Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are the Gifts of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Active Today? (Part Three)

By John Pappas, ThD

In the previous article, the Biblical definition of "the gift of tongues" was given as: a supernatural, spontaneous, giving of a known language used in the same way as that of Acts chapter two (Greek ‘glossa’ “tongue,” used metaphorically as “language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations”). Now that the background of 1 Corinthians has been explained, it is now time to look at the text of 13:8-10. Paul uses a great literary mechanism in this section as he uses the three terms: tongues, prophecy and knowledge. He now moves with poetic style, interjecting love into the equation.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10:
Love never fails.
But whether there are prophecies,
they will fail;
whether there are tongues,
they will cease;
whether there is knowledge,
it will vanish away.
For we know in part
and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect has come,
then that which is in part will be done away.

As you can see, the term prophecies, tongues and knowledge are now placed in their proper order – God’s word comes first, then the individual speaks God’s word in one’s own tongue which brings knowledge, but all this is superintended by the Holy Spirit.

Notice, Paul places love in contrast to the three. First, love will never fail (present tense), if there be prophecies, they will cease (Greek ‘katargeo’ Future Passive, “to cause to cease, render idle”). Prophecies will, in the future, be stopped as the passive means an external agent will perform the action.

Second, tongues will cease (Greek ‘pauo’ Future Middle, “to make to cease, to leave off, to stop”). Tongues will in the future, itself stop to be the only form of spreading the Gospel of Christ. That is to say, before the written word, the gospel was spread mouth to mouth or in the Greek language – tongue-to-tongue. Again, the Holy Spirit is superintending the word of mouth spread of the gospel. It will be spread by word of mouth from Jesus until the book of Revelation sometime in the AD 90s. Here the action of ceasing is in the middle voice meaning that “itself” will cease, a willing cessation in contrast to the passive voice which denotes a forced cessation (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

The last item is knowledge, and it too will cease (Greek ‘katargeo’ Future Passive, “to cause to cease, render idle”). Knowledge will also be rendered idle. Again, the action will occur in the future and will be accomplished by an external agent – the Holy Spirit. What does it mean that knowledge will cease? This is the same supernatural knowledge that is superintended by the Holy Spirit and spoken of earlier “for one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit” (12:8). That is to say, the knowledge here is supernatural spontaneous knowledge gifted to an individual for the purpose of understanding the word and applying God’s word to an occasion. This knowledge is different from the knowledge that associates with the work of the Holy Spirit today.

In fact, Chapter 12 is where all this starts and where these gifts are defined. Notice what Paul writes:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Cor. 12:1-10)

It is clear from the text that 'tongues' are normal known human languages that are used as instruments to clearly communicate the word of God to the world.

The next thing to identify is what is it that "we know in part?"

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” What in the world is Paul saying? The Greek really points out what this thing is that is known “in part.”

The “we” is Paul and the Church who currently know and prophesy part of the whole which is yet to come. They know some, but not all of what God has to bring to them. In verse 10, Paul adds that in some point in time (the Greek aorist describes action at a point in time) the whole will come and their partial knowledge will no longer be needed, and in fact, will cease (Greek ‘katargeo’ Future Passive, “to cause to cease, render idle”).

The word for perfect is a neuter adjective (Greek ‘teleios’ “brought to its end, finished, perfect”) and points not to the Church, or the kingdom, or to Jesus’ return, but to the message, the thing that is known in part (Greek ‘meros’ neuter). When will that prophecy which is partial be complete? It is complete when the last book of the Bible is written. Context demands that this wonderful three part poem correspond with the word of God that is to be used throughout the world in one’s own language to be clearly spread.

Dr. Couch writes, “the prophets were important, as emphasized by Paul when he placed them in second position after the apostles (Eph. 4:11). But then the office of prophet ceased after the completion of the New Testament, like the office of apostle. The same thing happened with the Old Testament. Those ancient prophets disappeared when that testament was finished about four hundred years before Christ. (Mal Couch, gen. ed., A Biblical Theology of the Church, AMG, p. 59)

Much confusion has been spread concerning tongues especially with the great growth of the charismatic Church. While there are different interpretations within the charismatic church concerning tongues and their use, it needs to be pointed out that their use in the Corinthian church was in error and it involved pagan worship. Unknown 'secret' knowledge and the desire to be a special spokesman for God that only you know, is pagan! We have the plain Word of God. We would all do well to place that same excitement and enthusiasm into reading His written Word and use our individual gifts to build up the Church today.

John Pappas, ThD, is the author of BibleGreekVpod, a website dedicated to the teaching of the original Bible languages for those who want to learn them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Are the Gifts of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Active Today? (Part Two)

By John Pappas, ThD

The city of Corinth was located in the great Achaia providence and served as its capital. Politically it was ruled by the Romans, which captured the area two hundred years earlier. Spiritually it was still under Greek idol worship. A significant economy was built around the building and selling of idols carved out of wood and stone. Meat markets supplied the day’s sacrifice to the many gods. Beautiful temples were built and maintained. The Greek goddess Aphrodite, goddess of love and lust, held court in her temple above the Acrocorinth - the high place of the town. It was served by more than a thousand religious prostitutes. These Corinthians at one time attended services, participating with the temple prostitutes. These early Christians had overcome a great deal of fleshly sin, yet this cultural sin continued all around them.

