|The last article examined the opening chapter of John's gospel which concentrated on the person of the One who came in the flesh – Christ, the Son of God. Though John does not move away from pounding the point of the deity of Christ throughout the book, he intertwines the major theme of the book, the fundamental concept that belief is what brings life – eternal life. This article continues the task of defining who Jesus is, by examining the method of pronouncing Him though the God's legal demand of the use of personal testimony. |
Spiritual transformation that results in eternal life does not come by any means of man by himself, but rather by an external agent – God, and although all three persons of the Godhead participate in this transformation, John concentrates in the early chapters upon means - believing in His name; Jesus Christ, the Anointed Savior. The apostle John puts it this way, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)
John uses the word "believe" some 98 times. He prefers the word believe over faith (this will be looked at later). As part of the doctrine of belief is the logical question, "what is believed?" It is not simply belief, for even the demons believe (cf, Matt. 8:29; James 2:19) and they are not called children of God. No, it is a positive belief, a belief that is accepted in the affirmative that Jesus is the Christ and their personal savior. There is no rejection of who Jesus is, there is no curious consideration of what does this mean, but a belief that is the result of a changed heart, a new heart, a new capability to hear and accept the things of God. Belief is seen as a gift that is received by the child of God. A belief that is a gift from God – yes, even our faith is called a gift (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). That indeed one's belief is a work of God (cf. John 6:29)!
Part of what God wants to demonstrate is that man on his own refuses to accept the things of God. Man in is fallen estate is so prideful, the heart so hardened, so callused, that he finds no need for God – he wants to be independent, so the callus thickens, growing to the point where nothing can pricks it. God provides a witness to all and that witness is provided for a reason. To demonstrate the hold sin has on mankind. That even with a true witness, man refuses to take notice, examine the facts before him or her and accept the facts as they are – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World.
A witness is not usually a theological construct formulated and presented, but the doctrine of a witness provides the legal demands of God and appears early in the testimony of Moses in the Law. It also appears early in the Gospel of John and for good reason. A witness is binding and by two witnesses a death penalty can be executed (Dt. 17:6). There are observed in Scripture seven witnesses of God to the world; (1) Israel (Isa. 43:10-12; 44:8), (2) the prophets (Act 10:43; 26:22-23), (3) John the Baptist (John 1:7, 15, 32-34; 5:33-34), (4) Jesus (John 8:18; 18:37; Rev. 1:5-6), (5) the Holy Spirit (John 15:26; Act 5:30-32; Rom. 8:6), (6) signs and wonders (John 2:11; 20:30-31; Heb. 2:3-4), (7) and Jesus' followers (Luke 1:2; Act 1:8; 3:15-16; 5:30-32; 10:41-42).
Paul adds creation as a witness that clearly proclaims who God is so that no one has an excuse (Rom. 1:18-25), John restricts witnesses to a spoken word - a testimony. The word witness in the Greek is the verb martureo meaning "to be a witness," "to bear witness," and means "to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because it was taught by divine revelation or inspiration." However, it is in the Hebrew that an 'ed "a witness" more closely relates to the legal aspect of "evidence," "a legal testimony," and its root verb means to "repeat," "do again," "say again." That is what a witness does; he or she repeats the words, events and works.
It is no mistake that two witnesses can be found in John chapters 1-3; John the Baptist and signs and wonders. John the Baptist's witness was to prepare the way of the Lord as he implored the nation to repent, then he pointed to the Messiah as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Signs and wonders are the validation of the person performing the act as someone from God so that those listening will pay attention to the message. But this someone was not just another prophet but God in the flesh - the promised Messiah.
John the Baptist as Witness
John the Baptist was sent by God Himself as a witness, "to bear witness of the Light" (John 1:6-7). John was from a line of priests, his father was a priest and his mother was a daughter from the line of Aaron which makes his witness especially important. And the people seem to flock to his witness, first as a man separated from the traditional priesthood, a Nazarite, but also because his mission was somewhat unique, it was to prepare the way for the Lord. John became a well known person who performed baptisms for repentance. It seems that during John's baptizing, all that repentance and ritual washing caused an increase in the number of personal sacrifices in Jerusalem, the Jewish authorities wanted to know what this was all about. He says to the inquiring Jewish leadership upon their inquiry of who he was:
"He said: I [am] 'the voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord."
The expression "make straight" is used for "making a road," clearing all the debris so that people can travel without obstacles (John 1:23). In John the Baptist's case, there were a lot of obstacles to clear. He was separated from the religious crowd with their traditions that corrupted the word of God. So his teachings were not like those of the nation's established priesthood with its man-made traditions (Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). The gospels speak of John the Baptist's message as containing three major topics: (1) repentance for the forgiveness of sins; (2) baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, and (3) the nearness of the kingdom of God (Matt. 3:1; Mark 1:4; 7-8; Luke 3:7-14; cf. Matt. 3:11-12).
John's gospel, however, is somewhat different from the other gospels. He tells the Baptist's message with greater detail placed upon the facts of the witness. John's gospel explains that when John the Baptist taught in the wilderness, his message was focused upon:
(1) The ever-existing one is coming (John 1:15, 30)
(2) Jesus will bring blessing after blessing (John 1:16)
(3) Jesus will make God the Father known because He is God (John 1:18)
(4) Baptism with water whose purpose is to reveal the Savior to Israel (John 1:26, 31)
(5) Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
(6) The Holy Spirit's baptism of Jesus (John 1:32)
(7) Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:34)
(8) Who so ever believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36)
(9) Who so ever rejects the Son will have God's wrath (John 3:36)
To see John the Baptist in his final days speaks volumes about the hatred of the righteousness of God. In his early mission he professed repentance to individual Jews and received a sizable following, but how did the message go with the Jewish leadership? At first he was accepted as Jesus says the Jewish leadership "rejoiced in his light" (John 5:35). That rejoicing did not last long as they, as a whole, rejected him and did not think much of him. In his later days he was placed in jail by Herod Antipas who was a Jew who seduced his brother's wife Herodias, divorced his own wife then married her. A violation of the law so when John the Baptist pointed this out, instead of repentance – calling it like it is, John came to his death as his head was delivered to Herodias' daughter on a platter. This speaks volumes about mankind's desire for sin and the hatred of the righteousness of God.
Signs and wonders as witness
Signs and wonders are spoken of as witnesses. The question is what is their testimony? The main testimony of a sign and wonder is that it validates the messenger is from God. The next thing one is to do is listen to the one displaying the sign and wonder. In Jesus' case, in the first three chapters of the book of John anyway, signs were used by Jesus to get the people's attention so that "you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31; cf. John 2:23b).
So it is that when Jesus turned water to wine in chapter two, this is said to be a sign that "manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him" (John 2:11).
The Lamb of God
John the Baptist's testimony is that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Sacrifice appears in scripture seemingly out of nowhere. It is first observed in Genesis 4 as Abel brings his firstling before the Lord for an acceptable sacrifice (Gen. 4:4; cf Heb. 11:4). Next, we find the promised lamb to be provided by God Himself as Abraham, by faith, offers his son Isaac (Gen. 22:8-12; cf Heb. 11:17). This lamb prefigured the Paschal Lamb offered up on the first night of Passover, which itself prefigured Jesus the Lamb of God. The third instance is when the nation Israel is in bondage in Egypt and the Lord command the nation to place lambs blood upon the two doorposts and those who do will be spared the death of the firstborn (Ex. 12:3-15). This occasion is then commemorated in the feast of Passover (Ex. 12). Then a slaughtering of a lamb is placed as an important place in the law specifically in the specified days and feasts of the nation. The fifth instance is Isaiah's prophecy concerning the suffering servant, speaking not of a real lamb, not of the nation Israel, but of a man, Jesus Himself. Next, in John 1:29, we have the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world identified. Then, in Revelation 5 we have the Lamb magnified by the hosts of heaven (Rev. 5:12). And finally, the Lamb is seen glorified as He is seated on the eternal throne of God (Rev. 22:1). Arthur Pink writes the following: "Once more; mark the orderly development in the scope of the sacrifices. In Gen. 4 sacrifice is offered for the individual – Abel. In Ex. 12 the sacrifice avails for the whole household. In Lev. 16, on the annual Day of Atonement, the sacrifice was efficacious for the entire nation. But here in John 1:29 it is "Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" – Gentiles are embraced as well as Jew!" (Arthur Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, p. 59)
The typology of the slain Lamb
Typology may be defined as "an Old Testament institution, event, person, object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in Biblical history, but which also by divine design foreshadows something yet to be revealed" (Donald Campbell in Paul Tan, The Interpretation of Prophecy, p. 167).
As Dr. Couch notes, "Prophecies and types both point to things future and are predictive in their natures. Types, however, are to be distinguished from prophecies in their respective forms. That is, a type prefigures coming reality; a prophecy verbally delineates the future. A type is expressed in events, persons, and acts; a prophecy is couched in words and statements. A type is passive in form, a prophecy active….When an Old Testament element is said to be a type of an element in the New, this does not mean that one equals the other. One element may prefigure another and the resemblance between the two may be very close, but a type never equals its antitype. The Old Testament sacrificial lamb typifies – but does not equal – Christ." (Mal Couch, gen.ed., An Introduction to Evangelical Hermeneutics, p. 81).
The Old Testament typology of the slain lamb applied to Jesus as the Lamb of God has at its core the prophetic reality that Jesus is the spotless (without sin) lamb that has been offered up once for all, never to be offered up again in our place (Heb. 9:28).
It is not a small point that this typology of a slain lamb and Jesus as the Lamb of God was (a) planned before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20); (b) foretold in the Old Testament (Isa. 53); and (c) fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:32-35).
The significance of the blood of the Lamb
The significance of the shed blood can be found in the Old Testament to be applied in several ways apart from the simple killing: (1) as a sacrifice (i.e., religious significance), (2) sealing of a treaty, and (3) a payment of tribute.
Sacrifice. The sacrificial offering was both before the Law (Gen. 4) and as part of the institution of the Law (Ex. 12; Num. 28-29). This offering involved the slaughtering of the animal and the shedding of blood. Of this blood it is said "for the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11), but the blood also symbolized forgiveness (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22), in fact it offered a legal transaction in the Law. Jesus, when His blood was shed on the cross is said to be presented to God in heaven (Heb. 9:12, 24-28), and was used to accomplish: (1) our forgiveness (Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:22; Rev. 1:5); (2) our redemption (Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:18-19); (3) our atonement (Rom. 3:25); (4) our justification (Rom. 5:9); (5) our reconciliation (Eph. 2:13-16); (6) our cleansing (Heb. 9:14; 1Jn. 1:7; Rev. 7:14); (7) our holiness (Heb. 10:29; 13:12); (8) the power over Satan (Rev. 12:11); and (9) established the New Covenant (Luke 22:20; 1Cor. 11:25).
Sealing of a Treaty. Another application of the blood of a slain lamb is in the sealing of treaties by God Himself in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15), and between individuals (cf. Gen. 21:27-31). This sealing of a treaty insures that the requirements of the treaty terms will be fulfilled and backed by blood. It is no small thing that the blood of Jesus establishes the New Covenant (Luke 22:20).
Payment of Tribute. As a payment of tribute the offering was to be the best of the flock. This "best of the flock" was of an acceptable age and without defects (Lev. 1:10; cf., Num. 31:37).
Propitiation. The shed blood symbolizes forgiveness as it makes atonement (Lev. 17:11) and purifies (Heb. 9:22), it is said to be a propitiation (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:5). A propitiation is a satisfaction, and while some theologians do not like the word satisfaction for propitiation, the fact is Jesus' death satisfied the righteous demands of God. The word, however, has an Old Testament element as the word propitiation is used of the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated); hence the lid of expiation, the propitiatory (Online Bible Greek Lexicon).
The extent of the sacrifice of the Lamb
The extent of the sacrifice, as John the Baptist says, covers the "sin of the world." In fact the word atonement in the Old Testament is the word kaphar and means "to cover." John, however, says Jesus is the Lamb of God who "takes away" the sin of the world. Not only was the extent of the sacrifice to cover all sin, but Jesus' sacrifice takes away, or as the Greek word airo means "to pick up and carry off or away," as Vincent's Word Studies notes "either takes away or takes upon himself, in order to bear: either removal or expiation of sin."
The fact is, Jesus' sacrifice is unique in that unlike the sacrifices of the Old Testament that were effective for a limited group, for a limited time, Jesus' sacrifice was for the world. This is specified by the Apostle John in the following way: (1) by John the Baptist – "Behold! The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29); (2) by Jesus – "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).
And in case some might restrict the meaning of world to mean "both Jew and Gentile," but moreover, limited to believers; John in his First Epistle writes, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:2). There can be no mistaking – His death covered the whole world!
The doctrine of baptism
The doctrine of baptism in the first three chapters of John is a major theme. The theme goes something like this: John the Baptist is introduced in chapter one and Jesus is baptized, and the foretelling of His special baptism which will be with the Holy Spirit (notice Jesus does not baptize with water - His disciples do the baptizing cf., 4:2; Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit cf., 1:33). Then, the miracle of water turned to wine, water being that basic element of the baptism. Chapter three starts with the description of the new birth. Jesus speaks in reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit - That very thing that John the Baptist proclaimed concerning Jesus' baptism in chapter one. In other words, water baptism prefigured the baptism of the Holy Spirit (cf. Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21) and is used to picture important theological truths (cf. Rom. 6:1-10; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21). Water baptism has the basic meaning of association or identification with someone, some group, some message or some event (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 488).
The word in the Greek baptizo means "to dip, immerse, submerge, to wash." In the Old Testament baptism was a ritual for cleansing, initiation or identification; as an example, it was required for the priest upon his initiation to service. The Jewish rules of purification concerning ritual uncleanness gave the word a technical religious connotation implying purification. During the diaspora, Gentiles seeking admission to Israel required public repentance and acceptance of Mosaic Law were immersed in water, symbolizing moral and ritual cleansing from the defilements of paganism (Walter Elwell, Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, p. 50).
Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary notes the following different types of baptisms in Scripture:
Jewish baptism: a ceremonial cleansing prescribed for both people and articles (Ex. 19:10-14; Lev. 8:6; Heb. 9:10).
John's baptism: a preparatory act in which Jews expressed their belief in the imminent coming of the Messiah and their desire to turn away from sin and live righteous lives (Mark 1:4-8).
Jesus' baptism: an act of ceremonial righteousness. By being baptized, Christ was not admitting His sinfulness, as those who submitted to John's baptism were, nor repentance. Instead through baptism, Christ was consecrating Himself to His ministry (Mark 1:9-11).
Spirit baptism: the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which believers are joined to the body of Christ (Rom. 6:3, 4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26, 27; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:9-12).
Christian baptism: a ceremonial act instituted by Christ (Matt. 28:19) and practiced by the apostles (Acts 2:38) that depicts a believer's union and identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
Baptism by fire: a possible reference either to the judgment at the Second Coming or to the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (Matt. 3:9-12; Luke 3:16, 17).
Baptism symbolizes the following:
Forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38)
Washing away of sins (Acts 22:16)
Spiritual rebirth (Tit 3:5)
Salvation (1 Pet. 3:21)
Dying with Christ, in His death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12)
Inclusion in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)
Unity in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:3-6)
Being clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27)
Commanded by Jesus (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16)
Done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19)
Dr. Waterhouse summarizes, "Baptism speaks of a sharing in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Sharing in Christ's life comes about through Spirit baptism into the Spirit of Christ. Thus, baptism in water also pictures baptism in the Spirit and union with the universal church. The one who undergoes baptism displays obedience to Christ's command and identifies with the visible church. It also seems reasonable to think that baptism symbolizes the cleansing (forgiveness) which comes through faith in Christ." (Steven Waterhouse, Not by Bread Alone – an Outlined guide to Bible Doctrine, Amarillo:Westclift Press, p. 349)
The doctrine of the baptizing of Jesus by the Holy Spirit
From birth Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, so what is the significance of the baptism of Jesus as the Holy Spirit came upon Him like a dove at the age of about 30? The significance of the baptism of Jesus is the induction into His first coming ministry. Dr. Walvoord writes, "From now on, the Holy Spirit will effect the outward signs of Messiahship, the miracles and the prophetic ministry of Christ being its major evidence. As the coming of the Spirit in the form of a dove was visible and outward, so the ministry of the Spirit would be visible and outward." (John Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, p. 95)
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit would indwell people for a temporary period in order for the person indwelt to accomplish a specific task. So the individual would be gifted in some cases with wisdom (Gen. 41:38-40; Num. 27:18; Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 1 Sam. 10:10; 16:13), special skills (Ex. 28:30-35; 31:3; 1 Kgs. 7:14), and unusual physical strength (Judg. 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14).
Dr. Pentecost notes, "We must remember that John from his birth had been filled, or controlled by, the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). Because of the Spirit's ministry John recognized the person who was presenting Himself for baptism and knew He was not a candidate for his baptism. It had been made very clear that baptism by John was a sign of confession and repentance with a view to forgiveness of sin. Jesus Christ was sinless and therefore had no need for repentance or confession. The nature of John's baptism thus eliminated Jesus as an eligible candidate for such baptism. …The use of water was the same, but the significance was not identical. The baptism of Jesus by John was a special, unique kind of baptism. It was distinct both from John's baptism and from Christian baptism even as John's baptism was distinct from a believer's baptism today." (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1981, p. 92-93)
Believe in His name – Becoming a Child of God
To believe in Jesus' name is to possess life (John 3:15). What does it mean to believe in His name?
John chapter one says,
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
His name is Jesus Christ, Jesus is of Hebrew origin from Yehoshua' or Joshua a compound of "Jehovah is salvation," and Christ is the Greek Christos meaning "anoint." The name comes from the Old Testament – the Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel. To anoint someone in the Old Testament was to empower one to perform a task so Priests, Kings and prophets were anointed, but Jesus Christ is the special, unique Anointed One who will deliver and save Israel and bring in ultimate peace in the Messianic Kingdom. "Rabbinical writings refer to 456 separate OT passages used to refer to the Messiah and messianic times (Edershiem, 710-41)….From a theological perspective, the unique role of the Messiah is that He combines in His person and work the roles of the three different messiahs of the OT theocracy – the prophet, the priest, and the king" (Mal Couch, gen. ed., The Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, p. 251).
So to believe in His name is to believe He is the Anointed Savior. That promised Messiah of the Old Testament that would come into the world and perform the task of the suffering servant taking the sins of the world upon Himself (Isa. 7:14; 52:13-53:12), and that He will return as victorious King, reconciling all things and ultimately bring in the eternal state.
His first coming Prophecy of Isaiah 53 and NT fulfillment
He will be call Immanuel – God with us Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:31-35
He will be exalted (52:13) Phil. 2:9
He will be disfigured by suffering (52:14; 53:2) Mark 15:17, 19
He will be widely rejected (53:1, 3) John 12:37, 38
He will bear our sins and sorrows (53:4) Rom. 4:25; 1 Pet. 2:24, 25
He will make a blood atonement (53:5) Rom. 3:25
He will be our substitute (53:6, 8) 2 Cor. 5:21
He will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment John 10:11
He will be buried in a rich man's tomb (53:9) John 19:38:42
He will justify many from their sin (53:10, 11) Rom. 5:15-19
He will die with transgressors (53:12) Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37
The book of John has a lot to say concerning the role of Jesus in His first coming, for example, John 12:27: "Now, My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour." His name was given by the angel Gabriel as: "you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Mat. 1:21).
So it is that John the apostle summaries the purpose of Jesus' first coming when he writes,
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13)
Jesus was a Jew so He came to the Jew first, but they did not receive Him. But whosoever believes in Him name will find eternal life. This eternal life is associated with being born of God – not man. The summary statement is made clear by the three-fold literally jewel – not of blood (or as the NIV states "born not of natural decent"); not of the will of the flesh (not by any natural desire); not of the will of man (John Gill says, man's free will, which is carnal and corrupt, is enmity to God, and impotent to everything that is spiritually good.") – Salvation is of God and Him alone!
John speaks of life, possessing life, and eternal life more than any other gospel writer. A survey of the doctrine of life in John is rich and varied as only this Jewish writer can accomplish. The topical survey is:
Life in Jesus Himself (1:4; 5:26; 11:25; 14:6)
Water of life (4:14; 7:37-38)
Bread of life (6:33, 35, 48, 51, 53-54)
Light of life (8:12)
Eternal life through faith in Jesus (3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 17:2-3; 20:31)
A full life (10:10)
In chapter one, John uses life as the previous article detailed, as physical life of everyone who comes into the world and "in Him was life" spoke of his self-existence, life apart from the created things which He created. Then, in chapter three Jesus moves to the spiritual life that one must possess and having eternal life comes from "believing in Him," a variation of believe in His name (John 3:15-16).
The consequence of not believing in Him is said to be the "wrath of God abides (continues to abide) upon him." The word for "wrath" is sometimes translated as "anger." The continuous sense has the idea that the unbeliever is now and continues in both his natural life and the wrath to come is in a state of alienation from God. Or as Vincent puts it, "He lives continually in an economy which is alienated from God, and which, in itself, must be habitually the subject of God's displeasure and indignation" (Vincent's Word Studies).
Life has to do with participating in the goodness of what God actively provides every moment. Death by contrast is the absence of any good that God provides - it is separation from God. Separation from His provision is seen as torment – eternal pain and torment.