I John 2 – Part 12

“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” I John 2:27

One of the primary reasons the apostle John is writing his first epistle is because he is concerned that the enemies of God may jeopardize his readers’ fellowship with the Lord. We have learned there are three enemies to our fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5—2:11), the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-23).

John wants his readers to know that false teachers or antichrists defected from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea and sought to spread deception among John’s Gentile readers (2:18-19). John reassures his readers that they are not defenseless against these antichrists because they had the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables them to understand and apply the truth of God’s Word and detect deception (2:20-21).

The primary deception of these false teachers denied that Jesus was the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (2:22a; cf. John 11:25-27). Denying that Jesus is the Christ is also a denial of “the Father and the Son” (2:22b) because to deny One is to deny the other and to acknowledge One is to acknowledge the other since Jesus is God and perfectly reflects God the Father (2:23; cf. John 5:24; 10:30, 38; 12:44-45; 14:9-11; et al.).

John then explains how his readers could continue to enjoy fellowship with God and experience victory over these false teachers: “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (I John 2:24). John once again utilizes his favorite word for fellowship or intimacy with God – “abide” (menō). This Greek word means to “to remain, stay, dwell, continue” 1  in fellowship. John uses this word twenty-four times in I John (2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24 [3], 27 [2], 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17 24 [2]; 4:12, 13, 15, 16 [3].

If John’s readers were going to continue to enjoy fellowship or closeness with God “the Son” and God “the Father,” they must “abide” or remain in the truth they “heard from the beginning” of their Christian experience about God’s Son (2:24). False teaching leads believers away from fellowship with God and other Christians. This is why John tells them to abide in the truth about Jesus. Truth is what gives us new life in Christ. And truth is what enables us to enjoy this new life of fellowship with God. 2

What had John’s readers heard about God’s Son from the beginning of their Christian experience? 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (I John 1:1-2). While John makes it clear that Jesus Christ is “the true God and eternal life” (5:20), he wants to emphasize the realities of eternal life itself 3 as it relates to “the beginning” of the gospel proclamation by Christ which John and the other disciples (“we”) witnessed (1:1-2; cf. 5:11-13; John 1:14). The phrase “Word of life” refers to the message about the life Jesus offers. This “life” is what John and the other apostles witnessed in Jesus. 4

When John writes, “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you…” (2:24b), the “if” in the Greek language means they might do what he asks of them, and they might not. 5 They might abide in the truth they heard about Jesus from the beginning of their Christian lives, and they might not. John says if they do abide in the truth about Jesus that gave them new life, namely, they believed in Jesus as the Christ to be born of God and possess eternal life (5:1, 13) – they will continue to enjoy fellowship with Him and the Father.

“John’s point here is that the Holy Spirit’s ministry always remains available to teach Christians, but the truth (‘what you have heard from the beginning’) must remain in us. Think of it like satellite TV. The satellite communicates, but your satellite dish must receive the signal. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to every believer, but many believers do not operate in a position of dependence on the Spirit because their satellite dishes only function on Sunday mornings.” 6

John’s readers were being told by the antichrists that Jesus was not the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. But John refutes this by saying, “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” (I John 2:25). Instead of listening to the falsehoods of the antichrists, John redirects his readers to the unchanging “promise” of God which guarantees “eternal life” to all who believe in Jesus (cf. 5:1, 13; John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31). This is the message they heard from the beginning of their Christian experience. This is how they began a personal relationship with God. Assurance of eternal life is found in God’s promises, not in the lies of false teachers which denied that eternal life is through simple faith in Jesus.

There is much confusion today about assurance of salvation. Some insist that assurance of going to heaven is based on our performance and whether we measure up to certain tests concerning the quality of our Christian experience. 7 But if we look to our performance or experience, we will never be certain we have eternal life because we always fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23; I John 1:8, 10). Whenever we take our focus off Christ and His finished work on the cross (John 19:30), we are more likely to doubt our salvation. Even on our best day, we still fall short of God’s glory.

John wants his readers to look to the unchanging promises of God for the assurance of their salvation. “God’s promises don’t change. That’s why the promises of God are the foundation for our assurance of salvation. People who want to teach that 1 John is a book of tests to determine whether you are a Christian or not have gone completely against what John himself uses as his source of assurance: the promises of God.” 8

Why does John remind his readers of their secure relationship with Jesus? “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” (I John 2:26). John did not want his readers to be deceived by the false teachers who tried to undermine their assurance of salvation. Knowing they have eternal life simply be believing in Jesus for it would enable them to effectively resist these antichrists who taught John’s readers they were not genuinely saved because they lacked a secret knowledge which only the false teachers could give them to have eternal life. John understood if a Christian doubts his or her salvation they are more vulnerable to losing their fellowship with God and the apostles.

John reminds his readers they were not dependent upon the antichrists or any human teachers. “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (I John 2:27). Since John’s readers had “the anointing” of the Holy Spirit to teach them to correctly understand and apply God’s truth as long as they “will abide in Him,” they did not need the teaching of the antichrists or any human teacher. The anointing of the Holy Spirit or “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) teaches them what “is true and is not a lie.” The Spirit’s teaching is always consistent with what “it has taught” previously. God’s Word will not contradict itself.

This suggests that John’s readers were spiritually mature since only the immature need human teachers. The writer of Hebrews states, 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14). John’s readers not only had a knowledge of God’s Word, but they also had the skill to put it into practice. This enabled them “to discern both good” or truthfulteaching from “evil” or false teaching.

Am I suggesting it is possible for Christians not to have a need to be taught by other Christians? Yes and no. Keep in mind that we can always benefit from the teaching of others, but must we be dependent upon their teaching for our own spiritual maturity? First John 2:27 is just as true today as it was when John wrote it. All Christians at the beginning of their Christian life need human teachers to teach them the truths of God’s Word to help them become more like Christ. This is known as discipleship (Matt 10:24-25; 28:19-20; John 8:31-32). But as new believers learn to depend upon the Holy Spirit to teach them the Word and obey it, they can eventually learn to discern truth from deception without the assistance of human teachers.

God has given spiritual gifts to equip believers for the work of the ministry (Ephes. 4:11-12). Hence, someone with a gift of teaching will equip believers without this gift how to teach themselves. Spiritual gifts are meant to help others in areas where they are weak until they can to it independently of the gifted person.

According to I John 2:27, the ongoing teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit is always consistent with what the Holy Spirit has already taught. For example…

  • If the Spirit has taught that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully Man (and He has – Isaiah 9:6-7; 44:6; Matt. 8:24; 9:11; Mark 6:3; John 1:1, 14-18, 34, 49; 2:12; 4:6; 5:16-47; 6:69; 7:3, 5; 8:57-59; 10:30-33; 11:27, 35; 12:27; 14:7-9; 19:28; 20:28, 31; 21:12; Acts 16:31, 34; 20:28; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Phil. 2:6-8; I Tim. 2:5; 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; I John 5:20; Rev. 1:17; 22:13), then He would not say centuries later that Jesus was not God nor human.
  • If the Spirit has taught that believing in Christ for eternal life apart from any works is all that is necessary to go to heaven (and He has – John 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 14:1-3; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16; Ephes. 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Tim. 1:16; I John 5:1, 13), then He would not teach that one must do more than believe in Him such as turn from sins, be baptized with water, live a good life, keep the Ten Commandments, and confess Jesus is Lord.
  • If the Spirit has taught that the only way to God is through faith in Jesus Christ (and He has – John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 14:1-6; Acts 4:10-12; 16:31; I Tim. 2:3-5), then He would not say centuries later that all religions lead to God.
  • If the Spirit has taught that the Bible is the inspired Word of God without any errors in its original manuscripts (and He has – 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), then He would not teach centuries later that the Bible is full of errors.

The gospel promises of God never change. Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah-God, the Son of God, Who came from God the Father (John 1:18; 3:16). Jesus guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27; I John 5:1, 13). The Antichrist and his false teachers deny that Jesus is God or the Son of God. They also deny that eternal life is through simple faith in Christ alone.

Islam denies that Jesus is the Son of God Who came from the Father. They also deny that eternal life is through simple belief in Jesus Christ. For the average Muslim, if he does more good than bad, he can hope for Allah’s merciful judgment to permit him to enter Paradise. For the outstanding Muslim, if he dies in battle against the infidels, he gains an instant entrance into Paradise. 9

The apostle Paul wrote, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8). Paul warned his readers that if he and the other apostles (“we”) or “an angel from heaven” preached a different gospel than what Paul preached to them, he is to be “accursed” or under God’s displeasure. Paul used the words “believe” and “faith” fifteen times when referring to justification before God (2:16; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26) in the book of Galatians. He used no other words as a condition for justification. He warned the Galatians not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe / faith alone” gospel (1:6- 9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how kind or helpful a person is who teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone. This is very strong language!

With this said, the New Testament advises Christians to “correct” or “avoid” those who teach doctrine contrary to Jesus and the apostles (Matt. 15:10-14; 16:5-12; Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:8-9; I Tim. 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Tim. 2:23-26; Titus 1:9; 3:9-11), but we are in no way commanded to resort to violence against those who embrace other faiths. Unfortunately, Christians have not always followed God’s instructions for dealing with false teachers.

Anderson writes, “During the days of the Reformation, all the parties in western Christianity were guilty of the destruction of people for false teaching. The Pope, Martin Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin—all of them sanctioned torture and killing of false teachers. The Anabaptists were killed by other Protestants because they did not believe in infant baptism. Zwingli was viewed by Luther as a heathen because he believed the elements in the Lord’s Supper were symbolic. Thousands and thousands were burned at the stake or beheaded. Though Luther and Calvin believed Christ fulfilled the Law and the New Covenant superseded the Old Covenant, they retreated to Old Covenant laws to rid themselves of anyone who did not believe as they did.” 10

Nowhere in the New Testament are we instructed to murder or kill false teachers inside or outside the church. We are to correct them or shun them if they do not repent and embrace the truths of the Bible.

According to the apostle John, false teaching about God the Father and God the Son is one of the greatest enemies to fellowship with God (2:18-27). Thankfully, the anointing of the Holy Spirit gives Christians the ability to correctly understand and apply biblical truth and detect deception. The primary lies of false teachers deny the equality of God the Father and God the Son, and the free gift of eternal life through belief in Christ alone. All Christians throughout church history need to abide in the anointing of the Holy Spirit to protect them from those who seek to distract and derail them from pursuing Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables every Christian to correctly understand Your truth and apply it to our lives. This same anointing also empowers us to detect deception, especially as it relates to God the Father and God the Son, and the free offer of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus. Help us continue to abide in the internal ministry of the Holy Spirit so we may remain faithful to Your Word which You have entrusted to us. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631.

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 126.

3. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 588.

4. Ibid. pg. 589.

5. The Greek phrase Ean en hymin meinē is a third-class condition and conveys probability, not certainty, about the future. See Anderson, pg. 126.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2941.

7. Anderson, pg. 15 cites cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).

8. Anderson, pg. 128.

9. Ibid., pp. 126-127; cf. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 30-34; Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 142, 148, 153-154, pp. 163-164. 10. Anderson, pg. 127.

I John 2 – Part 7

“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” I John 2:14b

After reviewing foundational truth about their position in Christ as “little children… fathers… and young men” (2:12-13b), the apostle John repeats the same three stages of spiritual development to assure them that he is aware of their spiritual growth (2:13c-14).

“By repeating the three categories under which he here addressed his audience, John suggested not only that they possessed spiritual attainments worthy of being called children, fathers, and young men, but also that they possessed these attainments in ample measure.” 1

This is not what we would expect if John was writing to provide tests for eternal life as some suggest. Clearly, John does not doubt his readers’ salvation experience or their subsequent spiritual growth. He is writing “because” he is assured of their salvation and their deepening fellowship with God (2:12-14). His concern is that their enemies (“antichrists”) may jeopardize their fellowship with God by questioning the genuineness of their salvation experience (2:25-27; 5:9-13) and their subsequent fellowship with the Lord.

In the first series of three we learned about the minimal experience for each stage of spiritual development (2:12-13b). In the second series of three we are given a description of a more advanced spiritual experience for each stage (2:13c-14). 2

“I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.” (I John 2:13c). As spiritually “little children” (teknion or “little born ones”), John’s readers had experienced the complete forgiveness of their sins at the moment of faith in Christ (2:12; cf. 5:13a). But now he uses a different word for “little children” (paidia) which means “taught ones” 3 and can refer to “one who is open to instruction.” 4 While it is true that all believers in Jesus have experienced the forgiveness of their sins as part of their salvation experience (cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14), we learn in this second series of three that John’s readers now “have known the Father.” Forgiveness led them to know the Father more intimately. 5

Unlike newborn infants who scarcely recognize their fathers, these believers have come to know their divine Parent more intimately through spending time with Him. 6 They have grown from merely appreciating God had forgiven all their sins at the moment of faith in Christ (2:12) to knowing God as their Father in a more intimate way through shared time and experience with Him (2:13c). Not all believers advance beyond appreciating the forgiveness of their sins to knowing God more intimately as a result of spending time with Him and obeying Him (I John 2:3-4; John 2:23-25; 14:21). John’s readers had, however, and he encourages them with his awareness of their spiritual growth.

Next John writes, “I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” (I John 2:14a). Notice that John’s second description of his readers’ spiritual experience as “fathers” is the same (2:13a, 2:14a). This suggests that nothing can be added to knowing the Eternal One (“Him who is from the beginning”) more intimately. The fact that he repeats this same description implies that they had grown much closer to Christ over time. Their intimate knowledge of God was “fully sufficient.” 7 They have persevered over the long haul. Circumstances did not dictate their actions.” 8 They kept their eyes on the Eternal One, and grew better not bitter.

John then adds to his readers’ experience as “young men” in his second description of them: “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” (I John 2:14b). Before repeating what he said the first time about them using the Greek perfect tense (“you have overcome the wicked one”), he adds using the present tense, “you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” John encourages his readers by telling them they “are strong.” They are ready for spiritual battle. How did they become spiritually “strong”? The phrase “the word of God abides in you” explains how this took place. The word “abides” (menō) is one of John’s favorite descriptive terms for fellowship with God. It means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue.” 9 The reason these believers had become strong spiritually and ready for battle was because God’s Word had made its home in their hearts.

The night before His crucifixion, Christ spoke to His disciples about bearing much fruit to prove they are His “disciples” and glorify God the Father (John 15:8). Christ taught them, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). Answered prayer was based on abiding in Jesus through obedience (cf. I John 3:24) and His words abiding in them.

How can we let Jesus’ words abide in us? I will share a method I learned a couple of years ago called the SWORD Drill. 10 During your Scripture reading, select a verse(s) to focus on as you step through the SWORD Drill. Using this guided process will help you let Christ’s words abide in you so you can experience His Word in a way that changes your heart and renews your mind.

S is for Scripture. Which verse or verses stood out to you in your Bible reading? Write it/them below.

W is for Wait. Take a few minutes to wait on the Holy Spirit. Put aside any thoughts and worries of the day. Meditate on the Scripture. Read the verse(s) above aloud, slowly and attentively. Then pause to let it sink in. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

O is for Observe. What did you notice about the verse(s) from above? Was there something that the Holy Spirit spoke to you? Write your observation below.

R is for Request. Ask God to show you where and how the Scripture and observation apply to your life. Write the application below.

D is for Dedicate Yourself. Looking at how the Scripture applies to you, what is one thing that needs to change? Remember, this is not necessarily about something you need to do (or stop doing). Perhaps the change is in the way you see God, yourself, or others.  

In Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul instructed Christians in the city of Ephesus to pray and put on the whole armor of God to withstand the attacks of Satan and his demonic armies. Each piece of armor refers to the way we think (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-5). Paul describes the armor that Roman infantrymen wore in the order they would put it on. He begins with the inner armor the soldier would put on first: their “belt” (6:14a) to hold his breastplate and sheathe for his sword in place, his “breastplate” (6:14b), and his shoes (6:15). Then he puts on the outer armor “on top of all” 11  these other pieces of armor (6:16a): his “shield” (6:16b), his “helmet” (6:17a), and his “sword” (6:17b).

This list of armor only has one offensive weapon. The rest are defensive except the shoes, which are neutral. “The sword is the only weapon that can be used for offense. And the most common shield during the time of Paul was not small and circular, but large and rectangular. If you saw a Roman soldier coming at you, about all you would see would be this shield, some feet, and the top of a helmet. So, how is the enemy to overcome this soldier? Answer: he must knock the sword out of the soldier’s hand.” 12

The sword for the Christian is “the word of God” (Ephes. 6:17b). The Greek word for “sword” (machairan) here refers to a short and two-edged weapon, used to cut and stab in hand-to-hand combat. 13 “The word of God” refers to the spoken “word” (rhēma) 14 of God rather than to the written word.

For example, God’s Word abided in Jesus so He could speak the Word to the devil when he tempted Jesus to sin, and the devil was defeated (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). This is “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephes. 6:17b)in that the Holy Spirit gives us the Scripture to speak to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield, so that the devil will flee from us (cf. Matt. 10:19-20; James 4:7). The Holy Spirit is our Teacher and He will guide us into all truth daily (John 16:13). Learn to rely on Him and listen to His voice.

The fact that this sword was “two-edged” is significant. One edge represents God speaking to you and the other edge represents you speaking God’s Word to the enemy when he tries to attack you.

“When our enemy the devil can take the Word of God out of the hand of a believer, he is well on his way to victory. Conversely, when God’s young men and women wield God’s Word, there is good reason to expect victory over the enemy.

“Here in 1 John 2:14 John tells us what makes the young men strong. It is the Word of God abiding in them. And when we actually go into battle against the world in 2:15-17, we will see the same temptations the devil put in front of Jesus, and we will be reminded that it was through God’s Word abiding in Jesus that He found victory against the temptations of this world.” 15

First John 2:12-14 reminds us that just because a person has been a Christian many years does not mean they are older spiritually. Spiritual growth begins with us as “little children” who experience the Father’s forgiveness the moment we believe in Christ for His gift of salvation (I John 2:12; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14), and then after that as we become aware of sin in our lives and honestly confess it to the Lord to restore or maintain our fellowship with Him in the light (I John 1:5-2:2). As we share the light with the Lord it leads us to know the Eternal One more intimately as “fathers” (I John 2:13a, 14a). When we get to know Christ more intimately, we become more acquainted with His Word and allow it to abide in our hearts and minds so we can speak its truth to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield. Hence, as vigorous “young men,” we must allow God’s Word to abide in us to experience victory over the wicked one (I John 2:13b, 14b) as we face the world and its many temptations (2:15-17).

What spiritual developmental stage are you in at this time? Are you like a little child who has recently experienced the forgiveness of the Savior for the very first time? Has your experience of God’s forgiveness led you to know God more intimately as a result of spending time with Him? Or do you identify more with a father who has come to know the Eternal One intimately over the long haul no matter what your circumstance? And you are ready to mentor other believers to do the same? Or do you see yourself as a vigorous young man who experiences spiritual victory over the evil one by allowing God’s Word to abide in you and make you strong? Whatever stage you find yourself in, it is essential to know God is on your side and no one is greater than Him.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your forgiveness which gives us a fresh start in life the moment we believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to know You more intimately as we learn to spend time with You in the light by being open and honest with You about what You reveal to us. May Your Word abide in us so we have the strength to speak Your truth to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield. Regardless of what spiritual developmental stage we are in, we need You every step of our Christian lives, Father. Thank You for never leaving us nor forsaking us. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3686.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 45.

3. Ibid.

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 749.

5. Again John uses the perfect tense of the stative verb “to know” (egnōkeite) which means to know intensely or intimately. See David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 74; cf. K. L. McKay, “On the Perfect and Other Aspects in the New Testament Greek,” Novum Testamentum, Vol. 23, Fasc. 4 (Brill: 1981), pp. 289-329.

6. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3682.

7. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2938.

9. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

10. Adapted from Pure Desire Ministries at puredesire.org.

11. The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the Greek words epi pasin which mean “on top of all.” See Anderson, pg. 103.

12. Ibid.

13. Bauer, pg. 622.

14. Ibid., pg. 905.

15. Anderson, pp. 103-104.

I John 2 – Part 6

“I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” I John 2:13b

In our study of I John, the apostle John is preparing his readers for spiritual battle (2:12-14) against the world (2:15-17) and the devil (2:18-25) after having addressed their battle with sin (1:5-2:2). To prepare them for warfare, He is reviewing fundamental truth about their position in Christ. Like “little children,” they had experienced complete and permanent forgiveness from their heavenly Father the moment they believed in “the name of the Son of God” (2:12; cf. 5:13a). As “fathers” they now know the Eternal One intimately (2:13a; cf. John 17:3a).

Today John will address the third foundational truth based on their position in Christ. “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” (I John 2:13b). Their experience as “little children” (forgiveness of sins) and as “fathers” (intimate knowledge of God) renders them as vigorous “young men” who are prepared to do battle with Satan. 1

Once again John uses the Greek perfect tense to describe their position in Christ. The perfect tense describes a completed action in the past that has continuing results to the present. Hence, as “little children” they have been “forgiven” (apheōntai) of all their sins when they believed in Christ for salvation and they remain forgiven at the time of John’s writing (2:12). As “fathers” they “have known”(egnōkeite) God as the Eternal One from the moment of their salvation and they continue know Him in this way (2:13a; cf. John 17:3).

And now John uses the Greek perfect tense when he writes that as “young men” they “have overcome” (nenikēkate) Satan or “the wicked one” (2:13b). The Greek perfect tense conveys a past victory over the evil one which continues to produce fruit in the present. 2 In what sense have all believers “overcome the wicked one”?

John writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). Every time a person believes in Jesus as the Christ for new birth, a definite victory is made over the world: 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:4-5). John informs us that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (I John 5:19b).

Satan is actively engaged in blinding people’s minds to prevent them from believing in the gospel of God’s Son (2 Cor. 4:3-6). He uses the world system to teach many false views which desensitize people to their need for a Savior including such things as:

  • Humanity is basically good so people do not need to be saved from sin.
  • Since God is love, all people will go to heaven.
  • Jesus was just a good moral teacher or prophet who provided a good example to follow.
  • God and the Bible cannot be trusted.
  • Sin has no consequences.
  • God does not exist.

But when God breaks through these (and other) lies and a lost sinner “believes that Jesus is the Son of God” to be “born of God” (I John 5:4-5), then Satan is directly defeated (2 Cor. 4:3-6). And since the effects of new birth can never be reversed by Satan, this defeat is decisive and permanent (Luke 8:12). At the very least, John’s readers are viewed as “young men” who had experienced victory over the wicked one when they put their faith in Christ for eternal life, and the results of this victory are still there. They still have a perfect standing before God in heaven (cf. Rom. 8:33-34; Heb. 10:10, 14). This positional truth is intended by John to encourage his readers to move out into battle against this world and its ruler, knowing that their victory in Christ is secure. 3

The author of the gospel of John is the same author of I John. John uses the Greek perfect tense for the same word translated “have overcome” (nenikēka) when he records Christ’s encouraging words to His disciples the night before His crucifixion: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). There are three contrasts in the first half of this verse which have incredible significance:

1. “in Me” versus “in the world”: Jesus depicts the disciples as living in two spheres. The first is spiritual and eternal (“in Me”) and the second is physical and temporal (“in the world”).The phrase “in Me” points back to the intimacy Christ spoke of in the vine and branches imagery (John 15:1-8). Disciples of Jesus can “have peace” in Christ who never changes, not “in the world” which is ever-changing. We are not going to find peace in the world. Only Christ can give us the peace we yearn for. If our focus is on Christ, then peace can be our experience. If our focus is on the world, then we can expect “tribulation.” This word (thlipsin) refers to “trouble that inflictsdistress brought about by outward circumstances.” 4

2. “you may have” versus “you will have”: In the spiritual realm the disciples “may have” peace. The verb translated “may have” (echēte) is in the subjunctive mood which means it is possible or desirable 5 they may have peace, but Christ did not guarantee their peace in this life. If they abide in Christ (“in Me”), then they can have peace. But it is not certain they will abide in Him. But Jesus does guarantee they “will have” tribulation in the world. The verb translated “will have” (echete) is in the indicative mood which conveys certainty 6 that the disciples will experience tribulation in the world. The disciples will not be able to escape the tribulation that is in the world. Perhaps the disciples still did not believe persecution was imminent  (cf. John 15:18-16:4). They expected to rule with Jesus soon in His coming Kingdom (cf. Matt. 16:21-28; Luke 22:24-30). Their expectations kept them from receiving more truth from Christ that they found to be contrary to what they wanted – this is something all of us must guard against. 7

3. “peace” vs. “tribulation”: If the disciples (and we) abide in Christ and stay focused on Him, they can experience internal “peace” (eirēnēn) or a deep-seeded calmness that is given to obedient believers (cf. John 14:21, 23, 27a) even though they will definitely have “tribulation” in the world. This peace of Christ arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.8

The world cannot give this kind of peace to believers. The world gives Christians “tribulation” because the world opposes Christ and His followers (15:18-16:4). The word “tribulation” “is used in a general sense to speak of the ‘pressing affliction’ that the disciples must endure as they identify with Christ in an unbelieving world (cf. 15:18-25). This is the pressure believers experience when they take a stand for Christ or speak out on a sensitive moral issue. Yet although believers face intense pressure from the world, they can enjoy internal peace in Christ.” 9

Some teach that if you are doing God’s will everything will go smoothly. This is contrary to what Jesus promises. Even if you are living for Christ “you will have tribulation” because the world hates Jesus and those who follow Him (15:18-21). If the world does not hate a believer, it may be because that believer is being conformed to the world instead of being transformed by the Word.

After the disciples forsook the Lord at the time of His arrest (cf. Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50), they may have felt ashamed and uneasy whenever they thought of Jesus. But Jesus predicted their desertion in the very saying where He also assured them of the peace He would give them (John 16:32-33). Christ loved them despite their shortcomings. In the future when they looked back on their desertion, they would reflect that Jesus predicted it. And even though He knew full well they would abandon Him, He had promised them peace. That is grace. Christ would give them peace even though they did not deserve it.

The world would definitely bring the disciples distress, but they could “be of good cheer.” The word translated “be of good cheer” (tharsaeite) means “to be firm or resolute in the face of danger or adverse circumstances, be enheartened, be courageous.” 10

Why could the disciples face these upcoming challenges with courage? Christ explains, “I have overcome the world.” As mentioned previously, this is the same Greek perfect tense verb John used in I John 2:13b. The word “overcome” (nikaō) means “to win in the face of obstacles, be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 11 So, Jesus speaks of His victory over the world as though it is an accomplished fact with continuing results to the present!

It was no accident that Jesus spoke these triumphant words, “I have overcome the world” even as the Roman soldiers were buckling on the weapons for His arrest. That is confidence, isn’t it!?! But this is a confidence that would be lacking in the disciples that night. At first, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, pulled out a sword in Jesus’ defense (Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10). But by the next day, all Eleven disciples had lost faith. Those triumphant words from the previous night must have haunted the disciples as they watched from a distance as Jesus agonized on the cross. It appeared to them that the world had overcome Jesus. But on Sunday morning, their faith would be reignited and strengthened by the resurrection of their Lord.

To an unbeliever, the cross of Christ seems like total defeat for Him. But Jesus sees it as a complete victory over all that the world is and can do to Him. Christ goes to the cross, not in fear or in gloom, but as a Conqueror! Because Jesus won the victory over the hostile world and Satan through His death and resurrection (cf. John 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Colossians 2:13-15; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5), we can also win against this hostile world and its ruler as we face difficulties with His courage! Because Jesus has already won the battle, we can claim the victory as we face trials triumphantly.

