Fairview Baptist Church
2040 Main Street WW - Ashland, Kentucky 41102
"Where Everybody Is Somebody and Jesus is Lord"

 

Sunday School Archives
The lessons below are for the current month

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week5

To send an email regarding the Lesson Study Guide follow the link below:

Email Link: baileysadlerlesson@hotmail.com


This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.

 


 

 

Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Summer 2019

 

Study Theme: Answers To Tough Questions: Defending What You Believe

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus for this week’s study is on absolute truth. In this study Jesus Christ shows us absolute truth exists in all aspects of life.

 

Dec. 01

Do We Need to Defend Our Faith? (Jude 1-4,20-25)

 

Dec. 08

Is There a God? (Psalm 19:1-6; 111:7-10)

X

Dec. 15

Does Absolute Truth Exist? (John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a)

 

Dec. 22

Is Jesus God? (Luke 1:26-35)

 

Dec. 29

Aren’t All Religions the Same? (Isaiah 44:6-11; John 14:5-7)

 

Jan. 05

What Proof Does My Testimony Offer? (Acts 26:2-5,12-18,24-26)

 

 

 

 

LIFE IMPACT:

Truth is found in Jesus Christ!

FOCAL PASSAGE:

John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a

LESSON

OUTLINE:

I.

II.

III.

Many wonder if we can really know the truth (John 18:36-38a)

We can know what truth is because Jesus has revealed it (John 1:14-18)

When we trust & follow Christ, we discover the truth & experience life & freedom (Jn. 8:30-32)

THE SETTING:  

The apostle John wrote five books of the New Testament— the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation. The other three Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are called the Synoptic Gospels because they present similar accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Many of the stories are repeated, and these three Gospels follow the same basic structure. However, the Gospel of John is different. John focused mainly on the closing events of Jesus’ life; he told his readers he wrote his Gospel “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

In chapter 1, John explains that Jesus, the Word of God, existed from the beginning (1:1-3). But at the perfect time in history, the Word of God took on human form and walked among us as perfect God and perfect man in one Person (v. 14). John himself testified that he and other disciples saw Jesus’ glory. John testified that Jesus brought God’s ultimate revelation of grace and truth to the world (vv. 16-17).

In John 8, Jesus called Himself “the light of the world” (8:12). A dispute then arose with religious leaders about the validity of Jesus’ message and testimony (vv. 13-29). Jesus encouraged His followers to continue following Him, assuring them that as they did, they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free (vv. 31-32). In John 18, the apostle recorded Jesus’ betrayal (18:1-11) and arrest (v. 12), Peter’s denial of Jesus (vv. 15-18,25-27), Jesus before the high priest (vv. 13-14,19-24), and Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (vv. 28-36). As Pilate interviewed Jesus, he struggled to understand who Jesus was. When Jesus asserted that He had “come into the world for this: to testify to the truth,” Pilate responded by asking, “What is truth?” (vv. 37-38).

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

INTRODUCTION:

I remember years ago sharing my faith with a college woman who responded, “Your Christian faith may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” I tried to convince her that if the gospel was true for me, it was true for her, but she didn’t accept that. But isn’t the truth the truth?

The Atlantic Ocean lies east of my South Carolina home. If I try to drive to the Atlantic coast by getting on Interstate 20 and driving west, I will not get there, because the truth is that the Atlantic Ocean lies east of me.

My college student friend’s response over forty years ago is still the way many people today think. Some say, “All truth is relative”—yet they believe the statement “all truth is relative” is absolutely true! I may decide the law of gravity does not apply to me and step off a cliff, but if I do, I will die. In John 14:6, Jesus told Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus believed that absolute truth existed; in fact, He was and is absolute truth.

As you study the passages for this session, consider the various ways people today understand the concept of truth. They might say they don’t believe in absolute truth, though in some areas of life, they live as though it exists. What we will see in these passages is that truth is absolute and has the power to change lives. When we align our attitudes with the truth and live accordingly, we embrace life as Jesus intended it. Finally, as you study these passages, ask the Lord to reveal Himself afresh to people in your Bible study group who themselves may be struggling with the notion of absolute truth.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I.

Many wonder if we can really know the truth (John 18:36-38a)

36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 “You are a king then?” Pilate asked. “You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38a “What is truth?” said Pilate.

  1.   What is something you like to be precise about?

  2.   What are some things you consider to be absolute truth?

  3.   What is the setting of this conversation between Jesus and Pilate? (See The Setting, pg 1.)

  4.   Based on John 18:1-17, what had happened to Jesus?

  5.   How did Jesus describe His kingdom [kingship] (v. 36)”

  6.   How would you explain Jesus’ response to Pilate (vv 36 & 37)? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “The Lord told . . .,” “Jesus presented . . ..” & “Jesus concluded . . . ” )

  7.   Why did Jesus say He had come (mid. v. 37)?

  8.   What skeptical response did Pilate give to Jesus (v.37a)?

  9.   What was it about Jesus’ answer to Pilate do you think caused Pilate to conclude that Jesus was a king? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Pilate’s response . . . “ )

10.   How would you explain the reason gave for coming into this world? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Jesus’ answer was . . . “ )

11.   What did Jesus say about those who built their lives on truth? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Jesus said of His . . . “ )

12.   How would you answer the question: “What is truth?” ? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Pilate ended the . . . “ )

 

Lasting Lessons in John 18:36-38a:

1.   Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

2.   Jesus came into the world to testify to the truth, and we likewise can testify to it.

3.   Because Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s truth, we need to listen to His voice.

 

II.

We can know what truth is because Jesus has revealed it (John 1:14-18)

14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  15 (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness,  17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.

  1.   How can we know what the truth is? (See Title for Outline Point II)

  2.   What Old Testament image for the presence of the Lord is found in verse 14? (See Ex. 40:34-35)

  3.   How did John highlight Jesus’ Person and work in  verse 1-13? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Without identifying . . . “ )

  4.   How would you explain the incarnation and the glory revealed in Christ? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “The Word became flesh . . . “ )

  5.   What was John’s (the Baptist) witness concerning Jesus? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “The reminder that John . . . “ )

  6.   What did John mean when he said, “we have all received grace upon grace”? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “The apostle John’s . . . “ )

  7.   What is the only way we are able to know God, see His glory, receive His grace, and know His truth?

  8.   How would you explain the link between the Law of Moses and Christ? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “John provided . . ., & “John’s assertion . . . “ )

  9.   How would you explain the affirmation in Hebrews 1:1-2 of Jesus as the fulfillment of truth? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Thus God’s saving . . . “ )

10.   Does the endless grace we receive from Christ strengthen our resolve to share absolute truth with others? Why, or why not?

11.   If not, what are some things we can ask God to do to help us to improve our resolve to share the gospel with others?

12.   How would you explain how Jesus has revealed God to believers? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “John went on . . . “ )

13.   Do you think a deeper understanding of Christ would impact your daily life and your devotion to God? If so, how?

14.    What do you think could stand some improvement in your daily life and devotion to God?

 


Lasting Lessons in John 1:14-18:

1.   Jesus, God’s Son, took on a human nature and lived among us.

2.   The fullness of God’s grace and truth comes to us through Jesus.

3.   Jesus has revealed His Father to us.

 

 

 

III.

When we trust & follow Christ, we discover the truth & experience life & freedom (Jn. 8:30-32)

30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples.  32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

  1.   “As He was saying these things, . . . ,” what things? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “John 8:12-29 recounts . . . “ )

  2.   Although several opposed and resented what Jesus taught, how did many others respond (v. 30)? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “John’s statement . . . “ & “John’s reference . . . “ )

  3.   What counsel did Jesus give to those who believed, if they were to be known as true disciples (v. 31)?

  4.   What do you think Jesus meant when He told those who believed in Him, ”If you continue in my word . . .” ?

  5.   What do true disciples experience by faithfully obeying God’s Word (V. 32)? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Jesus told the . . . “ )

  6.   Do you think belief in Jesus is just part of the truth? Why, or why not?

  7.   If so, what is the rest of it? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Jesus told the . . .” )

  8.   What are the results of following Jesus’ teaching? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, Jesus revealed . . .,“ “When we trust . . .,” & “Jesus challenged. . . “ )

  9.   How would you explain what true freedom really is and how one can find it and make it a part of their lives?

10.   As a result of this study will you ask God to help you gain a greater resolve to share God’s Word of Salvation with others?

 

Lasting Lessons in John 8:30-32:

1.   Choosing to trust and follow Christ allows us to understand His truth.

2.   Persevering in Jesus’ truth and teaching is a mark of true discipleship.

3.   God’s truth will set us free from all the world’s lies.

 

CONCLUSION:

  We end where we began. “What is truth?” The Bible does not explicitly address the issue of absolute truth. Nevertheless, Scripture such as the passages we have examined, does readily connect truth to God and it naturally presumes it is absolute truth, meaning it applies to all people at all times.  Therefore absolute truth exists because God exists. It is fully grounded in His standard and ultimately and fully made known in Jesus Christ. 

As you reflect on this session, respond to the following questions:

·   Many people today wonder if we can really know the truth. How does John 18:36-38 inform our understanding?

·   What does John 1:14-18 reveal about Jesus and the truth He brought? List as many things as you see as you read the text.

·   As you reread John 8:30-32, think about ideas the world proclaims as true that are countered by the truth of the Bible. How does our living by the truth of Scripture help others to see Jesus?

·   How has this study helped you to affirm the reality of absolute truth?

·   How have you come to know truth through Jesus Christ?

·   In what ways has trusting, following and obeying jesus helped you to discover truth and set you free?

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

FOCAL PASSAGE: 

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word: John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a

Biblical Translations.

