Sunday, May 06, 2012

Believe in the Triune God - Part 1 (John 14:1)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 22 April 2012 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 14:1

Although at this time Jesus must be feeling hurt because Judas betrayed him, he did not let himself affected by his personal feeling. When a person feels happy he will say happy things and in sadness, sad things. However, even though Jesus currently felt bitter, the words out of his mouth were still full of grace. This was a very difficult thing to do. Indeed, it was in fact at this time that he could still console his disciples, 'Do not let your hearts be troubled.' It was a truly great act of ministry.

This does not mean Jesus never wept. The Bible records 3 times Jesus wept, none of them for himself:
1. When Jerusalem refused to repent
2. Because in front of Lazarus' tomb the Jews did not believe in Him
3. In the garden of Gethsemane because he was going to take upon the sins of the whole world

The Bible also recorded once that Jesus sang a psalm, and that was in the garden of Gethsemane. It was in the face of death that Jesus did this, but it was not out of concern for himself.

Next Jesus said something that was very hard to accept, 'You believe in God, believe also in me.' The first part would be easy to accept, but the later part was problematic. This was because to believe in God but also to believe in Jesus would have been blasphemous to the Jews, just as Moses wrote in Deut 6:4-5, 'Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your might.' They are to absolutely have no one else as God; How could they believe in God but also believe Jesus is God? But this would not be a problem if they understood that Jesus came from the Father.

The later part says '... love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your might.' It tells the Jews to love the Lord in an undivided manner, i.e. not to have other gods. However even as the later part says so, we can still love others. Loving God goes hand-in-hand with loving men, they don't contradict each other. We can only love others if we first love God. We also need to love men even as we love God. For example, it is not right to say that because we need to serve God in church then it is alright not to serve our family members' need. We still have the responsibility to serve others, even as we serve God.

For some time the Jews had this command, but it was a very difficult thing to do. We see in the Old Testament through many centuries they worshipped many other gods and caused God to anger. God sent many prophets like Jeremiah to tell them to repent but they either repented and the next generation forgot, or completely rejected the prophets. God finally allowed the Solomon temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed and for them to be carried off in exile.

Only after the exile, there was no more idol worship among the Israelites. They had truly repented. This is why in the New Testament, only in Caesarea Phillipi idol worship still exists. It was against this background when Peter made the declaration to Jesus, 'You are the Son of the living God!' We can see 2 aspects of belief here:
1. Worship God only (no idol worship)
2. This God is the triune God (i.e. Jesus Christ is the God-incarnate).

So at this point (John 14:1) Jesus was not trying to confuse the disciples, but he wants them to believe in the triune God. He is speaking a hard truth here. We see the second person of God in this chapter, and we'll see the third person of God in the later chapters.


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