A PROVERB FOR MEN STRUGGLING WITH SEXUAL TEMPTATION

Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye… That they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.” Proverbs 7:2, 5

The man who “keeps” or obeys God’s “commands” will “live” and experience God’s protection in his life. The phrase “the apple of your eye” refers to the pupil which is the most sensitive and carefully guarded part of the human body (7:2a). When God’s “law” becomes our most important focus, when it is what we pay the closest attention to (7:2b), it will “keep” or guard us from the many allurements of “the immoral woman” and “seductress who flatters with her words” (7:5). God’s Word instructs us to…

1. Avoid where and when the sexual temptation is waiting – “the path to her house in the twilight… in the black of the night” (7:7-9). Establish guardrails that keep you from being tempted such as no searching online when you are alone at night, lock up your digital devices using internet filters to give you accountability when accessing the internet, avoid massage parlors, strip clubs, bars, etc.

2. Avoid women online or in person …

  • Who dress seductively – “attire of a harlot” (7:10a)
  • Whose hearts are “crafty” or secretive/deceptive (7:10b)
  • Who are defiant (“loud and rebellious”) against God’s Word and the sanctity of marriage (7:11a)
  • Who are promiscuous – “her feet would not stay home…” (7:11b-12)
  • Who are overly aggressive, sensual, and shameless – “she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him…” (7:13)
  • Who minimize wrongdoing by referring to their religious activity (“I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows”) and entice men with a meal in her home (the animal sacrifice usually included leftover meat which must be consumed the same day in her home – 7:14; cf. Lev. 7:15)
  • Who seek to build your ego up with flattery – “So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you” (7:15)
  • Who seek to entice with you with a sensuous description of their bedroom – “I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon” (7:16-17)
  • Who proposition you – “Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (7:18)
  • Who reassure you of your safety from their husband – “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day” (7:19-20)
  • Who disarm you with their “flattering lips” (7:21)

3. Avoid seductive women online or in person because…

  • They will lead you to far-reaching consequences including bondage and death – “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.” (7:22-23)

We are living in a very sexualized society today whereby pornography is very accessible, affordable, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. Solomon’s description of the seductress is much like the digitalized pornographic women online. Satan uses the beauty of women (in person and online) to entice Christian men away from God and His design for purity in marriage and family, so he can “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a) their lives today (1 Pet. 5:8).

Solomon concludes these warnings by inviting us to listen to his advice (7:24):

  • Guard your heart. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways” in your imagination or fantasies (7:25a; cf. Matt. 5:28). We are already in danger if we are fantasizing about having sex with a woman outside of marriage. When we are tempted to fantasize about her, turn to the Lord and pray for her salvation (if she is not a believer in Jesus), or for her purity (if she is a believer). Reach out to a brother in Christ to confess your struggle and pray with each other (Jas. 5:16).
  • Guard your body. “Do not stray into her paths” (7:25b). Avoid where the seductress is waiting for you whether it be online or in person. Do not go or stay near to someone (online or in person) who resembles the immoral or seductive women that Proverbs 7 describes. Ask God what your first step must be to do this. Locking up your digital devices? Getting a flip phone? Changing jobs or locations? Joining a men’s recovery group that deals specifically with porn and sex addiction?
  • Guard your future. “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (7:26-27). No matter how “strong” we think we are, we must take seriously the consequences of yielding to her seductive ways. To be in “her house” and in her bed in our thoughts or in person will place us on a fast speedway to “hell” (Sheol) or the grave. If we pursue sin long enough and hard enough it will lead to physical “death.” Possible causes of death could be punishment from an angry husband, from poverty, from STDs, or from spiritual and emotional anguish.

While King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7 warning of the allurements of seductive immoral women, he did not follow his own advice later in life. The Bible tells us, “When Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (I Kgs. 11:4). Even though God had warned Solomon not to marry foreign wives because they would turn away his heart after their gods (11:2), Solomon disobeyed the Lord and “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (11:3). Solomon did not just worship their false gods, he also built worship centers for the people of Israel to worship the false gods of his foreign wives (11:7-8). As a result, God “became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (I Kgs. 11:9-11).

Solomon’s sexual immorality led to widespread idolatry. In many ways, viewing pornography is idolatrous. What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, bored, depressed, exhausted, lonely, self-doubting, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography [1] instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings.  Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.

As long as we are living in these fallen physical bodies, there will always be the danger of being seduced by immoral women in person or online which can cause us to fall away from the Lord our God. Solomon ignored God’s design for marriage (one wife for life or until the death of one’s spouse – Gen. 2:24; cf. Mark 10:6-12; Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:10-11), and married hundreds of wives and had hundreds of mistresses.

May none of us think we are beyond the reaches of sexual immorality and the idolatry that often accompanies it.

In Solomon’s case, it is better to do what he says, not what he did. We must guard our hearts, our bodies, and our futures from the dangers of sexual immorality (Prov. 7:24-27). God the Holy Spirit can empower us to do this as we yield to Him in the context of a recovery community of believing brothers in Christ (Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:22).

No matter where we may find ourselves in our dealings with sexual temptation, there is always hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not uncomfortable with our sin or shame. He already knows about it, and He wants us to approach His throne of grace with confidence or boldness because He understands and is sympathetic towards our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15-16). Satan wants to convince us that God is against us and condemns us (Rev. 12:10).

Jesus tells us that His heart is “gentle and lowly” (Matt. 11:29), not condemning (cf. John 3:17). When in the temple, Jesus read Isaiah 42:3 which described the coming Messiah: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Matt. 12:20). Jesus, the Messiah, will not treat those of us who are “bruised” with sin and shame harshly (“break” them). He comes along side of us to strengthen and heal us with His presence rather than step on us to advance His own plans. He will not “quench” what little hope (“smoking flax”) we have left inside of us. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him and for life itself. He does this with His gentle and gracious presence in our lives which heals our wounds and replaces our shame with dignity.

God says He is for us and demonstrated this by giving us His best – His only perfect Son – when we were at our worst (Rom. 5:8, 10) – to take our condemnation when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (Rom. 8:31-32, 34). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are His beloved children!?!

Prayer: Father God, thank You for addressing sexual temptation and sin in these verses. Christian men are being sexually assaulted by the enemy in our society today. Most if a not all of us have mobile devices where we can easily access the allurements of seductive women via online pornography without anyone knowing about it but You. Before it is too late, please Father God, rescue us, redeem us, and restore us to close fellowship with You through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heal the pain that often drives us to turn to sexual sin. We all have wounds that need Your healing touch. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being gentle and gracious with our brokenness and shame so we can let down our guard and permit You to heal our wounds and replace our shame with dignity. Please break the chains that keep us bound to our shame. Help us set our minds on the things of the Holy Spirit Who reminds us that You are for us and not against us. The proof? You gave us Your best (Jesus) when we were at our worst (Your enemies), so that now as Your beloved children we can expect Your best for us daily. Please transform our ashes into beauty so we may proclaim the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted – see Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series Study Guide Volume 1 (Stuart, FL: KindgomWorks Studios, 2017), pg. 21.

Appendix 5 – Hindrances to Forgiveness Exercise

This exercise is adapted from Michael Dye’s The Genesis Process. [1]

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. [2] 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. [3] 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. [4]

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. [5]

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). [6]

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. [7]

If you are struggling to forgive your perpetrator(s), take some time today to do this exercise: [8]

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: 

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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)?

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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?

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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.

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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.?

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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.

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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).

False belief: _____________________________________________

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True belief: _____________________________________________

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False belief: _____________________________________________

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True belief: _____________________________________________

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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.

Forgiveness Prayer:

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.

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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.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] 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.

[2] Ibid., pp. 123-124.

[3] Ibid., pp. 126-128.

[4] Ibid., pg. 129.

[5] Ibid., pp. 127-128, 130.

[6] Ibid., pg. 128.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Adapted from Ibid., pp. 129 -133.

APPENDIX 4 – Cleansing the Temple & Forgiveness Exercises

ARE YOU UNABLE TO RESOLVE YOUR ANGER? THESE EXERCISES CAN PROVIDE HELP.

I. CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

 This exercise is based on biblical principles found in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple (John 2:13-22). [1]

13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’ ” John 2:13-17

PRINCIPLE 1 – JESUS KNEW THE TEMPLE NEEDED TO BE CLEANSED

Jesus, the Owner of the temple, took full responsibility to cleanse His own temple. He could have made the moneychangers and sellers of doves who were the perpetrators in the account clean up their own mess, but He didn’t. He cleansed the temple.

In most of the accounts of Jesus cleansing the temple, the temple refers to a physical building in Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 21:12; Mark. 11:15; Luke 19:45). But in John’s account the temple refers to Jesus’ body:

18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’ 19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:18-22).

This is the first insight into the fact that Jesus was changing the dwelling place of God from the physical temple to the physical body of a human being. The apostle Paul develops this thought a little later when he teaches that believers in Jesus are God’s temple: “16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (I Cor. 3:16-17; cf. 6:19-20). God’s plan all along was to dwell inside believers in Jesus. We are His holy temple. And our temples can become defiled through many different avenues, including manipulation, abuse, and neglect from others. When we get defiled through life, our temple gets defiled also and needs to be cleansed as well.

Just as Jesus cleansed His holy temple, which was defiled by others, so we are responsible to cleanse our temples when they are defiled by the abuse of others. Even if our perpetrators are sorry, he or she cannot cleanse our temple. They cannot remove the wounds placed inside our souls. By cleansing His own temple, Jesus sends us a clear message: We are responsible to cleanse our own temple as well.

PRINCIPLE 2 – JESUS IDENTIFIED THE SIN THAT CAUSED THE DEFILEMENT

When Jesus cleansed His temple early in His ministry, He identified the sin that defiled it when He said, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16). In Luke 19:46 when Jesus cleansed His temple near the end of His earthly ministry He said, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (cf. Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17). Jesus makes it very clear why He was cleansing His temple. They were taking something holy and misusing it to profit themselves. Most of the people who have hurt you have no concept of your holiness or preciousness. You have felt used or abused during the incidents in which you were wounded. You will need to identify the sin or wounding that has been done to you by those who have defiled your temple.

PRINCIPLE 3 – JESUS ENGAGED HIS ANGER AT THE INJUSTICE

Christ engaged His anger both physically and verbally at the injustice. He turned over the moneychangers’ tables and drove out the sacrificial animals. This is why the Jewish leaders challenged His authority to create such a ruckus.

Jesus was not having a bad day. This was an act of His will. It was a premeditated act of obedience. This is important to understand because the cleansing of your temple will take an act of your will. As you walk through these exercises, it will become an act of your obedience as well.

How do we know this was a premeditated act on Jesus’ part? The Bible tells us, “14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.” (John 2:14-15). Jesus “found” the misuse of the temple which indicates He was looking around and witnessing the peoples’ mistreatment of His holy temple. Then He gets a bunch of cords and takes the time to make “a whip.” We don’t know how long it took Jesus to make the whip, maybe minutes or hours, but He had already decided to use that whip when He entered His temple to cleanse it.

As you proceed to do this exercise. You will need to make choices to prioritize your time to prepare for cleansing your temple. Those who go about this intentionally and purposefully will receive more benefit for their lives.

PRINCIPLE 4 – THE TEMPLE WAS RESTORED TO ITS ORIGINAL ORDER

The record of Jesus cleansing the temple offers a picture of how to heal wounds inside your temple. After Jesus engaged His righteous anger and rage, His temple was cleansed. Only Jesus had the power to cleanse His own temple. No other prophet or king had done so before Him or after Him. He alone could clean His house. In the same way, we alone can clean our own temples with Jesus’ help.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION – “CLEANSING THE TEMPLE” EXERCISE

1. WRITE AN ANGER LETTER

The first step in the cleansing of your temple is to write an anger letter to the person who has hurt you, but do not send it. Imagine this person in the room with you, but he or she is unable to talk or move. You can say whatever you need to say to him or her in this letter. This is not a letter to suppress your emotions, but rather to vent all the thoughts and feelings of hate, disgust, anguish, and resentment that have been robbing your soul. Nor is this an “I forgive you” letter. That will come later. This letter is the place to remove the anger that has infected your soul.

2. GET WARMED UP

In Jesus’ situation, He made a whip for Himself. It is recommended you do not use a whip, but a padded baseball bat or tennis racket could be helpful. When I first did this exercise, I took a golf club and hit a paper picture of my perpetrator attached to a blanket that was draped over a stuffed ball and other blankets underneath. Begin with small hits. Then use medium, large, and extra-large hits. Do this three times. Warm up your voice as well. Shout “No!” each time you hit the pillow. Use small, medium, large, and extra-large “Nos” with your voice. This may feel awkward but removing this buildup of pain from your soul and spirit provides great relief. That is why it is important to be warmed up physically.

While warming up physically, make sure you are home alone. Disconnect or turn off the phone so that you are not disturbed.

***Note: Before doing this, if you have a heart condition or other medical condition that warrants talking to your medical doctor, please do so. Also, please do not substitute this exercise for professional Christian counseling. In fact, it is recommended that you are in counseling before doing this exercise.

3. READ YOUR LETTER ALOUD.

After your physical warm-up, take the letter you wrote to your offender and read it aloud to your imaginary offender. When I first did this, I taped a paper picture of my offender to a pillow and propped it up in a chair across from me. If your offender’s name is Toby, then you would read as follows: “Toby, how could you have done this to me? I trusted you!…” Of course, Toby is nowhere around. You certainly don’t need to do this with him or her around. You are simply in a room alone just reading the letter aloud.

4. ENGAGE YOUR ANGER PHYSICALLY AND VERBALLY

After reading your letter, pick up your bat. Hit the bed or pillow and symbolically let “Toby” have it. You can yell, scream, and cry, but release the emotional infection that has been robbing you. You can symbolically tell him that his secrets are not controlling you anymore. He was to blame! You have no limits as to what you can say to your offender. For once, let go of all the emotional control that is keeping this wound infected. Let it out!

This may last fifteen minutes to an hour. Your body will let you know when you have completely put this behind you – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Someone has given you something toxic, and you have been unhealthy ever since. After you remove it from you, you will feel so much better. You are worth getting it all out!

INSIGHTS:

– When you do this cleansing exercise, only work on one offender at a time. If three different people have offended you, then you will need to complete three different sessions. Do not try to go through this exercise just once for all the different people who have offended you. Each “bullet” (wound) needs to be taken out separately.

– If several people have caused you trauma, make a list of them. Start with the least painful trauma and work your way up to the larger offenses. In this way, you will get better skilled at the exercise and will know what to expect.

– You may have different experiences and gain helpful insight as you work through your list. You may think offender number three was the worst, and yet an offender whom you considered less significant actually is a much larger venting experience for you.

– Remember you are cleansing your temple so that you can experience the best intimacy possible in your relationships. Carrying pain inside us causes us to protect ourselves from being hurt. Releasing the pain can cause us to be more open to trusting others again.

II. FORGIVENESS EXERCISE [2]

 This next stage of healing is to be done after you have completed the cleansing the temple exercise. Wait about five days after you have finished the anger work of cleansing the temple concerning a particular offender. Five days or more after completing the anger work you will be feeling better. It is much like after you get over a cold, you feel that the junk in your lungs is gone, and you can breathe more clearly and easily.

With the forgiveness exercise you will approach the particular offender you did the anger work with in much the same way. Instead of contacting them if they are alive, you will role play with them. This exercise is most effective when you choose to forgive or release the debt your offender owes you. As with the anger work, do only one offender at a time.

Jesus taught, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15). 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 in the present.

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. [3] God invites us to release “from the heart” 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. [4] God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.

This forgiveness exercise involves three steps. [5] Select one offender you’ve already done the anger work with and go through this process. Do this exercise while you are home alone. You will need two chairs.

1. ASSUME THE ROLE OF THE OFFENDER

Place the two chairs facing each other. Pick a chair and sit facing the other chair. We will call the chair in which you are sitting, “Chair A.”

While you are sitting in chair A, role-play your offender. You are now this person. As you role-play this individual, have him or her apologize and ask for forgiveness for all that they have done to you. They are hypothetically confessing to you in the other chair (chair B). If I were doing this exercise about my perpetrator, I would sit in chair A as I role-played my perpetrator. I would verbally own his sin, apologize and ask for forgiveness for the things I did and didn’t do to Jeff in chair B.

As I play my perpetrator, I might say, “Jeff, I need you to forgive me of…” Now since I am playing my perpetrator, I can say what he needs to say to me in order to own and apologize for his sin against my life.

2. ROLE-PLAY YOUR RESPONSE AS THE ONE OFFENDED

Now I have played my perpetrator as he asked forgiveness for several offenses against Jeff, who was symbolically sitting in chair B. Yet as the one offended, I heard by offender own his sin and ask forgiveness for it. Now I can start step two.

I begin by physically moving to sit in chair B, now role-playing myself.

After hearing my perpetrator ask for forgiveness, I now decide how I will respond. Above all be honest. If you are not ready to forgive your offender, tell him or her. You could say, “I’m just not ready to do this yet, but I will try again in a few weeks.”

Whatever you do when you play yourself, don’t be a phony or do what you think you should do. Do what is real and authentic.

If you are able to forgive your offender, then tell him or her. In our example, Jeff is now talking to his perpetrator in the opposite chair. In my exercise, I had a paper picture of my perpetrator’s face taped to chair A.

I could say, “___, I forgive you for …” I could really release him from his abuse and neglect of my soul and the impact his actions had on my life.

If you forgave your offender, you might consider praying a prayer of forgiveness with him or her. Your prayer might read like the following:

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 ___ (Offender’s name), before You. I cancel his debt to me (apology, change of behavior, confession, repentance, humiliation, suffering, etc.). I choose to forgive the hurt against me, and I ask that You would not hold these sins against ___ on my account. I release ___ from any desire on my part to see him punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless ___ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know ___’s desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless him. And so, I ask that You pour out Your love and healing to ___ and bring him 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.

If you are not yet ready to forgive your offender, work through the Hindrances to Forgiveness Exercise in Appendix 5 which is adapted from Michael Dye’s book The Genesis Process. [6] Get out your calendar and set up a date in about three to four weeks when you will try this forgiveness exercise again. Do this every month to measure your progress until you ready to forgive.

3. ROLE-PLAY THE OFFENDER’S RESPONSE TO FORGIVENESS

In our example, Jeff has forgiven his perpetrator. Now I physically get up and sit down in chair A again and play the role of my offender. Now it is his offender’s turn to respond to Jeff’s forgiveness.

Jeff’s perpetrator (role-played by Jeff) might say, “Thanks, Jeff, for forgiving me for…” When Jeff’s offender is done talking to Jeff the exercise is over.

Let’s review:

1. Start in chair A as the offender asking for forgiveness.

2. Now sit in chair B as yourself, and honestly respond to your offender’s request for forgiveness.

3. If you have forgiven him or her, go back to chair A and play the offender responding to the forgiveness.

COMMENTS:

This can be a very emotional exercise for those with extremely abusive backgrounds, so have a box of tissues nearby. In addition, make sure the phone, doorbell, or anything else will not interrupt you. It will be important for you to stay focused.

Do this forgiveness exercise only after you have completed the Cleansing the Temple exercise. Many individuals attempt to forgive before they address their wounds and heal. Jesus cleansed the temple (Luke 19:45-46) before He issued the words, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Cleansing comes first, then forgiveness.

In both exercises, each offender gets his or her time in the chair with you. You must role-play each one and receive an individual apology from each. Don’t role-play more than one offender in a day.

Releasing debts your offender owes you will free you if you complete your Cleansing the Temple work first. I have personally experienced much freedom through these exercises as God met me where I was at. If my offenders were still alive, I have found much freedom to love them as God loves me.

Let’s pray together:

Lord Jesus, I invite you to help me process my woundedness and to apply these exercises to my life. Comfort me, Lord Jesus, and lead me to still waters where I can drink of the intimacy that You have for me. In Your name Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen. [7]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Adapted from Doug Wiess, Intimacy: A 100-Day Guide To Lasting Relationships (Lake Mary, FL: Siloam Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group, 2003), pp. 53-61.

[2] Adapted from Doug Weiss, Intimacy, pp. 62-66.

[3] Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-124.

[4] Ibid., pg. 124.

[5] Weiss, Intimacy, pp. 64-66.

[6] Dye, The Genesis Process, pp. 126-133.  

[7] Adapted from Weiss, Intimacy, pg. 66.

John 2 – Part 2: “Experiencing Jesus’ Cleansing Truths”

 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. ” John 2:15

Imagine you pull into the church parking lot on Sunday morning. Your heart is full of anticipation. Your cup is empty, and you are ready to fill it. You are ready to enter the place of worship and join your brothers and sisters in joyous worship. You look forward to singing the hymns of the faith. You feel the need to commune in prayer. You long to feed upon the unchanging Word of God. You are eager to share with the family of God.

But as you pull up, the parking lot is crammed full. You can’t even find a place to park. You won’t be denied. You park down the street and walk a few blocks. But as you try to enter the building there is a long line. There are tables set up at every foyer entrance. People are writing checks and putting down cash on the tables and getting tokens in return to place in the offering plates. You finally make it to the table and are told that you need the new church currency to make an offering. So, you place a $20 bill on the table and get a $10 church coin in return. You finally make it through the entrance, only to find the foyer very congested. Booths are set up all throughout the foyer. People are selling hymn books at one booth. “Get your song books here. You can’t sing without your official church song book. Rent yours for only $19.95.” Another booth has people buying and selling Bibles. The sign reads “Official Church Bible. Get yours for only $29.99.” At other booths, you notice merchants selling offering envelopes, notebooks for sermon notes, and refreshments.

There is so much commotion and commerce going on that you throw your hands up in disgust realizing you’ll never make it into the sanctuary to worship. If you can imagine an experience like this and how frustrating it would be, then you can understand what it was like inside the temple courtyard during the time of Passover when Jesus came to worship. John records this event for us in John 2:12-25. This temple cleansing was near the beginning of Jesus public ministry. The second temple cleansing was near the end of His public ministry and was one of the reasons for His death (cf. Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-16; Luke 19:45-46). [1]

You may recall that in John 1:14 we saw that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” He was the perfect balance of grace and truth. Last week we saw Jesus express His grace by transforming water into wine at a wedding banquet in Cana of Galilee. He replaced something old with something new. New wine replaced old water. Today we will see His truth at work replacing a dirty temple with a clean one. From this we will discover HOW WE CAN EXPERIENCING JESUS’ CLEANSING TRUTH IN OUR LIVES. The first way is seen in 2:12-17.

2:12: Jesus went “down” from Cana because of the decline in land elevation “to Capernaum” on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, [1] about eighteen miles northeast of Cana [2] (see above map). Jesus would adopt “Capernaum” as His ministry based in Galilee (cf. Matt. 4:13; Mark 1:21; 2:1) and move there after His rejection at Nazareth (cf. Matt. 4:12-14). Jesus performed some of His greatest miracles at Capernaum (John 4:46-54; cf. Mark 2:1-12) and taught in its synagogue [3] (John 6:22-59; cf. Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37).

The purpose of this trip to Capernaum is not stated by the apostle John, but it seems to be for a time of rest with “His mother, His brothers, and His disciples.” The Bible tells us that Jesus had physical “brothers” (John 2:12; 7:1-10; cf. Matt. 12:46-47; 13:55; Mark 3:32; 6:3; Luke 8:19-20) and “sisters” (Matt. 13:56; Mark 6:3) which clearly indicates that Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus’ birth. [5] The idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity appeared later in church history [6] and cannot be substantiated by Scripture.