King James Version

 John 1:14-18 (KJV)

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 8:30-32 (KJV)

30 As he spake these words, many believed on him. 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.


John 18:36-38 (KJV)

36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

 

New International Version

John 1:14-18 (NIV)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.     


 John 7:30-32 (NIV)

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?" 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 


 John 18:36-38 (NIV)

36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." 37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." 38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked.

 

English Standard Version

John 1:14-18 (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.


John 8:30-32 (ESV)

30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   


John 18:36-38 (ESV)

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

 

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” Bible Study For Life Commentary,and “Bible Knowledge Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

 

Lesson Outline — Does Absolute Truth Exist?” — John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a

I.

II.

III.

 Many wonder if we can really know the truth (John 18:36-38a)

 We can know what truth is because Jesus has revealed it (John 1:14-18)

 When we trust & follow Christ, we discover the truth & experience life & freedom (Jn. 8:30-32)

COMMENTARY:

Advanced Bible Study Commentary: John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a

I. Many wonder if we can really know the truth (John 18:36-38a)

Throughout history, people have pondered the existence of absolute truth. Some may believe absolute truth exists, but doubt they can know it for sure. In many cases life events may cloud our perspective. Over twenty years ago, I had a faculty member who served on my team who did not like to go to lunch with me (his dean). He told me he was once fired from a church over lunch by his pastor, and ever since, he feared going to lunch with his boss. I have college students who are slow to move toward marriage because their parents divorced, so they have a hard time believing their own marriages will last. However, our negative experiences do not prove absolute truth does not exist.

Jewish leaders brought Jesus from the house of Caiaphas the high priest to the headquarters of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor (John 18:28). After ascertaining the reason for Jesus’ arrest, Pilate began to question Him (vv. 29-35). Somewhere in the course of the conversation with the Jewish leaders, Pilate determined Jesus might have claimed to be King of the Jews (v. 33). We should understand Jesus’ response to Pilate in light of that line of questioning.

The Lord told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The word translated kingdom does not describe a territory; rather, it denotes the phenomenon of ruling or reigning. When Jesus announced, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17), He was saying the rule of God had broken into human history, and God was calling people everywhere to submit to His rule. To belong to God’s kingdom means to come under God’s rule, to submit your life to Him. Jesus was saying His kingdom did not originate from this world, nor did it operate on the same level as Rome or any other earthly kingdom.

Jesus presented a hypothetical situation to illustrate His point—“If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight.” But Jesus’ followers were not fighting, but had fled. If Jesus’ followers wanted Him to advance an earthly kingdom, they would have made sure he “wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews.” But after Jesus’ arrest, “all the disciples deserted him and ran away” (26:56).

Jesus concluded, “My kingdom is not from here,” but He offered no further explanation. Jesus was denying His kingdom had any political or seditious purpose. Is it possible Jesus answered Pilate in this cryptic way to absolve Pilate of further guilt for executing Him (John 19:11)?

Pilate’s response: “You are a king then?” is structured in the original as expecting an affirmative answer. Pilate heard Jesus say the word kingdom, and kings ruled kingdoms. Therefore, his question to Jesus seemed logical.

Jesus’ answer was again cryptic—“You say that I am a king.” He confirmed that Pilate thought He was an earthly king, but He neither directly affirmed nor denied it. Jesus’ next words, however, reveal He understood His purpose— “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this.” Many interpreters believe Jesus was alluding to His preexistence here; that is, that He had existed before coming to earth. Apparently Pilate thought Jesus was claiming to be an earthly king, or at least that some of Jesus’ followers were hailing Him as a king. But Jesus’ mission on earth was spiritual, though God’s ultimate purpose for Him did mean Jesus one day would rule. Jesus declared His ultimate purpose was to testify to the truth. Jesus was clearly affirming the existence of absolute truth.

Jesus said of His followers, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” The Greek expression rendered of the truth describes someone for whom truth is a foundation of life. He was confirming that those who built their lives on truth knew He was the ultimate truth, and consequently, they wanted to listen to Him.

Pilate ended the conversation by asking Jesus, “What is truth?” In a world where people such as the Romans worshiped hundreds of gods and embraced many different religions and philosophies, many probably wondered if absolute truth really existed. Now, a Jewish man stood before Pilate, claiming to have come into the world to testify to the truth. Pilate could not believe this Jew or anyone else really could speak authoritatively about truth. Tragically, the One who was the source of all truth stood before him, and Pilate didn’t realize it.

II. We can know what truth is because Jesus has revealed it (John 1:14-18)

Without identifying Jesus by name, John highlighted Jesus’ Person and work in John 1:1-13. Jesus was the Word of God, who “was with God in the beginning” (vv. 1-2). He created everything and was the source of life (vv. 3-5). When He entered the world, many did not recognize Him or receive Him (vv. 10-11), but those who did receive Him received “the right to be children of God” (vv. 12-13).

The Word became flesh highlights the truth of what theologians call the incarnation. The term comes from two Latin words meaning “in flesh.” Jesus, the divine Son of God, took upon Himself a human nature. At the same time, Jesus remained fully God. Further, John asserted, Jesus dwelt among us. The word translated dwelt is related to the word tent and may be rendered “tabernacled” (KJV) or “pitched his tent.” With any of the renderings, John’s idea is clear—God’s Son, the Word of God, took up residence with human beings. Further, the apostle wrote, we observed His glory. The word translated observed is the same word John used in 1 John 1:1 to describe how he and other disciples had personally witnessed Jesus’ life and ministry. The word glory refers to the perfection and honor Jesus displayed; some have seen in it a reference to the Old Testament tabernacle, which displayed God’s glory (Ex. 40:34-35).

Jesus was more than a glorious person; He was the one and only Son from the Father. The word translated one and only (KJV “only begotten”) refers to the absolute uniqueness of Jesus as the Son of God. God had only one Son, and that Son was Jesus. God’s Son came to earth full of grace and truth. Grace refers to God’s unmerited favor that He bestows on people. Here also is John’s first claim that Jesus came bringing absolute truth; John would develop that theme in the next few verses.

The reminder that John testified concerning Him refer back to the ministry of John the Baptist (John 1:6-9,19-23). During his ministry, John often had to clarify his role in God’s plan of redemption. He consistently stressed he was not the Messiah, but merely the one who prepared the way for “the one coming after” him (v. 27). John’s confession: “The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me” anticipates the declaration in verses 26-27. By saying, “he existed before me” John the Baptist revealed he understood Jesus’ role as the Son of God coming to earth. Theologians refer to this concept as the doctrine of Jesus’ preexistence. (See discussion on 18:37 above.) Jesus Himself alluded to it in John 8:58 when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Paul also described Jesus’ preexistence and incarnation in Philippians 2:5-11.

The apostle John’s exclamation, indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, affirmed the fact that John himself recognized God’s favor on his life. What a privilege it was for him and the other disciples to live with and learn from Jesus for over three years during Jesus’ earthly ministry! The expression rendered grace upon grace also may be expressed as, “grace in place of grace” (KJV “grace for grace”). This rendering would imply that whatever grace they had received prior to this, the disciples received even more through Jesus.

The word fullness is a rich theological word. The apostle Paul used it in Colossians 2:9 to describe the fullness of Jesus’ deity in bodily form; that is certainly John’s meaning here. Jesus came to earth as fully God and fully man, and His followers receive eternal blessings from Him.

John provided a link to God’s redemptive work in the Old Testament by declaring, the law was given through Moses. God called Moses to lead His people from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. Moses led God’s people to the foot of Mount Sinai, where they received God’s laws (Ex. 19–24).

John’s assertion that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ does not mean no grace and truth existed in the Law of Moses. We should understand John’s comment in light of his reference to “grace upon grace” in verse 16. In other words, the Law of Moses revealed much about God’s grace and much about God’s truth. However, in the fullness of time, God completed His revelation of grace and truth through His Son Jesus Christ. Before He died, Moses told the people that one day God would raise up another prophet even greater than He (Deut. 18:15-18). Moses’ words found their fulfillment in Jesus (Acts 3:22-23).

Thus, God’s saving revelation of absolute truth came to laser focus in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir to all things and made the universe through him.” The writer of Hebrews was saying that during the time of the Old Testament, God used many different individuals to declare His prophecies to people. However, He brought His final revelation of truth through His Son Jesus Christ. Indeed, God has revealed truth—absolute truth—through Scripture, but we see the ultimate revelation of that truth in Jesus.

John’s assertion that no one has ever seen God appear to be contradicted by Exodus 33:11, which says God “would speak with Moses face to face.” John likely was referring to people witnessing the full effects of God’s essence and deity. Even Moses was not able to withstand the full brunt of God’s glory (vv. 18-23). John would affirm in 1 John 3:2 that one day all believers will see Jesus as He is, and we will be made like Him. What a day that will be!

John went on to testify that even though no one had ever seen God directly, God nonetheless had communicated about Himself and His truth through Jesus. John described Jesus as the one and only Son, who is Himself God (KJV “only begotten Son”). The word translated one and only appeared earlier in verse 14 to stress Christ’s uniqueness. The Greek words rendered who is Himself God do not appear in all ancient manuscripts, which is why some modern translations differ on the exact translation here. All manuscripts, however, clearly convey the sense of the meaning the CSB presents. As God’s Son, Jesus shares God’s nature and, John wrote, He is at the Father’s side (KJV, NASB “in the bosom of the Father”). He can speak for God because He is God, the second Person of the Trinity. Jesus has revealed God to us. The word translated revealed comes from a Greek word that means “to bring out or to draw out.” The word exegesis, which refers to interpreting or bringing out the meaning of a biblical passage, comes from this word. John was telling us how we can understand God’s truth and God’s will. The answer is that Jesus has revealed it to us.

