesus called and he heard His voice and responded. The man whom everyone despised was the man Jesus saved. He passed through the door to eternal life. There is no greater security than this because the sheep are in the care of the Good Shepherd.

On what side of the door are you? If you die today, or if Jesus comes back today, are you IN “the house”? If you are not, you are on the outside, you are risking being on the outside when the door closes.

Jesus has the door open for you, but it will NOTalways be open. The door will close for you when you die or whenever Jesus returns.

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 03 (“Before Abraham, I Am”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 17 February 2019)

  1. INTRODUCTION:

There was much confusion among the Jews at the time that Jesus was teaching at the Temple,about His identity. Some rejected Jesus’ claims outright. Up to now we’ve heard Him saying that He was the “Bread of Life”and the “Light of the World.”Others wondered if He was a prophet of some sort or perhaps the prophet spoken of in Deut.18. Some were considering His claim to be the Messiah to be true. As Jesus continued to teach in the temple after the conclusion of the Feast of the Tabernacles, John 8:30 states that… ~ “…many came to believe in Him.”It is to these Jews that Jesus began a discussion in John 8:31.

Some of these Jews however, became agitated and responded with an accusation and assertion in verse 41, saying ~“We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, [even] God.” Jesus again responded directly and bluntly in vss.42-47 ~ “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? [It is] because you cannot hear My word. 44“You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature;] for he is a liar, and the father of lies. 45 “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 “Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear [them,] because you are not of God.” Their claim to be children of God was more ludicrous than their claim to be following the spiritual example of Abraham.

These Jews had been listening to Jesus teach and began to believe He was the Messiah as He was claiming. But when they found out that Jesus’ concept of being the Messiah differed from their own about what the Messiah was to be, they rejected Him and became antagonists. 

As the passage continues in John 8:48-51, we find that these Jews become even more antagonistic. They are incensed at what Jesus’ says about them, yet they do not make any denial of His charges. Instead, they respond as evil people often do when caught in their sin by making wild accusations against the one who exposed their wickedness. Jesus will respond directly to their false accusation, and He will do what He so often did to His enemies. He offers them hope if they change.

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

​Joh.8:48-59 (ESV) ~ “The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”

  • BACKGROUND:

In today’s message, we will look at the topic of Jesus’ third “I Am” statement, namely “Before Abraham, I Am” and we will be doing it according to the following three main points:

  • The 1stAccusation (vss.48-52).
  • The 2ndAccusation (vss.53-56).
  • The 3rdAccusation (vss.57-58).

The third “I am”statement is found here in John 8:58, it is most probably the most profound of the “I Am statements.”Here, Jesus makes two improbable claims that rocked the world of the Jews and it should make us pause:

  • He said that He existed before Abraham who had died perhaps 2000 years prior to Jesus of Nazareth.
  • He also equated Himself to God, taking the holy name that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Ex.3:14), and which was so holy that the people of Jesus’ day would not even utter it out loud.

Their reaction? They pick up stones to throw at Jesus, but are thwarted in that attempt for Jesus’ time had not yet come (John 7:6). Instead, Jesus hid Himself and left the temple. 

Why did the Jews throw stones at Him? Because they did not recognise Him as the Messiah and Jesus, according to them, was arrogant and a liar to claim that He was older than Abraham. 

At this stage, Jesus left the temple. The Son of God, through whom the whole universe was made, the One who should have been the object of their worship. He came to fulfil the whole Law. He came to be among God’s people, but He has no place in the Temple dedicated to the God who sent Him.

But Jesus is the eternal “I AM.”He was and is and is to come. He did leave the temple, but He will be eternally present with His people – those who call upon Him in faith. In spite of the fact that He had to leave the temple, He had now, through this third “I am”statement, established Himself as our Lord and God. He is our Redeemer and Friend, the source and centre of all truth.

  • THE 1stACCUSATION (vss.48-52):

In vs.47 Jesus told the Jews… ~ “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God”The Jews answered Him with a rhetorical question, which was used as a direct accusation that they considered Jesus to be a Samaritan and demon possessed- they responded as follows in vs.48 ~ “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”  Their belief that Jesus was the Messiah was very short livedand they now accuse Him of being a Samaritan who is demon possessed. How ironic that after He said their father was the devil (8:44), they said He was demon-possessed!

This was not a small accusation, because to be a Samaritan in the eyes of the Jews were similar to be called a dog, or half-bread who worshipped idols. We read in 1 Kings 12 about the nation Israel which was divided into two nations in the days of Rehoboam. Israel was composed of the ten tribes to the north, and Judah was made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south. The animosity between the Jews (inhabitants of the Judah, the southern kingdom) and Israelites (in the north) began immediately after the division, as Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom (with Jeroboam as her first king), Jeroboam changed the worship of the Israelites in 1 Kings 12:25-33. No longer did the inhabitants of the north travel to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and worship (Deut.12:5-14). Instead, Jeroboam set up idols in Dan and Bethel.