Evidently this trip was only for a short stay in Capernaum since John wrote that “they did not stay there many days” (2:12b). As important as time with His family and friends was, Jesus did not want to miss going up to Jerusalem to worship God during the Passover.

2:13: The “Passover” was an annual Jewish festival celebrating God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over every home where the blood of a lamb was applied to the doorposts of the home (Exod. 12-13). It also initiated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so the entire celebration lasted over a week. Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to meet with God and be obedient to His commands. 

This is John’s first of three explicit references to the “Passover” in his gospel (2:13; 6:4; 12:1). [7] This Passover was in the year A.D. 30 on Friday, April 7, at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. [8] John is the only gospel writer to mention the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Synoptic gospel writers refer to Christ’s second cleansing of the temple near the end of His public ministry during the week in which He was crucified (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). [9]      

When the apostle states that “Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” it reflects the ascent in elevation as one travels from the surrounding regions to reach the city at 2,424 feet elevation. [10] While Jesus tried to make His way into the temple, He discovered that it had become a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer.

2:14: The word translated “temple” (heiron) refers to the outer “court of the Gentiles” surrounding the temple building (naos) where the Holy of Holies was located [11] (see temple diagram below). In this outer court surrounding the temple, Jesus “found… those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.” Jesus “found” the misuse of the temple which indicates He was looking around and witnessing the peoples’ mistreatment of His holy temple.

Israel’s“priesthood was completely corrupt, and the temple had been polluted by the priests’ greed. The courts of the complex had become a mixture of flea market and stock market. This so-called ‘Annas Bazaar’ was named for Annas, a godfather-like figure who once held the office of high priest but had been deposed by the Roman government more than fifteen years earlier. Since that time, he ruled through a successive series of puppet priests, most of them his sons, and continued to run a well-established con game on a grand scale. Put bluntly, he was corrupt to the core.

“Throughout the year, but especially at Passover, all Jewish males were expected to visit the temple, to pay the tax required by the Law of Moses, and to sacrifice an animal. On Passover, the sacrifice was to be a lamb, and as always, it had to be without blemish or defect. Moreover, the tax had to be paid in shekels, not in foreign currency, which bore images forbidden by the Law.  

“Annas and his cronies set up stations in the temple courts for the purpose of exchanging foreign currency for shekels—for an exorbitant fee, of course. Then, he supplied sacrificial animals, for which he charged top price. If someone brought his own animal, an inspector would judge it unfit and offer another in trade… for additional cash. Undoubtedly, the inferior animal would become some other man’s “superior” sacrifice later on. What a racket!” [12]

Let’s say you come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. You bring an animal to sacrifice to the Lord, because that’s the way you worshiped God then. Your children had cared for this animal for months and he had become a cherished pet – though he was about to become the family’s sacrifice. You go into the temple courtyard and there is a “booth of approval,” manned by one of the strictest of the Pharisees. Before you could offer your family’s lamb for sacrifice it had to be approved. But this inspector finds defects in your lamb. “Hey, we can’t accept this animal as a sacrifice – it has too many things wrong with it. You need to go to the vender’s booth over there. There you can buy a lamb pre-approved for sacrifice.” Think of how your kids feel. “What about our lamb? Doesn’t God care about that? How do we get to God? So, you go over to the vendor’s booth and pay ten times the real value for a pre-approved lamb. (Just like when you go to the theater and a 50-cent bag of popcorn costs you $4.) So, you get your money out to buy one of his animals.

And the vendor says to you, “Wait a minute. We can’t accept that currency. You need to exchange your coins for temple money over here at the moneychangers’ table and that will be an extra fee.” So, you go up to the moneychangers’ table and give them a silver dollar and they only give you 25 cents of temple money. Just like if you went to a pawn shop with a $1000-dollar ring and the broker would only offer you $100. Wanting to show your love for God you pay all these fees. And by the end of the day, you didn’t know if you were pleasing God or just pleasing the religious leaders. Meeting with God seemed too far beyond your reach.

This scene is what Jesus saw when He entered the temple courts. How does our Lord respond? 2:15: Christ engaged His anger both physically and verbally at the injustice. He was not having a bad day. This was a premeditated act of His will. How do we know this? John tells us Christ gets a bunch of “cords” and takes the time to make “a whip.” We don’t know how long it took Jesus to make the whip, maybe minutes or hours, but He had already decided to use that whip when He entered His temple to cleanse it.   

Christ, the Son of the Owner of the temple, took full responsibility to cleanse His Father’s temple. He could have made the moneychangers and sellers of oxen, sheep, and doves clean up their own mess, but He didn’t. Jesus cleansed the temple. He “overturned” the moneychangers’ “tables” and “drove them all out of the temple,” including animals and people. This is not the soft spoken, gentle Savior that so many of us often think Jesus was. Here we find Jesus angry and aggressive as He cleanses the temple of corruption. I mean it must have been like being in one of those villages in Spain when they let the bulls run loose in the streets. Cows and sheep are running loose. People are yelling and screaming, “Help! Out of the way! The Carpenter has gone crazy!”

 “The awesome power of Jesus is evident. Surely crooked merchants must have objected to this treatment. Yet there is no hint that any of them tried to stop Him. Jesus either sovereignly hindered opposition, or He manifested such righteous indignation that all were too afraid and amazed to try to stop Him.” [13]

I want to take a moment to talk about the emotion of anger. So often we can skip over these verses and not address this issue. Anger in and of itself is not wrong. In the Bible, we see that God experienced anger (cf. Exod. 4:14; Num. 11:10; Deut. 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; 11:33, 38; Rom. 1:18; 12:19).

I cannot remember hearing a sermon that addressed how to deal with anger in our Christian lives. Thankfully, God has revealed in the Bible how to resolve our anger. The apostle Paul quotes the phrase “Be angry and do not sin” (Ps. 4:4a) in Ephesians 4:26 when he is talking to believers about not grieving the Holy Spirit with their communications toward one another (cf. Ephes. 4:25-32). Psalm 4:4-5 teach us some important principles for dealing with our anger:

1. ADMIT AND FEEL YOUR ANGER (“Be angry and do not sin” – 4:4a). The feeling of anger is not wrong in and of itself. Even God feels anger (cf. Exod. 4:14; Num. 11:10; Deut. 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 12:19; Col. 3:6; Heb. 3:11; 4:3; Rev. 6:16; 19:15; et. al). What we do with our anger can be sinful. When we admit our anger, we begin to take control of it. It is important to use “I feel…” statements which take responsibility for our own anger. For example: “I feel angry when you…” But spiritual perfectionism says, “I’m not angry.” Shame-based statements use the word “You.” For example: “You make me feel so angry!” The last two examples do not honor what God is saying here – “Be angry and do not sin,” because they do not acknowledge or take responsibility for one’s own anger.

2. TALK TO THE LORD UNTIL YOU CAN BE STILL (“Meditate [talk] within your heart on your bed, and be still” – 4:4b; cf. 4:3). As we talk to the Lord (4:3), He can help us identify the source of our anger – Is it selfishness or perfectionism? Or is it because we have been wronged?

3. DO WHAT IS RIGHT WHICH INCLUDES FORGIVING OTHERS AND YOURSELF (“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness” – 4:5a). Sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament as a means of forgiveness (cf. Heb. 9:22). As God shows us the source of our anger, we can seek forgiveness if we were being selfish or perfectionistic (I John 1:9), or we can extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us (Ephes. 4:32).

4. TRUST THE LORD WITH THE SITUATION (“And put your trust in the Lord” – 4:5b). Many believers struggle with the first two steps the most and skip right over them to forgive and trust the Lord without acknowledging or processing their feelings. But if we do not admit our anger or hurt, and turn it over to the Lord, it is very difficult to forgive “from the heart” (cf. Matt. 18:35).

Somehow Christians are not comfortable admitting their deep hurt and anger. Perhaps it is due to the perfectionism that is taught in churches today. But if we are to be more like Jesus Christ, we can learn to admit our anger and release it to God, so He can use it the way He intended – to accomplish His righteousness (cf. Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; Jas.1:19-20). If we refuse to address our anger God’s way, it will result in more brokenness in the body of Christ because we are giving the devil an opportunity to lead us into greater sin (cf. Ephes. 4:26-27).

 For some of us, we may not be able to resolve our anger because it is attached to unresolved trauma or abuse in our past. In such cases, it may be helpful to do the exercise in Appendix 4 – Cleansing the Temple and Forgiveness Exercise based on Jesus’ cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22. *** Note: Please do not substitute this exercise for professional Christian counseling. In fact, it is recommended that you are in counseling before doing this exercise.

2:16: When Jesus sees “those who sold doves,” He points the finger and identifies the sin that defiled His “Father’s” temple, saying, “Take these things away. Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” The command, “Take… away,” uses the imperative (arate) that is from the same verb (airō) used in John 1:29 when John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away [airō] the sin of the world.”

“By telling the sellers to ‘take these things away’ Jesus was figuratively taking away the sin of the world in an experiential sense. In the eternal kingdom Jesus will have taken it away completely. One day the zeal Jesus demonstrated will be a universal zeal that all subjects of the kingdom will have.

“When Jesus removed the sacrificial animals from the temple, He pictured a coming day when there would be no more need for such sacrifices (1:29; Heb 10:10, 14).” [14]

The temple was designed by God to be a place where people could meet with God. But it had become a place where people were abused in the name of God! The tragic truth was this had become the least likely place where you could meet with the Lord. Jesus must remove the religious pretenders before He can truly minister to those who need Him.

For many people today, this is still a reality. There are people today who long to meet with God in a place of worship, but when they go, all too often they discover a system that gives them more work to do to be “close” to God. The problem with this is they never know if they are pleasing God or the religious leaders. You say to yourself, “Something feels wrong with having to follow all these rules – but it is God’s House. It says so on the sign.” And they get worn out or they leave and give up on God altogether.

Please understand, that if you came out of a church or religion where you had to pay and pay and pay some more to get close to God, you need to encounter the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20). Jesus fights for you just like He did back then. And He wants to heal your hurts and lighten your load. He wants to make it so easy for you to come (just as you are) and meet with Him. A church with Jesus Christ as the Head will not charge you to meet with God. It is free just like salvation. Christ does not want anything in His church to make it difficult for people to worship the Lord…to draw closer to Him.

Jesus warns all of us who are spiritual leaders: Woe to you if you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men. We need to ask ourselves are we door-openers or door closers? Are we making it difficult for people to come to Christ or simple? Sometimes the Lord must remove religious pretenders before true worship can take place… before Jesus can truly minister His grace to those in need. I truly believe when Jesus is free to minister His grace in a church – look out! It will explode with people who need His healing touch.

Hence, the first way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to RELY ON CHRIST TO CLEANSE YOUR LIFE (2:12-16) from sin and corruption. According to the Bible, where is the temple of God located today? The apostle Paul answers this question when writing to Christians in the city of Corinth, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Cor. 3:16). The temple of God is no longer located in Jerusalem. It is now located in every believer in Jesus Christ. The temple is located in our physical bodies. In the Old Testament, God’s temple was a sacred place. It was a place where God Himself resided and where people came to worship Him. Today, God’s temple is still a sacred place where God dwells.

 The truth is all of us are like those religious leaders who were robbing the people of their money. All of us are thieves. But you may say, “Wait a minute pastor. I’m not perfect, but I am no thief.” We probably all agree that we are not perfect, but are we all thieves? Maybe we wouldn’t break into our neighbor’s home to steal his stereo, but we rob him of his reputation when we gossip about him. Maybe you’ve never stolen a woman’s virginity, but you rob her future husband of the gratification that God intended only him to have when you lust after her. You don’t have to steal money to be a thief. If Jesus came today and looked at the temple of God in you, would He have the same reaction as He did in Jerusalem with the corrupt priests and merchants? Would He get angry at what He saw, or would He be pleased with what He sees in your life? Friends, if we have pollution in God’s temple, then it’s time for us to allow Jesus to clean it out and stop trying to hide and cover up our sins.

 One day a man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the mouse into the snake’s glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust. What did the terrified mouse do? He quickly set to work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem. Listen, no matter how hard we try to hide or deny our sins, it is futile. Sin will eventually awake from its sleep and shake off its cover and eat us alive.

So how do we allow Jesus to cleanse our lives from sin and corruption? If you are not a Christian, you must first believe or trust in Christ alone to forgive your sins. The Bible says: “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43 NCV). Before we become Christians, our lives are contaminated by sin. This sin separates us from God. And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot dwell in our contaminated bodies until we believe or trust Christ alone to forgive us and cleanse us of “all” our wrongdoings (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14). So, the moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, God removes the barriers of sin and comes to live inside you forever.

If we are already Christians, the apostle John instructs us in his epistle to walk in the light as He is in the light” so we may “have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). Notice John says to walk “in” (en) the light, not “according” (kata) to the light. Walking “according” to the light would refer to sinless perfection and would make fellowship with God impossible for sinful people. But the preposition “in” refers to walking in the sphere of God’s light where there is no darkness or dishonesty. In other words, to have fellowship with God we must be open and honest with Him, not sinless, as we walk in the light with Him.

 When we are open and honest with God, the Bible says we will “have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7). The word, “fellowship” (koinōnia) means a “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, … close relationship.” [15]Being open and honest before God enables us to share the light with Him. As we live in this sphere of light, our experience is illumined by the truth of Who God is. The “one another” refers to God and Christians in the context. [16]

How can sinful believers enjoy fellowship with a sinless God? How can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The last part of the verse explains. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1:7b). Right now, you and I are not aware of all the sin that is in our lives. But God knows about it. And being the gracious and merciful God that He is, He does not reveal all our sin at once. If He did, we would be so overwhelmed by all our sin it would probably kill us on the spot.

But the reason we can enjoy closeness with our holy God even though we have all this unknown sin in our lives is because the blood of Christ “cleanses us from all sin.” Notice the present tense of “cleanses.” We do not need to do acts of penance to be forgiven and cleansed of our sins after we become Christians. [17] We simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. So, no matter how badly or often Christians have sinned, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse them of all their sins when they are living openly to God’s revealing truth. Christ’s death on the cross for all our sins (cf. I John 2:1-2; Col. 2:13-14) provides the basis of fellowship between a sinless God and sinful human beings.

While it is true that those who believe in Jesus for eternal life are positionally cleansed and forgiven of all their sins – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; I Cor. 6:11; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14; Tit. 3:4-7), “they still need ongoing cleansing based on Christ’s blood that enables imperfect children to have a genuine experience of sharing with a perfectly holy heavenly Father.” [18] Hence, the blood of Christ makes provision for both our positional forgiveness/cleansing of all our sins which enables us to enter God’s heaven (cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 9:22-10:18) and our practical or fellowship forgiveness/cleansing of sins which enables us to enjoy fellowship with God on earth (cf. I John 1:9; Matt. 6:12, 14-15).

It is important for Christians to understand that it is not their responsibility to uncover their own sin. They may have overly sensitive consciences and are worried that they have unconfessed sin in their lives, so they spend a lot of time examining themselves instead of focusing on the Lord. The Bible makes it clear that it is God’s responsibility to reveal our sin to us through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (cf. John 16:8-11; 2 Tim. 3:16). But it is our responsibility to be open and honest with God when He does point out the sin that is in our lives so we can confess it to Him.    

The Bible promises that when we do confess our sin to the Lord, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). To “confess” means to agree with God that what you did, said, or thought was wrong (see comments on John 1:8). When God reveals unconfessed sin in our lives as we walk in the light, we are to confess or agree with His conclusions. So, when we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with His view of our sins. He hates our sins (Ps. 45:7). Our sins deeply hurt Him (Ephes. 4:30). [19]

“We are admitting that what the light exposes is not just a mistake, a bad habit, or a mere product of our upbringing. It’s sin.” [20]

It is important to note that the word “our” in the phrases “confess our sins” and “forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9), is not in the Greek text. The Greek text reads “confess the sins” (homologōmen tas hamartias) and “forgive us the sins” (aphē hēmin tas hamartias). The definite article “the” (tas) in the phrase “forgive us the sins” is what grammarians call “the article of previous reference.” [21] What this means is when we honestly confess “the” specific sin or sins God’s light reveals in our lives, “the” specific sins we confess are forgiven.

This tells us that when we become aware of sin in our Christian lives, it is this awareness that breaks our fellowship or closeness with God. So, if we confess the sins of which we are aware, then God is “faithful and just” to forgive those specific sins. The word “forgive” (aphiēmi) can mean to “cancel” a debt that is owed. [22] This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Rom. 3:21-4:5; 8:33). John is not talking about this kind of forgiveness in I John. In I John the apostle is talking about personal or fellowship forgiveness whereby the barrier that sin creates between a Christian and God is removed so his fellowship or closeness with God is restored. [23]

Our heavenly Father is “faithful” to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him because we have an eternal relationship with Him (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). There may be times when we think that going to God for forgiveness of the same sin with no victory in sight presumes upon His grace and mercy. We may ask ourselves, “How can the Lord forgive me over and over for the same sin?” The simple answer is God is “faithful.” His faithfulness is not based upon ours. He has promised to forgive us when we come to Him on His terms. His forgiveness for our fellowship or closeness with Him is based on His forgiveness for our relationship with Him. [24]

For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15; to restore our closeness to Him. [25]

You may be thinking that this does not seem right to keep coming over and over again to God asking for forgiveness for the same sin. Isn’t that taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy? It seems contrary to God’s holiness. Oh, but it is right for God to forgive His children when they confess their sins to Him. [26]This forgiveness is not contrary to God’s holiness – He is “just” (I John 1:9). The word for “just” (dikaios) is the same word used as a title to Jesus Christ in I John 2:1 where it is translated “the Righteous One.” When Jesus finished paying the penalty of all the sins of the world on the cross (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), He satisfied God’s holy and “just” demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2). So, God is not compromising His holiness when He forgives the sinning Christian when he or she confesses their sin. This forgiveness is not based on our deservedness or performance. It is based on the atoning sacrifice of Christ. [27] Christ’s shed blood is sufficient for the sinning Christian (I John 1:7; 2:1-2).

The fact that God’s justice was completely satisfied when Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins can empower us to forgive others when they sin against us. We may be reluctant to forgive someone who deeply hurt us, fearing that they will not get the justice they deserve. But the truth is, none of us in Christ received the justice we deserved. Christ received God’s justice in our place even though He, being sinless, did not deserve it.  

I am not suggesting that God takes sin lightly nor should we. God hates sin. He is grieved by our sins. The Lord wants His children to gain victory over that sin. But until a believer is open and honest with God about the sin God reveals to him or her, that believer will not be in fellowship with God. Nor will he or she have access to God’s power while living out of fellowship with the Lord.

There are some Christians who teach that a Christian does not need to confess his sins and ask forgiveness because a believer already has complete forgiveness of all his sins including his future sins (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). But this conclusion confuses the believer’s positional forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7) with his fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9). A Christian who does not see his need to seek his heavenly Father’s forgiveness when he disobeys the Lord will not be very sensitive to the multiple ways he grieves God. In addition, the Lord Jesus taught His believing disciples to seek forgiveness of their sins when He taught them how to pray each day (e.g., the expression “give us this day our daily bread” precedes the request “forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:11-12). [28]

We have talked about confessing the specific sins in our lives of which we are aware. But what about all the unknown sin in our lives? The last part of I John 1:9 explains that when we confess the specific sins of which we are aware, God is “faithful and just” to not only forgive those specific sins we confessed, but He will also “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This “all unrighteousness” refers to all the other sins in our lives that we are not aware of. It has been estimated that 90% of the decisions we make are unconscious in nature. [29] There are many sinful choices we all make of which we have no conscious knowledge. We all have far more sin in our lives that we do not know about. But God sees all our sins – the sins we consciously choose (“our sins”) and the sins we unconsciously choose (“all unrighteousness”). We do not need to agonize about the sins we are not conscious of because the shed blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us” from all of them when we confess the specific sins God’s light reveals to us (1:7, 9). Nothing in our lives is left uncleansed.

So, how can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The apostle John tells us in I John 1 that we simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. This is good news that is worth sharing with others!!!

The apostle John explains this further in John 2:17-22: 2:17: When Christ’s disciples watched Jesus cleanse the temple, they probably stood back “in stunned silence. With mouths wide open, they stared astonished as Jesus tossed furniture like toothpicks and slung coins like seeds. The lash of His whip sent livestock scurrying behind their unclean owners as the temple Owner’s voice echoed through the courts, ‘Take these things away!’ And the disciples remembered Psalm 69:9, [30] “Zeal for Your house will eat Me up.” [31]

In Psalm 69:9, King David meant that zeal for the building of the temple had dominated his thoughts and actions, and he implied that others would criticize him for it. John applies this verse to the future Messianic Davidic King of Israel, implying that Jesus is their promised Messiah. [32]

“The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would have a consuming zeal for the temple and for God the Father. Jesus was consumed with doing what His Father had sent Him to do (4:34). His consuming dedication ultimately consumed Him when He gave up His life on the cross (cf. 2:19-22).” [33]

When Christ cleansed the temple at the beginning (John 2:13- 17) and end of His public ministry (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-47), He was declaring war on the hypocritical religious leaders (Matt. 23:1-36), and this would ultimately lead to His death. [34]

Do we have this kind of zeal for God’s work? Are we willing to risk our lives or reputations for the Lord? This kind of enthusiasm comes from a dynamic relationship with the Lord. We cannot manufacture this kind of zeal on our own. It comes from knowing and loving Jesus!

2:18:  The Jews did not question Jesus’ actions nor address Christ’s indictment of them for making His “Father’s house” into “a house of merchandise” (2:16)! Instead, they question Jesus’ authority. Who does He think He is by doing this? They demanded a miraculous “sign” to prove He has the right to take such action. By asking for a sign from Jesus, these religious leaders recognize that by cleansing the temple and speaking of His “Father’s house,” Jesus was presenting Himself as the promised Messiah-God. [35]

“Concerned with the issue of authority—just as they were with the Baptizer in the Judean wilderness—they said, in effect, ‘If you’re declaring Yourself to be the Messiah by this act, authenticate Yourself with a series of miracles.’” [36]

I love Jesus’ response here. He confuses them even more. “You want a sign. I will give you a sign.” 2:19: He used this “veiled” response to stimulate the thinking of these Jews. The word translated “temple” (naos) refers to the sanctuary or Holy Place, as distinguished from the temple courtyards (heiron), including the Court of Gentiles Jesus just cleansed. [37] Jesus intentionally calls His body “this temple” (naos) alluding to the reality that on the New Earth He will be the new “temple” (naos – Rev 21:22). [38]

“Only a perceptive hearer would comprehend it, and none of them qualified. In fact, His own disciples didn’t understand His true meaning until after His resurrection.”

“John highlights this tendency of Jesus more than the other gospel writers. Jesus didn’t waste His words on people who didn’t want to hear. In fact, He didn’t speak in order to convince the skeptic or sway the dissenter. His words were intended to divide His audience into two groups: receptive hearts and hard hearts. He understood that hearing Him is not an intellectual process, but a crisis of the will. Several times throughout the story when Jesus says something cryptic, some people think they understand Him and turn away, while others admit their confusion and draw nearer.” [39]

If these “Jews” genuinely want to know if Jesus is their promised Messiah, then they would seek the answer from Him. Christ is referring to the greatest and last “sign” recorded in the gospel of John that points to His identity as the Christ, the Son of God which is His death and resurrection (cf. 19:17-20:31).

