Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

God’s Act of Salvation: Introduction

 

Introduction

One of the recurring prayers of Paul is that Christians should grow in the knowledge of the Lord.  He writes, 

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people… (Ephesians 1:17–18, NIV)

To the Colossians, he wrote,

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, (Colossians 1:9, NIV)

Too many Christians are not growing in the knowledge of the Lord.  What led to the destruction of Israel, has become common practice in our churches: 

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:6, ESV)

The knowledge which Paul refers to is clearly the knowledge of God’s revealed will in the Scriptures. 

of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the Word of God fully known… (Colossians 1:25, ESV)

 The Bible is the Word of God, and growing in the knowledge of it will inescapably result in spiritual growth.  

“If we are to grow in grace and to go forward and exercise our senses, as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews puts it (Hebrews 5:14), then we must of necessity ask certain questions and be anxious to know how the things that have happened to us really have come to take place.” (Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1997). God the Holy Spirit (p. 64). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)

Christians today simply need to spend more time studying the Bible!  Moreover, Christians need to get used to eating the solid food of the Word (1 Corinthians 1:1-3).  We can’t keep on keeping ourselves busy with the “elementary teaching about Christ, [but] go on to maturity…” (Hebrews 6:1)

The subject matter of this study may indeed be solid for many, however, it’s foundational:  once we develop an understanding of these major themes of the Bible, other things will fall into place.

About the studies

To get the most out of the questions and answers, and to grow in your knowledge of the Word of God, you would need to put and effort into reading through the studies before you begin with the discussions.

I plead with you to make an effort to grow in your knowledge of the Lord, so that, with Paul, you will be able to say, “… I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12, ESV)

Remember, hasten slowly.  There is no need to get through a chapter every week.  

Go to the study meetings prepared, and share your thoughts with other; be enriched and be enriching.

May the Lord equip us all through the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit.

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A New Life – “I am The resurrection and the Life”

A New Life – “I am The resurrection and the Life”

Read John 11:1-57

The themes of “life” (“eternal life”) and “death” (“spiritual death” and “blindness”, as well as “believe”, operate very prominently is this chapter of John.  Add to this references like “”God’s glory” and “the son must be glorified” (11:4), “daylight” (“light”), night (“darkness”) (11:9-10).  The reference to “wake him up” “dead”, “believe” (11:12-13), as well as the fact that Lazarus was brought back to life – all of these themes – take us to the framework of the Prologue of John 1:1-18:  The Son of God, the Creator, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of this world, came into the dark world of sin to give new life.

1. Read 11:2. The episode with Mary actually happened later (see 12:1-3).  What do you think is the significance of adding this statement of Mary into this context?

 

2.  Read 11:4-6.  Why did Jesus not return to Bethany straight away.  Remember the one He loved was very sick.

 

3.  Read 11:7 and 11. After Lazarus died Jesus announced to his disciples that they are returning to Judea.  What was their response?

 

4.  Read 8:12, 9:4 and 11:9-10.  What do you think the references to day (“light”) and night (“darkness”) mean?  See also table on page 5.

 

Jesus assured his disciples that as long as they are with him, the light of the world, they are secure from stumbling. Until his hour arrives, Jesus and his followers will be protected from the threats of the Jews. Moreover, while threats are looming on the horizon, Jesus must continue to be about his mission.

The larger implication of Jesus’ statement in its original historical context is that “people should make the most of the presence of Christ” while He is still in their midst; a time will come when it is too late.

5.  Read 11:15.  What do you think Jesus meant when He said “I am glad I was not there”.  How do you understand this in the light of the fact that John states that He loved Lazarus and his sisters?

 

6.  We do not understand God’s eternal plan.  We always want Jesus to be with us, and sometimes it appears as if He is not.  Name situations when we might think He is absent.

 

7.  Read 11:16.  Do you think that, at this point, Thomas actually fully understood what he said?  Also read 13:37 and 18:26-27.

 

8.  Read 11:21.  Taking into consideration what we discussed in question 6, being deeply grieved by the death of brother, what is the fundamental flaw in the remark of 21?

 

9. Read 11:22.  What do you think Martha meant with the words, “God will give whatever You ask?” Take into consideration what she says in verse 24.

 

In the Prologue we pointed out that the gospel of John contains only very little commands;  he prefers making statements. Even in this chapter of life and death John does not record a command like, “Believe in Me and you will live.”

10.  Read 11:25.  How does what Jesus say in this verse sum up the Gospel of John?

 

11.  Read 11:25-26.  Once again no command from Christ.  He instead tested her faith with a question, “Do you believe this?”  How does Martha’s statement “the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” takes us back to 1:9, 14, 29, 3:16, 5:21, 6:33, 51?

 

 

12.  Read 11:29 and 32.  What do we learn about faith Mary had in The Teacher?  

 

13.  Read 11:33-35.  What do we learn from our Saviour in these verses?

 

14.  Verses 36 and 37 (again – a peculiar mark of John) John records two reactions of the crowd.  What were they, and how do we interpret each of them?

 

Now we see the Creator in the face of the effect of sin:  death!  The Son of the Living God stands at a tomb. It was in the darkness of night when the angles announced the birth of Christ; then they saw the Glory of the Lord;  John in 1:14 says, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only”; 11:4 helps us to understand that life out of death is for the glory of God.

15.  Read verse 40. Two words in this verse are theme words in John’s Gospel.  How do these words stand in connection with the glory of God?

 

16. Read 11:41.  How does Jesus see the mission He received from the Father fulfilled at the grave of Lazarus?

 

17.  Read 11:44.  Only our Lord could say these words.  How is the Gospel embedded in these words?

 

18.  Read 11:45-46.  Again two reactions from the crowd.  Keeping in mind the theme words of John contained in verse 45, what is the difference between those described in verse 45 and those in verse 46?

