“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:21
After Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-15) and referred to God as His Father (John 5:17), claiming to be equal with God, the critical Jewish religious leaders sought all the more to kill Christ (John 5:18). Christ then makes three major claims to establish His equality with God the Father (John 5:19-30). For our purpose in this article, we will only look at Jesus’ second claim which is that HE IS THE SAVIOR (5:21-24). 5:21: One of the “greater works” of Jesus (John 5:20b) is raising “the dead” and giving “life to whom He will.” The Jews understood that only God has the power to give life. But now Jesus is claiming to have the same power as God the Father. Christ “gives” both physical life (John 1:3) and everlasting life (John 1:12; 3:15-16).
“…In a way, Jesus was telling them, ‘You think you’re upset now because I healed a paralytic? You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until you see what I do with Lazarus!’ (see 11:1-44).”
Too often I hear Christians telling non-Christians to give their lives to Jesus to get them to heaven. But this is backwards. Jesus “gives life” to the non-Christian when he or she believes in Him (cf. John 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10, 14; 5:24; et al.). We don’t give our lives to the Lord for salvation. The issue in salvation is not what we give to God, but what He gives to us. The same author of the gospel of John writes in his first epistle, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (I John 5:11). Who gives eternal life? God does because it is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23b; Ephes. 2:8-9). Who receives eternal life? We do the moment we believe in Jesus for it.
If we give our life to Jesus to get us to His heaven, we will be eternally disappointed because our lives end at the grave. We need life that lasts beyond the grave. We need Jesus’ everlasting life which we receive by believing in Him alone (John 3:15-16; 11:25-26; cf. I John 5:13). Only those who have Christ’s everlasting life by believing in Him will be able to enter Jesus’ heaven. The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus “gives life” for salvation, we don’t give our life to Him.
I am deeply burdened about this because non-Christians are being misled to think that if they give their lives to Christ, they have everlasting life as a result. This is contrary to Jesus’ teaching! Satan has deceived well-intentioned Christian workers into thinking they are serving God by telling the unsaved to give their lives to Christ to begin a relationship with Him. May God bring these Christian workers to repentance so they can replace this unclear and confusing evangelistic invitation with a clear invitation that uses the words God uses most in evangelism – “believe” (pisteuō)  and “faith” (pistis).  This will increase the population of heaven because non-Christians are being clearly told what God says they must do to receive His gift of everlasting life.
The Bible says, “9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:9-13). According to these verses, what is God’s witness? Does God say you must give Christ your life to have eternal life? No. He says, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (5:11). If you carefully read these verses, you will discover that they say nothing about giving your life to Christ to have eternal life. If I were to summarize these verses, I would say this: “The witness of God” says, “Christ gives His eternal life to those who believe in Him,” and “is greater” than “the witness of men” who say, “Give your life to Christ to have eternal life.”
But someone may respond by saying, Jesus said, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).Isn’t that the same thing as giving your life to Christ to have eternal life? Great question, but wrong conclusion.
Who is Jesus speaking to when He speaks the words of John 12:25? Jesus is speaking to two of His believing disciples, Andrew and Philip (cf. John 1:35-2:11), who came to Christ to inform Him about certain Greeks at the Passover Feast who wanted to see Him (John 12:20-22). When Jesus hears of the Greeks wanting to see Him, it confirmed that “the hour had come” for Him to “be glorified” through His death on the cross (John 12:23) which Jesus illustrates with a grain of wheat analogy whereby death leads to life (John 12:24). Jesus is the grain of wheat. The word “alone” refers to Christ dealing with Jews alone. It was necessary for Jesus to die to produce life in many others – both Jews and Gentiles (including the Greeks), in one body. Death was necessary for life and fruitfulness.
Since Jesus is talking to two of His believing disciples, He does not reference “eternal life” as a gift to be received by faith alone in Him alone (John 12:25). Instead, He speaks of eternal life as a reward to be earned in the future.  The issue here is rewards, not salvation from hell. The believer who “loves his life” by selfishly living for his or herself, “will lose” the fullness of that life both now and in eternity in terms of the loss of rewards. Christ goes on to say that “he who hates his life in the world” by making his or her love and loyalty to Christ a priority “will keep it for eternal life,” that is, they will enjoy a deeper and fuller experience of eternal life both now and in eternity. 
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b). Eternal life must first be received as a gift through faith alone in Jesus alone – “I have come that they may have life” (John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9) – before we can experience that life “more abundantly”through obedience to Christ (John 8:31-32; John 12:24-26). The word “abundantly” means over and above or overflowing life. All those who believe in Jesus have “life” in His name (John 3:16; 20:31). But only those believers who obey Christ’s word will experience it “more abundantly” both now and eternity.
Therefore, when eternal life is referred to as a present possession in the New Testament, it is always a free gift that is received by believing in Christ alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:28-29; 11:25-26; Rom. 6:23b; 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9; I John 5:11, 13; Rev. 22:17). But when eternal life is referred to as a future acquisition, it is a reward that obedient believers will receive in the future (cf. Matt. 19:29; 25:35-40, 46; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Rom. 2:7; 6:22; Gal. 6:7-9; I Tim. 6:12, 19; Jude 1:21).  Eternal life is not static. Believers can experience varying degrees of God’s life as they learn to trust and obey Him.
Those who are dedicated to Christ will “keep” or preserve that lifestyle for eternal rewards (12:25). Our earthly experience becomes a part of “eternal life”in that it contributes to the quality of our future life in eternity. If we put our material things and selfish ambitions ahead of Christ, we will decrease the quality of our life in the world to come. So, the issue is not salvation, but the quality of a believer’s life both now and in the world to come.
This is substantiated further in the next verse when Jesus says, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:26). Jesus is referring to self-denying service to Christ. If you want to serve Christ, you must follow Him. He is to be the number one priority in your life. Just as Jesus denied Himself and died for the world (12:27-28a), His disciples are to deny themselves and serve Him. When Christ says, “and where I am, there My servant will be also”in glory and honor is the main idea here as confirmed in the next part of the verse. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” The verb “will honor” refers to honoring faithful Christians with rewards.  If you serve Jesus, you will receive “honor” or reward from His Father. If you want to be rewarded in the future, you must earn it by serving Christ now. Rewards are not a free gift. We must work for them to receive them in the future.
We can see then, that giving Christ our lives is a condition for discipleship and is necessary to receive eternal rewards (cf. Matt. 10:32-42; 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26; John 12:23-26), not eternal life or salvation as a free gift.
The claim of Jesus is that “life” belongs to Him and He gives it to whom He will (5:21). This cuts right across the philosophy and the propaganda of our day! Much of our culture tells you that your life belongs to you, and you can do with it whatever you want; it is up to you to make of yourself whatever you desire. That is what is fed to us all the time. But that’s a lie! Your physical life is not yours. You did not invent it; you were given it by Jesus.
If this claim of Jesus is real, and it is, it clearly makes Him the most important Person in anybody’s life. If your very physical existence has come from Him, and your spiritual destiny is in His hands, then He is the most important Person you will ever have to deal with. More than that, He is the most important Person in all the universe!
Because of this, it would be wise for us to keep His gospel message clear. Since the Lord Jesus used the words “believe” and “faith” more than any other words to express what a sinner must do to receive everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25-26, et al.), we submit to His Lordship when we use those words when sharing His gospel with the unsaved. It is not submitting to His Lordship when we refuse to use the words He used the most in evangelism and substitute it with words that are more popular with others such as giving your life to Christ to be saved from hell. Our sinful nature does not like someone else to tell us what to do and how to do it. So, when Jesus tells us to use the words “believe” or “faith” when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel, and we use other words or phrases that confuse instead of clarify the only condition for obtaining eternal life, we are saying to Him, “I know better than You, Lord. I will use some other phrase or condition that everyone else is using.” We are refusing to submit to His Lordship when we neglect to use the words He uses most in evangelism. And because of this, we will forfeit eternal rewards, not salvation, at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:23-24; Rev. 22:12).
How would you feel when You stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and tell the Lord Jesus that you told non-Christians to give their lives to Christ to get saved, and Jesus rebukes you saying, “Why did you tell them that when I told you to invite them to believe in Me to get saved? I had to send someone else to them to tell them to believe in Me for eternal life because you refused to submit to My instructions.” I believe we would feel shame and regret for disobeying our Lord (cf. Matt. 25:24-30; I John 2:28). It is not too late to change and start using the words Jesus used the most in evangelism – “believe” and “faith” instead of the unclear terminology that the majority of Christians use today.
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, thank You for establishing that the Lord Jesus is equal with You in His deity when He claimed to be the Savior Who gives life to whom He wills. He is as much God as You and the Holy Spirit are. Because Jesus is the One Who gives physical life and eternal life, He is by far the most important Person in our lives. Please forgive us for substituting the words Jesus used most in evangelism – “believe” and “faith,” with unclear words like giving your life to Christ, follow Christ, or turn from your sins as conditions for eternal life. Please enable us to submit to Your Lordship in our lives by using the words Jesus used the most in evangelism because Your approval is far more important than the approval of people. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 2219.
 The word translated “will keep” (phylaxei) is in the future tense.
The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1180; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2257; Robert Wilkin, “John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 213.
 Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 221-232; Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 53-68.
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testamentand Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 1004-1005.
This exercise is adapted from Michael Dye’s The Genesis Process. 
All of us have been hurt and wounded by others, especially those we trusted. From beginning to end, the Bible emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. God even commands us to forgive (Ephes. 4:32). Therefore, Jesus taught us to pray, “12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people.
One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them.  God invites us to release the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matt. 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc. God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.
There are three things that can hinder us from forgiving others: judgments, vows, and false beliefs. When someone hurts us, we can hold on to judgments about them out of fear. We don’t realize it, but our judgments are an attempt to protect ourselves from painful memories associated with our abusers. We may judge their motives and try to read their minds. We tell ourselves, “He or she is evil, selfish, and does not care about me or love me.” Christ warns us about making such judgments (Matt. 7:1-2). These judgments can cause heart wounds that keep us from healing and growing. When we refuse to forgive that person, we can bind ourselves to the person we are judging and become more like that person.It is important to repent or change our minds about our judgments and ask God to release the person and ourselves from the consequences. 
Not only do judgments about our offenders hinder us from forgiving them, but so do the vows we make. Jesus opposed the practice of distorting vows so they could convey or conceal a lie (Matt. 5:33-35). We can make inner vows to survive the hurts we have suffered. For example, when a person I trusted hurts me, I may make an inner vow that says, “I will never trust anyone again!” Or “If I need others, they will take advantage of me!” These types of vows can become self-curses that result in isolation and loneliness, which cause us even more pain. These inner vows can often become subconscious and do not disappear with time. They are like a contract that must be renounced or broken. It is important to ask God to forgive us and break these vows we have made. 
False beliefs or lies can also prevent us from forgiving others. We may tell ourselves, “If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.” But the truth is, only God knows what is just (Rom. 12:19). Or “If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.” The truth is that just because you forgive them does not mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again. They must earn your trust. For reconciliation on a horizontal level to take place, the perpetrator must apologize, repent or change his mind and behavior, and ask for forgiveness (Matt. 18:15-18; Luke 17:3-4). 
Forgiveness is so important because it gives us the ability to move on in life. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to receive the blessings of new relationships. Forgiveness occurs when the one who was wounded cancels the debt owed to him or her. When we forgive, we are free from those who hurt us. 
If you are struggling to forgive your perpetrator(s), take some time today to do this exercise: 
1. Ask God to reveal to you the people who have hurt you. Make a list. Start with those closest to you (e.g., your parents, siblings, spouse, children, or a close friend; etc.). Do the exercise with them one at a time. Think about the people whom you still “go back to court with” in your mind:
2. Wounds: What he or she did to you that hurt you: abandoned, abused, betrayed, criticized, lied, misrepresented, neglected, rejected, etc. What was the wound(s)?
3. Judgments (Matt. 7:1-2): The things you believe about them: e.g., they are evil, lazy, selfish, stupid, weak, didn’t love me, didn’t care for me, etc.). What are your judgments?
Repent of these judgments and ask God to release the person and yourself from the consequences (Matt. 7:1-2).
4. Vows (Matt. 5:33-35): Vows can be like self-cures, promises you told yourself to survive the wound(s), e.g.,“I don’t need or trust anyone,” or “whatever I do, it won’t be enough,” or “all men/women are ______,” etc.
Renounce and repent of these vows, asking God to forgive you and to break them.
5. Effect on You: What effect did the wound have on you (How did you cope)? Addiction, anger, anxiety, codependency, depression, food, isolation, stress, workaholism, etc.?
6. Their Debt: What debt do they owe you? What would they have to do for you to trust them again? Apologize, change their behavior, experience humiliation, justice, make restitution, money, repent, seek your forgiveness, suffer, etc.
Talk to the Lord, asking Him to make you both willing and able to cancel their debt as He has already cancelled yours to Him through Christ (Matt. 18:23-33; Ephes. 4:32).
7. False Beliefs. What false belief or lie is keeping you from forgiving them? Say the following false beliefs below to yourself to see if they feel true. If they do, then meditate on the true beliefs until the false beliefs no longer feel true. There are blank spaces at the end where you can write in the false belief(s) and true belief(s) that are not on the list.
False belief: If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.
True belief: Only God knows what is just (Rom. 12:19).
False belief: Forgiveness means I must pretend that nothing ever happened.
True belief: Forgiveness is not denial. You must tell yourself the truth about what they did and how it affected you to really be able to forgive them from the heart (Matt. 18:35; John 8:32).
False belief: If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.
True belief: Just because you forgive them doesn’t mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again (Matt. 18:15-18; Luke 17:3-4).
False belief: My unforgiveness punishes them and is justified because I am right; they will never see their wrong and repent if I let go.
True belief: The truth is, it is God’s mercy and kindness that leads us to repentance. Only He knows what will change them (Rom. 2:4; Ephes. 4:24-32).
8. Forgiveness Prayer (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). If you are ready, insert the name of the person you have chosen to forgive into the following prayer of forgiveness. You may want to say it in your own words but be sure to include all the elements.
Father God, Your Word says that to be forgiven, I must forgive. And so, I come to You in the name of Jesus, in obedience and love, and I bring (name) _____ before You. I cancel _____ debt to me (e.g., apology, change of behavior, humiliation, justice, restitution, money, repent, seek forgiveness, suffer, etc.). I choose to forgive this hurt against me, and I ask that You not hold these sins against _____ on my account. I release _____ from any desire on my part to see _____ punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless _____ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know _____ desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless _____. And so, I ask that You pour out Your love and healing to _____ and bring _____ Your highest good, because Your name is Good and Love, and You are not willing that any should perish. Now also, Father, please heal my heart and set me free to love _____ as You do. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
9. The Truth sets you free (John 8:36): Pray and ask God to show you this person as He sees them. Ask Him to show you what is true. One of the great mysteries of God is that He loves the perpetrator as much as the victim. Write down any insights God gives to you as you pray.
10. Is there anything God wants you to do to heal this relationship? Check with your counselor or discipleship group before you take any action.
 Adapted from Michael Dye’s The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-133.
“22 Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’ 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:22-23
“A remarkable religious phenomenon broke out in the United States in the year 1948. It started in a tent near the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, under the preaching of a young evangelist by the name of Billy Graham. The crowds were a little sparse in that tent at first, but as the preaching went on, they began to grow. Finally, certain rather prominent Hollywood celebrities came to the meetings and were converted. At first, as often happens with gatherings of that sort, the press totally ignored them. But when some of the well-known names of Hollywood became involved, the media began to take an interest in what was happening. Eventually reporters were sent to investigate and to interview this rather strange young preacher, who dressed in pistachio-colored suits, wore flaming red ties, spoke with a pronounced Southern accent, and yet had incredible appeal to the masses. It was evident that God was doing something there. That was the beginning of Billy Graham’s career. As news of those meetings spread across the country, other cities invited him to come and preach. He went on to Boston, where all of New England seemed to turn out to hear him. Thus began the great Crusades that swept across America in the latter part of the ’40’s and ’50’s under Billy Graham’s ministry.
“As it was with Billy the Baptist in 1948, so it was with John the Baptist in the late ’20’s of the first century. He, too, was a young man, in his early ’30’s, six months older than Jesus. He, too, dressed rather strangely, even for that day. He did not wear green suits; he wore animal skins and ate a strange diet of grasshoppers and wild honey. This young man had a very powerful message, which seemed to have great attraction to people. At first, they came out by dozens, then by scores. and finally, hundreds and thousands forsook the cities of Judah and Galilee to hear this remarkable preacher out in desert places. Finally, the response was so tremendous. and this man became so popular, that even the religiousestablishment of Jerusalem had to take note. They sent a delegation toinvestigate this remarkable preacher.”
John records the event for us in his gospel. From this event, we will discover how we too, like John the Baptist, can be used greatly by God. To be greatly used by God we are to…
RECOGNIZE WHO WE ARE NOT (1:19-21). Drawing such a large following, John the Baptist naturally attracted the attention of the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who sent a delegation to question this desert preacher. They could not ignore someone who attracted such a large gathering. John was an enigma. He did not conform, so they wanted to know more about him. Whenever God begins to use someone greatly for Him, it gets the attention of the religious establishment. They are suspicious and want to control what is going on. They are also threatened.
1:19: The apostle John begins this new section with “Now this is the testimony of John” (1:19a). Earlier the apostle wrote that “John” the Baptist was “sent from God… to bear witness of the Light,” Jesus Christ, “that all through him might believe” (1:6-8). Now the apostle gives more detail about the Baptist’s “witness” or “testimony” (1:19-34).The term “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi) is used sixty-eight times in John’s gospel and refers to the Judean Jews. The apostle John was a Galilean Jew, so when he addresses opposition to Jesus, he uses this term.  In 1:19, the use of hoi Ioudaioi probably refers to the Sanhedrin, Israel’s highest religious/political court, who sent this delegation of “priests and Levites from Jerusalem” to investigate this preacher. 
“The priests were descendants of Aaron who took the leadership in matters of theological and practical orthodoxy, including ritual purity. The Levites descended from Levi, one of Aaron’s ancestors, and assisted the priests in their ministry, mainly in the areas of temple music and security.” 