The Sanhedrin later used Jesus’ words about destroying the temple as a capital charge against Him at His trial (Matt. 26:61; Mark 14:58; cf. Matt. 27:40; Mark 15:29). This was dishonest and unfair, however, because Jesus had said, ‘Destroy this temple,’ not I will destroy the temple. Furthermore, Jesus was speaking of His body, not the Jerusalem temple.” [40]

2:20: As Christ anticipated, these “Jews” took Him literally and misunderstood Him to refer to the “temple” building which took Herod the Great “forty-six years to build.” [41] Such a massive and enduring temple structure was not likely to be destroyed and rebuilt “in three days.”

2:21: Thanks to John’s post-resurrection perspective, we know that Jesus is not speaking of destroying Herod’s temple building, but rather He is “speaking of the temple of His” own physical “body” which will be crucified and buried.

 2:22: It was not until after Jesus “had risen from the dead” and appeared to “His disciples” that they “remembered that He had said this to them.” It was then that “they believed the Scripture” in the Old Testament concerning Christ’s resurrection (cf. Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:12) “and the word which Jesus had” spoken to them.

It is not the Jerusalem temple but the human body of Jesus that represents the presence of God. Let me remind you of something. Christianity is not about buildings. It is not about a church building. It is not even about a philosophy of life. Christianity is about a relationship with the One Who died and rose again for our sins so “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

So, the reason a holy God can come into our contaminated lives full of sin is because of Christ’s death and resurrection. God’s holiness demands that sin be punished, but His heart desires that the sinner be pardoned. Hence, God sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment you and I deserved.

The United States was shocked in 1998 by the tragic news of two young boys who opened fire on schoolchildren as they ran from their building in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Four children and a teacher were killed, and five others were injured. The teacher died when she stepped forward to shield one of her sixth graders. She saved the girl but lost her own life. The teacher became her substitute and died in her place. [42]

Jesus Christ died as our Substitute. Just as the teacher took the bullets for the young girl, Christ took the punishment for our sin and died in our place. Jesus Christ did what our good works could never do. We are saved by Christ’s dying, not by our doing. Three days after His death Jesus came back to life. By rising from the grave on the third day He proved He had conquered sin and death. The second way to experience Christ’s cleansing truth is to REALIZE THAT CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR A HOLY GOD TO LIVE INSIDE US (2:17-22).

This leads to the third way to experience Christ’s cleansing truth. 2:23-24: During the week-long feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus did many miraculous “signs.” As a result, “many believed in His name” for eternal life (2:23). Some argue that these people were not truly saved because their faith was based on miraculous signs and because Jesus did not “commit Himself to them” (2:24). [43]

However, the reasons for understanding that these people are genuinely saved are substantial:

1. The phrase “believed in His name [44] is always used of people believing in Jesus to get them to heaven in John’s writings. This phrase “believed in His name” [45] in John 2:23 is used in John 1:12-13 to refer to saving faith. Those verses prepare the reader to understand John 2:23 in the same way. [46] Grounds for condemnation are because one has not “believed in the name” [47] of the Son of God (John 3:18). In John 20:31, a believer may have life “in His name.” [48] Thus, there is nothing in John’s usage of “believe in the name” [49] to suggest that the faith in John 2:23 is not saving faith. [50]

2. The “believe in” [51] construction is a common Johannine expression for saving faith (John 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; 4:39; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:30; 9:35, 36; 11:2526, 48; 12:11, 37, 42, 44, 46; cf. I John 5:13). Nothing in John 2:23 suggests a different understanding.

“The phrase pisteuō eis, “believe in,” is John’s standard expression for saving faith (cf. John 6:40; 7:39; 8:30; 10:42; 11:25-26; 12:11). One believes ‘on Him’ or ‘in His name.’[52]

When Calvin says that they did not have true faith but were only borne along by some impulse of zeal which prevented them from carefully examining their hearts, he is therefore flatly contradicting John’s consistent usage in the rest of his writings. This illustrates ‘theological exegesis.’” [53]

“Martin Lloyd-Jones falls into the same error. He feels that those who ‘believed in His name’ ‘did not truly believe in Him. They gave a kind of intellectual assent, they seemed to believe in Him; but He knew that they had not believed in Him in reality, and that is why He did not commit Himself to them.” [54]

“He cites John 6:60-66, where Jesus says there were some disciples ‘that believe not’ and concludes that this explains the people in John 2:25. But isn’t this directly contradicting the very words of John? John tells us that in John 2, contrary to the unbelieving disciples in John 6, these people specifically did believe. On what authority does Lloyd-Jones say they did not? How else could John say it if his intent was to indicate saving faith? Nowhere in the New Testament are adverbs, such as ‘truly’ or ‘really’ ever used to modify ‘believe’ in a soteriological context. These adverbs are frequently inserted in front of the word ‘believe’ in Experimental writings in order to sustain the fiction of the final perseverance of the saints in holiness to the final hour.” [55]

3. Nothing in the gospel of John suggests that belief based on Christ’s miracles is not genuine. Jesus even taught unbelievers to believe in Him because of the works or miraculous signs He did (John 10:38; 14:11). John finds fault with those who fail to believe in Christ after observing His miracles (John 12:37). The apostle recorded Jesus’ miraculous signs to elicit saving faith in the Person of Christ (John 20:31). The miracles Jesus did in John 2:23 fulfilled the very purpose for which they were recorded. John would have applauded these people for believing in Jesus based on His miraculous signs! However, it is true that a saving faith based on visible miraculous signs is not as noble as a saving faith based on God’s Word (cf. John 20:28-29; cf. 4:1-53). [56]

2:24: Since these people are saved, then what does it mean when Jesus refused to “commit Himself [57] or “entrust Himself” [58] to these new believers?

One possible meaning is referenced by Dillow: “Debbie Hunn cites several examples from the first century which suggest that ‘entrusting oneself to another,’ then, in the examples known in the Greek of John’s day, referred not to disclosure of truth, intimacy, or belief in the sayings of another, but to personal security.” [59] 1722

“This idea nicely fits the context of John 2:24. After driving out the traders from the temple, Jesus for the first time announced His coming death (John 2:18-22).” [60]

A view that more consistent with the gospel of John’s subtheme of discipleship is that Christ chose not to become more intimate with these believers. Jesus “wasn’t ready to reveal more of Himself to them because of their spiritual immaturity. They were not yet ready for full commitment to discipleship and public identification with Him.” [61]

Keep in mind that although the main theme of the gospel of John is how to get to heaven; a subtheme is discipleship or intimacy with Christ. [62] Jesus entrusts Himself to new believers who are ready to be His friends. For Christ to disclose more of Himself to a believer, the believer must be trustworthy and obey Him.  “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). Christ “manifests” or discloses more of Himself to the believer who “has… and keeps” His commandments.

Friendship with Christ is conditioned upon obeying Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14).  This friendship refers to Jesus disclosing His thoughts to those who obey Him. Thus, Jesus’ friends are those to whom He entrusts Himself. [63]

Notice that the word “commit” [64] in verse 24 is in the imperfect tense. This tense speaks only about action in the past, so it leaves open to question what Jesus might do at a later point in time. Hence, Christ could entrust Himself to these believers later should they obey Him. [65]

When the word “commit”is used in the passive sense (“entrust”)in the New Testament, its objects are: riches (Luke 16:11), Christ (John 2:24), oracles of God (Rom. 3:2), stewardship (I Cor. 9:17), the gospel (I Thess. 2:4; Gal. 2:7; I Tim. 1:11), and the preaching of the Word (Tit. 1:3). [66] None of these instances suggest a salvation context. These passages suggest that the person receiving the object is regarded as trustworthy. The object is being committed to them in confidence. It follows that Christ refused to commit Himself to those who had believed (John 2:23-24) because He had little confidence in them at this time to be His friends, that is, to obey Him even to the point of publicly confessing Him (John 15:14-17; 12:42-43).

Therefore, the issue is not whether these people are saved or not, the issue for these new believers is whether they are trustworthy. Intimate fellowship with Christ requires obedience to Him. How did Jesus know whether to entrust Himself to these new believers? Look in verse 25.

2:25: Jesus refused to have fellowship with these new believers because He supernaturally “knew” that their hearts were not ready for intimacy with Him; that is, they were not ready to obey Him yet. They were not ready for a close friendship with Christ.

“He could see into their hearts. And He can see into yours too. So don’t miss this truth: Spiritual growth is important because it expands our capacity to experience more of God. Jesus does not relate to all believers the same way.” [67]

Part of obeying Christ may involve publicly confessing our faith in Him before others like at work or school. It is possible to have a saving faith alongside a reluctance to express that faith publicly. Thus, these verses introduce the theme of “secret believers” who are genuinely saved, but they are afraid to express their faith openly due to the threat of persecution (cf. John 9:22; 12:42; 19:38). [68]      

For example, many of the ruling Pharisees had saving faith but were afraid to express that faith to others: 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).

Hodges makes an astute observation when he writes that “later in the gospel of John Jesus ‘commits Himself’ very extensively to the men who had accompanied Him to that point in His ministry. He ‘discloses’ Himself in a very intimate way to them.

“But Nicodemus (whom we shall meet shortly) was not with His disciples in the Upper Room. Why he was not there becomes gradually obvious as the Fourth gospel unfolds. As a result, on the pages of John’s gospel, Nicodemus stands as the prototype of a believer who is hindered from intimacy with Jesus Christ by competing interests.” [69]

“The verb ‘testify’ in v. 25 (martureō) is an inclusio back to the noun testimony in 1:19 (marturia). John the Baptist is the preeminent example in the Fourth Gospel of one who openly testified for Jesus. The new believers are a sad contrast to him. They were unwilling to tell others openly of their faith in Jesus.  

“John skillfully repeats the word ‘man’ in 2:25 and 3:1. Immediately after the words, ‘He knew what was in man’ (2:25), John says, ‘Now there was a man…’ (3:1). The new believers in 2:23 were like the man who came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness (3:2).

“John the Baptist is the paradigm of the open believer (cf. 3:22-36); Nicodemus is the paradigm of the secret believer (3:1-21). Every time John mentions Nicodemus, he writes that he came to Jesus by night (3:2; 7:50; 19:39). Night is a symbol of darkness and of secrecy. There are hints in 7:45-52 and certainly in 19:38-42 that Nicodemus believed in Jesus, though without openly confessing Him.

“Even before the new believers of 2:23 had done anything, Jesus knew that they, unlike John the Baptist, but like Nicodemus, were not ready to confess Him. Because of that, He did not entrust them with the depth of truth He reserved for His friends.” [70]

Hence, the third way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to RECOGNIZE THAT CHRIST ONLY REVEALS HIMSELF TO BELIEVERS WHO ARE READY TO OBEY HIM(2:23-25). Some of us don’t know Jesus any better today than the day we became a Christian. For some of us that may have been years ago. But Christ will not disclose Himself to us if we are not willing to go on and obey Him. He refuses fellowship with Christians who are not ready to obey Him.

For any relationship to grow deeper, there must be mutual trust. I’m not going to be transparent with you until I develop a certain level of trust with you. Likewise, you are not going to be transparent with me until you have cultivated more trust in our relationship. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus knows our hearts. And He knows if we are ready to obey Him and grow deeper in our relationship with Him or not.

If you have been under the weight of religion (man-made rules), and you are weary – you feel like giving up on God – please know that Jesus fights for you to get you out from under that system, and He wants to heal your hurts. He wants to lighten your load.

Jesus also wants His disciples (followers) to take sin seriously in their lives. He wants us to trust Him to cleanse our lives of all sin and corruption. He wants us to rely on His resurrection power to help us say “no” to sin and “yes” to the Savior. Once we begin a relationship with Jesus by believing in Him for eternal life, He wants to reveal more of Himself to us and get closer to us. But for Him to do this, we must be willing to obey Him. We must be willing to surrender control of our lives to Him and let Him start directing our lives. Some of us need to come out of denial and admit that we are addicted to running our own lives. Friends, things are not going to get any better until we give up on ourselves and give in to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I found myself sitting in judgment over the religious leaders of Israel who had turned the temple of God into a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer. But Your Spirit convicted me that I am no better than those religious leaders. I also have stolen from others with my words and my thoughts. Like the religious leaders, I also have made it difficult for others to approach You in worship by being less than Christlike towards them. Despite my sin, it is mind boggling to know that the holy God of the Bible indwells me through His Spirit the moment I believed in You Lord Jesus!!! Thank You, Lord Jesus, by making this possible through Your shed blood on the cross which not only paid the penalty for all my sins (John 19:30; Col. 2:13-14), but also continues to cleanse me of my daily sins so I may enjoy closeness with You (I John 1:7). Thank You for Your resurrection power which is always available to help me to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to holy living. By Your grace, Lord Jesus, please enable me to walk in obedience to You so I may enjoy intimate fellowship with You. Thank You for disclosing more of Yourself to me as I live for You. Thank You for Your cleansing truth and grace. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 559.

[2] Ibid., pg. 558.

[3] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 58.

[4] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 68.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 79 cites Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. 6th ed. Translated by Patrick Lynch. Edited by James Canon Bastible (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1964) pg. 209; J. C. Macaulay, The Bible and the Roman Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1946), pp. 71-73.

[7] This writer also makes an argument for a fourth though implicit reference to the Passover (“feast”) in John 5:1 (cf. William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-54), pg. 188.

[8] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184; Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 70 cites Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), pp. 55-60, 143; Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 80.

[9] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184; Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 559.

[10] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 70.

[11] Ibid., pp. 70-71; Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pp. 80-81.

[12] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 59.

[13] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.

[14] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.

[15] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 552.

[16] 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 3504 to 3508; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2934.

[17] Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 43.

[18] 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. 589.

[19] Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 53.

[20] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2935.

[21] Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3524 to 3528.

[22] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 156.

[23] Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 54.

[24] Ibid., pg. 55.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3532 to 3536.

[28] Ibid., Kindle Location 3540 to 3544.

[29] Ted Roberts, Seven Pillars of Freedom Workbook (Gresham, OR: Pure Desire Ministries International, 2015), pg. 232.

[30] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 60.

[31] The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the future verb tense “will eat”(kataphagetai), not the past tense verb, “has eaten”(katephagen).

[32] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 83.

[33] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.

[34] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 84 cites Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1,pp. 292-93.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 60.

[37] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 72.

[38] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 86.

[41] Evans, The Tony Evans Study Bible, pg. 2205.

[42] Moyer, Show Me How to Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons, pg. 258.

[43] Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), pg. 184.

[44] episteusan eis to onoma auto

[45] pisteuousin eis to onoma auto

[46] Zane C. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers – John 2:23-25,” Bibliotheca Sacra 135:538 (April-June 1978), pg. 140; Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 526.

[47] pepisteuken eis to onoma

[48] en to onomati autou

[49] pisteuō eis to onoma

[50] Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pp. 140-141.

[51] pisteuō eis

[52] Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 526.

[53] Ibid., cites John Calvin, “Prefatory Address to Francis, King of France.” In Institutes of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), 3.2.12.

[54] Ibid., cites Martin Lloyd-Jones, Romans Chapter 8:17-39: The Final Perseverance of the Saints (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), pg. 282.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pp. 141-143; Dillow, Final Destiny, pp. 526-527.

[57] episteuen auton

[58] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 818.  

[59] Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 527 cites Debbie Hunn, “The Believers Jesus Doubted: John 2:23-25,” Theological Journal 25, no. 1 (Spring, 2004):19-21.

[60] Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 527

[61] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2205.

[62] Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pg. 146.

[63] Ibid.; Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 527.

[64] episteuen

[65] Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pg. 152.

[66] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 818. 

[67] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2206.

[68] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pp. 184-185.

[69] Hodges, Faith in His Name, pg. 51. See also, Keith Vande Vred, “A Contrast Between Nicodemus and John the Baptist in the Gospel of John,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57:4 (December 2014): 715-726.

[70] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 185.

John 2 – Part 1: “Transforming Grace”

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11

In every marriage ceremony, there is always at least one mistake. For example, a young couple, very much in love, were getting married. Sue, the wife to be, was very nervous about the big occasion and so the pastor chose one verse that he felt would be a great encouragement to them. The verse was 1 John 4:18 which says: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

Rather unwisely, however, the pastor asked the best man to read it aloud and to say that the pastor had felt that this was a very apt verse for Sue and that he would be preaching on it later in the service. The best man was not a regular churchgoer. Hence, he did not know the difference between the gospel of John and the first letter of John. As instructed, he introduced his reading by saying that the pastor felt this was a very apt verse for Sue. Instead of reading 1 John 4:18, he read John 4:18, which says, “You have five husbands and the one that you now have is not your husband.”

There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. There are always going to be problems – some of them small and some of them large. In John 2:1-11, we come to look in on a wedding that had a big problem. They were quickly running out of wine. And once they ran out of wine, the celebration would be over. The joy would be gone, and they would be running on empty.

I would imagine that there are some of you reading this who are running on empty. You thought that you had enough resources to carry you to the end of your journey, but your reserves have just about been depleted. Your joy is just about gone. It’s going to take a miracle to renew the supply of joy in your life. Jesus wants to work a miracle in your life. He wants to restore your joy so that you will have more than enough to make it the rest of the way.

Let’s look at the first of Jesus’ many miracles in John 2:1-11. It took place at a wedding. And this miracle is a picture of Christ’s transforming grace. As we look at this miracle, we will discover how we can experience the transforming grace of Jesus Christ and His overflowing joy. The first four principles apply to Christians, the last one applies to non-Christians.

REALIZE THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM (2:1-3a). 2:1: “On the third day” after Philip and Nathanael met Jesus [1] (John 1:43), “there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.”

“John’s specific reference to days in chapter 1 and here is unusual for him. On the first day, John the Baptist gave his veiled witness to Jesus (1:19-28). The second day he gave his open witness to Jesus (1:29-34). The third day John’s two disciples followed Jesus (1:35-42). The fourth day Philip and Nathanael met Jesus (1:43-51). On the third day after that, the seventh day, Jesus did His miracle at Cana.” [2]

The exact location of “Cana of Galilee” is difficult to determine today.Some say it was located at Kefr Kenna about three and half to four miles north of Nazareth, [1] and others believe it was at Khirbet Kana (“ruin of Cana”), a site about nine miles north of Nazareth (see map below).

Regardless of what location one thinks is correct, the fact that it was near Nazareth, the region of Jesus’ upbringing (Matt. 2:22-23; 21:11; Mark 6:1-4; Luke 2:39-40, 51-52; 4:16; et al.) means it was quite likely the wedding of a close family member or friend which would explain why “the mother of Jesus was there” in a proactive role at the wedding feast. [5]

The name “Cana” [6] means “the place of needs.” [7] There would be some special needs at this wedding feast that would require Jesus’ personal attention.

A “wedding” in Jesus’ day was different than they are today in the West. “Marriages in the ancient Near East were arranged by the parents, a contract was prepared, vows were spoken in the synagogue, tokens were exchanged, and then the man and woman returned to their respective homes. Although legally considered married, they lived apart during a betrothal period, which lasted no less than two months and could be as long as a year.

“At the end of the waiting period, the groom would take to the streets with his friends, usually at night, in a torch-lit procession from his home to the bride’s, in a grand parade accompanied by pomp and color and singing. After speeches of goodwill and blessings pronounced over the couple, the groom took his bride home, where family and friends feasted for as long as a week. The groom’s family was expected to provide enough food and drink for everyone.” [8]

Instead of getting married and going off by themselves, the newly married couple were surrounded by their friends and family for the first week of their married life. How would you like to have your mother-in-law watching your every move after getting married? During that week, they had a huge celebration. The parents of the groom were responsible for providing all the food and drink that would be needed for the celebration.

2:2: “Both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding” celebration. The disciples with Jesus probably included Philip, Peter, Nathanael, and the apostle John (1:35-51), and possibly others. [9] One reason why Jesus may have been invited to this wedding is because Nathanael was from “Cana of Galilee” (John 21:2), and he recently came to faith in Jesus (John 1:49). [10] The fact that Jesus received an invitation to a wedding and accepted it shows that He was not a recluse. He participated in the normal affairs of human life – including celebrations. [11]

Jesus liked to go to parties and hang out with sinners so He could draw them to Himself by giving them the love and acceptance they longed for (cf. Matt. 9:10-11; 11:19; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 15:1-2; et al.). The religious community marginalized these broken sinners, but Christ treated them with dignity because they were like precious pearls in His sight (cf. Matt. 13:45-46). Jesus sought the unsaved so He could save them from their sins and give them eternal life (Luke 19:1-10). Christ had a reputation as a “friend of …sinners” (Matt. 11:19). For Christians to be more like Jesus, we must go where lost sinners gather (Matt. 4:19; Mark 16:15; I John 2:6). This does not mean we participate in the sinful behaviors of lost people – God forbids drunkenness (Ephes. 5:18) – but we can still go and point people to the Savior.

2:3: John informs us that “they ran out of wine” at this wedding feast. Jews did not get drunk at these celebrations—drunkenness was considered a disgrace.

“Though the Old Testament condemns drunkenness (e.g., Deut. 21:20-21; Prov. 20:1; 23:19-21; 31:4-5), wine is often spoken of in terms of celebration, blessing, and joy (e.g., Ps. 4:7; 104:15; Prov. 3:9-10; Songs 1:2; Isa. 25:6; 55:1).” [12]

But at this wedding feast, they were running short of wine. To the Jewish people, wine symbolized joy. Running out of wine at a wedding banquet in the first century was so serious that lawsuits could be brought against you by the offended guests.

“The loss would not only have brought shame and social disgrace, however, but also financial embarrassment, since grooms had a legal responsibility in that culture to provide a suitable feast for their guests.” [13]

“Our bridegroom stood to lose financially—say, up to about half the value of the presents Jesus and his party ought to have brought.” [14]

The presence of wine stated that this was a special day and that all the guests were special guests.

“To fail to provide adequately for the guests would involve social disgrace. In the closely knit communities of Jesus’ day, such an error would never be forgotten and would haunt the newly married couple all their lives.” [15]

I can imagine that the bride was getting anxious about this time! I can hear her saying to her mother, “My wedding day is not supposed to be like this! I’m supposed to be filled with joy. But instead, I’m worried about what everyone is going to say or do when they discover that we have run out of wine.”

Maybe you have had similar thoughts. “My marriage is not supposed to be the mess that it is. Parenting isn’t supposed to be filled with so much stress. Christianity is not supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to be overflowing with joy – or so I’ve heard – but nothing seems to be going right. My joy is gone.” You may not know where your joy went. You just woke up one morning, and the supply had been completely drained. Some things have come along that you didn’t anticipate that have stolen your joy. Maybe some people have come into your life, and by their attitudes or actions, they have depleted your joy. Perhaps you have overbooked your schedule and lost your joy as a result. Sometimes we can lose our joy because of sinful choices we have made.

Mary may very well have been the one responsible for planning and coordinating this wedding feast. It would have been embarrassing for her to admit that she had messed up and not planned on enough wine. Embarrassing or not, she was willing to admit that there was a need. She said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (2:3b).

That is what we must do too. We are to admit that there is a need – that we are running out of joy. When you come to church on Sunday mornings, you may feel like everyone is expecting you to have a smile on your face and act like the world is a friendly place, and that all is okay in your life. When someone asks how you are doing, the expected response is “Fine.” But that may not be the case. And you have got to be willing to admit that to God. And you’ve also got to be willing to admit that the reason you are missing that joy in your life may be because of poor choices on your part or circumstances beyond your control. Your joy may be lacking because of the decisions of others. Whatever the case, it may be embarrassing or out of control, but your joy cannot be restored until you deal with the leak that is draining it dry. Once you admit that there is a problem, then you can do something about it.        