Later, after Israel’s fall to the Assyrians, they began to intermarry with the Assyrians, contrary to Deut.7:3-5, becoming a mixed race. This is why the Jews hated the Samaritans as “dogs,” or “half-breeds.” 

In response to the Jews remark that Jesus was a Samaritan and demon possessed, He ignores the charge of being a Samaritan and continued to claim divine authority and told them that they were living apart from God (vs.49), in fact He told them that Hehonours His Father. He taught the doctrines that tended to exalt God. He taught that He was holy and true. He sought that men should love Him and obey Him. All His teaching proved this. An evil spirit would not do this, and this was sufficient proof that He was not influenced by such a spirit.

In vs.50 Jesus tells them that He is not seeking His own glory. In all His teaching this was true. He did not seek to exalt or to vindicate Himself. He has the happiness of the world, the salvation and life of men, and the glory of the Father as His consuming passion. 

In vs.51 Jesus added that if anyone kept His word, “…he will never see death.”At this the Jews were outraged. Of course, Jesus speaks again of spiritual death, but once more, His enemies take His words to refer to physical death (vss.52-53).

  • THE 2ndACCUSATION (vss.53-56):

Again, for a second time the Jews confronted Jesus in vs.53, by asking whether He claims that He is greater than their father Abraham, and they immediately reminded Him of the fact that all the prophets have already died and therefore He cannot and may not claim that He speaks the Truth and that He is the Truth. They also sarcastically added ~ “Who do you make yourself out to be?”

In Greek their question in vs.53 expected a negative answer ~“You are not greater than our father Abrahamwho died, are You?”The irony is that, of course He is. But He had not come to proclaim His greatness. If He honoured Himself, His glory would have no value, in fact, the Father is the One who will do the work of vindication (Afrikaans: “regverdiging”). Yet the hostile Jews claimed a relationship to God. It is obvious that they were in error. Jesus’ Father is God; their father was Satan.

In vs.55 Jesus tells them that they don’t have a relationship with the Father, because they don’t even know the Father, whilst He has a deep and intimate relationship with the Father. The reason why He said this to them, was because there is no right knowledge of God without Christ, neither is there any right knowledge of Christ without His Word.

Jesus then proceeds in vs.56 to the allegation that He was greater than Abraham, and exclaims… ~ Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.” The unbelieving Jews were not Abraham’s descendants spiritually (vs.39). But when Jesus referred to your father Abraham”in vs.56,He meant they were physically related to him, but the difference between them and Abraham, was that… ~ “Abraham rejoiced to see (Jesus’) day.”That means, that Abraham believed in the Messianic salvation which God promised in Gen.12:3 ~ “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”Abraham knew of the coming salvation and he rejoiced in knowing about it and expecting it, but these descendents of Abraham did not recognise the fact that the Messiah has come and was standing right in front of them.

  • THE 3rdACCUSATION (vss.57-58):

The poor Jews yet again could not see and understand what Jesus meant by saying that “Abraham rejoiced to see (Jesus’) day” (vs.56). How could it be possible that a 33 year old man can claim that Abraham saw Him, whilst Abraham was dead for almost 2000 years already?

Jesus’ response to that remark must have been even more incomprehensible to the Jews (Afrikaans: “onverstaanbaar”), because He replied by saying ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”(vs.58). With these words, Jesus affirmed His superiority over the prophets and Abraham. Abraham came into being; but when he (Abraham) was born, Jesus was already existing – He existed from all eternity ~ “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made”(John 1:1-3).

If Jesus just wished to imply that he existed before Abraham, He should have said,“Before Abraham was, I was.”But“I am”was a title for God – a title of Deity ~ “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no saviour” (Ex.3:14), and by saying this, Jesus is claiming more than that He merely existed before Abraham. This title of God may have been fresh on the minds of Jesus’ hearers at the feast, because during the Feast of Tabernacles, the priests were said to utter God’s words in Isaiah ~“I am the Lord, I am He”(Is 43:10, 13). 

Because of what Jesus just told His listeners, they understood Him as blaspheming, and proceeded, even without a form of trial, to stone Him as such, because this was the punishment prescribed in the law for blasphemy ~ “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him…”(Lev.24:16).  

We see in the second part of vs.59 that Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. Many people read all sorts of miraculous disappearing acts in these words (which was obviously not at all impossible), but we cannot read something into the text or context which is not there and therefore, we must accept that Jesus somehow manages to hide Himself and escaped from the temple.

  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

From this part of Scripture, we must take note that ifour belief in Jesus does not match Jesus’ claims about Himself, then we have a different Jesus, and our Jesus cannot save us from our sins. We must always take the Word for what it is and never change the implication or the meaning or the message of the Word, to excuse our sins, or to suit our lifestyle or customs or beliefs, because then we are not worshiping the God of the Bible, but the god of our imagination.

