Pastor Brian Watson preaches an Easter message based on John 20. The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope, because all who trust in him, all who embrace him as Savior, Lord, and God, will have a resurrected life, too. The only way to eternal life and peace is Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that it’s April. Only in the past few days has it started to feel like spring. It was a long winter, and we still have about three, small, stubborn mounds of snow at the edge of the parking lot. But the rest of the snow has melted, and the temperature is getting a bit warmer. And before too long things will start to get greener.
I love it when spring arrives, because it gives us a feeling of hope. We see signs of life after a long period of dead leaves and bare branches. The seasons of nature remind us of the seasons of life, and we can see signs of both new life and death all around us. Five weeks ago, we got a new dog, a puppy who was about twelve weeks old at the time. She’s already grown quite a bit, and she can be very playful. On the other hand, we look at our older dog, who at twelve years old is slowing down and sometimes walks with a limp.
But our lives—or the lives of our pets—aren’t like the seasons. The seasons come and go in cycles. Our lives aren’t cyclical; they only move in one direction. While we all were young at one point (if we’re not young now), we know that we’re getting older, and that eventually our bodies will decay and die. Even this past week, I saw evidence of that. Last Sunday night, I found out that the wife of a family friend died. She was probably only in her mid-thirties. She had a rare disease that caused her body to create way too many of one protein and not enough of the corresponding protein. And though she had some experimental treatments with stem cells, she couldn’t be healed. I only met her on two occasions, but I was very sad to hear about her death. She left behind a husband and two young children.
Someone else I know this week died. He was in his late sixties and had multiple health problems, including a major stroke several years ago. I saw him the day before he died. He was having trouble breathing and he wasn’t very responsive, in part because he was on morphine and was tired. He couldn’t talk. But with a bit of effort he could open his eyes and nod his head. Viewed from one perspective, it was sad to see him in the shape he was in. He was in his bed, leaning to one side, a tube bringing oxygen to his gaping mouth. He had lost quite a bit of weight, his breathing was labored, and his skin was very pale and unhealthy looking.
But viewed from another perspective, his situation wasn’t sad. And neither was his death. That’s because trusted that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. He trusted that Jesus’ perfect, righteous life was credited to his account and that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for all his sins. He trusted that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, the first day being the day when Jesus was killed by crucifixion. He believed that Jesus’ resurrection was a vindication of who Jesus is and what his death accomplished. He believed that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). And because he believed that, and because he embraced Jesus as his Savior, Lord, and God, I knew that this was not the end of his story. I looked at him and said, “One day, you’ll get a resurrected body, a perfect body that won’t have all these problems, a body that will never die.”
The great claim of Christianity is that there is eternal life for those who are united to Jesus. Those who trust Jesus will die. But as Jesus once said, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Those who belong to Jesus will one day be raised from the dead and their bodies will be transformed, or glorified, so that they will be immortal. This will happen when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead and to make all things new. And the reason we trust that this will happen is because almost two thousand years ago, Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the first installment of a new creation, a world that is made perfect, a world in which there is no more evil, disease, war, or death.
This sounds almost too good to be true. Everything in life seems to head towards a fall and the long death of winter. Can there really be an ultimate spring and an endless summer? Can there really be eternal life after death?
Well, that is the claim of Christianity. And I believe it is true. The reason I believe that Christianity is true is because it makes the most sense of life, because it provides us great hope, and because there is evidence that supports its claims.
Today, I want us to see three things about Jesus and his resurrection. One, no one would have fabricated this story. Two, I want us to see why Jesus lived, died, and rose again. And, three, I want us to see what a right response to Jesus looks like. We’ll do that by taking a look at what the Gospel of John says about Jesus’ resurrection.
We’re going to read John 20 today. We’ll start by reading verses 1–13:
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
It’s Sunday, and Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus. In the other Gospels, we’re told that Mary was with some other women, and that they went to the tomb to put spices on Jesus’ body. This was a form of embalming a body; the spices would help cover the smell of the decomposing body. Because Jesus was hastily buried, they didn’t have the opportunity to do this before he was put in the tomb.
It’s quite clear that Mary wasn’t expecting Jesus to be resurrected from the grave. She thinks some people have taken Jesus’ body from the tomb. She says this to Peter and John (“the other disciple”) and to the angels. And it seems like the disciples weren’t really expecting this. In Luke’s Gospel, we’re told, “Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:10–11). Mark says that the women were afraid after they saw the empty tomb (Mark 16:8). Matthew says that even after they saw the risen Jesus, some of the disciples doubted (Matt. 28:17).
The point is that no one seemed to believe that Jesus would rise from the dead. People in Jesus’ day knew dead people stayed dead. British theologian N. T. Wright says that Gentiles weren’t expecting this sort of thing. He also says that Jewish people “never imagined that ‘resurrection’ would happen to one person in the middle of time; they believed it would happen to all people at the end of time [Dan. 12:2; John 11:23-24]. The Easter stories are very strange, but they are not projections of what people ‘always hoped would happen.’” The apostles weren’t expecting that a man would come back from the grave in an indestructible body in the middle of history.
If no one was expecting Jesus’ resurrection, we shouldn’t think that people simply made this story up. There is simply no evidence that a group of people fabricated this story. The details of the story would be too unbelievable to make up. After all, if a Jewish person were to make this story up, they wouldn’t have women being the first witnesses of the empty tomb. In the first century in Palestine, a woman’s testimony was almost useless. In that male-dominated society, a woman’s testimony would be heard in court only in rare cases. Now, that’s not a biblical or Christian view of women, but that was what people believed in that day. If you were making up a story, you wouldn’t have women as the first witnesses. You would likely have rich men or priests see the empty tomb first.
Also, the apostles would have nothing to gain by making up this story. Christianity put them at odds with the Roman Empire, the superpower of the day that controlled the whole area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This area included good portions of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe. Christians occasionally died because of their faith. The earliest Christians were Jews, and the Roman Empire tolerated the Jewish religion. But it did not tolerate Christianity for almost three hundred years. Who would make up a story that would lead to their own death?
There are many other reasons to believe that the resurrection is true. You can read about them in the article that was included with your bulletin. If you read that article, you’ll see that it points you to some online resources if you want to learn more.
The second thing I want us to see is why Jesus’ death and resurrection matter. Let’s read verses 14–23:
14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
It was early in the morning and still dark when Mary went to the tomb. And she was now weeping. So, it’s understandable that she wouldn’t recognize Jesus. She assumes this man who is now talking to her is a gardener. That’s a reasonable guess, since Jesus was crucified and buried in a garden (John 19:41). When Mary hears her own name called by Jesus, she recognizes who is talking to her. Perhaps that’s an echo of what Jesus said earlier in John’s Gospel. He called himself the good shepherd who leads and lays down his life for his people, his sheep. He said, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3).
But perhaps Mary wasn’t so mistaken. Maybe Jesus is a bit of a gardener. Bear with me for a moment. The big story of the Bible says that God created human beings in his image and after his likeness (Gen. 1:26), to reflect his glory, to serve him and to obey him. Essentially, we were made to know and love God, to live all of life under God’s authority, and to let others know about God, too. At the beginning of the Bible, God made the first two human beings and he put them in a garden. I think this is a literal event that also has symbolic meaning. The first human beings were supposed to keep the garden (Gen. 2:15) and they were supposed to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). And if you think about it, you start to get this image: Outside the garden is wilderness, a wild, undeveloped area. And as God’s image bearers worshiped and obeyed God and as they were fruitful and multiplied, having children who also worshiped God, they would be able to expand the garden until it filled the whole earth so that it became a paradise, full of the glory of God.
Now, that sounds like a beautiful thing. But there’s a problem. The first human beings didn’t trust God and obey him. They doubted his goodness. They wanted to be like God. In effect, they tried to remove God from his throne. As a result, God kicked them out of the garden, into the wilderness. And as a partial punishment for sin, God put his creation under a curse. Now, life would be hard; people would die. God did this to limit the rebellion of human beings. God loves his creation and doesn’t want evil—particularly the evil of rebellious human beings—to ruin it.
Now, if you’re reading the Bible thoughtfully and you read the first three chapters of the Bible, you may wonder, “How can we get back to the garden? How can we get back into God’s presence? How can we have a right relationship with him? How can go to a place where we will never die?”
As you read the Old Testament, you see how all human beings are rebellious. And, frankly, you don’t have to read the Bible to see that. Just look around. Look at how rebellious even little children can be. We can’t make our lives into a garden. We can’t remove all the weeds from our lives, let alone the whole world. People have tried, and they have failed, again and again.
The only solution comes from God. God the Father sent his Son, Jesus, into the world. He did that in part so that Jesus could fulfill God’s plans for humanity. Jesus is the only person who perfectly loved, obeyed, worshiped, and served God. He is the ultimate image bearer of God, the true image and likeness of God. He is the perfect human being, the only one who has any right to live in the garden of God.
But how can Jesus bring people like us into the garden? We are made unclean by our sin, our disobedience to God, our rebellion against him, our ignoring him. God is a perfect judge who must make sure that the guilty receive the appropriate sentence for their crimes. God cannot allow rebels to live in his garden, so the appropriate sentence is death. Really, when we choose to turn away from God, we turn away from the source of life, and we find a world of death. No one forces us to do this. We choose this willingly, because we don’t love God.
The only way that Jesus can bring us into the garden is to take that sentence of death on himself. That’s what he did on the cross. He died to pay the penalty for our sin. He endured God’s punishment against sinners on the cross. “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
And when Jesus rose from the grave, he was the first fruits of a new garden. Quite literally, the resurrected Jesus came out of the garden tomb as an immortal being, the second Adam planted in a garden. And he later ascended to heaven, where he is now with God the Father, praying and pleading for his people, serving as their great high priest. But someday he will come again, to judge everyone who has ever lived. Those who have turned to Jesus in faith, trusting that he is who the Bible says he is and that he has done what the Bible says he has done, will live in a garden paradise forever (Rev. 22:1–5 echoes the garden imagery of Gen. 2).
Jesus told his disciples, “Peace be with you.” The only way to have real peace in this life, the only way to have peace with God, is to know Jesus. Jesus said to the Father, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). That doesn’t mean that knowing facts about God gives us eternal life. No, it means we must know God because we have a relationship with him. That is what brings us peace. We don’t earn a relationship with God. We don’t make ourselves acceptable to God. No, we must simply receive salvation as a gift.
Now, I want us to see what a right relationship with God looks like. Let’s read verses 24–31:
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
When Jesus appeared to the other disciples, Thomas wasn’t there. Thomas gets a bad rap. He’s known as “doubting Thomas. For him, seeing is believing. But earlier in John’s Gospel, Thomas said he was willing to die with Jesus (John 11:16). So, Thomas was a person who followed Jesus and trusted him. Still, he couldn’t believe that Jesus had risen.
Jesus doesn’t rebuke Thomas. Instead, he appears to him and to the rest of the disciples on the following Sunday. And Jesus invites Thomas to see him and to touch him.
When Thomas see Jesus, he cannot help but say, “My Lord and my God!” One of John’s goals in writing his Gospel is to make it clear that Jesus is God. He begins his Gospel that way (John 1:1) and here at the end he records Thomas’ confession of faith.
People who truly believe in Jesus know that he is Lord and God. I think we generally understand what the word “God” means, but it’s hard for us to understand what “Lord” means. When we hear that word, we may think of the House of Lords in London. The word sounds antiquated. But John’s initial readers would have known what was being said. During this time, the superpower of the world was the Roman Empire, and its leader was the emperor, also known as Caesar. And Caesar was known as Lord. According to one dictionary, Lord means “one having power and authority over others.” Caesar was the most powerful man in the world.
He wasn’t just known as Lord, but he was also known as “the son of God” and a “savior.” There is an inscription of a decree made in 9 BC by an official in the eastern part of the Roman Empire that says the birthday of Augustus—the emperor reigning over the Roman Empire at the time Jesus was born—should be celebrated. This official wanted the calendar to be reset to the emperor’s birthday, in 63 BC. The inscription claims that Augustus was a “savior” and “our god.” Coins in the Roman Empire had titles of the emperor on them: divi filius (“son of God”) and pontifex maximus (“greatest priest”). In the Roman Empire, the Caesar was worshiped as a god.
So, when Thomas says, “My Lord and my God!” he’s saying that Jesus is the true God, the true Lord, the true King, the world’s true ruler and ultimate authority. Thomas swears his allegiance to Jesus, not to Caesar.
The earliest Christians were willing to die rather than compromise that allegiance to Jesus. They would rather die than bow before the emperor and worship him. One of John’s students was a man named Polycarp (69–155), who became the bishop of Smyrna, which is now known as Izmir, a city in Turkey. He became a martyr, a Christian who died for his faith. At the time of his execution, some people tried to convince him to worship the emperor and therefore be saved from death. They said, “Why, what harm is there in saying, ‘Caesar is Lord,’ and offering incense” (and other words to this effect) “and thereby saving yourself?” But Polycarp refused. Then, “the magistrate persisted and said, ‘Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile Christ,’ Polycarp replied, ‘For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’” When Polycarp was told he would be burned by fire, he said, “You threaten with a fire that burns only briefly and after just a little while is extinguished, for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you wish.”
True Christians recognize that Jesus is not only Savior, but also Lord and God. I don’t think we have proper categories to understand what “Lord” really means. The most powerful man on earth is probably the president of our country, yet no matter who is in the White House, it seems like at least half the country hates him and doesn’t recognize his authority. And the president’s authority is limited, of course. But Jesus is Lord over everything. And when we come to him as Savior, he becomes Lord over all of our lives, not just our Sunday mornings or whenever we feel like being religious.
I think the reason many people don’t embrace Jesus is that issue of authority. We simply don’t want someone else to be Lord over our lives. That is why people reject Christianity. It’s not because Christianity is irrational or illogical. It’s not because there is no evidence to support the claims of Christianity. We have eyewitness testimony from several different witnesses, and the basic claims of Christianity are supported by philosophy and science. I think people often ignore that evidence because they don’t want a Lord.
The philosopher Thomas Nagel, an atheist, wrote these words several years ago: “I want atheism to be true and am uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” He then says, “My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition.”
We don’t want there to be a Lord God because we don’t want someone telling us what we can and can’t do, particularly in important areas of our lives like sex, marriage, money, how we use our time, and how we treat people who are different from us. I think people know that the Christian life isn’t an easy one, and they don’t want to take what they think is the hard road. As G. K. Chesterton put it, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Yet if we reject Jesus because we reject his authority, we also reject his blessings. He said that those who believe—even when they haven’t seen him in the flesh—are blessed. John says he wrote his Gospel so that people would believe and have eternal life in Jesus. If you know Jesus, you know God and have eternal life. But if there’s no Lord Jesus in and over your life, there’s no eternal life for you. So many people say, “Rest in peace,” after someone has died. I’m here to tell you the truth: the only way to rest in peace is to have a right relationship with Jesus, the kind of relationship that Thomas and Mary Magdalene had. We will all have that moment when our bodies will fail. We all will die, whether in a sudden accident or slowly on a bed, tubes connected to our bodies, morphine in our veins. What happens next? Will you have eternal peace? You will if Jesus is your Lord and God.
We will all come under some authority. Something will rule over us, whether it’s something that we treasure the most or even our own desires. Entertainment, pleasure, money, politics, and almost anything else can function as our lord and god. But Jesus is the only God who would sacrifice his life for you. He’s the only Lord who can die for your sins and make you right with God. No one else, and nothing else will do that for you. I urge you to put your trust in him. And if you don’t know Jesus, please talk to me. I would love to help you know him and follow him.
- Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). ↑
- “Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and thereafter actually claimed that somebody had been truly dead and had then come to be truly, and bodily, alive once more.” N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), 76. ↑
- N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 192. ↑
- Flavius Josephus the Jewish historian, writes in his Antiquities 4.8.15, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” ↑
- Brian Watson, “Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” https://wbcommunity.org/evidence-resurrection-jesus-christ. ↑
- Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2003). ↑
- John Dickson, A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible: Inside History’s Bestseller for Believers and Skeptics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 133. ↑
- M. Eugene Boring, “Gospel, Message,” ed. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2006–2009), 2:630. ↑
- Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones, 2:458, quoted in Dickson, A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible, 133. ↑
- The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8, in Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Updated ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 233. ↑
- The Martyrdom of Polycarp 9, in ibid., 235. ↑
- The Martyrdom of Polycarp 11, in ibid. ↑
- Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (1997), 130. ↑
- Ibid., 131. ↑
- G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World? (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1912), 48. ↑
Imagine this: You run into someone you haven’t seen in several years. It’s a younger man, perhaps a distant cousin, or someone you went to school with, or the kid who grew up down the street. At any rate, you haven’t seen him in years, and now you find out he’s been home for Thanksgiving and you catch up a bit. You ask him what he’s doing these days. He says that he’s become an actor. He now lives in Los Angeles. And he’s starring in a new movie that’s coming out in December. You might have heard of it. It’s called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He says he’ll be home again for Christmas and, if you see the movie, he’d love to hear what you think of it.
So, you go see the movie when it comes out. It’s a Star Wars movie, which means you wanted to see it anyway, but now you’re really interested in seeing it because the kid you knew from back in the day is starring in it. You watch the opening scenes and don’t see him yet, but you figure that perhaps he plays a character who enters the story a bit later. Halfway through the movie, you haven’t spotted his face yet, but perhaps he makes a dramatic appearance in the last act of the movie. But he doesn’t. And as the closing credits play, you begin to think that you made a mistake about which movie he was starring in, or perhaps he just lied to you.
About a month later, around Christmas, you see him again. He asks you, “What did you think about the movie? How was I?” And you say, “You were in Star Wars, right?” He says, “Of course.” And then, after an awkward pause, you say, “I saw the movie, but I didn’t see you in it.” And he says, “Of course you saw me. I was one of the stormtroopers.” In case you don’t know, stormtroopers are the soldiers who work for the bad guys. They wear helmets, so you can’t see their faces. You say, “Well, which stormtrooper were you?” And he says, “I was the one in the back row of that scene.” You say, “Oh. Yeah, that was great.”
You’re trying to be polite, so you tell him you enjoyed the movie, but you’re puzzled. Why did he say he starred in the movie? This question starts bugging you, so you ask him. He says, “Well, honestly, I thought the movie was going to be more about me. When I told you I starred in it, I hadn’t seen the movie yet. But I was on set for a few days, and there were cameras all around, and I figured the movie was really about me.” Again, you’re trying to be polite, so you just say, “Well, perhaps next time it will be.”
But you’re still puzzled. Why would anyone in their right mind think that just because he played one of many stormtroopers in a cast of hundreds of people, that he was playing the starring role? How could anyone be so misguided, so conceited, so foolish?
But that’s how we are. In this great big story we call life, our time on screen is relatively short. Each of us has a significant role to play, but we’re just one of many people who grace the screen. Most of us will never play anything like a starring role. We’re more like the extra who appears briefly in the background. Yet too often we think that we play the starring role, that life is really about us. We act like everyone else is an actor in a movie about us. Yet, truly, the story of life is primarily about God. He plays the starring role. We play important roles that he has written for us, but he remains the star of the show.
The last of the five principles that came out of the Protestant Reformation, the one that binds them all together, is Soli Deo Gloria, or, “To God Alone Be the Glory.” When we talk about glorying God, we mean that we recognize that he is the star of the show. God is the only one worthy of worship. Ultimately, everything exists and is done for the glory of God.