III. When we trust & follow Christ, we discover the truth & experience life & freedom (Jn. 8:30-32)

John 8:12-29 recounts a time when Jesus was teaching and both believers and unbelievers were listening. Some of the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ testimony, but Jesus insisted the words He spoke were true (vv. 13-20). Jesus further spoke about a time He would depart this world to return to His Father (vv. 21-29). He told the Jews who did not believe, “You are of this world; I am not of this world” (v. 23). Jesus affirmed God was always with Him in all He did (v. 29).

John’s statement: as he was saying these things, many believed in him, set the context for verses 31-32. Jesus’ teaching received a mixed response from His hearers. Some chose to doubt what He said, because they could not accept Jesus’ claim about who He was. They could not reconcile their own understanding of Scripture with the ideas Jesus presented (v. 33). Others, however, perceived God’s truth in Jesus’ teaching. These people made a decision to believe in Jesus, to accept His teaching as true, and they comprise the focus of verses 31-32.

John’s reference to the Jews who had believed him denotes the people mentioned in verse 30. The verb translated had believed describes an action taken in the past with results continuing in the present. Thus, “the Jews who had believed him” had come to believe and still did.

Jesus told the believing Jews, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples.” The word continue also may be translated abide or remain. Jesus was affirming the principle that true disciples persevere. In Jesus’ day, when a rabbi took on disciples, they followed him faithfully. They listened to his teachings and tried to apply them in their own lives. Jesus was asking His followers to do the same as an indication of their genuine faith. Jesus’ word was the teaching He gave them. They were to listen to it, believe it, commit themselves to it, and live by it.

Jesus revealed to His disciples two results of continuing in His teaching.

1. He told them, “You will know the truth.” As they committed themselves to a relationship with Jesus, they would come to understand for themselves the saving truth God was revealing to them through His Son. As they came to know Jesus they would know God’s truth and therefore would know life in all its fullness.

2. Jesus assured His disciples, “The truth will set you free.” At that time, Rome controlled much of the civilized world, including the land the Jewish people occupied. Many Jews longed for independence from Rome, and some may have interpreted Jesus’ words in this way. However, Jesus was assuring His followers His truth would provide freedom in their hearts and lives at a level they could not possibly understand before they embraced it. They would come to understand what really mattered in life and what did not. They would come to understand life from God’s perspective, not from their own. They would live differently, and the truth would set them free.

When we trust and follow Christ, we discover the truth and a life of freedom. I am now in my sixties, and I have walked with the Lord virtually my entire life. I cannot remember a time I did not know of Jesus and love Him. One of the benefits of walking with God many years is seeing the truth of God’s Word as I have applied it to my own life time and time again. I have seen firsthand how the Bible is right when it speaks to all different aspects of life. The Bible is right about marriage. The Bible is right about sex. The Bible is right about money. The Bible is right is about relationships. The Bible is right about everything.

Jesus challenged His followers to continue in His Word (8:31). Listening to sermons on Sunday morning is not enough. We need to spend regular time in the Word of God as His disciples. Regularly reading Scripture and meditating on its truth will fill our hearts with the things of God and shape all we do (Ps. 1:2).

Finally, Scripture’s truth can set us free from the world’s lies. Today’s world contains so many values that run counter to God’s truth. Yet, as we come to embrace the truth of Scripture, we realize what really is truth, and we live lives that are deeply satisfying and enriching. When we choose not to live by the values of this world but by the absolute truth that comes from God, we embrace life in all its fullness.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Bible Study For Life Commentary: John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a

I. Many wonder if we can really know the truth (John 18:36-38a)

Verse 36. Today many people wonder if we can really know the truth. The same was true during the time of Jesus. Jesus had been arrested in the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1-12) and spent a long night on trial before a group of Jewish religious leaders determined to destroy Him (vv. 13-24). Eventually, the Jewish leadership sent Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the region (v. 28).

For his part, Pilate wanted nothing to do with Jesus or His accusers. He knew that the religious leaders were acting out of jealousy and had no real case against Him. They brought Him to Pilate only because they did not have the authority to execute Jesus on their own (vv. 29-32). So, reluctantly, Pilate interrogated Jesus (vv. 33-38).

The only charge that could really spur the Romans into action was an accusation of treason. So, the Jews said Jesus wanted to overthrow the Roman government and set up His own kingdom (see vv. 33-35). When Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus told Pilate that He had no interest in overthrowing the Romans and setting up an earthly kingdom. Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Earthly kingdoms are rooted in sinful humanity. God’s kingdom is spiritual and established in Jesus.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught a lot about the kingdom of God. But the kingdom of God was not a physical kingdom that would threaten the Romans—despite what His enemies and some of His followers might have thought (see Acts 1:6). Unlike the Romans, who conquered much of the known world with their legions, Jesus wasn’t recruiting soldiers to fight an earthly war of conquest. He was making disciples to change the world. The fact that His followers had not raised a finger to defend Him when He was arrested proved His point. The one disciple who did try using force (Peter, who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant) drew a word of correction from Jesus, not His praise or gratitude (John 18:10-11).

The phrase as it is, however, does indicate both a present reality and a hopeful anticipation. Jesus’ rule and reign is functioning right now, but it will be known and understood fully in the future. It may not be of this world, but it is active in the world today. And one day, faith will become sight as God’s kingdom exists on earth just as it does in heaven (Matt. 6:10). In the meantime, Christ’s followers serve as His ambassadors on earth, calling people to repent and place their faith in Christ and so become part of God’s kingdom.

Verse 37. Pilate was first and foremost a politician and viewed everything through a political lens. So, when Jesus acknowledged a kingdom—even a kingdom not of this world—Pilate followed up by asking, “You are a king then?” By asking Jesus about being a king, he may have been digging into the Jews’ accusation that Jesus was a threat to Roman rule. But his words reflected a continuing lack of spiritual discernment and understanding.

Jesus quickly put the ball back in Pilate’s court. He did not dispute that He was born to be a king, but He also indicated that He had no interest in an earthly kingship or human authority. That was Pilate’s only concern. A political filter forced the governor to think that way and to remain dull to the spiritual implications of Jesus’ message.

While Jesus had not come into the world to establish and rule over an earthly kingdom, He did come with a mission. And that mission was to testify to the truth Truth is a powerful theme in John’s writings. But neither Jesus nor His apostle boxed truth into an intellectual exercise or fact-finding mission. Instead, truth is ultimately a Person: Jesus, who serves as the standard for all truth (John 14:6).

In the garden of Eden, Satan perverted the truth in an effort to defeat God and destroy humanity (Gen. 3:1-5). But Jesus came to straighten out what the enemy had twisted. God became human (John 1:14) so the deception could be broken, and people could once again see God for who He is—and be restored to Him.

In the face of false accusations against Him, Jesus affirmed the power of the truth. And those who accept Him and His message of truth will be changed forever. Those who hear Jesus’ voice and respond in repentance and faith are transformed by the truth. Often the world speaks loudly in an attempt to distract us. But as followers of Christ, we are called to tune into Jesus’ voice alone—and to walk with Him, the One who is the way, the truth, and the life (10:1-18).

Verse 38a. For Pilate, thinking too deeply about what is true and what is not could have proved troublesome. Instead, Pilate shrugged off the issue by raising a question that has echoed through the ages: “What is truth?”

On the surface, it might appear that he was truly seeking an answer. However, it is more likely that his response represented a cynical denial that anything like genuine truth actually existed. Pilate’s skepticism connects him with today’s postmodern thinkers. When challenged by absolute truth, he withdrew into a shell of relativism. He chose to question truth rather than consider its implications for his life.

Jesus is God incarnate, God’s truth in flesh and bone. Nothing was and is more true—more real—than Jesus and His message of the coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to repent and believe in Him, to be transformed by the truth. Skepticism—from Pilate or contemporary postmoderns—does not change who Jesus is and what He is capable of doing in our lives. He is truth in its purest form.

II. We can know what truth is because Jesus has revealed it (John 1:14-18)

Verse 14. The key to finding anything that’s been lost is to look in the right place. Truth works the same way. To find it, you must look where it can be found—and it is ultimately found in Jesus.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, John did not begin his Gospel with a traditional Advent narrative. Instead, he described Jesus’ coming in theological terms, supporting his theme of Jesus as Messiah.

The Greek term for Word (logos) appears throughout John’s prologue to identify the unique nature of Christ. Here, the apostle emphasized that the Word appeared in human form. God had provided His written Word through prophets and poets through the years. But now the Word of God became an active agent inside creation.

The word translated flesh (sarx) affirms that Jesus actually had a physical existence, contrary to the teachings of some heretical groups (for examples, Gnostic Docetism). While Scripture sometimes associates “the flesh” with sin (for example, see Gal. 5:16-21), John didn’t use the term in that way here. It simply means that Jesus became a human being just like any of us.

John noted that the Word dwelt among His people. The Greek wording relates to building a tabernacle or tent. Like the tabernacle resided in the middle of the Israelite camp during the exodus (Ex. 40:34-38; Num. 2:17), Jesus took up residence among humanity. Just as the tabernacle served as the center of all God’s revelation and truth during Israel’s time in the wilderness, Jesus serves as the ultimate Source of revelation and truth about God.

While the Word became a human being, He did not surrender His deity. Jesus was (and is) just as much God as He is human. John testified as a witness who had observed his glory through the manifestation of God’s presence and the demonstration of God’s power in Jesus. For example, on the Mount of Transfiguration, John saw Jesus in all His glory (Matt. 17:1-9). Likewise, he had witnessed Jesus’ glory in multiple appearances following His resurrection.

Jesus also displayed grace and truth—two qualities associated with God. The Greek term for grace (charis) and the related Hebrew term (hesed) both can be translated as “loving-kindness” or “gracious mercy.” Similarly, the Greek term for truth (aletheia) is related to the Hebrew term (emet) which has the sense of “faithfulness,” “steadfastness,” and “constancy.” God’s grace refers to the mercy He directed toward His people, while His truth emphasizes His faithfulness. Interestingly, John never mentioned grace again in his Gospel (after John 1:17), but truth became one of his primary themes.

Verse 15. The individual identified as John in this verse was not the Gospel writer, but John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and the forerunner to Jesus’ messianic ministry. This John also testified to the power and glory of Christ. While some wondered if he was the Messiah, John the Baptist faithfully rejected such speculation. He knew that there was one coming after him who was greater than him (Mark 1:7; Luke 3:15-17). John understood his God-given role of preparing the way for the Messiah (Mark 1:1-8).

The Baptist also emphasized the deity of Christ. Jesus ranked above John because He had existed before John. Physically, John the Baptist was a few months older than Jesus. However, spiritually, Jesus is eternal. John affirmed Christ’s divinity through his testimony. For the apostle John, a reliable witness like John the Baptist could not be ignored. The Baptist’s testimony, even decades after his death, affirmed Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah.

Verses 16-17. Affirming the universal impact of Jesus’ coming, the apostle John pointed out that we have all received benefits from Him. The apostle could have been referring to Jesus’ apostles or to all believers at the time of his writing the Gospel of John. Every person who comes to Christ receives His blessings. They are not something we have to earn, but something we receive as a gift.

John also recognized the extent of Jesus’ grace toward us. Biblical writers often repeated words or phrases for emphasis, so the idea of grace upon grace highlights Jesus’ unlimited supply. He never runs out of mercy for those who come to Him.

The apostle also commented on the source of Jesus’ grace: His fullness. As mentioned in verse 14, Jesus came full of grace and truth. He can be generous with His mercy because it flows from His character. Paul told the believers in Colossae that Jesus possessed the full measure of God’s nature in His bodily form (Col. 2:9). So, Jesus is never at a loss when it comes to grace or truth.

While John drew a contrast between Moses and Christ here, he was not demeaning the law. In fact, he recognized that the law was an expression of God’s grace in its own right. But Jesus fulfilled the law, meeting all its expectations perfectly. Therefore, the grace and truth He offers is superior to what is found in the law.

The anonymous writer of the Book of Hebrews affirmed the superiority of Christ in the opening lines of his book (Heb. 1:1-3). God had revealed Himself in various ways through the years, the writer noted. However, none of that could hold a candle to God’s revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ.

Verse 18. As John noted, no human has ever seen God face-to-face. For example, Moses knew God by name, but he asked to see God’s face. In response, God gave Moses a glimpse of the His glory from the back (Ex. 33:12-23). So, while Moses saw God’s back from a distance, in Jesus people see God up close and personal. John called Jesus the one and only Son. The Greek word translated one and only (monogenes) is the same one used in John 3:16 and emphasizes the unique nature of Jesus as co-equal with God the Father. John also noted that Jesus is himself God and stood at the Father’s side. John affirmed Jesus’ deity, essentially saying that people saw God when they saw Christ.

As God incarnate, Jesus revealed God the Father to the world. He pulled back the curtain and shared God’s heart and mind with His highest creation, humanity. Jesus also demonstrated God’s truth by living it out every day in human form. So, if we are looking for the truth of God, Jesus provides the perfect expression of that truth.

III. When we trust & follow Christ, we discover the truth & experience life & freedom (Jn. 8:30-32)

Verse 30. Jesus came to reveal to us the truth. By doing so, He gave us the way to eternal life and freedom from sin. Through repentance and faith in Christ we can break the chains of slavery to sin and live as He desires.

Jesus was no stranger to controversy, especially when it came to the Jewish religious leaders of His day. His radical love for sinners and His redefinition of what it took to have a relationship with God attracted people. This rubbed the people in power the wrong way. They felt threatened.

The context for John 8 is another round of arguments with the Pharisees, one branch of first-century Jewish spiritual leaders. They debated with Jesus about His authority, His background, and His relationship with God the Father. But the more Jesus shared God’s perspective on these things, the more people came to Him.

John said that many believed in him, meaning they made an initial decision to follow Him. That would also mean turning their backs on the Pharisees and the old way of doing things. But, as John pointed out, an affirmation of belief in Jesus does not always result in a lasting commitment (for example, see John 6:66).

Verse 31. Jesus believed in making disciples and challenged anyone who claimed to believe in Him to consider the implications of this choice. And those who wanted to follow Jesus needed to learn and accept the first rule of being a Christ follower: obedience.

Earlier in his Gospel, John had shared how another group had made a similar promise to follow Jesus. However, Jesus was skeptical of their loyalty, so He refused to entrust Himself to them (John 2:23-25). His discernment protected Him from investing time and energy into individuals caught up in the moment.

For Jesus, genuine disciples continue in His words. The Greek term for continue in (meno) has the sense of remaining somewhere and not wandering off. In this context, it emphasizes constancy and commitment. This kind of commitment provides a litmus test that distinguishes true disciples from those who claim to believe but are not truly committed to Christ.

In Christianity, starting well is not enough. True faith is about holding to a set of beliefs (as important as that is), and also about a passion for a Person. Jesus identified His disciples as those who were truly committed to Him, who demonstrated that commitment by living lives of obedience to Him (Matt. 7:24-27; John 14:15). 

In His parable of the soils, Jesus illustrated that many make the initial commitment, but only some produce actual spiritual fruit (Mark 4:1-9). Christians need to bear fruit—and that only comes through obedience to the truth. [Note: Christians do not earn their salvation through their obedience; rather, their obedience is the natural result of true faith—belief and commitment to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.]

Verse 32. In addition to following Christ, true disciples discern what is true from what is false. Jesus said that they will know the truth. Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the truth (John 14:6). So, knowing truth in a meaningful way also means knowing Jesus in a meaningful way. A person’s relationship with Jesus is the key to spiritual transformation.

Satan, the devil, is a liar and the father of lies (8:44). In the garden of Eden, he promised Adam and Eve that eating the fruit that God had commanded them not to eat would help them see the truth that God was keeping from them (Gen. 3:4-5). However, the reality they experienced after they chose to eat the fruit only exposed them to pain, suffering, shame, and separation from God. The devil continues in his efforts to blind human beings to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Satan is the ruler of this world, who does everything in his power to keep humanity enslaved to sin (2 Cor. 4:4).

Those who put their faith in Christ, surrendering their lives to Him, will know the truth. Furthermore, Jesus promised that not only would His disciples know the truth, but the truth would also set them free. The one freed by Jesus, the Son of God, is absolutely free (John 8:36). Both Peter and Paul wrote of the freedom found in Christ. They urged believers not to use this freedom for evil, but rather to serve God through love and obedience as His slaves (Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:16). The truth frees us to follow Christ and to fulfill His plan for our lives.

Ironically, the Jews who had believed in Jesus ended up being offended by His teachings (John 8:33-58). Like their religious leaders, they argued with Jesus about truth, freedom, and their relationship to Abraham. By the end of their conversation with Jesus they were ready to stone Him (v. 59).

But their negative response doesn’t diminish Jesus’ power to make things new (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Rev. 21:5). He is still in the business of speaking the truth. He is still in the business of redeeming people and setting them free.SOURCE: Bible Studies For Life: Life SOURCE: Bible Studies For Life: Life Ventures Learner Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234

 

Bible Knowledge Commentary John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a

I. Many wonder if we can really know the truth (John 18:36-38a)

18:35-36. Pilate sarcastically replied with a question as to whether he was a Jew or not. Of course he was not interested in Jewish questions, but only in matters pertaining to civil government. It must have hurt Jesus deeply to have Pilate press the point that it was the Jews, His own people, and their own religious leaders who had accused Him. In his prologue John had sounded this sad theme, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him” (1:11). Jesus replied that Rome need not fear a political insurrection. He was not a zealot or a revolutionary guerrilla leader. His kingdom is not like that. It is not of this world; it is from another place, that is, heaven. Therefore it comes not by rebellion but by submission to God. Its source was not from men’s acts of violence but from a new birth from heaven which transferred a person out of Satan’s kingdom into God’s kingdom (cf. Col. 1:13; John 3:3).

18:37. Since Jesus spoke of a kingdom, Pilate seized on the word “king.” You are a king, then? Jesus answered that question in the affirmative, and then clarified that His kingdom is not like Rome’s. It is a kingdom of truth which overshadows all kingdoms. He said, Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me. Jesus in a few words asserted His divine origin (I was born... I came into the world) and ministry (to testify to the truth). Later He became Pilate’s judge.

18:38. Pilate’s question, What is truth? has echoed down through the centuries. How his question was intended is problematic. Was it a wistful desire to know what no one could tell him? Was it philosophical cynicism concerning the problem of epistemology? Was it indifference to anything so impractical as abstract thought? Or was it irritation at Jesus’ response? These are all possible interpretations of his words. But the significant thing is that he suddenly turned away from the One who is “the Truth” (14:6) without waiting for an answer. Pilate’s declaration of Jesus’ innocence is important. He would die like a Passover lamb, a male in its prime without blemish (Ex. 12:5).

II. We can know what truth is because Jesus has revealed it (John 1:14-18)

The Incarnation and revelation (1:14-18)

1:14. The Word (Logos; cf. v. 1) became flesh. Christ, the eternal Logos, who is God, came to earth as man. Yet in doing so, He did not merely “appear” like a man; He became one (cf. Phil. 2:5-9). Humanity, in other words, was added to Christ’s deity. And yet Christ, in becoming “flesh,” did not change; so perhaps the word “became” (egeneto) should be understood as “took to Himself” or “arrived on the scene as.”

