Month: December 2014

Modern-Day Prophets and the Bible

http://acrookedpath.com/2014/09/16/bible/

Download Recording

Why has the Christian Church not embraced the writings of the modern-day prophets? Why has the Church not incorporated into the Bible the writings of the 19th century prophets like Joseph Smith or Ellen G. White? Why has the Church not accepted the interpretations of Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Franklin Rutherford, the first leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why has the Christian Church not embraced the special New World Translation of the Bible prepared by the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Today we want to consider modern-day prophets and the Bible, and the question of truth and where we find it. It is not our desire to be controversial, but controversy has long been part of the history of the Christian Church. Today we see much controversy and conflict in the church over various teachings. Some churches want to keep in step with the times, to get with the program, to be relevant to today’s world. In some places the church blends in so well with the surrounding culture that no one can see any difference between the church and the world. There is no separation. No distinction. The church is the world. One well-known missiologist, Leslie Newbigin, said that when the church becomes just like the world, it is no longer a viable alternative to a corrupted culture. It no longer gives people hope that life can be different.

 

Truth and Controversy

We see plenty of controversy in the church world today, but controversy is not new. We find controversy in the church in the 19th and 20th centuries as theological liberalism and a modern scientific worldview became the standard of truth in some circles. We find controversy in the 16th century when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany. We find controversy in the church councils in the first centuries after Christ. We find controversy in the New Testament itself.

Jesus Christ himself was a controversial figure. He was so controversial that the religious authorities had him crucified, killed, and buried, thinking that would end the story. But God raised Jesus from the dead, and the controversy continued. The Jewish authorities forbid the disciples of Jesus Christ from preaching about his resurrection and teaching in the name of Jesus, but the disciples could not be silenced. They were imprisoned, beaten, whipped, some were stoned, and some were even beheaded. But that did not stop the church from preaching the good news of what God had done in Jesus Christ, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was literally, physically raised from dead on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).

There was controversy in the church itself when the Apostle Peter preached the gospel to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem demanded that he explain why he had entered the house of Gentiles and had eaten with them (Acts 10-11).

There was controversy in the churches of Galatia when Judaizers came behind the Apostle Paul and told the new converts that they had to follow the Law of Moses to be saved. Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians to correct that error.

There was controversy in Acts 15 when believers of the party of the Pharisees told Paul that he needed to circumcise the Gentile believers and to order them to keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5). The Church dealt with these issues and gave clear responses to their opponents. The Church never shied away from controversy. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that we must always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have to anyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15).

These were not minor issues. They were major questions.

         Is Jesus Christ the only way to God?

         What must we do to be saved?

         Are we saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ, or must we do certain works to be saved?

It is not my desire today to be controversial, but as Luke wrote in his Gospel, my desire and prayer is…

Luke 1:4 ESV that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

It is my desire to be useful as was Apollos who “greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:28).

We are okay with reading about controversy in the New Testament. We can read the story of how the Holy Spirit led the church and resolved the conflicts and spoke through the writings of the New Testament Scriptures. But it is quite another thing to be in the middle of controversy. We would almost do anything to avoid controversy. Many would rather compromise the truth than to be involved in controversy. They would sacrifice truth on the altar of compromise. Anything to avoid conflict, for the simple reason that they have no conviction about the truth. The truth has not taken hold of them. Their idea is that we must seek peace at all costs. Lay down your weapons. Put up your sword. There is nothing worth fighting for. But that is capitulation, nothing less than a full surrender to the enemy.

There is a time for peace.

Romans 12:18 ESV If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

“If possible.” It is not always possible to live peaceable with everyone. “So far as it depends on you.” It does not always depend on us. But there is a time for compromise on non-essentials. An example of non essentials is found in Romans 14.

Romans 14:1-6 ESV As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

There are questions that are simply a matter of opinion. They have nothing to do with the nature of God or of Christ or of the Holy Spirit or of salvation. The Scriptures tells us that we must not cause division over opinions. Where the Bible has not spoken clearly, we should not be dogmatic or divisive.

So in order to be in harmony with everyone, why not accept the visions and the teachings and the writings of Ellen G. White as inspired Scripture? Why not simply incorporate the writings of Joseph Smith into the Bible? Why not simply accept the Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrines and Covenants into the Bible? Why not accept the teachings of Charles Taze Russell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ special New World Translation of the Bible? Why not embrace the teachings of John Thomas and the Christadelphians? Why should we not accept the teachings of Baha’i and the Bahá’u’lláh? Why not accept these modern-day prophets? Wouldn’t it be better to simply accept these modern-day prophets and their teachings than to be divided? Shouldn’t we simply pursue unity? Isn’t that the Christian way?

A close reading of the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, shows that we cannot accept the teachings of every one who calls himself a prophet.

Why should we not accept the teachings of these different modern-day prophets?

1.        First, we should not accept their teachings because we cannot accept their teachings. We cannot accept their teachings because their teachings contradict each other. Each of these groups teaches very different things about God, about Christ, about salvation, and about a host of other vital biblical doctrines. Some say that there are many gods. Some say that God was first a man who evolved into a god. Some say that Christ was not God. Some say that he was a god but not Almighty God. Some say that he was the archangel Michael in the Old Testament. Some say that he was just a man. The Bible teaches that he “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18). It is impossible to accept the teachings these modern-day prophets because these prophets contradict each other on matters of extreme importance.

2.        Second, we cannot accept the teachings of these prophets because their teachings contradict the teachings of the Word of God. Some denounce the Apostle Paul because his teaching does not agree with the teachings of their prophetess. They are right. The teachings of the Apostle Paul do not agree with the teachings of their prophetess, but they are denouncing the wrong person. By rejecting the clear teaching of the New Testament, they reject the gospel.

3.        Third, each of these groups with the exception of the Baha’is (which is not a Christian cult, but an Islamic cult) — each group claims to have restored the Church of Jesus Christ and to be the only true church. Well, they cannot all be the only true church. In fact, any church which claims to be the only true church, shows that it is not a true church at all.

Any group that claims to restore the Church of Jesus Christ, is saying that Jesus Christ failed to keep his promise. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 ESV). Jesus has always had a remnant even in the darkest times of the history of the Church.

 

The Nature of Truth

The very nature of truth is that it stands in contrast with error. It is the opposite of fiction, fabrication, invention, or lies. Day is not night and night is not day. Right is not wrong and wrong is not right. Truth does not embrace all possible choices. Truth is not confused.

The truth is worth dying for. John the Baptist was beheaded for announcing the truth. Stephen was stoned to death for the truth of the gospel. James was also beheaded for the sake of the gospel. The truth of the gospel is worth dying for.

In fact, more than physical life itself, our eternal destiny — our salvation depends on holding fast to the truth.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you– unless you believed in vain.

Paul says that we are saved by the gospel “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.” Otherwise you have believed in vain. Paul goes on to define the terms of the gospel:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

The fundamental truths of the gospel are not negotiable. We cannot change them, take away from them, or add to them.