Before I continue, I want to define “glory,” because it’s a term that we don’t hear a lot outside of religion. We do hear about it sometimes, like when people talk about an athlete or a team achieving Super Bowl glory. That generally means that by winning a Super Bowl, they have made a name for themselves, or they have reserved for themselves a place in the Hall of Fame. That’s not far from the biblical definition of “glory.” In the Bible, the word “glory” appears frequently in both Testaments. In the Old Testament, that word translates a Hebrew word that can mean “abundance, honor, glory,” or “riches/wealth,” or “splendor.” That word is related to another word that means “heaviness” or “weight.” So, the idea is that God is the richest, the most splendid, the weightiest being that exists. And as we come to recognize his greatness, God takes on more worth and weight in our lives.
In the New Testament, the Greek word that is translated as “glory” means “brightness, shining, splendor,” or “greatness,” or “fame, renown.” The Greek verb that’s translated as “to glorify” means “to praise” or “to cause to have splendid greatness.” So, when we talk about God’s glory, we’re talking about how great he is, how famous he is, how brilliant and splendid he is. And when we glorify God in our lives, we’re praising him, recognizing his greatness. And when God glorifies us, he causes us to be great. But we can only be glorified if God is first glorified in our lives.
The subject of God’s glory is a large one that’s hard to summarize in one sermon. But in order to get to the heart of what it means for God to be glorified, I want to turn to one passage in John’s Gospel. In chapter 17, shortly before Jesus is arrested and crucified, he prays to God the Father. This is commonly known as Jesus’ “high priestly prayer,” because he acts as a priest, praying for his disciples.
Let’s begin by reading the first five verses:
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
I want to begin with that last verse first. Jesus has always existed as the Son of God. As God, he is eternal. He has no beginning. Before the universe was created, he had always enjoyed unbroken fellowship with the other two Persons of the Trinity: God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Now, at this point in time, he asks for the Father to glorify him “with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
I point this out because we need to understand that God is glorious by himself. He doesn’t need us to glorify him, but he chose to create us for that purpose (cf. Acts 17:24–25). God is intrinsically glorious and glorified. He is splendid and great, and the three Persons of the Trinity magnify or reflect or acknowledge the greatness of the other Persons. The Father proclaims how his Son pleases him, and his Son loves and obeys the Father.
And during his time on earth, when Jesus became the God-man, he glorified the Father on earth by obeying him, by doing all that the Father planned for him to do. In that way Jesus is the perfect human being. As a man, Jesus fulfills God’s designs for creation.
The big story of the Bible can be summarized in four words: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Each part of this story glorifies God.
First, creation exists for God’s glory. God created the universe for his glory. Psalm 19:1 famously says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The seraphim, the fantastic creatures that accompany the Lord in heaven, say in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” God’s plan has always been for the earth to “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).
The opening chapters of Genesis show that God made the universe and specifically the Garden of Eden to be his temple, where he is glorified. And God made people in his image, to reflect his greatness and glory. God wants us to glorify him alone. He alone is worthy of our worship. He says, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 48:11).
God sent his Son into the world because of the second part of the story, the fall, when human beings rebelled against God and fell into sin. It is mysterious why a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God would create human beings who would sin, but even sin glorifies God. We get hints of this in different parts of the biblical story. For example, one of the most important stories of the Bible is the exodus, when God rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. It seems that God orchestrated the whole story—from Israel going into Egypt, to their being enslaved, to his dramatic redemption of the Israelites—in order to display his glory among the nations. Egypt was the most important nation in the world at that time, and there was no better place for God to show that he is the true God, as opposed to all the false gods the Egyptians worshiped. God showed that he, not Pharaoh, is the true King.
God did that first by hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the Israelites go (Exod. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8). In one passage, God tells Moses,
2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them” (Exod. 7:2–5).
The Egyptians would know that God is indeed the one true God because of what he would do. God told Pharaoh, “for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exod. 9:16; Rom. 9:17). Pharaoh was responsible for his sin, yet God raised him for the purpose of displaying his power and glory. That gives us a hint of why there is sin in the world. The same is true when Jesus brings his friend Lazarus back to life. Lazarus was allowed to die so that God could display his power over death and therefore be glorified (John 11:4, 40).
So, God is glorified in creation and God is glorified by the fall because he is more powerful than evil. He judges evil people and miraculously triumphs over evil. God is therefore glorified in judgment.
And God is glorified in salvation. That is why Jesus came. He most perfectly displays God’s glory. At the beginning of John’s Gospel, we’re told, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And when he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, he was glorified. That’s why Jesus says, at the beginning of his prayer in John 17, “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” Earlier in the Gospel of John, his death is referred to has his hour of glorification (John 12:16, 23, 28; 13:31–32). It’s quite ironic that Jesus is most glorified, and he most glorifies the Father, by dying in a humiliating way. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals. It was a way of torturing and shaming enemies of the state. Jesus was not a criminal, he never sinned, but he was treated like a criminal so that all who trust in him can go free.
Jesus is most glorified in his death because he demonstrates his obedience to the Father and his love for his people. Who else would obey God unto death in that way? Who else would die for sinful people? God the Father is glorified in Jesus’ death because he sent his Son to be the one who absorbs his righteous, just wrath against sin. And the Father is worth obeying, even unto death. Father, Son, and Spirit are glorified in Jesus’ resurrection, because all take part in bringing Jesus back to life, showing God’s power of sin and death. In short, God is glorified in Jesus’ death and resurrection because only that saves sinful people. We are told time and again that the reason God saves us is for his glory.
So, God is glorified in redemption. And he is glorified in those he has redeemed. Let’s see this by continuing with Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Let’s read verses 6–19:
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Jesus taught the disciples who God is. He manifested the name of God to his disciples, which means he made clear God’s identity and character. God the Father gave certain people to Jesus, and Jesus taught them his word. Jesus prays for his people, not for the whole world, but for the ones the Father gave Jesus. And Jesus says that he is glorified in his disciples. Jesus keeps his disciples in the Father’s name, which means he keeps them in a right relationship with God. He guarded them. The only exception was Judas, who betrayed Jesus. And even Judas’ betrayal was a fulfillment of God’s plans.
Jesus asks the Father to sanctify his disciples. “Sanctify” means to make holy and pure. He asks the Father to “sanctify them in the truth.” And what is the truth? God’s word is truth. Jesus knows that they have been sent out into the world, just as he was sent into the world, to do the Father’s will. So, he asks the Father to protect them, to guard them, and to purify them.
Now, lest we think that Jesus was only praying for the apostles, he makes it clear that he prays for all his people. We see that in the last paragraph of his prayer. Let’s read verses 20–26:
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Jesus prays “also for those will believe in” him through the apostles’ word. He prays that his people will be one, as he and the Father are one. This unity among believers will be a sign to the world that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and God’s anointed one, the Christ. And, quite stunningly, Jesus says that the glory that the Father gave to him he gives to his people. We are glorified by being united to Jesus.
Jesus’ words show that God is glorified when people to come to faith in Jesus and join God’s family. At the beginning of the prayer, Jesus said that the Father gave him authority to grant eternal life to the ones the Father gives to Jesus to save. Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing who God is and trusting in him glorifies God. Growing in our knowledge of God and growing in our obedience to God by being sanctified by his word glorifies him. Loving one another and being united in our faith glorifies God.
Faith, knowledge of God, obedience to God, and love for one another glorify God. Our praise and evangelism does, too. First Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” When we proclaim God’s excellencies, we are glorifying him. When we tell others about the One who brought us out of darkness and into light, they may also become part of God’s family. The apostle Paul said that “as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). When people are thankful that God saved them, they glorify God. When we see that God saved us not because of anything we’ve done, we should be thankful. We should praise God all the more.
I think that’s why this concept of Soli Deo Gloria, or “To God Alone Be the Glory,” ties together all the Reformation Principles. The first one we looked at was “Scripture Alone,” which says that only God’s written word, the Bible, is inerrant and infallible. It alone gives us knowledge of God that is true and doesn’t fail. Think of how this gives God glory. If we could figure out on our own what God is like and what he expects of us, we would be glorified for our cleverness. But God makes the wise of this world foolish by humbling them. God must reveal himself in order to be known truly and fully. The fact that he alone gives us this revelation brings glory to him, not us.
The second principle we looked at is “Grace Alone.” Salvation is a gift. It is not something we have earned. Even the act of faith is a gift (Eph. 2:8–9; Phil. 1:29). The fact that “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jon. 2:9) and not ourselves shatters our pride. But it brings glory to God, because God is merciful towards sinners and he graciously gives us salvation, which is something that we could never attain ourselves.
The principle we looked at is “Faith Alone.” We can only receive the gift of salvation. We cannot earn it. No amount of good works puts us in the right with God. Again, this humbles us. It shows that our sin is so pervasive that even our good works are tainted by selfish motives. But it glorifies God because it shows that he provided a way for us to be made right with him. He does the work for us.
And God did that work through the world’s only Savior, Jesus. “Christ Alone” is the fourth principle we have looked at. The fact that only a divine man can save sinful human beings humbles us. It shows us that no intellectual, no politician, no warrior, no scientist can save us. Only the perfect man, the God-man, can save us. Only he can give us God’s blessings. And this glorifies Jesus.
So, what the Protestant Reformation did was lower our view of ourselves and raise our view of God. Only God can reveal himself to us. Only God can save. Only God can do the work to save us, and he did that in the only Savior, Jesus.
Of course, we are not yet at the end of the story of the Bible. We live in a fallen world that doesn’t always seem so glorious. And many people today refuse to glorify God. They act as if they, or some other person, is the star of the show. But the last act of this great drama we’re in is called restoration, or consummation. That is when Jesus returns, when all the dead are raised back to life, when Jesus judges everyone who has ever lived, and the world is turned into a paradise. When Jesus returns, everyone will know that Jesus is Lord, the true King. Some will bow their knees in worship. Others will bow in terror. But “every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).
When Jesus returns, according to the apostle Paul, he will pay “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8). Paul continues by saying that those who are judged will suffer “away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:9). Those who reject God will not see his glory and they will not be glorified. But Paul also says that Jesus comes “to be glorified in his saints” (v. 10) and that he prays for Christians to live lives worthy of their calling, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 12). Jesus will be glorified in his people, and they will be glorified in him. The only way to have true glory is not by winning a Super Bowl or an Academy Award or a Nobel Prize or an election. The only path to true glory is Jesus.
And when Jesus returns, we will be resurrected. We will have glorified bodies, bodies that can never die again. And the earth will be filled with the glory of God. The new creation is described as the New Jerusalem, a beautiful city that has “the glory of God” because it shines like a jewel (Rev. 21:11). And in that beautiful city, we’re told there will be no sun and moon, “for the glory of God gives it light” (Rev. 21:23).
So, we are part of the great story of God’s glory, but the story never will be primarily about us. To think so is to imagine that the sun revolves around you, instead of realizing that we actually revolve around the sun. The proper way to be part of this story is to trust Jesus, to realize that he is the King, and we are not, that God is God and we’re not, and to seek forgiveness for our sins through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross. God is glorified when his grace is received and when people are transformed into his thankful worshipers.
If you’re here today and you aren’t trusting Jesus, following him and glorifying him, I would urge you to start now. Acknowledge that he is Lord and you’re not. Confess your sins, that you haven’t lived to glorify God. Ask for his forgiveness. Tell him you want to follow him and that you need his help. I would love to tell you more about what it means to be a Christian
Christians, Jesus is glorified in our evangelism. When we tell others about Jesus, regardless of how they respond, he is glorified. When we testify that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth in the humble form of a man, lived the perfect life, died in place of sinners, and rose from the grave, his greatness is put on display.
God is also glorified by our growing in knowledge and love and obedience. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Philippi, he said this:
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
We should grow in our love for God and for one another. We should grow in our knowledge of God and our ability to discern what lines up with God’s design and what doesn’t. We should grow in our purity and holiness, becoming more and more like Jesus. We should produce good fruit, because all of this is “to the glory and praise of God.”
Jesus told his disciples that God is glorified by our obedience. He said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). God is glorified when we put Jesus’ words into practice, bearing good fruit in our lives.
Jesus is glorified in worship. But he is most glorified when our focus is on him, not on our traditions or personal preferences. Worship is about acknowledging God’s worth, his greatness. It exists primarily for God, not for us. Yes, when we worship God, we benefit. But worship is not entertainment or something that exists to make us feel comfortable.
Often, when we talk about our experiences in worship, people start to talk about what they like. “I like that hymn.” “I like that song.” “I like the way he preaches.” Or, “I didn’t like that music.” “I didn’t like that sermon.” And so on. When we get hung up on our likes, we’re glorifying ourselves, not God.
This matters for our church because we need to reach out to younger generations. We want younger people to join us in worship. That means that older, more mature Christians are going to have to let go of their personal preferences in order to make younger generations feel more welcome here. That means we’ll sing songs that perhaps are not our favorites. That means changing how we worship. It never means changing what we believe or whom we worship. It never means changing God’s word. But we will continue to change the style of worship. I ask you this: what would glorify God more, having us hang on to our little traditions and our preferred worship style, or making a new generation of disciples? The church does not exist for our comfort. It is not a museum or some nostalgic show that reminds us of the “good ol’ days.” It exists for God’s glory.
We were made to glorify someone or something. And we will do that. We will glorify ourselves, or someone in our lives, or our favorite sports team, or someone or something else. Or we will glorify God. But here’s the thing: We will only be glorified when we glorify God. Someone who writes and stars in a one-person play that no one sees won’t get glorified. But if we gladly play our small role in God’s big story, we get to take part in the biggest, most glorious story of all time. And the glory of God will shine on us, so that we also will be glorious.
- “כָּבוֹד,” Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 458. ↑
- “כְּבֵדֻת,” See ibid., 459. ↑
- “δόξα, ης, ἡ,” William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 256–257. ↑
- “Δοξάζω” in ibid., 258. ↑
- All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). ↑
- See the sermon, “A Theater for His Glory,” preached on September 27, 2015, at https://wbcommunity.org/story-of-the-bible. ↑
- See the sermon, “Image Bearers,” preached on October 4, 2015, at https://wbcommunity.org/story-of-the-bible. ↑
- See the sermon, “Why Do Bad Things Happen?” It was preached on October 8, 2017 and is available at https://wbcommunity.org/why-do-bad-things-happen. ↑
- See Ezekiel 36:22–32; Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14; Philippians 2:5–11. ↑
Brian Watson preaches a sermon on the Protestant Reformation principle Soli Deo Gloria, “To God Alone Be the Glory.” The reason the universe and human beings exist is for God’s glory. The primary reason Jesus came to save us is for God’s glory. Our motivation should be to glorify God in all that we do. The primary text for this sermon is John 17.
Whenever a celebrity dies, without fail people get on social media and write “R.I.P.” or “rest in peace.” When someone’s loved one dies, it’s common for people to say, “She’s in a better place,” or, “Now he’s with his wife in heaven,” or something similar. These people write or say such things regardless of what the deceased believed or how the departed lived. It seems that most people think their loved ones go to heaven. Perhaps they can’t bear to think of the alternative.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been answering questions that people have submitted to us (in person at Park Day in West Bridgewater or online). One person submitted a very simple yet very profound question: “Am I going to heaven?” Another person asked a question related to losing salvation, and still another person asked a question about whether God would love them or not if they got a divorce. So, today I want to talk about salvation, and what that looks like.
I’m going to answer this question by looking at one chapter in the Gospel of John. The four Gospels in the Bible are theological biographies of Jesus. They explain who he is and what he did. John presents some of the clearest information about Jesus that relates to salvation and who has eternal life. You may wonder how this chapter relates to heaven, but if you hang with me, you’ll see that it answers the question of heaven and salvation.
So, without further ado, let’s turn to John 6.
I’m going to summarize part of this chapter, since it’s long. The chapter begins with Jesus being followed by a crowd of people “because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick” (verse 2). Jesus had the ability to heal the sick, and he did so in miraculous fashion. As you could imagine, this would draw a crowd.
We’re told that Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and went up on a mountain, where he sat with his disciples (verse 3). It was the time of Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorated the time when God redeemed the Israelites, bringing them out of slavery in Egypt (verse 4). On this mountain, Jesus performs another miracle. He feeds thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish (verses 5–13). When this happens, we’re told, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (verse 14).
A lot of the details of John 6 recall Moses and the exodus out of Egypt. Moses was the leader whom God used. He was the one who said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” So, it’s no accident that Jesus is on a mountain, miraculously feeding people bread at the time of the Passover. We’re even told that were twelve baskets full of bread left over, one for every tribe of Israel (verse 13). Moses foretold of a day when a special prophet would come, the prophet. Deuteronomy 18:18–19 says, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” So, when the people see these miracles, they’re reminded of Moses, and they think, “Ah, so this is the Prophet Moses told us about!” They were expecting that just as Moses led Israel out of Egypt, this new Moses figure would free the people from the oppression of the Roman Empire. The Israelites were in their land, but they lived there under Roman occupation. They expected a political ruler, an anointed King, who would come and take care of their enemies. They thought Jesus might very well be that King.
So, we read this in verse 15: “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” This is a bit odd. We know from the whole of the Bible that Jesus is the true King. He is Lord. He is God. Yet when the people come to make him king, and to do so by force, Jesus leaves. Many people would want to be king, but Jesus knows they want him to be king for the wrong reasons. They don’t want a king who will lead the people in righteousness and holiness. They don’t want a king who will lead them to God. No, they want a king who will get rid of their enemies and give them prosperity. The fact that Jesus won’t become their king in that way shows that he doesn’t exist to serve our agenda.
In the next passage, we see who Jesus is. Let’s read John 6:16–21:
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
This passage shows that Jesus is unique. He has power over nature. He can walk on water and, when he gets on the boat, he is able to either overpower the strong wind or make it stop so they can get to the other side of the sea. This is just one of many ways that John shows that Jesus is God.
That paragraph also shows something else: to get where they need to go, the disciples need Jesus. That’s an important message for us. To get where we need to go, we need Jesus. It is impossible without him. We need him in order to reach the other shore safely.
I’ll skip over the next few verses, which basically say that when the crowds realize that Jesus had gone, they came looking for him. But they were still looking for him for the wrong reasons.
Let’s now read verses 25–34:
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
I want us to see four things in that paragraph. First, Jesus calls out the crowd. He says, “You aren’t seeking me for who I am. No, you’re seeking me because I perform miracles and gave you bread.” That should cause us to question why we are seeking Jesus. Do we seek him in order to get things from him or in order to get him?
Second, Jesus says, “Forget the free bread I gave you. That’s food that perishes. But I can give you eternal food. So, work for that.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “Don’t get so caught up in things that fade away, that don’t last. He tells them that he can give them something of eternal value.
Third, when the people ask, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” In other words, Jesus says, “If you want to earn food that gives you eternal life, believe in me.” He doesn’t say, “Do all of these good works to receive this eternal food.” The only “work” that people must do to receive from Jesus is to trust him. That means we don’t earn things from Jesus. We come as beggars with the knowledge that he has what we don’t have and what we need, and the only way we can get it is by receiving it as a gift.
Fourth, when the people ask why they should believe in Jesus, Jesus says, “Just as God sent manna (the bread from heaven that sustained the Israelites), he is sending bread from heaven now.” But this time, the bread from heaven doesn’t perish. It is eternal. As you can imagine, the people say, “Give us this bread!”
So, Jesus tells them about this eternal bread. Let’s read verses 35–40:
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Jesus tells the crowd that he is the bread of life. He is the food they must consume in order to have eternal life. He is the one who can satisfy their spiritual hunger and thirst. Yet, they do not trust him.
Then Jesus says there are people who will trust him. They are those whom the Father has given him. Anyone who comes to Jesus in faith does so because the Father has already given them to Jesus, and they will never be cast out. This is the Father’s will, to save these people. It is the Father’s will that these people will not be lost, but will be raised up to eternal life on the last day, on judgment day. That is the day when Jesus returns to judge everyone who has lived and to usher in the age to come, when the world will be recreated to be Paradise. Everyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life in that Paradise.
We shouldn’t miss the significance of what Jesus is saying. He recognizes that not everyone will believe in him. But there are people who will. And God already knows them, because he has chosen them and he gives them to the Son. All who are given to the Son will have true faith in him, and they will have eternal life. This theme runs throughout the Gospel of John. In John 1:11–13, we’re told that many Jews rejected Jesus but those who receive him become children of God, and this is because they are born (again) of the will of God, not the will of man. In John 3:5–8, Jesus says that in order to enter the kingdom of God, people must first be born again of the Holy Spirit, who, like the wind, blows where he wills. We can’t cause ourselves to be born again. In John 17, Jesus prays to God the Father. Jesus makes a distinction between people whom the Father has given him and the whole world (see John 17:2, 6, 7, 9, 24).
Some people don’t like that idea. In fact, some people didn’t like it in Jesus’ day. We see that in the next paragraph, verses 41–51:
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Some of the crowd grumbled at Jesus. (Keep in mind that Jesus and John were Jewish. So, when John says, “Jews,” he just means some of the people there.) “Grumble” is a loaded word, because the Israelites grumbled in Moses’ day (Exod. 16:2, 8–9; Num. 11:4–23). They complained that he was leading them to their death. They complained about the food that they received. Just as the Israelites complained then, so some Israelites complained during Jesus’ day. They couldn’t believe that a man who was born of a woman and raised by a carpenter could also be someone who came down from heaven. In other words, they say, “Who does this guy think he is?”
Jesus tells them not to grumble. He says that no one can come to him unless the Father draws that person to Jesus. And the that person will be raised to eternal life on the last day. In other words, Jesus is the only way to the Father, and the only ones who will put their trust in Jesus are those whom the Father has drawn to Jesus. And those people will be raised to eternal life. Jesus doesn’t say, “some of the people drawn to me will be raised to eternal life.” No, all whom the Father gives to Jesus will be raised. That means that salvation begins with God’s work and it ends with God’s work. Salvation can’t be lost, because God saves from start to finish. Jesus does not say, “All are drawn to me by the Father, and some will persevere to the end, and they will receive eternal life.” He doesn’t say, “All are drawn by the Father to me, and some will believe.” No, all that the Father gives to Jesus will believe and they will be raised to eternal life.
Jesus says this because there are clearly some people who don’t believe. In fact, it seems like most of the people there didn’t believe Jesus. This does not surprise him at all. He realizes that many will not believe in him. Many Israelites didn’t trust God. The manna they ate in the wilderness didn’t give them eternal life. But those who trust Jesus will live forever, because he is the true bread from heaven. In verse 51, he says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
That last statement confuses the crowd. They can’t understand what Jesus is saying. We see that in the next paragraph, verses 52–59:
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
This is another example in the book of John when people take Jesus’ words too literally. The crowd thinks, “How can we eat this guy’s flesh?” Jesus doesn’t make things easy for them, because he goes on to say that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Those who do this will be raised to eternal life on the last day.
What is Jesus talking about? Surely, he’s not talking about cannibalism. And he’s not talking about the Lord’s Supper. I suppose Catholics take this literally. They believe that when they take the eucharist, the wafer and the wine don’t just represent Jesus’ body and blood. No, they believe that those elements have been miraculously transformed so that their substance is that of Jesus’ body and blood. I think that misses the point completely.
Jesus is clearly talking in metaphorical terms. After all, he was not actually a loaf of bread that talked. At one level, he says that is spiritual food. To live forever, one must “consume” him. We must live with a daily reliance on Jesus. But when Jesus talks about his body and blood, he’s already looking forward to the cross. Jesus knows that the only way he can give people eternal life is if his body is broken on the cross and his blood is poured out. His body was broken like bread. His blood was poured out like wine. When Jesus died, he received God’s righteous, holy wrath against sin. As Isaiah 53:5 says, “he was crushed for our iniquities.” References to his blood represent his life (cf. Lev. 17:11). His life was drained from his body on the cross so that we may have eternal life. Jesus died to pay for the sins of those whom the Father gives to him, and Jesus laid down his life willingly (John 10:14–18).
All of this may seem strange to us, just as it seemed strange to Jesus’ original audience. But we must understand a couple of things. One, the Bible talks about sacrifice for sin in very gory ways. All the talk of blood shed for the remission of sins shows how gross sin is. Sin is rebellion against God, and sin must be dealt with. God is a perfect judge, and a perfect judge makes sure that crimes are paid for. And the penalty for the crime is commensurate with the crime. If the penalty is death, it shows us that sin is a heinous crime. The fact that God sent his own Son to be a bloody sacrifice shows us the seriousness of sin. The fact that Jesus willingly came to die for his people, and that God would let his Son die, should cause us to wonder at God’s love.
The second thing we should understand is that all of us look to something or someone to give us life. We trust something or someone to give us security, meaning, and happiness. That is, we might say, our spiritual bread and drink. If we trust anything but Jesus, we’ll be left empty and we will die. Football or movies won’t give eternal life. Money won’t. Politics won’t. Power won’t. Good looks and health won’t last. Only Jesus endures. Only Jesus is perfect. And only Jesus dies for us, taking away our problem, our sin against God.
I suppose food is a good metaphor, because we need it every day. We spend a good amount of time and money on food. How much time do we spend on Jesus? We should ask God for our daily bread (Matt. 6:11), but how many of us give ourselves daily to God? Do our lives revolve around him, or do we expect him to revolve around us?
Let’s continue with the story by reading verses 60–65:
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Many of those who followed Jesus found his teachings to be hard—hard to understand and hard to follow. If they are offended by what Jesus has already said, what will they think when he ascends to heaven, where he was before? After Jesus died, he rose from the grave in a body that can never die again, and he rose to heaven. He is the Son of Man, the divine figure of Daniel 7. If they can’t accept that God sent him to be their spiritual food, what will they think of the idea that he is God?
Jesus knows that for them to believe his words, they need the Holy Spirit. His words give life, but they can only be understood, received, and trusted through the power of the Holy Spirit. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” In a sense, it is miraculous that anyone believes in Jesus, because it is the work of God.
After Jesus said this to the crowd, many turned away from him. We see this in concluding verses of the chapter. Let’s read verses 66–71:
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
This paragraph is both sad and hopeful. It’s sad because people who had followed Jesus, people who were his students, his disciples, left him. They didn’t believe. It is true that people can appear to trust Jesus for a while, only to later turn their backs on him. These are not true believers. They are not the ones the Father has given to the Son, the ones who will be raised on the last day. Even Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, would reject and betray Jesus.
But that paragraph is hopeful, too. When Jesus says to the twelve apostles, “Do you want to go away as well? Peter says, “Where are we going to go? Only you have the words have eternal life. Only you are the Holy One of God.” I think that Peter might have been confused by some of Jesus’ teachings. He probably wouldn’t disagree that Jesus taught some hard things. But he also knew that Jesus was his only hope.
This shows us that we may not fully understand or even fully like what Jesus teaches. But if we trust that he is who he says he is, then he is our only hope, and we must follow him. We must trust him. Who else but Jesus can give us eternal life? There is no one. So, who are we to correct Jesus, or ignore him?
Now that we’ve gone through this chapter, I want to come back to the original question. “Am I going to heaven?” I actually think that question is a bad one. The question shouldn’t be, “Am I going to heaven?” It should be, “Will I be with God for eternity?”
A lot of people like the idea of heaven. They like the idea of eternal life, of an existence without pain or loss. But a lot of people don’t like the idea that God is the greatest reward possible. They don’t like the idea that Jesus is greater than heaven.
I said this on Easter, but it bears repeating. Imagine if God were to make a deal with you. Imagine if he said, “I will let you live in a world without pain, evil, disease, wars, hunger or thirst, and death. I’ll let you live with all your loved ones in that world forever. You will have all of the world’s greatest pleasures. But there’s only one condition: you won’t be with me, you’ll never see me, and you’ll never hear from me.” Would you take that deal?
If so, you don’t have real faith. You’re like the people who wanted the free bread from Jesus, but didn’t want to receive Jesus as their bread. God does not exist to give us stuff. We exist for God, and God gives us himself. Of course, God doesn’t say, “You can have me or Paradise.” No, if we want God more than anything, we get Paradise thrown in. But if we only want Paradise and not God, we won’t get either.
Are you going to heaven when you die? The better question is, are you going to be with Jesus when you die? And the answer to that question comes is a question: do you trust Jesus? Do you believe that he is who the Bible says he is and that he did (and does, and will do) what the Bible says he did (and does, and will do)? Do you know that he is the Holy One of God, the only one who can give you his righteous standing before God and the only one who can take away your sin? Is your faith in him one that leads to good works, to following him? We’re not reconciled to God by our good works, but once we’re saved—once we’re born again, or transformed by God—we start to live for him.
Jesus said, in John 10:27–29,
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Do you listen to the voice of Jesus by reading the Bible? Does your listening to him lead to obedience? If so, you are one of Jesus’ sheep, one of his people, and you will never perish. No one can take you out of God’s hands because no one is greater than God.
And that leads me to answer another question we received. Someone asked, “What does the Bible mean by 1 Peter 5:8, 2 Corinthians 11:3, and 1 John 5:16 if once you are a believer in Jesus as Savior and you cannot lose your salvation?” Those three verses deal with Satan, false teachers, and a sin that leads to death. I suppose the question is, if you can’t lose your salvation, why are those warnings in the Bible?
I believe those warnings are in the Bible because they are the means God uses to keep his people on the right track. I suppose they are also there because God knows that there will be people in churches who aren’t true believers. God knows who his people are, and those who are his people will listen to these warnings and heed them. Those who are not his people won’t take these warnings seriously.
Many passages in the Bible teach what we might call “eternal security.” We have already seen that John 6 and John 10 teach this. Romans 8 teaches this, too. So does 1 Peter 1. The apostle Paul says that believers were not only predestined to be redeemed, but that they are sealed with the Holy Spirit when they believed the gospel (Eph. 1:13). He says that the Holy Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14; see also Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). If you truly believe in Jesus, God has set his seal on you, just as the Father as put his seal on the Son (John 6:27). That means that nothing can take you away from God. You may stumble and sin. You won’t be perfect. But if you’re a believer, you will turn back to Jesus repeatedly. If you sin, you’ll confess and repent. But that sin won’t remove you from the love of God.
We shouldn’t want to sin, but if we do—and we will—“we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). We know that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers all our sins. Do you believe that? If you’re a Christian, you will. If you’re a Christian, you will grow in your love for God and his Son, and you’ll grow in your love for others, particularly other Christians. And if you love Jesus, you will do your best to keep his commandments (John 14:15), not to earn heaven or salvation, but as a new way of living that is right, good, and true. You won’t be perfect in this life, but you’ll grow more like Jesus.
The question is, “Am I going to heaven?” The answer to that question is found in the answer to this question, “Do you want Jesus more than anything else?” If you want Jesus, you get heaven thrown in. If he is your daily bread, you have eternal life. If you trust Jesus, you will be raised on the last day, because God has given you to Jesus’ care. And no one can separate you from Jesus, because no one is greater than God.
- Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). ↑
- “The crowds would have marched him to Jerusalem to crown him as their political Messiah. But he came to do his Father’s will: he would go to Jerusalem not to wield the spear and bring the judgment, but to receive the spear thrust and bear the judgment.” Edmund Clowney, “A Biblical Theology of Prayer,” in Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1990), 158. ↑
- An explanation of what the “sin that leads to death” is can be found in my sermon, “The True God and Eternal Life” (July 30, 2017), available at https://wbcommunity.org/letters-of-john. ↑
- Romans 8:28–30 shows clearly that salvation is of God, from start to finish. He foreknows people (not their future free decisions, but people he will save) in eternity past. He predestines them to salvation. He calls them to faith in Jesus through the preaching of the gospel. He justifies them, or declares them righteous, when they believe. He conforms believers to the image of Jesus, so that they live more and more righteously. And he glorifies them, bringing into eternity. Romans 8:31–39 makes it abundantly clear that nothing can separate believers from God. See also 1 Peter 1:3–5. ↑
- The book of 1 John was written to Christians so that they “may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). To learn more about how we know we’re Christians, visit https://wbcommunity.org/letters-of-john. ↑
Pastor Brian Watson answers the question, “Am I going to heaven?” He does so by exploring John 6. The question for us is, “Do we want Jesus, or do we only want the things he can give us?”
Have you ever heard news that sounds too good to be true? Years ago, I used to get emails offering me great fortune. I’m not sure when this started, but it was around 2004, and I got several of these messages. I guess I was particularly lucky. Here’s an example:
I am Barrister Rotimi Adams, the personal attorney to Mr. James Watson, herein after referred to as my client, a national of your country, who until his death was a major crude oil contractor with the federal government of Nigeria.
My client and his entire family were involved in a fatal motor accident along the Sagamu express road, sparing none of the occupants of the vehicle. I have since then made several enquiries to your Embassy, in a bid to locate any relation of my client, and these efforts of mine have not been productive. I then decided to trace his last name over the Internet, and came across your name that is why I have contacted you to assist me in securing the money and property left behind by my client before they are declared as unclaimed and unserviceable by the bank where they have been lodged for safekeeping. I am particularly interested in securing the funds lodged with Global Trust Bank Plc, totaling fifteen Million, United States Dollar (USD15M). This is because the said Bank has issued a notice to me, unequivocally instructing me to produce the Next of Kin/Beneficiary to the said account within the next ten official working days, or have the account confiscated.
I solicit your consent to enable me produce you as The Next of Kin to my deceased client, since you both bear the same last name. The funds will then be transferred to you as the beneficiary and shared according to a proposed sharing pattern /ratio of 70:30, i.e. 70% for me and 30% for you. I will provide all the necessary legally obtained documents to back up any claim we make regarding this process, and will just require your understanding and cooperation to enable us achieve success within a legitimate arrangement, eliminating any liability resulting from any breach of the prevalent laws.
Your urgent response will be highly appreciated; you can as well forward to me your Telephone number immediately for more discussion.
Barrister Rotimi Adams
That’s great news. I could get 30 percent of $15 million—that’s $4.5 million! Of course, all I have to do is transfer the good barrister some funds in order to pay the fees for acquiring the necessary documents. But it’s totally worth it. After all, what’s an investment of a thousand or two dollars when I’m getting millions of dollars back?
Of course, this is a scam. And we know it is. You’d have to be pretty naïve not to see that. And I should know, because I fell for it twice. But by the third time I received a message like that, I was wise to those scammers. All kidding aside, we know that such a message is too good to be true. We don’t have reason to trust Barrister Adams, or whoever it was that wrote that email.
That email promised great wealth, but the message of the Bible promises us something far greater. The Bible promises us not a few million dollars. The Bible promises us eternal life, a life with God in a perfect world, a life that never ends.
Today, we’re starting to look at a letter that is most certainly written by the apostle John, one of Jesus’ original followers. Towards the end of the 1 John, he tells us the reason for writing this letter. In 1 John 5:13, he says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” In the Gospel of John, which uses very similar language, John writes,
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).
John wrote his Gospel, his biography of Jesus, so that we would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, and that we would have life by believing in him. And John wrote his first letter so that his readers would know for certain that they have eternal life.
John tells us that by having a proper relationship with Jesus, we will live forever. It’s hard to top that claim. It’s the best news. And John is so sure about his message that he writes, in chapter 4: “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (v. 6). John says that those who disagree with him don’t know God. That, too, is a big claim. In chapter 2, he writes, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (v. 23). So, not only do you have to listen to John to know God, but you must agree with how he describes the Son, Jesus, in order to have the Father. No one who holds a different view of Jesus than the one John presents has a right relationship with God. No one who denies John’s view of Jesus has eternal life.
A lot is riding on these claims. If John is right, one’s eternal destiny is on the line. John wrote this letter because people who had different views of Jesus left the churches that he wrote to. John wanted to reassure his readers about who Jesus is and how they could know they have eternal life. Having a right view of Jesus is essential. That’s not because God is going to give us a final exam at the end of our lives, as if we’ll be tested on some theological knowledge. No, the idea is that if you have a real relationship with Jesus, you’ll know what he’s like, just as if you’re actually married to your spouse, you’ll know what he or she is like. Jesus isn’t a wax nose. He has a particular identity. And the gospel, the good news about who Jesus is and what he’s done for us, isn’t something we can edit. This message has a particular content. Different religions say very different things about God and Jesus. We need to know who the real Jesus is.
So, how do we know that John is right? How do we know his claims are true? Why should we trust John when we can’t trust Barrister Adams?
One reason we should consider John’s claims is that he says he was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus. And, unlike Barrister Adams, John had little to gain by making that claim. He certainly didn’t stand to make $10.5 million. As a Jewish man living in the Roman Empire, John’s claims about Jesus would put him at odds with both Jews who weren’t Christians and Romans who weren’t Christians. In fact, it’s hard to understand why John and the other apostles would make the claims they do unless they believed what they were writing was true.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s read the beginning of John’s first letter. I’ll read 1 John 1:1–4:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
John begins by talking about “the word of life.” That could be the message of the gospel, the good news about who Jesus is and what he’s done. But John says that he and others touched the word of life. So, he must be referring to Jesus himself. Jesus is the word of life. You can’t separate the man from the message about him. This is very similar to the beginning of John’s gospel:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1–5).
In both his Gospel and his first letter, John talks about “the beginning.” In 1 John, it seems like he could be talking about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. But in the Gospel, he’s talking about the beginning. In this Gospel, John says that Jesus is God and that he created the universe. Christianity says that Jesus is both God and man, that he is the one who created the universe and everything in it, and that he is the one who gives eternal life.
So, why should we believe this claim?
That’s a complex question, and I won’t be able to do justice to it fully this morning. The evidence is too complex to get into fully, but I’ll try to give us reasons why it’s rational to believe that Christianity is true. After all, if it’s not true, it’s useless. If you read the New Testament, you can very easily see that the writers are stating quite clearly that Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). They say that if he didn’t rise from the grave in a real, indestructible body, Christianity is worthless (1 Cor. 15:12–19).
There are many reasons why people believe in a certain religion. Often, people accept their parents’ faith, or the faith of those around them. Of course, other people rebel against their parents’ faith, and their own faith (or lack thereof) seems to be a reaction against their upbringing. Some people are attracted to a religion because they like what it teaches. They are attracted to a certain vision that a religion paints. But if a religion isn’t true, there’s no good reason to embrace it.
If I didn’t think John and others saw Jesus during his life, could testify to his death, and saw and even touched Jesus after he rose from the grave, I wouldn’t be a Christian. I was thinking about this recently: What would have to be true for me to stop being a Christian? In other words, what would be a defeater for the Christian faith?
I don’t think science can disprove Christianity. I don’t believe the Bible is a book of science. There are ways to harmonize the Bible with various scientific paradigms without doing damage to the text of the Bible. That doesn’t mean that scientists are always right. Not at all. But I don’t think science has the tools to disprove Christianity.
Some people assume that the miraculous and the supernatural don’t exist, and that since Christianity is built on these things, it’s false. But, again, I don’t think science disproves miracles. To disprove miracle claims, you would have to be omniscient. Think about it: To say, “A dead man has never risen from the grave two days after being killed,” is to say that you have known what has happened to every single dead person from the dawn of time. Of course, dead people stay dead. Unless. Unless God exists. If God exists, anything is possible. If God exists, he can bring the dead to life, just as he made a universe out of nothing. We have a number of lines of evidence for the existence of God as well as philosophical arguments that show that the idea of God is rational and coherent. So, miracles are certainly philosophically possible. And we have numerous miracle claims throughout history, from around the world. Many people from all times and places have claimed to have witnessed miracles. Though I have never personally witnessed a miracle, I have every reason to believe that miracles are possible.
I think there are only two ways that you could disprove Christianity. One is to show that the Christian system of thought, or the Christian worldview, is incoherent or self-contradictory. Having studied the Christian worldview extensively, I think it’s a system of thought that doesn’t contradict itself. By itself it makes sense. And I think it makes sense of life. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Christianity is true. It could all be a lie. If someone could prove that the Gospels and the other New Testament documents were simply made up, and if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then I would have to abandon Christianity.
So, should we trust John and his claim that he and others can testify that Jesus is the Son of God, that he is God, that he is the Creator, and he is the one who can give eternal life? I think we have many good reasons to trust John. But in order to see why Christianity is unique as a religion, we have to consider how it differs from other religions.
Before we do that, let make one important comment: We live in a pluralistic society, in which there are many religions. And we live in a relativistic culture, which often refuses to state that any religion is true. But the fact is that they can’t all be true. They say very different things about God and Jesus. They say very different things about how to be reconciled to God and have an eternal reward. The things they say are contradictory. It is impossible that they’re all true. I believe that Christianity is true and that other religions are false. That doesn’t mean I have to be hateful or disrespectful to people with different views. I can love other people even when I say, “I think you’re wrong.” That’s true tolerance.
So, my point is that we shouldn’t belittle other religions. My point is that they can’t all be true. We should, at the least, know the story of their origins. To see why we should trust that the Bible is God’s message to us, we should look at how other religions have made claims about their holy books.
First, let’s consider the story of how Islam started. The story is about a man named Muhammad, living in what is now Saudi Arabia. “Muhammad was in the habit of taking regular periods of retreat and reflection in the Cave of Hira outside Mecca. This is where the first revelation of the Qur’an came to him in 610 ce, when he was 40 years old.” Muhammad was alone in the cave the first time the angel spoke to him, but subsequent times others were with him. According to one account,
When he experienced the ‘state of revelation’, those around him were able to observe his visible, audible, and sensory reactions. His face would become flushed and he would fall silent and appear as if his thoughts were far away, his body would become limp as if he were asleep, a humming sound would be heard about him, and sweat would appear on his face, even on winter days. This state would last for a brief period and as it passed the Prophet would immediately recite new verses of the Qur’an. The revelation would descend on him as he was walking, sitting, riding, or giving a sermon, and there were occasions when he waited anxiously for it for over a month in answer to a question he was asked, or in comment on an event: the state was clearly not the Prophet’s to command. The Prophet and his followers understood these signs as the experience accompanying the communication of Qur’anic verses by the Angel of Revelation (Gabriel), while the Prophet’s adversaries explained them as magic or as a sign of his ‘being possessed’.
According to another account, after Muhammad experienced the first encounter with the angel, “Mohammed [sic] came down from the mountain sick with fear, thinking he might have been possessed by a jinn, an evil spirit.” Both of those accounts, by the way, were written by Muslims.
Muhammad then spoke these revelations to others, who wrote down the revelations. They were only collected into the form of the Qur’an after Muhammad’s death in 632. The Qur’an is very different from the New Testament for a few reasons. One, the revelation came from an angel to one man. Two, Muhammad is not really the author of the Qur’an. He relayed a message, but, at least in the story of Islam, he is not considered an author. And, three, the content of the Qur’an ranges from the time of the Old Testament, including many stories of Old Testament figures like Adam, Noah, Moses, and David, to the time of the New Testament, including many mentions of Jesus. But these revelations were given many centuries after the events took place.
The New Testament, on the other hand, is different. One, it was written by at least eight people and probably nine. Two, it was authored by people, who were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to write what he wanted written. That’s why we can talk of John writing his Gospel or a letter, or Paul writing letters. They are truly authors, but they were doing exactly what God wanted them to do, so that we also say their words are God’s words. And, three, the authors of the New Testament claim to be eyewitnesses or people associated with eyewitnesses. For example, at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, he makes it clear that he wasn’t an eyewitness to Jesus, but he interviewed eyewitnesses and wrote up his own orderly account of Jesus’ life (Luke 1:1–4).
The Qur’an talks about Jesus but it says he isn’t the Son of God. It says,
People of the Book [in this case, Christians], do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word directed to Mary, and a spirit from him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’—stop [this], that is better for you—God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust.
To Muslims, Jesus is just a great prophet, but he is not divine.
The Qur’an also claims Jesus wasn’t crucified. Therefore, there is no resurrection. The Qur’an curses “The People of the Book” (in this case, unbelieving Jews) for killing prophets. These are the people who said, “We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God.” But then, in a parenthetical note, it says, “They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition; they certainly did not kill him—No! God raised him up to Himself. God is almighty and wise.”
The problem with this is that the Qur’an was delivered six hundred years after Jesus was crucified and raised from the grave. Even people who are skeptical about Jesus’ identity know that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. That is one of the most agreed-upon facts in the ancient world.
So, the Qur’an gets Jesus wrong. It seems that the Qur’an is a bit of a mash-up of Jewish and Christian doctrines, including later Jewish legends. It seems to contain information from false Gospels, which were written beginning in the late second century, well after all the eyewitnesses to Jesus had died.
Here is the point: The Qur’an is wrong about Jesus’ death. That is certain. And it says very different things about God than the New Testament does. It says different things about salvation, or how to achieve eternal life. Which one would you trust: Eyewitness testimony written by multiple sources within a lifetime of Jesus’ ministry or supernatural revelations directed through one man six centuries later?
Now let’s move on to the origins of Mormonism. Their major prophet, Joseph Smith (1805–1844), lived twelve hundred years after Muhammad. In 1823, in upstate New York, Smith was allegedly visited by an angel named Moroni. The angel told Smith about golden plates, upon which was engraved “the fullness of the everlasting Gospel.” He also told Smith about two stones, the Urim and Thummim, which were “seer stones” that could help Smith translate the contents of the plates into English. The angel told Smith that when he got these plates and stones, he could only show them to a few people. If he showed them to others, he would die. Then, a vision was given to him that indicated the location of the plates. However, he wasn’t allowed to take the plates, which were buried in the ground in a stone box, until 1827.
Between 1827 and 1829, Smith “translated” the “reformed Egyptian” hieroglyphics on the plates by using a “seer stone.” Smith would look at the seer stone, placed at the bottom of a stovepipe hat (in order to block out any light), to “translate” the contents of the golden plates. He dictated what he saw to his disciple, Oliver Cowdery, who sat on the opposite side of a curtain from Smith. Shortly before The Book of Mormon was completed, Smith claims that John the Baptist appeared in person. After translating The Book of Mormon, the angel told Smith to return the golden plates.
There are a number of problems with The Book of Mormon. One great problem has to do with its original language, the so-called “Reformed Egyptian” language. In another Mormon book, The Pearl of Great Price, we’re told that one of Smith’s associates, a man named Martin Harris, brought samples of this “Reformed Egyptian” language to a professor at Columbia University, named Charles Anthon. (Martin Harris, by the way, is listed in The Book of Mormon as one eleven total witnesses who saw the golden plates.) According to The Pearl of Great Price, Anthon said that Smith’s translation was correct and that the portion not translated yet contained Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic characters.
That sounds impressive. Who wouldn’t want to have their translation of an ancient language verified by a professor? But there’s a problem. A man named E. D. Howe learned of Smith’s claim and wrote a letter to Anthon about it. Anthon wrote a letter back to Howe, dated February 17, 1834. In the letter, Anthon stated that the story was “perfectly false.” He wrote, “Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax.” He then described the writing on the paper as a jumble of Greek and Hebrew, as well as Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, arranged in columns. He wrote, “[I] well remember that the paper contained anything else but ‘Egyptian Hieroglyphics’.”
As if that were not enough, The Book of Mormon has other problems. It has long passages copied out of the King James Bible and though it claims to recall the history of people living in the Americas between 600 B.C. and A.D. 421, archaeologists have not located any of these places and have no evidence of these peoples. Thomas Stuart Ferguson, a professor at Brigham Young University, was given the task of finding archaeological evidence for The Book of Mormon. “After twenty-five years of dedicated archaeological research, Ferguson found nothing to back up the book and, in fact, he called the geography of The Book of Mormon ‘fictional.’”
Now, let’s compare those stories with the story of how the New Testament was written. The New Testament wasn’t delivered on plates by an angel. It wasn’t dictated by angel. The story is that the eternal Son of God became man and lived in Galilee. He taught in unforgettable, unparalleled ways. He called twelve disciples, who witnessed his teachings and the miracles he performed. At least one of them saw him die, and they all (minus Judas, who was replaced by Matthias) saw him alive after he rose from the grave. Some of them would later write down biographies of Jesus. Others would write letters to churches. At least two other people who weren’t eyewitnesses—Mark and Luke—wrote their own biographies. Mark knew the apostle Peter and Luke knew the apostle Paul. Luke seems to have interviewed other eyewitnesses, including Mary. And Luke wrote the history of the early church called the book of Acts. When they wrote, they were under the direction of the Holy Spirit, who caused them to write what he wanted written. The Holy Spirit used their experiences, knowledge, and personalities to write what he wanted written.
At least eight different people wrote the 27 books of the New Testament. They didn’t write it all together, in the same time and in the same place. It’s not as if they stayed together in a room in Jerusalem and churned it out in a few months. They wrote in different places (Judea, Antioch, Rome, Corinth, etc.), at different times (roughly 48–96), to different churches and/or individuals in different locations. James White, an author who was written on many topics related to the Bible, calls this “multifocality.”
We should observe that the apostles and their associates had no political power. Their own writings admit that sometimes they disagree with each other. Paul says that he had to correct Peter in Galatians 2:11–14. In Acts 15:36–41, we’re told that Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement.” One can suppose that the apostles as well as men like Mark and Luke conspired to fabricate a story, that they made things up to get a following or to gain power. But they had everything to lose, including persecution by Jews and Gentiles. And they don’t always present themselves in most flattering light. In the Gospels, Peter is often presented as headstrong and foolish. Yet he was the leader of the apostles. Why would anyone make that up?
Here are some positive reasons to believe that the New Testament is trustworthy. One, the documents of the New Testament were written early, within the first century A.D. As opposed to the Qur’an, which reports on events that took place hundreds and even thousands of years earlier, the New Testament reports on events that took place only years or decades earlier. Two, the books of the New Testament were written by eyewitnesses (Matthew, John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude) or those who associated with eyewitnesses (Mark, Luke, and perhaps the author of Hebrews). Three, the New Testament documents were written by multiple men, who didn’t always agree in life, but who agreed in their writings. Four, we have thousands of manuscripts of these books, some dating to as early as the beginning of the second century. That may not seem very impressive until you start comparing manuscript evidence with other ancient books. Five, archaeological evidence corroborates the New Testament. That doesn’t mean that every event described in the New Testament has left an artifact. But historical places and the names of people have been verified. It used to be that people thought that John’s Gospel was written far too late to be written by one of Jesus’ followers. But archaeological discoveries have shown that John’s knowledge of Jerusalem, was very accurate. And this is something that only someone was familiar with the city prior to its destruction in the year 70 could know. Six, if we can trust that the New Testament is basically historically accurate, then we can see that Jesus often referred to the Old Testament as God’s word (John 10:35; cf. Matt. 19:4–5; 22:43), as an unbreakable (John 10:35), and unalterable document (Matt. 5:17–20). He clearly viewed the Old Testament as authoritative (Matt. 4:1–11). He told his disciples that his words would never pass away (Matt. 24:35). He told them that after he had ascended to heaven, he would send the Holy Spirit to teach them all things and cause them to remember what he said (John 14:26; 16:13–14).
If you want to know more about why you can trust the New Testament to be true, you can visit our website, wbcommunity.org, and find some things I’ve written under the “Articles” section, which is under the “Media” tab. I would also recommend a couple of books. One is Cold Case Christianity, by an LA homicide detective named J. Warner Wallace. Wallace has solved many previously unsolved murder cases, cases that went “cold.” He has been featured on Dateline NBC. He was an atheist in his mid-30s when he decided to investigate the “case” of Christianity. He treated the Gospels like evidence reports and after doing a lot of research, he came to believe they’re true. He also has a website: http://coldcasechristianity.com. Another book that I would recommend is Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. He has a chapter on the trustworthiness of the Gospels, but his book also handles common objections to Christianity and presents a positive, and even beautiful, case for the faith.
Not only is the story of how the New Testament was put together different from the origin stories of the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon, but the message is very different. In Christianity, there is a clear distinction between God and human beings. The same can’t be said of Mormonism, which teaches that God was a man and that men can be gods. But Christianity, as opposed to Islam, also teaches that we can truly know God and call him our Father. Christianity says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). There is no equivalent concept in Islam. In fact, John tells (1 John 1:3) that we can have fellowship with one another and with God. We can be united to God and have a real, personal relationship with him. That’s why John says that his letter makes his joy—and our joy—complete.
And both Islam and Mormonism have a system of merit. Islam says all our works will be weighed on scales. Those whose good works outweigh their bad works and who confess that “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger” will enter Paradise. Mormonism focuses on obedience. In the words of Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President (or Prophet) of the LDS Church, “Every blessing, privilege, glory, or exaltation is obtained only through obedience to the law upon which the same is promised. If we will abide by the law, we shall receive the reward; but we can receive it on no other ground.”
But Christianity is different. It says we can’t earn our way to God (or become gods and earn our own planets). Christianity says that God came down to us. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The God who is love sent his Son. That is, God the Father sent God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus fulfilled the perfect life that God required; he is the only truly righteous person. Yet his righteousness is credited to all who trust him. (We’ll learn more about what that faith looks like as continue to study 1 John). And Jesus died for us. His death satisfied God’s just demands. All who trust in him have eternal life. This is a gift given to us by a God who comes to us. It is not something we can earn from a God who is either distant and tyrannical or who is, in the end, fundamentally not all that different from us.
If you’re a Christian, I hope this message gives you confidence to know that we have good reasons to believe that Christianity is true. I hope that you can use elements of this message when you try to share the gospel with others. And if you’re not yet a Christian, I would encourage you to do your homework. Be like Jim Wallace and examine the evidence. I would be glad to meet with you, answer any questions you have, and give you resources.
The story of Christianity is unique. I think it’s more beautiful than the story of other religions. And, more importantly, it’s true.
- I didn’t actually save the original emails. I found this example at https://www.expertlaw.com/library/consumer/spam_email_fraud3.html and slightly edited it. ↑
- Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). ↑
- For an in-depth treatment of miracles, see Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011). ↑
- M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, “Introduction,” in The Qur’an: A New Translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), xi. ↑
- Ibid., xiv. ↑
- Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes (New York: Public Affairs, 2009), 19. ↑
- Qur’an 4.171 in Haleem’s translation. ↑
- Qur’an 4.157–158 in Haleem’s translation. ↑
- In fact, one strategy for demonstrating the truth of Jesus’ resurrection is to rely on three facts that most scholars, whether they’re believers or not, agree to be true. The first is that Jesus of Nazareth, a remarkable figure who was a wise teacher and possibly a miracle worker, was crucified by Pontius Pilate during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius. The second is that after Jesus died, his followers claimed to have seen him alive again. They claimed that the resurrected Jesus appeared to various groups of people for a number of days. The third is that Saul of Tarsus, otherwise known as the apostle Paul, came to believe in Jesus even though he had previously been an unbelieving Jew and an opponent of Christianity. Given these three facts, it’s hard to explain how they could have occurred unless Jesus actually rose from the grave. Jesus’ followers could be lying, but they couldn’t have experienced a group dream or hallucination. But why would they lie? Lying would bring persecution to them from both Jews who rejected Jesus and Roman Gentiles who said that Caesar, not Jesus, is Lord. And since Christians refused to worship the many gods of the Greco-Roman world, they were often ostracized. And why would Paul lie? He was an enemy of Jesus. He would have no reason to hallucinate a vision of Jesus or to fabricate stories of Jesus. ↑
- For more information, see James R. White, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2013), 229–247. ↑
- This information is taken from “The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” located at the beginning of The Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981). ↑
- It should be noted that Smith used seer stones to attempt to locate treasure. He had a reputation for being involved in magic and treasure hunting. See Richard Abanes, One Nation under Gods (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003), particularly chapter 2, “Moroni, Magic, and Masonry.” ↑
- See “Joseph Smith—History,” 1:68–73, in The Pearl of Great Price. ↑
- “Joseph Smith—History,” 1:63–65, in The Pearl of Great Price. ↑
- E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled (Painsville, OH: n.p., 1834), 270–272; quoted in Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, gen. ed. Ravi Zacharias, managing ed. Jill Martin Rische and Kevin Rische (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2003), 212–213. ↑
- Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, 216. The historical problems of Mormonism go from bad to worse. Joseph Smith claimed that he acquired the Book of Abraham in 1835. In that year, Smith’s church purchased several papyrus scrolls supposedly written by Abraham and Joseph, patriarchs who appear in biblical book of Genesis. (These men would have lived well over three thousand years earlier.) Smith translated these scrolls, which contained important information regarding Mormon doctrines such as pre-existence. However, the truth of the matter is that the scrolls Smith acquired were copies of common Egyptian funeral texts. In 1912, several Egyptologists examined Smith’s “translations” and found them to be “fraud,” “absurd,” “a fabrication,” and “undoubtedly the work of pure imagination.” These judgments were based on Smith’s drawings of the scrolls. However, the actual scrolls themselves were destroyed in a fire in Chicago in 1876. Therefore, Mormons could claim that Smith’s translation, based on the scrolls, not the drawings, was accurate. However, papyri fragments of these scrolls reappeared in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967. These fragments showed that Smith’s critics were right all along. We have proof that Smith was a fraud. See Abanes, One Nation under Gods, 449–55. ↑
- James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2009), 82. ↑
- Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 182–183. See also J. Warner Wallace, Cold Case Christianity: (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013), 20 ↑
- One could also add a seventh reason to believe the New Testament. Where the Qur’an and The Book of Mormon seem to protest too much about their truthfulness, the New Testament, while affirming its truthfulness, has an actual ring of truth to it. It doesn’t sound like a fable or a myth. If you compare it with false Gospels from the second and third centuries, such as The Gospel of Peter, you can see what I mean. (You can read that document here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospelpeter-brown.html.) C. S. Lewis, who was a professor of literature, once made the following observation: “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this. Of this [gospel] text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage . . . or else, some unknown [ancient] writer . . . without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative.” (C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967], 155, quoted in Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism [New York: Riverhead, 2008], 110). ↑
- https://wbcommunity.org/articles. See, “Why We Can Trust the New Testament,” https://wbcommunity.org/can-trust-new-testament; “The New Testament versus The Book of Mormon and the Qur’an,” https://wbcommunity.org/new-testament-versus-book-mormon; and “Evidence for the Resurrection,” https://wbcommunity.org/resurrection. ↑
- J. Warner Wallace, Cold Case Christianity: (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013). ↑
- Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008). ↑
- Qur’an 21.47; 23.99–104; 99:6–8 ↑
- Joseph F. Smith, “Eternal Life and Salvation 441,” in Gospel Doctrine, 11th ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1959), https://archive.org/stream/gospeldoctrine009956mbp/gospeldoctrine009956mbp_djvu.txt. ↑
Pastor Brian Watson preaches a sermon based on John 3:1-21. This passage shows us that not everyone knows exactly who Jesus is, that we need to be transformed by God to know Jesus, that Jesus is our only hope, and that in order to become Christians we must come into the light.