“Did Adam have a belly button?”

POST OVERVIEW. How to turn a silly question into an opportunity for extolling the glories of our crucified Savior.

Imagine you are trying to engage someone in a meaningful spiritual conversation, either for the purpose of introducing them to the gospel or because you wish to help them go deeper in their walk with Christ or simply because you are hungry for some spiritual meat in a cultural sea of baby food and pork rinds. Just as you attempt to turn the discussion Christ-ward, the other person asks, with a smirk on their face, “What do you think? Did Adam have a belly button?” The question is intentionally silly and irreverent, a meaningless query of utter insignificance, and your irritation burns. But before you turn and walk away, realize that the conversation does not need to end here. Your friend has brought up Adam’s belly button.

LET’S TALK ABOUT ADAM

“You bring up an interesting question. I am assuming you are referring to the first man, who was created by God, right?” Maybe. “Well, that means that you think that Adam really existed, and that God created him.” Hmmm. “And while the Bible gives no information about Adam’s belly button, either pro or con, the Bible is very clear that the second Adam, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, definitely had a belly button.” And now the direction of the conversation has changed for the better.

The Bible teaches that our Savior, Jesus, was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4) in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), in the same way that all of Adam’s fallen posterity were born. Jesus, the second Adam, was given a body with flesh and blood so that His flesh could be broken and His blood could be shed. He was given a physical body so that He, the eternal Son of God, could die as a sacrifice for sin. [ASIDE: Consider the “dilemma” confronting God before Jesus’ incarnation. The Law demanded a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin but, because of the magnitude of the sin that needed to be forgiven, only the death of God would be sufficient to pay for the sins of God’s people. But how would it be possible for God, who lives eternally and can never die, to die for His people? The gospel declares that Jesus, God the Son, was given a physical flesh and blood body that could die (see Hebrews 2:14-15) so that He could lay His physical life down (John 10:11-18) as a sacrifice for the sins of His people. END ASIDE]

Adam left this world fundamentally different from the world that he entered. Adam rebelled against God and so brought sin and death into the world. Adam’s sin ruined God’s perfect creation and brought all mankind into a state of sin, ushering the seeds of chaos and rebellion and destruction into the whole creation. This was the work of the first Adam.

Jesus, the second Adam, also left the world fundamentally different from the world that He entered. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the entire Law by His active obedience of all the Law’s demands and commandments. Thus, Jesus vanquished sin by His obedience (He never sinned) and by His sacrificial death on the cross (He atoned for the sins of His people by His own blood sacrifice). Jesus also conquered death when He was raised from the dead, never to die again (Romans 6:9). Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed that the groaning creation will one day be redeemed into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21.)

The atonement of all the sins of all His people. The promise to all His people of a future resurrection. The redemption of the whole fallen creation. The fulfillment of the Law so that His perfect righteousness is imputed to all His people. This was the work of the second Adam.

A comparison of the work of Adam with the work of the second Adam, Jesus, is presented below. Paul’s inspired comparison is contained in Romans 5:12-21.

First AdamSecond Adam (Jesus)
• Rebelled against the one command he received in paradise.• Perfectly obeyed all the commandments of the Law.
•  Brought sin and condemnation into the world.•  Atoned for the sins of His people and removed condemnation.
•  Brought death into the world.•  Vanquished death for all His people.
•  Ruined man’s fellowship with God by his sin.•  Reconciled man with God by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20).

So when a spiritual conversation turns to the question of belly buttons, let’s use it as an opportunity to extol the glories of our crucified Savior and the work He accomplished. He is the One who willingly left the praises of myriads of angels (Rev. 5:11) to receive a human body, with a belly button, so that He could be crucified for the sins of His people.

SDG                 rmb                 9/14/2022                   #572

The binding of Satan, Part 1 (Matthew 12:29)

INTRODUCTION. There are two places in the Bible that teach about the binding of Satan, in Matthew 12:29 and in Revelation 20:1-3. This post will be a study of Matthew 12:29, seeking to discover what Jesus teaches us about this subject.

Our purpose in these two posts is to discover what the Scripture teaches us about the binding of Satan, implicit in Matthew 12:29 and explicit in Revelation 20:1-3. First, Matt. 12:29.

Our study verse is at the end of a passage (Matt. 12:22-29) in which Jesus teaches about casting out demons. Satan does not cast out Satan (12:26) and Jesus does not cast out demons by Beelzebul (12:27). Rather, Jesus casts out demons by the Spirit of God, thus proving that He has more power than Satan. Then He says,

“Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” – Matthew 12:29

Let’s examine and interpret this verse.

First, who is “the strong man?” From the context, it is clear that the strong man refers to Satan. Satan is the one who deceives and captures the unrighteous (2 Tim. 2:26). Satan blinds the minds of the unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan has his schemes (Eph. 6:11) and he is the one who hinders us from proclaiming the gospel (1 Thess. 2:18).

And “the strong man’s house” speaks of Satan’s kingdom (12:26), consisting of his demons and his deceptions, his temptations and his tricks. Satan’s kingdom also contains his most valuable property, namely all the unrighteous whom he desires to keep trapped in their ignorance of the gospel. It is the unrighteous who are considered his property, and these Satan will guard with all his might. Satan is “the strong man, fully armed” of Luke 11:21. He is a formidable foe, and it seems unlikely that anyone has the power to “carry off his property” and to “plunder his house.”

But there is One who is able and who has the power. Jesus, the Son of Man, is the one who “first binds the strong man, and then He will plunder his house.” Although this is in figurative language, we know exactly what Jesus is saying here. The Son of God came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jesus was sent “to proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4:18), to render the devil powerless and “free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15). “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and Jesus will certainly accomplish His mission. Thus Jesus BINDS Satan so that He can plunder his house. When Satan is bound, he is unable to guard his house.

How does this look in biblical, redemptive terms? Now, Satan has been bound, and as the church proclaims the gospel among the nations, Satan can only watch helplessly as his house is plundered. Through His church, Jesus is now plundering Satan’s house and is drawing all men to Himself (John 12:32).

In summary, then, Matthew 12:29 teaches us that Jesus is going to BIND Satan so that Satan’s kingdom can be plundered. So far, so good.