When this delegation asks John, “Who are you?” the Baptist responds by vigorously telling them who he is not. 1:20: In John’s day, everyone was looking for the promised Messiah, so naturally
John’s actions and message created a lot of speculation as to who he was. Might he be the promised Messiah? John denounces any speculation regarding these messianic expectations. “I am not the Christ,” he asserts. Whatever John was, he was certainly not the Christ. There was a Christ, but he was not him.
We all need to be reminded that we are not the Messiah-God. We have limitations. We are only here because God spoke us into existence. Like John the Baptist, we need to know who we are not.
1:21a: The Old Testament prophesied that Elijah would precede the Messiah (Mal. 4:5). Perhaps John is the reincarnated Elijah. After all, his appearance is similar. His message is similar. Elijah did not die. Was this the great Elijah? People who believe in reincarnation say here is an example of it. They hold that here is a man who once lived on the earth appearing again as another man — Elijah reincarnated. But if you look closely at this text, you will see there is no substance to that claim. John says very plainly, “I am not.” His was not a reincarnate appearance. The Bible tells us that people die once and then they face God. “As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27). This is the only chance you have on earth to get right with God. While John did fulfill the preliminary ministry of which the prophets spoke (in the form of Elijah, he was not the actual prophet himself).
1:21b: Deuteronomy 18.15-19 speaks of a great prophet like Moses who would come and restore Israel. “The Jews” thought John the Baptist must be this “great prophet.” They failed to understand that this “great prophet” was the same as the Messiah (cf. John 1:24; 6:14; 7:40-41). To correct this misunderstanding, the apostle Peter would contend that the Prophet was equivalent to the Messiah (cf. Acts 3:22-26).  Again, with an emphatic, “No,” John the Baptist denounces this title. He was not the long-awaited Prophet any more than he was the Messiah or Elijah. As a proper witness, John recognized who he was not. His three-fold denial makes his witness clear.
We see that the Baptist was not comfortable talking about himself. For he was here to bear witness to Another Who was far greater and superior to him (cf. 1:1-5, 15). The increasing shortness of John’s successive answers cannot be missed here:
“I am not the Christ.”
“I am not.”
The Baptist seems to have a dislike for answering questions about himself. His mission was not to bear witness to himself. He was not comfortable talking more about himself than Jesus. His mission was to bear witness to the Light (1:6-8). He recognized who he was not. He was not the Messiah. He was not Elijah. He was not the great Prophet.
If we are going to be greatly used by God, we must recognize who we are not. We are not the Messiah. We are not the great Prophet. We are not Elijah. We cannot think of ourselves as more than what we are. It is not our glory, but His, we are to seek. We need to remember that we are not Jesus. We are not God. Nor can we meet needs that only God can meet. We are only witnesses. God did not call us to be someone else. He called us to be the person He made us to be. To be greatly used by God you must recognize who you are not. John knew who he was not.
Secondly, we must REALIZE WHO WE ARE (1:22-23). This religious delegation was not content with John’s denials. They must have some response to take back to their leaders, so they questioned him further 1:22:“Give us a break! Tell us something we can take back to Jerusalem. If you are not any of these people, then who are you? What do you have to say about yourself? Show us your résumé.” They turn the matter over to John.
Wow! What an opportunity. At this point, John could have said anything. He could have said, “I am the great forerunner or prophet or preacher! Look at how many baptisms I have performed. Look at how many people I have attracted. Wow! I must be awesome. I need to be leading church growth seminars or teaching preaching classes. I needto be invited to preach at evangelism conferences.”
But John did not flash his credentials. He did not flatter himself or promote his own name. He did not attempt to make himself great. John knew who he was. Look at his reply taken from Isaiah 40:3. 1:23: John says, “If you want to know who I am read the prophet Isaiah. It’s written there for you.” This indicates that John himself had learned about who he was and what he was to do by reading and studying God’s Word. Most likely when John asked himself, as he must have as a young boy, “Who am I?” he found the answer in the Word of God: “I am to be a highway builder. I am to prepare a highway in the desert for our God.” Not for people to get to God, but for God to get to people.
When John the Baptist was asked, “Who are you?” (1:22), he turned to the Word of God to reveal his identity (1:23). The only reliable and accurate source of information about us is God’s Word (cf. Heb. 4:12). The Bible tells us that our identity is determined by what God says about us, not what others say about us or even by what we do. Our spiritual birth determines who we are (I Pet. 1:3, 23), not our actions. We are who we are because we were born into God’s family through faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12-13), not because we worked our way into God’s family.
The Bible tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, all things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). When we believe in Christ, we become a new person. We are now part of a royal family—God’s family—the church (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:22-23; 3:14-15; I Pet. 2:9-10). Learning what that means takes time. We have been seeing ourselves through one set of eyes for so long, that it is hard for us to believe we are a child of the King. But God now says to you, “You are MY CHILD through Jesus and that makes you royalty.” God now says, “I not only want to be in a relationship with you, but I also want to change the way you see yourself; because if I can change the way you see yourself, you will live a radically transformed life.”
We are not the same person we were before we became a Christian. Some of you may ask, “If I am not the same person I used to be, why do I still practice the same old ways and habits?” Because the enemy of your soul, Satan, has deceived you into believing you are the same person you were before you came to Christ (Rev. 12:9-10). And we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be.
The Bible tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Our behavior does not determine who we are. How we see ourselves determines how we will behave. God tells us in His Word we become His child the moment we believe in His Son’s name (John 1:12; I John 3:1), and God wants us to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are. Changing our actions starts with clarifying our identity.
From the beginning of time, Satan has fought against us, knowing who we truly are in Christ. He does not want us to see ourselves as God sees us. He knows that if we start to see ourselves through God’s eyes, we will begin to live out God’s purposes for our lives which pose the greatest threat to Satan’s plan to “steal, kill, and destroy” us (John 10:10a; Ephes. 6:11-13; I Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:9-10).
Many of us have been told we are not enough, not doing enough, or not as valuable as others. We have been defined by lies that say, “You can never be free from your past,” or “You will always be stuck in a shame cycle that leads to more bondage and shame.”
God wants us to know that we are far more than what we have been told by Satan and other people. No one has the power to define us but the One Who created us and redeemed us.  God takes a lot of time in the Bible to tell us who we are when we become His children through faith in Jesus (John 1:12; I John 5:1). The phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” is used 120 times in the New Testament and refers to how God sees us after we become children of God by believing in Jesus. Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is what I will refer to as our new identity in Christ. To begin to understand your new identity in Christ, please seeMy New Identity in Christ post on this website.
John the Baptist discovered his identity as a highway builder in Isaiah 40:3. Isaiah goes on to explain how highways are built: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth” (Isa. 40:4). Check with a modern road builder and he will tell you that is exactly how a highway is built: the low spots are filled in, the high spots are leveled, the crooked ones are straightened out, and the rough ones are made smooth.
This beautiful description of John’s ministry to people is still the way repentance works in the human heart today. If you feel low and worthless, depressed, insignificant, your life is meaningless, you are in a valley — then transfer your trust to Christ and He will lift you up: “Every valley shall be exalted.” That is where Jesus will meet you. If you feel proud and self-sufficient, able to handle your own affairs, then come down: “Every mountain and hill brought low.” That is where Christ will meet you, and nowhere else.
If you are handling things in a crooked manner, if you are devious in your business dealings and untrustworthy in your relationships with others, then realize there is only One who can forgive your crooked ways – Jesus. “The crooked places shall be made straight.” That is what John the Baptist preached: “Repent”(Matt. 3:2, Mark 1:4; Luke 3:4). When John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and the people came to him confessing their sins (Matt. 3:5; Mark 1:4- 5), this was to prepare these self-righteous and self-reliant Jews to believe or rely on the coming Messiah for eternal life instead of themselves (John 1:6-7, 19-34; 3:22-36; cf. Acts 19:4). The verb “repent” means a change of mind (see comments on 1:7b). Hence, repentance in an evangelistic context is simply changing your mind about whatever is keeping you from believing in Christ and then believing in Him alone for eternal life (cf. Mark 1:15). Christ will meet you right there.
If you are given to riding roughshod over people, your life is filled with a lot of rough, tough situations, repent, change your mind and trust Christ to save you; decide to smooth out those places, deal with those things, and Jesus will meet you right there.
“And the rough places smooth.”That is a highway for God to come to you. That was John’s ministry all through his life.
John the Baptist knew that he was merely a “voice” (1:23). He is not an important person, like a prophet or the Messiah. He is a voice. Unlike the eternal Word of 1:1, a voice is temporary. A voice is fleeting. A voice is fading. And that is John’s view of himself. I am merely a fading voice that is crying in the wilderness.
John’s message is one of preparation: “Make straight the way of the Lord.” John summons the people to be ready for the coming Messiah. He is the one preparing the way for the coming King (an important role in ancient times involved leveling the land and clearing the road). He saw his role as the voice preparing the way.
When I played football in high school and college, some teams ran the single wing offense. One of the positions in the backfield was the blocking back. He never carried the ball, but just blocked for the ball carrier. He never received any glory, but he did it because he was a team player. That is what John was. John was like the old-time telephone operator – when they connected you to your party, they just got out of the way.
Even so, we are called to be voices. We are the temporary voice chosen to prepare the way in our generation. Each generation has a voice, and we are the voice for this time and this place. Our role is temporary, but it is essential. Without the voice, the people will not hear. And if they do not hear, they won’t be able to believe in Jesus for eternal life (cf. Rom. 10:14-15). .
We are to speak and live the message of Jesus before a watching world. So, if God is going to greatly use us, we must recognize who we are not and who we are. We are not Jesus. We are voices. We are to prepare people to believe in Christ. The final way to be greatly used by God is to…
POINT PEOPLE TO JESUS (1:24-34). John’s examiners are still not satisfied with his responses, so they question him further. 1:24: The apostle John informs us that this delegation was sent “from the Pharisees” to question John the Baptist.
“The ‘Pharisees’ were an important sect of Judaism. Theynumbered about 6,000 and were most influential. They held a strictinterpretation of the Law and embraced many oral traditions. The Pharisees were the only minor group to survive the Jewish war of A.D. 66-70, and their teachings formed the basis for Talmudic Judaism. Their question to the Baptizer was, in essence, ‘Since you have no official title, why are you baptizing?’” 
By mentioning “the Pharisees” here, the apostle seems to be preparing his readers for future interactions between the Pharisees and Jesus  (cf. 7:32, 45-48; 8:3, 13; 9:40; 11:46-47, 57; 12:19, 42; 18:3). 1:25: The Pharisees’ interest lay in John’s authority. “Since you are not the Christ, the Prophet, or Elijah, why are you baptizing? Who gives you the right to baptize?”
“Their question implied that it was inappropriate for John to baptize. The Jews practiced baptism for ritual cleansing, but in all cases the baptismal candidates baptized themselves.”
“There was no precedent for John to baptize other people, and the Jewish leaders did not regard themselves as needing to repent. This was something Gentiles needed to do when they converted to Judaism. Evidently, when Gentiles converted to Judaism the males of the family underwent circumcision, and all the members of the family, of both sexes, were baptized.” 
John’s response clearly reveals the role of the proper witness. What does John do when these men question by what authority he is baptizing all these people? The Baptist points them to Jesus. In essence John says, “This is not about me. It is not about the rite of baptism. It is all about Jesus.” John’s interest is in Christ and Christ alone. In accordance with the gospel’s purpose, John the Baptist’s testimony tells us who Jesus is.
HOW DO WE POINT OTHERS TO CHRIST? First, we must TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ SUPERIOR AUTHORITY (1:26-28). 1:26-27: John informs these interrogators that there is One Who “standsamong” them Whom they “do not know…, Whose sandal strap” he is “not worthy to” unlace. Loosing another’s sandal was the most menial of tasks. Only the lowest slaves would loosen sandals. Even disciples were not asked to loosen the sandals of their teachers. Yet John says, “I am unworthy to do the single most humbling task—loosen His sandals.” Why? Because of Jesus’ superiority.
John’s response implies that his authority to baptize others comes from an authoritative Figure Who was unknown among these Jewish religious leaders. This authoritative Figure possessed authority that is far superior to John’s or that of the religious leaders. This initial response by John the Baptist infers that he himself baptized with water under Christ’s authority. He stressed the superior authority of Jesus, by saying that he himself was unworthy to do even the most menial service for Him. 
Throughout this passage we see John’s humility. As the introducer to Jesus, John possessed a tremendous privilege, yet he did not let it go to his head.
“Those who become ‘successful’ in ministry, specifically those who attract a great following, face a particular danger. If they are not careful, they begin to believe their own press; that is, they allow the well-intentioned encouragement of others to become the basis of their own perspective. And it isn’t long before they believe they are indispensable to the Lord’s work…
“What about you? Are you serving on a committee and feel that it cannot function without you? Are you leading others and feel that the goals will not be met without your direct involvement? Must you have a hand in everything that occurs around you for fear that nothing will be done ‘right’ otherwise? Are you that controlling? How comfortable are you allowing subordinates to have a vision for your organization that is greater than your own? Are you one of those who justifies a non-stop schedule with the old excuse, ‘I’d rather burn out than rust out’?…
“John effectively fulfilled the role for which he was called by God,and he knew he was successful in completing the task given to him, yet he remained humble.
“Humility does not lead us to feel inferior or to doubt our ownworth. Self-loathing is not the path to humility. Thinking too little of ourselves is actually a form of pride. On the contrary, humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us. Humility is understanding our place in the Lord’s plan while giving preference to the welfare of others over self. Mostly, humility is recognizing the Lord as the one and only worthy object of worship.” 
God trusts the humble with great privileges because He knows they will not receive any glory for themselves. They will give God the glory. If you want God to use you greatly, you must get out of His way and humbly follow Him.
No one has greater authority than the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He possesses “all authority… in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The Greek word translated “authority” (exousia) in 28:18 refers to both the right and the power to do something.  This word is not merely power or might (dunamis), but the authority or right to use this power (exousia). 
For example, a 6’ 5” man weighing 300 pounds walks into a bank and steals over $5 million dollars. He has the ability or power (dunamis) to do this, but he does not have the right to do this. However, a 6’ 5” policeman weighing 300 pounds runs after this robber and tackles him to the ground and puts handcuffs on him. This police officer has both the power and the right (exousia) to subdue this bank robber.
In the context of Matthew 28, after Jesus rose from the dead, the Father gave His risen Son “all authority” to fulfill the making of disciples among all the nations. Jesus has both the power and the right to use that power (exousia) “in heaven and on earth” to advance the going, baptizing, and teaching involved in making His disciples among all the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). If we do not like to be told what to do, we are going to be resistant to Christ’s authority. Jesus not only has the power to command us to make disciples, He also has every right to do so.
The church must learn to appeal to Jesus’ absolute authority “in heaven and on earth” to open hearts and homes if we are going to fulfill the mission He has entrusted to us (Matt. 28:18-20). Satan is the ruler of this world, and he will use this world system to desensitize unsaved people to their need for the Savior (John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; 11:3-4; Ephes. 2:2). But the powers of darkness are no match for the absolute authority of the risen Lord Jesus. Christ has the authority to remove kings and raise them up (Dan. 2:21). He can open doors and slam them shut (Acts 16:6-7; 28:31; Col. 4:3). For Jesus to say that “all authority” has been given to Him “in heaven and on earth” is an astonishing claim – it is a claim only God could make.
Christ’s vision for the church involving His authority was stated earlier in the book of Matthew: “18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18-19). When Jesus asked His disciples who they say He is, Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15-16). Peter refers to Jesus as the promised Messiah (“the Christ”) – God (“Son of God”) Who would eventually save Israel and the entire world (John 1:29; Rom. 11:26) and bring them all under His reign (cf. Ps. 2; Rev. 19:11-20:6). Jesus concludes that His Father revealed this insight to Peter (16:17).
Then Jesus said, “And I also say to you [singular] that you [singular] are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (16:18). When Jesus said, “on this rock I will build My church,” He was not saying He would build His church on Peter and his successors, since the word Christ used to describe Peter is a different Greek word (Petros which is masculine) than He used to describe the church’s foundation (Petra which is feminine). Jesus called Peter by the word, Petros, which means a “single rock or stone;”  but to describe the foundation of the church, He used the word, Petra which means a “bedrock or massive rock formations,” “a collection of rocks knitted together to form a larger slab.” A petros would simply be a small portion of a petra.If Jesus meant Peter, He could have easily said, “…you are Petros, and on this petros I will build My church…” Instead, He said, “…you are Petros, and on this Petra I will build My Church. So, Peter was not the “rock” on which the church was to be built.
The Rock on which Jesus would build His church was the revelation God the Father gave Peter, namely that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16-17). Peter and the other apostles are little stones in the Church’s foundation, but Jesus is the Rock, the Chief Cornerstone, on and around which everything else is built as Peter’s and Paul’s later writings teach (I Pet. 2:4-8; cf. I Cor. 3:10-15; Ephes. 2:20). Hence, Jesus’ Church will be built on the solid foundation (Matt. 7:24) of Himself (Matt. 16:16, 18).
“Jesus’s church, then, would be comprised of His unified followers who confess Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as Peter did.” 
The word “Church” comes from the Greek word ekklēsia which means “an assembly or gathering of people.”  To have a church, God’s people must gather. Technically, the word comes from two Greek words. First, ek, which is “out” and kalleō, which means “to call.” God’s people are called out from the world and called together around Jesus Christ.
Christ promises that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against” His church (16:18b). Gates are defensive weapons used in battle, not offensive weapons. No army carries its city gates into battle. So, the church is on the offensive and “Hades” or hell is on the defensive. Christ guarantees that hell shall not “prevail” or be victorious against the expansion of the church that Jesus is building. Hell cannot successfully resist the building of Jesus’ church. Christ envisioned an unstoppable church that would flatten the gates of hell and rescue people from an eternity separated from God through the preaching of the gospel. Jesus is not trying to stop the forces of Satan and hell; hell is trying to stop Him!
“The church is like an embassy. The U.S. has embassies throughout the world, and the people working at an embassy are to live out the values and laws of the U.S. as they represent their homeland in a foreign country. Each embassy, then, is a little bit of America a long way from home. Similarly, the church of the Lord Jesus is to adopt the agenda of its heavenly King and enact it on earth. Christ’s church is a little bit of heaven a long way from home, designed to withstand the authority of hell (its gates) (16:18). Hell’s attempt to stop the church’s progress in history is thwarted as the church executes heaven’s authority on earth.” 
Christ then said to Peter, “And I will give you [singular] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you [singular] bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you [singular] loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (16:19). “Keys” permit access or entrance into something. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ac. 2:14-47), which gave access to Christ’s kingdom authority to everyone who believed in Jesus. Later Peter used these “keys” to open the door to Christ’s kingdom when he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household (Ac. 10:34-48). The truth is, not only Peter, but all the apostles and all believers have these “keys” to open Christ’s kingdom to the lost by preaching the gospel to them (cf. Mark 16:15). Binding and loosing refers to decisions that the early church leaders would make that would permit (“loose”) or prohibit (“bind”) certain teachings and practices in the building of Christ’s Church (16:19b; cf. Acts 19:39-41).
“God doesn’t leave his church powerless. The problem is that wefrequently don’t understand who we are and don’t access the resources available. Even though an American embassy is a small outpost surrounded by a foreign nation, it can be confident that America stands behind it because it’s connected to something that exerts a powerful influence. And though the church often seems small and weak, it’s connected to the ultimate power in the universe.
“What are these ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven’? They’re divinely authorized resources that grant us authority and access (see Isa. 22:22). Christians, through the church, have access to heaven’s kingdom rule. Your world isn’t supposed to be ruling you; you are supposed to be ruling your world. You’re supposed to be regularly utilizing heaven to help you live on earth—not merely visiting church on Sunday mornings. Believers are to study the Bible and gather with the church for a reason: to learn how to access the divine viewpoint and live out God’s kingdom rule in the world. You will never rule your world of relationships, emotions, employment, or finances if you continue to employ the keys the world offers you, or if you’re not connected to a local church that possesses and operates with the keys of the kingdom.
“Note that the word ‘keys’ is plural in this passage; that’s because the word gates is plural (16:18). For every hellish gate (the exercise of Satanic authority), there is a corresponding kingdom key designed to give the church access to heaven’s kingdom authority.
“To ‘bind’ and ‘loose’ is to restrain and to set free. The church is to use heaven’s keys (heaven’s viewpoint and spiritual resources on a matter), operate according to that perspective, and then call on heaven’s authority to bind and loose. It’s critical to understand that heaven is waiting on the church to act in the matter of permitting and releasing before heaven’s authority gets activated in history. Binding and loosing don’t imply you can make God do whatever you want. First, it must be in accordance with God’s will. You can only bind and loose what ‘will have been’ already bound and loosed in heaven. Second, know that answers to prayer are not for your sole benefit. They’re to benefit others. God calls his people to be a blessing.” 
The test of the church’s authority and power is whether hell backs up when the church shows up. If hell is winning, then we are not allowing Jesus to build His church. Instead, we are building our church using Christ’s name. Too many Christians are saying, “Well, I’m just trying to keep Satan from defeating me.” That’s “Backward, Christian Soldiers!” The church is to be on the offensive in the world.
So, we go to those gates in the power of the Holy Spirit. We challenge them. We storm them. And we tell the prisoners of death the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-8). Understand this… the gospel message is true! It is powerful (Rom. 1:16) and it cannot be overpowered! No matter how bad the news is in this world, the good news of Christ is the most powerful!
For generations we have taken the rest of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 to say that God’s little church will be beaten and battered. Satan will kick it around and have his way with it at times, but in the end if we hold on long enough, God will come back and rescue His bruised and abused little church. Folks, Jesus did not die to buy a powerless church! Instead, He has brought together a people for God, a people who are designed to be strong, mighty, and victorious in Christ. Christ’s Church can meet Satan head on in battle and win so long as Jesus and His power is in their midst.
In summary, Christ wants to build His Church through the disciple-making process which He described in Matthew 28:18-20. On the basis of the Rock’s (Jesus’) all-encompassing “authority… in heaven and on earth” (28:18), we are to “go” into all the world and preach the gospel to the lost (28:19a; cf. Mark 16:15). Then we are to “baptize” with water those who believe the gospel, so they can express their commitment to follow Jesus as His disciple no matter what the cost (28:19b; cf. Luke 14:25-33). Then we are to “teach” them to “observe” or obey (not just hear) all of Christ’s commands (28:20; cf. James 1:22). This is Christ’s one and only plan to build His Church and reach all the world with His gospel message. Will we join Him?
Look at the following chart that contrasts a church on the offensive with a church on the defensive:
A Church on the Offensive…
A Church on the Defensive
Invades Satan’s territory
Protects its own territory.
Plays it safe.
Takes the gospel to the world.
Expects the world to come to them.
Asks, “What can be?”
Asks, “What can go wrong?”
Asks, “What can we do next?”
Asks, “What have we done in the past?”
Views failure as a steppingstone.
Views failure as a tombstone.
Views opposition as an opportunity
Views opposition as an obstacle.
Is not thinking about conversions.
Sacrifices to reach the lost.
Is satisfied without the lost.
Measures success by its sending capacity.
Measures success by its seating capacity.
Walks by faith.
Only talks about faith.
The apostle John now tells us where the exchange between John the Baptist and the religious delegation took place in John 1. 1:28: The majority of original manuscripts read “Bethany”instead of the New King James’ “Bethabara.” The word “Bethany” may come from bet aniyyah, meaning “house of the boat/ship.” This reference to “Bethany beyond the Jordan” would be a very suitable name for a small ford community on the east bank of the Jordan River where John the Baptist started his ministry. It was known as a refreshing place for weary travelers.  This was not the “Bethany” near Jerusalem, but the Bethany of Perea which was east of the Jordan River (see map).
TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ SACRIFICE (1:29). John’s public testimony continues the following day (“the next day”). As the Baptizer ministers, he sees Jesus coming toward him and makes one of the great statements of the New Testament. 1:29: The word translated “Behold” is a favorite expression of the apostle John’s. It means “to point out something to which the speaker wishes to draw attention. Look! See! Pay attention!”  Of its twenty-nine New Testament occurrences,  John uses it fourteen times in his gospel (cf. John 1:29, 36; 3:26; 5:14; 7:26, 52; 11:3, 36; 16:29; 18:21; 19:4, 14, 26-27). 
What is John the Baptist saying here? If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices which were all foreshadows of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. God graciously provided the proper covering for Adam and Eve when He “made tunics of skin” through the death of an innocent animal (Gen. 3:21). By providing a covering with animal skins, God provided forgiveness through the “shedding of blood” (Heb. 9:22). Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Gen. 4:2-4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Gen. 22:13; et al.). Then the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exod 12:3-28). Israelites were also taught at the foot of Mount Sinai to bring certain animals to slay and to offer the blood and meat of those animals to God (Exod. 24:1-8; cf. 29:1-46; 30:10; Lev. 1:1-17; 3:1-7:21; et al.).
Many are offended by the fact that the Old Testament is replete with animal sacrifices, of actual blood being spilled. Every morning and every evening there were animals slain in the temple in Jerusalem. On the great feast days of Israel thousands of animals were sacrificed. A stream of blood runs all through the Old Testament.
Every Old Testament blood sacrifice was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Like that first animal that was sacrificed for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21), Jesus would also be innocent and without sin because He was and is God (John 1:1, 14, 17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18). And like that first sacrificial animal, Jesus was born to die in the place of others, the just for the unjust, the Sinless for the sinful (John 1:29; Matt. 1:21; Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 318; I John 4:9), so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Since God is always “righteous” and “just,” His judgments are always an expression of His righteous and just standards (Rev. 16:5-6; cf. Rom. 6:23). And because God is eternal, He never lowers those standards. We must either meet God’s righteous and just standards ourselves or have a Substitute who meets those standards. Since none of us can live up to God’s standards (Rom. 3:9-23), God provided a Substitute for us in the Person of Jesus Christ Who lived up to God’s standards because He Himself is God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ for His gift of salvation, God imputes His righteous life to that believing person’s account; thus, that person is counted as having met God’s standard (Rom. 4:5). Those who refuse to believe in Christ as their Substitute on the cross, will get what they deserve for their decisions and actions. 
Every Old Testament sacrifice was a testimony that Someone was coming Who would supply the explanation for all the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament. Now, at last, there is an answer to the cry of Isaac, as Abraham his father was taking him upon the mountain to offer him, “Where is the lamb?” and Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb”(Gen. 22:7-8). Centuries later, as John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him, knowing Who He was, having baptized Him six weeks earlier, he says to the crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Here is the One Who will satisfy God’s demand to punish our sins.
“The question in the Old Testament is, ‘Where is the lamb?’ (Gen. 22:7). In the four Gospels, the emphasis is ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ Here He is! After you have trusted Him, you sing with the heavenly choir, ‘Worthy is the Lamb!’ (Rev. 5:12).” 
John states that the sacrifice of this Lamb “takes away” the sin of the world, not just the Jews.  The verb used here symbolizes more than just “covering” (to cover something means it is still there). When John says the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, it means that He removes it.
The writer of Hebrews informs us that the Old Testament blood sacrifices could not perfect the worshiper because they could not “take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4; cf. 9:11-15), but only cover them. Only the sufficient sacrifice of the perfect God-Man could remove sins once and for all (Heb. 7:26-28; 9:11-15, 24-28; 10:10-18). The perfect Lamb of God was the only One qualified to address the sin of the whole world (I John 2:2).
Before Jesus died on the cross, believers in Jesus went to a place called “Paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22; 23:43) and unbelievers went to a place called “Torments” in Hades (Luke 16:23), both of which were in the underworld. When Jesus died on the cross, He released the souls and spirits of believers in Abraham’s bosom (Ephes. 4:8-10) to go to God’s home in the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4; cf. John 14:2-3; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 4:1-5:14).
Just before Jesus died on the cross, He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Then “He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46). John writes, “bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit went to His Father in heaven when He died, and so does a believer’s spirit after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, while he was being stoned in Acts 7, Stephen prayed, “‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his death.” (Acts 7:59-8:1). When Stephen died, he understood that his spirit would go to be with the Lord Jesus who was standing at the right hand of God the Father in heaven (Acts 7:55), not in Abraham’s bosom. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Bible says, Jesus was “taken up … toward heaven” (Acts 1:9-10), not down toward Abraham’s bosom in the underworld.
Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, Old Testament believers could not go to the third heaven because Jesus’ blood had not removed all their sins yet. The Old Testament sacrifices had only covered their sins, not removed their sins (cf. Heb. 10:1-4; cf. 9:11-15). Only the blood of the Lamb of God could take away their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephes. 1:7; 2:13-18; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 9:11-15; 10:10-22). After Christ’s death and resurrection, when a believer in Jesus dies, his spirit and soul go to the third heaven to be with Jesus (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23) while his physical body sleeps in the grave (cf. John 11:11-13; I Thess. 4:14, 16). But after Jesus’ death and resurrection, all believers who died prior to Christ’s crucifixion were released from Abraham’s Bosom and taken up to the third heaven where Christ currently lives (2 Cor. 12:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; Acts 7:55-59; Ephes. 4:8-10).
When I shared this message in a church in South Des Moines, Iowa, we had an individual wearing a T-shirt with the word “SIN” taped on it. They tried praying and reading their Bible, but the “SIN” label was still there. The person tried to wear a jacket to cover the sin. Others may not see his sin, but God still sees it. Another person came representing Jesus. The “SIN” label was then placed on him. Only Jesus’ blood can remove the stain of sin in our lives. No amount of good living on our part can remove the stain. Only Jesus can do that. Have you believed in Him; trusted Him to forgive all your sins? If you have, you are now God’s child.
Furthermore, this sacrifice is sufficient for “the sin,” not sins “of the world,” by which the apostle meant the totality of the world’s sin (all human rebellion against God), rather than a number of individual sins.  It is comprehensive in its nature. In other words, when Jesus died, His sacrifice was completely adequate for the needs of “all” people (I Tim. 2:4-6; I John 2:2). It was sufficient for all.
“Jesus at the cross actually took away the judicial barrier which made it impossible otherwise for sinners to have eternal life. The basis of eternal condemnation is thus not one’s sins, but one’s rejection of the life of God (cf. Rev 20:15; see also John 3:18; 5:24). This does not mean that all sins are forgiven (cf. Acts 10:43; 1 John 1:9). It means that sin is no longer a barrier, and all are now savable.” 
Christ’s death makes all people savable. But only those who believe in Him for His gift of eternal life can truly be saved (Acts 16:31; John 3:15-18) or benefit from His death. No further sacrifice is required. Christ’s sacrifice was all that is needed. Thus, we are to tell others of Christ’s sacrifice, a sacrifice that is both substitutionary and sufficient.
“He is a very great Savior for He is the Lamb of God. He is the complete Savior because He takes away sin. He is the Almighty Savior because He takes away the sin of the world. He is the perpetual Savior because He ‘taketh’ away— present tense. Anyone can come to Him at any time.”
TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ PRE-EXISTENCE (1:30). 1:30: John returns to a statement made earlier in the first part of the book regarding the pre-existence of the Son of God (1:15). Jesus is greater than John because He has always existed. He is the eternal Word. And because Christ is eternal, without beginning or end (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13), He alone can freely offer life that never ends to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).
TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ DEITY (31-34).1:31-33: While the apostle John does not record Jesus’ baptism in his gospel, he does refer to John the Baptist’s testimony which states that Jesus was reavealed to him as the chosen Messiah-God when the Baptist baptized Christ in the Jordan River. Why would John the Baptist say he “did not know” Jesus (1:31)?
“Though John and Jesus were related, as Mary and Elizabeth wererelatives (Luke 1:36), nothing is known of any contacts between them in their years of childhood and adolescence. John did not know that Jesus was the coming One until He was revealed by the Father. All John knew was that he was to prepare the way for Him by baptizing with water. God would send His Man to Israel in His good time.” 
Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism? The Father testified from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus to confirm Him as the Messiah (Matt. 3:16-17). God approved the ministry of Jesus. When John “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove” at Jesus’ baptism, he notes twice that the Spirit “remained upon” Jesus (1:32-33). God’s Spirit would continually empower Jesus for His ministry as the prophet Isaiah foretold (Isa. 11:2; 42:1). Thus, while John would “baptize with water,” Jesus would baptize “with the Holy Spirit” (1:33). He is the Giver of the Spirit. Jesus came that people might be brought into contact with God the Holy Spirit.
Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, people have longed to be free from the struggle with evil. Some of us today wish we could eliminate our struggle with sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness. There have been times when I wished I could have had a surgical operation to remove my tendency to be stubborn, critical, and selfish. When I saw the hurt I caused, I wished somehow to be able to stop doing those kinds of things.
The Bible tells us that it takes God Himself to do that. The work of the Spirit is to do that very thing. What John is saying is, “I deal with the external (water)… that is as far as I can go. But, when I baptized Jesus, I saw the Spirit coming down like a dove and lighting on His shoulder. The One Who sent me to baptize had said to me, ‘When you see that happening, that is the One Who will not only change men on the outside, but will also change them on the inside, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ When that happened, I knew Who He was. My own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, was the One Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
When we believe in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit places us in the body of Christ, the Church (Acts 1:5; 10:43-48; 11:16; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27). That is Spirit Baptism. He comes to live inside us forever and wash us clean (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Tit. 3:4-7). He gives us the power to overcome sin in our lives as we depend upon Him (Rom. 8:10-11; Gal. 5:16-23). Water baptism, however, does not cleanse us spiritually.
When we baptize believers, we do it by immersion because Jesus was baptized that way. In fact, every water baptism in the New Testament was by immersion. The Greek verb John uses for water baptism  in these verses means “to plunge, dip” or “submerge” completely under water. The Greek word for sprinkling  is never used of water baptism.
This is significant. Water baptism by immersion best pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:3-6). When a believer stands in the water, it pictures Jesus hanging on the cross (Rom. 6:3). When he is submerged under the water, it pictures Christ’s burial (Rom. 6:4a). And when the believer is brought up out of the water, it pictures Jesus’ resurrection (Rom. 6:4b).
Why was Jesus baptized in the Jordan River? Did He need to be saved? No. He was perfect. When John the Baptist tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized by him, Jesus said to John, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15). Christ’s water baptism fulfilled “righteousness” in several ways: 
1. By His baptism, Jesus was identifying with the righteous remnant of Israel. This is a reference to experiential righteousness.
2. Jesus was identifying Himself with the sinfulness of His people even though He was not sinful (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18). In this case the righteousness spoken of is positional and anticipates the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, He took away the sin barrier (John 1:29) and made it possible for all who believe in Him to have eternal life and positional righteousness (2 Cor 5:21; Rom. 4:5).
3. By His baptism, Jesus confirmed the righteous ministry of John the Baptist.
4. The event provided a true public testimony to the sinless character of Christ with the divine witnesses of God the Holy Spirit and God the Father present (cf. Matt. 3:16-17).
The Lord Jesus was baptized because it pleased His Father in heaven and provided an example for us to follow. Christ’s water baptism launched Jesus into His public ministry (cf. Matt. 3:13-17ff; Mark 1:9-15; Luke 3:21-23). Likewise, when a believer is baptized with water, it is meant to launch him or her into their public minstry. So, every time a believer is baptized by water, it puts a smile on God’s face.
1:34: John’s public testimony climaxes in his identification of Jesus as “the Son of God.” Jesus is God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14). He is fully human and fully God. He is the One Who was “with God” and who “was God” (John 1:1-2).
“Nowhere in the Fourth Gospel is the term son (huios) used to refer to believers (though see Gal. 4:6-7; 1 Thess. 5:5; see also Rev. 21:7, used of overcomers). Rather they are called children (tekna) of God (1:12). Jesus alone is called the Son of God in John’s Gospel.
“The Jewish people expected the Messiah to be the final and ultimate Son of God. All the kings of Israel were called sons (representatives) of God at their inauguration (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14). Of course, the ultimate fulfillment of those sons was the one and only Son (Ps. 2:7).” 
What a testimony! What a witness! What a voice! John points people to Jesus. He recognizes that it is not about him. He understands both who he is not (the Christ) and who he is (a voice). He understands his role: point people to Jesus.
Understand who Jesus is, so that you might believe on Him, and believing you might have life in His name (John 20:31). Recognize who you are not. This takes humility. Also recognize who you are. This takes confidence. You are a voice, a highway builder. Tell others of Jesus. Do not be ashamed. You and I are to be like bird dogs. Just as they point to a group of birds, we are to point people to Jesus, Who is the Lamb of God.
