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Monday, April 27, 2015

The Divine Universal Offer: From Death to Life


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John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Background:
Verses 1-17 of the 5th chapter of the Gospel of St John feature the following:
         A specific question:
                  Wilt thou be made whole?

         An authoritative instruction:
                  Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

         A serious admonition:
Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

         A revealing piece of information:
                  My father worketh hitherto, and I work.

Verse 18 shows that this piece of information did not escape the notice of the Jews.

Verses 19-29 depict the authority of the Son

And right in the midst of these 11 verses we have this nugget of truth.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Note with me the four following considerations:

1. A Challenge Issued
2. A Condition Required
3. A Confidence Inspired
4. A Contrast Depicted

Note too the two-fold aspect that accompanies each point.

A Challenge Issued:
Two-fold:
         The seriousness of the challenge
The source of the challenge

                  Verily, verily…

This word verily is found 140 times in the Bible.  The four Gospels account for 103 of them.  On every occasion in the Gospels, it is Jesus who used this word.  Something of serious import always followed whenever Jesus used this word.  In the case before us there is no difference.

         The source of the challenge
                  I say unto you…
Jesus, the Son of God is the one who is presenting the challenge.
When Jesus speaks it pays to pay attention.
The following references serve to bear out the critical aspect this fact.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old…
Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Ye have heard that it hath been said…
Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Or have ye not read in the Law…
Matthew 12:6 But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple.

Jesus never wastes words.  Any challenge from him to us ought to be taken seriously.

Truly, truly Jesus says to us.  His word is truth for he is the truth.  This challenge this morning is worthy of acceptance.  It is worthy in terms of its truth and it is reliable because of its source.  When Jesus spoke he spoke the word for he indeed was and still is the word.


A Condition Required:
Two-fold:
         He that heareth
         He that believeth

He that heareth my word…
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Hearing is the facility of faith.

Mark 4:9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
This word is to all them that have ears.  This is includes you and me.  Let none of us respond like them in the time of Zechariah as noted in the 7th chapter and the 11th verse. 

But they refused to hearken, and pulled away their shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.

It doesn’t stop at hearing as the facility but more importantly it targets hearing as the response.  It continues: and hearing the word of God.  The heeding of the word of God opens up or initiates our faith.  Brothers and sisters, even our faith to respond to the word of God is a gift from God.  That is why salvation is all of God and none of us.  We cannot stake the slightest claim on our salvation.  Even the very faith we used to lay hold on salvation has been given to us by God.  What James calls on us to do is to exercise it. 

So that it is not only he that heareth, condition part (a) but he that:
…believeth on him that sent me, condition part (b).

Regarding our salvation:
God initiates.
Jesus executes.
The Holy Spirit implements.

Condition two-fold:  he that hears or heeds and also believes.
How do we know that we have met this two-fold condition?

Jesus himself supplied the answer at John 8:47.
He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

A Challenge Issued
A Condition Required


A Confidence Inspired:
Two-fold:
         The certainty of eternal life
         The certainty of escape

Hath everlasting life
And shall not come into condemnation

Medical science is obsessed with the prolongation of life.  Those with the means and even some without are spending all that they could access to prolong the life of their loved ones.  Some of these loved ones remain on life support system for months and even years with the hope that the solution to their affliction would be found.  Many of them are supported with the prayers of born again believers in search of a miracle.  And as time passes confidence decreases.  Inspiration ebbs away.

This word this morning is confidence inspiring.  There is no maybe in this matter.  Has everlasting life indicates a present possession guaranteed by the Triune God Himself. 

This concept proved a very difficult one for Mary, the sister of Lazarus, to conceive

John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
John 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Shall never die was the challenge.  How can this be, we ask.  Jesus was speaking about everlasting life.  He was suggesting to Mary that there is a life that is far more important than the one with which we have a certain obsession.  This material life, like its name implies, is temporal.  But we can have the assurance here and now of a life that is everlasting, that is eternal, that is forever.  This offer from Jesus truly inspires confidence.

Let us wrap our minds around this scriptural gold nugget.
1John 5:20  And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

Two unmistakable facts are enshrined here.
1. Jesus is the true God.
2. Jesus is eternal life.

The next piece of inspiration is the source of many debates and discussions.  Theologians great and small argue incessantly on its meaning and implications.  We will not go into that this morning but we will draw to your attention just one Scriptural reference that I believe speak to this matter.

John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:19  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Escaping the judgment of God is certainly for me another source of inspiration.  Are you confident this morning that you not only possess eternal life but that you also have escaped the condemnation of God?

A Challenge Issued
A Condition Required
A Confidence Inspired

And finally…


A Contrast Depicted
Two-fold
         Mercy offered
         Grace supplied

Note with me the following: but is passed from death unto life.
“Is passed” is referred to as the present perfect tense.  It refers to some action done in the past that continues in the present.  But there is more.  Strain your minds with me for a moment.  Is passed from life unto death strongly suggests a futuristic implication.  Certainly if the action is in the continuous present, that augers well for the future.  Hence, the eternity of God ensures that “is passed from death to life” is indicative of an action that is past, is present, is future and is eternal.  No such tense has been identified by our grammarians for the simple reason that tense is about time but God transcends time.  He is eternity.  No wonder one of His names is the “I AM that I AM”.  As we continue to reflect on the word of the “I AM” consider with me therefore the two-fold aspect of mercy and grace.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish (mercy), but have everlasting life (grace).

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death (justice); but the gift of God is eternal life (grace) through Jesus Christ our Lord.

But is passed from death represents God’s mercy.  Justice demanded the death penalty.  Justice was what we deserved (eternal death) but mercy denied it.  Mercy is not getting what we deserved.  The debt for our sin was so huge that only God Himself could pay it.  I am still trying to fully comprehend the implications of the following scripture.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Unto life is indicative of God’s grace.  From spiritual death (God’s mercy) to everlasting, abundant life is the manifestation of God’s grace as extended to every born again believer.  Grace is getting what we did not deserve.

So then for us eternal death would have satisfied God’s justice.
Life for us is God’s mercy.
Abundant life for us is God’s grace.

One final question: How does God’s mercy and grace operate and yet His justice is still satisfied?

We are the recipients of His mercy and grace but just Jesus was the recipient of His justice.  Jesus bore the full brunt of God’s justice.  In our law courts justice is sometimes tempered with mercy.  Hence the full weight of justice is suspended.

However, in the case of our salvation, Jesus carried the full weight of the judgment of God.  The benefit to all who hears Jesus’ word and believes on Him that sent Jesus is everlasting life and they will not come into condemnation but are passed from death to life.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

John 10:10  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life (mercy), and that they might have life more abundantly (grace).

What a challenge!  Verily, verily I say unto you
What a condition!  He that hears my word and believes on him that sent me
What a confidence!  Has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation     
What a contrast!  But has passed from death unto life.

What an offer!  From Death to Life


Stewart Russell: 2015-04-26

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Love: The Greatest Love Note Ever

 
 
Universally regarded as the golden text of the Bible, this verse sums up the entire canon of Scripture.  While one might find another verse to match it in terms of God's intent, certainly none can eclipse it.  It commences like the Bible.  It begins with God, it continues with His plan and it culminates with the results of that plan.  This plan is known to all as the plan of redemption.  God is the originator, Jesus, His son, is the vehicle by which this plan has been implemented and the ‘whosoever’ are the beneficiaries of that plan. 

Today, anyone of us can insert his name in the column bearing the caption 'whosoever' once he has come to God by faith in Jesus Christ.
John 6:37     All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Revelation 22:17     And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

The Old Testament writers and prophets anticipated it.  The New Testament apostles witnessed it while the New Testament writers reminisced about it.  So, not only is it the golden text, but it is also a golden fact and I dare say, a golden opportunity. 
1 Timothy 1:15    This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
The peoples of the world will be saved by acceptance of it or lost through rejection of it.  Those who gained heaven would have done so because they believed its authenticity and those who make hell their final destination would have done so because they doubted its veracity.
John 3:18     He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


For:                     The greatest reason
Note how the inspired writer begins this verse.  It begins with a word that introduces reason (for). 
The word for is used as a preposition or a conjunction and has four meanings.  Take note of the following:
Preposition: For:
1.  Appropriate to (lessons for beginners)
2. Beneficial to (this is for you)
3.  In favour of (I'm for going now before it's too late)

Conjunction: For:
1. For the reason that; on account of… 

For the reason that God...  What a way to start!   Embraced in that for is the entire world, including you and me.  None is left out, no not one.  So, for the reason that God loved every one of us...  'For' certainly introduces the greatest reason anything that was ever done was done. 
 
But what is the reason?  Let Scripture speak for itself.
Luke 5:32    I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
1 Timothy 1:15    This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 

God:                   The greatest being
That God is the greatest being, there ought to be no doubt.  Only the fool fails to note this fact.  The Word of God clearly vindicates His supremacy and His superiority.
Deuteronomy 4:35    Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him.
2 Samuel 7:22    Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
Isaiah 44:6    Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. 
  
So Loved:           The greatest degree of affection
The greatest degree or extent:  It cannot be exceeded.  There are no words to express this extent.  One may say without fear of contradiction that the degree of God's love is infinite.  It cannot be expressed other than by God, Himself.  Jesus quantifies, qualifies and personifies this love in:
John 15:13    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Romans 5:8    But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1John 4:10    Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The World:                 The greatest community
The world is in fact the greatest community of humans.  As used here, it is not a reference to the cosmos or all of creation but to all those who were created in God’s own image.   It refers to the all inclusive.
John 3:17    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
1John 2:2    And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

That:                           The greatest link
'That' used as a conjunction here shows the relationship between the greatest love as expressed by the greatest Lover in the greatest outpouring of such love.  The song writer penned:
         Such love, such wondrous love,
         Such love, such wondrous love;
         That God should love a sinner such as I,
         How wonderful is love like this!
And if this be an indicator of His great love, note the demonstration of that great love in the following.
         Living He loved me, dying He saved me,
         Buried He carried my sins far away;
         Rising He justified freely forever,
         One day He's coming O Glorious day! 

He:                      The greatest Lover
The Bible clearly shows that no one has achieved neither the height and depth nor the length and breadth of love that God has demonstrated.  His love is an infinite love.  There is no limit to it.  Scripture expresses God and love as synonymous.
1John 4:8    He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
The Bible  also establishes that God is the origin of love.
1John 4:7    Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
Outside of God there is no love.  All else is but a sham and incapable of enduring the test of life and time.  The love of God transcends time and the grave.
1Corinthians 13:13    And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
In addition, Paul in his epistle to the Romans captures God's love for us.  For even when we were enemies of God, Jesus died for us. 
Romans 5:8    But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John does likewise in his third epistle.
1John 4:7-8    Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. [8] He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Gave:                           The greatest Giver
Not only is God the greatest lover but He is also the greatest giver.  The greatest loving finds expression in the greatest giving.   In a very real sense, the gift of His son was the gift of Himself. 
Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Even the omnipotent God could do no better than he did to redeem man from the curse of sin.  He gave his all.  Hence we ought to pay greatest heed to the following texts.
Romans 6:23     For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2Corinthians. 9:15     Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
Ephesians 2:8     For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

His Only:            The greatest sacrifice
The point that God gave His all is borne out in the fact that He gave His only son.  This speaks of unparalleled sacrifice.  This, in fact, was total commitment.  The illustration is given of a farm whose animals decided to have a party.  At the pre-party conference the animals were called on to pledge what they would contribute to the success of the party.  The fouls promised some eggs, the cows promised milk but the pigs were strangely silent.  When it was suggested that they could give some pork, the pigs responded that such an offer would be total sacrifice.  This was the nature of God's commitment, total sacrifice.  The beautiful song of invitation reminds us all:
         "I gave I gave my life for thee.
         What wilt thou give for me?"
Yes, God is in fact the greatest giver 


Begotten:          The greatest outpouring
In the offering of His son, God in essence poured out Himself.  Jesus was the son straight from the bosom of the father.
John 1:18    No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Jesus was not created as some teach, but He always was with the Father and is of the same essence as the Father.  Like the Father, He is the "I AM".
Exodus 3:14    And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
John 8:58    Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
He is Emmanuel, God with us.
Isaiah 9:6    For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Matthew 1:23    Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
2Corinthians 5:19    To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
1John 4:9    In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

Son:                    The greatest gift
The greatest gift ever given was packaged in swaddling bands and lay in a manger.
Luke 2:7    And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:16    And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
Jesus, God's son was his greatest gift to man
2 Corinthians 9:15   Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.


That whosoever:        The greatest impartiality
The grand declaration in the song rings out far and wide.
         Whosoever will, whosoever will,
         Shout the proclamation over vale and hill;
         'Tis a loving Father calls His wanderer home,
         Whosoever will may come.

By faith in Christ Jesus, each one can say "whosoever means me". 
Matthew 7:24     Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
John 6:37    All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Revelation 22:17    And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Believeth:          The greatest faith
The greatest faith is in fact the simplest faith, more aptly expressed as child-like faith.  It is akin to the kind of trust that a little child puts in his father.
Matthew 18:3    And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Acts 16:31    And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Hebrews 11:6    But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

In Him:               The greatest object
The Bible speaks of faith in God, God being the sole object of that faith.  This is in total opposition to the stance that one needs to appropriate the faith of God.  The question that should sensibly follow is who or what is the object of God's faith?  We are clearly admonished by the word to have faith in God.
Mark 11:22  And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
2 Timothy 1:12    For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

Shall Not Perish:        The greatest escape
Some highlight the escape from the prison at Alcatraz as the greatest escape.  However, we are reminded in the word of God that to be safe from the clutches of hell and the devil is the greatest escape.  God has provided this opportunity through Jesus Christ His Son.
The writer to the Hebrews asked an interesting rhetorical question. 
Hebrews 2:3    How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

But:                    The greatest contrast
'But' used as a conjunction always shows contrast. God guarantees life but Satan offers death.  Jesus is the light of the world but men prefer darkness.
Romans 6:23    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
3John 1:11  Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
The Bible is replete with contrasts such as light and darkness, life and death, truth and falsehood, good and evil but there is none as devastating as the contrast that is given in this love note (shall not perish but have everlasting life).
  
Have:                           The greatest possession
If we are categorised by what we possess, then there is no possession that can be compared to the salvation that comes to him who appropriates the provision God has made for those who come to Him.  That provision is the object of this verse as well as the entire Bible.  They who “hath the Son hath life”.
1John 2:23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
1John 5:12    He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

Everlasting life:          The greatest desire
Human intellect has made astronomical strides in science and medicine.  The obsessive quest of man is not only to be able to create life but sustain it indefinitely.  Most of us, if not all of us, would like to live forever.  This is particularly so if that longevity is characterised by rich quality and fufilment.
God, through Jesus Christ, has offered this opportunity to all those who will be willing to come to him in repentance.
John 11:25-26    Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: [26] And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
1 John 2:25    And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
1 John 5:11   And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 

Stewart Russell