RELEASE THE PROBLEM TO JESUS (2:3b-4). That is what Mary did. 2:3b: When she realized that there was a problem, she took the problem to Jesus. She said to Him, “They have no wine.” She didn’t try to solve it in her own strength as we often try to do. The fact that Mary came to Jesus indicates she believed He could resolve the problem. After all, He was a caring Person Who would do whatever He could to solve the problem. Being a compassionate Person, He would try to help the groom, who was responsible for the food and drink (2:9) to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and legal consequences. [16]

This tells us that Jesus is concerned with the everyday things in life that we face. This family may not have exhibited a lot of wisdom in how they planned for the wedding celebration, but the wisest thing that they could have ever done was to invite Jesus. The very presence of Jesus at this wedding opened the possibility to a miracle.

And you know something? Jesus is also here with us today. The Bible tells us that “Christ died for our sins … was buried, and that He rose again the third day…  and that He was seen.” (I Cor. 15:3-5). Jesus is alive today and His power is available to everyone who believes in Him (Ephes. 1:19-21). With Jesus’ presence in our lives, there is enough power to resolve whatever problem we may be facing and build a life that is filled with joy.

 When Mary came to Jesus and communicated the problem to Him, His response toward her may seem cold and harsh to us in the twenty-first century. 2:4: When Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” He literally says,What to Me and to you, woman?” [17] This may seem disrespectful to our modern ears to address one’s mother as “woman,” but this was an acceptable term in that day (cf. John 19:26; 20:15). It did not have negative connotations. [18] In the culture of first-century Galilee, it was very polite, much like addressing a woman as “Ma’am.” [19]

When Jesus said this to His mother, He was telling here, “Dear woman, your maternal authority does not extend into the realm of My Messianic work.” Unlike the Catholic view of Mary, Jesus did not submit to her maternal authority, nor did He worship her. Nor should Christians. [20]

These words of Jesus constituted a Semitic idiom that is difficult for Westerners to translate (cf. Judg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 4:34; 8:28). [21] What do we have in common? meaning: Your concern and Mine are not the same; [22] or Madam, that concerns you, not Me; [23] or Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? [24] captures the spirit of the question. Jesus was saying in effect: We are not on the same page. He was not dishonoring His mother. He was explaining to her that He would handle the situation, but in His heavenly Father’s time and way. Jesus’ obedience to His heavenly Father was more important than His obedience to His earthly mother [25] (cf. Matt. 12:48-50; Mark 3:33-35; Luke 8:19-21).

In addition, Jesus told Mary, “My hour has not yet come.” [26] Literally these words read, “Not yet is come the hour of Mine.” Christ says His “hour” [27] or “time” [28] has not yet come (2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20) or has come (12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:21, 32; 17:1) several times in John’s gospel.

“Jesus’ ‘hour’ refers to the cross (cf. 12:27-28; 13:1, 31-32; 17:1; 19:27), His focus throughout His ministry. Jesus does not say that His hour would come prematurely if He does this miracle. Rather, in light of the fact that He actually performs the miracle, He must be indicating that He will do only those things the Father has given Him to do, and only at the proper time (cf. 4:34).” [29]

When Jesus’ “hour” finally did come, He met the need of the entire human race by dying on the cross (19:17-30). Mary was requesting that He meet a need immediately (2:3). Perhaps Jesus referred to His hour not yet having arrived to help Mary realize that the meeting of needs was something He needed to control. Just as it was not yet time for Him to die, so it was not yet time for Him to meet this pressing need for wine. [30]     

There may be times when we bring our requests to God for what we think would bring joy into our lives – but God’s response seems cold and harsh. It seems like the windows of heaven are closed. But the response that Jesus gave to Mary was to let her know that she was no longer in control. He was no longer under obligation to do what she wanted when she wanted it. He was now obligated to fully obey His heavenly Father, not His earthly mother.

When it comes to asking God to do certain things in our lives, God is under no obligation to do things our way or in our time. He commands us; we do not command Him. God knows better than we ever could what will bring us the most joy and when is the most beneficial time for Him to answer our requests. God does miracles and He answers prayers, but He does it in His time and in His way.

There is one prayer that Jesus will always answer with a “yes” as soon as that prayer is offered up to Him. That is the prayer for forgiveness. After King David had sinned against God, he prayed to Him, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2). Notice that David did not ask God to forgive him according to David’s goodness or righteousness, but according to God’s “lovingkindness” and “the multitude of” His “tender mercies.” That is called grace – receiving what we do not deserve.

As believers in Jesus, we still sin after we are receive eternal life as a gift (I John 1:8, 10; 5:13), but all God asks us to do when we do sin is “confess our sins” to Him “and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9).Confessing our sins restores our fellowship or closeness with God after we have sinned against Him.

If your joy is gone, or if you have never found joy because you are living a life that is contrary to what God says, then come to Jesus as you are. He will work the miracle of forgiveness.He will fill you with His joy.

RESPOND TO JESUS WITH TOTAL OBEDIENCE(2:5-7). Inviting Jesus to the party made it possible for the supply of joy to be renewed and refreshed. But the simple fact that Jesus was there did not bring the joy. It did not replenish the wine. To have your joy restored, you must be willing to do whatever Jesus tells you to do.

After Jesus gave His mother a mild rebuke (2:4), Mary did not resist or nag Him. Instead, she instructed the servants to cooperate with whatever Jesus told them to do. 2:5: Mary says to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”At that moment, Jesus ceased to be a guest and became the One Who was in control of the whole wedding celebration.

Mary “did not understand what He would do or when, but she had confidence in His compassion and ability. She demonstrated admirable submission and faith toward Jesus. She allowed Jesus to take charge and solve the problem, and she pointed others to Jesus, not to herself. Previously she had approached Jesus as His mother and had received a mild rebuke. Now she approached Him as her Lord and shortly received satisfaction (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). In this she provides an excellent example for Christians.” [31]

And at that moment, a miracle began to happen. It is easy for us to be willing to have Jesus as a guest in our lives, but are we willing to turn over the controls and “do whatever Jesus tells” us to do? Only then will we see Christ do miracles in our lives.

I greatly admire Mary because she is the mother of the Messiah. For those of us who respect her, it is important to listen to what she told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (2:5). What does Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? He says, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christ does NOT say, “whoever… accepts Him/ is baptized with water/ confesses Him/ follows Him/ gives his life to Him/ invites Him into his heart/ keeps His commandments / obeys Him/ prays the sinner’s prayer/ repents/ submits to His Lordship/ surrenders to Him/ turns from his sins or is sorry for his sins, etc.”   

Jesus simply says, “Whoever believes in Him.” To “believe in” [32] Christ means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. [33] Do you believe Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? And He is therefore worthy of your trust to do just that? If so, you now have everlasting life as a free gift, and Christ guarantees you will never “perish” in hell, but “have everlasting life” both now and forever. Jesus comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (cf. John 1:12; 7:37-39) so that His joy and love can fill your life to the brim (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22)!

Since the Lord Jesus used the word “believe” 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.), Christians submit to His Lordship when we use the word “believe” when we evangelize the lost. It is not submitting to His Lordship when we refuse to use the word Jesus used most in evangelism and substitute it with words that are more popular with others. Our sinful nature does not like someone else to tell us what to do and how to do it. So, when Jesus instructs us to use the words “believe” or “faith” with His own example (and the example of other Christ followers in the New Testament) when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel, and we use other words or phrases that confuse instead of clarifying 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 God when we neglect to use the words He uses most (“believe” and “faith”) in evangelism (see comments on 1:7b) and replace them with words that are either used far less in the New Testament for evangelism or they are not mentioned at all in God’s Word. When it comes to evangelism, Christians are called to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by using the words God uses most in evangelism – “believe” and “faith.”     

Failure to submit to Christ’s Lordship in this way is extremely costly for the unsaved person who hears Christians use unclear cliches and substitutes in place of the words “believe” and “faith.” It is costly because these non-Christians are more likely to miss the only condition for receiving the gift of eternal life – believe in Christ alone for eternal life.

Can you imagine standing before the Lord Jesus at the Judgment Seat (cf. Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10) and being asked by the Lord why we refused to use the words He used most in evangelism? This will be a very painful experience for the Christian who refused to submit to Christ’s Lordship in evangelism (cf. I Cor. 3:15; Gal. 1:6-9).

2:6: John informs us that there were “six waterpots of stone.” “Stone pots did not absorb moisture and uncleanness like earthenware vessels did, so they were better containers for water used in ceremonial washings.” [34]

“The Jews” would use the water in these stone waterpots for ceremonial “purification.” They would come to the pots and let water run over their hands. It wasn’t a matter of sanitation but of ceremony. It did nothing to clean them physically or spiritually. It was simply an outward show.

“The Jews washed before eating in order to cleanse themselves from the defilement of contact with Gentiles and other ritually defiling things, more than from germs. They needed much water since they washed often (cf. Matt. 15:1-2; Mark 7:3-4).” [35]

An outward show, then or now, has never been able to produce joy. Simply coming to church and going through the motions will not produce joy in your life. They will put you in the place where you can find joy and put you around the people who will help to enhance your joy. But if you hear God’s Word without doing His Word, you will become even more miserable than you were to begin with (cf. Matt. 7:24-27; James 1:22-21). If we say the prayers but refuse to listen to God’s Spirit as He speaks to us, then our prayers will only produce emotional and spiritual conflict in us. If we read the Bible with no intention of obeying it, then we will only provoke guilt within ourselves.

The fact that there were only “six waterpots of stone” suggests that there was something lacking. “In Scripture six is often an incomplete number. That there were not seven pots suggests that something was lacking. The stone waterpots were used for ceremonial Jewish washings: according to the manner of purification of the Jews. This may represent the legalistic works-salvation thinking of pharisaic Judaism (cf. 4:28; 5:39-47). If so, this miracle has meaning on two levels: It gives evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, and it shows the error of pharisaic Judaism’s soteriology.

“The waterpots show that Judaism without the Lamb of God was incomplete. No permanent purification could be given apart from the coming of Jesus’ hour (cf. Heb 10:1-19).” [36]

2:7: The word “them” refers to the servants to whom Mary had previously spoken (2:5). When they heard Jesus speak, they responded in obedience. They began the process of filling the stone waterpots with water. Each of these stone pots held between “twenty or thirty gallons” of water “apiece” (2:6). That’s up to one hundred eighty gallons of water!

“This would provide more than 150 gallons (580 liters) of wine. That’s enough for 2400 one-cup servings.” [37]

It would have taken a lot of time and energy to accomplish this task. Trip after trip to the well to draw water and pour it into the pots. And we don’t know how far it was to the well. It would have been tempting to do a half-hearted job. After all, Jesus only said to “fill” the jars with water. He didn’t say how far to fill them. And “fill” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways depending on how hot it is and how late in the workday it is. Anything over halfway is full, isn’t it? That’s what potato chip companies seem to think. But these men didn’t think so. When Jesus told them to fill the jars, they took Jesus’ words quite literally, and they filled them all the way “to the brim,” just shy of overflowing. This was more than enough to meet the need that this newly married couple had encountered. [38]

Christ’s command to “fill the waterpots with water” and when the servants did, “they filled them up to the brim” (2:7), “suggests something about the overflowing nature of the wine Jesus provided at the wedding, and of the life it represents. Jesus gives life to the brim to those who believe in Him. And this life is not merely unending life in the kingdom of God. It is a life that is brimming with potential (cf. 10:10).”

Do you want God’s joy in your life? To receive that joy, you might even be willing to be obedient to God – to a certain extent, right? But are you willing for your obedience to reach all the way to the brim even when the obedience that Jesus asks for doesn’t make sense to you? Or when it requires more work than you had originally intended on giving? Or when it forces you to rearrange your priorities and your schedule like these servants had to do? You see, the amount of joy that you experience is in direct proportion to the amount of obedience that you give. The greater your obedience, the greater your supply of joy will be. Jesus said, 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love… 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11). When Jesus tells you to do something, never do it halfway because Jesus wants to give you joy to the full.

I don’t know where the brim is for you, but I know that to get there, you must do whatever Christ tells you to do even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it is inconvenient or painful. It will require hard work. It won’t be easy. You must ask yourself; “How badly do I want the joy that God has to offer?”

RECOGNIZE THAT IF IT MATTERS TO YOU, IT MATTERS TO JESUS (2:8-10). 2:8: The servants took the water that had been drawnout from the stone pots and presented it to “the master of the feast” [39] or headwaiter/chief steward. [40]

“The architriklinos [headwaiter] was originally the superintendent of the dining-room who arranged the couches and tasted the food, not the toastmaster [sumposiarches].” [41]

As far as we know, Jesus had not told the servants about the miracle that He was going to perform. To them, they were carrying a cup full of water not wine. But when the master of the feast tasted what was brought to him, he got a mouthful of wine that was better than anything he had ever tasted before. 2:9-10: Calling “the bridegroom” aside, “the master of the feast” observed that it is a universal custom to serve “the good wine” first and then the “inferior” wine “when the guests have well drunk” [42] and their sense of taste has become less discerning. John is not suggesting that Jesus created more wine for drunken guests. He is simply emphasizing the supreme quality of wine that Jesus created out of water. 

Some Bible teachers have insisted that the wine Jesus created was no more than fermented grape juice diluted with water so it would not be able to cause drunkenness. [43] But the word for “wine” [44] here is the word for fermented juice of the grape. [45] Paul uses the same word for “wine” when he writes, “Do not be drunk with wine [oinos]” (Ephes. 5:18). Why would the apostle Paul command Christians not to be drunk with wine if the wine in question was so diluted with water it could not cause drunkenness!?! It makes no sense. If the apostles Paul or John wanted to refer to unfermented grape juice, they would have used a different word for “wine.” [46]

“The same Bible that condemns drunkenness (Ephes. 5:18) and cautions against a misuse of alcoholic beverages (Prov. 23:29-35; I Tim. 3:3, 8) recognizes wine as one of God’s gifts (Ps. 104:15; Eccles. 9:7).” [47]    

God created the grape from which the wine is made (Ps. 104: 14-15). But God is not to be blamed for peoples’ misuse of His gifts. Each human being is responsible for their own sobriety.

The fact that Jesus created something that people could abuse is not surprising. Humans have consistently abused God’s good gifts whether it be food, drink, marriage, or sex. Fortunately, that does not keep God from giving these gifts, nor does it make Him responsible for our abuse of them. [48]

“Some may conclude that the wisest course of action for a present- day American Christian is to avoid the use of alcoholic beverages. Others may decide on a moderate use of alcohol in celebration (Gen. 14:18; I Chron. 12:39-40; John 2:1-11), worship (Exod. 29:40; Deut. 14:23; Matt. 26:27; I Cor. 11:25-26), or during intimate moments (Song of Sol. 1:2, 4; 4:10; 5:1; 7:9; 8:2; Eccles. 9:7-10). Both decisions are biblically acceptable and defensible.” [49]

Some keys in dealing with differences of opinion among Christians concerning alcohol consumption or other issues that the Bible does not clearly state are right or wrong, include:

  • Receive or accept one another even though you may differ about what your Christian liberty permits you to do, because God accepts you both in Christ (Rom. 14:1-5a).    
  • Be convinced in your own mind what would please God regarding the practice of your Christian liberty (Rom. 14:5b-8).   
  • Do not judge one another for your differing practices because only Jesus Christ is qualified to judge you, since He is Lord of the living and the dead (Romans 14:9-13a).
  • Show love to one another by not using your Christian liberty to hurt one another (Rom. 14:13b-23).

The words of the master of the feast demonstrate that transformation miracle has taken place whereby Jesus created out of plain water a superior wine to any previously served (John 2:10). We will discover in John 3 another type of transformation miracle when Jesus gives His gift of eternal life to a sinner who believes. [50]

When the servants obeyed Jesus, this tells me that it is our job to fill the waterpots, but it is Jesus’ job to change the water into wine. For example, in your marriage, it is your responsibility to love and serve your spouse, but it is Christ’s responsibility to change him or her. Don’t try to do something that only Jesus can do. He alone can change the personality and habits of your spouse. Trust Him to do what you cannot. It is our responsibility to share the gospel with people, but it is Jesus’ job to convert them. Simply share the truth with those without Christ and let the Holy Spirit convict them of their need for Him.

A miracle happened on that day in Cana of Galilee. This is such a beautiful picture of grace here. Initially, it appeared that Jesus was going to refuse to replenish the wine. But as He listened to His mother and looked into the faces of the wedding party, He reconsidered. People are more important to Jesus than schedules. Jesus changed His plans to meet the needs of some friends at a wedding feast. His first miracle was motivated not by famine or terrorism, but by concern for friends who were in a bind. Christ not only cares about the major difficulties in our lives like death, disease, and disaster, but He also cares about the smaller things in life like running out of punch at a wedding reception, having a flat tire, a toothache, or a grouchy boss, or even losing a contact lens. [51]

If we are to experience Jesus’ transforming grace, we must realize that Jesus Christ cares as much about the little things in our lives as He does about the big things. So, go to Him with what concerns you. Make your relationship with Him your top priority, and He will fill your hearts to overflowing with His peace and power so that you may have a joy-filled life. The miracle at Cana reminds us that Jesus’ grace cannot be exhausted.

This miracle could not have happened without the request of Mary as she admitted the problem. It couldn’t have happened without the presence of Jesus for them to bring the problem to Him. It couldn’t have happened without the willingness of the servants to work hard to do whatever Jesus commanded them to do. And it couldn’t have happened without Jesus’ concern for the little things in life. But these principles apply to those who have Jesus in their lives. This last principle is for those without Christ.

RELY ON JESUS FOR ETERNAL LIFE(2:11).  Mary’s initial request was fulfilled – not in her timing or in her way – but the result was far more than quenching thirst or saving from embarrassment. The result was eternal. 2:11: The apostle John informs us this miracle was the “beginning of signs at Cana.” John uses the word for “beginning,” [52]rather than for “first,” [53]  to alert his readers to the Word Who was “in the beginnng” with God the Father (1:1-2) [54] and now begins to “manifest His glory” which is “full of grace and truth” (1:14). The word translated “signs” [55] is used throughout John’s gospel to refer to the supernatural miracles of Jesus (2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 52; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30) which are designed to signify something about the Person of Jesus Christ. [56]

By saying this miracle was the “beginning of signs at Cana,” the apostle John assures us that Jesus did not perform other miraculous “signs” before this one. He did not make clay pigeons as a young boy, touch them, and cause them to fly away as some of the writings in the apocryphal (uninspired) gospels claim. [57] For example, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas written in the second century A.D., has misled other false religions like Islam to repeat such erroneous claims. [58]

Christ’s “disciples believed in Him” because of what they saw. We don’t know for sure which disciples these were, but if they had never believed in Jesus before, they now had eternal life (cf. John 3:36). If they were already saved, this miracle simply reconfirmed the conclusion the disciples had drawn from their previous conversations with Jesus in John 1:35-51.

 Two miracles happened on that day. The first was the changing of water into wine so that a celebration could continue for the rest of the week. But the second was the changing of fallen sinners into forgiven saints so that a celebration could continue for the rest of eternity. You tell me. Which was the greater miracle? This first miracle of Jesus is a beautiful picture of salvation. Let’s look at some WAYS THIS MIRACLE IS LIKE SALVATION:

1. IT HAPPENED AT A POINT IN TIME. IT WAS NOT A PROCESS. It did not take Jesus days or weeks or years to change the water into wine. It happened in an instant. Likewise, the moment you believe in Jesus Christ, you become a child of God forever (John 1:12).   

2. IT HAD PERMANENT RESULTS. The wine never turns back into water. Likewise, when you become God’s child the moment you believe in Christ, you can never stop being His child no matter what you do from that time forward (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29).

3. IT WAS A TOTAL CHANGE. Just as the transforming grace of Christ can change water into wine, so Jesus’ grace can change sinners into saints, “set apart” from their sin and shame forever (Ephes. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Heb. 10:10, 14)). God’s grace transforms you into a new person in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). No longer are you defined by your sin and shame. You are defined by being in Christ. Now when God looks at your life, He sees the perfection of His Son (2 Cor. 5:21; Ephes. 1:6). Only God could do this.

4. IT BENEFITED OTHERS. The making of water into wine not only benefited the couple and rescued them from a legal and social disaster, but it also benefited all the guests. Everyone enjoyed its taste. Likewise, when Jesus Christ gives you eternal life, He starts a new work in your life. His forgiveness enables you to forgive others. His love enables you to love others. His self-control enables you to control your tongue and temper. His patience allows you to be patient with others. His generosity enables you to be generous with others. See how this can benefit not only you, but the people in your life?

5.  IT WAS A TOTAL WORK OF JESUS – NOTHING ELSE. Could the servants change the water into wine? Of course not. Only Jesus could and He did! Can we get ourselves to heaven? Never. Only Jesus can do that when we believe in Him.

There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. There is no such thing as a perfect life. How are you going to respond when things don’t go the way that they are “supposed to,” and they threaten to steal your joy? Do you want Jesus’ kind of joy today? Then you’ve got to…

1. REALIZE that you don’t have it right now.

2. RELEASE to Jesus whatever is robbing you of joy.

3. RESPOND to Jesus with total obedience. Do whatever He tells you to do.

4. RECOGNIZE that if it matters to you it matters to Jesus. Go to Him with what concerns you. And if you are not sure you will go to heaven when you die you need to…

5. RELY on Jesus alone for eternal life.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, many of us may find ourselves lacking joy because of the problems we now face. Problems that may be the result of our own decisions or the decisions of others. As Mary did, we now release our problems to You to make something beautiful out of them. Thank You for reminding us that it is our job to fill the waterpots, but it is Your responsibility to change the water into wine. Please take all that we have, including our obedience, and use it for Your glory. Your grace transforms lives, even when it comes to the little things in our lives that no one else thinks is important. You are a kind and caring Lord Who not only sees the little things in our lives, but You also do something about them. Knowing this, motivates us to come to You in prayer. Thank You for showing us an even greater miracle than changing water into wine. Your grace transforms guilty sinners like us into forgiven saints. This great salvation is not because of our deservedness, but because of Your goodness to us. And no one, including ourselves, can undo what You have done for us and in us. Your salvation is permanent and unchangeable, and it is designed not only to benefit the recipients, but also the people around them. Use us our Lord and our God, to spread Your transforming grace throughout this world one person at a time. To You be all the glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Footnotes:

[1] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 68; Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 557.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 51614; Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 55.

[4] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pp. 62-63.

[5] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 55.

[6] Kana

[7] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 62.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 183.

[10] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 69.

[11] Ibid., pg. 68.

[12] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2203.

[13] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 69.

[14] Ibid., cites J. Duncan. M. Derrett, Law in the New Testament (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1970), pg. 238.

[15] Ibid., cites Merrill C. Tenney, “John.” In John—Acts. Vol. 9 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 42.

[16] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 70.

[17] Ti emoi kai soi, gynai?

[18] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 70 cites Derrett, Law in the New Testament, pp. 89-90.

[19] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 56.

[20] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 64.

[21] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 70.

[22] Ibid., cites R.V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), pg. 60.

[23] Ibid., cites The New Scofield Reference Bible, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, William Culbertson, et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), pg. 1125.

[24] Ibid., cites Charles C. Ryrie, The Miracles of our Lord (Dubuque, Iowa: ECS Ministries, 2005), pg. 15.

[25] Ibid., pg. 71.

[26] Oupō hēkei hē hōra Mou

[27] hōra

[28] kairos

[29] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 183.

[30] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pp. 71-72.

[31] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 72.

[32] pisteuō eis

[33] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 816-817.

[34] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 72.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 183.

[37] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 57.

[38] Zane C. Hodges, Faith in His Name: Listening to the gospel of John, (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2015), pg. 42. 

