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Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 1: Who do You Say that I Am?
Lesson 105 – Introduction to the Approach of the Study of Christ
19 Nov 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
When we get into the life of Christ, we’ll see that you can’t just walk into the life of Christ without Old Testament background. One of the things I want to emphasize as we go into Part V is we’re going to switch the methodology a little bit. Just to review the structure of what we’ve been doing, as we’ve gone through these events we have looked at a sequence of what we call the key events in Scripture. They are key simply because if you look where speeches are made, the great addresses are given in the Bible, and you write down Joshua’s speeches, Stephen’s speech, Paul’s address to Athens, write down the events these guys mention and you come up with this list. It’s not an arbitrary list; it’s one you can build yourself if you go through the way these men when they spoke of history what they emphasized.
We’ve been looking at each of these events and linking them to doctrine, because it’s been my contention over the years, I’ve seen this in my personal experience as well as just the study itself, that knowledge of the event feeds your imagination with the content it needs to think its way through these truths. When we talk about God, man and nature, I don’t know how many times I’ve fallen back on visualizing Genesis 2 and God creating man. I may be reading something about some paleontological find about the bones of man or something, but to get my head screwed on, what I always find myself doing is coming back to visualizing which event picked up these doctrines. In this case we learned a lot about the doctrine of man from creation. We also learned a lot about the doctrine of man from the Noahic Covenant and the nature of God, the nature of nature, etc.
Our methodology for three years has been to point out an event and then we study the doctrine associated with that event. We’ve come through the creation, the fall, the flood and the covenants, and we noticed that the doctrines that are emphasized in the New Testament, such as the doctrines of election, justification and faith, when this is introduced in the New Testament you’ll see that it’s introduced as a description of something that went on in the Old Testament. The call of Abraham is used by Paul in Romans 4. That’s why we associate the doctrines of election, justification and faith with the call of Abraham. It’s not arbitrary, it’s the way the Holy Spirit has structured the Scripture. So when we’re talking about election it’s always helped me to think about God calling Abraham out from Ur. That’s election, that’s calling. I think controversially God called Him out of that because God had a plan for Abraham that He did not have for anybody else, it was a unique plan. We did that with election, we did it with judgment/salvation with the Exodus, the blood atonement, etc. We have looked at every one of these events and we’ve looked at them with the eye toward seeing the doctrine associated with the event.
We have also defended the literalness of these events. These are not some myths that men created, they’re not sweet little Sunday school stories that belong with the fairy Godmother or something. These are as much history as anything you study in school, in fact, they are more important than anything you study in school. That’s why they’re not taught in school. The fact of the matter is that sacred history is the framework within which God builds everything else. These are the building blocks. We started with the call of Abraham, talking about the Kingdom. We said that God is building His Kingdom, and the Kingdom of God takes on characteristics, it takes on content, so we know what we’re talking about when we talk about the Kingdom of God. Are we talking about the psychological experience inside of man or are we talking about that plus an external, environmental, physical thing called the Kingdom of God. Obviously, the Kingdom as it goes on through the Old Testament is not just an inner private psychological experience; it’s an objective, historical, society-wide, geophysically based thing. Later in the Old Testament we talked about the King’s discipline. The fact of the matter is that the King has a certain character and He’s going to insist that that character be characterized in His Kingdom. He wants a Kingdom but He wants a Kingdom of a certain kind, so He disciplines in order to bring about that character.
When we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, now we’re talking about the visit of the King. The King comes to the place that has been prepared. The question now is, although we will have doctrines associated with four things, we’re going to study four events in the life of Christ. They are events in the life of Christ just as all these were events in the history of Israel. In the history of Jesus here are the four events: #1, His birth, #2, His life, #3 His death and #4 His resurrection. Those are the four things we’re going to deal with. We’re going to look at doctrines associated with those four just like we have here. The different methodology, however, is going to be a slight new twist. This time we’re going to look at Jesus’ life for what it revealed about the observers of Jesus. Before what we were looking at was what is God speaking through the event. God’s speaking through the event in Jesus’ time too, but here God is revealing certain truths He wants us to grasp so He’s revealing it historically. But when we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, God is not only revealing truth in His life, but He’s revealing the hearts of men by their response to Jesus.
I want to start by turning to Mark 8. We’re going to deal with the response to the King. That’s why I’ve entitled Part V the Confrontation with the King, because the Lord Jesus Christ is the most pure form of revelation man has ever seen. You could argue, how can you say that, at Mount Sinai they heard God speaking, it was a very dramatic thing. But the contention of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ’s revelation, the revelation of God through Jesus Christ is the Father’s final word to the human race. From this point on in history there is no more added truths. When Christ gets done and He rises from the dead, there are no more truths in the sense that man needs to know more in order to be prepared for something else. Man has had enough to be prepared, now the issue is, “What are men doing with the revelation they have received?”
So it becomes critical in part V that we’re not just looking at these events, but we’re also looking at what men do in response to these events. We’re going to deal with what do men do with the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s going to deal with the issue of the hypostatic union, the God-man nature of Christ, what people down through church history have done with this, how they’ve mutilated it, they’ve perverted it, why the guys that are ringing your doorbells are just repeating the same old heresies of the 2nd and 3rd century. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are nothing more than the latter day Arminians, Arians rather. You’ll see when you get back into church history that what we call the cults are nothing more than regurgitation of stuff that has gone on and on, nothing new under the sun, same old idea, and the answer to it is the same answer the Church gave in AD 200-300. Nothing new, no new homework needed. It’s just the same old heresy with the same old answer. But it has to do with a perverted response to the truths of the birth of Christ.