 

19.  Read 11:50.  In what way can we say that this verse is the climax point of the Gospel up to this point?  

 

20.  One last question.  Read 12:23-26.  

Two things:

How were the words of our Lord fulfilled in his life as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world?

 

What the implications of follow Christ as his disciple?

 

Summary

  • The mission of Christ was to glorify his Father
  • Those who die in Christ believing in Him will have eternal life
  • Death has no power in the face of our Lord
  • It was better that one Man die than that the whole nation perish
  • The death and resurrection of our Lord guarantees a rich harvest
  • The Father will honour those who serve the Lord, even unto death.

Study 9: A New Shepherd – He laid down his life for his sheep

Study 9:  A New Shepherd – He laid down his life for his sheep

Read John 10:1-40

Introductory remarks

The previous chapter of John is dedicated to restoring sight (see, seeing, light, believe, etc.).  the sight of the man born blind was restored.  He confesses, “I was blind but now I see.” (9:25). The healed man said of Jesus that He was “a prophet” (9:17).   The remarks of the parents are striking, His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know.” (John 9:20–21, NKJV)

Their decision to not say more was because “… they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22, NIV)

The last few verses of chapter 9 are remarkable- it’s just stacking up all the concepts we have studied up to this point:

  • “open your eyes” (9:26)
  • “you did not listen”, “hear it again” (9:27)
  • “we know”, “we don’t know”, “where He comes from”(9:29)
  • “You don’t know”, “where He comes from”, “opened my eyes” (9:30
  • “we know”, “God does not listen to sinners,” “does his will” (9:31)
  • “heard”, “opening the eyes”, “blind” (9:32)
  • “from God” (9:33)

Jesus met with this man later on and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man.

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:36–38, NIV)

The role “The Jews” (or Pharisees 9:15) played in this episode describes their attitude as “shepherds of the flock” – they knew nothing themselves and threw the healed man out of the synagogue. In fact they were blind (9:40-41)

With the blind shepherds in mind, Jesus contrasts his own shepherd-ship with theirs.

1.  Read 10:1-2.  What is the typical behaviour of thieves and robbers? 

 

“We can picture it thus. During the night the door-keeper has been with the sheep. He is acquainted with the shepherd. Hence, when in the morning he hears the shepherd’s voice, he opens the door. The sheep also immediately recognise the voice of their own shepherd. They not only hear (more or less unconsciously) but listen. They obey. This is true with respect to actual sheep (the animals).” (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. [1953–2001]. Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, p. 104). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

It was common practise for different shepherds to have their flocks guarded at night by a hired watchman in the same gathering yards.

 

2.  Read 10:3.  What is the typical behaviour of the watchman?

 

“It is not unusual for shepherds to give names to their sheep just as we do with dogs, cats, horses, fish, etc. Every sheep recognises his own name, and comes when called. Travellers in lands where old-fashioned sheep herding methods are still used, have noticed the readiness with which the sheep of a large flock will recognise the shepherd’s voice. Though several flocks are mingled, they speedily separate at the command of the shepherd, while the command of a stranger would have no effect on them.” (Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. [1998]. Manners & customs of the Bible (p. 518). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.)

 

3.  Read 10:3-4 How do the sheep react to the guidance of the shepherd?

 

The word “listen” in verse 3 corresponds with “recognise” (1:5, 10), and has the implicit meaning of “see” and “believe”.  In 10:5 the opposite is to “not recognise”.

4.  Read 10:7-9.  What does Jesus say about Himself in relation to his relationship with the sheep.  He seems to say that He acts in two roles.

 

5.  Read 10:10.  What is the contrast between Christ’s shepherdship and that of all other pretend-shepherds?

 

6.  Read 10:11-12.  What is the relationship between the good shepherd and his sheep?

7.  Read 10:12-13.  What is the relationship between the hire hand and the sheep?

8.  Read 10:14.  What qualifies the relationship between Christ and the “sheep”?

 

9.  Read 10:16.  the “farmer”, Jesus Christ and his Father, have expansion plans.  Explain what “other sheep”, “one flock” and “one shepherd” mean in this context.

 

10.  Read 10:17-18.  What was God’s design to “call” the sheep into his flock.  What gives them the ability to “hear” and to “listen”?

 

11.  According to verse 18, what is so astonishing about the sacrifice of Christ?

 

12.  According to verses 18 and 29-30 what do we learn about the relationship between Christ and the Father in the rescue and “expansion” plan of the flock?

 

13.  Read 10:19-20.  What are the responses on the teachings of Christ?  Also read 1:1-12.

 

14.  Read 10:25-26.  Why did “The Jews” do believe when Jesus said He was the Christ?

 

15.  Read 10:29.  What is the great promise embedded in these words? Read 10:12 again.

 

The consistent teaching (right through the Gospel) of our Lord that He came from heaven with authority from the Father and that He and the Father are one, was not “understood” and “comprehended” by the Jews.  This was because they did “not know” and did “not believe” (read 1:5, 10, 11 again).  They were spiritually blind, living in darkness.  the result is that they wanted to kill Him by stoning Him to death on the charge that He was a blasphemer by applying Leviticus 24:16.

Our Lord defends Himself from the Scripture be referring to Psalm 82:6.

  1. Scripture cannot be broken. The Old Testament, as it lies there in written form is inspired, infallible, authoritative.
  2. Now Scripture calls men gods. It uses this title with reference to judges, because they represent divine justice: the Word of God had come to them.
  3. The Jews then speaking to Christ have never protested this use of the term. They have never said that God committed an error by calling these judges gods.
  4. Then all the more they should refrain from protesting when Christ calls Himself the Son of God.