In John 16:33, John wants us to see that victory begins when, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we find peace in living life for Him. In I John 2:13b, the apostle wants us to realize that the moment we believe in Christ for our new birth (5:1), it was our faith that permanently defeated Satan’s and the world’s opposition towards saving faith (5:4-5). Knowing this can give us much courage as we face intimidating challenges.

When we were serving the Lord in the Philippines, I sometimes liked to watch NBA basketball. One of my favorite teams at that time was the Dallas Mavericks. Since we were fourteen hours ahead of CST in Dallas, Texas, I was not available to watch their games in the mornings in the Philippines when they were televised live. So, I watched the replay of their games in the evenings. Before I would do that, I liked to check the final score on ESPN, so I would know if the Mavericks had won before I sat down to watch them. Knowing my team had already won the game, gave me confidence even though I may watch my team make several mistakes and fall behind in the score. I did not give up on them though because I already knew they would win the game.

The same is true in our Christian lives. We already know the outcome of this battle between Jesus and the world and the ruler of the world. Knowing Christ has already won the victory over the world and the devil can enable us to have courage when we face intimidating challenges (John 16:33). Knowing that our faith in Christ at the time of our conversion permanently overcame the world and Satan, gives us confidence going into spiritual battle (I John 2:13b). At times it may seem that the world and Satan are winning the battle when we fail, or other believers fail, but the truth is Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection! The truth is we can move out into battle against this hate-filled world based on our complete victory in our position through Christ. We can fight “from” the victory Jesus and our faith have already won, not “for” the victory as though it was completely dependent upon us alone.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You so much for preparing us for spiritual battle by reminding us of our position in Christ. As Your little children, we have permanent forgiveness of all our sins so the enemy cannot successfully accuse us or condemn us. As fathers, we know You as the Eternal One and it is this intimate knowledge of You that delivers us from the enemy’s lies. As young men, we have permanently defeated the world and its ruler with our faith when we believed in the Son of God for our new birth. This permanent victory over their hostility toward saving faith encourages us to move out into battle knowing the war has already been won. Thank You for this confidence You have given to us, Lord, based on our position in Christ. In the matchless name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.

2. Ibid.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 102.

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 457.

5. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

6. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

7. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane C. Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 224.

8. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

9. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 297.

10. Bauer, pg. 444.

11. Ibid., pg. 673.

How Can I Overcome Loneliness (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming loneliness.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 3 – Part 2

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:12

Jesus now speaks to the sixth church: “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7). The city of “Philadelphia” (lit. “brotherly love”; cf. Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; et al.) was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis. “A Pergamenian king, Attalus II (159-138 B.C.), founded it. The town received its name from his nickname, “Philadelphus” (“brother lover”). This king had a special devotion to his brother, Eumenes II. The city stood in a wine-producing area and was the so-called ‘gateway’ to central Asia Minor. The modern name of this town is ‘Alasehir.’” 1

Philadelphia “was… afflicted with earthquakes which destroyed the city several times, most recently about A.D. 37.” 2 The church there had to deal with the uncertainty this entailed and also with the persecution of those of ‘the synagogue of Satan.’ In spite of the problems it faced, this church was faithful to the Lord and along with the church in Smyrna it received praise from Christ and no rebuke.” 3

Jesus describes Himself to “the church in Philadelphia” as “He who is holy,” set apart from everything and everyone else.Being holy, He is qualified to judge the spiritual life of this church. As “He who is “true,” the Lord Jesusis not just a likeness of God, He is God Who is infinitely distinct from all false gods who represent a lie. 4 When Christ says He “has the key of David,” this is a reference to Isaiah 22:22, where the key of the house of David was given to Eliakim who then had access to all the wealth of the king.5Like Eliakim, Jesus has the authority to distribute (“He who opens and no one shuts”) or not to distribute (“He who… shuts and no one opens”) all of God’s resources as He chooses (3:7). He wants the believers in Philadelphia to know that their rewards in His coming kingdom will be based on His royal prerogative alone. 6

The Lord Jesus then says, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8). The Lord Jesus gave this church an “open door” of opportunity for blessing because even though they “have a little strength” in numbers, they have obeyed God’s Word and boldly refused to deny his “name.” Although they were small in numbers, they were great both in their commitment to God’s Word and in their boldness to confess His name despite opposition and persecution.

Even though you may have a small church, you can still please the Lord with your obedience to His Word and your boldness to openly confess His name. The size of a church is not nearly as important as it’s commitment to Jesus and His Word. Too many churches today focus on size and outward appearance without paying enough attention to their inner spiritual life. Christ is most glorified when churches are most committed to Him and what pleases Him.

Jesus promises the following to these faithful believers at Philadelphia: 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere.” (Revelation 3:9-10a). Christ guaranteesthat their professing Jewish antagonists (“the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not”) would have to acknowledge these believers as the true followers of God (“I will make them know… that I have loved you”) whom He has “loved” because they persevered in obeying His commandments (3:9-10a).

Connecting these two verses fits well with the Biblical teaching that Christ expresses His love in special ways toward believers who obey Him and take a stand for Him (cf. John 14:21-24). In Rev 3:8, Christ had just commended this church for obeying His word and now He is rewarding them because they obeyed His command to persevere.” 7

When we persevere in obedience to Jesus, He will reward us by overruling our Satanic enemies who come against us. 8 There are religious groups today who “lie” by saying they are true followers of God, and they think they are serving God by persecuting Christians (cf. John 16:2). But the truth is, they have rejected Jesus Christ and one day Christ will judge these impostors when He returns to earth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Jude 1:12-15; Revelation 19:11-21) and at the Great White Throne Judgment where all who refused to believe in Jesus will be judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

God promises that the day will come, when all opponents to the Christian faith will have to acknowledge the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord (cf. Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11). 9 The Bible says, 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11). For example, every atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, and Muslim who has rejected Jesus Christ in this life, will bow “under the earth” in the lake of fire at the name of Jesus Christ and confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This need not be the case if these living unbelieving people on earth would change their mind about Christ now, and believe He is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). Then they will be able to bow in the future at the name of Jesus “in heaven” and confess that He is Lord.

Then the ascended Lord Jesus promises, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10). Because these believers have faithfully persevered in obedience to Christ’s command, He “will keep” or protect them “from the hour of trial [time of trouble] which shall come upon the whole [Roman] world” during the readers’ lifetimes “to test” or trouble the unsaved “who dwell on the earth” (3:10b).

Some believe this verse teaches that only Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ will be delivered from the Tribulation period through the Rapture (Partial Rapture view). This view acknowledges that some Christians are unfaithful and will not be raptured. 10 A similar view (Puritan Dispensational Rapture) states that all Christians will persevere in obedience to the end of their lives and therefore, all Christians will be raptured. 11

But this verse is not referring to the Tribulation Period because all” Church-Age believers will be protected from that period of God’s wrath on earth through the Rapture or sudden removal of the church, whether they are spiritually “awake” or “asleep” (cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16-17; 5:9-10; cf. I Corinthians 15:51-52). In Revelation 3:10, Jesus assures the obedient believers in Philadelphia that they would have His protection during this time of turmoil sent to trouble “those who dwell on the earth” (i.e., the unsaved; cf. 6:10; 11:10; 13:14; 14:6; 17:8). 12 It is better to understand verse 10 historically as referring to deliverance from the ten years of persecution during Trojan’s reign. This deliverance came about by the Roman Emperor’s fear of sending troops to an area known for its devastating earthquakes. 13

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11). Jesus reminds the readers that He is “coming quickly,” therefore they should “hold fast” to their obedience to Christ amid trials to the end of their lives (Revelation 2:26). To stop following Christ because of persecution and opposition is to permit the enemies of Jesus to “take your crown,” and allow them to cause you to lose the ultimate eternal reward of ruling with Christ forever in His coming kingdom (cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 2 Tim 2:12-13). “Eternal life is a free gift and cannot be lost but the reward of ruling with Christ forever requires faithfulness to the end (cf. 2:10).” 14

Jesus promises several different rewards for the overcomer who endures in obedience to Christ until he dies. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12). Christ guarantees the overcomer that He “will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” This refers to a position of permanent honor and intimate association with Christ. Since the Father and the Son will be the temple (cf. Revelation 21:22) in eternity, this reward is probably an especially magnificent experience of nearness to God as well as a key position of support and prominence in God’s eternal kingdom. The phrase “he shall go out no more,” describes the permanence of these rewards. Once these positions of honor and authority are given to the overcomer, they shall never be withdrawn. He is firmly set as a “pillar” in Christ’s eternal kingdom and as such will never be separated from this intimate relationship with God. 15

The overcomer will also have “the name of” God, the name of God’s city, “the New Jerusalem,” and the Lord’s “new name” written on him, stressing a permanent place of prominence in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state. Since these faithful believers honored the Lord Jesus on earth, He will honor them as His victorious ones forever in heaven.

“Writing one’s ‘name’ on something indicated ownership in John’s day, as it does now. In the ancient world, columns often bore the names of conquerors. In the pagan world, devotees of certain gods often wrote the name of their god on their forehead (cf. Exod. 28:36). Scripture does not reveal Jesus Christ’s ‘new name’ elsewhere. Perhaps this new name is a symbol of His character, which overcomers can only appreciate when they see Him (cf. 2:17; 3:5).” 16

Jesus closes with His familiar appeal: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:13). Only those believers in Jesus who have “an ear” and “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” will be able toappropriate Jesus’ promises and live as “overcomers” so they may receive these magnificent rewards listed above.  