“Flesh” in this verse means a human nature, not sinfulness or weakness. In the Greek the words lived for a while among us recall God’s dwelling with Israel in the Old Testament. The word “lived” is eskēnōsen, from skēnē4 (“tabernacle”). Much as God’s presence was in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), so Jesus dwelt among people.

We have seen most naturally implies that the author was an eyewitness. His glory refers to the unique splendor and honor seen in Jesus’ life, miracles, death, and resurrection. The one and only Son (monogenous; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) means that Jesus is the Son of God in a sense totally different from a human who believes and becomes a child of God. Jesus’ sonship is unique for He is eternal and is of the same essence as the Father. The glorious revelation of God which the Logos displayed was full of grace and truth, that is, it was a gracious and truthful revelation (cf. John 1:17).

1:15. John the Baptist gave a continuing testimony to Jesus. The present tense of the Greek verbs testifies and cries out stresses this. Jesus was younger and began His ministry later than John. But John said that because of His preexistence (and thus His true nature) He... has surpassed me.

1:16. The Word made flesh is the source of grace (charin), which is the sum total of all the spiritual favors God gives to people. The words we... all refer to Christians and include John the author. Because of the fullness of His grace... one blessing after another (charin anti charitos, lit., “grace in place of grace”) comes to Christians as waves continue to come to the shore. The Christian life is the constant reception of one evidence of God’s grace replacing another.

1:17. The greatness of the old dispensation was the giving of the Law by God through His servant Moses. No other nation has had such a privilege. But the glory of the church is the revelation of God’s grace and truth... through Jesus Christ (cf. v. 14).

1:18. The statement No one has ever seen God (cf. 1 John 4:12) may seem to raise a problem. Did not Isaiah say, “My eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty”? (Isa. 6:5) God in His essence is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17). He is One “whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). But John 1:18 means, “no one has ever seen God’s essential nature.” God may be seen in a theophany or anthropomorphism but His inner essence or nature is disclosed only in Jesus.

God the only Son is literally “the unique God” or “the only begotten God” (monogenēs theos; cf. monogenous, “the one and only” in v. 14). John was probably ending his prologue by returning to the truth stated in verse 1 that the Word is God. Verse 18 is another statement affirming Christ’s deity: He is unique, the one and only God. The Son is at the Father’s side, thus revealing the intimacy of the Father and the Son (cf. the Word was “with God,” vv. 1-2). Furthermore, the Son has made... known (exēgēsato, whence the Eng. “exegeted”) the Father. The Son is the “exegete” of the Father, and as a result of His work the nature of the invisible Father (cf. 4:24) is displayed in the Son (cf. 6:46).

III. When we trust & follow Christ, we discover the truth & experience life & freedom (Jn. 8:30-32)

8:30. In spite of widespread unbelief and official rejection, the ministry of Jesus did bring many to faith (cf. 7:31). Yet this faith would need to be tested and refined. The words many put their faith in Him contrast with the next verse. Though large numbers of people responded to Jesus, many people fell away.

8:31-32. Jews who had believed Him indicates that some paid attention to Jesus’ words without necessarily committing themselves to Him personally (cf. 6:53). It was possible to “believe” in the message of repentance and the coming kingdom without being born again. Continuing in the truth is the sign of true followers and learners (disciples). If they really grasped His message, they would find salvation truth. Knowing this salvation truth would liberate them from their bondage in sin.

SOURCE: The Bible Knowledge Commentary; An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty; New Testament; Based on the New International Version; Victor Books, A Division of Scripture Press Publications, Inc., USA Canada England

 

DIGGING DEEPER: Key Word(s)

Grace upon grace (1:16)—A phrase emphasizing the mercy of God toward His people. God’s grace finds its ultimate fulfillment in the saving work of Christ.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

“TRUTH”

The word truth is described in the Hebrew language (aman) and the Greek language (alethea) as certainty and something not hidden.  This means truth is something of which we can be sure and in which we can trust.  Many believe the very essence of the word  truth is under attack in today’s culture; such attacks were common even in  biblical times.

When the apostle John wrote the Book of John, the people and culture of his day were debating and examining the deity of Christ.  In John 11, John is very clear that Jesus as the Word ties together who He is with what He does.  Jesus is fully God and fully man, and He is the Source and Sustainer of everything.  This is the truth John teaches us about Christ. 

Then Paul, in 2 Timothy 2:15, said Christ followers must show themselves approved to the outside world who were and is still apprehensive about Christ and His truth.  We should now the truth of the bible and stand by it, and we should also live it out.

There’s an old saying that “we may be the only Bible that people read.”  This basically means that , for Christ followers, it doesn’t matter how much Scripture you can recit that is very important.  What’s more important is that people can see a difference in the way we relate to others, in our business dealings, and in our homes.  Christ followers live out the truth of the Word in the way they live.  God’s message of hope should not be hidden to those who don’t know Him.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; Teachers Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

THE RELIABILITY OF  THE BIBLE 

Why should we trust the reliability of the Bible? The textual record of God’s Word is strong and stable—the message of the Bible has been faithfully preserved and transmitted. Historically speaking, the fact that any of the Bible remains is a miracle in itself. Many highly respected works from ancient history have not survived. For example, Nicholas of Damascus was the secretary of Herod the Great, who wrote a Universal History in 144 volumes, all of which are lost.

   The New Testament manuscripts are old, numerous, and reliable. There are 5,805 Greek manuscripts of the Bible (predating Gutenberg’s printing press). More than 50 of these ancient manuscripts predate the year 300.

  Compared to the manuscripts of classical Greece and Rome, the New Testament evidence is quite substantial.  

·   Julius Caesar, Gallic War (58–50 BC): Ten fairly well-preserved manuscripts; the oldest dates to about AD 850. 

·   Livy (59 BC–AD 17), Roman History, of which about one-third survived: Oldest manuscript (containing parts of books 3-6) dates to about AD 350.  

·   Tacitus, Annals and Histories (c. 110): Oldest manuscripts date to 9th and 11th centuries AD. 

·   Tacitus, minor works (Agricola, Germania): preserved in 10th century codex.  

·   Thucydides (460–400 BC), History: Oldest major manuscript dates to AD 900.

Most of the manuscript differences found in the Bible are unimportant (such as word order, presence or non-presence of definite article, titles of Jesus: “Jesus Christ,” “Christ Jesus,” or “Lord Jesus Christ”).

Supposed “differences” in the Bible average about one every six or seven pages (2.6 million Bible manuscript pages). Most hand-written ancient manuscripts have fewer typos/errors than today’s modern printed books.

Skeptics have claimed the original autographs, or manuscripts handwritten by the authors, would have barely lasted a generation. This is false. New evidence shows the New Testament original autographs possibly were in circulation into the 3rd century AD (that is, the 200s), which would have overlapped with the copies being made at the time. The autographs of the Bible would have survived more than two hundred years. Tertullian (c. 160-225), the early Church Father based in Carthage, said seven of Paul’s original letters were available for viewing.

We are only scratching the surface, historically speaking, on why we can trust the Bible to be reliable. The real question is how committed are you to God’s Word? Knowing why the Bible is trustworthy should inspire us to make time in our schedule daily to experience and meditate on “all” (Psalm 111:7b) of God’s instructions.

Do not ever let a skeptic tell you we cannot know what the original writers of the Bible wrote. This hyper-skeptical statement flies in the face of history and is intellectually dishonest.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

The Bible Background Commentary – John 1:14-18; 8:30-32; 18:36-38a

1:14. Neither Greek philosophers nor Jewish teachers could conceive of the Word becoming flesh. Since the time of Plato, Greek philosophers had emphasized that the ideal was what was invisible and eternal; most Jews so heavily emphasized that a human being could not become a god that they never considered that God might become human.

When God revealed his glory to Moses in Exodus 33-34, his glory was “abounding in covenant love and covenant faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6), which could also be translated “full of grace and truth.” Like Moses of old (see 2 Cor. 3:6-18), the disciples saw God’s glory, now revealed in Jesus. As the Gospel unfolds, Jesus’ glory is revealed in his signs (e.g., John 2:11) but especially in the cross, his ultimate act of love (John 12:23-33). The Jewish people were expecting God to reveal his glory in something like a cosmic spectacle of fireworks; but for the first coming, Jesus reveals the same side of God’s character that was emphasized to Moses: his covenant love.

“Dwelt” (KJV, NASB) here is literally “tabernacled,” which means that as God tabernacled with his people in the wilderness, so had the Word tabernacled among his people in Jesus.

1:15. Scholars have suggested that some people may have thought too highly of John the Baptist, a mere prophet, at the expense of Jesus the Messiah (cf. Acts 19:3-5); such a situation would invite the writer to put John in his place. In the Fourth Gospel, John always defers to Jesus, as a proper prophet should.

1:16-17. Grace and truth were clearly present in the law (Exodus 34:6), but their ultimate expression would come in the Word/law enfleshed.

1:18. Even Moses could see only part of God’s glory (Exodus 33:20), but in the person of Jesus God’s whole heart is fleshed out for the world to see. “In the Father’s bosom” (KJV, NASB; cf. “side”—NIV) means that Jesus was in the position of greatest possible intimacy (cf. John 13:23). Ancient writers often framed a narrative by beginning and ending it with the same phrase or statement; this framing device is called inclusio. In John 1:1 and (according to the most likely reading of the text) John 1:18, John calls Jesus “God.”

