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Old Testament Saints and the Holy Spirit

October 27, 2014 13 comments

From basic dispensational teaching I heard that — per John 7:39 and later references to Christ sending the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) – Old Testament saints were regenerated but did not have the permanent indwelling Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit only came upon them from time to time, for special empowerment, whereas we now have the permanent indwelling.  Yet I wondered about it, as something that didn’t make sense: how could people be regenerated and yet NOT have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? In daily Bible reading of the Old  Testament, we come across so many descriptions of believers who have “a different spirit” and a relationship to God in so many ways like ours.  John 3 tells us that OT believers were regenerated, as this was something that Nicodemus was expected to already know as a present reality, and Luke 1 and 2 (the birth narrative) include many references to godly people and the Holy Spirit present in their lives, before Christ’s birth.

As I’ve recently learned, the Protestant/Reformed understanding is that OT saints had the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the same salvific relationship to God (their understanding on the hope of what God would accomplish; and Christ’s work on the cross is applied to those who lived before Calvary).

The following posts from David Murray’s blog address this very question, of the difference between the Old and New Testament indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Regarding the original idea above (OT believers regenerated but didn’t have the indwelling Holy Spirit) I especially appreciate his point in the first post, that if Old Testament ‘believers’ believed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit but kept believing without the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, then Old Testament believers were not as depraved as we are, as they did not need the ongoing indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. (And in some ways, this debate really is a debate about the nature of human depravity in the Old Testament. Could anything less or other than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit keep a believer believing, repenting, hoping, obeying, etc?)

I also find helpful the analogy of the sponge with a water dropper, versus a sponge with a pressure washer. The difference in the Holy Spirit experience of OT and NT believers is one of degree and extent, not of quality or type. The OT believers had a small amount to sustain them in their personal lives, but after Pentecost the Holy Spirit flows out in excess, giving believers greater joy that overflowed and led to great missionary zeal and desire to share the gospel with unbelievers – and the amazing (humanly speaking) spread of the gospel during the 1st century and beyond.  As shown in the many quotes in the last post linked above, many commentators throughout history, as far back as Augustine and including also the Reformers as well as 19th century preachers including J.C. Ryle, have affirmed this as well, that OT believers did have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the difference between then and our age post-Pentecost is one of degree and extent.

As a side note here, I find it interesting that this same difference of degree between the OT and NT — of the great spread of the gospel in the NT – is said by amillennialists to be the result of a supposed “binding of Satan” allowing the gospel to spread unhindered. Yet as premillennialists have pointed out, what really hinders or allows the spread of the gospel is the Holy Spirit – as evidenced in the book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit did not allow Paul to travel east to Asia or Bithynia (Acts 16:6-7). Understanding the difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Old and New Testament times (the water dropper versus the pressure washer) fits the biblical data much better, both in relating to the OT saints continually sustained by God and His presence, as well as the results of the great spread of the gospel that began at Pentecost.

The ‘Simple Gospel’? John 3:16 In Depth

September 2, 2013 1 comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s series in 2 Peter, comes the following (shared, from Dr. J. G. Vos, The Simplicity of the Gospel.) analysis of the “simple” verse John 3:16:

Alas, this favorite verse of millions of Christians fairly bristles with theological questions that have to be answered if the verse is to have a definite meaning for us.

The first clause, ‘For God so loved the world’:  Does it describe the extent of God’s love for mankind, or the intensity of God’s love?  Is the stress on that he loved so many people, or is the stress on the intensity of it that his love is so strong it would even love such a vile thing as the world? Is the idea of universality or that of wickedness?

Does it describe the extent of God’s love for mankind of the intensity of it?

That He Gave His Only Begotten Son: 

Does this mean that God gave his Son to become man to live a perfect life under the law, to suffer and die as a substitute for dinners on the cross, to rise again the third day?

If that is what it means then does not this little word gave involve in it’s meaning here the whole doctrine of the incarnation, the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, the atonement, Christ’s active and passive obedience in the covenant of grace?

Again why was it needful for God in order to put his love for the world in action to give his Son?  Was this because of the lost guilty and sinful condition of the human race?  If that’s the meaning then does not this verse in it’s true meaning really involve the whole doctrines of the creation of mankind, the covenant of works, the fall, original and actual sin, total depravity and total inability?

If God gave his Son in order to save men from sin, must we not know what sin is in order to grasp the real meaning and force of the word gave?

What is meant by referring to the Son as the only begotten?  Does that mean that Christ is the Son of God in a unique sense?  If so does not the phrase, his only begotten Son involve the doctrines of the eternal sonship and deity of Christ? And do these doctrines not in turn involve the doctrine of the Trinity if they are to mean anything?

The phrase ‘believes in Him’:

Does this mean what is called saving faith?  If so, what is the nature of saving faith, and how does it differ from other kinds of faith such as mere historical faith, temporary faith, et cetera?  If this expression ‘believes in Him’ is really to mean anything to us, do we not have to know the biblical doctrine of saving faith?

And what is the force of the words in him in the phrase ‘believes in Him?’  Does this phrase involve making Jesus the object of the believer’s faith?  If so, what is the difference between making Jesus the object of one’s faith and making Jesus one’s example as a man of faith?  In short, what is the difference between having faith in Jesus and having faith in God like Jesus’ faith in God?”

The original commentary continues further through this verse — but the above is just a sample of the depth of the “simple gospel.”  The final conclusion:

The person who rejects theology and says that he wants only the simple gospel of Christ only deceives himself.  What he calls simplicity is not really simplicity, it’s only vagueness, that’s what he wants, vagueness.  The person who wants to take John 3:16 just as it stands without facing any of the theological questions which this verse raises, may think he is insisting on simplicity and is religiously superior to other Christians who want definite and clear cut knowledge, but in reality he is only hiding his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, and saying the truth is not important.

Was It Really The Same Group? The Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s a popular saying and idea, that it was the same crowd that cheered Christ at His triumphal entry, that later called for His crucifixion.  I think of the line in a Christian song (Star of the Morning, Leon Patillo), “the same ones who cheered, yelled ‘Crucify!’”  I recently read a Spurgeon sermon that echoed this thought:

You must not imagine that all those who strewed the branches in the way and cried “Hosanna,” cared about Christ as a spiritual prince! No, they thought that He was to be a temporal deliverer, and when they found out afterwards that they were mistaken, they hated Him just as much as they had loved Him and, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” was as loud and vehement a cry as, “Hosanna, blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”

But was it really the same people? The gospel accounts indicate very large numbers of people in total (as do other historical records describing the yearly Passovers in Roman times).  Luke 23:27 mentions “a great multitude” of the people who followed Him, mourning and lamenting – the people Jesus told to “weep for yourselves” as He prophesied of the coming judgment upon Jerusalem.

S. Lewis Johnson (gospel of John series) goes into more careful analysis of what was really going on:

First of all, emotional enthusiasm for Jesus Christ is far different from earnest faith in Him.  Now the people who cried out, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord,” were likely to be people who had some attachment to the Lord Jesus.  It is not they who later on say, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” as some Bible teachers have suggested.  As you look at these accounts carefully it’s evident that those who were shouting this were those who were familiar with His ministry from the Northern part of the land.

Continuing, Dr. Johnson points out the shortcoming of emotional enthusiasm, which is different from “earnest faith”:

 As I said earlier, the provincial recognition, however, did not carry national assent.  So they were shouting out of a failed and incomplete understanding of the Lord Jesus.  Later on, those in the city who were antagonistic to Him would be crying out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”  But one thing you can say is this, that emotional enthusiasm is far different from earnest faith.  And while it’s not they who say later, ‘Not this man should be delivered, but Barabbas.’  It is, however, one of those very men who stood around the coals of fire and when asked by a little girl, ‘You’re one of them, are you not?’  He said, ‘I am not.’

Equality AND Submission: S. Lewis Johnson on Feminism and the Trinity

May 4, 2013 3 comments

From my recent studies with S. Lewis Johnson through the Gospel of John, and now 1 Corinthians 7, a good point often made by SLJ:  equality and submission co-exist within the same relationship.

1 Corinthians 7:1-7 tells us that equality exists between men and women in the marriage bed.  We find a parallel of both equality and submission within the Godhead: the Father and Son are equal, of one substance, both fully God – and yet at the same time the Bible also tells us that the Son is submissive to the Father.

S. Lewis Johnson’s observations here concerning feminism, submission and equality:

Now, we’ve had a lot of talk in our day about feminism, and it’s still going on and it has been introduced into evangelicalism.  And so today we have evangelicals who — or we have individuals who claim to be evangelicals — and I’m not denying that some of them are; maybe many of them are — who insist that what we think of as the biblical teaching of the relationship between man and wife has been patriarchal and contrary both to the Bible and to what it ought to be in society.  They have insisted that when we say that a woman is to be submissive to her husband and the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, we forget that, let’s just talk about the submission.  When it says that the woman is to be in submission to her husband; that’s contrary to equality.  In other words, you cannot have equality if you have submission.

Now, other evangelicals who are not feminist evangelicals have tried to point out that in the Bible there is a recognition of equality and submission as being in harmony.  For example, they’ve often pointed to 1 Corinthians chapter 11 where the apostle says:  “Now I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man and the head of Christ is God.”

Well, now we know that our Lord and the Father are equal.  And yet there is a submission of the Son to the Father.  We do not have any problem with that because if we felt that the Son was not equal to the Father in his being, then we wouldn’t have a divine Trinity; we wouldn’t have Christianity because Christianity must have the doctrine of the Trinity or else there’s no Christianity.   That’s why it’s always a test of faith to ask if an individual receives the Orthodox teaching concerning the Trinity, because only then do you have Christianity.  Those who suggest they are three people in the Godhead but they are not equal in power and authority and so forth are not Trinitarians.  But Christian theology is built around the Trinity.  But in the Trinity, in the time of our Lord’s mediation specifically, there is submission on the part of the Son of God but there is equality all the time.

So it’s not true to say that equality and submission cannot go together.

Jesus’ Words: My Father and Your Father, My God and Your God

March 12, 2013 2 comments

Nearing the end of S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, comes this interesting point regarding Jesus’ words after His resurrection, as recorded in John 20:17:

I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

This is one of many places in the word of God, where we see the amazing precision of the words spoken.  After all, why did Jesus say “my … and your …” instead of the overall term “our … and our…”?  In the precise language used, we see the distinction in kind between us as adopted children, and Christ the eternal Son.

S. Lewis Johnson explains it well, describing in precise doctrinal terminology the difference between our relationship to God as our Father, versus the relationship that the Son has to the Father within the Triune Godhead:

There is a sense in which His God is our God and His Father is our Father, but there is a further sense which we do not share with Him in the paternal relationship with the eternal God.  He can say that God is His Father by eternal generation.  We cannot say that.  We can say that God is our Father by temporal regeneration.  But He can say it by eternal generation.  He doesn’t need any regeneration.  His relationship is an eternal relationship of Son.  The Father is eternal; the Son is the eternal Son.  We are now sons by temporal regeneration.  So our relationship is different from His, and yet we call Him Father.

Salvation: Going Beyond Charleston (Illustration From S. Lewis Johnson)

February 5, 2013 7 comments

S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, in John 16, is chock full of great exhortations to study the word of God and the importance of God’s word and its depth.  One great illustration to share:

Let’s just imagine a person in England who about fifty years ago has heard about this great city in the United States of America, and since he’s had some relatives have come over here, he’s wanted to come.  So he gets on a boat and he leaves England and he comes to Charleston, South Carolina.  He finds the country magnificent.  Well, it so happens that he’s come through storms on the sea and when he arrives in Charleston, he praises the captain for his skill in bringing the boat through the storms.  He praises the boat because the boat has been able to withstand the storms.  He thanks them for the fellowship that they’ve had, and he arrives in this country.  And then he does not investigate the United States of America at all, but stays in Charleston and about two or three months later goes home.

Well it’s nice of course to have come.  It’s nice to have seen Charleston.  But he has failed to see the United States of America, with all of the magnificent beauties and glories of this country.  I’d like to suggest to you that that’s a picture of many believers.  They have come to faith in Jesus Christ.  They praise the Lord for the salvation that has come to them.  They thank him for the way in which he has brought them through the storms of life to safe harbor.  They enjoy the fellowship on the way, but so far as really coming to know the vast land of the salvation that we have in Christ, they’ve staying in Charleston.  Isn’t that sad?

Many Christians I know are like that.  They thank the Lord for the fact that Christ saved them.  They praise Him for the blood of the cross.  They rejoice that they are saved, that they are going to heaven.  But so far as the vastness of the salvation of God and the truth of God, they have little comprehension of it and little appreciate it.  May God help us to realize that it’s not enough to be saved. Salvation is an entrance into the beginning of the knowledge of God.  That’s the reason we are saved, that we might know him.

The Holy Spirit’s Ministry To The World: S. Lewis Johnson, John 16

January 30, 2013 2 comments

In S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, I’m now in the “Upper Room Discourse” section, which includes Jesus’ statement in John 16:8-11 about the work of the Helper: And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin,because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

I didn’t always understand what was meant in this section – didn’t closely study the matter, and from general reading thought of it in a negative way as somehow about judgment and condemnation of unbelievers.  S. Lewis Johnson’s message on this text brings out the actual details here, beginning with a discussion of common grace.  The world has the benefit of some of God’s blessings: the general blessing of God’s goodness to all creatures; conscience; and human government with its moral restraint.

Common grace incidentally is not called common because it’s common but rather because it is general.  That is the grace of the Holy Spirit in his general blessing to all creatures, even animals.   Every living thing is the object of the blessing of God.  And consequently the fact that we have food, the fact that we have drink, the fact that we have clothing, the fact that we have the Son and the benefits of the Son and the fact that we have the rain which ministers to our ultimate physical benefit, all of this is part of the general grace of God exercised towards his creatures.  Then the general operations to the Holy Spirit by which he without renewing our hearts and giving us the new birth exercises a moral influence in human society.  Is it not an interesting thing that all over the world in almost every society there is a sense of right and wrong? Sometimes it is not quite the same sense that one would find in more enlightened societies more spiritually in lightened societies, but nevertheless there is a universal sense of a conscious, which men recognize that things are right and some things are wrong.  This is part of God’s common grace.  He exercises moral influence.  He curbs sin.  He promotes order.

Universal human government is the gift of God.  If we didn’t have common grace we would have utter chaos all over the world.  I know some of you think that we already have utter chaos, but you have no idea of what chaos would be if we did not have human government.  That is part of the common grace of God.  And then also those general operations of the Holy Spirit by which he seeks to influence men toward redemption, although not securing redemption, may be called common grace.  In other words the Lord Jesus says many are called, but few are chosen.  The calling of men is common grace.  When the gospel is preached that is the common grace of God it is a general seeking on the part of God to influence society for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

SLJ also notes the correct understanding of “world” here — that it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit will convince everyone in the world regarding sin, righteousness and judgment.  Rather, this text is talking about how the Holy Spirit will work, through the Christians in the world, to reach some unbelievers: those who will yet come to faith through this general ministry.   The book of Acts gives us two good examples of such unbelievers who are reached:  the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius.

Regarding the three specific things the Holy Spirit will convince the world of:

Sin – “because they do not believe in me.”  Sin is not merely the outward actions, following the Ten Commandments; the root of sin is unbelief.   In other words the essence of sin is not what we do.  The essence of sin is what we believe.  And when we do not believe in the Lord Jesus that is the root of all sin.

Righteousness:  not man’s unrighteousness, but His righteousness is pointed out here:

Now what is it about our Lord’s going to the Father that convinces the world of righteousness? Why does that convince the world of the facts about righteousness if the Lord Jesus goes to the Father? Well now, remember the world is a body of people who cannot receive the Holy Spirit, who not only cannot receive the Holy Spirit but who hate the Lord Jesus Christ.  The world likes to put on a lot of veneer today and so the world will speak with kindly little phrases about the Lord Jesus like He was a great teacher.  …  Not realizing, that is a blasphemy, and furthermore, how can a person who was just a good man but not the eternal God say that He was the Son of God and affirm that salvation is only through Him? All of these statements then become the most arrogant of lies if Jesus is not what He claimed to be.  But the world likes to say, “Yes, He was a good guy.”

Well, the world hates the Lord Jesus Christ.  The world hates the Lord Jesus because He condemns the world.  And the world’s righteousness is unrighteousness in the sight of the triune God, so when the Lord Jesus came and ministered among them, what did the world do to him? They crucified him.  That expresses the idea that God has concerning the goodness of the world.  They have with wicked hands taken Him and crucified Him.  But God when Jesus was placed in the grave on the third day God raised Him from the dead.  And furthermore He has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and there He sits as William Perkins says, “Possessed of all sovereignty and authority over the whole of the creation.” Evidently God has a different view of Jesus Christ from the view that the world has of Him.  The world says He’s worthy to die, and to be crucified on a cross.  God says, He is worthy to be raised from the dead.  He is worthy to sit at the right hand of the throne on high.   He is worthy to have put into His hands all authority in heaven and in earth and to give the Holy Spirit to His people.

The judgment to come:

Now the Holy Spirit will convince the world of judgment — not of their future judgment although of course that is plain — but of judgment because the prince of this world has been judged.  So our Lord looks at the fast approaching cross of Calvary where He will bear the sins of sinners, and that by which Satan has a hold upon men will be destroyed because Jesus will bear the penalty.  And Satan is judged in the cross.  And men who believe in the Lord Jesus go free from bondage and penalty and condemnation of sin.  He speaks not of judgment to come, but of the judgment that now has come when He died on the cross at Calvary.  So the death on the cross was a judgment of sin in the person of our substitute the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Discernment: S. Lewis Johnson, the Sheep Do Not Listen to Strangers

January 9, 2013 9 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series comes this timely observation.  It was true thirty years ago same as now: some professing Christians are easily led astray, going after first one teacher then another. This message from John 10:1-6 puts things into perspective, especially with all the interest in “discernment ministries” and the tendency of some to focus excessively on warning other Christians about false teachers.

Now, we read here, a stranger will they not follow.  So when Paul Tillich calls out we don’t respond.  When Moltmann calls out we don’t respond.  When Bultmann calls out we don’t respond.  When William Barclay calls out we don’t respond.  When Wolfhart Pannenberg calls out we don’t respond.  When Gerhart von Rott, we don’t respond.  When Eichrot, Jako, Kumal, all the great scholars of the present day who are not members of the body so far as we can tell, when they call out as shepherds of the sheep, the true sheep do not respond.  They do not follow the voice of a stranger.

Now that is a problem for me, because there are some people who do not seem to be able to distinguish the voice of our Lord from the voice of strangers.  Isn’t it a remarkable thing?  You probably know some Christians, professing Christians like that.  They hear something and they immediately run after it as if it were something great until they discover that’s not quite as great as it was, and they come back.  And then a new voice is heard and they rush after them.  That makes me wonder, because the true sheep do not follow the voice of a stranger.  They don’t run after Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy.  They don’t run after Ellen G. White.  They don’t run after Rutherford.  They don’t run after the false voices, they follow our Lord Jesus Christ.  They hear his voice.  They know him.  They follow him.  That should be a word of admonition to us.

Many of the names mentioned above are unfamiliar today, the scholars of liberal (unbelieving) Christianity.  But we can certainly add the current set of questionable teachers — such as Beth Moore, the Jesus Culture, and the latest from John Piper — to the same understanding: the true sheep do not follow the voice of a stranger, and will not be led into such deception.  Yes, sometimes true Christians are those who come out of cults and out of false teaching (who were not believers when they got into those cults).  Sometimes also young, immature Christians (the carnal babes, those recently saved — not the willful carnal) for a time will lose focus and not seek the best teaching.  But as S. Lewis Johnson so well observed here, true Christians will not continue to manifest such behavior; they will not rush after one voice, then to another voice, and so on.  We can trust in God’s sovereignty, that He knows those who are His, and rely on His promise, that His sheep will be able to distinguish our Lord’s voice from the voice of these false teachers.

Hermeneutics: The Gospel of John… as Allegory?

January 2, 2013 4 comments

In online Christian discussion groups, I’ve recently come across a rather unusual idea: an  allegorical approach to the gospel of John (which came out in discussion of the temple cleansings mentioned in John’s gospel as compared to the synoptic gospels).  Aside from the brief note in my old NIV Study Bible, that some people believe it’s referring to one cleansing, I had not met anyone who actually held such a view.  Apparently though, it is “the standard teaching of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and PCA in America that there was only one cleansing and that John’s gospel isn’t Chronological in linearity.”

Beyond the “who cares?” attitude that some may have, interpretation of this incident gets to the heart of hermeneutics and how we approach the Bible.  Do we treat the Bible as plain language, considering everything in the text? Or do we just pick some general theme and approach that a certain Bible book supposedly has, and thus disregard the actual details in that text?

The following is excerpted from a discussion with someone who spiritualizes the gospel of John (in the same allegorical manner as others do with more obvious books, such as another of the apostle John’s books, Revelation).  The conversation includes a second biblical commenter, referred to as BC:

Allegorizer: The Synoptic gospels…Mark begins at the beginning of his ministry. The VERY beginning. Matthew begins at the same time as Luke at Jesus birth. John just wrote his gospel differently. His message and method was different.

Me:  Mark 1:14 skips ahead some period of time after Mark 1:1-13: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

This comes AFTER several chapters in the gospel of John, while John the Baptist was still baptizing: note the sequence of days in John 1 and 2, and then John 3 and these details in John 3:22-24: “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).” The early chapters of John occur in-between Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, and before John is put in prison, which is where Mark 1:14 resumes.

Allegorizer:  but you think that Jesus ransacking the temple wasn’t important enough for John the second time around or the synoptics the first time around? If they all record it once, why not record BOTH of them? Both of them were obviously important.

Me: John’s gospel also tells us that the most important contributing factor, humanly speaking, for the Jewish leaders to put Jesus to death, was the resurrection of Lazarus. Now why is that very important event only mentioned in John’s gospel?

Each gospel tells different events as observed by the different writers, and they don’t all include the same details. It is very reasonable from the chronology of John’s gospel, that an earlier temple incident happened, before John the Baptist was put in prison.

Allegorizer: again, John had a different method of writing. He abused Greek to the point where students to this day *hate* reading him.

BC: I can read John without hating his Greek. I read John in English (and Portuguese too), and I can understand that there were two cleansings. Why you mention Greek, I don’t know.

Allegorizer:  My point was that they all have ONE cleansing. if one cleansing is important enough for 3 but not 1 why not the 1 and if 1 why not the 3? They’ve already recorded one. why not record both? Obviously they’re both important.

No, there was but one cleansing. John had a different method behind his writing and the purpose wasn’t to give a chronological biography. You’ll note that the gospel of John can be divided into 7 parts a few ways. 7 I Ams, 7 Signs.

BC:  You ignored (the) point about Lazarus. According to you, that was not important at all since it is not mentioned elsewhere.

Allegorizer: No I didn’t.  The difference is that none of the synoptics recorded Lazarus. I’m looking for consistency. If one cleansing was important enough for John but not the others, then the second was important for the others and not for John. They’re being inconsistent.

Me: So answer the question: if John is just a different type of writing and so non-sequential as to be so difficult to understand, why did he alone mention Lazarus’ restoration to life? Furthermore, why did he bother to put so many time-reference indicators in the text, such as “the next day” repeatedly in John 1 and 2, and indicating that John the Baptist was still free, not yet in prison, at the end of John 3, which clearly comes in John’s sequence of events AFTER John 2.

John 2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
Next verse: 13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Then Jesus is there in Jerusalem for the Passover and subsequent events: Nicodemus’ visit, and then in John 3:22 AFTER THIS —
Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

Allegorizer: the clarity of the text is still there, but its chronology isn’t linear. John’s presentation of Jesus’ ministry is thematic (water>healing>healing paralysis>feeding 5000>walking on water>healing the man born blind>raising Lazarus>and an arguable 8th sign rising from death) they build to a climax.

Me: Oh, so because John’s gospel happens to include certain themes — and actually the greatest theme is his seven signs — that means we can ignore everything else in the text?

Final observations:

1)      No doubt the same person who thinks John’s gospel isn’t sequential, thinks Revelation isn’t sequential either. The same author used the same time reference indicators such as “and ” and “after this,” so we can know the chronology.  The underlying hermeneutical issue is the same.

2)    Well said by another person in the discussion:  Just from a human nature standpoint, I can see the crooks at the temple having to be run off more than once……..

Such an approach to God’s word reminded me of Medieval Catholicism, when allegory was the standard approach to God’s word.  Surpringly, though, even the Catholics – going back to Augustine – did get this part right, a sequential-enough understanding to accept two different temple cleansings a few years apart:  In any case, the Church Fathers and Scholastic Doctors believed that there were two Temple cleansings. Most notably, we refer to the authority of Chrysostom, Augustine, and Cornelius a’ Lapide.  John Calvin likewise affirmed the two temple cleansings:

for the other three also relate what we here read that Christ did, but the diversity of the time shows that it was a similar event, but not the same. On two occasions, then, did Christ cleanse the temple from base and profane merchandise; once, when he was beginning to discharge his commission, and another time, (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15; Luke 19:45,) when he was about to leave the world and go to the Father, (John 16:28.)

Presbyterian R.C. Sproul likewise affirms two temple cleansings:

“how long do you think after Jesus did that, that those tables were right side up and the money changers were back in business?  Do you really think that when He goes through and cleans the temple on the first occasion, that that was the end of it? I don’t, for a minute.”

Judges As Types: Why They Are Called gods

December 28, 2012 2 comments

Going through S. Lewis Johnson’s “Gospel of John” series, some great insights concerning Jesus’ statement in John 10:34-36:

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came-and Scripture cannot be broken- 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Here Jesus cites Psalm 82:6, which refers to unjust human judges and calls them gods.  What exactly did Jesus mean here?  I’ve heard the general “lesser to greater” argument but hadn’t previously considered this text in depth.

one modern commentator has said that what our Lord is doing is simply using an a fortiori argument.  That is for a still stronger reason if mere men may be called gods then surely I may be called the Son of God.  And it’s not blasphemy for me to be called the Son of God if mere men, unjust judges should be called gods.

This isn’t a fully satisfying answer, though, since – as S. Lewis Johnson notes – after all they’re accusing him of claiming deity, not simply that he’s a God like other men are gods.

Another response given is that Jesus is repelling the technical charge, and that it’s not blasphemy to call someone God who really is God.   So if you can call human judges gods then surely you can call someone who is sanctified and sent into the world the Son of God. 

This may be the sense that was intended, but S. Lewis Johnson then goes a little deeper:  the typology of judges, as a type of God and representing God, and, in the type, showing the unity between the human ruler and God:

Why were judges called gods?  Now that’s not the only place.  In a couple of other places in the Old Testament they’re also called gods.  Why are they called gods?  Why is a judge called a god in the Bible?

Obviously it’s not God in the sense of one who possesses full deity, but yet there is some relationship.  There is some form of representative unity that exists between a human being called a god and the great Triune God in heaven.  Well, judges did have a relationship of limited union with God because they were their divinely delegated representatives.  In Israel, a judge was one who should judge under God, and should judge with the judgment of God.  In that sense they were in limited union with God, very limited union, similar to Paul’s statement in Romans 13 when he calls the magistrates of the cities, ministers of God.

Think of all of our political men.  Of all of the titles that you would think that are least applicable to them, what would stand out most?  Well, I won’t ask you to reply.  I’ll just reply for myself.  What is the least applicable title that I can think of for Senators, and Congressman, and Mayors, and Governors, ministers of God, and yet that’s what they are, ministers of God.  By the providence of God they serve in their office.  … You see they are magistrates of God.  There is a limited sense of union in that they serve ideally and responsibly before God as representatives of him.  They talk about representing the people, but they really are ideally the representatives of God.  That should be their first responsibility.  So there is a limited union then between a magistrate and the Lord God.

In this sense they are types and shadows of a deeper union to come.  All of these things were arranged by God so that they would lead up the great union that exists between the Son and the Father, the mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is absolutely on with the Father.  So the germ of the union between God and man existed in the law, even in unjust judges.  But the Lord Jesus is the one who has perfectly realized the union of God and man in his incarnation and atonement.  And that is indicated by the words, “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world.”  He perfectly realizes the union between man and God.

Now if you can call those little fellows gods, how much more is it proper and right for him to whom all of those limited unions pointed to call him Son of God?  They all pointed forward to him.  The prophets in the Old Testament had a limited union with God, but they pointed forward to the prophet.  The priests of the Old Testament had a limited union with God, but they looked forward to the priest, the eternal priest, the kings likewise to the King.  And the judges looked forward to the judge, and the judge who would do exactly what Psalm 82 said, “But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes,” when you do not respond to the truth of God.  It was a very affective thrust because it reminded them not only of the fact of his right to be called the Son of God, but also of his right to be the ultimate judge of all men including the judges, and especially the judges among the Pharisees and Sadducees who were before his face at this present moment.

It’s a magnificent reply.