The letters to the Corinthians are the third written (probably AD 56). These were written after Galatians (AD 48) and after the letters to the Thessalonians (AD 51). The Holy Spirit was doing things in the Church in an active, visible, supernatural way. And as is the case, God uses man to spread His word throughout the world. The quick rise of Christian Churches throughout the region brought a rise in cultural problems within the Church. Each group had its own problems, but common to all the letters of the New Testament is sin, as the worldly desires of the flesh and self-seeking glory move into the Church. Paul points out the problem saying, let me show you a more excellent way. And he says:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Cor. 13:1-7)

The statement “[t]hough I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,” expresses the thought of “all languages,” even the language of angels, if there is such a thing. Paul is addressing a perversion of their use, and indeed, the very idea of the “gift of tongues.” Originally, the Christian idea was that of Acts chapter two where the apostles were supernaturally and spontaneously gifted with all the different languages of all the Jews present that day. They were from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) as they gathered for the feast day – the Day of Pentecost. And the use of tongues was to spread the gospel of Christ to all the nations – to communicate clearly the word of God.

Some of the Corinthians, however, brought their pagan culture into the Church and desired pagan tongues. Dr. Mitchell writes, “The Corinthians apparently considered these tongues to be languages of the angels. Such was the association of tongues-speaking in pagan worship at Corinth. When a priest or devotee spoke in tongues, it was considered that he spoke in the language of the gods. The first hint that the writer is concerned about syncretism is in 12:2, where he reminds his readers that they were ‘led astray to the dumb idols.’ Ironically, it was to these mute gods that many of the people were formerly drawn and with whom they communicated in various forms of ecstatic speech.” (Dan Mitchell, First Corinthians, AMG, 2004)

The application of a 'tongue' is used in a wonderful way as Paul associates the instrument (the tongue, the sounding brass and clanging cymbal) which makes a loud sound and applies it with love. A real language must be used in love otherwise it is just noise (and again, probably a reference to the pagan Greek liturgy using cymbals and other brass instruments). It is clear that at the time of writing 1 Corinthians, tongues were a supernatural gift and used in the same way as that of Acts chapter two - a known language (Greek ‘glossa’ “tongue,” used metaphorically as “language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations”), speaking the message of God clearly.

The purpose for 'tongues' is to communicate God’s word to the world. The term prophecy has two uses in Scripture: (1) repeating Scripture; and (2) forth-telling or future telling in the classical sense. Context determines which way it is being used. In this case, it appears that there is still prophecy, namely, doctrine that needs to be spoken since the testimony of the New Testament has not yet been completed. First Corinthians is an early book and there are 22 more books that need to be written down before the Holy Spirit seals the cannon.

John Pappas, ThD, is the author of BibleGreekVpod, a website dedicated to the teaching of the original Bible languages for those who want to learn them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Are the Gifts of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Active Today? (Part One)

By John Pappas, ThD

There is much confusion concerning the gifts presented in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. There are many who speak of the tongues in this section of Scripture as some kind of unknown “angelic language.” In fact, they claim to speak this language. With the tremendous growth of the charismatic church around the world, this error is growing. Is their growth in numbers a proof that this is a Biblical doctrine? This article answers the question: what are the knowledge gifts and when Scripture says they will cease when will that be (i.e., what does "the partial is perfected" mean)?

There are two main issues here. The first has to do with identifying what the tongues are, and the second has to do with what “perfected” means. First, let’s look at how Paul introduces the section in order to clarify the problem within the Corinthian Church.

Some in the Church were boasting in their spiritual gift: 1 Corinthians 12:27-30: "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way."

Paul identifies who they are: they are individual members participating in the one body, the body of Christ – the Church. The goal of the individual gifts is to serve the body to build up the Church. However, sin is (as usual) getting in the way. Some are apparently boasting in their spiritual gift. Predictably, the bragging was accompanied by envy and strife as believers sought the highest perceived gift. This is indeed a problem throughout the Church in the Greek culture. Because the Greek culture was deep into Greek philosophy, Paul had no choice but to address the common problem of the culture creeping into the Church. In this case, the Gnostic desire of reaching that “higher spiritual level” elitism had become a big problem along with special knowledge of the "mysteries." There were spiritual elitists among them who craved the best of gifts to show off – "secret" knowledge was the highest thing to aspire to. Understanding the "mysteries" was hugely popular in pagan Greek culture, just as popular then as it is today in our increasingly pagan culture. Does this happen in your Church? Are there some in your Church who put on a show, being super-spiritual, but never seem to get around to using their gift to help others? Do you ever see their fruit? This is part of the problem that Paul is addressing.

John Pappas, ThD, is the author of BibleGreekVpod, a website dedicated to the teaching of the original Bible languages for those who want to learn them.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Global Warming and the Carbon Tax

The much debated topic of global warming, the evil of CO2, and big oil's contribution to the destruction of our planet has brought the globalist to the point of desperation. This is an attempt to disseminate false claims and to make the simple complex in an effort to institute a political solution where the UN is elevated to the savior of the world. In reality, the basic issue of CO2 is really a means to generate money that forms the foundation of a global tax to fund a governing body that controls all the governments of the world.

This is evident by the basic physics that make up the problem. Is CO2 the root problem, or even a contributor to the problem? The answer is no! In this article I will show that CO2 is not the problem at all. In fact, looking at a plot of average surface temperature and CO2, one finds a general trend, but at other times the graph shows them moving in opposite directions. A direct correlation means that the two parameters will be directly related always, not mostly! They do not correlate always so one cannot claim a correlation. This is basic statistics, the kind of stuff we learned in Physics 101, Chemistry 101, and Statistics 101.

The starting point in any analysis is to verify that the data you are analyzing is valid. In this case both CO2 and temperature are taken from ice core samples. Though this method introduces error and is flawed, it does provide at least something to analyze. A starting point and understanding the possible errors helps to limit the conclusions made during the analysis. It is not the point of this article to discuss the problems associated with ice core data collection and the assumptions used. But, after understanding the data collection method, the problems, and possible errors, one can examine the data and see that a direct correlation does not exist, since a correlation means that one variable will tract the other – always!

Throughout history warming and cooling cycles have always been with us. Is the current warming cycle any different from any other cycle? The answer is no! For example, in a BBC article just after the revelation of a conspiracy to hide data by the UN's council on global warming issued the following "counter-point" argument. The argument: "A Carbon Dioxide rise has always come after a temperature increase not before."


Ice-cores dating back nearly one million years show a pattern of temperature and CO2 rise at roughly 100,000-year intervals. But the CO2 rise has always come after the temperature rise, not before, presumably as warmer temperatures have liberated the gas from oceans.


This is largely true, but largely irrelevant. Ancient ice-cores do show CO2 rising after temperature by a few hundred years - a timescale associated with the ocean response to atmospheric changes mainly driven by wobbles in the Earth's orbit. However, this time, CO2 is leading temperature. Furthermore, the situation today is dramatically different. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere (35% increase over pre-industrial levels) is from man-made emissions, and levels are higher than have been seen in 650,000 years of ice-core records. They may in fact be higher than at any time in the last three million years.

As can be seen by the response, the supporter of warming by man-influenced CO2 does not care about the facts or the truth. In science a correlation can only be made if it holds true all the time. Clearly, the supporter accepts the fact that a direct correlation is not found between global warming and CO2 activity, but then adds the argument man has increased CO2 by 35%, but what does that have to do with that data and warming? Nothing – there is no correlation.

A Look at the Facts

The basic chemistry of the lower atmosphere is made up of the following:

Nitrogen (N2) = 78%
Oxygen (O2) = 20.9%
Argon (Ar) = 0.93%
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) = 0.033%

Water Vapor ~ 1-4% at the surface; 0.4% at high altitude.

As can be seen from the basic makeup of our air, CO2 is only 0.03%! The basic science that has been taught about the earth's temperature control mechanism has to do with water and wind not CO2. Does this mean we do not have to worry about CO2 levels? I do not know, but I do know the correlation of CO2 to the temperature of the earth is a lie!

The earth's atmosphere is sometimes viewed as a closed system, that is, within the earth's atmospheric shield there is no effect on earth from an outside agent. This closed-system view is fine as long as the subject studied is not concerned with anything involving outside affects. Conversely, sometimes the earth's atmosphere is viewed as an open system, where the effect of outside influences are taken into account. The type of analysis depends upon what is being investigated.

For this article, my concern is only with CO2 and its influence on temperature so I will not talk about other areas. As can be seen, CO2 is a natural part of the atmosphere and is only 0.03% of its makeup. What is not talked about in this debate has to do with the regulators of the environment. This brings us back to the subject of a closed system verses an open system. When talking about a regulator, one is really speaking of a control law and every law has its direct correlations. For any temperature related subject, one cannot escape the fundamental law PV=nRT or (Pressure)(Volume)=nR(Temperature). For the earth, our major regulators of energy are the energy sources, water and wind.

From the perspective of energy, the major source is the sun, but other localized sources are also involved (e.g. volcanic activity, forest fires, friction of the earth, a large city, etc), but for our purposes, the sun and stored energy radiated back to the atmosphere from the surface is the dominate energy source and the evaporation/condensation cycle of water - what is commonly called the hydrologic water cycle is the other.

Wind is the result of a temperature difference and serves as a source of heat transfer as the law of thermodynamics says heat flows from hotter to colder. This temperature difference causes wind. The wind moves in the atmosphere causing evaporation/condensation of water. This wind/water activity serves to regulate the temperature, always moving the temperature to a steady state, uniform condition. The time it takes to reach a stabilized condition varies greatly and the dynamics involved is complex as the winds move in three dimensions, some laterally, some longitudinal in a complex swirling fashion. This is what the ancients knew and the Bible speaks about the wind and water cycle:

The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again. (Ecclesiastes 1:6-7)

With respect to water, it is the thing that is constantly changing state from solid to liquid to vapor and back. Each state change has a different energy component. The system is complex, it is not simply a lake or the ocean's evaporation that contributes but this activity also occurs with water in the earth and water in the atmosphere as the air changes temperature. The change in air temperature at the surface of the earth occurs due to the energy of the sun and the movement of the winds. As the water content of the air increases by evaporation, the air becomes supersaturated and water droplets form or conversely, droplets change into vapor again due to changes in radiation or winds.

As you can tell, this is rather simple in it design, but complex as a control system. The affect is that water serves as the primary regulator. Water's unique tri-state ability serves not only to provide a stable temperature, demonstrating God's goodness and provision for His creation, but the created world also serves to clearly reveal His character (Rom 1:20).

God is Sovereign in Controlling the Elements

Our Creator created the earth and all this is in it leaving laws that must be lived by. These laws are for the natural world as well as mankind. These natural laws governing every aspect of the natural world have been established in order for man to identify the greatness of God. Some of these laws we understand and know, but others we are yet to understand. The temperature and weather are controlled by these laws, and are somewhat predictable, but God moves in history at His will to affect weather. That it is God who controls the elements is clear from Scripture:

For He looks to the ends of the earth, And sees under the whole heavens, To establish a weight for the wind, And apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, And a path for the thunderbolt, (Job 28:24-26).

He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow. (Psalm 147:15-18)

He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. When He utters His voice, There is a multitude of waters in the heavens: And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries. (Jer. 10:12-13)

For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth—The LORD God of hosts is His name. (Amos 4:13)

After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. (Rev. 7:1-3)

As can be seen from the previous verses, God is in sovereign control of the weather. He uses weather for both blessing and curse. He sends the sunshine (Ps. 19:4-6; Matt. 5:45), the rain and snow (Job 5:10; 38:22-30; Ps. 147:16-17), the wind (Ex. 10:13; Ps. 78:26; Ps. 147:18), and the storm (Ps. 107:25-26; Jonah 1:4; Ezek. 13:13). He does all this for a purpose: sometimes to exhibit His power (Ex. 19:16), sometimes to help His people in time of battle (Jos. 10:11-14; 1 Sam. 7:10; 2 Sam. 22:13-15), sometimes to bless His people (Deut. 11:13-15; Ps. 65:9-11; 147:7-9), and sometimes to judge people (Lev. 26:18-20; 1 Kg. 17:1; Gen. 7:11-24; Isa. 8:6-8; Nah. 1:8; Ex. 9:22-26; Ps. 107:25-27; Nah. 1:3-4; Hag. 2:17). But He is in control.

The End-Time's Government

Ever since God broke-up mankind's global government centered in Babel, breaking down their temple and creating all the various language groups (Gen. 11), the world system has been trying to move back to that goal. The book of Daniel describes the four great empires, or semi-one-world governments in increasing succession. First, he describes Babylon as the lion, then the bear representing Media-Persia, the leopard representing Greece, and finally the beast representing the Roman Empire where we are currently at. Though Rome, represented by what is Europe today, does not seem very strong, will become strong in the last days as it is run by Antichrist (Dan. 11:31-45; 2 Thes. 2:3-8; Rev. 13:1-10). Bible prophecy describes an end-times government that is oppressive, controlling, and brings the whole world back to a one world government.

Notice what Dr. Walvoord writes, "Accordingly, prophecy of the Roman Empire, which is fulfilled in part up to the time of Christ, then spans the centuries between and picks up in the days just before the Second Coming. In the vision of the Roman Empire in Daniel 7, its terrible destruction is described in verses 7. But the prophecy then goes on to say, 'It had ten horns.' While the prophesied destruction of nations by the Roman armies was literally fulfilled, history has never fulfilled what was anticipated by the ten horns." (Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies, p. 371)

The world is moving quickly towards this goal. The establishment of the UN with all its various unregulated, unchecked works is reaching a point of uncontrolled power. The establishment of the G7, G8, G20 & etc, has divided our world into the various economic centers where those bodies do not answer to our lawmakers, are not elected, and make their plans and rules in secret, as they divide up the world into various economic zones.

The global economic crisis has brought the banking systems of the Roman world linked by a global body ruled by the Europeans under a central controlling body. One cannot be finanically independent today. The American bank is not allowed to fail, and it is more and more regulated by European standards. The banks of the world must conform to international (European) standards.

And it is international crisis management that uses CO2 and the so-called evil oil industry that posse the engine for generating money needed to bring financial funding for the one-world government.

But how is it that scientists' participate in this global deception? Mankind is fallen. Scientists' have a certain reputation of being honest, and trustworthy. After all they follow the unbiased scientific method. The reality is, however, that scientists' are men who will lie, cheat, and steal just like anyone. A prime example is the search for cold-fusion. How many scientists' have been caught claiming they have cracked the cold-fusion mystery? It turns out, great university institutions have been duped by these scientists time and again. What is the lure? What is the lure for any crime? Scientists are men who have to secure their jobs, and if you are a scientist working for a program funded by the government, you better come to the conclusion that the government wants or you will be out of a job. That is what we have seen with the UN's controlled origination.

Come to the Waters

Just as water and wind serve as the regulators of temperature, so they are used as metaphors of life – a spirit filled life. Water is used as a symbol of a spirit-filled eternal life in what the Bible calls living water. Isaiah 55:1 proclaims, "anyone who thirsts, come to the waters." The idea of eternal life has both the idea of entering into a new life in Christ and in that new life, living a life as a new creation in Christ. That is to say, eternal life is used in both a metaphor of salvation of a born-again person, but also of sanctification; eternal life as a legal point in time when the born again believer was saved, then eternal life as a way of life - living the Christian life. Jesus uses this metaphor of water, first to identify who it is that gives the water – the One we must know:

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." (John 4:10)

Then, Jesus uses the metaphor to speak of a new life, everlasting-life:

Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14)

So as to make it perfectly clear who He is, Jesus links Himself to the Godhead of Isaiah 55:1 (cf. Isa, 44:4):

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:38-39)

Finally, the metaphor is made complete in the new heavens and earth as John writes:

Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev. 21:5-8)


He who tells the beginning from the end, tells us how it will end – the earth will be burnt up. But those who believe who He is and what He did on the cross have eternal life. God is sovereign and will someday judge the earth, but we are not to be fooled by the world and let them pervert the truth. We know the world is moving toward a one world government, but we are to seek the truth and speak the truth. The Lord Jesus Christ is the savior not mankind, He alone came in the flesh to die on the cross as the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The world needs to know Him and Him alone as their Savior who died on the cross, was buried and resurrected from the dead. God by His grace sent His only begotten Son into the world that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:15-16). But we have been warned about those who suppress the truth of God, they have no excuse, but we must preach the gospel of Christ to the world. As we look at His creation, we can see His invisible attributes – His power, wisdom, justice, love and the Godhead (Rom. 1:16-32). What a great loving and righteous God and Savior we serve!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Theology in John Part 4

Spiritual transformation results in eternal life. That is the great truth of Scripture in chapter three. Chapter four says believers can never lose the gift of eternal life that God has given them (cf. John 4:14; 6:32, 37-40). These truths are developed in this gospel by use of the unique Johnanian theological discourse.  In this article John's theological discourses will be examined as the common purpose stated in the gospel is: "that you may believe you have life in His name" (John 20:31).

Spiritual transformation does not come by any means of man by himself, but rather by an external agent, namely, God. And although all three persons of the Godhead participate in this transformation, John concentrates in the early chapters upon the means of salvation - believing in His name; Jesus Christ, the Anointed Savior.  The apostle John puts it this way, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13). 

 The opening theses of John's gospel might be summarized as follows: The Eternal One – the Word, and specifically, Jesus Christ, the One who reveals both the Father and Himself to mankind by the testimony of His word is not only Creator and Sustainer of all life (physical life), but by intervening in creation, reveals Himself through special revelation, even though the revelation concerning eternal life is presented to all mankind, mankind will not, nay, refuses to accept the testimony, thus he stays in darkness. 

John's main point for the book is special revelation and he highlights this point not only within the opening verses but it is highlighted by the purpose statement of John 20:31 "these [things] are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." This brings me to the high point of this article, namely, special revelation and the key element in belief is the doctrine of illumination.

Special revelation
Within the doctrine of revelation (that is, God revealing Himself to mankind) there is general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is that which is revealed by God that all men know or observe; both nature and the law written in the heart fall into this category. Nature is general revelation since it reveals the triune nature of God in all that means (e.g., God's attributes of infiniteness, goodness, righteousness, holiness, wrath, etc; cf. Ps. 19:1-6; Romans 1) to all people. The law written upon the heart of all mankind is another example (cf. Rom. 2:15). The purpose of general revelation is given as legal – so that no one has an excuse (cf. Rom. 1:20). The fall has, however, clouded the heart and it no longer can see correctly for its desire is for evil always (cf Rom. 3:9-18). The result is that knowledge based on general revelation is not infallible as the apostle Paul explains:

18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22  Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:18-23)

Special revelation is that which is revealed by God to mankind through various means. God revealed Himself and His word to mankind through the pre-incarnate Christ (cf. Gen. 2; 3; 16), through angels (cf., Dan. 9; Luke 2; Rev. 1), the prophets (2 Sam. 23; Zech. 1), dreams (cf. Gen. 20 & 31), and visions (cf. Isa. 1; 6; Ezek. 1), but the key is brought to light by John's use of "the Word," that is, Jesus Christ is the Word, the One who has brought special revelation - the knowledge of God to mankind independent of the any possible corruption by mankind. Thus man has no excuse with respect to special revelation, since He himself came into the world to reveal the Father (cf. John 5:19; 6:46; 8:19, 28; 10:25; 10:30; John 12:49; 14:7-11; 15:15).  

The purpose of special revelation is related to the legal mandate of a testimony or witness that God has preserved in writing within the Bible. There is the testimony of the Old Testament and the testimony of the New Testament. The content of the written testimony involves everything related to mankind concerning God and is preserved as historical stories, involving specific events and people to serve as a testimony to all mankind.

General call
Related to special revelation is the general call. This is God securing a faithful, reliable source preserved in what he calls His Word and proclaiming that Word to all mankind in order for men to repent and turn away from their sin of unbelief and believe in the One true God who has revealed Himself in His Word by His word.

The general call is for everyone but is the revealed character of mankind that mankind is hopelessly lost. Man's will, because of the fall, has been bound in the slave market of sin. He is a slave to sin. The general call serves as a general invitation, a general testimony to all men to believe in Him and serves a legal function, in that all men are held responsible (cf. Matt. 22:14; Luke 14:-16-24; John 7:37).

To highlight the general call, Jesus – God in the flesh, went to His own people, pronouncing the gospel of the kingdom, and they did not accept Him or His message (cf. John 1:11). And in order to validate the messenger and His message, He used miracles. But, this only brought curiosity not belief. The general call is required of God to proclaim Him among all people so that He can work with His word to perform His work of spiritual transformation.       

Effectual call
The effectual call is the act of God in illumination, transforming the heart of some men to respond to the general call - the proclamation of the word of God (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:2). John uses the word born again or regeneration (John 3). Jesus uses miracles to get the attention of the Jewish leadership in order to teach this lesson. Even though a miracle is seen and brings many to follow Him in order to see further, the miracle does not bring one to faith. Rather, it is a miracle when God brings individuals to believe. That is the testimony of John. Many believed, but Jesus says He knew their heart and after they hear more of what He has to say, some leave (cf. John 6:66). The miracle only served to get their attention. It is God who has to draw one to Him, not only is salvation a gift but faith is also a gift (Eph. 2:8-9). 

It is a necessary fact that when one is called (cf. Rom. 8:28-30), that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that illuminates the word, bringing about understanding (cf. 1 Cor. 2:11-13) convection of sin and faith in Christ's atonement.

Dr. Ryrie puts it this way: "God regenerates (John 1:13) according to His will (James 1:18) through the Holy Spirit (John 3:5) when a person believes (1:12) the Gospel as revealed in the Word (1 Pet. 1:23)." (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 376)

John's teaching method
The apostle John wrote his gospel account not only in chronological order, but with a unique Jewish teaching method (or should I call it the Old Testament teaching method) – that is, to teach theological doctrine through story and events. The events lead up to a related theological truth. And since Jesus, God in the flesh, the Son of God, is the central character in the story. The related events serve to weave a wonderfully complex physical yet spiritual story. A tapestry of teaching from event to event, miracle to miracle, discourse to discourse all leading the reader to the revelation of who God is and how it is one becomes saved.   

Testimony. One of the most important words within Johnanian theology is the doctrine of the testimony. John the Baptist is the "voice in the wilderness…" whose testimony in John is to reveal the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  His testimony concerns nothing that was not already revealed in the Old Testament. There was nothing new in his testimony he simply served to point out the promised Messiah who was to come as Savior of the world (Isa. 53).

The witnesses that testify to Christ are: the witness of John the Baptist (1:7-8; 5:33-35); the witness of the Father (5:32-37; 8:18); the witness of the Son (self-witness; 3:11; 8:14-18; 18:37); the witness of the Holy Spirit (15:26; 16:13-14); the witness of the Scriptures (1:45; 5:39-46); the witness of Jesus' works (5:17, 36; 10:25; 14:11; 15:24); the witness of the disciples (15:27; 19:35; 21:24); and the witness of the lives changed by Jesus through the miracles (4:39; 9:25, 38; 12:17).  

Miracles. Miracles are used by God to validate the messenger of God as authentic. Miracles are, however, used for a special purpose in the book of John. They are used in a twofold manner; (1) to bring people to belief in Christ as God; and (2) to manifest Jesus' glory (2:11). The miracle is used though as a teaching tool. The miracles are not random, rather, they are directed towards unique teaching points. The miracle is related to the theological discourse surrounding it. The miracles serve to build upon each other as the discourse builds to reveal not only who Jesus is, but how the world though Him might be saved.

Miracles do not happen continuously throughout Israel's history; instead they are prominent in several periods. Miracles are prominent when God wants man to take note of something He is doing and accompanying the great miracles of God are the counter miracles of the Devil. For example, miracles were notable during Israel's bondage in Egypt through Moses; in the wilderness and subsequent conquering of the promised land through Joshua; with Daniel when Israel is in captivity in Babylon; in Jesus' days with Him and the apostles; and finally during the Tribulation with the witness.

With respect to this article the miracles in the book of John serves to prove Jesus is God (John 20:30-31), to prove Jesus is the promised Messiah (John 5:36), to point out the period, that is, the Kingdom is at hand (John 10:37-38). John does not present all the miracles that Jesus performed; only those that serve to contribute to the theological teaching at hand.  Miracles serve to enhance the spiral teaching technique so unique to the Jewish mind.    

