Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.John 1:1-18
WSC 23. What offices doth Christ excecute as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.11 Acts 3:21,22; Heb 12:25; cf. 2 Cor 13:3; Heb 5:5-7; Heb 7:25; Ps 2:6; Isa 9:6,7; Mt 21:5; Ps 2:8-11
WSC 24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by His Word and Spirit, the will of god for our salvation.11 Jn 1:18; 1 Pet 1:10-12; Jn 15:15; Jn 20:31.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). This is a familiar verse. It is a verse we usually quote to prove the deity of Christ. Due to a deliberate misreading of the Greek, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that John is saying that “the Word is a god” rather than “the Word is God.” But all the best commentators, translators and Greek grammarians agree with our translation. And besides, the deity of Christ is taught not only in this verse, but in many clear statements in Scripture. A threefold cord is not easily broken, much less a tenfold cord.
In any case, John 1:1 teaches us more than the deity of Christ. Indeed, it is a profound statement that teaches us several vital verities about Christ. But in this sermon, as part of our series on what we believe as a church, we want to concentrate on one aspect of His work. In particular, we want to consider His prophetic work.
We are taught in our Shorter Catechism, question 23, that Christ Jesus executes the office of a prophet, priest and king as our redeemer:
“WSC 23. What offices doth Christ excecute as our redeemer? A. Christ, as our redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.”
That is to say: in order to redeem us, Christ our Redeemer undertook the work of a prophet, of a priest and of a king. Another way to think about this is that the Lord served three major roles as our redeemer. He served as prophet, priest and king. It’s like our mother is our cook, our teacher, our launderer, our seamstress and our counsellor. Our father is our pastor, our disciplinarian and our ATM.
Christ, our Lord, is more than our Prophet, Priest and King. He is, for example, also our friend and our brother. But in the work of our redemption, He is particularly our Prophet, Priest and King.
This is why the principal officers of the Old Testament, even prophets, priests and kings, were all anointed with oil. They were anointed with oil to signify that they were standing in the place of Messiah, Christ the Anointed One. They were anointed ones, representing the Anointed One. The Hebrew word Messiah means “Anointed One”. The Greek word Christos means the same thing.
Christ served as our Prophet, Priest and King both in His estates of humiliation and exhortation. His humiliation speaks of the steps He undertook and experienced as He descended from the glory of the highest heaven to the depths of the grave for us. On the other hand, his exaltation speaks of the steps He took and will take from the time He rose from the dead to His ascension to heaven, to His second coming in glory.
We will talk more about these steps when we deal with the subjects some weeks down. But for now, we want to consider Christ’s office of a prophet.
We will take our text from John chapter 1, particularly the first 18 verses.
Let us learn a few things from this passage.
- First, we want to consider how we cannot know God unless He reveals Himself.
- Secondly, we want to consider how Christ is God’s revelation of Himself.
- Thirdly, we must see that Christ as our redeemer particularly reveals the will of God for our salvation.
- Fourthly, we must notice how Christ reveals God by His word and Spirit.
1. We Cannot Know God Unless He Reveals Himself
John says in verse 18, “No man hath seen God at any time.” What does he mean? Were there not instances in the Old Testament when men saw God? Did not Moses talk to God face to face (Num 12:8? Did not the prophet Isaiah see God seated on a throne (Isa 6:1ff)?
Does John not know these instances? Of course, he does! Then why does he say that “no man hath seen God at any time”? To understand what he is saying, we must realise that it is impossible for man to see God. God is Spirit, and He is invisible. The apostle Paul calls Him “the invisible God” in Colossians 1:15. In 1 Timothy 1:17, he speaks of him as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.”
It is impossible for man to see God. What Moses and Isaiah saw would have been manifestations or theophanies of God. God says to Moses in Exodus 33:20, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”
But aren’t angels also spirit beings and invisible? Well, they are invisible to human eyes today, but they are neither invisible to each other nor to glorified human souls. But God is invisible to man and, no doubt, even to angels!