We also saw in our message today, that Jesus never backed away. He stood for the Truth and He defended it with His life – are you prepared to stand up for the real Jesus, or are you compromising when you find yourself in a difficult situation?

What was even more amazing in our passage for today, is that even with the vile accusations being made against Jesus, He still offers them hope (vs.51)~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” If Jesus wanted to condemn them, He could have stated this from the negative with a personal application – i.e.“If anyone fails to keep my word, which you are doing, he shall see death.” But Jesus states this from the positive. Is this also our attitude when we are involved inconfrontations or arguments with unbelievers? Are we offering them hope, or are we backing off, because we don’t like their attitude or their difference of opinion? 

Who is Jesus according to you? Do you really know the Jesus of the Bible? It is of the utmost importance that you should make sure that you are following and serving the true Jesus Christ, for only He can save you from your sins. If you do believe in the true Jesus, then it should be expected that your life will be different from those that do not share that belief. The true Jesus is God Himself in human flesh. He is the Creator of all things. He is the “I AM.”.

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 02 (“I am the Light of the World”)

Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 02(“I am the Light of the World”) 

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

​Joh.8:12-30 (ESV) ~ “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.”

  • INTRODUCTION:

Thomas Alfa Edison who was born in 1847 in the USA, moved at a young age to New York City and eventually established a laboratory. In 1877 he invented the phonograph, which used a record made of tinfoil to play back sound. Apart from the phonograph, he also developed many other devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the motion picture camera, and in 1879, a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. By the end of 1880, Edison had produced a bulb that lasted 1500 hours.

The invention of the lightbulb changed the world in many ways, including facilitating the creation of large power grids, changing the social and economic structure of society and bringing other appliances into the home. The invention of the lightbulb changed human existence by eliminating the night and making it hospitable to a wide range of human activities during the night.

The question however remains whether Edison’s lightbulb has really changed the people of planet earth? When asking this question, two verses (one in the Old Testament and one in the New)come to mind ~ “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!”(Hab.2:18)and Matt.16:26 ~ “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Jesus gave the answer to these questions by revealing something of His unique and Godly attributes, when saying in the opening verse of our Scripture reading for today ~ “I am the Light of the world.”This statement is the second of His eight “I AM” statements, which is only recorded in John’s Gospel. This statement points to Jesus’ unique Divine identity and purpose. A further question however is, what does this statement by Jesus about Himself, really mean and how can we apply it to ourselves.

This statement implies that there is darkness in this world that people do not perceive. Paul says in Col.1:13 ~ “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

We are thus confronted by the fact the world needs deliverance from darkness (i.e. spiritual darkness). 

In today’s message, we will look at Jesus the Light of the world. This will be the second “I Am” statement that we will be looking at. Our main points will be:

  • The Messiah’s Claim (vss.12-20).
  • The People’s Confusion (vss.21-29).
  • The People’s Conversion (vs.30).
  • THE MESSIAH’S CLAIM (vss.12-20)

In declaring Himself to be the Light of the world, Jesus was claiming that He is the exclusive source of spiritual light. No other source of spiritual truth is available to mankind. 

Thomas Edison’s lightbulb was good and changed the world, there is however, another Light, a Light so important that the Son of God had to come in order to both declare and impart it to men. The allegory used by the Lord in this verse (vs.12) speaks of the light of His Truth, the light of His Word, the light of eternal Life. What Jesus is saying, is that those who receive the true Light will never walk in spiritual darkness again.

Prior to Jesus’ claim, the scribes and the Pharisees had just finished accusing a woman caught in adultery. According to Jewish laws, if someone is caught in an act of adultery, such a person was stoned to death. 

The scribes and Pharisees also wanted to ensnare Jesus (Afrikaans: “in ‘n lokval lei”) in the process, because He claimed that He was God and the Light of the world. Jesus also showed them how self-centred and legalistic they were. In John 8:34 Jesus tells the unbelieving Pharisees~“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”He uses the analogy of a slave and his master to make the point that a slave obeys his master because he belongs to him. Slaves have no will of their own. They are literally in bondage to their masters. When sin is our master, we are unable to resist it. But, by the power of Christ to overcome the power of sin~“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”(Rom.6:18). 

The scribes and Pharisees accused Him of bearing witness about Himself (vs.12), so they wanted to bring Him to justice and therefore they asked Him what should be done with the woman. Surprisingly, Jesus responded on the scribes and Pharisees’ question by saying ~ “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first”(John 8:7). 

This interaction between Jesus and the scribes and the Pharisees took place in the city of Jerusalem in the temple area. How fitting that during the Feast of Tabernacles, when the large lamps were burning, “Jesus … said, I am the Light of the world.The world is in darkness, a symbol of evil, sin, and ignorance ~ “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil”(Joh.3:19).

We must remember that all people commit sin – are in sin ~ “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”(1 John 1:8) and Jesus also said in John 8:34 ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin’(John 8:34). Jesus was telling His followers that all of them were living in darkness and in bondage of sin (sin which is our natural state).

