Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Rise, let us go from here (John 14:31)

Maybe the reason they had to leave the Upper Room was because they could only have it for a certain time. We are not told the terms of the agreement made between the disciples and the owner of the house.  The disciples were told by Jesus to arrange for a place where they could keep the Passover, and the owner had agreed to the request. Honesty would require them to leave the room at the agreed time. If that was the reason, then Jesus here is giving an example to his followers that they should not presume on the goodwill of others.

It had been the custom of Jesus and his disciples to pass the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. No doubt the disciples would assume that they were going there to pray as on former occasions. Did they notice the sense of urgency in this instruction by their Master? Surely they observed that he was on a mission. Probably not. They did not understand what he had been teaching them about the looming burden of the cross.

Perhaps the disciples had assumed that Jesus would have spent longer in the comfortable setting of the Upper Room in order to explain to them in a fuller way what he had been teaching them. If that was the case, then they discovered that he wanted to teach them somewhere else. And is that not a picture of how Jesus deals with us? We cannot remain in the same place in a spiritual sense.

Of course, it is important to note that Jesus included them and him in the exhortation. Wherever they would be going, they would not be going without him. He says to us, ‘Let us move on to new spiritual experiences.’ While we cannot have the experiences that the first disciples had, and while we will not see our Saviour in distress as they did, we should always be ready to move on with him. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Jesus’ departure would reveal to all that he loved the Father (14:31)

but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

We are not surprised that Jesus desired to be in heaven in the presence of the Father. Yet it should be a sense of wonder to us that he was willing to take the route that was mapped out for him by the Father. The road to heaven for Jesus involved more than defeating the evil one. It also included giving full obedience to the commandment that the Father had given him.

The commandment that the Father had given to his Son required that he pay the penalty for sin. It necessitated that he go to the place of punishment and endure God’s wrath against sin. One aspect of its wonder is that he endured this wrath simultaneously to his defeating the devil. Jesus did not experience these things sequentially as if he first defeated the devil and then endured divine wrath against sin. As he paid the penalty, he also overcame the enemy.

What can we say about the love that Jesus had for the Father? First, it was a love that delighted in the will of the Father. This will had been made known in the eternal counsels, and it had been eternally embraced by the Son. The plan of redemption was the height of divine wisdom in which the Trinity revealed the greatness of their conceptions. It was the means by which divine grace and blessing would be displayed, by which mercy and forgiveness would be given. ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work’ (John 4:34).

Second, it was a love that was devoted to the will of the Father. Humanly speaking, the Son had had plenty time before his incarnation to reflect on the saving plan of God that required such a costly sacrifice from his Son. But his devotion to the will of the Father did not diminish throughout these eternal ages. When the moment came for entering into humanity, he came singing the words of Psalm 40: 6-8: ‘Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but you have given me an open ear.  Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”’

Third, it was a love that was dedicated to fulfil the Father’s will after the Incarnation. Several times Jesus, as it were, re-dedicated himself to lovingly carrying out the Father’s plan. An obvious example is his baptism where he publicly committed himself to obeying God’s will. Another example occurred shortly after this announcement in John 14 when he resolved in Gethsemane to continue with the task given to him.  It is likely that the Saviour made this determined resolution on many occasions. At one time, he declared, ‘But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!’ (Luke 12:50). At the end of John 14, Jesus again dedicates himself to obeying the Father’s will in all its requirements.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Jesus’ departure would involve an attack by the devil (14:30)

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me...

Jesus here refers to Satan by the title ‘the prince of this world’. The Saviour states that the devil has some authority. His domain is not geographic but moral. He holds sway over sinners through spiritual blindness. So far, his kingdom is very extensive, in fact there is only one human – Jesus – who has not been a subject of his rule. 

Thankfully many millions of sinner have been rescued from his rule, but they all had been subjects at one time. And they still retain, while on earth, within their personalities, particular traits and other sinful features which the devil can locate and use. It was different with Jesus. So here the devil is coming towards the one Man who has never been part of his kingdom and in whom there was nothing that the devil could find suitable for his schemes. In what ways would he come?

First, he would come with hatred. This meeting would not be a joyful one. The hatred had begun centuries before when Satan, then an angel in heaven, had attempted vainly and foolishly (they usually go together) to overthrow the throne of God. He failed, but his hatred developed. We know the strength that hatred can give to some people. In a different way, it fuelled the devil’s march against the Saviour.

Second, the devil would come with hordes. Satan would not come alone. This was not going to be a one-to-one combat. Alongside the devil marched all the fallen angels, each of them determined to destroy Jesus. No-one knows how many there are. Who are they attacking? One perfect Man.

Third, the devil would come with horror. We know that when an army attacks, they use horrible weapons. The devil had his arsenal, with his main weapon being temptation, although he had other weapons such as cruelty and pain. He was going to unleash these awful temptations on the holy mind of Jesus, attempting to get him to cease loving his God and fellow-man. Of course, the devil failed. When his fellowmen nailed him to the cross, Jesus prayed for them. When his Father brought him into the state of abandonment, he cried, ‘My God.’ He never ceased to love God or man.

Although such a powerful enemy was approaching, Jesus was aware that there was nothing within himself that would listen to the devil’s temptations. This is the real difference between Jesus and every other human that the devil tempts. Whatever the devil suggested was abhorrent to the Saviour. It is not a sin to be tempted; it is giving in to the temptation that is sinful.

What did the devil learn when he attacked Jesus on this occasion? First, he discovered that God’s ancient promise was fulfilled. In the Garden of Eden, the Lord had pronounced the coming of a Champion who would crush the head of the devil. This crushing would occur when the devil managed to bruise the heel of the foot that crushed him.

Second, Jesus, through the cross, rendered the devil powerless as far as his claims against God’s people are concerned. Satan is called ‘the accuser of the brethren’, and perhaps this means that he was urging God to punish them when they sinned. But on the cross, Jesus provided a legitimate way for sinners to be forgiven their sins, which means that Satan’s accusations are no longer valid. 

Third, the devil discovered a Man determined to go to his Father. He discovered that his attacks could not change the purity of the life of Jesus, that Jesus would continue to have a perfect life no matter what temptations he had to endure. This perfect life was essential for his people’s salvation. Only as sinless could he offer an atoning sacrifice. No matter what the devil tried, he could not make the sinless Jesus sin. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Jesus’ departure a reason for joy (14:28-29)

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.

These words of Jesus have been a source of theological controversy throughout history because opponents of the full deity of Jesus have used them as evidence that Jesus himself did not make that claim. Today they are used by groups such as the Jehovah Witnesses to deny the full deity of Jesus. But it is clear even from this chapter that Jesus claims to be fully God (vv. 1, 9). The inferiority that he is describing does not refer to his person but to his role as the Father’s servant; the Father was greater in the sense that he had sent his Son to be the Saviour. Jesus was returning to heaven to be enthroned, but he would still be functioning as the Father’s servant.

There are several reasons why they should have rejoiced at the imminent departure of Jesus. First, they should have rejoiced because Jesus was going to be exalted. Love delights in the promotion of their friends. Therefore they should have been glad at the prospect that awaited their Master.

Second, they should have rejoiced because they had just been told, in several different ways, that Jesus, once he had returned to the Father, would send the Holy Spirit to them. The coming of the Spirit would result in heavenly teaching, in increased sense of the divine presence, and in enjoying the Saviour’s peace. 

Third, they should have rejoiced because Jesus was going back to the Father in order to prepare a room for them in the Father’s house. He was going there as their Representative to ensure that they would eventually live with him for ever.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Jesus, the Conveyor of Comprehensive Peace (14:27)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

We reflected yesterday on some unique aspects of the peace of Jesus. Yet not only is the peace of Jesus unique, it is also comprehensive in that it possesses many ingredients. Here are some of the reasons why disciples of Jesus should have peace in their souls.

First, they know the forgiveness of their sins, not just the sins of their pre-disciple days but also the sins they commit daily. When they sin, the indwelling Spirit prompts them to confess these sins. He reminds them that if they confess them, the Father is faithful and just to pardon them because of the atoning work of Jesus. As they confess them, they discover again that Jesus is their Helper (1 John 1:9–2:2). The continual presence of sin is not really the main barrier to peace in a disciple’s heart; it is unconfessed sin that is the barrier. The Christian who is continually asking for cleansing is one who will know Christ’s peace.

Second, they know that they possess permanent blessings from Christ. These blessings are never taken away, although the comfort of them will be lost if they don’t confess their sins. Take the knowledge of these blessings away from God’s people and their comfort is disrupted.

Third, disciples should have peace because they know that all the outworkings of providence are in the hands of Jesus. All power is his in heaven and on earth; he is able to work all things together for their benefit. So even adverse circumstances in themselves are not able to destroy the peace of Christ in their souls. Sometimes they do, but that often happens when they focus on the bigness of the problem and not on the activity of Jesus on their behalf. 

Fourth, disciples should have peace because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. He has come as the Spirit of Jesus, to give to each of his people the presence of Christ. He ministers in their hearts in ways similar to how Jesus would work if he were present physically with them. The Spirit, in addition to leading them to confess their sins, reminds them of their privileges, accompanies them in prayer, meets them in the Bible, and produces within them the fruit of the Spirit, which is Christlikeness. Part of that fruit is peace, the peace of Jesus.

This is something that we should desire for one another. Note how the letters of Paul, Peter and John begin with the prayerful desire that their readers would know peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. That should be our prayer for one another daily.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Jesus, the Conveyor of Unique Peace (14:27)

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Of course, Jesus is not only the person giving the legacy of peace, he is also the Executor or Administrator of the legacy. When each of us makes a will, we know that we will not be alive to enact it. With Jesus it was different. He knew that he would rise from the dead in order to ensure that we received his legacy.

In addition, Jesus knew that he would send the Holy Spirit to bring his peace into the hearts of his people. Already in this passage, Jesus has mentioned several of the ways in which the Spirit will work in the lives of disciples. He would indwell them, he would instruct them. In addition, he would give them a sense of peace that would be similar to the peace that Jesus experienced.

Therefore, the peace that Jesus is promising is a unique type that is totally different from peace that the world gives. It is a peace that is heavenly, that comes from another world. At that time, the people of Israel were under the pax Romana, the Empire-wide system of peace that was imposed by the Roman Empire. It was a peace from another place, but it was not a peace that was linked to liberty or love for the subjects of the Empire.

The unique peace of Jesus is different in a second way, which is that it is internal and not merely external. External peace is often merely the absence of hostilities whereas biblical peace is the presence of serenity and calm.

A third difference found in the unique peace of Jesus is its certainty as opposed to the desire of well-meaning people to have peace. Many sincere people want their friends and family to have inner comfort and say so with their words of greeting. But they are unable to ensure it. Jesus guarantees his peace to his followers.

A fourth difference located in the unique peace of Jesus is its basis. The peace of the world is dependent often on circumstances (adverse events spoil it) or on possessions (what we accumulate) or on achievements (what we can do). Obviously there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting pleasant circumstances, nice possessions or good achievements. But it is folly to make them the basis of our peace. 

The unique peace that Jesus offers is based on a relationship with himself by the Spirit through meditation on the Bible and in prayer. It is a peace that can and should be known no matter what happens in the world. Sadly, it is a peace that can be disrupted, but the main reason for this will be disobedience to Christ, which results in the Father’s disapproval of us.

Friday, 25 January 2013

The peace of Jesus (14:27)

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

As I think of the peace of the Saviour, the incident that first comes to my mind is the occasion when he was in the boat with his disciples as they crossed the Sea of Galilee during a great storm. His peace was so great that he slept comfortably through it until he was awakened by his petrified disciples. As I thought of that incident, I also recalled an incident in the life of James Macdonald, the father of the great evangelist of the early nineteenth century in the Scottish Highlands. At one time in his life he had resolved to emigrate across the Atlantic. The boat that they were on was caught in a frightening storm in the Pentland Firth and the passengers soon became panic-stricken, with most of them calling out for divine help. Macdonald sat calmly in the midst of the panic, and one lady rebuked him for his apparent indifferent attitude. His response was to say that he pitied those who had only begun to pray when the storm arose. Macdonald’s experience in that storm is a vivid example of Christ’s peace being communicated to one of his disciples. Many other similar stories could be told of disciples knowing great peace in situations of stress and trouble. 

Sometimes we give little thought to the Saviour’s possession of peace because we take it to be an aspect of his divine Person, which is true, and that this divine peace automatically moved into his human experience. In a sense, this is to deny the reality of his humanity and fails to consider the situations in which Jesus did not have peace, as in Gethsemane and on the Cross. His humanity was sinless, which of course is an important aspect of his peace and is a feature in which he differs from us. Yet I would suggest that in other respects he obtained a sense of inner peace through the same means as we will obtain peace.

Connected to his sense of peace was his life of prayer. The Gospels reveal that resorting to prayer was a regular feature of the Saviour’s life. Many a night he spent in prayer. The Gospel of Luke points out that Jesus was engaged in prayer before the important events in his life: his baptism, his choice of apostles, his transfiguration, to name a few. In prayer he committed his situations to his Father and one consequence was peace.

His submission and his prayer-life were also accompanied by an understanding of the Bible. Of course, Jesus read the Scriptures at a different level from us because he is the great Subject of the Bible as it focuses on his person and work. Nevertheless, his soul fed on the promises of God to the Messiah, and his mission as the Messiah was governed by the Bible’s requirements.

This possession of inner peace did not mean that Jesus was passive. He had to endure attacks from the evil one, and these attacks were designed to destroy his fellowship with God. Also he showed anger when appropriate, as he did at the cruelty of the religious leaders. So experiencing violent opposition and expressing strong disapproval were not inconsistent with his sense of inner peace. 

This is the peace that Jesus promised his troubled disciples. It was a peace that arose from a constant sense of his Father’s approval, a peace that was developed by an ongoing prayer life and regular absorption of the Bible’s contents, and was a peace that could be maintained in the stressful situations of life. By implication, our experience of peace will also come when we sense the Father’s approval of our obedience, when we pray, and when we meditate on the Bible.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Legacy of Jesus (14:27 )

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This verse can be described as the legacy of Jesus. ‘When Christ was about to leave the world he made his will. His soul he committed to his Father; his body he bequeathed to Joseph, to be decently interred; his clothes fell to the soldiers; his mother he left to the care of John: but what should he leave to his poor disciples, that had left all for him? Silver and gold he had none; but he left them that which was infinitely better, his peace’ (Matthew Henry).

It is evident from the context that the disciples were distraught and confused, and this is the second time that Jesus has referred to their state of concern in the chapter (14:1). Probably the main reason that the disciples were afraid of the future was Jesus’ words indicating that he was about to leave them. Another reason may have been his prediction that they all would deny him within a short time. Connected to this reason was his announcement that he would be betrayed, arrested and killed. These reasons can be summarised under the headings of disappointment and distress.  

When we think of the Bible’s teaching on peace, it is helpful to view it from three perspectives. First, there is peace with God which is brought about through faith in Christ’s atoning death (justification). Second, there is peace with fellow-humans, which is accomplished in the church of Christ, in which the racial, social and gender divisions of sinful society have been replaced by membership of the family of God (adoption). Third, there is the personal experience of peace which comes as part of and as a result of inner renewal (sanctification). It is this third aspect that Jesus is referring to here, although we should recognise that the other two are assumed as being in existence.

We shall consider the personal peace of Jesus tomorrow.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

In what situations will we need this ministry of the Spirit? (14:25-26)

The classrooms mentioned in the previous reading are general pictures of the way and locations where the Spirit takes the teaching of Jesus and applies it to us. We can be more specific about these places.

One such location is the place of affliction. Every pupil in the Spirit’s class undergoes these times of trouble. Things go wrong and they discover that they need comfort to help through these hard times. When they occur, the Spirit takes suitable passages from the Bible and speaks them into their souls. Linked to the times of affliction are times of anxiety. In such times, the Spirit instructs them to fear not.

Another location where we need the Spirit’s help is times of ambivalence when our spiritual perception is sluggish and our involvement in spiritual activities becomes lethargic. We need a spiritual tonic to revive our flagging souls and stimulate our participation in Christian things. Our heavenly Teacher knows which scriptures to use in order to revive us again.

A third location of the Spirit’s teaching is the place of ambition, where the pupils may be developing an interest in the wrong subjects. Just as a pupil may begin preparing for an unsuitable career, so a Christian can develop an interest in inappropriate positions. He may begin to live for this world and forget about storing up treasures in heaven. So the Spirit draws near and reminds the believer of what should be his proper ambitions.

There is a fourth location where the Spirit loves to teach and that is the places where his pupils show great ardour for their Master, Jesus Christ. In this situation, the Holy Spirit will strengthen his disciples so they can learn more about Jesus and experience more of his love.

We mentioned in a previous reading that the Spirit teaches successfully, with no failures. He also strengthens those he teaches so that they will be able to learn more and more. Along with these, his teaching is marked by a sweetness that makes it very enjoyable, and learning becomes a delight.

So what are the evidences of a good pupil? Here are three. The first is that his pupils can have a heavenly understanding at any given time through the ability of their Teacher. 

The second is that they develop humility as they increase in learning, not only because of the little they know but also because of the greatness of their Teacher and the grandeur of the subjects they have been instructed in. 

The third feature is that they look forward to his continued instruction in the world to come. If this life can be likened to teaching in a secondary school, then heaven is like the instructions in a university. There are significant aspects of these great subjects which they cannot appreciate in this life. But they will in the next!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

In what ways will the Spirit teach the disciples? (14:25-26)

First, the Holy Spirit will teach the truths of Jesus graciously. By this I mean that he will always remember that his pupils are sinners. He knows that they have a great learning disability which has to be overcome, that in addition to their ignorance there can be an antipathy to being taught. 

Second, the Spirit will teach the truth gradually. He knows that we cannot absorb all the truth in one go. Therefore, he teaches according to our development in spiritual things. This means that his pupils who have moved through various stages in his teaching process need to be tolerant of the lack of truth in younger disciples. The assessment of such should be made by what they knew as young Christians and not on what they know now.

Third, the Spirit will teach the truth gladly. He will always rejoice in teaching us. I’m sure every human teacher has had their reluctant days. But he never has had one. Throughout each stage of every believer’s learning process, the Spirit has maintained his interest in teaching each one of them. Each Sunday, as we gather in the Spirit’s classroom, we have a delighted Teacher.

Fourth, the Spirit will teach us with graduation day in mind. I’m sure one of the joys of a teacher’s work is when his or her pupils leave school ready for life in adulthood. In a far greater way, the Spirit is preparing us for our graduation day, when we receive our prizes. 

Let us think of some of the classrooms in the heavenly Teacher’s school. First, there is the language class. Pupils often learn a foreign language, such as French or German, in case they will need to use it later. The pupils of the Holy Spirit are also learning another language, the language of Canaan. They are learning to speak in a way that pleases God, whether they are speaking to him or about him.

A second classroom is the arithmetic class where they are taught to count their blessings. Often, this class has to be repeated because they often forget how many blessings they have. But the heavenly Teacher encourages them to do it, naming the blessings one by one.

A third classroom is the nutrition class where they learn about their own anatomy. They discover that they have certain features and how to use them. They learn about the importance of eating the correct spiritual food and avoiding junk food, of the importance of taking spiritual exercise such as prayer.

A fourth classroom is the history class where they are taught about the progress of Christ’s kingdom. The Holy Spirit has a text-book that he uses in every class, which is the Bible. In it there are details of the progress the church has made. This history class is a bit unusual because it also includes teaching about the future of the church, of where it is going when Jesus returns.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Qualifications of the Comforter to teach (14:25-26)

First, we can say that the selection committee that chose him is highly qualified. We are used to selection panels made up of suitably qualified individuals who are charged with the task of discovering the best person for an important teaching position. In a far higher sense, a selection committee met to discuss who should fill the important role of teaching the disciples of Jesus. Who was on the selection committee? The persons of the Trinity made up the committee, and their unanimous choice was that one of their number should fulfil this role.

Second, we note that he shares the mission of the Father and the Son, which is to bring the blessings of salvation to the world. The Holy Spirit has the same interest in communicating these blessings to sinners everywhere. He is equally passionate in fulfilling the eternal purpose of bringing blessing to sinners.

Third, the Holy Spirit, because he is divine, simultaneously can comfort every believer in Jesus who is in the world. His classroom does not have limitations, either in terms of location or in size of numbers. He is everywhere present and can teach believers in every country at the same time.

Fourth,  the Holy Spirit is a superb teacher in that he has no failures in his classroom. True, there are differences in degree in the progress made by disciples, but they all make progress. Nobody in the Spirit’s school will get a failure mark at the end of the school term, which occurs at graduation day when they enter heaven.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Teaching of the Comforter (14:25-26)

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

In these Jesus deals with a question that would have been in the minds of the disciples, which is, ‘How could they remember everything that Jesus had said to them?’ It is obvious, given the questions that were asked by Philip, Thomas and Judas, that they were in a state of ignorance regarding the meaning of the words of Jesus. He informs them that this would be one of the roles of the Holy Spirit once he had come to them as Jesus’ representative.

A few qualifications must be made regarding this statement by Jesus. First, he does not mean that the disciples are going to become omniscient, that they will literally understand all things. There are many things that Christ’s disciples will not know. For example, they do not know the future or do they know who among the unconverted will become Christians.

Second, Jesus did not entrust the future knowledge of the church to human minds. I suppose we could assume that the best group of people to pass on the message that is about Jesus and was taught by Jesus would be those who had spent three years with him. Undoubtedly, there is a sense in which that is the case. But their experience of Christ in itself was not sufficient. Their testimony is not merely the result of personal reflections on their time with Jesus. The fact is that their knowledge of Jesus is given to them by the Holy Spirit. 

Third, while the Spirit is not going to teach all knowledge to the disciples, he is going to teach them everything that Jesus had taught them. This is a warning to us not to divide the various teachings of Jesus into primary and secondary matters. While it is the case that a person can be saved without knowing everything that Jesus taught, it does not mean that we can dispense with any teaching that he gave. The same can be said about the entirety of God’s Word. 

The denial of this truth can be very subtle. There are individuals who prefer doctrine over against practice and there are those who prefer practice as over against doctrine. A person may like to discuss deep doctrine but fail to visit a lonely believer; such a person is ignoring the necessity of obeying the ‘all things’ of Jesus. On the other hand, a person may engage in works of mercy and never take part in learning the doctrines of the faith. That person has also failed to obey the ‘all things’ of Jesus.

This statement of Jesus is a description of a spiritual or Spirit-filled person. It illustrates for us the meaning of a balanced Christian life.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Divine visits (John 14:18-24)

'I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.' 

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, 'Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?'

Jesus answered him, 'If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.'

Jesus again reminds his disciples of the great privilege that they possess in contrast to the world, which he describes as seeing him. I suspect what he means is that they will begin to understand the union that exists between him and them. This union is certain because he possesses life. 

The proof that they have spiritual life is obedience. Notice the order that Jesus uses. Each disciple has the commandments, that is, he treats them as a prized possession. We keep material things of value, such as a painting or a piece of pottery in a secure place, but not in an obscure place because we want to see them. Similarly, the disciple has a secure place for Christ’s teachings and that secure place is the disciple’s heart and mind. He meditates on the sayings of Jesus and becomes like the person described in Psalm 1; he hides God’s Word in his heart in order to prevent sin overpowering him. Thinking about God’s law makes him spiritually discerning and creates a strong desire to obey it. Meditation and practice go together.

Jesus then says that there will be a divine response to such Christian living. There will be a response of love from both the Father and Jesus, with the response by Jesus being one of further manifestations of himself to his loving disciple. This amazing promise leads to another question from one of his disciples, Judas, as to how Jesus could show himself in this way. This question seems to be a different kind from those asked earlier by Thomas and Philip because there is no hint of rebuke in the Saviour’s reply to Judas. Instead he expands his teaching. Perhaps Judas asked it with a sense of wonder. How different he was from the traitor who had the same name!

Jesus says that the Father and he will come and live in the inner life of an obedient disciple. This does not mean that they were not there before. Rather it means that there will be further visits throughout one’s Christian journey if one is obedient to Christ’s teaching. This is a remarkable promise – God who dwells in the purity of heaven desires to make his home in the hearts of his people who are still sinful.

These divine visits are explained by three details. First, they are visits of love, whether by the Father (v. 23) or by the Son (v. 21); second, they are visits in which particular responses or activities of the Father and of the Son will be identified; third, they are visits in which the Father and the Son come together to bless the obedient disciple. These three features are achieved by the presence of the life-giving Spirit.

No doubt there are ways in which these divine responses will overlap. Yet it is good for us to experience distinct fellowship with each person of the Trinity. We should ask the Spirit to bring into our minds and hearts the thoughts of the heavenly Father toward us and the attitude of the Saviour towards us. These divine encounters are obviously intimate, and there is always the potential for increase of them. There are no limits to the love of God.

We should gladly confess our need of the Spirit in order for these riches to be enjoyed. We need him because of our weakness and our need of strengthening (Eph. 3:16-19).  And we should remember the price of disobedience as Christians. It is to miss out on heavenly visits from the Father and the Son. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Precious title (14:16-17)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

We know that many titles are given to the Holy Spirit in the Bible as well as many images from the natural world in order to help us appreciate his person and his work. He is the Spirit of God, which indicates his deity; he is the Spirit of Jesus, which points to his mission as the ambassador of Christ. He is likened to fire, which stresses his purity; to a dove, which emphasizes his gentleness; to a fountain, which denotes his ministry of refreshment. Each of these titles and images give us insight, and therefore they are all precious to believers. 

Jesus, here, uses another precious and beautiful title for the Holy Spirit when he says that he is the Paraclete. Various words are used by different translations to convey its meaning: comforter, helper, counsellor being some options. The term itself literally means ‘one who comes alongside to help’ and it was used of various individuals in the ancient world. For example, it was used of a person who defended another person in a court of law. We find this idea in the well-known statement of 1 John 2:1: ‘My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ The term translated ‘advocate’ is ‘Paraclete’. 

‘The word translated “Comforter” is used in the New Testament five times. In four instances it is applied to the Holy Spirit – John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7. In the other instance it is applied to the Lord Jesus – 1 John 2:1: ‘We have an advocate (Paraclete –Comforter) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’  It is used, therefore, only by John.  

Jesus, in these verses, calls him ‘the Spirit of truth’, which indicates that in his ministry as the Paraclete the Holy Spirit will always tell the truth. One obvious way in which he will function as a counsellor occurs when he convicts us of our sins. What is conviction of sin but the Spirit telling us the truth about ourselves. Yet he is doing this as one giving helpful counsel by pointing out to us our dangerous state by nature. And he convicts us in order to show to us our need of Christ.

Then we can think of how the Spirit uses the truth to defend us as our comforter. In our inner lives as Christians we can be accused by the devil or by our own conscience concerning our sins. We know that the accusations have a basis and our response can be very weak, even when we remind ourselves of God’s forgiveness. In such a situation we should cry to Jesus to send the Spirit to defend us. When we sin, Jesus is our Advocate in heaven, presenting his representative life and atoning death as the basis of refuting the accusations made against us. Similarly, our Advocate on earth, the Holy Spirit, takes the same means to refute our earthly accusers. And he brings comfort to us when we repent of our sins.

The Spirit also helps us by working in our lives according to God’s plans. These plans are the ultimate truths that exist. The Spirit was privy to them and knows them in exact detail. All he does in our lives is according to that standard of truth. 

Again, he works in our lives according to the truth contained in the Bible. He brings about the answers promised in the Bible to our prayers. When we pray for spiritual blessings, he brings them to us. When we need guidance, he provides it. There are many ways by which he works according to the truth of the Bible.

It is good for us to have such a Paraclete. We should give thanks to God the Father for promising the Spirit to Jesus, and give thanks to Jesus for procuring the Spirit for us by his work of redemption. And we should thank the Spirit for coming to us gladly and lovingly to fulfil in us the great plans that God has for us.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Permanent companion (14:16-17)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

To have the Holy Spirit is a great privilege. Jesus tells his disciples that the world cannot have the Spirit in this new way because it does not see him or know him. Jesus does not mean that the world could not see an invisible Being because in that sense his disciples do not see the Spirit either. Instead he means that they cannot sense the Spirit at work. The ancient world had many wise people, for example, philosophers and poets and politicians. In all their discoveries of how the world works and in all their descriptions of reality, they missed out on a basic factor, the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

It is different for the disciples of Jesus because they recognise the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. They see him in creation, as did the Psalmist in Psalm 104. They see him in the scriptures. The Bible is his composition, therefore when they read it they look for the meaning that the divine Author intended, which is to bring the readers to Jesus. 

The disciples also see the Spirit in the activities of God’s people because they know that he is working in each of them; his presence gives them hope for all his people, even for those who are backsliding. Again, they see the Spirit at work in their own lives. They know that it was the Spirit who caused them to think of Jesus and they are grateful. As they reflect on their spiritual journey, they learn more and more that they need the Holy Spirit. To lose the Spirit would be the biggest disaster they could experience. 

But Jesus assures them that the Spirit will be given to them permanently. He says that he will be with them and will be in them. What does he mean by this imagery? It suggests that they will have the Spirit in an external way and in an internal way. Externally, he will be with them and, internally, he will indwell them. These images could suggest constant protection from outside and increasing intimacy within. 

In what situations is the Spirit present with us outwardly and inwardly? Here is one answer to the question. He is present in any form of Christian fellowship. For example, as we gather in church, the Spirit’s presence is both external and internal for each Christian. He is external in the sense that he is present in the lives of other believers and in that he is present in the preaching of his Word. He is internal in the sense that he continues to stimulate within us the bond we have with other believers and in applying the Word to our hearts. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Comforter purchased (John 14:16-17)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

The first point to notice is that this bestowal of the Spirit is connected to the request of the Saviour. He informs his disciples that he will ask the Father to give the Spirit. This is a reference to the divine arrangement or contract or covenant, made before Jesus came into the world, in which the Father promised to give to Jesus the reward of the Holy Spirit if he completed the work of redemption. So we can say that the coming of the Spirit was, in addition to being the outcome of the promise of the Father, the consequence of the redemptive work of the Son.

These words of Jesus predict or illustrate what will be one his great concerns when he returns to the glory of heaven. When he reaches there, he will remember his disciples still on earth. He will not be like the restored official in Egypt who forgot about Joseph and left him lying in prison. This concern of Christ is not limited to the apostles; instead it embraces each of his people. As we think of the attitude of Jesus towards us, we should remind ourselves that his concern is that we, too, should have the Spirit. 

Another detail that can be deduced from the words of Jesus is the contribution of each person in the Trinity towards the salvation of believers. The Father, the Son and the Spirit share in the working out of the plan of salvation. Each fulfils his particular role with desire, delight and determination. We can select any of these specific activities and see this is the case. In order to illustrate their attitudes, we can think briefly of some of these roles. 

The Father adopts each of his children with desire, delight and determination. He desires to have them in his family, he rejoices that they are in his family, and he will never exclude them from his family. Similarly, the Father expresses these features of desire, delight and determination in the way that he disciplines his children: he desires that they become Christlike, he rejoices in their developing Christlikeness, and he is determined that each of them will be Christlike.

The Son displays desire, delight and determination in his roles as well. As the Redeemer, he eternally desired to set us free, he delighted in coming to set us at liberty, and on the cross he paid the price for our freedom. 

The Spirit also displays the attitudes of desire, delight and determination in all that he does for his people. Think of his work in his people before conversion. Gladly he came to convict us of our sins; how he delighted in the expressions of repentance that arose in our hearts; how he persevered with us until he brought us to the foot of the cross. Or think of his work in sanctification. The Spirit rejoices to work in our sinful lives, reforming our characters into the image of Christ. He desires that we enjoy his blessings, he delights to give them to us, and he will not cease his sanctifying work until we are totally conformed to the likeness of Jesus.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Coming of the Comforter (14:16-17)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

We have considered recently two of the three features that Jesus indicated would be the marks of his true disciples. These two features are prayer in the name of Christ and obedience to the commandments of Christ. In the next few readings, we will consider the third essential feature of true discipleship, which is the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking about the Holy Spirit today is complicated by the influence of the Charismatic Movement on Christian thinking. That movement has stressed certain activities as indicating the presence of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, and the excesses connected to it may cause us to ignore the work of the Spirit in our own lives. Of course, this would be a mistake because the New Testament makes clear that we need to experience the workings of the Spirit in our lives.

As we think of the coming of the Spirit, we are not to think that he was not active in the world prior to this time. The Old Testament mentions several of his activities: for example, his involvement in creation, his striving with sinners before the Flood, his speaking through God’s servants, and his restoration of fallen believers (Psalm 51).

Since we are thinking of a divine Person, obviously there is a great amount that can be said about the person and work of the Spirit. Indeed Jesus, throughout the Upper Room discourse, will return often to various aspects of the Spirit’s work. We will focus on some of his these aspects as we work our way through the remaining material in John 13–16. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Why do the disciples love and obey Jesus? (14:15)

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

This verse says two things about Christians. First, they love Jesus and, second, they obey Jesus. Why do his disciples love Jesus? They love him for many reasons and here are three. 

First, he has brought them into a new relationship with God. Before they met Jesus, they were strangers to God and under his condemnation. Like the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, they love much because they are forgiven much.

Second, he has brought them into a near relationship with God. They become his children and are able to draw near to him as to a Father.

Third, they love Jesus because he first loved them. He loved them before time, in the eternal ages before any creature existed. Then his heart thought about them. He loved them in time, as the seeking shepherd who sought each of his people lost in his or her sin. The more they think about what Jesus did out of love for them, the more they increase in love to him.

And what kind of obedience is performed by love?

Such loving obedience is simple. Jesus does not give complicated requirements. His teachings are straightforward, they clearly reveal what is right and what is wrong. The words of Mary to the servants at the wedding apply to us all, ‘Whatever he says to you, do it.’ The fact that Christ’s commands are simple to understand does not mean that they may not cause difficulties if obeyed. This leads to the next point. 

Loving obedience is sacrificial. When a command of Jesus brings the possibility of conflict, what is the Christian to do? He is not to use the likely difficulties as a reason for disobedience. 

Loving obedience is also steadfast. By this I mean that it continues year in, year out. With love in the heart to Jesus, there will be a determination to obey him, an unwavering commitment to him.

We can see from this that the root cause of many problems in the Christian life is a decline in love.  So how should we give loving obedience?

First, keep Christ’s commands eagerly and not reluctantly. Second, keep them comprehensively, not selectively. Third, keep them visibly and not merely inwardly. Fourth, keep them dependently and not proudly; we know that the only reason we are able to keep them is because Jesus enables us by the Holy Spirit.

How do we develop a love for Christ that will result in obedience? I would suggest that we need to engage often in contemplation of what he has done for us (meditation on the Bible), that we need to enjoy his companionship day by day (pray specifically for his presence wherever we go), and that we need to practise whatever his word tells us to do. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The promise to the disciples (14:12-14)

Jesus here says that he will answer the prayers of his people (this is a reminder that we can pray to Jesus as well as to the Father). This was a wonderful promise for his original disciples. Matthew Henry imagines Jesus saying to his people, ‘Let me hear from you by prayer, the prayer of faith, and you shall hear from me by the Spirit.’

It is also a great promise to his disciples today. We live in a vastly different world from the early Christians. Yet there is one great similarity, which is that Jesus is still exalted. The barriers to the success of the early church have gone. Some of these barriers were enormous: the power of the Roman Empire, the variety of false religions, the smallness of the church, the insignificance of its members. Yet they have been replaced by barriers that look very similar. Nevertheless the same weapon of prayer that eventually removed the previous barriers will also  eventually remove contemporary barriers.

Jesus gives the promise twice to his disciples. No doubt the main reason for this was his awareness of their slowness to learn. Often they had shown themselves unable to take in what he had said. So he repeated his promise. This method of teaching gives great insight into the heart of Jesus. He knows our weakness, and he wants us to have strong assurance.

Is this promise not a great challenge to us? There are many things that we cannot pray for with the certainty of being answered. We cannot demand good health, long life, great comforts, permanent employment and other temporal blessings from God. But there are other things that we can pray for with great certainty, and these include the conversion of sinners and the consecration of saints. How much is the lack of conversions today due to our lack of prayer? How much is the worldliness of the church due to our lack of prayer?

Jesus says that he will answer the prayers of his people because he wants to glorify the Father, and that should be a strong motive for us to pray as well. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Greater Works by the Disciples and Prayer (14:12-14)

Jesus explains to his disciples how their involvement in this great task will show itself and he mentions three ways. The first is answered prayer, the second is obedience, and the third is the presence of the Holy Spirit. These three details are the means by which greater works will be done. In this reading, I will say something about prayer.

In verses 13 and 14, Jesus states that prayer is crucial for bringing about greater works. It is important to note that Jesus is not saying that he will give everything that we ask for. Some people think that if they say ‘in the name of Jesus’ loud enough and often enough, then God is duty bound to answer the request. That is not what it means to pray in the name of Jesus. What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus?

First, such prayer realises who Jesus is and what he has done. The person praying is aware that Jesus is the Saviour from sin. Therefore to pray in the name of Jesus always involves the necessity of confession of sin. This is not merely a listing of wrongdoing as an attitude of heart. The believer knows that he is defiled by indwelling sin, therefore he prays penitently in the name of Jesus. 

Second, such prayer realises where Jesus is now – it confesses that he is exalted at the Father’s side. Inevitably, prayer offered through him will be submissive to his will, an expression of recognising his Lordship. 

Thirdly, such prayer will be focussed on the ongoing honour of Jesus. This means that it will offer requests that have that purpose. It will not be selfish in its requests. Prayer is not a shopping list of my needs. I would suggest that the prayers here described by Jesus are connected to the greater works that he has given his church to perform, namely, the ingathering of disciples and instructing them in the faith. In this way, the Father is glorified. 

Fourthly, to pray in the name of Jesus is to express dependence upon Jesus. We can imagine the surprise that the original disciples would have had on being told that they and other disciples would do greater works than Jesus did during his years of public ministry. How could they possibly do so? The answer to this concern is that only Jesus could enable them. 

This means that prayer is an opportunity for his disciples to become sharers in his mission. Although they are separated from Jesus in a geographical sense, they are not detached from his mission because of that. What detaches them from his mission is a failure to pray. Apparently there are more people alive today than in all the previous centuries combined. This means that there are more people on earth today than there is in the combined total of those who now are in heaven and in hell. It also means that by the end of this century the combined population of heaven and hell will double at least. It is impossible for us to reach all of them, but we know One who can, which is why we should pray.

In a sense, here we have part of Jesus’ strategy for mission. It involves his exaltation as the basis for it. It involves us as intercessors on behalf of others in order for them to be saved, and then to pray for them that they would mature. This is one of the great works to which Jesus has called his church. Which is the greater work – to raise a person from the dead or to persevere in prayer until a spiritually-dead sinner becomes alive through the gospel? We know that the first work would get the crowd, but we also know that to engage in it is to lose sight of our high calling.

This is a reminder of the importance of the prayer meeting. What happens when people gather to pray? They are participating in the mission of Jesus to save sinners. There are effects of a prayer meeting that are more powerful than decisions taken by governments.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Greater Works by the Disciples (14:12-14)

Jesus says that his disciples will do the works that he did, indeed they will perform greater works because he is going to the Father. What did Jesus mean by works?

One suggested answer is that Jesus is referring to miracles. It is the case that the apostles performed notable miracles as described in the Book of Acts, although it is doubtful that they could be called greater miracles than Jesus did. For example, the disciples did not feed large crowds with a small amount of food nor did they turn large urns of water into wine. So it is unlikely that Jesus is referring exclusively to miracles, although no doubt they are included.

The fact is that Jesus did many kinds of works in addition to miracles. For example, he performed acts of compassion such as helping those in need; he also engaged in acts of humility such as washing his disciples’ feet. In order to understand what is meant here by ‘works’, we need to see how greater ones can be done.

The meaning seems to be this. When Jesus was on earth, his disciples shared in the work that he did. They did miracles similar to the miracles that Jesus did. The point that needs to be underlined is why Jesus did these miracles. The answer is that they proved he was the predicted Messiah and it was appropriate for his disciples to perform similar miracles. When Jesus will be in heaven, there will be a difference in that the disciples will do works in line with the purpose of the exalted Christ.

The purpose of the exalted Christ is to gather disciples to himself. Since that is his purpose, it is obvious that it will be the purpose of his disciples as well. So in what ways will this type of works be greater than the previous types of work?

One answer to the question is that the number of disciples will be greater than they were before Jesus ascended. It is not clear how many genuine disciples Jesus had during his three years of public ministry. The largest figure that is given is the 500 who met on one occasion after he was risen from the dead. Yet at the beginning of the new era, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter’s preaching resulted in more sinners becoming disciples than had been known during the three years that they had been with Jesus.

A second answer to the question is that the message of the disciples after the exaltation of Christ was greater in the sense that it was presented in more clarity than before he died. We know that the disciples prior to the crucifixion did not believe that Jesus would die, so how could they present a clear message about his atoning death to others? Yet once Jesus was glorified they were able to present a coherent message about what had happened to Jesus, as we can see in Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Jesus’ reply to Philip (John 14:7-11)

Jesus by his words and works revealed what the Father is like. Here are some examples.

Firstly, Jesus taught and showed that the Father delights to forgive sinners. Remember the situation involving the paralysed man who was lowered by his friends through the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus first forgave the man, and then healed him to show that he had been given authority by God to forgive sinners. Jesus knew the Father so well that he was able to ask for his Father’s forgiveness for the soldiers that crucified him. He knew that the Father would be delighted to forgive them despite their heinous sin.

Secondly, Jesus taught and showed that prayer and other spiritual activities to the Father was not merely public displays as far as personal prayer, fasting and almsgiving were concerned (Matt. 6). He gave instructions to his disciples about praying in secret and showed this necessity by going to a private place in order to pray. We are not told about his times of fasting and occasions of almsgiving, but he would have done both as a righteous man. Connected to this is his involvement in seeking worshippers for the Father, which he enacted and taught to the woman of Samaria (John 4).

Thirdly, Jesus taught and showed that he was the One who the Father had sent to be the Saviour of the world. Many times he had expressed the fact that he was the promised Deliverer, and he performed many miracles as proof of who he was (Luke 7:22).

It is also worth stating that Jesus will continue this role throughout the eternity to come. He will declare the Father’s name to his people and all he will do then will be connected to that purpose.

The issue that this raises for us is our view of God. There are many ways of considering God. We can delve into theological mysteries or we can focus on obvious abilities that God must have, such as power. The best way to consider God is to look at how he is revealed in the words and actions of Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Philip’s request for a sight of God (14:7-11)

Philip’s request, in one sense, is the desire of every human heart. Each one of us is made in God’s image, with the capability of knowing God in the sense that we are rational beings able to think about him, we are emotional beings able to love him and rejoice in him, and we are volitional beings able to obey him. Sadly these capabilities have been affected by our sin which turns us away from God. Nevertheless, there is within each a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill. We attempt to fill that vacuum with substitutes such as pleasure, career, ambitions, various interests, even religion. These substitutes cannot meet our longings. Therefore we need to meet God.