Because God does not belong to creation—neither to the physical nor the spiritual realm. Remember that He is the uncreated Creator. Heaven and earth and all their inhabitants are created by God. He stands outside creation. He is transcendent. This is why the seraphim proclaim that He is “Holy, holy, holy.” He is absolutely, infinitely, indescribably, holy. He is wholly beyond all of creation. Even “the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him,” says Solomon (2 Chr 2:6). Therefore, He cannot be sullied by anything in creation at all. And neither can anything in creation see Him. It is impossible! It is impossible because what is created can only dwell and interact within the space or realm in which they are created to exist.
Therefore, it is impossible for us to know God unless God reveals himself to us.
It is hard to think of an illustration. But imagine yourself being an inhabitant of a flat two-dimensional world like a piece of paper. Everything that you know is two-dimensional. It is only possible for you to see or understand something that is two-dimensional. All you can see around you is in your two-dimensional space. You can see and interact with it if it is on the two-dimensional plane. But you cannot see it if it is not on the plane. You cannot see anything above or below you. Therefore, it is impossible for you to see a three-dimensional being. The only way for you to interact with a three-dimensional being is for him to leave a two-dimensional print in your world.
So it is in our relationship with God. God exists outside our world, our three-dimensional physical world. Indeed, He is even outside the created spiritual world. It is only possible for us to see Him or know Him if He reveals Himself to us by entering our world.
This, He does through Christ, by whom He also created the world. John says: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (v. 3).
Christ is He who made this world. He was not thrust into this world reluctantly or helplessly. He was the maker and designer of this world. And it is through Christ that God reveals Himself to the world, in the world.
2. God Reveals Himself in Christ
This is the first and one of the most critical points that the Apostle John is seeking to bring across as he opens the book.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” He says (v. 1).
It is clear that John is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, for in verse 14, he says: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Christ took on human flesh and tabernacled with us in order to be our sacrifice.
But why is Christ called “the Word” or the logos? Well, many reasons have been offered by commentators. But it should suffice for us to understand that words are the means by which we communicate our thoughts and wills. Words are used when a rational being communicates with another rational being in a way that can be clearly understood. We use words when we want to communicate clearly and precisely with one another.
We cannot see God because He is the transcendently holy Creator, who is infinite and eternal, whereas we are sinful creatures of dust bound by time and space. So, God must initiate communication with us. He has done so through Jesus Christ. So, Jesus Christ is the Word of God. That is, He is the revelation of God. He reveals God to us.
John says clearly in verse 18:
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
Christ is our Prophet. Or, more precisely, He is God’s prophet for us. He reveals God to us. But what does He especially reveal to us about God?
Well, if you read our text, you cannot escape the fact that He reveals especially the will of God for our salvation.
3. Christ Reveals God’s Will for Our Salvation
This fact is expressed in a few ways in our text. First, we read in verse 4, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
We must realise that this life that John is referring to is not just physical life. No doubt, physical life—be it animal life or plant life—is all found in Christ, for He created all things and is upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3). But John is saying more than that. He is referring, no doubt, to eternal life. John says of Jesus Christ that “this is the true God, and eternal life” (1 Jn 5:20). Jesus himself says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
To give us life, Christ must first reveal God’s will for our salvation. This is why we are told, “the life was the light of men” (v. 4b). Fallen men sit in darkness and bondage. They may be alive in this world, but it is an animal life. Spiritually, they are dead in sin and trespasses. Their “understanding [is] darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” says Paul (Eph 4:18).
The only way that fallen man can have the life of God is if the light of God shines upon their understanding and gives them knowledge. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ does as the light of the world. He is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” says John (Jn 1:9). All who believe in Him (v. 7) have life. We have life by being saved from sin and darkness.
The Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, not only reveals who God is, but what is God’s will for our salvation.