Theological Discourse
Interspersed throughout the gospel, John weaves several theological discourses. They are woven together with the miracles and special notable Christological identifications (the "I AM" statements).  There are twelve theological discourses:

  1. Regeneration (2:23-3:21)
  2. Eternal life, reconciliation and spreading the good news (4:1-26)
  3. The deity of Christ (5:16-47)
  4. The true Bread of Life (6:26-59)
  5. The source of truth (7:14-20)
  6. The Light of the world (8:12-20)
  7. The true object of faith (8:21-30)
  8. Spiritual freedom (8:31-59)
  9. The Good Shepherd (10:1-21)
  10. Unity of the Godhead (10:22-38)
  11. The world's redeemer (12:20-36)
  12. The Upper Room Discourse:
a.        The approaching separation (13-14:31)
b.      Union with Christ (15:1-27)
c.       The Holy Spirit and the future (16:1-27)

Discourse 1 - Regeneration (2:23-3:21). The first discourse concerns true salvation. It starts with chapter 2:23 as Jesus had just performed a miracle transforming water to wine in Cana, near Jesus' birth place in Nazareth in the region of Galilee - his home base. He next moves to Jerusalem on the Passover and cleanses the outer Temple court of the money exchangers, merchants and inspectors. The action causes a stir in the city and the Jewish leadership sends a representative to meet with Jesus to find out who he is.

The introductory section 2:23-25 opens up the discourse with the main point that mankind may be curious about Jesus and some will even pretend to follow Him, but not all of them are of Him.     

To be regenerated, to be born again means one has to be born from above, that is, it has its source from God not man and involves the Holy Spirit who has to perform His indwelling work by changing the heart of man. A new birth is one that involves a testimony of who Jesus is, He is the Son of Man (3:13), the One uniquely related to Mankind, and the Son of God, the only one who can represent mankind before God because He is the perfect, spotless Lamb of God who represents mankind on the cross to take away the sin of the world.

To be regenerated means one has to believe in the one lifted up on the cross (3:14-15)  just like that foretold by Moses in the wilderness, that whosoever believed that Jesus is the Son of Man will not perish but have eternal life. The Son of Man (3:17) is also called the Son of God, the Son uniquely related to God, the only begotten Son of God, making Him uniquely legally representing mankind and God in the flesh. In essence, those who reject Him reject God (3:18), those who believe Him, believe God (3:17). But it is God who has to transform the individual in order for him or her to believe, and that mechanism involves the illumination of the truth in a dark world by the agent of regeneration – the Holy Spirit (3:19-21).

The imagery involved includes the contrast of light and dark. The narrative starts with Nicodemus meeting Jesus at night (3;1). The verbs used in the discourse for "to know" is "to see" thus enforcing the light and dark imagery. The imagery involves knowledge and deeds. The light and dark imagery reaches its height in verses 19-20.

19  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

The second major literary imagery involves the Old Testament concept of water baptism which involved an external ceremony representing the new life of obedience to the Law and in fellowship with the Jewish community. Jesus moves this OT practice to the baptism of the Spirit where the Spirit joins the believer to the body of Christ at the time of regeneration. It is no mistake that John the Baptist (lit. John the baptizer) declares that it is Jesus who is "the true light" that gives light to every man (1:9). This imagery involves the idea cleansing, but here, the cleansing is internal not external – spiritual not physical. What a picture this is as John moves from the miracle of water transformed to wine to the great discourse of the born of water and spirit to the events at Jacobs well and the discourse of the water that Jesus gives is eternal life!     

Discourse 2 - Eternal life, reconciliation and spreading the good news (4:1-26).  The second discourse involves the proclamation of the word to the world that brings salvation of the world. The first step is to bring the word to the Samarians who are half Jew, half Canaanite. The reconciliation of the divided nation of Israel and Judah is a Messianic promise and will find complete fulfillment in the Millennium, but here Jesus opens the door of reconciliation by going where no Jew would go – to the Samarians and Jacob's well.

The significance of the location being a plot of land that Jacob purchased for the family that defines who the Jews is, namely, one of Jacob's twelve sons form the twelve tribes of Israel in the land. And the location of the well is part of the land that is allocated to the twelve. It is here that Jesus pronounces that He is the source of life and He will (in the future) give living water that will result in everlasting life. The imagery is heightened by the great white harvest discussion.

Jesus tells the Samarian woman that she has had many husbands, a real life application of their discourse concerning idolatry, salvation and true worship. This serves as a picture of the division of the two, Judah and Israel and their collective idolatry. Upon hearing this, the woman pronounces His words to be that of the Messiah, of which He proclaims He is the Messiah! It is at this point that Jesus looks out over the land and proclaims the doctrine of sowing (the good news that Jesus is the Messiah), and reaping. One sows another reaps. One spreads the gospel of Christ (that is, that Jesus came in the flesh to die on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and was buried and was raised from the dead), another reaps (gathering together in fellowship and discipleship). It is not one person who does it all, but different members of the Church that are involved, and where one day the worker sows, on another he will reap, but both the reaper and sower can rejoice together in their combined labor.

Discourse 3 - The deity of Christ (5:16-47). The next great sign involves a Jewish nobleman's son who was on his deathbed. The encounter is brief and leaves the reader unsatisfied. Jesus simply states (and it seems in an irritated way), "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."  After the man pleads for his son's life, Jesus states, "Go your way, your son lives." The nobleman trusted that Jesus was able to perform the miracle of saving his son, so he left his son's side at the point of death in order to travel the long journey to find Jesus. As a result of the encounter both the son is saved physically and the nobleman and his house believe, but did the teaching encounter stick with the nobleman? We are left unsure. Does the nobleman testify concerning faith apart from seeing a miracle? We do not know.

We next encounter the miracle of the man who receives his site. The man who sat at the pool of Bethesda ("house of grace" or "house of mercy") waiting for a chance to be healed, a chance for mercy. It has been about a year, Jesus is back in Jerusalem on the "feast of the Jews," probably Passover and this miracle is meant to build upon the last miracle. That is, Jesus' reputation as the miracle worker has spread beyond ignoring the miracle worker and it is time for the Jewish leadership to acknowledge Him for who He claims to be – the Messiah, but they refuse even though they have a first-hand testimony of a miracle that of the man healed of his sight.

Again the events of the narrative serve to build the theological discourse. Jews desire a sign, but when shown a sign, the Jewish leadership refuses to believe the message of the messenger. It is at this point that the Jews turn to violence against Jesus as they seek to kill Him. The reason is given because He did work on the Sabbath. What work? Healing! There is provision in the Law for acts of necessity or mercy (this act is performed at the "pool of mercy"), but the Jewish leadership are not interested in justice. The man carried his bed on the Sabbath, the law is broken, and the letter of the law must be maintained.

It is at this point that Jesus uses the literary expression "amen, amen" ("truly, truly" verily, verily" or "most assuredly"). Jesus' response to the Jewish leadership makes them even more furious and they seek to kill Him even more. The first "amen, amen" statement concerns the oneness and unity of the Father and the Son. The Jewish leadership understands completely what He said. They understand He made Himself equal with God and who is equal with God save God Himself!

The second "amen, amen" statement contains three aspects. (1) Life and judgment are in the Son. That is, those who believe in Jesus have eternal life and will not come into judgment; (2) those who believe in Jesus will also experience the resurrection to life; (3) the self-bearing witness of Jesus. This point is extremely import for His legal case for it is the witness that must be heard in order to execute judgment. The Jewish leadership ignored the testimony of the man that was healed, so Jesus testifies to them Himself, but He also points them to the other witnesses in this case. That is, Jesus says John the Baptist, His works (miracles), the Father, and the Scriptures all bear witness of Him. This is the great fourfold witness section of the gospel.

This theological discourse contains a major deity of Christ section for John. The argument can be broken into three points. (1) Jesus is equal with God in nature (quality, Gr. isos) (vs. 17-18); (2) Jesus is equal with God in power (they do not work alone, but together); (3) Jesus is equal with God in authority (Judgment and life itself given to the Son).  Jesus is equal with God by use of the unique term "only begotten Son" (cf. Ps. 2).  

The equivalence statements come to an application in the form of the condition for everlasting life. The condition is given as hearing "My" word, thus making His word equal with God and enforcing the statement concerning authority has been granted to the Son. The condition of hearing "My" word is clarified by the use of "believing" what is heard, or believing the testimony. This truth is highlighted in verse 24 by the Greek.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)

John uses the Greek present tense for "hearing" (continue to believe), "believing" (continue to believe), and having (continue having or possess) eternal life, and not in condemnation (continue not to be condemned), while the words for death are past tense (actually, perfect tense meaning the action occurred in the past and the condition is completed). Verse 24 is theologically precise in it pronouncement and says that those who are saved continue to hear Jesus, believe His word, believe that Jesus is equal with God (or Jesus is God in the flesh) and at the point of belief, has already and completely passed from "the dead" (the world of the living-dead) into "the living" (the world of the living). What a great God we have.    

The statement "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself" (v. 26) serves as the introductory point for the seven great "Life" statements.
  1. I am the Bread of Life (6:33-35)
  2. The Light that gives life (8:12; 9:5)
  3. The Door to abundant life (10:9)
  4. The Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep (10:11,14)
  5. The Resurrection and the life (11:25)
  6. The way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
  7. The vine that gives the branches life (15:5)
This section forms an "inclusio," that is, it ends just as it starts: "Jesus can do nothing of Himself." His will is the Fathers will. They are one and the same. The Father/Son equivalence dominates this section as is the obedience of the Son to do the will of the Father. The Father/Son imagery is prominent in this section. The Son's relationship to the Father is highlighted. For example, just as with a human father/son relationship, the Son speaks for the Father in His absence. The Son can represent the Father in all their dealings, so the statement of being given authority and judgment is placed within the human context for understanding the relationship. The Son has the same attributes as the Father. They are equal (Greek isos "equal in quality"). This does not mean that the Son was born in the physical sense nor does it mean that Christ had a beginning or end, but has the Jewish meaning of relationship – of Sonship, a legal term reflecting relationship and authority.   

In the next article the rest of the theological discourses will be looked at as John moves the reader to the heights of Jewish theological teaching.