Whenever unbelievers ask about Christianity, Christians often tell them to read the book of John. Why is that? What is so precious about this Gospel? Join Stephen in this message to be reminded.
"WHEN HEAVEN CAME DOWN" Part I
Does it bother you that there are questions you will never be able to answer or even really understand?
A few weeks ago my 6 year old daughter came home from Sunday school with this sheet of paper. On one side she had drawn an angel in the sky. On the other side were some questions. From what I gather, her teacher had written down on that paper some of the questions my daughter had asked. as well as questions raised by other children in the Sunday School class. Here were her questions: How come God is called Jesus' father. Why does Jesus need a father? If God is invisible, how does He see. If God is invisible how can Jesus see him? Then, at the top of the page the teachers remarked - "These are some questions your child has about God. Take time to discuss and answer them!" Thanks a lot! Well, I tried . . . and 10 seconds in to my answer, I had a growing realization that all my words had 16 syllables. There I was trying to explain to my 6 year old the pre-existence of Christ; the subordination of the second person of the godhead to the other members of the godhead. Subordination exercised not by means of inferior essence as in ontological inferiority, but subordination as it relates to function as in economical order while at the same time serving as the physical expression of the triune God. Whew . . . and you can only imagine how she felt!
Now, everything I just rattled off to my daughter happens to be Biblical, theological truth. It is in fact what I believe. Yet it is also something I don’t fully understand.
One question, however, demands an answer simply because everything related to our Christianity – and eternity! – hinges upon it. It is a question that has been asked for the past 2,000 years . . . "Just who was Jesus?"
"He was a good, Jewish lad with a brilliant flair for shrewd moral teaching" writes A.N.Wilson, best selling British novelist, "but he would have been horrified to think of a "church", let alone people worshipping him as if he were "divine."
"He was not born of a virgin, since Mary had probably been violated" wrote Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, "Jesus himself was married; the wedding at Cana was probably his own wedding. The Gospels are to be read as the re-telling of stories without literal truth."
Barbara Thiering, who teaches the Dead Sea Scrolls at Sydney University wrote in her recent book, "Jesus was part of the sect living at Qumran in Palestine; he was married and had three children; then he divorced and remarried. he did not die on the cross, but lived on and went with Paul on his missionary travels. It was with Paul in Philippi that Jesus met his second wife."
Adding to this thought is the international best seller of 1982, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which speculates regarding Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus and the possibility that they had as many as six children."
The authors are honest enough however to admit, "In order to reach such speculations, we realize, we are obliged to read between lines, fill in certain gaps, deal with omissions, with innuendos, with references that are, at best, oblique."
On a different slant, Morton Smith, Professor of Ancient History at Columbia University, believes Jesus was a magician who influenced his followers through the use of illusion and hypnosis.
Even more bizarre is John Allegro, a Semitic scholar, who believes that that Jesus was not a historical person at all but something of a code name alluding to the use of a hallucinogenic drug made from the red-topped mushroom, Amanita Muscaria. The writers of the New Testament were allegedly members of an ancient fertility cult who committed their secrets to writing in an elaborate cryptogram, the New Testament itself."
Oxford scholar Geza Vermes portrays Jesus in his new book, "The Religion of Jesus the Jew" as a man stripped of divine attributes and innocent of the desire to found a church. He was simply a great Galilean rabbi.
The opinions are varied and colorful and, in some instances downright bizzre. But the question remains, just who is Jesus?
This isn't a new question. In fact:
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, the city was stirred saying, "Who is this?"
The disciples asked each other after Jesus stilled the storm, "Who is this?" (Luke 8:25)
The scribes and Pharisees asked themselves in Luke 5 - "Who is this man." (Luke 5:21)
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the most important question you will ever answer. If He was only a man, then you can safely forget about Him. But, if He is God, as He claimed to be, you will one day stand before Him. You cannot afford to be wrong!
How does the word of God answer that question?
From what the scriptures teach us, you discover that God inspired an old man to write one of the last Books of the Bible, even though it appears early in the order of New Testament Books. The Gospel of John was written around 85 A.D. John was the last living apostle and when he wrote his Gospel account, his brother James was already dead. Peter, the leading apostle to the Jews had already been martyred, hung upside down on a cross; Paul the church planting apostle to the Gentile world had been executed in Rome by Nero. All the Apostles were gone, except for this one Apostle named John.
I want us to begin our study of this Gospel by beginning with John's disclaimer, found in the last chapter. John is writing with a serious handicap - called time and space – notice what he says in chapter 21, verse 24. This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true. 25. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written."
Well, John, do you know why you included the things you did write about? Yes! One chapter earlier John writes: Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; BUT these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30)
In other words, John's Gospel may not be comprehensive, but it is conclusive. It may not be an exhaustive account of Christ’s ministry and life, but it is adequate!
It does not answer all the questions, but is does answer the question!
Just who is Jesus Christ.
In chapter 1, John will use several different expressions or truths that describe who Jesus Christ was and is today.
Truth #1 - Jesus Christ is equal with God the Father.
Chapter 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2. He was in the beginning with God.
Now if your wondering Who the Word is, v. 14 makes it very clear. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This eternal, divine Word that expresses the glory of the Father is none other than Jesus Christ.
The New World Translation of the Bible, published by the Jehovah's Witnesses, translates this third affirmation, "and the word was a God". They argue this since the Greek text lacks a definite article before the word "God", it could be rendered “a” or “any” God.
Well, if they use that “grammatical rule” consistently throughout the first chapter of John, they would translate, and don’t, verse 6 to read - There came a man went from a God, whose name was John. Likewise they would translate verse 12 to read: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of a God."
Frankly, verse one of John’s gospel presents is a stumbling block to any belief or cult who denies the full divinity of Jesus Christ. There must be a way around it. Some choose to retranslate the Greek language to suit their purposes.
Now you might say, "I'm not a Greek scholar - I can't argue grammatical rules from the Greek New Testament. Well would you like to know the literal translation of John 1:1? Get a pencil out and be ready to write it into the margin of your Bible - here it is - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God . . .are we going to fast? . . . and the Word was God."
Verse one can be divided into three phrases:
First phrase - "In the beginning was the word.” This declares Jesus to be eternally existent;
Second phrase - "and the word was with (face to face) with God.” This describes Jesus as intimately close with the other members of the triune godhead;
Third phrase - "And the Word was God." This demands that Jesus be considered nothing less than equally divine.
Now, do I understand the trinity? No. No more than I understand the sovereign election of the believer and the free will of humanity . . . or electricity for that matter! And can I explain the trinity? Not if my life depended on it!
To fully understand or explain the trinity is to pour an ocean of infinite truth into a small finite mind!
All I know from the word of God is that the trinity is three persons in one. Each with different functions, yet each equally divine. The trinity is not: 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, but 1 x 1 x 1 = 1!
And, by the way, we live in a triune universe! Space, matter and time:
Space is triune - length, breadth and height
Matter is triune - energy, motion and phenomena
Time is triune - past, present and future
Mankind is triune – body, soul and spirit
God is triune - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Truth # 2 – Jesus Christ did not have a beginning.
One of the most interesting Greek verbs appears three times in verse 1. Here is where the Greek does open a wonderful window of clarification. The verb “was” is in the imperfect tense, which expresses an ongoing state.
You could expand your literal translation with your mental pencil by reading it in light of that tense,
"In the beginning was, and is and always will be the Word;
And the Word was and is and always will be with God;
And the Word was and is and always will be God.
There is another expression that John uses to introduce us to the nature and character of Jesus Christ. It also appears three times as well.
The word he uses three times is translated, “word". And it comes from the Greek word "logos".
Logos can also be rendered "explanation".
Insert that word into verse one and it explodes with wonderful meaning: "In the beginning was the explanation, and the explanation was with God and the explanation was God."
Now, to the Greek mind, a logical word or explanation from God was ridiculous. Xenophanes said, "Guesswork reigns over all." Apuleius said that, “Men could catch a glimpse of God as a lightning flash lights up a dark night - one split second of illumination and then the dark.”
Plato, several hundred years before Christ, said to his Greek comrades in philosophy, "Maybe one day, a logos - a reason - will come from God who will reveal the mysteries and make things plain."
Isn’t it interesting that the Apostle John selected, under inspiration, that same word and says in effect - "The logos or reason has come - the logos or explanation has just arrived in the flesh."
In verse 2 of John’s Gospel, we’re also told that Christ was “in the beginning with God.” In other words, Jesus Christ existed before time began. He was, as theologians refer to it, preexistent. Christ was not created by God, He was, and is and always was with God.
By the way, that explains another critical question that every human being wants answered, “Where did we come from?"
John answers in John 1:3! All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Truth #3 - Jesus Christ is the creator of everything that exists.
Can you think of another Book in the Bible that begins with the words, "In the beginning. . .?" You probably can. In Genesis 1:1we read,
Genesis 1:1 tells us that everything was created by God. And guess what? John 1:3 tells us which person of the Trinity was the actual creative agent! “All things came into being by/through Him.”
If you have trouble with Genesis 1 you will have trouble with John 1 and you will have even more trouble with Colossians 1 that informs us that Christ created everything and even now holds everything together.
One of the strongest arguments for the deity of Jesus Christ is found by simply comparing Genesis 1 with John 1.
John 1:3 begins with the word "all" from the Greek word panta which refers to all things individually, or all things separately. It is actually a reference to the infinite detail of creation.
Take as example the huge star Antares. It is so large that it could hold 64 millions suns the size of ours. And yet it is merely one of billions of stars within our galaxy, the Milky Way. A galaxy that is 100,000 light years from end to end and revolving at 200 miles an hour. Jesus Christ created something so incredibly huge as this.
Yet in one tiny drop of water there are so many millions of molecules that if each molecule were converted into one grain of sand, you would have enough sand to build a concrete highway from New York to San Fransisco. And the highway would be one foot thick and 1/2 mile wide! Jesus Christ created something so infinitely detailed as this.
According to John 1 and Genesis 1 (and Colossians 1) Jesus Christ was the creative agent within the triune God. He created it all!
Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer, once said "The event, suggested by such researchers, is about as likely as assembling a Boeing 747 by sending a whirling tornado through a junkyard."
Faith in life simply “creating itself” is a futile faith. For an organism to somehow over millions of years come up with the self made ability to reproduce itself would be like putting a rooster in a hen house all by himself and ever hoping that after 2 or 3 million years he would finally lay an egg!
Why does man so resist the revelation that Jesus Christ created all there is? Simply because if Jesus Christ is the creator, then:
- He must be God, for only an infinite creator could design the worlds and living creatures.
- The Bible must be telling the truth about the rest of Him.
Then He did die for the sins of the world (I John 2:2)
Then He is coming back (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17)
- Jesus Christ must have the right to reign over my life.
If he created me, then I must yield my life to my Sovereign creator and Lord.
WISDOM @ WORK:
1) When a child asks, "What does God look like?". . . you can simply answer - Look at Jesus Christ.
God the father and God the Spirit are invisible. That means, when you one day see God in all his glory, you will be looking at none other than the glorified magnificence of Jesus Christ (cf. Colossians 1:15).
2) When a scientist or anthropologist or any other intelligencia asks, "What did God say? . . . you can simply answer – Listen to Jesus Christ.
John Baillie, an of Edinburgh University, Scotland was lecturing in an American university some time ago on and an attorney who was the legal representative for that university stood and said, "You speak of trusting God, of praying to him, and doing his will. But it's all so one-sided. We speak to God, we bow down before Him and lift up our hearts to him. But he never speaks to us. He makes no sign.”
But He has! In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God . . . and He became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1, 14)
I think of the author of Hebrews who wrote, "God, in the past has spoken unto us by the prophets . . . in these last days has spoken unto us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1, 2)
In other words, listen to Jesus! The Gospel of John is the words and works of God in the flesh.
3) When a philosopher or skeptic asks, "What did God do? . . . you can simply answer - Let Jesus Christ show you.
But you must be willing to look. Jesus declared himself to be the creator of all things. And that's quite a declaration - either Jesus Christ was a deluded Rabbi or He was Deity!
John’s gospel will reveal seven of Jesus’ miracles that undeniably revealed Himself as God. And he will wrap up his gospel by saying, “But these have been written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30, 31)
4) When the troubled or discouraged, the hopeless, the unfulfilled asks, "What does life mean? What's it really all about? . . . Let Jesus Christ lead the way.
Because Jesus Christ is who He is, He can do what he said, He can fulfill every promise He ever made, He can accomplish everything He said He would ever do.
Nearly 2000 years ago, Heaven came down. Jesus Christ came to earth to show us the glory of the triune God. And equally as important, he came to deliver to us the way we can go to heaven. He was the explanation . . . the map . . . the path back to God.
Let Jesus Christ lead the way!
HEART TO HEART!
- What do other scriptures say about the deity of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-16, 2:8; 2 Thessalonnians 1:12; 2 Peter 1:1; I John 4:1-3)
- If the Bible is telling the truth about Christ, how does it compare to your own view of who Christ:
-He was a good man I like to hear about.
-He was a great moral teacher whose teachings I try to apply to my own life.
-He was a disollusioned Rabbi who was caught up in his own kingdom fantasy.
-He was a fraud who fooled a lot of people until he was killed.
-He was God come to earth to redeem all those who place their faith in His life, death and resurrection and I have accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior.
- If what the Bible says about the deity of Christ is true, what other important aspects of Christ’s life and work will impact your life . . . both now and in the future?
Acts 4:12; I John 5:11-13; I Corinthians 15:17, I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20:11-21:9
Imagine you are driving down the highway when you see a sign that read, "Slow - Dangerous Curve Ahead." Immediately you are confronted with making a choice. One, you can observe the warning and slow down. Two, you can ignore the warning and maintain your current rate of speed. Or, three, you can defy the warning and speed up.
Whatever your response is, you will never change the truth of the sign. You can read it and believe it; you can read it and ignore it; or you can read it and defy it!
No matter how you respond to that sign, the message remains the same. Likewise, no matter how you respond to Jesus Christ, the truth remains.
Here again is the sign – read it and believe! In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God.