SOURCE: IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament; by Craig S. Keener; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, Illinois 60515


 8:30-31. Although Jesus’ listeners initially believe, they are ready to kill him by the end of the passage (John 8:59; cf. Exodus 4:31; Exodus 5:21). John’s readers would reflect on this report and be encouraged that their Lord had faced what they were facing; some members of their churches had also defected and begun to betray Christians to persecution (see comment on John 6:67-71; 1 John 1-5).

8:32. The Greek concept of truth emphasized reality; the Old Testament word translated “truth” had more to do with integrity or faithfulness to one’s word or character. Jewish thought characterized God as the Truth, so Jesus’ hearers should realize that he refers specifically to God’s truth in the Jewish sense.

SOURCE: IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament; by Craig S. Keener; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, Illinois 60515


18:36-38a. The idea that Jesus’ kingdom is not based on military or political force is repeated throughout the Gospels, but Jesus’ Jewish hearers never grasp that meaning in his words (after all, why call it a “kingdom” if it was nonpolitical?). Pilate hears the term “truth” and interprets Jesus in another sense: a philosopher or some other teacher. As an educated Roman, Pilate may have known that many philosophers portrayed themselves as ideal rulers (see comment on 1 Cor. 4:8); although he probably had little attachment to philosophers himself, he would have viewed them as harmless. No one could be more nonrevolutionary in practice than a Cynic or Stoic philosopher, no matter how antisocial Cynic teachings might be. “Truth” in Old Testament and Jewish tradition was God’s covenant integrity; the concept was much more abstract to Greek ears and perhaps impractical to many Romans.

SOURCE: IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament; by Craig S. Keener; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, Illinois 60515

 

SOURCE: IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament; by Craig S. Keener; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, Illinois 60515

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

The TRUTH  A Word Study

Mark A. Rathel

Mark A. Rathel is associate professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida, Graceville, Florida.

T

HE TRIAL SCENE OF JESUS CONTAINS A KEY dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Jesus.  The Issue is the nature of Jesus’ kingdom.  Jesus claimed that He came into this world for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth (John 18:37).  The Romans prized the concept of truth (Latin, veritas), yet the Roman procurator flippantly responded, “What is truth?” (v. 38).1

Contemporary thought provides five different answers to the question, “What is truth?”  Reflecting a long tradition in Western thought, some define truth as that which corresponds to reality.  Because some matters lack verifiability through empirical knowledge, other matters lack verifiability through empirical knowledge, other individuals affirm a coherence understanding of truth—something is true if it coheres with the interconnected web (or system) of my beliefs.  The unique American pragmatic interpretation of truth claims, “Truth is what works.”  Other individuals espouse an emotive interpretation of truth, “I feel this to be true.”  An increasing number of individuals champion a perspectival view of truth.  There are varied perspectives but no one truth—“You have your truth and I have my truth.”

In contrast to the definitions of truth set forth by human wisdom, Jesus proclaimed that truth was personal.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6).  The claim prompts three vital questions.  First, how did Jesus’ claim to be “the Truth” compare and contrast to Hebrew, Greek, and Roman understandings of truth?  Second, how does Jesus claim to embody Truth fit into the message of the Fourth Gospel?  Finally, how should followers of Christ understand the claim?

Hebraic Understanding of Truth

The most common Hebrew term for “truth” is transliterated emeth, a term occurring 126 times in the Hebrew Bible.  The Hebrew term emeth derives from the root ‘mn—the same root for the Hebrew term “amen.”  The root conveys the basic idea of certainty.  The Hebrew term emeth possessed a range of meanings—reliability, permanence, fidelity, truth.2  The ancient translators of the Hebrew Bible into Greek most commonly translated the Hebrew term with the Greek word aletheia, meaning “truth”3  The Hebrew term frequently described an actual, genuine state of affairs in legal contexts.  Deuteronomy 13:14 commanded an investigation and interrogation to determine if an accusation was hearsay or factual.  As well, emeth described a faithful person.  Nehemiah placed his brother in a key position over the city of Jerusalem because of his “faithfulness” (Neh. 7:2).  The Hebrew term emeth could mean either a proposition that conformed to reality or faithfulness.

As a theological concept, the major importance of emeth is its usage to describe God’s character.4  Yahweh is a God of truth (Ps. 31:5); His words are truth (119:160).  The most detailed biblical explanation of God’s character described Him as “rich in faithful love and truth” (Ex. 34:6).  The importance of truth (emeth) as an attribute of God is His unchanging nature, His reliability in giving confidence to His people, and His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.  “Later rabbis use ‘Truth’ as a title for God because God’s character was truth; they remarked that ‘truth’ . . . used the first, last, and middle letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and God as the first and the last was therefore to be called the ‘trugh.’”5  Hebrews, then, understood “truth” in relational terms.

Greek and Roman Understandings of Truth

Many New Testament scholars understand the etymology of the Greek term aletheia (truth) as a negation of the verb “to hide or to conceal.”  Aletheia, then, expressed the idea of that which is not hidden or concealed and expressed a claim as it really was.6  The Greeks considered truth as a proposition about reality.  The basic meaning of the term aletheia  denoted that which was true or real in contrast to the false or mere appearance.7  For Plato, truth was unchangeable, immaterial, objective, eternal, and absolute.  Truth belonged to the higher non-physical realm.  Truth in the physical realm somehow participated or mirrored the abstract concept.  Aristotle, in contrast, emphasized the physical realm.  He defined “truth” as that which corresponded with the facts.  In the period after Alexander the Great (died 323 BC), “truth” developed religious connotations of the divine.  The Romans conceived of “truth” (Latin, veritas) as a correct representation of the facts.8

Truth in the Gospel of John

The apostle John was fond of opposites: light/darkness, life/death, Spirit/flesh, above/below, truth/falsehood, and belief/unbelief.9  Out of the 109 occurrences of the noun aletheia (“truth”) in the New Testament, 25 of the occurrences are in the Fourth Gospel.  The corresponding adjective alethes (true) occurs 13 times in John’s Gospel, our of the 26 New Testament occurrences.  Truth, then functions as a major theological motif for John, especially in relation to Christ.  The majority of the usages of the word group “truth/true” occur in the last half of the Gospel and highlight the missionary purpose of the concept of truth.10 

The Trinitarian God functions as the ultimate truth.  The Fourth Gospel ascribes the quality of “truth” to God (John 3:33), Jesus (14:6); and the Spirit (v. 27).  Jesus has the role of the messenger of truth.  He summarized His mission as a witness to the truth (18:37).  Further, Jesus’ testimony is truth (8:40,45).  On one hand, a proper response to Jesus, the messenger of truth, brings individuals into the sphere of truth (3:21).  On the other hand, everyone of the truth, in the sense of being from the source of truth, listens to Jesus’ voice (18:37).  Truth, particularly the Word of God, serves instrumentality in sanctification (17:17,19).  In the Fourth Gospel, the concept “truth/true” is inextricably connected to witness.  John the Baptist (5:33), Jesus (8:45-46), the Spirit (16:13), and the Beloved Disciple (19:24) all testify to the truth.

John 14:6 functions as “the core statement” of the theology of the Fourth Gospel.11  Jesus’ claim set forth a personal, relational understanding of “truth.”  As the definite one and only Truth, Jesus revealed truth.  Further, He embodied truth as the incarnate Son “full of grace and truth” (1:14,17).  Rather than being a philosophical concept, truth in the Fourth Gospel is a relationship with the Person of truth.  As well, Jesus proclaimed a goal in relation to truth.  The goal of personal truth is not the acquisition of knowledge; the goal is a relationship with God that brings a person to the dwelling place of God (14:2).  This claim propels the recipients of the truth into the mission of bearing witness to the truth.                                                                                                                                      Bi

  1.  All English Scripture translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

  2.  Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 2000), 22.

  3.  The Septuagint translators occasionally translated emeth into Greek as pistos (faith) and dikaiosune (righteousness).

  4.  Moberly, (‘mn, be reliable) in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, gen. ed. VanGemeren, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 428.

  5.  Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, vol. 2 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003), 943.

  6.  (aletheia,truth) in Ceslas Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, trans. and ed. Ernest, vol. 1 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ. 1994), 66.

  7.  (aletheia, truth) in An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, eds. Liddell & Scott (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 34.

  8.  Kostenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospels and Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 437.

  9.  Ibid., 283.

 10.  Witherington, III, John’s Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 249-50.

 11.  Ridderbos, The Gospel According to John: A Theological Commentary, trans. Vriend (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1997), 493; Burge, John: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 392.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2013-14.

TO TABERNACLE

By Michael Priest

Michael Priest is pastor, Bartlett Baptist Church, Bartlett, Tennessee.

WE HAVE ALL HEARD “home is where the heart is.”  Though someone wrote this quaint verse years after John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, penned his sacred writings, it captures the essence of God’s desire.  His loving heart has always been for His people.  Revealing God’s love, John wrote, “For God loved the world in this way:  He gave His one and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, HCSB).  Because God loves His people, He determined to dwell with them.  Thus John wrote, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us.  We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth: (1:14, HCSB).  God has taken up residence with His people, but what exactly does that mean?

BACKGROUND USE:

In nonbiblical works of the sixth century B.C., the Greek verb (skenoo) that translates “to take up residence” in the Holman Christian Standard Bible meant “to live or camp in a tent” and was derived from the noun (skene), which means “tent.”  Skene was used to refer to herdsmen’s or soldiers’ camp tents, which were made of branches, poles, or planks with a roof and sides of matting made from straw, rushes, skins, cloth, or carpeting.  By the fifth and fourth century B.C. skene still meant “tent” in a strict sense but referred to any framework of pillars with movable walls.1 The common characteristic of a skene was not permanent, but rather could be moved from place to place.  Thus to skenoo or “to take up residence” meant “to reside in a place temporarily.”

By the first half of the third century B.C. when the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, was produced, the words skene and skenoo were undergoing a transition in meaning.  Both the noun skene and the verb skenoo continued to refer respectively to a temporary structure and the act of taking up residence temporarily (Gen. 12:8; 13:3, 12; 18:1; Josh. 22:19; Judg. 5:17), but they also began to assume slightly different uses and meanings.  Skene began to refer to the tabernacle (Ex. 25:9) and skenoo to God’s dwelling in the tabernacle (2 Chron. 6:1-2).  With this use, the meaning changed.  When referring to God, no longer did the words speak of transitory structures or temporary dwellings, but rather to that which is fixed and constant2 Thus the tabernacle and God’s dwelling in it were understood to be a manifestation of God’s permanent presence with Israel. 

NEW TESTAMENT USE:

Both skene and skenoo appear frequently in the New Testament.  Skene refers to a temporary dwelling, but in Acts 7:44; 15:16; Hebrews 8:5 and 9:2-21 it refers to the tabernacle of God. Skenoo refers to birds nesting in a bush (Matt. 13:32; Mark 4:32; Luke 13:19), residents dwelling in heaven (Rev. 12:12), and Christ’s power dwelling in Paul (2 Cor. 12:9).  Even though the New Testament used skene to refer to an actual tent, the verb form skenoo never referred to dwelling in a tent.3 By New Testament times, skenoo seems to have taken on a more metaphorical that literal application. Thus to skenoo or “to tabernacle” meant simply to be present or reside.

In John’s writing, both skene and skenoo appear infrequently but are incredibly important theologically.  He used skene in Revelation 13:6; 15:5; and 21:3 to speak of God’s dwelling and presence.4 Further, he used th verb skenoo to speak of God permanently residing withy His people and ensuring them protection from the Evil One.  John wrote in Revelation 7:15, “For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary.  The One seated on the throne will shelter (skenoo) them” (HCSB).  By linking the throne of God, the Lord’s permanent seat of power, with His residing with His people, John solidified the idea that skenoo referred to permanent presence.5 In Revelation 21>3 skenoo refers to, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 37:27, God’s permanent residence with His people.6 Finally, in his Gospel, John used skenoo in 1:14 to refer to God’s presence among His people in the Person of the Divine Word, Jesus Christ (see John 1:1).

By way of summary, both skene and skenoo were originally used to refer to temporary structural dwellings and the act of dwelling temporarily.  Over the course of time, the words began to be used to speak of God’s presence, first in the tabernacle of the Old Testament, then metaphorically among His people.

IMPLICATIONS FOR BELIEVERS:

In the context of the entire prologue of John’s Gospel (1:1-18), verse 14 may be one of the most important verses in Scripture and certainly significant to John’s readers.  For his readers who were Greek-speaking Jews or readers of the Greek Old Testament, the fact that God has dwelt (skenoo) with us would be reminiscent of the Septuagint’s use of the word skene to refer to the tabernacle where God met with Israel before the temple was built.7 Just as the tabernacle had been the center of God’s permanent presence with Israel, so Jesus was the new center of God’s permanent presence with His people.  Thus God’s glory, once restricted to the tabernacle, was now visible in Jesus (v. 14b).8

That God has dwelt (skenoo) among humans speaks volumes about His love for and grace toward His people.  God is not an aloof concept or distant deity.  He is a personal God who has pitched His tent with us.  In His deep, abiding love God has taken up residence among us through His Son Jesus.  And one day those who have come to God’s presence through Jesus will spend eternity with Him.  For as Scripture says, in the New Jerusalem “God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people , and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3), HCSB).  Then we will truly be at home where His heart is!                       

1.         Wilhelm Michaelis, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 7, ed. Gehard Kittle, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 368-85.

2.         Ibid., 372.

3.         Ibid., 385.

4.         Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 255, 289, 372.

5.         Michaelis, 384.

6.         David E. Aune, Revelation 17-22, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Bruce M. Metzger, vol. 52c (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 1122.

7.         D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), 127.

8.         Gary M. Gurge, John, The NIV Application Commentary: from biblical text . . . to contemporary life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 59.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 2005.

Pontius Pilate

By Shawn L. Buice

Shawn L. Buice is assistant professor of New Testament and Greek, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Northeast Branch, Schenectady, New York.

O

NE OF THE MORE POPULAR SHOWS on American TV today is “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”  Suppose you are the contestant in the hot seat and the million dollar question is “Who was the Roman governor who presided over the trial that led to the crucifixion and death of Jesus?”  Will you answer Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Tiberius Caesar, or Pontius Pilate?  If you choose Pontius Pilate, then you win!

Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea at one of the most crucial moments in Christian history.  Yet strangely enough, we know very little about him because there exists little historical information that mentions him.  For example, the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and 1 Timothy are the only books in which biblical authors mention Pilate.  Outside of the Bible, we learn about him from ancient writers like Josephus, and Philo.  Furthermore, in 1961 in Caesarea Maritima, an inscription was discovered that shows Pilate’s name and gives his title, prefect (Latin, praefectus Iudaeae).  Beyond these sources, however, there exists practically no other primary information.

Does this scarcity of firsthand information mean that we cannot know anything about Pontius Pilate?  Or does it suggest that we cannot make reasonable conclusions about him?  The answer to both of these questions in no.  Just as we solve a puzzle by joining all the pieces together, so too can we connect the available bits of historical information about Pilate to gain a fair understanding of who he was and how he ruled over Judea.  Taking into account all the available information, we develop the following picture of Pilate.

Pontius Pilate’s Administration as Governor

Luke 3:1 reads, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.”1 At this point in Luke’s Gospel, he introduced the beginning of the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  In laying the foundation for this introduction, Luke built on specific events to help us determine the historical context.  For example, he included the information that Pontius Pilate had included the information that Pontius Pilate had already taken office when both John and Jesus began their ministries.

Because of the lack of information in Luke 3, several questions arise: When did Pilate become governor?  What were his duties as a governor?  And How long did he remain in office?  In an attempt to answer the first question, we may briefly trace the terms of the governors who preceded him in office.  For instance, we know that Herod the Great was ruler of Judea from 37 B.C. until 4 B.C.2 This is the same King Herod mentioned in Matthew 2 who ruled at the time of Jesus’ birth and who ordered the deaths  of the male babies two years old and younger (Matt. 2:1 – 3, 16).

Shortly after Jesus was born, Herod the Great died, and his kingdom was divided into three parts.  Each of the three parts went to one of his sons.  One of his sons, Archelaus, became the ruler of Judea and Samaria.3 Unfortunately, he was not well liked by the Jewish people.  Because of this, his tenure in office was relatively short.  Archelaus served as governor from roughly 4 B.C. to after A.D. 6.  After the Roman emperor removed him from office due to the complaints of the people, Judea was briefly a Roman colony.  During this period of time, no governor ruled Judea.  Twelve years later, by A.D. 18, Valerius Gratus govered as prefect over Judea.  At the end of his term, Pontius Pilate began his tenure as governor or perfect over Judea in A.D. 26.4

Having determined that Pontius Pilate became prefect of Judea in A.D. 26, we can now consider what Pilate’s duties were as the ruler of Judea.  Some uncertainty exists over the precise title that applied to Pilate.  For example, was he procurator, governor, or prefect?  After examining all the historical evidence, especially the inscription from Caesarea, you discover that the title prefect more precisely describes Pilate’s role that other designations.5 As the prefect of Judea, Pilate fulfilled the duties as the Roman administrator of the province.  This included acting as head of the judicial system and tax colliction.6  In addition to these tasks, Pilate was also in charge of a small military force.  This group would have typically included several units of infantry and cavalry.7

Having considered the beginning of Pilate’s reign as prefect and his duties while in office, we now turn to the final question: How long was Pilate’s term?  While there exists some uncertainty about the exact date in which Pilate left office, most scholars agree that Pilate remained roughly 10 years in office.  The basis for this time frame is a reference in which Josephus explicitly noted that Pilate remained 10 years in Judea.8 

Based on the conclusion that Pilate began his term as perfect of Judea in A.D. 26, we can determine that he left office in A.D. 36.  The length of his tenure indicates that his service must have satisfied the Roman emperor Tiberius, because he was known to keep prefects in office for only 3 or 4 years before terminating them.  The fact that Pilate remained in Judea for 10 years implies that he must have served well.9

Pontius Pilate’s Relationship with the Jews

While Tiberius considered Pilate a faithful prefect, this does not necessarily mean that the Jews felt the same way.  The evidence indicates, however, that Pilate enjoyed fairly good relations with the Jews during his tenure.  In fact, Josephus records only two major conflicts between Pilate and the Jews during his time in office.

The first conflict involved a transgression of Jewish law.  On this particular occasion, Pilate ordered a military unity from Caesarea to Jerusalem with the intention of abolishing the Jewish laws.  This unit carried ensigns bearing the image of the emperor into the city of Jerusalem.  Since Jewish law prohibited the making of images, the Jews were  incensed and consequently made two appeals to Pilate to remove the images.  After the first appeal, Pilate refused to have the ensigns removed.  After the second appeal, under the threat of execution, the Jews remained firm, showing their willingness to die.  This demonstration caused Pilate to change his mind, and he removed the images from the city.10

The second conflict arose due to Pilate’s attempt to help the Jews.  In order to increase the Jews’ water supply, Pilate planned to build an aqueduct.  To finance the project, however, he used money from the temple treasury.  Because of this act, thousands of people demonstrated against Pilate.  On this occasion, instead of yielding to the demands of the people, Pilate chose to use force to quiet the uprising, and many Jews lost their lives.11

Pilate’s Role in Jesus’ Trial

As we study John 18 and 19, an interesting scene unfolds before us.  Apparently, no one wanted to handle Jesus’ case personally, In Fact, John minutely described how Jesus was moved from place to place after His arrest.  After Judas betrayed Jesus in the garden, John related that Jesus was first taken to Annas (John 18:12-13).  Next, we see that Annas sent Jesus to Caiaphas, the high priest (18:24).  Having remained with Caiaphas a short time, Jesus finally appeared before Pilate (18:28-40).  There Jesus’ appointment with death was carried out.

