The Meaning of Life – Part 1John 20:30-31 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 7, 2015 • JOHN - The Life and Light Revealed
The Meaning of Life, Part 1
6-7-15 John 20:30-31 Lesson 126
Good morning everyone; if we could take our Bibles and open them to John 20, as we’re going to be looking at verses 30 and 31 today. The title of this message is The Meaning of Life, Part 1. One of the things that’s sort of easy to do as we come up on summer is to kind of mentally check out; believe me, I know the temptation well, but I would encourage you to really think about taking advantage of our Sunday School classes this summer. You know, a lot of churches won’t touch Genesis and they won’t touch Revelation and we’re teaching both of them. Ed Alstead is teaching through the book of Genesis and beginning next week I’m going to be teaching the book of Revelation in one of our Sunday School classes. It will be me but it won’t be me, but it will be me because it’s a video serious that we did at the school that I teach at, where I try to present the book of Revelation in ten lessons. And each lesson only goes a half hour so it’s not going to tell you everything you want to know about the book of Revelation; you probably won’t get that explanation about the toenails on the beast and stuff like that. But it will give you a broad sweep of the book and after each session I’ll be there to take questions or discuss whatever you want to talk about. So that class is going on; Ed Alstead’s class is going on, thru Genesis.
Also there’s an opportunity, not this week but next week, to participate in the Chafer Theological Seminary Pastor’s Conference, which is for pastors and lay people, and it’s over at West Houston Bible Church, about twenty minutes from here, and it’s dealing with issues related to grace and dispensationalism. So I’m going to be doing two sessions there on the Middle East Meltdown; you might be shocked to learn that the Bible has a lot to say about what’s happening in the Middle East. And then I’m going to be doing a session there on what does it mean to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. There’s going to be a host of other speakers there as well, and if you can’t make it in person you might take advantage of their video streaming and all the tech savvy stuff that they have. The conference is free. So I just wanted to make you aware of that also. I think it’s June 17th , 18th and 19th . That’s a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Here we are in the section of John’s Gospel that deals with the resurrected Christ. We’ve seen the empty tomb and then what follows are Christ’s post resurrection appearances, His appearance to Mary Magdalene, His appearance to the ten, Thomas not included, and then His appearance to the eleven, this time Thomas is included. And what follows is verses 30-31 which, I think as Bruce indicated, we’ve heard many times, because I make reference to this verse constantly, or these verses, because I believe that they are a disclosure, if you will, of what John’s Gospel is all about. These verses are, in other words, a capsulation of the purpose statement of John.
Why did he write this book? We have an explanation of that in verses 30-31; it’s sort of tossed in there right after Thomas responds in faith to the resurrected Christ. And as I was looking at these verses I said Lord, you know, we’ve taught this many times, what do You want me to say? And the Lord said well, you think you understand it but you don’t, so I want you to study it out. And guess what? The Lord was right. I started looking at these verses and I started to see, I believe under the guidance of the Spirt through illumination, things that I’ve never seen before. So what I have prepared for this Sunday and next is sort of a clause by clause analysis of these verses. And if you can understand them you understand a lot of things. Number 1, why did John write this book? Number 2, how to gain the gift of life? And number 3, how to evangelize other people. It’s all revealed right here in these verses.
So notice, if you will, John 20:30, it says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;” you’ll notice the first word out of the gate there, that’s the word “Therefore.” Now in the Bible whenever you see the word “Therefore” you have to ask yourself, what is the word “Therefore” there for? In other words, the word “Therefore” is very significant because it connects what you’re studying with something that precedes it. And what has preceded the word “Therefore” is Jesus’ blessing on people that would believe, despite the fact that they had never seen.
You might remember what Jesus said in verse 29, “Jesus said to him,” that would be Thomas, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” So it’s a blessing, and that’s what that word “blessing” means, it’s makarios in the Greek, it means acceptable favor before God. If you’re blessed you have acceptable favor from God to you. And a blessing is pronounced on anybody who has believed in Jesus but without actually seeing Jesus. So those who believe on Jesus without physically seeing Him in the flesh are acceptable, or are blessed, or are favored of God.