When we get into the atonement, the death of Christ, we have all kinds of liberal enactments of why did Jesus die on the cross, and they’re all insufficient explanations of why Jesus died on the cross. There’s a reason and a motive behind those and that is they’re trying to avert confrontation with the King. They want to turn aside; they do not want to see what He really did on the cross. That’s why this is entitled the confrontation of the King. I want to start with Mark 8. At this point in the Gospels Jesus has … if you diagram all four Gospels you come up with something like this. They begin not with Jesus but with John the Baptist. There’s a period early on in the Gospels where John the Baptist introduces Christ. Nobody who has been here should have a problem with that, because you all know if John the Baptist is a prophet, what was one of the functions of a prophet in the Old Testament? He made the king; he was there to announce the king. So there’s no mystery, the four Gospels just start the same way as the Old Testament, there’s nothing new about this. This is the Old Testament motif that the prophet comes first and then the king. Satan knows that. Who comes first, false prophet, and what does he introduce? The antichrist. Even Satan follows the same protocol. Everybody has to have their media person. John the Baptist is, as it were, the Holy Spirit’s media person for introducing Jesus Christ.
Then you go through the Gospels and Christ begins to gain in popularity, He begins to evangelize and there’s a response to Him. And then something happens; it’s a truncation that occurs. Now there is engendered a reaction, a vicious, concerted, negative attack the Person of Christ. It’s very interesting to observe. It’s also interesting to observe that once this happens in the life of Christ Jesus shifts gears in how He teaches. It’s at this point when He begins to use parables. He begins to code His teaching. He begins to make it a secret thing. He begins to pull back and then He begins to minister to the disciples. Usually the second half of the Gospels are directed, not at the public, but they are directed at the private group of people who have responded correctly to the King. Now they, and they alone, will be blessed with the insights. These insights will not be given out to the public; this is casting pearls before swine, so the truths in the second half of the Gospels are reserved for those who have believed, those who have received the King in their heart. Then there’s the death of Christ and the resurrection.
This event half way through the Gospels is the beginning of the road to the crucifixion. At this point…, up to this point you could say it was theoretically possible for Him to gain the crown. But at that point in the ministry it becomes increasingly obvious the King is not going to be accepted on the King’s terms. The people demand a King do certain things for them, and they don’t see Jesus doing those things for them. The Jesus concept of the Kingship doesn’t fit the public’s concept of Kingship, and they resent this. So now begins counter arguments. It’s at this point that Mark 8 happens. In the Gospel of Mark we’re right about that point.
Let’s start at Mark 8:1 and skim down through this point in the Gospel, we’re not going to do a Bible study on this section, we’re just skimming it to get to a section. He’s witnessing here, and He’s talking about feeding, people have come, they’re hungry, the disciples said in verse 4, “Where will anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in a desolate place?  And He was asking them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.”  And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and began giving them to His disciples to serve them and they served them to the multitude.  They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well.  And they ate and were satisfied.” By the way, please notice Jesus was not a vegetarian.  “And about four thousand were there; and He sent them away.”
Notice, there’s a little fine point in the text here. This is one of the neat things when you look at some of the details of this, in verse 6, “He gave thanks and broke them,” and then it says after He broke them He started “giving them to His disciples,” meaning that He was giving them to His disciples over a prolonged period of time. He “began to” give them. It doesn’t say He gave them to the disciples, He started the process. The miracle was that they’d come back for more and He’d keep giving them more, keep giving them more, keep giving them more. This little verb tense shows you a little bit about the miracle. That’s one of the neat things when you get into the text and you can really see, some of these events are just mind blowing when you really get into the details of the text.
We want to proceed on to what happened. Mark 8:10, “And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples, and came to” a particular district.  “And the Pharisees came out,” now here’s the negative group. These people, the Pharisees were a combination of theologian and lawyer. It’s not an insult to the legal profession today to say, because there are many fine people in the legal profession, but as a profession, the profession of law in the sense of practicing, practicing court law, has become very, very parallel in our time to the thinking of the Pharisees. The emphasis in argumentation in law today is technique; it spins on a technique, a small point of the law. Increasingly you find the departure from the common sense big ethic.
There were good Nazi lawyers in 1936 for Adolph Hitler who could argue very precisely, very technically that everything that the Furor did was correct. Why? Because in 1933 what did he do? He got everybody to give him an exemption to the whole constitution of Germany. So by definition everything that the Furor did was correct, legally correct. No problem. But we know ethically it was wrong, because the ethics should be the ground of the law.
One of the classic instances that shows the Pharisaical way of thinking and the parallel today is that incident when Jesus was in the field on the Sabbath day with His disciples, and He was flicking the grain, and they were eating it. What did the Pharisees say? You’ve violated section 6.321 of the sabbatical law. Back off a minute and think of the stupidity of that incident. Who is it that they’re accusing of breaking the sabbatical law? The guy who gave it. Think about that, here these Pharisees have all the legal argumentation down to the third decimal place and they’re using it against the guy that gave them the law. This gets back to something that’s very important. When you interpret law you must interpret it according to a principle, and the principle is what was the intent of the one who wrote the law, not what you think the intent was, or not how you think you’re going to apply it to a modern case. The issue is: what was the intent of the author of that particular law.
Here Jesus was, who obviously, by allowing His disciples to flick grain, authenticating the fact that whatever He has said about work on the Sabbath day, that wasn’t work. So by authorizing a behavior on the part of His disciples, He was exegeting the sabbatical legislation right there. The depth of the perversion is shown in the fact that the Pharisees have a very legally clean logic that appears to conflict with Jesus. That’s the sort of thing you encounter in the pages of the New Testament. That’s the sort of thing that’s being hammered out today. This is why in my opinion one of the most profound discussions that we have had in this country for the last 20-30 years was something that most people just passed over, and that was when Ronald Reagan nominated Bork for the Supreme Court, the Bork hearings. The Senate judiciary committee just pounced on Bork, Biden from Delaware and Kennedy from Massachusetts just went after Bork. I always have to laugh at that, here’s Kennedy a C student in law school telling a professor of law how to interpret the law, that was a joke. The point was that here Professor Bork was sitting there, taking all this flack for his position on the law. These guys were incensed that Reagan had dared to nominate this person, Bork. What were they saying? They were saying that if Bork got to be Supreme Court Justice he would undo the key court decisions that the Supreme Court had done, including 1964 the civil rights issue. They were thereby painting Bork as a white supremacist, a guy that was against the black race, etc. Nothing of the sort.
Here’s the issue, this is what they were afraid of. Bork believed that a judge cannot make legislation surreptitiously. Bork argued that all he could do as a judge was operate within the constraints of the law that he has been given by the authors of the law. In the Supreme Court what is the law that the Supreme Court deals with? It’s the United States Constitution. Therefore, Bork argued, if I can’t deduce a principle that fits this case out of the corpus of the Constitution I can’t judge on it, I throw the case out, and I’m not going to pass judgment if it’s not covered by the Constitution, it’s not part of this court. What infuriated them was that in 1964 when that civil rights… and I’m not arguing against the intent of the civil rights legislation, it was needed, believe me, I walked through the south, I saw the black only bathrooms. What an insult. There was something needed, but the way they solved the problem, because of the liberal infusion of law, that Supreme Court decision was based on sociology, what people thought about race. It wasn’t based on what the Constitution said.
So Bork was what they call a strict interpreter of the Constitution. The other guys were loose interpreters of the Constitution. They knew very well if you let Bork get into the courts, that’s what he’s going to do. What’s he going to do? He’s going to start shredding the crappy structure that we’ve built up with these facetious interpretations of the Constitution. He’s progressively going to dismantle things. And if you’ve built your house [with] vast amounts of other secondary and tertiary legislation, court cases have all been built on this basis, and Bork comes along and does this, what happens to the whole law structure that’s been built up? It topples, it’s revolutionary. That’s why they went after Bork. They were smart men, Biden and Kennedy aren’t stupid, they realized the implications of Bork. Bork was a profound threat, a profound threat to this because he stood for correction in direction of the interpretation of law.
At this point the Pharisees are doing the same thing. Here they are, they are to be society’s experts, these are the Jewish experts of what the Torah really meant. And when they argue with Jesus, verse 11, who are they arguing with? Keep that in mind. You’ve got to visualize this confrontation, because we’re going to get to a verse and to get the impact of that verse you’ve got to see what’s happened, you’ve got to see the steam here. Here these guys with their PhDs in theology, they were experts on the Torah, they were experts on the Mishnah, they knew the Talmud, they know the text of the Old Testament, most of these guys could memorize the Old Testament—put us to shame.
Verse 11, they “began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him.” My translation says  “And sighing deeply in His spirit,” Jesus is pretty disgusted at this point, what are these creeps thinking now, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” This is one of those passages of the New Testament where you can see something about Jesus’ personality. There’s something else we’ll note when we got into His life. It’s been observed by scholars who have had enough sense to really pay attention to the kind of personality the Lord Jesus Christ had that almost to a man or a woman they will argue that Jesus, for all the pictures you get of this meek and mild person, was extremely self-confident, to the point that if He wasn’t who He claimed to be, He is one of the most arrogant people who has ever walked this planet, because He had the audacity to say because I said it, it’s truth. Who of us would dare claim that we are self-authenticating? But Jesus argued that He was self-authenticating, that because I say it, it is true.
So then He leaves them, and  “He again embarked and went away to the other side.  And they had forgotten to take bread; and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.  And He was giving orders to them, saying, ‘Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’” Mark is thinking back on this, because he wasn’t there when it was going on, he’s probably getting this through Peter. In verse 11-12 the emphasis is on what the Pharisees are doing, a big argument is raging, Jesus gets in a boat, and in verse 15 He keeps on talking about the argument. But then Mark slips in verse 14 to let us know that while this argument is going on, and Jesus is carrying on about the discussion, the guys forgot the food. So now we have a juxtaposition, and a very serious theological argument going on with somebody who’s forgotten the lunch. Watch how the two come together.