[39] The Greek word translated “master of the feast,” is architriklinō.

[40] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 183.

[41] Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 51871.

[42] The Greek word methuō in the passive voice means “to drink freely” or “to get drunk.” (see Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 65).

[43] Norman L. Geisler, “A Christian Perspective on Wine-Drinking,” Bibliotheca Sacra 139:553 (January-March 1982):46-56.

[44] oinos

[45] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 66; Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 701.

[46] The Greek word trux refers to unfermented grape juice (see Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 701.

[47] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 66.

[48] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 75.

[49] Added additional Scripture to Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pp. 66-67.

[50] Hodges, Faith in His Name, pg. 43.

[51] Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones: Everyone Needs a Miracle (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993), pg. 135-141.

[52] archē

[53] prōtos

[54] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.

[55] sēmeiōn

[56] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 68.

[57] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 77 cites Richard Chenevix Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord. 10th ed. revised (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), pp. 44-49.

[58] The Qur’an states that Jesus created a bird from clay and breathed life into it (Sura 5:48-49, 113). See Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? pp. 176-179.

John 1 – Part 5: “Each One Reach One”

4He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.” John 1:41-42a

God’s plan for reaching the world for Christ is to use each believer in some way to introduce another person to Jesus Christ and then train them to do the same. Jesus cast a huge vision for His followers to pursue, before He ascended to heaven. Look in Mark 16:15: “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.” (GNT)

Can you envision each of us having a part in introducing someone to Jesus? You may not actually share the gospel with them, but you may plant a seed in their lives. You may pray for them, show them kindness, and invite them to church or a small group. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see new faces in your Sunday Schools, small groups, and worship services, because each one of you played a part in inviting someone to come see Jesus? In other words, each one is to reach one. This is how Jesus’ first disciples got started, as we shall see in this chapter.

We are going to discover how each of us can reach another person or persons for Christ. Turn to John 1:35-51. If each one of us is going to reach another person for Christ, we must understand and apply some important principles.

First, we must GROW CLOSER TO CHRIST (1:35-39). There is a transfer of focus in the text from John the Baptist to Jesus. In the verses preceding today’s passage, the apostle John began to present “four consecutive days in simple, chronological order based on his personal observation of the events.” [1] (1:19-51). On the first day John the Baptist stated who he was not and who he was (1:19-23) before identifying Jesus as the One Who possesses superior authority by saying that he himself was unworthy to do even the most menial service for Christ (1:24-28). On the second day, John pointed others to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Preexistent One, the One Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and as the Son of God (1:29-34).

We see the humility of John the Baptist as he directs his own followers to Jesus on the third day. 1:35-36: This is what we call “intimate evangelism”—pointing those closest to you to Jesus. “Again, the next day” (the third of four days), John the Baptist focuses the attention of “two of his disciples” on “Jesus as He walked” by, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The apostle John informs us that one of these two disciples is “Andrew” (1:40). The other disciple is most likely the apostle John himself whose pattern is to refer to himself indirectly throughout his gospel [2] (cf. 13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26; 20:2-4, 8; 21:20, 23-24).

When the Baptist says, “Behold” [3] he is telling his two disciples to “stop whatever they are paying attention to[4] and“look with wonder at the amazing Lamb of God!” John is encouraging his followers to transfer their focus onto Jesus now instead of him.

This is reinforced further by the apostle John’s use of Greek verbs and their tenses in 1:35-36. John the Baptist “stood” whereas Jesus “walked.” The verb translated “stood” [5] is in the pluperfect tense which means John was still standing at some point in the past after having previously stood. [6] Whereas the verb translated “walked” [7] is in the present tense and conveys that Jesus “was walking.

“The action in God’s economy was shifting from John’s baptism to the ministry of Jesus.” [8]

As “the Lamb of God,” Jesus is the only One who can provide free, unlimited forgiveness of sin. Christ is like a calculator. A calculator is not only good for what it can do; but also, for what it can undo. Christ can hit the clear button of redemption and remove all our guilt and stain the moment we believe in Him for complete forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14).

My wife shared something with me a while back at lunch that really touched me. You can see her insights in the picture above. The horizontal cross beam reminds us of what Psalm 103:12 says,“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The cross of Jesus provides the basis for removing our sins as far as the east is from the west (which is an infinite line), far out of our reach so we cannot retrieve them. The vertical post of the cross points to Micah 7:19 which says, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The cross provides the basis of casting our sins out of our sight into the depths of the sea.To the human mind it is unclear how the Lord clears – but let me tell you – clearly – He can do it! Like John the Baptist, we must point those closest to us to the unlimited forgiveness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

1:37: John’s disciples now “follow” or go along with Jesus. Christ does not invite them to follow Him as His disciples here. They “heard” Christ speak and want to learn more from Him so “they followed Jesus.” This means nothing more than they are accompanying the Lord. Christ does not call them to follow Him as His disciples until about a year later (Mark 1:16-18). How do I know this?

When we examine all four gospels, it becomes clear that the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him in Mark 1:16-18 were already believers. In the Spring of A.D. 26 Peter, John, Philip, and Andrew met Jesus for the first time (John 1:35-51) and believed in Him. When Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (John 1:43), He was asking him to accompany Him to Galilee, not make a discipleship commitment. Philip believed in Christ because of spending time with Him (1:45). Four days after that first encounter, Jesus’ other disciples believed in Him after He turns water into wine (2:1-11). Several days later during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the temple (2:13-22). During the next several months, Christ instructs these new believers in the fundamental truths of salvation and assurance as He evangelizes Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the city of Sychar (John 3-4).

John 4:35 mentions four months until harvest. The harvest takes place in the months of April or May. Four months prior would be January or February. Thus, between the mention of the first Passover (John 2:13) which is in April, and the time mentioned in John 4:35, almost one year has passed. During these months, John the Baptist is evangelizing Judea (John 3:22-36) and baptizing. So, several things have already taken place before we come to Mark 1. Mark 1:14 informs us that John the Baptist is now in prison. In John 1-3, John the Baptist is still ministering publicly. But in Mark 1, he is in prison. So, these disciples have known Jesus for at least a year when Christ approaches them in Mark 1:16. Peter is a believer. He has evangelized the city of Sychar with Christ. But in Mark 1, he is fishing for fish.

1:38a: When Jesus looks over His shoulder and sees these two disciples of John “following” Him, He asks them “What do you seek?”

“These are the first recorded words of Jesus in John’s Gospel. The question is actually profound. The word seek (zeteō) occurs thirty-five times in John’s gospel, referring often to the Judeans who were seeking to arrest and to kill Jesus. With this question Jesus was focusing their attention on their ultimate concern: What is it that you want out of life?” [9]

Christ may be asking us right now, “What do you seek” in life? Love… security… fulfillment… relationships… money… a job… fame… or healing? What is it you are seeking currently? Are you seeking Jesus? Only Jesus can meet our deepest needs. Only Christ can give us the love… acceptance… security and forgiveness that we crave.

1:38b-39: Jesus was Who John’s disciples were seeking. They refer to Christ as “Rabbi,” which John translated as “Teacher.” These two men wanted to know where Jesus was “staying” so they could remain with Him and learn more from Him as they had done with John the Baptist. Christ invites them to “Come and see.” They first had to “come” with Jesus before they could “see” or comprehend where He was staying.This has spiritual significance as well.

“Only by coming to Jesus could they really comprehend what they were seeking spiritually. The same thing holds true today.” [10]

These men were eager to spend time with Christ. John tells us “They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).” (1:39). This is the first of several time notices in John’s gospel (cf. 4:6, 52; 19:14). 

“The tenth hour” could refer either to 4 P.M., if John uses the Jewish timekeeping system from sunset to sunset, or to 10 A.M., if he uses the Roman’s reckoning of time from midnight to midnight. [11] Whether the apostle John meant 10 A.M. or 4 P.M., the main thing is he never forgot the hour when he first met Jesus. [12] The time that John and Andrew spent with Christ the rest of that day was very significant. It had eternal implications for them.

How about you? Have you met Jesus? Do you remember the first time you encountered Him? I remember the evening, not the exact hour, that I first met Jesus. It was on Monday, March 12, 1979, when Archie Griffin, a two-time Heisman Trophy winner and professional footbal player, came to our college to speak on the evening of Christian Emphasis Day. After Archie talked about his personal relationship with Christ, God showed me my need for the Savior so I could believe in Jesus for everlasting life.

After the assembly, I drove my parents’ car out into the country and pulled into a cornfield driveway to talk with God. Under the light of a beautiful full moon, while I was listening to a Christian song by Chuck Girard entitled “Lay Your Burden Down,” I received Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and eternal life by believing in Him. I will never forget that first meeting with Jesus that evening. It changed my eternal destiny and for that I am eternally grateful.

The words “staying” and “remained” in John 1:38b-39 come from the Greek word menō which the apostle John uses forty times in his gospel [13] to describe close fellowship with Christ, not one’s conversion. [14] Menō means “to stay, remain, abide, live, dwell.” [15] It literally refers to where one makes his or her home. We need to constantly make our home in Jesus’ presence. Where we make our home is where we spend our time. We must make the effort to reside in the truth of the Bible about Jesus and His love for us.   

How at home with Jesus are you? Are you cultivating a closer relationship with Him through prayer, the study of His Word, and hanging out with other Christians? When we spend time with Jesus, as Andrew and John did, our lives will never be the same. When we grow closer to Jesus, His heart for the lost will become ours. We will begin to see those who need to hear the gospel the same way that Jesus does – as someone Jesus loves and longs to save.

GO TO THOSE CLOSEST TO YOU AND TELL THEM ABOUT JESUS (1:40-46). The key to having boldness is spending time with Jesus Christ. As a result of spending part of a day with Christ, Andrew realizes that he must share his good news with his brother, Simon Peter. 1:40: John identifies “Andrew,” [16] the brother of “Simon Peter,” as one of the two disciples of John the Baptist who accompanied Jesus that day. The name “Andrew” means “manly” [17] or “courageous.” [18] It takes courage to bring others to Christ, especially family.

1:41: Can you picture Andrew? “I have to tell Peter my news right now.” What is his news? “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew is the first in John’s gospel to identify Jesus as the promised “Messiah” or “Christ.” Evangelism is not complicated. It is very clear and simple. Andrew already has eternal life because he believed Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah-God. According to I John 5:1, that is all anyone one must do to be saved: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”

“To obtain eternal life one must believe that Jesus is the Messiah in the sense that He gives eternal life to those who believe in Him (see the discussion of 11:25-27 and 20:30-31).   

“When Jesus came, some, like John the Baptist (cf. 1:31, 33), already were born again since they believed in the Messiah for eternal life, though they did not yet know who He was. This is likely the case with Andrew and the other disciples of John the Baptist as well since John gives no report of Jesus speaking of eternal life to them. Evidently, they believed John’s preaching about the Coming One and believed in Him for eternal life. When they found out that Jesus is that Coming One, they sought to become His disciples.” [19]

The word “believe” in the New Testament means “to consider or be persuaded something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust.” [20] Because all of us are born as sinners who deserve to die forever separated from God in the lake of fire (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 3:23; 6:23a; Rev. 20:15), we need a Savior to save us. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead and is alive today to give eternal life to everyone who believes in Him (John 3:16; I Cor. 15:1-6). 

 The following 3-circle tool was developed by EvanTell, Inc., and is used with their permission. Ask yourself, what am I believing or trusting to get me to God’s heaven?

Starting from the left, some people believe their works will get them to heaven (1st Circle). Some people believe Christ plus their works will get them to heaven (2nd Circle). Others believe Christ alone will get them to heaven (3rd Circle).

Those who believe their works will get them to heaven are saying to God, Your Son’s death was unnecessary.” For if you can get to heaven trusting your works, Jesus did not need to die on the Cross. Those who believe Christ plus their works will get them to heaven, are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was disappointing,” that is, Jesus paid for some of my sins, but I must pay for the rest. But Jesus did not make a down payment for your sins. He made the full payment for your sins (John 19:30). Those who believe Christ alone will get them to God’s heaven, are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was sufficient.” Jesus paid it all and so all we must do is believe in Him alone to take us to His heaven. It is that simple.

Then what does Andrew do? 1:42a: That says it all. He simply brought his brother Simon to Jesus. That is all Andrew knew to do. Just get him to Jesus. Come and see. He pointed his brother to the One who could change him and satisfy all his needs. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more His heart will become ours. So, the closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died.

Jesus’ heart bleeds for the lost. Luke 19:10 explains: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out. Look at God’s heart. First Timothy 2:3-4 say, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Is there any human being God does not want to be saved? No. God created hell for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven, and He wants to use you and me to introduce people to the Savior Who can get them there. He may use you at work, school, the marketplace, the Mall, or He may use you in your back yard talking across the fence with your neighbor. The key is to open your heart to Him, so He can use you. 

Those who live close to Christ capture His heart for the lost. For example, during my engagement to Pat before our wedding, I had no difficulty introducing her to my family, friends, and co-workers. Why? Because I had a personal relationship with her, and I was thrilled to be with her! And I wanted others to meet her because she was so awesome! How much more should this be true of our relationship with Jesus Christ? The church needs some Andrews who will be committed to bringing others to Jesus. We need older and younger Andrews.

Being an Andrew does not involve fancy evangelism methods and memorizing lots of Scripture, so you never make a mistake. Being an Andrew means getting them to Jesus. “Come and see.” Allow Jesus to make the transformation. You just be faithful to bring them to Jesus. We cannot change people, but Jesus can. We cannot make unfaithful spouses quit cheating, but Jesus can. We cannot make alcoholics quit drinking, but Jesus can. We cannot make drug addicts quit using, but Jesus can. We cannot make worriers stop worrying, but Jesus can. We cannot make abusive parents quit violating their children, but Jesus can. Our job is to get them to Jesus. Come and See! Don’t tell them to clean up their lives. Just ask them to come as they are and see Jesus for Who He really is. Then Christ will do the rest. Invite them to church… to Starbucks for coffee or to your own home for a meal where they can hear the clear and simple gospel.

In bringing his brother to meet Jesus, no man did the church a greater service than Andrew! Andrew appears two more times in John’s gospel (6:4-9; 12:20-22); both times he was bringing someone to Jesus. [21]

“A Christian’s testimony ought to accomplish what John the Baptist’s testimony did: pointing people to Jesus so that they want to follow Him. Notice the domino effect in this passage. Having encountered Jesus, Andrew wanted his brother to experience Him too. When you understand Who Jesus is, you’ll want others to know Him.” [22]          

 1:42b: And indeed, Jesus takes one look at Simon and sees more than a rugged fisherman. He identifies him as “Cephas,”[23] which means “a rock or stone.” “You are now Simon, but you will become Peter.” Jesus saw beyond the impulsive, head-strong, unreliable fisherman. He saw a solid rock. Jesus saw him for what he would become by His grace (even when it takes a while). Eventually God would use Peter to lead three thousand people to Christ through the preaching of one sermon on the day of Pentecost (Ac. 2:14-47).

Jesus’ interaction with Peter teaches us the importance of a new believer receiving a vision of what he or she can become in Christ. During this first stage of discipleship, the Lord gives us a vision of what we can become by His grace working in and through us. We need someone who can look beyond our faults and weaknesses and not only love us but also expect the best from us; someone who will believe in us; someone who will give us another chance; someone who will call us by another name. That Someone is Jesus Christ. Only He has the power to forgive all our sins and turn our weaknesses into strengths. That is what Jesus did with Peter and that is what He wants to do with you and me. Jesus sees the potential in each of us. You may think God cannot use you because of your weaknesses. Look to Christ to do through you what you could never do on your own!

But there is more. 1:43-44: On “the following day” (the fourth of four days beginning in 1:19) after Jesus renamed Peter, Christ “found Philip” [24] on the way “to Galilee” (1:43).The word “found” suggests Jesus was looking for Philip, He did not just happen to cross paths with him. Christ said to Philip, “Follow Me,” which could be translated, “keep on following Me” if Philip already was following Christ or “start following Me” if he was not yet following Christ.[25] When Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (1:43), He was asking him to accompany Him to Galilee, not make a discipleship commitment. Philip believed in Christ either through John the Baptist’s ministry before he met Jesus (cf. Acts 19:4), or as a result of spending time with Christ (1:45).

Some interpeters insist that following Christ is necessary to receive eternal life. I hear many pastors and churches preach this often. But this is contrary to the gospel of John which emphasizes believing in Christ alone as the only condition for eternal life (John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; 20:31; et al.).

Thus, what does Jesus mean when He says, 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life” (John 10:27-28a)? Does this mean a person who truly believes must follow Christ as an obedient disciple to have eternal life which can never be lost as many preachers teach today?

The context of John 10:27-29 does not support this understanding. Jesus is using the word “follow” as a figure of speech referring to belief. Just as Jesus’ reference to sheep, is a figure of speech, so His reference to following Him is the same. Christ was not talking about literal sheep which physically follow a literal shepherd in this verse. Instead, He was illustrating salvation by picturing Himself as the Good Shepherd and believers as His sheep (cf. John 10:1-27).

In the context, Jesus addresses the unbelief of His Jewish audience, who questioned if He was the promised Messiah (John 10:24). Jesus replied to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:25-26). People who are not of His sheep do not believe. What then do His sheep do? They believe He is the Christ – the One Who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. They hear His voice and respond in faith like sheep follow a shepherd (cf. John 10:4-5). They trust Him. So, in this context the unbelief of His Jewish audience (John 10:25-26) is set in contrast to His sheep following or believing in Him (John 10:27).

Bob Wilkins writes that “the picture of sheep hearing their shepherd’s voice and following him is a picture of childlike faith. In his book, The Gospel Under Siege, Zane Hodges says concerning that illustration, ‘That is to say, they [the sheep] commit their safety and well-being to the Shepherd who has summoned them to do so‘ (pg. 44). He goes on to say that this is clearly an act of faith, not discipleship.

“Hodges points out two other points which further prove that the figure refers to faith in Christ: the sequence of the coordinate clauses and the analogy of John 5:24.

“The verses in question have five clauses joined by the word ‘and.’ A definite progression is evident. The sequence of the clauses shows that ‘following Him’ is the condition—not the consequence—of eternal life. Jesus did not say, ‘I give them eternal life and they follow Me.’ Instead, He said, ‘They follow Me and I give them eternal life.’ Since faith in Christ is the sole condition of salvation in Scripture and in John’s Gospel, ‘following Him’ must be a figure for faith in Christ.

“In addition, John 5:24 is parallel to John 10:27-28. Both refer to hearing, believing, the giving of eternal life, the guarantee against eternal judgment, and the promise of the permanence of the relationship. The only difference between the two verses is that in John 10:27 believing is expressed by means of the figure of sheep following a shepherd.” [26]

Throughout the gospel of John, figures of speech are used to illustrate saving faith such as receiving (1:12; 5:43; 13:20), looking (3:14-15), asking (4:10), drinking (4:14; 7:37), hearing (5:24; 10:16, 27), coming (5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37), eating bread (6:50, 51, 53, 54, 56, 58), entering (10:9), and following (10:27).

Christian author Charlie Bing writes: “These pictures of faith all denote receptivity, agreement, or trust. All are essentially simple activities and essentially passive. None communicates the idea of merit, work, effort, or achievement. Neither do they communicate an exchange of one’s life or the ongoing submission of one’s life to Jesus as Master in order to obtain eternal life.” [27]

The gospel of John distinguishes the freeness of salvation (John 4:10-14; 8:30-31a) from the costliness of discipleship (John 8:31-32). The only condition for everlasting life is belief in Jesus Christ alone for His free gift (John 3:14-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; 20:31), but there are many conditions for discipleship including following Christ (John 8:12; 12:24-26; 21:19-22), abiding in Jesus’ word (John 8:31-32), loving one another (John 13:34-35), and bearing fruit (John 15:1-8). Those who insist that following Christ is a condition for receiving eternal life, fail to make this important distinction between conditions for salvation and conditions for discipleship. This has caused much harm to the unsaved because it distorts the gospel message making it more difficult for them to believe in Christ alone, and it also has caused the church to be less effective in evangelism.

The apostle John informs us that Philip was from the same city of “Bethsaida” as “Andrew and Peter” (1:44). This may explain why Jesus was looking for Philip. Andrew and Peter may have been acquaintances, if not friends, with Philip, and had something to do with Christ calling Philip. [28]

“Philip’s hometown of Bethsaida was on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee (called ‘Bethsaida in Galilee’ in 12:21). Also, Andrew and Peter were born there. Politically, Bethsaida was in lower Gaulonitis in the territory of Herod Philip (Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 18.2.1). Philip’s name is Greek, but his nationality cannot be inferred from that fact.” [29]

What Jesus did with Philip, Philip now does with Nathanael.  1:45a: As Jesus “found” Philip,so Philip “found” Nathanael. “Nathanael” means “God has Given” or “Given of God.” [30]

“The disciple learns from his Teacher, and spiritual multiplication occurs.” [31]  

1:45b: Philip informs Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote.” This was an indirect way of telling Nathanael they had found the promised Messiah; the One Moses wrote about “in the law” (Gen. 3:15; 22:8; 28:12; 49:10; Num. 21:9; 24:17; Deut. 18:15-19; et al.) and “the prophets” also “wrote” “about (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; 52:13-53:12; Dan. 7:13; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 9:9; et al.). [32]

Philip identifies Christ as “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “This is one of only three references to Joseph other than the birth and infancy accounts (see John 6:42 and Luke 4:22). By saying this it appears that Philip was unaware that Jesus was born of a virgin or that He was born in Bethlehem.” [33]

Christ had such an impact on Philip, that Philip wasted no time in telling Nathanael about Him. When we spend time with Jesus, it does not take long for us to start witnessing to others.

Nathanael is a little more skeptical than the other men who came to Jesus (cf. 1:37-44). He does not respond in immediate faith. 1:46a: Nathanael was somewhat shocked by Philip’s mention of “Nazareth.” He had difficulty believing that the Messiah would come from such an insignificant and relatively unknown place as Nazareth. But Nathanael’s question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” suggests that insignificance was not the only problem.

“There was something unclean about the place. That was due to its geographical proximity to Sepphoris, the Roman capital of Galilee. Sepphoris was located just four miles north of Nazareth. When the Roman rulers of this region needed workmen, they drew from the laborers of Nazareth. Some of the citizens of Nazareth exploited this opportunity for personal gain. And so the people of Nazareth were disdained by my many Jews. It was an insignificant place with a quesitonable reputation.” [34]

“Recent archaeological discoveries suggest the town housed a garrison of Roman soldiers, and where you find a town full of bored soldiers, you find a nesting ground for vice and immorality. In addition, many Jews believed that contact with Gentiles rendered them ritually unclean.” [35]

The truth is the best thing in all the world came out of Nazareth [36] and Nathanael was about to discover this firsthand.

So, what does Philip do? Does he give up or start to argue with Nathanael? No. 1:46b: He does the only thing he knows to do. He says, “Come and seefor yourself. I don’t have all the answers but come and meet Jesus. Then you’ll see what I’m talking about.

GIVE THEM JESUS SO HE CAN BRING THEM TO HIMSELF (1:47-51). 1:47: As Nathanael approaches, Jesus makes a statement that reflects His supernatural insight into the character of the man: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”

“Nathanael was the opposite of the original Israel, namely, Jacob, who was very deceitful (Gen. 27:35-36; 28:12; cf. John 1:51). Therefore, Jesus virtually said that Nathanael was an Israelite in whom there was no Jacob.“ [37]

Jesus is saying, “I know you Nathanael for who you are, and you are a man of integrity.” 1:48a: Nathanael is surprised that Jesus would say this, so he says to Him, “How do You know me?” Nathanael is stunned because he has never met Jesus before so how could Christ know anything about him?

Christ shows in His response to Nathanael that His knowledge of his character was of supernatural origin. [38] 1:48b: I have never really made a connection until today between Philip’s invitation to Nathanael, “Come and see” (1:46b), and Jesus’ words to Nathanael, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Before Nathanael sees Jesus, Jesus “saw” him.

Christ sees us even when we cannot see Him. We may feel or think that Jesus does not see us. You may say to yourself, “There are billions of people in the world today, how could Jesus possibly see me among all these people?” The Bible assures us that God does see us.

Christ “saw” Nathanael’s heart as well as his presence under the fig tree. Perhaps Nathanael was praying or reading the Bible under that fig tree. Jesus is saying, “Nathanael, I know who you are. I know everything there is to know about you. I know what you think and where you go and what you do. And I want to have a relationship with you.”

If you can identify with Nathanael’s skepticism, please know that Jesus loves you and He sees where you are. He will also meet you where you are at. He will provide answers to your questions if you are willing to listen. He may come to you in unexpected ways such as through a dream or a vision. He knows everything about you – your likes and dislikes, your sorrows and your joys, your thoughts, actions, and words. He knows the hidden wounds of your heart. He knows the dark secrets in the depths of your soul and He still loves you and He longs to be in a personal relationship with you. 

How does Nathanael respond to the fact that Jesus saw him before they even met? 1:49: Christ’s supernatural knowledge of Nathanael moves the former skeptic to confess to Jesus, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Nathanael concludes,Only the Son of God could know this about me. You must be Him!” For Nathanael to believe that Jesus is the Son of God resulted in him having eternal life. John 20:31 says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” When as an Israelite, Nathanael says Christ is “the King of Israel!” he is acknowledging Jesus to be his own King. This former skeptic is celebrating the discovery of the long-awaited Messianic King.

All of us have a fundamental need to be seen, especially when we are hurting or lonely. Jesus not only tells us that He sees us. He wants to show us that He sees us. He sees our fears, our pain, and our stress. He also sees this world that is perishing without Him. When you experience that Jesus sees you, like Nathanael did, many of you will respond in faith to Jesus because you realize He is much more than a mere man. He is the God Who sees us.      

This is the conclusion of a pregnant woman named Hagar after God met her in a place of despair and told her that the child in her womb would be a son called Ishmael because God heard her affliction (Gen. 16:11). So, Hagar called the name of the Lord, “You-Are-The-God-Who-Sees,” for she said, “Have I also here seen Him Who sees me?” (Gen. 16:13). God sees you and He wants to show you that He sees you.

1:50: Christ makes an important promise to Nathanael and the other disciples (the “you” in this verse is plural) that is set off by the phrase (“Most assuredly, I say to you…”)that is used nowhere else in the New Testament. But John uses this phrase twenty-five times in his gospel [39] to call attention to important affirmations. [40]      

Jesus says to Nathanael, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” “Nathanael is the first person in John’s Gospel who is specifically said to believe in Jesus, although John indirectly shows that John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and the unnamed disciple believed too.” [41] Jesus is affirming that when we believe what God reveals to us, He will give us an even “greater” experience of Himself. [42] In other words, Nathanael had not seen anything yet. Christ’s demonstration of His supernatural knowledge was small compared to what Nathanael would see in the future. [43]

Not only did Jesus know about Nathanael’s character (1:47) and where he was when Philip found him (1:48), but He also knew what Nathanael had been thinking about under the fig tree.

1:51: Jesus uses the imagery of Jacob’s dream at Bethel when he saw “the angels of God ascending and descending” on a ladder (Gen. 28:12) to describe the “greater” (1:50) revelation that Nathanael and his fellow disciples [44] (and John’s readers) would receive concerning Christ.

“This Old Testament account is what Nathanael had been thinking about under the fig tree. How do I know? Because not only did Jesus make explicit reference to this story, but He also told Nathanael that he was ‘an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’ (1:47). Being a deceiver was exactly what Jacob was known for (see Gen 27:1-36). So, by these two comments, Jesus was making Nathanael aware that He knew what he was thinking.” [45]

“From 1:47-48, 51 it can be inferred that Nathanael was meditating on Jacob’s life, particularly on the incident recorded in Genesis 28:12. Jacob saw the angels going up and down a ladder. But Nathanael would see . . . the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Just as Jacob saw angels from heaven communicating with earth, so Nathanael (and the others; though you is singular in John 1:50, the you in v. 51 is plural) would see Jesus as the divine Communication from heaven to earth. The Son of Man, replacing the ladder, is God’s link with earth (cf. Dan. 7:13; Matt. 26:64). Perhaps Jesus was also indicating that He is the new ‘Bethel,’ God’s dwelling place (Gen. 28:17; John 1:14).

“As the Son of Man, Jesus left heaven to come to the earth. Jesus used the term ‘Son of Man’ of Himself more than 80 times. It speaks of His humanity and suffering and His work as ‘the ideal Man.’” [46]

Christ replaces the imagery of a ladder in Jacob’s dream with “the Son of Man,” a reference to Himself (1:51; cf. John 3:13-14; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 12:23, 34; 13:31). Instead of the angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder, Jesus says they are “ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus Christ is the Ladder or Mediator between heaven and earth, between God and man (John 3:13; I Tim. 2:5). Christ grants access to eternity. As He would tell His disciples later in John’s gospel, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (14:6). [47]

Throughout the remainder of John’s gospel, Nathanael, and the other disciples along with John’s readers, would receive evidence that Jesus was the sole Mediator between God and humanity. [48] Because Christ is fully God and fully man (John 1:1, 14), He is the only One Who could provide a bridge between heaven and earth.

God had revealed Himself to Israel—the man and the nation—in a dream at Bethel previously (Gen. 28:10-22). Now God would reveal Himself to a true Israelite, Nathanael, to all Israel, and to the whole world, directly through Jesus.”  [49]

Daniel’s “Son of Man” is the prophesied King of Israel Who will rule over the whole world in the earth’s final kingdom (Dan. 7:13-14). Hence, Nathanael’s reference to Jesus as “the King of Israel” (1:49) is also part of the imagery in 1:51. [50]

In addition, the “greater things” Jesus would reveal to Nathanael and the other disciples (1:50) would also involve Jesus’ Second Coming to earth as “the King of Israel” (1:49). Christ had already shown His supernatural knowledge to Nathanael (1:48b), but when He comes the second time, He will show His supernatural power (1:51). When Christ comes back as King, the Bible says, 6 Let all the angels of God worship Him. 7 And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.’ “ (Hebrews 1:6-7). When Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19:11-21), He will establish His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Rev. 21:1-6) where angels will worship and assist Him as the universal King.

No matter how skeptical a person may be about Christianity, just introduce them to Jesus and let Him do the rest. You and I cannot change people, but we can introduce them to the One who can. Jesus takes Simon and makes him Peter. He takes the condemned and makes her forgiven. Jesus takes the skeptic and makes him a believer. He takes the sinner and makes her a saint. Jesus takes the drunkard and makes him sober. Christ takes the prostitute and makes her pure. Jesus takes the worrier and gives him peace. He takes the spiritually blind and makes her see. Jesus takes the dirty and makes him clean. Jesus changes lives.

In April of 2014, our entire family moved from Iowa in the USA to the Philippines where God called us to multiply disciples until all hear His gospel of grace! I believed the Philippines was and still is a strategic nation for reaching other nations with the gospel. Why? Because each year nearly one million Filipinos go overseas (OFWs – Overseas Filipino Workers) to get temporary or permanent jobs to send money back home to their families. Our strategy was to reach these Filipinos with the gospel and disciple them before they left to work overseas! Then they could make disciples in other nations! We cast this vision among Filipino pastors and churches and equipped them to reach Filipinos in their area whom God could use mightily in another nation for Christ!? God wants to use ordinary people like you and me all around the world to introduce people to Jesus.

Each one reach one evangelism. It is very simple. Let me summarize:

  • Recognize a person God wants you to reach and then pray for them (Who should come?) Pray for God to soften their heart and give you opportunities to share with them (think about them right now).
  • Refer a person (Who should they come and see? It’s all about Jesus). Point them to Him.
  • Remember our purpose (why should they come and see?) Because only Jesus can get them to heaven and only Jesus changes lives.

We need some Andrews and Philips who will determine by God’s grace, to bring one person or more to Jesus. Can you imagine how Andrew felt seeing his brother, Simon Peter, come to Christ? Can you imagine how he felt when Peter preached at Pentecost and three thousand people were saved (Ac. 2:14-47)? Andrew compels us to remember that God uses ordinary people to bring others to Christ. God may use you to introduce the next Simon Peter to Christ who will have a huge impact for the cause of Christ. The gospel is usually advanced one person at a time reaching one person at a time.

I think back about my mission trip to the southern Philippines on Sarangani Island in October 2015 with my friend, Pastor Boy.  On one morning after preaching the gospel at an elementary school, I asked one of the teachers if there were any other schools nearby. He hesitated and then said, “Yes there is another school about a 40-minute hike from here, but you don’t want to go there.” “Really?” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because it is all Muslim, and it is not safe for Christians to go there.” For the next two hours, several Christians tried to persuade us not to go to this school, but I kept asking them if they had gone there and they had not. So, I said, “Who will go if we don’t go to them?” They had no answer. At this juncture, we had a choice to make – do we seek to please these well-intentioned believers who do not want us to go, or do we seek to please our Father in heaven who desires that all people be saved?

Eventually my translator and a local Christian tribal leader made the 40-minute hike with me through the mountainous jungle towards the Muslim village. With each step I anticipated what the Lord would do when we got there. What are You going to do when we arrive at this village, Lord? How are You going to protect us? How will these people respond?

When we arrived at the Muslim village we were warmly welcomed by the teachers and Muslim principal (see photo). One of the teachers said they expected us. “Why?” I asked. She explained that she saw our pictures on Facebook when we were on Balut Island across from Sarangani Island at a school. God used Facebook to prepare this village for our arrival. As we shared the gospel with the students and teachers, they were very attentive to the message. All one-hundred twenty students and teachers indicated they trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of salvation at the end of the gospel presentation.  

Afterward we had a concert, with individual students praising our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. I got goose bumps listening to these newly saved children fill the jungle with songs of praise to their Savior!

Before we came to this village, the teachers and students may have felt that God does not see them. But when God brought us to them and enabled us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, they felt seen by God just as Nathanael did. And the most natural response for them was to receive Jesus by believing He is the Son of God (John 20:31), which is something that Islam vehemently denies. [51] But when people in darkness experience the God Who see them, religious barriers suddenly fade away so they can believe in Christ for everlasting life.    

As these children in the jungle sang praises to the Lord Jesus, I thought to myself, this is why we are in the Philippines. If we don’t go to these unreached villagers, who will go? Had we sought to please people we would not have gone to that village. But because our aim was to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, we went to the village that God had already prepared to hear and believe the gospel. 

What about you? Are you willing to go to people with the gospel that no one else wants to go to? Are you willing to go to lost individuals regardless of the costs because each person is precious and valuable to the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, ask the Lord to make you willing. Then ask Him to show you whom He wants you to share the gospel with this week. Write down their names and begin asking the Lord to prepare their hearts to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11). Pray also for God to give you opportunities to share Jesus with them (Col. 4:3) this week before it is too late for them. And as you go to share with them, ask God to give you protection (2 Thess. 3:2-3), boldness (Acts. 4:29, 31), and clarity as you declare His gospel message (Col. 4:4) so His Word will spread swiftly throughout the area (2 Thess. 3:1).     

Remember: The gospel is usually advanced one person at a time, reaching one person at a time.

Swindoll presents the four following different approaches to evangelism based on the different ways the first five disciples were “found” (John 1:41, 43, 45) and came to faith in Christ. [52]

1. MASS EVANGELISM (1:35-39). This approach involves one gifted person, in this case, John the Baptist, who proclaims the gospel message to audiences who have not received the gift of eternal life. The Baptist pointed people to Jesus as the Lamb of God (1:36) and invited them to believe in Him (John 1:7; 3:36; cf. Acts 19:4). 

2. PERSONAL EVANGELISM (John 1:40-42). Personal evangelism takes place when a person shares the good news of Jesus Christ with a friend or loved one. This is exemplied by Andrew sharing with his brother Simon Peter. It is perhaps the most common and effective means by which people come to know the Lord, because they hear the gospel from someone they already know and trust.

3. CONTACT EVANGELISM (John 1:43-44). Contact evangelism, like personal evangelism, takes place when one individual shares the gospel with another, only in this case, the two may not have established a rapport. We have no record of contact between the two men before Jesus “found” Philip (John 1:43). It is likely that Andrew and Peter could have been acquaintances with Philip and spoke about him to Jesus. Upon Philip’s believing, Jesus called him to follow as a disciple. I wholeheartedly believe in “divine appointments” in which a person’s heart is prepared and the Lord places a willing messenger in his or her path. Contact evangelism doesn’t seek to convince another to believe; contact evangelism merely assists a willing heart to receive the gift of eternal life. However, belief may not occur right away. Many people who became Christians later in life admit to hearing the gospel several times before believing.

4. WORD EVANGELISM (John 1:45-51). The power of God’s Word dare not be underestimated. Nathanael’s conversion was preceded by his reading of Scripture about Jacob’s dream at Bethel involving angels of God ascending and descending upon a ladder (Gen. 28:10-22). Many people have come to know the Lord merely from reading Scripture, recognizing their need, and believing in Christ to give them eternal life while they were all alone, even before setting foot in a church. In 1898, two traveling businessmen recognized the power of the Bible to penetrate the hearts of nonbelievers and then founded an organization that is best known for its effective use of Word evangelism. We know them as The Gideons International. Their ministry of placing Bibles in hotels, hospitals, and schools has been the means of many people trusting Jesus Christ and becoming His disciples.

Prayer: Precious heavenly Father, thank You for entrusting us with Your gospel message to take to the entire world. Help us to grow closer to the Lord Jesus so His heart for the lost will capture ours in such a way that we will go to those closest to us and share Christ’s gospel message with them. Even though we may think we do not have what it takes to share Christ with others, especially our families, all You ask is that we tell them the truth about Jesus and He will do the rest. Some of us may identify with Nathanael’s skepticism, and we need to know that You see us and will meet us where we are at. Even though You know everything about us – the good and the bad – You still love us and want to be in a forever relationship with us. Show us our next step in knowing You better. In Jesus matchless name, we pray. Amen.

FOOTNOTES:

[1]  Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 45.

[2] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 54.

[3] Ide

[4] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 720.

[5] heistēkei

[6] Retrieved on June 14, 2023, from article entitled “Lesson 3 Overview of the Tenses, Perfect Active, Pluperfect Active, οἶδα & ᾔδειν, Condition Contrary to Fact” at https://ntgreek.net/lesson23.htm

[7] peripatounti

[8] Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 551.

[9] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 182.

[10] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 58.

[11] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 55; Swindoll, Insights on John, pp. 46-47.

[12] Roberston, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 51180.

[13] John 1:32, 33, 38, 39 (2); 2:12; 3:36; 4:40 (2); 5:38; 6:27, 56; 7:9; 8:31, 35 (2); 9:41; 10:40; 11:6, 54; 12:24, 34, 46; 14:10, 17, 25; 15:4 (3), 5, 6, 7 (2), 9, 10 (2), 16; 19:31; 21:22, 23.

[14] Some interpreters equate believing in Christ with remaining or abiding in Him. The apostle John equates abiding in Christ to keeping His commandments (I John 3:24a). If abiding is the same as believing, then believing is keeping God’s commandments. This would result in a works-salvation that is contrary to the purpose of John’s gospel which is to persuade his non-Christian readers to “believe [not abide] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing [not abiding] you may have life in His name. (John 20:31). For a more in-depth discussion on this topic see Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny, pp. 616- 619.

[15] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 630-631.

[16] Andreas

[17] Roberston, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 420087.

[18] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 76.

[19] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 182.

[20] Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 818-819.

[21] Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 552.

[22] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2201.

[23] Petros

[24] The name “Philip” (Philippos) means “lover of horses” (see Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 61).

[25] Akolouthei is a present imperative active verb which emphasizes the

continuation of following Christ if Philip had already begun to do so or to start

the ongoing process of following Christ if he had not begun to do so yet.

[26] Robert Wilkin, “Is Following Christ a Condition of Eternal Life?” Grace in Focus (Grace Evangelical Society, April 1990).

[27] Dr. Charlie Bing, “The Condition For Salvation In John’s Gospel,” Journal Of The Grace Evangelical Society, Vol. 9:16, (Spring 1996): 31.

[28] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 182.

[29] Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 553.

 

[30] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 61

[31] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 182.

[32] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 57; Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 61.

[33] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 182.

[34] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 57.

[35] Swindoll, Insights on John, pg. 48.

[36]  Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle

Location 51394

[37] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 63.

[38] Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 58.

[39] The Greek phrase Amēn amēn legō humin is used in John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24-25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20-21, 38; 14:12; 16:20, 23; 21:18

[40] Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 554.

[41] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 182.

[42] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2202.

[43] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 65.

[44] The “you” in the Greek text shifts from second person singular in 1:50 to second person plural in 1:51.

[45] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2202.

[46] Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 554.

[47] Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2202.

[48] Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 183.

[49] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 66.

[50] Ibid.

[51] See Sura 4:171 (pg. 96); Sura 5:19, 75-76 (pp. 100-101, 109); Sura 9:30-31 (pg. 183); Sura 17:111 (pg. 295); Sura 23:91 (pg. 364); Sura 25:2 (pg. 378) in The Qur’an, English Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Goodword Books, Kindle

Edition).

[52] Adapted from Swindoll, Insights on John, pp. 51-53.

Overcoming the Weight of Shame (Revised)

27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. 28 My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word. 29 Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” Psalm 119:27-29

The Lord has been teaching me a lot about shame the past few years. Having grown up with shame-based lies in America and having served as a missionary in a shame-based country for several years, this issue of shame has weighed heavily on my soul. In this devotion I will address shame in a Christian’s life.

It is important to understand that shame is not from God. When God made the first man and woman, they were naked and unashamed before the Lord and one another (Gen. 2:25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, God did not come to condemn them with shame, He came to cover their sin and shame (Gen. 3:9-21). For example, when Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (3:10). God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat” (3:11)? God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin. Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. I Peter 5:8).

Guilt says, “You did something wrong.” Shame says, “You are wrong.” Satan uses shame to condemn us and keep us from drawing near to God and one another. 

In my devotions this morning, the Lord led me to revisit some verses I wrote about 3.5 years ago to help me overcome my battle with shame. The Psalmist writes, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works” (119:27). We need God to help us “understand” or discern the pattern (“way”) of His commands (“precepts”). Take time to invite God to help you understand how to apply His Word to your deep struggle with shame. The Lord wants us to focus (“meditate”) on the “wonderful works” He is doing deep inside of us rather than on our sin and shame. Shame tends to focus on behavior and external reformation. God’s grace and truth focus on the heart and inward transformation. Before God can change our behavior, He must change our hearts (cf. Mark 7:14-23). 

As God leads me to deal more deeply with my shame, I discover that my “soul melts from heaviness” (119:28a). The word “melts” (dalaph) means “to drip or leak because cracks are not mended.” The idea is that our soul is broken and unable to retain what God gives us. Shame keeps us from believing the truth about God’s love and acceptance of us. As a result, our soul is broken and weighed down with the “heaviness” of sadness and shame. And a cycle of shame develops whereby we mess up, confess our sins, and then try harder, only to repeat the same sin because we continue to believe the shame-based lies that fuel our shame. And we stay bound to this cycle of shame. We cannot break this shame cycle until we deal with the wounds that the shame-based lies are attached to. It takes God’s Spirit to heal these wounds to our souls.  

Few things are more unbearable than the heaviness of shame. It is a burden that God never intended for people to bear. Yet Satan will use shame to keep us from becoming the people God  intended us to be. What is God’s remedy for this weight of shame in a Christian’s life?

“Strengthen me according to Your word” (119:28b). We do not have the strength to overcome this weight of shame on our own. Only God has the power necessary to win this battle. The word “strengthen” (qum) means “to arise or stand up.” In the context, this refers to God giving us the ability to arise from the depths of our sadness and shame by means of His “word.” The strength we need to overcome shame comes from the truth of God’s Word. If we do not make our home in God’s Word (cf. John 8:31-32), we will not win this battle with shame. No amount of determination, willpower, or “trying harder” will overcome the weight of shame. We must invite God’s Word to do that for us. How?

“Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously” (119:29). Shame is based on lies the enemy has attached to past wounds in our lives. Lies that say:

• “I am bad or unworthy.”

• “No one could love me as I am.”

• “I cannot depend on others to help me.”

• “I am defined by my sin and shame.”

We must ask the Lord to expose and remove the pattern (“way”) of lies that keep us enslaved to the weight of shame. And then ask Him to “grant me Your law graciously,” not harshly. The only verse of the Bible where Jesus specifically describes His heart reads, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29). Jesus says His heart is “gentle and lowly” (humble), not harsh and proud. Our pride can lead us to deal harshly with ourselves and others. But Christ invites us to “learn from”Him how to deal gently and humbly with ourselves and others so we “will find rest for” our “souls” in our discipleship relationship with Him. So, ask the Lord Jesus to gently replace the shame-based lies in your soul with His liberating truth. Truths that say:

• “I am loved and cherished by God.” Psalm 27:10

• “I am totally loved by Jesus just as I am.” Romans 5:6, 8

• “I can depend on others to help me through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

• “I am defined by the Light and Love of Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:2, 8

I want to share a “Lies versus Truth” exercise that is adapted from Michael’s Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 222 -228. 

With your mentor or with a group of accountability partners, review some of the most common false beliefs or lies listed below and their corresponding truths. There are blank spaces at the end where you can write in the lies you believe and their corresponding truths that are not on the list. Say each lie to yourself and only focus on the ones that FEEL true. You will know if your heart believes it is true because it will feel true. Even if it doesn’t make sense, go with the feeling. Replacing the lies with the truth is how real healing takes place. The truth is a Person, Jesus Christ (John 1:14; 14:6), not a concept or a Book. Jesus can supernaturally speak truth into our limbic system (right brain where lies are inserted) in a way that no one else can because He is full of truth and is the truth (John 1:14; 14:6; Heb. 4:12-13). Faith in Jesus’ truth produces healing, and faith comes from hearing a personal word from God (Rom. 10:17).  

For each lie your heart believes, say the lie to Jesus. Ask Jesus to tell you what is true. He may bring to your mind a Scripture with which to replace the lie. Meditate on that truth until the lie does not feel true anymore. Ask Jesus if there is anything else He wants to share with you. Say the lie again and see how true it feels. If it still feels true, you may need to meditate on the truth some more or even ask for help. Pray and ask the Lord to heal and seal off any wounds, demonic influences, and behaviors that the lie created. God may show you that you need to forgive the person who caused this lie to be attached to the wound he or she gave you.

LieTruth
1. God cannot be trustedGod cannot lie and is always faithful (2 Tim. 2:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18) 
2. God is out of control with His angerGod is slow to anger and gracious (Ps. 145:8)
3. I am alone and unlovedI am cherished and loved by God the Father (Ps. 27:10)
4. God could never love meGod has always loved me (Jer. 31:3)
5. Nobody would love me as I amGod loves me just as I am (Rom. 5:6, 8)
6. I am bad because of what was done to meI am precious to Jesus because of what was done to Him (Matt. 13:44-45; I Cor. 6:19-20) 
7. I am unwantedI am chosen by God (Ephes. 1:4)
8. God is against meGod is for me, not against me (Rom. 8:31-32)
9. Someone has or will condemn meIn Christ I am free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 34)
10. I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthyNo one and nothing can separate me from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35, 37-39)
11. I do not have what it takesI can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
12. I am defined by my sin and brokenness I am defined by the light of Jesus Christ (Ephes. 5:8)
13. My past is a hitching postMy past is a guidepost (Ezek. 18:14, 17)
14. I am what I do or what others say about meI am what God says about me (I John 3:1-2; 5:1)
15. I am a sinner because I sinI am a saint (one declared righteous by God) who sins (Ephes. 1:1; I John 1:8, 10)
16. My behavior tells me what to believe about myselfMy belief about myself determines my behavior (Prov. 23:7)
17. Whatever I do, it will never be good enoughIn Christ, I am good enough (2 Cor. 5:21; Ephes. 1:6)
18. I must be perfect to be safe I am hidden with Christ in God, forever safe and secure (Col. 3:3)
19. I am a disappointmentI am a delight to God (Ps. 17:8; Zeph. 3:17)
20. God won’t be there when I need HimGod is always available to help me (Ps. 121:1-4; Isa. 41:10, 13)
21. I should never be angry, anxious, depressed, or lonely Anger, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are signals to draw close to God. (Ps. 4:4-5; 42:5; 72:21- 26; 2 Tim. 4:16-17)
22. Failure is the end of the world Failure is an opportunity to learn (Ps. 37:23-24; Luke 22:31-34; Heb. 12:11)
23. No one understands meJesus understands me because He made me (Ps. 139) and walked in my shoes (Heb. 4:15)
24. I could never be forgivenI am totally forgiven in Christ (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14)
25. I am a loserI am a winner seated next to Christ (Ephes. 1:20-21; 2:5-6)
26. I am a mistakeI am God’s masterpiece (Ephes. 2:10)
26. I cannot changeAll things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26)
27. If I am not in control, something bad will happenWhen I yield to Christ’s control, I can have peace (John 16:33; Phil. 4:6-7; cf. Isa. 26:3)
28. I cannot cope without alcohol/anxiety/chemicals/food/sex/ shoppingI can cope through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
29. I need people’s affection and approval to be completeI am complete in Christ, lacking nothing (Col. 2:10)
30. Christians cannot be trustedI can learn to trust Christians who are safe (John 13:34-35; Gal 6:1-2)
31. I must be liked and loved by everyoneI am likeable and loveable, but not to everyone (Isa. 53:3; John 15:18-19)
32. Sex with a beautiful woman is the greatest sign I am loved Christ’s dying in my place for all my sin is the greatest sign I am loved (Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9-10)
33. I am worthless I am worth fighting for (Exod. 14:13-14; 2 Chron. 20:15, 17)
    
      
    
    

Prayer: Precious Father God, please give me the understanding and discernment to permit Your Word to speak to my deep struggle with shame. Help me focus on the wonderful work You are doing inside of me rather than on my failings and shortcomings. I confess that my soul melts from the heaviness of my sadness and shame. Please strengthen me as only You can with Your Word so I may arise out of this pit of shame. I pray Your Holy Spirit will expose and remove the shame-based lies that keep me bound to this cycle of shame and replace them graciously with Your liberating truths from Your Word so I may become the person You created me to be. Replace my false identity that is based upon shame-based lies with my new identity in Christ that is based upon Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What does Revelation 3:5 mean?

When the ascended Lord Jesus Christ addressed the fifth church in Asia Minor he offered eternal rewards to the faithful “few” in Sardis. “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” (Rev. 3:4). The all-knowing Judge knew of a “few names… in Sardis who” had “not defiled their garments” and “shall walk with”Christ “in white” because they are “worthy” or deserving. This cannot refer to salvation because no one deserves to be saved from hell. The Bible clearly says that salvation is a free gift apart from any works (John 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23b; 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9; Rev. 21:6; 22:17). Instead, walking with Christ in white is a privilege reserved for the faithful believer who is undefiled in his Christian life. 

Then the Lord Jesus says, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before Hisangels.” (Rev. 3:5). The risen Lord Jesus promises to the “overcomer” who is “worthy” (3:4) to be honored, the following eternal rewards:

– “Clothed in white garments.”  “White garments” are symbolic of one’s works (cf. 19:8) and are pure and free of defilement (cf. Rev. 7:9, 13; 19:14; Matt. 22:11-12). In the ancient world, white robes also connoted festivity and victory. Sardis boasted of her trade in woolen goods and dyed stuffs. Only the believers who remained faithful to Jesus Christ until the end of their lives on earth could enjoy His intimate fellowship in His coming Kingdom (“walk with Me”; cf. Rev. 7:14;22:14). 

Bob Wilkin writes, “Would you not want to be identified as closely as possible with the Lord Jesus and glorify Him, even in your clothing? The quality of your eternal garments will be determined by what you do in this life. Once this life is over, it will be too late to influence your worthiness to walk with Christ in white.” (Robert Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition [Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition], pg. 46). 

– An honored name that is supremely secure. When Jesus says He will “not blot out his name from the Book of Life,” Arminians teach that Jesus is saying a non-overcoming (unfaithful) believer will lose his salvation. (see J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ [Scottsdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1961], pp. 329-331). But this would contradict Jesus’ clear teachings in John’s writings elsewhere.

For example, Jesus taught, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35; cf. 6:38-40; 10:28-29). Christ guarantees that those who come to Him in faith “shall never hunger” or “thirst” for eternal life again because the need He met can never reoccur. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we are unfaithful to Christ (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13). 

Christ also said, 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:38-39). Jesus came down from heaven to do His Father’s will which was that all whom the Father had given Him should lose nothing, including their salvation. If Jesus failed to keep believers from losing their salvation, He would have failed to do His Father’s will. And that presents a moral dilemma. For if Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, then He would have sinned and could no longer be God. But Jesus Christ has never lost one believer and He never will because He is God (John 1:1; Titus 2:13) and He always does the will of His Father.

If a believer ever lost his or her salvation, Christ would have failed to keep this promise and many more (John 3:15-18; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.). To properly understand Jesus’ words, “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (Rev. 3:5), it is important to answer an important question.

What is the Book of Life? There appear to be several “books” or records that God keeps in heaven (cf. Rev. 20:12). Since God is all-knowing, He does not need to record things in books. People keep books for later recollection, so the figure of a “book” is an example of contextualization: giving revelation in terms the recipients can easily understand. 

There is the “Book of the Living,” namely, those who are presently alive on the earth, including the unsaved (Exod. 32:32-33; Deut. 29:20; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3). To have one’s name removed from this book refers to physical death. But the “Book of Life” in Revelation refers to all those who have believed in Jesus for everlasting life (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27; cf. Luke 10:20; Phil 4:3). 

Since Jesus taught that eternal life can never be lost (John 3:15-18; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-26; et al.), it is best to understand Jesus’ words, “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (3:5), as a figure of speech called a litotes (cf. 2:11) which is an understatement in which a positive affirmation is expressed by negating the opposite. If it is true that one who overcomes (i.e., remains faithful to Christ) will not have his name blotted out from the Book of Life, then what happens if one does not overcome or remain faithful to Christ? Would it not follow that he would have his name blotted out from the Book of Life? If this is truly a litotes, then the answer is, “No.”

For example, if we say, “Michael Jordan is not a bad basketball player,” we mean he is a very good basketball player. However, the reverse does not follow, “If you are not Michael Jordan, you are definitely not a good basketball player.” A litotes cannot be read in reverse (see Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition [GraceTheology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition], pp. 684-688, 962-963).

Jesus is saying in Revelation 3:5, “If you remain undefiled to the end of your life, I will reward you with the opposite of having your name blotted out of the Book of Life. You will be given an honored name that is supremely secure.” Such an honored name will be forever cherished by Jesus throughout eternity, which leads to the third reward. 

– A name that is publicly confessed or honored before God the Father and His angels. Christ said, “I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (3:5b; cf. Matt. 10:32-33; 25:21, 23; Luke 12:8; 19:17, 19). Only worthy or faithful believers will have their name publicly confessed or honored before God the Father and His angels. Having one’s name acknowledged is not the same as being declared saved. Rather, it refers to the public testimony by the Son of God to the faithful life of the obedient Christian. Conversely, not having one’s name acknowledged is to forfeit the Master’s “Well done” (cf. Matt. 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17, 19).

The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus during this church age will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven to receive rewards according to their works (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) during the Tribulation period on earth. Believers who lived in disobedience and failed to grow spiritually, like the believers in Sardis, “will be saved, yet so as through fire” (ICor. 3:15). Although they have eternal life by believing in Jesus, they will suffer the loss of rewards and be denied the praise that Christ could have given them before His heavenly Father and the holy angels if they had been faithful to the Lord’s calling in their lives. 

Imagine being on the new earth with King Jesus in the future (Rev. 21-22), and He publicly honors you by acknowledging your name before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity. If you are the kind of person who likes to receive approval, praise, and recognition before others, this acknowledgement or confession of your eternally honored name in the future by the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, will greatly motivate you to persevere in faithfulness to the risen Lord Jesus now, no matter what the cost. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands our hearts and what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him, even when people dishonor or forget our names on earth now. 

Praise Jesus for offering us eternal rewards in the future that consist of dazzling eternal clothes and an eternally honored name which will be publicly praised by Him before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity to motivate us to remain faithful to Jesus now no matter what the cost. To hear Jesus’ praise in eternity is far greater than any praise we could ever receive on earth.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, only You are qualified to judge Your church. Thank You for warning us of the loss of reward and for giving us the remedy for our spiritually immature condition. Lord Jesus, we do not want to compromise our faith and waste our Christian lives by living selfishly. Please help us to stay spiritually alert and remember what we have been taught by godly teachers in the past. Thank You for offering us eternal rewards in the future that consist of dazzling eternal clothes and an eternally honored name which will be publicly praised by You before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity to motivate us to remain faithful to You now no matter what the cost. To hear Your praise, Lord Jesus, in eternity, is far greater than any praise we could ever receive on earth. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us so You will receive maximum honor and glory in eternity. In Your mighty and most honorable name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

What Does James 2:14-26 Mean?

I recently heard a pastor preach on James 2:14-26. He began his message saying that a pastor preached at the funeral of one of his relatives who professed faith in Christ but went on to live contrary to God’s will until the day he died. This pastor stated at the funeral that those who were Christians would see this man in heaven because of his faith in Jesus. In this message I heard recently, the pastor asked the question, “Is that true?” Will that man be in heaven who professed faith in Christ yet lived contrary to the will of God? The pastor stated his position up front and basically said, “No.” His reason? Because genuine saving faith always manifests itself through good works.

Here is a summary of his message on James 2:14-26: First, we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephes. 2:8-9), but that faith is never alone (James 2:14-26). Saving faith always produces good works (cf. Matt. 7:16-20; John 15:1-8; Ephes. 2:10). When comparing Romans 3:28 with James 2:24, this pastor stated that James 2:24 was referring to post-conversion good works whereas Romans 3:28 was talking about pre-conversion good works.

Second, if a person says he has saving faith but does not produce good works (James 2:14), he only has a head or intellectual faith like the demons (James 2:19), not a genuine saving faith like Abraham or Rahab (James 2:23-25). If you say you have the Spirit of God, you cannot live without good works. The presence of God’s Spirit will always produce good works.

Third, there is a sense that genuine saving faith is a part of justification and is accompanied by good works which will accomplish final vindication. According to his view, good works must be part of a believer’s final justification before God.

In the conclusion of his message, he asked, “What do we do with this?” First, we are to reflect on our own lives. If we say we have faith but show no good works, we are a fake Christian. We have deceived ourselves by saying we are a Christian when we are not. We are living a duplicitous life. The solution? Turn from your sin and trust Christ for your salvation.

Second, be more fervent in evangelism. People who think they are saved but living contrary to the will of God need to evaluate their lives to see if they are truly saved. We must take this message to them.

Third, we must see the intimate connection between faith and works. Why do we do good works? Are our good works driven by faith to please God? Or are we doing good works in our strength to impress others or ourselves?

As I listened to this message, it raised more questions than answered. Must my life be characterized by good works to be truly saved? If so, how many good works and what type of good works are enough to get to heaven? How long can I experience failure in my Christian life and still know I am saved? In other words, what sin is too bad, too much, and too long to keep me from going to heaven? What if I live a godly life all my Christian life but fail miserably on the day I die? Am I saved? These are questions that only God can answer. Those who give specific answers to these questions are trying to do something only God is qualified to do.

After hearing this sermon, I felt deep compassion for the people listening to this message and I thought to myself, how can anyone, including the pastor, possibly know for sure they will go to heaven when they die? If I am understanding him correctly, a professing believer cannot know for sure he is saved until the end of his life. If he or she has produced good works to the end of their lives, then according to this view of James 2:14-26, they are saved and will go to heaven. The pastor did concede, however, that it is possible to have a death-bed conversion and go to heaven without having produced good works beforehand.

After the church service was over, I did tell the pastor that his message presented the Reformed point of view as well as I had ever heard. He thanked me and I left it at that.

I am deeply compelled to take a closer look at James 2:14-26 to see if it is possible to know for sure one is going to heaven even if his or her life is not characterized by good works. This is a greatly debated passage among students of the Bible. Many Bible interpreters of these verses recognize the tension between faith and works. In fact, Martin Luther was so distraught over this passage that he wanted to take the book of James out of the Bible because he felt it contradicted the great truth that led to the Reformation – Paul’s justification by faith alone apart from works.

The three primary interpretations of James 2:14-26 are:

1. It refers to a person who was a believer but has lost his salvation. He used to have saving faith but does not have it any longer. This is the Arminian viewpoint. [1]

2. It refers to an unbeliever who professes to be a Christian but has never truly exercised saving faith in Christ. His faith is only intellectual assent to gospel truth or head faith, not saving or heart faith which always manifests itself through good works. This is the view of Calvinism or Reformed Theology. [2] This was the position I heard in the recent sermon.

3. It refers to a genuine believer who is not living by faith. He is not behaving consistently with what he believes. He needs to keep his faith alive and energized by putting it to work. This is the Free Grace viewpoint. [3]

How can Christians keep their faith alive and energized? James 2:14-26 gives us two ways to do this.  

First, GET INVOLVED WITH OTHERS (James 2:14-19). When interpreting Scripture, it is always best to begin with what is clear to interpret the unclear. Let’s begin with what Jesus taught one must do to go to heaven or have eternal life. There is no better place to discover this than the gospel of John which was written primarily to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life (John 20:31). Throughout his gospel the apostle John uses the word “believe” (pisteuō) ninety-nine times in the Greek Majority Text [4] and its most basic meaning is “to consider or be persuaded something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust” [5]  

Repeatedly in John’s gospel, Jesus taught that one must believe in Him alone for eternal life: [6]

“Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:15

“Whoever believes in Him should perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life.” John 5:24

“Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life.” John 6:40

“He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

Jesus never said, “He who believes in Me and produces good works has everlasting life.” Christ always taught that faith alone in Him alone results in the present acquisition of everlasting life [7] (John 3:14-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-27; et al.). God’s Word will not contradict itself. We must let the clear always interpret the unclear. So, what is James talking about when he says that faith without works cannot save (James 2:14)?

In the context of James 2:14-26, James just finished talking about the dangers of showing favoritism to the rich and neglecting the poor (James 2:1-13). Such favoritism is an example of living contrary to the faith they professed. Were they really putting their faith into practice and applying their beliefs to their behavior? Their preferential treatment of some people raised this question in James’ mind. [8]

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). Some versions of this verse reflect the Reformed bias of the translators by inserting the qualifying words “that” or “such” so it reads “Can that faith save him?” (NASB) or “Can such faith save him?” (NIV) instead of the actual reading of the Greek text. By inserting the words “that” or “such” in front of “faith,” the translators are saying that there are different kinds of faith, true faith that would save him and “that” faith which would not save him. [9]

But in the Greek text there is no qualifying word (“that” or “such”) before the word “faith.” [10] When the definite article “the” (hē) precedes the abstract noun “faith” (pistis) it emphasizes the noun. [11]

“The Greek language often employed the definite article with abstract nouns (like faith, love, hope, etc.) where English cannot do so. In such cases the Greek article is left untranslated.” [12]

It is important to observe that “in this very passage, the definite article also occurs with ‘faith’ in vv 17, 18, 20, 22, and 26. (In v 22, the reference is to Abraham’s faith!) In none of these places are the words ‘such’ or ‘that’ proposed as natural translations” [13] by translators with a Reformed bias. This exposes their lack of consistency in translating the Greek text.

According to the Arminian position, “if someone says he has faith but does not have works,” he may never have been saved, or he may no longer be saved. The Reformed position says, “if someone says he has faith but does not have works,” he is not truly saved because saving faith always produces good works. The Free Grace position holds that “if someone says he has faith but does not have works” there are three possible reasons why he has no works. Instead of judging whether that person is a genuine Christian, evangelist Larry Moyer encourages the Christian worker to ask the following questions to help that person assess where they are at: [14]

Does the professing believer believe the simplicity of the Gospel? That is, do they believe that Christ paid the full penalty for their sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, so that God can now forgive them based on what He has done for them, not what they do for Him? A professing believer may not grow because they have not understood the gospel and believed in Christ alone for salvation and therefore do not have the Holy Spirit inside them to empower them to become more like Christ.

Have they been trained by a disciple of Christ since professing faith in Jesus? Too often the reason a new believer does not grow is not because of the use of the word “believe” in gospel presentations, but because the church has neglected to come alongside of new believers to teach them how to live the Christian life.

Has the professing believer believed in Christ and then fallen away from the Lord? The Bible makes it clear that believers can fall away from the Lord and live contrary to His will. Examples include King Saul (I Sam. 28:4-19), David (2 Sam. 11), King Solomon (I Kings 11:1-13), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), the Corinthian believers who were factious, immoral, and prone to drunkenness (I Cor. 3:1-6:20; 11:29-32), the Galatians who lapsed into the worst form of legalism (Gal. 1:6-9; 2:11-3:4; 4:16-5:4; 6:12-13), the Ephesians who engaged in Satanic arts for up to two years after their conversion (Acts 19:1-20), the readers of James who were arrogant, argumentative, slanderous and temperamental (James 2:1-13; 3:1-18; 5:1-6), and Demas (2 Tim. 4:10; cf. John 15:6; I Cor. 3:15; Heb. 6:4-8). The reasons a believer is not growing may be because of unconfessed sin (I John 1:7-10), disobedience to God’s commands (I John 2:3-6; 3:24), hatred toward other believers (I John 2:7-11; 3:10-15; 4:7-21), love for the world and the things of the world (I John 2:15-16), deception by false teachers concerning assurance of salvation and the identity of Christ (I John 2:18-27; 4:1-6; 5:6-13), misunderstanding his true identity in Christ (I John 3:1-9), not practicing righteousness which includes failure to love other Christians (I John 3:10-18), and not confessing that Jesus is the Son of God (I John 4:14-15).

Which is easier to do? To say a professing Christian with no works is not saved and evangelize him? Or to say a professing Christian with no works needs us to come alongside him and help him become a doer of God’s Word and not just be a hearer only (James 1:22)? It is much easier to try to evangelize professing Christians who do not go on to grow in the Christian life than to walk with them through the discipleship process. I believe the Arminian and Reformed positions promote judging those who struggle in the Christian life more than getting more involved in their lives to teach them to obey God’s Word. 

Clearly, James makes works a condition for salvation as the question, “Can faith save him?” (James 2:14b) expects a negative answer in the Greek text. “Of course, faith without works cannot save him.” James says a faith without works cannot save you.

But the apostle Paul says a faith with works won’t save you. “Now to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephes. 2:8-9). Paul and James seem to contradict each other. James says you cannot be saved without works. Paul says you cannot be saved by faith with works.

The reason James and Paul differ with each other is because they are talking to two different groups. When Paul is talking to sinners about how to become a saint, he says it is by faith alone apart from works (Rom. 4:5-6). But notice who James is talking to – Christians or non-Christians?

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). Notice the phrase, “My brethren…” The word “brethren” (adelphoi) is a term that is always used of genuine Christians (cf. James 1:2, 9, 16, 19; 2:5, 14-15; 3:10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19). When you read the entire book of James, you quickly discover he is writing to believers who are “brought… forth by the word of truth” [15] (1:18) and who “hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1). These people are brothers in Christ. They are saved from hell. So, when James talks to saints about how to experience the God Who has already saved them from hell, he says it by faith with works (James 2:14-26). If you want to know how to get to heaven, read Paul. If you want to know how to bring heaven to earth because you are already saved from hell, read James.

So, do works have any part in getting us to heaven? No. Faith in Christ alone is the only basis of eternal salvation from hell. Eternal salvation is a gift, not of works lest anyone should boast. No person can take credit for his salvation from hell because it is apart from works. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Rom. 11:6). If works are made a condition for getting to heaven, then eternal salvation can no longer be said to be attained by grace. So, James cannot be talking about eternal salvation by grace because God’s Word does not contradict itself.

So, what kind of salvation is being addressed in James 2:14? [16] Faith without works cannot save us from what? The word “save” (sozō) means “deliverance.” [17] in the New Testament and it does NOT always refer to salvation from hell. In fact, 70% of the time the word “save” in the New Testament refers to deliverance from circumstances. For example, when Jesus’ disciples were about to drown in the midst of a storm at sea, they said to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matt. 8:25). They were referring to being saved from physical death. In I Timothy 2, when Paul was talking about the role of men and women in the church, he said, “Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Tim. 2:15). The context is talking about women being restricted from teaching or leading men in the local church. Hence, Paul is talking about women being saved from this restriction through childbearing, that is, she is able to teach and lead her children and be fulfilled doing so if her children continue in these godly virtues.

James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” Is James talking about being saved from eternal damnation? If so, then we would need to include anointing with oil and prayer as a condition for eternal salvation as James 5:14 suggests. Clearly James is referring to being delivered from physical death caused by the sickness.

What James is telling us is that faith without works will not save us from what he has already discussed in the book. First, faith without works won’t save us from A LIFE RUINED BY SIN. James 1:19-22 says, 19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James tells the saved how to save their souls from a life ruined by sin. They must be doers of the word and not merely hearers.

James warns his readers, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:15). If believers pursue sin long enough and hard enough, it will ruin their lives and the lives of those around them. So, the way to be saved from a life ruined by sin is to do what God says to do.

Secondly, faith without works will not save us from AN UNFAVORABLE JUDGMENT AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST. “12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13). The Bible tells us that all Christians will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ after they die or are raptured to have their Christian lives evaluated to determine what if any rewards they will receive (Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor.3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-11). If we are critical and merciless toward people now (James 2:1-11), then God will show less mercy to us when He judges our lives in the future (James 2:12-13). So, can faith alone save us? No, James says faith without works cannot save us from a life ruined by sin or from an unfavorable judgment in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

James then gives an illustration of this. 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16). Just as words of assurance from some ungenerous believer cannot save his naked and starving Christian brother or sister from physical death, so too, faith without works cannot save our lives from the consequences of sin. Correct beliefs, such as Jesus is God, the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, or salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, cannot save us from a life ruined by sin any more than warm wishes will save a needy brother from physical death.

You can have accurate theology and be useless to God and others. There are Christians who have sound theology, but they are useless to God! They can dot their i’s and cross their t’s but they are not seeing their souls saved from the power of sin. They are not seeing their lives transformed by the grace of God. Why? Because their orthodoxy has not become orthopraxy. Because they are not putting their faith to work. Sometimes we say, “I’m waiting on God.” But could it be that God is waiting on you? If we want to keep our faith alive in these uncertain times, we must go beyond the well wishes and desires to help others and actively get involved with them.