A father and his small son strolled down the street in Chicago past the place where a skyscraper was being constructed. Glancing up, they saw men at work on a high story of the building. “Father,” said the little boy, “What are those little boys doing up there?” “Those are not little boys, son. They’re grown men.” “But why do they look so small?” “Because they’re so high,” his father answered. After a pause the boy asked, “Then, Father, when they get to heaven there won’t be anything left of them, will there?” It is so true, the closer we get to Christ, the less others see of us and the more they see of Him. Point them to Jesus.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for revealing through John the Baptist who we are not. Help us to humbly accept that we are not more or less than what You say about us. Thank You for revealing who we are in Christ. May Your Holy Spirit give us confidence to be Your voice to this generation of lost people who need to hear of the greatness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. Lord Jesus, You have absolute authority in heaven and on earth to empower Your church to storm the gates of hell and rescue people who are bound for hell without Christ. Lead us in the power of the Holy Spirit to point others to Jesus with our lives and our lips so they may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in His name. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 53 cites Christopher W. Skinner, “Another Look at ‘the Lamb of God’,” Bibliotheca Sacra 161:641 (January-March 2004):89-104, for a review of nine views of the referent behind the “Lamb.”
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 53 cites Morris, The Gospel According to John, pg. 130.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 181.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 54 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. Vol. 4 (Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 375
 Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 550.
 Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. “Matthew,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 17-18.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pp. 181-182.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” John 1:12
Without light, we would be in a mess. We couldn’t see. If the sun were to suddenly burn out, we would have eight minutes of light and heat left, and then Planet Earth would slip into a permanent deep-freeze. In the Pacific Northwest, where it’s overcast most days, many people suffer from light deprivation, which results in mood swings and depression. There is even a scientific name for this problem: “Seasonal Affective Disorder,“ or S.A.D. People suffering from S.A.D. must set up special light panels in their homes and get heavy doses of illumination to be happy campers. We need light. We cannot survive without it.
We need another kind of light, too. Our souls depend on the light of God. In this spiritually darkened world God uses Christians to reflect His light. The Light has always been here. The Light has never gone away. But people who are in sin or despair sit in darkness and cannot see the Light.
In John 1:1-5, we discovered who Jesus Christ is. We saw that He is the eternal God. There has never been a time when Jesus Christ was not God. He is our Creator. He brought all things into existence. He is light and life, that is, He is the only source of eternal life and hope. Beginning in verse 6, John expands upon the idea of Jesus as the Light. In verses 6-13, we will look at three ways people can respond to Christ as the Light. First, we can do what John the Baptist did…
REFLECT JESUS WITH OUR LIFE AND LIPS (1:6-8).1:6: Verse 6 refers to “John” the Baptist. John’s mission originated from heaven, not earth. He was not democratically elected; he was called by God to complete a mission. My friends, if God calls you to do something, you better do it, or you will be miserable running from the Lord. The name, “John” means “God is gracious” or “gift of God.” This ties in with God’s mission for John. What did God send John the Baptist (and us) to do?
1:7a: God called John to be a witness to the Light – Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be a witness? Is witnessing something one is or something one does? Sometimes we think that to be a witness for Christ means “I must live a godly life and that is enough. I don’t ever have to tell anyone how to be saved. They’ll eventually come to Christ on their own.” The Greek word for “witness” as a noun  and a verb  is used in a courtroom setting.  And it refers to speaking the truth. What would happen if you took the witness stand in a court of law and never said anything? The judge would hold you in contempt of the court.
Living the holiest life does not tell people how they can obtain eternal life. No amount of watching your godly life tells me how I can know Christ personally. If you live a holy life, it tells me something has happened to you, but it doesn’t tell me how I can have the same experience or what causes you to live that way. Maybe you are a person of high morals. Perhaps your parents disciplined you as a child. Words are more than just helpful for me to know Christ: they are essential. Sooner or later, someone must talk to me about Jesus for me to know Him personally.
If we live a holy life but never tell people about Jesus, then the world will give us all the credit instead of glorifying the Lord. Silent believers are like beautiful road signs with no words or directions printed on them. They are nice to look at, but they don’t tell you how to get where you need to go. We need a balance. Yes, we need to live the life, but we also need to use our lips to tell people how to have eternal life.
1:7b: The reason John spoke the truth about the Light is “that all through him might believe.” This is the first time John uses the word “believe.” He uses it ninety-eight more times in the gospel of John (see comments on 1:5). Notice it does not say “that all through him might repent” as the Synoptic gospels emphasize about John the Baptist’s preaching (cf. Matt. 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-14). The words “repent” and “repentance” appear nowhere in John’s gospel. This is most significant. One would think that if Christians are to emphasize repentance in evangelism (as many do today), that God would have used these two words often in the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life (John 20:31). But these two words are absent in the gospel of John. Why?
One reason is because when one changes from unbelief to belief, he has changed his mind or repented to possess eternal life. The Greek word for “repent” is metanoeō and it is a compound verb made up of two Greek words. The first is meta, “after,” and the second is noeō, “to perceive, understand or think.” The two together mean “after perceiving, understanding, thinking” or “to change one’s mind.” The Greek word translated “repentance” is metanoia and it is a compound noun made up of meta, “after,” and noēma, “thought.” Together the two mean an “afterthought” or “a change of mind.” 
When metanoeō and metanoia are used in evangelistic contexts, they refer to a lost person changing his mind about whatever is keeping him or her from believing in Christ, and then believing in Him for eternal life. The non-Christian may need to change his mind about the Person of Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38), God (Acts 20:21), idols (Rev. 9:20), sin (Rev. 9:21), or his works (Rev. 16:11; Heb. 6:1) before he can believe in Christ for the gift of salvation. 
For example, in Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”Jesus was speaking to Jews who believed that entering God’s promised Messianic kingdom on earth could be earned through good works and that Christ was merely a human teacher. Christ commands them to change their minds or “repent” about whatever is keeping them from believing in the gospel or good news of entering His coming Kingdom on earth. In other words, Christ commands them to stop believing or trusting in their own efforts, and to come to God on His terms by having childlike belief or faith in Jesus alone as their promised Messiah-God Who can freely give them entrance into His coming kingdom on earth (cf. Mark 10:15; Matt. 18:3; Luke 18:17; John 3:5-18). 
Another reason why John never included the words “repent” or “repentance” in the gospel of John is because they are easily misunderstood to mean something like “turning from sins” or “penance” which involve works. If a non-Christian is told to turn from his sins, he is going to ask, “How often must I do this and from what sins must I turn?” The word “believe,” however, communicates such simplicity that it is less likely to be misconstrued to include a works-oriented response.  The word translated “believe” (pisteuō) in the New Testament simply means “to consider or be persuaded something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust.”
Many people today are greatly confused by the frequent use of the words “repent” or “repentance” in evangelistic invitations. They are perplexed about how God wants them to respond to the good news concerning His Son’s death and resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-8).
An example of this confusion is seen in a new couple that came to a church where we were serving in southern Kansas during the 1990’s. As I was preaching verse-by-verse through chapter 3 of the gospel of John about Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, I stated, “How is one born again so he can see the kingdom of God?The answer is given in verses 14-16: ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ To be born again you must simply believe in Jesus for everlasting life.”
Afterward, this couple came up to me with tears in their eyes saying they had never heard this put so simply before. They said, “We have been told that to be born again we must do all these other things such as turn from your sins, repent, give your life to God, and obey His commandments, etc. We have been so confused about how to get to heaven. No one has ever told us that to be born again we must simply believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life until today.This is so simple, and it is right there in the John chapter 3. Why has no one ever told us this before?”
I am more and more convinced that Christians today need to repent or change their minds about using the words “repent” and “repentance” so often in evangelism and begin to use the words God uses the most – “believe” and “faith” – in evangelism instead. When comparing the number of times “repent” (metanoeō) and “repentance” (metanoia) are used in evangelistic contexts in the New Testament  to the number of times “believe” (pisteuō )  and “faith” (pistis)  are used in evangelistic contexts, the words “believe” and “faith” are used almost seven times more frequently. Yet what we see happening today is Christians using the words “repent” and “repentance” far more than the words God uses most! This is one of the greatest failures of the church today. It not only dishonors our Lord Jesus Christ, but it also makes it more difficult for non-Christians to get right with God because it confuses and distorts the only condition for receiving eternal life from Jesus – believe or have faith in Him alone!!!
Believing in Christ alone is how the apostle John says a lost person obtains eternal life – a never-ending personal relationship with God (John 17:3). John says nothing in his gospel about commitment, confession, obedience, repentance, surrender, turning from sins or being sorry for sins as conditions for eternal life.  Repeatedly the apostle tells us that the sole condition for eternal life is believing in Jesus Christ alone.  So, when we tell others about Jesus, and His death for our sins and His resurrection, we do it with the intent of inviting them to believe in Christ. Until they believe in Christ alone to get them to heaven, they remain in the darkness.
1:8: John was not the Light. Jesus Christ is the Light. John simply pointed people to the Light.
“While John amassed a large, loyal following, he never allowed hisadmirers to mistake the messenger for the message… This means if you lead a discipleship group, it’s not to revolve around you; the members must never doubt it points to our Savior. If you have a pulpit, the pulpit doesn’t revolve around you; it’s a lamp from which the Word shines. And the congregation is not comprised of ‘your people’; they are the flock of God.”
You and I are not the Light! Jesus is the Light. Only Jesus can give people eternal life and change their lives. That is His responsibility. Our responsibility is to “bear witness” to the Light and let Jesus change people.
If you turn the lights off in a room, and you hold a mirror in one hand and another person holds a flashlight, your mirror can reflect the light when you are facing the flashlight. The flashlight represents Jesus Christ Who is the Light. The mirror represents your life. When the flashlight is pointed toward the mirror, the mirror reflects the light to other places and people around you. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are the light of the world only when we reflect Christ (Matthew 5:14-16).
HOW CAN WE REFLECT JESUS TO OTHERS? One way is to KEEP YOUR MIRROR FACING TOWARD THE LIGHT. If a mirror faces the light, it can reflect the light in any direction. But what happens when you turn the mirror away from the light? You can no longer reflect the light. When I turn away from Jesus, I can no longer reflect Him to others. Some people are not facing Jesus. Therefore, they cannot reflect Him to others because they aren’t facing Him. They aren’t walking with Him.
A second way to reflect Jesus to others is to MAKE SURE THAT NOTHING COME BETWEEN YOU AND THE LIGHT. When another person or object comes between you and the person holding the mirror, you can no longer reflect the light of the flashlight. Some people have allowed other people and things to get in between them and the light of Jesus Christ. Some people don’t even know that something is between them and Jesus. We must not let other people or things block the path of our light source. We must stay connected to Christ through His Word and prayer and fellowship with other Christians.
A third way to reflect Jesus to others is to KEEP YOUR MIRROR CLEAN FROM DEBRIS. If you spray Silly String on your mirror, your mirror can no longer reflect the light like it is supposed to. Some people are not cleaning their mirror daily. A dirty mirror is almost as ineffective as letting something come between it and the light.
Some people have allowed so much dirt build up that it is too difficult for them to clean. Jesus can wash anything as white as snow! If you are a Christian and you have sin built up in your life, God instructs you to confess your sin to Him according to I John 1:9. The Greek word translated “confess” means “to say the same thing, to agree.” But with whom do we agree? With God, and rightly so. Anderson notes that confessing our sin means we agree with God’s view of sin – He hates it (Ps. 45:7) and it grieves Him (Ephes. 4:30), so we admit our wrong with the intent of not doing it again.  When we do this, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of the dirt that keeps us from reflecting His light. If you have believed in Christ to get you to heaven, then God wants you to reflect Him with your life and lips. You can learn to do this through the discipleship process (Matt. 28:19-20).
A second way people may respond to the Light of Christ (not recommended) is to REJECT JESUS AS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN GIVE THEM ETERNAL LIFE (1:9-11). 1:9: Christ, the true Light, shines on every person, making him or her aware of sin and judgment. What are some ways that Christ reveals Himself?
1. THROUGH CREATION. The Bible says, “But ask the animals,and they will teach you… that the hand of the LORD has done this” (Job 12:7, 9 – NIV; cf. Rom. 1:18-20; 2:12-16). For example, the giraffe has the highest blood pressure of all animals given its long neck which necessitates a powerful heart to pump blood all the way to the brain. By rights, the blood flow should blow its brains out when it bends to drink water and it should pass out when it raises its head, making it easy prey for lions. But the lofty animal has special features, including artery walls, bypass valves, as well as pressure-sensing signals that all work together to maintain the proper blood pressure.  Former evolutionist Jobe Martin says, “How could that evolve? He needs all these parts there all the time, or he is dead.” Animals like the giraffe defy Evolution!
At a recent men’s retreat, I was reminded in a video by Pastor Louie Giglio entitled “How great is our God,” of another example of how God has revealed Himself through creation. Pastor Giglio had met a molecular biologist in Texas who shared some amazing findings regarding the creation of our human bodies. He learned that the protein laminin functions as a “glue” or binding agent between each other and other proteins. Some scientists describe it as a kind of glue that holds biological material together. Louie referenced Colossians 1:16-17 which reads, “For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things are created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible… all things have been created through Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together.” Laminin are shaped with several short arms and one long arm. When this protein is flattened out and observed under a microscope, it is in the shape of a cross (see above picture). Pastor Giglio concluded that we are held together by countless little crosses in our bodies.
2. THROUGH THE BIBLE. Countless lives have been changed by the light of God’s Word. So, Christ has revealed Himself indirectly in the things He has made (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23) and directly through the Bible (Psalm 19:7-14).
1:10:The Creator of the world came into the world and the world did not even know He was here. The world He made ignored Him. When Joe Montana, the hall of fame quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was on the disabled list with a hand injury, he was having lunch with his wife and children at a hotel on Maui. “You poor thing!” the waitress gushed. “How did it happen?” “I broke it playing football,” Montana replied. “Really?” replied the waitress. “Aren’t you a little old to be playing football?”
I am sure it was rather disappointing for Joe Montana not to be recognized, especially when he was in the prime of his football career. How much more so for Jesus! But it gets worse.
1:11: Not only was the Creator ignored by the world in general, but He was also rejected by His own Jewish people. Unlike the world, the nation of Israel knew He was here, but like the world they didn’t care. They turned away from the Light. My friends, don’t make the same mistake. If you reject Christ in this life, you will regret it for all of eternity.
A few years ago, I got a speeding ticket going to discipleship appointments in Des Moines, Iowa. It was embarrassing. But to make matters worse, I didn’t have any proof of auto insurance in the car. It was back at the house. And so, I had to go down to the Polk County Courthouse to appear before the Judge and present proof that I had insurance, or I would have to pay a whopping fine. And so here I am standing in line outside the courtroom waiting to appear before the Judge. Finally, the clerk called us into the courtroom and one by one each of us had to stand before the bench. When my name was called, I went before the judge. She asked me how I pled to the charge that I was speeding. I said, “Guilty.” I knew it. The policewoman knew it that wrote the ticket. So, there was no use denying it. The law required me to pay the penalty. Then she asked if I had proof of insurance. Hence, I presented it before the Judge, and she waived the second fine.
Just as there is a fine for every traffic violation, there is also a penalty for every sin and that is death – eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:15). The fact that God is holy and perfect demands that He must punish sin.
The day is coming when all of us must stand before the Judge of the universe. And if we don’t have the proper spiritual insurance, we are going to pay the price for our own sin in a place called hell or the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Please understand that the lake of fire is a real place. It is worse than you or I have ever heard it described. And believe me, you don’t want to go there, nor do you want those you care about to go there. No one in hell would wish hell on anyone. The account in Luke 16:23-28 proves that. The rich man in that passage begs Abraham to let Lazarus, who is in such comfort, return to earth and warn his brothers about the place of torment. But he could not.
So here is the problem. We have sinned and deserve to spend eternity separated from God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). To deal with our problem, God provided a Substitute. That Substitute was Jesus Christ who was 100% perfect (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18) because He was and is God (John 1:1; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13; I John 5:20). He had to take our punishment because one sinner cannot die for another. God allowed His Son to die in our place.
Years ago, residents of Saratoga, Texas, gathered at the community hall for a preschool graduation. Less than an hour into the program, the father of one of the children glanced out the door, and through grayish green skies spotted a funnel approaching with speed and fury. “Tornado!” he shouted. At 8:15 p.m. that force of nature struck the town hall. Later, workers searching through the rubble of the collapsed hall found the man’s body huddled over his daughter. She was alive and unharmed because when the structure fell, it fell on her dad. He died in her place. 
God’s judgment fell on Christ. He became our Substitute. He took our punishment when He died on the cross for our sins. Because He died, we can live forever with the Lord.
Christ paid our sin debt in full (John 19:30). There is nothing left for you to pay. God can now offer eternal life to you as a free gift. That’s why we are told “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom. 6:23b). Gifts, though, must be received and there is only one way to receive this gift.
1:12: Although the world and the nation of Israel rejected Christ when He came, individuals can still receive Him. How? Look at the last part of the verse. By believing “in His name.” In New Testament times, a name represented a person. Jesus Christ is the One Who died for our sins and rose again. The moment you believe or trust in Jesus alone to make you God’s child, you are born into God’s family.
Sometimes when I am sharing the gospel with someone they will say, “I’ve always been a Christian.” What they are really saying is, “I’ve never become a Christian.” We are not born Christians; we are born sinners. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Sin originates from the first man God created, Adam, so the whole human race stands guilty before God and needs a Savior.
Please understand that when the Bible says you must receive and believe in Christ, that does not mean you must simply accept Him as a Person like you would accept me as a person. Accepting me as a person will not get you to heaven. Accepting as history that Jesus existed, died, and rose again will not get you to heaven. Some people accept Christ’s death and resurrection as an historical fact but are still trusting in their own works to get them to heaven.
Picture a large boat filled with refugees from Cambodia coming across the Pacific Ocean. It begins taking on water and lifeboats become a necessity. Three passengers find themselves in different situations. The first passenger has no knowledge that lifeboats save and, therefore, never steps into one. The second passenger understands that lifeboats save, but for some reason refuses to step into one. The third passenger not only understands the ability of a lifeboat to save, but steps into the lifeboat and in so doing relies upon it to keep him from drowning.
