Daily Archives: April 1, 2018

April 1: Moving On

Deuteronomy 1:1–46; 2 Corinthians 1:1–11; Psalm 31:1–9

“You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn now and move on” (Deut 1:6–7).

We have a terrible tendency to stay in one place or keep doing one activity longer than we should. Our meetings run long, we constantly work overtime, or we overstay a welcome. And then there’s the most significant problem of all: we ignore God’s command to leave a place, position, or role.

Change can be refreshing. But the countless decisions and the difficult and frustrating moments that accompany change can often keep us from moving forward. We become comfortable where we are, and we fear the unknown.

Indeed, the majority of people (including Christians) live seemingly meaningless lives. Most American Christians spend more hours per day doing comfortable things, like watching tv, than they do praying, reading their Bibles, or serving others (usually combined). Yet what do the elderly always tell us? “I wish I had taken more risks; if only I wasn’t so afraid.” We’re all on our way to dying. But as Christians, we’re also on our way to eternal life. Why should we limit God’s work with our fear?

In Deuteronomy 1, God called Moses to leave the mountain—a place where he’d grown comfortable. Moses’ new path would be far from easy. He was going to enter the land of the Amorites and Canaanites, who were feared warriors (Deut 1:7). He was about to risk the lives of everyone with him—men, women, and children—in the process of following God’s will. Both young and old would once again be in danger.

But God didn’t intend for Moses to remain in the wilderness; He called Moses to lead His people into the same holy land He had promised to Abraham many years before (Deut 1:8). And despite his fear, that’s what Moses did: “Then we turned and set out toward the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as Yahweh told me, and we went around Mount Seir for many days” (Deut 2:1).

Moses’ confidence was based on one thing: what God had spoken. May your confidence be grounded in the same thing, and may you trust God at His word.

What is God calling you to do now? What comforts is He calling you to leave behind? What have you been ignoring?

John D. Barry[1]

[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

HE IS RISEN: Jesus Christ Is Risen From Dead To Prove That He And He Alone Is The Only Way To Heaven

Jesus Christ was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the THIRD DAY according to the Scriptures. He did all that for YOU, to buy your pardon to SET YOU FREE.

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”Matthew 28:6 (KJV)

For the past 2,000 years, there has been one story that has taken precedence over any and every other story ever told. The story of a man, flesh and blood, who gave His life willingly on the cross as a ransom for sin, as the Old Testament prophets have proclaimed, and rose from the dead 3 days later to prove that every word He spoke was true and faithful.

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12,13 (KJV)

On the cross at Calvary, Jesus of Nazareth willingly shed His blood as a payment for sin. More specifically, as a payment for your sin, and my sin, for the sins of the whole world. Are you thinking that your religion will save you? Think again, it will not. It cannot. Maybe you’re a good Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, take your pick. They are all equally meaningless apart from the shed blood of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Open the pages of the Bible and search to your heart’s content, but you will never find a ruling class of priests for the church. There are no nuns, no popes, no Vatican, no sacraments, no confessing to a priest, no eucharist, no mass, no dress code, no haircut length. No tithing for a Christian. But on page after page, you will see a recurring theme. Everywhere you look, you will see Jesus, and He alone is enough. He is sufficient.



In the Philippines, they are slashing their own skin in idolatrous rituals because they do not believe that Jesus on the cross paid it all. But Jesus shed blood is enough, it’s more than enough. And there is nothing you, on your best day, can ever add to it.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Ephesians 1:7 (KJV)

After Jesus died on the cross, He lay in the tomb for 3 full days and 3 full nights. He was as dead as dead ever gets. But on the third day, according to the scriptures, He rose from the dead with the power over life and death in His own hands. Proving that He and He alone was the sacrifice for sin that God will accept. This is the gospel which we preach to the saving of your soul.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (KJV)

Jesus Christ was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the THIRD DAY according to the Scriptures. He did all that for YOU, to buy your pardon to SET YOU FREE. All you have to do is accept or reject that FREE GIFT. If you reject it, when you die, you will burn forever in a place called Hell. If you accept it, the Bible says the moment you die you will be with Christ in Heaven never to die again. Which one do YOU want?

Our sins have separated us from a righteous and holy God, but in His Mercy and love towards us He has made a way of escape for all those who seek it. I am talking to you, right here and right now. God has an AMAZING gift for you, it costs you nothing but it caused Him to shed every drop of blood He had so He could purchase it for you. What is it? It’s your salvation.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” Romans 10:9-10 (KJV)

Pray and ask the Lord, “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me a sinner, and save me. I now, with a repentant heart, receive you as my personal Saviour”.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:13 (KJV)

Jesus Christ was crucified, died, buried, and rose on the third day to save you from the flames of an eternal Hell. He made the payment for your sin on the cross at Calvary, and rose from the dead 3 days later to prove it.

He is the only way to Heaven, without Him there is no hope of any kind. With Him there is eternity with God in Heaven. Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of Israel, the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world. The one and only hope of mankind. The only Saviour.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6 (KJV)

The post HE IS RISEN: Jesus Christ Is Risen From Dead To Prove That He And He Alone Is The Only Way To Heaven appeared first on Now The End Begins.

April 1 Cultivating Beatitude Attitudes

“When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And opening His mouth He began to teach them” (Matt. 5:1–2).


Only Christians know true happiness because they know Christ, who is its source.

Jesus’ earthly ministry included teaching, preaching, and healing. Wherever He went, He generated great excitement and controversy. Usually great multitudes of people followed Him as He moved throughout the regions of Judea and Galilee. Thousands came for healing, many came to mock and scorn, and some came in search of truth.

On one such occasion Jesus delivered His first recorded message—the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7). In it He proclaimed a standard of living diametrically opposed to the standards of His day—and ours. Boldly denouncing the ritualistic, hypocritical practices of the Jewish religious leaders, He taught that true religion is a matter of the heart or mind. People will behave as their hearts dictate (Luke 6:45); so the key to transformed behavior is transformed thinking.

At the beginning of His sermon Jesus presented the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3–12), a list of the godly attitudes that mark a true believer and ensure true happiness. The Greek word translated “blessed” in those verses speaks of happiness and contentment. The rest of the sermon discusses the lifestyle that produces it.

Jesus taught that happiness is much more than favorable circumstances and pleasant emotions. In fact, it doesn’t depend on circumstances at all. It is built on the indwelling character of God Himself. As your life manifests the virtues of humility, sorrow over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace, you will experience happiness that even severe persecution can’t destroy.

As we study the Beatitudes, I pray you will be more and more conformed to the attitudes they portray and that you will experience true happiness in Christ.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask the Holy Spirit to minister to you through our daily studies. Be prepared to make any attitude changes that He might prompt.

For Further Study: Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7). ✧ What issues did Christ address? ✧ How did His hearers react to His teaching? How do you?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 104). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

CultureWatch: A Tale of Two Men – and Two Faiths

Today is Easter Sunday. Christians the world over celebrate the most important event in human history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the heart of this event is one person giving his life for others, so that they might live. This is self-sacrificing love at its greatest.

As we read in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is why Easter is so very special. Christian worship a God who was born to die. That was his mission: to suffer a cruel death so that the enemies of God might be made the friends of God.

Another religious leader is also still recognised and celebrated centuries later. He did not lay down his life for others, but instead killed others, and ordered his followers to kill for him. The contrast could not be greater. Muhammad said kill your enemies while Jesus said love your enemies.

The founder of a religion will of course greatly impact how their followers behave. Christians will seek to emulate Jesus, while Muslims will seek to emulate Muhammad. And we have seen this played out countless times over the centuries, with Christians giving their lives for others, and Muslims taking the lives of others.

A perfect illustration of this took place in France just recently. In yet another Islamic terror attack, people were taken hostage by a terrorist, but a Christian offered to take the place of a female hostage. In doing so he paid for this with his life. More sacrificial love, because of what Jesus Christ did 2000 years ago.

There was not all that much mainstream media coverage of this tragic event, and what was covered was often conspicuous by what it omitted: the faith of the two individuals involved. Here is one sanitised version of the aftermath of the killing:

The police officer killed in last week’s supermarket attack in southern France has been honoured in a day long ceremony led by President Emmanuel Macron. Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, who was killed after swapping himself with a hostage in the attack, is being posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award. In a show of unity, former French presidents Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Valery Giscard d’Estaing also attended the event, where Mr Beltrame’s coffin was carried from the Pantheon across Paris to the Hotel des Invalides, the final resting place of Napoleon.

Notice how the “C” word is conveniently left out concerning Beltrame. And of course the “I” word and the “M” word are deliberately omitted concerning the attacker:

Lakdim, who also killed three other people before he was shot dead by police, was a Moroccan-born French resident with dual nationality. The chief of a counter-terrorism agency, known as Morocco’s FBI, said that France never alerted his country about Lakdim’s radical behaviour – calling the absence of contact “a misunderstanding”.

It took a Christian media outlet to inform us of the faith element of Beltrame. The headline makes it clear: “France Mourns as Christian Police Officer ‘Hero’ Honored with State Funeral”. So does the article:

French Police Officer and hero Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame receives a state funeral. He died in a hostage stand-off with an Islamic extremist on March 24 after he volunteered to trade places with a female hostage.
According to reports, the suspect shot and stabbed the 44-year-old Beltrame, after the exchange at the local supermarket in Trebes, in southern France where the terrorist attacked. Beltrame has become a hero throughout France, known for his self-sacrifice, patriotism and Christian faith. He was awarded the Legion of Honor, the nation’s highest honor, at his funeral.

A Catholic news outlet said this about the hero:

The police officer who died after taking the place of a hostage in France was a practising Catholic who had “experienced a genuine conversion” around 2008. Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame died on Saturday after volunteering to replace a female hostage during a terrorist attack on the Super U supermarket in Trèbes, southern France, on Friday. Beltrame left his phone on so that police could hear his conversations with the gunman.

He was shot in the neck by jihadist Radouane Lakdim before police entered the supermarket and killed the Moroccan-born French national. Beltrame served in Iraq in 2005 and received the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award, in 2012. Last year he was named deputy commander of anti-terror police in the Aude region.

Fr Dominique Arz, national chaplain of the gendarmerie, told the French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne: “It turns out that the lieutenant-colonel was a practising Catholic. The fact is that he did not hide his faith, and that he radiated it, he bore witness to it. We can say that his act of self-offering is consistent with what he believed. He served his country to the very end, and bore witness to his faith to the very end.”

Franklin Graham also offered words of praise for this champion:

Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame sacrificed his own life to save someone else. The French policeman volunteered to be a substitute, to trade places with a woman being held hostage by the Islamic terrorist. This policeman was an extraordinary hero. Pray for his family and friends—and the others who lost loved ones in this attack on Friday—in their great loss. I pray that they would be comforted by the One who also gave His life in our place, the One who was willing to die in our place for our sins because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ.

And even agnostic columnist Andrew Bolt was clearly moved by Beltrame, as he too offered us the clear differences between Christianity and Islam. See his five minute video here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/andrew-bolt/on-two-men-two-faiths-one-hero/news-story/01bd6c4ed4dbbd0d93488c0a9a9ab5d4?nk=4eb9eec5ef94761caf7b0f3843fb713f-1522386587

Anyone without ideological blinkers on can see that Christianity and Islam are as different as day and night. And anyone carefully reading the four gospels and the rest of the New Testament, and the Koran and the sira, can see that there is no comparison between Jesus Christ and Muhammad.

Some 1400 years after the latter lived, his followers are still massacring infidels in the name of Allah. And 2000 years after Jesus died and rose again, his followers are still giving up their lives for others. The true and living God loves us so much that he sent his only son to die for us.

That is why we celebrate Easter. And two millennia later true Christians share the love of God with others as well, often sacrificing their very lives for the good of others. This is what real Christianity is all about. Even unbelievers like Bolt can see this clearly.

This is why Easter is so very important. We serve a risen saviour. Hallelujah!


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The post A Tale of Two Men – and Two Faiths appeared first on CultureWatch.


The righteous shall give thanks…the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

Psalm 140:13

The spiritual giants of old were those who at some time became acutely conscious of the presence of God. They maintained that consciousness for the rest of their lives.

How otherwise can the saints and prophets be explained? How otherwise can we account for the amazing power for good they have exercised over countless generations?

Is it not that indeed they had become friends of God? Is it not that they walked in conscious communion with the real Presence and addressed their prayers to God with the artless conviction that they were truly addressing Someone actually there?

Let me say it again, for certainly it is no secret: We do God more honor in believing what He has said about Himself and coming boldly to His throne of grace than by hiding in a self-conscious humility!

Those unlikely men chosen by our Lord as His closest disciples might well have hesitated to claim friendship with Christ. But Jesus said to them, “You are my friends!”

Lord, my prayer this morning is that I will become “acutely conscious of the presence of God.”[1]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

The Day that Transformed the World Forever

Of all holidays, Easter is the one that celebrates a single event that transformed the world forever.  There are many religions with different founders, prophets, and teachers going back thousands of years, but only one of them has a founder who professed to be the messiah – the son of God who could save mankind.

Jesus was born in a Jewish family and lived and walked among the people of Israel.  Every year, Jesus’s parents took his family to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.  On one such occasion, when he was twelve, Jesus got separated from his parents and made his way to the temple, where he sat with the esteemed teachers – listening, asking questions, and teaching.  According to Luke 2:47, “[e]veryone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”  Later, when his adult ministry began, Jesus drew thousands upon thousands who flocked to hear him.

No one else in human history made the claims Jesus did to be able to deal with every last problem of the human heart.  One primary reason the Bible is a perennial bestseller is that it’s the most complete owner’s manual to the most complex creation of all – the human species.  Nowhere else can one find as succinct yet comprehensive an explanation of what God’s love is all about than in the Bible’s Psalms and Jesus’s teaching through parables.

Another unique quality about Jesus is that he welcomed people whom no other religious leader would be caught dead with – society’s rejects, reviled tax collectors, and prostitutes.  By caring for outcasts and the disenfranchised, Jesus showed a radical level and standard of mercy and love never seen before.  Once, when Jesus was having dinner with a Jewish Pharisee, a woman convicted by her own sin came to Jesus to wash his feet with her tears and hair and then apply expensive perfume.  His host was aghast at the immoral woman’s presence, but Jesus responded that God’s work is to forgive sinners, and that those who are forgiven much can then love much.

Utterly unique in other ways, Jesus performed many miracles, healing the sick, blind, crippled, and deaf – the news of which traveled throughout the land, prompting many more to seek him out.  And he healed them all.  Jesus also confronted evil head on and drove demonic spirits out of people dangerously possessed and abandoned by society.

His work did not stop with miraculous healing.

Because God himself became flesh in the person of Jesus to save people through their own faith, he went on to demonstrate his love and power in an ultimate way that could not be missed or denied: bringing the dead back to life.  One such resurrection miracle was that of Lazarus, who was irrefutably dead and entombed for four days.  Upon Jesus’s command, Lazarus got up and walked out of the tomb – that people would know beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jesus was.

All other religions require works to achieve enlightenment and salvation.  Christianity turns that on its head: faith in Christ and all his teachings transforms the heart, from which good works naturally follow.  In saying, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus presents an ingeniously compelling appeal that even the most hardened cynic can’t easily refuse.

Skeptics of the Bible’s truth and the reality of Jesus need understand that there’s actually much more reliable historical evidence for his life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection than there is evidence for any other historical figure of ancient times.

Consider that no one doubts the authenticity of the life and acts of Alexander the Great.  Yet there are only two original biographical accounts of his life, which were written by Arrian and Plutarch some four hundred years after Alexander died.  The manuscripts of Virgil and Horace, both of whom lived within a generation of Christ, were written more than four centuries after their deaths, yet no one doubts that they lived and authored poetic masterpieces.  Looking at the big picture, there are about 1,000 times as many manuscripts preserving the New Testament (about 25,000) than other classical ancient works with the exception of Homer, whose Iliad is backed by 1,800 manuscripts (but still less than one tenth of the New Testament number).

We know the historical Jesus mainly through four different accounts known as the Gospels – Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John – all written within a generation or two of Jesus’s life.  Matthew and John provide eyewitness accounts from their years of walking with Jesus as disciples.  Mark also had eyewitness experience.  Luke, the doctor, learned about Jesus from his friend Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the letters of the New Testament.

Easter is the commemoration of the single event that transformed the world forever – the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross.  That God would send his Son to die as a sacrifice for the sin of all who would believe in Him is an unbelievable gift – beyond most people’s comprehension.  That a resurrection and a joyous eternal life await believers is beyond anything anyone could imagine.  That is the promise and essence of Easter.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle.  Reach him at scottp@discovery.org.

Source: The Day that Transformed the World Forever

April 1, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Nature of the Incarnation

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:14)

Verse 14 is the most concise biblical statement of the Incarnation, and therefore one of Scripture’s most significant verses. The four words with which it begins, the Word became flesh, express the reality that in the Incarnation God took on humanity; the infinite became finite; eternity entered time; the invisible became visible (cf. Col. 1:15); the Creator entered His creation. God revealed Himself to man in the creation (Rom. 1:18–21), the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), and, supremely and most clearly, in Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1–2). The record of His life and work, and its application and significance for the past, present, and future, is in the New Testament.

As noted in the discussion of 1:1 in chapter 1 of this volume, the concept of the Word was one rich in meaning for both Greeks and Jews. John here clearly stated what he implied earlier in the prologue: Jesus Christ, God’s final Word to mankind (Heb. 1:1–2), became flesh.Sarx (flesh) does not have here the negative moral connotation that it sometimes carries (e.g., Rom. 8:3–9; 13:14; Gal. 5:13, 16–17, 19; Eph. 2:3), but refers to man’s physical being (cf. Matt. 16:17; Rom. 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:26; 2 Cor. 5:16; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 5:29; Phil. 1:22). That He actually became flesh affirms Jesus’ full humanity.

Ginomai (became) does not mean that Christ ceased being the eternal Word when He became a man. Though God is immutable, pure eternal “being” and not “becoming” as all His creatures are, in the Incarnation the unchangeable (Heb. 13:8) God did become fully man, yet remained fully God. He entered the realm of those who are time and space creatures and experienced life as it is for those He created. In the words of the fifth-century church father Cyril of Alexandria,

We do not … assert that there was any change in the nature of the Word when it became flesh, or that it was transformed into an entire man, consisting of soul and body; but we say that the Word, in a manner indescribable and inconceivable, united personally … to himself flesh animated with a reasonable soul, and thus became man and was called the Son of man.… The natures which were brought together to form a true unity were different; but out of both is one Christ and one Son. We do not mean that the difference of the natures is annihilated by reason of this union; but rather that the Deity and Manhood, by their inexpressible and inexplicable concurrence into unity, have produced for us the one Lord and Son Jesus Christ. (cited in Bettenson, Documents, 47)

No wonder Paul wrote of the Incarnation,

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:

He who was revealed in the flesh,

Was vindicated in the Spirit,

Seen by angels,

Proclaimed among the nations,

Believed on in the world,

Taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16)

Charles Wesley also captured the wonder of the Incarnation in his majestic hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,

Hail th’ incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Some found the Incarnation so utterly beyond human reason to comprehend that they refused to accept it. The heretical group known as the Docetists (from dokeō; “to seem,” or “to appear”), accepting the dualism of matter and spirit so prevalent in Greek philosophy at that time, held that matter was evil, and spirit was good. Accordingly, they argued that Christ could not have had a material (and hence evil) body. They taught instead either that His body was a phantom, or an apparition, or that the divine Christ spirit descended upon the mere man Jesus at His baptism, then left Him before His crucifixion. Cerinthus, John’s opponent at Ephesus, was a Docetist. John strongly opposed Docetism, which undermines not only the incarnation of Christ, but also His resurrection and substitutionary atonement. As noted earlier in this chapter, in his first epistle he warned,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:1–3)

John was so horrified by Cerinthus’s heresy that, as the early church historian Eusebius records,

John the apostle once entered a bath to wash; but ascertaining Cerinthus was within, he leaped out of the place, and fled from the door, not enduring to enter under the same roof with him, and exhorted those with him to do the same, saying, “let us flee, lest the bath fall in, as long as Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth, is within.” (Ecclesiastical History, book III, chap. XXVIII)

The eternal Son not only became man; He also dwelt among men for thirty-three years. Dwelt translates a form of the verb skēnoō, which literally means “to live in a tent.” Jesus Christ’s humanity was not a mere appearance. He took on all the essential attributes of humanity and was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), “since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). As the writer of Hebrews goes on to explain, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). And He pitched His tent among us.

In the Old Testament, God tented with Israel through His glorious presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35) and later in the temple (1 Kings 8:10–11), and revealed Himself in some pre-incarnate appearances of Christ (e.g., Gen. 16:7–14; Ex. 3:2; Josh. 5:13–15; Judg. 2:1–4; 6:11–24; 13:3–23; Dan. 3:25; 10:5–6; Zech. 1:11–21). Throughout eternity, God will again tent with His redeemed and glorified people:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell [skēnoō] among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3–4; cf. 12:12; 13:6)

Though Jesus manifested God’s divine glory during His earthly life with a clarity never before seen, it was still veiled by His human flesh. Peter, James, and John saw a physical manifestation of Jesus’ heavenly glory at the transfiguration, when “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2; cf. 2 Peter 1:16–18). That was a preview of the unveiled glory to be seen at His return (Matt. 24:29–30; 25:31; Rev. 19:11–16) and the fullness of His heavenly glory as the only Light of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:23). But the disciples saw Jesus manifest God’s holy nature primarily by displaying divine attributes, such as truth, wisdom, love, grace, knowledge, power, and holiness.

Jesus manifested the same essential glory as the Father, because as God they possess the same nature (10:30). Despite the claims of false teachers through the centuries, monogenēs (only begotten) does not imply that Jesus was created by God and thus not eternal. The term does not refer to a person’s origin, but describes him as unique, the only one of his kind. Thus Isaac could properly be called Abraham’s monogenēs (Heb. 11:17) even though Abraham had other sons, because Isaac alone was the son of the covenant. Monogenēs distinguishes Christ as the unique Son of God from believers, who are God’s sons in a different sense (1 John 3:2). B. F. Westcott writes, “Christ is the One and only Son, the One to whom the title belongs in a sense completely unique and singular, as distinguished from that in which there are many children of God (vv. 12f.)” (The Gospel According to St. John [Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978], 12). Jesus’ unique relationship to the Father is a major theme of John’s gospel (cf. 1:18; 3:35; 5:17–23, 26, 36–37; 6:27, 46, 57; 8:16, 18–19, 28, 38, 42, 54; 10:15, 17, 30, 36–38; 12:49–50; 14:6–13, 20–21, 23, 31; 15:9, 15, 23–24; 16:3, 15, 27–28, 32; 17:5, 21, 24–25; 20:21).

Jesus’ manifestation of the divine attributes revealed His essential glory as God’s Son, “for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). The two attributes most closely connected with salvation are grace and truth. Scripture teaches that salvation is wholly by believing God’s truth in the gospel, by which one receives His saving grace.

The Jerusalem Council declared, “But we believe that we [Jewish believers] are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they [Gentiles] also are” (Acts 15:11). Apollos “greatly helped those who had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). Paul described the message he preached as “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). In Romans 3:24 he wrote that believers are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,” while in Ephesians 1:7 he added, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” Later in that same letter, Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). He reminded Timothy that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). That same “grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11), with the result that believers “being justified by His grace … would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

There is no salvation grace except to those who believe the truth of the gospel message. Paul reminded the Ephesians, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). In Colossians 1:5 he defined the gospel as the “word of truth” (cf. James 1:18). Paul expressed to the Thessalonians his thankfulness that “God ha[d] chosen [them] from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). People are saved when they “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). On the other hand, “those who perish” will do so “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). Everyone will “be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12).

Jesus Christ was the full expression of God’s grace. All the necessary truth to save is available in Him. He was the full expression of God’s truth, which was only partially revealed in the Old Testament (cf. Col. 2:16–17). What was foreshadowed through prophecy, types, and pictures became substance realized in the person of Christ (cf. Heb. 1:1–2). Therefore He could declare, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.… If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 14:6; 8:31–32).

A vague belief in God apart from the truth about Christ will not result in salvation. As Jesus Himself warned, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Those who think they are worshiping God, but are ignorant of or reject the fullness of the New Testament teaching about Christ, are deceived, because “he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23; cf. 15:23). In his first epistle John affirmed that “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; cf. 2 John 9). Those who reject God’s full revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ will be eternally lost.

Summarizing the magnificence of this verse, Gerald L. Borchert writes,

In analyzing this crucial verse of the Prologue it becomes quickly apparent that this verse is like a great jewel with many facets that spreads it rays of implication into the various dimensions of Christology—the theology of Christ. As a summary of this verse it may be said that the evangelist recognized and bore witness to the fact that the characteristics ascribed only to God by the Old Testament were present in the incarnate Logos, God’s unique messenger to the world, who not only epitomized in person the awesome sense of God’s presence in their midst as a pilgrim people but also evidenced those stabilizing divine qualities God’s people had experienced repeatedly. (John 1–11, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002], 121–22. Italics in original.)[1]

Jesus Christ is Man

John 1:1, 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The last study looked at the first two verses of John’s Gospel, the verses that declare so unequivocably that Jesus is God. We now want to skip ahead to the verse that goes with them and that says in equally certain terms that Jesus is man. That verse is John 1:14. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is God. Jesus is man. Properly understood, these are the two most important truths to be made about Christ’s person.

A Biblical Doctrine

It is not only in John’s Gospel that we encounter such teaching, of course. These themes are found throughout Scripture. What is more, although they are very profound they are taught in the most natural way and in a totally artless manner.

Take the three places where God the Father describes the Son’s nature by means of two complementary verbs. In the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah, in a verse that is always much quoted at Christmastime, we read, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). This verse teaches that the Messiah was to be One who was always God’s Son but who would become man at a particular point in history. Hence, as a child he is born, but as a Son he is given. In Romans 1:3–4 the same teaching occurs. There the apostle Paul writes, “… regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” Jesus was made the seed of David, according to the flesh. But he was declared always to have been God’s Son. Finally, in Galatians 4:4–5 we read, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” As a son, Jesus Christ was sent. Hence, he was always God. Nevertheless, he was made under the law. He became man. The Bible is never hesitant to put the twin truths of the full deity and the true humanity of Jesus Christ together.

What we have taught didactically in these verses is also taught by illustration in various events in Christ’s ministry. For instance, in the next chapter of John’s Gospel we find the Lord Jesus Christ at a wedding (John 2:1–11). Few things could be more truly human than that. Yet, when the wine is exhausted and the family about to be embarrassed, Jesus makes new and better wine of the water that had been standing around in the great stone waterpots that were used for the Jewish washings and purifications. Nothing in the whole chapter is more clearly divine.

On another occasion the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to the land of the Gadarenes while Jesus, who was exhausted from the day’s activities, was asleep in the boat. A storm arose that was so intense it frightened even these seasoned fishermen. They awoke Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” And Jesus stilled the storm. What could be more human than our Lord’s total exhaustion in the boat? But what could be more divine than his stilling of the winds and waves, so that the disciples came to worship him saying, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matt. 8:23–27)? The same twofold nature of the Lord Jesus Christ is illustrated throughout the Gospels right down to the accounts of his death and resurrection. Nothing could be more human than his death by crucifixion. Nothing could be more divine than the darkening of the sky, the tearing of the veil of the temple, the opening of the graves of the saints buried near Jerusalem, and the final triumphant rending of the tomb on that first Easter morning.

We must not make the mistake of thinking of Jesus as being merely a divine man or, on the other hand, of being merely a human God. Jesus is the God-man; and this means that he is fully and uniquely God as well as being perfectly man. He is God with us, God for us, God in us. As man he is the One who has experienced all the trials, joys, sufferings, losses, gains, temptations, and vicissitudes of this life. All this is involved in these two important verses of John 1.

Able to Die

Why are these truths important? Or, more particularly, since we discussed the divinity of Jesus Christ in our previous study, why is the humanity of Jesus Christ important? There are several reasons.

First, the incarnation made it possible for Jesus Christ to die. This is easy to see. It is what the author of Hebrews is thinking of when he writes, “Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, “Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God” ’ ” (Heb. 10:4–7). A body made it possible for Jesus Christ to die.

