Sunday, April 15, 2012

Christ's Miracles Point to His Divinity Pt 2 (Jn. 10:30-42)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 25 September 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 10:30-42

In chapter 10 we read Jesus saying to the people of his era things that the latter should have understood. Jesus said they did not obey him because they were not his sheep. Some people accepted him but some rejected him because the latter's hearts were such that they would not welcome God's word into them. They thought Jesus' teaching may be different but they were not prepared to receive the actual enormous degree of difference. This was because they were in the first place closed to the possibility that Jesus may be God. As such they were not prepared to hear words with great authority from him; they treated his words as those in normal conversations. They did not realise that these words were actually of great wisdom. There were also some who did realise later, but by then it was already too late. On the other end of the spectrum, there were also those who thought his words were blasphemous.

So this polarised the society back then. Those who liked his teachings, loved him very much. But those disliked his teachings, hated him very much. In the world today we still find people like this (e.g. Kirkegaard, myself). Jesus pointed out that crux of the matter was that some people do not belong to his flock. In contrast, there are those who truly listen to his Word and seize every opportunity to do so, these are his sheep; these are the elect of God from all time, nations and places. These are the nations mentioned in Ps 2:7-8 ('...You are my Son... and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possesion.'). And these people have eternal life as their possessions, because Jesus said 'I give them eternal life.' These people belong to the Son, and they also belong to the Father, just as Jesus said, 'Those mine are given to me by my Father.'

Those who belong to Jesus cannot be snatched away by anyone - this is the first guarantee: '... no one will snatch them out of my hand' (v28). This same people, also belongs to the Father, and this is the second guarantee: '... and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand' (v29). This same people belongs to both God the Father and God the Son because Jesus and the Father are one (v30).

'I and the Father are one' (v30). These are the greatest words in Christology. There is no measure of superiority here, just as summed up in the Nicene creed. The Father, the Son and the Spirit share the same eternity, the same glory, and the same power. The Father, Son and the Spirit are of the same essence - all are God. God the Father is Light, God the Son is Light, God the Spirit is Light. God the Father is eternal, God the Son is eternal, God the Spirit is eternal.

But in another verse this does not seem the case - God the Father seems bigger than God the Son. We can only understand this from the point of the order: God the Father sends God the Son into the world and God the Son is obedient to God the Father. But all three are of the same status; they are just of a different order. It has always been God the Father sending the Son and never the other way around. It is also God the Father and God the Son sending the Holy Spirit and no other way around.

When Jesus declared that 'I and the Father are one' he did not mean that his physical self on earth was the same physical self of the Father; he meant that He and the Father are of the same divine essence. But the Jews took it that Jesus was referring to his physical self and thus considered him blasphemous. They cannot see Jesus as God so they wanted to stone him.

In defence, Jesus asked them a very important question: For which good works from the Father were they going to stone him for. By saying this, Jesus declared that all his good works were from the Father. His relationship with God is a divine one; only the Son of God can manifest the good works of God, and all his good works are signs of God; they are miracles of God. In paraphrase, Jesus questioned the Jews, 'Which one of these works are not good or in other words, "wrong"? Since you have see these works are good, why are you still so mean to me?'

By this question Jesus too implicitly meant that good works could only come from the divine God. If Jesus Christ were not God, he would not have the signs of God on him. If Jesus Christ were not divine, he would not have the power of God, and thus he would not have been able to do the works of God. And if Jesus Christ were not God, the works that he did could not have come from God.

Therefore God's divinity, God's power, and God's work could not be segregated.
This is something that the liberal theologians have never understood since the founding of Tübingen School 160 years ago. These liberals made Jesus a very good person in a measure of goodness and morality that exceeds that of all man that have ever been born on earth, but would not recognise that he is divine.

They liked to say that Jesus is an example to man in morality, exceeding Confucius and Socrates. They said Confucius may be an example to all teachers but Jesus is an example to all man. They based their argument on a quote from Immanuel Kant, "We need to strive for the ultimate good." This had been found earlier in Chinese culture as Confucius said "zhi yu zhi shan" 止于至善 (which means: Rest in the highest good) 2600 years ago. In Greek culture too, there was a phrase coined in Latin, "Samen bolnum" which meant the ultimate goodness.

Kant rejected teleological, ontological, cosmological arguments for God's existence and even the argument that must be created for a purpose. Instead, he proposed from morality that there must be God. He argued that we must have morality before our lives are of some value. He came to this conclusion by asking why would men out of their hearts want to do something good; if there is no God, nobody else could put this desire in men.

