Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade on June 26, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 8:31-47. After a short break last week for the purpose of preaching on the ordinance of Baptism, we now return to the Gospel of John and continue our journey through the entirety of this book, verse by verse.
Before we read our text, let me briefly remind you of the context of today’s setting. At the beginning of chapter 7 we saw Jesus going to the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem. While at the feast of booths Jesus places himself at ground zero, the Temple, and begins to teach. The teaching of Jesus caused quite the stir in Jerusalem. The whole town was abuzz because of this carpenter from Nazareth. In John 7:32 we see the Pharisees issuing a warrant for his arrest. The officers who went to execute the warrant came back empty handed; not because Jesus eluded them, but because of what Jesus was teaching. John 7:45 says, “The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!”
Which leads to the question, what was Jesus saying that was so riveting? The answer is that he was talking about himself. John 7:38 Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Then in John 8:12 we see Jesus say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
All these words were spoken during the Feast of the Booths and today’s text is just a continuation of that dialogue. So let us now turn to our text, read it, pray, and study it.
John 8:30-47 – “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Slave to Sin
The one thing that John does well is capture the dichotomy that existed in the teaching of Christ. In our text today we see the comparison of slave and free, lies and the truth, the devil and the Father. As I have said before, this is the way God sees mankind, in a very black and white sort of way. Unfortunately, mankind, on the other hand, sees the world is shades of gray. And this is why Jesus speaks the way he does, to pierce through the fog and shine light upon the truth of our condition.
Let us begin today by looking at what Jesus says in verse 34, “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” What does Jesus mean when he says a slave to sin. First, I think we can all agree that the word slavery immediately invokes many images. Images such as bondage, chains, forced labor, and masters. The Greek word behind the word slave is doulos. The best translation, I believe, for doulos is slave. Some translations, even the ESV at times, will translate this word to servant or bondservant. However when this occurs the imagery is somewhat lost. For what Jesus is shedding light on in this passage is the bondage of the human nature.
To be a doulus of sin is to be mastered by sin, controlled by sin, owned by sin, chained to sin. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit says in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” The Apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit says in 2 Peter 2:19, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
So who does Jesus claim to be a slave to sin? Once again in verse 34 it says “everyone who practices sin.” If you have the NIV, NASB, or the King James the word “practices” is not present in your translation. The NASB and the King James says, “commits.” The Greek Word behind this is the word is “poieō” (poi-e'-ō). It is at times translated “to make” or “to produce.” John MacArthur in describing the use of this word says it describes “the pattern of their life was to commit sin, present tense.”
So who is Jesus speaking of when he speaks of being slaves to sin? Those whose life is a regular manifestation of sin. Day after day, moment after moment, making, producing, committing sin. Practically speaking, who fits into that category of “practicing sin”? Absent the freedom that only Jesus provides, everyone. Everyone who has ever been born, prior to the liberty found in Christ, is enslaved to sin. Don’t believe me? Listen to these verses.
How is that possible? How is everything humanity does apart from faith in Christ sin? It is because when we do things without faith like build hospitals, feed to poor, become foster parents, put out house fires, without faith we are not doing it for the Glory of the Creator. Instead we are doing it for the glory of creation. And this is not God's will.
God did not create you to glorify humanity, or glorify your family, or glorify a political party, or glorify yourself. He created you for one reason only, to glorify God. If you are not glorifying God in what you are doing, then you are rebelling against your God ordained purpose for breathing. If your life is not lived through faith in Christ, then everything you do is a sin. You are a slave to sin.
Freedom in Christ
So what is the answer to this slavery? Jesus tells us in verse 36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. “ Who sets you free? Jesus. Not Muhammed, not Budha, not Mary, not good works, not religion, not yourself. Jesus, and Jesus only has the power to break the chains of your bondage. He is the one who liberates you from your sinful passions and desires. Jesus does not need help to set us free. Just as Jesus did not need our help to be the bread of life, or living water, or the light of the World. Jesus is making it abundantly clear that salvation is in Christ alone.
The apostle Paul knew this reality very well. In Romans 7:23 Paul says, “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul who was immersed in the religion of his parents, the religion of his tradition, found that he could not break the chains of his sin. He was not powerful enough. There is only One who has that power, Jesus Christ our Lord. As Paul said, it is only through Him, and Him alone that we can be set free from sin.
This leads us to a question, how does one become set free through Christ? How does this work? How does it come about? Take a look at verse 32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Hold on. Is it the Son who sets you free, or is it truth that sets you free? The answer is, it is both. As John has already told us in John 1:14, “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.“ And then again in verse John 1:17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Christ and the truth are synonymous. Christ is the embodiment of truth. Later in the John 14:6 Jesus says this about himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” So is it the Son, or is it truth? The answer is yes. It is both.
But can we be more specific? What is meant by Jesus being the truth? The truth that sets us free is the truth about who Jesus is and the purpose of him becoming a man. This is the truth that liberates. Another way to talk about this freedom giving truth is the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus became a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross in our place, absorbed the wrath of God, was resurrected from the dead, is now seated at the right hand of God, and offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who submit to Him through faith. This is the truth about Christ. This is the Gospel. And this is why Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is power of God for the salvation.”
So let us ponder this for a moment. If Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin, and the proclamation of who Christ is and what he has done gets us access to this power, what should be our response? Should it not be to go and set captives free by the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We have the keys to release them from their shackles, why are we not using them. Why are we not loving those who remain caged in their sin by testifying to the truth of Christ? Romans 10:14-17 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?c And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
People are not saved from sin and death by stepping into a building and marveling at a new floor, they are saved by faith in the Word of Christ. This is the power of the Gospel that God has granted to us to go and breaks the chains of our fellow man before it is too late.