It is always difficult to find an adequate illustration of the incarnation itself. But it is not so hard to find an illustration of this aspect of it. A body was the vehicle of Christ’s earthly ministry. Take a man who is called by God to do medical missionary work in a distant corner of Africa. His person and his willingness are one thing. But his training is another. Thus, the man will submit to years of training, gaining medical knowledge and at times even a bit of seminary training, so that to his person and original intention he adds that which is necessary for him to do the work. It is exactly what Jesus Christ did. In the beginning, in the eternal counsels of God, before there was a world or a lost race of men, Jesus foresaw all human history and knew that he was to redeem the race. Thus, in the fullness of time, in the days of Herod, he assumed a body so that he could offer up that body as the perfect sacrifice for man’s sin.

This is what we find throughout Scripture. The very name “Jesus” looks forward to an act of saving significance. For the angel said of Mary, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus himself spoke of the suffering that was to come (Mark 8:31; 9:31), linking the success of his mission to the crucifixion: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). At several places in John’s Gospel the crucifixion is spoken of as that vital “time” for which Christ came and to which his ministry inflexibly proceeded (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 13:1; 17:1).

Moreover, the death of Jesus is in a real sense the theme of the Old Testament also. The Old Testament sacrifices prefigure Christ’s suffering, and the prophets explicitly foretell it. Paul teaches that Abraham was saved by faith in Christ (Gal. 3:8, 16). Jesus taught the downcast Emmaus disciples that the Old Testament foretold his death and resurrection: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). In the light of these texts it is not wrong to say that the most important reason for the incarnation of Jesus is that it made it possible for him to die. This death was the focal point of world and biblical history.

Able to Understand

There is also a second reason why it was important for the eternal Son of God to become man. The fact that Jesus Christ took upon himself all that men are and know and experience also made it possible for him to be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, as the author of Hebrews says. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16). Jesus knew and experienced (in a way that we can understand) what it meant to be man.

J. B. Phillips, the translator who stands behind one of the modern paraphrases of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament books, tells how he was impressed with the deeply human nature of Christ’s sufferings as he went about his task of translating the Gospels. He says, “The record of the behaviour of Jesus on the way to the cross and of the crucifixion itself is almost unbearable, chiefly because it is so intensely human. If, as I believe, this was indeed God focused in a human being, we can see for ourselves that here is no play acting; this is the real thing. There are no supernatural advantages for this man. No celestial rescue party delivered Him from the power of evil men, and His agony was not mitigated by any superhuman anaesthetic. We can only guess what frightful anguish of mind and spirit wrung from him the terrible words ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ But the cry ‘It is finished!’ cannot be one of despair. It does not even mean ‘It is all over.’ It means ‘It has been completed’—and the terrifying task of doing God’s will to the bitter end had been fully and finally accomplished.”

It is this suffering that enables us to know that Jesus experienced all that we experience—the weariness, disappointments, misunderstandings, and the pain of this life—and so is able to understand and help all those who are his own and are so tempted.

Our Example

Third, by becoming man Jesus has also provided us with an example of how the life that is fully pleasing to the Father should be lived. Being what we are, this is most important.

I often have been asked by people who are concerned with the state of the church today why it is that so many of the young men who go to seminary (even a good seminary, for that matter) come out of it without much of a message and without much of an ability to lead the churches they eventually serve. This is good questioning. As I have thought about it, I have come to feel that one of the main reasons is that they lack an adequate example of what the Christian ministry can be. They have never had contact with a strong church or with an intelligent preaching ministry that is Bible-centered and faithful to the great themes of the gospel. So, lacking an example, they wander about in their approach and fail to provide strong leadership.

Now, what is true for the ministry is true for other fields also—business, law, medicine, scholarship, and so on—and it is true spiritually. Thus, Jesus became man in order to go through all sorts of situations with all sorts of people in order that we might be provided with a pattern upon which our Christian life can be constructed.

Do you remember ever having seen a sampler? I mean those patterns of needlework containing the alphabet by which children of a generation or two ago used to learn to read and write. That is what Christ is for us. He is our sampler, our example. We are to pattern our attempts to write out the Christian life on him. I find it interesting that Peter uses the word for “sampler” or “copybook” when he says, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). In other words, by means of Jesus Christ’s becoming man God wrote the characters of love and righteousness large so that we by his grace might copy them.

The Value of Life

The fourth reason why the incarnation was important is that through it God sanctified the value of human life in a way that had not been done previously. Before the coming of Jesus Christ, life in the ancient world was cheap; and it seems that, with the departure from biblical values and biblical principles that we see about us, life is becoming increasingly cheap today.

What makes life cheap? War makes it cheap. There is plenty of war today. The continuing reports of battle deaths numb us as to the destiny of the individual. The same thing is true of traffic deaths or deaths as the result of crime. Moreover, I personally believe that the laws that have legalized abortion have also had this effect and will have it increasingly in years ahead.

What will offset this cheapening of human life? Only the values that Christianity brings! Christianity values life, first, because God gave it and, second, because the Lord Jesus Christ sanctified it by assuming a full human nature by means of the incarnation. Jesus Christ became like you.

Does that mean anything to you personally? It should make you thankful. It should lead you to bow down before the Lord Jesus Christ and worship him deeply as your Savior. Martin Luther was a great expositor of John’s Gospel, as I mentioned in the opening chapter, and at this point in his commentary he tells a story from folklore that illustrates this principle. He says that there was once a stubborn and unspiritual man—Luther called him “a coarse and brutal lout”—who showed absolutely no reverence for any of the great truths of Christianity. When the words “And was made man” were sung in church, this man neither crossed himself nor removed his hat, both of which were common practice in the Roman church of that day. When the creeds were recited the man would not kneel. Luther says, “Then the devil stepped up to him and hit him so hard it made his head spin. He [the devil] cursed him gruesomely and said: ‘May hell consume you. … If God had become an angel like me and the congregation sang: “God was made an angel,” I would bend not only my knees but my whole body to the ground! … And you vile human creature, you stand there like a stick or a stone. You hear that God did not become an angel but a man like you, and you just stand there like a stick of wood!’ ” The story is fictional, of course. Yet it does make the point. Apart from the grace of God we all stand before the most tremendous truths of God’s Word as impervious blocks of stone. Yet we should respond to them.

Do we respond? Do you? You should lift up your heart and also your voice in praise of a God who can come from the infinite distance and glories of heaven down to a world such as ours in order that he might redeem us and lead us back to himself. The incarnation is the second greatest truth in the Bible. The greatest is that this God who became man could also love us enough to go to the cross and die for us personally.[2]

The Word Became Flesh

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The exodus of Israel was one of the great mass migrations of history, when over two million Israelites left their bondage in Egypt. At first, this great caravan would have had a certain splendor, laden down as it was with the treasures of the Nile. But before long in the desert, the Israelites would have looked more and more like refugees: they became dirty, disheveled, and increasingly disorganized. But even then, the Israelites possessed a glory that made them the marvel of the world. At the center of their camp was the tabernacle of the Lord, over which rested the cloud of fire that God sent to guide his people. Inside was the ark of the covenant, with the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle.

Christians are likewise unimpressive during our pilgrim journey through this desert world. But like the Israelites, the Christian church has the glory of God in its midst. John writes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The Incarnation of Christ

It was to make this great statement that the Gospel of John was written. John’s prologue has been telling of Christ’s coming to the world in theological terms. He began by stating that Jesus is the eternal Word who was with God before the beginning. The Word came as a light into darkness. Now, John 1:14 tells us how this happened: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

This verse states the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem. But the second person of the Trinity did not come into being at this birth. John says at the start of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word,” and then at a certain time, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). God the Son—the Word—did not come to existence in his incarnation, but he became a human being in addition to a divine being. Westminster Confession 8.2 explains, “The Son of God, … being very and eternal God, … did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin.” Christ’s incarnation means that the Son of God became a human in the fullest sense, without losing any of his divinity. Paul teaches, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). Likewise, Jesus is sinless without losing his full humanity. His is uncorrupted, true humanity.

When John speaks of our “flesh,” he does not refer to our sinful nature, as is Paul’s meaning of this term, but simply our human nature. John means that Jesus gained a human body, which enabled him to suffer death for us. Jesus also possessed a human mind and heart; he felt all that we feel, including sorrow and joy, weariness and temptation. Because of this, he is able to sympathize with us in our trials. Moreover, Jesus lived a human life in the same world in which we live. He was born and grew up as a boy. He learned a trade in his father’s carpenter shop. He had friends and neighbors; he paid taxes and was subject to the governing authorities. Because he truly lived as we live, Jesus sets an example for us to follow. These, then, are the three main reasons why “the Word became flesh”: to die, to sympathize with us, and to show us how to live.

This is the most stupendous news that could ever be reported. C. S. Lewis said: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man.… He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.” Paul writes, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: [God] was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).

We do not understand how one person can be both God and man. But the Bible shows that Jesus possesses two distinct natures—one divine, one human—without any mingling or confusion between them. The Greek mythologies spoke of gods who came down to earth for a while, until they got tired and returned to the clouds. But nowhere in the ancient world was there any idea of God’s becoming man, the Word’s taking up flesh.

Lo, within a manger lies

He who built the starry skies …

Thus to come from highest bliss

Down to such a world as this!”

What does this say about God’s desire for our salvation—that he actually stepped into our world and became one of us? This shows the value of every human life, given the dignity that God gave to humans above all other creatures. First God created us in his own image (Gen. 1:26); then he sent his own Son to become a Son of Man, so that we might become in him the sons and daughters of God.

He Tabernacled among Us

John tells us not merely that “the Word became flesh,” but also that he “dwelt among us.” This phrase employs a verb form of the Greek word for tabernacle (eskenosen). Literally, John writes, “The Word tabernacled among us.” Undoubtedly John is directing us back to the exodus, when God dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle.

The tabernacle was a tent structure about forty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide. It had three areas: the outer courtyard where priests made sacrifices and washed themselves before entering; an outer room (the Holy Place) housing the golden candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense; and an inner room (the Most Holy Place) containing the ark of the covenant, where God himself dwelt. Everything about the tabernacle was symbolic of spiritual realities and especially of Jesus Christ, who came as God’s true tabernacle. We should take note of some of the most obvious parallels.

First, the tabernacle was given for Israel’s wilderness journey. So it was for Jesus. This present world was not Jesus’ true home; he was passing through on the way to a better world to come. During his life, Jesus lived as a pilgrim: he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). The same is true for us through our union with Christ: we no longer belong to this desert world, but pass through it to the Promised Land just as Israel passed through the desert.

Second, the tabernacle was humble in appearance. Its outward appearance paled in comparison to the pyramids of Egypt or the ziggurats of Babylon. The tabernacle was made of hides. Looking on it from the outside, you would see nothing glittering and no great artistry. The same was true of Jesus. A hymn exhorts, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.” A. W. Pink remarks: “He came, unattended by any imposing retinue of angels. To the unbelieving gaze of Israel He had no form nor comeliness; and when they beheld Him, their unanointed eyes saw in Him no beauty that they should desire Him.”5Third, the tabernacle was at the center of Israel’s camp. Numbers 2:17 tells us, “The tent of meeting shall set out, with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps.” The various tribes of Israel camped all around the tabernacle, with the Lord at their center. James Montgomery Boice points out, “This is highly significant in reference to Jesus Christ, for he is the center of the Christian encampment. He is our gathering place.” Jesus must always be at the center of everything we do, everything we believe, and everything for which we hope. In Jesus Christ, God has tabernacled with us.

Beholding His Glory

The tabernacle was also called the tent of meeting. It was the place where the people met with God and saw the shekinah glory cloud that shined from within (shekinah = “radiance”). John applies this to Christ’s coming: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” Hebrews 1:3 makes the same connection: “He is the radiance of the glory of God.”

This supplies a workable definition of a Christian. A Christian is someone who sees in Jesus the glory of God. Others may see him as a valued teacher, a social reformer, or even a pitiful victim. But a Christian reads the Gospels and sees glory in Jesus Christ, so that he worships him and yields his life as Jesus’ disciple. This is what Andrew said to his brother, Simon Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). Later, when the crowds were leaving Jesus because he didn’t teach what they wanted to hear, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life[;] … you are the Holy One of God” (6:68–69). Seeing this makes you a Christian. The word that John uses for “we have seen” (theaomai) has a rich meaning, including the idea of personal contact and interaction; it is elsewhere used for stopping by someone’s place of abode in order to “see” the person (Rom. 15:24). John means that believers commune with Christ in his glory. This is what makes us Christians, and also makes Christianity so exciting as our growing faith discovers his glory more and more.

Given what we earlier observed about Jesus’ humble appearance, it might seem odd to say that we see glory in him. So what glory does John have in mind when he speaks of the glory revealed in Jesus? Many different answers have been given. Some think this refers to the transfiguration, when Jesus was revealed in full splendor on the mount before three of his disciples. This certainly was a display of glory, but the fact that John omits it from his Gospel suggests that he has other things in mind. Others point to Jesus’ miracles—his healings, his ability to feed thousands with a few fish and loaves, and his power even to raise the dead. John tells us that the miracles “manifested his glory” (John 2:11), showing his divine power and sublime compassion. John devotes the first half of his Gospel to presenting what has been called The Book of Signs, that is, a record of the miracles that pointed to Christ’s glory.

But there is another answer to this question about Jesus’ glory. Jesus showed the glory of God not merely through the power of his divine nature, but also in his human nature through a humble, obedient, servant life. To us, a glorious person is one who rises above the crowds, ascending to a place of wealth and prominence. But Jesus showed us higher glory. Though he had the power that created galaxies, he subjected himself to human scorn and abuse. He allowed his heart to break as he wept over Jerusalem. He allowed his body to be broken—his hands and feet nailed to a cross by creatures he had made—and he gave up his life so that we might live.

The truth is that at first glance, Jesus was not very glorious. He had his moments, but what did he accomplish? Leon Morris assesses Jesus’ earthly achievement: “He preached to a few people in an outlying province of an ancient, long since vanished empire. Even there he was not often in the capital, the center of affairs, but in a remote country area. He taught a few people, gathered a few disciples, did an uncertain number of miracles, aroused a great number of enemies, was betrayed by one close follower and disowned by another, and died on a cross. Where is the glory?”

This reminds me of a character in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, whom the author doubtless intended to reflect hidden glory like that of Jesus Christ. Aragorn was a man with a weathered appearance whom many considered strange and unsavory. Unknown to the townsfolk who shunned him, he had gained this visage through his ceaseless labors for their defense. It turned out that Aragorn was in fact the rightful king of all those lands, in exile awaiting the appointed time to reveal his claims. Tolkien honored Aragorn with a poem, the first two lines of which could be equally spoken of Jesus Christ:

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost.

Jesus may have seemed to wander, but no one could have moved with a greater purpose. And though he did not glitter with gold, he bore a glory that is greater by far—the glory of humble obedience to the will of God. At the end of his mission, on the night of his arrest, Jesus prayed to the Father: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). His was the humble glory of an obedient life.

We tend to think that glory requires the pomp and glitter of this world—gold medals, trophies, great stock portfolios, and showy houses. But God shows us through Jesus that real glory is not like that: it does not depend on pageantry and show. Real glory is seen in humble service out of devotion to God. Morris says of Jesus:

Where people needed help, he helped them. Where there were sick, he healed them. Where there were ignorant folk, he taught them. Where there were hungry people, he fed them. All the time, he was seeking the needy. He did not haunt the palaces of kings and governors. He was not found in the high places of the earth.… All his life he was among God’s little people, those who in one way or another felt their need. And wherever there was need, he was found doing lowly service. That is what Christ came to do. And that is glory.

This means that we, too, can lead glorious lives. We do not possess Jesus’ divine power to perform miracles—although we do have great power in prayers offered in his name. But through the Holy Spirit, as Christ lives in us, we have power to deny ourselves, serving sacrificially out of God-given love. We, too, can help. We can heal. We can teach. We can feed. We can take in the lost. We can bind up broken hearts. Through faith, we can be Christlike, bearing his glory before the world.

The story is told of two brothers named Taylor. The older son set out to make a name and achieve glory for his family. So he entered politics, served in Parliament, and became a man of considerable power. The younger brother turned his back on worldly glory, having seen the greater glory of Christ. He went to China, spending his entire life bringing the gospel to that land. His name was Hudson Taylor, and when he died his name was revered on every continent by all who loved the Lord. One writer tells of looking for information about his politician brother. Years afterward, his encyclopedia listing provided no information about his high offices and achievements in Parliament. It read only, “The brother of Hudson Taylor.”

This is how it is for God’s heroes. If you read the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11, you will find the names of people who were nobodies in the world but great in the eyes of God: Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, and others. Many were persecuted and even put to death. “They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of [them] the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:37–38). But because of the humble obedience of their faith, they achieved a glory that the world can never reach. Hebrews 11:16 says, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” That is glory, and we can have it, too.

Full of Grace and Truth

John concludes this great verse, saying, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Here are two specific aspects of God’s glory that Jesus revealed: his grace and his truth.

I mentioned a number of ways in which the tabernacle symbolizes the Lord Jesus, but one that I omitted is that the tabernacle was where the sacrifices were made to atone for sin. From the time of our first parents—Adam and Eve—God had revealed that the wages of sin would be death (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). Sin is not just a little dysfunction among ourselves; it is a violation of God’s law and an offense to his perfect holiness. Therefore, sin must be punished with death. But in his grace—his unmerited mercy and favor—God has provided a Sacrifice to die in our place. This was symbolized at the tabernacle, where bulls and sheep and goats were brought to bear the punishment that the people’s sin deserved. Those sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus Christ, whose cross is the true tabernacle, revealing the grace of God to sinners by his death on the cross.

The cross was the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace. On the very brink of his entry into Jerusalem, starting the final countdown to his crucifixion, Jesus said to his disciples, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Jesus was not talking about the hosannas that would greet his entry. The people were looking for him to be glorified by an ascent to military and political power. William Barclay writes, “By glorified they meant that the subjected kingdoms of the earth would grovel before the conqueror’s feet; by glorified He meant crucified.”

To the world, the cross was the most shameful of all things. It involved physical torture, personal humiliation, and a cursed death. This was God’s way of showing us the true shame of our sin. But because the perfect Son of God died in this way for us, the cross displays the grace of God to the highest glory of his name. I mentioned earlier that a Christian is one who sees the glory of God in the person of Christ. But now we see that it is especially by seeing the glory of God’s grace in the cross that we are saved. Is the cross your glory? Is it your hope? Is it the place where your sins were put away and God’s glory shines into your heart? Unless you have believed on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, there is no heavenly glory for you, but only the shame of the guilt that you will eternally bear. Paul speaks for every Christian heart when he exclaims, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

Jesus first glorifies God’s grace to us, but then he leads us into the glory of God’s truth. This is yet another feature of the tabernacle: it was the place where God’s Word was revealed. The tablets of the Ten Commandments were kept in the tabernacle. And Moses came there to receive God’s Word for the people.

Once, Moses asked for a more intimate revelation: “Please show me your glory,” he said (Ex. 33:18). God replied, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (33:20). But Jesus Christ is a better tabernacle. “The Word became flesh” so that God could show us his face. Paul explains, “God … has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

People ask: How can we know God? We answer: Jesus Christ came into this world to show us the glory of the truth of God in a human face. Therefore, to reject Jesus is to reject the truth about God. But if we receive Jesus, we come into the knowledge of God for the salvation of our souls.

Moreover, Jesus left us his Word in the Bible. It, too, is now our glory. We hold in a book the truth of God in all its glory, provided for us through the ancient prophets and the apostles of Jesus Christ. If we have seen God’s glory in the face of Christ, and if we have received God’s grace at the cross of Christ, then let us love and desire the knowledge of God’s truth through the Word of Christ, so that we might glorify God through our lives of humble, obedient, and Christlike service.

God is calling you to do that. God is calling you to minister, feed, teach, visit, heal, and witness in Christ’s name with the particular gifts and opportunities you possess. Will you answer that call? If you will, through faith in Christ, God’s own glory will rest on your life, and the glory of the Savior, Jesus Christ, will shine out from you.[3]

14 We now come to the most concise statement in Scripture regarding the incarnation. With eloquent simplicity born of brevity, John proclaims, “The Word became flesh.” The philosophical mind may have taken no exception to John’s teaching on the Logos up until this point. But any idea of the Logos (the eternal Reason) entering into our human estate would run counter to the fundamental Greek axiom that the gods were detached and separate from the struggles and heartaches of humanity (see Morris’s extended note, 115–26, on the Logos). By declaring that “the Word became flesh,” John answered the Docetics, who, while acknowledging that Jesus of Nazareth was divine, could not bring themselves to accept the fact that he was also fully human. They would claim that he only appeared (dokeō, GK 1506; used intransitively it means “to seem”) to be a real man. Throughout history Christian orthodoxy has always maintained the full humanity of Jesus, as well as his complete deity. He is the God-man. The incarnation is the embodiment of God in human form as Christ. In becoming human Jesus did not diminish in any way what he was before. While the voluntary restrictions of becoming human led him to resist any independent expression of his divine power, he was in no way less God by becoming human. He became what we are without relinquishing what he always has been and must be.

John goes on to say that the eternal Logos (God the Son) came and lived for a while (“made his dwelling”) among us. The reference is to his earthly ministry as Jesus of Nazareth. The verb skēnoō (GK 5012) means “to live in a tent [skēnē; GK 5008],” i.e., to take up a temporary abode. The term would call to mind the wilderness trek of Israel during which time God took up his abode in the tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting. During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, his followers recognized in him the very presence of God. He was the shekinah glory, the visible expression of the glory of God. He was, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3). The glory that his followers “saw” (a weak translation of theaomai, “to behold,” GK 2517, from theōria, “an appearance or spectacle,” GK 2556) was the glory of the one and only Son. The KJV’s “only begotten” incorrectly suggests that monogenēs (GK 3666) is derived from gennaō (“to beget,” GK 1164) rather than from ginomai (in this context, “to be born,” GK 1181). John is saying that the Son is unique, the only one of a kind. God has as sons all who have been adopted into his family on the basis of personal faith, but Jesus is the Son of God sui generis (unique). He came from the Father, “full of grace and truth” (the phrase modifies “the Word” or “the one and only Son” rather than “glory” as some have suggested). These two great Christian terms reflect the unmerited favor of a God who, true to his essential character, gives of himself for the eternal benefit of humanity.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 39–43). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 26–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Phillips, R. D. (2014). John. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (1st ed., Vol. 1, pp. 53–61). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 373). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Easter Verse Of The Day

The Source of the Believer’s Inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1:3a)

Peter assumes it is necessary for believers to bless God. The intention is so implicit that the Greek text omits the word be, which the translators added. (In the original, the sentence literally begins, “Blessed the God,” which conveys Peter’s expectation that his audience “bless God” as the source of all spiritual inheritance.) The apostle adores God and implores others to do the same.

Peter further calls Him the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a phrase that identified God in a distinctly Christian way. Historically the Jews had blessed God as their creator and redeemer from Egypt. His creation emphasized His sovereign power at work and His redemption of Israel from Egypt His saving power at work. But those who became Christians were to bless God as the Father of their Lord Jesus Christ.

With one exception (when the Father forsook Him on the cross, Matthew 27:46), every time the Gospels record that Jesus addressed God, He called Him “Father” or “My Father.” In so doing, Jesus was breaking with the Jewish tradition that seldom called God Father, and always in a collective rather than personal sense (e.g., Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10). Furthermore, in calling God His Father, Jesus was claiming to share His nature. While speaking with the Jews at an observance of the Feast of the Dedication, Christ declared, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Later, in response to Philip’s request that He reveal the Father, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9; cf. vv. 8, 10–13). Jesus affirmed that He and the Father possess the same divine nature—that He is fully God (cf. John 17:1, 5). The Father and the Son mutually share the same life—one is intimately and eternally equal to the other—and no one can truly know one without truly knowing the other (cf. Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). No person can claim to know God unless he knows Him as the One revealed in Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (John 14:6–7).

In his writings, the apostle Paul also declared the Father and the Son to be of the same essence: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1:3; cf. Eph. 1:3, 17). Likewise, John wrote in his second epistle: “Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 3). Whenever the New Testament calls God Father, it primarily denotes that He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:21; 10:32; 11:25–27; 16:27; 25:34; 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 10:21–22; 22:29; 23:34; John 3:35; 5:17–23; 6:32, 37, 44; 8:54; 10:36; 12:28; 15:9; 17:1; Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 11:31; cf. John 14:23; 15:16; 16:23; 1 John 4:14; Rev. 1:6). God is also the Father of all believers (Matt. 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 9; 10:20; 13:43; 23:9; Mark 11:25; Luke 12:30, 32; John 20:17; Rom. 1:7; 8:15; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 2:18; 4:6; Phil. 4:20; Heb. 12:9; James 1:27; 1 John 2:13; 3:1).

One commentator calls Peter’s use in verse 3 of Christ’s full redemptive name “a concentrated confession.” All that the Bible reveals about the Savior appears in that title: Lord identifies Him as sovereign Ruler; Jesus as incarnate Son; and Christ as anointed Messiah-King. The apostle personalizes that magnificent title with the simple inclusion of the pronoun our. The divine Lord of the universe belongs to all believers, as does the Jesus who lived, died, and rose again for them, and as does the Christ, the Messiah whom God anointed to be their eternal King who will grant them their glorious inheritance.

The Motive for the Believer’s Inheritance

who according to His great mercy (1:3b)

His great mercy was the motive behind God’s granting believers eternal life—sharing the very life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Ephesians 2:4–5 also expresses this divine generosity, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (cf. Titus 3:5). Both here and in Ephesians, the apostolic writer added an enlarging adjective (great and “rich”).

Mercy focuses on the sinner’s miserable, pitiful condition. The gospel is prompted by God’s compassion toward those who were dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1–3). All believers were once in that wretched, helpless condition, compounded by a deceitful heart (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Eccl. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21–23), corrupt mind (Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14), and wicked desires (Eph. 4:17–19; 5:8; Titus 1:15) that made them slaves to sin, headed for just punishment in hell. Therefore they needed God, in mercy, to show compassion toward their desperate, lost condition and remedy it (cf. Isa. 63:9; Hab. 3:2; Matt. 9:27; Mark 5:19; Luke 1:78; Rom. 9:15–16, 18; 11:30–32; 1 Tim. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:10).

Mercy is not the same as grace. Mercy concerns an individual’s miserable condition, whereas grace concerns his guilt, which caused that condition. Divine mercy takes the sinner from misery to glory (a change of condition), and divine grace takes him from guilt to acquittal (a change of position; see Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7). The Lord grieves over the unredeemed sinner’s condition of gloom and despair (Ezek. 18:23, 32; Matt. 23:37–39). That is manifest clearly during His incarnation as Jesus healed people’s diseases (Matt. 4:23–24; 14:14; 15:30; Mark 1:34; Luke 6:17–19). He could have demonstrated His deity in many other ways, but He chose healings because they best illustrated the compassionate, merciful heart of God toward sinners suffering the temporal misery of their fallen condition (cf. Matt. 9:5–13; Mark 2:3–12). Jesus’ healing miracles, which nearly banished illness from Israel, were proof that what the Old Testament said about God the Father being merciful (Ex. 34:6; Ps. 108:4; Lam. 3:22; Mic. 7:18) was true.

Apart from even the possibility of any merit or worthiness on the sinner’s part, God grants mercy to whomever He will: “For He [God] says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:15–16). Out of His infinite compassion and free, abundant, and limitless mercy, He chose to grant eternal life—it was not because of anything sinners could do or deserve (Ex. 33:19; Rom. 9:11–13; 10:20; 2 Tim. 1:9). It is completely understandable that Paul called God “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3).

The Appropriation of the Believer’s Inheritance

has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1:3c)

The prophet Jeremiah once asked the rhetorical question, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23). His graphic analogy implied a negative answer to the question of whether or not sinners could change their natures (cf. 17:9). Humanity’s sinful nature needs changing (Mark 1:14–15; John 3:7, 17–21, 36; cf. Gen. 6:5; Jer. 2:22; 17:9–10; Rom. 1:18–2:2; 3:10–18), but only God, working through His Holy Spirit, can transform the sinful human heart (Jer. 31:31–34; John 3:5–6, 8; Acts 2:38–39; cf. Ezek. 37:14; Acts 15:8; Rom. 8:11; 1 John 5:4). In order for sinners to receive an eternal inheritance from God, they must experience His means of spiritual transformation, the new birth. Peter affirms that truth in this last portion of verse 3, when he says God has caused believers to be born again (see discussion on 1:23–25 in chapter 7 of this volume; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17).

Jesus effectively explained the necessity of regeneration—the new birth—to Nicodemus, a prominent Jewish teacher.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. (John 3:1–15)

To illustrate the means of the new birth, Jesus referred to the episode of the bronze serpent (Num. 21:4–9), an Old Testament narrative Nicodemus would have known well. When the snake-bitten Israelites in the wilderness acknowledged their sin and God’s judgment on them for it and looked to the means He provided to deliver them (a bronze snake on a pole), they received physical healing from their poisonous bites. By analogy, if sinners would experience spiritual deliverance, they must recognize their spiritual condition as poisoned by their sin and experience salvation from spiritual and eternal death by looking to the Son of God and trusting in Him as their Savior. Jesus cut to the core of Nicodemus’s self-righteousness and told him what all sinners need to hear, that they are spiritually regenerated only by faith in Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:12–13; Titus 3:5; James 1:18).

Peter goes on to declare that regeneration results in believers receiving a living hope. The unbelieving world knows only dying hopes (Job 8:13; Prov. 10:28; Eph. 2:12), but believers have a living, undying hope (Pss. 33:18; 39:7; Rom. 5:5; Eph. 4:4; Titus 2:13; Heb. 6:19) that will come to a complete, final, and glorious fulfillment (Rom. 5:2; Col. 1:27). It is a hope that Peter later described when he wrote, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). This hope is what prompted Paul to tell the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). At death believers’ hope becomes reality as they enter the glorious presence of God and the full, unhindered, joyous fellowship with the Trinity, the angels, and other saints (Rom. 5:1–2; Gal. 5:5).

The means of Christians’ appropriating this living hope and eternal inheritance is spiritual birth, and the power for that appropriation was demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus told Martha, just prior to the raising of her brother Lazarus from the grave, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25–26; cf. 14:19). Paul instructed the Corinthians concerning the vital ramifications of the resurrection, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). Even if one hoped in Christ in this life, but not beyond it, he would be lost (v. 19). However, Christ rose from the dead, forever securing the believer’s living hope in heaven by finally conquering death (vv. 20–28, 47–49, 54–57).[1]

1:3 / Peter at once launches into praise of God for planning so magnificent a salvation. The Israelites of old praised God as the creator of the world (2 Chron. 2:12) and as their redeemer from Egyptian slavery (Deut. 4:20). Peter develops the characteristic Jewish approach by adopting an explicitly Christian stance. He praises God as the Father of his unique Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and as the One who raised this Jesus from the dead. As a Christian, Peter blesses God for the new creation, as expressed in the new birth of believers, and for divine provision for them of “an inheritance” of a promised land “in heaven,” safe beyond the slavery of sin or the frenzy of foes.

The experiences of new birth and of a living hope are beyond human procurement. They are God’s gracious gift and are bestowed solely on account of his great mercy, for there is no way in which they can ever be deserved or earned. They come to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, as the direct consequence of his total triumph over the worst that the powers of evil can achieve; namely, death itself.

The concept of new birth is based on the teaching of Jesus (John 3:3–8). It speaks of the gift of spiritual life on a plane previously unknown in an individual’s experience. It can no more be acquired by self-effort than a babe can bring about its own physical birth.

The first result of this new birth, and the first characteristic of the new pilgrim life of the believer, is hope (anchor for the soul, firm and secure: Heb. 6:19). Hope is living (cf. 1:23; 2:4–5), not merely because it is active (Heb. 4:12), or is simply an improved version of the Jewish hope (Heb. 7:19). Nor are we to misunderstand the translation “have been born anew to a living hope” (rsv) to mean “hope has been restored.” Peter is referring to something of a different order: a sure and confident outlook which has a divine, not a human, source. That new quality of hope is generated in the believer by the new spiritual life brought about by the new birth. Peter is writing to encourage readers who face an uncertain future threatened by persecution of one degree or another. This living hope highlights the fact that the present life is by no means the limit of the believer’s expectation. As the word is used in everyday parlance, “hope” can prove a delusion (Job 7:6; Eph. 2:12; cf. Col. 1:5). The living hope in the newborn Christian has a vigor, a patient endurance, and an assurance beyond any human power: such hope can no more fail than the living God who bestows it. Peter elaborates the nature and the content of living hope in the following two verses.[2]

God establishes our hope in Christ (1:3)

In his play No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre gives his own vision of hell. Two women and a man, doomed to perdition, enter a room that seems to threaten no torment. But they are sentenced to remain together in that same room for ever—without sleep and without eyelids. All three enter with pretensions about their past. The man pretends that he was a hero of the revolution. In reality, he was killed in a train wreck when he tried to escape after betraying his comrades. The women have even more sordid lives. In the forced intimacy of the room their guilty secrets are all wrung out. Nothing can be hidden, and nothing can be changed. Sartre’s imagination has well prepared us for his famous line, ‘Hell is other people.’ But the moral of the play is the line of doom to which the drama moves: ‘You are—your life, and nothing else.’

Sartre rejected Christianity, but his play invites heart-searching. Who wants to say that he is what he has been rather than what he meant to be, or what he hopes to be? Sartre implies that hell begins when hope ends. Sartre’s image falls far short of the reality of hell, for God’s judgment exposes sinners not simply to the lidless eyes of other sinners, but to the all-seeing gaze of God himself. Yet Sartre reminds us of how desperately we need hope. While there is life, there is hope, we say. But if hope dies, what life can remain?

Peter writes a letter of hope. The hope he proclaims is not what we call a ‘fond hope’. We cherish fond hopes because they are so fragile. We ‘hope against hope’ because we do not really expect what we hope for. But Peter writes of a sure hope, a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past. Peter hopes for God’s salvation, God’s deliverance from sin and death. His hope is sure, because God has already accomplished his salvation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus was a life-changing reality for Peter. When Jesus died on the cross, it was the end of all Peter’s hopes. He knew only bitter sorrow for his own denials. The dawn could not bring hope; with the crowing of the cock he heard the echo of his curses.

But Jesus did not stay dead. On that Easter morning Peter learned from the women of the empty tomb and the message of the angels. He went running to the tomb and saw its evidence. He left in wonder, but Jesus remembered Peter and appeared to him even before he came to eat with the disciples in the upper room. Hope was reborn in Peter’s heart with the sight of his living Lord. Now Peter writes to praise God for that living hope. The resurrection did much more than restore his Master to him. The resurrection crowned the victory of Christ, his victory for Peter, and for those to whom he writes. The resurrection shows that God has made the Crucified both Lord and Christ. At the right hand of the Father Jesus rules until the day that he will come to restore and renew all things.2 With the resurrection of Jesus and his entrance into glory, a new age has begun. Peter now waits for the day when Jesus will be revealed from heaven (1:7, 13). Peter’s living hope is Jesus.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Peter blesses God, rejoicing in what he has done. He uses a form of praise to God that was an important part of worship in the Old Testament. The eighteen ‘blessings’ that we know from the later synagogue service go back to early times, perhaps in some form even to Peter’s day. Those blessings look forward to the fulfilment of the promises of God, yearning for the time of realization:

Speedily cause the offspring of David, Thy servant, to flourish, and let his horn be exalted by thy salvation, because we wait for Thy salvation all the day. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who causest the horn of salvation to flourish.

How different from the plaintive longing of that benediction is the astonished joy of the apostle Peter! Peter can bless the God and Father of his Lord, Jesus Christ. He can exult in the Offspring of David, raised up in salvation to the throne. God’s promises have all come true in Christ. There is more to come, for Christ is to come, but our living hope is real in our living Lord.

Christ’s resurrection spells hope for us not just because he lives, but because, by God’s mercy, we live. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. By the resurrection of Christ, God has given life, not only to him, but to us. We are given new birth by God; he fathers us by the resurrection of his Son. In Christ’s triumph God makes all things new, beginning with us.

The resurrection carried Christ not only out of the grave but to his Father’s throne. The great day of the renewal of all things had already begun. Yet Peter preached that heaven must receive Christ until the time of renewal, a time still to come. The time of new birth for the universe will come when Christ comes again. But for those united to Christ in his death and resurrection, that new day has already dawned.

When we speak of the new birth, we think of the change that God’s grace works in us. We are brought from death to life. Peter speaks of our being born of imperishable seed through the living word of God that was preached to us (1:23–25). But if we think only of what happens to us, we may be puzzled by the statement that we are given new birth by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The means of our new birth is not first the message of the resurrection; it is the fact of the resurrection. When Christ rose he secured our salvation. He entered that new day of which the prophets spoke, and he brought us with him. Peter is saying what Paul also declared: when Christ rose, we rose. In giving life to Christ, God gave life to all those who are united to Christ. God’s elect have a hope that is as sure as Christ’s resurrection. Christ has not just made their salvation possible; he has made it sure.

Like Paul, Peter also speaks of baptism as the sign of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection (3:21). Some commentators would see this passage, or indeed the whole letter, as instruction given in a service for baptism. But Peter does not in the least focus on the sign, but on the spiritual reality of our new life in Christ. His teaching is beautifully appropriate for baptismal instruction, but gives no real evidence of being designed for this specific purpose, far less limited to it.3The Father, who gives new birth to his children through the resurrection of Christ, also through Christ brings them to a living faith (1:5; 3:21). Our faith and hope are in God; his living word, the good news of the gospel, has brought life to us (1:23). The things to which believers in Old Testament times looked forward have now happened (1:12).

Yet we, too, look to the future. The salvation that was scaled by Christ’s resurrection and planted in our hearts by the seed of the Word will be revealed completely when Christ comes again in glory. Our hope is anchored in the past: Jesus rose! Our hope remains in the present: Jesus lives! Our hope is completed in the future: Jesus is coming! (1:5, 7, 13).

The apostle leads us to praise God that our salvation is his work. We could not even begin to accomplish it, and we do not in any sense deserve it. Yet, as trophies of God’s grace, we have the privilege of adoring the Father of our Lord Jesus as our Father. Peter’s praise is not a mere formula; praise is the goal of God’s gracious work, as Peter later reminds us (2:9).[3]

A Living Hope

Throughout his epistle, Peter encourages his readers to hope. Hope is based on a living faith in Jesus Christ. It characterizes the believer who patiently waits for the salvation God has promised to his people. “Hoping is disciplined waiting.”

3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Filled to overflowing with spiritual blessings which he wants to convey to his readers, Peter writes one long sentence in Greek (vv. 3–9). In our modern versions, translators have divided this lengthy sentence. Nevertheless, the sentence itself reveals the intensity of the writer and the fullness of his message. In the introductory part of this sentence we observe the following points:

  • “Praise.” This word is actually the first word in a doxology, for instance, at the conclusion of many books of the Psalms: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 41:13; and with variations 72:18; 89:52; 106:48). The word praise is common in the New Testament, too. Zechariah begins his song with an exuberant burst of praise: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68; also see Rom. 1:25b; 9:5).
  • “God and Father.” Within the early church, Jewish Christians adapted the benedictions of their forefathers to include Jesus Christ. Note that the doxology in verse 3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is identical to the wording of 2 Corinthians 1:3 and Ephesians 1:3 (compare also 2 Cor. 11:31).

God has revealed himself in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, all the elect share in his sonship. Through him they call God their Father, for they are his children. With the church universal, the believer confesses the words of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth.

Because of Jesus Christ, we call his Father our Father and his God our God (John 20:17). Fatherhood is one of the essential characteristics of God’s being; it is part of his deity. God is first Father of Jesus, and then because of Christ he is Father of the believer.

Peter indicates our relationship to the Father and the Son when he uses the personal pronoun our (“God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”). Also, in the next sentence, Peter discloses that God is our Father because God “has given us new birth.” That is, the Father has begotten us again in giving us spiritual rebirth. The Father has given us rebirth because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • “Lord.” Verse 3 is the only text in this epistle in which Peter writes the title and names our Lord Jesus Christ. With the pronoun our, Peter includes himself among the believers who confess the lordship of Jesus Christ. “To call Jesus Lord is to declare that he is God.” Moreover, in the early church Christians confessed their faith in the brief statement Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3). The name Jesus encompasses the earthly ministry of the Son of God, and the name Christ refers to his messianic calling. Four times in three verses (vv. 1–3) Peter employs the name Jesus Christ.
  • “Mercy.” Peter describes our relationship to God the Father by saying, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth.” We read almost the same wording in one of Paul’s epistles (“God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ” [Eph. 2:4–5]). Apparently Peter was acquainted with Paul’s epistles (see 2 Peter 3:15–16). Together with the other apostles, Peter presents Christian doctrine on regeneration (e.g., see John 3:3, 5).
  • “Birth.” Notice that we receive a new spiritual birth from God the Father. Peter writes that God “has given us new birth” (v. 3), and later he continues, “For you have been born again” (v. 23). Just as we are passive in natural birth, so we are in spiritual birth. That is, God is active in the process of begetting us, for he causes us to be born again. With the words new and again in these two verses, Peter shows the difference between our natural birth and our spiritual birth.

Peter speaks from personal experience, for he remembers when he fell into the sin of denying Jesus. Later, when Jesus restored him to apostleship, he became the recipient of God’s great mercy and received new life through restoration. Therefore, he includes himself when he writes, “He has given us new birth” (italics added). Incidentally, the passages in which Peter uses the personal pronouns our or us are few (1:3; 2:24; 4:17). First Peter is an epistle in which the author addresses his readers as “you.” The infrequent use of the first person, singular (2:11; 5:1, 12) or plural, is therefore much more significant.

  • “Hope.” What is hope? It is something that is personal, living, active, and part of us. In verse 3, it is not something that pertains to the future (compare Col. 1:5; Titus 2:13). Instead, it brings life to God’s elect who are waiting with patient discipline for God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.
  • “Resurrection.” What is the basis for our new life? Peter tells us that “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” God has made us alive and has given us living hope. Without the resurrection of Christ, our rebirth would be impossible and our hope would be meaningless. By rising from the dead, Jesus Christ has given us the assurance that we, too, shall rise with him (see Rom. 6:4). Why? As Peter preached on Pentecost, “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). Jesus is the first one to break the bonds of death, so that through him we have our rebirth, and in him we have eternal life (1 John 5:12).

Peter speaks as an eyewitness, for he had the unique experience of meeting Jesus after he rose from the grave. Peter ate and drank with Jesus and became a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (refer to Acts 10:41).

Doctrinal Considerations in 1:3

Twice in this short epistle Peter introduces teaching on the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1:3; 3:21). This teaching, to be sure, is central to the Christian religion. When the eleven apostles came together after Jesus’ ascension and prior to Pentecost, they chose a successor to Judas Iscariot. Peter, as spokesman, declared that this person had to be a follower of Jesus from the day of his baptism to the time of his ascension, and that he had to be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:22).

As an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus, Peter proclaimed this truth in his sermon to the multitude gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:31). When he preached to the crowd at Solomon’s porch, he said that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:15; compare 4:2, 33). And last, when Peter spoke in the home of Cornelius at Caesarea, he taught the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 10:40). Peter testified to this truth throughout his ministry of preaching and writing.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 30–34). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (pp. 31–32). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Clowney, E. P. (1988). The message of 1 Peter: the way of the cross (pp. 43–47). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 39–42). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

April 1 Jesus and the Permanence of Scripture

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.—Matt. 5:18

Jesus’ teachings are not only unqualifiedly authoritative (“truly I say to you”), they are permanent. He implicitly equated His words of instruction with God’s eternal Word: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). As such, Jesus’ words are on a par with the Old Testament and are timeless.

In view of that reality, how foolish of us ever to wonder about the relevancy of God’s Word for us. The Bible is God’s eternal Word, and even though completed nearly two millennia ago, it has much to say to us today. Scripture is and always has been “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Jesus reveals that the permanence of God’s Word extends to the smallest letters and the smallest parts of printed letters—neither will be erased or modified.

No other statement by the Lord more clearly states His absolute confidence in the enduring nature and inerrant quality of the Bible. It is God’s own Spirit-inspired Word, down to every single word, letter, and part of letter.


Not necessarily by time percentages, to what extent does the Word factor into your usual day? When and why do you turn to its wisdom and instruction? What have you found to be the best ways to keep the Scriptures alive and active within you?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 100). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Resurrection & Suffering Saints

Last year in time for Easter the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas unveiled its panoramic new stained glass, reputedly the world’s largest. At left is the Garden of Eden, surrounded by Old Testament figures. In the center the resurrected Christ, surrounded by Gospel figures, emerges from the garden tomb. At right, heroes from the Church age surround the garden of the Tree of Life, whose leaves will heal the nations.

These heroes include Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and St. Francis of Assisi. John Wesley and Francis Asbury are there, of course. There’s early church martyr Perpetua, a noblewoman executed in the Roman amphitheater. There’s Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish nun, and mystic. Easily recognizable are Pope John XXIII, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Less recognizable but no less important is the early 20th century black preacher William Seymour, whose Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles ignited modern Pentecostalism with hundreds of millions of followers globally.

Martin Luther is there, nailing his protesting theses. So too is cerebral John Calvin, to whose inclusion some diehard Methodists might object, but I don’t think John Wesley would mind, at least not strongly!

From more recent times, Montgomery bus boycott heroine Rosa Parks is there, along with Chicago mother Mamie and her teenage son Emmett Till, whose Mississippi murder helped ignite the civil rights movement. Less familiar to Americans, there’s mid 20th century Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, who worked to reconcile Eastern Orthodoxy with Roman Catholicism. Likewise for Korean Methodist Bishop Sundo Kim, who created the 75,000 member Kwang Lim Methodist Church in Seoul. Mai Gray, the first black leader of United Methodist Women, is there. And there’s E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist missionary to India. Finally there’s Matthew Joyner, a “special needs” child and Church of the Resurrection member who died young but whose legacy is honored through ministry.

So this Church age tableau is multiracial, showing male and female, from young to old. The stained glass magisterially illustrates the cosmic centrality of Christ, whose death and Easter resurrection unleashed grace-powered forces that continue to sweep through history, profoundly shaping all humanity, both believers and not.

Christ’s death and resurrection showcase gross injustice, inhuman suffering and the triumph of divine love over demonic evil. His followers as shown in this window partake of that suffering and glory. Most portrayed there are great and famous, by divine grace. Of course, many many more followers of Christ also suffer and prevail in faith, without wide recognition, but God notices.

The suffering among Christ’s followers was made most vivid this week by the acquittalin Pakistan of numerous men accused in 2014 of murdering a young Pakistani Christian couple. Shahzad Masih and Shama Masih, who had four children, labored in a brick kiln. A mob of hundreds, urged on by clerics and possibly their employer, accused them of burning a Koran. They were tortured and then incinerated in the oven where they made bricks. In their agony, we hope they recalled the torment on the cross of their Savior, in whose presence they now rejoice.

Thanks to Easter, suffering in faith is redeemed, and righteousness prevails over murderous injustice, for all eternity. The massive window at Church of the Resurrection tells part of the story, whose ending is not yet, but whose conclusion is victorious, guaranteed by the resurrected Man at center with pierced arms outstretched.