Saturday, December 31, 2011


We've seen the spiritual life is God choosing us, God's coming to us and our receiving His Spirit.  Are we aware of this?  Our is our activity and religious knowledge and desire to escape a fallen world nothing but flattening the world?
  It may be no wonder Paul prays that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened.  Jesus warned that--the lamp of the body is the eye; if your eye is clear your whole body will be full of light.
  Elisha prayed God would open the eyes of his servant to see--the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  We don't always see the angels and Spirit of God surrounding us, so we pray.
  In John 12 Jesus is heading toward His crucifixion.  He tells a multitude that He will not be with them much longer.  He says--While you have the light believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.  Jesus is preparing His disciples for the time when they will no longer be followers but sons.  Through the Spirit they will be to Jesus what Jesus was at that time to His Father.  He was the Son of God, they will be sons of light.
  Jesus then gives in a few words the method of spirituality.  When the crowd mumbled and gossiped about Him, Jesus cried out over their entangling voices--He who believes in Me does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me.  It is as if the belief rose to heaven, straight from the Father. We can just about see the outlines of the ascension.  The disciples believe in Jesus; their belief ascends to the Father because Jesus as the Son of God goes to the Father.
  In the next verse Jesus says the same thing, intensifying His thought--And he who beholds Me beholds the One who sent Me.  I have come as light into the world that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.
  What Jesus did, the disciples will do.  They will speak the word of God, they will heal, they will show the love of God, they will live in the fellowship of the Spirit when it is given at Pentecost.  Jesus summarizes this 'passing along the baton' when He says--For I have given you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
  He then washes the feet of the disciples.  In chapter 14 Jesus elaborates on what He's been saying.  First, He tells Philip--If you've seen Me you've seen the Father.  Then He tells all the disciples of the power they will receive from Him--if you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
  Finally in John 15 Jesus speaks the culmination of what He has been saying.  For the last 3 chapters He has been pencilling in what it means to be in Christ.  The Father sends the Son, so Jesus sends His disciples; the Father gives Jesus glory so Jesus gives glory to His followers.  And as Jesus will ascend to heaven,so will we--Abide in Me, and I in you.
  The entire chapter 15 is the unity of the believer in Christ.  When we have tried to see the union with Christ from the outside, we notice the grafting in, the putting on of Christ, the covering, and theological terms like sanctification.  But when we read the Scriptures depending on the Holy Spirit to lead us in the way of union with Christ, He does.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


We've seen in Ephesians the great spirituality of God choosing us even before the foundations of the world.  Now let's look at what God has done in and for us here.
  We know from Paul we have been called and chosen; we have been justified and sanctified; and finally redeemed.  Do we have any way to think of these spiritually rare acts of God?
  Let's begin with Moses.  He was called by God out in the wilderness to lead Israel out of Egypt and into the kingdom of God.  He didn't always want to be called but he was.  When we think of being chosen we can think of Isaac or Jacob.  Jacob was the younger brother, but chosen by God even to the point of having his name changed to Israel.  When we think of being justified we can think of David.  He said in his prayer of 2 Sam. 7.8 God had acted according to God's own heart and word.  When we think of standing before the Lord, we can think of Isaiah 6.1, where Isaiah saw God's train fill the temple.
  These are men whose lives reveal the acts of God in being chosen, called, justified and sanctified to stand before the Lord.  And now, what about us?  We've seen that the spirituality described in Ephesians 1.22 always finds its purpose in the church.  In 1 Peter 2.4 the apostle gives us an image we can contemplate.  He says--And coming to Him as a living stone...choice and precious in the sight of also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
  What this means is the Word of God has been building a picture of our souls in Christ, from Genesis to the NT.  These pictures are for us to contemplate.  When we look at a stained-glass pictures in churches, we see the light coming through them to illuminate scenes from the Bible.  As clear stones, our souls have a strength yet they are transparent, clear.
  That Peter calls us clear stones, living stones means that God's presence is in us, through Christ.  Being close to God is having Jesus seen in us.  He tells the Samaritan woman that God wishes to be worshiped--neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem, John 4.21.  Where her soul is, the Spirit of God is.  She might not have been seeking God, but God found her.  Can we seek God and find Him?
  David was in the wilderness of Judah when he said--I shall earnestly seek soul thirsts for Thee...  Psalm 119 says those who seek for God are blessed.  Isaiah says in Is.55.6 to seek Him.  Jesus, in Matt. 6.3, Luke 11.10 said to--Seek ye first the kingdom of God...and he who seeks finds.
  Some have gone out into the desert because the emptiness of the desert corresponds to the emptiness of their souls.  Some have withdrawn in an attempt to wall off the world.  Some have filled their minds with Scripture, some have filled their lives with activity.
  But when we seek God, at the center of that seeking is God coming to us.  The Pharisees say--Who are You?
  God said--This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.
  Peter said--Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
  At the heart of Christian spirituality are two questions:  Who do you say that I am?  Do you love Me?