Jesus declared that He was the Light of the world. He wanted His followers to know that they didn’t have to live in darkness, hopelessness and bondage to sin. In the original text, the Greek for light is φῶς(phõs)which literally means “to illumine;” “to bring to light,”and it can also mean that light is the possibility of grasping and hence of mastering the world

Furthermore, “Light”in the Bible is a symbol of God and His holiness ~ “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”(1 John 1:5). Jesus is “theLight,” not merely a light or another light among many lights. He is the only Light; “the true Light”(John 1:9)for the whole world. When Jesus said, “Whoever follows Me”(Joh.12:26), He meant whoever believes and obeys Him. Jesus was speaking of salvation. When He saves us, He illumines us and He brings us into the Light and enable us to master the dark world and its sin.

If the people who listened to Jesus wanted to follow Him, then He would bring His “light of life”into their lives, transforming them and restoring them with His power, in order for them to become slaves of Jesus Christ.

The Pharisees were not happy about Jesus’ claim that He was the Light of the world and they accused Him of bearing witness about Himself and that His testimony was not true (vs.12), but in vs.13 Jesus tells them that no earthly witness is capable of testifying on His behalf because of His divine origin.

Jesus argued further that the Pharisees were not qualified to render a verdict on the validity of His witness because they used the wrong criteria, that is why He says in vs.17 ~ “You judge according to the flesh,”or as the NIV states“You judge by human standards.”  To form a correct estimate of Him, they must have the proper standard, and Christ is not measurable by “human standards.”The actual word used here for human standards is “flesh,” (as in the ESV) which is used metaphorically to refer to the human nature. The ordinarily used categories for measuring personality would not apply to Jesus. He appealed to the rule of the law that prescribed to witnesses for acceptable opposition ~ “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness”(Deut.17:6). He would be qualified as one of the witnesses and His Father as the other ~ “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me…”(Joh.5:37a).

In vss.20-21, Jesus bluntly told the scribes and Pharisees that they had no real knowledge of God. The fact that they did not recognise Him for who and what He was, provided the proof that they did not know. The tragedy was that the whole history of Israel had been designed so that the Jews should recognise the Son of God when He came; but they had become so involved with their own ideas, so intent on their own ways, so sure of their own concept of what religion was that they had become blind to God.

After the interaction between Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees, they started to leave one by one because none of them were without sin themselves. Jesus told the woman who committed adultery that He wouldn’t condemn her either, so she should go and sin no more. Is this not also true of the people of our day? They construct their own image of God and create their own religion so that it suits them (e.g. it is too farfetched for liberal theologians to believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary and therefore, they say that, that part of the Bible is a myth and thus creating their own self-made law. To the other side of the spectrum though, if something feels wrong for someone, they also create their own self-made laws – e.g. women are not allowed to wear long trousers, or short hair – such people base their own viewpoint on improper Biblical analyses and are therefore self-righteous and legalistic).

The first group (mostly liberal theologians) are busy creating their own bible and they are involved in gross idolatry. The legalistic group, on the other hand, must also be careful that they are not busy with the same situation and practice. 

  • THE PEOPLE’S’ CONFUSION (vss.21-29):

In vss.21-29, Jesus talks about leaving the people and about them dying in their sins (unless they believe in Him), and about the fact that they cannot come to heaven because their sins are unforgiven (vs.21). As John shows throughout, they failed to understand: they asked, “He isn’t going to kill Himself, is He?”Perhaps they thought because of the pressures on Him, He would take His own life and according to Jewish belief, someone who commits suicide goes to hell and because they are sure of their “salvation”(based on their works and knowledge of the Scriptures). Jesus, according to them is going to hell and they are going to heaven. How wrong were they! Jesus would (after His death) return to the Father, and they would die in their sins.

We see in vs.27 that the people did not understand what Jesus was talking about. Jesus’ patience is exemplary (from which we all have much to learn). He continues to explain in vss.28-29 by telling them that His death, resurrection and ascension (His “lifting up”) will be His vindication (Afrikaans: “regverdigmaking”). Then, many of them would understand that He is the promised Messiah. That is when they would receive an answer to the question, “Who are You?”

  • THE PEOPLE’S CONVERSION (vs.30):

Jesus’ claim that He is the Light of the world and His subsequent conversation and explanation was not without fruit, because we read in vs.30 ~ “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.”   

John says in 1 Joh.1:9 ~ “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”There is hope for the lost, there is an everlasting hope and light awaiting on those who are willing to bend the knee before Christ the Saviour and confess their sins and believe in Him.

Coming to Christ for salvation results in a different kind of life. A believer will never walk in darkness, that is, he will not live in it. He does not remain in the realm of evil and ignorance ~ “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness”(John 12:46) for he has Christ as his Light and salvation ~ “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light”(Ps. 36:9). Once we come to Christ in repentance and receive forgiveness for sin, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within us. It is by His power that we are able to resist sin and become slaves of righteousness.

  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

We saw that light also means “to illumine;” “to bring to light”– that light is not only for us, but when we have the light in us, it must not be hidden under a basket, hidden from the view of others – Edison made a light to light up the surrounding area, Jesus lit us up, so that people can see the Truth and become free in Him (Luke 11:33). If we confess that we are followers of the Light, we repent of our sins in order to stay close to the Light of the world. In fact, Jesus commands us to be “lights” too (Matt.5:14-16). 

Just as the moon has no light of its own, but reflecting the light of the sun, so are believers to reflect the Light of Christ so that all can see it in us. The Light is evident to others by the good deeds we do in faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The emphasis here is maintaining a credible and obvious witness in the world, a witness that shows us to be faithful, God-honouring, trustworthy, sincere, earnest, and honestin all that we do. 

If we say it must be obvious to the world, we must ask what signs will darkness have. There are many, but I just want to name one – 1 John 2:11 says ~ But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness…I also want to mention one sign of light – 1 Joh.2:10 ~ Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.”

The Gospel Light we have is not to be covered, but made obvious for all to see and benefit from, that they, too, may leave the darkness and come into the Light. Go out into the world and let your light shine in a dark world – let people see in you and hear from you, that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World!

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 01 (“I am the Bread of Life”)

1.     INTRODUCTION:

Today, on this glorious “resurrection Sunday”I would like, together with our series on Revelation and James, also start with a short, eight part series in which we will be focussing on the person of Jesus Christ by looking at the eight “I Am”statements that He made in the Gospel according to John and in all eight, He combines “I AM”with tremendous metaphors which express His saving relationship toward the world: 

“I AM the Bread of life”(6:35, 41, 48, 51). 

“I AM the Light of the world”(8:12). 

“Before Abraham was, I am”(8:58). 

“I AM the Door of the sheep”(10:7, 9). 

“I AM the Good Shepherd”(10:11, 14). 

“I AM the Resurrection and the Life”(11:25). 

“I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life”(14:6). 

“I AM the true Vine”(15:1, 5). 

John wrote his Gospel to persuade people to believe in Jesus (Joh.20:30–31). From the

opening verses, he declares that Jesus is God, stressing his unique relationship with God the Father. We also read in Matt.16:13-15 the following ~ Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”

Here we see that Jesus asked His disciples who the people say that He is. In this short series, we are however, not going to look at what other people, or what Jesus’ disciples said about Him, but what He said about Himself. In order to do this, He uses a very interesting structure to place the focus on who He is and we call this structure, “The I am’s of Jesus,”because He uses the expression “I am”to introduce Himself, e.g. “I am the Bread of Life,”“I am the Good Shepherd,”etc.

The reason why it is important to know these “I am’s”(which is in actual fact another list of Jesus’ names, or more specifically, His attributes or character) is to help us trust Him with our daily affairs and with our eternal destiny. Furthermore, in Scripture a person’s name often signifies his character or ability or mission – especially when the name is given by God. Adam names his wife Eve, because she is the mother of all the living (Gen.3:20). God changes Abram’s name to Abraham to show that he had made him the father of many nations (Gen.17:5). He changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen.32:28). And when the Son of God came into the world, His name was also full of character and signified His abilities and mission ~ “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt.1:21).

2.     SCRIPTURE READING:

​Joh.6:22-39 (ESV) ~ “On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

3.     EARTHLY BREAD (6:22-34):

Just prior to this conversation between Jesus and His disciples, Jesus, in one of the seven miracles referred to in John’s Gospel, fed 5,000 people by multiplying five barley loaves and two fishes (Joh.6:9). But in spite of this miracle, the people still asked for a miraculous sign in order for them to believe that Jesus was the Son of God – the Messiah.

The next day, after the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish, the people were looking for Jesus and eventually found Him in Capernaum. In vs.25 they asked Him when did He arrive there, but without answering their question~ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves’”(Joh.6:26). Jesus rebuked them for their materialistic motivation and their lack of spiritual perception. They saw miraculous signs, but to them it was only an easy meal. They failed to see what it signified.

Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of food: food for the body, which is necessary but not the most important; and food for the inner man, the spirit, which is essential. What the people needed was not food but life, and life is a gift. Food only sustainslife, but Jesus giveseternal life. The words of Isaiah come to mind ~ “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food”(Is.55:2).

While Jesus was talking to the people, He said in vs.27 ~ “Do not work for the food that perishes…”The people immediately heard the word “work” and misunderstood it to mean they had to workfor salvation. They completely missed the word give. Being part of Judaism which was at that stage already a very legalistic religion, they thought they had to “do something,”they had to work for their salvation – to do good deeds in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus however, made it very clear that only one “work” was necessary and that was to believe and be saved – vs.29 ~ “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus’ response to their question was a contradiction of their thinking. They could not please God by doing good works. There is only one work of God, that is, one thing God requires. They need to put their trust in the One, the Father has sent, namely Jesus Christ. Because of their sin people cannot please God by doing good works for salvation, we see that clearly in Eph.2:8-9 ~ For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”God demands that people recognise their inability to save themselves and receive His gift ~ For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom.6:23).

