Monday, October 19, 2009

The Summary of the Gospel (Jn. 3:13-16)

John 3:13-16

John 3:16 is the summary of the gospel. Salvation does not come from the law but from the gospel. The verse was not spoken by Jesus Christ but was summarised by the Apostle John following his record on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus represented the coming of the new era. Nicodemus ended the old era.

God had made preparation in the Old Testament so that we can understand the completion in the New Testament but often times we cannot see the true meaning. All the Jews had studied in the Old Testament did not enable them to see the true mystery.

Nobody will receive eternal life by following the law. The purpose of the law is to judge, not to forgive. God has given us the law not for us to obey or disobey, the true motive is as to remind us that we fall so short we can never fulfil God’s standard. The more we study the law, the more we understand the perfection of God. It is like looking at the mirror and seeing our flaws. It is frightening that having the law for such a long time the Jews turned arrogant instead of feeling humbled.

Implicit in the New Testament is the fulfilment of the promises in the Old Testament but the Jews were ignorant of this. So they felt threatened when Jesus Christ came. They decided that John the Baptist must die and Jesus must die too. To them, the Old and New Testament were in conflict. But the method relating to salvation is implicit in the Law. If we read carefully, the method of looking at the snake is looking up to the Lord to be saved. But the Jews never understood.

Jesus said just as Moses lifted up the snake, so the Son of God must be lifted up too. Moses lifted up a material snake which was a symbol and the people were healed when looking at that symbol. But Jesus was the sinless holy One who was lifted up for our sin. People could try to follow the law but once bitten by the snake they will die. Looking at the snake is not related to good works. Solution to sin is not through good works. We see how the judgement of the Old Testament is related to the forgiveness of the New Testament.

In another instance, by the command of God Moses threw his staff and it became a snake. The Egyptian magicians did the same thing. So there are good and bad snakes. What is the difference since they performed the same thing? Moses’ snake could devour all the other snakes. Falsehood would be devoured by the truth. This is a mark whereby death was swallowed up in victory when Jesus defeated death. Through death He defeated Satan. So we see both snake that represented Satan as well as the snake that represented Christ.

In the event where the snake was lifted up in the desert, the meaning is that life had victory over death and that is the promise of God. But Israelites were so engrossed with trying to follow the Law they could not understand this mystery. No matter how obedient you are, if you are bitten by a snake you will die. The solution is to look upon the sinless Christ. The Jews never understood such an important revelation. The experts of the law were only interested in the narrow field of study and they were lost the deeper they digged in. They studied so much but they were constrained. They needed a paradigm shift. Whenever there is historical change it is because of paradigm shift.

The Jews only had two choices, to abandon their culture or to kill Jesus Christ. The price they paid for absolutising the non-absolute when meeting with the Absolute. The True Word of God had become physical. “You think you have the Scripture. But this Scripture bear testimony of Me and you are not willing to come to Me. You think you are one with Logos but I am the Son of Man, the Word become flesh. Because you see Me as the Son of Man you cannot see Me as the Son of God.”

After the conversation with Nicodemus, the Apostle John summarised the Old and New Testament in v.16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son so that those who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God has given us the Law to reveal that we are sinful, that we cannot fulfil His standard, so that we submit to God’s judgement. These are the passive role of the Law (Rom. 3:19-20). But the dynamic action of the Law is more important. It gives us understanding about God. Through the Law, we will recognise that the attributes of God are different from all other pagan gods. God is just, holy and good. These are the things all the other pagans’ gods do not have.

People who worship idols do not believe because the gods are just or holy. Why do they pray to those gods? It is not about truth and justice but about profit and loss. The Chinese worship the god of heaven to the god of the earth, from the god of the door to the god of the kitchen. The purpose is to have good journeys, to be blessed, to have a lot of descendants and prosperity. These have nothing to do with holiness, righteousness and justice. The Law reminds us that we are far away from God and we need to repent. From the Law we see how decadent we are. So it brings us to understand grace. The source of all grace is Jesus Christ. The Law is like a teacher that brings us to Christ. Suddenly we realise what we need is not just action but salvation. Our hope not in academics, but in Christ who took away our sin, righteous for the unrighteous, so we need to turn our eyes upon Him.

John 3:16 says God gave His only begotten Son. How do we know Jesus is God? How could God give us God? How can we understand God sending God? Does that mean there are two Gods? God gave us His only begotten Son. When we look upon Jesus, we are not looking upon man. We are looking at the begotten Son of God.

Who is Jesus Christ? He is the Son of God. “So who is the Mother?” This is what happen when creature thinks the Creator must be like him. God is the One who created the principles governing the world. We cannot turn it around and expect the Creator to follow us. The principle of reproduction between man and woman is created by God. There are also other kinds of reproduction in other living things. We cannot demand Creator God to be like us.

The most important thing is to understand from this term “Son of God” is that He has the same essence and life as God. As the begotten Son, He has the essence of life of the Father. But what does that mean that God sent God? How many Gods are there? We need to refer back to general principles of the Bible.

The very first time Jesus opened the Scripture to read, “The Spirit of God is upon Me, …” the concept of the Triune God is already mentioned, the Spirit, God and Christ. His mandate to His disciples before He was taken up to heaven, “… and baptise them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Again we see the Triune God. One Name, but three Persons. The Father is not the Son. Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. But there is only one God and there are three persons. The Son of God has the essence of God. So He is God.

The other word is “Begotten”. It tells us He is not created. He is begotten, not created. His relationship with the Father is that of life relationship, not of creation. Life that came from Life, not life that came from creation. John 1 says that nothing was created without Him, implying that He himself was not created.

When we take a lighted candle to light another candle, we see two candlelights but the light comes from the first light. While it seems the second light comes from the first, but actually the second light already exists in the first light. The Son came from the Father, but from the beginning the Son was already in the Father. We cannot say that the Father existed before the Son. If the Father has only one Begotten Son, then before the Son was begotten, was the Father still the Father? Whose Father is He then? Without the Son, He cannot be the Father. Relative to the Father’s existence, there is the Son. The Son is called the Son because relative to Him is the Father. So the Son is Begotten eternally, not at a certain moment in time. The term “Only” means there is no another one like Him, the Only Begotten Son. He is uncreated and begotten from all eternity.

What about the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit the power of God? Is the Holy Spirit just the inspiration of God? If Holy Spirit does not exist as a Person, is it just a power as it moves? It seems to be the best explanation to reconcile the doctrine that Jesus is the Only Son who is uncreated since everything else must be created. Is the Holy Spirit created? From the Bible teaching and Athanasian creed, we see that Holy Spirit is neither created nor begotten. Jesus was begotten of the Father, but the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, not created, not begotten. The unitarians do not believe in the Triune God hence they consider Holy Spirit as the representation and power of God.

The Holy Spirit is another Person that came forth from God. The whole Bible shows the personhood of God is confined in 3 Persons. In Gen. 1:1-3, we can see the Triune God in creation. “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” (v.1), then “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (v.2) and finally “God said, Let there be light.” (v.3). So God, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God were present in creation. Creation is the work of the Triune God.

John 3:16 is the verse of the verses. It is the summary of God’s promise in Jesus Christ. It is the will of God. Verse 17 onwards speaks of the response towards the Gospel and its consequences. (To be continued… )


At 11:56 AM, Blogger Adam Pastor said...

Greetings Mejlina Tjoa

On the subject of the triune God,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you in your quest for truth.

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor


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