The Judaizers had followed Apostle Paul in Galatia and had added conditions to the gospel. It sounded reasonable. It made sense. But it was not the gospel. The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians with unmistakable directness:

Galatians 1:6-12 NLT I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News 7 but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. 10 Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. 11 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

Controversy is not new. Nearly every book of the New Testament warns the Church about false teachers and how to deal with them. In the Gospels, Jesus warns about false prophets, false teachers, and false Christs. He warns us that many will come in his name, claiming to be his representatives, and that they will deceive many.

Matthew 7:15 NLT “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

Matthew 24:11 NLT And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.

Matthew 24:24-26 NLT For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time. 26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it!

The Apostle Paul tells the elders at Ephesus,

Acts 20:29-31 NLT I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. 30 Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. 31 Watch out!…

He rebukes the Church at Corinth,

2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

They had no discernment. They believed whatever anyone told them, even when they preached a different Jesus.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NLT These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.

Paul warns the Galatians about the false teachers that want to bring them under the law of Moses:

Galatians 2:4 NLT … some so-called Christians there– false ones, really– … were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.

Galatians 4:17 NLT Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them.

Galatians 5:9-10 NLT This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! 10 I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

Paul warns the Romans about people who cause divisions by teaching different things:

Romans 16:17-18 NLT And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.

The Apostle Peter warns us,

2 Peter 2:1-2 ESV But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

The Apostle John warns us,

2 John 1:7-10 NIVO Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.

We must take these warnings seriously. They were written for us.

 

The Bible Is a Closed Book

So where do we find the truth?

John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Where do we find the truth? We find the truth in God’s Word. God has revealed His truth to us in a book, and that book is the Bible.

In the Old Testament, we see that God revealed Himself through the Word. We do not speculate about God’s nature, His will, or His ways; we simply bear witness to what God has said about Himself.

The Bible bears witness to itself as the written Word of God, a claim that springs from the fact that God has spoken. In the Old Testament alone, the phrases “the Lord said,” the Lord spoke,” and “the word of the Lord came” appear at least 3,808 times… “where Scripture speaks, God speaks.”[1]

When God gave the Old Covenant of the Law, He introduced Himself as “I am the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:2a). He gave the historical context: “who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2b). He gave the conditions of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). God listed blessings and curses (Exodus 20:5-7, 11-12). This covenant is put written form, written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18). Finally, there was curse upon anyone who seeks to change the wording of the covenant documents:[2]

Deuteronomy 4:2 ESV You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

At the same time, the Old Covenant anticipates the New Covenant:

Jeremiah 31:31 ESV “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

Certainly any first-century Jew, when confronted with the term “covenant” (berth) in Jeremiah 31, would have understood…that this new covenant, like the old covenant, would be accompanied by the appropriate written texts to testify to the terms of the new arrangement that God was establishing with his people.[3]

When we come to the New Testament, Jesus appointed and commissioned his apostles to be his authoritative witnesses: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Peter tells us that the apostles were “chosen by God as witnesses… to preach to the people and to testify that [Christ] is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the death” (Acts 10:41-42).

As Christ’s spokesmen, the apostles bore his full authority and power: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16).[4]

The words of the apostles that the Lord had chosen are the words of the Lord and have the same authority has the words of the Old Testament prophets:

2 Peter 3:2 ESV …you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

Peter states that the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken through the apostles. The New Testament apostles are conscious that they are writing the Word of God.

Galatians 1:1 ESV Paul, an apostle– not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead–

1 Corinthians 14:37 ESV If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.

1 John 4:6 ESV We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

The Church of Jesus Christ is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20 ESV). Paul goes on to say that God’s eternal plan “has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5 ESV). He says that same thing again in Romans 16:26 when he says that the secret plan of God “has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.”

The Apostle Peter recognized that the Apostle Paul’s writings were Scripture. Peter said that

2 Peter 3:16 NLT …those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

There was an expectation that the New Covenant, like the Old Covenant, would have its written documents—its Scriptures—explaining its historical context, its terms and conditions, as well as its blessings and curses.

There was an expectation that the New Covenant Scriptures, i.e. the New Testament Scriptures, would be closed with the death of the apostles, those apostles that the Lord of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ, had appointed to write the New Testament Scriptures.

There would have been no expectation that 1,800 years later modern-day prophets would add to the sacred Scriptures. Indeed, such prophets would have been recognized as the very prophets that the Lord Jesus had warned his disciples about: false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, deceiving many.

Notice what Jude tells us:

Jude 1:3 NLT Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.

He urges us to defend the faith, to stand up for the truth of the gospel. He says that God entrusted this faith to us “once for all time.” It is not to be updated with modern-day prophecies. It is not to be modified, or added to, or taken away from. False teachings, false prophets, and false churches are all around. You and I must defend the truth, the faith that God has entrusted to us once for all time.

 

The Scriptures Are Complete

There are many verses that speak about the inspiration of the Scriptures that we have not considered. Perhaps the best known is in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

I want to focus on that last phrase “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This indicates that the Scriptures are complete. They are sufficient. They are all that we need to be equipped for everything that we need to do.

That means that we must not add to the Scriptures. In fact, just as the Old Covenant contained a warning about adding it, the New Covenant also warns us not to add or take away from God’s Word. There is a curse upon anyone who would modify the wording of the New Covenant:

Revelation 22:18-19 ESV I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

The Bible is a closed book, so to speak. It has a beginning and an ending. It begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth:

Genesis 1:1 ESV In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

And it ends with the new creation:

Revelation 21:1 ESV Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God which he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.[5]

That does not mean that the Bible tells us everything that we might want to know. It means that the Bible is sufficient for what God intended for it to accomplish.

 

The Scriptures Are Clear

The Scriptures are not mystical. They are not mysterious. The Bible is not full of secret hidden meanings.

In Ephesians 3, Paul tells us that God revealed His plan to “his holy apostles and prophets.” Paul wrote down what God revealed to him. Then Paul says,

Ephesians 3:4 NLT As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.

Now that is amazing! God revealed His plan to His apostles and prophets. They wrote down what God revealed to them. The revelation is written in words. The words can be read. And as we read the revelation, we can understand exactly what Paul and the apostles and prophets understood.

That does not mean that it is necessarily easy. We do have to think!

2 Timothy 2:7 NLT Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

So what does all that mean? That means that you and I can understand that Bible. We do not have to have a modern-day prophet to tell us what it means. We can read the Scriptures for ourselves. One of the reasons why people are led astray by false prophets is that they do not read the Bible for themselves.

Part of our problem is that we sometimes try to read the Bible in ways that we would never read any other book. The Bible is composed of 66 books. If we are to understand a book of the Bible, we need to read the entire book. Our Bibles today are divided into chapters and verses, but they were not written that way. Moses never wrote a verse. Matthew never wrote a chapter. They wrote books. About 1000 years after Christ, the books of the Bible were divided into chapters. In about 1557, a French printer named Robert Étienne divided the chapters into verses. That is a great idea if you are trying to find a certain text, but too often people pick a verse and try to understand it without reading the whole book. You would never do that with any other book. You wouldn’t even try to understand a newspaper article by reading only one sentence. You must read the book.

Let me challenge you in this coming new year, to read at least one chapter of the Bible every day in 2015. If you have a hard time reading, meet with other Christians who will read the Bible aloud, one chapter every day. Read straight through whole books of the Bible. Read through the book of Genesis, chapter by chapter. Then skip over to the New Testament and read Matthew, one chapter every day. Then back to Exodus. Then back to the New Testament again. If you read three chapters a day and five chapters on Sunday, you’ll be able to read the entire Bible in 2015! That would be a great accomplishment and would help you to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


[1]Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent, p. 41.

[2]Andreas Köstenberger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, p. 111.

[3]Andreas Köstenberger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, p. 112.

[4]Andreas Köstenberger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, p. 115.

[5]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994, 2000), 12

See also:

Advertisements

Matthew 02:01-23, “Responses to the Newborn King”

Bible illustration c.1900

Bible illustration c.1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(This is a slightly modified version of a previous post with a new recording added.)

A Merry Christmas to you! Today we want to talk about that very first Christmas, the coming of Christ into the world and the ways that people responded to him. How do you feel about Christmas, about the coming of Christ into the world?

  • Joyful, happy, thankful?
  • Indifferent? It doesn’t matter! What’s the big deal?
  • Angry? Hostile?

Download Recording

We see all these responses to the birth of Christ.

What is your response to the birth of Christ?

How do you feel about the coming of Christ into the world?

Through the years we have received many birth announcements from proud parents. The birth of a child is usually a happy event that people pray for, wait for and plan for. Parents and family and friends are excited as the day approaches. Everyone wonders if it will be a boy or a girl. Today with ultrasound, it is sometimes possible to know before the birth whether the child will be a boy or a girl, but the birth of a child is a joyous occasion. Sometimes a special bedroom is painted and prepared. Gifts are given. A husband worries about getting his pregnant wife to the hospital on time. It is a happy time and the proud father and mother want everyone to know about the birth of their child.

Of course, that is not always the response. We live in a Genesis 3 world, a fallen world where people are broken and often live shattered lives. We live in a world where multiplied millions of babies are not welcomed. Married couples generally rejoice when they learn that soon in their home they will hear the pitter-patter of little feet and the chitter-chatter of little teeth. But that is often not the case when a woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock. An unexpected child becomes not a cause of rejoicing, but the subject of shame or simply an inconvenience to one’s plans for education and career. A relationship that was thought to start in love ends with cold hearts that stop the beating heart of an innocent pre-born child. In the culture of death that is found around the world today, millions of babies are aborted and discarded. We live in a confused world that rejoices at the birth of some babies and insists on the right to kill others. It’s called pro-choice, but it means the right to choose to kill the innocent, those who have the inalienable right to live. We will see in our story today that at the first Christmas, babies were slaughtered in the attempt to find and kill baby Jesus.

But first…

The Birth of Prince George Alexander Louis

Just over two years ago on December 3, 2012, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, announced that his wife, Catherine, was going to have a baby. The world was watching and waiting. This birth was greatly anticipated. Finally, on 22 July 2013, Prince George Alexander Louis was born.

“Gun salutes signalled the birth in Bermuda, in London, in New Zealand, and in Canada; the bells of Westminster Abbey and many other churches were rung; and iconic landmarks in the Commonwealth realms were illuminated in various colours, mostly blue to signify the birth of a boy…” Lullabies were composed. Songs were recorded. “Commemorative coins were issued by the Royal Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, and Royal Australian Mint; the first time a royal birth had been marked that way.” All to celebrate the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis.

The Birth of the Prince of Peace

Another Prince was born 2000 years ago: the Prince of Peace. This birth had been announced 4000 years before his birth. Down through the ages, precisions were made:

  • Descendant of Abraham
  • Tribe of Judah
  • Descendant of King David
  • Born in Bethlehem
  • Born of a virgin, for this Prince would be the Son of God.

And then he was born. John says it like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:1-3 ESV).

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 (John 1:14 ESV).

In spite of the prophecies and announcements, the world was not watching:

  • No guns signaled his birth.
  • No decorations were put up in Jerusalem
  • No commemorative coins were issued.

The birth of the Prince of Peace passed mostly unnoticed. Except for

  • Some shepherds who had been keeping watch over their flock that night.
  • A multitude of heavenly angels, an angelic choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest.”
  • All the angels of heaven worshiped this child:

Hebrews 1:6 ESV And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

  • And old man Simeon in the temple recognized that this was the Christ child, the Promised One.
  • And the old woman Anna who had spent years in prayer recognized him as…
  • And there was that star in the East bringing wise men from Babylon or beyond

Yes, finally the word got out. It became known that a most special birth had taken place. How would people react?

Matthew 2:1-23 NLT Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.'” 

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. 

13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” 

16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah– weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” 

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

This story in Matthew 2 shows us that there are different responses to the coming king.

So how do you respond to the Coming King?

1.Some people, like Herod, are hostile to King Jesus.

How would you like to be your own king? No one to tell you what to do but yourself? That’s the way most people try to live.

1.1.Herod was troubled (2:3).

Matthew 2:1-3 NLT Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.

Why was Herod disturbed? Herod was disturbed because he was King of the Jews. Notice the accent that Matthew puts on this in verses 1, 3, and 9.

Matthew 2:1 ESV Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,

Matthew 2:3 ESV When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;

Matthew 2:9 CSB After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was– the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.

Rome had appointed Herod king in 37 B.C. But the wise men had spoken of a supernatural star that had announced the birth of a king. Notice that they asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They were not talking about someone who would be appointed king at some point in history. They were talking about one who was born king, one who by His very nature is King. The Bible calls Him King of kings and Lord of lords. He is not nominated or appointed. He is not elected and he cannot be voted out of office. His kingship does not depend on your vote. He does not become king by some parliamentary procedure, and he cannot be removed from office by a motion of no-confidence. Jesus was born King. It is his nature to rule. Look at the prophecy of Micah again in v. 5-6,

” They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'”” (Matt. 2:5-6 ESV).

whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Mic 5:2 ESV)

Jesus is the King who stepped down from his throne in heaven to become the babe in Bethlehem. No wonder Herod the king was troubled.

  • He was troubled because wise men had come. 
  • He was troubled because they had spoken of one who was born king of Israel.
  • He was troubled because a phenomenon in the heavens had announced the birth of this king.
  • He was troubled because the word of the wise men had been confirmed by the Scriptures.
  • He was troubled because this newborn king was going to be a ruler who would shepherd God’s people Israel.

Herod was troubled. Herod was King of the Jews and would accept no challengers. Herod was not even Jewish. He was not a rightful heir to the throne, but by political savvy, he had convinced Caesar to name him King of the Jews. Now he hears about the one who was the son of King David, the legitimate heir to the throne, the one whom all the Scriptures had pointed to. Herod was a man who, because of jealousy, had killed his favorite wife. He had killed two of his own sons. Herod would accept no rivals. He would attempt to kill the newborn King.

History has had its fill of men like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein. This past few years we have seen rulers in North Africa and the Middle East and North Korea kill thousands of innocent people to maintain their position as ruler.

King Herod would not hesitate to do away with a child who was born King of the Jews. So when Herod was troubled, everyone was troubled. Someone has aptly said that Herod was more interested in saving his throne than in saving his soul!

1.2.Herod made an inquiry from the chief priests and scribes to find out where Christ was to be born (2:4).

To kill the newborn King, Herod must find out where Christ was to be born. He determined from the chief priests and scribes that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.

1.3.Herod made further inquiry from the wise men to find out when Christ was born (2:7).

Herod pretended to be sympathetic to the wise men. They had come to worship the newborn king. They assumed that everyone would be rejoicing. They assumed that everyone knew about his birth. But the people did not know. Perhaps they had not seen the star. Perhaps they did not know what it meant. The wise men came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” It was clear to them that the birth had already taken place. They were asking people in Jerusalem where the newborn king was to be found. There were no Christmas lights. There was no celebration. The word reached Herod. Herod was troubled, but pretended to be glad about the news.

He had been informed by the scribes that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. 700 years before, Micah had prophesied that the ruler would come from Bethlehem. Herod knew now where to look, but he had to be careful. The wise men had seen a star. They would now know where to find the child. He took the wise men aside to speak to them privately. This was not the time for his advisors to figure out what he was up to.

Herod would tell the wise men where to look, but first he wanted some information from them. When had the star appeared? Why did he need to know this? He did not say.

“Bethlehem,” he told them. “You will find the child in Bethlehem. Go and search out the child diligently. Find out exactly where in Bethlehem he is. Then come tell me so that I can go worship him as well.”

Perhaps the wise men thought it strange that the king would know that the child was to be born in Bethlehem but had not known that the child had already been born. How strange that he would ask foreign diplomats to find the child for him rather than going himself to worship the child.

He told the wise men that he too wanted to worship the child. How happy the wise men must have been. There was no display of jealousy. The king wanted to worship the Christ child.

But no! Not at all. He had asked when the star had appeared because he wanted to know how old the child must be. He wanted to be able to identify him, not to worship him, but to kill him.

The wise men never needed to know. The wise men would never be the wiser. They would go to Bethlehem. They would find the child. They would worship him. They would return to Jerusalem to tell King Herod where to find him. Then Herod would go and kill him. So much for the newborn king. Herod would not tolerate any rivals to his throne.

But King Herod is not sovereign. There is a God, the one and only true God, who is sovereign and who rules over the affairs of men on earth. This all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise God, warned the wise men in a dream not to return to Herod. The plans of the King of Heaven and Earth would not be thwarted by some measly earthly king. The wise men were warned not to return to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another route. At the same time, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to get up and to take the child and to flee to Egypt. There was no time to lose. In the middle of the night, Joseph woke up and took the child and his mother and fled to Egypt.

Herod waited for the return of the wise men. They did not come. When Herod saw that the wise men had not returned when they should have, he was furious! He knew when the star had appeared to the wise men, so he sent and killed all the male children less than two years of age in Bethlehem and in all the region. Herod would stop at nothing to kill any concurrent to the throne.

It has been said that Herod is the picture of those who ask questions about Christ without any intention of acting rightly on the knowledge they receive. There are many who ask questions about Christ. Perhaps it’s out of curiosity. Perhaps it is in an effort to discount Christ’s claims upon their lives. But many are not sincere inquirers. They have no intention of submitting their lives to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.

But King Herod asked questions not simply out of curiosity but out of hostility. Herod is the picture of those who are hostile to Christ and to God.

There are God-haters today. People who try to kill God from the thinking of others. Christopher Hitchens was a well-known atheist. He did not believe in God and did not want anyone else to believe in him either. In 2007, he wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. It was just one of many books and articles that he wrote to put an end to God. He hated the very idea of God.

On Thursday, December 15, 2011, Christopher Hitchens died of esophageal cancer – too many cigarettes and too much alcohol. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that, the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But God himself takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Ezekiel 33:11 ESV …As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?

There are many God-haters in the world today. They know about God. They know that he exists. But they don’t want him interfering with their lives. They will be king of their own lives. No other king will sit on the throne of their heart. They are their own god. They worship themselves. They show their hostility to God by breaking his commandments and living as they want to.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way;” (Isa. 53:6 ESV).

We have all been hostile to God at some point in our lives. The good news is the rest of that verse: “and the Lord has laid on him, the iniquity of us all.” This child was born to die. He came to bear our sins, to take our place in judgment and to show the righteousness and the love of God the Father.

How about you? Do you live your life every day in submission to the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Or are you the ruler of your own life, the captain of your own ship? Who sits on the throne of your heart?

Some people, like Herod, are hostile to King Jesus.

2.Some People, Like the Chief Priests and Scribes, Neglect to Honor the King (2:1-6).

The distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was only five miles (eight kilometers). But the chief priests and scribes, who should have been excited about the news of the newborn and long awaited King, did not bother to go see him.

Some people are not openly hostile, but they fail to honor Christ with their lives. There are three kinds of people like the chief priests and scribes who may fail to honor Christ as King:

  • Intimidated
  • Indifferent
  • Ignorant

2.1. Intimidated. Oli fraet!

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; (Matthew 2:3 ESV)

King Herod is troubled, so everyone is troubled.

After the birth of Jesus, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” King Herod knew whom to consult: he assembled the chief priests and the scribes of the people. These were the people who studied the Scriptures and knew the Law and the Prophets. The wise men were looking for the newborn King, so Herod asked the chief priests and scribes where the Christ was to be born. They were able to respond without hesitation:

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, 

Not only were they able to tell King Herod where Christ would be born, they were able to tell him why:

for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” (Mat 2:5-6 ESV)

There was no hesitation. There was no lack of clarity. They did not tell Herod that there were different opinions and interpretations. They didn’t tell him that no one really knew for sure where the Christ would be born. These people knew the Scriptures.

There is no other book like the Bible. It is God’s Word. God has declared things before they happen so that when they happen we will know that He is God and there is none other beside him and no one like him. He declares wonders that we cannot imagine and they come to pass.

He had declared that the Promised One would be born of a virgin, and that he would be born in Bethlehem.

The scribes and the chief priests know about the coming king. They know the Scriptures, but they choose to ignore what they knew. For one reason or another, they turn away from the truth and vainly hope that there will be no consequences.

These people are sometimes intimidated by others.

Verse 3 tells us that when Herod the king heard that the wise men from the east had seen a star announcing the birth of the King of the Jews, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. The king was troubled, so they were troubled. The scribes were those who copied and studied and taught the Old Testament Scriptures. The coming of the Messiah was the hope of the Jewish nation. Finally, the promises of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament were being fulfilled. Their hearts should have been filled with joy, but they were troubled because the king was troubled. They were intimidated by the king. The king’s concerns became their concerns. They were troubled because of their fear of the king.