The people however, still wanted to see another miracle, so that they could believe and while asking for another miracle, they challenged Jesus by referring Him to Moses, who according to them, performed a miracle in the wilderness by providing their forefathers with manna (Ex.16). 

This request or challenge, if you want, in vs.30 reveals the shallowness of the people’s thoughts, for what further sign did they expect than the feeding of a multitude from negligible supplies? The reference to the manna in the desert(vs.31) provides the clue to the working of their minds, namely for them Jesus had to outdo Moses to convince them to believe in Him. 

In vs.32, Jesus told the people that it wasn’t Moses who provided the manna, but God – “…and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance”(Ps.78:24-25). Furthermore, the manna that was given was not true bread from the true heaven. It was only earthly bread from a visible sky – it was only temporary bread.

4.     ETERNAL BREAD (6:35-36):

Jesus then turned away from the person of Moses and pointed to Himself and said to them… ~“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’”(Joh.6:35). The everlasting bread that God now wants to give to the people, is far beyond the manna that only lasted for a short while and only sustained a few Israelites in the desert, but the Bread that God now offers, already came down from heaven and gives eternal life to the world.

James Montgomery Boice in his book, “The Gospel of John – Volume 2,” says that Jesus used the example of bread, because people knew about bread and He further points out that…

  • Bread is necessary for life: Bread is necessary for life. In Jesus’ day, bread was the only staple in most person’s diets. Without bread, men died. The same with Jesus – without Jesus, man will surely die.
  • Bread is suited for everyone: Bread is suited for everyone. Some people are allergic to shellfish, others to other foods, but bread is suited for almost everyone. In the same way, Jesus is perfectly suited to the needs of all men.
  • Bread should be eaten daily:Bread should be eaten every day. This refers to our everyday life. No person can stay alive if you don’t eat every day. This reminds us of the Lord’s prayer and specifically where it says in Matt.6:11 ~ Give us this day our daily bread.”God nourishes us spiritually on a daily basis and if we do not eat this bread daily, we will not stay alive.
  • Bread produces growth: Bread produces growth. Believers need to grow. Boice says the following about this fact: “The Church of Jesus Christ is weak in our age, and it is weak simply because the individuals who compose it are not strong.”He furthermore asks and answers as follow, “What is the reason for our sickly Christian postures? Undoubtedly, the reason is our deep failure to feed upon Jesus Christ who alone can make us grow.”

The attainment of this bread that Jesus referred too, hinges on belief. To the people listening to Jesus, “belief”meant acceptance of His competence on the basis of miracles; to Jesus it meant commitment, not on the basis of the miracles, but on trust in His Person. Jesus was talking about “the”bread that gives eternal life; but this was beyond their comprehension, just as the miracles Jesus had performed in their sight did not lead them to believe in Him.

We must not see Jesus’ statement in vs.35b, as an abstract statement – a statement with what the audience could not do anything with namely, “I am the Bread”and nothing else. No, He follows that up with an appeal. Jesus said to them ~ I am the bread of life (and then the appeal); whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Since Jesus is the Bread of Life, everyone hearing this, is invited to come to Him and to believe on Him and be saved. After receiving it, you will never hunger for the Living Bread anymore, because you have received it – you have received Jesus Christ as the Living Bread – the Saviour. You will never long – you will never thirst, for salvation, because you have received it and will never lose it ~ Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”(Rom.8:33-34).

5.     EFFECTUAL BREAD (6:37-39):

Vss.37-39 focusses on the effectual sacrifice by the Lord ~ All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

We find a very important verse in this regard in Heb.10:14 ~ “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God were given instruction concerning the type of sacrifice which was required of them. A sacrifice was necessary because they, as well as ourselves, had offended a perfect God who requires perfect obedience from His subjects. Because of the great offence of sin, God taught His people that a perfect sacrifice was required to cover the guilt of sin. Nearly fifty times in the Old Testament we read that the sacrifice must be “without blemish”; God demands perfection, as He is perfect. Man however, offended a righteous God, and as the Heidelberg Catechism (Q16) teaches, “…the justice of God requires that same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin.”In short, our “lamb without blemish”must be wholly man; and man is fallen in his very nature, so it seems that man had a problem. But, God on the other hand, is the only perfect One. He is the very definition of perfection. Only God could bear the weight of the penalty for our debt. What a true “lamb without blemish”must look like is One who is completely God to bear the weight of our sin, and completely man so as to be a true representative for us. Jesus, the true God/man, is our perfect “lamb without blemish”!

The implication of this is that not one single elect sinner for whom Jesus Christ effectually (Afrikaans:“volkome doeltreffend”) died will perish. Christ’s accomplishment of redemption insures their eternal salvation. There was only one perfect Lamb that could accomplish effectual forgiveness of sin, and that was the “Effectual Bread”; the “Bread of Life”; the Lamb of God (1 Pet.1:19).