Verse 16, “And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.” Are they listening to the discussion? No, they’re worried about who left the lunch behind. So now it becomes an issue in the boat.  “And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you [keep] discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand?” Now here’s where Jesus, in the marvelous providence of God, He takes a forgotten lunch and He’s going to clobber them with it to let them see that they’re basically doing the same thing the Pharisees just got through doing. Look how He does it. He says “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?’” Look at the verbs in those questions. What do you see, what parts of the body? You see, the eyes; you understand, the mind; you have a hardened heart.
Then He quotes the Old Testament text. Look what He’s done. The fact that He’s talking about seeing and understanding, and hardening of heart, Jesus is already thinking about an Old Testament passage, and then He quotes it here. Who wrote the passage? Even if you didn’t have a reference, a cheat sheet, a reference to the Old Testament text, you know that language, it’s Old Testament prophets. What were the Old Testament prophets arguing about? Here’s where we have to start using what we’ve learned about the Old Testament so we can appreciate the Lord Jesus Christ and what He’s doing here. When the prophets wrote, they were writing in this period, the kingdoms were in decline. What was going on in the kingdom in Israel when it was declining? Were these people really learning the Word of God? Kings were all sitting there, and every 24 hours they were in the Torah? They couldn’t even find the Torah, it had been lost. They had false prophets. What was Ahab doing, married to the daughter of some Canaanite priest.
This is real stuff going on in the Old Testament and it was at that point that God was going to lower the boom on the nation. Remember what the prophet was, he acted as a prosecutor. What did he do? He brought God’s case for violation of the covenant to the people. And when this “having eyes do not see” what they’re saying is that when you turn, rebel against God, it has a self-destructive effect, namely it blinds you, it deafens you, and it hardens your heart. And the prophets warned the nation that at this point in time they were headed to the exile. That’s the Old Testament background.
Now come to the New Testament. What is Jesus now saying? By quoting that Old Testament verse, what does this signal? You’re sitting there, you listen to Him say this, you know enough about your Old Testament to know that that’s a citation at a point when the nation Israel was turning away from Jehovah and in danger of exile. What is the nation in Jesus’ day in danger of if they reject Christ? What happened to the Jews in AD 70? Exiled, history repeating itself. So here Jesus Christ is operating completely in the Old Testament fame of reference, nothing new here under the sun. This is exactly the same thing, same hymn, second verse, that’s all it is.
Verse 18, “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember,” but who’s He applying it to in verses 18-19. Is He applying it to the Pharisees or is He applying it to the guys that forgot the lunch? He’s applying it to the disciples. This is a warning. He says, don’t you remember  “‘when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’  And when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you pick up?’ And they said to Him ‘Seven.’” By the way, verses 19-20 are put in the text so the skeptics who say there were two different conflicting accounts of Jesus feeding… well Jesus didn’t know there were two conflicting accounts, He did both of them and He’s talking about both of them here, it’s just some idiot that can’t read. This is two events in the Scripture.
Verse 21, “And He was saying to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’ ” Notice how He applies the text. The verb that He uses, “do you not yet understand,” is the same verb of the prophetic text of the Old Testament. The three verses, “having eyes you don’t see” is an attack on their blindness; “having ears but you don’t hear” but also if you look at the original text of the Old Testament it’s also talking about a hardening heart that does not understand. So here’s how Jesus was so saturated with the Scriptures, He had such perfect understanding of it, that He could think around, through, and into an event like a forgotten lunch. Look at what triggered this discourse in the boat. The guys are arguing about a lunch. But look how the Lord could take that simple little discussion about a lunch and relate it to the whole situation of history of the nation of Israel.
So He says, verse 21, “Don’t you yet understand,” don’t you guys get it yet. What is He after? The same thing Isaiah was, do you see who God is in this covenant relationship and are you going to respond to Him. Don’t you get it? Verse 22, “…And they brought a blind man to Him, and entreated Him to touch him.  And taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes, and laying His hands upon him, He asked him, ‘Do you see anything?’  And he looked up and said, ‘I see men, for I am seeing them like trees, walking about.’” A doctor could comment about verse 24. Verse 25, “Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.  And He sent him to his home, saying, ‘Do not even enter the village.’”
Why do you suppose that event happened, in the providence of God, the blind man just happened to be right after the other discussion that went on? What is it a picture of? What was the accusation in the boat? You guys can’t see. By going out and literally [can’t understand word] to a literally blind person, these guys should… you know, hey, this guy gives sight. If they had caught the point they ought to have turned to the Lord and said open my eyes, can You open my spiritual eyes and my heart like You just opened this guy’s eyes. He did it by stages too.
It was a graphic illustration, so now in verses 27-28 he whops it to them. Now He challenges them. “And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way” be began this conversation again, so He starts in drilling them again. “He questioned His disciples, saying, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” And they give various opinions. You can have all the opinions, He was John, He was Elijah, one of the prophets. [28, “And they told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but still others, one of the prophets.’”]
Verse 29, “…But who do you say that I am?’” Can you imagine this conversation? What is Jesus getting at, why does He keep driving home this point? Because they’ve got to perceive who Jesus is or they can’t be His disciples. It does no good to say I’m going to go out and love the world, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that, I’m going to do this and that, I’m going to obey the Lord, blah, blah, blah. Jesus doesn’t start with all that. He says, “Do you see who I am? Get a picture of who I am, then we’ll discuss all this other stuff.” But you don’t start with the other stuff; you start with, “Who is Jesus Christ?” Because isn’t it true, and think of the situation from the lost lunch to the Pharisees; what was the issue behind all that. If these guys had realized who Jesus was… how many guys could be in the boat? Not 4,000, so if they had perceived who He was and it really clicked, they could have said we’re out of food, we’re out here on the water, we’ve got nothing to eat, but this is the guy who fed 5,000, He fed 4,000, this is a cinch, we could all sit at one table here. So why can’t He feed us?
It was a failure to see and appreciate Who was with them. That’s our problem, because we forget. Notice the word “remember,” don’t you remember. Now we see it, every once in a while we get in church and we see it, we hear it, and it clicks with us for two and a half hours or something, then we forget, and we fall back into a perceptive problem. That’s one of the things we want to look at in the life of Christ, is to see how insidious our flesh is, forgetting who Jesus Christ is. We’ve got to be reminded, and reminded, and reminded, and reminded. Do you know what does the reminding? The teaching of the Word of God, not sweet stories, not all kinds of hoopla, not programs on how to grow churches, it’s the Word of God. That’s where you find out who Jesus is. It doesn’t promise to be a lot people; the church doesn’t necessarily grow numerically when the Word of God is taught. How many did Jesus wind up having, enthusiastic congregations at the foot of the cross? Did you count how many people were there? A great testimony to His church growth movement wasn’t it. The point is that it’s the issue of who Christ is, that’s the issue. All the other issues are peripheral to that.
Turn to John 3, now we want to get into the implications of this. What we’re doing tonight is just introducing an approach that we want to use on those four events: His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection. But I want to get you aimed right. In John 3, the famous Nicodemus discourse. I was talking to a friend of mine when I was speaking recently in Connecticut and he spent about six or seven weeks, he’s teaching from the original Greek text this passage, and he’s doing a lot of time on research, and he was telling me that what struck him on this passage that he’s going through, was when he got to verse 7, that phrase when Jesus turned to Nicodemus and he says, “Don’t marvel that I said to you that you must be born again,” he says if you do a real careful word analysis of that verb “marvel” it carries the connotation of why are you so amazed at this, it’s condemnatory, it’s a condemning kind of thing. Why are you amazed when you shouldn’t be, that’s the thrust of this thing, you shouldn’t be marveling at this. Nicodemus knew his Old Testament, and Jesus is rebuking him, He’s saying, “Why are you marveling at this? You should understand, this is biblical thought I’m talking about here.” Verse 8, “The wind blows where it lists,” etc. and what Jesus is trying to say is it’s the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit that does these things. Nicodemus is kind of wandering around.
But the conclusion, verse 16, which we all know, and that’s one of the things when we had the play here, I was talking to the young fellow who played John the Apostle after the play and I said it’s interesting that a young boy was picked to play John, because John lived till about some AD 90, so either he was a very old man or he was younger when Jesus ministered. The thinking is that he was very young. And one of the things a teenager is usually impressed with is that teenagers can have idols and they’ll talk to them, dress like them, etc. One of the interesting things about the way John writes is that in this particular narrative of John 3, try to find out where Jesus stops talking, and John’s commentary on His speech. Scholars have tried and tried and it’s almost impossible. I don’t know where it is, I’d hate to be pinned down exactly where it happens. But Jesus starts off in chapter 3 talking, and by the time you get down to the end it’s a Johannine commentary on what He said. So it appears that John writes very much like Jesus probably sounded. Of all the disciples, who was closest to Jesus? It was John the Apostle.
In John 3:16 we have the verse everyone knows, but look what happens in verses 17, 18, and 19 that follow on to that verse. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,” at least at the First Advent He didn’t, “but that the world should be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already,” past tense, “he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” How can that be? Why is a person judged already because they have not received Christ?  And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
The argument John uses and he does it in his first epistle and he does it several other places, is that if the light turns on in the room, and you’re still groping around, and I’m still groping around, is the problem with the light or is the problem with us? The problem is with the people who are still groping around. The problem isn’t the light. This is what we’re trying to emphasize with the lift of Christ. The problem isn’t that God’s revelation isn’t clear enough. If God only wrote a Bible today, you know, He’s supposed to write a new Bible every century to satisfy the contemporaries. The fact of the matter is that the revelation is absolutely clear. What people do with the revelation shows nothing about the revelation, it shows something about the people looking at the revelation.
Men are condemned, John says, by their response to Jesus, because Jesus is the light of the world. If you can’t see that, the problem isn’t with the light of the world, the problem is with you. This is 180 degrees opposite, you often hear this argument non-Christians make, and maybe people in your family have made it toward you if you’re a believer, well poor Mary so and so, she is just a weak person, you know, weak people have to believe in God. You’ve all heard that kind of thing. Let’s turn this around 180° and watch what it sounds like if we reverse it. Well poor Joe, he doesn’t believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we understand why, because he’s a sinner fleeing from the wrath of God and he wants to feel safe, of course you don’t want to believe in Christ, I understand that because if I were in your shoes I would be fearful, and I don’t want to be fearful, so I’m manufacturing an imaginary world in which I can be safe, safe for sinners. Two can play the psychology game.