Note the differences:

  1. The Word of God (in written form) had come to the judges, but Jesus is himself, in very person, the Word of God (the Word Incarnate)!
  2. The judges were born, just like other men, but Jesus was sent into the world (having come from above).
  3. The judges were sons of God in a general sense only, Jesus is God’s only-begotten (see on 1:14, 18; 3:16).
  4. The judges received an important but, as compared with Jesus, an inferior task, but Jesus was consecrated (set aside and qualified, cf. 17:19) and sent (from ἀποστέλλω; see on 3:17, 34; 5:36–38) into the world to be the Savior.

Hence, the Jews have no right whatever to say to Jesus, “You are blaspheming,” when he says, “I am the Son of God.”

16.  Read 10:40-42.  “The Jews” remained spiritually blind. But was the coming of Christ into the world to restore the sight of the blind and to be the Good Shepherd a hopeless case?  Also read 1:32-34

 

Summary

  • Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who knows and calls his sheep
  • The sheep of his flock listens to his voice because their sight and hearing is restored
  • Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who protects his sheep
  • Christ is the One sent by the Father:  He lays down his life for his sheep. He rose again to give them eternal life.

Study 8: A New Fountain – the Holy Spirit

Study 8:  A New Fountain – the Holy Spirit

Read John 7:1-39

In the previous paragraph (6:60-71) we read familiar words:  “accept”, “Spirit”, “life”, “word”, “speak”, “believe”, “know” “beginning” (all of these concepts are introduced in John 1)

What stands out:

  • Flesh counts for nothing; (the flesh is no help at all.)  See John 1:13, 3:6)
  • The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
  • Jesus had known from the beginning
  • Words of eternal life

Phrases which act as hinges into the next section:

  • The Spirit gives life (6:63)
  • Christ’s words are spirit and gives life (6:63)
  • The Father has to enable someone to come to Christ (6:65)
  • Christ chose The Twelve (6:70)

The Feast of the Tabernacles (John 7:2) 

This feast had a historical reference to the Exodus from Egypt and reminded the Jews of their wandering and dwelling in booths in the wilderness (Lv. 23:43). It points to the truth that Israel’s life rested upon redemption which in its ultimate meaning is the forgiveness of sin.  This fact separates this feast from the harvest festivals of the neighbouring nations whose roots lay in the mythological activity of the gods.  Its recognition of rain as a gift from God, necessary to produce fruitful harvests, is implied in Zachariah 14:17.

According to Deuteronomy 16:13-17, this feast

  • Lasted seven days
  • Had to be joyful
  • Was meant for all Israelites and those who worked for them, including aliens
  • Was a feast of thanksgiving for the harvest

Leviticus 24 adds:

  • It accompanied sacrifices of bulls
  • All regular work ceased
  • It marked the beginning of the new year
  • It was a reminder that God rescued them out of Egypt

Reading John 7:2-5 we understand that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Him – yet! The fact that they thought that his disciples should see his miracles, could mean that they though He was losing ground – chapter 6 ended with many disciples walking away from Him.  One can see their remarks coming from an attitude of scepticism.

1.Read 7:6.  What does Jesus mean with “the right time” and “for you any time is right”.  (See also 7:8)

 

2.  Read 7:7.  Why does the world hate Christ but not his brothers?

 

We understand from 7:11 that the Jewish leaders were expecting him to show up.  They wanted to kill Him because they hated Him.

3.  Read 7:12-13.  In what way were the opinions of different people about Jesus so typical of public opinion, even in our day?

 

4.  Read 7:14.  John records a specific time when Jesus went into the temple to preach.  Was this the “time” Jesus referred to in 6:6?  If so, why?

 

5.  According to 7:15, why were the Jews amazed at the teaching of Jesus (see Luke 3:47)?

 

6.  What does Jesus say about his teaching?  Read 7:16

 

The words “learning” and “teaching” are semantically connect with “knowledge” – a major theme in John.  Without knowledge (“light”) it is impossible to know and accept God (see 6:45)  It is therefore quite logical for Christ to say, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” (John 7:17, ESV)

It was custom on the major festivals that many rabbi’s would preach and teach.  There would be many students too.  But the teaching of Jesus was different.

7.  Read 7:18.  In what way was the teaching of Jesus different to that of other rabbis?

 

All rabbis would defend the fact that their teachings were based on the Law of Moses.  What Jesus wanted to bring home was not that they taught the Law, but that they knew the Law-giver and do his will, and for his glory only.

8.  Read 7:19.  How were the Jewish leaders exposed to the multitude (keep in mind 5:18 and 7:1)

 

9.  Read 7:20. How did the crowd respond to the revelation of Christ?

 

7:21-23 probably refers to 5:1-14 where our Lord healed the paralysed man at the Pool of Bethesda.

10.  According to 7:23 how did Jesus not brake the Law of Moses / or how did He give full meaning to the Law of Moses?

 

Verses 7:25-27 includes speculation about Jesus, where He was from, and what the authorities believe about Him.

11.  Read 7:28-29.  How does the statement of Christ correspond with John’s introductory remarks in 1:12, 18 and the Baptiser’s statement in 1:30? 

 

It is almost as if Jesus said, “If you do not know the One who sent Me, you will not know where I am from!”  This corresponds with 8:19.

12.  Read 7:30  The reaction on the preaching of Jesus went two ways:  some put their faith in Him, others wanted to arrest Him.  Is it any different today?  Is there a middle option?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

According to 7:35-36 the Jews did not know the origin of Christ, but they also had no idea what his destination would be.

13.  Read 7:33-34.   What prophetic significance do the words of our Lord have.  Think as wide as you can, keeping all we have studies up to this point in time.

 

The reference to “the last day of the Feast” in verse 37 is significant.

“The eighth day had the special distinction that it was the last festival day in the entire Jewish church year and was called “the last good day” (Succa IV, 8), “the sacred close of the year” (Josephus).  

Each morning during the seven days of the feast, at the time of the sacrifice, a priest proceeded to the fountain of Siloah with a golden pitcher, filled it with water, and, accompanied by a solemn procession, bore it to the altar of burnt sacrifice, pouring the water, together with the contents of a pitcher of wine from the drink offering, into two perforated flat bowls. The trumpets sounded, and the people sang Isa. 12:3, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” It commemorated the water that gushed out of the rock at Meribah and that was intended to quench the thirst of the multitude in the desert, although the symbolic ceremony in the Temple repeated only the pouring out. Symbols seldom re-enact every feature.” (Lenski, R. C. H. [1961]. The interpretation of St. John’s gospel (p. 573). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.)

“Pouring at the Feast of Tabernacles refers symbolically to the messianic age in which a stream from the sacred rock would flow over the whole earth.” (Carson, D. A. [1991]. The Gospel according to John (p. 322). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)

“As the first redeemer (Moses) caused the spring to arise (when he divided the rock in Horeb. Ex. 17:6), so the last redeemer will cause water to rise up, as it is written: A fountain shall come forth of the house of Yahweh.” (Kittel, G., Bromiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. [Eds.]. [1964–]. Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 4, p. 278). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.)

14.  Read 7:37.  What is the invitation of Christ, and what does he promise?

 

15.  Read 7:38.  How does this verse corresponds with 1:29, 33, 3:5-6, 4:23-24, 6:62?

 

Summary

  • The world hates Christ because He is from God.
  • The world does not know Christ because they do not know God.
  • The teaching of Christ is different because He only speaks what his Father told Him to say.
  • To believe and drink of the fountain of water is to have faith in Christ and to have received the new life of the Spirit.

A New Food – true bread from heaven

A New Food – true bread from heaven

Read John 6:25-59

In verses 1-24 two events took place:

  • 1:15:  Our Lord fed the 5,000.  In verse 14 the people saw the miracle and showed signs of working out that He must be The Prophet (see John 1:25).  Here we also pick up another ongoing theme:  Jesus knew their intentions (6:15)
  • 15-24:  Jesus walked on water.  In this event we find the disciples seeing Jesus, but they did not recognise Him.

1.  Read John 6:26. Jesus knew the inclinations of their hearts.  Why did they keep following Him?

 

2.  Read 6:27.  Are you one of those people who would rather buy known brands?  Is there a risk in buying generic brands products?

 

3.  When it comes to eternal food what “bread” is the genuine article?

 

4.  Read 6:27 again in conjunction with Isaiah 55:1-2. How much does this genuine bread cost?

 

5.  Read John 6:28-29.  How can to believe be a work?

 

In their desert journey God gave the Israelites manna.   What effect (in general) did it have on the people?

The people in conversation with our Lord were asking for a major miracle like the manna so they could believe and “do” the “work” of believing.

6.  What effect (in general) did it have on the people wondering through the desert?

 

A bit of theology:  

In Exodus 15:26 God said, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”  

The next thing the people did was to grumble against God.  Nonetheless, mercifully He provided manna and quail as food for them.

History tells us that the people all along disobeyed the commands, rebelled against God and intermarried with people, worshipping other gods.

God rescued his people (and all sinners) by giving Someone who was fully obedient to the law, fulfilled it, and also live a perfect life.  This Person was Jesus Christ – and He is the bread from heaven.  He truely is the Lord who heals (Exodus 15:26)

7.  Read Exodus 15:26 and Isaiah 53:5-6.  How has Christ become the true manna from heaven?

 

8.  Read Exodus 16:35. For how long did God provide the manna.

 

9.  Read John 6:33.  How long does the true bread from heaven last?

 

10.  Read John 6:33.  How does this verse correspond with John 1:9 and 14?

11.  Read 6:35.

What is the first proclamation made about Himself?

 

What is the second proclamation Jesus made about Himself?

 

What is the third proclamation Jesus made about Himself?

 

12.  When Jesus offered the people the bread, He then presented Himself as “the work” in which they must believe. Did they?  Read 6:36

 

13. Read 6:37 together with John 1:12-13.  How do these verses correspond?

 

14.  Read 6:38-40.  What is the will of the Father?

  1. For his Son, the Lamb of God who took the sins of the world away (6:39)
  1. For those whom his Son who would save (6:40)

15.  Read 6:41.  What was the reaction of the Jews (i.e. the religious leaders/establishment

 

Read 6:44  This verse quotes from Isaiah 54:13, “They will be taught by God.”  The full context of this quote includes the work of the suffering Servant (Christ) who, by his knowledge will justify many, bearing their iniquities (53:11); indeed,  “He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for transgressors” (53:12).

Here the “bread from heaven, doing the will of the Father, declares that anyone who learns from the Father will come to Him.

16.  Read 6:46.  How does this verse correspond with 1:14 and 18?

 

17. Read 6:46-51 and 1:4  

How is Christ “life” and “everlasting life”?

 

What happens if Christ is not received

 

18.  What, according to 6:53-58, are the “flesh” and the “blood” Christ refers to here?  Does it refer to Holy Communion (sacrament)?  Read verse 57 carefully!

 

Summary

  • Because of Christ’s perfect obedience to the will of the Father, He is the living bread giving eternal life
  • He did the “work” for us. The most we can do, is to believe in Him
  • Whoever goes to Christ, will never be driven away.

A New People – A harvest who worship God in Spirit and truth

Study Six:  A New People – A harvest who worship God in Spirit and truth

Read John 4:1-42

John continues with certain themes we came across in the previous chapters:

Water:

  • in chapter 2 He changed water into wine
  • in chapter three He states that man must be born of water and the Spirit

The fulfilment of Old Testament ceremonies and regulations:

  • the ceremonial stone jars got a different use
  • Jesus would replace the temple
  • Jesus challenged the understanding of the professor of theology (Nicodemus)

Now here in John 4 we see our Lord drinking water, also declaring that He provides water wells wells up to eternal life.  He also challenged the theological understanding of both the woman and his disciples that the Jewish people were God’s only chosen race who has only one place to worship, the temple.

1.  Read John 4:4. It is a short verse, but a striking one.  What do you think stands out in this verse?

 

2.  Read John 4:34.  In the light of this verse how do you understand the “had to” of verse 4?

 

Samaria had no separate political existence in Jesus’ day: it was united with Judea under the Roman procurator.  The divide between the Samaria and Judaea was religious, cultural and historical.

After the exile from Babylon, those who settled in Samaria intermarried non-Jews.  The Jews in Judaea looked at them as “religious bastards”.  About 400 years B.C. some Samaritans build a temple in Gerazim, not too far from where Jesus met the woman at the well.  There they practised a faith based only on the Five Books of Moses, believed in one God, revered Moses and saw Mt Gerazim as the mountain God appointed for the temple.  (Read John 4:20)  Their temple was destroyed around 200 B.C.

3.  Read John 4:6.  How do these verses describe the human nature of our Lord?

 

The first hour in John’s Gospel began at 6.00am.  The sixth hour means it was about noon.

4.  Reading John 1:48, 2:25, together with 4:6 what did Jesus know about her when He asked the Samaritan woman to give him some water?

 

5.  Read John 4:27.  What was the reaction of the disciples when they saw Jesus speak to a woman?

 

6.  Read John 4:9.  What was the reaction of the woman?

 

7.  Read John 4:10.  At least two key concepts we have come across in John surface again as of absolute significance.  What are they?

 

Some commentators understand that our chapter uses two words for well:  one is “spring”, and the other “well”.  They then combine the two meanings in this verse to refer to the living springs which fedd the well – there were times one could actually see “life” in the water.

8.  Read John 4:12.  What is the irony in the question of the woman?

 

9.  Read John 1:33, 3:5, 6:34-35, and 7:38-39 together with 4:13-14.  What do you think did Jesus mean when he spoke to the woman at the well?

 

When the woman asked for the water (the roles are now reversed – she wanted water!) it introduced a dramatic change in the narrative.  Jesus now helps her to understand what her real need was, and what the true nature of his grace were.  (Once again, Jesus knew every about her – question 4).  Being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, He knew about the moral mess she found herself in.

10.  Read John 4:17-18.  Now we get to the real issue:  was this woman good enough to be saved, or did her immoral past now catch up with her?

 

It is possible that the woman saw Jesus as “the” prophet, the only true expected one who would replace Moses according to the teachings of the Mt Gerazim temple teachings, but it also seems that she saw Him as a sort of fortuneteller/prophet.

11.  What does the reaction of the woman in John 4:20 imply?  Is is possible that she wanted to stop Jesus talking about “religious things” (we don’t’ believe the same) and further exposing her past, or is she pointing out the yawning gap between Samaritans and Jews?

 

12.  Read John 4:22.  Going back to the declaration of our Lord about the temple in Jerusalem which He would replace with his death and resurrection, what was the most important aspect about worship?  

 

The Samaritans rejected all books of the Old Testament, and only took the books of Moses.  Because of this their knowledge of God and his promises lead them to “not knowing”.

13.  Read John 4:22. What is the connection between “know” and “worship?  (Think about “light” and life [sees table on page 5)

 

“No matter how ceremonially elaborate, emotionally rousing, or sermonically eloquent, worship that is not offered from a proper understanding of who God is falls short.” (Köstenberger, A. J. (2004). John (p. 156). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)

The new approach of Christ is radical to both Jew and Samaritan:  true worship is:-

  • not a matter of geographical location (worship in a church building)
  • not physical posture (kneeling or standing)
  • not following a particular liturgy or external rituals
  • is a matter of the heart and of the Spirit.  True worship knows the Father, knows the life-giving Son, and knows the Spirit who gives new birth.

14. Compare John 3:2 and John 4:25 with 4:22.  What does it mean to “know”?

 

The question asked to John in 1:24, and who John called “the Son of Man”, is now answered – the first time, and that to a non-Jew – Jesus is the Messiah!  The woman knew that He would “explain” everything:  He, who is the light in darkness, would bring knowledge and understanding, and would also impart the ability to understand and receive (John 1:12).

15.  Read John 4:27.  What the reaction of the disciples about Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman?  What would they rather not say or hear?

 

16.  The disciples wanted Jesus to eat.  He had other “food” which they did not know about.  What was that?  Read John 4:34

 

17.  From the context we understand that Jesus understood that the Father sent Him to seek and save the lost, irrespective of their race or background.  How does He express this mission?  Read verse 35-38

 

18.  Read verses 39-42.  What in these verses reinforces what we answered in the previous question?

 

 

Summary

  • Jesus made it clear that He came to make everything new by talking to a Samaritan, a women, an adulterous women, alone, asking from water scooped un-ceremonially – and revealed Himself to her as Messiah
  • Christ asked for water, the woman got the “water”
  • Christ is the end of the temple in Jerusalem
  • The mission of Jesus was to do the will of the Father by revealing Himself to sinners from all nations

A new birth – born from above

Study Five: A new birth – born from above

Read John 3:1-21

  1. What do verses 1 and 10 teach us about Nicodemus?

 

From our first study we understand that “light” brings life, knowledge, faith, and the ability to accept.

