John 2

 The next installment of notes from our Evening Service Study of the Gospel of John

John 2:1-12 – The First Sign

  • The 3rd day = the 3rd day after the calling of disciples in John 1. The phrase “the 3rd day” carries deep resurrection symbolism.
  • Cana in Galilee = a village close to Nazareth (visible on a clear day)
  • A wedding took place: Weddings feasts lasted up to a week with new guests appearing each day
  • Jesus’ mother was there:
  • The story creates the impression she was somehow connected to the wedding family
  • A non-canonical Coptic Gospel tells us she was a sister to the groom’s mother.
  • The ancient Monarchian Prefaces to the Gospels indicate that the groom was John himself, and that his mother was Salome, the sister of Mary.
  • Joseph was absent, offering circumstantial confirmation that he was already dead by this time.
  • Jesus and His disciples had been invited. Note that thus far this was only Andrew, Simon, Philip, Nathanael and one other unnamed disciple.
  • When the wine was gone, Mary told Jesus, “They have no more wine”. Remembering that Jesus had not yet done any miracles, why do you think she did this?:
  • If they were related, Jesus bore some responsibility to help
  • Mary trusted Him to get things done.
  • “Woman, why do you involve Me? My hour has not yet come”: Was Jesus being rude?
  • “Woman” was a common form of personal address (e.g. John 19:26)
  • He was sending a clear message that He was now on the Father’s timetable and had His eyes fixed on an hour that was to come. He was no longer under her authority.
  • Jesus refers 9 times to His “hour” in John’s Gospel; viz.: 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23; 12:27 (twice); 13:1; 16:32; and 17:1.
  • Mary remained confident, telling the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.” Hereby she issued a call for them (and us) to trust Jesus and to obey Him
  • The jars for washing. These were:
  • 80-120 litres in volume
  • Provided for foot-washing and for
  • Ceremonial handwashing before meals and between courses to ensure the meal was eaten in a kosher fashion.
  • Six is the number indicating imperfection to the Jews:
    • The jars can thus be seen to stand for the imperfections of the Jewish rituals
    • The coming miracle is indicative of Jesus replacing the water of the ritual law with the new wine of the gospel of grace.
  • Jesus said fill the jars and they filled them to the brim (v.7) Then He told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet and they did so! (v.8) What does their response to Jesus tell us?
  • They put their faith implicitly in Jesus.
  • They obeyed to the letter … to the brim
  • The master’s astonishment in v.9-10 is understandable. What do we learn from it?
  • This was the best wine they had at the feast
  • The supply of excellent wine for the banquet was now virtually bottomless (120L x 6 = 720L)
  • Abundant, extravagant supplies of wine is a profoundly symbolic thing in Scripture, where abundant wine is a sign of the coming age of God’s Kingdom; e.g.:
    • Jeremiah 31:12
    • Joel 3:18
    • Amos 9:13-14
    • This miraculous sign indicates to the careful reader that the long-awaited Kingdom of God has arrived and that God has drawn near in Jesus.
    • The imperfect law was very limited in its ability to transform lives but the grace of God in Jesus is limitless
  • This was the first sign Jesus did. John says it revealed His glory. What did it reveal about Jesus?
  • All things are possible to Him
  • He is the King of the coming Kingdom
  • His grace and truth replace the ritual law
  • His disciples put their faith in Him. This connects the reading back to John 1:12-13

 

Jesus cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)

The Synoptic Gospels only record one journey to Jerusalem, just before the crucifixion. John records a number of visits. Is this a contradiction? No.

  • They have different points of view. They complement each other’s accounts.
  • Matthew, Mark and Luke concentrate on the ministry in Galilee. John fills in gaps by concentrating on the Judean and Jerusalem ministry.
  • Even Matthew 23:37 implies numerous previous visits to Jerusalem.

 But in John, Jesus cleansed the Temple as His ministry began. In the Synoptics it was as His ministry was ending. How do we understand this?

  • John is concerned with truth, not chronological facts.
  • His aim is not to present a chronological biography, it is to show Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah.
  • Recording this event here was not about when it happened but WHY it happened and what was symbolised by it.

Why did it happen and what did it symbolise?

  • Obeying the ritual of temple worship necessitated sales of sacrifices and coin exchanging activities;
  • Because the ritual had eclipsed the heart of worship, convenience and expedience brought such sales right into the Temple courts.
  • This was symptomatic of the state of heart confronted by the Jewish prophets (e.g. Psalm 51:16; Isaiah 1:11-17; Hosea 5:6 and 8:13)
  • The only place Gentiles could worship was being used as a marketplace.
  • Jesus’ passion for pure worship (truth) and the inclusion of all people (grace) was paramount.
  • It was also in a way a sign of:
    • Jesus’ fulfilling prophecy like  Psalm 69:9 – His zeal for God’s house
    • Jesus doing away with the sacrificial system
  • It was a symbol of the truth underlying the miracle at the wedding – that His grace and truth will replace the ritual law.

Jesus responded to the angry challenge of the authorities by saying that He would prove His authority to do this by rising from the dead (v.18-22)

The effect is remarkable:

  • People believed / trusted in Jesus (John’s main point)
  • Jesus however did not entrust Himself people and their fickle commitments. His purpose was still God’s Will.
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The Heart of the Good News

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Over the last few weeks our Readings have centred on Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians. We’ve had his teaching on the use of spiritual gifts … then on the local church as the Body of Christ … then last week we focused on his magnificent manifesto of love, in the context of our covenant service.

Now, as his letter is coming to a close, Paul sets out to remind the Corinthian Christians of the gospel he had preached to them.

The word Gospel is an English translation of the Greek euangelion, which literally means a “glad announcement,” or “good news”. When a proud new parent sends out the sms or WhatsApp, makes the phone call or posts the Instagram photo to announce proudly: “It’s a girl … or It’s a boy” … or when a young person calls to say excitedy, “I got the job!” … that is a euangelion … a glad announcement.

At its heart, Christianity started … and still starts … with a glad announcement. Everything else in the Christian life flows from this one, single, original glad announcement. So let’s start right there. What was the glad announcement according to the Word of God through Paul in 1 Corinthians 15? We find it in v.3-4.

A: THE GLAD ANNOUNCEMENT

…What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, (and) that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

The glad announcement thus has two parts. Both are exceptionally good news for us.

  1. Christ died for our sins.

Sin leads to death! In 2019, popular culture and even some popular versions of Christianity will shudder at this ‘in-your-face’ statement … but there’s no way around it when you take the Bible seriously. Sin leads to death … because “sin” is rebellion against God.

“Sin” is insisting on MY way in rebellion against the good, pleasing, perfect, and life-giving way of God.

“Sin” is the blatantly foolish choice to rush headlong into a course of action which leads away from God, and away from life, and into the path of an oncoming freight-train called “death”.

“Sin” is a personal Unilateral Declaration of Independence from God.

“Sin” is the decision to reject a relationship with the One who is the fountain of eternal life.

“Sin” therefore inevitably leads to both physical and spiritual death.

And every person sins … every single human being in this room … when left to our own devices … has taken the pathway that leads to both physical and spiritual death.

Sin leads to death and all have sinned. All therefore must endure both physical and spiritual death.

That is … until the subject matter of our “glad announcement”. One could state and restate it in so many different ways.

The glad announcement, Part 1 is: Jesus Christ died FOR OUR SINS. He died in order to take responsibility for our sins … He died because of our sins. He died our death. He did it in our place. He did it on our behalf. And now it is done!

The glad announcement for ME is that Jesus Christ died for David Howard’s sins. Jesus Christ died David Howard’s physical and spiritual death. Insert YOUR name here … because it’s true for you too. It is in fact universally true. Christ died for all! (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Part 2 of the Glad Announcement is even better:

  1. Jesus Christ was raised on the 3rd day

Did Jesus’ death in our place actually pay for our sins? Is this really the way it is? How can I know that Jesus’ somehow solved the issue of my sin once and for all by offering up His life in my place 2000 years ago? Well, the Bible alleges that God proved it by raising Jesus from the dead.

Part 1 of the glad announcement is that the death of Jesus on the Cross pays the price once and for all for our sin. It deals with our PAST.

Part 2 is that the resurrection of Jesus proves that because our sin is dealt with, LIFE is now freely given to us. It deals with our PRESENT and our FUTURE. We are alive NOW in the beauty of an intimate relationship with the Lord, the Fountain of Life. And we WILL be alive forever.

What happened to Jesus physically mirrors what happens in our lives spiritually NOW. While we were dead in sin, our sins were paid for and removed from us as far as the east is from the west … and … we are then raised from spiritual death to the eternally abundant spiritual life of a restored relationship with God … and this spiritual life is eternal … it has started now and will go on forever.

Jesus’ resurrection ALSO foreshadows exactly what will happen for us physically after death … we will be raised to both physical and spiritual life forever. This we will explore more next Sunday.

But for now, Romans 4:25 explains: “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Now two questions remain:

  1. How can we be sure that Jesus was truly raised from the dead?
  2. What shall we do?

 

B. HOW CAN WE BE SURE?

There was never any doubt that Jesus had died. He had been certified dead by Roman executioners who were professionals at their task. If they certified someone dead and released the body for burial it meant the person really was dead. They didn’t make mistakes because if they did then their own life would be forfeited.

Not only that, Jesus body had been prepared for burial by people very familiar with death. He had been buried in a tomb and the tomb sealed by Roman soldiers. There was never any doubt that this Jesus was dead and buried.

But His resurrection. In our day and age we would ask, “Isn’t this maybe fake news.”

Think about it this way. If you see a headline that says: Baby born with three heads … click here to see what happened next. Don’t click there whatever you do!

You read: “6 meter long snake swallows man alive [WATCH]” … well … I guess it’s possible. I wouldn’t want to watch it anyway … but … Is it possibly true? What are you going to look at to help you decide if this is a serious news video or just “click bait”?

What you should look at is, who posted it? Is it a website called viralnewsvids.tv? Or is it BBC.com? In other words… is it a source that has proved itself trustworthy and true in the past?

This is the test Paul asks the Corinthians to apply. How can you know whether the news of the resurrection is true? Well, look at who has said they saw Jesus alive from the dead. His list is:

  1. Simon Peter
  2. The other apostles all together at the same time
  3. A group of 500 disciples at once … so that was a large gathering of the early church somewhere … we’re not told where
  4. Then to his brother James, the leader of the Jerusalem church
  5. Then again to all the apostles
  6. And lastly Jesus appeared to Paul at the time of his conversion.

Now the Corinthians knew Simon Peter personally. They knew Paul, obviously. They knew James by reputation. And they knew that some of the apostles had already died because of their testimony that Jesus was alive from the dead … and even under threat of death … they would not recant their testimony. It was true and they were willing to die for it.

The source was fundamentally believable. The news of the resurrection was fundamentally trustworthy.

C: WHAT SHALL WE DO?

The glad announcement has been made. The evidence for its trustworthiness has been presented. All that remains is to ask, “So then what are we supposed to do with this news?”

The passage uses three words:

  1. Receive it: This means that they embraced the good news. They heard it gladly. They received it as a true story … a true witness. They opened their hearts and minds and welcomed with joy the glad announcement as being true. That’s what it means to receive it. Is that where you are? Are you perhaps someone who has always resisted the message rather than receiving it. Have you always approached it as a bit of a sceptic and not really ever given it a chance to impact you? Well today’s the day to change that and to receive the news. Open your heart to the possibility of the Lord Jesus literally having been raised from the dead and give Him the opportunity to reveal Himself to YOU as the Lord who has conquered death!

 

  1. Believe it: He says they believed the glad announcement. They not only believed that it was true … but they believed IN IT … they put their faith in it. They entrusted their destiny to the truthfulness of this announcement. They threw themselves ALL IN … into the implications of it. Some gave up their idols and their temple prostitutes … others gave up their law-keeping legalism … they repented of their sins and threw themselves into the free relationship with God which Jesus had died to make possible. Are you perhaps at this point? You have become convinced over the years that the message is true and that Jesus Christ has in fact been raised from the dead. But you’ve not taken it further than that … a cognitive acceptance of the glad announcement. Today’s the day to throw yourself all-in and to entrust your life to Jesus in its entirety.