For example, we can say, “I love people of all colors,” but if we are not actively getting involved with people from other cultures or ethnicities, we are not demonstrating the truth of our words. Our faith will not grow in this area if we are merely hearers and not doers. 

Notice that James is talking about helping a needy Christian “brother” in these verses. He is not talking about giving handouts to some stranger who is begging for food or clothing. We are to give priority to believers first. This was especially true in James’s day when Christians were actively being persecuted by the Roman government. We need to balance this with other Scripture. Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Second Thessalonians 3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” Free food (or clothing or money, etc.) should not be given to those who can work but choose not to. To do so rewards laziness and irresponsibility. God wants us to get involved in needy peoples’ lives, starting with the church.

If you are feeling down, one of the best ways to get picked up is to focus on the needs of other people. Just talking about it isn’t going to benefit the needy people in your church or community. We must put our faith into action. The more you get involved with needy people, the stronger your faith will become in the Lord.

Look at what James says next, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17). Faith without works is a “dead” or useless faith that has lost its fervor or fire for Christ. Faith without works is unproductive just as idle words are useless to a brother or sister in need.

The word “dead” does not mean one’s faith was never alive. For example, when you see a “dead” animal on the roadside, does that mean that animal was never alive? Of course not. Likewise, when James says a genuine Christian’s faith is “dead,” he is not saying it has always been “dead.” It must have been alive first before it could become “dead.” When believers fail to put their faith to work, their faith will become “dead” or useless to God and others over time.

For example, if all we ever do is talk about reaching and teaching people for Christ, but we never act on it, then our faith becomes useless to others. Reaching and teaching people for Christ is what the United States of America needs more than anything right now during these troubling times. Until people obtain peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1), they are not going to have peace with themselves or other people regardless of the color of their skin (cf. Ephes. 2:8-18).

A dead faith means the believer has lost his fire or fervor for Christ. If I were to visit another church and upon leaving, I said to my wife, “This church is dead,” I’m not saying there are no born-again Christians there. I am saying that church is not on fire for Christ. Our faith won’t do anyone any good if we don’t exercise it.

What does a dead body and a dead faith have in common? Both are immobile and inactive. They also tend to decay and stink. If we fail to do good works, our faith will lose its vitality, it will weaken, and eventually decay and stink. Like a dead car battery, it is useless. It was once alive, but it has become dead or useless due to a lack of use. But the way to jump start a dead faith is to put it to work.

In James 2:18-19, James encounters a skeptic. This skeptic insists that there is no connection between faith and works to justify his carnal lifestyle (James 2:18-19). This skeptical person objects to James’s view of faith and works by saying it is absurd to see a close connection between faith and works. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). In other words, this person says, “Let’s say you have faith and I have works. You can no more start with what you believe and show it to me in your works, than I can start with my works and show what it is that I believe.”

Then in James 2:19 the objector tries to illustrate that there is no connection between faith and works, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). The skeptic is saying that the demons believe in the oneness of God, the same way James does, who does good, but they only tremble instead of doing good. He is saying that faith cannot be made visible in works! Why would someone argue this way? Because his beliefs are not supported by his behavior. “Faith and good works are not related to each other so don’t criticize me if I don’t practice what I preach.”

Some use James 2:19 to say that believing in Christ is not enough to be saved from hell because the demons believe in God but are not saved because they have not submitted to God or obeyed Him. It is important to understand the following simple observations about James 2:19: [18]

1. THIS VERSE IS NOT ABOUT SALVATION FROM HELL BECAUSE JESUS DID NOT DIE FOR DEMONS, HE DIED FOR PEOPLE (Rom. 5:8; Heb. 2:16). Therefore, demons are not savable. Demons are unsaved because they willfully rebelled with Lucifer against God (Isa. 14:13-15; Ezek. 28:11-19) and are condemned to everlasting fire in hell prepared for the devil and his demons (Matt. 25:41; cf. Matt. 8:29; Jude 1:6). This is why demons “tremble” when they think about God. Their trembling has nothing to do with lacking insufficient faith. Jesus’ work on the cross did not save demons. His work on the cross destroyed the devil and his power (Heb. 2:14-15). Nowhere in the Bible does God offer demons eternal life because demons are not savable.

2. BELIEF THAT GOD IS ONE IS NOT SAVING. What makes faith saving is the object of faith, not the amount or duration of faith. Demons really do believe there is only one God which is monotheism. But believing that God is one does not get anyone to heaven. Therefore, this verse is not to be used evangelistically. There are many world religions (e.g., Islam and Judaism, etc.) that believe God is one, but you will not see them in heaven because they have missed the object of saving faith – believing in Jesus Christ alone, Who died for their sins and rose from the dead, to give them everlasting life (I Cor. 15:1-6; John 3:14-18; 6:47; 14:6 20:31; Acts 4:10-12; 16:31; Ephes. 2:8-9). What makes saving faith saving, is the object, not some special kind of faith. Not all facts about God are saving. Believing in Christ for eternal life is a saving fact. Believing that God is one is not a saving fact.

3. SINCE THE WORDS OF JAMES 2:19 BELONG TO A SKEPTIC, THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED TO PROVE SUCH AN IMPORTANT THEOLOGICAL POINT. Bing writes, “a quick survey of commentaries shows the difficulty of properly interpreting this verse in the context of James 2:16-20. At question is when James’ words end, and the objector’s words begin and end. If, as some argue, verse 19 is spoken by an objector to James, should it be used to prove a crucial theological point? Also, if it is from such a difficult passage to interpret, should it be used as a primary text to prove or disprove anyone’s salvation? Much clearer passages dismiss works as necessary for obtaining eternal salvation (e.g., Rom. 4:4-5; Ephes. 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-5).” [19] Using this verse to dismiss the use of the word “believe” in gospel presentations misunderstands the author’s intended meaning and leads to misapplication.

The second way to keep your faith alive in uncertain times is to GIVE GOD YOUR OBEDIENCE (James 2:20-26). In James 2:20-25, James refutes the skeptic’s arguments by referring to two supreme examples of faith’s connection with works. The way to fire up a Christian’s faith is to PUT IT TO WORK like Rahab and Abraham put their faith to work and were justified before men (James 2:23-25). “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). James reaffirms that faith without works is dead or useless. The issue is that your faith is unproductive. The Lord is pleading with us in this passage to put our faith in gear and move out! Don’t sit back on the fact that you are saved forever and God’s never going to kick you out of His family, and therefore you become a lazy Christian.

He then states that Abraham was justified by works. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (James 2:21). It was well known to James and his readers that Abraham was justified before God by faith alone (Gen. 15:6) about thirty years before he offered up Isaac (Gen. 22). His justification before God was apart from works (Rom. 4). If Abraham had failed to obey God in offering up Isaac, would he have remained justified before the Lord? Yes, because justification before God is always based on faith alone, not good works whether before, during or after your conversion. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.” (Rom. 4:5-6).

James goes on to say in “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22). Abraham’s original justifying faith was strengthened and matured by his act of obedience in offering up Isaac. How? His faith grew from a conviction that God could overcome his inability to have children to the assurance that God could actually resurrect his son’s own body from physical death. Hebrews 11:17-19 says,17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”

James continues, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23). Abraham’s original justifying faith before God was “fulfilled” or “filled-full” of meaning as a result of this act of obedience. His obedience revealed his faith to men. The Scriptures were fulfilled in that Abraham showed his faith by his works. His obedience justified him before men in such a way as to show him to be righteous on a practical level. People could say Abraham was a “friend of God.” Friendship with God requires obedience. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). Jesus was speaking to the believing disciples when He spoke these words in John 15. They were already saved from hell (cf. John 1:35-2:11; 6:69). This is why James 2:24 speaks of two kinds of justification.

“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24). The word “only” (monon) is an adverb and modifies the verb “justified” implied in the second clause.

“The key to this understanding is the Greek adverb ‘only’ (monon), which does not qualify (i.e., modify) the word faith, since the form would then have been monōs. As an adverb, however, it modifies the verb justified implied in the second clause. James is saying that a by-faith justification is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also a by-works justification. The former type is before God, the latter type is before men.” [20]

Thus, it could be translated, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only (justified) by faith.” There is a justification by works and a justification by faith. Justification by works is before men. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” (Rom. 4:2). People can be justified by works, but not before God. Why? Because God can see faith without works. He knows life is there apart from our works. This is why justification before God is always by faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 4:5; cf. Gen. 15:6). But people cannot see faith apart from works. Hence, justification by works is before men, justification by faith is before God. James never speaks of justification by faith and works before God. He doesn’t say Abraham was justified by faith and works at the same time, nor does he say Rahab was.

“Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25). The story is clear. The Israelites were going to take Jericho. The Jewish spies came in to spy out the land. Rahab, “the harlot” – the prostitute, the hooker, the whore – the woman who lived a life of failure – hid them and then secretly sent them out so they could escape. Rahab’s physical life was saved because she had works. God saw Rahab’s faith when she “received the spies” (Heb. 11:31). But men could not see her faith until she acted on it by “sending them out another way” (James 2:25b). Rahab was truly a friend of God because she was their friend. While all of Jericho perished under God’s judgment, Rahab lived because her faith lived! So yes, faith can be shown to men from our works. Abraham did it and was called the friend of God. Rahab did it by sending the spies away safely. 

We are called to act upon the faith that we have. We can know what is right. We can already be saved from hell. We can come to church two or three times a week. We can be on our way to heaven and yet not experience heaven as a part of history! Until we act upon the Word of God and start living it out, what does it profit? Faith without works will not profit a brother or sister in need of food or clothing nor will it profit the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26). James compares faith to the body and works to the spirit. When does a human body die? When it loses its spirit which keeps it alive. When does a Christian’s faith die? When he stops using it. Like a muscle, if you stop using it, it atrophies and withers away. You won’t experience the transforming power of God if you stop putting your faith to work! Just as the human spirit gives life to the body, good works give life to your faith (James 2:26). You can have correct belief and lots of Bible knowledge, but if you stop acting on that belief and knowledge, your faith will weaken and become a creedal corpse.

A little girl who really believed in prayer, had a brother who made a trap that caught little sparrows, and she prayed that it would fail. Suddenly, for three days her face was radiant when she prayed and her absolute faith in the futility of the trap was so noticeable that her mother asked, “Julia, how can you be so confident?” Julia smiled, “Because, dear Mama, I went out three days ago and kicked that trap to pieces.” She literally put her faith to work.

If we are going to keep our faith alive in these uncertain times, we must put it to work. Not by kicking traps, but by meeting the felt needs of the people God is calling us to reach – by introducing them to Christ and by discipling them and sending them out to do the same. We can decide today how we will live our lives in these chaotic times. Will you choose to keep your faith alive and vigorous by putting it to work in obedience to God? God wants our faith to thrive, not die. What about you?

In the message I recently heard, I understood the pastor to say that genuine saving faith is a part of justification and is accompanied by good works which will accomplish final vindication. I call this backloading the gospel. That is, one must manifest good works as a necessary proof of genuine salvation. This is also known as Calvinism or Reformed Theology. [21] Those who backload the gospel by requiring good works to stay saved represent Arminianism.  There are other teachers who mistakenly frontload the gospel by requiring good works to go to heaven (Roman Catholic & Traditional Protestantism). Whether you frontload or backload the gospel with good works, you are still teaching you MUST HAVE GOOD WORKS to ultimately go to heaven. Consider these options in this chart which are taught today:

ScenarioFaith in Jesus Christ + good works = maybe heavenFaith in Jesus Christ = maybe heaven if you maintain good works, confess your sins, remain faithful, etc.Faith in Jesus Christ = salvation + good works to ultimately arrive in heaven
ProponentsRomanism & Traditional ProtestantismArminianismCalvinism/Reformed Theology

Each of these scenarios requires good works to ultimately arrive at heaven. This is NOT GRACE. “But if it is of works, it is no longer grace.” (Rom. 11:6). Good works are not the means of obtaining or maintaining salvation from hell but are designed to be the result of receiving God’s free gift of salvation (Ephes. 2:8-10). When good works are required to enter heaven, how will you ever know when you have done enough?

Faith in Christ alone will still take us to heaven (John 6:47) even if it does not produce good works through a life of obedience. But faith without works will not save us from the damaging effects of sin now (James 1:15, 19-22) and an unfavorable experience at the Judgment Seat of Christ in the future (James 2:12-13). When we do the Word of God and not just hear it, people are able to see what we believe and benefit from our actions (2:14-20). James illustrates this principle with the lives of Abraham and Rahab (James 2:21-25). Both were justified before God through faith alone, but both were also justified before men through a faith that was made visible through good works. When we put our faith into action through obedience to God’s Word, our faith is energized and we develop a closer relationship with Christ (James 2:26; cf. John 14:21; 15:14) that other people can see and benefit from.

I pray the church would return to the true gospel which says faith alone in Christ alone gets us to heaven (John 3:15-18; Ephes. 2:8-9). But bringing heaven to earth is through the discipleship (sanctification) process and it is based upon faith plus works (Matt. 28:18-20; James 2:14-26).

Failure to distinguish salvation from discipleship (see chart below) has caused much confusion among Christians and non-Christians.

When Christians use discipleship conditions to tell a non-Christian how to get to heaven, they are making it more difficult for that unsaved person to be saved since they are missing the object of saving faith – believing in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. They also undermine the assurance of salvation among Christians because it is impossible for them to know if they have done enough to know for certain they will go to heaven. God does not want His children doubting they are saved because they will live by fear instead of by faith (I John 5:13; cf. 2 Cor. 5:6-8). May all Christians repent or change their minds and submit to the Lordship of Christ by proclaiming the object of saving faith to a lost world – believing in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life. And after a person believes in Jesus alone for eternal life, may Christians disciple or train that new believer to follow Jesus as His disciple all the days of his or her life (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-27, 57-62; 14:25-33; John 8:30-32; 13:34-35; 15:1-8) so they may glorify God now (Matt. 5:16) and throughout eternity with the eternal rewards they will receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; Rev. 4:9-11).

Prayer: Precious Lord, this message really cuts deep into my apathetic heart. My knowledge of the truth can grow greatly, but if I do not put it into practice, my faith becomes dead or useless to You and to others. No wonder I have lost my fervor for You Lord Jesus. My head is swollen with Bible knowledge, but my heart is cold because I have not applied what I already know to be true. Thank You for exposing the judgmentalism of my heart. I have avoided my own responsibility of putting my faith to work by focusing on the shortcomings of others who profess faith in Jesus without any accompanying good works. Only You can determine if a person is truly saved from hell because only You can see a person’s faith in Christ apart from any works. This world would be a much better place if all Christians would put what they know into practice. Lord, I want to be a part of the solution to the world’s problems by putting my faith to work. It is so easy for me to sit back and criticize others for doing very little while I, too, talk about faith more than I live it out. Forgive me, Lord, for being preoccupied with myself and what I know to be true instead of putting it into practice. Please show me whom You want me to get involved with so they can benefit from my relationship with You and come to know You as their Savior. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Proponents of this view are James Arminius, The Works of James Arminius: The London Edition 3 Vol., (Baker Books, 1986); William J. Abraham, Wesley for Armchair Theologians (Louisville, KY: Westminister John Knox Press, 2005); Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation edited by Clark H. Pinnock and John D. Wagner (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2015); Kenneth J. Collins, The Scripture Way of Salvation: The Heart of John Wesley’s Theology (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1997);  Kenneth J. Collins, The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007); F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism (Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications, 2011).

[2] Proponents include Donald W. Burdick, “James,” in Hebrews-Revelation Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981); John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent: with the Antidote, 6th Session, can.11; Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982); Buist M. Fanning, “A Theology of James,” in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament Edited by Roy B. Zuck (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 417-35; John F. MacArthur, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), pp. 139-155; John F. MacArthur, Hard to Believe: The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus (Nashvile: Thomas Nelson, 2003), pg. 93; Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000); Joseph K. Pak, “A Study of Selected Passages on Distinguishing Marks of Genuine and False Believers,” PhD diss., (Dallas Theological Seminary, 2001); John Piper, “Battling the Unbelief of Bitterness (1988, Sermon 658),” http://www.desiringgod.org/resourceLibrary; John Piper, Beyond the Gold (Desiring God Radio, May 14, 2006); John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T.  Wright (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007); Paul A. Rainbow, The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2005); Alan P. Stanley, Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? The Role of Works in Salvation in the Synoptic Gospels (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publishers, 2006).

[3] Proponents include Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 401-430; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2867 – 2890; John F. Hart, “How to Energize Our Faith: Reconsidering the Meaning of James 2:14-26,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 12, no. 1 (Spring 1999); Zane C. Hodges, Dead Faith: What Is It? (Dallas, Redencion Viva, 1987); Zane C. Hodges, “James,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition Edited by Robert N. Wilkin (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 541-562; R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979); R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved, Reprint (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2004 ed., London: Hodder and Straughton, 1984); John Niemela, “Faith Without Works: A Definition 1,” Chafer Theological Seminary Journal 6, no. 2 (April 2000); Robert Wilkin, “Another View of Faith and Works in James 2,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 15, no. 2 (Fall 2002).

[4] John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36; 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47,  64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 40, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

[5] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 816-817.

[6] Scripture quotations in this article will be from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

[7] In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus came so that those who believe in Him may have eternal “life” as a free gift and experience it more “abundantly” both now and in eternity. When eternal life is addressed as a present possession it is always received as a free gift by believing in Jesus alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25-26; cf. I Tim. 1:16; I John 5:13). But when eternal life is referred to as a future acquisition it refers to an eternal reward (a more abundant experience of that life both now and in eternity) that is based on obedience to Christ’s Word and sacrificial living for Him (John 12:24-26; cf. Matt. 19:28-29; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; Gal. 6:7-9; I Tim. 6:12, 19).

[8] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on James, pg. 49.

[9] Davids, The Epistle of James, pg. 120.

[10] Mē echē mē dynatai hē pistis sōsai auton?

[11] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on James, pg. 50.

[12] Hodges, “James,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 549.

[13] Ibid.

[14] R. Larry Moyer, You Can Tell It! Seminar On Personal Evangelism Instructor Manual, EvanTell, Inc., 2003, 46-47; Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pp. 108-113.

[15] The Greek word translated “brought forth” (apokueō) is the same word used in James 1:15, “And sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth [apokueō] death.” “Sin, James is saying, ‘gives birth’ to death, but God ‘gives birth’ to believers!” (Hodges, “James,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 544.)

[16] The Bible refers to three types of salvation (see diagram below): Past salvation refers to being saved from the penalty of sin the moment a person believes in Christ (Acts 16:31; John 3:16-17; Rom. 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9) and is called justification. Present salvation involves being saved from the power of sin in the Christian life (Mark 8:34-38; Phil. 1:19-20; 2:12-13; James 1:21-22; 2:14-26) and is called sanctification. Future salvation is when we will be saved from the presence of sin (Rom. 8:18-23; Heb. 1:14; 2:3-5; 9:28; I Pet. 1:5; I John 3:2) and is called glorification. Always pay attention to the context to determine the tense of salvation.

[17]  Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 982-983.

[18] Adapted from Charlie Bing, “Demon Faith and the Misuse of James 2:19,” GraceNotes – no. 47 at gracelife.org.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Hodges, “James,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 552.

[21] Proponents of this view include John McArthur, R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, John Piper, etc.

My New Identity in Christ

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. [1] 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 3:1; 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, review the list of entries below that describe how God sees you from the moment you believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:12; 12:36; 2 Cor. 5:17; Ephes 1:13-14):

I am never alone (Deut. 31:6, 8; Isa. 41:10; Heb. 13:5)

I am the apple of my Father’s eye (Ps. 17:8; Matt. 6:26; 10:29-31)

I am a delight to God (Ps. 18:19; Zeph. 3:17)

I am cherished and loved by God (Ps. 27:10)

I am hope-filled (Ps. 27:13; Jer. 29:11; Rom. 5:5)

I am helped, not helpless (Isa. 41:10, 13)

I am always loved no matter what (Jer. 31:3; Rom. 5:8; 8:38-39)

I am precious to Jesus Who gave up everything to redeem or purchase me (Matt. 13:45-46; I Cor. 6:19-20; I Pet. 1:18-19)

I have everlasting life and will not be judged for my sins (John 5:24)

I am free from bondage to sin positionally (John 8:31-36)

I have the power of the Holy Spirit inside me (Acts 1:8; Rom. 8:11; Gal. 5:22-23)

I have peace with God through faith in Jesus (Rom. 5:1)

I have hope because the love of God was poured out in my heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5)

I am dead to sin (Rom. 6:2, 11; I Pet. 2:24)

I am set free from the power of sin (Rom. 6:2-11)

I have the Spirit of adoption by whom I cry out to God, ‘Abba (Daddy/Papa), Father.’” (Rom. 8:15)

I am free from accusation in Christ (Rom. 8:33)

I am free from condemnation in Christ (Rom. 8:34)

I have an eternal inheritance from God (glorified resurrection body/eternal dwelling on the New Earth) that cannot be taken from me (Rom. 8:17a; Gal. 3:26, 29; Ephes. 1:14; cf. John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:35-58; Phil. 3:21; Rev. 21-22)

I am more than a conqueror through Christ Who loved me (Rom. 8:37)

I can never be separated from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39)

I have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16)

I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)

I am reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18)

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)

I am good enough in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21)

I can change because Jesus now lives inside me through His Spirit (Gal. 2:20; cf. Rom. 8:11)

I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13; I Pet. 1:18-19)

I am a saint (one declared righteous) at the core of my being, not a sinner (Ephes. 1:1; I John 3:9)

I am chosen or wanted by God (Ephes. 1:4a; Col. 3:12a)

I am holy and without blame before God (Ephes. 1:4b)

I am totally accepted by God in Christ (Ephes. 1:6)

I am totally forgiven in Christ (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14)

I am sealed by the Holy Spirit Who guarantees my safe and secure delivery to God in heaven (Ephes. 1:13-14)

I am seated in a position of authority and victory next to Jesus in the heavenly places far above all other authorities (Ephes. 1:20- 21; 2:5-6)

I am God’s masterpiece, not a mistake (Ephes. 2:10)

I have been brought closer to God through the blood of Christ (Ephes. 2:13)

I have instant access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephes. 2:18)

I am a holy temple where the Holy Spirit now lives (I Cor. 6:19; Ephes. 2:21-22)

I am defined by the light of Jesus Christ, not by the darkness of my sin (Ephes. 5:8; cf. John 12:36)

I have what it takes in Christ (Phil. 4:13)

I am delivered from the power of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:13)

I am complete in Christ, lacking nothing (Col. 2:10)

I am safely & securely hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3)

I am dearly loved by God (Col. 3:12a; I John 3:1)

I am credited with Christ’s holiness and therefore I am accepted by God (Col. 3:12a)

I am God’s child born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God that stands forever (I Pet. 1:3, 23)

I am a special person to God (I Pet. 2:9)

I have the Greatest One in me because greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world (I John 4:4)

I overcame the world when I believed in Jesus (I John 5:1, 4)

FOOTNOTE:

[1] Retrieved on June 13, 2023, from Hanna Wong’s excellent devotional, “Greatly Loved,” on the YouVersion Bible app (www.youversion.com). Download Hanna’s excellent 5-day plan entitled “Greatly Loved” at https://www.hosannawong.com/greatlyloved to unlock who you truly are in Christ.