There are people today who do not honor King Jesus because they are afraid of what others will say. They are afraid of what their family will say. Or religious leaders. Or the chief of their village. The Apostle John tells us that

“many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (Jn. 12:42-43 ESV).

Who do you honor? Some people are intimidated.

2.2.Others are indifferent: they don’t act on what they know.

They know that Christ came, that he lived, died and rose again, but it does not matter to them. They live as if he never came.

Christ had come. Here was the hope of the Jewish people. God had given the promises. The long awaited Messiah had been sent. A special star announced his birth. Foreign dignitaries had come a great distance to welcome the newborn King. But the people who know the Scriptures were troubled and didn’t bother to go walk eight kilometers to Bethlehem to see what God had done! Shepherds and wise men came to see him. Angelic hosts sang, “Glory to God in the Highest!” But the chief priests and scribes did not care to go see him.

There are people who know what the Scriptures teach. They know what they ought to do. They know they need to repent. They know they should obey the Scriptures. They know who Jesus is. But they don’t want to change. They don’t want to trouble themselves to submit to the one who was born King.

These people are not ready to submit to another King.

Churches are filled with people who are religious. Many of them know their Bibles. They can answer questions about the Bible. They can quote Scriptures. They’ve heard the promises of God all their lives. They keep thinking that someday they will get right with God. Someday they will let Jesus be King of their lives.

Perhaps you are faithful to church every Sunday, but you have not submitted to King Jesus. You are trusting in your good works, in what you know, in your church attendance, but you have not submitted the control of your life to King Jesus. You keep thinking that everything will be alright, that someday you’ll get right with God. The Bible says, “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.”

Some people are religious. They know the Bible. They know that Jesus is the King. But they do not honor him as King. They refuse to submit to his Kingship.

Some people, like the scribes, fail to honor the King. They are indifferent.

2.3.Others are ignorant: they just don’t know.

They don’t come to the King because they haven’t heard that the King has come. They don’t know.

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? … (Romans 10:13-15 NLT).

Some people are hostile to Christ. Some people simply neglect Christ and their own salvation.

3.Some People Like the Wise Men Worship the King.

This story starts with the arrival of wise men from the East. They have seen evidence of the birth of the king.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1 ESV).

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20 ESV).

Who have these wise men come to worship? They have come to worship…

  • The one who was born of the virgin: 

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18 ESV).

  • The one who was conceived of the Holy Spirit:

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:19-20 ESV).

  • The one who would save his people from their sins:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”” (Matt. 1:21 ESV).

  • The one who is born King. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2 NLT).

  • The one who is God with us:

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:22-23 ESV).

They have come to worship God.

They know that nothing else matters so much as the birth of this King whose star they have seen. This King is the purpose of their lives. They travel many weeks from the East, perhaps from what we call Iraq or Iran today. The Jews had been exiled in Babylon. Many of them were still there.

Perhaps these wise men had learned about the prophecies of the coming of Christ through the Jews who lived in Babylon.

How much of this did they know? How much had been told them by Jews in Babylon? They knew that this child was a king. They knew that he moved the heavens for they had seen his star. They knew that he was worthy of worship.

Worship is not a style. Worship is not singing about worship. Worship involves the entire person in adoration of the most glorious being that exists. Worship is total agreement with God. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Worshiping God in spirit is worshiping him from the heart. It is not just singing a worship song; it is singing from the heart. It is spiritual.

Joy:

“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matt. 2:9-10 ESV).

“And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. ” (Matt. 2:11 ESV).

Worshiping God in truth: according to the truth about him.

“Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11 ESV).

Gold: Sign of royalty. The enfant was the newborn King.

Frankincense: Incense was used for the worship of God

Myrrh: For burial

Jesus was born to die. He was born to take your sins and mine upon himself. God alone could take away our sins.

What is your response to this one who was born king?

  • Neglect? Fail to honor him as God?
  • Hostility?
  • Worship?

REPENT: Let us repent of our sins. It may be natural for us to lie, to steal, or to commit adultery, but it is sin. The Fall has corrupted our natures and made us sinful.

BELIEVE: We need to believe that Jesus is the Savior. He is God with us. He is theKing.

FIND A BIBLE-BELIEVING CHURCH. Read you Bible. Pray. Seek the Lord. Come worship the King.

Sign-Off

Let me encourage you to find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Joy Bible Institute is accepting applications for the coming school year which begins March 2. If you believe that God has called you to full-time Christian ministry and are a member in good standing with a Bible-believing church, we would be happy to consider your application. JBI may be the school to help you prepare to fulfill the ministry that God has called you to do. You can download an application or fill one out online at joybible.wordpress.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

The Bible and Mythology

Download Recording

What are we to think of the Bible? What are we to think of Christianity? Is it truth or fiction? Is it myth or reality? Did someone dream all this up, or is the Bible the record of things that actually happened in the course of human history? What are we to think of the Bible? Who is telling the truth? Who are you going to believe?

1.  Myths

The world is full of myths, and Vanuatu has its own rich collection of myths. Myths are stories that people make up to explain various aspects of life and to express worldview, how we see and interpret the world. There are myths about the world and the creation of the sea. There are myths to explain where man and woman came from. Some myths are about the islands and how they came to be populated. There are myths that try to explain good and evil. Other myths have to do with how man and woman are to relate to one another and to each other’s families. There are myths about children and the consequences of disobedience. There are myths about the afterlife, what happens to a person and where he goes when he dies.

So myths are stories which attempt to explain life and its meaning. They often share wisdom as to how we should live and relate to others and to the world around us. Myths are meant for teaching so that the wisdom can be transmitted from one generation to another.

All cultures have their myths or their folklore. We could talk about the gods of Greek mythology, or Roman mythology, or Hindu or Chinese mythology. Various cultures interpret life with myths and symbols. All peoples everywhere have their stories that have been told and passed down as they search for meaning and try to explain the meaning of life.

1.1.              The Search for Meaning

Why is there this universal attempt on the part of all peoples everywhere to explain the meaning of life? Why do we search for meaning?

The Christian worldview not only explains the meaning of life and existence. It also tells us why we search for meaning and significance. The Bible tells us that we were created in the image of God with the capacity to know Him. God has placed in our hearts a longing for meaning and significance. Look around at the animal kingdom. Animals do not search the heavens to try to understand life and its meaning. They do not contemplate the universe or try to gain understanding. But the book of Ecclesiastes says that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV). Saint Augustine lived in the fourth century after Christ. In his famous book Confessions, he prayed to God, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” There is a huge vacuum in the heart of everyone, an emptiness that must be filled.

People everywhere search for meaning. So all cultures have their myths, their stories, their attempts to explain ultimate meaning.

1.2.               Christianity and Mythology

So how is Christianity any different from the mythologies of the world? The Bible is full of stories, so how is it different from the stories of any other culture?

Precisely in this: Christianity is not based on myths but on reality. The Bible is not based on someone’s philosophy about the meaning of life. It is not based on someone’s enlightenment or revelation. Christianity did not come out of someone’s dream or visions. In fact, the Bible specifically warns us about people who through their visions would lead us away from Christ:

 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it (Colossians 2:18-19 NLT).