In the Gospel of John it is reversed, and this point is that those who do not believe reveal themselves not Jesus. They reveal something about themselves, not something about Christ. That’s the emphasis on the New Testament; we’re going to try to follow that motif, that man’s response to Christ is a self-condemning response. We do not infer because X number of people disbelieve that somehow God did a messy job revealing Himself. Rather, what we conclude when X number of people disbelieve is that X number of people have a problem. That’s what we conclude.
Here’s an example that I warned you about three years ago when we started this class. Be careful that you don’t buy into a question. How many times did you beat your wife last week kind of thing. You can’t answer it any other way than to condemn yourself because you bought into the question. We warned you about the world view and presuppositions. Now let’s watch what happens here. We have a fact, the fact is that [blank spot]
… people disbelieve because the revelation is not clear, I mean, you’ve got to have fifteen and a half arguments to prove God’s existence. I’ve got to have some intellectual content here, that’s not enough to just simply believe the Scriptures. Whereas if we think biblically we’ll say, well of course, X number of people don’t believe, and it’s a miracle that the number isn’t larger because we’re all sinners, we’re all fleeing from the wrath of He who is on the throne, we all have a deep profound motive in our hearts to create an imaginary world safe for sin. So of course we’re going to feign unbelief. We have this one event, two different interpretations of the event. Watch this, because when you get into a classroom situation, or you get into a situation watching the media or something, you watch the spin that’s put on the facts, the spin that’s put on an event. Learn to discern. That’s one of the things we want to see in the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry.
Turn in the notes to pages 4-5, we’re going to skim over this, most of this is not new to you because we’ve gone through this in the Old Testament. Turn to Galatians 4:4, we want to remind ourselves of this timing. The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world at a certain point in time. It was not an accident. Jesus was perfectly timed; His entry into the world had been planned from eternity past. God knew about Greeks, He ordained history to flow in a certain direction. He said Daniel, there’s going to be four kingdoms, the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. In the middle of that Roman Empire I’m going to send My Son in, that’s going to be the time. Galatians 4:4 says why that happened that way. Galatians 4:4 is a timer, it’s a peak at the plan of God and why He chose the moment of history that He chose when the Lord Jesus Christ came in. God says, “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,  in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
If you look in the context of this passage, notice verse 1 is talking about you were once children, “as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,  but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.” Then he says in verse 3, “so also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world,” or the stoicheia, we studied that Colossians 2. The fundamental building blocks of the universe that are taken by unbelief, like atoms, fire, water, that kind of thing. Then he’s saying, verse 8, “However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things,” stoicheia, “to which you desire to be enslaved all over again.”
So the picture is that all of the human race was enslaved and yet something was being taught, it was, if we can say this, teachers talk about pedagogy, and we design lesson plans and there’s a pedagogical intent behind the construction of lessons, you put lesson 3 after lesson 2, you do them in sequence because there’s a pedagogical sequence for learning. Here’s a biblical philosophy of history; history is pedagogical. Under God the sequence of historical events itself is pedagogical. This is why Paul says “in the fullness of time,” meaning that certain things happened in history to teach, teach, teach, teach, to ready the human race for the entry of the Son of God, that if Christ had come at any other moment in history it would have been out of sequence.
We want to review what the historical sequence was prior to Jesus that led up and prepared men for the moment. On page 4, the “Historical preparation of the Gentile (Pagan) World,” and then if you skip to page 7, the “Historical preparation of the Jewish World.” I’m going to divide the remaining time in two parts; we’re going to show quickly how the pagan world was prepared for the arrival of the Son of God, and then how the Jewish world was prepared for the arrival of the Son of God. We’ve gone through this; we’ve said that “the civilization began by Noah on the ‘reconstructed’ planet after the flood event departed the then-known Word of God. God let Noahic civilization become paganized. The once simple monotheistic worship of El Elyon …gave way to various idolatries of the fleshly mind. … The pagan world spawned varied mythologies and many idols. The constellation and stars,” were worshiped. “Fear of these idols’ non-existent powers was a confession of man’s physical limitations over against inevitable sickness, death, and the various evils in nature itself (storms, famines, earthquakes).”
In other words, men became acutely aware of their physical limitations prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Societies, entire societies had become fearful, realizing that they had no power over these things; they were powerless to deal with these. There had to be that awareness and it had to be emphasized again and again through disaster, through heartache, through apostasy, through idolatry, whatever it was, to get through first, before Christ, that we are physically limited, and we are therefore dependent creatures.
We said that in 600 BC, in that era of the exile you had a change, the pagan world was changed, it became more rational, you had the four kingdoms, and that’s why on page 5 I have this great quote by F. E. Peters, considered by Greek scholars to be one of the experts in Hellenic thought. I think it’s very important we look at this quote. This is the third of the four kingdoms of Daniel. “The rationalistic premise operative in much of Greek thought and life…was, at root, the belief,” and here you want to underline it, this is F. E. Peters talking now, the guy who is a specialist in this culture, underlying it was “the belief that unaided human reason was an adequate instrument for both understanding and action. Very few Greeks… denied the existence of the gods…; what the rationalist premise did suggest was that the operation of these gods was unnecessary for the acquisition of either truth by intellect or good by will.” That’s autonomous man.
Van Til, I put him in because I want you to see, here’s a guy who’s taking the fact of Greek culture and interpreting it biblically, don’t just take raw facts but interpret them biblically, and here’s a guy who’s interpreting it biblically. He says: “It is taken for granted that the Greeks may fairly be compared to children who begin to wonder about things around them.” That’s what you usually get in the textbook, but notice the “but.” Watch this. Here Van Til is going to correct wrong thinking. “But this comparison would be fair only if [the pagan notion of history] were true. The comparison” look at the word, presupposes, “presupposes that the human race was for the first time emerging into self-consciousness in the person of the Greeks. [It] takes for granted that the human race had never been in close contact with a God who was closer to them than the universe. [It] takes for granted that the physical facts would naturally be knowable first, and that if God is to be known He must be known later.”
See what Van Til is saying? He’s exposing the root of pagan thought, and what I’ve tried to, and flying back from Denver today I thought of a way of adding to this chart, who has the evil problem, and what I’m trying to expose there is it’s the other way around, it’s the unbeliever that’s got the evil problem. They often accuse us of a knowing problem. Let me explain something that happened here with the Greeks. This had to happen before Christ came because the Lord Jesus Christ is going to say to Nicodemus, stop marveling at this stuff. Who has the real knowing problem? The unbeliever likes to think that we Christians are the ones that have the knowing problem. Well, how can you prove God, this is the thing you get thrown at you all the time. What we’re going to show is that unless Christianity is true you can’t know anything. Here’s why. The Christian position is built on the Creator. The Creator has two things, He has His plan and He has providence. Everyone clear on what the difference is. God has, from eternity past, a plan that includes every molecule and every action of every molecule in history, for all time and for all space. So everything has a place in the plan of God. It is a perfectly rational plan.
On the other hand, God shows us His plan as He unrolls it in history. That’s called providence. The plan of God is the basis for logic and reason in the Christian world view. Our logic and our reasoning machine works only because God’s plan is there first, and rational. If God’s plan wasn’t there first and rational, the logic machine would never work. So the logic and reason of man is dependent upon the plan of God. Our experience, and the facts, and how they fit together, we encounter the experience and the facts under the providence of God. It’s the providence of God that gives us experience; it’s the providence of God that gives us the facts. So the facts and experience come out of the providence of God, just as man’s reason and his logic come out of the plan of God.
Now you come down to this poor guy, here’s Mr. Pagan. Let’s ask him what the basis of his reason and logic is, and the basis of his experience and facts. Now you see you’ve got a little problem. We see the Emperor had no clothes, because here the pagan is with his finite reasoning… finite reasoning, what do we mean finite reasoning? It’s limited. What does he inevitably do every time he opens his mouth? He’s making an absolute. Now herein is a wonder, a finite reasoner talking about absolutes. Every time he says ought, true, this, this, he’s talking about absolutes. How can you talk about absolutes if you’re a finite reasoner? I can talk about absolutes as a finite reasoner because I know the Creator has a plan and the plan has absolutes in it. I’ve got a basis, the unbeliever doesn’t have a basis, he’s hanging in thin air here, yak, yak, yak about reason and logic, reason and logic, but he doesn’t have any foundation for his reason and logic. It’s a serious problem; you don’t build a house without a foundation. Over here he keeps talking about the facts that just happen, the experiences that just happen, they come out of a void, and underneath that all he has is chance. So on the side of experience and reason he has this great mystery called fate or chance, and things just happen that way.
But here’s the final problem. Just as we said the unbeliever has this problem of good and evil that maintains itself forever, look what he’s got here. Now he’s got a war going on between his left side and his right side. On his left side he wants reason to hold so badly that he can make absolutes. On the right side he gets facts and experiences that just jump about and happen by sheer chance. You can’t have both of these principles. They are at war with one another. His logic is at war with his facts. He can’t get the two together. That’s always been the dilemma of philosophy. You can’t make a sentence, you can’t make a predicate. If you say this animal is a cow, that’s a predicative sentence. Now think of what I just said: this animal is a cow. Included in that sentence is the fact that I classify, and I know exactly what the classification of all cows are, and that presupposes that I know every cow? No. But somehow up here in my logic machine I’ve got a set, a class distinction called “cows.” That’s my logic. There’s my finite reasoning going about making classification. But then the subject of the sentence is “this animal.” This animal just happened to walk in front of me. How do I know that tomorrow another animal isn’t going to walk in front of me and then it’s going to blow away my classification scheme? Suppose this cow is half between an elephant and a cow? Now what am I going to do to my classification scheme? It wipes out. And I can’t tell that, because I’m a finite experiencing it.
My point in showing you all this is this is what had to happen in history before the Lord Jesus Christ came, because if it hadn’t, people could still say, well, there’s another explanation for this. But the fact is that the Greeks already caught on to this problem. Aristotle and Plato already knew about this thing, this is not something I dreamed up on an airplane. This is something that’s been true since Aristotle’s day. This was known, all this was known.
We want to show you one more thing the way God prepared the Gentile world, that’s the last quote, and next time we’ll get into the preparation of the Jewish world. Here is a picture in mythology of the city of Rome. It’s a very important story because in this story is depicted the character of what Rome stands for.
“Two boys, abandoned twins, set out to find a city. Romulus plowed a furrow as the first wall around the planned city, with the trench as the moat, and the overturned earth as the wall. His brother, Remus, expressed his contempt for the wall and moat by leaping across them into the City, whereupon Romulus killed him at once, declaring, ‘So perish all who ever cross my walls!’ Rome thus began, first, with two boys abandoned by their family, and, second, with the murder of a brother as its first sacrifice. The priority of the City to the family is emphatically set forth. But this is not all. Third, the first citizens were not members of a common family or clan but neighboring shepherds, outlaws, and stateless people. The City made them Romans, not ties of family or of blood….”
Contrast that to Israel. What defined Israel? Families and blood. What defined Rome? An artificial contrivance of political will. So the Kingdoms, all this was tribes, and that’s why we conclude on page 6 that “Under Caesar Augustus, Roman organization and unity reached its zenith,” but the point is that every possible solution was tried. And it was into a world in which all these solutions had already been tried that Christ stepped and entered this world in that “fullness of time.” We’ll study a little bit more about that next time because we want to get the background, it’s necessary to get the background because the first doctrine we’re going to deal with is how can Jesus Christ be God and man, and the responses that people use is they try to revert back to this [can’t understand word]. That’s what generates Arianism, that’s what generates the cults, etc.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a ripper of a question, very good, well thought out question. The question is that obviously the Old Testament ends 400 years prior to the Lord Jesus Christ, so you’ve got four centuries of silence. Now the question we want to reflect on is why was there 400 years of silence? Is it because the people’s hearts were hardened and therefore there was no prophetic material willing and ready to receive the Word in order to transmit it, or in fact, had God simply said it’s time to be quiet now, I’ve spoken. The Scriptures really don’t, at least I’m not aware of passages that would say one way or the other. It’s kind of an inference that God had accomplished His purposes by revealing what He had…, He had partially brought Israel back together. The nation is profoundly aware that they don’t have speaking prophets, that’s why I quoted that thing out of 2 Maccabees when they couldn’t figure out where to put the names of the temple, etc. So there was an awareness on the part of the nation. It’s hard to believe that there weren’t at least one or two people that could have been used as prophets.
So I guess I kind of lean toward the fact that God had spoken all He was going to speak, He had made it clear. Certainly He didn’t need to keep on speaking to make anything clearer. I think that it is a precedent. Remember that partial restoration that we see, because of what we know from Daniel the restoration is sort of a new thing because the Bible in its simplistic earlier view of prophecy had Israel, exile, then coming back from exile and that was going to be Kingdom. Then you kind of have this time expansion, stretching that goes on. So that age in between the time of the exile and the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, that period of time is sort of something new to us, not new to God, and I think it is an adumbration or a fore view of the presence age of silence, in that God has spoken through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has sent His Holy Spirit from the throne to earth; He has preserved the New Testament text, what more is there for Him to say, because now the issue is, “What are we going to do with what He’s already spoken?” That’s the issue, and that’s what men are judged for. That’s that John 3 passage; men are condemned because they haven’t received what He’s already said.
People have written in the Protestant thing, of course in the Catholic thing the Roman Catholic Church holds that it’s not an age of silence; that in fact God still speaks through the [can’t understand word] Peter’s, Peter the Pope. So you have the Pope office as a conduit if God needs to speak to the church. You’ll also see Mormons believe in a restored church, meaning the prophetic line is active again through the Mormon Church. It’s kind of typical that cults will argue that God still speaks. Islam is another religion that says that what God said in the Bible is incomplete and therefore God needs to continue to speak and He did so through Mohammed.
The Protestant writers have generally argued that for God now to speak, in addition to what He’s already said in the New Testament denigrates the New Testament, because what it in effect implies is that the New Testament isn’t sufficient by itself, that in needs continuing additions, and for that to happen, that itself lowers the authority of the New Testament. The whole inter-advent age gets very complicated.
The question you asked about the age between the exile and the Lord Jesus is difficult; then you get into the problem of after the Lord Jesus Christ is rejected by the chosen nation, then you’ve got a new inter-advent age. Now the two, the suffering Messiah and the glory Messiah are split apart and we have this inter-advent age and that gets very complicated. That’s what we’re in now. It’s hard to see the connection in a simple way to the Old Testament.
I think it would help if you remember as you study history or you’re aware of the great figures of history is to always remember, it helped me immeasurably to understand the New Testament to remember that philosophy preceded the New Testament. Philosophy had already begun three centuries prior to the New Testament, so it’s not true, it’s NOT true that the New Testament doesn’t conceive of the (quote) “great philosophic” problems. The New Testament comes after the great philosophic problems have already been laid out on the table. In fact, many professors of philosophy argue that Plato, in his day, the first great Greek philosopher, had already laid out all the great questions, and nobody else has added to the questions, they just argued about the answers. But the questions were all neatly laid out by Plato. That helps because it tells you that the New Testament says that it is sufficient unto every good work, the sufficiency of Scripture.
So all of the great questions are potentially answered in the Scripture. You don’t have to hunt outside of the Scripture for these answers. The Scripture is sufficient. There are some key tools here that we evangelicals need to understand. The Scriptures are sufficient, the Scriptures are authoritative, and the Scriptures are clear, the perspicuity of the Scriptures, Protestant principle. It doesn’t mean there’s not heavy, hard to understand sections, it means that in order to be saved and to lead a Christian life and to discern the will of God, the Scriptures are clear. So the perspicuity of Scripture, the authority of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture; if we could just keep that in mind we’d be a lot more stable.
If there are no more questions, we’ll call it quits.