Many people have realised the futility and frustration of life. They long for reality and substance. This, from one perspective, explains the growing interest in other religions. Yet the only One who can satisfy their deepest longings is Jesus (Matt. 11:28-30; John 7:37-39). 

Philip’s request, in another sense, is a denial of the reality of the incarnation. What he seems to be asking for is a theophany, something similar to what some Old Testament believers, such as Moses (Exod. 33:19-23) and Isaiah Isa. 6), had experienced.

There are two responses that can be made to these displays of divine glory. First, it would not be possible for humans to experience this type of encounter every day. Second, these encounters, while revealing aspects of God’s glory, also hid details about God from the onlookers. What they needed was a revelation that they could experience every day and a revelation that would give them fuller details about God. That revelation has been given in Jesus Christ, and Philip should have realised it. Hopefully we realise what Jesus was doing.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Who was Philip (14:7-11)

There are two men called Philip in the New Testament. One is Philip the apostle (who is mentioned several times in the Gospels) and there is Philip the evangelist (who is mentioned several times in the Book of Acts – for example, preaching in Samaria and also witnessing to the Ethiopian eunuch). The Philip in our passage is Philip the apostle.

The question here by Philip indicated that he had not fully realised who Jesus was or what Jesus had been doing. Initially we may find this surprising. After all, Philip had been one of the first disciples of Jesus. His recruitment to Christ’s cause is described in John 1:43-46. As is the case with every Christian, his conversion experience was unique. As far as Philip was concerned, he had been converted through a personal visit of Jesus: ‘The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me”’ (1:43). 

His experience was different from that of the other early disciples who are mentioned in John 1, in the sense that Jesus found him without involving any others in the search. Philip is an example of the lost sheep in the parable that Jesus told – the Shepherd went and personally rescued it. On the one hand, this shows God’s sovereignty. Yet Philip also describes his conversion as the end of a process because he informs Nathaniel that they, presumably Philip and the others who had just met Jesus, had found the Messiah, indicating that he had been searching for the Messiah. We should always keep both these sides in perspective. Our responsibility is to seek for the Saviour, and if we do, we are assured that we will find him. 

Almost the first thing that Philip does is to find his friend Nathaniel and tell him about Jesus. His friend was probably looking for the coming Messiah as well, although he was surprised when Philip revealed his identity as Jesus of Nazareth. Yet Philip showed a great deal of wisdom when he responded to Nathaniel’s objections by saying, ‘Come and see.’

The next three years were wonderful ones for Philip as he listened to the teachings of Jesus and watched him perform great miracles. Yet despite his clear conversion, his great opportunities, and his nearness to Jesus it is clear that Philip had not progressed as he should. It was necessary for him to be rebuked by Jesus because he had not progressed in the knowledge of who Jesus was. Of course, we know that the Holy Spirit was not given then in the way that he is given since Pentecost, which means that Philip was trying to assess Jesus with much less light than we have. Yet since he is rebuked gently by Jesus, it is clear that he should have had more understanding. If that was the case for him, what does it say about us? 

This type of knowledge comes mainly through searching the Bible and by prayer, always with the help of the Holy Spirit. Hudson Taylor, and others of his outlook and time, had a very simple prayer, which we could all use:

Lord Jesus, make thyself to me
A living, bright Reality;
More present to faith's vision keen
Than any earthly object seen;
More dear, more intimately nigh
Than e’en the dearest earthly tie.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Heaven – ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (14:5-6)

Jesus is the way to the Father for his people when they come to the end of their lives. As they breathe their last, he meets them at the doorway of heaven and escorts them to his Father’s presence. One by one, they enter the Father’s house and are greeted by Jesus. What a rich welcome he gives to each!

Jesus will be the truth on that day as well. This will be the case in a number of ways. In heaven, he will be our truthful Instructor as he unfolds to us the meaning of the Father’s name. In this life, he gave to us understanding in the faith, but that knowledge is small to that which he shall communicate to us in heaven.

Of course, Jesus will also be the life of his people in heaven. He will give eternal life in its fullness, this life which flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. He will lead his people to the fountains of the waters of life from which they will drink their fill permanently.

Eventually, this experience of life will include their bodies on the great resurrection day when he will display his final and total victory over death. His power to give life will be seen in the creation of the new heavens and new earth, the rejuvenated universe in which his people will dwell with him forever.

Truly he will always be the way, the truth and the life for all his people.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Christian life – ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (14:5-6)

How is Jesus the way, the truth and the life in the everyday experiences of his people? Firstly, he is the way to the Father in the sense that it is through his name that we have access to God in prayer. This is a wonderful aspect of communion with God. This road is never closed. Twenty-four hours a day we can draw near to the Father through Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus is the truth in that he enables us to understand the various doctrines of the Bible. This understanding is done in such a way as to show us the greatness of the doctrines, resulting is us drawing near to the Father in worship and thankfulness. By the Holy Spirit, who has come to us as the representative of Jesus, we are instructed in the things of Christ.

Jesus is the truth in another way to his people and that is in the manner in which he is their perfect example. They read about the details of his wonderful life recorded in the Gospels, a life so beautiful that they desire to imitate it. They observed how Jesus acted according to truth at all times. He never showed favouritism or injustice, he never leaned to one side more than another; he always did what was appropriate and true.

Thirdly, Jesus is the life in that he gives the Holy Spirit to indwell his people. The indwelling Spirit renews their characters in sanctification, with his goal being conformity to the likeness of Christ. The life of Jesus, obtained by a living union with him, works itself out in their lives. Sometimes they mourn lack of progress and are distressed by their failures. But that is also a sign of life because it shows they long for his likeness.

There is another way in which Jesus is life to his people throughout their Christian journey and that is the way by which he gives them satisfaction. In John 10:10, he summarises his mission by saying that he came into the world so that sinners may have abundant life. This inner life is usually marked by a sense of peace and joy.

Jesus gives these blessings simultaneously to those who follow him: access to God, understanding of the faith, an example to follow, the Spirit to indwell and satisfaction in the soul. Truly, he is the way, the truth and the life now to his people.