CHAPTER VI (CONTINUE)
Final Period of the Galilean Ministry (Continue)
13. Discipline in the Church and Forgiveness
Reference: Matt. 18:15-35
This is the second time in Matthew that Christ has spoken about His Church. As we have seen in ch. 16:18,19, this Church is associated with the Messianic Kingdom. While it is true that the Kingdom had not yet been established, Christ was in the process of calling out His people for that Kingdom, and that is the meaning of the word “church,” a called out company. The rules He gives here for dealing with a sinning brother are similar to Paul’s instructions for members of the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 5:3-5; 6:1-5; Gal. 6:1; I Tim. 5:19,20). The binding and loosing on earth and in heaven means that the results of such scriptural proceedings here on earth are approved in heaven. It should be remembered that the Lord was addressing His apostles who were to be judges in Israel.
This fact needs to be remembered also in connection with the promise, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” This prayer promise cannot be isolated from all of the other promises and instruction which Christ gave to His Kingdom apostles. Christians may make two serious mistakes about prayer. One is taking in an unqualified manner the prayer promises for the Kingdom and applying them to the present divine economy, and the other is isolating one particular promise from all of the others. We do not believe that Jesus ever intended to leave the impression that His disciples could ask anything for themselves in prayer without any qualifications whatsoever, with the promise that the Father would grant their request. We have record of a number of things which the disciples asked, which were not only refused, but the disciples were rebuked for asking such things (cf. Matt. 20:21,22; Lk. 9:54). Our Lord laid down several conditions for prayer. It had to be in His name, and that involved more than merely tacking on those three magic words at the end of the prayer. The disciples had to abide in Him and His words abide in them (John 14:13; 15:7). James, who was a Kingdom disciple, surely didn’t believe in unconditional prayer promises (cf. Jas. 1:5-7; 4:3). John likewise lays down conditions (cf. I John 3:20- 22; 5:14). And we surely find no so-called unconditional prayer promises in Paul’s letters to members of the Body of Christ.
This section ends with a discourse on how often we should forgive a brother who sins against us. Peter thought seven times was sufficient, but the Lord said, “Seventy times seven.” The Lord reinforced this teaching with the parable of the King who freely forgave his servant an enormous debt of 10,000 talents, and then the self- same servant refused to forgive his fellow-servant a paltry debt of 100 pennies and had him cast into prison. We cannot estimate the magnitude of the debt of sin which we owed to God and which He has freely forgiven through the death of His Son; therefore we should “forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us” (Eph. 4:32). Does the command that we forgive mean that we must forgive in a sort of automatic way? Luke gives these words of Jesus which show that forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance: “if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Lk. 17:4). This is a most important principle which many people forget. God does not forgive unless there is a change of mind on the part of the sinner, and He does not ask us to forgive those who wrong us and who remain adamant in their sin.
14. Christ Attends The Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem
Reference: John 7:1-52
In the introduction to this lesson one is reminded of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament, for they did not believe in Joseph, even as the brethren of Jesus did not believe in Him (“not believe” is imperfect – they were habitually unbelieving). They urged Him to leave Galilee and go to the feast in Jerusalem and show his works openly if He was what He claimed to be. But Jesus would not go into Judea, for He knew the Jews there were seeking to kill Him. He let His brothers go up to the feast first and then He went up rather secretly. The Jews at the feast were all looking for Him and inquiring about Him and expressing their beliefs and disbeliefs concerning Him. Then in the middle of the feast which lasted seven days (Lev. 23:34), and came in early autumn, He entered the temple and began teaching. This resulted in many questions being raised by the crowds. “How is it that this unschooled man has such learning?” “Isn’t this the man whom they seek to kill? But lo, he speaks boldly and they say nothing to him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Messiah?” “What is he talking about: Ye shall seek me and not find me; and where I am ye cannot come? Where will he go that we cannot find him? Will he go to the dispersed Jews among the Gentiles and teach the Gentiles?”
Jesus answered some of their questions and asked some of His own. He told them that His learning, His knowledge, His doctrine was not His own, but God’s who had sent Him. He asked, “Why are you plotting to kill me?” They said: “No one’s plotting to kill you; you must be demon possessed.” Jesus asked: “You circumcise a man on the sabbath day that the law of Moses be not broken, then why are you angry at me because I have completely restored to health a man on the sabbath?”
The culmination came on the last day of the feast, which was the most important day. Edersheim, an authority on Jewish antiquities, graphically describes the liturgy performed on that day, which greatly enhances the Scriptural account. Space does not permit quoting all of the preliminary celebrations, sacrifices, chanting of Psalms by the priests, etc. The priest had filled his golden pitcher with water when the temple procession had reached the Pool of Siloam and then returned to the temple to pour out the water at the altar. Edersheim states:
We can have little difficulty in determining at what part of the services of the last day, the Great Day of the Feast, Jesus stood and cried: If anyone thirst let him come unto me and drink! It must have been with special reference to the ceremony of the outpouring of the water, which as we have seen, was considered the central part of the service. Moreover, all would understand that His words must refer to the Holy Spirit, since the rite was universally regarded as symbolical of His outpouring. The forthpouring of the water was immediately followed by the chanting of the Hallel. But after that there must have been a short pause to prepare for the festive sacrifices (the Musaph). It was then, immediately after the symbolic rite of water-pouting, immediately after the people had responded by repeating those lines from Psalm cxviii given thanks, and prayed that Jehovah would send salvation and prosperity, and had shaken their lulabh towards the altar, thus praising with the heart, the mouth, the hands, and then silence had fallen upon them – that there arose, so loud as to be heard throughout the Temple, the Voice of Jesus. He interrupted not the services, for they had for the moment ceased: He interpreted, and He fulfilled them.
What an electrifying sight that must have been, as that Voice rang out in the midst of this great celebration: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (and John explains “this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified”). There was a mixed reaction among the multitudes. Some said, “Of a truth this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others objected: “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Doesn’t the scripture state that the Christ will come of the seed of David and from Bethlehem?” And there was a division and the ones who had been sent to arrest Him returned empty-handed to the chief priests, who asked, “Why did you not bring him?” and they answered, “Never man spake like this man.” Whereupon the Pharisees replied, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the Pharisees believed on him? The common people don’t know the Law; they are accursed.” But there was one Pharisee who secretly believed on Him and he enquired, “Does our law judge any man before it has heard him and knows what he has done?” Nicodemus who had interviewed Jesus at night in secret, and who had been a secret believer, later came openly with Joseph of Arimathea and begged for the body of Jesus from Pilate and prepared the body of Jesus for burial (John 19:38-42). One who is a true believer cannot remain in silence and secrecy forever. When the crisis arises he must speak out and declare his faith.
Jesus’ time had not yet come and the Sanhedrin was again thwarted in their attempts to take Him and put Him to death.
15. The Woman Taken in Adultery
Reference: John 7:53-8:11
After the feast of Tabernacles we read that “they went every man to his own house, but Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives,” where He spent the night and early in the morning He crossed back over the Kidron valley to the Temple and sat down and taught the crowds of people which surrounded Him. The scribes and Pharisees, still looking for some trick whereby they might catch Jesus in their trap, had found a woman who was guilty of adultery and felt sure if they brought her to Jesus, and He let her off with perhaps a rebuke instead of sticking to the law of Moses and inflicting the death penalty on her, they could accuse Him of violating the Law.
It would be interesting to know what it was that Jesus wrote with His finger on the stone floor as He stooped down, while they continued asking Him. Perhaps He hesitated just long enough to make these religious bigots think they had surely trapped Him this time. But then He looked up and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” How quickly Jesus had turned the tables on them. They all knew they were sinners, and that was one of the reasons they wanted to get rid of Jesus, because of His preaching against sin. Who of them would have the gall to pick up a stone and hurl at the woman, when everyone in the crowd knew he was guilty of sin, perhaps the very sin of which they were accusing this poor woman.
And so the crowd evaporated, beginning with the oldest, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. It is most instructive to see the divine wisdom with which He then dealt with the woman. “Where are your accusers? Didn’t any man condemn you?” He asked. “No man, Lord,” she replied. Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” If we had been dealing with the woman we probably would have preached a long sermon to her, telling her what an awful sinner she was and thus humiliate her as much as possible. But the woman knew she was a great sinner and that she had come very near to being stoned to death, but she had been saved by the gracious and loving act of Christ, and although we are not told, it is our belief that this woman never again became involved in this sex sin.
Jesus did not condone her sin. It was not His business to enforce the law. He merely showed that the rulers whose duty it was to enforce it, were all as guilty as the woman, and therefore unable to enforce it, because the law required at least two witnesses and none remained to prosecute her.
16. Discourse on The Light of the World
Reference: John 8:12-30
Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the World.” Light is a characteristic term in John’s Gospel and in his first Epistle it portrays the manifestation of the life of God in the person of Jesus. John the Baptist was called a burning and shining light (John 5:35), but there the word is “luchnos,” a lamp. Here the word is “phos.” In John 1:7,8, it is said of John: “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Phos that all men through him might believe. He (John) was not that Phos, but was sent to bear witness of the Phos.” John was a luchnos, a hand held oil lamp, lighted by Another, in whose brightness men might rejoice for a season and which would ultimately be extinguished. Christ is the True Phos (John 1:9), in antithesis to John, the Eternal Light which never needed to be kindled and which will never be extinguished. Light occurs 23 times in John’s Gospel. God is light essentially (1 John 1:5), and in Him is no darkness, the opposite of Phos. Paul says that whatever makes manifest is light (Eph. 5:13). Light is an emanation which requires an organ adapted for its reception. Light is not apprehended where there is no eye or there is blindness. Man is naturally incapable of receiving spiritual light because as a sinner he lacks the capacity for spiritual truth.
It is illuminating to note that Jesus spoke these words in the Treasury, where there were four golden candelabra, with four golden bowls filled with oil, which were lighted on the first night of the Feast. This may have provided the backdrop for Jesus’ words. Isaiah in four places speaks of the coming Messiah as the Light (cf. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3). Malachi calls Him “the Sun of righteousness who will arise with healing in his wings,” (4:2). “Wings” refers to the sun’s rays.
This discourse is one of the clearest defenses which Jesus made for His Deity. As the Light of the world He was one with the Father, for only God is Light. He claimed that even if He did bear witness of Himself, His witness was true. He knew where He came from, from the Father, and where He was going. He said He was going to a place where they could not come. He said He was from above, and unless they believed He is the “I am” they would die in their sins. The translators have added “he” to the “I am.” But “I AM” is the covenant name of God in the Old Testament (Ex. 3:14 cf. also John 8:28,58; 13:19; and 18:6). Who else but the great I Am could say, “If ye believe not that I Am, ye shall die in your sins?”
17. The Discourse on True Freedom
Reference: John 8:31-59
The last verse of the preceding section stated: “As he spake these things, many believed on him.” The first verse of this section states: “Jesus then said to those Jews which believed on him.” The A.V. has missed the distinction in the Greek. The latter statement should read: “The Jews which believed him.” There is a difference between believing on and simply believing. Within this group which believed Him were some which truly believed on Him. The following context brings out this fact. He told them if they continued in His word, they would be His disciples indeed. And as we continue, we see these very ones who believed Him arguing that they were Abraham’s seed and had never been in bondage to any one, although they had been in bondage to the four great world empires, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and now Rome. And finally Jesus has to tell them that instead of having Abraham as their father, the Devil is their father. (Refer back to our comments on John 2:23-25.)
Then the Jews called Him a demon-possessed Samaritan. When Jesus claimed that one who kept His saying would never see death, the Jews responded: “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham and all the prophets are dead. Are you greater than Abraham who is dead?” Jesus replied, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” “Why, you are not fifty years old and have you seen Abraham?” they responded. Then Jesus made another claim to Deity: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” By this time some of these who had previously believed Him took up stones to kill Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping through the multitude, and went out of the temple.
The freedom and bondage Jesus spoke about had no reference to political or physical conditions, but to sin and deliverance from it. Israel had been promised both political and spiritual freedom, but the spiritual had to be experienced first, and they are here rejecting it. The unsaved today boast to being free men, just as the Jews did, but Jesus says they are bondslaves. Only those who have been delivered from the guilt and power of sin are sons, and therefore free.
Universal Reconciliationists who teach that ultimately every created intelligence, including the Devil, will be reconciled to God, in reality make God to be the author of sin and therefore justice demands that He finally save everyone. They base this teaching partly on John 8:44, where Jesus stated that the Devil was a murderer “from the beginning.” They make this to mean that the Devil was created as a devil; that he was always a devil from the very beginning of creation.
But there is more than one beginning in the Bible. John 1:1 says that the Word was in existence at the beginning, and that beginning goes back before the first creative acts of God. There was a beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth. But the beginning of John 8:44 cannot be that earlier beginning, for the word “murderer” is actually in the original, “manslayer.” There could be no manslayer until there was a man to slay. Therefore the beginning from which the Devil was a manslayer was the beginning of the human race. This does not prove that Satan was not the Devil before he caused the human race to fall, but it does destroy the argument that the Devil was created as a Devil.
And besides, there are numerous passages which speak of the fall of Satan (Lk. 10:18; Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:15). The teaching of Jesus that these unbelieving Jews were of their father, the Devil, contradicts the liberal’s teaching of the universal Fatherhood of God. God is presented in the Bible as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as the Father of all who believe and have thereby been born again into the family of God.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)