The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, January 18, 2013

John 3:16 And The Gospel

By: Sean Rice

Aside from Matthew 7.1, which says "judge not, that you be not judged," John 3.16 is the most well-known Bible verse in the world. This verse is on plaques. This verse is on T- shirts. Max Lucado even wrote an entire book on this verse called 3:16: The Numbers of Hope, which came on the scene with a whole multitude of related products, church music, CDs featuring top Christian music artists, and "ancillary publishing products," according to the website for the book (link above). This short quote completely overshadows the rest of the context in which it is found. The full verse is as follows:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in 
him should not perish but have eternal life."John 3.16 

This quote just feels sort of warm and cuddly, doesn't it? God loves us, and we're going to have eternal life! And both of these things are true. Still, without context we don't know what it means that God gave His only Son, and we have no sense of what perish means, and we have no idea what happens to whoever [does not] believe in Him, and so all that we get from this verse is that God loves us and that we're going to have eternal life - whatever that means. It just sort of becomes this vague "God is loving" verse, which is why it gets used by people who try to argue against the existence of Hell (i.e., because God loves the world so much, He would never send anyone to Hell). Even challenging things that are found in this passage get passed over because we need the rest of the Bible to show us what these words mean.

The context for John 3.16 really stretches from John 3.1-21. A Jewish man named Nicodemus (a "Pharisee" and "a ruler of the Jews") had come to Jesus by night to ask some private questions. Jesus replied to Nicodemus with, "I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" - and that is the context for understanding this popular verse. Jesus was talking about us needing to be born again and what that means. Within that framework, everything that comes after fits into a pretty neat pattern. Here's a quick bullet-point list of things you can get from 3:16 in context:

  • Apart from Jesus, we started off under judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (Jn 3.19). All of us were destined to perish (Jn 3.16) in Hell, we were condemned already (Jn 3.18), and we were not born again and therefore could not hope to see the Kingdom of God (Jn 3.3).
  • God gave His only Son to death for us (Jn 3.16) in order that the world might be saved through him [from condemnation] (Jn 3.17).
  • People are saved when they are born again (Jn 3.3), meaning that they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and so are born of the Spirit (Jn 3.6-8), since unless someone is born of the Spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn 3.5). Being born of the Spirit results in people who love Jesus and believe in him (Jn 3.16), looking to Him for salvation (Jn 3.14), and so whoever believes is not condemned (Jn 3.18).
  • Those who have been born of the Spirit (Jn 3.6-8) and believe in Jesus (Jn 3.16) are not condemned (Jn 3.18) and are rewarded with everlasting life, but those who do not believe in Jesus are condemned already (Jn 3.18) and perish in an eternity in Hell (Jn 3.16) and cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn 3.3). There is a way of life and a way of death.

Taken together, John 3.16 is the Gospel. In it, we read that sinners are saved from condemnation by Jesus' death, are justified by faith in Christ, and are invited to share with God in his kingdom. Soli deo gloria.

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 are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered 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? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Can I Know God’s Will?

By: Nathan Fox

Colossians 1:9-12

God’s Will- Specific or Not
The topic of God’s will is one that is spoken about often, but very rarely addressed on a specific level. The answer for that is this: God has a specific will for your life that no blogger (like myself) could tell you about. I am not going to try to tell you EXACTLY what God’s will is in this blog, but hopefully by the end of reading this you will see some traits and habits that we can extract from Scripture that certainly line up in the will of God. My hope is that after reading this what we have covered will at the very least urge you to understand that knowing God’s will is not attainable for humans on a specific level (in terms of where to live, what food to eat, etc.), but it is accessible on a general level through His Word. We would always be wise to turn there first to understand somewhat what God’s will for our life is.

God’s Will Defined by Paul
The first thing (and ultimately the thing upon which the rest of the verses draw from) that I want us to take a look at is in verse 9. In it, Paul says this: “I do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” How interesting that Paul specifically mentions God’s will in this verse, and requests that we be filled with it. Now I don’t know exactly what manner he wanted the Colossians to grow in the knowledge of the will of God, but I do know this for us: reading the Bible is a perfect way to grow in God’s will! Why is this? Look at the end of verse 9 again as it mentions wisdom and spiritual understanding. What better book to read than a book steeped with wisdom such as the Bible, and a book prone to grow our spiritual understanding? In short, we can take from this that one of the definite commands that God has for us in our lives is that we engage in His Word on an active basis, and by doing so we will grow in our understanding of His will for our lives.
But it’s not just reading God’s Word that defines the Christian. Certainly it is in God’s will for our lives, but I thoroughly believe (as does Paul it seems) that God commands something more from us. This is where verse 10 becomes handy to look at. Paul says this in Colossians 1:10: “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” God’s will isn’t that you just know Him more through His Word; He also expects that you walk worthy of Him! We talked about this last week in the blog, and spoke on how what we believe will ultimately bear fruit in our own lives. Knowing God on a more intimate basis will lead to a life lived for His glory, and this pleases Him. This is His will for our lives!
As if this was not enough for us to grab and digest, Paul goes on to highlight something else that certainly lies within the revealed will of God: we are to live victorious lives using the power that only He could give. Look at verse 11 in chapter 1 as it says this: “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” Patience here implies something to wait on, and longsuffering implies a continuing circumstance that isn’t exactly to our liking. But joy, that is a bold term, and can only be found in the knowledge, work, and power of Jesus Christ. It is His will that we live victorious lives because of what He (and only He) can do for us. We are strengthened with a divine power that is incomprehensible, and it is indeed God’s revealed will in this verse that we should live as such. Our knowledge and labor for Him should produce joy in our lives, and in doing so will produce joy in our Father’s eyes as we rest in His will for our lives.
Lastly, God expects us to live thankfully for all that He has done for us (which as you can see above, He has done much by giving us His Word, the ability to live for Him, and the divine strength to overcome life’s toughest challenges). Verse 12 of chapter 1 says this: “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” God certainly wants us to live lives of gratitude for what He has done for us. We are partakers in the light (Jesus Christ), and God has qualified us to Himself, and for that He deserves our uttermost praise and thankfulness. Even more so, from the good times to the bad times God deserves our thankfulness for any time with Him. There is no bad moment in life if Jesus is your Savior. Oh yes, days can be rough, but all else pales in comparison to Him, and to know Him is life itself and everything else is subordinate. For that He deserves the ultimate praise, and with that we are truly being obedient to the will that the Father has for us.

My Challenge
This challenge is not complex, and is in fact very simple: what part of God’s revealed will are you not living in? Do you read His word and soak up the knowledge that only the Bible can provide? Do you live a life that pleases Him, and do you fully walk in His will with your actions? Do you have a hard time enduring the tough days, or does every bad day pale only strengthen your love for Him as you realize that you are a partaker in the light of the world if you have been saved? Lastly, are you thankful for any of this? Has God done enough to earn your praise, or do you just feel content enough to think that it didn’t cost Him the highest price? I beg you on this last point that you pray to God and thank Him for Jesus every single night. By doing this and these things, you certainly are living in God’s Will. You might not specifically know what tomorrow holds, but you know where to turn (God and His Word), what to do (live a life of Holiness), how to endure, and who to thank.

Let me know if you have any questions on this topic. All of us that contribute to this blog would love to work alongside you as answer the questions that you have about anything related to our Jesus. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Called To Be Saints (Part 4): The Hope of His Calling

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

Part 1: read here
Part 2: read here
Part 3: read here

Ephesians 1:18 ....that you may know what is the hope of his calling....

Paul’s first encounter with city of Ephesus is recorded in Acts 18. The events that occurred early in the chapter have a direct bearing on that first visit and more prominently with the letter he later wrote to the Ephesians some time between A.D. 61-63 while a prisoner at Rome under house arrest (Acts 28:16-31:Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20).

Paul had met a Jew named Aquila in Corinth. Both were tentmakers so Paul stayed with him and his wife (Priscilla) and worked. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, and using the scriptures, he explained in a cogent, clear, and coherent manner the person and work of Christ. It was effective because he persuaded both Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:1-5).

However, there was opposition, in particular from Jews who ‘blasphemed.’ The nature of this blasphemy is not detailed but it obviously had something to do with Christ, perhaps mocking his deity or the salvific work of the cross which Paul elsewhere describes as a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23). This opposition led Paul to shake his garments and turn his attention and zeal toward the Gentiles.

This was a decisive policy change for his work in Corinth. Though Paul did not always exclude the Jews from his ministry, he consciously recognized a division of labor between him and the other apostles wherein they (Peter in particular) ministered to the Jews, while he labored among the Gentiles (Gal 2:8; cf 1:16).  Having made his decision to go to the Gentiles at Corinth, there seems to be no other effort by Paul to reach the Jews there. There is special mention of the conversion of the ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, and his household who believed, but that may have been a result of previous labor by Paul. The Lord charges Paul to not be afraid, but speak, for He has many people in that city. Hence, Paul spends the next year and a half ‘teaching the word of God among them,’ (Acts 18:11), that is, among hard-core pagans for the city of Corinth was a pagan city whose temple prostitutes were known throughout the ancient world.

From Corinth, Paul moves on and eventually comes to Ephesus accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, but his stay there was brief – he wanted to make the ‘coming feast in Jerusalem,’ (Acts 18:20). After the feast, Paul embarks on another journey strengthening the churches and eventually makes his way back to Ephesus. Here we see an initial effort to evangelize the Jews. But because of their unbelief and resistance, Paul again turns to the Gentiles. For the next two years, he reasons daily in the school of Tyrannus where there is some indication he may have rented the facilities for teaching in the afternoons (Acts 19:9, manuscript D of the fifth century AD).

Paul’s teaching is so effective, he threatens to destroy the idol making trade of the silversmiths. This caused an uproar whose magnitude threatened the whole city to be called in question, presumably by Rome (Acts 19:23-41).

Later, on his way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, Paul calls for the elders of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus (a journey of 30 miles or so). He reminds them of how he proclaimed to them the ‘whole counsel of God,’ (Acts 20:27) and charges them to take heed and shepherd the Church of God; to watch out for savage wolves who will come in not sparing the flock, and for those who will rise up from even their own midst and speak lies to draw away disciples to themselves (Acts 20:28-30).

All of this serves as the historical context of the apostle’s letter to the Ephesians. Some key points are (a) his specific ministry to the Gentiles, and (b) his warnings to watch over the flock and protect against the wolves and egomaniacs who would speak lies and lead them away from the firm foundation of the gospel.

With regard to the latter, Paul writes in Ephesians 4 how Christ himself gave gifts to the church. These gifts were men called to the office of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher (Eph 4:7, 11). The purpose of these gifts, among other things, was to prevent the laity from being ‘tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting’ (Eph 4:14).

With regard to the former, Paul’s place in redemptive history as the apostle of the Gentiles comes forcefully into his letter. There is the overt claim that he is the agent by which God reveals the mystery that has been kept hidden in the past but is now revealed (Eph 1:9, 10; 3:1-9), the mystery ‘that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ through the gospel’ (Eph 4:6).

Paul spends much of the first four chapters reiterating this point, that the Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners but are now partakers with the Old Testament people of God of the same covenants and promises (Eph 2:11-13, 19) making Jew and Gentile the one people of God (Eph 2:14-18).

It is in this theological context (that believing Gentiles are now one with the Old Testament people of God, sharing in their covenants and promises) that Paul informs us of his prayer for these uncircumcised believers, that ‘the Father of glory may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe....’ (Eph 1:17-19).

The hope of the Gentile’s calling is their fellowship with the saints of all times, now sharing in their inheritance and no longer without hope and God in the world. For century after century, until the coming of Christ and the installation of the New Covenant, the Gentiles were hopelessly in darkness and ignorance, perishing under God’s wrath and consigned to the most vile passions known among men (cp Romans 1:18-32). But that has all changed. Gentiles are called to be saints as well as the Old Testament people of God. They are now fellow heirs with them, partaking of the same promises and covenants as they partook (Eph 2:11-16).

Most of us are Gentile believers. God’s purpose from the beginning was to save a people for himself. This began with a small ethnic group through whom God exclusively revealed his redemptive purposes in shadow and type. When the shadow gave way to the reality it pointed to, it not only secured the salvation of this peculiar people, the believing Jews of the whole Old Testament era, but now it opens that reality wide to all the families of the earth, as God promised to Abraham (Gen 12:3). The glories that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the other Old Testament personalities looked forward to in that day when God will make a new heaven and earth, these are the same glories that the outcasts, the pagans and the Gentiles, by faith in Christ, have now inherited. We who are believing Gentiles are fellow citizens of that heavenly Jerusalem through our calling as saints. But the glory of this calling is not entirely reserved for the new creation, but may be experienced here and now in our sanctification. As fellow citizens called to be saints, ‘God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we may ask or think,’ (Eph 2:20) with regard to the raging war against the sin within us and in the world. Through him we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37); we are overcomers (1 John 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4, 5; Rev 21:7).