6.      CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

If you have received Jesus Christ as Saviour, my question to you today is: Do you feed on the “Bread of Life” daily? Do you grow in Christ? Is your life a testimony that Jesus is the Bread of Life? Do you really live a life of submission, of obedience, of glorification and sanctification – are you “feeding” on the Bread of Life? We read in Joh.8:31-32 ~ “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”and in Joh.13:35 ~ “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

If Jesus Christ is not your “Bread of Life”, it is not too late. Jesus says in ~ “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”(Matt.11:28)and in Joh.3:16 He says ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Kobus van der Walt
Posted in English, Jesus, John, Sermons (English) | Leave a comment

James – Practicing Faith – 03 (“No Works, No Faith”)

1.    SCRIPTURE READING:

James 2:14-26 (ESV) ~“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

2.    INTRODUCTION:

Whenever one reads the book of James, the writings of Paul come to mind. James says in 2:14 ~ “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”Again Paul says e.g. in Rom.4:5 ~ “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…”and in Gal.2:16 ~ “…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

The question is this: Are these two apostles saying two opposing things, or how must we understand this seemingly opposite viewpoints? Is justification by faith, as Paul claims, or by works, as James seems to say? 

Paul writes in Rom.5:12 ~ “…so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”James seems to say just the opposite ~ “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” This appears to be a gross contradiction.

3.    JUSTIFICATION AND WORKS:

We must always keep in mind, that whenever one encounters an apparent contradiction, it’s good to keep in mind a basic rule: Always first explore the possibility of a reconciliation between the two. Not all statements that appear to contradict actually do.

Take the two statements “Napoleon was a very big man” and “Napoleon was not a big man; he was a small man.”At first glance, these two sentences appear contradictory. The word “big” is equivocal, though. It can mean two different things. Napoleon was a big man regarding his impact in history, but was small inphysical size.

The word “justify”is no different. It has two meanings, not just one. In Rom.4:5 Paul’s use of the word “justify”in the Greek, is δικαιόω(daikaioo) which literally means, “to cause someone to be in a proper or right relation with someone else – ‘to put right with, to cause to be in a right relationship with. A second definition for justify is, to show (an act, claim, statement, etc.),to be just or right: The end does not always justify the means; to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded: Don’t try to justify his rudeness.

When using this last form of the word “justify”, we are asking for evidence; we want proof of something and in this case, of your “faith.” In other words, …I have faith, because I am justified and saved – not through works, but by grace (Paul) and therefore in order to proof that I am justified, you can see it through the works I’m doing.In James’ case, I want proof of justification – works (James). Therefore, first justification and then the fruit which is works – works that flow from thankfulness for my salvation given graciously by God ~ “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”(Luke 6:45).

This external display demonstrates the quality of the man within. This is not justification in the sense of salvation. The good person bears testimony of his inner man by producing good. The cause therefore comes before the effectSalvation is the cause and it comes first, before it can be evidenced in a changed life or works.

4.    NO WORKS, NO FAITH (2:14-20):

Let us then focus on what James is saying to us in our Scripture reading for today. As in 2:4 James also asks a rhetorical question here in 2:14, in fact he’s asking two questions ~ What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”(James 2:14).

Without waiting for an answer, he follows his first two questions by asking a third question with an example ~ “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”(James 2:15–16).

Still without waiting for an answer, he answers his initial question by saying ~ “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”(James 2:17).

James is therefore, saying that if you say that you have faith, but good works are not prevalent (Afrikaans: algemeen voorkom) in your life, your faith means nothing, in fact, one can wonder whether you really have faith. Faith cannot stand alone, it must be accompanied by works. Why? In 2:18-19, James motivates his statement by continuing to make the point that genuine, living faith in Christ results in a believer beginning to participate in good works ~ “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!” 

James’s argument here is entirely practical, because James challenges his unidentified opponent by asking him to show James any evidence for his faith without any works. It can’t be done. People who truly believesomething, act on what they claim to believe. Faith that doesn’t cause a person to act is a dead faith, not a saving faith. On the contrary, James writes ~ “I can show you what I believe by the good works that I do”(2:18).

  • Demons have faith:In Mark 1 Jesus said something that may come as a shock to some people, namely that demons have faith! What do they believe? For one thing, they believe in the existence of God. They expressed belief in the Divine ~ “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God”(Mark 1:24 – also see: 5:7; Acts 16:16–17). 
  • The Deity of Christ:They also believe in the deity of Christ. Whenever they met Christ when He was on earth, they bore witness to His sonship ~ “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ And he strictly ordered them not to make him known”(Mark 3:11-12).
  • Demonstrated Fear before Christ:They also demonstrated fear before Christ ~ “And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus ofNazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God”(Mark 1:23–24).
  • The Existence of a Place of Punishment:They believe in the existence of a place of punishment ~ “Andthey begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss”(Luke 8:31). 
  • Jesus Christ as Judge:And they also recognise Jesus Christ as the Judge (Mark 5:1–13). 