Saturday, December 10, 2011


When Christians have thought about the spiritual life, we have thought it to be one of moderating our emotions or developing our knowledge.  In the middle ages, spirituality was a human trait in response to God.  That trait might have been to be silent, to fast, to manage rituals, or to help others.  In the Reformation, spirituality was the knowledge of God.
  What we notice about the spiritual life is that it is the life of God in us.  As Richard Hooker said, The cause of life spiritual in us is Christ, not carnally or corporally inhabiting, but dwelling in the soul of man.  Normally we call that union with Christ.  Yet, Jesus says--Where I am you cannot come.  He may have been referring to the cross, certainly we cannot go there.  But can we exert ourselves to be like Him?
  To the Ephesians Paul writes about what was before time:
  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace--Eph. 1.4ff
  Now all of that happened before the foundation of the world; there was no place, no act, no object to see.  We cannot appropriate it in any way but to ask for the Holy Spirit.  Our spiritual life begins when se start as we are, seeking a way to receive such glorious insight as told by Paul.  We are not seeking a transaction, a rite, or a duty but a presence.
  We ask--Who am I?  We are chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless
  We ask--What is my purpose in life?  We are to be adopted as sons and daughters through Christ
  We ask--What does life mean?  We are to the praise of the glory of his grace.
  To comprehend that we were chosen; to comprehend gthat we were chosen by God before time and space; to comprehend that were were chosen before God--now this can be received by the Holy Spirit.
  To believe that we are not vagrant souls adrift; to believe that we are adopted by God; to believe that we are sons and daughters through the Son of God--now this takes nothing less than faith.  Yet faith is not a slight wishing, but the desire that the invisibility of God would withdraw like a wave falling from a slanted shore.  In our desire to see God is God's desire to be known by us.
  How do we bring such contemplation into our souls?  Paul prays that--a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him...that you may know what is the hope of His calling in the saints and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe--Eph 1.17.  Now that's a prayer.  A spirit of wisdom and revelation.  The knowledge of Him.  The hope of His calling of us.  All of these things Paul wishes us to comprehend through a--spirit of wisdom and revelation.  Paul finishes the chapter by saying all of this is revealed in the church, Christ's body.  We can imagine what it means that this happens in Christ's body by the thought that the revelation of Him is within Him.  It is as if we were in a room of a church admiring the paintings on the walls.  It is in Him that the revelation of Him comes, and through Him we see ourselves as His image.
  Teh spiritual life is the act of receiving.  An interesting passage is Luke 8.46-48.  A woman touches Jesus--for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.  The woman then, knowing she was known by Him, falls down before him.  When the power went out of Him, here is the--surpassing greatness of the power to us who believe--when she came to Him for healing, here is the knowledge--that you may know what is the hope of His calling--here is the faith as she--declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him.
  Through her faith she has received.  Her faith was her desire to see God and be seen by Him.  For this Job cried out(Job30.26); for this Mses stuttered(Exodus 4.10); for this the Greeks sought Him(John 12.20); for this Paul was chosen(Acts 9.15); for this we receive by faith to enter His presence.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


To finish off our last blog, here in v.23-26 Jesus comes to the end of His prayer.  In v.23 He reminds His disciples that He is in them, just as the Father is in the Son.  This is the glory of the church.  Then Jesus links them with the kingdom of God.  He says--that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know Thou did send Me and did love them even as Thou did love Me.
  There are three thoughts here.
  First, His followers are perfected in unity.  We can remember Matthew 5.48--you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Now we see this perfection is given by the sanctifying word of truth.  But also notice the perfection is in unity.
  The second thought is--that they world may know that Thou did send Me...  This is the message of Matt. 28.19.  It is the city set on a hill, to be salt and light to the world, that those who live in darkness may see a great light.
  The third thought is--Thou did love them even as Thou did love Me.
  The innermost EL of God is that He is love.  The great commandment given to Moses was to love God.  No one but Jesus would know that the Father loves the Son's followers just as He loves the Son.
  Then in v.24 Jesus reveals His own heart, His own love.  He says--I desire that they also whom Thou has given Me, be with Me where I am.  Why is this the desire of the heart of Jesus--That they may behold My glory which Thou has given Me before the foundation of the world..  Paul will say to the Ephesians--He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.
  How could His followers even stand before God in His glory--That the love wherewith Thou did love Me may be in them and I in them.
  Pretty cool stuff.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Verses in John 17 are called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.  Here we are in the enclosure of the Trinity.  And yet these verses are about us.
  The first 6 verses are addressed to all men, everywhere.  The background of these verses is the truth that the Father has come down in the Son, John 5.19-20.  These passages are culminated in 17.7,8.  So Jesus begins His prayer with His Father.
  First, He addresses His prayer to the whole world, 17.1-6.  In v.2 Jesus prays--Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind that to all whom Thou has given Him, He may give eternal life.  The words, all mankind, are pasns sarkos, all flesh.  There is nothing in the words which would determine one meaning or another.  We have to look at other passages such as John 6.37--All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me.  So to all men everywhere whom the Father has given to the Son, the Son gives eternal life.
  Jesus then explains the qualification, whom the Father has given to the Son, by explaining eternal life.  He says in v.3--And this is eternal life, that they may kow Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.
  What is it to know Thee?  It is knowing that the Father has sent the Son, and given to Him the authority to save.  This is the great culmination of 3.16,17--God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him.  That eternal life comes from knowing the Father sent the Son.
  Then in v.5 Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him with the glory which He had before the world began.  This is the glory of the ascension after the resurrection.  So when Jesus has been resurrected He has to say to Mary in John 20.17--Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  All of this is for the world to believe that Jesus will be resurrected from the dead.  We live because He lives.

But now in v.6-19 Jesus will speak about His own disciples.  He says--I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gave Me out of the world.  They were Thine and Thou gave them to Me and they have kept Thy word.
  For the next 14 verses what Jesus will say will be for them, not for the world.  These men were chosen by God.  This is in John 6.65, Luke 6.13.  What the world needed to understand in 5.26, the disciples know in v.7.  Then Jesus elaborates on this in v.8--the words which Thou gave Me I have given to them and they received them and truly understand that I came forth from Thee and they believed that Thou did send Me.
  These are stronger words than what Jesus had said before.  He is taking us into the will of the Father.  He is saying the Word of God which He was given--John 5.24--has now been given to the disciples.  The verification of this are the NT letters penned by the disciples and Paul, 1 Peter 1.23-25.
  In v.9 Jesus says He asks on behalf of the disciples, not the world.  He is establishing the covenant relationship with those whom--Thou has given Me.  He does so in order to bring force to what He then says in v.10--all things that are Mine are Thine.  This is the same as 16.15 when Jesus says He will disclose all things to His disciples. 
  Then in v.11,12 Jesus asks the Father to keep His disciples in--Thy name.  What this means is explained by two phrases--that they may be one even as We are one...I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
  He says in v.13--But now I come to Thee and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  Jesus is speaking personally to His men that His joy is now given to them.  He has said they are to be one, they are to receive His word, and they are to have His joy.  What was given to the disciples, they will give to believers everywhere, John 15.11, 16.14.  Jesus had said in 16.13 that the Spirit of God will guide the disciples as to what 'these things' means, and this is true for the church.
  Now in v.14 Jesus finishes the thought of what the disciples are given.  He says--I have given them Thy word.  Jesus says the world will hate the disciples but the Word which He gives will sanctify them, 17.17, 19.  When we think of--sanctify--we might think of the word, cleanse.  In 17.19 Jesus will sanctify Himself so that when His disciples depend on His word, they will know His word is pure. 
  Here Jesus enhances His prayer for His men.  He prays the Father will protect His disciples from the evil one.  His disciples will not be removed from danger, they will be sanctified, set apart for the use of the Father only.  Jesus is praying that the glory of God will be given from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the disciples--that they may be one just as We are one.


Monday, November 14, 2011


John 8 is as well-known a passage as it is disputed.  It is not in the oldest manuscripts, yet it has stood the test of time.  Several themes weave through it, so that it is included in most translations.  It provides a great viewpoint on the Law and the new covenant.
  It begins in 8.1 where Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives, where He often prayed.  He spent the night there.  His frequent practice was to pray in the night, so He may have done so here.  Early the next morning He comes back to Jerusalem, toward the temple followed by a crowd to hear Him teach.
  At the temple, the scribes and Pharisees are dragging a woman caught in adultery out to a dirt space on the temple grounds.  They bring her to Jesus saying, Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act, 8.4.  They remind Jesus the Law says punishment for adultery is stoning, What do you say?  They were testing Him.
  John uses three words meaning, 'going down'--
  katw--from kuptw, to bend down
  kategraphen--to write down
Jesus is going down and down to write on the ground, He is going down to her level as an adulterer.  But then in the next verse He uses the prefix for 'up', ana--
anekupsen--stand up
anamarthtos--without sin
  Now He stands up, saying--The one who iswithout sin throw the first stone, 8.7.  Here He takes the scribes and Pharisees back to Deuteronomy17.5, 7 where God gave Israel permission to stone the one caught in adultery.  But notice 17.7 which says, The hand of witnesses shall be first against him.  That God sanctioned stoning to purge Israel of the sin of adultery meant the witness and the peoplewho stoned the adulterer were not guilty of murder,they were obeying God.
  But that was the old covenant with God; here when Jesus says, The one who is without sin..He is saying they cannot stone her without committing sin.  Jesus is accusing them of playing God, Matt. 7.5.  He may be intimatig they have committed sin with her, which is how they are witnesses, Matt. 23.27.  That may explain what He wrote, Gen. 38.20-23.
  As they cannot stone her without sinning themselves, right there they leave, one by one.  Now Jesus is left with the woman.  John returns to a word using kata, or 'going down. again--
kateleiphthn--left alone
but then He immediately uses in 8.10 the prefix, ana, meaning 'go up'--
anakupsas--he stood up
Jesus has gone down and down to her level,writing in the sand.  She is dust and to dust she will return, if Jesus had not stooped down to save her from stoning.  Now He lifts her up.  He stands first so that she can, since He is, the first born of many brethren, Romans 8.29.
  We can notice these two words, kata and ana.  Katw is used in 8.6 to mean stoop down, but it is also used in Matt. 27.5 at the time when Jesus died.  The veil of the temple is torn from 'top to bottom'--anwthen ews katw.  Here in John 8 Jesus pulls the curtain open for the woman to see Jesus as God, as He has not come to condemn her but to save her.
  The next day Jesus returns.  Now in the temple, He sits down to teach.  In John 8.23 Jesus uses both words, katw and ana when He says,
You are from below (katw) I am from above (anw), you are of this world, I am not of this world.

When Jesus came to be baptized by John, who said, Behold the Lamb of God, John said, I have beheld the Spirit descending (katabainon) as a dove, John 1.32.
  In John 1.51 Jesus is calling His disciples.  Philip calls Nathaniel to come to Jesus.  When he does, Nathaniel witnesses to Jesus standing there by saying, You are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel.  It's a pretty amazing thing to say upon seeing someone for the first time.  So Jesus says to Nathaniel, You shall see the heavens opened up and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
  The word 'ascending' is anabainontes,the word descending is katabainontes.  Here we have our two prefixes,ana and katw.  In Genesis 28.11 Jacob has a dream in which he sees, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven,with the angels ascending and descending on it.  The place where this happened is called in Hebrew, the place, and Jacob translated into Greek is Jesus.
  In John 6.51 when the disciples cannot accept what Jesus said about Himself as bread and wine, He says, Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you behold the Son of Manascending where He was before?
  Evidently when someone believes that Jesus is sent from the Father to redeem men and women, they are given a glimpse of the heavenly relationship of Son to Father.  The invisibility of God is peeled back so that Jacob and Nathaniel could see the ascending and descending.  That Jesus descended so that we might ascend is revealed to Paul, for him to write in Ephesians 2.6 that, we were raised up with Him and seated in the heavenly places in Christ.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


In John 14.1-24 Jesus is speaking to His own disciples about Himself and His Father.  It is a special relationship.  Finally Philip says in 14.8, Lord show us the Father and it will be enough for us.  A bit exasperated, Jesus says, Have I been so long with you and yet you have not come to know Me, PhilipHe who has seen Me has seen the Father.
  Jesus is asking Philip to see through Himself to the Father.  Jesus had said,
 I am He who bears witness to Himself and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me--John 8.18
..if you knew Me you would know My Father--John 8.19
He who sent Me is true and the things which I have heard from Him, these I speak to the world--John 8.26
Then there are other passages: John 8.28, 10.14
  In these passages Jesus is showing the Father to His disciples through His words.  He is giving them glimpses of the enclosure of the Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit.  In John 17.1 Jesus will give an even more intimate glimpse of His love for the Father and the Father's love for the Son:
Father..glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee, even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all Thou has given Him, He may give them eternal life.
  So we see that the glory the Father gave to the Son, He now has given to us.  God sent Jesus to us that we might come to the Father through the Son.  This is the seeing through by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.  It is a gift which comes with eternal life.  One might say that eternal life enables us to see God just as the pure in heart see God, Matt. 5.8.
  The Wise Men see Jesus, they call Him King of Israel, Matt.2.2.  They're looking at an infant in a manger but by the power of the spirit of prophecy they see a king like David.  When Joseph and Mary bring the baby Jesus to the temple in Luke 2, Simeon looks at the child and says: For my eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou has prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation unto the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.
  Simon and Andrew were fishing when Jesus sees in them that they will be fishers of men, Matt. 4.19.  In John 1.47 Jesus sees Nathaniel saying, Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile.  Nathaniel looks at Jesus, seeing through Him to say, Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel, John 1.49.  Jesus had said of His own cousin, John the Baptist:  ..and if you accept it, he himself is Elijah who was to come--Matt. 11.14
   But not everyone sees through Jesus to God.  At the time Jesus comes to the temple as a young boy, Mary and Joseph do not realize He must be about His Father's business.  What they saw was their own boy, away from them in Jerusalem for three days.  After Jesus heals a blind man in Luke 9, the blind man knows Jesus is a prophet, 9.17.  The Pharisees, upon questioning the blind man says Jesus cannot be from God because He healed the blind man on the Sabbath, 9.16.  Some there say Jesus is no more than a sinner.  The blind man knows and can see Jesus, the Pharisees turn away as they do not see Jesus as the Son of God.  After the religious leaders reject the man's claim that Jesus restored his sight, Jesus finds the man a second time.  He ask the formerly blind man, Do you believer in the Son of Man?  The man said, Lord I believe.
  This brings us up against Nicodemus in John 3.  As a pharisee Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, when no one else will see he is there.  He knows certain things about Jesus, as everyone around Jerusalem did.  He says that God must be with Him.  Jesus then answers as if Nicodemus had asked for sight: ..unless one is born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Jesus had come preaching the kingdom of God.  As seeing is from some distance, Nicodemus is out of the kingdom.  Jesus then says concerning stepping int the kingdom, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
  To be born from above (anwthev) means to believe in the One who came down from heaven.  Jesus will say this in John 3.13,15.  Whoever believes in Him will inherit eternal life, John 3.16.  Nicodemus will have to see as everyone has to see that Jesus came down from heaven, that the world should be saved through Him.
  How does Nicodemus go from darkness to seeing?  Jesus says, Everyone who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.  This expression, having been wrought in God, brings us to two verses.  One is that being born anew is all of God--He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, Eph. 1.4.  This is the work of God; our work is 1 John 2.3, And by this we know that we have come to know Hm, if we keep His commandments, and 1 John 2.5, whoever keeps His word in him the love of God has truly been perfected.  By this we know that we are in Him.  It is by the love of God that God will see us.
  How do we experience this seeing through?  Mother Teresa said she sees Jesus in everyone.  That is a simple statement with much in it.  To do this we must forgive, we must receive the Holy Spirit for the power to see, we must humble ourselves as if we were in the presence of God--God seeing us.


Saturday, October 29, 2011


I received a letter from a seminary president about his summer journey to Greece and Turkey.  He and a group visited the ancient sites of Laodicea, Sardis, and Ephesus among others.  He wrote well about the temples, the statues, and the ancient cities of the Greeks.  He made the point eloquently that the Christian churches in those early centuries huddled quietly in the shadows of such grand architecture.  And yet the apostles made their appeal to the believers that 'their God is God.'
  It was a beautiful phrase by this writer to culminate his story.  Then he asked for money to build large buildings, increase budgets to exceptional levels, and enable professors to travel in style.
  The irony here caused me to think of what would be worthy in a seminary.  I attended a seminary for a year.  What I remember most of all was the spirituality of the faculty.  But I don't think their sacred spirituality came from the buildings and budgets.
  When I was a boy, the older generation of saints were the church staff members.  They had lived before World War II, coming through the depression and a war which came remarkably close to world destruction.  I loved their rich, deep, kind spirituality.  At the time I thought their spirituality came from wisdom; now I know it came from what they had suffered and risked for God.  Their richness was in their losses.
  So I thought, what would be the best for the seminary students today?  There is a saying attributed to the great English poet John Milton.  The saying is, Epic poets drink from a wooden cup, lyric poets drink from a silver cup.  The seminary president is asking me to buy his students a silver cup, and I won't do it.  But what would be best?
  I think growing in grace and the knowledge of God comes from long spaces of time, Biblical languages, and prayer to the max.  It takes time to hear God; it takes silence and darkness in a room and listening.  A day without the radio, a day without food, a day without driving a car or speaking to anyone or turning on the air conditioning.  A night alone haunched amid ruins, a night sleeping alongside the Jordan, a weekend in the desert.
  It takes Biblical languages to transport a student into the times and place in which New Testament letters were written.  These letters were not written to close down every problem, but to open up God.  Learning the nuances of thought--that Paul refuses to accomodate the Jews in one chapter of Acts but then does accommodate them in a later chapter--so much is hidden in so few words that only comes out by reading Greek and Hebrew through the years.
  It's helpful to know the difference between what some other writer has in him and what you have in you.  When I was in college my specialty was Milton.  So years later I tried to write as he did, having spent many years absorbing the style, the vocabulary, the scansion of the man.  What I wrote was not in 5 beats, it didn't have his grand noble style, his learning, the thrill of his thought.  I had none of those things.  God had put in my what He put in me and all the hours I could muster did not enhance that by one sentence.  No one will ever write, Of Man's disobedience with such pointed conviction.
  And growing in grace to the point of being able to teach and preach to someone else does not come by test time.  There are so many thoughts to go through before arriving home.  There is so much of our culture to shed, so much of God to walk through.  A bigger student lounge won't do this, more meals in the cafeteria won't do this, more salary, more perks, more books won't do this.  Columns are not a cross.  The Christian life is time with God, the submission of the heart, the reception of His presence.  It is the praise of His glory.
  I hope that seminary stays afloat, not so much for the seminary but of those who will walk there for a time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


John 6 is a loaded passage, toward which many roads lead.  In John 1 the Word has become flesh, Jesus of Nazareth.  In John 2 Jesus transforms water into wine.  In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again.  In John 4 Jesus tells a woman the water He gives is eternal, the water of the well she seeks is not.  In John 5 Jesus says the dead will hear His voice and be transformed from death to life.  So we come to John 6 with this buildup of transformation due to Jesus authority and power.
  Now John 6 is a long chapter, intensifying the idea of transformation and power.  First in John 6. 1-15 Jesus transforms bread to feed 5000 families.  Then in John 6.16-21 His authority is on display when He walks on water.  You'll notice that when Jesus does step into the boat, the disciples are amazed.  Jesus has to say--Do not be afraid.  The disciples get Him into the boat; John uses labein,which originally meant, to seize.  They jerk Jesus into the boat as if this walking on water stuff freaks them out--'Hey Jesus, get in here!  You can't go around walking on water--it just isn't done--this is unreal.'
  And it was.  Then in 6.21 they get to land, 'immediately.'  They're not going to have their leader doing this, they're getting right to the land they can feel.  John says it was the same land from which they left--home.  No more of this walking on water rigamaroll.
  Now that Jesus has done something only God would do, the rest of the chapter turns toward Jesus as God.  But not God hidden in the tabernacle, who could only be approached by Levites.  Now Jesus will show the disciples how they can receive God in their heart and soul.
  In John 6.26 Jesus tells the crowd they only follow Him so they might eat and be filled.  He tells them not to work for the food which perishes, meaning the bread they can hold in their hand; work for the bread which sustains them into eternal life.  Jesus speaks from a literal use to a spiritual one.  In 6.26 John uses the word for chewing--ephagete--and the word for bread--artwn.  This is the bread which passes away, it is used by the body and then eliminated; it lasts a day and then gone.  But in 6.27 He uses the world for food which sustains--brwsin.  This word has been used metaphorically as that which sustains, or even to raise a child in the sense of providing for that child.  While artwn is the bread from grain we buy at the store, brwsin is that which enables us to live and go on.
   The disciples say in 6.34--Lord, give us all this bread--meaning the bread which sustains to eternal life.  He says--I am the bread of life; the one coming to Me will never hunger and the one believing in Me will never thirst again.  John uses artwn for bread in this verse but ends the sentence with--eternal life.  John is associating the literal meaning with the spiritual meaning of eternal life.  Now Jesus will expand on that, by taking us from the literal to the spiritual.
  In John 6.41 Jesus says He is the bread--which came down from heaven--reminding the Jews of what they could believe, the manna in the wilderness of Exodus, Deuteronomy 8.3.  He is putting together at once the literal with Himself as the spiritual meaning.  The crowd doesn't like this.  So Jesus tells them in 6.47--the one who believes has eternal life.  His point is to bring the crowd from their own natural seeking of only a loaf to seeking eternal life through Him.
  Jesus had said in 6.35--I am the bread of life.  Now He will reveal what He means.  Up till now Jesus had used phagwn for eating--meaning chewing--and artwn for bread.  The Jews could understand this easily, as they had been given bread in their hand when Jesus transformed a few loaves into many, 6.1-15.  Now Jesus says He is the bread out of heaven, so that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life, John 6.51.  The expression--out of heaven--is the link between the manna of Exodus and Jesus as the bread who gives eternal life.
  How is this so?  In 6.53 Jesus begins with the literal meaning, stretching it forthe first time. He says--if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.  The word for eating is phagnte,which we know is the chewing, the word we expect.  But now He has substituted for bread His flesh, sarka.  And He has substituted for 'himself,' the 'Son of Man.'  What this means is that Jesus intends for His disciples to take the eating His flesh and drinking His blood as meaning more than just the act of chewing and swallowing.  He means to associate His flesh and blood with believing unto eternal life.  This is the new covenant which He has given us.
  Now in 6.54 Jesus moves the meaning again.  John will not use phagwn for chewing,but trwgwn.  This word comes from trwphw, which means to be filled, to fatten or to keep animals or people alive, Luke 4.16, Matt. 6.26, James 5.5.  It has been used metaphorically, to represent ideas greater than mere eating food.  Jesus then associates His flesh and blood with life, 6.53--if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you do not have life within yourselves.  Then in 6.54 Jesus stretches it from life to eternal life--The one eating My flesh and drinking My blood has eternal life.  Then in 6.55 Jesus stretches the meaning again.  He says His flesh is true flesh (brwsis) and His blood is true drink: this means that He will abide with the one who eats His flesh and drinks His blood.  The word for 'true,' is aletheia, which means to reveal; it also means what is revealed is true, without lie.  It is the word in Rev. 19.9--these are true words of God.  In other words,the culmination of the flesh and blood is abiding.
  In the 17th century Richard Hooker said the bread and wine of communion were a means to the end of union with Christ.  Now that Jesus calls His words true in the sense that He will reveal Himself through them,He says it plainly in 6.57--As the living Father sent Me,and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he will also live because of Me.  We will be in the Son as the Son is in the Father.  Jesus links this being in the Father to the bread of 6.58--This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread shall live forever.
  All of this is spiritually rare.  So John adds in 6.59 a touch of reality to remind his readers this really happened.  He says Jesus said all this in Capernaum, in the synogogue.  We should preach like this in the church.
  This is also spiritually intense.  The moment passes, the disciples confess they cant' stand the sense of eating a living man's flesh and drinking his blood.  They call His words a scandal, taking His word ona realistic level.  Jesus then says the Spirit is life, the flesh profits nothing.  The words He has spokenare life and spirit.  He is taking them them through their literal understanding to His spiritual presence.  Finally Jesus challenges them by asking if they will go away as the other disciples have.
  Peter says Jesus has the words of life--You are the Holy One of God.  The entire exchange was meang to bring the disciples to see Jesus is the Holy One of God.