So, today, we get into the one doctrine, if you had to narrow it down to one, the primary one doctrine our Christian faith is founded upon, the belief that is the most central of our faith. Without this, everything else crumbles. This foundational doctrine is that of the divinity of Jesus, Jesus as God incarnate—God in the flesh. Now, this might seem like a given, something we can just assume: “That’s why we’re all here. We all believe that.” That may be the case, but why do you believe it? Who told you that Jesus was God? Whose testimony do you have? And how sure is it in our culture that so-called Christians believe in Jesus divinity? Can we assume that?
If you’ve ever had a discussion with a JW at your front door or elsewhere, you may have heard them claim that they, too, believe that Jesus is God. They will say that, and more often than you think people will believe that they believe in Jesus as God in the same way that we believe in Jesus as God. So, are we all Christian? Do we all have a biblical understanding of who Jesus is, and how it is that he is divine? Certainly not.
There’s a reason why this doctrine is so incredibly crucial to the Christian faith, not only 2000 years ago when Jesus first came, but also today, in the 21stcentury. And in John chapter 5, the part we haven’t read yet, we see not only why we should believe that Jesus is fully divine, but also the consequences of not believing this. And I’ll take it another step further at the end, and mention the consequences of not understanding whywe believe this.
If you were here last week, you may remember that Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years. This healing then sparked a conversation with the Jews about who Jesus was claiming to be. And if you remember the crescendo last week—He made multiple claims about who he was and what he had the right to do, and it got more and more offensive for the Jews listening, and more and more exciting for us as believers reading this even 2 millennia later.
Today, I want you to also look at these verses like a crescendo, but then also a descrescendo after that. The music major is coming out of me. Been listening to a lot of Shostakovich and Mahler in the car. But Jesus makes these huge claims, and even specifically rebukes the Jews listening this time, but then kind-of comes down and talks about the consequences of not believing these great claims that he is making. So, crescendoing up to glory, then decrescendoing down to judgment. I just think that will help in seeing it like that.
Jim Lucht is going to come read for us, John 5:30-47. Jesus is now moving in his discourse to others who give witness to who he is. It’s not just Jesus himself coming along making claims for himself; Jesus has someone else making this claim on his behalf, and that someone else is God the Father. So, John 5:30-47. Jim, take it away.
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
So, how do we know Jesus is God? In v. 31 he says, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true.” What he’s saying there, is that it’s reasonable to conclude that what he’s saying is false, if he’s the only one saying it!
If someone just came along saying he was God, like Jim Jones in 1978, who led 911 people to commit suicide (maybe you’ve heard of the Jonestown Massacre). If someone just claims it for themselves, it makes no sense! Even Jesus, who truly is God, he recognized that! Even though Jesus’ testimony is enough, because it is true, it won’t be seen as true if he’s the only one claiming it! So, we have other witnesses that Jesus gives, and then the consequences of not believing in Jesus as God.
Who says Jesus is God?
- John the Baptist.
Look, again, at verses 33-35: “You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”
We’ve seen a lot in this gospel about John the Baptist’s role in preparing people for Jesus. That’s some of what Jesus is referring to here. Back in chapter 1, these religious leaders were sent to John the Baptist to ask him who he was. There was an excitement in the air, this messianic expectation. The Old Testament points to a Messiah to come, and now this man comes along who’s baptizing people and quoting the Old Testament. So, these delegates of a sort went to John the Baptist, and John the Baptist pointed them to Jesus! But that’s when their excitement and their anticipation changed into annoyance. They rejoiced that this man was speaking, until he spoke of Jesus. Jesus was not what they wanted. They wanted a political ruler to free them from Roman oppression, not Jesus.
That’s why, apparently, this first witness wasn’t enough for the Jews. So, Jesus goes on and points to a greater witness:
- Jesus’ Works
Verse 36: Jesus says, “But the testimony I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”
Most immediately, Jesus is talking about the miraculous signs he’s performing. That’s what spurred on this conversation. Jesus healed the lame man, and tells him to get up, carry his mat, and walk. The Jews don’t like that Jesus told the healed man that he could carry his mat on the Sabbath (that’s against their Law), and so they’re asking him about who he thinks he is. And that still baffles me: He heals a man who hasn’t been able to walk for 38 years, and what are they curious about? Why’d you tell him he could carry his mat? Really? That’s what you’re interested in? They’re so blind to what these works of Jesus reveal about who he is!
He is able to do things that no man is able to do. We don’t see something as amazing as a man completely healed of an illness immediately, and think, “Huh! What a nice guy!” Right?! “That was neat!” No! We think, “This man is no mere man!” In Jesus’ words, “my works bear witness that it is God the Father who has sent me!” But, he doesn’t stop there. John the Baptist bore witness, Jesus himself bears witness, with the supernatural works he is performing, then, the third witness:
- The Father
Verses 37-38: “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.” This is when Jesus is becoming more pointed and more accusing. Last week Jesus had a lot of things to say about himself that were offensive for the Jews. Now, he’s still talking about who he is, but he’s being even more blunt with where they’ve gone wrong. He’s rebuking them! That’s why this is yet another crescendo.
Now, when he says that the Father has borne witness, he doesn’t actually give specifics. Like, the specific way in which the Father has borne witness. But I think that it makes sense that he’s referring to all of the God’s revealing work. In fact, if you look back at the beginning of our text, in verses 31-32, he says, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true.” Who is this “another” who bears witness?
Some will say it’s John the Baptist, because he goes right into talking about John the Baptist. But this statement is more like he’s giving a summary, and then getting into more specifics. He’s talking about the Father. And the Father’s revealing work includesJohn the Baptist; it includes Jesus’ works—both the miraculous and everything within Jesus’ ministry; and then it also includes the Scriptures, which we’re going to talk about in just a moment. So, really, we could have said, there’s one primary witness, and it’s God the Father. And God the Father reveals who Jesus is in all these different ways.
And yet the Jews do not get it. Jesus brings this up in verse 37: “His voice you have never heard.” Meaning, “I speak as the Father speaks, and you are not listening.” Then he says, “His form you have never seen,” meaning, “I am the very manifestation of God and yet you don’t see it.” Then, lastly: “You do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.” In other words, “If you truly saw and believed the Scriptures, you would believe what I’m saying, that I am sent from the Father.”
The very one they say they care the most about obeying, is the one who is witness to Jesus as His Son. The Father bears witness: Jesus is God. Jesus came from me. The last witness to who Jesus is. The last way God the Father bears witness to Jesus:
- The Scriptures
Verses 39-40: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” By “Scriptures” in Jesus’ day, he means, the Old Testament. And then he says, similarly, in verse 46: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy.
Listen, this is the point for the Jews here but also for us: no matter how devoted you are to reading and studying and understanding the Bible, if you don’t see Christ as the center, you miss the whole point! And this includes the Old Testament! And I’m not saying this myself, Jesus is saying this! “It is they that bear witness about me!”
If you’ve never really seen anything like this, about Christ in the Old Testament, the Bible study group that meets on Sunday mornings in the Fellowship Hall will be studying this exact topic starting September 2nd: Christ in the Old Testament. Shane Richardson leads that Bible Study and is an excellent teacher. Join them! The same Sunday we move to 2 services, two weeks from today, at 10:45. So, you can come to the first worship time, then jump into that group at 10:45. For that matter, join any small group that’s studying the Bible, and you will see, more and more, how it all points to Jesus! We’ll have an insert next Sunday with all our upcoming small groups with start dates and studies, and everything.
The Bible all points to Jesus. God created all things, provided everything we could possibly need not only for survival but for happiness. That’s something we forget, often. He not only provided everything we needed physically, but also spiritually, emotionally and in every other way. We had this perfect relationship with our Creator. But, we didn’t like not being in control. We trusted our own minds and hearts more than the mind and heart of God, so we rebelled. Then, the entirety of the Bible is God’s story of the redemption of mankind, first through his chosen people Israel, through whom he eventually provided a Messiah to come, who would die for the sins of the whole world, and rise again from the dead! The entire Old Testament points forward to Jesus, and the entire New Testament points backward to Jesus. God has fulfilled his promise to provide a Lamb, a Messiah, his own Son, who would take away the sin of the world, who would reconcile man and God.
When we don’t see Jesus for who He is, when we read the Bible blind to this Messiah who is coming and then this Messiah who has come, everything else crumbles. Specifically, we’re going to see here, four consequences. In what way does everything crumble?
The Results of Denying Jesus’ Divinity
- The Bible’s message is lost.
We completely miss the point of reading the Word of God if we do not see Christ when we read it. The Jews didn’t see this. But, I also think that we often do not truly see this. Listen, I will be the first one to tell you that we need to be people of the Word. We must be reading the Bible. If you are not, you are missing out on the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. But that’s not because there’s something magical about reading words on a page. It’s because in the Word of God, we encounter Christ.
In other words, read the Bible, yes! But read it for Jesus, to know him, to learn to trust him more, and see God’s love for us in Jesus! Don’t read the Bible to make you somehow more acceptable to God. Read the Bible to know how acceptable you are because of Christ, and thenhow your life can reflect that more and more.
Another way to say it: Don’t read the Bible as if who you are depends on how much you read it. Let me say that again. I don’t think I’m being nit-picky here on our motivation: Don’t read the Bible as if who you are in Christ depends on how much you read it. Read it to help you REST in who you are in Christ no matter how much you read it! You are not a son or daughter of the King because you’ve read the Word enough. We read the Word because we’re sons and daughters of the King simply by the grace of God. To me, that’s even more motivation to read the Word, to dive in! I want to know, and cherish, and understand more and more of this new identity that Jesus has purchased for me.
I’m all about discipline, and finding the time, but don’t forget why you’re reading God’s Word. It’s to know God. It’s not to check it off your list and feel better about your contribution to your own holiness. It’s to know God, and especially to know how Jesus has purchased our holiness for us. When we don’t see Jesus, our Lamb, our hope, our Substitute, when we don’t see Him as the center of it all, we completely miss the point.
Jesus is about to go on in verse 42, but before he does that, he says, in verse 41, simply: “I do not receive glory from people.” Why does he say that before moving on? He’s reminding them in the middle of this that he knows he’s not the Messiah they want. He knows he’s not saying what they want him to say. But he’s not going to compromise or change who he is or why God has sent him just so they’ll be happy with him! “I do not receive glory from people.” That’s not why I’m here. I’m here for my Father. Then he goes on, the 2ndresult of not seeing Jesus for who He is:
- Love for God is impossible.
Verses 42-43: “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” If we do not believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, then it is impossible to love God. Did you know that? The Jews denied that Jesus came from the Father. They’ll hear from others who come in their own name, meaning false teachers. That’s who he’s referring to in verse 43. But they denied that Jesus came from the Father.
Now, this might be difficult at times, but this is why it is impossible to love God if you do not believe in Jesus. When I was college, especially, but still often now people say things like, “Well, we all love and worship God. We’re united.” Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, deists even, we all love and worship God. There is a problem with that.
Pluralism, which is a view that says all religions are equal and valid and even true—pluralism cannot withstand stand even simple logic. To say that all religions are valid and true does not work. Why? Because they contradict each other! It literally cannot work. Biblical Christianity requires that Jesus is the only way to God! 2 references worth writing down here: Acts 4:12, which says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” That’s as clear as can be. But even from Jesus himself, John 14:6- “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Again, that’s as clear as can be. The only access we have to God is through faith in Christ. There is no other way to love and worship God than through Christ. And please, text in your questions if you have them, on anything, but especially on that point. I’ll try and answer those at the end. The third result of denying the divinity of Jesus:
- Judgment is inevitable.
Jesus, here at the end, the last three verses, basically says, I don’t even have to accuse you. Moses, the very one on whom you have set your hope, he accuses you! Because you say you believed Moses, but you really didn’t, because even Moses wrote of me. There is no doubt, that denying the divinity of Jesus will bring judgment. That’s what Jesus is saying. There is no salvation for those who deny the divinity of Jesus, who don’t believe in the one whom the Father has sent.
The divinity of Jesus is foundational. Without it, everything crumbles. Let me give just a few examples of groups that call themselves Christians, and yet deny who Jesus is.
Jehovah’s Witnesses. Let me read this straight from JW.org, and I want you to see how subtle it may sound, the differences between a biblical understanding of who Jesus is and what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. This is from a webpage answering the question, “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christians?” This is how they answer:
“Yes. We are Christians for the following reasons:
- We try to follow closely the teachings and behavior of Jesus Christ.
- We believe that Jesus is the key to salvation, that “there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”
- When people become Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are baptized in the name of Jesus.
- We offer our prayers in Jesus’ name.
- We believe that Jesus is the Head, or the one appointed to have authority, over every man.”
If they came to your door, and you actually talked with him, you might hear them say some of these things, including even that they believe that Jesus is God! The problem is that Jesus was also the Father’s first creation. Jesus himself is not God like the Father is God, even though we’ve seen Jesus claiming this over and over the last few weeks in John. Jesus is only a perfect man. He didn’t rise from the dead. Good works are necessary for salvation. There is no hell where the wicked are punished. I could go on and on with differences.
But the main issue is, “Who is Jesus?” For Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus is divine, but not the divine Being himself. He is agod, or a divine being, but not thegod.
This changes everything about the gospel. Mormons, similarly, fail to recognize who Jesus is as divine. They believe that Jesus is a god, but also that any human being can become a god, like Jesus Christ. And you might be surprised how many Mormons there are. 15 million worldwide. You also might be surprised how many RLDS congregations there are. RLDS stands for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. RLDS is an off-shoot of the Mormon Church. And the RLDS, even though it only has quarter of a million members, they have a massive presence here in the Kansas City area.
In 2000, the RLDS, an offshoot of Mormonism— they would have called themselves, at least in the past, the “true Mormons”—but in 2000, they voted to change their name to Community of Christ. Why? Because they wanted to be associated in people’s minds more with mainstream Christianity than with Mormonism. If you’ve lived here for more than a few months, you’ve probably seen in the Kansas City area several Community of Christ congregations. There has to be 30 or 40 of them. And with that name, maybe you just thought it was another Christian church. Community of Christ sounds like Church of Christ or Community Church, like our own church.
The point here is that we can no longer assume that churches believe in Jesus as truly divine as God the Father is truly divine. The Jews in the first century struggled with this, and cults and Christians nowadays struggle with this. It is as important as ever that we are clear on what it means that Jesus is God. Jesus is divine. Now, I have one other thing I want to say, but let me get to your questions first.
So, I want to encourage you today: know what you believe and why. Open the Bible for yourself. Know what any church you visit believes about everything. And be specific. I almost joined a church in college without realizing that they didn’t believe that Jesus was God. That’s not a joke. It had Baptist in the name, and I grew up Baptist, so I assumed it was good.
Learn the Word for yourself. Get involved in small groups here. We’ll have a full list next week. Ask questions of the people around you. Sign up for our one-on-one discipleship that starts next month. Sign up to serve and teach! I’m telling you a great way to learn is to teach it! We have great curriculum for all that. But learn for yourself, not only for knowledge and to protect the truth of God’s Word, and make sure that you’re not being led astray. But ultimately, as I said earlier: read, study, learn the Word to rest in what God has done for you in Christ. It really is all about him.