What does He reveal in particular? He reveals our sin and desperate situation. He reveals our need for salvation. He reveals that in Him alone is salvation to be found. He reveals that all who would live must repent of their sin and believe in Him alone.
But how does Christ reveal God to us? How does Christ bestow this eternal life? He bestows it not only by the power of His Spirit, but by His Word. This is our fourth proposition.
4. Christ Reveals God’s Will by His Word and Spirit
John says: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (v. 17).
We have already seen that Christ reveals particularly God’s will for our salvation or our eternal life. If you think about it, you will realise that the law of Moses served the same purpose. Paul says: “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (Rom 10:5).
Therefore, when John tells us that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (v. 17). He is saying that the grace and truth by Jesus Christ are also to reveal God’s will for our salvation!
What is truth? Truth is what is revealed in words. John tells us that Christ is the Word of God. Christ Jesus himself tells us that He is the Truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” He says (Jn 14:6). When we put these facts together, we must conclude that all of God’s Word is the Word of Christ. Christ is God’s revelation. Nothing God has revealed to man for our salvation is revealed apart from Christ.
The apostle Paul tells us that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim 3:16). Now, we know that it is the Holy Spirit who inspires. But how does He inspire?
Well, let’s look at two passages. First, look at 1 Peter 1:10-11:
Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Can you see how the prophets, according to Peter, were prophesying about the will of God for our salvation? And how did they prophesy? Verse 11, by the Spirit of Christ which was in them! You see, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ when revealing God’s truth to us.
This is precisely what the Lord Jesus himself says. Turn secondly to John 14, verse 26:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
John 16:13-15 is even more explicit:
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
Is it not clear now? The Word of God is the Word of Christ. Christ reveals the will of God for our salvation through His Word and Spirit. It is by His Spirit that the prophets and apostles were inspired to preach and to write.
But there is more. John does not only say the truth came by Jesus Christ but “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (v. 17). What is grace? Well, grace is not just God’s favour, but God’s power for our salvation. Look at verse 12:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
That is grace, sovereign grace. Indeed, comparing Scripture with Scripture, we see that this power to become the sons of God also enables the sinner to believe. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” says Paul (Eph 2:8).
When John teaches us that grace comes by Jesus Christ, he is also saying that the Holy Spirit regenerates us as the Spirit of Christ. As part of this work of regenerating us, the Spirit of Christ open our eyes and illumine our hearts so that we understand the truths that Christ communicates to us by His Word.
Paul reminds us of this doctrine when he says in 1 Corinthians 2:14:
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Can you see how Christ, our prophet, reveals God’s will for our salvation by His Word and Spirit?
This is what our Shorter Catechism, Question 24, teaches us:
WSC 24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet? A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by His Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.
This doctrine is clearly taught in our text even as the apostle John, inspired by the Spirit of Christ, introduces Christ and His forerunner, John the Baptist.
But what shall we say to these things? Well, let me suggest three things.
First, if Christ is our Prophet, let us highly esteem all Scriptures. Let us understand that the Scriptures cannot be separated from Christ. Let us, therefore, read all of Scriptures and seek to hear the voice of Christ and seek Christ whenever we read the Scripture. We must not think of Scripture as only talking about Christ occasionally. Of course, there are parts of the Holy Scripture that, in a more restricted and unique way, are the word of Christ. We think of the Psalms, and we think of the Gospel. But let us refrain from entertaining the idea that some parts of Scripture are more inspired or more Christian than others.
Remember that all Scripture is the Word of Christ. The ceremonial laws of Leviticus and the genealogies of Chronicles are as much the Word of Christ as the Gospel of John! Some of your Bibles have the word of Christ in red. I wonder if the publisher thinks that the words spoken by the Lord in his earthly ministry are more important or more inspired than the words revealed to us by His Spirit. Let none of us entertain such an idea.