In summary, Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ through difficult and uncertain times will be rewarded a permanent place of prominence and close association with Christ in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state (3:7-13).

Prayer: Holy Lord Jesus, You alone are worthy to judge the spiritual life of the church. You are true because You are God and You are infinitely distinct from all false gods who represent a lie. You alone have authority to distribute Your rewards in Your coming Kingdom as You choose. So much of what we have here on earth is temporary and changing. But You offer us rewards that are permanent and eternal. Although we may face religious persecution and opposition in this life for Your sake, our commitment to remain faithful to You is far more important in light of Your promises to give us a permanent place of prominence and close association with You in God’s spiritual temple in eternity. Thank You Lord Jesus for offering to honor us in heaven if we will honor You here on earth. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 50.

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John

F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1511.

4. Ibid.

5. Walvoord, pg. 164.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1512. 

7. Ibid.

8.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2375.

9. Walvoord, pg. 164.

10. Retrieved on October 26, 2021 from John H. Niemelä’s March 1, 2017 Grace Evangelical Society’s journal article at www.faithalone.org entitled, “Revelation 3:10 and the Rapture: A New Departure,” where he cites Robert Govett, The Saints’ Rapture to the Presence of the Lord Jesus (London: Nisbet, 1852), pg. 310.

11. Ibid., cites John F. MacArthur, “The Final Generation, Part 1 (Mark 13:28-37),” on Grace to You, April 3, 2011. Transcript at https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/41-69/the-finalgeneration-part-1. Accessed August 9, 2016.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1513.

13. William Ross, “An Analysis of the Rewards and Judgments in Revelation 2 and 3,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1971, pg. 52.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1513.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 54 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 58.

How can we overcome failure and religious hatred? Part 1

All of us have experienced failure in our lives. Perhaps you embarrassed yourself by forgetting the name of the person you were talking to or the friend you meant to introduce. Maybe you missed the catch for the final out in a baseball game or you forgot the crucial line in a school play. Some of us may have lost a wedding ring or engagement ring never to be recovered. After making a mistake, how do you respond? Did you beat yourself up? Did you feel remorse or apologize, if applicable? Or do you blame someone else for your mistakes? How long does it take you to get over a mistake?

As we talk about making mistakes, I am reminded of a conversation between a pastor and a lawyer. The pastor asked the lawyer, “Sir, do you ever make mistakes in pleading?” “I do,” replied the lawyer. “And what do you do with mistakes?” inquired the pastor. “Why, I mend them, if large ones. If small ones, I let them go. And I pray, sir.” The lawyer continued by asking, “Do you ever make mistakes in preaching?” “Yes, sir, I have,” replied the pastor. “What do you do with your mistakes?” asked the lawyer. “Why, sir, I dispose of them in the same manner as you do. Not long ago when I was preaching, I meant to observe that the devil was the father of liars, but I made a mistake and said the father of lawyers. The mistake was so small that I let it go.”

All of us have experienced failure in our Christian lives. That is a reality. How we respond to failure can determine the direction we move from that point on. We can move forward or backward in our Christian lives.

Starting today, we are going to look at two kinds of responses to Christ crucified in John 18:13-27 over the next few days. One response will teach us about failure – factors that contribute to it and how to overcome it. The other response will teach us about how to handle the hatred of religious people toward Christ crucified. The events of John 18:13-27 are like a drama presented on two stages. Stage one is presented first (John 18:13-14) while the action on stage two takes place (John 18:15-18). Then the action shifts back to stage one (John 18:19-24) and then returns to stage two (John 18:25-27).

In these verses we are going to discover some things that took place during the final hours of Jesus’ life before He was crucified. Christ has already been arrested by the Roman soldiers and Jewish temple guards (John 18:12). He now must face the first of six trials. Three would be religious trials: one before Annas (John 18:12-14, 19-23), one before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-68), and one before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27:1-2). And there would be three Civil Trials: One before Pilate (John 18:28-38), one before Herod (Luke 23:6-12), and one before Pilate (John 18:39-19:1). 1

“And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.” (John 18:13). After Jesus was arrested by the Roman soldiers and Jewish temple officers, He was led back across the Kidron Valley into the city of Jerusalem to appear before the religious authorities. It seems as though there are two high priests in this section (cf. John 18:13, 19, 24). But understanding the historical background will help to explain this observation.

According to the Mosaic Law, the high priest was the most important member of the Jewish community because he was the only one authorized by God to offer sacrifices for the sins of the community on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16).

According to Jewish law, the high priestly office was to be lifelong and hereditary. But during King Herod’s rule, the high priest was frequently dismissed and replaced because the Romans didn’t like the concentration of power in one person.

But because the Jews believed the office of high priest was lifelong, the high priest retained a good measure of power and prestige among the Jewish population even after removal from office. 3  Such was the case with Annas. He “had been appointed high priest by Quirinius, governor of Syria, in A.D. 6 and remained until he was deposed by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judea, in A.D. 15. According to the Jewish law the high priestly office was for life, but the Romans did not like the concentration of power in one person so they frequently changed high priests.” 4

Because the office of high priest is lifelong, it is not surprising that the matter of Jesus’ arrest and trial was first brought to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest officially recognized by the Roman authorities. Annas was a very powerful man. So great was his influence that eventually five of his sons, as well as his son-in-law and grandson, became high priests. 5  The Jews virtually regarded him as a high priest, although Caiaphas held the title officially.

Annas was also very wealthy. He owned the famous Bazaars of Annas, which ran a monopoly on the temple sale of animals for sacrifices and the stalls of the money-changers. 6  Twice Jesus had cleansed the temple, once at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-22) and again at the end of His ministry (Matthew 21:12-16; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-47). From the day of the first cleansing of the temple, Annas hated Jesus. Now at last he has Jesus in his power.

To Annas “was the task assigned of the preliminary hearing of the urgent case under consideration. This preliminary hearing took place in one of the apartments of the high priest’s palace, a large building surrounding a central court, designated for the uses of Annas, whose residence was in another part of the city, between the Tyropoean valley and the upper city.” 7

Ironically, the Jewish religious leaders begin to break law after law with their various trials even though they are trying Jesus for not keeping the law. “Some of the main problems with the trial of Jesus include the following.

“1. There Was No Possibility Of A Fair Trial. To begin with, the Sanhedrin should have never held the trial. They had plotted to kill Jesus ahead of time. Consequently they were hardly in a position to render a fair verdict as to his guilt or innocence. This is especially true of the High Priest Caiaphas. He is the one who said that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the entire nation. The High Priest was the supreme judge in Israel. It was his responsibility to see that a person be given a fair trial. At the very least, he should have not participated in trial in any manner. Yet he was the driving force behind the arrest and trial of Jesus. Therefore there was no possibility that Jesus could have been given a fair trial.

“2. A Capital Trial At Night Was Illegal. It was illegal to try capital cases at night. By doing so the Sanhedrin broke the law. When a person’s life was at stake the trial could only be held during the day.

“3. They Should Not Have Looked For Witnesses After The Trial Started. According to Jewish law, a trial starts when witnesses come forward to testify. The Sanhedrin should not have gone out to look for witnesses. The witnesses come first, then the trial.

“4. They Should Not Have Looked For False Witnesses. Not only should the Sanhedrin have not looked for witnesses, they certainly should not have looked for false witnesses if Jesus were to be given a fair trial. The verdict, of course, was never in doubt.

“5. The False Witnesses Should Have Been Punished. Since the Sanhedrin knew the testimony of the witnesses was false, these witnesses, according to Jewish law, should have been punished. The fact that they were not is another illegality.

“6. The Judgment Should Have Been Delayed Till Next Day. In capital cases, judgment was to be delayed until the next day. The fact that they pronounced judgment immediately is another sign of the illegal nature of the trial.

“7. There Is Not Supposed To Be A Trial On Day Before The Sabbath Or Before Holy Days. Since the judgment in a capital case could not be rendered until the next day, it was illegal to try someone on the day before the Sabbath or before some holy day. During the Sabbath day or holy day there could be no legal meeting of the Sanhedrin. Consequently the timing of the trial was also illegal.

“8. They Never Considered Jesus’ Testimony. There is also the problem of Jesus’ testimony. When Jesus was put under oath he acknowledged that he was the Messiah – the promised Deliverer. This admission of Jesus was what caused the Sanhedrin to cry out that he was guilty of death. However, they never stopped to consider the possibility that Jesus was telling the truth. There was not the slightest interest in attempting to find out whether Jesus may indeed be the promised Messiah. There was no evidence that was allowed to be given on Jesus’ behalf and they weighed no evidence before making their judgment.

“Conclusion: When all the facts are weighed it becomes clear that those who tried Jesus on that night were not interested in giving him a fair trial. The verdict had been determined ahead of time. They only went through the motions of the appearance of a fair trial. Jesus was illegally and wrongfully tried… Therefore when all the facts are considered we conclude that Jesus’ trial was the greatest injustice in all of history.” 8

When you study the trials that Jesus faced, Christ looks more and more innocent and those who were trying Him looked more and more guilty. These were trials that proved the innocence of the accused and the guilt of the accusers. They were unfair in every way. Yet John informs us in the next verse, “Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:14). The apostle alludes to Caiaphas who unknowingly prophesied that Jesus would need to die for the people. This verse indicates what can be expected as the outcome of the trials. The outcome was certain. Events would lead rapidly to Jesus’ death. It is doubtful Caiaphas meant spiritual benefits “for” the people, but rather political and monetary benefits “for” the nation’s leaders. Nonetheless, God was in control and would use these unfair religious and civil trials to bring about the means of salvation through the death of His Son.

Do you get upset when life is unfair like this? When things are not handled fairly there is something inside us that stirs our anger. Especially those of us who have grown up in America. There is something about the American spirit, the Bill of Rights, and all those things that just burns us up when life is not fair. But notice that God took an unfair trial, held by unrighteous people, and used it to accomplish His perfect will – Jesus going to the cross to die for our sins. We can easily get so focused on what is fair in America that we conclude that God has lost control. We need to remember that somebody can treat us unfairly but it doesn’t keep God from treating us righteously. 

This leads to our first principle: We can overcome religious hatred when we REALIZE LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS FAIR, BUT GOD ALWAYS IS (John 18:13-14). Let’s not forget this. The truth is life is not fair. Jesus did not deserve to be on trial. He lived a perfect life on earth because He was and is God (John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18; I John 5:20). If life was not fair for the perfect Son of God, why would we expect life to be fair when we are imperfect sinners!?!

“The world is anything but a fair place. A young man in the prime of his life is killed by a drunk driver who walks away without a scratch. Drug dealers and pornography peddlers make millions of dollars and live in mansions. A less qualified applicant gets the job. The best runner is tripped from behind by another and loses the race. Our response is, ‘It isn’t fair,’ as if labeling it that way somehow changes things. King Solomon, perhaps the wisest man of all time, understood life’s unfairness when he noted, ‘There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.’ (Ecclesiastes 8:14).” 9

But we need to remember that when life is not fair, God is always fair toward us. If God is not just, He isn’t God and can’t be in control of everything. If God ever once unfairly disciplined or punished a person, it would disqualify Him as God and mean that He is not in control of everything. We see miscarriages of justice all the time here on earth, but there is never a miscarriage of justice with God. We can never honestly say to God that He didn’t handle something fairly or right.” 10   Why? Because only God has all the information about a situation. He is all-knowing and fair, but we are not. So none of us are in a position to critique the God of the universe.

When the books are not being balanced in this world we need to remember this is not where the books are balanced anyway. Heaven will determine the balancing of the books. 11  God will make everything right in His time. His judgment of the world will be fair. He will judge everyone according to their works (Romans 2:5-11). For the unbeliever, God will judge him or her according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). For the believer in Jesus Christ, God will judge him or her according to their works to determine the degree of their rewards in Christ’s coming Kingdom at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Revelation 22:12). God will make things right in His time.

Embracing this truth that life is not fair, but God always is, can give us peace when we are treated unfairly. Just as Jesus “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” when He was unfairly treated by His enemies (I Peter 2:23), so we can do the same when we face unjust situations, knowing that God is fair and He will bring our enemies to justice one day (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; Revelation 15:3-4; 16:5-7; 20:11-15).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know what it is like to live in a world that is not fair. Sometimes we let that world bring us down. We see how the world tolerates people who embrace its values, but it hates Christians who live out Your values. It is not fair. But You never promised us that the world would be fair to us. Lord, help us not to forget Who You are and Who You want to be in our lives and in our world. Lord Jesus, thank You for reminding us that in the future You will balance the books and bring justice to this unfair world. Knowing this enables us to live peacefully even when we are treated unfairly. Remind us that no matter how powerful human institutions around us might seem or people in our lives might seem, in comparison to You, all human power looks feeble and foolish. You are the Lord that we need. You are the King that we need.  We worship You as the Lord and King. We need You, Jesus. We thank You for being in our lives. In Your powerful name we pray. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition.), pg. 157.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 320.

3. Ibid.

4. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition.), pp. 682-683.

5. Laney, pg. 321.

6. J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), pp. 573-575.

7. Ibid.

8. Don Stewart’s article, “Did Jesus Receive a Fair Trial?” at https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_250.cfm.

9. Chris Thurman, The Lies We Believe (Thomas Nelson, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 83-84.

10. Chris Thurman, The Lies We Believe about God: Knowing God for Who He Really Is (David C Cook, 2017 Kindle Edition), pg. 86.

11. Tom Holladay’s sermon on Wednesday, July 17, 1996, entitled, “Jesus on Trial.”

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 5

“But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” John 16:4

As we draw closer to the time of Christ’s return for His church, we are seeing an increase in the world’s hostility toward Christians. We are learning from Jesus’instructions to His eleven believing disciples how we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world. So far we have discovered we can be effective witnesses when we…

– Realize that we will face the same conflict with the world that Jesus did (John 15:18-19).

– Recall what Jesus has already taught us (John 15:20).

– Recognize that the world is not opposed to us personally, but to our relationship with Christ (John 15:21-25).

– Remain in vital contact with Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27).        

The fifth and final way is to REMEMBER THAT JESUS IS STILL IN CONTROL (John 16:1-4). Christ said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.” (John 16:1). This message about the hatred of the world was not meant to discourage Jesus’ disciples or dissuade them from the ministry. He told them what to expect from the world so they “should not be made to stumble” or fall away from their Christian faith. The word picture here is of someone stumbling over an unexpected obstacle. 1  Jesus was warning His disciples (and us) of the obstacles ahead so they would not be taken by surprise and overcome by worldly opposition. We do a disservice by telling people that discipleship is easy. Jesus never taught that, and neither should we. He said discipleship is costly (cf. Luke 14:26-33). It will be difficult. How difficult would it be for them (and us)?

He describes specific ways that the world will hate them. “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (John 16:2). When Jesus says, “They will put you out of the synagogues,” He is saying they will lose every privilege they had as a citizen of Israel. They would be excluded from using the temple for worship. They would be excluded from the society in which they had moved. They would lose the privilege of employment in their nation. They would be deprived of schools to which they could send their children. In effect, they would be reduced to poverty. Some would even be killed, and their killers would think they were providing a faithful “service” to God. According to church tradition, all the apostles were martyred for their faith except for John. 2

Christ is not talking about persecution by the secular government here. He is speaking of persecution by religious zealots. No persecution is more bitter than when done by religious enthusiasts like the Spanish Inquisition, set up in 1478. It sought to eliminate heretics and killed up to 5,000 people. 3

From 1095-1492, violent crusades against Muslims took place in Europe, Asia, and Palestine along with severe persecution by the Roman Church of those who differed with it. The Roman Inquisition, 1542-1858, originally sought to deal with the spread of Protestantism. Those who differed with the Roman Church were tortured until they confessed and recanted. If they did not confess and recant, they would lose their property, freedom, or be burned at the stake. 5

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) reorganized in 1915 and in addition to hating blacks, it hated Catholics, Jews, and  it opposed Jews, blacks, Catholics, and newly arriving Southern and Eastern European immigrants, many of whom were Jewish or Catholic. The Klan claimed to be explicitly Protestant. Although it appropriated some Christian teaching, hymns, and symbols, it was widely denounced by Christian denominations. 6  

It is important to understand that the persecutors mentioned above do not represent biblical Christianity. Just because someone says they are a Christian or does something in the name of Jesus does not mean they are genuine believers in Jesus.

The Bible emphasizes that eternal life is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). A person does not receive eternal life by living a good life, keeping God’s commandments, going to church, praying every day, being baptized with water, or hating their enemies. The Bible tells us that a person must come to God as a sinner (Romans 3:23), realizing that Christ died for all his sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6), and then believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:36; 6:40, 47; I Corinthians 15:3-6). The moment a person trusts in Christ alone to give them everlasting life, God not only gives him or her the free gift He paid for when He died on the cross – eternal life – He also comes to live inside of that person through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20; 3:2) to give them the power to live a life that pleases Him.

Many people who claim to be Christians do not understand this simple gospel message. Instead of trusting in Christ alone to get them to heaven, they are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, and therefore, they do not have God’s power in them to live a life that pleases Him. Many non-Christians use their religion to try to cover up their sins. So it is important to understand that not all people who say they are Christians have God’s power in them to live a different life because they are not trusting in Christ alone to save them and give them everlasting life. Instead, they are depending on their good works or religious efforts to get them to heaven, instead of on Christ and His finished work on the cross alone. 

Modern day examples of persecution by misguided zealots include militant Muslims persecuting innocent Christians in the Middle East and Africa, and militant Hindus attacking Christians in India, etc. Since the time of Christ, the most severe persecution of Christians has come from religious enthusiasts who think they are serving their god or gods.

Next Christ said to His disciples, “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” (John 16:3). The reason the world will persecute Jesus’ followers is because it is spiritually ignorant of God the Father and God the Son. Opposition to God’s messengers really meant opposition to God Himself.

Jesus then said, “But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:4). Jesus warned His disciples about this coming persecution to strengthen their faith. Even on the night before His crucifixion, He is concerned for these men and their future. Jesus’ knowledge about their future would give them more confidence in His ability to control events. Christ did not tell His disciples “these things” about their coming persecution “at the beginning” of His ministry when He was with them, because He was the object of attack from the world at that time. But now that He is leaving them to go be with His Father in heaven, He forewarns them. They would know He was in control when trials would come because He had said they would.

We see in the book of Acts that Jesus’ words emboldened the apostles to continue preaching Christ in the midst of persecution. For example, when the apostles disobeyed the Sanhedrin’s order to stop preaching Jesus, they were beaten and commanded once again to speak no more in Jesus’ name. Luke reports, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42). They were not taken by surprise when the Sanhedrin opposed them because Jesus forewarned them of this. Jesus really is in control.

Do you think Jesus’ control over us is total or partial? Listen to Daniel 4:35: “He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” Accept it or not, God is in total control. He is running the show. Either He is in full control or He is off the throne. It is as foolish to say He is “almost” in control as it would be to say I am “almost” married or Trump is “almost” President, or the surgeon’s gloves are “almost” sterile. God is totally in control. The more we believe this, the more confidence we will have to be an effective witness for Christ in a hostile world.

Jesus wanted His disciples and us to be prepared for what is coming. We should not be overtaken by surprise when we experience some form of rejection or censure for our Christian beliefs and standards because Christ forewarned us of such opposition. This hostility can come from family, friends, employers, customers, coworkers, the government, and especially from religious zealots. As Paul warned Timothy, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). But the Holy Spirit is always available to empower us in our time of need (John 15:26-27). 7

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are an amazing God! Thank You for warning me about the hostility of the world so that when I do experience it, I can be encouraged to know that You are in control and I can trust You to accomplish Your purposes in my life. Please embolden me to share Your gospel message unashamedly with this broken and hostile world. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who can empower me to face this opposition with grace and truth. I surrender everyone and everything to You, my Lord and my God. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1 J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 285.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 453.

3. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition.

4. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades.

5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Inquisition.

6. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan.

7.  Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1809.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 3

“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 15:21

As Christ anticipates His departure to be with His Father in heaven, He directs His eleven believing disciples to their relationship with the world (John 15:18-16:4). Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples (and us) for the opposition they would face after He ascends to the Father in heaven. From His instruction, we are learning how we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world.  

So far we have discovered we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world when we…

– Realize that we will face the same conflict with the world that Jesus did (John 15:18-19).

– Recall what Jesus has already taught us (John 15:20).

Another way to be an effective witness for Christ is to RECOGNIZE THAT THE WORLD IS NOT OPPOSED TO YOU PERSONALLY, BUT TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST (John 15:21-25). Christ gives another reason why the world will persecute His followers. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:21). Referring to the world’s persecution of His followers, Jesus says, “All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake,” on My account, Jesus says, because you are My followers. Christ does not want His disciples to take the world’s hostility personally because the world is actually opposed to Him and His message. The world will not receive Christ in us because they did not receive Him.

How the world responds to us is more often connected to who Jesus is, not who His witnesses are, unless we are behaving carnally. The reason people rejected Christ is because “they do not know” the Father “who sent” Jesus. They were ignorant of Christ’s origin and relationship with God the Father because they were spiritually blind.

Next Jesus said,22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.” (John 15:22-24). As the Light, Jesus came into the world and exposed their sin of hating and rejecting Him. His words and works revealed His true identity as the Christ, the Son of God (cf. 5:36; 10:38; 14:11; 20:31). The miracles Jesus performed had never been done by anyone before (“works which no one else did…”).

These miraculous works unmistakably revealed that Christ was equal with the Father as God. If Christ had not come, “they would have no sin” (John 15:22, 24) or guilt for the sin of refusing to believe in Him. Refusing to believe in Jesus is the ultimate rebellion against God the Father. People cannot talk about how much they love God while simultaneously rejecting His Son. 1 To reject One is to reject the other since they are both equally God.

Their hatred of Jesus reflects their hatred toward His Father in heaven because Jesus is a perfect reflection of the Father as God. To reject Jesus is to reject God the Father because Jesus is equally God. The Jews knew they were born into sin, but the Pharisees thought they were now without sin by obeying the minute details of the law. So the world hated Christ because He exposed their sin. Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

The world’s hatred toward Christ also fulfilled what king David wrote in Psalm 69:4 hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. “But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ ” (John 15:25). As the wicked showed their hatred for King David, so they showed hatred for the promised Son of David. 2

Jesus did not depreciate the Law, He fulfilled it. There is no reasonable basis to reject Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, because both His words and His works provide sufficient evidence to believe in His Person. Jesus is the only sinless Person to ever live because He is God (John 1:1, 14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). However, there is a touch of irony here. The men who were champions of the Law, who supposedly knew the Old Testament very well, these experts of the Law fulfilled prophecy concerning the enemies of God’s Messiah. The purpose of God was fulfilled by these religious men. 

To be an effective witness for Christ, we must accept that the world does not hate us, it hates Christ in us. Some of us may have a difficult time when hatred is directed toward us because we want people to like us. We may feel responsible for their hatred toward us. Often times if we have unresolved trauma from our past, we tend to take things more personally. It is difficult for us to separate our past trauma from our present circumstances. But as we invite Jesus to heal those past wounds, He can enable us to become more whole so we can live more in the present instead of in the past.

People in our communities may dislike us for being vocal about Jesus Christ. Religious people are often the most hateful people toward those who preach Christ crucified. This is true in America, North Korea, the Middle East, Africa, and India. Why? Because the message of the cross exposes their sinfulness and they are too proud to admit they need a Savior.

When asked, “What is keeping you from trusting Christ alone as your only way to heaven?” religious people often respond the same way another woman did when asked to write down five reasons why she couldn’t trust Christ as her only way to heaven. She wrote this:

1. Me

2. Me.

3. Me

4. Me.

5. Me.

Don’t let “me” stand in the way of coming to faith in Christ. Remember when Jesus took your place on the cross, “you” were foremost on His mind. He died for YOU! Do not let your pride keep you from trusting in the Only One who can save you from an eternity separated from God!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for opportunities to grow in my relationship with You. When I experience rejection from people, it often triggers an overwhelming emotional response inside of me. Thank You for revealing to me that much of that emotional reaction is connected to painful experiences in my past. Right now, I want to invite You to walk with me through those dark painful memories so Your healing grace can set me free from my past. I am grateful that You are showing me that people do not reject me personally, but You and Your message, when I share the gospel with them. Please help me to remember this when I encounter opposition from the world. Lord, I also want to lift up those You are drawing to Yourself. Please show them that You are equal with God the Father and that to reject You is to reject the Father. May Your Holy Spirit persuade them to believe in You alone for Your free gift of everlasting life. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1808.

2. Ibid.

3. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pp. 127-128.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 2

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.’ ” John 15:20

Jesus Christ experienced love and hate from people during His time on earth. While most of the people ended up hating Christ and had Him crucified, some came to love Him. Those who loved Him received more intimate and life-changing truths from Him (cf. John 14:21; 15:14).

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared intimate truths with His devoted followers to prepare them to carry on His ministry after He departs and ascends to heaven to be with His heavenly Father. After speaking to His eleven believing disciples about their relationship to one another (John 15:12-17), He then directs their attention to their relationship with the world (John 15:18-16:4). Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples (and us) for the opposition they would face after He ascends to the Father in heaven. How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world?  

Last time we learned the first way is to realize that you will face the same conflict with the world that Jesus did (John 15:18-19). The second way to be an effective witness to a hostile world is to RECALL WHAT JESUS HAS ALREADY TAUGHT US (John 15:20). As followers of Christ, we are not to think we will be treated better by the world than Jesus was.

Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20). Jesus reminded His disciples of what He already taught them after He washed their feet at the Last Supper (cf. John 13:16). He said, “A servant is not greater than his master.” Earlier Jesus used this statement to encourage them to humbly serve one another as He had done when He washed their feet. Now in this context, He uses that statement to explain why they will face persecution. Christ meant that His disciples are not greater than Him in the sense that they will not escape persecution from the world when walking with the Lord. Since their Master (Jesus) was “persecuted” by the world, the world “will also persecute” His servants. 

Conversely, Jesus says, “If (since)1 they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” People often treat servants the same way they would treat the servant’s master. Hence, Christ is saying that just as some people followed His teaching, so there will be some who follow His disciples’ teaching.

In the midst of the world’s hatred and rejection toward Christ and His followers, Jesus is giving us hope. While most rejected Christ and His message, some did not. Likewise, “while most will reject the words of the apostles, some will accept their witness. For example, on the Day of Pentecost, just fifty days after Jesus spoke these words, Peter led over three thousand to faith in Jesus (Acts 2:14-41).” 2

When you and I share the gospel with others, some will oppose the message and others will receive it. It is important to remember this when we face an antagonistic crowd. Don’t give up on someone if they are not receptive the first time you try to share Christ with them. Some people may need to hear the gospel several times before they believe in Jesus. Or there may be people in a crowd of antagonists who are receptive. You may not be aware of that at the time you share with them because they are too intimidated to express their receptivity. Let the Holy Spirit draw them to Jesus among hostile listeners.

For example, in 2013 when I went with Filipino pastors to a critical area in the southern Philippines to preach in public schools, students there were very responsive. On one particular day, we stopped at an all-Muslim school to share the gospel with students, but the students had already been dismissed. We noticed that there was a crowd of about two hundred fifty adult Muslims having a Parent/Teacher meeting. We asked if we might share the good news of Jesus Christ with them and the moderator permitted us to do so.

As I began to share about the love of the God of Abraham and how He wanted to have a personal relationship with them, I noticed a group of about twenty-five Muslim women dressed in their Islamic head gear, and they were forming a circle. They would keep looking at me through the opening in their head gear and then they would look at one another. I didn’t know what they were going to do, but I just knew that Jesus did not want my translator and I to stop preaching. By God’s grace we boldly shared Christ crucified to them and then invited them to believe in the Lord Jesus for eternal life and a future home in heaven. When I asked them to raise their hands if they were now trusting in Christ alone as their only way to heaven, all two hundred fifty adult Muslims lifted up their hands. Hallelujah! My translator and I then made a quick exit out of there to go to the next school.

We can be more effective witnesses for Christ in this hostile world as we remember the things He taught us about the world’s hostility toward His followers. His teaching will give us strength in the future when we face opposition because Jesus warned us in advance, so we would not be overtaken by surprise.Regardless of how people respond, we are to faithfully represent Christ on the earth.

When we go through dark times, look back at the times of light and what Jesus already taught us during that time. Our tendency is to forget the lessons that Jesus already taught us when we go through tough times. When pressures pile up on us, we can easily throw away the biblical truths the Lord has given us (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:7). During dark times, get alone with the Lord and read His Word. Listen to His voice of truth. Let Him give you His power as His Spirit renews your mind with the everlasting truths of His Word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for warning me in advance that when I identify with You, I will receive the same kind of treatment from the world that You received. While most people will oppose Your message through me, there will be some who will embrace it. Please help me to focus on those who are receptive so I can follow them up and teach them to follow You as You did for me through Your faithful followers when I first got saved. Regardless of how people respond, please empower me to faithfully represent You on earth while there is still time left. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The phrase εἰ τὸν λόγον μου ἐτήρησαν is a first-class condition meaning some did keep or obey Jesus’ teaching.

2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 537.

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 1

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18

Today, just like in the book of Acts, believers are persecuted all over the world for following Jesus. According to Open Doors USA, “A woman in India watches as her sister is dragged off by Hindu nationalists. She doesn’t know if her sister is alive or dead.

“A man in a North Korean prison camp is shaken awake after being beaten unconscious; the beatings begin again.

 “A woman in Nigeria runs for her life. She has escaped from Boko Haram, who kidnapped her. She is pregnant, and when she returns home, her community will reject her and her baby.

 “A group of children are laughing and talking as they come down to their church’s sanctuary after eating together. Instantly, many of them are killed by a bomb blast. It’s Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.

“These people don’t live in the same region, or even on the same continent. But they share an important characteristic: They are all Christians, and they suffer because of their faith. While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Jesus Christ. From Sudan to Russia, from Nigeria to North Korea, from Colombia to India, followers of Christianity are targeted for their faith. They are attacked; they are discriminated against at work and at school; they risk sexual violence, torture, arrest and much more.” 1

Do you realize that in just the last year (2020 World Watch List reporting period), there have been:

– Over 260 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution

– 2,983 Christians killed for their faith

– 9,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked

– 3,711 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned 2

While Christians are not suffering extreme persecution in the USA, there is an increasing lack of tolerance for Christian beliefs and practices in our country. During COVID-19, certain government leaders in America are trying to use this pandemic to try to shut down churches. For example, on July 1, 2020, the governor of California banned singing and chanting in places of worship in the name of a pandemic. Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) states, “Banning singing in California churches is an unconstitutional abuse of power. And to do it in the name of a pandemic is despicable. This ban is clearly targeted at religion. It is clearly a violation of the First Amendment and a direct violation of religious liberty.” 3

Have you ever been falsely accused or betrayed by a friend? Have you had people plotting against you? Or have you ever experienced some other form of personal hostility? Jesus experienced all these things and so will we as we follow Him.

For the next few days, we are going to receive instruction from Jesus Christ about how to be effective witnesses for Him in a hostile world. Earlier in John 15, the Lord Jesus spoke to His eleven believing disciples about their relationship to one another – they are to love each other as He loved them (John 15:12-17). Now He speaks to them about their relationship to the world (15:18-16:4). Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples (and us) for the opposition they would face after He ascends to the Father in heaven. How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world?  

The first way is to REALIZE THAT YOU WILL FACE THE SAME CONFLICT WITH THE WORLD THAT JESUS DID (John 15:18-19). Christ never said that following Him as a disciple would be easy. Earlier, when Jesus had sent the Twelve disciples on a special mission, He warned them that they would be as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16).

Now He was sending them into the world on a mission, and again Christ warned these men of conflict with the world. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18). “The world” in John’s gospel is “the system of organized society hostile to God, which is under Satan’s power (John 14:30).” 4

In anticipation of the world’s hatred, Jesus warned His disciples that they would experience the same hostility from the world that He had experienced. He did not promise a painless, effortless experience as a disciple. He says, “If the world hates you [and it does], then it should come as no surprise to you because it hated Me first.” From His birth when king Herod sought to kill Him, to His death on the cross, Jesus experienced opposition from the world. Therefore, a person cannot be intimately related to Christ without being hated by His enemies. The main issue here is not whether we will experience rejection and persecution as Christ followers, but how we will respond to it.

Disciples of Christ are known by their love (cf. John 13:34), but the world is known for its hatred toward God. Followers of Christ are unpopular in the world today because of the world’s hatred toward Christ who lives in every believer through the Holy Spirit. Jesus now gives a reason why the world hates His followers. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19). The world hated Jesus’ disciples because they were chosen out of the world by Jesus to follow Him. Christ says, “If you were of the world [and it’s doubtful that you are], 6  the world would love its own.” They were once a part of the world as unbelievers, but now they are set apart from it as committed followers of Christ.

Perhaps some of you were rejected or even persecuted for beginning to follow Christ as a new believer. When I first got saved, I stopped drinking alcohol with my non-Christian friends and they got mad at me. They no longer called me their friend. They made fun of me and avoided me. This should not surprise us in light of what Jesus is saying here.

Some churches teach that when you become a Christian, you will have no more problems or difficulties. Is that true? Of course not. If Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, experienced rejection and persecution for perfectly following God’s will, why would we think we are exempt from such treatment as we imperfectly follow the Lord?!

Christ wants us to adjust our expectations about following Him as His disciples. Discipleship is costly, but eternal life is absolutely free. Discipleship involves rejection and persecution from Satan’s world system which is hostile toward God. After all, the Bible says, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29). This is not a popular message today. But it is a needed message, isn’t it?! If we don’t adjust our expectations so that they line up with what Jesus taught, we are going to become very discouraged when we experience opposition for following Christ.

Christ said to His half-brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7). Jesus called sin, sin. He came to tell the truth and that is why the world hated Him. And if we are going to be like Him, we must do the same. If we find ourselves fully accepted by the world it is cause for concern. We are to be loving, kind, sensitive, and understanding. But if our lives do not challenge the wickedness of the world around us, if our lives do not provoke some persecution, criticism, and opposition – something is probably wrong. We have probably become too friendly with the world around us.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “Does the world hate me? If it does not, why not? Is it because the world has become more Christian or because Christians have become more worldly?” If we are not experiencing opposition from the world, it may be because our lifestyle is no different than the world’s lifestyle. James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). If the world is our friend, then God is our enemy.

James likens friendship with the world to spiritual adultery with God. It is like a married man who decides to engage in immorality with a woman to whom he is not married. In that very decision he chooses to reject faithfulness to his wife. When Christians crave for worldly acceptance and living, they have committed spiritual adultery and have rejected friendship with God. On the other hand, if God is our friend, the world will be our enemy. We cannot be a friend of God and the world at the same time.

How do we become friends with Jesus? We saw this when Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). If we are going to be Jesus’ friend, we must keep Christ’s commandments. Not all Christians are Jesus’ friends because not all Christians are obeying Christ. But if we are Jesus’ friends through obedience to Him, then we can expect more hostility and opposition from the world.

Younger Christians may mistaken the world’s hatred toward them as a reproach for not being more Christ-like. So they conclude that if they were more gentle, generous, loving, or compassionate, then they would receive more favor from unbelievers. But the truth is, the more we become like Jesus, the more the world will hate us. Christians are not mistreated or shunned by the world because they are superior, but because they are servants of their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, Whom the world has rejected. 7

Prayer: Father God, as I look at the hostility in the world toward those who follow Jesus, I am reminded of these important words Christ gave to His disciples. Knowing the world’s hatred for Jesus empowers me to endure its hatred toward Christ living in me. Please help me to adjust my expectations so they align with Jesus’ teaching. Opposition from the world will happen when we follow Christ because the world hates Jesus Who lives inside us. By Your grace and love, Lord God, I choose to follow my Lord Jesus no matter what the cost. Use me to be Your voice of grace and truth to a hostile world so millions may come to know Jesus as the Giver of life everlasting. Please be with my brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world who are suffering for Jesus’ sake. I ask that You give them abundant grace to love their enemies and to boldly make Christ known to them. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Taken from  https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/ on December 13, 2020.  

2. Ibid.

3. Taken from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/aclj-files-lawsuit-challenging-california-ban-on-singing-in-church-301094471.html on December 13, 2020.

4. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition.), pg. 664.

5.The phrase in the Greek language, Εἰ ὁ κόσμος ὑμᾶς μισεῖ, is a first-class condition and means that the world does actually hate the disciples. See J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 279.

6. The phrase Εἰ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἦτε is a second-class condition expressing improbability. See Laney, pg. 279.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 294.