But this still leaves us with key questions unanswered. For example, when is Satan going to be bound? That is, at what point in history does Jesus bind Satan so that Satan’s house can be plundered? Also, exactly how is Satan bound? For these questions we must ask, “Is there any other place in Scripture that might tell us more about this binding of Satan?” Glad you asked. As a matter of fact, there is. It turns out that Revelation 20:1-3 is another passage that explicitly mentions the binding of Satan, and a careful reading of these verses will reveal both when Satan is bound and how this binding takes place so that his kingdom can be plundered.

And that study will be the subject of our next post.

SDG                 rmb                 9/7/2022                     #566

How does salt become tasteless? (Matthew 5:13)

INTRODUCTION. A consideration of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:13 that salt (the disciple of Jesus) can lose its taste and thus become useless. How can the disciple can avoid this danger?

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is perhaps the best known teaching from the entire ministry of Jesus Christ. In this message, Jesus establishes the principles that will mark the new covenant people of God from His issuing of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) until His glorious return at the end of the age. In this article, I want to explore our Lord’s warning about salt becoming tasteless.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” – Matthew 5:13

CONTEXT. First, we notice the context of this verse. It is significant that Jesus’ warning about salt becoming tasteless follows immediately after the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes (5:3-12) establish the expected behaviors and attitudes of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, but the “salt and light” verses (5:13-16) reveal the responsibilities for which the disciple is accountable. The disciple is responsible to remain “salty” and he is responsible to shine his light before the watching world.

MEANING. So, in Matthew 5:13, Jesus is issuing a warning to would-be disciples that it is possible for salt to lose its savor. But what is the full force of this warning? What is Jesus teaching?

Observe first the identity of the salt. “You” in this verse refers to all disciples of Jesus. This is not limited to the Twelve, because at this point in Jesus’ ministry the Twelve disciples (apostles) had not been appointed (see 10:1-4), and because in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving instructions for all of His followers throughout the time between the advents. So, all disciples of Jesus are “the salt of the earth.” This is the analogy Jesus makes.

But what is the function or the purpose of this “salt of the earth?” To answer this question, we need to consider the nature of salt and we need to think about for whom this salt is useful.

What do we know about salt that makes it a good analogy for a disciple of Jesus? We know that salt’s taste is essential to salt. That is, the way you identify salt is by its taste. Salt is valuable because of its savor. Take away its flavor and you have taken away its essence. Salt that has lost its flavor is impossible to identify as salt and has lost its usefulness.

Now, as we consider Jesus’ analogy, we know that the disciple’s essential nature is a “taste” that is distinct from the world. The way you can identify a disciple of Jesus is that he/she lives in a manner that is separate from the world. The disciple is most useful to the Master (2 Tim. 2:21) when he is distinct from the world. On the other hand, a disciple who lives in a worldly manner is impossible to identify from the world and is of little use to the Lord or to the kingdom. So, the disciple of Jesus is “the salt of the earth” when he is living a “salty” life that is sharply distinct from the world and is, thus, useful to the Master for adding heavenly flavor to the disciple’s small piece of the world.

WARNING. There is, however, a stern warning here, that it is possible for salt that was once salty to become tasteless and, once the salty taste is gone, it will not become salty again. When the taste is gone, the salt “is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out.”

What does this warning mean? That is, how severe are the consequences of the salt losing its saltiness? While Jesus could be warning His disciples about the dangers of apostasy, I think it is better to understand this as a strong exhortation to be a “salty” disciple. Notice that Jesus declares “You are (in fact) the salt of the earth.” If, as we have interpreted, the “you” refers to Jesus’ disciples, then all disciples are, in fact, the salt of the earth. So, the real question becomes, “Are you salty salt, or are you tasteless salt?” Then the warning becomes, “Don’t become tasteless salt, because tasteless disciples are good for nothing!” So, determine now to remain a salty disciple until the Lord comes or calls you home. And how does the disciple remain salty? By being poor in spirit (5:3), by mourning (5:4), by being humble/meek (5:5), by hungering and thirsting for righteousness (5:6), and so on. The disciple stays salty by continuing to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel and by striving to obey what the Lord commands.

APPLICATION. Having understood the meaning of the verse, we will go on to apply it to the individual disciple and to a local church body. First, let’s consider THE INDIVIDUAL DISCIPLE and how this “salt” might become tasteless. As we mentioned above, a disciple will begin to drift toward tastelessness when they begin neglecting the Beatitudes and allowing worldly behavior to creep in unopposed. But there are other practices which will also rob your walk of its saltiness.

Neglecting regular, diligent time reading the Bible will quickly render you tasteless. In fact, the fastest way to attain tastelessness is by neglecting the daily intake of the word of the living God. Therefore, the disciple must prioritize daily time in God’s word.

Shallow and brief and inconsistent prayer will also make you saltless salt. Instead of this, the disciple must learn what it means to commune with God in prayer. Spend time crying out to the Lord when you are hurt or worried or disappointed. Pour out your heart before the Lord. Praise Him for His creation and His salvation. Long for fellowship with Him as the deer pants for the water brooks. Do this, and your salt will remain salty.

If you become silent in your witness for the Lord (Acts 1:8) and if you fail to proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Peter 2:9), you will begin to sense your saltiness draining away like a tire with a slow leak. But if you will boldly identify with Jesus, and if you will “tell of His glory among the nations” (Psalm 96:3), your life will display a sharp saltiness. Being a witness for Jesus is not only boldly obedient (Acts 1:8), but it is also one of the best defenses against salt deficiency.

While Jesus’ teaching is certainly directed at the individual disciple, there are also ways that a LOCAL CHURCH FELLOWSHIP can become tasteless and, like the tasteless disciple, become good for nothing. If the Bible is not the primary basis for all preaching and teaching in the church, you are moving toward tasteless salt. The church that does not emphasize spiritual growth through discipleship is a church that is drifting into tastelessness. Is your church eager to proclaim the gospel with the result that there are new believers in the fellowship? If not, you could soon be tasteless and useless.

In SUMMARY, then, Jesus warns His disciples that we must make every effort to remain salty and thus remain useful to the Master.

SDG                 rmb                 8/18/2022                   #560

Dealing with the requirements of the Law (Romans 3:20)

INTRODUCTION. This post considers, first, the divine purpose of the Law (Romans 3:20) and then discusses the approaches that sinful man uses to avoid the Law’s message of condemnation. The post concludes by giving the correct response.

THE LAW’S MESSAGE

The old covenant Law was rigidly absolute in its condemnation of all infractions and, at the same time, was absent of any provision for forgiveness of intentional sin. There was a divine purpose in this, for the Law was delivered to Moses in this “condemnation-with-no-forgiveness” form so that the sinner would feel the terrifying weight of his condemnation and thus would seek for a Savior with his whole heart. The Law as delivered at Sinai made clear that the LORD God was perfectly holy and would accept from man nothing less than a lifetime of sinless, perfect obedience (see Matthew 5:48) for admittance into heaven. Any violation of the Law renders the violator guilty and condemns him entirely. The Holy Spirit-inspired word of the living God clearly warns the sinner that he is under God’s wrath and condemnation because of his sin. This is the message and the purpose of the Law (Romans 3:20).

THE MODERN APPROACH

The problem arises when God’s clear message is proclaimed to sinful man. For the fact is that fallen man rebels against God’s gospel message of sin and condemnation. The typical approach of the sinner in our day is to reject the idea that God will judge him for his sin, so he refuses to subject himself to the Law of God (Romans 8:7). Instead of accepting his wretched condition and crying out to the Lord for mercy, modern man imagines that a generous grading curve exists as part of the Law and he assumes that if he is relatively “good” (whatever that means), God will welcome him into heaven. By applying the man-made concepts of a grading curve and “relative goodness,” the Law’s intended warning about God’s wrath against sin is neutralized. Thus, modern man’s approach to dealing with the Bible’s warnings about sin is to assume that God judges sin on a grading curve.

THE APPROACH OF THE PHARISEES

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had developed a more formal approach for accomplishing the same thing. The Pharisees were a sect of religious Jews who claimed to strictly adhere to the Mosaic Law. Like people today, the Pharisees did not like or accept the clear message of the Law and the prophets which declared that “the soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). To correct the Bible’s “error,” the Pharisees invented literally hundreds of rules to remove the absolute standard of the Law and to define what it meant to keep the Ten Commandments in terms that people could actually achieve. So, for example, “keeping the Sabbath” (the fourth commandment) was not treated as an absolute command where violators are punished by death (see Numbers 15:32-36), but instead, “keeping the Sabbath” was defined by not doing certain things that the Pharisees themselves had defined as unlawful. (See Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 5:9-16; 9:13-34; 19:31) In the same way, each of the absolute commands in the Law was broken down into many acts of external “obedience.” The net result of all this invented legalism was that the Pharisees confused adherence to their own contrived rules of external performance with real obedience to the Law, and then they equated man-made “obedience” with God’s required righteousness. In this way, the Law, which was given to drive people to despair at their failure to keep the Law, became instead a means to earn a relative righteousness based on your own best performance. This meant that in the Pharisees’ religious system, a person could be blameless (Phil. 3:6) without a heart change, without repentance, without acknowledging your own sin, without faith, and without a Savior. All that was required was knowing all the man-made rules and keeping them better than most other people. So, according to the Pharisees, righteousness could be achieved if you were willing to work hard enough.

SUMMARY. In summary, then, the key to dealing with God’s holy Law is to eliminate the Law’s absolute demands for perfect obedience. The modern approach for doing this is to assume that God accepts as “good enough” whatever efforts we make to obey His commands and then curves them up so that almost everyone gets a passing grade. Thus, the modern approach sees the holy and righteous Law of the living God as a toothless tiger giving us helpful ideas about how we can be better. By contrast, the Pharisees’ approach sees the Law as a genuine threat, as God’s published requirements necessary for us to avoid condemnation. We must, therefore, work hard to achieve our own righteousness. But both these approaches miss the mark.

THE GOSPEL APPROACH

What is the right approach? First, we must accept the full weight of the Law. The Law is given by God to reveal to us His perfect holiness and our abject sinfulness (Romans 3:20). When we are crushed by our failure to keep God’s Law, we must cry out to Him for mercy. When we, by faith, cry out for mercy, we will find the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who will impute to us His perfect sinlessness and who died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. By faith in Jesus, we fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law, of a sinless life (imputed to our account by Jesus) and of a perfect blood sacrifice to pay for our personal sins (Romans 8:3-4).

When we trust Christ as our perfect sacrifice and as the One who perfectly kept the Law on our behalf, we can rest in the truth that, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

SDG                 rmb                 8/17/2022                   #559

All the advantages which do not save (Israel in Romans)

INTRODUCTION. A TECHNICAL, TEACHING POST. An article based on the book of Romans considering why all the advantages given to Israel did not result in their salvation. The Scripture passages are from Romans 2, 3, and 9-11. My musings on these passages will someday result in a completed work, perhaps a short book that carefully works through Romans 9-11 and shows the beauty of Paul’s argument in that section of Scripture.

One of the underlying themes of the book of Romans, especially in Romans 9-11, is the question of why Israel, with so many apparent advantages given to her, remained a religious but faithless nation with only a remnant coming to faith. So, let’s think about this together.

ROMANS 3 GIVES A BRIEF FORETASTE OF ROMANS 9-11

Paul states that the Jews did have a tremendous advantage over the other nations (Gentiles) in being “entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2). That is, the Jews were the only people who had access to the Scriptures, to the word of the living God. Having the word of God not only was a demonstration of God’s special grace to the nation of Israel, but it also allowed the Jews to be aware of their sin. “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20; see also 7:7). To paraphrase 2 Corinthians 4:7, the Jews had this treasure in dusty scrolls.

But while Paul admits that the Jews had an advantage in being entrusted with the Scriptures (3:1-2), he also makes clear that merely having and hearing the Scriptures accomplishes nothing with regard to salvation.

For example, in Romans 2:12, we read that the Gentile who does not have the Law and the Jew who does have the Law will both be condemned because of their sin. Thus, merely having the Law is of no consequence regarding salvation.

In Romans 2:13, we read, “It is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (2:13). That means that a Jew who hears the Law and does not do the Law is no better off than the Gentile who does not hear the Law and does not do the Law, since doing the Law is what is required to be justified.

To summarize this brief discussion of Romans 2-3, we would say that, while it was a huge privilege to be entrusted with the oracles of God (3:2), this gave the Jews no advantage with regard to salvation. So, this “advantage” is really not an advantage.

ADVANTAGES FOR THE JEWS IN ROMANS 9-11?

Now I want to jump over to Romans 9-11 and consider what is going on in some of the verses here. In 9:4-5, Paul lists eight apparent advantages that the Jews had under the old covenant. To the Jews “belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh.” An examination of this list will reveal that these gifts from the Lord were fuel for religious pride, but they were unrelated to salvation. In other words, when we look at this list with a new covenant lens, it becomes plain that they provide no advantage to the Jew. Under the new covenant, faith is necessary for the sinner to be declared righteous. Ceremonial laws and fulfilled covenants and patriarchs were things of the past. Christ has come and the old covenant is obsolete. Therefore, clinging to the religious past is actually a disadvantage.

So, as we begin Romans 9-11, we are aware that despite all these apparent advantages, most Jews did not believe. They had heard the Word, as stated in Romans 10:18. Paul rhetorically asks, “Surely, Israel did not know, did they?” (10:19), and then twice answers it in the affirmative (“O yes, they did know”) by a quote from Moses in the Law and by a quote from Isaiah. Israel heard but did not believe. Israel knew the truth but did not believe the truth.

FROM HEARING TO CALLING ON THE LORD

We need to take a brief aside here to explore Romans 10:14-15. Here Paul declares that calling on the Lord, which results in being saved (10:13), requires believing in the Lord, and believing requires hearing the gospel, and hearing the gospel requires a preacher, and a preacher must be sent. This means that, for the ultimate end of calling on the Lord and being saved, it is necessary that a person hear a herald proclaim the good news. Paul makes clear that, if you do not hear the good news, there is no way to believe the good news, and if you do not believe the good news, you will never call on the Lord and be saved. So, to be saved, it is necessary that you hear the good news about Christ and His salvation. Paul states this truth in Romans 10:17, where he says, “So, [saving] faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” So far, so good.

NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT

But now things get much more interesting, for while it is necessary to hear the good news to be saved, it is apparently not sufficient. To be saved, a person must not only hear the gospel, but they must heed the gospel. Notice that in Romans 10:16, Paul says, “However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?’” (Isaiah 53:1). Paul says it is possible to hear and not to heed.

And this leads us back to the difficulty about Israel (the Jews). Under the old covenant, Israel had the Law but did not obey the Law. Under the new covenant, Israel heard the gospel but did not heed the gospel. Notice again that faith (salvation) comes from hearing (10:17), but the Jews had heard (10:18) and yet did not believe. Israel knew the truth (10:19) but did not believe the truth. Instead, with full access to the saving word of God, Israel remained “a disobedient and obstinate people” (10:21).

Meanwhile, after Pentecost, the Gentiles, who previously had been denied access to the Word, and who had been “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12), began coming to faith in large numbers. These, “who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith, but Israel (the Jews) did not” (Romans 9:30-31).

WHY DO THE GENTILES BELIEVE AND ISRAEL DOES NOT?

But if Israel, with full access to God and to the oracles of God, did not believe, and the Gentiles, who for centuries were denied access to the Word and who were excluded from the worship of the Lord, began coming to Christ in large numbers, we must ask the question, “Why? Why is it that Israel, with all the advantages, who knew and who possessed and who heard the Word, did not believe, but the Gentiles simply heard the good news and believed?”

We could take another approach with this difficulty. We have seen that both Israel and the Gentiles had met the necessary requirement of hearing the good news, but that only the Gentiles had what was sufficient for them to believe. With this approach, then, the question would be, “What did the Gentiles have that allowed them to heed the good news that Israel lacked?” What is the mysterious ingredient that moves a person from merely hearing the good news to believing the good news? What supplies the sufficiency?

Paul write Romans 9-11 to answer precisely these questions, and the simple statement of Paul’s answer is, “The reason some are saved and others are not saved is entirely dependent on God’s sovereign election.” God is the One who decides who will and who will not believe the gospel. Whether you are steeped in all the teaching of rabbinical Judaism, like Paul and the Pharisees, or you come from a pagan culture, like those in Lystra (Acts 14), God is the One who decides who will and who won’t believe. The overarching message of Romans 9-11 is that God is sovereign in salvation.

SDG                 rmb                 7/22/2022                   #554

John 6:31-68 – Part 3: Eating the living bread (6:45-58)

INTRODUCTION. This third part of an in-depth study of John 6:31-68 is a continuation of post #523 and post #529 and focuses on the crucial teaching in John 6:45-58.

[NOTE: This part of the study is longer than the other parts because the concepts presented here are complex and are not easily explained in a few words. I feel that the additional reading will be rewarded by greater understanding of this beautiful passage. RMB]

OVERVIEW OF THE PASSAGE. This passage (6:45-58) is the heart of this section of Scripture (6:31-68) and contains important teaching about how Jesus, the bread from heaven, provides life to His people. The passage is also crucial in giving us a vivid analogy of what it means to believe in Jesus, teaching us figuratively to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

KEY CONCEPTS covered in this passage include:

  • believing in Jesus
  • eternal life/live forever/not die
  • the bread of life/the living bread that came down out of heaven
  • eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man (Jesus)
  • being raised up on the last day.

The main DIFFICULTY of this passage consists in correctly understanding what Jesus means when He instructs His disciples to “eat My flesh and drink My blood” (6:53-56).

REVIEW. The first part of John 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five small loaves and two fish. The amazed crowd follows Jesus to Capernaum where they seek more bread and another miraculous sign. Jesus declares that the manna from Moses is not the true bread out of heaven, but that He is the bread of life.

In strong teaching from John 6:37-6:44 (see post #523 and #529), Jesus makes clear God’s sovereignty in salvation as He teaches the people that:

  • The Father has already given a people to the Son (election; see Eph. 1:4, etc.)
  • All those given to the Son will certainly come to the Son for eternal life. (predestination; see Romans 8:29-30)
  • Jesus will raise up all His people in glorious resurrection on the last day
  • By His providence and effectual calling, the Father draws people to Jesus

THE TEACHING OF JOHN 6:45-58

The passage is best understood by understanding WHO JESUS IS, then by seeing WHAT JESUS OFFERS, and finally by discovering HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS.

WHO JESUS IS. Jesus uses direct statements and the metaphor of bread to make His identity unambiguously clear. First, He says, “I am the bread of life” (6:48). This is a repetition of 6:35, when He also said that those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst. What Jesus means by His metaphor may not be clear, but this much is clear: Jesus is the bread of life.

Next, He says twice that He is “the (living) bread that came down out of heaven” (6:50, 51). Here, Jesus is contrasting Himself with the manna that the children of Israel ate in the Exodus. They ate that manna (“bread from heaven”) and they died (6:49), but Jesus is the “true bread out of heaven” (6:32). Jesus is the bread of life and, “if anyone eats of this (living) bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life.

Finally, notice that Jesus is the bread that came down out of heaven sent by the Father. “The living Father sent Me” (6:57), and Jesus has come from heaven to give life to the world. Since He came down out of heaven and was sent by God the Father, Jesus is divine.

SUMMARY. From this passage, we see that Jesus is God in the flesh, the living bread sent by the Father from heaven to give eternal life to the world.

WHAT JESUS OFFERS. As the bread of life and the living bread that came out of heaven, what does Jesus offer the people? From the passage we see, first, “one may eat of it (the bread) and not die” (6:50). As strong as this verse is, Jesus states the truth even more clearly in the next verse: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Eat of Jesus and you will not die but will live forever. Of course, we need to determine what it means to metaphorically eat of Jesus as the living bread, but at this point we see that Jesus is offering people the opportunity to live forever. (NOTE: “Live forever” is the same as “have eternal life.”)

A few verses later, Jesus again declares His offer of eternal life and connects this eternal life with participation in the resurrection on the last day. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:54). Once again, we are confronted with the need to understand Jesus’ metaphor about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but what He offers us is in plain view. He offers eternal life and a resurrection.

SUMMARY. Jesus offers His hearers the opportunity to not die, but to live forever, to have eternal life, and to be raised up on the last day (in glorious resurrection).

HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS. We see the incarnate Son of God offering the people eternal life and declaring to them that He Himself will raise them up on the last day. This spectacular offer is available to all who hear His voice, but obtaining it is not automatic. We have already seen that Jesus imposes conditions on His offer and it is only those who satisfy Jesus’ conditions who will obtain the eternal life that He offers.

This, then, becomes the critical issue. Every person must first identify and then satisfy Jesus’ conditions before they obtain the eternal life He offers.

TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS, YOU MUST SATISFY HIS CONDITIONS. Our first task, then, is to identify Jesus’ conditions. In this passage, when we were discovering what Jesus was offering, we also heard Him state His conditions.

ONE SET OF CONDITIONS.

“If anyone eats of this bread (Jesus)                                                  he will live forever.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      has eternal life.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                          I will raise him up on the last day.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      abides in Me, and I in him.”

Here, then, is one set of conditions that must be met to obtain eternal life.

ANOTHER SET OF CONDITIONS? We also need to notice, however, that Jesus has talked about another condition for obtaining eternal life. In fact, in the gospel of John, the major message of the book is that anyone can receive eternal life by believing in Jesus. John 3:16, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, declares that whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) will have eternal life. According to John 20:31, the whole reason for the gospel of John is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In this very passage that we are studying, Jesus repeatedly tells men and women how to obtain all the blessings that He offers. “He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will not thirst” (6:35). “Everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (6:40). “He who believes has eternal life” (6:47). Throughout the gospel of John, the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

So, is Jesus now imposing another condition for obtaining salvation?

ONLY ONE CONDITION. When we compare side-by-side two verses from this passage, we will see that there is, in fact, only one condition that separates the sinner from salvation.

Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:54

As we compare these two verses, we notice, first, that the results of the sinner’s action in 6:40 (“believes in the Son”) are exactly the same as the results of the sinner’s action in 6:54 (“eats My flesh and drinks My blood”). In both cases, the sinner’s action yields eternal life and a resurrection on the last day.

Next, we observe that John 6:40 falls within a section of teaching where Jesus is speaking in literal terms. That is, when Jesus speaks of “beholding the Son” and “believing in the Son,” we observe that Jesus is speaking literally.

By contrast, in John 6:54, Jesus is speaking metaphorically about Himself as the bread of life. The Lord has established His identity as “the bread of life” (6:48), as “the bread that comes down out of heaven” (6:50), and as “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (6:51). Jesus has thus made clear that He is now speaking figuratively about Himself as bread. Therefore, in this context, the Lord speaks about how to obtain eternal life in figurative terms.

Jesus intentionally parallels these two verses to teach that “believing in the Son” should be understood metaphorically as “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus has been proclaiming that anyone who believes in Him will obtain eternal life. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (the Father) has sent” (John 6:29). Here, then, the Lord is giving a vivid picture, an illustration of what believing in Him means.

What we see is that “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” is actually an explanation and an intensification of “believing in the Son.” Imagine a person who is there in Capernaum listening to Jesus teach or imagine someone who is reading John 6 in our own day. This person is convinced that believing in Jesus is the only way to eternal life and the only way to be saved, but then they ask the question, “What does it actually mean to ‘believe in Jesus’? Can you give me an illustration of what that looks like?” The Lord Jesus answers that question by saying, in effect, “Believing in Me is like eating My flesh and drinking My blood (6:53-56).”

EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD. For the disciple of Jesus, believing in Him is a matter of life and death. If the disciple cannot eat of Jesus and cannot drink of Jesus, then he will die of hunger and thirst. Communion with Jesus is the disciple’s means of survival. When Job considered his relationship with the LORD, he said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). This gives a taste of what it means for the disciple of Christ to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Lord Jesus Himself, when tested by the devil after forty days without food, declared, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). For the follower of Jesus, Jesus is more to be desired than food that will sustain our physical life.

David had the attitude of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” when he wrote,

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1

David’s soul thirsts for the LORD and his flesh hungers for Him, not literally but figuratively, as a thirsty man would yearn for water in the middle of the desert.

To believe in Jesus means to receive Him and embrace Him without reservation as a starving man would consume a loaf of bread. The believer eats and drinks all of Jesus in all His incarnate deity to satisfy his sinful soul. And the one who eats Jesus’ flesh and drinks Jesus’ blood is the one whom Jesus will certainly not cast out.

CONCLUSION

From this study of John 6:45-58 we have seen that Jesus, as the metaphorical bread of life, has been sent by the Father to earth to offer eternal life to the world, and that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive eternal life and will be raised up by Jesus at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus uses the metaphor of “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” to help His disciples understand the depth and the intensity of true saving faith.

SDG                 rmb                 7/5/2022                     #551

1 Peter 2:9 (Part 4) – Purpose: proclaiming excellencies

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people.

This post is about the new purpose the disciple has received as a result of their new identity. (Also see post #544 on June 16, 2022, about the disciple’s new identity.)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

In the first chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle has already told us that we were redeemed from our futile way of life (1:18) by the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and that, by God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1:3). As we have studied 2:9-10, we have learned about the four-fold identity that the disciples of Jesus received when they trusted Christ as Lord and Savior (see post #536 and #544). Now we are going to discover the purpose for this new identity. There is a purpose for God giving His people their new identity and there is a mission to which He has called us. We are called to proclaim.

CALLED TO PROCLAIM

The chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people for God’s own possession is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is now being gathered from all the nations of the earth to receive the unfathomable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8) for the primary purpose of proclaiming the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

The church is called to proclaim the excellencies of God. The one true and living God whom we proclaim is a God of excellencies. He has displayed His own glory in a creation of astonishing beauty and complexity, where His excellence is manifest in an abundance of life. His excellence has been made known in the wonder of the gospel, such that His perfect holiness is not violated by the forgiveness of sinners. His excellence has been visibly seen when the Lord Jesus Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us. The church is called to proclaim these excellencies.

Ever since Adam sinned, all people have come into the world as lovers of darkness and haters of the light (John 3:19-20). We are born as blind and dead lovers of darkness and we would forever remain in that wretched condition, but the one true and living God, in His grace and mercy, calls His enemies out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And so the church, the gathered assembly of redeemed wretches, is called to proclaim to the nations the transforming power of the gospel, for in the gospel God calls people from darkness into light.

But the church’s most important proclamation is to tell the world about Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have a Savior and a Redeemer and a conquering King who is worthy of all our loudest praise. “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’” (Psalm 96:3, 10). In heaven now the voices of many angels say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). But what myriad angels are saying in heaven the church is now to be proclaiming on earth.

In Acts, the church was facing a growing hostility to their message about the resurrection. So, in light of the threats, the church prayed that the Lord would “grant that Your bondservants may speak Your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). In that instance and in every instance until Jesus returns, the church is to proclaim the glories of Jesus with all boldness regardless of threats. “We are not of those who shrink back to destruction” (Hebrews 10:39). We have been chosen and called to proclaim Jesus’ name to those who are in darkness. For Jesus warns us that “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory” (Luke 9:26). Therefore, His church is to proclaim His excellencies.

APPLICATION

The true church is a chosen race and is a people who have been called to be holy so that we can proclaim His excellencies. Since that is the case; that is, since we have been chosen and called for the purpose of proclamation, each of us should evaluate how we are doing with our own proclamation. I offer several questions to help in our evaluation:

  • How do you intentionally seek opportunities for “proclamation” within your network of relationships? (season your speech with salt (Col. 4:6), let your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16), throw out baited hooks for fishing (Matt. 4:19))
  • What is your strategy for “proclaiming His excellencies” when an opportunity presents itself? In other words, have you considered how to move the conversation toward a gospel-related topic?
  • How can you increase the boldness of your “proclamation?” How can you prevent fear from producing disobedience?

SDG                 rmb                 6/29/2022                   #550

Worshipers are Christ’s reward (Acts 20:28; Rev. 7:9)

INTRODUCTION. A meditation on Christ’s reward for perfectly accomplishing the work given to Him by the Father. Christ purchased a people, and they were purchased to worship Him.

One of the themes of the Bible is that Jesus came to accomplish the mission given to Him by the Father and having accomplished that mission Christ now has earned His reward.

SCRIPTURAL BACKGROUND

To begin this post, I wanted to present some Scriptures that support my opening statement.

‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’ – Psalm 2:8.

In this psalm, the LORD promises the Son that He will give Him the nations and the ends of the earth. That certainly sounds like this may be a prophecy of a reward.

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You. – Psalm 22:27

This verse speaks of worship, but the main context of Psalm 22 is of a man who is suffering agony as he is being put to death in the presence of his enemies. We now know that this psalm contains explicit prophecies of Christ’s sufferings that were fulfilled by Him on the cross. The point is that, in this psalm, the suffering was rewarded by worship.

1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” – Psalm 110:1

We see the LORD (YHWH) is speaking to the Lord (Adonai). We now know that “the Lord” is Jesus and that this conversation took place after Jesus accomplished His work on the cross, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven to be at the right hand of the Father (YHWH). The Father is telling the Son to wait until the time comes for Him to return to earth to receive His full reward.

Isaiah 53, a passage about the “suffering servant of the LORD,” serves as a remarkably detailed prophecy of Jesus’ life and crucifixion. Then, after telling of the servant’s suffering, we read that the LORD “will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong.” The picture is of one who suffers and then is rewarded because of his suffering.

In John 17:4, Jesus speaks of accomplishing the work He has been given to do by the Father. It is clear that “the work” Jesus was given was the work of redemption by His death on the cross. Then, in John 19:30, with His dying breath Jesus gives His cry of victory when He says, “It is finished.” Jesus accomplished His work of redemption and therefore is entitled to a reward.

In Acts 20:28, Paul charges the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The only possible interpretation of this verse is that Jesus is God and that, by His death on the cross, He has purchased (redeemed) the church, which is all those who will believe in His name. Again, we see that, by His death, Jesus merits a reward. We see almost the same thing in Ephesians 5:25 where Paul teaches that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This expression means that Christ died for the church. He purchased her for Himself and He is entitled to the church’s worship.

Finally, in Revelation we read:

“You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9

Here the heavenly creatures are praising the ascended Jesus (the Lamb) because He has purchased a people with His blood. Then in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 7:9-10) we read:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” – Rev. 7:9-10

Here we see those whom Jesus (the Lamb) redeemed from every nation in heaven worshipping Jesus. Thus, we see that Jesus was rewarded for shedding His blood to purchase a people, and His reward is those people worshipping Him for all of eternity.

THE SCRIPTURE APPLIED

With these passages presented as background, we will now apply this teaching to the Lord Jesus, His work on the cross, and His merited reward.

Jesus was sent from heaven to earth by the Father to accomplish a mission, the mission of redemption. Jesus’ mission consisted in two parts: 1) live a sinless life of perfect holiness and righteousness, fulfilling and obeying the entire Law; and 2) die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice to pay for the sins of His people.

If Jesus accomplished His mission, the Father would raise Him from the dead as a visible sign that Jesus had accomplished His mission perfectly and then would give Jesus the Son His merited reward, which is an inheritance of a myriad of people from every tribe and tongue and nation worshipping Him for all of eternity.

In that sense, then, my personal salvation is not about me at all. Oh, it is true that I eternally benefit from God’s gracious work in rescuing me from judgment and in granting me eternal life through faith in Christ. But while I benefit from God’s saving work in my life, my eternal benefit of salvation is incidental to the purpose of my salvation. For God’s purpose in my salvation is for me to give unending praise to God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has finished His mission and, therefore, has earned His promised reward. Myriads of myriads of people were chosen by the Father before time began (Eph. 1:4) and were promised to the Son to be His worshipers on the condition that the Son perfectly accomplish the work that the Father had given Him to do, and that condition has been met. Therefore, all those worshipers who were promised to the Son must now be gathered into the church. The Father’s promise and the Son’s performance guarantee that every worshiper purchased by the Son (Acts 20:28; Rev. 5:9) will certainly be gathered in by the gospel call and will glorify and praise the Son forever and ever (Rev. 19:1-8).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, as those who have been chosen by the Father and purchased by the blood of the Son and made alive by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit, let us fulfill our intended purpose of giving glory to Jesus Christ. Now, while we live in this life, let us offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) as we witness to Jesus to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Then, in the new heaven and the new earth, we will praise Him forever with a loud voice saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9).

SDG                 rmb                 6/22/2022                   #546

Drive your roots deep and let your voice be heard

INTRODUCTION. Some comments about the need for disciples of Jesus to be firmly rooted in Christ and to boldly proclaim Him in these end times. Firm roots and a bold voice will prevent the follower of Christ from being overwhelmed by the rising evil of our age.

There is no place for the disciple of Jesus to hide anymore.

If your spiritual desires are to maintain a low profile and to be anonymous and to whisper some religious platitudes under your breath, then the last thing you want to do in this day and age is to be a disciple of Jesus. (John 15:18-20; etc.)

In the past, the American church-goer could be rewarded with respectable friends and people for their children to marry and connections for their business interests. “Being a Christian” was just part of the majority American culture, part of the American dream. In that halcyon bygone time, Christians did not proclaim the gospel to non-Christians. Christians typically went from birth to death without ever telling a single non-Christian anything about Jesus or sin or heaven or hell or how Christ had transformed their life and their eternity. Their faith was closely held, a private thing, a secret known by their friends at their church. And for a long time this sort of harmless, secret, nice, voiceless “Christianity” worked just fine and these Christians got all the benefits of the blessed life.

Meanwhile, the Great Commission languished and Christ had few witnesses and the evil of the world continued to fill the void. And yet even in this, Christ was building His church and the gates of Hades were not prevailing against it (Matt. 16:18).

But the days when “being a Christian” was part of the majority American culture are now far behind us, a small speck in the cultural rear view mirror. Whether the American dream still exists is debatable, but it is clear that America has become hostile to the person who openly follows Jesus. As a result, only a robust, vigorous, active, persevering, bold, joyful, vibrant faith will be of any help in these last days.

If your faith is only nominal; that is, if yours is a “faith” that goes through the outward motions but has no real substance, your masquerade will be shattered by the persistent and pervasive evil of our age. A nominal faith will be revealed as a sham and will be useless for you and for the kingdom of God.

But what if your faith is a genuine saving faith, but is weak or joyless or tepid or hesitant or wavering? In this time when evil and lawlessness are rising unabated and the righteous are vastly outnumbered by the ungodly, a weak, wavering, shrinking-back faith, even if genuine, will prove to be a useless faith. If your light for Jesus is to shine before men (Matt. 5:16) and if you would be Jesus’ witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8), then your devotion to Jesus must be placed on the lampstand (Matt. 5:15) and the truth of the gospel must be proclaimed from the housetops (Matt 10:27). A faith that remains in the closet to be retrieved for a few hours on Sunday will avail you nothing. Jesus will have disciples who are fully and unconditionally devoted to Him until death (Luke 14:26-27), or He will not have you at all (Matt. 10:32-33; 12:30). Therefore, if you examine yourself (2 Cor. 13:5) and see that your faith is hesitant or wavering, you should begin immediately to drive your roots deeper into Christ.

WHERE WE ARE IN HISTORY

On the timeline of world history, in the unfolding of great world events, the “thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6) of relative peace for the ingathering of the church have drawn to a close, and now the testing and the cleansing of the church ingathered has begun. The devil has been released from his prison (Rev. 20:7), “having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev. 12:12). His time is short and he is not playing games. We are now in Satan’s hour and he is bent on proliferating evil and destruction, and on fanning sin into a blazing inferno. Therefore, those who do not take a bold, firm stand against him (Eph. 6:10-18) and who do not persevere in a robust, overt righteousness will simply be swept away by the flood of wickedness.

The Lord has released the devil (Rev. 20:3) and is allowing him to test His people (Revelation 11:7; 13:7) to see who will shrink back (Hebrews 10:38, 39) and who will stand firm (Rev. 2:10). We are in an evil time, but it is evil that most plainly reveals righteousness, and the darker the darkness, the more brilliant the light.

CONCLUSION

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned about the circumstances of the last days:

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5

It is my opinion that we are in these “last days” and that Christ will come soon to rescue His oppressed church. But even if I am wrong, the “difficult times” Paul described are certainly upon us and those who love righteousness must persevere in the face of growing opposition. This means the disciple of Jesus must earnestly seek the Lord and must drive their spiritual roots deep into the saving soil of Christ.

SDG                 rmb                 6/20/2022                   #545

Scattering seed and inviting to the feast

INTRODUCTION. A study of two parables of Jesus and how they teach us to be obedient in our proclamation of the gospel.

I have been spending time in Jesus’ parables lately and have seen in them many new applications that I had not seen before. In this post, I want to review two parables, the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:3-9 and the parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22:2-14 and see how Jesus teaches us about our task of being His witnesses (Acts 1:8).

THE SOWER WENT OUT TO SOW

We will begin with the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:3-9. This is one of the best known of the parables and is also one of only a few parables that Jesus interprets for us. In Jesus’ interpretation in Matt. 13:18-23, we find that the seed that is scattered is “the word of the kingdom,” which we would understand to be the gospel. We also discover what each of the soils represents and why the seed is unfruitful. Finally, we see that the seed is certainly potent and that, in the good soil, it produces a hundredfold, or sixty fold, or thirty fold.

It seems obvious that this parable is about proclamation, about evangelism. The sower is the disciple of Jesus Christ. We had already stated that the seed is the gospel. The places where the seed is scattered is any place and every place that the sower (disciple) goes. But let me make some other observations about this parable and about the sower himself.

SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE SOWER

Matt. 13:3 says, “The sower went out to sow.” Having acquired a big bag of seed, the sower intentionally goes out into the world to sow that seed. The sower’s purpose and aim is sowing his seed.

Also notice that the sower’s task is very simple. Sow the seed. That’s it. Sowing is an unskilled task that can be done by anyone who has seed. There is nothing sophisticated or nuanced about sowing seed. Any obedient worker can fulfill the task.

Observe that even though most of the sower’s seed is wasted and proves unfruitful, Jesus makes no comment about the sower’s wastefulness. The sower recklessly and indiscriminately scatters seed wherever it might go and yet there is no rebuke or criticism given. This is because the sower’s task is to sow seed. He is not responsible for the results. Just so, the disciple of Jesus is to scatter the seed of the gospel extravagantly and generously wherever he goes, believing that the Lord is sovereign over the harvest and that He will direct the seed to the good soil.

Thus, for the sower, the measure of success is faithfulness to their appointed task of sowing seed, and not the quantity of the harvest. The Lord is sovereign over the harvest, but He has entrusted the scattering of the gospel seed to His disciples.

THE MESSAGE TO US. Putting this together, then, the disciple of Jesus (the sower) is called to intentionally go out into the world and indiscriminately and extravagantly scatter the seed of the gospel anywhere and everywhere, recklessly sowing the seed, trusting that the Lord in His sovereignty will bring the harvest. (See also 2 Corinthians 9:6.)

INVITE THEM TO THE WEDDING FEAST!

Now we turn our attention to the parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22:2-14. In this story, there is a king who wants to give a wedding feast for his beloved son. The king desires to have as many guests as possible at the feast, so he sends out his slaves to call those guests who had already been invited long ago, but those who had been invited refused to come. The king is enraged by the rudeness of his subjects and has them destroyed. Then he commands his slaves to go out into the main highways and invite anybody and everybody to his son’s wedding feast.

Although there are some important details to this story that teach us about the unbelief of the Jews and about the events of the end of the age, the main message of this parable is also about evangelism. Before we focused on the sower, but here we will concentrate on the slaves. The slaves represent disciples in the church. The king is God the Father and, of course, the son is the Lord Jesus. Thus the church has been sent out into the world to invite “as many as they find” to the wedding feast. The “wedding feast” represents the church with Jesus in heaven at the end of the age.

SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE SLAVES

The first thing I want to point out about this parable is that the slaves have been commanded by the king to invite people to the wedding feast. No other instructions have been given, no guidelines about who to choose or who to avoid. Therefore, the “slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found” (22:10). They were indiscriminate about who they invited. If they found them, then they invited them. It did not matter whether they were evil or good. Whoever they found, they invited. That was their assignment from the king.

Notice also that this assignment was not complicated or difficult. There were no special skills or talents required to fulfill the assignment. No amazing spiritual gifts. Inviting people to the king’s feast was simple, an unskilled task that could be accomplished by anyone who would faithfully obey the king.

Finally, we see that, even though there are some false guests among those that are invited, the king does not rebuke or correct the slaves for inviting the wrong people. The king takes responsibility for the quality of those who are at the feast, while the slaves are responsible for the quantity. In other words, the measure of success for the king’s slaves was faithfulness to their appointed task of inviting guests, not the quality of the people invited.

THE MESSAGE TO US. Putting this together, then, the disciple of Jesus (“the slave of the king”) is called to intentionally go out into the world and indiscriminately invite as many as he can to “come to the wedding feast” (that is, call people to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior), trusting that the Lord in His sovereignty will inspect all the guests.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

What I have attempted to do in the interpretation of these two parables is to show that the Bible consistently calls the disciple of Jesus to the task of proclaiming Christ to the world indiscriminately and extravagantly so that many will hear the message and respond. These parables demonstrate that the disciple has been given the task of scattering the gospel recklessly and inviting to the feast extravagantly so that many will  come to faith in Jesus and to enjoy the final wedding feast.

We have been called to faith in Jesus so that, as His disciples, we can declare His glory among the nations (Psalm 96:3) and proclaim His excellencies who has called us into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

SDG                 rmb                 6/17/2022                   #543