The Bible is not based on someone’s ideas or dreams or visions or revelations about God. It is based on events that actually happened in human history. Christianity is based on the firm conviction that everything in the Bible including

  • the creation of the universe
  • the worldwide Flood
  • the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land by the Israelites
  • the miracles of Elijah and Elisha
  • the virgin birth of Jesus Christ
  • his miracles such as walking on water
  • his resurrection
  • and his ascension

The Bible is recorded history. All of these stories are literally and completely true. They really happened in the course of human history. They took place in time and space.

This is what the Apostle Peter, an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus Christ said,

2 Peter 1:16 ESV For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Peter insists that Christianity is not based on myths, stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, but on actual events that were verified by human eyewitnesses. The Bible is not the story of gods and goddesses and their activities in the heavens. It is the story of what God has done in human history here on earth.

2.  The Bible and Mythology

2.1.               The Bible Is the Story of God

At the risk of being repetitive, the Bible is God’s story. It is the story of God creating the entire vast universe and the earth in six days by his infinite wisdom, intelligence, and power. God created the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul. God took a rib from Adam’s side and fashioned Eve, the mother of all people everywhere.

God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and when they sinned, God drove them out of the garden, but promised that he would send a Savior who would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4-5). God dealt with Cain when Cain killed his brother Abel. Sixteen hundred years after the creation, when the earth became so full of violence that God could tolerate it no longer, he sent the Flood and destroyed sinful humanity with the exception of Noah and his family who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. When Noah’s descendants refused to populate the earth but decided to make a name for themselves by building a city to the heavens, God confused their languages at Babel so that even today we have 115 languages here in Vanuatu alone.

God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and renewed the promise that his many times great-grandson, who would be Jesus Christ, would be the source of blessing for all peoples everywhere. God sent the descendants of Jacob into Egypt and later delivered them from slavery by the hand of Moses in the Exodus. God opened the Red Sea so that six million Israelites crossed over on dry land. God drowned the Egyptian army in their attempt to recapture the Israelites. God made a covenant with the Israelites when he gave them the Law. God gave them manna in the wilderness and water from the Rock. God led them into the promised land of Canaan and made the walls of Jericho fall at the sound of the trumpets and the shout of the people. God raised up judges to deliver his people from their enemies. God sent prophets and set up kings. God renewed his promises of the coming Messiah and promised a new covenant. God judged his people for their sin and sent them into exile in Babylon. God raised up Cyrus, the Persian emperor, who allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem.

Galatians 4:4-5 ESV But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

We read in Acts 2:23-24 that when

this Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, [and the Jews] crucified and killed [him] by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

The Bible is not the story of gods or of God doing imaginary things in the heavens. It is the story of God doing great things on earth. Human history is God’s story. History is his-story.

  • The Exodus
  • The Conquest of Canaan
  • The Exile
  • The Return
  • The Incarnation of Christ
  • The Death of Christ
  • The Resurrection of Christ

2.2.               The Historicity of the Bible

Over and over again, the Bible insists on the historical reality of these events. So once again, Peter says,

2 Peter 1:16 ESV For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

The New Living Translation puts it this way in…

2 Peter 1:16-18 NLT For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

The Apostle John, another disciple of Jesus, the one who leaned on Jesus the night before the crucifixion, wrote this:

1 John 1:1-4 NLT We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

On that fateful night before the crucifixion, Jesus said this to his apostles,

John 15:27 ESV And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Luke tells us in his Gospel, in the opening verses of Luke,

Luke 1:1-4 NLT Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

Luke tells us again, in his second volume, the Book of Acts,

Acts 1:3 NLT During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive…

When the religious authorities were disturbed that the apostles were preaching about the resurrection, they threatened them and warned “them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again” (Acts 4:17).

Acts 4:19-20 NLT But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

These men who had lived with Jesus Christ for three years, these men who had walked the roads of Israel with the Master, who had seen him

  • Make the deaf to hear
  • Make the dumb to speak
  • Make the blind to see
  • Make the lame to walk
  • Raise the dead to life again
  • Calm the storm and cast out demons with a word

They all insist on the absolute reality of these events.

The Apostle Paul insisted that the Christian faith is verifiable and falsifiable. He insisted that you could prove it true or false based on one single event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives a list of people who had witnessed the resurrection of Christ: Peter, James, and the other apostles. But his most interesting reference is to other followers:

1 Corinthians 15:6 NLT After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

Paul is writing less than 25 years after the resurrection of Christ. Some scholars think that this was the appearance in Galilee that had been announced ahead of time on three different occasions by angels and by Jesus himself (Matthew 28:7, 10; Mark 14:28). Now, less than 25 years after the resurrection, Paul tells us that more than 500 people saw the resurrected Christ at one time and he adds this very interesting remark: “most of whom are still alive.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, most of the witnesses to the resurrection were still alive. Paul is telling the Corinthians that the facts of the resurrection could still be verified by living witnesses. Paul says in effect, “If you have any doubts about this, check with the living witnesses. Hundreds of them are still alive and they will tell you that Jesus was really raised from the dead.”

Now this is utterly important in Christianity. Our faith stands or falls on the literal reality of this event. Paul goes on to say this to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:14-19 NLT And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God– for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave… 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

This is no myth, Paul says. This is not a “kastom” story. This is absolutely and utterly true.

Acts 17:30-31 NLT “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

2.3.               Real People, Real Places, Real Events

As we read through the Bible, we read of real people and real places. Archaeological evidence has identified many of the people mentioned in the Bible. We could list the names of 50 rulers mentioned in the Old Testament: Egyptian Pharaohs, kings if the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel, and the emperors of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. In the same way, archaeological research has found extra-biblical evidence (evidence outside the Bible) for the existence of the Caesars of Rome, the Herods of Israel, governors, and many other people mentioned in the New Testament. The Bible itself is archaeological evidence that has been preserved and passed down through the centuries. The Bible is history.

Besides the historical figures that populate the Bible, there are the places: Ur, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tyre, Sidon, Moab, and literally hundreds of important places in the Bible. We know where they are. We can point to them on the map. Archaeologists have excavated these places and found evidence that the biblical record pointed to.

A number of years ago I had the privilege of going to the Middle East. I visited many of the places mentioned in the Bible. I stood by the Sea of Galilee and read the Beatitudes. I swam in the Jordan River. I visited places like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Jacob’s well in Samaria. Outside of Israel we went to Egypt, Baalbek, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Rome. I stood on Mars Hill in Athens where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians. We visited five of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation, located in modern day Turkey. These are real places.

The Bible is not the product of someone’s vivid imagination. It did not come out of someone’s dream or vision. The Bible is about real people in real places. But it is more than that.

2.4.               Meta-Narrative

The Bible is not simply a collection of stories. The Bible is one great story with a beginning and an end. When we approach the Bible, we might wonder if it is possible to make any sense out of it. It was written by more than 30 different authors over a period of some 1,600 years, people living at different times in different contexts and cultures from Rome to the Euphrates River. How could there be anything coherent in such a collection of 66 books?

