theology

Criticism Leads to Spiritual Blindness

The apostle John wrote his gospel much later than the other three gospels—about two to three decades later. John was concerned with the influence of Greek philosophy and legalistic Judaism confusing believers outside of Israel. His gospel emphasized the diving nature of Jesus, the Son of God.

The dual nature of Jesus—being human and divine—was hard to accept and understand in John’s time, just as it is now. Was Jesus really a physical man with a human soul? Yes! But the Jews in Galilee only knew Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary of Nazareth.

The early disciples and apostles had a limited understanding of Jesus being God’s Son. It was not fully clear to them as seen much later in the gospel (John 14:8-9). It’s the Father who reveals His Son’s divine nature. He is the One who sent the Son. This is what Jesus says to Peter after his declaration—”You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” (Matt 16:16-17).

When we only consider Jesus as the Son of Man, whose parents were Joseph and Mary, it’s hard to reason out how Jesus is also the Son of God—sent by the Father and divine in nature. This is the problem with only holding to a historical view of Jesus. This is why the Jews criticized Jesus when He said, “I am the Bread of Life that came from heaven.” They couldn’t get past their own human reasoning.

This segment of the story is better understood within the context of the previous verses, which are covered in the previous study.

Scripture

The Jews began to criticize Jesus for saying, “I am the bread that came from heaven.” They asked, “Isn’t this man Jesus, Joseph’s son? Don’t we know his father and mother? How can he say now, ‘I came from heaven’?”

Jesus responded, “Stop criticizing me! People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me brings them to me. I will bring these people back to life on the last day. [vss 41-43]

The prophets wrote, ‘God will teach everyone.’ Those who do what they have learned from the Father come to me. I’m saying that no one has seen the Father. Only the one who is from God has seen the Father. I can guarantee this truth: Every believer has eternal life. [vss 44-47]

(John 6:41-47 GW)

Key phrase—

People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me brings them to me. I will bring these people back to life on the last day.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do the Jews say about Jesus? What are they questioning?

  • How does Jesus respond to their criticism? What are the first 2 things He says to them in verse 43?

  • What does Jesus say the prophets wrote? How is this related to what Jesus says about the Father?

  • Who has seen the Father and what does Jesus guarantee?

Reflection...

This long discourse of Jesus, where He spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, followed the feeding of the 5,000 on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He uses the physical event of this miracle to illustrate His teaching on being the Bread of Life.

He uses this metaphor to describe Himself and His mission. The physical event is a reference point to explain spiritual truth. This is the value of figurative language—to use what is known to help explain what is unknown.

Jesus declares His divine nature in this third segment of His teaching. In the first segment (vss 26-34), Jesus says how eternal or spiritual food is more important than physical food. Jesus declares, in the second segment (vss 35-40), how the Father promises eternal life for those who believe in the Son.

Here, Jesus speaks of His relationship with God as His Father. Just as physical food nourishes the body, feeding on Jesus will nourish our soul. We are to have a relationship similar to the one He has with the Father. This relationship is eternal and spiritual in nature and is received by faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

In the rest of the discourse, Jesus will speak more on the importance of feeding on Him.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you have difficulty accepting or understanding how Jesus is both human and divine in nature?

  • If so, what is the most difficult for you to accept or understand—His humanness or His divine nature as the Son of God?

  • Do you understand how a personal relationship with Jesus by faith is how you have relationship with God the Father?

  • How and when have you entered into a personal relationship with the Lord?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Theologians have struggled for centuries to understand and explain the dual nature of the Lord Jesus—both human and divine. Yet, Jesus and the New Testament Scriptures declare this many times. It is only understood when the Lord reveals it to us.

Prayer Focus— When you find it hard to relate to Jesus as either human or divine as the Son of God, ask the Lord to reveal the truth of His dual nature to you in the Scriptures and by His Spirit to your mind and spirit (heart).

©2019—Word-Strong

Far Sighted

When faith is reduced to an abstract concept, a spiritual dynamic, or positive thinking, it becomes blind. Approaching faith in these ways strips it down to an impersonal and human-based belief-ism.

True faith in God must be personal. It is based in relationship with God not beliefs about Him. Are theological beliefs important? Of course! But they are what we believe about God.

Faith is a personal trust in God Himself. Who He is and what He's promised in response to our trust in Him (Heb 11:6).

This is the faith Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph had that enabled them to see beyond their own lives. It was a faith focused on God whom they trusted with confidence. Their trust in God opened their eyes to see what other did not see.

Scripture

When God tested Abraham, faith led him to offer his son Isaac. Abraham, the one who received the promises from God, was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice. God had said to him, “Through Isaac your descendants will carry on your name.”

Abraham believed that God could bring Isaac back from the dead. Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead in a figurative sense. [vss 17-19]

Faith led Isaac to bless Jacob and Esau. While Jacob was dying, faith led him to bless each of Joseph’s sons. He leaned on the top of his staff and worshiped God.

While Joseph was dying, faith led him to speak about the Israelites leaving Egypt and give them instructions about burying his bones. [vss 20-22]

(Hebrews 11:17-23 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

While Joseph was dying, faith led him to speak about the Israelites leaving Egypt

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told faith led Abraham to do? How could faith lead him to do this?

  • Why was Abraham willing to sacrifice his son after waiting 25 years for Isaac to be born?

  • Who blesses whom and what do each of these blessings have in common?

  • What did Joseph tell the Israelites to do and why? Why was this important to Joseph?

Reflection...

Many people can't get beyond wondering why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his son. They imagine God as barbaric. Why? Because they can't think beyond their own feelings and reason. I spoke about this in another post— A Father's Sacrifice.

Faith is a matter of trust not reason. When we can't see beyond our own feelings and logic we can't trust. This makes us spiritually blind.

The nature of faith enables us to see beyond what is obvious and observable by others. It is not blind but sees God and trusts in Him. So, is it risky to trust in God? It depends on how you view God and His nature.

God's legacy is seen in those who trust in Him with their lives. Those who trust in Him without reserve like Abraham are the true offspring of God.  Each person has a legacy not of themselves but of those who are their offspring—both natural born and spiritually born.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How is the testing of Abraham's faith relatable to the original hearers (readers) of the book of Hebrews and us now?

  • How are the blessings Isaac and Jacob spoke related to the promise of God to Abraham?

  • What is your legacy of faith? How has and does your faith influence and impact others?

  • In what ways do you trust God beyond your fears, doubts, and human reasoning?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Impossible But Not Unforgivable

American culture thrives on excuses and justifications, rhetoric, misinformation, and spin. Actually, all cultures do. It's called the human condition.

We say we want to know the truth, but do we? Can we handle it when the truth doesn't fit our expectations or preconceived notions?

Perhaps that's why we're so big on "money-back guarantees" in America. I'm pretty sure we're the only country that sells extended warranties, paying twice or three times the cost of the item, just for peace of mind if it breaks.

When this quest for guaranteed guarantees carries over to spiritual truth and theology, it causes problems. The western mind (including Americans) prize logic and legal wording when it comes to theology. We like iron-clad truth!

A Son Not a Servant

The Christian faith is not a set of abstract beliefs. A confession of faith is more than words and thoughts written out or spoken.

Genuine Christian faith is anchored in Jesus. Not only what is believed in Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, but in relationship with Him.

Genuine Christianity is centered on the person of Jesus Christ, not a set of doctrines to be practiced or beliefs to hold. The book of Hebrews makes this very clear.