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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Oneness of God

John 14

Lesson audio

The reader will note a different treatment in our series on the Gospel of John, and the previous series on the life of Christ. This is a very rich passage.

Joh 14:1-31 NASB "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (3) "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (4) "And you know the way where I am going." (5) Thomas *said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" (6) Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (7) "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." (8) Philip *said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." (9) Jesus *said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (10) "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 initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. (11) "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. (12) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. (13) "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (15) "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (16) "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; (17) that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (18) "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (19) "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. (20) "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (21) "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." (22) Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?" (23) Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (24) "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me. (25) "These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. (26) "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (27) "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (28) "You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. (29) "Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. (30) "I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; (31) but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

In My Father’s House

Problems

It is fashionable today to deny the truth that only those who are real Christians will make it to heaven. God, we are assured, could not possibly be so much a stickler – after all, we’re not, right? And He is made in our image, right? Well, wrong! But let us take the issue as it is presented. There are three common forms of the argument:

  • What about the pygmy in Africa? The person who has never even heard of Christ should be given a shot at heaven, right? That’s only fair; they’ve earned it as much as we have. Which is true; they have earned it as much as we have – which is to say not at all. It’s grace, not brownie points.
  • What about the sincere religious person of another faith, the devout Jew or the devout Moslem? For that matter, the devout Hindu or Buddhist? Surely it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere? After all, the Scripture tells us that “all Israel shall be saved.”[1]
  • Of course, as long as we’re being sincere, what about my kind, generous, right living (and politically right-wing) agnostic neighbor? Surely if I’m going to heaven, he is too. (But which of you deserve it?)
Logic is logic

The argument can be made more formally than that. Permit me to introduce to you the concept of the logical contrapositive: If we know that “if A, then B” is true, it is tempting to conclude that “if not A, then not B.” It often happens that way – but it is not logically required. It is also the case that we cannot say the logical contrapositive is false, either – we simply don’t know from the information presented.

An example might help. “If you speed past the traffic cop, you will get a ticket.” Let’s accept that as true. We might say, “If you don’t speed past the traffic cop, you won’t get a ticket.” That’s the logical contrapositive. But it’s false, as stated. You might get a ticket for any number of other things (like weaving in lanes, or running a stop sign.) But we might put it that way to discourage our kids from speeding. So it’s common use – but not strictly correct.

So, to the point: if you know Jesus Christ, you are saved. From that statement we therefore cannot conclude that if you don’t know Jesus Christ, you are not saved – and are therefore going to hell. The conclusion is not warranted. In fact, we are really looking for a statement of the logical type denoted as an IFF – if and only if. So then, does Christ make such a statement here?

The way, the truth, the life

I submit that He does. He does not say, “I am a way” but “I am the way.” Let’s see what He means:

  • The way: Christ is the way to God by virtue of his sacrifice on the Cross. Only if you claim the effectiveness of that vicarious offering for your sins can you satisfy the righteousness of the God of heaven. The pygmy in Africa, the devout Jew, my righteous neighbor – and I – do not deserve to go to heaven by our actions. There is only one way – the way.
  • The truth: our liberal society proclaims that truth is both multiple and relative; there is no sense of this in Scripture. There is only one truth – and Christ is that truth. Any other route means that you can get to heaven by believing a lie.
  • The life: Christ showed this at the Resurrection. He, and he alone, holds the keys of death and hell. The only other destination is heaven, and he and the Father are one. He therefore alone determines who has eternal life – and he has made it clear how to obtain that. There is only one method – the life.

Truth is one, for it is an attribute of God – who is One. It is God’s oneness that means there is only one way to Him.

Oneness of the Trinity

Preconceptions

Before we can understand the disciples’ objections, we must understand the preconceived ideas they had which stood in the way of their understanding. Teachers know that they must often dispose of a false idea to teach the truth.

  • Their first, and persistent, notion is that the Messiah was to be a conquering king. This is true – at the second coming of the Messiah. They saw only one coming, and were looking for the military triumph.
  • Their second notion – and much more subtle – was that religion was created by those who know God, in some sense. . In their mind, these would be the prophets. It is described and taught much more than experienced If someone said he was a god, it would seem to them to be a pagan thing; if someone said he is God, it appears as blasphemy. It is – except in the mouth of the Son of God.
  • Most prominently, God is One – and therefore can’t be three. Nothing can be both one and some other number; it’s mathematically impossible. But what is impossible with man is possible with God.[2]
Unity of Christ and the Father

Christ does not argue with them; he presents them with the facts and helps them draw the logical conclusions.

  • If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. Christ is the image of God.[3] It’s not so much like a photograph as someone might say, “You’re just like your father.” Christ is God in the flesh.
  • He then tells them that the Father is in him – and he is in the Father. Both halves are necessary; we have the Holy Spirit within us, for example. But we are not yet “in” the Holy Spirit, in the same sense. Christ is both. For evidence, Christ gives his actions (the Father “lives in me”) and his words (“my words are the Father’s”).
  • Finally, for those who just don’t get it, there are the miracles. Would God the Father allow someone who claimed to be God in the flesh work miracles – unless he really was God in the flesh?
Unity with the Spirit

The Holy Spirit often seems rather mysterious to Christians. But we can see the signs of unity in the trinity with regard to the Spirit in what Christ tells us here:

  • The Father gives the Spirit. Would the Father gives us one who claimed to be God in us unless it were really so?
  • We often see him as counselor – but we miss the word “forever.” (See verse 16). That means the Spirit is eternal – and only God is eternal (though we shall be).
  • The Spirit is told to us to be the Spirit of Truth – but God is truth, and God is spirit – so therefore the Spirit is God.

(The reader still puzzled by the Trinity will find himself in good company. May I suggest the explanation by Dorothy Sayers given elsewhere on this website?)

Oneness of Christ and the Church

Christ is preparing to return to heaven by way of the Cross, the tomb and the ascension. As will be seen in John 17, he is greatly concerned for the church he leaves behind. The church is described as “the bride of Christ” – and we know that in marriage man and woman become one flesh. That’s one reason the church is the body of Christ – we are one flesh with Christ.

Christ’s farewell gifts

To make this unity a reality, Christ leaves behind three important gifts:

  • He leaves us the ability to do “greater things.” If we are one with him we should do his work – and he gives us the ability to do it.
  • He gives us the Counselor, so that we should be guided, as He was, by God’s own wisdom.
  • He gives us peace. As he saw all things and was at peace with the results, so should we be.
Oneness with the disciples

Christ is very free with the preposition “in.” It is the word he uses to express oneness.

  • (Verse 20). He says the Father is “in” him, he is “in” the Father, and the disciples “in” him. It works spiritually, not geometrically.
  • Likewise, there is a similar use of the word love (see verse 21).
  • He tells the disciples that we (the Trinity) will “make our home” in the disciple. The word “home” is the same translated as “rooms” in verse 2).

Finally, he tells us, “I will come to you” (verse 18). It is comfort itself.

The secret of oneness: obedience

So how then do I develop this oneness with Christ? The answer is simply, obedience.

  • In verse 31 we have the example of Christ – obedient to the Father. And why? Because he loves the Father.
  • He then conveys that example (see verses 23-24) to us. Indeed, it is the IFF statement we have been looking for – IFF you love Christ, you will obey his commands. So love is required for obedience, and obedience for love.
  • But – as Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out – “only those who obey, believe.” We all know that only those who believe, obey. But disobedience is a barrier to faith as well as to love.

Do you love me? Keep my commandments.


[1] Romans 11:26. But see also Romans 9:27.

[2] This point lends itself to a demonstration of cutting a Moëbius loop in half lengthways. It doesn’t produce the expected two loops, but one longer, thinner loop.

[3] Colossians 1:15

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