From this angle, Kant seemed very creative. However from another angle, this command to do good had already been given by God. With regards to the existence of God, the Bible all along has already stated that '... For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.' In other words, when we look at nature we see the signs of God. Strictly speaking, the concept of proof is wrong because it is man-centred. In the Reformed understanding we don't talk about proof (which is man-centred); instead, we talk about revelation (which is God-centred). He manifested himself through all creation (the external witness) and gave us conscience (the internal witness), and these witnesses in and out point to his existence. It was this conscience that Kant found to be acceptable proof of God's existence. Kant's system [of theology] was definitely very great, however his fundamental point was wrong. Just as Rev Dr Stephen Chan put it, 'Kantian system is significantly wrong, consistently wrong, and thoroughly wrong.'

However Kant was so sensitive to morality issues that he said further, 'All humanity ought to strive to the ultimate good. But before we reach that point, we need to admit that once upon a time one man from Nazareth has reached that point.' It was as if he admitted that the only man ever reached the ultimate good was Jesus Christ. But he did not dare to admit it clearly, because philosophers looked not so good if he/she believed in religion.

Nonetheless, 50 years after Kant had said this, the Liberals still did not understand where the real Light is. The crux of the matter is, if we say Jesus was the only man who had reached the ultimate good, then we must ask how he did it. And the second question is, if Jesus Christ had reached it 2000 years ago, then the theory of evolution (where everything including morality will become better as time goes) is wrong. Because according to the theory, if Jesus had reached the point of ultimate good, then somebody would have surpassed it. Yet Kant admitted that up to his time, only Jesus has reached it. This means that the theory of evolution is wrong.

Christ's foundation of his morality is his divinity. Because he is God, he is above morality. The Liberals are stuck at this point - they cannot explain how Jesus, as mere human in their point of view, reached the ultimate good. It is also noteworthy that both the Liberals (no religiosity) and the Charismatics (no rationality) never use the word Lord to refer to Jesus Christ!

The Jews still could not understand as we can see from their answer in v33 - they still wanted to stone Jesus. They were effectively saying that it was permissible for Jesus to do good works but it was not permissible to claim to be God. Jesus obviously did not need their permission to do good works - he did them because he is God. In retrospect, it would have been crazy to stone someone because he did good works, and what's more, this person was God! Sinners yearning to kill God - it would have been the most barbaric act ever committed if they had been successful in killing Jesus.

In Mark 10:17 Jesus questioned the young man who asked him about eternal life, 'Why do you call me good?' The Jehovah Witness made use of this verse to argue that Jesus did not confess to be good. However if Lord Jesus is not good, then who is good? The Jehovah Witness is stuck in their own error. Similarly, with regards to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, Nietzsche was so blinded that he could not make the distinction between the tree, the knowledge, and the good and evil itself - he made the conclusion from the Genesis account that God does not want man to have knowledge. Nietzsche too was in error.

The Jews too were still trapped in their own error. They could not see that Jesus is God, still separated morality from divinity, and therefore considered it blasphemous for him to claim to be God. In reply (v 34-36) Jesus quizzed them: If God (himself) had called them gods because they had received the Word of God (Ps 82:6), then when One consecrated and sent by God was there, why would they accuse him of blasphemy for saying 'I am the Son of God'?

Jesus further pointed out in vv 37-38 that even if they did not believe that Jesus came from the Father, then they should at least believe the signs (i.e. the good works). The word 'sign' is the origin of the words 'signature' or 'signal'. Signature is the marks of a person. Signal is what makes telecommunication between 2 persons possible. Just as animals like tigers left their footprints on the ground and if a person were to see them he would conclude that there are tigers around, so the signs of God are like God's footprints and a person should make the similar conclusion - God is nearby. The signs of God must have come from God, and since these signs were done by him, then the correct conclusion was that he came from God.

In summary, Christ's morality cannot be segregated from Christ's divinity. But the Israelites just could not understand this. They were so sure that they were right. Many Christians today are like this too, including some in Singapore.

Again the Jews sought to arrest Jesus but he escaped (v 39). This meant that they had no right to kill him because the time had not come. Once again Jesus left them. Only later when his time had come that they could get hold of Jesus.

When Jesus went back to the place where John the Baptist used to baptise people (v40), those who remembered what John the Baptist said believed in Jesus. Although they did not see any miracles, they were so different from those who saw the miracles and did not believe. Why was there such a contrast? It all boils down to what Jesus had been saying - 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me' (v27).


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