JESUS THE ONE AND ONLY
Week of October 24, 2010
Bible Verses:† John 3:16-18; 14:6-11; 1 Timothy 2:3-6.
Lesson Focus:† This lesson is about the biblical claim that Jesus is the one and only way to God.
One Son: John 3:16-18.
† "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.† [ESV]
[16-18]† It is a distinctively Christian idea that Godís love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite. It is a love which proceeds from the fact that He is love. It is His nature to love. He loves men because He is the kind of God He is. John tells us that His love is shown in the gift of His Son. In typical Johannine fashion gave is used in two senses. God gave the Son by sending Him into the world, but God also gave the Son on the cross. Notice that the cross is not said to show us the love of the Son (as in Gal. 2:20), but that of the Father. The atonement proceeds from the loving heart of God. It is not something wrung from Him. His love is not a vaguely sentimental feeling, but a love that costs. God gave what was most dear to Him. Jesus is Godís only Son (or only begotten) which points to His uniqueness. No other is or can be the Son of God as He is. The unique character of the relationship between the Father and the Son is one of the great themes of Johnís Gospel. To believe in him means to trust who He is; to commit ourselves to Him. The death of the Son is viewed first of all in its revelatory aspect. It shows us the love of the Father. Then its purpose is brought out, both positively and negatively. Those who believe in Him do not perish. Neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament is the dreadful reality behind this word perish brought out. But in all its parts there is the recognition that there is such a reality awaiting the finally impenitent. Believers are rescued from this only by the death of the Son. Because of this they have eternal life. John sets perishing and life starkly over against one another. He knows no other final state. Now John uses the thought of judgment or condemnation to bring out Godís loving purpose, and once again he employs the device of following a negative statement with the corresponding positive. God did not send the Son into the world, he tells us, in order to judge it. Elsewhere, however, he tells us that Jesus did come into the world for judgment [9:39]. The resolution of this apparent paradox demands that we see salvation as necessarily implying judgment. These are the two sides to the one coin. The very fact of salvation for all who believe implies judgment on all who do not. This is a solemn reality and John does not want us to escape it. Judgment is a recognized theme in Jewish thought at this time, but it is the judgment of God, and it is thought of as taking place at the last day. John modifies both these thoughts. He does, it is true, speak of judging sometimes in much the normal Jewish way [8:50]. But it is quite another matter when he says that God has committed all judgment to Christ [5:22,27]. He goes on to speak of Christ as judging [5:30; 8:16,26] or not judging [12:47], and of His word as judging men [12:48]. His judgment is just [5:30] and it is true [8:16]. How men fare in the judgment depends on their relation to Him [5:24; 3:19]. As the cross looms large Jesus can even speak of the world as judged [12:31] and of Satan likewise as judged [12:31; 16:11]. Clearly John sees the whole traditional doctrine of judgment as radically modified in the light of the Incarnation. The life, and especially the death of Jesus have their effects on the judgment. So far we have referred to future judgment, the judgment of the last day. But this is not all of Johnís teaching. He sees judgment also as a present reality in verse 18. What men are doing now determines what will happen when they stand before Christ on judgment day. All this has obvious Christological implications. Clearly John has a high view of Jesusí Person. His teaching on judgment is yet another way in which he brings out the messiahship of Jesus, his great central aim. The purpose of Christís coming was not to judge or condemn the world but rather that the world might be saved through him. So John brings out this positive corresponding to the negative at the beginning of the verse. Salvation was central to the mission of Jesus. It is worth noticing that in verse 17 we have another example of Johnís habit of giving emphasis to certain words by the simple device of repetition. He uses world three times in this verse. John proceeds in verse 18 to bring out the importance of faith. He has said that Christ died for men. But that does not automatically bring salvation. No man is saved unless he believes. The person who exercises faith is not condemned. For him judgment is not to be feared. But the person who does not believe (persistence in unbelief is meant) does not have to wait until Judgment Day. He is condemned already. His unbelief has shut him up to condemnation because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. Here in this verse the emphasis is on the verb believe which is repeated three times. The coming of Jesus divides men into the saved and the condemned. This verse is of the utmost importance for the understanding of the apparent paradox that Jesus both came to judge and did not come to judge. His coming gives men the opportunity of salvation and challenges them to a decision. To refuse His good gift is to be condemned, thus bringing judgment upon oneself.
One Way:† John 14:6-11.
† Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. † If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." † Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." † Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? † Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. † Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.† [ESV]
[6-7]† Jesus now introduces a somewhat different topic. He has been talking about leaving the disciples and it is with this that Thomas has been concerned. But Jesus is to go to the Father and He now speaks of the way to God. Jesus not only shows people the way (by revealing it), but He is the way. The truth in this connection will have saving significance. It will point to Jesusí utter dependability, but also to the saving truth of the gospel. The life will likewise take its content from the gospel. Jesus is both life, and the source of life to mankind. All this is followed by the explicit statement that no man comes to the Father other than through Christ. The triple expression (way, truth, life) emphasizes the many-sidedness of the saving work. Way speaks of a connection between two, the link between God and man. Truth reminds us of the complete reliability of Jesus in all that He does and is. And life stresses the† fact that mere physical existence matters little. The only life worthy of the name is that which Jesus brings, for He is life itself. Jesus is asserting in strong terms the uniqueness and the sufficiency of His work for man. We should not overlook the faith involved both in the utterance and in the acceptance of those words, spoken as they were on the eve of the crucifixion. The conditional construction in verse 7 implies that the disciples have not really known Christ and accordingly that they have not known the Father. In a sense, of course, they had known Jesus. They had known Him well enough to leave their homes and friends and livelihood to follow Him wherever He went. But they did not know Him in His full significance. Really to know Him is to know His Father. Up till now all has been preparation. They have not really come to the full knowledge of Jesus and His significance. But from now on it is to be different. Now they know Him and they have seen Him. This knowing and seeing is to be understood in terms of John 1:18: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Fatherís side, he has made him known. God cannot be seen in the literal sense. But to know Jesus fully is to see the heavenly Father. As a result of what He has done His followers really know God. It is a revolution both in religious experience and in theological understanding.
[8-11]† A question from Philip opens the way for some teaching on the intimate relation existing between Jesus and the Father. The two are so closely connected that anyone who has seen the Son has seen the Father. This has consequences for the prayer life of the disciples and Jesus proceeds to bring out some of them. Philip is attracted by the words about seeing the Father. It seems to him that really to see the Father might well be the end of many a difficulty. So he asks Jesus to show them the Father. He is apparently looking for a theophany such as we find from time to time in the Old Testament. Jesusí reply is a gentle rebuke. Philip has not really known Jesus as he should have since he had been with Jesus so long. Thus Philipís question reveals the limitations of his knowledge. Jesusí explanation is staggering in its simplicity and its profundity. To see Jesus is to see the Father. This means that Jesus is the revelation of the Father. In John 1:18 Jesus is said to have declared the Father. If anything this statement here by Jesus goes further. It is difficult to interpret it without seeing the Father and the Son as in some sense one. These are words which no mere man has a right to use. Philip, being one of the apostolic band, one of Jesusí intimates, might have been expected to know better. Now comes a statement in verse 10 about the mutual interpenetration of the Father and the Son. Each is in the other, and this is put as something that Philip might have been expected to believe. The question do you not believe looks for the answer Ďyesí. Apparently it was Jesusí teaching that should have brought this home to Philip, for He goes on immediately to speak of His words. These are not merely of human origin. Jesus says I do not speak on my own authority. Then, when we expect something like, ďbut the Father who dwells in me speaks the words,Ē we have instead the Father who dwells in me does his works. Throughout this Gospel the deeds are signs, and the words are God in action. The words and the deeds of Jesus are alike a revelation of God. Alike they proceed from the Father and reveal what the Father is like. Notice that though from a human point of view Jesus does them they are said to be done by the Father and they are called His works. Believe me that in verse 11 should be noted. While it is true that the New Testament looks for a vital faith in a living person, it is also true that this is not a blind faith. Faith has an intellectual content. So here Jesus calls on Philip and the others to believe Him, not only to believe in Him. Faith includes a recognition that what Jesus says is true. Belief that there is a mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son is part of the faith whereby a man commits himself to Christ. If there is no such indwelling there can scarcely be full commitment. The latter part of verse 11 draws attention to the miracles. As elsewhere in this Gospel, faith on the basis of miracles is regarded as better than no faith at all. In John the characteristic of the miracles is not that they are wonders, nor that they show mighty power, but that they are signs. For those who have eyes to see they point men to God. Notice also that the miracles are spoken of here as works. What for us is a miracle is for Him nothing more than a normal work.
One Mediator:† 1 Timothy 2:3-6.
† This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, † who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. † For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, † who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.† [ESV]
The reason the church should reach out and embrace all people in its prayers is that this is the compass of Godís desire. The truth is that God loves the whole world, desires all people to be saved, and so commands us to preach the gospel to all the nations and to pray for their conversion. The universality of the gospel invitation rests on a double foundation, namely the two truths that there is only one God and only one mediator. The fundamental contrast in verses 4 and 5 is between the all people God wants to be saved and the one God who desires that they should be. The reason He wants all to be saved is that He is the one God, and there is no other. Our exclusive faith (there is one God, and no other) leads necessarily to our inclusive mission (the one God wants all men to be saved). In verse 5 Paul moves on from the one God, who desires all people to be saved, to the one mediator between God and human beings, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people. The question may be asked: why should not the one God, who wants all people to be saved, save them in different ways, some through Hinduism and Buddhism, others through Judaism or Islam, and yet others through New Age and other contemporary cults? Why should He insist that all people be saved in the save way and come to a knowledge of the (same) truth? Paulís answer it that there is not only one Savior God, but also one mediator between Him and us, and therefore only one way of salvation. A mediator is an intermediary, the person in the middle, who effects a reconciliation between two rival parties. So where does Christís uniqueness lie, that we dare say He has no competitors and no successors? His unique qualifications as mediator are to be found in His person and work, in who He is and what He has done. First, the person of Jesus is unique. He is the man Christ Jesus . Of course He is also God. An intermediary must be able to represent both sides equally. Only Jesus Christ is both God and man, and therefore able to mediate between us. He is God from the beginning, deriving His divine being from His Father eternally, and He became human in the womb born of His mother Mary, deriving His human being from her in time. Thus the New Testament bears witness to Him as the unique God-man. Secondly, the work of Jesus is unique, in particular what He did when He died on the cross. He gave himself as a ransom for all . His death is portrayed as both a sacrifice and a ransom. He gave himself means He sacrificed Himself, offering Himself deliberately and voluntarily as a sacrifice for sin. The phraseology goes back to Isaiah 53:12, where the suffering servant is said to have poured out his soul to death. Moreover, He gave himself as a ransom [see Mark 10:45]. A ransom was the price paid for the release of slaves or captives. The word implies that we were in bondage to sin and judgment, unable to save ourselves, and that the price paid for our deliverance was the death of Christ in our place. Here, then, is the double uniqueness of Jesus Christ, which qualifies Him to be the only mediator. First there is the uniqueness of His divine-human person, and secondly the uniqueness of His substitutionary, redeeming death. The one mediator is the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom. We must keep these three nouns together, the man, the ransom and the mediator. Historically, they refer to the three major events in His saving career, His birth by which He became man, His death in which He gave Himself as a ransom, and His exaltation to the Fatherís right hand, where He acts as our mediator or advocate today. Theologically, they refer to the three great doctrines of salvation, namely the incarnation, the atonement and the heavenly mediation. And since in no other person but Jesus of Nazareth has God first become man (taking our humanity to Himself) and then given Himself as a ransom (taking our sin and guilt upon Himself), therefore He is the only mediator. There is no other. No one else possesses, or has ever possessed, the necessary qualifications to mediate between God and sinners.
Questions for Discussion:
1.†††††††† What do we learn about the nature of Godís love in John 3:16-18? Why does Godís love include condemnation for those who reject His gift? †
2.†††††††† John 14:6 is one of the most objectionable verses to our pluralistic culture. The world teaches that there are many spiritual truths and many ways to God. They do this in order to avoid the implications of the absolute claims found in this verse. What is Jesus teaching in John 14:6-11? How can we best communicate His teaching to the unbelieving world in which we live? [Emphasize that the most important thing we can do is be fully committed to the truthfulness of Jesusí claims ourselves. This is one purpose of Jesus conversation with Philip. If we are not committed ourselves to Jesus being the only way to the Father, then we are not going to be able to tell others about this one way.]
3.†††††††† What qualifies Jesus to be the one mediator between God and men?
John, Andreas Kostenberger, Baker Academic.
The Gospel According to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.
1,2 Timothy, Thomas Lea, NAC, Broadman.
The Message of 1 Timothy, John Stott, Intervarsity Press.