Are You Free?
The question I now have for all of us is, are you free? Has the Son set you free from the chains of sin? Look at verse 30, “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” The reason this conversation started was because people “believed” in Christ, but the question is what kind of belief do they have? Is it a true belief, is it a true faith, are they truly disciples of Jesus? James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
If you recall, this is an ongoing issue in the Gospel of John. Both in John 2 and John 6 we see the ongoing problem of people beliving in Jesus but not really believing in Jesus. If you recall in John 6, we read about thousands of people following Jesus out to the middle of nowhere with a desire to make him their King, and by the end of the chapter, all of them left Jesus except the 12 disciples. The faith of the crowd was not a true faith, it was a demonic faith.
So the question Jesus has for those who believe in Him as mentioned in verse 30 is, are you truly my disciples? Have you truly been set free by the Son? The answer is found in verse 31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”
The word for abide in Greek is “meno” which means to remain, to continue in. So the answer to the question of what faith do you have will be revealed by your “abiding.” Your abiding in the word of Christ is evidence of freedom. If they truly believed in Christ, their life would look different. You will no longer look like a slave, but you will look like a free man.
So the question is do you? If someone was to examine your life, would they be able to see that you live for Jesus? Or would you just look like the rest of the enslaved humanity. As we examined in 1 John this morning at Cornerstone. 1 John 2:3, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
The false faith that is a reoccurring problem in the Gospel of John is a false faith that is still a problem today. And this problem has eternal consequences. For if you do not see the evidence of true faith, which is abiding in the Word, then that means you are still in your sins. And if you are still in your sin, you are a slave. And Jesus tells us in verse 35, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” Which means the day is coming, when your life will come to an end. And if at that moment, if you are still a slave to sin, and are not free by the power of the Gospel, then you are forever cast out of the presence of God.
Jesus speaks of this reality in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Workers of lawlessness, is just another way to say slaves to sin. Claiming Christ does not save, authentic faith in Christ does. And authentic faith in Christ will always produce law-keeping, not law breaking. So the question is, is this your trajectory? Does the word of Christ, the teaching of Christ, the commands of Christ live in your heart? If not, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 19, 2016
Today we are stepping away from the Gospel of John to talk about baptism. We have done this every year at Cornerstone, and God willing we will continue to do it, for I believe that Baptism is crucial to our walk with the Lord as a Church. And this view is not routed in tradition, or my personal opinion, it is rooted in the perfect Word of God.
My message today is entitled the Weight of Water. The reason that I have chosen this title is that I do not believe that Christians rightly understand the fundamental significance of Baptism. Over the years I fear that Baptism has become hollow, mechanical, casual, optional, and ultimately meaningless to many congregations and many self-proclaimed Christians.
This weak appreciation of Baptism stands in stark contrast to what we see in the Bible. And when we come to the Bible and we see inconsistencies in our life or our Church, it is not the Bible that must change, but our hearts. And that is my goal today, as it is every Sunday, to call us to further submit to God and His inspired Word as is revealed in the Scriptures.
Now before we get into our text for today, let me tell those who are new or who are visiting, at Cornerstone we believe in Believer's Baptism. That means we believe that baptism is reserved for only those who have faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We reject imphant baptism. Why? Because of the Bible. For you who believe in infant baptism, my guess is that you believe it because you were told to believe it by someone, and do you did. My challenge to you is to see for yourself by opening up the Word of God. There is absolutely no teaching and no examples of babies being baptized , and in fact the opposite is true for believer's baptism. It is taught and it is displayed. If you want to here a quick but good sermon on this topic, go to our facebook page and listen to the sermon by John MacArthur regarding this topic. Today, I am not going to address this topic head on, but merely touch on it briefly.
The way in which we will do this today, is by breaking down the significance of Baptism in three sections: The Weight of God, the Weight of Discipleship, and the Weight of Reminder. In looking at these three categories, we will look at three points in redemptive history: 1) The laying of the foundation of the Church with John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus, 2) the Commissioning of the Apostles and Day 1 of the Spirit filled Church, and 3) The church in operation three decades after the Cornerstone of Christ was laid.
The Weight of God
So let us begin by looking at the Weight that God gives to Baptism. Turn with me to Matthew 3:11-17. This is the story of the Baptism of God, and it raises a lot of interesting questions.
Mathew 3:1-17 – “ In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
As many of you know, John the Baptist was chosen by God to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. He did this is two ways: preaching and baptizing. That was it. Preaching and baptizing. He didn’t have a praise team, PowerPoint, a smoke machine, a fancy suit, or comfy chairs. He merely had the commission of God and the word of God. This in and of itself is weighty. John's baptism was one of the hinges on the gate that opened for Jesus Christ.
As we see in Matthew 3:11, the baptism of John was one of repentance. What does that mean? The Greek word behind repentance is metanoia (me-tä'-noi-ä), which means “a change of mind.” In the context of the Bible, repentance means a change of mind relating to ones view of sin. Therefore, when John was providing a baptism of repentance, he was inviting people to change their minds in regards to their relationship with sin. Obviously, John was calling them to stop sinning and start living in accordance to God’s will.
Before we get into what I really want to focus on, I want to make just a few brief observations regarding eh baptism of John The Baptism of John is not the same as the baptism into Christ. John's baptism is a foreshadow of the baptism of the Church that we know of today. John’s baptism was implemented by God to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. We exist on the other side of the cross, therefore Baptism does not prepare for his coming but testifies to his arrival. Having said that, as a foreshadow or forerunner of the Baptism of Christ, we can make some quick observations.
First of all, no one debates, that I am aware of, that the Baptism of John was for adults only. And this makes sense, for the Baptism of John, as we said, was of repentance. That means that it symbolized a commitment to change your mind as it relates to sin. Babies cannot change their minds. A baptism of repentance is not feasible for a baby who has not developed intellectually to the point that their mind can be changed and a head and heart change can be declared publicly. If John was to allow a baby to be baptized it would ruin the entire picture of what God wanted to portray in the preparation of the coming of Christ.
Second, in Mathew 3, we can see the God desired mode of baptism. First in verse 6 we see John baptizing in the River Jordan. Why? Because the River Jordan was the location that the water was deep enough to immerse people in the water. Likewise, verse 16, “16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water.” Jesus went up from the water. John did not sprinkle, he dunked.
In fact, that is what the word baptism means. The Greek word is baptizo which literally means, to dip, immerse, submerge. Baptism does not mean to sprinkle. There is a Greek word for sprinkle, rhantizo. This is not the word used to describe what John was doing. John was not John the sprinkler, he was John the Submerger. I have never thought about it before, but I heard John MacArthur say that he wishes that the translators would have translated the Greek word baptizo, verses transliterate the word. To transliterate means that you don’t translate the word, but you adopt the word and make it English. If people would have translated the word baptizo to its English equivalence, to submerge, or immerse, we wouldn’t have the Church split that we do over the mode of Baptism. But we do, and so I preach.
The area, I want to focus on, however, is not the age or the mode of baptism, but it the baptism of Jesus. What is interesting is what John states in verse 11, “he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” Obviously, John is speaking about Jesus. Jesus is mighty and worthy. Then in verse 13 we see Jesus come to John. Why? To be baptized by him. That is the only reason that Jesus shows up and engages with John. Jesus did not come listen to John preach, or to encourage him, or to give him some pointers about the Kingdom of God. No, the only reason we see Jesus and John on the stage at the same time is for the Baptism of Jesus.
But what is the problem? Verse 14, “John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” In the mind of John, Jesus' baptism made no sense. Remember, John’s baptism was for repentance. Look at verse 7 when John rebukes the Pharisees, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?.” This baptism of repentance was about sin. It was about the wrath of God. What sin did Jesus have to repent from? What wrath was Jesus fleeing from? None. We know that Jesus was without sin. He was the spotless Lamb of God. No blemish. Yet here Jesus was, asking John to baptize him. Why?
Look at verse 15, “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Why did Jesus have to be baptized? It was to fulfill all righteousness. What does that mean? Quite simple, it means that the Baptism of Jesus was God’s will, and God’s will had to be obeyed. This is what righteousness means, to do what is right in God's eyes. And the baptism of Jesus was right in God's eyes to launch the Kingdom of Heaven. Andreas Kostenberger says it this way, “While the Messiah does not share with others baptized by John the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sins, he voluntarily subjects himself to this rite as part of his identification with humanity and of his role as Savior of humankind.”
Let us not forget that Jesus is head of the Church, the Cornerstone of the Church. He is the first block that is laid, and by being Baptized and therefore fulfilling all righteousness he has set the standard, and expectation of those who would follow him. If Christ, who is the last person on this planet who needs to participate in the ordinance of Baptism, submits and does so, shouldn't we follow his example and show our commitment to God's will and do the same.
So how much weight does God place on Baptism? An immense amount of weight. It was God's will for His Son, and it is God's will for you, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ.
The Weight of Discipleship
The next aspect I want to look at is the weight of discipleship. Turn with me to Matthew 28:18. This are the final words of Jesus before he ascends to the Father and commissions the Church with its primary responsibility. Verse 18, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inb the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When I ponder the words of Jesus, and hold them up against current Christianity, I frequently astounded by the disparity. These are the final words of Christ before he leaves the Kingdom of God in the hands of the Church. Granted those hands are providentially governed by the Sovereignty of God, but what Jesus commands is the ordained means to an ordained end, and what does he say? He says go and make disciples, baptize them, teach them. Does this define us at Cornerstone? Is this the pulse of our fellowship? Are we making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them. In fact, I wonder how many of you have thought about baptism as fundamental to the Great Commission.
Jesus commands his disciples to go make more disciples? What does that involve? Baptism and teaching obedience. But some of you are wondering, what about believing? Yes, believing is rolled up in the great commission, but Biblical believing works itself out in obedience.
Think about it. What does it mean to be a disciple? It means to follow. It is a decision to trust or believe in someone to such a great extinct that you orient your entire life around them. You are committed to their views and their lifestyle. Why? Because in your eyes they have the truth. So how might one begin the journey of discipleship? By pledging yourself to them. You proclaim to yourself and the world that you are committed to the person you will follow. This is what baptism is.
Yes, baptism is a symbol of your union with Christ, but that union is not passive. It is active. Your union with Christ is the beginning of a new way to live, a new direction, a new purpose, a new passion, a new set of priorities. This is how baptism is understood in the New Testament. It is the first step in declaring your complete and total allegiance to Jesus Christ. This is why baptism took place so close to the point of conversion.
Turn with me to Acts 2:37. In this passage we see this is the first day of the Spirit filled Church. Prior to moment, the disciples were waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. And when he did arrive, Peter preached the gospel and this is what happened. Verse 37, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
3,000 jews, who most likely were yelling for Christ's crucifixion 50 days earlier, now felt the weight of their sin and wanted to commit their lives to Jesus and follow Him. What was step one for these new disciples? “Repent and be baptized” Peter did not forget the Words of Jesus that were spoken to him ten days earlier. He knew that baptism was crucial in their first steps in following Jesus. They need to turn to Jesus and then declare to themselves and declare to the World, that they were now disciples of Jesus Christ.
Notice what Peter didn't say. He didn't say bow your heads and repeat this prayer and invite Jesus into your heart. Perhaps this is why baptism has fallen by the wayside in the last 20 years, because be a disciple is not in vogue, instead it is easy believism, or as Dietrich Bonhoffer called it, cheap Grace.
For those of you who have told me that you desire to be baptised, this is the way you need to think about it, not as some ritual, but as a pledge of loyalty to Jesus Christ. Between now and July 6th, you need to count the cost and understand that to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit means to commit yourself to obeying them, not just when it is convenient, but every moment for the rest of your eternity.
The Weight of Reminder
Finally, what about those who have already been baptized? Has this sermon fallen on deaf ears? I hope not, for if it has you have failed in understand the weight of baptism as it relates to your ongoing sanctification. Turn with me to Romans 6:1-3. So far we have looked at from the perspective of pre-Christ, Christ, pre-Church, Church, and now we examine baptism in the realm of the Church after existing for several decades. Romans 6:1-3, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Paul writes this letter to the Roman church around 57 A.D. This is almost thirty years after Baptism was first implemented by God through John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus. The issue on the table in Romans 6 is sin. The issue is not Baptism, the issue is the desire of disciples to fall back into a life of unrighteousness. How does Paul address this major issue within the already established Church? Baptism. Verse 3, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” Paul, by way of reminder puts them right back to the start of their commitment to follow Jesus Christ. He encourages them to dwell upon that moment-in-time when they pledged their allegiance to Jesus Christ outwardly and committed to obey Jesus in all that he does.
Baptism was a weapon to be used against the temptations of the flesh and the temptations of Satan. How many of you view your Baptism this way? How many of you when considering whether to watch pornography, get drunk, use the Lord's name in vain, lie to your boss, covet a better house or a better car or a better spouse think about the day you immersed yourself in the water to display your devotion to Jesus, the Son of God?
To be a Christian means to submit to Jesus. To follow Him. To lay down your life, die to self and live to the Lord. Not just on Sundays, but every day. And every time you feel Satan prowling, you should think of the weight of the water as it rushed over you and symbolized your death to self and life in Christ.
And for all of you who are able to be at the Baptism on July 6th, which I pray that all of you will be there loving, supporting, encouraging, rejoicing with your brothers and sisters, that you would feel the weight of Baptism in your life and reignite your commitment to Jesus Christ. Every Baptism that we are blessed enough to witness, should be fuel on the fire of our faith. If you have been drifting away following the course of this world, this is the time to start swimming upstream again and actually live as a disciple of the Lord, not a disciple of this World. As James says in James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Baptism is a statement that I am dead to the world and the world is dead to me.
So in conclusion, is baptism important? The answer, based once again on the Bible, is a resounding yes. Their is a weight to this ordinance that God has created and implemented in the Church that he established. Baptism, does not save us, the scriptures are clear that is only believing in Jesus that saves, but make no mistake baptism is one of the first fruits of living faith, announcing that you will serve the Lord.
So the question for some of you is, will you submit to the Lordship of Jesus and be baptized as a disciple of Jesus Christ? If that answer is no, then perhaps there are more eternal reasons that you should not be baptized, namely that you are not a true follower of Jesus Christ in your heart. I pray that no one in this room falls into this category. And for those who have been baptized, let us remember who we are, we are disciples of King Jesus.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 12, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 8:12-20. Today we are examining the famous words of Jesus, “I am the Light of the world.” In doing so, I am approaching this text as if it flows directly out of John 7:52, as if John 7:53-John 8:11 are not part of the original Gospel of John. For those who are wondering why and who missed last week, I would invite you to go to our website at www.cornerstonecascade.com and either watch or, better yet, read last week’s sermon entitled, “Pericope De Adultera.” That will hopefully explain my approach to today’s text. So with that said, let us read our text, pray, and then examine it.
John 8:12-20 – “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father[a] who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30As he was saying these things, many believed in him. ”
One of the biggest issues we are facing today is the demon of meaninglessness. Culture has systematically removed from the public square any teaching regarding the meaning and purpose of life. In place of meaning, the “enlightened ones” of this age have literally left a giant black hole. Our children in secular schools are taught the lie of evolution and that they are no different than a dog or even the fleas upon a dog. And the fate of the flea is no different than the fate of humanity; hence why abortion is categorized as a choice and not as the murder of your own child. Society teaches that we evolved from nothing and we will be absorbed into nothing. A belief in the afterlife is seen as childish and is mocked as stupid.
And what is the result of this teaching? The result is an increased amount of darkness: things such as suicide, illegal drugs, alcohol, abuse of anti-depressants, materialism, selfishness. As meaninglessness increases so does darkness. The proof is in the pudding. And to be honest, it is a logical conclusion. If life has no ultimate purpose than it only makes sense to pursue instant gratification in every moment of your existence because this is all you have. And if you can’t find happiness in the moment, then death is the only logical solution; if that is, there is no meaning.
The text we are covering today addresses the issue of meaningless head on. And it does so with the Words of Christ who proclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The Pillar of Fire
The key to understanding the full weight and meaning of Biblical text is understanding the context of this story. These words of Jesus that we are examining today were spoken during the Feast of the Booths. John 7:2 tells us that, “The Feasts of the Both was at hand.” 7:10, “his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up.” 7:14, “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the Temple and began teaching.” In 7:37 we are told that on the last day of the feast Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
We then move forward to our text for today, skipping over verses 7:53-8:12 due to the problems we spoke about last week, and we see verse 8:12 say, “Again Jesus spoke to them.” These words of Jesus were spoken during the Feast of the Booths. And this is extremely important.
If you recall the Feast of the Booths was a festival whereby the Israelites remembered and celebrated God's provisions during their 40 years in the dessert. This was when God had delivered the Jews out of the slavery in Egypt and lead them to the Promised land. Several weeks ago we discussed how God, during those 40 years in the wilderness, provided water to them from a rock. And as we stated, to commemorate this event, during the Feast of the Booths, they had a water pouring ceremony. This would have most likely been when Jesus invited the people to come and drink from him. Symbolizing that he is the Rock that living water flows.
During the 40 years of wandering, it was not just water that God provided. He also provided his presence and his guidance. He did this through a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. We see this in Exodus 13:21-22, “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”
For a people who were in the Wilderness, this pillar provided great comfort. For it was a sign of God's covenant commitment to his people. Moses speaks of this reality in Numbers 14:14 when he says, “They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. For you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.”
The pillar of cloud and the pillar of light is what is called a Theophany. A theophany is the display of the presence of God to humanity. The display can take on different forms, but two common forms is a fire and a cloud. Regarding clouds we see it in Exodus 24:16, “The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.” At the dedication of the Tabernacle and the Temple, a cloud filled the sanctuary and no one could enter. Why a cloud? Because God's ways are above our ways. God is unsearchable and is mysterious. This is a reality of his holiness.
Regarding the theophany of fire, we see it in Exodus 3 with Moses and the burning bush. Again at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19:18, “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.” Fire was not only a Theophany of God, it was also a common way to describe God. Daniel 7:9-10, “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him.” Psalm 97:3- “Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. 4His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.”
In regards to the pillar of fire during the wanderings in the wilderness, it served a very specific purpose. To lead God's chosen people, Israel, along the way. The presence of God in their midst led them out of the slavery of the Egyptians, through the wilderness of Sinai and into the promised land that was flowing with Milk and Honey. Without the presence of God an the leading of God, the Israelites would have died in the wilderness or returned to the slavery of Egypt and died in their chains.
To commemorate the theophony of the pillar of fire, the Isrealites, during the Feast of the Booths, would light giant torches in the center of the treasury of the Temple. Now, if you look at verse 20 of our text, you can see that this is exactly where Jesus was located, the treasury of the Temple.
In my study, one resource indicated that these torches that were set up during the feast were 75 feet tall. Monstrous lanterns, casting light on all the temple and a great deal of Jerusalem. They called this event the Illumination of the Temple. And it is highly likely, that Jesus, while standing in the midst of these giant torches, perhaps when they were being lit, or when they were being extinguished, cried out, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Christ, the Full Theophany
So what is Jesus saying when he says he is the light of the World. First, is that he is claiming that he is the Theophany of God. Just as the pillar of fire manifested the presence of God, Jesus in the flesh manifested the presence of God. However, unlike the fire, the Theophany of Christ is not lacking, it is perfect in every way. Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” Just as the beams of light are the radiance of the Son. So is Jesus the radiance of this father. Jesus is the display of God in the flesh of man. To see Jesus is to see God. To see God is to see Jesus. Just as to see the sun is to see the beams of light an to see the beams of light is to see the sun. This is why Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” To know one is to know the other. So if someone claims to know God, but does not believe in Jesus , then they do not know God. They God they think they know is a false God manufacture by their own sinful heart.
The second thing that Jesus is saying is that this radiance of light that originates in the Father and flows perfectly through the Son is not just for the Temple, it is not just for Jerusalem, it is not just for Israel, this light is available to everyone. Jesus says, “He is the light of the World.” He does not say he is the light of the Jews. The world includes the gentiles. He reiterates this by saying in the next sentence “whoever.” This is an astounding statement for Jesus to make to a crowd of Jews. The Jews believe that they had a monopoly on the presence of God. They would reject wholesale that God is a God of the world. They believed that God is a God of the Israelites only. And their belief is understandable because of what God told them in Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” But in steps Jesus, who expands the illumination of the light, and the torch of Christ stretches across the entire earth, and whoever is drawn to the light will be led to the promised land of Heaven.
The Light of Life
The third, and the most substantial claim that Jesus is making is that he, and only He, has the power to illumine, and his illumination is the essence of life. “I AM, the light of the World. Whoever follows ME will not walk in darkness.” This is a massive claim being made by this carpenter's Son. This is not the claim of some teacher or prophet expounding Scripture and pointing to God, this claim, once again is Christcentric. This claim is made by someone who believes he is God in the flesh, and he is drawing a line in the sand and saying that everything rests on Him alone.
This week God was kind enough to give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with a Muslim. It was fascinating. He told me that he believes in Jesus, he even believes in the virgin birth, but that he does not believe that Jesus is God. In light of the eye witness testimonies of what Jesus said, which is what the Gospels are, this position makes absolutely no sense. These testimonies leave no space for the Muslim position. When Jesus declares himself to be the light of the World, he is saying that everything in your life revolves around Him, and Him alone. Existence hangs in the balance of this Jesus of Nazareth.
And there are only two sides to this balance, light and darkness. This is how God sees the world. There is no in-between. Every person who has ever existed is in one of those two camps. So let us take a moment and think about what Jesus is saying.
What is darkness? Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness is not a thing in an of itself, it is the absence of something, and that something is light. Therefore if Jesus is the light of the world, the absence of Jesus is the darkness of the World. So if someone does not have Jesus, then they do not have light, which means they live in darkness. Jesus says this very clearly in verse 12, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Therefore, for every person who has ever existed, if they did not, or do not, follow Jesus then they live in darkness. Religion is not the light, Mary or Muhammed is not the light, being a good person is not the light, success is not the light, your health is not the light; the only light in the World is Jesus. If you don't have him you are aimlessly walking around tripping through life in the dark.
Do You Love the Darkness
Some people, however, may then say, “So what. Maybe I like the darkness.” Jesus has already spoke of this reality in John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” This may describe many of you. You love this world more than you love Jesus.
But let me tell you, being in the darkness does not end well, verse 24, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” To live in the darkness is to live in the valley of the Shadow of death. To not follow Jesus is to seal your fate to die, and by die Jesus is not talking about physical death, for all men die. What Jesus is talking about is the second death. The death that is mentioned in Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” This is the end of those who walk in the darkness.
Now think about this through the lens of the Feast of the Booths. If the nation of Israel would have chosen to not follow the pillar of fire, the presence of God would not have been with them, and they would have all been left behind and would have died in the dessert. Following the pillar of fire by night was crucial in making it to their final destination.
Why did God ordain that the Jews would be led by fire for 40 years? Because He was casting a shadow that points forward to Jesus Christ. The story of Israel in the wilderness is the story of you and I. God has given to us the Light of the World to lead us into His Holy presence. And for us to be lead, we must follow. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Decade after decade. This is the purpose of all humanity, to follow Jesus.
Many people, even some in this Church, have not embraced this reality. And some day, you will seek Christ and you will not find him. After the moment of your last breath, you will step into an eternity that will be full of the knowledge of Christ, but will lack his presence. Hell will be a place that man will recognize his need for Christ, but will never be offered even a sip of living water to ease his suffering.
There are also some of you in this Church, who are following Christ, but barely. The light of Christ is merely a dim flicker in your life. You try to follow Christ AND follow your job, or follow your money, or follow your children, or follow your American dream. Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters, nor can we follow light and those things that masquerade as lights. Time will tell if you make it to the promised land or die in the wilderness of your sin.
My hope is that for many of you today, you would reassess your life, and ask yourself if you are fully following Jesus, or if you are just fooling yourself. Today, pick up your cross and confirm your election, for in Him is the light of life.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 5, 2016
Before we turn to our text for today, I want to read two sections of Scripture that have been running through my mind this week.
Preaching the Word is the obligation for every Pastor. We are to do this week in and week out. Month after month. Year after year. Decade after decade. Pastors are called and commanded to preach the Word, the whole counsel of God. If you are visiting today and your Church does not preach the Word Sunday after Sunday then you need to leave and find a Church that does. For it is the Word of God that builds up His people.
Now with that said, let me pose a question that I have been wrestling with this week, “What is the Word of God?” If I am required to preach the whole counsel of God, how am I to know what is his counsel and what is not his counsel? Many of you are thinking, “That is easy...the Bible is the Word of God.” And I would agree with you, but what is included in the Bible?
For example, a common question I receive is what is the difference between the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible? Is there a difference? The answer to that question is yes. The difference is that the Catholic Bibles has more books in it. These books are called the Apocrypha. They include: Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch. Are these books the Word of God? Are these books Scripture? If they are then I am called to preach them. To answer this question, we must do some research.
First, the Jews during Jesus' time did not consider the Apocrypha to be Scripture. Second, Jesus nor the apostles ever quoted from the Apocrypha. Third, the early Church fathers did not believe that the Apocrypha was scripture. Fourth, it contains errors and obvious false teachings that are inconsistent to the rest of Scripture. Fifth, it was not until 400 A.D When Pope Damasus I commissioned a man named Jerome to produce a Latin text of the Bible was the Aporcrypha actually added to the Bible. Jerome himself disagreed with the decision to add it, but succumbed to the pressure of the Pope and included in the Latin Vulgate. Sixth, the Roman Catholic Church did not officially adopt the Apocrypha until 1526 at the Council of Trent in response to the Protestant Reformation. And one of the reasons, if not the primary reason was because the Apocrypha supported the false teaching that you could purchase a relative out of a fictional place they named purgatory, and the Catholic Church wanted to keep the money flowing into the coffers.
So with that said, I believe the evidence is quite clear that the Apocrypha is not the Word of God. It does not belong in the Bible, and therefore, I should not preach from those books, nor should anyone else. In fact, if today I would have walked into Church and asked you to turn to Tobit 2:1, some of you would have walked out on me, and rightfully so.
So this leads us to the question, are there other passages that are in the Bible, that do not belong there? And this leads us to our text for today, John 7:53-8:11. Turn with me to that section. This section of the Bible is a very famous portion of Scripture. It is the story of the women who was caught in the act of adultery and was about to be stone and Jesus saved her and said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” My guess is that almost all of you are familiar with this text because it is commonly used by people who do not want to be held accountable for their sinful life. This passage has been named by scholars the pericope de adultera, which merely means the passage about the adulteress.
If you have a ESV or NIV your Bible will have a bracket at the beginning of this section and inside the brackets of the ESV it says, “The Earliest Manuscripts do not include 7:53-8:11.” For some of you, this may cause you to wonder what these means, and if you have the ESV Study Bible you might drop down to the bottom of the page and read the foot notes. If you did you would read this:
“There is considerable doubt that this story is part of John's original Gospel, for it is absent from all the oldest manuscripts. But there is nothing in it unworthy of sound doctrine. It seems best to view the story as something that probably happened during Jesus' ministry but that was not originally part of what John wrote in his Gospel. Therefore, it should not be considered as part of Scripture and should not be used as the basis for building any point of doctrine unless confirmed by Scripture.”
In light of these comments, I am going to give you a brief overview of what is called textual criticism. Today's sermon will be unique. John Piper when he preached on this passage stated that his sermon was a one in every ten years type of sermon. This morning, I would echo that sentiment. Today, what I am doing is teaching, not preaching. I am not expositing the living word of God, but in my opinion, it is necessary in light of the passage. So if you are visiting, you picked an unique day to attend.
Some of you today, will find this sermon extremely fascinating, others of you will find it extremely boring. But as I wrestled with what to do, I came to the conclusion that approaching this text in this way would best increase your foundational understanding and trust in the Word of God, and equip all of you to contend for the faith. My goal today is not to hit a home run with this teaching, it is merely to advance your faith one degree and to potentially spark some of your interest in becoming students of this realm of discipline for the benefit of our local church. It is good for us to have several of you well versed in the study of how we came to have the Bible and why we believe it to be authentic, for authenticity is a common argument we run into in the world, especially with the younger generation.
So let us begin at the beginning. The Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John between 70-100 A.D. When John wrote this Gospel he would have most likely written it on papyrus, a dried plant. This original document is called an autograph. The autograph is the actual papyrus that John would have written on. Needless to say, this original document on papyrus did not last, therefore the original writing, the autograph, no longer exists. You can't go to some museum and examine the original document of John.
However, God, in his infinite wisdom, and sovereign plan, caused in his Church a longing for the Word of God. Therefore, the Gospel of John, along with all the other 26 books of the New Testament were fervently copied. One of the authors I read said, “The New Testament experienced explosive duplication and distribution, unprecedented in the ancient or modern world.” Someone would sit down and read the Autograph, the original, and would hand write a copy. Then copies were made of copies. This would happened over and over and over again so that the people of God would have in their churches the Word of God. These copies are called manuscripts. Manuscripts are ancient copies of the original text. God by explosive duplication was preserving his word generation after generation through the hands of his people.
This duplication of God's Word took a variety of different approaches. These approaches are categorized into three general families: Western Manuscripts, Alexandrian Manuscripts, Byzantine Manuscripts. The Western manuscripts consisted of copies produced in Rome and outlying regions, and were copied without any form of quality control. For example, if I had all of you go home and make a copy of the Gospel of John and bring it back next week with no rules, no scrutiny, just go and make copies. Because of this the western manuscripts are less consistent and are prone to human error. The Alexandrian manuscripts, on the other hand, are of substantially high caliber. This group of manuscripts has very few errors, there is a consistency and appear to be very true to the original autographs. The reason for this is that the Greek Scholars in Alexandria were very serious about preservation, and did put in place some form of quality control. The Byzantine manuscripts are viewed to be older copies, and these manuscripts appear to attempt to merge and create harmony when discrepancies when they found. These manuscripts are the one that the Textus Receptus comes from, which is the basis for the German Bible, the First English Bible produced by William Tyndale, and the King James Version of the Bible.
So once again these three Western, Alexandra and Byzantine groups are different in their dates and in their strictness in copying and their end goal. However, what is amazing is that in total, there exists today over 5,800 Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament. And the earliest manuscript that we have dates back to 100—150 A.D. In the scholarly world, this amount of ancient text is unheard of. They amount of manuscripts we have of the New Testament is miraculous to say that least.
Just to give you some comparison, Livy, a historian who wrote around the time of Christ, there exists only 27 manuscripts of his writing and the earliest copy dates to the 4th century. Tacitus wrote around the same time as the Apostle Paul. There are currently only three manuscripts that still exist and the earliest one is from the 9th century. Suetonius also wrote around the time of John and around 200 manuscripts of his exist, but once again the earliest only dating back to the 9th century. So in comparison to other ancient writings during the times of the Apostles, the Bible dwarfs its competition. But that is not all.
In addition to the 5,800 Greek manuscripts there are also exists Latin Manuscripts that came to take form around the 4th century. And it was the Latin manuscripts that Jerome created the Vulgate that I mentioned earlier. The Latin manuscripts that still exist today is over 10,000. And if that was not enough there also exists manuscripts in Syriac, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. Thereby the total number of ancient manuscripts that exist for the New Testament is over 24,000.
Why is this important? Because with so many ancient copies still in existence scholars can determine the exact Greek words used by the original author to a 99.5% accuracy. And this is important, the remaining 0.5% relates to specific text that scholars are aware of and they are agree that the uncertainty is inconsequential to general teachings of the Bible. So if someone comes up to you and says, how can we trust the Bible, you can tell them that we have 24,000 ancient manuscripts of the Bible with the earliest copy dating back the same generation as the authors, therefore all legitimate scholars agree that the Greek Bible is 99.5 percent identical to the original text. So is this book trustworthy? Yes. More than any other book every has been or ever will be. By God's infinite wisdom he preserved his Word so that we can be sanctified in it today, 2000 years later.
So what does this half to do with John 7:53-8:11? The problem is that these twelve verses, the Pericope De Adultera, do not exist in the earliest and most trustworthy Greek manuscripts. In those manuscripts dating back closest in time to when John would have written the original document, the copies goes from John 7:52 right into John 8:12. This leads most scholars to believe that the Pericope De Adultera was added later and was not written by John himself.
But it is not just the earliest Greek manuscripts, the earliest versions of the Bible in different languages that would have originated from the Greek do not have the Pericope De Adultera. These include the Old Syriac, Arabic edition of Tatians Diatessaron, old Coptic versions, some of the earliest Armenian manuscripts, the Old Gregorian versions, the Gothic versions, and several Old Latin versions.
If that wasn't enough, the Pericope De Adultera is not found in the earliest of the ancient lectionaries. Lectionaries are documents created for Church services with scripture written on them. We have found numerous ancient manuscripts of these lectionaries used by the early Church and Pericope De Adultera is no where to be found.
If that wasn't enough, the early Church father's who wrote commentaries on the Gospel of John showed no signs of knowing the Pericope De Adultera existed. These early church fathers include Origen, Chrysostom, Cyril, Theodore, Irenaues, Tertullian, and Cyprian. They all appear to be oblivious to this passage. In fact, no Eastern Church commentator cites this passage until the tenth century and no Greek commentator of the Bible mentions this passage until the 12th century.
If that wasn't enough, once that text does start to show up in some of the later manuscripts it is marked with what is called obeli. Obeli is the equivalent to our brackets today. It is telling the reader that there is some doubt as to whether the text is authentic.
If that wasn't enough, in some of the old manuscripts that do include it, it is found in different locations in the BIble. Sometimes this story follows John 7:52 like it does in our text, sometimes it follows John 7:44, sometimes it follows John 7:36, sometimes it follows John 21:25 and sometimes it is found in the Gospel of Luke after 21:38.
If that wasn't enough, not only does it vary in location, but it also varies in content. Merill Tenney who served on the translation board for the New American Standard Bible states, “its text contains a disproportionately large number of variants, which is generally a sure sign that it has received less than average care in transmission.” An example is that in some manuscripts it describes that Jesus wrote on the ground the sins of each man.
If that wasn't enough, the Pericope De Adultera contains vocabulary that does not match the rest of John's writing. Many of the words used in this passage are found no where else in the Gospel of John. For those of you who are going through the Study, Mining God's Word, you know how uncommon that is. Most New Testament authors are very repetitive in their language. In addition, the linguistic style, scholars say, does not match the style of the Apostle John. Scholars who examine these things say that it matches the style of Luke more than John.
If that wasn't enough, if you take out the Pericope De Adultera, 7:52 and 8:12 flow together perfectly. If you recall, in John 7 Jesus is at the feast of the booths and on the last day he cries out ““If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” The Pericope De Adultera has him then leaving and coming back to the temple. At the end of the story, Jesus and the women are left alone and then in verse 12 it says, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” If Jesus was alone with the women, who is the “them”? In addition, most, if not all scholars believe this statement, “I am the light of the world.” would have also occurred on the last day of the feast of booths due to the giant pillars of fire that were lit during this festival. If the Percipe De Adultera is truly written by John and truly where it belongs, then Jesus statement is more random and not connected to the great pillars of light during the feast.
Based on all of this, many pastors and theologians agree that the Pericope De Adultera is not original to the Gospel of John. Almost everyone agrees that it was inserted at a later time. The evidence is just too overwhelming. In preparation for this sermon I listened to two sermons by John MacArthur, one by John Piper, and one by Allister Begg to get a grasp on how other pastors handled this text. In 1980 John MacArthor preached on this text as if it was Scripture. In 2014 he deliberately skipped over it and said it was not the inspired Word of God, so it cannot be trusted, therefore he skipped it. John Piper did not believe John wrote it, and is not totally convinced that the story even happened. He then spent the majority of his sermon speaking about textual criticism, but then unpacked some of the themes the story highlights. Allister Begg likewise does not believe John wrote this, however, he preached on it nonetheless, but stated throughout the week he waivered back and forth.
Other well know theologians also had great doubt. John Calvin did not argue for its authenticity but merely stated that the text could be used “to our advantage.” DA Carson, the commentary that I have been reading through while preaching the Gospel of John, does not believe that John wrote it, but believes that the event occurred, hence why it was added by means of oral tradition. Andreas Kostenberger, who wrote God's Design for Many and Women, states, “the fact remains that the account almost certainly was not part of the original Gospel and therefore should not be regarded as part of the Christian cannon.” J.C. Ryle states, “it was written by an uninspired hand, and probably at a later date, and that it has no lawful claim to be regarded as a part of canoncical Scripture.” And lastly, a guy by the name of Bruce Metzger, who is seen as the foremost authority on manuscripts of the Greek New Testament states, “It is obviously a piece of oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western church and which was subsequently incorporated into various manuscripts ar various places.”
Why is it in Our Bible
At this point, many of you may be wondering, if the evidence is so clear, why do translators continue to allow it to be in the Bible? The answer is probably two fold, one they do not want to be wrong and therefore remove God's Word. Two, they may be afraid of bucking tradition. The way they sit the fence, is that they keep it in the Bible and put brackets around it and say in a footnote like the ESV does, “it should not be considered as part of Scripture and should not be used as the basis for building any point of doctrine unless confirmed by Scripture.”
So where does this leave us? For me, I am not convinced that the Pericpe De Adultera is God's Word. If an apostle did not write it, then it cannot be inspired. John was the last of the living apostle's and if his hand did not pen this passage, then it is not the inspired Word of God. Oral tradition and Church acceptance is not enough for me to attribute these words to the mouth of God. If I do not believe the Apocraypha is God's Word, I do not see how I can believe this is God's Word.
What I am most concerned with, however, is how does this honest and open teaching about how we have the Bible affect you? It could possibly have two results, it could cause you to doubt the Bible and make you wonder if all Scripture is flawed? Or it could increase your faith in the preservation of God's Word. The fact that we can even have this type of discussion 2000 years after this book was first written is a testimony to the seriousness that God takes in preserving his Word and true Christians desire to rightly handle that Word.
The Bible is like no other book on the planet. It has toppled and established nations, restored marriages, given hope in times of despair, enriched lives, provided clarity, but most importantly it has given eternal life to billions of people, in which I am one. I cherish this book, I pray that you do to. Your life literally depends on the words on these pages. And after this week of substantial study regarding this topic I can sing more confidently, “How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,. Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!”