We must also take note that at no point does James require works to earn salvation, or to keep it. Rather, James points out that what we do is the result of what we trulybelieve. Simply claiming to have faith in Christ is meaningless; saving faith is a faith in action. James is arguing for exactly what Paul wrote in Eph.2:10 ~ “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God saved us by His grace alone, through faith alone – and not in any sense through works – but He planned all along for His believing children to do good works, “that we should walk in them.” That’s what true believers do.

In 2:20 James prepares to make his final arguments that genuine faith always results in good works. He asserts in rather blunt terms that those who disagree are foolish. He asks his challenger if he wants to be shown or see evidence that faith without works is a useless, dead faith.

5.    EXAMPLES OF TRUE FAITH (2:21-26):

As a final of his argument, James gave two Biblical examples of true faith: Abraham, the respected patriarch, and Rahab, the redeemed prostitute. He presented each example in the form of a question (again), anticipating the reader’s ready agreement.

In 2:21 he asks ~ “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?”James uses the example of Abraham, who proved his faith through deeds. Abraham didn’t actually sacrifice Isaac, but he bound and placed him on an altar in obedience to God’s command.  He proved his faith by his willingness to offer up his son Isaac. Thus, God found him faithful through his actions.

In 2:25, James gives the second example of true faith by mentioning Rahab – “And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”Rahab proved her faith by protecting the two Israelites – that was her work of faith.

In closure of his argument James says in 2:26 ~ “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

6.    CONCLUSION & APPLICATION: 

Paul writes in Gal.5:22-23 ~ “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

It is easy to love people who loves you. It is however something different to love your enemy, what the Bible actually calls you to do. Paul says in Phil.4:4 ~ “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”How much joy do you have when life gets a little bit tough on you? Let’s be practical: We can’t be joyful and rejoice when driving through a pothole – or can we? Yes, we can – we can rejoice because God will never forsake me, because He is my Provider. To be able to apply this practically in my life, I need to stop and think and then practically apply Scripture to my situation. 

My appeal to you, is to analyse the rest of this verse word by word and make it practical in and throughout your life.

God wants to produce fruit in our lives. He is the Vinedresser, Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches. The branches are naturally attached to the vine; from the vine they get their support, their ability to produce fruit, and their very life. 

Jesus said in Joh.15:5 ~ “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” That is the purpose of the vineyard – to produce “much fruit.”Good works follow salvation.

Although we cannot be saved byour good works, when we aresaved, we willproduce good works. Just as a baby will grow after birth, so a believer will grow after the new birth. We grow at different rates and in different ways, but a life lived in Christ always results in a life of growth. If a baby never grows, there is something very wrong. No one expects a baby to stay a baby forever. As he grows, the child begins to look more and more like his parents. In the same way, after salvation, we grow, and we begin to look more and more like our Heavenly Father. This is only possible as we “abide in Him”and allow Him to reproduce His character in us ~ “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me”(Joh.15:4).

What does it mean to abide in Christ? There is only one way – we must submerge ourselves in the Word and ponder upon it and make it our own. It should be like the example of a teabag. The moment you pour boiling water on the bag, tea comes out which means that if you are submerged in the Word, and the Word abides in you, life will come forth and that life will carry you, protect you and guide you.

Good works do not produce salvation. Good works are the product of salvation. Jesus said to His followers, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”(Matt.5:16).

In order to summarise:

  • Salvation is a sovereign act of God:Salvation is a sovereign act of God – Titus 3:5 ~“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

When this happens, God gives the forgiven sinner a new heart and puts a new spirit within him ~ “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”(Ezek.36:26). From this point of view that we are not saved by works, we must realise that the previous practical implication that I gave you, are not ways to determine whether you are worthy of the kingdom of God. Being saved is a gift, and the practical application is a measuring stick to determine whether you have received the gift of salvation or not.

  • Faith without works is dead:Faith without works is dead. When a person says that he is saved – that he has faith, but his life reveals no evidence of good works, of a repentant heart, such a man has not been transformed by God. When someone has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, his life will demonstrate that new life ~ “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. Faith without works is dead because it comes from a heart that has not been regenerated by God”(Joh.10:27). Those who pay lip service to faith but who do not possess the Spirit will hear Christ Himself say to them ~ “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness”(Matt.7:23).

There is no conflict between James and Paul’s statements. We are justified by grace through faith, and the natural result of faith in the heart is works that all can see. The works that follow salvation do not make us righteous before God; they simply flow from the regenerated heart as naturally as water flows from a spring.There might be someone here who goes through this exercise and find himself coming short of being saved/born again. My advice: call on God, because only He can bestow the gift of regeneration/salvation.

Kobus van der Walt
Posted in English, James, Sermons (English), Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment