Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Doctrines of Grace in The Gospel of John: Part 1

One of the aspects of this Blog that I truly enjoy is reading Bruce's posts that supplement his teaching from his Sunday School class. Even though I am not there to hear him in person I am able to learn a good deal from his written words.

In my posts, at least at the start, I will attempt to follow a similar pattern of distilling some of my teaching from Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings into posts that I can use to direct people who are interested in more information about the subjects I taught. And of course I will work to insure that the posts are still clear enough to be understood even if you didn't hear the initial teaching.
A major push in my putting this teaching together on the Doctrines of Grace in the Gospel of John is that there have been some people who have come to me and wondered why did we continue to come back to this topic throughout the Gospel of John. And my answer to them was simply because John keeps returning to the topic and we can only faithfully teach what John through the Spirit wrote for us. I will also note that Martin Luther, the great reformer, called John one of the Generals in the Army that proves God's sovereignty in salvation.

So with no further delay...

In the Homebuilders class at Lakeside Chapel I have been teaching through the last few chapters of the Gospel of John. It has taken us quite a while to get through this incredible book. What a blessing to read and examine the key points of the life of Jesus Christ as told to us by the apostle John.

One of the points I have stressed in class is that we must understand the goal that John had in writing this text. John clearly states that his goal was not to give a recitation of everything that Jesus did. In fact, John says that it would be impossible to do so (John 21:25). Instead John's goal is found in John 20:30-31 . He wrote what he did in order to demonstrate through the life, actions, and words of Jesus that Jesus was The Son of God. And with a minimal amount of reasoning we can understand that by saying Jesus is The Son of God, John is saying that Jesus is divine! This is stated clearly in John 1:1,14, In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
It is my assertion then that John, to meet his goal in writing the Gospel of John, sets out to prove the deity of Jesus Christ, and a prominent way he does this is by demonstrating that Jesus has the attributes of God. That Jesus did things, and claimed things that would be impossible for any man, any prophet, or any angel to do and say.
Now if you ask an average American Christian what is an attribute of God; they are most likely to say "LOVE". And John affirms that truth in many places including in 1 John 4:7-8. But God is much more than just Love. And in the Gospel of John we see a great emphasis on another of God's attributes. The attribute of Sovereignty. God is in total control of everything that occurs in this universe that He created, and that includes the salvation of mankind.
We can see this emphasis early on in John, in the passage John 1:12-13. those that were born...of God. This passage explicitly removes three elements from being determinative of being born again:
  1. Not of Blood - salvation is not a matter of earthly lineage
  2. Nor the will of the flesh - not do to any natural inclinations of man
  3. Nor the will of man - not any higher function of mankind suffices

At this point you might wonder what I am talking about when I write about God's sovereignty in salvation. This concept is also called: the doctrines of Grace, or more succinctly Calvinism. A full discussion of this topic is WAY beyond the limits of this post but in summary, I am talking about God's predestination, and choosing men for salvation which the Bible tells us takes place before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). And since God has chosen whom he will save, he then calls those whom he has chosen during their lifetime through the gospel message, and seals them permanently in His hand forever. (Eph. 1: 9,13). By extension, this means that those who were not chosen by God for salvation, will continue to reject any offer of the gospel and upon their death they will face the punishment for their sins. I could spend many more paragraphs getting into details (maybe in some future post) , but that is enough for this post.

This truth of God's sovereign choice is coupled with man's responsibility to respond in faith throughout the Gospel of John. I don't want anyone to be confused by this statement. God not only chose who would be saved, he also chose the manner in which all men will lay hold of this salvation (through faith). The order and precedence is essential: God calls and man responds.

As an example John 3:16 is a very well known verse. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish..." And this verse is used often to demonstrate the idea that every man is able to choose to believe the Gospel or to reject it. But read the verse again, nowhere in the text of this verse does it say that everyone can choose to believe in Jesus (only begotten son), it only states that everyone who does believe will have eternal life. It is up to us to read the surrounding text to determine who will believe and be saved. And in my next post we will examine chapter 3 of John along with other passages.

At this point I will end this post and begin next time in going through the Gospel of John and relaying the prominent places that John affirms God's sovereignty in salvation throughout the text of John.

1 comment:

Bruce Mills said...

Robert, it's good to have you "on-board". I hope this will become a great spot for others to come and read some thoughtful biblical exposition and insightful explanation of issues facing believers and the church in our society. Thanks for a great start with your first post!