More Than Words
“Major Osipovich, an air force pilot for the former USSR, planned to give a talk at his children's school about peace. But he would need time off during the day to give his talk, so he volunteered for night duty. And that's how Major Osipovich found himself patrolling the skies over the eastern regions of the Soviet Union on September 1, 1983 – the night Korean Air Lines Flight KE007 strayed into Soviet air space.
Soon the Soviet pilot was caught in a series of blunders and misinformation. In the end, Major Osipovich followed orders and shot down the unidentified aircraft. The actions of an air force major preparing to talk about peace plunged 240 passengers to their deaths and sparked an international incident that pushed world powers to a stand-off. Our talk is important. But our actions carry far more weight.”
Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 3.
Scheduling Levi’s driving test
Levi got his learner’s permit on his Birthday, which was the same day we were leaving for Ohio to spend time with Judy’s brother and his family
The agent at the DMV told us to go on to their website that day and register him for his driving test in 6 months
As you can imagine, I didn’t do it that day
In fact, I forgot to do for months
When Levi started asking me to help with it, I didn’t do it right away
When I finally got online to do it, there were not any dates available in January, which was his sixth month mark
In fact the earliest dates were in May
Saying I would help with that, but not doing something about it caused a lot of frustration for both of us
Fortunately, a friend encouraged him to check back every day to see if any earlier dates opened up
That was great advice – he was able to get a date in March
We have all probably done the same things or similar things with our family members
We’ve promised to help with a project, but have not done anything to move forward with that project
We may be guilty of doing it at work also
We’ve promised to look into something or do something, but have neglected to take any action
The wording in John 5:31-47 gives us the idea of a court of law. Jesus has made the claim that He is God and now He is calling witnesses to back up His claim. He knows, that just His testimony about Himself, will not be sufficient for the Jews. Yet, Jesus will challenge the Jews with the fact that they are relying on just their own words for salvation. What John wants us to understand is that . . .
BIG IDEA – A transformed life is evidenced by more than just your testimony (words).
GOD (John 5:31-47)
Divine Testimony (vv. 31-40)
Personal testimony (vv. 31-32)
Since Jesus was speaking to the Jews, He used something from Old Testament law that they would have been familiar with
Deuteronomy 17:6, On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.
Deuteronomy 19:15, One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
The Jews knew about this Old Testament law and they expanded it to include judicial settings also [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 179]
This is not uncommon for us, even today, to want additional witnesses
Our hunting and fishing stories can sometimes seem extraordinary or unbelievable, but when a couple of friends who were with us can verify that it’s true, then people are more likely to believe us
Our shopping expeditions, where we got that incredible outfit for an unbelievable deal, can seem outrageous until a couple of other girlfriends, who were with us, verify that we got the outfit for that price
The age of cameras included in our cell phones has made it easier to verify that something, that seems unbelievable, actually happened
Jesus knew that His personal testimony, about Himself being God, was not going to be sufficient for the Jews – that was to unbelievable for them
Jesus’ testimony about Himself was not false, but He needed additional witnesses to verify what He was claiming
Jesus says that He has another person who can testify in His favor and He knows that testimony will validate His claim to deity
While Jesus doesn’t specifically say, that God is the other witness, most scholars agree He’s referring to God
He presents four witnesses to His claim of deity
John the Baptist (vv. 33-35)
They sent to John
The perfect tense of the verbs, “have sent” and “has testified” tells us that this was something that was firmly established as truth for the Jews [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 260]
John the Baptist was someone whom the Jews regarded highly as a prophet
He had testified about Jesus when the Jews questioned him about who he was
John 1:6-7, There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.
John 1:19, Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.
John 1:24-25, Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
They were seeking answers from John the Baptist and every time, John pointed them to Jesus
John’s testimony wasn’t for Jesus, but for the Jews
For the Jews benefit
Since they regarded John so highly and obviously didn’t regard Jesus very highly, Jesus uses John as His first witness
Jesus wasn’t after the approval of men for the ministry that God had given Him
Jesus is looking for common ground with the Jews
How can He prove that He is God
Jesus’ desire is that they believe in Him for salvation
So, He uses a human witness, that the Jews could connect with and believe, as a bridge for them to use to come to Him
Their belief in John didn’t last very long
They believed John for a while
John was a lamp
This metaphor is important, because Jesus is saying that John is not the light
A lamp has to be lit from a primary source
A lamp also can and will burn out eventually
The past tense of the verbs, describing John as a lamp, may mean that he had already died or was in prison at the time of John the Evangelist’s writing
“A lamp must be lit . . . Our witness will only be effective if God ignites it. That’s the reason we pray. A lamp provides guidance and direction; it’s not the destination. It’s not the center of attention. The lamp simply illuminates the way to something else; it serves a greater purpose. A lamp eventually burns out . . . John’s life and ministry served a purpose for a time, but it eventually ended. We only have a short time on this earth to impact people for Jesus.” [Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 129]
Has the Gospel of Jesus Christ transformed you?
Has God ignited the Gospel in you?
Are you committed to the Great Commission?
Jeremiah 20:9, But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
Does that sound like you and the Gospel?
When it comes to preaching and doing discipleship with a new believer, that’s exactly how I feel
When it comes to sharing the Gospel with strangers, that is NOT how I feel
Yet, we are commanded to make disciples
My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord to ignite the fire of His Gospel in my heart, so that I cannot hold it in.
We need to be a lamp that directs others to Jesus
John was that kind of lamp, and the Jews enjoyed his message for a while
Chose to enjoy his light for a time
When John was proclaiming that the Messiah was coming and that everyone needed to participate in the baptism of repentance, the Jews were delighted
The Jews were looking for the Messiah – they were waiting with anticipation for the Messiah to be revealed
Unfortunately, when John began pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, many of the religious leaders stopped believing his testimony and message
Jesus didn’t fit into their preconceived ideas about who the Messiah would be and what the Messiah’s purpose on earth would be
So, they rejected Jesus and His message, which is why Jesus is providing witnesses for them about His deity
Jesus’ second witness carries more weight than John the Baptist
Jesus’ own works (v. 36)
In the Greek the word “work” is in the plural – “works”
This certainly refers to the miracles and signs that Jesus performed while He was on earth
John 3:2, He [Nicodemus] came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”
It goes beyond just the signs and miracles, though, to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection
All of the signs, wonders, and miracles that Jesus was given power to do on earth were not what saved people, but rather they were designed to draw people to Jesus
God’s greatest work through Jesus was the work of redemption
From the time of the fall with Adam and Eve, God was planning and preparing His work of redemption for all humanity
Galatians 4:4-5, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Romans 5:6, 8, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We’re all born sinners, separated from God because of our sin (Rom. 3:23; 6:23)
But God’s plan of redemption was fulfilled when Jesus willing died on the cross, taking our punishment for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
God accepted Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for our sins by allowing Him to come alive again – winning over sin and death
John 3:17-18, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Jesus’ ascension into heaven triggered the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all who believe in Jesus and are saved
This is the Gospel that should be burning in our hearts – that we can’t hold in
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus and be saved.
Jesus’ own works proved that He was God, but Jesus doesn’t stop there – He has two more witnesses to His claim to deity
God the Father (vv. 37-38)
Jesus’ next witness is the Father
The Father is the One who sent Jesus in the first place
“Note how the rejection of Jesus is a “catch twenty-two” kind of problem. These denying Jews never grasped the Father’s testimony about Jesus because they refused Jesus’ testimony about the Father.” [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 105]
Here’s the irony
Jesus is God and speaks God’s Word, but the Jews don’t hear God’s voice through Jesus
The Israelites were afraid of God talking to them directly at Mount Sinai and asked Moses to speak to them himself (Exodus 20:18-19)
“Old Testament figures who heard the voice of God include Noah (Gen. 7:1-4), Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), Moses (Exod. 3:4-4:17; 19:3-6, 9-13; 33:11), Samuel (1 Sam. 3:4, 6, 8, 11-14), and Elijah (1 Kings 19:13, 15-18).” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 192]
The Jews weren’t discerning God’s voice through Scripture, as we’ll see in a moment
Jesus is God in the flesh, but the Jews don’t see God in Jesus
God’s form, through Jesus, was standing right in front of them, but they didn’t recognize or accept Him
“Abraham (Gen. 18:1-2), Jacob (Gen. 32:24-30), Moses (Exod. 33:11), and Isaiah (Isa. 6:1-5) all ‘saw’ the Lord in one sense or another.” [Köstenberger, 192]
The Jews didn’t hear God’s voice or see His form in Jesus, because God’s Word was not dwelling in them
God’s Word was not dwelling (abiding) in the Jews – it wasn’t taking root in their hearts and minds
Joshua 1:8-9, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 119:11, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Romans 10:8-9, But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
None of these Scriptures were true of the Jews, that Jesus was addressing
Sure, they knew the Scriptures well enough, but only from an intellectual perspective (head) and not a spiritual perspective (heart)
Scriptures (vv. 39-40)
They diligently studied the Scriptures
It couldn’t be said of the Jews that they didn’t diligently study the Scriptures – their study of the Torah was legendary!
The only problem was the motivation behind why they studied so diligently
It wasn’t to discern who the Messiah would be or when and where He would come
It was simply so they would be accepted by God at the final judgment
They believed that if they diligently studied Scriptures, regardless of what they learned, that they would receive eternal life
PRINCIPLE #1 – Old Testament Scriptures point to Jesus
Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, He joined two disciples traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus
He listened to all they had to say about Him and the events of the past several days
Jesus then shared with them these words, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:25-27)
Reading a book for an assignment
How many of us have had an assignment in school that required us to read a book (novel or textbook)?
How many of us read the words without trying to comprehend the content, just so we could say that we completed the assignment?
Guilty as charged, right?
That seems to be what the Jews were doing with the Scriptures
They were saying to God, “I read the assignment You gave me to read – Your Scriptures. Now, can I have eternal life?”
They weren’t interested in really getting to know the God of the universe, or in discerning who the Messiah would be, so they would recognize Him when He came
How many of us, if we’re really honest, would say that we read God’s Word that same way?
We take 5 or 10 minutes at the beginning of our day to read a devotional and then check that off our list
We don’t really read to discern who Jesus is and what He desires of us
We’re not meditating on God’s Word day and night
We haven’t hidden God’s Word in our hearts (Scripture memorization)
God’s Word isn’t really near us – in our mouths and in our hearts
Reading God’s Word is just an exercise we do, in hopes that God will love us more
“I don’t read God’s Word and pray, so that God will love me more. I read God’s Word and pray, because I love God.” [Presenter at FamilyLife Weekend to Remember]
Reading and studying God’s Word without seeing Jesus on every page is missing the point
We don’t read the Bible so that we will possess eternal life
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to studying God’s Word, so I can learn more about Jesus and what He desires for me to do for Him.
My Next Step Today Is To: Register for the Secret Church 2: Survey of the New Testament study on September 6, 2019.
Jesus explains that, the very Scriptures the Jews so diligently study, testify about Him
The Scriptures testify about Me
“What is the primary purpose of Scriptures? Is it to record the history of God’s dealings with men? It does record such history, but that is not its primary function. Is it to reveal certain truths to men? Although it does reveal truths, this is not its primary function either. The primary purpose of Scriptures is to point men and women to Christ. (John, 2:407).” [Boice cited by Carter & Wredberg, 134-135]
The Jews were studying what we refer to as the Old Testament today
They especially studied the Torah, which is the first five books of our Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
“An open heart and open eyes will produce an open mind – but we begin with an open Bible. Not superstitious reverence, but practical use.” [Gangel, 105]
When we approach Scripture that way, we won’t miss Jesus as the theme of every book in the Bible
Unfortunately, the Jews, that Jesus was addressing, had missed, that He was the Messiah, promised throughout their Scriptures
PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is the only way to have eternal life.
He came to give them life – eternal life – but they refused to come to Him
He has done the same for us
We have to believe in Jesus
Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved . . .”
What we see in the final two sections of this passage is that Jesus goes on the offensive and becomes the prosecutor instead of the defendant – he reverses His role
Role reversal (vv. 41-47)
Self-focused, instead of God-focused (vv. 41-44)
Jesus’ desire is to only receive praise from the Father, so He doesn’t accept praise from men
PRINCIPLE #3 – God desires that His people seek His praise.
Jesus knew their hearts
He knew that what really motivated the Jewish religious leaders was power and prestige and not honoring and glorifying God
They were seeking the praise of men instead of God
We’re no different than the Jewish religious leaders
Whether at work or even within the church, we vie for position
We want to have influence so we can have things done the way we want them done
We are unwilling to change in order to reach the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Our personal preferences, and finding favor with men is a higher priority than being obedient to God’s vision for us and His church
If we have the love of God in our hearts, then we will not struggle with seeking the praise of men over the praise of the only God
Because the Jews did not have the love of God in their hearts, they readily accepted the praise from one another instead of praise from God
It’s difficult as a spiritual leader to balance shepherding the current flock and reaching the future flock
The Jews would and did follow others, claiming to be the Messiah, because of the potential opportunity for advancement, recognition, and praise from men
“Jesus told them that another would come in His name and that they would receive that one. Subsequent historical accounts tell us that no less than sixty-three messianic claimants attracted followers. People followed them because their claims corresponded with the desires of men. They offered easy victory, political power, and material advantage. Christ offered the Cross” (Hughes, p. 112).” [Hughes cited by Gangel, 106]
In the age of technology where a preacher in one part of the country or even the world can reach billions of people, the pressures to compete can be enormous
In the document 114 Things You Need To Know About Revitalizing Churches, Thom Rainer makes this statement in the chapter about Facing Reality: “More church leaders are accepting and teaching unbiblical issues. Thus many churches are becoming more like the world and its culture.”
That’s what Jesus and His disciples were fighting against in the 1st Century and it’s what we’re continuing to fight against in the 21st Century
Focus in the wrong place
If their focus remained on the praise of one another, then they would not believe that Jesus is God and that He came to save them
They should have been seeking the praise of God
Romans 2:28-29, A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Jesus makes an amazing statement as He gives His closing argument in this spiritual court of law
Shocking accuser (vv. 45-47)
He will not be the One accusing them before the Father
Moses will be their accuser
This would have been an outrage to them, because they had been diligently studying the Scriptures, especially those written by Moses (the Torah)
“The reason why Moses would accuse them was that he, as the lawgiver, knew the law’s true purpose. Rather than being an end in itself, it served to point to Christ (Carson, 1991: 266).” [Köstenberger, 195]
All of it works together
The Jews had to believe everything or reject everything – there would be no middle ground, no straddling the fence
If they believed Moses, the Scriptures, God, and John the Baptist, then they had to believe in Jesus as God
Unfortunately, they were trying to separate Jesus from God, so they could continue to hold to their traditions and preconceived ideas of who the Messiah would be
“Readers are thus powerfully warned that institutional religious perspectives can in fact stand in the way of hearing the call of God and can lead to a fundamental rejection of recognizing God’s presence and activity in the sphere of humanity.” [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 248-49]
A transformed life is evidenced by more than just your testimony (words).
We can say we’re Christians, but is there fruit in our actions that prove it
Would others testify that they have seen a change in you as a result of your relationship with Jesus Christ
Or, would they say that you talk and act like the world when you’re not at church
The Jews claimed eternal life, because of their diligent study of the Scriptures, but they refused to believe in the only One who gives eternal life
Their words did not match their actions
Is the Gospel burning in your heart?
If it is, are you sharing it with others?
If it’s not burning in your heart, why?
It’s not too late to begin sharing the Gospel with family, friends, and coworkers
It’s not too late to invite people to return to church – we don’t have to wait until National Back to Church Sunday on September 15, 2019
Jesus commissioned every believer to go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us
Burge in his commentary uses Karl Barth’s explanation how some people can know Scripture and use it in the wrong way.
“Karl Barth provides a harrowing description of this sickness in his famous 1919 commentary on Romans (see his remarks on Rom. 2). Barth thinks about people who live in a wilderness alongside a canal. The canal was there to bring them water and life, and it was with great effort and cost that the project was built for their place in time. Great sacrifices were made, and many died as the canal was cut through mountain and desert. But the great irony is that the canal has become dry, and while its walls still convey evidence of the coursing of water, there is nothing there that can give life to anyone. Nevertheless, the people continue to service it, to defend it, to name their children after its architects and engineers; but it is only an historic thing. A canal meant to convey something – water and life – now has become static, an end instead of a means. Something for the museum. People tell stories about it instead of drink from it. The older ones treasure the stories most; the younger ones have to be initiated deliberately; but each generation seems to lose a fraction of the true vision of the canal as time goes on. And no one has a memory of what water in the canal really looks like.
Barth’s warning to the Swiss and German church following World War I is a word we should heed today. The possibility always exists that my life, my church, my tradition, my denomination, even my Bible will become relics of religious curiosity instead of living instruments of God. Men and women will be ordained, earn Ph.D.’s, and launch magazines, publishing houses, colleges, and seminaries with solid evangelical commitments, and it will all be for nothing. Empty canals. There are specialists who can cite Scripture and verse, who can measure orthodoxy with exacting precision, who can identify the religious speck in someone’s eye from a great distance, but in whom love for God does not exist (5:42).
On a national level I have seen evangelicals unsheathe their religious swords over arcane doctrinal matters (‘But this is a slippery slope!’ ‘But this is where liberalism begins!’ ‘This is an agenda that must be exorcised!’). On a local level I have seen older church members viciously lash out because ‘the contemporary service’ isn’t to their liking or they perceive that their power and influence are diminishing. All of it, John 5 suggests, is empty religion, religion that seeks it is own glory. In the end, it is religion that would condemn and crucify Jesus as a religious duty.” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 186-87]