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.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Jesus, the Word

In John 1:1ff., the author describes the activities of the eternal Son before he became a man. One of those activities was his participation in the divine work of creation, which was when other forms of life commenced. Before then, only the eternal God existed, and did so as the three persons of the Trinity.

Within the Trinity, the Son (the Word) was face to face with the Father. In using the title 'the Word', John indicates that communication was taking place. While it is not possible to insist on what were the specific details shared between them, it is reasonable to suggest that they were delighting in the divine plan of salvation because that was how divine glory would be revealed.

The interaction between the three persons was without beginning. Nor was the sharing a process of discovery about the details of the divine plan. The fellowship within the Trinity was one of omniscience as well as of love. The Father, the Son and the Spirit enjoyed unending delight in contemplating the revelation of glory that was yet to commence elsewhere.

In John 1:14, the author explains how this revelation would be possible. it would occur after the Word was made flesh. The Incarnation of the Son, him becoming man, was a great miracle. He did not cease to be the Word, so his identity remained unchanged. Yet his audience did, because on earth he now communicated with men and women and children about the divine plan for their salvation.

In contrast to the response in heaven, the sharing on earth was rejected by many. This rejection commenced at his birth. Although he had not personally said anything as a man, sufficient revelation was given about him to recognise who he was. Shepherds and wise men believed in him, rulers and religious leaders did not.

The rejection showed itself later when the inhabitants of his hometown Nazareth opposed his teaching. They were not the last to do during his years of public ministry. Yet John says that there were those who received him and became members of God's family. They saw the glory that he had come to show to them, a glory that was marked by grace and truth.

They saw his glory in his interactions with sinners as he spoke and acted graciously and truthfully. The 'they' included all kinds of people - fishermen who became apostles, religious leaders like Nicodemus, social outcasts like the woman of Samaria. Eventually they discovered that the communication of glory would involve the darkness of the cross.

They did not understand this initially. Then the resurrection of Jesus brought new insights for them regarding his communication about his coming and what would occur afterwards. Now their desire was to serve him here and then go to be with him in heaven and discover more of what he has to say to them about the plan of God that had been the focus of the Trinity from everlasting. And his communication of the divine purpose will never cease because he will continue to lead them, and all other believers, to the fountains of the waters of life (Rev. 8:17).

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Jesus our Advocate

The apostle John reminds his readers that as Christians they have an advocate with the Father, and that their advocate is Jesus (1 John 2:1). Perhaps we are surprised by that information. After all, have they not been forgiven all their sins by their heavenly Father? So why do they need Jesus as an advocate?

Perhaps the problem we have is caused by us assuming John has in mind the roles that advocates play in our legal system. In our courtrooms, an advocate stands before the judge because he has no say in the verdict. It is different with Jesus because he sits alongside the Judge on the heavenly throne – he sits on the same place as where God the Father is.

Moreover, when an advocate takes part in a court case, he does not know what is going through the mind of the person he represents. He may suspect that the accused person is guilty of the crime, yet his task is to persuade the jury and the judge that the accused is innocent. Nor does the advocate know if the judge is interested in the person on trial; after all it is likely that the judge and the accused have never met before.

With Jesus, it is very different. He knows everything about his clients and about the Judge, his heavenly Father. Jesus knows that his clients are guilty, in fact he has a policy of only representing those who are guilty. And when he speaks about them to the Judge he stresses that they are guilty of their sins. Jesus also knows that the Judge loves them as his children.

An advocate in our courtrooms, when he senses that the case for his client is bad, will look for mitigating circumstances to try and reduce the sentence. Jesus does not present any mitigating factors: he does not base his argument on our regret for past errors or our good intentions for the future. Instead, Jesus points to the wounds that mark his body. Those wounds are the permanent reminder in the heavenly courtroom that the price of sin has been paid. Unlike earthly advocates, Jesus does not have to make a speech urging clemency. Indeed, he does not have to say anything because his wounds speak very loudly.

Murray McCheyne has recorded how he interpreted this verse: ‘I feel, when I have sinned, an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would do no good to go, as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe, and a thousand other excuses; but I am persuaded they are all lies, direct from hell. John argues the opposite way: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” I am sure there is neither peace nor safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s way of peace and holiness. It is folly to the world and the beclouded heart, but it is the way.’