Which of the three is saved? Yes, the last passenger. He not only had the knowledge, but he uses it. A person is saved when he or she understands the ability Jesus Christ has to save us and acts on that knowledge by trusting Christ alone. You are not saved simply by understanding Christ died and rose from the dead or even accepting His death and resurrection as a fact of history while relying on your own good life to get you to heaven. You become a member of God’s family when as a sinner deserving of hell, you believe or trust Christ alone to get you to heaven.
Verses 10-12 remind me of the incredible love and grace of Jesus Christ. Even though the world did not know Jesus as its Creator (1:10) and His own Jewish people rejected Him (1:11), Christ did not stop loving them. He still offered salvation to individual Gentiles and Jews who would receive Him by believing in His name (1:12). Likewise, when non-Christians initially reject the message of the gospel from us, we must not stop loving them or exposing them to the gospel. Christ never stopped loving me the first time I heard and rejected the gospel, and I am eternally grateful to Him for that! The least I can do is show the same kind of patient love toward unbelievers who need to hear the gospel more than once before they believe it.
Verse 13 explains the source of our birth into God’s family. First it tells us what spiritual birth is not. 1:13a: It is not from our heritage (“not of blood”). Being born and raised in a Christian family does not get you into God’s family any more than being born and raised in a McDonald’s restaurant would make you a hamburger. It is not by blood. 1:13b: Nor does one get into God’s family through determinations (“the will of the flesh”). It is not by determining to live a good life. You cannot make yourself a Christian. You cannot study Christians, act like them, go to their church, sing their songs, and go through all the Christian motions and become a Christian. It is not by positive thinking or clean living that you become a Christian. It is not by will of the flesh. 1:13c: It is not the achievements or willpower of others that makes you a Christian (“the will of man”). No pastor, priest, bishop, pope, relative, or imam can make you a Christian. You do not become a Christian through a ceremony, by reading a creed, by standing up, sitting down, coming to an altar, or getting baptized, or praying toward the east five times a day. Praying for others who are dead or alive does not get them to heaven. None of these things make you a Christian. It is not by the will of others.
So, if getting into God’s family is not the result of human relationships, determinations, or achievements of others, then what is it? It is a work of God (“who were born… of God”) whereby He convinces you that you cannot save yourself, but you must trust totally in Jesus Christ alone to place you into God’s family.
The most important question you could answer is, “What will you do with Jesus Christ?” If you are not a Christian, will you reject Him and face eternity without Him or will you believe in Him alone to place you into God’s family forever, so you can enjoy an eternal relationship with the Lord? And if you are already a Christian, will you choose to reflect Jesus with your life and lips? The choice is yours.
For those of us who already have Jesus in our lives, it is important to talk about being fathered by our heavenly Father. When we received Christ by believing in His name, God became our Father in heaven, and we became His beloved “child” forever (John 1:12; 10:28-29; Matt. 6:9; I John 3:1)!
For some of us, seeing God as our heavenly Father may stir up painful memories, thoughts, or feelings because we did not have a healthy relationship with our earthly father. We may have father wounds that can keep us from seeing God the Father for Who He truly is in the Bible.
We think that God will resemble our fathers or father figures from our childhood (cf. Ps. 50:21). When we were wounded by father figures in our childhood, there may have been shame-based lies or distortions of our view of God attached to those wounds.
Check the following shame-based concepts of God that apply to you: 
____ “The cruel and unpredictable God” is the most extreme distortion of God’s nature and is found among those who received brutal and unpredictable abuse in childhood most often at the hands of their fathers, stepfathers, or father figures. If you are one of the bruised believers who experienced severe physical or sexual abuse as a child, this might be the way you see God and you understandably struggle to trust your Father in heaven.
____ “The demanding and unforgiving God” is often the view that Christian adults have whose parents were rigid and perfectionistic. No matter how hard you try, you can never measure up to the demands of this distorted deity who does not forgive nor forget your sins. When you fail, watch out! His cruel side is manifested. He seems to delight in sending financial disaster or physical disease to emphasize His intolerance of your spiritual failures. Understandably, it is difficult for you to approach Him and experience His forgiveness and love.
____ “The selective and unfair God” is a distorted view of God found among Christian adults who experienced spiritual abuse by parental authorities in childhood. This might be the God you worship if you feel Jesus has revealed Himself more fully to other Christians who, in turn have a deeper relationship with Him than you do. You probably struggle with being a different and less-than Christian.
____ “The distant and unavailable God” may care about His worshipers, but He is off somewhere running the universe and cannot get too involved in their lives. If your parents were physically or emotionally unavailable through prolonged absences, perhaps because of death, divorce, illness, military duty, working overseas, or neglect, you may experience God as eternally distant and unavailable.
____ “The kind but confused God” is a clumsy and powerless deity who is confused by all the chaos in the world. If you had parents who were overwhelmed by uncontrollable chaos in their lives and your family, you may have this view of God.
The key to the healing of our father wounds is to walk through that pain with Jesus in the context of a loving community of Christians with whom you feel safe. God the Holy Spirit along with these loving believers, will help you replace the lies you believe about your heavenly Father with the truth of Who He is.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for calling us to bear witness to the Light – Your perfect Son Jesus Christ – so others can believe in Him alone for His gift of eternal life. Living the holiest life before non-Christians without telling them about Jesus does help them obtain eternal life. We must share the gospel with them and invite them to believe in Christ alone for salvation. Please enable us to use the words You used the most in evangelism – “believe” and “faith” – so more unsaved people can clearly know how You want them to respond to the good news of Your Son’s death and resurrection. Thank You for revealing Yourself to humanity through creation and through the Bible so no one is without excuse. Even though the world did not know Jesus as its Creator and His own Jewish people rejected Him, Christ did not stop loving them. He still offered salvation to individual Gentiles and Jews who would receive Him by believing in His name. Please give us the same love for lost people so we do not stop loving them even if they initially reject the gospel. Please empower us to continue to expose them to Your gospel message. Like some of us, they may need to hear the gospel several times before they believe it. Please heal us of our father wounds so we can see You for Who You truly are – a good and gracious heavenly Father Who delights in His children. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’sNotes on John, 20123 Edition, pg 28; Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 49546 to 49566.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 640-641;
 R. Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pp. 85-97. See also Joseph Dillow’s thorough treatment on repentance in Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 35-56.
 G. Michael Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984), pp. 69-70.
 Jeff Ropp, The Greatest Need in Evangelism Today is One Word: BELIEVE (Jeff Ropp, 2014), pg. 37.
 These ideas were shared with me by Dr. Earl Radmacher during a phone conversation on June 11, 2011.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 818-819.
 Ropp, The Greatest Need in Evangelism Today, pp. 94-95.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” I John 5:18
As the apostle John concludes his letter, he reviews and reinforces truths he has shared throughout his epistle. John just focused on praying for Christian brothers and sisters who had wandered far away from God and His people on the path of sin (5:16-17). Some of these sinning believers may be close to departing from this world through a premature death (cf. Acts 5:5-10; I Cor. 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30). 1
John’s readers (including you and me) may have wondered, “Is there any hope that these sinning believers can be restored to fellowship with God and us? Is it still possible for them to resume walking in the light of fellowship with the Lord and His people after wandering so far into darkness?”
Or maybe some of his readers were asking, “Is there any hope that I can be restored to fellowship with God after wandering aimlessly for so long in the depths of darkness? Does God still love me and want to be close to me?”
I believe the apostle John would say, “Yes, a thousand times, Yes!!!” In the next three verses John will focus on three certainties. Each of the verses in 5:18-20 begins with “We know that …” (oidamen hoti). In the New Testament the Greek word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 2 “This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.”3 It is also important to observe that this Greek verb is in the perfect tense (oidamen) which means John and his readers knew these truths in the past and they continue to know them to the present. These are not guesses or mere human opinions, they are absolute unchanging truths from God that the apostle and his readers can be sure of no matter what they or other believers are facing or feeling.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” (I John 5:18). We have already learned that the phrase “whoever is born of God” refers to the divine or born-again nature we receive from God when we believe in Jesus as the Christ for everlasting life (cf. 3:9; 5:1, 13). The Greek participle translated “is born” (ho gegennēmenos) is in the perfect tense which means the new birth took place in the past and continues to the present. Since God cannot sin, the divine nature He places inside His child “does not sin” either (5:18b). A sinless Parent cannot beget a sinful child. So, sin is never an act of the born-again nature inside the believer because it is incapable of sinning (cf. 3:9).
“This divine nature is portrayed as a person (a figure of speech known as personification, that is, to treat something which is not a person as though it were, like calling a ship ‘she’). That’s why this nature is called ‘whoever,’ ‘he,’ ‘himself,’ and ‘him.’”4
The apostle Paul spoke of this new nature as the “new man” when he writes, “And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephes. 4:24; cf. Col. 3:10). This new nature or “inner man” is strengthened by the Spirit of God (Ephes. 3:16) and has the capacity to resist the corruption and sinful lusts of this passing world which is under the control of Satan (I John 2:16-17; 5:18-19; cf. John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13a). 5
Hence, John says, “he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” The word “keeps” (tēreō) means to “watch over, guard, protect, or keep unharmed.” 6 The recipient of this protection is the born-again person (“himself”).
“In saying that the regenerate inward person (cf. Rom 7:22) ‘keeps himself,’ John is not saying that one’s inner self can somehow prevent all sin in the Christian life (cf. 1:5-10). What John means is that God’s ‘seed remains in’ the regenerate inner self (cf. 3:9) as the controlling element of his born-again nature and is impervious to even the slightest contamination from the wicked one. Believers’ failures are due to the sinful ‘programming’ of their earthly bodies, as Paul himself taught in Rom 7:7-25.” 7
Even though Satan uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to sway believers away from God (2:16; 5:19), John assures us “the wicked one does not touch him,” that is, the born-again self (5:18c). The word “touch” (haptetai) means “to touch with the purpose of harming, to injure.” 8 Satan and the world he controls, cannot harm the born-again self.
This is important for all of us to remember about ourselves or other believers when humbled by sinful failures. The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that a Christian who continually walks in the darkness or repeatedly struggles with the same sin is not really God’s child which can lead them to more sinful failures. The Bible tells us we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7). If I am convinced I am not really saved because of my repeated failures, then I will be more inclined to live like a nonbeliever.
But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (I John 1:9), knowing we are the same inwardly holy children of God we were before we sinned. So, whatever we or another Christian have succumbed to in the world, John wants us to know that who we are at the core of our being has not changed. We are still a holy child of God because God’s sinless seed remains in us (3:9).
Zane Hodges says it like this: “At the very moment we are most humbled by our sinful failures, and when we confess them, it is helpful to be confident that those failures have not really changed what we are as children of God. The enemy, try as he might, cannot really touch us. He can only attempt to persuade us that he can or has. But if we know the truth stated in this verse, he will not be able to deceive us. For if we let him, Satan will use our failures to lead us to further failure. So, after every sin, deeply though we may and should regret it, we ought to rise from our confession to God knowing that we are the same inwardly holy persons we were before we failed!” 9
Some of you reading this may have a Christian spouse or child who has pursued the lusts of this passing world (2:16-17). They have been so twisted by the godless values of this world system that they are doing things that violate their Christian beliefs and values. Perhaps they have succumbed to the allurement of alcohol, drugs, gambling, materialism, pornography, or sex. Or maybe they have developed an acute mental condition such as severe depression or a phobia. They are in bondage to such things. Please do not give up or lose hope.
If your spouse or child is a believer in Jesus Christ, he or she is still a child of God at the core of his or her being and cannot be touched or harmed by evil or the evil one (I John 5:18; cf. 3:6-9). The “seed” or divine nature of God within him or her remains unchanged. It cannot be altered or even tempted. It remains a base from which the Holy Spirit can work within this loved one to bring healing to him or her, and to bring them back to fellowship with God and His people. 10 As long as that seed remains (and it will), “it can be watered by your prayers. As long as that seed remains, it can still grow. As long as that seed remains, it can blossom, and eternal fruit can be born. Do not give up.” 11
The restoration of fellowship for wayward Christians is based on walking in the Spirit, relying on Him to express God’s sinless born-again nature in them (I John 3:6-9; 5:18; cf. Gal. 5:16-25). It is not based on willful determination, on keeping New Year’s resolutions, or the power of positive thinking. 12
But it doesn’t stop there. Not only does a child of God have God’s sinless seed that remains in him or her, but he or she is also on God’s side and God is on their side. 13 He has not given up on them. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (I John 5:19). Again, John begins with “we know that…” (oidamen hoti) to convey the absolute certainty of what he is about to say. This is not mere speculation; it is absolute truth.
The phrase “of God” (ek tou Theou) refers to being on God’s side in I John. 14
“To be ‘of’ something in 1 John is to be on the side of the something. We saw this in 1 John 3:10b, 19 and 4:4. In reference to believers it means to have a dynamic, spiritual link to God, Who is obviously capable of giving us victory over the world. To be ‘of God’ means we are on His side, and He is on our side. The world lies like a limp puppet in the lap of the evil one, ready to be filled with his power. On the other side, we lie in the lap of the Lord, ready to be filled with His power.” 15
The phrase “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (ho kosmos holosen tō ponerō keitai) “suggests that the world passively rests within Satan’s operative sphere. By contrast, the phrase ek Theou (‘of God’) means being ‘from’ God. The Christian should be aware of his own sinless inward man (5:18), and he should also be aware of his utter separateness from the whole world that lives under Satan’s sway. Believers, whom the enemy cannot ‘touch’ (5:18), are not a part of the world, which lies passively in the wicked one. Thus, believers must not ‘love the world or the things in the world’ (2:15-17) and they must resist the ideas that the world promotes (cf. 2:18-19).”16
John wants to “reinforce the readers’ consciousness that they are distinct from the satanically controlled world system and basically free from its power. They need not listen to the worldly ideas advanced by the antichrists (3:7-8). Nor need they succumb to worldly desires (cf. 2:15-17).”17
Since a believer’s regenerate self (3:9; 5:18) and conduct is sourced in God and is free from the power of Satan and his world system (5:19), there is still hope for a Christian who has been in bondage to sin for a prolonged time. Hence, if your Christian spouse or child has been living like the devil, please know that they do not belong to the evil one nor his world system.
What this means is your sinning Christian spouse or child does not belong to Satan’s world, and he or she will always to some degree feel like a foreigner in this world system. Your loved one will never feel completely comfortable in this sin-sick world. This world is not a Christian’s home, we are just passing through; our home is way out there, somewhere beyond the blue. The child of God who wanders about aimlessly in darkness will always have a degree of discomfort. They will always know something is wrong, something just isn’t right. This is not who I am in Christ.
The good news is God can turn discomfort into disgust. When your loved one’s discomfort turns to disgust, he or she will turn towards home (God). Regardless of what this person tells you, if he or she gets sucked into the sewer of this world system, they are acting out of character, and they will never be completely comfortable. Don’t listen to their lies. Keep praying that their discomfort will turn to disgust, and God will restore them back to fellowship with Him. When they finally realize that they are wasting their life eating slop with the pigs in the pig sty, they will turn their eyes toward home (cf. Luke 15:13-17).
Because of God’s seed within your believing spouse or child, he or she is on God’s side whether they consciously sense that or not, and they will feel like a foreigner in this world. God can turn this discomfort into disgust so that they will want to come home to fellowship with Him and His family. Next time, Lord willing, we will discover how to get there. 18
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, oh how we needed to hear these encouraging words about Christians who are living in the depths of darkness and appear to have no hope of returning to fellowship with You and Your people. Thank You for reminding us that no matter how much we or our loved ones have embraced the lusts of this passing world, if we or they are a believer in Jesus, Your sinless nature remains inside us and is not touched by evil or the evil one. We are still children of God at the core of our being, and to some degree there will be discomfort with our sinful lifestyle and choices. Please oh Lord, turn this discomfort to disgust so all of us living in the darkness will return home to fellowship with You and Your people. Help us to rely on Your Holy Spirit for the power to live out these unchanging truths in our daily Christian lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 261-262.
2. Ibid., pg. 124.
4. Ibid., pg. 263.
6. 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. 1002.
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. 604.
8. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 126.
9. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 263-264 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 242-243.
10. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2953.
13. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
14. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
15. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 264-265.
16. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
17. 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 4126.
18. The last three paragraphs are adapted from Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” I John 5:16
As the apostle John approached the end of his letter, he resumed talking about prayer that expresses faith in the name of God’s Son (I John 5:13b -15). John spoke of praying for our own needs especially as it relates to God’s will which is revealed in His commandments. God has commanded us to love one another (I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; cf. John 13:34-35). When we ask God to help us do this, we can be confident He hears this request favorably because we know this is according to His revealed will (5:14-15).
But John does not want us to stop with praying for our own needs (5:14-15), he also wants us to pray for the needs of others (5:16-17). When other Christians love us, we may not see our need to ask God for help to love them back. But when a Christian sins against us we may recognize our need for God’s help. Jesus taught that praying for someone who has sinned against us is an act of love (cf. Matt. 5:44). 1
Hence, John writes, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” (I John 5:16). We can pray with confidence for a “brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death” that God will answer our prayer favorably. God will give us “life” to give to our brothers “who commit sin not leading to death” (5:16a). 2
Hence, “the name of the Son of God” (5:13b) becomes “life”“for the sinning believer who gets a longer life plus joy when he repents and for the praying brother when he receives a positive answer for his prayer. We get joy from answered prayer, and the sinning brother gets restored joy when he returns to fellowship (and potentially a longer life).” 3
“John offers a specific example of confident prayer that is according to God’s will and that involves a horizontal expression of love. If you see a brother committing a sin, he needs a believer who is intimate with God to intercede for him (5:16). As a result of his own intimacy intimacy with God, Moses intervened on behalf of Israel (Exod. 32:7-14). When the four men who carried the paralytic took him to Jesus, He forgave and healed when He saw their faith (Mark 2:5). When we reach out in love to a brother or sister who is being defeated, God can allow that believer to piggyback on our faith to receive deliverance. That’s what the family of God is about.”4
However, this promise does not apply to Christians who commit sin leading directly or immediately to a premature physical death. 5 John writes, “There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” (5:16b). A Christian brother is not encouraged to pray for another believer who is committing a sin that leads immediately to a swift physical death. Nor is he instructed not to pray for him.
