The Practicality and Reality of Faith

I am always caught off guard when I read about Jesus praying. I shouldn’t be because Jesus is fully human and fully divine but here I am caught off guard again.

I remember that Jesus is God and I can defend that statement but to remember that Jesus is a man that one I struggle with. I struggle with it because it amazes me. I struggle with it because it twists my mind in ways that I don’t have words for. I struggle with it because to remember that Jesus lived as a man does something to my weakness.

There is a part of me that likes to forget that Jesus was a man because forgetting makes my weakness ok. It makes it ok to be weak and self-serving because after all, I am only human. It makes it ok to slip into sin because after all, I am only human. It makes my self-reliance ok because after all, I am only human. But to remember that Jesus was also human and was without sin well that changes things. To remember that Jesus did not rely on Himself but on the Father and the Holy Spirit that takes away my excuses. To remember that Jesus made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a bondservant (Phil 2) that changes the game.

When you read the Gospels, you will find that Jesus rarely did anything in His own power. Instead, He prayed to the Father trusting and obeying. Instead of going where He pleased, He moved only by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit (see the temptation). Now it would be easy to say that it is different because Jesus is God but again He chose not to rely on His divinity.

Instead of using His omniscience, Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing the 12 disciples (Luke 6:12). Jesus could have used His infinite power and ability but chose to spend all night in prayer asking the Father for direction. Jesus could have used His command of the whole host of heaven to rescue Him from the band that came to take Him on the night of His crucifixion but instead He chose to submit to the will of the Father. Jesus could have done so much in His own power but instead, He chose to live as a man. The problem with remembering all of this is that He commands us to do the same.

I want to rely on my human weakness and frailty to excuse myself from having to do the things God calls me to do. I want to forget to pray and say it’s ok I am only human, but Christ does not give me that out. In taking humanity and living on earth He not only set an example but demonstrated the practicality and reality of faith (the ability to live that life). Now to be sure He does not expect perfection but at the same time, the excuse for not attempting has been removed.

We are not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to be moving towards the goal of maturity in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have no out as Christians. We have no safe zone to escape to and no claim to ignorance. We have instead a great high priest who was tempted in every way and was without sin. Again, perfection is not the requirement, but excuses are not allowed. It is a strange thing indeed but yet here we are.

Jesus among many things is our example of the practicality and reality of faith. We must walk as He walked. We walk by the will of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and by faith in Christ. If Jesus prayed and trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit how much more should we?

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Malus Pumila and the Fruit of the Spirit

Today I want to look at the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5. If you grew up in church or if you have kids you have taken to church, you might know the song about how bananas, grapes, apples, and other produce are not the fruit of the Spirit. But before we get to the fruit of the Spirit I want to talk about an actual fruit. This ride might get a little bumpy so hold on…

A malus pumila produces a very specific kind of fruit. There is really no other fruit like it on earth. There are some other fruits that can look kind of like it. Some have similar shapes, and some have similar taste but there is really nothing like the fruit of a malus pumila. Let me try and describe it to you. The fruit of malus pumila is sweet but sometimes a little sour, round, usually red, juicy, firm, crisp, and most of all delicious. I honestly do not eat enough of the malus pumila fruit which is sad because it is readily available being an apple and all.

See I could have just said the fruit of an apple tree (malus pumila) is an apple but by describing it I gave you all its features. I told you what you are getting. When you have an apple you don’t have red, or sweet, or crisp. Instead, you have an apple that is those things. Now taste is somewhat subjective so you might not like apples and that’s OK but I think you get my point – the description is the thing. So, what is the fruit of the Spirit?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. These are not fruits of the Spirit. There is not a fruit of love, or joy, or peace, and so on. I would argue that there is one fruit and it is Christlikeness. Why would I say this? Simply put because I think God says it.

Romans 8:29 says that we are being conformed to the image of the Son. God’s purpose is to make us more like Christ. That is one reason the Holy Spirit lives in us. We are to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us. We are to be more like Jesus. 1 John 2:6 says we are to walk as Jesus walked. Jesus walked in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. He walked according the Spirit (Luke 4:1) and so should we.

We should read Galatians 5:22-23 and see a list not of individual fruits to be cultivated but a singular fruit that is a wonderful thing. We should see a list of things that should describe us and things that we are to be. Peter says that we have all we need for a life of godliness in us and this is because the Holy Spirit is in us producing His fruit of Christlikeness which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. If we find that we are short peace for example, we don’t need to pray for the fruit of peace we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and to make us more like Christ in that area. We need to confess our need for Him to continue to produce His fruit. Thinking about the list differently changes it from a list of things I need to do to a list of gifts I can have to make me more like Jesus and that is the goal. Jesus is the prize the descriptions of that fruit are not. If we are just chasing the descriptions, we run the risk of missing the mark and we can quickly fall into legalism. We are empowered by the Spirit by Christ to be more like Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

Holy Spirit – It or Him?

What is a person? Is the Holy Spirit an “It” or a “Him?” According to theology books, a person is one that has intelligence, emotions, and will and according to Charles Rye since the Holy Spirit has all of these He must be a person. Scripture does not leave room for the Holy Spirit to be anything less than a person. He has intelligence as seen in 1 Cor 2:10-11 where it says that He teaches believers. He has emotions which can be seen the classical example of Ephesians 4:30 where we are advised not to grieve Him. Finally, He has a will which can be seen in 1 Cor 12:11. Throughout the New Testament, and partially in the Old we see that the Holy Spirit is a person. As to why this is important that is akin to asking what is the difference between dating and marriage?