This is one thing that makes the Bible unique. It was not written by one man like the Quran or the Book of Mormon, but the different authors, from Moses to Matthew, from Jeremiah to John, were all inspired by the same Holy Spirit who was writing according to His plan.

If we compare the Bible with the scriptures of other religions, we see that the Quran, for example is a strange collection of disjointed pieces. It is impossible to find any order, progress or arrangement. The 114 Suras or chapters of the Quran are arranged according to length. The longer Suras are first and the shorter ones last. It is the same with the Zoroastrian and Buddhist Scriptures. There is no beginning, middle or end. They are collections of different materials that are loosely placed together.

The Bible is completely different.

From Genesis to Revelation we feel that this book is in a real sense a unity. It is not a collection of fragments, but has, as we say, an organic character. It has one connected story to tell from beginning to end; as we see something growing before our eyes; there is plan, purpose, progress; the end folds back on the beginning, and, when the whole is finished, we feel that here again… God has finished all his works, and behold, they are very good.[1]

The Bible has four great movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation.

1.   Creation

God created everything from nothing. In six days God created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. He created man to know God and to enjoy him forever.

2.   Fall

But man fell and with the Fall came the terrible consequences of sin and death. We live today with the consequences of our action in Adam. When Adam sinned, we all sinned. The image of God in us has not been destroyed, but just as Adam and Eve hid from God after their rebellion, we hide and want to go our own way.

3.    Redemption

God is the searching God. He came into the Garden in search of Adam. Jesus tells us that God is still searching for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. It is a terrible thing when mythology creeps into our worship of the one true God. It is terrible when someone introduces dreams and visions rather than holding to what God has revealed about himself in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. We must fact the truth about ourselves and the truth about God. He is holy, righteous, loving, compassionate, all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere.

The story of Redemption begins when God himself comes seeking for man in the Garden. He promises a Savior. He calls Abraham and promises that the Savior would be his many times great grandson. He raised up the nation of Israel. He gave the Law which would be fulfilled by the Savior. He sent the prophets who told the people to get ready for the Savior. He sent the Savior who died and rose again to save us from our sins. That is the story of redemption.

4.   New Creation

The Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is coming back to make a new heavens and a new earth. What was lost in Eden, will be restored in the new earth.

This is not mythology. It is not someone’s wild dream. It is the message of nearly 40 different writers that God moved to write over a period of 1,600 years the precious Bible that has been entrusted to the Church of the Living God.

Conclusion

You can trust the Bible because you can trust the God of the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. But there comes a warning with the biblical text: because it is the Word of God, you must not take from it; you must not add to it. The Bible concludes with this warning:

Revelation 22:18-19 ESV I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

 


[1]Daniel P. Fuller quoting James Orr in The Unity of the Bible, p. 22.

John 11:45-53, “Made-Up Minds, Hardened Hearts”

Have you ever met someone with the attitude, “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with facts!” Today I’d like to talk to you about Made-Up Minds and Hardened Hearts. Stay tuned!

Made-Up Minds

“My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with facts!”

Microphone

Download Recording

Ever hear anyone say that? Perhaps you’ve never heard someone say it in quite those terms, but most of us have dealt with unreasonable people. And in our most honest moments, we might even admit to having made up our minds before considering all the facts.

That’s what we find in John 11.

No Neutral Ground

In John 11, Jesus did what no ordinary man could do. A friend named Lazarus had died. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. They wanted Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus was far away and it would have taken him about four days to get there. But instead of rushing to his sick friend, Jesus delayed his departure.

God works on a different timezone. Actually, He is the Creator of time and works outside of time. He is never in a hurry, and sometimes it seems to us that He is late. So in John 11, by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was cold stone dead. In fact, it was the fourth day since he had died.

But the story does not end there. Jesus goes to the tomb. He asks that the huge stone blocking the entrance to the tomb be removed. Martha, always the practical sister, protests that there would be an odor after four days. But Jesus responds, “Did not I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

It is often said that seeing is believing, but that is not true. This story demonstrates that those who see do not always believe. Only those who believe really see: “Did not I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

The death of Lazarus was all about belief. When Jesus announced to his disciples that Lazarus was dead, he told them,

John 11:15 ESV …for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe…”

When Martha professed faith that Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection on the last day,”

John 11:25-27 NLT Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

Now as they stand at the open tomb, Jesus prays to His Father so that the people may believe:

John 11:41-42 NLT So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”

Jesus called the dead man by name. With a loud voice he cried out, “Lazarus, come out!” Did you know that someday Jesus will call you from the grave? Jesus had already said in John 5,

John 5:28-29 ESV Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Do not imagine for a moment that it’s all over when they toss the last clump of dirt on your casket. The hymn by Will L. Thompson (1847-1909) speaks of that day:

There’s a great day coming, a great day coming;
There’s a great day coming by and by,
When the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left,
Are you ready for that day to come?

Refrain

There’s a bright day coming, a bright day coming;
There’s a bright day coming by and by.
But its brightness shall only come to them that love the Lord.
Are you ready for that day to come?

Refrain

There’s a sad day coming, a sad day coming;
There’s a sad day coming by and by,
When the sinner shall hear his doom: “Depart, I know you not!”
Are you ready for that day to come?

Refrain

Are you ready? Are you ready?
Are you ready for the judgment day?
Are you ready? Are you ready?
For the judgment day?

Jesus stood by the tomb of Lazarus and called him forth.

John 11:44 NLT And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

 Division

Well, what do you do with that? Jesus does just what he says he will do.

John 11:45 NLT Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

It would seem that everyone should believe in the face of such evidence, but that was not the case. The next verse tells us,

John 11:46 NLT But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

These informers were hardened in their unbelief. They run to the Pharisees not merely to inform them of what has happened, and certainly not to persuade them to believe in Jesus. No, these informers have sided with the Pharisees against Jesus. They want to get in good with these people of power and influence.

Throughout the Gospels, the Pharisees continually oppose Jesus. He challenges their superficial understanding of the Scriptures. He exposes their hypocrisy. Rather than humble themselves and repent, they resist Jesus and try to bury the truth. Those people who reported the miracle to the Pharisees had already made up their minds about Jesus. They had made-up minds and hardened hearts. So the raising of Lazarus only deepened the division over Jesus.

It is much the same today. “There are some things in life about which it is possible to be neutral and others about which this is not possible.”[1] For example, it probably does not matter to you what color your neighbor paints his house. But if the teenage boy next-door is throwing stones at your three year old son, you cannot be neutral. You cannot be neutral when women and children are abused or when babies are aborted. You cannot be neutral about moral issues.

People are not neutral about Jesus. They are either for him or against him, or they are very selective about what they believe about him. I was talking with a man this week who professed a certain veneration for Jesus, but he did not believe what Jesus said about himself. He did not believe that Jesus told the truth when he said that he was the only way to God. This man did not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, or that Jesus was coming back as the Scriptures declare. It makes no sense to say that Jesus was a great teacher if you reject his teaching. This is actually a hidden hostility toward Jesus.