“In other words, if a Christian suspects that a sin leading directly to death is being committed, he is free to pray for the sinning believer, but without any certainty about the outcome of his prayer. Although there is no guarantee, it is always possible that God may ‘relent’ from His judgment.”6
“All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” (I John 5:17). All “unrighteousness” (adikia) or wrongdoing in God’s eyes “is sin” but out of this broad spectrum “there is sin not leading to death.” This last phrase sin “not leading to death” (mē pros thanaton/ou pros thanaton) occurs three times in 5:16-17 and should be understood to mean “not punished by death.” 7
The distinction in I John 5:16-17 is between sins for which death is a rapid consequence and sins for which it is not. Obviously, all Christians still sin (I John 1:8, 10). But God makes a distinction between sins that result in premature death and those that do not such as envy, lying, slander, gossip, pride, manipulation, anger, deception, lust, or hypocrisy. 8
This is also not a reference to eternal “death” as some teach. 9 John is speaking here of a believer’s Christian “brother” who has eternal life which can never be lost (5:1, 13; cf. John 6:35-30; 10:28-29).
Examples of sin leading to a premature or swift physical death among Christians is seen in Acts 5:1-11 and I Corinthians 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30. 10 Ananias and Sapphira “lied … to God” the Holy Spirit about the amount of money they obtained when they sold their property and gave only “part” of the proceeds to the apostles to distribute to other believers (Acts 4:34-5:4). They wanted God and other believers to think they were more generous than they actually were. As a result of not allowing the Holy Spirit to control them, both Ananias and Sapphira “immediately” died (Acts 5:5-10).
The Christians at Corinth also committed sins which could lead to premature death. These included:
Exalting God’s servants instead of God will “destroy” (phtheiro) or “defile” the local church (“you” = plural) which is “the temple of God” in whom “the Spirit of God dwells”(I Cor. 3:16-17). Bringing harm to the local church through illegitimate divisions or false doctrine could result in a premature physical death. 11
Continuing in sexual immorality as a Corinthian believer did with “his father’s wife” (I Cor. 5:1) or the sinning believer’s stepmother. Paul instructed the church to “deliver such a one to Satan” by excommunicating him from the church so God’s protective covering is removed from his life. 12 Then Satan can use the world which he controls (John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:12; Col. 1:13; 1 John 5:19) 13 “for the destruction of the flesh” of this wayward believer so “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5). The word “flesh” is not likely to refer to the man’s sinful desires because Satan is not likely to destroy them. It is better to understand the “flesh” to be his physical life which when destroyed would “save” this Christian from the additional loss of eternal rewards before he faces Jesus at the Judgment Seat (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15). A similar view is that the word “save” (sōzō) is often used in the New Testament to mean being healed or being healthy (cf. Matt. 9:21-22; Mark 5:23, 28, 34; 6:56; 10:52; Luke 7:50; 8:36, 48, 50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 4:9; 14:9; Jas. 5:15). According to this view, Paul’s desire is that this man’s spirit will be healthy in the day of the Lord Jesus through his repentant response to church discipline. 14 “The day of the Lord Jesus” is a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:16; 2 Thess. 2:2). 15
The misuse of the Lord’s Supper to fulfill fleshly desires left “many” Corinthian believers “weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” (I Cor. 11:30). The word “sleep” refers to physical death (cf. John 11:11-13).
God wants His children to take sin seriously. The Bible tells us that believers who take sin lightly are flirting with death:
Proverbs 10:27: “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.”
Proverbs 11:19: “As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.”
Proverbs 13:14: “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 19:16: “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.”
All sin if practiced long and hard enough will lead to physical death (James 1:14-15). Believers who understand this will pray for their fellow Christians who are sinning (I John 5:16). James writes, “19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20). When Christians (“Brethren”) are aware of another believer (“anyone among you”) who “wanders from the truth” and “turns him back” primarily through prayer (cf. James 5:13-18), the one who prays saves the sinning believer’s “soul from death” (premature physical death) “and covers a multitude of sins.” This last phrase alludes to Proverbs 10:12 which says, “But love covers all sins.” There may have been a vast number of decisions and choices that led a particular believer away from the Lord. But with the sacrificial love of Christ, James says praying Christians can be used of God to provide a covering for past sins and lead an astray brother or sister to restoration. 16
James 5:19-20 is speaking as much to the Christian who prays as he is to the Christian who strays. Evans writes, “Some believers aid the spiritual regression of fellow Christians by assuming it’s none of their business. But if your child darted into the street in front of a car, would you say it’s none of your business? Of course not! Though many believers fail to comprehend their responsibility to the family of faith, your Christianity is real when you see a brother in Christ backsliding and act in love. You cannot be a passive Christian.” 17
I believe the apostle John would agree with this. While God gives us eternal life as a free gift the moment we believe in the name of the Son of God (cf. 5:1, 13), we who are believers can give extended physical “life” to sinning believers, in some cases, when we pray in the name of the Son of God to be merciful to them (5:16-17). 18
However, it is important to remember that if a believer hardens his or her heart and refuses to confess and forsake their sins, he or she cannot expect mercy from God. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” It never benefits a Christian to harden his heart and cover up or hide his sins. God’s promises that if a sinning believer “confesses and forsakes” his sins, he “will have mercy.”
One of the greatest ways we can show God’s love to a sinning believer is to pray for him or her that God would bring them to repentance so the joy of fellowship with God and other Christians can be restored. We might not know if God will judge the sinning believer with premature physical death. In such cases we can pray that God will bring His will to pass for them. 19
Prayer: O Father, forgive us for failing to take sin seriously in our own lives and in the lives of fellow believers in Jesus. It can be easy for us to justify our apathy or lack of love for a sinning Christian by telling ourselves it is none of our business. Thank You for reminding us that if we love You, we are also to love a sinning brother or sister in Christ by praying for them in the name of the Son of God so they can be given a longer life and greater joy when they repent and return to fellowship with You and other Christians. Even though we do not know if You will judge a sinning believer with a premature physical death, we can still pray that You will bring Your will to pass in their lives. Right now, we pray for so and so, that You would turn him from the error of his way and restore him to close fellowship with You and Your children. Have mercy on us all heavenly Father. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 253.
2. In the phrase “he will ask [aitēsei], and He will give [dōsei] him [auton] life” —the first “he” (singular)in the text is the antecedent to the “him” (singular)because the second “He” refers to God who answers the prayer, and “life” is given to “him” (singular) to pass on “to those” [toise – plural] who are committing sin that does not lead to death (Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253).
4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2952.
5. 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. 604; Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 116;
6. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
7. 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 4095.
8. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253.
9. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pp. 116-117, 119 cites Randall K. J. Tan, “Should We Pray for Straying Brethren? John’s Confidence in 1 John 5:16-17,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 45:4 (December 2002), pp. 599-609; Robert W. Yarbrough, 1—3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pp. 306-313; Rudolf Schnachenburg, The Johannine Epistles, translated from the 7th ed. of Die Johannesbriefe (1984) by Reginald and Ilse Fuller (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1992), pg. 249; and John R. W. Stott, The Epistles of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 186-191.
10. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pg. 116; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2952-2953; Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604; Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 4092 to 4097; Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253.
11. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2490.
12. Dwight Hunt, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 357.
13. Ibid. pp. 355, 357.
14. Ibid., pg. 357.
15. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 469.
16. Evans, Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2890.
17. Ibid., pp. 2889-2890.
18. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pg. 121.
19. Ibid., pg. 118 cites Robert W. Cook, “Hamartiological Problems in First John,” Bibliotheca Sacra 123; 491 (July-September 1966), pp. 257-59; and Samuel C. Storms, Reaching God’s Ear (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988), pp. 241-53.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17
The ascended and glorified Lord Jesus now addresses the church in Pergamos. “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword.’” (Revelation 2:12). “Pergamum was famous for its university with a library of about 200,000 volumes, and for manufacturing parchment resulting in a paper called pergamena”1 from which the city derived its name. 2
“The city of Pergamos (the northernmost of the seven cities, fifty miles north of Smyrna) was full of temples and was a center for the cults of Zeus, Soter, Athena, Dionysus, and Asklepios.”3 “Emperor worship was more intense there than in any other surrounding city.”4
“Satan’s activity in this city not only affected the unsaved but also was profoundly detrimental to believers as well. They tolerated false teaching. Thus, Jesus tells the believers in this pagan city just what they need to hear.” 5
When addressing “the church in Pergamos” the Lord Jesus refers to Himself as “He who has the sharp two-edged sword” because His judgment of them with His Word was near (2:12; cf. Hebrews 4:12).
“It is interesting that Pergamum was a city to which Rome had given the rare power of capital punishment (ius gladii), which was symbolized by the sword. The Christians in Pergamum were thus reminded that though they lived under the rule of an almost unlimited imperium, they were citizens of another kingdom—that of him who needs no other sword than that of his mouth . . .”6
Because these believers at Pergamos were not doing anything about the false teaching in their church, the Lord Jesus wanted them to see His Word as an instrument of judgment and to know that His judgment of them was imminent (cf. 2:16; John 12:48). 7
Next, the Lord Jesus commends the church for holding fast to their commitment to Him amid a Satanic stronghold. “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” (Revelation 2:13). The Lord Jesus was aware (“I know”) of the difficulties these Christians faced in a city where “Satan” was very active, initiating both idolatrous practices as well as the persecution of believers.Even though these Christians were compromising the truth by tolerating false teaching, Christ graciously commends them for holding “fast to” His “name” and for refusing to “deny” His “faith” even after one of their fellow church members, “Antipas … was killed.”8
“Antipas is said to have been a dentist and a physician, but the Aesculapiades suspected that he was propagating Christianity secretly and they accused him of disloyalty to Caesar. He was condemned to death and was shut up in a brazen (or copper) bull, which was then heated until it was red-hot.”9
After commending them, Jesus rebukes these believers for compromising the truth. “14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” (Revelation 2:14-15). This church was toleratingthe false teaching “of Balaam” who introduced idolatry and “sexual immorality” to “the children of Israel” (2:14; cf. Numbers 31:15-16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11).
In the Old Testament, Balaam told Balak that he could overcome the Israelites if he would involve them in the Moabite religious feasts that included sacred prostitution (Numbers 22-25; 31:15-16). This would compromise their faithfulness to God and subject them to His painful discipline. The unbelievers in Pergamos, likewise, were evidently encouraging the Christians to join in their pagan feasts, and the sexual immorality that accompanied those feasts (2:14). The believers in the church who participated in these immoral feasts had given their approval to Balaam’s teaching. The “Nicolaitans” evidently regarded these sins as acceptable, under the pretense of Christian liberty (2:15; cf. Revelation 2:6). Interestingly “Balaam” in Hebrew can mean “swallow the people,” so the conceptual connection between the Nicolaitans (“conquer the people”) and Balaam is clear. 10These false teachers were more interested in dominating or using people than serving them.
Chitwood makes an astute observation: “The main facet of the doctrine of Balaam which is being promulgated in Churches today is the teaching that [equal] future blessings and rewards have been set aside for every Christian solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work on Calvary and the Christian’s positional standing ‘in Christ.’ Thus, all Christians—regardless of their conduct during the present time—will receive crowns and positions of power and authority with Christ in the [millennial] kingdom. However, the teaching throughout the Word of God is to the contrary. The Israelites did not sin with immunity, and neither can Christians. Sin in the camp of Israel resulted in the Israelites being overthrown in the wilderness, short of the goal of their calling. And it will be no different for Christians.”11
It is a big deal to God when we cause other believers to stumble, especially when we do it knowingly and for profit like Balaam (2:14-15). That is why the Lord demanded that the Christians in Pergamos repent. 12 “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” (Revelation 2:16). The verb “repent” (metanoeō) is a compound made up of two Greek words. The first is meta,“after,” and the second is noeō,“to perceive, understand or think.” The two together mean “after perceiving, understanding, thinking” or “to change one’s mind.”13
These believers were to change their thinking and stop tolerating the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. If they failed to do this, Christ warns them, “I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” They would be judged by “the sword” proceeding from the exalted Lord Jesus’ “mouth.” Balaam had died, ironically, by the Israelites’ sword (Numbers 31:8). This judgment of unrepentant Christians at Pergamos would be by the unyielding standard of God’s revealed Word—that clearly condemns such compromise. Having taken sides with the enemy, they could expect God to oppose them in His “war” against evil. 14
Christian leaders are not to tolerate compromise in their churches, whether it be doctrinal or moral. Leaders cannot control peoples’ decisions, but if wayward Christians refuse to repent, leaders are to implement church discipline to restore them back to fellowship with God and one another (cf. Matthew 18:15-17; I Corinthians 5:1-13).
What does Christ promise believers who repent and live victoriously for Him? “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17). This verse mentions two eternal rewards for the believer who “has an ear” and “overcomes” by rejecting the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitans.
The first reward consists of “the hidden manna to eat,” a possible reference to the miraculous manna from heaven, that sustained the lives of the Israelites in the wilderness, of which a sample keepsake lay “hidden” in the holy of holies (Exodus 16:32-34; cf. Hebrews 9:4). “This manna will surely provide the benefits good food offers today: increased energy, enhanced ability to serve God, and enjoyment. Eating that bread will forever remind us that the Lord Jesus is the Bread of Life (see John 6:35).” 15
It may be “hidden” in the sense that it is not available to everyone, only to those believers who reject the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitans. 16 Some suggest it represents a special kind of intimacy with the Lord Jesus when He returns to earth to set up His Kingdom. 17
The second reward is “a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” I read an intriguing article about this white stone by Ken Yates that changed my view of this reward. 18
Yates has a friend who is a gemologist. When his friend sees the words “white stone,”“he thinks of a pure diamond. A diamond has a numerical rating from 0 to 10. The less color it has in it, the closer it has to a rating of zero. A zero is a perfect diamond with no color. It is a white diamond…
“Years ago, he wanted to give his wife a special gift. He wanted to find a diamond as close to a zero as he could find. He found one with a rating of .3. It was a special gem and one that was very expensive.
“He gave it to his wife on that special occasion. Being married to my friend for many years, she knew the special character of that gem. She knew that her husband had gone out of his way to give her this stone. She knew he wanted to give her something very special.
“I don’t think I need to tell any reader of this blog that this was a special piece of jewelry to this woman. Sure, it was beautiful. Sure, it was not like any other piece of jewelry she had. Sure, it was expensive.
“But there was something else about that gem. She knew that her husband had great joy in giving it to her. Every time she wore it, she was reminded of how he loved her. She knew that it had come from her husband who wanted to honor her.
“In other words, this gem was valuable to her because of the one who gave it to her. It was valuable to her because it showed what he thought of her. He found her worthy of this gem.” 19
Yates continues, “Don’t you think that it will be like that with those who receive this white stone at the Judgment Seat of Christ? John tells us that the stone will have a new name on it. The believers who receive it will know that the Lord thought they were worthy of it. They will know that He received great joy in giving it to them. The fact that it came from Him will make it of infinite value.” 20
Jesus said that the “new name” on this white stone will only be known by “him who receives it.” Certainly, the Lord Jesuswill know the name as well since He is the one giving (and probably inscribing) the stones. It is as if the Lord will say, “Because you refused to deny My name in time, I will honor you with a special name in eternity.”21
Dillow observes, “The giving of a ‘new name’ was a Jewish custom of assigning a name at a point in life which characterizes the person. See Judges 6:31-32, where Gideon was renamed Jerub-Baal, which means ‘Let Baal contend with him’ because he took a stand against Baal and cut down his altars. In the early church James was called ‘camel knees’ because of the calluses on his knees from so much kneeling while he was praying. Our Lord called Simon by a new name, Peter, which means ‘rock,’ signifying his future as the rock of stability in the church. Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, was called ‘Barnabas,’ which means ‘son of encouragement.’” 22
Each believer in Jesus Christ has his own distinct life message, his own unique history of struggle and demonstration of God’s life in his or hers. The Lord Jesus is a God of the individual as well as of the church. The secrecy of the name implies a special intimacy between Christ and each overcomer. It will be a name which in some way signifies an outstanding attribute of that person’s life. This of course challenges each of us to consider the question, “What will my name be?” And more significantly, “What would I like my name to be?” 23
In summary, Jesus’ message to the church in Pergamos challenges Christians to repent of any doctrinal or moral compromise so they can faithfully serve Christ until death and receive eternal rewards involving delicious foods and precious jewelry (2:12-17). Such rewards will forever bring Jesus glory and honor!
Prayer: Almighty Lord Jesus, some of us may be tempted to give up in our Christian lives because the journey is difficult. The road can be treacherous at times. Hidden dangers lie ahead of us that can overtake us. Things like betrayal, depression, disease, failure, loneliness, loss of loved ones, persecution, or rejection. Like the Christians at Pergamos, we may be living in an area of Satanic strongholds. Temptations bombard us continually in a declining society. We may be tempted to follow the world’s substitutes consisting of lust, greed, and pride (I John 2:16). But You call us to follow You against the cultural currents of compromise and evil. You offer us something far greater than fame, money, power, or sex – all of which are temporary. You offer us rewards that last forever and will be far greater than any earthly pleasure or treasure. Lord Jesus, please give us the strength to lean into You instead of this world when we are afraid or in pain, knowing You will give us eternal rewards consisting of delicious food and a precious white stone with our own special name on it. Both rewards will be eternal reminders that You deemed us worthy of such recognition. Both rewards will grant us greater intimacy with You throughout eternity. Thank You, our Lord and our God. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.
1. 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.
2 Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament,6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 213293-213295.
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. 1506.
4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 38 cites William Barclay, TheRevelation of JohnVol. 1 (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 110.
5. Vacendak, pg. 1506.
6. Constable, pg. 38 cites Alan Johnson, “Revelation.” In Hebrews-Revelation. Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols., (Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 440; G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (Harper’s New Testament Commentaries series. New York: Harper, 1966), pg. 38.
7. Vacendak, pg. 1506.
9. Constable, pg. 38 cites Frederick A. Tatford, The Patmos Letters (By the Author, 1969; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, n.d.), pg. 75.
10. Constable, pg. 39 cites Alan Johnson, pg. 441.
11. Ibid., pg. 40 cites Arlen L. Chitwood, Judgment Seat of Christ (Norman, Okla.: The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 1986),pg 70; cf. Charles H. Savelle, “Canonical and Extracanonical Portraits of Balaam,” Bibliotheca Sacra 166:664 (October-December 2009), pp. 387-404.
12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2373.
13. 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. 640.
14. Constable, pg. 40.
15. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 78.
16. Evans, pg. 2373.
17. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 959-960; John f. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966); G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), pg. 252.
18. Ken Yates’ June 2, 2020, blog entitled, “Looking at the White Stone from a Different Angle (Revelation 2:17)” at www.faithalone.org.
“And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” Revelation 16:9
After the inhabitants of heaven praise God for His righteous and just judgments toward rebellious humankind who shed the blood of His servants (16:5-7), the fourth angel arrives to pour out his bowl of wrath. Instead of the beast-worshippers on the earth receiving a much-needed drink of rainwater to quench their parched throats, they got the exact opposite. “8 Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. 9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:8-9). The definite article before “men” (tous anthrōpous) refers specifically to those whose allegiance was to the Beast (cf. 16:2). It is possible that those who refused to worship the Beast and receive his mark were not struck with this judgment. Likewise, the Israelites also escaped some of the plagues on Egypt’s land, water, animals, people, leaders, and even Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20-9:7; 9:13-35; 10:21-12:36). 1
This “fourth… bowl” judgment used “the sun” to “scorch men” who followed the Beast “with fire” and “great heat” that will leave their human flesh charred. This was “more than an oppressive heat wave that weakens and withers people, this judgment will involve the blistering and charring of human flesh by the sun.” 2
Swindoll writes, “Instead of catching soothing drops of rain, the people of earth were burned with searing rays from the sun! Scientists have long been concerned about the possibility of massive, unexpected solar flares, which could increase the number of harmful rays that penetrate our atmosphere. It seems that by the end of the Tribulation, the atmosphere will have been so damaged that the rays of the sun will no longer be filtered or deflected, causing all sorts of catastrophic climatic changes. This end-times global warming will make today’s hot-earth hysteria resemble nothing more than a warm spring day.”3
One would think that after all these horrific judgments on the earth that left people painfully afflicted, starving, dying of thirst, and severely burned, that humankind would fall to their knees and beg God for His mercy, right!?! Wrong!!! “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:9). Instead of turning to the Lord in repentance and giving “Him glory,” they “blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues.” Instead of letting the scorching sun melt their hearts, they let it harden their hearts toward God, much like Pharaoh hardened his heart after each of the plagues on Egypt.
Surely a loving God would relent of His judgments if people sought to get right with Him. The prophet Joel addresses this part of God’s character when he writes, 4“’12 Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him— a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14).
Instead of humbly repenting before the Lord God Whom they know has the power over these plagues to lovingly bring them to a stop, the people of the earth increased the hardness of their hearts during the last part of the Tribulation. Why? Because they have taken on the character of the Beast who blasphemes God and indoctrinates the citizens of his worldwide kingdom to do the same (Revelation 13:1, 5-6; 17:3; cf. Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). Instead of blaming their own sinfulness for these first four plagues, they blame God for them. 5
The first four bowl judgments targeted the natural realm (the earth, sea, fresh waters, and the sun), but the next two bowl judgments target the Beast and his worldwide kingdom. “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.” (Revelation 16:10). The fifth bowlof God’s wrath was “poured out… on the throne of the beast and his kingdom.” Since the beast’s kingdom was worldwide,this was a global darkness that will cause such intense emotional anguish that beast-worshippers will engage in self-mutilation (“they gnawed their tongues because of the pain”). 6
This darkness is reminiscent of the plague God brought upon Egypt. “21 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:21-23). This darkness in Egypt was so deep, oppressive, and complete, that the Egyptians did nothing during those three days.The chaos caused by the darkness in Egypt may explain the intense pain this global darkness will cause to the citizens of the Beast’s kingdom during the Tribulation period.
Keep in mind that the effects of these first five bowl judgments are cumulative.“The sores brought on by the first bowl will continue to fester as the darkness closes in around them. The water that would have soothed their sun-scorched flesh will stand in stinking, stagnant pools; once-clean water will be polluted with decaying blood.”7
Nevertheless, people will still refuse to humble themselves before the God Who could bring a stop to these severe bowl judgments. “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 16:11). Instead of blaming their rebellious ways for these plagues, the followers of the Beast choose to blaspheme God for “their pains and their sores.” But they don’t stop there. They choose to abide in their wicked ways that caused them to be oppressed by these horrific plagues – they do “not repent of their deeds.”8
“As in 16:9, this scene is reminiscent of a child cursing his parent while he is being spanked. Such a reaction to punishment inevitably triggers more punishment.” 9
We have learned in our study of the seven-year Tribulation on earth in the book of Revelation, that this will be a time that is filled with heightened deception (12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20). One of Satan’s oldest strategies which will be implemented in full during the Tribulation is to blame God for all the pain that exists in the world to deceive people into thinking that the true God is an out of control, vengeful deity who can be defeated if everyone comes together to fight against Him. The truth is pain and suffering did not exist in the world God created (Genesis 1-2). Pain and suffering were the result of Satan, who sinned first against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), tempting Adam and Eve to sin (Genesis 3:1-6) which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world (Romans 5:12). The effects of sin will culminate in the Tribulation period when humanity’s rebellion against God will reach an all-time depth of depravity resulting in God’s in-kind judgment (Revelation 6-16).
When we look back at the chaos and pain the global pandemic has caused the past two years, do we blame God for this? Or when we observe the loss of innocent lives during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, do we shake our fists at God and hold Him responsible for this? How do we respond to God when we or those close to us experience suffering and pain? Do we harden or humble our hearts toward the Lord?
Satan wants to convince us that God is to blame for all our problems and pain so we will not come to the Lord in faith and be saved forever from Satan’s destiny in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). Please understand that God is the One Who loves us, not Satan. Satan doesn’t care about you or me. He knows his destiny is in the lake of fire and he selfishly wants to take as many people with him as possible. He will go to any length of deception to help populate hell. He has no guilt or shame for his actions because he is evil to the core.
But Jesus Christ is selfless to the core. Instead of holding on to His glory in heaven, He veiled His glory with human flesh when He left heaven and came to earth knowing He would be rejected by the world and His own Jewish people who would condemn Him to die on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). The Bible tells us, “9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (I John 4:9-10 NLT). “Real love” gives instead of takes. God’s love gave His best (His Son) when we were at our worst (in bondage to our sins) so we “might have eternal life through” Jesus if we would do one thing: BELIEVE IN HIM.
Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be persuaded that something is true and then trust or depend upon. Do you believe Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life”? If so, do you now trust Christ (not your good life, religion, or prayers) to give you His gift of eternal life? If you do, Jesus guarantees you now have everlasting life which can never be taken away from you (John 10:28-29). God is now your Father in heaven, and you are His child forever (John 1:12; 6:35). Everyone who believes in Jesus for eternal life is your brother or sister in Christ.
Christ wants you to grow in your relationship with Him. Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31b-32). The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. Jesus wants you to “abide” or continue in His Word, the Bible, so you can “know the truth” which “shall make you free” from Satan’s lies that keep you enslaved to sin and shame. God’s truth will identify the lies you have been believing that have held you in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is the truth of God’s Word that will break the shackles of Satan’s lies that have kept you from leaning into the Lord when you face pain and suffering.
Below are some examples of Satan’s lies that can keep us from drawing near to the Lord. I have included God’s truth to replace those lies and the Scriptures to go with them.Take some time to read through these lies and then identify the ones that you have believed to be true. The lie will feel true to you if you believe it. Then read the corresponding truth statements repeatedly until they feel true to you. As you do that the corresponding lies will feel less and less true. Ask the Lord Jesus to deliver you from bondage to these lies (cf. Psalm 119:28-29). We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome them, but Jesus Christ does. Let Him renew your mind as you meditate on God’s truth.
Lie: God is to blame for all your pain and suffering.
Truth: Pain and suffering were the result of Satan (who sinned first against God), tempting Adam and Eve to sin which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world.
Scripture: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12; cf. Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19.
Lie: God cannot be trusted.
Truth: God can be trusted because He is good and faithful to His promises.
Scripture: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8
“In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Titus 1:2
Lie: God is holding out on you.
Truth: God wants to give you, His best.
Scripture: “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Lie: You can be like God by disobeying Him.
Truth: Since there is only one true God, and I am not Him, I must live in total dependence on Him.
Scripture: God said, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” Isaiah 45:5
“’But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;’ I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.’” Psalm 31:14-15
Lie: God is against me.
Truth: God is for me and not against me.
Scripture: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
Lie: God has or will accuse me.
Truth: God has declared me totally righteous in Christ.
Scripture: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33
Lie: God has or will condemn me.
Truth: God will not condemn me because Christ took my condemnation on the cross and He now defends me and intercedes for me in heaven.
Scripture: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Lie: I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthy.
Truth: No one and nothing can separate me from Christ’s love.
Scripture: “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39
Lie: God would never love me as I am.
Truth: In Christ, I am totally loved by God as I am.
Scripture: “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before Him covered with His love.” Ephesians 1:4 TLB
Lie: I am alone and unloved.
Truth: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe.
Scripture: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10
Lie: I could never be forgiven.
Truth: I am totally forgiven in Christ.
Scripture: “13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14
Lie: I am an unacceptable person.
Truth: I am totally accepted in Christ.
Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a
“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You now realizing that we can be a lot like the people in the Tribulation period who will be deceived into blaming You for their suffering and pain instead of their own rebellion against You. When bad things happen to us, help us O Lord to humble our hearts before You instead of hardening them. Lord, we cannot overcome Satan’s lies on our own. The Devil wants to take as many people with him to hell as possible. He will go to any length of deception to populate the lake of fire. Lord, please make us the kind of people who will do whatever it takes within the boundaries You have given us to populate Your heaven through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately need You and Your Word to help us identify the lies we believe and replace them with Your truth so we can live the abundant life You came to give us. We pray for those whose hearts and minds have been deceived by Satan into believing You are responsible for all their pain and suffering. Help them to see that You love them and gave Your best for them when they were still undeserving sinners. And You want to save them forever from the lake of fire and give them eternal life if they would simply believe in You, Lord Jesus. Please use our lives and lips to communicate Your love to a lost and broken world so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus’ gift of eternal life. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 172.
2. 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. 1559.
3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 296-297.
4. Ibid., pg. 297.
5. Constable, pg. 172 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 257.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.
“Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way that I ought to proclaim it.” Colossians 3:3-4
During my drive from Nebraska back to our home in Iowa recently, I noticed a billboard along the interstate that read, “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” with a phone number on it to call. I thought to myself, “I wonder what they are telling callers they must do to go to heaven?” Knowing I had about two hours left on my drive home, I knew this would probably be an animated conversation that would keep me wide awake. So, I decided to give them a call. I will try to convey the main ideas communicated in this call, acknowledging that my quotes are not verbatim.
When a young man answered my call, I told him I noticed their billboard sign and wanted to know what I must do to be sure I would go to heaven in the future. Immediately he told me I must repent and then quoted from Matthew 4:17 where Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I asked, “What does it mean to repent?” He said it means to turn from your sin and follow Jesus. To which I replied, “You mean I must turn from all my sins?” “Yes,” he said. “Have you done that?” I asked him. “No,” he responded, “But if I do sin, the Bible tells me I must confess it to the Lord, and He will forgive me.”
In addition, he quoted from Romans 10:9-10 which says, “9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” To make sure I understood him, I tried to repeat back what I heard him to say, “So you are telling me that to be sure I will go to heaven, I must repent, believe, and confess Jesus is Lord.” He said, “That’s right.”
Next, I told him my mother taught me John 3:16 when I was a child. After quoting the verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” I said to him, “Jesus is saying all I must do to have everlasting life is believe in Him.” Quickly he retorted, “We do what we believe, right?” I said, “Of course. But Jesus is saying all I must do is believe in Him for eternal life. So, if I will do what I believe, I will believe in Jesus to get me to heaven, not do good works to get to heaven.”
This man, whose name ironically is John, liked the book of Matthew, so he directed me to Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus said, “21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
I said to John, “Christ is teaching that confessing the Lordship of Jesus and doing good works in His name is not what gains entrance into the kingdom of heaven. It is doing the will of the Father. And what is the Father’s will for entering His kingdom? Jesus tells us in John 6:40, ‘And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ According to Jesus, all we must do to enter the Father’s heaven, is see and believe in His Son to receive everlasting life. The apostle John tells us the reason he wrote his gospel is so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ (20:31). Ninety-nine times the apostle John uses the word ‘believe’ in his gospel. He never uses the word ‘repent.’”
The John on the other end of the call said, “Believing is not enough. Listen to what the apostle John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes in I John 3: ‘4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.’”
I responded by saying, “First John 5:1 says, ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ The apostle John makes it clear that believing Jesus is the Christ is all that is necessary to be born of God. “
John responded by turning to I John 1:3-4, 7-10,“3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full… 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
I thanked John for turning to these verses because verses 3-4 explain to us that I John was written so we may have fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. So, when John talks about walking in the light (1:7), confessing sin (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3), abiding in Christ (2:6), not sinning (3:6, 9), practicing righteousness (3:7), and loving others (3:10), he is providing conditions for fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. The gospel of John tells us that the only condition for entering the Christian life is believing in Jesus for eternal life (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; et al.). But I John provides many conditions for having fellowship with God.
I told John on the other end of the call that I was very disappointed that he was preaching a different gospel than what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught. I quoted from Galatians 1:8-9 which says, “8 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. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” The apostle Paul made it clear in Galatians that the only condition for being justified or declared righteous before God was to believe or have faith in Christ alone. 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.
When John on the other end of the call tried to interrupt me, I asked him to wait until I was finished explaining the clear gospel. John hung up on me before I finished talking.
Unfortunately, what John and others with that ministry are doing to the gospel of grace is not uncommon. Rarely do I hear individual Christians or churches use the words God uses the most in New Testament evangelism – the verb “believe” (pisteuō) 1 and its noun form “faith” (pistis) 2 – as the only conditions for salvation. This is devastating because it dishonors the finished work of Christ on the cross. When we start replacing God’s Word with our own cliches or verses taken out of context, we are making it more difficult for sinners to be saved from hell by our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
If John had not hung up on me, I would have told him that he is the one who needs to repent. The word “repent” (metanoeō) in the New Testament means “to change one’s mind.”3 John and others who distort the gospel need to repent or change their minds and return to the original gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught. Jesus said, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15; cf. Acts 10:43; 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I John 5:1, 13; et al.). Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to finish paying the penalty for all our sin when He died in our place (John 19:30) “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
When the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian believers to pray for his preaching of the gospel, he said, “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4; NASB). If the apostle Paul needed prayer to help him keep the gospel clear, then how much more do you and I need this kind of prayer support from others!?! Satan wants to deceive Christians not to use the words God uses most in evangelism (“Believe” and “Faith”) because he knows that these are God’s terms for salvation from hell (cf. Luke 8:5, 12).
2. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.
3. 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. 640.
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:16
Jesus now speaks to the last of the seven churches. “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.’ ” (Revelation 3:14).
“Laodicea was a large and prosperous city forty miles southeast of Philadelphia where many wealthy people retired, thereby establishing it as a renowned banking center. A medical center specializing in eye salve and a prominent wool industry famous for its glossy black garments added to its material prosperity. Because they lived in the midst of this affluent city, the believers dwelling there also became affluent. Unfortunately, these believers allowed their wealth to ruin their effectiveness for Christ, and they did not even know it! Because of their outward wealth they had no clue as to their inward poverty. Therefore, the Judge of the churches sends a stern rebuke in their direction to move them to repent as well as an invitation to open the door to close fellowship with Him once again.”1
“Ancient pagans had hundreds of false gods to choose from, but modern pagans who may have rejected the worship of idols still have one false god that controls their lives: self. Self-expression, self-confidence, self-worth, self-reliance—these concepts all revolve around the myth that human beings have an inexhaustible source of strength within themselves. Such worthy people, of course, have trouble attributing all worth to God, which is the very definition of worship!
“Sadly, Christians aren’t immune to the disease of self-reliance. When believers in Christ rely on their own strength for good works, operating by the power of the flesh rather than by the power of the Spirit (Gal. 3:3), they produce ineffective and useless works. When believers think their own resources are sufficient, they glow with pride. And when believers look to themselves to provide for their own needs, they shine with self-sufficiency. Christ’s messages to the seven churches in Asia come to a close with a tragic letter to the self-sufficient, self-righteous, self-serving church in Laodicea. In their inexhaustible wealth and independent spirit, the Laodiceans were severely rebuked by the One who knew them better than they knew themselves. In fact, the Lord didn’t state a single word of commendation—only stinging reproof. That church suffered from pervasive self-reliance, hypocritical works done in their own strength, and an apathetic attitude toward the authority of Christ. Sadly, Christ’s hard words for Laodicea resonate with relevance for many churches and Christians today.”2
Jesus refers to Himself as “the Amen” (lit. truly)3 because the Laodicean church needed the truth. As “the Faithful and True Witness,” Jesus would provide a faithful and true assessment of their spiritual condition (3:14a). “The Laodiceans had a reputation for saying and doing whatever was necessary to preserve their own well-being. In contrast with them, Jesus spoke the truth.”4
Christ also refers to Himself as “the Beginningof the creation of God” because this church was self-sufficiently wealthy, and they needed to be reminded that everything they possessed was from their Creator God (3:14b). When churches forget this truth, they can begin to feel entitled to whatever they want. They can easily seek to be in control instead of yielding to God’s control.
Non-Trinitarians think this phrase (“the Beginningof the creation of God”) means Jesus is a created being. But the Greek word translated “Beginning” (archē) means the “First Cause” of God’s creation. 5Jesus is the Creator or originating source of creation (Revelation 1:18; 2:8; 3:21; 5:13; cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:2), not the first creature to be created. 6
Laodicea had suffered a severe earthquake that destroyed it, but its prosperous citizens had subsequently rebuilt it, without the aid of Rome. The Laodiceans were creative, but Jesus Christ alone was the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16). 7 Jesus could also give them the spiritual wealth they so desperately needed in their current state of spiritual impoverishment. 8
Jesus then rebukes this church for being indifferent. “15 I know your works, that you areneither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you arelukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16). These believers in Jesus wereneither refreshing (“cold”)nor soothing or stimulating (“hot”). They were “lukewarm.”
“This rebuke would have been especially meaningful to this church, for water was piped to the city from Hierapolis, a few miles north. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm!” 9
“Nobody orders a lukewarm drink. They want iced tea or hot coffee. In the spiritual realm, God finds tepidness unappealing as well.”10
Because the Laodicean Christians had no cool water for the spiritually thirsty people around them (cf. John 4:13-14) and they were not hot enough spiritually to stir up one another’s faith, 11 God was disgusted with them. He said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Christ’s response to this self-reliant, self-righteous, and self-serving church was about the least flattering response you could receive, especially from the only Person in the universe Whose opinion matters the most. Essentially Jesus was saying,“You make me sick!”12
The phrase “I will vomit you out of My mouth,” cannot be a reference to the loss of salvation because that would contradict John’s other writings (cf. John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-26; I John 5:1, 13). The Bible tells us that the gifts of God are irreversible. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29). God promises eternal life as a free gift to all who believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). Since “the gifts … of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) and eternal life is a “gift of God” (Romans 6:23), then eternal life is “irrevocable.” When a person believes in Christ for His gift of eternal life, it cannot be given back to God nor taken back by God no matter how the believer lives because it is irreversible or permanent (John 3:16; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-27; Romans 8:31-39; et al.). God did not save us from hell because of our goodness (cf. Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7), and He will not abandon us because of our sinfulness (cf. John 6:37; Hebrews 13:5).
One of my mentors, Zane Hodges, thought it possible that the Lord is referring here to the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). The Lord Jesus will be so disgusted with the indifference and self-reliance of Christians at the end of the Church age (Laodicea is the last church listed during this age), that He will vomit them up to heaven through the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4). Then He will start all over in the Tribulation with the Two Witnesses preaching the gospel of the kingdom during the first half of the 7-year Tribulation (Revelation 11:1-13) followed by the worldwide witness of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in the second half of the Tribulation (Revelation 7:1-17; 14:1-5).
Not only does Jesus give these seven local churches warnings and encouragements that are as applicable today as they were in the first century, these letters also “prove to be prophetic of the history of Christianity following their writing. Most Christians in the first century may not have seen this, but one can hardly deny it now. It has become increasingly obvious as church history has unfolded. Chapters 2 and 3 are therefore prophetic, as are the rest of the chapters of Revelation.”13
This is known as “the Historico-Prophetical View.” Proponents of this view understand the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 existed in the first century, and what characterized each of them has represented other local churches in various locations throughout church history. However, they also reveal the history of the church from the time John wrote to the Rapture in seven successive periods. 14
Constable writes, “A general scheme of the periods of western civilization that correspond to the conditions described in each of the letters to the seven churches is as follows: 15
Prior to the Rapture of the church (Revelation 4:1-4), Jesus gives some serious advice to this self-reliant church: “17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18). Because the Laodiceans had become materially wealthy they thought they “had need of nothing,” including God (3:17a). The Laodiceans were materially “rich”; Christ says they are “poor” spiritually (3:17b). Laodicea had a world-famous medical center that was known for treating eye disease; Jesus informs them that they are “blind” spiritually (3:17c). Laodicea was a center for manufacturing clothing; Jesus declares that they are “naked” spiritually (3:17d). These believers were spiritually destitute, and they did not even know it.
“Here Jesus debunks a prominent lie of prosperity theology: being materially successfulmeans God has blessed you. Not so. The Laodiceans said, I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing. But the external appearance of prosperity was not indicative of the condition of their hearts or their level of fellowship with God. They were spiritually uncommitted, carnal, and compromising. As Jesus put it, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked spiritually.”16
“Because their self-estimate was so deeply flawed, the Lord gave them counsel as to exactly what they needed to do. Their ability to pull out of their disastrous spiritual condition rested on their paying the price they needed to pay spiritually.” 17
If someone told us that everything about us makes him want to vomit, we would not expect to hear from that person again. 18 But as “the Faithful and True Witness,” the Lord Jesus also continues to extend love and grace to His church no matter how unappealing her spiritual condition is. Christ counsels them to be faithful by instructing them to “buy” three things (3:18). Obviously, this is not talking about our salvation because Christ has already bought that through His sacrificial death on the cross (cf. I Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1). 19 In addition, salvation is a free gift which cannot be bought (Revelation 21:6b; 22:17b; cf. Romans 4:5; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). But in Revelation 3:18, Jesus is speaking figuratively when He counsels them to “buy” three things that these complacent and carnal Christians need:
– “gold refined in fire” which represents eternal rewards that stand the test of the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 3:11-15). They were to be faithful to Jesus by having faith that is tested by fire (I Peter 1:6-7).
– “white garments.” Their shameful nakedness was to be clothed, not by purchasing the sleek black wool that was made in Laodicea, but by buying “white garments,” which refer to being faithful to Christ through righteous conduct and serving God (Revelation 19:8), not out of selfish motives, but in a way that pleases the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:3, 9-10).
– “eye salve.” Instead of purchasing the eye salve that was produced and sold in Laodicea, they were to buy a spiritual “eye salve” that would enable them to see more clearly on a spiritual level and remain faithful to Christ. For this to happen, they must see their desperate need to get into the Word of God and to ask God’s Spirit to help them understand and apply it to their lives (cf. John 9:6; James 1:22; 1 John 2:20, 27). 20
The church of Laodicea is typical of the modern church which denies its spiritual needs and is content with its beautiful buildings and all the material things money can buy. Notice that verse 18 does not tell us the purchase price for these items. We are not told how much the refined gold, white garments, and eye salve will cost us. The Lord Jesus will tell us this in the next verse.
The believers at Laodicea may have felt Jesus was being overly harsh with them, so Christ reminds them, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” (Revelation 3:19a). Jesus’ rebuke of them is evidence of His love. If He did not love them, He would not rebuke them in their spiritually lukewarm condition. But Christ wants the best for them (and us), so He tells them what they need to hear, even though it may be painful for them.
If the Laodiceans did not listen to Jesus, His love for them would lead Him to “chasten” them. The word “chasten” (paideuō) literally means “child-training.”21 It refers to correcting or instructing a child. 22 It is always an activity of God toward Christians, not non-Christians (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11). 23
“The church at Laodicea is typical of a modern church quite unconscious of its spiritual needs and content with beautiful buildings and all the material things money can buy. This is a searching and penetrating message.”24
Jesus then says, “Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19b). How does a church or individual Christian buy gold refined in fire, white garments, and eye salve? That is, how does an indifferent church become spiritually healthy and earn eternal rewards? By being “zealous” for good works and “repenting.”
All Christians are to be known in the church and in their community as people who are zealous for good works – who are eager to please God. What do you have zeal for in your Christian life? A nice house? A car? A well-kept home? A large retirement plan? An attractive appearance? A bigger church building? These things are not wrong in and of themselves. But the number one aim in our lives should be to please God – to love Him above all else and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
The word “repent” (metanoeō) refers to a change of mind or way of thinking. 25 The Laodiceans needed to change their minds and realize they did not have it all together spiritually and that their lives were not pleasing to the Lord. Whatever we are doing that is not pleasing to the Lord is to be corrected. We are to confess that it is wrong to God (I John 1:9) and start doing what we know is pleasing to Him.
The Laodiceans are to repent of their self-sufficient, half-hearted service, and remain faithful to Christ, fervently serving Him. Hence, when Christians are zealous for good works and repent of wrong attitudes and actions, they will…
– lay up refined gold or eternal rewards that stand the test of the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:18a; I Corinthians 3:8-15).
– be clothed with the proper white garments or righteous conduct that will glorify Christ in eternity (3:18b; cf. 3:5; 19:8).
– be able to see properly on a spiritual level (3:18c; cf. Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14).
Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:20a). Many Christians have mistakenly understood this verse to refer to salvation. But we have already seen that the “churches” in Revelation 2 and 3 refer to genuine Christians. In the context, the Lord Jesus has been talking about works, not faith; He has been addressing service, not salvation; He has exhorted us to be zealous for good works and repent of works that sicken the Lord.
The Lord is now saying if a church invites Christ in for dinner, He will come, and they will have fellowship together (3:20a). This verse is not to be taken literally. This is not a literal “door,” just as verse 18 was not to be taken literally. Amid their self-sufficient attitude, the Laodiceans had shut the Lord Jesus out from their church. The word “stand” (3:20a), literally means “I have taken My stand.”26 It emphasizes a persistent dealing with the church. Christ persistently seeks intimate fellowship with this self-reliant church that has shut Him out. Hence, He asks permission to enter the church and re-establish fellowship with them.
Christ then says, “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20b). Notice that Jesus says He will come “in to” (two words) the person, not “into” (one word) the person. The Greek verb translated “come in” (eiserchomai) accompanied by the preposition translated “to” (pros) means “to come or go to someone.” This construction occurs eight times in the New Testament (Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 17:2; 28:8; Revelation 3:20) and each time it means to enter into a building and stand in front of a person. 27 Whenever “come in” (eiserchomai) is used of entrance into a person it is followed by the Greek preposition eis (Mark 9:25; Luke 8:30; 22:3; John 13:27) and refers to demon possession. The preposition eis deals with “the idea of entry, whereas pros tends to stop short of going up to (without entry).” 28 The result of Christ’s entrance “to” the person is a common meal shared – “I will… dine with him, and he with Me.” The Greek verb “dine” (deipnēsō) indicates that this is the main meal of the day, the one to which an honored guest would be invited. 29
This verse is speaking of entrance into a building toward a person, not entrance into a person. Jesus will not force His way into a church. Christ is saying that He will come in the church toward the believer who repents (hears His voice and opens the door of the church) and eat dinner with him, that is, have intimate fellowship with him.
How does one open the door so that Christ can come and fellowship with him? By being zealous for good works and repenting of the works that made the Lord Jesus vomit (3:19b).
“Christ’s invitation here is not for lost sinners to believe in Him for the free gift of eternal life, but for His disobedient children to get close to Him once again. If any of these lukewarm believers did open the door to Him, Christ promises, ‘I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.’ This is a promise that they will enjoy close fellowship with Him once again.” 30
“With Christ on the outside, there can be no fellowship or genuine wealth. With Christ on the inside, there is wonderful fellowship and sharing of the marvelous grace of God. This was an appeal to Christians rather than to non-Christians. This raises the important question concerning the extent of one’s intimate fellowship with Christ.”31
Christ then promises, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21). The believer who “overcomes” by humbly and zealously submitting to Christ in fellowship and service until the end of his life, will be able to “sit with” Him on His throne, as Jesus was humble and zealous in submitting to His Father’s will and was rewarded with sitting down with His Father “on His throne.” This promised reward assures the overcomer of close fellowship with Christ forever by receiving the honor of sharing His royal throne. This is a conditional reward because it is dependent on overcoming as Christ did. 32 Just as Christ overcame death by humble and dependent submission to His Father’s will, the Laodiceans can overcome their self-sufficiency and enjoy ruling with Christ by humbly and dependently submitting to Christ in fellowship and service.
The use of αὐτός (“to him”) in Revelation 2:17, 17, 27 and 3:21 indicates a restrictive kind of reference to the overcomer. It is a specific and restrictive way of showing that ruling with Christ applies only to the victor or overcomer, 33 not to every believer in Jesus.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:22). Only those Christians who “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” will be able toappropriate Jesus’ promise and live as “overcomers” so they may receive this ultimate reward of reigning with Christ in His coming Kingdom on earth. If they are lukewarm and then repent of the works that sickened the Lord Jesus and are zealous for good works, then they can receive the privilege of reigning with Christ in His future Kingdom on earth. The Lord Jesus uses rewards here, as with the other six churches, as a motivation to conquer sin and slackness—not as a motivation to salvation. 34
At the outset these faithful believers will rule with Christ on earth for a thousand years during the millennial kingdom (cf. Revelation 20:6). Throughout eternity they will reign with Christ on the new earth (cf. Revelation 21:10-11; 22:1-2). 35
As we read about the possibility of ruling with Christ in the future, we may not be verymotivated by the thought of reigning with Christ or having rulership in the future world. Joseph Dillow has some key things to say about this.
“Those who have not persevered in faith, who have denied their King now will have feelings of deep shame and regret because they took Him for granted and wasted their lives. The pain will be acute, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“…Some may not find the motivation of rewards as significant in their walk with God as the other motivations… That said, it seems to me, that all of us should consider this biblical emphasis to live with the end in view.
“Furthermore, the notion of reigning with Christ… should not be trivialized as if it means various administrative positions in a kingdom or being a mayor of a city. The theme is much broader, and the vision more glorious. What is signified by these expressions is not so much administrative positions as the joy of participating with the Messiah in the final destiny of man, to serve Him and minister with Him in the millennium and the future world. We aspire to higher position because we can then be more effective in the service of our King… We will have greater opportunity to serve Him, to demonstrate our love and gratitude to Him, and to extend the knowledge of His love and goodness throughout the cosmos. To miss that is to miss much.” 36
If we find ourselves indifferent toward the things of God like the Laodicea Christians, it is not too late for us to change. Even if we haven’t been doing well in our service for Christ thus far, we can start today. The Laodiceans were not doing well, yet the Lord holds out the possibility that they might rule with Him in the future if they will be zealous for good works and repent of the works that sickened the Lord Jesus.
In recovery programs like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), while not perfect programs, they do have a lot to commend them. One of their slogans is very appropriate for this passage. It says, “Denial is not a river in Egypt.”
The Lord Jesus does not want us to be in denial. He wants us to acknowledge when we fall short and be zealous for good works. He wants us to aim to please Him in all that we do or say. If you want to be an overcomer, you will have to go all the way with Jesus Christ. You may say, “But it is too hard, and I am not getting any credit now.”
Let me tell you about Henry Morrison, a missionary to Africa. He was coming home from Africa on a ship which was also carrying former President Theodore Roosevelt. When the ship docked in New York City, thousands of people were there to greet Roosevelt. But no one was cheering for Morrison.
Henry Morrison had served the Lord for forty years in Africa. As he watched the crowds greet Theodore Roosevelt, he became dejected to think he had served the Lord all those years and yet no one was there to greet him.
Morrison said that as he walked down the gang plank in a depressed mood, a voice whispered to him, “Henry, don’t worry. You are not home yet.”Then he said he saw a vision of multiplied thousands of Africans standing at the gates of heaven, those whom he had reached for Christ, applauding as he entered the pearly gates.
So if people are not recognizing you down here, if you are not getting any applause right now, don’t worry. You are not home yet. Remember what Jesus Christ has waiting for you if you remain faithful to Him. He will richly reward you with intimate fellowship with Him forever by giving you the honor of sharing His royal throne.
In summary, Christians who repent of their self-sufficient and half-hearted service for the Lord, and humbly and zealously submit to Christ in fellowship and service until the end of their lives, will be richly rewarded with a share in Christ’s glorious reign in His coming Kingdom (3:14-22).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Faithful and True Witness Who alone is qualified to judge the self-reliant and self-serving church. You know that much of the modern church in America is a lot like the church of Laodicea. We have become lukewarm with complacency and self-reliance. We no longer seek to preach the gospel of grace to all people. Instead, we are captivated by our big, beautiful buildings and all the things that our money can buy. We are driven by our own desire for comfort instead of compassion for those who are perishing without You. This lukewarmness will eventually cause You to remove Your church from the earth via the Rapture so You may start over with the Two Witness at the beginning of the Tribulation. Lord Jesus, forgive us for the areas in our lives that have become lukewarm with apathy and complacency. Please enable us to repent of the works that disgust You and empower us to do good works for and with You until we go to be with You in heaven. We pray that we would keep the door of our hearts open to You so we may enjoy intimate fellowship with You now and be the channels through which Your blessings overflow to all with whom we come into contact. Thank You for reminding us that our eternal life is secure in Your finished work on the cross, but our eternal rewards depend on how we live the Christian life now on earth. No matter what the spiritual health of other believers or churches may be, You call us to be faithful and to keep You at the center of our lives if we are to receive the ultimate reward of sitting with You on Your throne in Your glorious Kingdom. In Your mighty and majestic name, Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.
1. 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. 1514.
2. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 109-110.
3. 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. 53.
4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 56.
5. Bauer, pg. 138.
6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 214976-214978.
7. Constable, pg. 56.
8. Vacendak, pg. 1514.
9. 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.
10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2376.
11. Vacendak, pg. 1514.
12. Swindoll, pg. 113.
13. Constable, pg. 61 cites M. J. Brunk, “The Seven Churches of Revelation Two and Three,” Bibliotheca Sacra 126:503 (July- September 1969), pp. 240-46.
14. Constable, pg. 63 cites John Peter Lange, ed. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. 12 vols. Reprint ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960. Vol. 12: James-Revelation, by J. P. Lange, J. J. Van Oosterzee, G. T. C. Fronmuller, and Karl Braune. Enlarged and edited by E. R. Craven. Translated by J. Isidor Mombert and Evelina Moore), pg. 139; Arno C. Gaebelein, The Revelation (New York: Publication Office “Our Hope,” 1915), pg. 33; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971, pp. 61-62; William Kelly, Lectures on the Revelation, New ed., (London: A. S. Rouse, 1897), pg. 24; Frederick A. Tatford, The Patmos Letters (By the Author, 1969; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, n.d.), pg. 106; F. W. Grant, The Prophetic History of the Church (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Publishers, n.d.); Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse (Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 64; C. I. Scofield, ed., Scofield Reference Bible (1917 ed.), pp. 1331-32; Harry A. Ironside, Lectures on the Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1946), pp. 35-36; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 51; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 Vol. 5 (Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pp. 900-926.
15. Constable, pg. 63.
16. Evans, pg. 2376.
17. Vacendak, pp. 1514-1515.
18. Swindoll, pg. 114.
19. The word “buys” (agorazō) is the same word used to refer to Jesus’ payment for sin on the Cross (I Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1).
20. Vacendak, pg. 1515.
21. Robertson, Kindle Location 215197.
22. Bauer, pg. 749.
23. EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1387.
24. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, pg. 164.
25. Bauer, pg. 640.
26. The Greek verb, hestēka, is a perfect indicative which means I took My stand in the past and continue to take My stand in the present.
27. Mike Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984, pp. 82-82.
28. Ibid, pg. 83 cites C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, (Cambridge at the University Press, 1953), pp. 67-68.
29. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pg. 98.
30. Vacendak, pg. 1515.
31. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, pg. 164.
32. William Ross, “An Analysis of the Rewards and Judgments in Revelation 2 and 3,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1971, pg. 50.
33. Richard Benedict, “The Use of Νικάω in the Letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1966, pg. 42.
34. Evans, pg. 2377.
35. Vacendak, pp. 1515-1516.
36. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 1039-1040.