If we think about it from that perspective, we can see that the Holy Spirit being a person means that we are intimately connected to Him and Him to us. He is not a force that we play around with in order to gain something for ourselves but someone that we owe devotion to. R.A. Torrey in his book The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit says we should be asking the question “How can the Holy Spirit get more of me?” If we ask this question with the understanding that He is a person we stop trying to get and start surrendering. If the Holy Spirit is a person and has a will we must submit to that will. If He has emotion, then we must involve feelings into our relationship. If He has intelligence we must seek His guidance. If, however, He is merely a force or a thing then we can date Him continually just trying to get what we want out of the relationship. The problem is we cannot marry an it.

When we move from dating to marriage we submit to the other person. We place their wants and desires above our own. We stop trying to get something from the relationship and seek to give to the other person. We make a commitment to love and serve the other. In our relationship with the Holy Spirit when we move from “it” to “Him” we do a similar thing. We start seeking His ways and want to serve instead of receiving. This is not to say that we marry the Holy Spirit because we are the bride of Christ, but I do not feel the analogy is too farfetched as it pertains to understanding the dynamics of a relationship with a person.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

The Holy Spirit and Glory

I have been thinking about the Holy Spirit a lot lately. From Scripture, we know some things about this third member of the Godhead. For example, we know He gives gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11), we know that there is a baptism of the Holy Spirit, we know that He speaks only truth (John 14:17), we also know that He comforts believers (John 14:16), and on and on. While some debate the ability or manifestation today, we also know from reading the Acts that He empowered the Apostles to perform miracles, signs, and wonders.

We know these things but there is one other thing the about the Holy Spirit that I think, at least for me, is too often overlooked. Namely, that He points back to Jesus.

In John 16 Jesus tells us two functions or ministries of the Holy Spirit. First, He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Think about that for a second. The one who comforts also convicts. At first, it might seem odd but think about any person you know who is wonderful. Think of someone who is smart, wise, loving, kind, and generous. By their very nature, they seem to convict you of your wrongness. The Holy Spirit is infinitely more wonderful than we know so by His very nature He convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. His light is so bright it makes darkness more apparent.

Second and this where I have been lately, He tells us what He hears and glorifies Jesus. The Holy Spirit constantly points back to Jesus. There is something called Erdman’s Law which in essence says that those who are most filled with the Holy Spirit are the least conscious of it. All they want is to serve Christ. That is because one of the primary functions or ministries of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ. So, it reasons that if He is focused on glorifying Christ then the believer whom He indwells will be focused on that same goal. The believer who has given his life over to the control of the Holy Spirit will be focused on glorifying Christ.

This glorifying has two components. The first is that we lift up and exalt or make known the name and wonder of Jesus in word and deed. The things we do point to the glory and majesty of Jesus. We sing praises to His name and lift Him high. This is done through working in all things as if for Him, in choosing to place His glory and name before ours, and in spreading the good news of His victory over sin and death. This we all know and strive for to some degree or another. However, the second way we glorify Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is by seeking Him in our weakness.

In our weakness and brokenness, we glorify Christ because the Holy Spirit leads us to confess our need for His power. Paul writes in 2 Cor 12:9 that the power of Christ is made known in our weakness. Our inability to perform and calling on the Holy Spirit to help us turn our eyes to Christ is giving glory to Jesus. It is giving glory to Him because it is a confession of His majesty and power. Your brokenness, my brokenness points to the fact that Jesus is able.

If we truly seek to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, then we must not only give over control to Him, but we must align our mission with His. We cannot request the power of the Spirit and expect Him to fall in line with our goals. We must align ourselves with His. His goal is to glorify Jesus and make Him known. As I said we generally know this and think of it as sharing the Gospel and in worship, but can we truly do this in brokenness as well? In our times of weakness, fear, and frailty can we glorify Christ by asking the Spirit to help us turn our eyes to Him?

Just a thought,

Mike

Kingdom of Heaven

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I have been thinking about the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven lately. I know it surprised me too. Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven some 33 times so I think it is kind of important. One commentary defines the kingdom of heaven as “the rule which God exercises through the person, work, and teachings of Jesus.”[1] I think that is a pretty good definition but to go a little further Edward Schillebeekx (no I did not make that up) says the kingdom of heaven is “a process, a course of events, whereby God begins to govern or to act as king or Lord, an action, therefore, by which God manifests his being-God in the world of men.”[2] I think that one is pretty good too. But I would simplify it a little and say the Kingdom of Heaven is God ruling now.

Have you ever heard the expression that some people are too heavenly minded for their own earthly good? I have and to be honest that is how we should live. The problem is that what is meant by that is some people are only looking forward to the after-death part of heaven and not the here and now part. I am not talking about heaven on earth as in everything is perfect but God ruling here and now in us. Jesus coming to earth, living, dying, and being raised again was an invasion. I mean think about it, Jesus came to earth to bring the kingdom of heaven here. He came to bring people out of sin and death and back into God’s kingdom.

We live in this weird now but not yet place of belonging to Heaven but still residing on earth. The kingdom of heaven lives in us and we carry around the kingdom of heaven everywhere we go. The Gospel message is that we can live in that reality of heaven now. Yes, one day when we die we will move there so to speak but we have it now. Right now, at work, at home, even in the car you have the kingdom of heaven because as a Christian you have submitted yourself to Gods rule.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, we live in the reality of this. This is why Peter writes to people and calls them sojourners or pilgrims. We should live heavenly minded but we should understand that it is a destination and position we currently hold.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

[1] HCSB Study Bible

[2]  Schillebeeckx, Edward, Jesus: An Experiment in Christology. London: Fount Paperbacks. pp. 140–141.

Praying for gifts

Today I want to talk about the Holy Spirit. There are many things that can be discussed when talking about the Holy Spirit because as an equal member of the Godhead He is holy and magnificent. The Holy Spirit is, along with the Father and Son, the power that raised Jesus from the grave. If you don’t believe me read Romans 8:11, John 10:17-18, and Acts 2:24. When we read Scripture in its totality we get a bigger and better picture than if we just read one part. When we read Scriptures together we start to see a picture develop that we cannot see by reading a verse here and a verse there and so partly that is what I want to do here. Now granted I will be using a verse here and a verse there but that is also the difference between writing about Scripture and a personal Scripture reading. What I think might be helpful is to look at a few things that Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit does or offers.

The Holy Spirit gives us the power to speak Acts 1:8; 1:16; 2:4 and so on. The Holy Spirit gives us direction see Acts 8:26 and 13:2. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts see 1 Cor 12:8-11. The Spirit also has fruit for us see Gal 5:22-23. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the ability to confess that Jesus is Lord see 1 Cor 12:3. The Holy Spirit also seals us for salvation see Eph 1:13 and 4:30. Now we could certainly spend an entire post just talking about what the Holy Spirit does and offers but instead, I would like to talk about two specific things – The gifts and the fruit.

This is not meant to be an in-depth talk on either of these things. There is much debate on whether or not the gifts of the Holy Spirit are applicable for the church today and spoiler alert I believe they are but regardless let’s at least look at the ones that are not questioned. Generally speaking, most Christians will agree that wisdom, knowledge, faith, and discernment are active gifts today. That is a long enough list for me right now.

If we look at the Fruit of the Spirit we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I would dare say that all Christians believe this list to be correct and active and while the lists are quite different they do have some things in common.

I have belabored my point long enough so the topic for today is this – Is your praying for the gifts or fruit of the Spirit in vain? Now there are quite a few reasons why it could be in vain. You could have sin in your life that prohibits God from pouring out these gifts and allowing that fruit to be produced. You could simply not actually believe in Jesus as the risen Lord in which case the gifts and fruit are of no use. You could be wasting the gifts and spoiling the fruit you have been given to which no more would be added. Lastly and I think much more common you could be asking for these gifts with the proper context.

First, if we look at the gifts of the Spirit we have again wisdom, knowledge, faith, and discernment which all carry a common thread throughout them. These gifts are mostly for you to use on or with someone else. If you add healing and interpretation of tongues back in the mix we see even more that the gifts are for you to use on or for others.

What good would it be for God to give you a message wisdom if there is no one around to deliver this message to? Yes, you might be built up but for what purpose? What purpose does a message of knowledge have if there is no one in need of that knowledge? Yes, you may receive some insight but to what end? A gift of faith is great to help you get through the situation but lacks any real power without others to receive a bolstering to their own faith or encouraging from it. As to discernment like the others, it has some personal benefit but if you are struggling for discernment that much alone you have bigger problems.

For the gifts to be used to their full capacity you need others to receive the benefit of the gift. So, my question is this, how often are you spending time in community? If you are praying for or simply desire for the gifts are you also in situations that requires the use of them? If not, I think you may pray and desire in vain. James says that often we pray and do not receive because we pray with the wrong motives. We often link this to material prayer requests but could spiritual gifts not also be included here? Do you pray for these gifts so that you may spend them on others? Why pray for something that must be used in community if you do not want to spend time in community? Additionally, if you are not already spending your time in community then would you really spend the gifts of the Spirit in community. If we do not spend what we have freely in community then why would we think God would give us more to spend in community? If you desire the gift of wisdom but refuse to be around people who need wisdom then what good is the gift? If we desire the gift of faith but avoid those who are suffering and need someone to intercede then what good is the gift? I might as well live on a sailboat and pray for a motorcycle. I might receive it but it has no value.

If we desire the gifts of the Spirit and more importantly if we desire the Spirit then we must be in places and with people who need those gifts to be active. This requires us to be around broken and hurting people and the good news is that is all of us. We need to be around each other. We need to be active in each other’s lives. We need others and they need us. They receive gifts to spend on us and us on them and this is the community of the early church. Many times I have heard of people asking how do we live like the early church and I do not think it is living in communes, although I am not necessarily opposed to that idea, it is by allowing their lives to intersect with ours. It is by allowing them to be a part of our lives and by that, I mean an actual part. Not a social media part. Not a snapshot of the happy moments part but an actual part of our ups and downs. A part of our good and bad. It is about being willing to let someone pray for your need and correct your sin. We have to be transparent with one another and often this is painful. We need others to be so involved that they can tell when we need help and when we need correction and we need to be willing to accept both.

Next and naturally I think is the fruit of the Spirit which has another common thread which is that the in order to receive the fruit you need adversity. If we look at the list again it is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and if you notice these gifts all require something to make them useful. To group them might help us save space. Love, joy, and peace require hostility. Love must be shown in action and situation because anything less is only a word. Joy requires a trial for you to remain joyful in. Peace should go without saying but peace requires hardship for you to remain peaceful in. The next grouping would be patience, kindness, and goodness and these require trial. Patience requires you to wait for something. Kindness is only shown when you involved with another person who needs that kindness. Goodness or the quality of being good means you have something that requires that goodness. For the last grouping, we have faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and these require a situation that is not yet complete. Faithfulness means we are waiting and believing for something. Gentleness is the ability to be gentle regardless of the situation. Finally, there is self-control and what use is self-control unless you are being tempted in some way to be selfish and not hold on?

Much like the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit requires and environment to be shown and we should understand that most of the time community will be that environment. Either way, you pray in vain for the fruit if you do not allow situations where hardships and trials can come. If you shut yourself off from community and situations that require you to grow you in a sense refuse the fruit of the Spirit.

 

I for one and am ok with admitting that I need community but it has taken me a long time to get there. I need others to come alongside me and help me grow and mature in my faith. I also realize that in order for me to walk in the gifts that the Spirit has given me I need to be around others to let those gifts be used. This is not hard as it requires sacrifice. It requires time to be spent. It requires you to open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt and you will be. Living in the context of community is one of the hardest and most painful things you can do but I say do it anyway. I am not there, none of us are. As we learn to live in that context God reveals a little more of how we are not doing it and we open a little more. The only way to walk like the first-century church is to walk in the community and I think we can do that.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Modalism? No thank you

I was listening to someone this week and he was talking about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Specifically, he was arguing for a form of modalism that says that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same person. Modalism if you do not know is the belief that God is one but reveals Himself in three modes or forms (Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit). He was arguing from a few texts in the New Testament and from the Shepherd of Hermas in an attempt to show that the early church including the Apostles ascribed to this belief system. I must say that his argument was pretty good. Well, that is until you actually read the Bible.

One place he argued from was Luke 1:25 where the angel Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive the holy one. His point was that it was the Holy Spirit who entered Mary and became the Son of God. He was saying that the Son of God did not exist before the Holy Spirit became the Son. You can pick a few text and try to force this idea but when examined throughout Scripture it does not hold up.

One major problem with modalism is that the Bible does not support it. Conversely, it is my firm belief that the Bible teaches the Trinity. I have argued elsewhere for Jesus’ divinity and the idea of the Trinity but I thought I would offer up just a few short arguments from the Gospel of John as well.

First is from John 14:16-18 where Jesus famously promises the Holy Spirit. More importantly, we can see from this text that Jesus promises that He (Jesus) will ask the Father and He (the Father) will send the Counselor (Holy Spirit). We have the whole Trinity presented here. If Jesus and Holy Spirit are the same person (read homoousion), then I find this statement beyond confusing and just downright weird. Jesus will return to the Father and then ask the Father if He can go back in another form?

But still, maybe I am just reading it wrong however John 14:26 only serves to confuse me more. Jesus here continuing His dialog with the disciples says that the Father will send Him (Holy Spirt) in My name (Jesus) – [He] will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. It would seem here that Jesus seems to think that the Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same person but three.

Again, maybe I am missing something. Jesus says in John 15:26 that the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will come from the Father at Jesus’ request. In 16:7-10 Jesus says more about the coming of the Holy Spirit and how He (Jesus) will return to the Father. It would seem then that Jesus was a pretty strong believer in the Trinity and an opponent of modalism.

There are things in the Bible that are confusing there is no doubt about that. The Trinity and the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit are at the top of the list of things that are confusing because the concept of an eternal divine being that is three in one is beyond what we can, at least currently, grasp but that does not change the fact that what is being taught is just that.

Paul says that we should be careful not to taken captive by philosophy or empty deceit (Colossians 2:8). We must be diligent that when we hear things that sound off or too fanciful that we consider them and search the Scriptures to see what is actually said. Even everything I just said I expect you to look it up that is why I provide links to verses. I expect you to look them up and read the verses before and after what I say. We must be faithful to search and read the Word of God learning to rightfully divide it. Also, if someone comes at you presenting a form of modalism maybe you are little more prepared now.

Just a thought,

Mike

Crucified flesh

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I have been chewing over these verses for a few days now. I keep thinking about how horrible crucifixion was, and what those reading this letter from Paul must have thought when he wrote these words. They lived with a real and tangible understanding of what crucifixion was. I like the way the Wikipedia article explains it “Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful …, gruesome, humiliating, and public[.]” It was not just a horrible way to die it was designed to be horrible. It was created to be completely and totally barbaric. There are no modern western examples to point to (in our justice system). We can’t even say it was like the electric chair because that does not come close. It was just horrible (I think I have already said that). But that’s not even what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about who received this horrible death sentence. Again to Wikipedia “Crucifixion was used to punish slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state.” In other words the lowest of the low. The most worthless members of society were crucified. Those who either had no value or who were an enemy of the state. It was not allowed for citizens unless they committed treason in which case they were an enemy of the state now. This form of punishment was so severe and gruesome that only those who were already considered useless could receive it. Paul knew his audience would know this, this was all understood information to them and now to you and me.

Now that we have some background we can look at these verses and see what he is saying. He is saying that your flesh, the thing that desires sin is as useful to you as the Romans considered slaves and enemies of the state to them. It has no value to offer you. It has nothing of benefit to give and should not be looked at as something useful (see verse 21). It will not get you anything, instead, it will cause you problems. It will disrupt you from pushing towards your goal. So consider it dead!

Don’t think that this means you need to actual mutilate (harm) yourself, though. That will never work. You can never beat yourself into submission because the flesh is not the body but the mindset of self-fulfillment. People often think that the body itself is the problem, no, the problem is the fleshly mindset that desires to gratify (please) the body. So what it the answer then? Paul tells us back in 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Jesus already did the work. He took a literal crucifixion and you get to reap the benefits of that. We died with Christ and now we live in Christ (see Colossians 3:3).

Paul is not saying here that we need to harm ourselves but that we need to remember that Jesus died and as Christians we died as well. We are a new creation and in that we no longer have the fleshly mindset controlling us but can live under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. I say can because you must yield (submit) to the Holy Spirit. We allow Him to lead and guide our lives. We allow Him to determine our desires and in that we continually remind ourselves that we have been crucified because our flesh had no benefit to us.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

AN EXEGESIS OF JOHN 7:37-44

THIS IS THE CHRIST:AN EXEGESIS OF JOHN 7:37-44

AN EXEGESIS OF JOHN 7:37-44

 

Main Idea

Jesus is the Christ, and the Prophet promised in the Old Testament. He is the source of new life, and because of this belief in Him is the requirement to live out this new life. All who believe in Him are given the Spirit to flow in them like living waters.

Outline 

  1. Jesus has living waters for those who thirst and believe in Him. (John 7:37-38)
  2. The living waters are revealed to be the Holy Spirit. (John 7:39)
  3. Jesus meets the requirements for Messiah and Prophet. (John 7:40-44)

 

Introduction

In chapter 6:1-20 John records two sign miracles; the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water. He then moves to record the first I Am statement of Jesus in 6:35 where Jesus says that He is the bread of life and that all who eat of Him will never be hungry and all who drink of Him will never be thirsty. These statements culminate with many disciples leaving Jesus and Peter’s statement that Jesus has the words of eternal life. While there is an undisclosed time span between John 6:70 and 7:1 the teachings of Jesus had been building for some time as He continued to show Himself as Messiah, Prophet, and God incarnate. His teachings were in line with the Old Testament, although, not compatible with the teachings and doctrines of the Pharisees. Jesus had not made an appearance in Jerusalem since the rulers had sought to kill Him for healing on the Sabbath and making Himself equal with God (see John 5:18). Before Jesus makes His proclamation at the end of the feast He answers accusations against His authority (7:16-19) and addresses the question of His previous healing on the Sabbath (7:21-24). From there He is able to move to His proclamation that He is the source of living waters (7:37-38).

 CONTEXT

Historical Context

             Due to the ambiguous way the author chose to identify himself simply as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:7, 20) there is not have a positive identification for the author. As expected this has led to debate as to not only the author, but the location, time of writing, and original audience. While tradition assigns authorship to John the son of Zebedee other candidates have been suggested ranging from Apostle Thomas, Lazarus, an unnamed disciple, and even second century Christians as the author(s) of the Fourth Gospel. Although theories range, tradition dating back to the mid 100’s teach, and it is generally accepted John the Apostle wrote at least, or was the authority of the bulk of the book.[1] As mentioned there are those who have argued that the Gospel of John is a second century work written to battle Gnostic teaching, but as John Drane points out the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in 1945 shows us there “was a vast difference between the world of John’s Gospel, and the world of classical Gnosticism.”[2]

Regarding the location of the writing, again this is not a concrete matter, but it is believed that John wrote his Gospel in Asia minor around the area of Ephesus with most scholars giving the date of the writing in the mid 90’s.[3] It should not be assumed that this community was the target audience but the first audience. John’s stated purpose for writing is that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).[4] With this in mind it is easy to see that the book was meant to travel beyond its original location.

There is division amongst scholars as to if an editor or editors went back through the book to add in details for second century Christians who might not be familiar with the topography or customs of first century Palestine.[5] While it is possible that some revisions took place if it is to be accepted that the author was indeed an eyewitness (21:24) then not all details can, or should be attributed to revisions. John’s audience was that of Greeks, and Jews who were not of the location where events took place, and as such he was highly selective, and detailed in what he chose to record making the Fourth Gospel “theological historiography.”[6]

Literary Context

From the first verse to the last John seeks to present Jesus as Messiah, and God incarnate. As such Jesus is continually shown not only as coming from, and returning to the Father, but in fact, being one with Him (10:3; 17:21). This is accomplished through the selectivity of the sign miracles four of which are unique to John, and the seven great “I Am” statements of Jesus.[7] Each  “I Am” statement of Jesus adds a layer of exclusivity to the fact that Jesus was not the messiah the people expected, but God in human form. Finally, the dialog that is contained in the book is different than that of the Synoptic Gospels in that there are no parables and few short sayings, but longer discourses in which Jesus expresses His awareness that He is divine.[8] Jesus is often found using words with double or deeper meanings as well. A notable example would be John 3:3 where Jesus tells Nicodemus that you must be born again where He uses the adverb ánōthen which means both “again”, and “from above”. Nicodemus assumes Jesus is referring “to again”, but He is of course, speaking of “from above.”

Moving on to John 7, John opens by saying that Jesus was in Galilee because the Jews of Judea sought to kill Him. He goes on to record a conversation between Jesus, and His brothers. Jesus’s brothers argue that if He was indeed the Messiah then He would do His works at the Feast of Tabernacles so they could be seen by others.[9] The response of Jesus about His “time” is somewhat vague and has been used by some as meaning time for His death. The idea of proper times is a recurring theme in John, and Jesus here could be using the word in two ways. First that it is not the proper moment to leave for the feast and second that it was not time to make Himself known in that way which would lead to some want to take Him. From here we see that Jesus then waits to attend the feast until after His brothers have left so He may go in secret (7:10).

The Feast of Tabernacles is the third of the great annual feast, and would have given Jesus access to a large crowd. The timing of the teaching seems to harken back to Jesus’s words in v 6 as the middle of the feast were half holy days which allowed for people to interact in a more relaxed manner and purchase items needed for the feast.[10] His teaching first is to show that God is the one who gave Jesus the authority to teach, and not one of the rabbinical schools (7:15). John then records how Jesus points out that the some are plotting to kill Him for healing a man on the Sabbath. His teachings begin to cause some in the crowd to question whether or not He is the Christ, and if the rulers have accepted His teaching as well.

 CONTENT

 John 7:37-39

During the feast of Tabernacles, the Jews, would present or give a water offering that was poured out near the altar.[11] The crowds would stand watching as the procession moved throughout the streets. Water brought from the Pool of Siloam would be poured out while the priest recited the Great Hallel as the crowds watched and followed along.[12] Jesus made His bold proclamation on the last and great day of the Feast. John records this by saying that Jesus stood and cried out. The verb used for cried is krázō and is used for a raven’s cry, crying out in agony, or to speak with a loud voice as in this case.[13] The same verb used for when the crowd calls for Jesus’s crucifixion before Pilate in Matt. 27:23 is used here showing that Jesus was loud and intended all to hear His words.

Jesus’s statement that anyone who thirsts should come to Him is at least two-fold. One, being that the Feast of Tabernacles is a remembrance of the Wilderness experience this would contrast with Moses who struck the rock at Kadesh (Exod. 17:6). While water was provided in the wilderness this was temporary refreshment, and only for the body. Jesus offers permanent refreshment that cannot be taken away, nor is His provision merely for the body.  At the same time, this seems to echo Isa. 55 as well as other places where God declares that everyone who thirsts can come to Him and freely receive. The gift of water or life is free, eternal, and God given. This also marks the third mention of thirsting and life-giving waters in John’s Gospel. First, with the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4, second when Jesus declares that He is the bread of life in chapter 6, and now here in chapter 7.

Jesus continues in verse 38 to say that the Scriptures themselves speak of Him. He does not appear to be alluding to one particular section of the Scriptures instead that the whole of Scripture testifies for Him. Specific verses such as Isa. 12:3, and 43:20 which reference water in connection with salvation are helpful to see a connection between this statement and water. However, what Jesus is saying here is that the Scriptures point to Him as the Messiah, and source of eternal life. From the protoevangelium in Gen. 3:15, to the Messianic prophecies in the Torah, prophets, and wisdom literature the plan of salvation has been recorded and leading up to Jesus.

Jesus places belief in Him as a requirement upon those who wish to receive the living waters. John uses the Greek verb pisteúō (believe) more than the other Gospels with 99 occurrences compared to Matthew’s 10, Mark’s 10, and Luke’s 9. Pisteúō does not simply mean to be persuaded of, but to place confidence in, or as Vine’s says “reliance, not mere credence.”[14] In Acts 5:14 the verb is used to describe those who were being added to the Lord.

As seen in verse 39 the “living water” that Jesus refers to is the Spirit Himself. This is a dynamic shift away from the classical thinking of the Holy Spirit. The phrase “Holy Spirit” is only found three times in the Old Testament; once in Ps. 53:11, and twice in Isa. 63:10, and 11. Typically the Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of the LORD. Between these titles, and the actual function of the Spirit in the Old Testament the prevailing thought was that the Spirit was an agent of God and that He was the immediate source of all life.[15] The function of the Spirit to empower people to do God’s work has not changed and is found throughout Scripture, however, a more fully developed understanding is not found until the New Testament. The idea of the Holy Spirit living or indwelling a believer is a prominent New Testament teaching.

The idea of the Spirit being a “river of living water” draws a parallel between the life-giving waters of Ezek. ch 47. The waters flowing from under the temple not only bring life but also turn the foul waters fresh (Ezek. 47:1,8;9).[16] What is being stated is that no longer will the Holy Spirit be an external force that comes upon the people of God, but the very one who gives life will flow out from within those who believe in Jesus. Christ here is then showing that the Holy Spirit will have a place in the believer. This can also serve to show the interconnectedness of the Father, Son, and Spirit as the Spirit comes from the Father because of the Son.[17]

As previously mentioned John explains that the rivers of living water is the Holy Spirit (v39) which would not be received or given until after Jesus had been glorified.[18] Speaking on the Spirit, Jesus says in 16:7 of John’s Gospel that He must return to the Father so that the Spirit may come. Only by the perfect sacrifice and resurrection does the connection to the Father that was lost by Adam become reestablished. The glory that is received is not just the sacrificial death, but the resurrection of Jesus as well.[19] First the Son was to be glorified, and then the Spirit was to be given. The glorification of Jesus makes the giving of the Spirit possible, however, only to those who believe in Him (v38). In Acts, chapter 2 Luke records the receiving and first filling of the Holy Spirit by the disciples at Pentecost.

John 7:40-44

John records that there was a division in the crowd as to whether Jesus was the Prophet (prophētēs) promised in Deut. 18:18 or if He was the Messiah.[20] This is an understandable confusion given the misunderstandings that surrounded the function of the Messiah. The Prophet was understood to be one like Moses who would speak what God commands in matters of spiritual affairs, conversely, the Messiah would be one who ruled the nation of Israel politically.[21] The issue lies in the incorrect assumption that the Messiah was to come and set the people free from foreign rule. Jesus did come to set the people free, however, this was from their slavery to sin (John 8:31-36), and not from their service to Rome. Some Rabbis believed in doctrines such as the premundane existence of the Messiah, His elevation above Moses and angels, and the suffering Servant. Nevertheless, the preoccupying thought since around the time of the exilic period was one of national re-birthing which caused the rabbinic teachers to focus on an Earthly kingdom instead of the Heavenly kingdom.[22] God had given ample Scripture to show the Messiah was coming, however, due to their circumstances they chose to focus almost solely on national deliverance.[23]

As mentioned above, the Scriptures contain a great deal of information concerning the coming Messiah. For example, Mic. 5:2 speaks of the fact that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem which the crowd rightly remembered. Bethlehem holds significance in the line of the Messiah as this was the place where David was from, and where he was anointed by Samuel. The book of Ruth has most major parts in Bethlehem as well.[24] The Messiah was to come from the line of David, and from David’s hometown (2 Sam. 7).

Both Matthew and Luke recount the nativity story in chapter 2 of their Gospels showing Jesus born in Bethlehem. They also both give a genealogy list showing that Jesus is David’s descendant. Matthew gives the lineage of Joseph showing Jesus as heir through Solomon. Luke gives us Jesus’s genealogy through Mary which traces back through Nathan who is another son of David.[25] All of these things again reinforce that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

Because of the crowd’s confusion on whether or not Jesus was Prophet or Messiah, and the shortage of information the crowd had regarding His place of birth a division arose. Indeed, there were some who believed Him to be Messiah as noted in verse 41. The text does not make clear whether the ones who believed in Him had knowledge of His birthplace, or if they assumed that because of His works and words that He must be the Messiah.

Finally, verse 44 shows that some wanted Jesus taken or arrested, but this was not done. Some of the temple guards of verse 45 are more than likely the ones who are referred in verse 44. The lack of Him being taken could be seen as a look back at the implied meaning of time in 6th and 30th verses of this chapter. This section ends in John 8:20 where John reinforces that His time had not yet come. There was still more for Jesus to accomplish before He was to be glorified. His earthly ministry did not end until He deemed it time as seen in John 19:11 and 30.

 Theological Interpretation & Application

The passage discussed above in the Gospel of John touches on two sections of systematic theology. Firstly, Christology as Jesus is not only the Messiah but the Prophet as well. As such, He not only has the rightful rule as the ultimate king but the connection and authority to speak the words the Father gives to Him. This is seen in verse 38 where He says that the Scriptures testify or speak of Him. The divinity of Jesus is also at the center of the living water statement. By proclaiming that all who believe in Him may receive the living waters Jesus is making a claim that can only be made by the divine.[26] Whereas Jesus places belief in Himself as the requirement for release of the Holy Spirit to flow in a believer, the connection to divinity is made because the Spirit of the Lord or Holy Spirit can only be sent by God and at His request.

This brings in the second area of theology that is discussed by this passage namely Pneumatology.[27] As mentioned previously Jesus here teaches that the Holy Spirit will no longer operate outside of those who believe in empowering for specific service, but internally not only equipping for work but bringing about changes to the heart and mind (see the connection to Ezek 47) which is a drastic shift from the Old Testament. The statement that the Spirit will be inside the believer changes the way believers communicate with and have relationship with God. This could also be seen as a pointing to fulfillment (or at least partial fulfillment) of Jer. 31:31-34 where God says I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts. The Spirit dwelling inside the believer gives them the words and the ability to love God and love their neighbor the way Jesus intends.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bailey, J. L. and Vander Broek. L. D. Literary Forms in The New Testament A Handbook. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.

Bauckham, Richard. Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John. Journal Publication. St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews Scotland, 2007.

Drane, John. Introducing the New Testament Oxford. Minneapolis: Lion Publishing Pub, 2000.

Easton, M. G. Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah Vol 2. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1896.

 

Freed, Edwin R. The New Testament: A Critical Introduction Third Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning, 2001.

 

Harrison, R. K. The New Ungers Bible Dictionary. Illinois: Moody Press, 1988.

Hobbs, Hershel. The Illustrated Life of Jesus. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2014.

Irenaeus. Against Heresies 3.1.1

Keener, Craig. The Gospel of John: A commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Pub, 2010

MacDonald, William. Believers Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995.

Turner, M. and MacFarlane, G. New Bible Dictionary 3rd Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Vine, W. E. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed. Peabody: Hendrickson Publ, 1989.

 

Walvoord, J. F. and Zuck. R. B. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures Ed. John 7:39 Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.

 

[1] Irenaeus writing in 180 said that John was the disciple who reclined on His breast. Against Heresies 3.1.1

[2] John Drane, Introducing the New Testament Oxford: (Minneapolis: Lion Publishing plc. 2000), 215

[3]Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ 2010), 142, 149

 [4] All biblical quotes taken from NKJV unless otherwise noted.

[5] Edwin R. Freed referencing John 9:22 says that Jews who followed Jesus during His ministry would not have been put out of the synagogue combing both the original event and a present situation. [The New Testament: A Critical Introduction Third Edition (Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning 2001)] 340, 341

[6] Richard Bauckham, Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John Journal Publication (St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews Scotland 2007) 25

7 Sign miracles occur in John 2:1-10, 4:46-54, 5:1-9, 6:5-14, 15-21, 9:1-7, 11:1-44, 21:1-14. Note the eighth miracle is contested as a sign miracle because it occurs post-resurrection. The I Am statements occur in John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5

[8] J. L. Bailey and L. D. Vander Broek, Literary Forms in The New Testament A Handbook. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press 1992) 172

[9] It is important to note that John points out in verse 5 that Jesus’s brothers did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah.

[10] R. K. Harrison, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary (Illinois: Moody Press 1988) 420

[11] Craig Keener says that the water pouring may have been an innovation of the Pharisees around the time of the Maccabees, The Gospel of John: A commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ 2010) 722

[12] Easton suggests that the crowds would either recite with the priest or simply answer back with hallelujah. In either case, the point is that the crowds participated and were engaged in the event. Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (New York: Harper & Brothers 1893) Hallel

[13] Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ) s.v. κράζω 261

[14] The high usage of pisteúō in John’s Gospel is due to the stated purpose for his writing in 23:30. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ), s.v. πιστεύω 118

[15] Ungers sites Ps 104:30; Isa 32:15; Job 33:4; and Gen 2:7, and others in stating that Spirit was not only the immediate cause of physical, but intellectual life. The New Ungers Bible Dictionary (Illinois: Moody Press 1988) 583-84

[16] Craig Keener sees the connection as possibly referring to new Jerusalem where Jesus is the new temple and the waters flow from Him. The Gospel of John: A commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ 2010) 726 -727

[17] This serves as pre-statement to John 14:16 where Jesus prays or asks the Father to send the Comforter or Holy Spirit. It shows the Father, Son, and Spirit operate as one.

[18] The verb glorified (doxazō) is based on the root word doxa which carries a multiple meanings and can mean “an opinion,” “splendor,” “most glorious condition or exalted state.” It is this last usage that is meant by doxazō. In this verse, it is used to refer to the high honor, and glory due to Jesus that will be made manifest after His death, resurrection, and assentation. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ) s.v. δοξάζω 492

[19] The editor of the section on John Edwin Blum says regarding the glorification of Jesus “is His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.” [The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures Digital Ed J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed. John 7:39 (Wheaton: Victor Books 1985)]

[20] While prophet can refer to a spokesman of God in this context it refers to the promised prophet who most believed was separate from the Messiah and would come before Him. This would explain why the Pharisees sent men to ask John the Baptist in John 1:21 if he was the prophet. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ), s.v προφήτης

[21] R. K. Harrison, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary (Illinois: Moody Press 1988) 840

[22] Ibid 840

[23] Alfred Edersheim compiled a list of 456 Old Testament passages about the Messiah or Messianic times. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah Vol 2 (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co 1896) 710

[24] Ruth is important to note here because of her place in the lineage of David and Jesus.

[25] The lineage in Luke does not specifically say that it is through Mary; however, this is generally accepted that this is the case. William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson 1995) 1379

[26] M. Turner & G. MacFarlane also discuss that this passage aids in an understanding of the Trinity, New Bible Dictionary 3rd Ed (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1996) 1209-10

[27] M. Turner & G. MacFarlane New Bible Dictionary 3rd Ed (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1996) 1209 – 10

Trust the Promise

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Of the many promises made in the Bible, the best in my opinion has to be Jesus in John 14:18 where He says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to.” To settle that Jesus promised we will not be alone should change the way we view things. This promise is really also an echo of Deut 31:6 where it says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

We are not alone, we are not orphans, and we have not been abandoned. Jesus left the earth but at the same time He never really left. He sent the Comforter to be in us, to guide us, and to show us. We as Christians have that this is not a question. The question is will we use it?

Just a thought,

Mike