Friday, March 29, 2013

This is Eternal Life (Jn. 17:3)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 17 March 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 17:3

 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (Jn. 17:3)

Eternal life has two aspects: to know the only true God and to know Jesus Christ.  This is where Christianity differs from other religions.  While other religions have vague concept of God, Jesus is very precise.  The God of Christianity is not a third party, there is a relationship.  When Jesus spoke to the Father, He addressed Him as “You”.  He has a relationship with the Father. 

This is the God who is the only true God. It is also the God who has sent Jesus Christ.  If you only believe in God, without the intermediary Jesus Christ, you do not have eternal life.  If you only believe in Jesus Christ, but do not return to the God who sent Him, you do not have eternal life either.  This is the verse that provides very precise definition of eternal life.

This understanding is the most fundamental in faith.  What sort of understanding do we have?

Most religions believe in the existence of God.  There are variations from atheism, monotheism, to polytheism, to pantheism and deism.  What sort of God do other religions believe?  In general they believe in God who surpasses nature, has awesome power and is incomprehensible.  According to Friedrich von Hugel, holiness in religion have 3 elements: mysticism, greatness and awfulness.  People will not want you to criticise their gods. Religious followers might not know very clearly who their god is, but they have this sense of awe and will give their lives to fight for the honor of their god.

When Jesus declare that eternal life is “to know You, the only true God”, it is very different.  He is not talking about mysticism, greatness or awfulness.  He speaks of what is the ONLY and TRUE God.  These are the two most precious things in Christianity.  Is the God you worship true?  Is He the only One? 

We are angry if we pay a lot for something fake.  But strangely people are all right worshipping false gods.  We want gods who are effective and give us what we want.  This is the fallenness of humanity.  We are very calculative on material things.  But in spiritual things we are very careless and indifferent. 

From this principle, the Bible does not want you to compromise.  Only the true God is God. And He is the ONLY God.  God told the Israelites, “I am the LORD God, the only true God.  Apart from Me there is no other.” He demands that we only worship this one true God.  This is most solemn and orthodox demand.  We are to give the glory due to Him and not to false gods.  God does not want us to worship false gods.  Yet often we treat haphazardly things related to God.  We consider true God as false god and treat false god like true God.  This is greatest insult and offence to God.

The second aspect of eternal life is “to know Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

There are 3 main monotheistic faith in the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  All 3 faiths have the same source.  This comes from God’s revelation to Abraham.  Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in the God of Abraham as the one true God. 

Islam is the largest monotheistic religion in the world with over 1.5 billion followers.  The believe in one God.  They believe God is God and man is man.  Men pray directly to God as individuals without an intermediary. Man stands before God by himself and rely on his good works.  They pray directly to God.  This is similar to Judaism.

Confucianism believes in the existence of heaven.  Heaven is an entity.  But when asked what heaven is, Confucius stated he did not speculate on supernatural things.  Heaven is up there, with power and authority but we do not know what or who that is.  It is the power above, perhaps ruling the earth beneath.  Confucianism sort of believe in God or in heaven.  But what is the relationship between heaven and man?  He said, “if you sin against heaven you will be punished and nobody can pray on your behalf.”  Strictly speaking, Confucius’ concept of heaven or God is vague and passive. 

What about Roman Catholicism? While Islam removes the intermediary between God and man, the God-Incarnate Jesus Christ,  Roman Catholicism keeps the intermediary but adds many more.  Between God and man, there is Jesus, between Jesus and man, there is Mary, between Mary and man, there are many other saints.  We are not worthy to go directly to Jesus.  Many saints can accummulate a lot of good works that can be drawn out from the treasure to atone for others’ sins.

Christianity however, believe in One God who is Triune.  And Christians come before God in the name of Jesus.  Eternal life is knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.  It ends all the seeking of the faith and allows you to discern who is the true God, the only God, uncompromised. 

What sort of God do you believe in?  Just any gods?  When you worship false gods, it is not fervency, it is blasphemy.  You are sinning against God.  True and genuine faith can only be directed to the true God.  Only such faith will be preserved.

It is not enough to know the one true God for there is an intermediary, Jesus Christ whom God Himself has sent.  One who knows God but not Jesus Christ cannot be saved.  And one cannot believe in Jesus without returning to God.  The only true God has prepared the only salvation, through this one intermediary.  Without this intermediary, you are not worthy to go before God.  All the prayers before God will not be heard.  These are the two pillars of our faith, the only true God and Jesus Christ.

We need to reform our faith, to understand that apart from the only true God, there is no other God.  And apart from Jesus Christ, no other intermediary.  If we understand this, we will rid of unnecessary hesitation in our life.  The appearance of Jesus in history ends all the search in all religion.  The Bible says He is the Light of life who shines in the world.  “I am the light of the world, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will find the light of life.” 

Acts 4:12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

1 Tim 2:5For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus”

Thanks be to God.


At 2:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mejlina, thanks a lot for posting Rev. Tong's sermons. I'm really blessed by them. Just a little thought in the sentence "According to Friedrich Von Hugel .... awfulness." The word "awesomeness" maybe fitter here than "awfulness".
Kindest regards,
Tjhan Giok The

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Tjhan Giok The,

Thanks for dropping by the blog. Glad it is helpful.

You have a good point that the word "awfulness" and "awesomeness" might be more fitting for grace recipients where it's not purely religion of fear.

However it's the word actually used by the translator, and I think it is meant to show there is something that invokes fear and awe in religion in general - not specifically Christianity. =)


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