Monday, August 14, 2006

John 3

Since I was unable to get past John 3:15 on Sunday, I wanted to post the rest of thoughts from the remaining verses of our passage:

3:14-15 – “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life [or everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him].”

(1) “that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him” – "in Him" rightly should be placed at the end of this sentence, as the Greek fits with that rendering. It’s belief without an object (John 6:47). But we know the object from the context (v16) - the one and only Son of God.

(2) The “hina” clause (Greek) here gives assurance that Jesus’ being lifted up will accomplish exactly what it was designed to do – bestow eternal life upon believers. It’s not “that anyone might (alla) have eternal life if they believe…” Rather, it’s “that believers will (alla) have eternal life because of Christ’s cross-work…” That should be comforting.

(3) “everyone who believes” gives this perception of “possibility for all,” but that’s not what it literally states. Literally, it reads, “that every believing one.” It’s particular; it’s limiting. And that’s not popular to say, but that is what the text here says. And we haven’t even gotten to John 3:16 yet…

(4) “Eternal life” speaks of quality, not duration or quantity. The Spirit-filled life is completely “other” (holy) than the flesh-life. Compare v6. It also happens to never end, but the greatness of it is its quality.

(5) Lastly, I think Jesus finishes speaking to Nicodemus here. Most Bibles carry on the quotation through v21, but you’ve probably got a footnote declaring that it might not be the case. I side with the footnote for three reasons:
(A) The text switches to the past tense, which would fit with John’s reflections and commentary, rather than Jesus speaking.
(B) Jesus does not call Himself “God’s one and only Son” anywhere, but John call Jesus that several times (1:14,18; 1 John 4:9).
(C) V19 echoes John 1:9-11, so the passage really fits best with it being John’s commentary. But it’s no less inspired…

3:16 – For God so loved the world that [or This is how God loved the world] He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(1) “For God so loved” – It’s not “sooooo loved.” John is not speaking of intensity, though God’s love is infinitely intense. God’s love is not an emotion or a feeling, though we often get emotional when we love or think of love. God’s love, rather, is an effective benevolence towards its objects. Those whom God loves, by definition of God’s love, receive an actual transforming benefit as a result.

(2) “For God so loved the world” – “the world” (kosmos) is used at least 14 different ways in John’s writings alone. What does it mean?
(A) This second most memorized verse (behind Romans 8:28) is often misunderstood. John is not speaking here of “the world” as “every single individual ever to be conceived.” We read that God hated Esau. (John 12:18-34; 17:9; 3:32; Acts 2:17 (cf. 1:5, 2:39, 1:8); Romans 16:26).
(B) John is counteracting the common belief among Jews that “the kingdom of God,” as Nicodemus understood it, was only for Jews. This is a major theme in John’s Gospel (see chapter 4 & 10:16), and in the entire New Testament, for that matter.
(C) Here John has in mind when he writes, “the world,” as this: “A humanity that is hostile to God.” All kinds of people in the world = people from every nation.
(D) Revelation 5:9 says of Christ, “You were slain and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
(E) 1 John 4:9-10; 2:2 – “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… [and 2:2 from the ESV] He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Propitiation is wrath-removal. And Christ did not remove the wrath from unbelievers (John 3:36). 1 John 2:2 is speaking of Jewish believers and believers all over the world (Gentiles). See John 11:51-52 as a parallel to 1 John 2:2…

(3) “This is how God loved the fallen people of the world” or “Here is the extent of God’s love for the fallen people of the world” would be the most literal rendering of this part of the verse. You may have that as a footnote as well. It actually sets up a limitation in God’s love. There is discrimination in God’s love. There is particularity, but it doesn’t have anything to do with belief or unbelief. It comes from Him (Ephesians 1:5). ABRAHAM / ISRAEL (Wives vs. Sisters). God does not love everybody in a saving way. He doesn’t save unbelievers. And He has an amazing purpose in that (Romans 9-11). Remember, the love of God actually benefits the objects of His love (not merely potential).

(4) “He gave” – Even though I have said some things that might make you think I am saying God’s love is not all that we imagine, I am really saying that it’s more than we imagine. He loves His people (believers / the elect) enough to actually save them, rather than merely potentially save them. He's not like a lifeguard who tosses us a buoy; He jumps in the water, pulls us to shore, and gives us mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He loves us enough to give, and this giving carries the tone of a great sacrifice. Jesus was an actual ransom for many; we may say that He was a potential ransom for all, but potential has no meaning to our omniscient God.

(5) “He gave His one and only Son” – God gave His one and only Son, His unique Son, to actually save believers. He did not give the Son to save unbelievers. Matthew 1:21 says, His name will be called Jesus “because He will save His people from their sins.”

(6) “that” – Here is our next “hina” clause that connects God’s giving of His Son with the eternal life of every believer. God gave His Son to make certain that every believer has eternal life. He will not fail in this assignment.

(7) “whoever believes” – “Whoever” might imply an offer to anyone, but there is no “whoever” in the text. Literally, it should read, “Every believing one,” and combined with the “hina” clause, it makes perfect sense.
(A) The Gospel is not so much an offer as it is a command. 1 John 3:23 says, “This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.” Acts 17:30 says, “God commands all people everywhere to repent.” But we also read that God grants repentance and belief to some and not others: 2 Timothy 2:25; Acts 11:18; 13:48; Philippians 1:29.
(B) Nothing in this verse mentions anything about man’s willingness or ability to believe. For that, we need to look elsewhere: Matthew 19:23-26; John 6:37-44,65; 8:43-47; 10:14-18,26-29; 12:37-40; Romans 5:8; 8:7; 9:16; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1-5.

(8) “whoever believes in Him” – Now we get the object of our belief that was missing from v15. Believe in Jesus.

(9) “shall not perish” – This phrase has in mind eternal separation from God, which is the Biblical definition of death.

(10) "but have eternal life” – As I mentioned in v15, “eternal life” is about quality, not quantity or duration, but it does happen to last forever as well. The fact that it lasts forever is not the glorious part. The fullness and glory of life is what the excitement is about.

(11) Why do I believe the Gospel? It’s not about my choice; it’s about God’s grace applied or bestowed to me by His Holy Spirit.
(A) Understanding “these things” is critical to worship and living Coram Deo – glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
(B) As Kyle Idleman said in his DaVinci Code sermons, quoting Bob Russell, “The message is the application.”

(12) 1 John 3:1 (NKJV) says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” In Greek, the word translated “What manner” (“How great” in the NIV) means, “Out of this world” or from “another realm.” God’s love is other-worldly.

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.

(1) “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world” – The reason for the Incarnation was not condemnation.
(A) Some treat this statement as evidence that no one will be condemned. They just forget to read the next verse.
(B) Condemnation was already a reality. People were already condemned. No need to destroy something ruined.
(C) It wasn’t time for judgment yet. John 9:39-41; Matthew 10:34; Luke 2:34, 12:49 speak of Jesus coming for judgment, division, and to bring a sword rather than peace. Jesus came to unite His people to Himself and divide His sheep from goats, insiders from outsiders.
(D) “the world” – Multiple uses of “the world” here – first is the Incarnation; second is “a humanity hostile to God.”

(2) “But to save the world through Him” – Same as above. Jesus came to save “sinners” – “a humanity hostile to God.” Not every person. His people! And His people happen to be a great multitude “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

(3) “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned.” – Not “whoever,” as in an open number, but “every believing one,” as in the elect.
(A) "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Praise God! IS = more than WILL BE… It’s as good as done.

(4) “But whoever does not believe stands condemned already” – Unbelief is the climax, the exclamation point on a life of sin and truth suppression (Romans 1:18-32). Some view “unbelief” as the unforgivable sin, and more sin is the punishment. John 5 elaborates.
(A) Did Jesus pay for this sin on the cross? John 9:41; John 3:36; 1 Peter 2:8 – Jesus did not atone for all the sins of all men.

(5) “Because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” – Jesus is clearly the only way to the Father.
(A) In all who reject the life-giving Christ, there remains only death (separation from God). Life consists only in faith.

3:19-21 – This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

(1) “This is the verdict” – This is not an explanation of the sentence of the guilty, but it is how their sentence came about and is worked out.

(2) “Light has come into the world” – See John 1:5-11; 8:12. Jesus is the Light, the True Light, and the standard. How people in darkness respond to Him is the concern. What happens when you come out of a matinee? You close your eyes and turn your head.

(3) “But men loved darkness instead of light” – In our natural state, before regeneration, we prefer darkness to light.
(A) We love our sin as much as Jesus loves doing the will of the Father. Maybe not – but I wanted to saying something shocking. It’s our nature. Until we are transformed (regenerated) by the Holy Spirit, we have only the sin nature. There is no battle within until then. But once we are re-born, a great battle ensues (Romans 7). We are dead in sin and trespasses until God makes us alive (Ephesians 2:1-5). Seeking God doesn’t end at conversion; it begins at conversion.

(4) “Because their deeds were evil” – Just as a thief loves stealing and will not run to prison, so men are hypocrites who will not and cannot unmask themselves when light shines in darkness. Pride and, ironically, fear of condemnation are the reasons we don’t expose our sins voluntarily. Blame yourself if you end up condemned. You loved evil deeds more than truth, darkness more than light.

(5) “Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” – We may perceive open-mindedness in the world, but the non-elect HATE the light. Notice that it’s only possible to hate the light if you have a guilty conscience. Romans 1:18-32 explains this. You know your deeds are evil, and you know the light exposes them. The irrationality is clear here: Condemnation comes as a result of not coming into the light. Fear of condemnation keeps us in the darkness. Do you see it? There is something morally wrong (spiritual deadness) with the unbeliever. Some run away from the light; some fight against the light. Saul fought against the light until it struck him blind. He was blind before being struck blind, and being struck blind, he was made to see. This is our experience as well. Pride prevents humility until the Spirit breaks our pride.

(6) “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light” – Freed from bondage to the sin nature, hypocrisy, and pride, we who are reborn become not “good-doers”, rather than “evildoers,” but “truth-doers” rather than “evildoers.” Doing the truth involves the mind and body (Romans 12:1-2) in thought, word, and deed. We come into the light to avoid that condemnation we once feared. We “live by the truth” = “We live by Christ.” Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

(7) “So that it may be plainly seen that what he has done has been done through God” – This is the evidence of regeneration. Literally, this should read, “Truth-doers come into the light so that it may be plainly seen that God has worked their works.” Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

Lastly, because nothing in this passage tells us how evil doers came to be evil doers, or why evil doers are evil doers (John 8; Romans 9), we will look in a couple of weeks at the origin of evil and the doctrine of concurrence.

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