Then verse 30 follows and it says, “Therefore.” And the reason the word “Therefore” is included is to show this is why John wrote His gospel. This gospel is written to enlighten everybody that did not have the evidence that Thomas had. Remember Thomas responded in faith after having only touched the injuries of Christ that were apparently still visible in His resurrected body. Thomas believed because he saw something; Thomas believed because he had evidence. Yet the vast majority of people that come to Christ by way of faith will not have the evidence that Thomas had. Jesus pronounces a blessing upon those that would come into a relationship with Him, without the evidence that Thomas had, by faith alone. The “therefore” leads to the purpose statement of the book, which is why John wrote this book.
Why did John write this book? To give people guidance on how to respond in faith to Christ when they are living two thousand years after these events happened; people that would not touch, have the opportunity to touch Christ’s body. What do you do with people like that, because the vast majority of people that come to Christ are converted, don’t have this evidence. Well, the book of John gives them the guidance that they need. Yes, it’s true, we may never, at least in this life, touch Christ the way Thomas did but there is still hope for all of us because a historical record of the life of Christ has been preserved.
And this historical record is given, or is brought forth to everybody living throughout the corridors of time that would not have the evidence that Thomas had. This historical record of the life of Christ captured in John’s Gospel gives us the guidance that we need to come into a relationship with God when Jesus has ascended already, 2,000 years earlier.
You’ll also notice the second clause here, which says this: “many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.” What John is saying is he didn’t include everything that Jesus said or did; not every single miracle that Jesus performed is found in this book. This is a selection, if you will, of the events surrounding the life of Jesus Christ.
In fact, if you go to the very last chapter of the book, chapter 21, you look at the very last verse in that chapter, as the book concludes, John 21:25, this is what it says: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” John is using hyperbole there but he’s saying look, if I told you everything Jesus said or did or performed the world itself could not even contain the volume of material that could be written.
People say well, we’ve been in John an awful long time; could you imagine how much longer we would be in John if we had a complete record of the life of Christ. And there are things about Jesus’ life that simply aren’t given in the Scripture. For example, what happened to Jesus between age 12 and age 30? Those are the so-called silent years and the reason they are called the silent years is because there is no biblical text that tells us what happened. All we know is in Luke 2:42 it says, “when He became the age of twelve, they went up there,” that would be Jerusalem, “according to the feast.” And then you go to Luke 3:23 and it says, “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age….”
Well, wait a minute, Luke, you just skipped about eighteen years there; what happened in the interim? And the answer to that is the Bible has not disclosed that to us. So when you are studying the life of Christ in this book you do not approach it as one would approach a biography. See, if you’re reading a biography on something and a key fact… let’s say you’re reading a biography about Abraham Lincoln and a key fact about Lincoln’s life is omitted, then we would say that biographer is not very good, he left out a key detail. The Bible, and particularly the Gospels, and particularly John’s Gospel, never claims to be an exhaustive biography. So we should not approach it with the standards that we would have of an ordinary biography. John is very clear here at the end of chapter 20 and also at the end of chapter 21 that there’s a lot of other things that have been left out deliberately by John as he was guided by the Holy Spirit.
It’s not John that’s selective, every book of the Bible that you study is highly selective. The author only surfaces information that is pertinent to his purpose in writing. The book of Genesis reads that way, the book of Exodus reads that way, the book of Numbers reads that way, right on through the Scripture, all the way to the book of Revelation. But we believe that the Holy Spirit was active in the writing process, through something I’ll explain in just a minute, called inspiration, where the Holy Spirit was highlighting to the writer, include this but leave this out; emphasize this but de-emphasize that, shaped around each writer’s each purpose in writing. John’s purpose is to get people to believe in Christ. So he doesn’t reveal things and information that doesn’t relate to that purpose. This is not an exhaustive, cumulative biography.
Now as we go into verse 31, notice what it says there in verse 31, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Now you’ll notice the reference to “these.” No, not everything Jesus said or did has been disclosed in this book, “but these” things have. Now what does “these” refer to? Well, “these” is modified by the word “signs” as given back in verse 30. The Greek word for sign there is semeion, what John has recorded for us is the signs and the miracles of Christ; not every miracle but he highlights seven miracles. And as we have been diligently studying John’s Gospel we have gone through each of these seven signs.
Every sign or miracle is not given but these seven are highlighted. The first sign is the changing of the water into wine at Cana of Galilee, John 2. Then came the healing of the nobleman’s son, John 4. Then came the healing of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda, John 5. Then came the feeding of the 5,000, John 6. Then came the walking on the water, John 6. Then came the healing of the blind man, John 9. And then the signs reached their zenith or their apex with the resurrection, or I should say the raising of Lazarus from the dead, John 11.
Interspersed throughout all of this material are Christ’s seven discourses. Not every discourse that Jesus gave is recorded in this book but seven are highlighted. The new birth discourse, John 3. The water of life discourse, John 4. The equality with the Father discourse, John 5. The bread of life discourse, John 6. The life giving Spirit discourse, John 7. The light of the world discourse, John 8. And finally the good shepherd teaching, John 10.
And woven throughout this material is Christ’s “I am” statements, where Jesus is claiming something for Himself. There are seven “I am” statements in this book; I am the bread of life, John 6. I am the light of the world, John 8. I am the gate for the sheep, John 10. I am the good shepherd, John 10. I am the resurrection and the life, John 11. I am the way, the truth and the life, John 14. I am the true vine, John 15.
And, of course, the ultimate sign, in addition to the seven signs, would be Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead. That is what is highlighted in the chapter we have been studying, John 20. And, in fact, when we get to John 21, maybe next week or the week after, we will see a final sign that Jesus performed. Sometimes this is referred to as his eighth sign, and it has to do with the miraculous catch of fish.
So you’ll notice that not everything that Jesus said or did or taught is recorded in John’s Gospel, but these seven signs, plus the resurrection, plus the final sign in John 21, are recorded, in addition to His seven discourses and His seven “I am” statements. And this is the type of thing that John is saying here in verse 30, “but these” things “have been written,” the “these” is a modification of the signs, the Greek word semeion, which occurs in the prior verse.
Now one of the things that’s very interesting also, as you take a look at verse 31, is this expression, “but these things have been written.” Notice again verse 31, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Notice this expression, “but these” things, these seven signs, seven discourses, and seven I am statements, “have been written.” Verse 30 talks about what has not been written, but verse 31 talks about what has been written.
And this brings up a very interesting subject; it’s how God has decided to communicate with humanity. The communication of God involves three things: number 1, revelation; number 2, inspiration, and number 3, illumination. Let’s briefly go through those one by one.
First you have revelation. The Greek word for revelation is apokálupsis, which means an unveiling or a disclosure. In other words, came to these writers of Scripture in some way and disclosed to them truth. John received his disclosure of truth by being an eye witness to the things of Christ during Christ’s little over three year ministry upon the earth. And then once that disclosure happens then another process kicks in called inspiration; inspiration is the process by which the biblical writers recorded the revelation they received, the disclosure they received. And as they wrote the pages of God’s Word in the original Greek manuscripts we call that a process called inspiration. And we believe that the Holy Spirit was active, not just in disclosing truth but actually guiding the writing process. And one of the things that’s very interesting to note is as the Holy Spirit guided these writers of Scripture He never overrode their personalities, and their temperaments and their styles and their life experiences and their giftedness.
For example, Luke talks more about the prenatal activities of Jesus and John the Baptist than any other Gospel writer. And we say well, why is that? Well, that would be an area of interest to Luke because Luke was a what? A physician. Luke talks about how when Judas killed himself his body fell down a cliff, Acts 1, and the cliff, or the rocks, tore open his corpse, and Acts 1 says his intestines gushed out. I read that and I say well, that’s a little bit more information than what I need; I mean, he could have just told me he killed himself; why did he have to tell me his intestines gushed out? Well, Luke is a doctor and his personality would bring out that kind of thing.
Matthew talks more about financial issues than any other Gospel writer. For example, the story of Jesus and Peter going fishing and they grab from the water there a fish that has a coin in its mouth and Jesus says to Peter, you’ve got to pay the temple tax. (I wish I could pay my taxes that way.) But Matthew is the only Gospel writer that talks about that. Now why is that? Because Matthew is a tax collector; that’s why, and financial issues are always of interest to him. Matthew talks about the parable of the talents. What is a talent? A talent, biblically, is a monetary denomination. Only Matthew records that because he is a tax man and had a financial mind.
Or you take this apostle, Peter; you know Peter talks more about the flood in his two epistles than any other Gospel or Biblical writer, other than Genesis. Why is Peter so focused on the flood? Why is he so focused on water? Well, it fits his style and his temperament and his background given his vocation as a fisherman.
So we believe that when these men wrote the pages of God’s Word through inspiration it wasn’t the type of thing where God just assumed control of them because God ultimately is the author of their personalities as well, isn’t He? So He used them in a significant way, a special way, using their styles, gifts, temperaments, life experiences but in the process of inspiration what happened in the original manuscripts is the exact Word of God was recorded for us.
And this is why Paul writes to Timothy and he says, “All Scripture is inspired by God,” [2 Timothy 3:16], so when we’re reading this book we are not reading an opinion column; we are not reading the editorial section of the newspaper, we are not reading personal commentary, we are reading God’s Word to man, first through revelation and then secondly through inspiration.
Peter talks, just for a moment, on this topic of inspiration and in 2 Peter 1:20-21 it says this: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own private interpretation,” in other words, when these writers wrote they weren’t giving their own private interpretation of things, they were writing as the Holy Spirit directed them. Peter says,  “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men were moved by the Holy Spirit and they spoke from God.” The word “moved” there in 2 Peter 1:21 is the Greek word phero; phero is used in Acts 27:15 and verse 17 of wind that was filling the sails of a boat and consequently the boat was being propelled. [Acts 17:15, “and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.  “…and fearing that they might run aground … they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driving along.”]
Peter uses that exact same word to describe the propelling of a boat to how the writers of Scripture recorded God’s truth. In other words, in the same way the Holy Spirit came upon these individuals and they ended up as the Holy Spirit respected who they were and their gifts and styles and temperaments, but they ended up recording the message of God to lost man. And so consequently when it says, “but these things have been written,” verse 31, it’s talking there about the process of inspiration.
And then the communication process doesn’t stop there because the Holy Spirit is given to us through something called illumination. Illumination has nothing to do with new books of the Bible being written; there are no new books of the Bible being written. Why? Because all of the eye-witnesses to the things of Christ are dead, however, the Holy Spirit is active in the year 2015. He is active, God willing, I’ve been praying for this today, what’s the date today, June 7, 2015 in Sugar Land, Texas, at Sugar Land Bible Church, helping us understand God’s truth. 1 John 2:27 says, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you,” and then later in the verse he says, “but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” In other words, there’s another process at work whereby the Holy Spirit helps us, as Bible readers, 2,000 years after the fact, to understand what the Bible says.
Now one of the things to understand about God and this process of illumination is that He uses the laws of language to communicate His truth. God revealed His truth in language and because it was written in language the laws of language govern, such as syntax, grammar, (I’ll be making some grammatical points a little bit later), context, and so the Holy Spirit as we master those laws of language will not override those laws of language but as we master these laws of language, sometimes called hermeneutics, which means interpretation, or the principles of interpretation, sometimes called Bible study methods, as we master those and understand God’s Word then all of a sudden the Spirit of God, as we are open to Him, starts to bring to our awareness in our minds what this book says, and what it means.
So therefore John says, “but these things have been written,” number 1, revelation, the disclosure; number 2, inspiration, the process in how it was written down, and number 3, illumination, the Holy Spirit helping us understand what was written 2,000 years after the fact.
Now notice also this expression here, “so that.” Again, verse 31 says, “but these things have been written so that you may,” and it gives a purpose. In other words, the “so that” reveals a result that we are to experience as a result of reading this book with an open heart and an honest mind. This book, the way it is recorded, will reveal or do that work in our lives if we allow it. In other words, the data contained in this book will produce this result.
You say well, wait a minute, how could a book like this produce that result when there are gaps in it? I mean, I’d like to know everything Jesus did from age 12 to age 30. But the answer to that is in God and in His providence He did not see fit to give us that data, but the data that we do have is sufficient or is enough to produce the result in us that God wants to create. What I’m trying to simply say is the Scripture is enough to produce the result that God would have it do in our lives. And we call this doctrine the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Scripture. The sufficiency of the Scripture is this idea that yes, the Scripture sometimes to tantalize our curiosity we would like it to say more things. But we need not obsess about that, we need not be disappointed about that because the limited data that it has given us is enough or is sufficient to produce the result in us that God wants to create…the sufficiency of the Scripture.
And this is one of the great teachings, as given by the Apostle Paul at the very end of his life to this young man, Timothy, who was struggling in the ministry. And Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequately equipped for” how many good works? I’ve got it underlined there, “every good work.” What does “every” mean? “Every” means “every!” What this is saying is what is contained in the Scripture through the process of revelation and inspiration, although it doesn’t reveal everything we would like by way of curiosity, what it does reveal is enough to equip us, not for 95% of good works, not for 55% of good works, not for 75% of good works, but “for every good work.”
If you want to be thoroughly equipped by God to live a life for Him in your sphere of influence in the year 2015, if you want to be the family man God has called you to be, if you want to be the husband God has called you to be, if you want to be the wife God has called you to be, if you want to be the children God has called you to be, then the data in this book is sufficient to equip you for the task. Do you want to have a ministry that is approved by God? Then the data contained in this book is sufficient to accomplish the task.
One of the things that we were talking about in the pastor’s coffee this morning is this idea that the Bible talks more about money and finances than any other single subject. I was somewhat shocked to learn that when I discovered that. The Bible talks more about money than it does heaven or even hell. Do you want to have the equipping of God to handle money and finances the way God would have you handle those things? The sufficiency of the Scripture will equip you for that task.
And so we hold to a high view here of not just the inerrancy of the Bible, meaning it doesn’t have any mistakes in it, not just the inspiration of the Bible, but the sufficiency of the Bible. In other words, the Bible is enough. Does it reveal everything that we would want? No it doesn’t but it’s enough for God to do in your life what He wants to do, if we will simply take this off the coffee table, brush off the dust and give ourselves to a study of this book.
Peter talks about this concept of the sufficiency of the Scripture in 2 Peter 1:3-4. Peter writes, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything,” not some things, “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence,  For by these he has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” I’ve just got two words underlined here, notice the word “promises,” promises are the written disclosure of God as found in the Scripture. And notice what those promises will do for us? They will grant us “everything.”
“Everything,” I’ve seen that before… there it is, 2 Timothy 3:17, “every good work.” [“so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”] Here is the same concept, “everything pertaining to life and to godliness.” Everything you need to mature the way you’re supposed to mature is found in the Scripture. Everything you need to become what God has called you to become is found in the Scripture. And how tragic it is to put the Scripture aside, given these claims that it’s making, and turn to other sources of knowledge that we think we need to use to supplement the Word of God.
I wish the Bible said more about a lot of things but at the end of the day I don’t have to worry because what it has revealed is enough. Don’t be focused on what is not here; focus, rather on what IS here, because what is here is sufficient, or what is here is enough. You know, it’s interesting that when that movie, The Da Vinci Code came out the great focus of people is the silent years of Christ. I mean, what do we know about Him from age 12 to age 30? The Bible doesn’t say so let’s go into the Gospel of Thomas, which was written, by the way, long after the apostles died, not by the real Thomas, someone faking the name Thomas; let’s go into the Gospel of Thomas or some other source to figure it out.
And there’s this obsession in people to discover things that the Bible has not spoken on. And I look at something like that and I said this is a total waste of time; I don’t really care… I wouldn’t say I don’t care, I wouldn’t say I’m not curious, but it’s just not a priority in my life to figure out what happened to Jesus between age 12 and age 30 because the Bible hasn’t seen fit to disclose that.
What it has given me, though, is enough. What it has given me is sufficient! It is so easy to obsess about what the Bible does not say when, if you want to obsess about something let’s figure out what it does say. Many people are interested in some sort of private disclosure from God, some kind of voice, some kind of vision, some kind of dream, some kind of lost book. And those things, you know, may have their place at times. However, those are not my focus; my focus is what does this book say because the fact of the matter is the Bible is a closed book to a lot of people. All of these people out looking for some other source of knowledge, if you quiz them on what the Bible actually says many of them come up empty.
Don’t be focused on what is not here; focus on what is here. And after we have mastered everything in this book then we can say okay, I’m ready for another source of knowledge. May I suggest to you that you will never exhaust what is in this book. You will to through your whole lifetime as a devout and diligent Christian trying to understand this book and you will have but a thimble full of all of the data and all of the knowledge that it contains. So this is a tremendous doctrine called the sufficiency of the Word of God; what is in the Word of God is sufficient to produce a result.
Now, the question becomes what result? What is God trying to produce? Well, every book of the Bible has a different result or purpose. John’s purpose is very clearly stated in verse 31 through the word “believe.” “…but these things” that would be the seven signs, “have been written so that you may believe,” in other words, yes, there’s gaps but what is revealed is sufficient or is enough to produce the results as to why God gave this book in the first place that we might “believe.” What is here is enough to inculcate faith in those who did not have the privilege that Thomas had 2,000 years ago of touching the resurrected body of Jesus Christ.
And we have made much of this word “believe.” I want to quote to you from a dictionary; it’s called Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. I quote this just to show you that I haven’t been making this stuff up the whole time. I looked up the word “believe” in this dictionary, which is the Greek word pisteuō, and this is what it says: “to believe,” also “to be persuaded of,” and hence, “to place confidence in, to trust,” which “signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence. It is most frequent in the writings of the apostle John, especially the Gospel. He does not use the noun,” now the noun is pistis, he does not use that but he uses the verb pisteuō, “…Of the writers of the Gospel” John uses this word ninety-nine times.
What are we supposed to get out of this book? We are supposed to come by studying the seven signs of Christ, the seven discourses of Christ, the seven I Am statements, by studying the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead, and by studying in John 21 His final miracle of the miraculous catch of fish, what are we supposed to get out of it? We’re supposed to understand through all of this exactly who Jesus is, so that we might believe on Him; in other words, be persuaded of His identity. And consequently as we believe what are we doing? We’re having confidence in Him. We’re trusting Him; we are relying upon Him for our salvation and the safekeeping or our souls.
And John is so interested in getting us to do this that he uses the Greek word pisteuō 99 times. What is the word “believe?” It is the single condition that a human being must exercise in order to enter into a relationship with God. It is used 160 times in the New Testament, total; 99 times in John’s Gospel. The Protestant Reformers called this sola fide, those are Latin words, sola means alone, or by itself, fide means faith; how do you enter into a relationship with God? By faith in Christ by itself—end of story!
Religion, by contrast, is always adding something to faith. Do you want to be right with God? Okay, God did 90%, you kick in 10%. What ten do I have to do? Well, it depends upon what religion you’re in. You’ve got to pay, pray and obey; you do those three things and do your 10% then you’re in because God has done His 90%. Such a teaching is an abominable false doctrine. In fact, believing that will send you into hell itself because the Scripture is saying we receive, what we receive from God by way of faith as a free gift and that’s the only way we can receive it. Grace, on the other hand, says Jesus did 100%. Did he not say that in His final words on the cross? “It is finished!” He didn’t say it’s about 99% done. “It is finished!” Salvation by grace occurs when we simply receive that by faith as a free gift; we call this sola fide.
At Sugar Land Bible Church, therefore, we seek not to frontload the gospel. What is an example of frontloading the gospel? It is putting some other conditions with faith to gain right standing before God. We also seek not to backload the gospel. What is back loading the gospel? Back loading the gospel is the idea that yes, you’re saved by faith BUT (whenever somebody says “but” you get nervous), yes, you’re saved by faith BUT you’d better have fruit, and if you don’t have fruit maybe you weren’t saved. That is classic back loading the gospel.
You do not find in this statement, you don’t find it in John’s Gospel, any front loading of the gospel, nor do you find any back loading of the gospel. I mean, it is simply as clear as it can possibly be when it says, “but these have been written so that you might believe,” end of discussion, end of story! Nothing to do prior, nothing to do after!
Now when I start talking like this people will get really nervous. Well, what about the holy life? What about evangelism? What about service? Those things are a response to what Jesus did for you by way of worship or gratitude. I do not serve God because I’m trying to somehow front load or back load a simple salvation formula. I serve God because I can’t believe I’ve received this gift, and since that is true, what else can I do other than give my mind to Him, give my talents to Him, give my service to Him. They, in and of themselves, contribute nothing to my salvation but they are a proper and heartfelt response to what Jesus has done, but they are NOT requirements in terms of how to enter into a relationship with God.
So there is more to this book than simply giving us academic information. The book is designed to reveal to us enough truth so that we can respond in faith and consequently experience the gift of life and enter into a relationship with God.
John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion writes this: “The very assent itself is more of the heart than of the brain, more of the disposition than of the understanding.” In other words, if this were just an academic textbook that’s designed to fill our heads with information, then that would be enough. But you see, this book is designed to give us data but the ultimate purpose in it is to inculcate or create an environment whereby a lost person can exercise faith or trust or reliance or confidence in Jesus Christ for their eternal destiny and the safe keeping of their soul. You can learn all kinds of information about Jesus that’s fascinating but that’s not why John wrote the book under God’s guidance. Yes, he wrote information and data about Christ but the end game is not information. The end game is faith.
Now one of the things that is very interesting here is the way the New American Standard Bible translates this in verse 31, “but these things have been written so that you may believe,” so that you might believe. Now why is that word “pisteuō translated “may believe” or “might believe”? The answer is the verb “believe” is in the Greek in the subjunctive mood. You say well, what’s the difference? Plenty… plenty! The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility, not the mood of certainty.
What is John saying, therefore, by putting this Greek verb, pisteuō, in Greek into the subjunctive mood? His point is perhaps you’ll believe, or perhaps you won’t. Why does he say it that way? Because the choice is yours; the choice is based on human volition. You have to respond as an act of your free will by faith to what Jesus has done. Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, will not, WILL NOT, WILL NOT force Himself on any person. Why is that? Because we are image-bearers of God. An image-bearer of God means that we share in some of His attributes; not all of them, but some. And one of the things God is, is he is free, He has freedom of choice; because we are made in the image of God we have a choice in the matter. If we were created not to have a choice, then God could have just torn out of the Garden of Eden the tree of knowledge.
Did you ever ask yourself that question? Why is that dumb tree in there anyway? That tree is what got us all into trouble. The tree of knowledge had to be there; if the tree of knowledge was not there then God would not be respecting how we are designed as image-bearers. If you are an image-bearer of God you have to have the avenue of rebellion should you choose to pursue that route. If you don’t even have the opportunity then you are nothing but a puppet on a string, a programmed robot. And this is why the word pisteuō is in this subjunctive mood. It is the mood of possibility.
Now to be sure, God, through the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, John 16, convicts us of our need to respond. There is no doubt in my mind that there is an enablement of God. We studied that very clearly in John 16:7-11. However, that enablement will not override your final decision. And this is one of the problems that I have with this idea that faith is a gift. There is this view that God believes for you, whether you like it or not, and you wake up one day and you have faith and you’re regenerated. I do not find any evidence of that in John’s Gospel. What I see is the Spirit placing people under conviction and creating the right circumstances so that faith can manifest itself but the ultimate manifestation of faith is with enablement and conviction an act of will. If it wasn’t that way we would not be who we are, would we, as image bearers of God? God is not going to coerce, He is not going to bully. He’s not going to force Himself on any particular individual.
Remember what it says in the days of Noah, just prior to the flood? It says, “My Spirit will not” what? “strive with man forever, for his days are mortal, his days are one hundred and twenty years.” [Genesis 6:3, “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’”]
What is God doing in the days of Noah? He is striving with man, very similar to what He is doing now; He is convicting man, He is wooing man. But eventually that generation went so far in its rejection of God that they would not submit to this striving and convicting process, and God said that’s enough. If you don’t want Me I will not force Myself onto you; and after 120 years of striving the flood waters came.
What is God doing today? He is striving with man and yet there are so many people that are closed to God, and we presume upon the grace of God and we think that this striving of man that the Spirit is doing will just continue on and on and although there is a day of opportunity today, we should not presume that that opportunity lasts forever.
Notice also one more expression and with this we are finished; I’m not going to finish the whole verse today. It says, “that you might believe in” what? What are we supposed to believe in? “…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;” faith or trust or reliance in what? You see, faith is only as good as the object that it is placed in. You can believe in all kinds of things; you can believe in the tooth fairy, you can believe in Santa Claus, you can believe in the stock market predictions, you can believe the promises that the economy is turning around. You can believe all kinds of things, but you see, those elements of faith don’t save anybody. What saves is the right object that this faith is placed in.
And John says here’s what you need to do; you need to place your faith in Jesus, and He gives there the identity of Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? “…that Jesus is the Christ,” what does that word “Christ” mean? A lot of people think Christ is His last name. Christ is not Jesus’ last name; Christ is His title. What does that title mean? Christos in the Greek, Messiah, Mashiach, the Anointed One, the One that the whole nation of Israel had been waiting for.
John 1:49 says this: “Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” See, he believed in Jesus as the Christ. Beyond this we not only believe that Jesus is the Christ, we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Again notice what it says, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” we don’t believe simply He’s the Christ, the Anointed one, the Messiah, we also believe that He is the Son of God. What does that mean? The eternally existent Second Member of the Trinity. As the eternally existent Second Member of the Trinity He shares in the same essence of deity with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. The Son is full deity, as is the Father; the Son is full deity as is the Holy Spirit. However, in the mystery of the Trinity the Son, just like the Father, and the Holy Spirit, maintain their unique personage. The Son is fully God and shares in that essence with God the Father; however, He remains uniquely the Son. He will always be the Son, He has always been the Son, He remains the Son in His uniqueness. That is the unique role that belongs to Him; it is something that is eternally existent.
However, that doesn’t mean He’s less significant; it doesn’t mean He’s less important. Certainly He plays a different role, but He shares in the same essence of deity with God the Father. In other words, when we respond in faith to Christ our faith has to be placed in the right object. There’s more to saving faith than simply believing that Jesus is a miracle worker. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, not if but when they come to your house, will try to convince you that Jesus is a created being; have faith in that Jesus. May I just say to you, that’s the wrong Jesus. That’s not the Jesus to have faith in. You have faith in Jesus, the eternally existent Second Member of the Trinity. He’s more than just a miracle worker; He’s more than a created being. He’s certainly more, as the book of Hebrews tells us, higher and greater than an angel. He’s certainly more than Michael, the archangel. He’s higher than all of those things because He is the eternally existent Second Member of the Trinity.
There never was a time in which He was not; He has always been, He will always be. We exercise faith in that presentation of Jesus Christ. We have faith in that Jesus Christ, because only that Jesus Christ has the power to fulfill His promise of giving us eternal life. Who you are trusting in has to have the ability, does He not? And the power to do what He is promising to do in your life. What is Jesus promising to do? He is promising to safeguard your soul throughout all eternity; He has promised to usher you into a relationship with Himself and God the Father. He has promised that once you do this the Spirit of God takes residence in your heart.
Those are pretty lofty promises, aren’t they? So therefore the Being giving us these promises has to have the capacity or the ability to pull it off and there’s only one Being that can do this—Jesus Christ, the eternally existent Second Member of the Triune Godhead. It’s astonishing the things we learn, isn’t it, from this verse, or verses that look so familiar to us. But you get into the particulars and you really begin to see the heart of John and the heart of evangelism.
It’s possible that someone could be here today that has never really entered into this relationship with God, that may think that we are talking a foreign language, never heard teachings like this. The reason you think we’re talking a foreign language is the Holy Spirit is not in you explaining these things to you. What the Spirit of God is doing is convicting you; He’s making you uncomfortable of your need to respond. You know, being uncomfortable is not always a bad thing, is it? If your hand is on the stove and the stove is on the pain signals, although sharp, will tell you to move your hand, and if you move your hand your hand will not be destroyed on a hot stove. Yes, I don’t like pain but my goodness, I certainly need it, don’t I, or my body would be a complete wreck.
The conviction of the Holy Spirit can be a painful thing, yet God loves us so much that He makes us uncomfortable. The Spirit of God no doubt is here making some of you uncomfortable; the reason He is making you uncomfortable is because He wants to have a relationship with you, which can happen no other way than through the shed blood of His Son. And as the Spirit of God places you under conviction our exhortation to you at Sugar Land Bible Church is to respond the way John in this book, in these verses, has told us to respond, which is to trust, to rely, to depend upon, to be persuaded of, to have confidence in. Switch your allegiance away from yourself and your denomination and your good works and your desire to do better and all these other things and switch that allegiance exclusively into the promises of Jesus Christ. It is not something you have to walk an aisle to do, raise a hand to do, fill out a card to do, give money to do, obligate yourself to join the church to do. Those things are nice in and of themselves but they have no saving nor salvific value.
The only thing which saves you is trusting only in Christ and that’s between you and the Lord in a moment of privacy through a heartfelt response to Him. You may not understand all the particulars but in the best way you know how to respond by faith or confidence or reliance or trust in Jesus Christ. Trust Him and Him alone for your eternal destiny and the safekeeping of your soul. You can do it right now, even as I am talking, in a moment of privacy. If it’s something that you need more explanation on then I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.