2.  Read John 1:24-25.  What we learn here from what Christ “knows”?  What does it tell us about Him and his meeting with Nicodemus?

 

3.  According to John 3:2 Nicodemus had some “knowledge” about Christ.  Would you say it was a saving knowledge.  Why/Why not?

 

4.  Is it fair to say that many people today believe like Nicodemus?  Why/why not?

 

5.  Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.  What (symbolical) meaning could this reference carry?

 

6.  The reply of Jesus in verse 3 implied that the light about Christ has not been shining in the heart of Nicodemus.  Why can we say this (think of light)?

 

7.  Read verse 3, 5 and 7.  In all these verses Jesus talks about being “born again”.  In your own words explain what our Lord meant.

 

8.  Look carefully at those verse again.  Does our Lord give a command to be born again, or does He make a statement?

 

9.  Compare the expression “see the kingdom of God” with “enter the kingdom of God”.  When is it true that one will not see  or remain outside of the kingdom?

 

The reference to “born of water and the Spirit” can be somewhat difficult.  Some take it that water refers to baptism.  This is problematic, because the Bible does not teach that the water of baptism has more than symbolical meaning – water does not wash away sins.

Some take the water as referring to Ezekiel 36:25-27, where the water sprinkled to cleanse refer to the work of the Holy Spirit.  In John 3:5 it would then mean that the new life is the work of the Holy Spirit – which is true. Paul in Titus 3:5 says, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit …”

In John 15:3 Jesus says to his disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken.”  Peter connects the new birth to the work of the Spirit through the Word.

So we can conclude that the new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit.  What we do know is that the Spirit inspired the writers of the Word, and that the Gospel of Christ comes to us through the Word.  Paul in Romans 10 emphasises the fact that faith comes from hearing the message of the Gospel.

The new birth is from above, the work of the Holy Spirt, it comes to us through the inspired Gospel of Christ – without these graces we remain in darkness and will not be able to see or enter the Kingdom of God.

10.  Read John 3:10-13.  Look for concepts we came across in the Prologue (John 1:18 – go back to the table on page 5) carrying the same meaning.  Can you find them again in these verses?

  1. “not ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  2. “what we ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
  3. “what we have ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….
  4. “do not ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

11.  Read John 3:15.  What does the expression “lifted up” mean?

 

12.  In verse 9 Nicodemus asked, “How can this be(come possible)”.  Verse 15 and 16 the answer.  Explain these verses in your own words. (Also read Numbers 21:4-9)

 

13.  John 3:18 makes a statement, and verse 19-20 gives an explanation.  How do you understand these verses?

 

 

John 3:27 states, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” The Belgic Confession (one of the confessional statements of the reformed churches worldwide) states:

all the light in us is turned to darkness,  as the Scripture teaches us:  “The light shines in the darkness,  and the darkness did not overcome it.”  Here John calls the human race “darkness.”  Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning human free will since humans are nothing but the slaves of sin and cannot do a thing  unless it is given them from heaven.  For who can boast of being able to do anything good by oneself, since Christ says,  “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me”?  Who can glory in their own will  when they understand that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God”?

Summary

  • The darkness of our fallen sinful nature make it impossible for us to understand and believe
  • We are born outside of the kingdom of God and can’t enter it on our own
  • Jesus Christ, as the Lamb who take away the sin of the world, and the Holy Spirit who gives new birth is the only way to be able to see, to know, to believe and to enter the kingdom
  • He who hears and believes do so because God loved the world
  • “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son iwll not see life, for God’s wrath remains in him.” (John 3:36)

A New Temple – Christ, our access to God

Study Four:  A New Temple – Christ, our access to God

Read John 2:12-24

It is interesting to see John mentioning the Jewish festivals with regularity.  He mentioned at least three Passovers, as well as other festivals. The Passover was one of the three major festivals which had to be celebrated in Jerusalem, the temple and the sacrifices being at the centre.

The festival of Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of the lunar month Nisan (full moon at the end of March or beginning of April). We still calculate the time of Passover the same way.

The cattle, sheep and doves were used in the sacrificial worship of the temple. Especially for worshippers coming from a distance, it was a convenience and a service to be able to purchase them on site instead of having to bring them from afar.

People from all over the Roman Empire gathered to Jerusalem for the high festivals, bringing many different coins with them.  Every Jewish male of twenty years of age or over, had to pay temple tax paid Tyre coins because of the quality of the silver.  The money-changers converted money to the approved currency, charging a percentage for their service.

1. The temple was divided into three sections. Can you name them?

 

2.  Where do you think were the money changers and those selling the animals gathered?

 

3.  What atmosphere did the selling of animals and the exchange of money create in and around the temple?

 

4.  Read Psalm 27:4, 29:2, 96:9.  What do these verses teach about the worship of God?

 

Everything happening on the way to the worship of God was distracting from the actual worship.  The buying of the animals and the exchanging of the money almost seem to have become worship in itself, and focus on the holiness of God and his requirement for contrite hearts were lost.

Jesus’ cleansing of the temple testifies to his concern for pure worship, a right relationship with God at the place supremely designated to serve as the focal point of the relationship between God and man. (Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 180). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)

5.  Is is just possible the the corporate worship of Christians can be disrupted by things which are not central to enjoying the blessing of being together in the presence of the Lord? Discuss.

 

6.  Read John 2:15.  How did Jesus look at these practices?  What do you think was the response of the people?

 

7.  Read Psalm 69:7-9.  How are these verse a description of the life of our Lord? 

 

8.  Read John 2:16 and 2:18.  What is the connecting point which lied behind the anger of Christ?

 

Now we get to the heart of this paragraph.

9. Read John 2:18.  What does the reaction of “the Jews” (the religious leaders) reveal about themselves? Think of two possibilities.

 

10.  Read John 2:19.  The Jews asked for miracle to prove Christ’s authority.  How do you understand the reply of our Lord?

 

11.  Read John 2:21-22.  What did Christ really mean?  Why did the disciples understand it only after the resurrection of Jesus?

 

12.  There’s a very important statement towards the end of this verse. What is it? (Keep in mind the purpose John had when he wrote the gospel [John 20:30-31])

 

The title of today’s Bible study is “A New Temple –  Christ, our access to God”.

13.  In what way did Christ “destroy” the temple? Read John 1:14.

 

14.  Many people believed in his name.  However verses 24-25 makes an crucial statement about Christ.  What is it? ( Read John 1:12)

 

Summary

  • When Jesus was crucified his body became the ‘temple’ and ultimate sacrifice; after three days, Jesus Christ, the true temple, would rise from the dead.
  • Jesus cleansed the temple but He also replaced it, fulfilling its purposes

A new Order – the Heavenly Groom reveals his glory

Study 3:  A new Order – the Heavenly Groom reveals his glory

Read John 2:1-11

Chapters 2:1-4:54 are organised to convey what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: ‘the old has gone, the new has come!’ ‘The three chapters present the replacement of the old purifications by the wine of the kingdom of God, the old temple by the new in the risen Lord, an exposition of new birth for new creation, a contrast between the water of Jacob’s well and the living water from Christ, and the worship of Jerusalem and Gerizim with worship “in Spirit and in truth”  (Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 166). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)

Many people have put forward any different ways to understand the changing of water into wine; the most popular – not the correct one – is to justify the abundant use of wine!

  1. Read John 20:30-31

For what purpose did John set out to write his gospel?

2. Read John 2:11

What was the effect of this miraculous sign?

We must understand from the two verse we just read and discussed that to try to understand the sing of changing water into wine outside of this context would be wrong. What happened in Cana at the wedding must help us to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God:  in Him is eternal life.

3.  Read John 2:1-2

John states that the water-into-wine sign happened on the “third day”, which is the third day after Jesus declared that Nathaniel would “see the angels of God descending on the Son of Man.” (1:51).  Let’s try to get the sequence:

  • Day One:  The delegation of the Jews visited John and ask him who he was (1:19).
  • Day Two: On the next day the Baptiser announce Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God (1:29).
  • Day Three:  Two of John’s disciples spend the third day with Jesus (1:35). Andrew finds Peter and led him to Jesus (1:41)
  • Day Four: Jesus decided to leave for Galilee (1:43), calls Philip to follow him, and Andrew and Peter (with the unnamed disciple – most probably John) accompanied Jesus; Nathaniel came to Christ (1:48-49)
  • Day Seven (inclusive – “On the third day”):  The wedding at Cana.

Keep in mind that John started his Gospel with creation – Day One of all things.  Symbolically then – a week into the new creation – Jesus “revealed his glory, and the disciples put their faint in Him.

Two major theological themes seem to build into this paragraph:

  • The Ordinance of Marriage
  • The new use for the ceremonial vessels which held the water for ceremonial washing

4.  Read Genesis 2:21-24 and Matthew 19:4-6

Who instituted marriage and when?

 

What was God’s command to Adam and Eve?

 

What was our Lord’s understanding of marriage?

 

The purpose of marriage before the fall was to multiply and to fill the earth.  Without the rebellion of our first parents the best form of evangelism was to have lots of children!

5.  Do you think it is possible that the “first of his miraculous sings” happened at a wedding without reason? Why/why not?

 

 

6.  “The new has come”:  Christ as Groom is with his church, his bride. How is the purpose of fruitfulness “to fill the earth” now achieved?

“A wedding celebration could last as long as a week, and the financial responsibility lay with the groom (cf. 2:9–10). To run out of supplies would be a dreadful embarrassment in a ‘shame’ culture; there is some evidence it could also lay the groom open to a lawsuit from aggrieved relatives of the bride.” (Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 166). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)

7.  Read John 2:2-3  We don’t know why Mary came to Jesus after the wine ran out.  She could have been involved in the catering.  It is possible that Joseph had died earlier and that Mary thought that Jesus, the carpenter, could come up with a plan.

Jesus Christ, the Lamb who came to take away the sins of the world, said to his mother, “Why do you involve Me”? How was Mary to understand this remark?

 

8.  Read John 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1. What does Jesus mean with the words, “My hour has not yet come?

 

9. Read John 2:6

 

What was the purpose of the jars?  Keep in mind what we already learned in last week’s study about ceremonial cleansing.

 

The main purpose why John included the water-into-wine miracle here is to show that the water which represented the old order of Jewish law and custom, would now be replaced with something better.

Wine in the old Testament was a sign of joy and fulfilment, and was usually used after the harvest was brought in.  In more than one instance Old Testament prophets referred to the coming of the Messiah as a time of joy and abundance of wine ( see Jeremiah 31:12; Hosea 14:7; Amos 9:13–14).

Now the Messiah has come!  He is the fulfilment of the ceremonial law:  the purification water is not needed anymore, even the containers are now used to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah.

10.  How much wine did Jesus make that day?  Was it really necessary?

 

11.  Read John 2:11  How do you understand the words, “You have save the best till now”? Read Matthew 26:29 and Revelation 19:6-9

 

Summary

  • Christ made everything new.
  • By believing in the Name of the Groom, his church (his bride) goes into the ends of the earth to “populate” it through evangelism.
  • Christ is the end of the old order:  purification jars and the water in them are replaced by the best wine, which proclaims the arrival of the Groom

A New Vision – the glory of the Son of Man

Study Two:  A New Vision – the glory of the Son of Man

Read John 1:29-51

How many titles of Jesus can you identify in these verses?

  1. Verses 29 and 36
  2. Verses 38 and 49
  3. Verse 41
  4. Verse 45 (somewhat obscured)
  5. Verse 49
  6. Verse 49 (again)
  7. Verse 51

In the verse leading up to this paragraph John the Baptist makes it clear that he was not Elijah (as promised in Malachi 4:5-6), nor the Prophet (as promised Deuteronomy 18:15 [and referred to in Acts 3:22 and 7:37]), nor the Messiah.  Christ was that promised Prophet, greater than Elijah, and indeed the Messiah (or anointed One).

John uses the term “the Jews from Jerusalem” not as a generic term for all people who lived in Jerusalem, but to refer more specifically to the [hostile] religious leaders, who were in the end responsible for handing Christ over to be crucified (John 18:28, 19:7, 14-15)

Their question to the Baptiser in verse 22, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:22, NKJV) is almost identical to the question the Pharisees asked in 8:25, Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” (John 8:25, NKJV)

  1. Read John 1:26

Taking from our first study what we remarked about “darkness” (see table on page 5) why did they not know Jesus Christ?

2.  Read John 1:31 and 33-34

What does the Baptiser say about himself and his knowledge of Christ?

3.  Read John 1:29

Jesus came as One more than Elijah, He came as the promised Prophet and the promised Messiah.  Why is He called the Lamb of God? See also Genesis 22 (the lamb was a substitute for Isaac), Exodus 12:1-11 (and Revelation 5:6-10, 7:17, 17:14), Isaiah 53:6-7.

As pointed out earlier “world” have different meanings in John.  Christ takes away the sins “of the world”.  What does “world” mean in this sentence?

The reference to Israel in verses 31 and 49, probably refers to verse 11, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive Him.” They were living in darkness (see also Isaiah 9:2) and could not see (or receive or believe) the Messiah.

4.  Read Genesis 12:1-3

It was through Abraham, and ultimately the promised Messiah, that the world (“all the people on the earth”) would be blessed. Read also Galatians 3:26-29

Who, according to Paul in these verses, are children of Abraham?

By now we know that words like “see” and “look” are key words in John:  Christ, who created everything, brought light into darkness of sin.  The light of his grace and truth open the sinners eyes to see, his ears to hear, his heart to believe and his mind to understand.  Without this work of mercy people live in darkness: they know not, understand not, can’t receive and can’t believe.

5.  Read John 1:31

What was the main purpose of The Baptiser’s ministry?

One clear point The Baptiser made was that he was not the Messiah.  He insisted that his ministry was temporary.  He baptism with water was symbolic of the repentance of those who were baptised.

In the same way as the sacrificial system of the Old Testament could not offer complete and lasting effects concerning sin, for they were only copies of the lasting and true High Priest, the eternal Lamb (Hebrews 9:9, 24, 10:1,4), so the baptism of John was not meant to continue after the arrival of the Messiah.

The idea of “baptism” primarily finds its roots in the Old Testament purification laws:  everything associated with sacrifices (the altar, utensils, and even the priests) were sprinkled with blood.  People who became unclean were ceremonially washed.  Hands had to be ceremonially washed before a meal just in case one touched something unclean (Exodus 30:17-21); this washing was not for hygienic reasons.  In Mark 7:3-4 the word baptism is used for this washing and clearly points to this ceremonial practice.  The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, regularly uses the word baptism for ceremonial washing.

So, in some sense the Baptiser’s activity was pointing to a cleansing which would be the end of all ceremonial cleansing.  In this he connected the sacrificial work of the Lamb of God who would baptise with the Holy Spirit.  This is in fulfilment of e.g. Ezekiel 36:25-27, where the sprinkling of clean water stands in connection with the Lord’s regenerating work in the hearts of his covenant people by replacing the old heart for a new and by giving the Holy Sprit.

  • Jesus Christ was the last sacrifice – his blood completely washes away our sin
  • The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to us:  He gives us new heart and mind and enables us to live to the glory of God, the Father

6.  Read Isaiah 11:1-2, 42:1, 61:1 (and Luke 4:18-19)

John the Baptist says in 1:34, “I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:33–34, NKJV).  How were the words of Isaiah a literal fulfilment as John the Baptist saw and testified about it?

7.  Read John 1:35-37

How did the first two disciples become followers of Christ?

8.  Read John 1:37

Is the question of Christ perhaps more than just a superficial enquiry?

9.  How did these two disciples address Jesus in verse 37?

10.  The question “Where do you stay?”, according to some scholars might have a immediate meaning, but also a deeper meaning.  Read John 1:15, 30, 8:14

11.  Read John 1:40.

The two disciples spent the rest of the day with their new Rabbi.  To what conclusion did they come?

All along in the paragraph of verses 29-51, the word “see” plays an vital role.  This is in accordance with what the table on page 5 points out:  “see” stands in connection with light, knowledge, understanding, faith and acceptance.

12.  Read John 1:43-49 again.

Can you spot the significance of “see”?

Jesus promises Nathanael that, regardless of the present importance of this display of supernatural knowledge, he will see greater things than that (verse 50).  Although Jesus is addressing Nathanael, the ‘you’ to whom He promises the vision in verse 51 is plural: the vision is for those also who would follow Him.

13.  Read Genesis 28:10-15.

What are the similarities, and promises, between the vision of Jacob and the promise of a new vision to the disciples?

Summary

  • The Baptiser revealed Christ as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world
  • Jesus Christ is the Prophet and Promised One
  • The glory of God is seen in Christ, upon which the Holy Spirit rests