In the initial meeting, Pilate attempted to return Jesus to the Jews so they could deal with Him as their law mandated (18:31-32).  The Jews persuaded Pilate to continue to preside over the case because their law did not permit the death penalty.  On three separate occasions, Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent (18:38; 19:4, 6).  Again Pilate tried to release Jesus (19:12).  This last attempt also failed; and Pilate agreed to hand Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified in order to avoid a riot (19:13-16; Matt. 27:24).

History is silent about Pontius Pilate’s life after his reign over Judea.  Eusebius, an early church historian, claimed that Pilate committed suicide in A.D. 39.12 Other historians dispute this claim.  Even though uncertainty exists regarding the final years of Pilate’s life, one factor remains clear. Pontius Pilate, about whom very little is recorded, impacted both history and eternity as the prefect of Judea.

1.         All Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995.  Update, unless otherwise indicated.

2.         Thomas D. Lea, The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 20.

3.         Ibid., 20-22.

4.         Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.2.2.

5.         Harold H. Hoehner, “Pontius Pilate” in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, eds.  (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. 1992), 615.

6.         Daniel R. Schwartz, “Pontius Pilate” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, David Noel Freedman, gen. ed. , vol. 5(New York: Doubleday, 1992) 397-98.

7.         Josephus, Antiquities, 18.4.1.

8.         Josephus, Antiquities, 18.4.2.

9.         Gary A. Lee, “Pontius Pilate” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

10.       Josephus, Antiquities, 18:3.1.

11.       Josephus, Antiquities  18.3.2.  Many believe this incident is the same incident described briefly in Luke inn Luke 13:1-2.

12.       Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.7.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2002-03.

The Word “Word” in the First Century

By Shawn L. Buice

Shawn L. Buice is professor of New Testament and Greek and director of the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Northeast Campus, Schenectady, New York.

R

EADING THE GOSPELS, one encounters various designations describing the Lord Jesus.  For example, at various points, people referred to Jesus as the “Son of Man,” “Rabbi,” “Lord,” “Christ,” and “Son of David,” plus several other titles.  As theologians and scholars have demonstrated, each of these titles carries theological importance and contributes to a greater understanding of who Jesus is.  One of the more intriguing titles, though, the Gospel writers used to describe Jesus is the Greek word logos—translated in English “Word.”

For some, this term is quite difficult to understand and its meaning somewhat problematic.  Part of the reason is that the word logos  was widely used and had a diverse range of meanings.  Commenting on John’s use of the word logos, the late New Testament scholar, Leon Morris, confessed, “Nor is it plain precisely what he meant by it.  John does not tell us, and we are left to work out for ourselves the precise allusion and its significance.”1  Others, however, through detailed study of the word’s history and uses, explain how John’s use of logos  expresses exactly what he wanted his readers to understand about Jesus.  One example of this thought is the new Testament scholar and professor Craig Keener.  In his exhaustive study of John’s Gospel, Keener concluded: “John’s choice of the Logos (embracing also Wisdom and Torah) to articulate his Christology was brilliant: no concept better articulated an entity that was both divine yet distinct from the Father.”2 

When one reads the beginning of John’s Gospel, (John 1:1-18), he or she sees this Greek concept John used to introduce Jesus to his readers.  John wrote, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word  was with God, and the Word  was God” (John 1:1, italics added for emphasis).3  Several verses later, John continued by proclaiming, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us.  We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14).  After having read theses verses, questions immediately emerge.  For instance, one wonders why John chose this specific term to portray Jesus.  A cursory reading of the other three Gospels reveals many terms that people used to describe Jesus; one wonders, then, were those titles inadequate?  Interrelated questions flow from this first question: when John wrote his Gospel, what did this word logos  mean?  How did that term convey what he wanted to express to his audience about Jesus?  Finally, in the context of the Fourth Gospel, how does John’s usage of this term enhance one’s understanding of God’s Son?  Responses to these questions offer an understanding of who John considered Jesus to be and, further, what John wanted his readers to know about Jesus.

Historical Background

By the time John wrote his Gospel, the word logos  had been in existence for several centuries.  Ancient texts use this word in various academic disciplines as far back as the sixth century BC.4  Two of the most prominent background sources for understanding John’s use of the term in his Gospel, however, are from the field of philosophy and the study of similar themes in the Old Testament.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus used the word logos  in the sixth century BC.  Citing the importance of understanding the philosophical background, Keener explained, “Earlier and even some contemporary scholars have thus suggested John’s dependence on Greek philosophy here, or at least that the Greek origins of the idea should affect our reading of the term in John 1.”5  Besides Heraclitus, other philosophical schools of thought also employed the term logos. 

In the third century BC, the Stoics, practitioners of the philosophy known as stoicism, acknowledged the influence of a logos.  They understood the logos  “to be the rational principle by which everything exists.”6  This idea sounds similar to John’s description of the logos  in his Gospel.  He wrote: “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created” (John 1:3).  Their writings thus reveal that both the Stoics and John understood the logos  to be uniquely involved in the creation of everything that exists.  This is but one example of a few parallels that existed between the Stoic understanding of the logos  and John’s usage of the same term.  While acknowledging the parallels, Keener also detected significant differences between the two understandings.  He rightly stated, “The concept of a universally present Logos naturally enough gave way to pantheism both in Heraclitus and in Stoic thought—a concept intolerably alien to the spheres of thought in which our evangelist moved.”7  This finding led Keener to conclude that the Stoic use of the word logos  was not “the most direct background for the prologue [of John]; its sense is in fact quite different.”8

If philosophy, then, was not the most direct background for studying the term logos  as John used it, what was?  As other scholars have shown, a more appropriate starting place to ascertain what John meant by his use of the term logos  is the Old Testament.  One proponent of this approach is the New Testament professor D. A. Carson.  In his discussion of John’s use of the word logos, Carson stated that, “Considering how frequently John quotes or alludes to the Old Testament, that is the place to begin.”9

Perhaps Carson has a point.  Consider for a moment how significant the phrase “the word of God” is in its various uses in the Old Testament.  For example, the entire account of creation in Genesis 1 is replete with the idea that God spoke and things happened.  Reflecting upon this face, the Psalmist exclaimed: “The heavens were made by the word of the Lord, and all the stars, by the breath of His mouth” (Ps. 33:6).  God speaks, and His word brings forth life.

Besides it creative power, God’s word also brings revelation.  At the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet reported: “The word of the Lord came to me” (Jer. 1:4).  Other prophets, too, experienced the same phenomenon.10  In addition to these activities, the word of God in the Old Testament affects deliverance and healing.11  In summary, then, one finds that the word of God, as it is employed in the Old Testament, creates, reveals, delivers, and heals.  This brief survey of examples is enough to illustrate some similarities between the use of the phrase “word of God” in the Old Testament and the use of “the Word” in John’s Gospel.  For in prologue of John’s Gospel, the logos  creates (John 1:3) and reveals (v. 18).

John’s Usage

Besides the aforementioned connections between the Old Testament and the Gospel of John, the word logos  indicates much more.  John used the word logos  three times in John 1:1; and then a fourth time in verse 14.  In all, John utilized this term 40 times in his Gospel.  Examining the first chapter, though, one is impressed with the depth of meaning attached to the term.  Each use of the word logos  in John 1 highlights an important and unique feature of Jesus.  For instance, in the first phrase of his Gospel, John expressed the fact that the logos  is preexistent.  “In the beginning was the Word,” John wrote.

Not only was the Word preexistent, but He was also with the Father.  John explained “and the Word was with God” (1:1).  This second statement affirms a distinction between the Word and the Father.  The third phrase expresses perhaps the most amazing description of the logos  yet: “the Word was God (v. 1).”  By one simple phrase, John describes Jesus’ full deity.  Finally, in verse 14, we see John’s fourth usage of the term logos.  He described the fact that the logos  put on humanity.  He “became flesh and took up residence among us.”  In a span of a few short verses, John beautifully describes both Jesus’ deity and His humanity.

To attempt to describe or characterize Jesus with one word or phrase is quite difficult.  As John began his Gospel, however, he chose a term that would remind his readers of God’s activity in the Old Testament.  More than that, though, John’s readers would now find that the logos  was fully God and fully man.                                                                                                                                                                                     Bi

1.   Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John,  rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 67.

2.   Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary,  2 vol. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003), 1:363.

3.   All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

4.   Bertold Klappert, “word” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology,  gen. ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 1081-117.

5.   Keener, Gospel of John, 341.

6.   D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 114.

7.   Keener, Gospel of John,  342.

8.   Ibid.

9.   Carson, Gospel According to John,  115.

10. For instance, see Isaiah 9:8; Ezekiel 1:3; and Hosea 1:1 as representative.

11. See Psalm 107:20 and Isaiah 55:11.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 38, No. 2; Winter 2011-12.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

(05, 119)  What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: Answer Next Week:. What counselor of Absalom was actually a spy for David?  Last Week’s Question:  What leper was commander of the Syrian troops? Answer: Naaman; 2 Kings 5:1.