 

  1. Stand firm in it: Paul says that now they are to stand firm in the good news. Scripture is full of similar exhortations to stand firm in the faith once received. The Christian life is not a once off purchase of a fire-insurance policy. It is a lived relationship with God which fills our lives with love and joy and peace. But only if we live in it. Jesus gave His life so that we could live in intimacy with God … talking to Him, listening to Him and being empowered by Him to overcome sin and to live a victorious life of fellowship with God. We ought not to settle for anything less than that.

1 Corinthians 15 says that the Gospel saves us if we stand firm in it. In other words, unless we are living in the reality of the relationship with God that Christ died and rose to give us, the glad announcement will make no difference to our lives.

Today, stand firm in the good news … stand squarely in the reality of your relationship with Jesus! Let your relationship with Jesus be centre-stage in your life. Let it be what defines who you are and how you live. Let it influence every aspect of your life and work and relationships … or else it will make no difference to you at all.

The glad announcement is not that Jesus is risen from the dead in order to become a beautiful appendage to our lives.

No! He has risen from the dead in order to totally, and radically transform our lives. But for that to happen, we have to stand firm in Him! We have to make Him the centre … not an appendage … we have to daily surrender full control to Him … the way we were invited to do last week.

Our Covenant with Christ is not an annual moment of commitment … it is a pledge to DAILY total surrender to His presence, His friendship, His love, His grace, His POWER!

I’m inviting you today to make a renewal again … not of your Covenant with Christ … we did that last week … but of the commitment to walk daily with Him in deep, and total surrender … giving Him centre-stage… giving Him free rein to direct the course of your daily life. I’m inviting you to renew a level of commitment you perhaps once had but you have grown lukewarm … you were passionate for Jesus  … you were on fire … your life was a living testimony and people sat up and took notice that you had been with Jesus. Now they might not even notice any difference to anyone else around you.

I invite you to change that today … to commit yourself to radical discipleship … to standing in the truth and the power of the resurrection again.

 

 

The Covenant of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Today is our annual Covenant Service. As generations before us have done, we will renew our personal and corporate Covenant with God. So, what exactly are we renewing?

A. We are renewing our joyful acceptance of our sacred position as the beloved of God.

Throughout our worship service we have used the language of “covenant”. But what is that?

I believe a Covenant is best understood as a sacred relationship-commitment of love between God and people.

Throughout this week we have been reading Bible passages which highlight the fact that throughout human history God has invited us humans into relationship with Himself. He has committed Himself to be our God and has invited us to be His people.

Noah and his family … Moses and the Hebrews of the Exodus … King David … God time and again invited people into relationship, promised to be faithful to them … and called them to be faithful to Him. This was an invitation to Covenant … an invitation to a sacred relationship-commitment.

God put it very poignantly to the Hebrews in the wilderness after the Exodus. He spoke of His love for them and how He had carried them on eagle’s wings … He spoke a blessing to a thousand generations of those who responded to Him in love.

The Bible is the story of God’s relentless love for humanity. God creates us in love. When we rebel against His love and go our own way, God pursues us in love. When we return to God … He forgives us and receives us home in love. The Bible is the story of God’s relentless love for humanity.

The greatest example of this, of course, is Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Jesus Christ is the perfect missionary of God’s love. He came into our world to bring the message of God’s love to us. He came to invite us back into a sacred love relationship with God. He lived that message. He preached it. He taught it. And He got killed for it.

But even to this very day … anyone who receives Jesus’ message … believes it … and trusts Jesus enough to respond to Him by returning to God and asking God to allow them to come back home … into a sacred love relationship with God … such a person is freely forgiven of all their rebellion against God … cleansed of all their sin … and adopted into God’s family of love.

We are some such people. We have responded to Jesus, the missionary of God’s love … that’s why we’re here.

And when we renew our Covenant with God a little later … we are renewing our joyful acceptance of our sacred position as the beloved of God. We are accepting afresh that we are loved by God … and that we are His people.

B. We are renewing our joyful acceptance of our commitment to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength

In renewing our Covenant we are also confirming afresh that we are committed to loving God in return.

God has so perfectly loved us that the only appropriate response is to love Him in return. To the Hebrews in the wilderness, God not only spoke of His love for them but He called them to love Him back … with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

More than 1000 years later, when challenged by an expert in the Law, Jesus responded, that the greatest commandment in the Law is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength.”

When we renew our sacred commitment to a love relationship with God in a few minutes from now, we will be recommitting ourselves to:

  • Love God with all our minds – which implies
    • to work as hard as we can
    • on understanding as much as we can
    • of what God has revealed to us in His Word about Himself.
    • That’s loving God with all our minds!

 

  • Love God with all our heart – which implies
    • to work as hard as we can
    • on building a personal, love-relationship with God
    • through the means God has graciously given us
    • like prayer, fasting, worship, communion, silence, solitude, journaling.
    • That’s how we work on loving God with all our heart.

 

  • But we are also committing to loving God with all our strength!
    • It is my firm conviction that loving God with all our strength is about giving ourselves 100% to honouring God and pleasing God in the way we live our lives. We love God with all of our strength by:
  • Physically taking our bodies to the place of worship in obedience to His command to worship Him in community … and then giving ourselves 100% to the act of worship.
  • Honouring God’s Name by telling others about all the wonderful things we know of Him.
  • Giving generously and sacrificially to the work of the Kingdom of God.
  • Doing our everyday work and living our everyday lives with the express aim of bringing both pleasure and glory to God.
  • It is ALSO my firm conviction, however, that far-and-away the most important way in which we love God with all of our strength is by living out the instruction which Jesus said is the 2nd most important command: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Renewing our Covenant with God today is:

  • renewing our joyful acceptance of our sacred position as the beloved of God; and
  • renewing our joyful acceptance of our commitment to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength

 

3. We are renewing our joyful commitment to love others as we love ourselves.

The one characteristic by which all followers of Jesus should be recognisable is LOVE.

Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples – if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Why would that be true?

May I point out the obvious. It is because we are followers of JESUS … the missionary of God’s love. The person we are following is the same Jesus of whom the Bible says: “This is how we know what love is … Jesus Christ laid down His life for us …”  (1 John 3:16)

Jesus Christ is the very definition of love … and if we are following Him … then it stands to reason that we will be characterised by love.

And that, friends, is where our main reading of the day comes in. It gives us possibly the most famous breakdown of what love truly is. This kind of love is not a feeling … it is a way of living … a lifestyle. It is an approach to each and every encounter we have with other human beings.

For the follower of Jesus this passage ought to be a Manifesto for living.

You’ll be relieved to know that it’s not my intention to unpack it or define words or do some deep life-application study. I just want to point out the simple truth that words in this passage like “envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, own way, irritable, resentful’ reek of self-indulgence, self-seeking and self-centredness. And having SELF at the centre is never the way of love.

On the other hand, words like patient, kind, truthful, protect, trust, hope, persevere … these are words that absolutely drip with the fragrance of putting others first … and seeking their highest best. And that … having OTHERS at the centre … is love.

When we renew our Covenant shortly …we will be renewing our joyful commitment to love God by loving others as we love ourselves. We will be renewing our commitment to the manifesto of LOVE.

As we prepare to do so, let us join in this beautiful prayer based on 1 Corinthians 13 which is written by Holley Gerth. The original can be found at her blog, One Step

Prayer of Commitment

Lord, because love is patient…

Help me to be slow to judge, but quick to listen,

hesitant to criticize, but eager to encourage,

remembering your endless patience with me.

Because love is kind…

Help my words to be gentle and my actions to be thoughtful.

Remind me to smile and to say “Please” and “Thank You”

because those little things still mean so much.

Because love does not envy or boast, and it is not proud…

Help me have a heart that is humble and sees the good in others.

May I celebrate and appreciate all that I have and all that I am,

as well as doing the same for those around me.

Because love is not rude or self-seeking…

Help me to speak words that are easy on the ear and on the heart.

When I’m tempted to get wrapped up in my own little world,

remind me there’s a great big world out there full of needs and hurts.

Because love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs…

Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.

When I want to hold onto a grudge,

gently help me release it

so I can reach out with a hand of love instead.

Because love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth…

Help me stand up for what is right and good.

May I defend the defenseless, and help the helpless.

Show me how I can make a difference.

Because love always protects and always trusts…

Help me to be a refuge for those around me.

When the world outside is harsh and cold,

may my heart be a place of acceptance and warmth.

Finally, because love always perseveres…

Help my heart continually beat with love for You and others.

Thank you for showing us what the word love really means. Amen.

John 1 – The Word

In our Evening Services we are currently studying the Gospel of John.

The following notes will provide an outline of the message on John 1.

  1. Verses 1-18 are formed with a literary technique called a “Chiastic Structure”:

A: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

B: There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

C: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

D: 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

C1: 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

B1: 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)

A1: 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

  1. Viewing the passage through the lens of this structure, what is at the very heart of John’s message?

 

  1. In v.1 and v.14 John refers to Jesus as “The Word”. Before we look at John’s meaning, what do you find significant about Jesus being called “the Word”?

 

  1. The following are relevant concepts of “the Word” / “Logos” which would have been familiar to John’s first readers:
    1. The Creation narrative of Genesis 1 (NB:v3);
    2. Stoics: divine reason which pervades creation and gives it order;
    3. Philo: the mind of God and the “mediator” between God and creation;
    4. Rabbinic tradition: ore-existent Torah
    5. Gnostics: a heavenly emissary which bridges the gap between spiritual and material worlds.
  2. Read verse 1-5 carefully. What does this tell us about the person and work of The Word?
    1. In the beginning was the Word: The Word is not created
    2. The Word was with God: The Word was in divine with God before Creation. The phrase in Greek means to be face to face with. It portrays intimate relationship.
    3. The Word was God: The Word is not inferior to God.
    4. Through Him all things were made: God’s will for creation was expressed through His Word.
    5. In Him was life and that life was the light of men: True life is found in Him. Only through Him do we discover true life.
    6. The light shine in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it/overcome it: Both are true translations and both make sense. Light is true life face to face with God. Darkness is sinful life apart from God. Those living in darkness battle to understand this Word and His revelation of true life. They may even oppose it. But the true light will always ultimately conquer darkness.
  3. Try to capture the central truth of v.1-5 in a “pregnant sentence” that anyone could understand? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  4. Verses 16-18 connect with v.1-5 in the chiastic structure. What specific “light” did Jesus’ ministry shed according to these verses?
    1. He came to bring the grace of God to us
    2. He came to bring the truth of God to us
    3. He came to show us what God is like.
  5. Read v.6-8 and v.15 carefully. What was John’s (i.e. the Baptist’s) role?
    1. Bear witness to the light of God (i.e. Jesus the Word)
    2. So that everyone will believe in Jesus
  6. Now simply read about how John did exactly that in v.19-34.
  7. Read v.9-11. Despite being the true light that reveals God to all people, what kind of reception did Jesus receive?
    1. He was not recognised by the humans He created;
    2. He was not received by “His own”; i.e. the majority of Jewish people.
  8. Contrasting to that is v.14, which connects to v.9-11 in the chiastic structure.
    1. How did the Word come and shine God’s light in the world? By taking on flesh and becoming a human being – Jesus – and then by living among human beings as a human being.
    2. By doing so, Jesus revealed the glory of God (i.e. He was the manifest presence of God). What did that glory look like acc. to v.14? Grace and truth
    3. The “grace and truth” of v.14 and v.17 mirrors the Old Testament “love and faithfulness” which is seen as central to God’s character (e.g. Exodus 34:6-7). That was God’s self-revelation through Moses. Through Jesus it is “grace and truth”. This again emphasizes (as in v.16-18) that in Jesus we see:
      1. Grace = Jesus is God’s unconditional love reaching out to us with the offer of relationship;
      2. Truth = The true and full revelation of God
    4. Who do you think are the “WE” who have “seen His glory”? The apostles and others like John who had seen and believed.
  9. Read v.35-42 which is an example of some of the “WE” of v.14 who responded immediately to the light that shone in Jesus.
  10. Read v. 43-51. How is Nathanael an example of “His own” who (in Nathanael’s case it was only initially) did not recognise or receive Him.
  11. Verse 12-13 is the very heart of v.1-18, the main point of Chapter 1 and it is the whole purpose of John’s Gospel according to 20:31. How would you explain to a non-Christian what is meant by these 2 verses?
    1. To receive Him = to believe in His name
    2. To believe in His name = to believe in Him as a person (i.e. to completely trust Him)
    3. To receive Him = to accept the teaching and revelation of God that He brought
    4. When we thus receive Him we have the right to become God’s children
    5. God Himself enforces our right and make sus His children by “rebirth” (more on this in chapter 3)

The Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

You can listen to this Sermon HERE

The absolutely central truth that God is communicating in our reading for today is this: You (collectively) are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Paul the apostle wrote the letter to the Corinthians. He was inspired with this concept that somehow we Christians … together … are the body of Christ. Where did this idea first get planted in his mind? I suspect it was when he … as a persecutor of the early Christians … was travelling from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest some Christians there … and was stopped in his tracks by a blinding light from heaven and a voice that called out to him:

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”.

“Who are you Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” the answer came back.

No doubt, over the years, as Paul reflected on that statement from Jesus … the penny dropped. Jesus had not said, “I am Jesus, whose church you are persecuting,” … but … “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Paul must have realised that when he was persecuting the church … he was persecuting Jesus … which meant that in some mysterious way the Church was Jesus … in that moment.

The Church is the present-day physical manifestation of the real and present Jesus Christ. And it is that idea which he is teaching now in 1 Corinthians under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saying to the local Church in Corinth: “You are the body of Christ.”

I don’t know about you, but believing this really humbles me … and it gives me a profound sense of responsibility … as a part of the Church which is the body of Christ. I (and we all) have an enormous personal (and corporate) responsibility to ensure that we accurately manifest Jesus in a present-day physical way.

So how could we ever get this right? The answer of course is in the verses that follow … and it is this: The Holy Spirit animates the Body.

The Holy Spirit animates the Body

I am at the risk of saying the same thing over and over, week after week … but please bear with me as I repeat myself just in case anyone should have missed this somewhere along the line. When a person comes in prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ and commits themselves into His hands … surrendering to Him as our Lord and Saviour … He graciously breathes His Spirit into us … and as the Holy Spirit enters our being … He gives us eternal, abundant spiritual life. We come alive spiritually … we are born from above as children of God.

And … Speaking of this truth … verse 13 says: “We were all baptised by One Spirit … and we were all given One Spirit to drink.”

The absolute fact is being stated to all Christians … all children of God through faith in Jesus  … the Holy Spirit lives in us all.

Note that! Here the emphasis is not to reassure me that I have the Spirit because I am in Christ … it is to reassure me that YOU have the Spirit too because you are in Christ … AND … that WE together have the Spirit because WE are in Christ.

And it is that Spirit who is alive in me … and in you … and in us together … Who animates us as the Body of Christ in this world … the present-day, physical manifestation of the risen Jesus!

To mix up the metaphor a bit … a physical body is united … amongst many other things … by the fact that it shares a blood supply. Each organ shares a source of ongoing physical life … the blood that flows through its connecting veins and brings oxygen and nutrients to the organs of the body.

For the Church of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual life … the life-giving-power that resides within us … but Who also flows through our relationships to one another … to bring spiritual life, power, healing, peace, joy and love to us all.

This is the beautiful plan of Jesus!

And it is the sovereign plan of Jesus. To us as His followers he does not say, “I give you the choice to become part of My Body.” Instead He says to all who receive Him, “Now you are part of My Body.”

But here’s the catch. We can mess it up!

And this is what the rest of the chapter is about, really. How to properly and reverently approach the truth that we are indeed part of this sacred fellowship … this sacred family … this sacred community … which in a mysterious and yet very real way .. is the body of Christ in the world … is the present-day manifestation of the risen Jesus in our physical world.

So … how do we properly and reverently approach this truth that we are the Body of Christ?

  1. We accept that we belong together (v.15-16)

If a body-part could speak … and the hand could say to the rest of the body: “I don’t belong to you,” … Paul argues that this does not mean it stops being part of the Body. It really just means that the hand is in denial.

When a Christian …  a believer or a disciple or whatever we call ourselves … says: “I don’t belong to a Church. I serve God by myself in my own way by living according to the values of Christ and I find Him in nature and worship Him there on my own. I don’t belong to the Church …” well … the Inspired Word of God replies: “You are living in denial. If you truly are in Christ then you ARE part of the Body … whether you think you are or not … why not stop living in denial and accept that you belong to this Body.”

You cannot be a child of God without belonging to the rest of the family too! DUH!

You might not like your family … but like it or not you still belong to it.

But this accepting is far more important than just accepting the reality that we and every other believer are part of the Body.

What would happen to a hand if it actually did manage to cut itself off from the rest of the human body it was a part of?

It would die! A hand cannot survive without the arm … which in turn cannot survive without the torso or the torso without the head, etc.

Why is that? Because God has designed the hand to receive it’s life-giving blood supply through the arm, etc. etc.

And God has designed … in His sovereignty … for a Christian to receive their life-giving spiritual blood-supply through the Church.

So step one is for the believer to accept that I am a part of this Body of Christ called the Church and I belong with the rest of my siblings in this Body.

 

  1. Recognise that our individual uniqueness is our gift to each other (v.18-20 and 28-31)

Paul makes the irrefutable point that if every body part was the same … the body could not function. God has designed the physical body that way … and He has designed the Church like that too … the Body of Christ in the world.

We are all different and unique … in our personality, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, abilities, inabilities, passions and callings.

We are not all the same and it is our uniqueness that is critical to the overall health of the body. In fact, not just having that uniqueness … but actually expressing it.

What good is it if one of us here is a brilliant singer … but when we stand in church to worship God on a Sunday morning … we do not sing because no-one else here is a brilliant singer … and we would just stand out as different? How sad and misguided that would be.

What if one of us has the gift of wisdom … but we never talk to other Christians and so we never share our wisdom with them. What use would that be?

Say you are a brilliant cook and you love hosting people in your home … but you never look around the building on a Sunday morning and invite one of our young adults who is far from home and family to come for Sunday lunch with you next week?

Say you love reading and you love children … but you never volunteer to come to Kids’ Club and spend half an hour helping a Grade 1 to learn to read. What use is that?

There is not one of us here that is the Body … it is only when we are together and working together and each bringing our unique abilities … and strengths and passions … to the life of the Body that we can truly function the way we are meant to function.

Our individual uniqueness … in personality and ability is our gift to one another and to the mission of the Body. It’s time to recognise that and time to live out that truth with great joy!

3. Recognise that we NEED one another  (v.21-22)

The head cannot say to the feet, I do not need you. We NEED one another. The devil is forever trying to deceive us in the Body of the Church.

Brother, you’re an employed person with a regular income. The devil tempts you to say, “We don’t need these poor people in our church.” The Holy Spirit says, “Oh yes you do!”

Sister, you’re a young adult … the devil tempts you to say: “We don’t need these old people in our church!” The Holy Spirit says, “Oh yes you do!”

Any time in any way that you hear the thought in your head, “This church would be better off without X, Y or Z people … tell the devil where to go … tell him to go back to hell. Because the Holy Spirit says: “No Body-part can say of or to any other Body-part: “We don’t need you.”

We need one another precisely for the uniqueness we bring. We need the faith of the poor … the financial acumen of the wealthy … the energy and vision of the young … the wisdom and insight of the elderly. We need one another.

4.Treat each other with HONOUR (v.22-24)

I wouldn’t want to go into the details of the metaphor that leads Paul to talk about unpresentable parts and weaker parts. His point is that every part of the Body must be treated with honour simply because it is part of the Body. And those parts of the Body that seem in the flesh to be less honourable or less presentable should be given special honour. This is another example of the upside Kingdom of Christ. It is sadly often true that in the Church we apply the same measures as the world does … and we “value” and ascribe honour to certain people above others. The call of Christ is for every one of us to treat every other one of us with equal honour … except that when someone is in a position of weakness we should offer them even more honour.

In practical terms this means that we prioritise those who are vulnerable or in positions of weakness.

It means we make decisions which put our children in the centre … even though they are young an few.

If new people are present … slow down to explain how things work.

If someone is standing alone over coffee after church … they become the most important person in the room. Not your friends you see every week. Give that person alone … greater honour.

When you’re in a circle having a conversation and one of you is silent … give them the honour of asking what they think.

5. Have compassionate care for one another (v.25-26)

Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. We are to open our lives to one another and allow each other to be a real part of our lives.

Now let’s be real. This can’t happen here on a Sunday morning very effectively. If you really want to experience the true wonder of being a Body Part … join a Home Group. It doesn’t really matter what they’re studying or how they run their evenings all that much. What matters is that they give us the opportunity to build relationships of love and trust with each other where we can let each other in to our lives and truly care for each other.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, allow me to remind you of the Body Part Questionnaire which we circulated last week. If you didn’t get one please take one from the back after Church and bring it back next week. This helps us to see where there are gaps in the life and ministry of CMC which Christ may be caking us to fill. These are roles and tasks and forms of service which will help CMC to function more healthily as a Body. Please have a look at it prayerfully, and please respond to this call today from 1 Corinthians 12 to come and be a meaningful, functioning part of this Body.

The other thing I must mention in closing is that next Sunday is our Covenant Service with Communion. It is a very solemn annual service of recommitment to our Covenant with Christ. If you don’t receive the church email, please also take a copy of this sheet from the back. It is a helpful guide to reflection in preparation for the Covenant service. You can also download it HERE

 

John – An Introduction

This is the “skeleton” of the introduction to John’s Gospel, which we started in the Evening Service last night. If you were there this might help … if not … well, not so much. Hope to see you next Sunday 🙂 

A: GENERAL

An Overview

John’s Gospel is made up of:

  • Prologue (1:1-18)
  • Jesus’ Work in the World (1:19 – 12:50)
  • Jesus’ Return to the Father (13 – 20)
  • Epilogue (21:1-25)

Distinctive Features

  • The only Gospel to use the concept of the Logos (Word of God)
  • Jesus’ message is presented in terms of eternal life and resurrection
  • Jesus’ teaching is presented in long conversations
  • Extensive teaching about the person and work of the Holy Spirit
  • Unique in that only 8% of its content has parallels in the other Gospels

Authorship

The author is John, the “Beloved Apostle”. How do we know this?

  1. External Evidence from the earliest Christian tradition; e.g. Bishop Papias of Hierapolis (AD60-140); Clement of Alexandria (AD150-215); Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus (writing in AD190 – a letter preserved by the ancient historian Eusebius); The Muratorian Canon (AD180-200); Irenaeus; and Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria (died AD265)
  2. Internal Evidence:
    • John 21:20-24 says that the Gospel was written by “the disciple whom Jesus loved”;
    • This “name-tag” is used throughout the Gospel to avoid naming the author;
    • Jesus’ closest disciples were Peter, James and John – it must be one of them
    • Peter is clearly named in John’s Gospel – so it’s not him.
    • When James and John are central to an event in the Gospel of John, they are named only as “the sons of Zebedee”.
    • James was martyred very early on (Acts 12) before any Gospel was written – so it’s not him.
    • That leaves John – which confirms the early External Evidence

John’s Purpose is to lead people to faith

  • The author says so in John 20:31 “These (things) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
  • The content emphasises belief – as we will see throughout the Book – through both (a) Jesus’ teaching and (b) the accounts of those who came to believe.
  • The “editor(s)” say so in 21:24

 

THEOLOGICAL

The following are the main Theological themes in the Gospel which we will delve into through this Study:

  • God the Father (1:12-13)
  • Jesus, God the Son (8:58)
  • God, the Holy Spirit (7:37-39)
  • A “Realised Eschatology” (5:24)
  • Salvation as Eternal Life (17:3)
  • Witness to the Truth (19:35)
  • Faith and Signs (4:48 and 10:38 show the complexity)
  • Love (for God) and Obedience (15:10)
  • Love (for people) (15:12-13)
  • The Church as relational (10)
  • Sacramentalism (6:51-59)

The Gifts of the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Last week we focused our attention on that beautiful moment when Jesus, having just been baptised by John the Baptist, comes out of the water and is praying. In that moment heaven opened and two things happened:

  • The voice of God the Father declared: You are My Beloved Son; with You I am well-pleased; and
  • The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove.

I hope I was successful in making the connection in all of our minds to the fact that we … who have come to faith in Jesus … also share in these blessings:

  • We too are adopted into God’s Family as His Beloved children; and
  • We receive the indwelling Holy Spirit.

This is where our attention is turned today, as we read Paul the Apostle’s letter to the Corinthian Church. He teaches that the Holy Spirit is given to all believers, and then he goes on to explain that all believers also receive what we call the “gifts of the Spirit”. Just as Jesus, the first Spirit-filled Man was gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit for His mission … so we are empowered and gifted by the Spirit for our mission in Jesus’ Name.

But let me not get ahead of myself. Let’s start in the text and read verse 1-3 which, as I will explain, sends us this message:

  1. Christian, you have the Holy Spirit (v.1-3)

The Christians in Corinth, other than a tiny minority of Jewish believers, had been pagans and had been worshipping multiple gods, all of which were represented by idols. This included the official worship of Caesar by all faithful Roman citizens. When the pressure of the persecution of Christians by the Romans intensified, people were asked to show their allegiance to their idolatrous gods, by declaring “Caesar is Lord”. And if they were suspected to be Christians they had to add, “and Jesus be cursed”.

In earlier days … when Christians were persecuted by those Jewish authorities who rejected Christ … this was a strategy employed. In the book of Acts, Paul confesses to King Agrippa that before his conversion, in his days of persecuting Christians: “I often punished them in every synagogue and I forced them to blaspheme.” (Acts 26:11).

In other words he forced them to say something like: “Jesus be cursed”. This the true believer would never do, and so instead they would declare, “Jesus is Lord” … which to the Jewish authorities was blasphemy.

So the confession, “Jesus is Lord” was the defining evidence that someone had become a Christian. You didn’t just say it casually … like we might do today … because saying it held grave consequences.

Now in 1 Cor. 12:3 Paul says: “No-one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit who draws us to saving faith in Jesus. It is He who invites us to come into God’s family by faith in Jesus. And when we say YES to His invitation, it is He who enters us and breathes eternal life into us.

Hear the good news! No Christian is a Christian without the Holy Spirit. If you truly believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord … and if you know in your heart that Jesus is YOUR Lord because you have committed yourself entirely to Him … YOU HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT LIVING IN YOU AND GIVING YOU SPIRITUAL LIFE FROM WITHIN! CASE CLOSED!

Then I want to ask this question and let the Bible answer it. Is the Holy Spirit given to the Christian only to give us new life / eternal life? The answer of course is NO. We find that in v.7

  1. The Spirit is given for “the common good” (v.7)

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (v.7)

We have seen that the Holy Spirit is given to every Christian. But here we also see that every Christian also experiences what Paul calls “the manifestation of the Spirit.” “Manifestation” comes from the Latin “manifestare”, which means to make public. It means the outward effect of the Spirit … the visible and outward evidence of the Spirit’s invisible presence inside the Christian.

Some of the ways in which the Holy Spirit manifests His invisible presence have to do with the character and lifestyle of a Christian. That the Bible calls (in Galatians 5) the “fruit of the Spirit”.  But here in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is concerned with deliberate Christian action that reveals the invisible presence of the Spirit in us.

In verses 4-6 he speaks about gifts, service and works. If I was going to paraphrase verses 4-6, it would be something like this:

God gives every Christian certain abilities or gifts by the Spirit … then He calls the Christian to use those gifts in acts of service to others in the name of the Lord Jesus … and as the Christian does such acts of service … God Himself works through them to minister to others.

God’s aim in giving us the Holy Spirit is never only to give us eternal and abundant spiritual life … it as always also for the Holy Spirit to flow through the individual Christian … as Paul put it … for the common good.

God wants to minister beautiful and abundant life to human individuals … God wants to minister to people’s needs and brokenness … God wants build a Christian family right here where all are built up in love and together enjoy life in all its fullness … And all the while, God wants to add more and more children to His family by faith. This is the ”common good”

Which brings us to the next point:

  1. To accomplish this purpose God gives a variety of spiritual gifts

Spiritual gifts are defined in the Holman Bible Dictionary as, “The skills and abilities … which God gives through His Spirit … to all Christians … which equip Christians to serve God … in the Christian Community.”

Some of these gifts are fairly obviously supernatural. Others are what I would call “undercover supernatural”. What I mean is that when anyone does a miracle … like turning water into wine … it’s obviously supernatural. But when a person speaks wise counsel to someone else and it turns out to be life-changing … that is “undercover supernatural”. It is supernatural but it can be explained away as just good common sense.

Any and every skill, ability or talent that a Christian has … is both given by God and will be supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit … if we determine to use that gift in God’s service. Some of those will be abilities we had before we were saved which the Holy Spirit merely breathes new life and power into after we receive His presence. And others we will not have had before receiving the Holy Spirit … and He gives them to us to begin with … and empowers them as we use them.

Because the spiritual gifts are given for the common good … they are given for the building up of others and ministering to their needs … it stands to reason that for every one of the spiritual gifts, we should be able to identify how they meet a need in someone else.

Paul lists 9 of the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. There are in fact other lists in the New Testament too. But for the sake of this exercise today, let’s confine ourselves to the ones before us in 1 Cor. 12. To understand them better let’s ask: What need does this gift meet either in individuals, in the Church or in the world?

1.The Message of Wisdom:

Wisdom is knowing what to do in a given situation. And when we don’t know what to do … which decision to make … or how to handle a given set of circumstances … we can feel utterly paralysed. At that  moment we need a message of wisdom. We need God’s wisdom. And God will often send that wisdom our way through a Christian … when we sit down to speak to them and explain the situation and as the Holy Spirit moves in their heart and mind to give them the gift of wisdom … they will speak a message of wisdom to us … and suddenly everything falls into place. Our need is met … our lives are set on course … and often a whole network of our relationships in the church and in the world is vastly improved. The Gift of a Message of Wisdom.

2.The Message of Knowledge:

When we remember that Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” we can appreciate that knowing the truth is a great human need.

  • Knowing the truth about God … having true knowledge of God … is so desperately needed for people to be able to walk in God’s abundance. When we just don’t understand God or God’s ways or how God wants us to live in this world, we need someone who is able to speak God’s word of truth to us … a message of true knowledge. And when we hear that message suddenly so many things fall into place in our heads and our hearts … that person blessed us with the gift of a message of knowledge.
  • Sometime we also just need someone to speak a message to us that opens our eyes to see the truth about ourselves. And when we hear that message we begin to see ourselves and the world around us in a whole new light … we lights come on for us and life takes on a fresh abundance … that person blessed us with the gift of a message of knowledge.

3.Faith:

Clearly this is not about saving faith … that initial step of trusting Jesus to wash away our sins and give us eternal life. This is about faith in the midst of everyday living in a broken world. Some people just seem to have the gift of being able to believe God for the impossible. When do we need those people … with this gift? Well we need them when we as individuals or as a community are losing heart … and beginning to despair. When you believe all hope is gone … when our backs are against the wall and we honestly can’t see a way out … we need someone who will stand in front of us and say, “I believe God can transform our situation. I know God can do a miracle here. Do not lose heart. Believe! Stay faithful! Pray! God’s got this! God will come through for us.” And when we hear them or even just see them living in the face of this adversity with faith … we are inspired to lift our eyes above the giant problem in front of us and see the Giant God who is bigger and more powerful by far! That person has blessed us with their gift of faith.

4.Gifts of healing:

Of all the spiritual gifts, I think it is easiest to see how the gift of healing meets the needs of others. We all know what it means to be in need of healing. We may have a physical need – an illness, some bodily failure that is causing us pain and brokenness. We may have an emotional need – a set of circumstances or a medical condition causing us emotional pain. We may have a cognitive need – a set of circumstances or a medical condition causing brokenness in our cognitive functioning. We all know what it feels like to need healing. In that moment when someone stands in front of us and puts their hands on our head or our shoulders, and prays with us and for us, and we … in that very moment or in the hours or days that follow … experience a restoration of health and wellness … God has healed us … and that person blessed us with our gift of healing.

5.Miracles:

Some translations have it as “miraculous powers”. The words literally mean “demonstrations of power”. When healing comes only through prayer, it is, of course, a miracle too. And for many, healing is the most common kind of miracle. Why? Well probably because it is the one we most often ask God for. But a miracle in general is when God’s supernatural power works to perform God’s supernatural purpose. If a person has the gift of miracles it means that God uses them to get things done that seem humanly impossible are even ARE humanly impossible. And sometimes those miracles are hidden in plain sight. When everyone else is pulling their hair out, saying, “It is impossible to solve the problem of hunger” … others are simply stepping forward in faith and going about the business of feeding the hungry … with resources that are so limited … but because their purpose is to meet a need that is in the heart of God for them to meet, God supernaturally enables them to get it done. So yes the miracle may be driving out a demonic spirit … or laying hands on a dead car engine and it springs to life … or praying for financial supply for a Church project and on the Amen an envelope arrives through the letter box with the exact amount needed. Yes those are miracles. But there are miracle workers in this room today … most of whom don’t even realise that in their humility God is doing things through them that are humanly impossible and therefore miraculous. When they make those things happen, they are blessing everyone around them with their gift of miracles.

6.Prophecy:

Prophecy is a direct word from God. It happens when a person speaks a message that comes straight from the heart of God to one or many others. It is when someone says: “Thus says the Lord …” and it really is God’s message straight to the heart of a person. When someone walks into this church and no-one knows them … and no-one knows that they are living in fear for their life … but one of us gets up and says, “I believe that God wants to say to us today: “I love you and I am with you and I will protect you from all danger.”” That person hears that word and experiences the truth that God is speaking straight to them. That is a gift of prophecy … and it is meeting the need of someone to hear the word of God to them. Sometimes (and I wish it was every time but it’s not) a congregation member will say to a preacher, “Who told you that about me? You obviously know what I’m going through, because you were speaking straight at me today.” They were experiencing the gift of prophecy meeting their need for a word from God. And the gift of prophecy is also in operation when God wants to speak a strong word of correction to a corrupt leader or someone in power who is leading people astray. He may send a prophet to call that person out … and the need of an entire nation for a leader to repent and turn from their wicked ways can be met through the gift of prophecy.

7.Discerning of spirits:

Just as the truth sets us free, so lies enslave us. Just as we can receive God’s message that leads us to fullness of life, so we can also receive a false message that leads us down a destructive path. Just as the Holy Spirit can work wonders for good, so the devil can work supernaturally for evil. There are times when we need someone with the gift of discernment to warn usthat is not of God. It looks good, it looks fun, it feels like something life-giving but I sense darkness at work. I’m warning you in the name of the Lord, look out. The main blessing that a person with the spiritual gift of discerning spirits brings … is to warn us against the danger of falling for the devil’s deception or opening a door in our lives for the evil one to be at work. They help us to discern the presence of the wolf in sheep’s clothing … when the devil is masquerading as an angel of light in order to lead us astray.

8 & 9. Speaking in Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues:

One can only properly deal with these two gifts together.

  • Tongues: When a Christian is praying and they run out of words to express their heart or thoughts to God … as so often happens to us limited human beings … they may find themselves suddenly praying “fviufbvuoivn0h0rcerlvkj298n893”. Sounds and words coming from their mouths that are nonsensical to a human listener because, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:2, “Anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed no-one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.” It is for them in that moment a prayer language. The Holy Spirit has gifted and empowered them to vocally express their hearts and minds to God beyond the limitations of their brain to put their emotions or thoughts into words. It is meeting a need for themselves. That’s why Paul says again in 1 Corinthians 14:4 that “anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves”. How? Well they are built up in their relationship with God through the intimacy of perfect (Holy Spirit inspired) communication. But then Paul says, “unless someone interprets so that the Church may be edified.”
  • Interpretation of Tongues: In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul teaches that one should only speak in tongues in a public meeting if someone with the gift of interpretation is present … because otherwise all that happens is that people get confused by your nonsensical words. In fact he also says, if you speak in tongues in Church, pray that you will be able to interpret the tongue yourself (v.13). So there’s nothing wrong with that practice. But someone needs to be able to interpret into the common language … in our case English. And when someone interprets it releases for all of us a most beautiful revelation of pure intimacy with God … and we are all built up in our walk with the Lord.

Conclusion

It’s been a long teaching today. I hope it’s been helpful. But mostly I hope that it has brought to all of us a determination to use our skills, talents and abilities in the Church and in the world so that God the Holy Spirit can work powerfully through us to bring abundant life, wholeness and wellness to our Church, our Families and our World.