Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't You Dare Call God a Liar

How can people not believe in Jesus Christ? 1st John 5:9-10 says:
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.”

Who can doubt God’s Word? People often say, “I wish I could have faith.” But they really do live by faith daily; they have faith in something. They trust doctors with their lives. They trust pharmacists to mix the right medicines. They eat the food cooked by strangers in restaurants. They take checks by faith. Some people believe everything they read in the newspapers or see on TV. John Q Public swallows hook, line, and sinker what the news commentators say.

Polls indicate that a person’s reputation, popularity, and influence are shaped by the media. Just look at any of our political figures and you can see that. No matter how twisted, biased or slanted the news coverage may be, it is accepted as the gospel truth. People believe practically everything in modern life, except they won’t believe God.

Incredibly, people believe mere men, who lie. Yet, they won’t believe God who cannot lie, whose character and integrity have been proven true countless times. Titus 1:2 tells us flat out, “God, that cannot lie,” so why wouldn’t we believe His testimony about Jesus? There’s no earthly reason not to. Yet, most men don’t believe! Why? It’s rebellion through and through. If they claimed they believed God, they would be expected to obey God. But that’s the one thing they won’t do.

But, if you don’t believe someone, what are you saying about them? You are saying that either that person is mistaken or that person is a liar. Therefore, if you don’t believe God’s witness, you are calling Him mistaken or a liar. If you think God is mistaken, you are denying the Scriptural claim that God is omniscience. Otherwise, you are calling God a liar.

1st John 5:10 says it’s the liar part. The verse says,
“He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.”

When I’m called a liar, I react in one of two ways: Either I burn in humiliation if it’s true and I have been caught in a lie (and since I’m not God, I have lied, and I always seem to get caught); but if I’m called a liar when I’m telling the truth, then I burn with anger. “How dare you question my word?”

Well, God always tells the truth. Hebrews 6:18 claims, “It is impossible for God to lie.” So how do you suppose He reacts to being called a liar - specially when the supposed lie is about His Son? Hmm? Do you have any idea how serious this is? Do you realize the enormity of this sin of unbelief?

Hebrews 10:28-29 says this:
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

There was a certainty of judgment in the Old Testament – the sinner would die. But there are worst things than death. There are unbearably hot places in hell, and there are even hotter places. And that worse punishment is reserved for those who treat God’s Son, Jesus Christ, with contempt. How do they do that? Like this: They say, “We don’t need your salvation. You didn’t need to die for me. You were probably crucified for your own sins. I don’t need you.” Plus, they insult the Holy Spirit whose job it is to convict us of our sin and point us to Christ.

Don’t think that God will be more lenient during this age of grace. This says exactly the opposite because we have more truth to reject. Anyone who rejects Christ is doomed.

Hebrews 10:30-31 continues:
30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Yes, God will pour His wrath and judgment out on all unbelievers. If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will. What a terrifying thought. Don’t call God a liar by your unbelief.

John Stott writes:
“Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored. Its sinfulness lies in the fact that it contradicts the Word of the one true God and thus attributes falsehood to Him.” By your unbelief, you call God a liar. Don’t be an unbeliever. Put your faith in Jesus.

2nd Timothy 1:12 says: “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

Do you know whom you believe today? John’s purpose for writing his first Epistle was so that you would believe. 1st John 5:13 says – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe in the name of the Son of God.”

This isn’t speculation. This is truth that you can believe. We have God’s Word on it.

Sir James Simpson, the physician who discovered chloroform and a believer, was on his death bed. Someone asked him, “Do you have any speculations?” They meant speculations about death, and about his faith in Jesus.

His response was this: “Speculations? I have no speculations. He’s our lifeboat, our lifeline, our only hope. We’re lost without him.”

Is Jesus that to you?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

More Than Enough Evidence to Believe

If faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation, how can we believe Jesus is who He claims to be? John answers that question by giving us all kinds of verification.

1st John 5:6-8 presents this evidence:
“This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.”

The proof is simple, John says. We have three witnesses in agreement - the spirit, water, and blood. That’s legal proof in any court.

It is according to Deuteronomy 19:15:
“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” One witness doesn’t work, two is better, but three establishes the matter. That means, they prove it. And so John is saying that Jesus has three trustworthy witnesses providing irrefutable proof of His claims.

Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out what the three are, and that isn’t such an easy task. As Plummer writes, “This is the most perplexing passage in the epistle and one of the most perplexing in the New Testament.” It’s perplexing trying to figure it out because there are textual problems, as well as the obscurity of the meanings of the water and the blood.

The textual problem is this: The Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New American Standard Version (NASB), and the New International Version (NIV) all leave out verse 7 completely and drop the phrase “on earth” from verse 8.

But why? Verse 7 is the clearest verse in the Bible that speaks of all three members of the Trinity – why leave it out? Were they trying to mutilate the Scripture? No, not at all – they were a much later insertion.

Let me read you the explanation compiled by James Montgomery Boice:
“The idea of the three heavenly witnesses – the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit – occurs first in the treatise written by a Spanish Christian named Priscillian, sometime before his execution on a charge of heresy in A.D. 385. It was written into the margins of some old Latin manuscript and from hence passed into the text, being added to the Vulgate about A.D. 800. At this point, the balancing words, ‘in earth,’ were added to the authentic listing of the witnesses which followed.
But how did the error, present only in Latin manuscripts, get into our English texts which are based upon Greek? It is an interesting story. At the time of the late Renaissance and Reformation, when classical texts were first being edited critically, Erasmus of Rotterdam produced a Greek text in which the words in question were missing. At this time, most of Europe was using the Latin Vulgate as its Bible version, so Erasmus was quickly criticized for omitting the passage. He replied that the words were not in any Greek manuscripts. Somewhat rashly, however, he added that if a Greek manuscript containing the passage could be produced, he would include it. Unfortunately, in time such a manuscript was found. It was written about 1520. Erasmus knew that this was not valid evidence at all, since the manuscript probably included the passage because of the Latin texts. Nevertheless, he had given his word. So he included the words in the third edition of his text, published in 1522. However, he also added a note in which he expressed his belief that the new Greek manuscript had been written on purpose just to embarrass him.
From Erasmus’ text the passage was taken over into German by Luther and into English by Tyndale. Erasmus text became the basis of the great edition of the Greek text by Stephanus in 1550, which in turn became the ‘Textus Receptus,’ or ‘Received Text’ from which most subsequent translation, including the KJV, were made.”

That story is given with more or less detail in all the scholarly commentaries, and it seems clear that verse 7 isn’t part of the Bible as God breathed it. But why did I share this with you? Most of you probably could care less, and were bored out of your minds. But it’s important that you understand. Even though the KJV insertion is theologically defensible – meaning good stuff -we stake our claim on divine inspiration. This passage was apparently not in the original. It was not God breathed, but man added. Now you know why there’s this discrepancy in our various translations

So, now let’s try to identify the witnesses. What is the water? And what is the blood? The Spirit - that one we know at least. But John assumes his readers will know. So it must have been a common part of their theology.

Three reasonable ideas have been offered. Calvin and other Reformers believed the water and blood represented baptism and communion, which sounds good, I suppose. Water is used for baptism, and blood is symbolized by the cup in communion. But blood is only one of the two elements used in communion – there’s also the bread. Both are visible symbols of Christ’s death. So it’s hard to see that this is the correct interpretation.

Here’s a second interpretation. Others have claimed these are the water and blood that flowed form Christ’s side at His death. John 19:33-35 says:
33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.

It’s hard to say what kind of witness this would be, accept to prove that Christ died. Perhaps it’s to show the way He died. So I don’t think it’s the correct interpretation.

The third theory is this: The water and the blood represent Christ’s baptism and His death. There’s no real problem with this theory, and I kind of lean toward it. It does counteract the heretical Gnostic claim that the Spirit of God came upon Christ at His Baptism, but left before the Cross. No, Jesus always was, is, and always will be the Christ – the anointed of God.

Here’s how this interpretation fits: John is trying to give factual evidence of the Incarnation and the earthly life of the Divine Christ, and at both His baptism and at the Cross, God intervenes miraculously to give testimony. The Father bears witness at both the beginning and the end of Christ’s ministry.

At the water baptism of Christ, we read Matthew 3:16-17:
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Who can argue with a witness like that? Jesus is the special anointed one – God said.

Then at the Cross when Christ’s blood flowed, Matthew 27:45 says: “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.” Miraculous darkness comes in middle of the day. God is showing the magnitude of their crime of killing their Messiah.

Then in Matthew 27:50-54 we read:
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Wow! What an awesome display of power. What else could the centurion say? The centurion couldn’t help but be convinced when God puts on a display like that. And God did it all to prove who this one was hanging on the cross.

Now, we weren’t present at either His baptism or death, but the Holy Spirit was. And He actively testifies to our hearts today using the other two witnesses.

The whole point is: We’ve been given unquestionable, undeniable proof that Jesus is who He claimed to be. There is no reason in the world we shouldn’t believe. You can’t doubt the witness of the Holy Spirit using these historical facts. John must assume the case is closed - He has made his point. And the point was “that you may believe in the name of the Son of God.”