Let none of us skip the passages of Scripture which we may deem to be less Christian. There aren’t any such passages! Let us learn to read through the Bible. Let us patiently listen when the Bible is read serially, even when there are long and tedious chapters which we may not immediately understand or find relevant. If these passages were irrelevant, Christ would not have required them to be written down. The fact that we do not now understand their relevance does not make them irrelevant. Besides, who knows if in the midst of a passage we regard as irrelevant is something that Christ wants you especially to hear for your comfort and edification.
Secondly, if Christ is our Prophet, let us attend diligently to the preaching of His word. Ministers of the gospel are called to represent Christ to convey His truth to the people. When they speak what is in accordance with the Word of Christ, we must hear the voice of Christ through them. This is why they must be diligent to ensure they are not preaching themselves and their own ideas. They are the assistant prophets of Christ. They are responsible to their chief prophet to speak in such as way that he would own.
On our part, it is our responsibility to receive the words of His assistant prophets so long as they faithfully represent our Prophet. Let us not despise the less eloquent preacher or the preacher whose style does not suit us. Let us receive the word with all readiness of heart and then search the scripture to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.
Let us take heed to repent of our sins and believe in Christ, our Saviour. Remember that when the assistant prophets of Christ call for repentance and faith, they do so under the authority of Christ. When they seek to persuade you to turn to the Lord, they are doing so as the servants of Christ. Turn, therefore, believing that Christ, your prophet, has spoken and is ready to receive you.
Finally, if Christ is our Prophet and reveals God’s will for our salvation not only by His Word but by His Spirit, then let us learn to seek the guidance of His Spirit.
Life is full of uncertainties, full of pitfalls, full of change, and full of crossroads. It is never easy to navigate through life so that we may read our eternal home.
But thank God that believers have a Prophet who knows everything and is in control of all things to guide them. How does He guide us? He guides us by His Word. He guides us also by His Spirit. His Word is like a map. His Spirit is like a lamp to view the map and a compass to align the map to the ground. We have seen how we must highly esteem the Word. We must learn to make use of the map.
But let us not forget the Spirit. The Lord Jesus himself teaches us, Luke 11:13:
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Let us learn to ask the Lord for the help of the Spirit to direct us to the right portion of His Word, or to bring to mind a scripture text memorised, and then to illumine our hearts to see how the Scripture applies to the situation.
Are you in the midst of a dark valley in your life? Are you facing a challenging mountain ahead? Are you at a crossroads, and you need to make a choice? Are there lions roaring in the path before you? Are there serpents hissing in enticement?
Remember that you are not alone. Remember that you have a prophet. Therefore, do not rush into a decision according to your own wisdom or inclination. Remember to consult your Prophet by checking His Word and seeking the help of His Spirit.
Those who know not Christ walk in darkness and will one day fall over the precipice into the Lake of Fire. If you are still walking in darkness, will you not seek the Lord? Will you not seek Christ? Go to Him while He is still beckoning sinners to come to Him to find rest in Him.
But not only those who know they are in darkness. Some think they are in the light but are, in fact, walking on the broad road in darkness. They walk in darkness because they are disinterested in what the King of Light has to tell them. They love darkness. They will end in destruction like those who are in the world. Oh brethren, if that is you, if you have little regard for the word and spirit of Christ, will you not repent of the hardness of your heart and turn to Him while there is yet time, while the bridegroom is still on the way. Oh, do not wait for the midnight cry before getting prepared for the wedding supper of the Lamb.
But I must add that many a true believer finds himself exhausted, defeated and lost because he fails to go to his Prophet for guidance. Oh, will you not go to Him and find wisdom, joy, hope and peace in Him through all the changing scenes of your life until you reach the celestial city that He has prepared for you?
But blessed are you if you are walking in the light and basking in the sunshine of the love of Christ as revealed in His word and pour forth by His Spirit. The day is coming when all your pains and sorrows will be washed away in the full knowledge and love of Christ. Wait for the day patiently. But today, cease not to walk in His life with the guidance of His Spirit. Amen.