Throughout the Gospel of John, we have seen people divided over Jesus and his claims. In John 7, when Jesus claimed to be the source of living water, “the crowd was divided about him” (John 7:37-43, NLT).

When he healed a blind man on the Sabbath, some said that he was not from God because he did the work on the Sabbath, but others asked how a sinner would do such signs (John 9:16).

When Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd, “the people were again divided in their opinions about him” (John 10:19, NLT).

Now in John 11, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many of the people believed in Jesus. Who were these people? They were friends of Martha and Mary. They had gone to console them in their loss. They had accompanied Mary to the tomb and there they “found themselves face to face with a stupendous work of God.”[2]

John 11:45 NLT Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

John’s whole purpose in writing this Gospel is to bring people to faith in Christ:

John 20:30-31 ESV Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 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.

“…the reaction of these people is the kind of reaction [John] is looking for from his readers generally.”[3]

Unbelief

But belief was not the only response to the raising of Lazarus. Some Jews “went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (John 11:46).

John 11:47 ESV So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.

A miracle like the raising of Lazarus should have compelled belief, but that was not the case. Some Jews told the Pharisees. The Pharisees and the religious authorities had a meeting. The facts are not in question: “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.”

“Many signs,” they said. In Jerusalem alone Jesus performed numerous signs. Already in John 2, people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus because of the signs which he did. In John 5, Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years. In John 9, he healed a man who had been blind from birth. Now in Bethany, just three kilometers from Jerusalem, Jesus has raised a man from the dead.

The enemies of Jesus admit that he has performed many signs, but they fail to believe what the signs signify.

These signs were written, John said, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God… (20:31).

That is the very thing that they refuse to believe. The religious authorities wanted to kill Jesus in John 5:18 when he made himself equal with God and claimed the prerogatives of God. The picked up stones to stone him in John 5:58 because he claimed the pre-existence of God. Again they wanted to stone him in John 10:30-33 “because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The religious authorities did not contest the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles. But he had to be stopped. Why did he have to be stopped? Jesus had to be stopped because…

Jesus Was a Dangerous Man

A man like Jesus was simply too dangerous to let loose on the public. Israel was not a sovereign nation. Israel was a nation under Rome. Every member of the Sanhedrin—the Supreme Court of Israel—every member knew that the Roman Empire held the real authority. The High Priest was appointed by Rome, and Rome could change the appointment or even completely revoke any local authority whenever it wanted to.

As long as things went smoothly in the country, as long as there was peace in the streets, the chief priests could maintain the position of prestige, power, and wealth. But a man like Jesus was a serious threat to their position. Too many people were following him. Rome could become very uneasy about a new people movement in Israel.

John 11:47-48 ESV So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

They chide themselves for not having solved the problem sooner. “What are we doing?” they asked. “We are getting nowhere fast!”

How often does concern for one’s position or place keep one from believing in Christ? In many places in the world, schools and universities are supposed to be places of academic freedom, as long as you accept the party line. As long as you believe that there is no absolute truth. As long as you believe in evolution. As long as you believe in abortion on demand. And the list goes on. If you do not accept these articles of faith, you risk losing your position.

The chief priests and Pharisees did not contest the reality of the miraculous signs but refused to believe what the signs said about Jesus. “Unbelief can mean a complete failure to reckon with the facts.”[4] These men saw that Jesus put their position in danger and they wanted none of it.

The Unconscious Prophecy

At this point, John points out that Caiaphas was the high priest that fateful year. Caiaphas was as concerned as any of them for his position. As high priest, he was the most powerful man of the Sanhedrin. Powerful and arrogant.

John 11:49-50 NLT Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”

Caiaphas felt his superiority: “You don’t know anything!” He points to their incompetence. They are unable to find a solution to this man who continues to work many miracles. They focus on the people and the consequences: “Everyone will believe in him,” they say, “and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Caiaphas focuses not on the results but on the cause. He could not be bothered with questions of justice or morality. For him, the end justified the means. All you have to do is kill the man who works the miracles. Kill the miracle worker and you kill the movement: “it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish” (John 11:50 NAU). Not “it is right,” but “it is expedient.”

It did not matter whether or not Jesus was guilty of a crime; the solution to the problem posed by his growing popularity was [not simply to silence him or imprison him, but] to have him killed. If he was put out of the way, there would be no problem; the nation would be saved.[5]

But Caiaphas spoke better than he knew.

The irony is, Caiaphas was talking about the nation of Israel being saved from the wrath of Rome, while the prophecy—as John turns it—is that he’s will die for people all over the world so they could be saved from God’s wrath![6]

He was not a religious man; he was an unprincipled politician. Nonetheless, as high priest, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation. Though an ungodly man, the words in his mouth had been put there by God.

God often uses wicked men for His own purposes. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter will declare that the people of Israel delivered up Jesus “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).

Leon Morris says this of Caiaphas:

God used him to enunciate a truth that was greater and more significant than Caiaphas ever dreamed. Jesus would die for the nation, but he would do more than that. He would die for all God’s children and gather them “into one” (v. 52). Scattered abroad through the world they might be, but the atoning death of Jesus would form a bond of unity. To this day those who have been saved through Christ’s death are one with each other in a way that surpasses all merely human unities.[7]

Here the words of Caiaphas are prophetic: Jesus would die for the nation, but not for the nation only, John tells us, “but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

This is exactly what Christ came to do. The Good Shepherd came to lay down his life for the sheep. In the previous chapter, Jesus has said,

John 10:14-16 ESV 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.

The Good Shepherd would die for the nation and for all the future children of God scattered abroad. Jesus would die not only for the Jews, but for you and me.

Hardened hearts.

John 11:53 NLT So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death.

Made-up minds. Hardened hearts.

What will you do with Jesus? You cannot ignore him. He does not allow that. Jesus pushes the envelope, so to speak. He allows no room for neutrality. He is unconventional; he breaks with tradition. He works on the Sabbath and when called to account for his actions, he simply replies that he is only doing what God has always done on the Sabbath. He quotes no authorities; he is the final authority. He will not be silenced; his words ring out through the centuries. You can kill him and bury him, but he won’t stay put; he rises from the dead.

The facts were never called into question. No one doubted that Jesus had healed the lame man, or opened the eyes of the man born blind, or raised Lazarus from the dead. And when Jesus himself rose from the dead, the authorities never questioned the testimony of the disciples or the hundreds of other witnesses to his resurrection. Facts are facts. But facts do not force faith. Faith is turning to Christ and trusting him for your eternal welfare. It is trusting him for your salvation: not the good things that you do. Not keeping the Sabbath. Faith recognizes that our righteousness stinks. Christ is our only hope. He died in our place to save us from the wrath of God.

So what will you do with Jesus?

Romans 10:9-13 NLT If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

Turn to him and be saved.

[1] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 418.

[2] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 420.

[3] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 420.

[4] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 422.

[5] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 424.

[6] Philip W. Comfort, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 192.

[7] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 424.

See also “Gospel of John”: