Tuesday, June 12, 2007

John 6:25-71 - Questions to Consider

Coming up in our small group men's Bible study, we'll be looking at John 6:25-71. Here are some things to consider prior to our study:

In v26-27, Jesus said to the crowd, which was seeking Him the day after the feeding of the 5000, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."

Jesus rebukes them for seeking Him with poor motives. Are you seeking Jesus? Why? Most likely, you are unlike this crowd, as you have received Jesus and His gift of eternal life through genuine saving faith. So what is it that you want from Him? Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart." (See also Deuteronomy 4:28.) How do you know if you are seeking Jesus with all your heart? If you are not, what is hindering you? What can you do about it? Read Matthew 6:25-34 for assistance.

In v44, Jesus tells the crowd, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." What does this mean to you? Why do you think Jesus includes the last part of the verse? In other words, who is the "him" that Jesus will be raising up? How does that make you feel?

Finally, in v63, Jesus says, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." Where in our study of John have we heard something like this before? What does this mean to you? What ought ot be our response to Jesus' "hard teachings" (see John 6:60,66-70)?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Carnal Christians and the Exodus

I have long denied the idea of the carnal Christian. Some theologians suggest that there are three classes of people: those governed by the flesh (unbelievers), those governed by the Spirit (believers), and those indwelled by the Spirit but living according to the flesh (carnal Christians).

It seems to me that the New Testament authors, as well as Jesus Himself, go to great lengths to always divide people into two groups (sheep and goats, good fish and bad fish, those with the Spirit and those without the Spirit, etc.). But in The Saving Life of Christ, author Major Ian Thomas purports that the Exodus, found, of course, in the Old Testament, offers a clear representation of the carnal Christian.

Thomas suggests that, while in slavery in Egypt, the Israelites represent those in the flesh (unbelievers); likewise, the Israelites, upon entering the Promised Land, represent those led by the Spirit (believers). But Thomas does something I had never heard before when he considers the Israelites in the Wilderness - between their bondage and freedom - to be akin to carnal Christians, truly believing but not living a Spirit-led life and therefore forfeitting their own sanctification.

But I must disagree to Thomas' proposal. He often contradicts himself in the book, using vast amounts of Scripture to support the doctrine of perseverance and the reality of a genuine Christian profession to be validated by fruitful works, while also claiming that those Israelites in the wilderness had genuine faith but lacked all of the signs, including perseverance, as they perished in the Wilderness.

If I could ask the Major a question, it would be this: Were the Israelites who died in the wilderness eternally saved? In other words, was their faith ever genuine? These thoughts result: If they were not eternally saved, then they never were saved even for a moment from their spiritual bondage. It is, afterall, quite possible to be saved physically and not spiritually (as numerous gospel healings reveal - see John 5:1-18 for example). If they were eternally saved (as I believe Moses was), then how dare Thomas call them carnal Christians, for the Spirit was surely at work in them to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil. 2:13)! True, they struggled with sin throughout their journey in the wilderness, but don't we all (Romans 7:8-25)? This struggle does not make us carnal Christians!

The conclusion is as simple as Romans 8 - particularly verse 8-9, 14, and 30:

"Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ... Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God... And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified."