Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Equal Authority" Sermon: John 5:19-29

“Equal Authority”

[John 5:19-29]

July 19, 2015Second Reformed Church

            After Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath, He explained to the Pharisees that when the command was given to us to rest on the seventh day, it did not mean that we are to be inactive, but that we are to stop our regular work – giving ourselves a rest and trusting that God will provide for us when we “only” worksix days out of seven.  The seventh day is to be given over especially for the worship of God with other Christians, but works of mercy and necessity are also allowed.

            Jesus explained that though His Father stopped creating on the seventh day, He did not become inactive – otherwise, everything would have fallen apart – God was sustaining and providing for all those things He created.  Therefore, since His Father did such works on the Sabbath, it was right for Him to do such works on the Sabbath, because He and the Father are equal – They are the same One God.

            This threw the Pharisees into a rage:  not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath Law – as they interpreted it – He was committing blasphemy in saying that He is God – He deserved the death penalty.

            If the Lord is willing, we will look at Jesus’ response to the Pharisees claim that He committed blasphemy over the next two weeks. 

            Let us turn to our text:

            “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.’

First, the Father and the Son are the same Being.

Let us notice first off that Jesus says, “Truly, Truly, I say to you.”  Let us remember that repetition in Hebrew is for emphasis, so when a sentence starts, “Truly, truly, I say to you,” what is being said is:  “What I am about to say is very important – make sure you listen.”

Then, let us notice that this is a passage that the ancient Arians and their descendants – like the Jehovah’s Witnesses – grab on to.  These heresies teach that Jesus – the Incarnate Son of God – is a lesser being that God the Father.  They say that Jesus is a created being, not the Creator.  They say Jesus is the incarnation of another being – such as the angel Michael – not God Himself.  But they interpret this passage incorrectly.

They look at it and see that it says that Jesus cannot do anything of His own accord – He can only do what He sees the Father doing.  Therefore, they wrongly conclude, Jesus is less than God.

What was Jesus saying?

The Pharisees had accused Jesus, saying that He had sinned by healing – working – on the Sabbath.  Jesus explained that God the Father stopped one type of work on the Sabbath – creating – but continued works of mercy and necessity.

Therefore, just as the Father did works of mercy and necessity on the Sabbath, so did Jesus.

In saying that He could do “nothing of His own accord,” Jesus – the Son – was saying He could do nothing against the Will of the Father; all that Son can do is what the Father does, because Jesus – the Son – and the Father are equal – They are the same One God – They are the same One Being.

Jesus was saying that He was not sinning against the Father because He and the Father are the same Being – it is not possible for Him to do something against Himself, and it is only possible for Him to do those things which He can do and wills to do.

Jesus was saying that the Father and the Son and united in Their action and Their Will – what They desire to do and what They do are the same because They are the same One Being.

It’s similar to the idea of my saying I can do nothing of my own accord, but only what I see Peter A. Butler, Jr. doing.  I can only do those things that I do, because I am the same person as Peter A. Butler, Jr.  (Of course this is not a perfect example, but, hopefully the idea that “the Father and the Son can only do the same thing because They are the same Being” will get across.)

Jesus began by telling the Pharisees to listen very carefully because what He is saying is very important:  He did not sin, because the Father and the Son are the same Being and can only act uniformly – in the same way.  The Father and the Son cannot act against One Another, so the Son cannot act against the Father.  Everything the Son does is according to the Will of the Father – not because the Son is inferior to the Father, but because the Father and the Son are the same One Being.

The Father loves the Son because They are united in Their Being and what They desire and what They do.

Jesus continued:

‘And greater works that these will he show him, so that you may marvel.  For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, so also the Son gives life to whomever he will.  The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father,  Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.’

Second, the Father and the Son are distinct Persons.

Jesus told the Pharisees that they would see greater works that the simple healing of a lame man – works that are so great that they will marvel at what has been done.

Jesus explained that the Father and the Son are both the Author of Life.  However, the Father raises the dead and gives them life, and the Son gives life to whomever He will.

Later, we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6, ESV).

How do you become right with God, sinner?

How do you rise from spiritual death?

How do you live through the judgment at the end of the age?

Through believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that God the Son came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law – gave all those who will believe the credit of that perfect and holy life, died – praying the debt for the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Him, physically rising from the dead, and ascending back to His throne at the right hand of the Father.

God in the Person of the Father has made the requirement of reconciliation with Him – being made right with Him – believing and receiving the work of His Incarnate Son.  Jesus said there is absolutely no other way to be right with God – it is utterly impossible to become right with God in any other way.  No matter how much truth any other religion has in it, without Jesus, the Son of God, and His Gospel, it is impossible to be right with God.

And when Jesus says it is impossible – He doesn’t mean that there are very few ways.  He doesn’t mean you can believe some part of the Gospel.  He doesn’t mean you can believe in a religion that is similar or makes you live a “good” life.  There is no other way.

God the Father gave each of us life, and God the Son raises all we who believe to life through faith in Him and His Gospel Alone.  Two Persons – One Purpose.

Then, Jesus tells them that the Father is not the Judge at the End of the Age, the Son is.  The Person of the Son has been given the right to judge all who have ever lived throughout time and space.

The reason that Person of the Son is the Judge is so all will honor the Son in the same way and to the same degree that they honor the Father – that is because the Father and the Son are different Persons, but the same One God. 

So, anyone who does not honor the Son, Pharisees, does not honor the Father.  If you despise the Son, you despise the Father.  If you do not believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior, you do not believe in the One Sovereign and Almighty God and Father of all we who believe.  If you do not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you do not believe in God.

And we think, “That’s not very nice to say.”

Perhaps we think, “That’s not fair.”

I have a friend who says, “God doesn’t care what we believe, so long as we believe something and try to be good people.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But can we apply it to any other area in life?

If you are at college and get every answer wrong on your exam, would you go to your professor and say that you really thought you deserved an “A,” because, even though you go all the answers wrong, you studied and answered every question?

If you have a job and you managed to drive people away and give them the wrong change and sell things for the wrong price and make a disaster out of your bosses’ business, would you dare go to your boss and ask for a raise, because, even though you have put him on the edge of bankruptcy, you interacted with the people and did the best you could?

Someone might say, “Well, those are not the same at all – you’re talking about grades in school and competency at work…”

You’re right – these are not the same things.  And we have sense enough to know that these exams and that poor performance at work would get you booted out.  Yet we still say we can stand before the Almighty God and say that we sinned against You and rejected Your salvation, but we want to be received into Your Kingdom because – compared with Your Holiness and Your Word – we were “good enough”?

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you” – “Listen to Me, this is important” – if you believe that I am God the Son that the Father sent to incarnate for the salvation of all those who will believe, you will have eternal life.  If you do not you will die and be judged and suffer the Wrath of God for all of eternity.

And He continued:

            “‘Truly, truly I say to you, and hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in their tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.’”

            Third, how we respond now is linked to Jesus’ response at the judgment.

            Again, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you” – “this is very important – listen up – don’t miss what I am saying.”

            Jesus talks about two different hours in this section:

            First, there is an hour that is coming and is now here.

            This hour is when the Son will raise the dead by His voice.  The dead will rise as Jesus – the Incarnate Son – preaches the Word.

            This first hour – which began with the Incarnate Son’s preaching the Gospel – is the Word-based spiritual resurrection.  Although Jesus did raise some from physical death during His time on earth – all of those He physically resurrected died again.  God the Son’s coming to earth in the Person of Jesus was the hour for the spiritual resurrection of souls through the preaching of the Gospel.

            This hour continues today and continues until the day that Jesus returns to judge at the End of the Age.  Now is the time to preach the Gospel, and – as God is pleased – all those who believe spiritually rise from the dead, never to taste the second death.

            Jesus explained that just as the Father has life in Himself – calling all things into life that live, the Father has given the Son to also have life in Himself – specifically to bring all those the Father has chosen to spiritual life through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus.

            John speaks about this symbolically in the book of Revelation:

            “Then I saw the thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.  Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their forehead or their hands.  They came to reign with Christ for a thousand years.  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.  This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!  Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6, ESV).

            What was John telling the Christians throughout the empire suffering under the oppressive rule of Rome?  (Remember, the book of Revelation is written in first-century symbols, and it is a book of comfort.)

            Jesus is reigning sovereignly now with all those who believe in Him savingly – even those who are put to death by Rome – or anyone else – for refusing to worship the emperor – or any other false god.  Those who die believing in Christ reign with Him from the time of Christ’s Ascension until He returns to judge the world.  These are those who have received the first resurrection – and the second death – being condemned to eternal suffering under the Wrath of God – cannot possibly happen to those who have died savingly believing in Jesus and His Gospel.

            Jesus told the Pharisees – and all who have ears to hear – now is the time to hear the Gospel and believe in the Savior God sent.  Now is the time to believe and be right with God.  No matter what may happen to you – no matter how much you may suffer – even if you are put to death for Christ – now is the time to believe in Him – and should you die before He returns – you will reign with Him in His Kingdom and you will never be subject to the second death of eternal Hell.

            Second, there is an hour that will come and has not come yet.

            When this hour comes, the authority that the Father has given to the Son will be executed:  Jesus will sit on His throne and judge every person who has ever lived throughout time and space.

            And Jesus told the Pharisees why God gave Him the authority to judge all those who ever live:  Jesus is the prophesied Son of Man.  He is that Messianic figure that the prophets said would come to make the way of salvation for all those who will believe.

            Jesus told the Pharisees – not only am I the Son of God – the same God – the same Being – as God the Father, though a distinct Person – I am the prophesied Savior – the Only Way to be right with God – and I am the Judge of all peoples at the End of the Age.

            Jesus explained that when He returns, everyone who has ever lived will be physically resurrected from the dead – the ashes and molecules of persons will be reunited, the flesh will come back upon the bones, everyone from Adam until the one who took his or her last breath before Jesus appeared triumphant in the clouds before the whole world will come back to life in his or her physical body and stand before Jesus for judgment.

            And we must be careful to keep all of Scripture in context – Jesus said that “those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

            Is Jesus saying something like “he who has the most toys wins”?  Of course not.

            We understand that all people are born sinners, unable to do good in the eyes of God – we are born spiritually dead.  The only way a person can do any good in the eyes of God is if that person has been born a second time – if he has been saved – if he has believed savingly in Jesus.

            So we see throughout the Scripture that only those who believe savingly in Jesus can do good and receive the resurrection of life, and everyone else has done evil – the only thing we can do in our natural and fallen state, meriting the resurrection of judgment.

            John portrays this day symbolically as well:

            “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.  From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what is written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second dead, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15, ESV).

            In the first part of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees about His healing on the Sabbath and saying that He is equal with God:

            Jesus said that what He did was right, because God the Father was not inactive on the first Sabbath, and He is the same One God Who created everything that is.

            Jesus explained that though there is only One God, the Father and the Son are two distinct Persons of the One God and They are equal in all ability and authority and will.

            Still, Jesus explained, as separate Persons, the Members of the Godhead have different, but interrelated roles.  And it is the Son Who will judge everyone throughout space and time at the End of the Age.  All those who believe savingly in Jesus and His Gospel reign with Jesus now and will not suffer the second death through the Judgment.  However, all those who reject Jesus and His Gospel are eternally damned.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we acknowledge that You are One God in Three Persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You are One God, and You are Three distinct Persons.  Help us to believe this and rest in the truth You have told us, though our minds are so small.  Comfort us with the knowledge that we are forever saved with Jesus, our God and Savior, and help us both to suffer for Your sake with joy and look forward to Jesus’ return, even as we urgently plead with the world to believe the Gospel and repent of their sins.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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