Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
Thesis: Though man's misunderstanding is enormous, God's grace is up to the task.
Introduction: We have been considering Luke's record of John's "message" to the people of Judea. At the root of this message are two extremely fundamental issues. On the one hand, we have John being deliberately named "John" by the requirement of Yahweh. This is a signal of a very significant "T"heological issue. It signals a significant problem in man as he thinks about God. On the other hand, we have John deliberately telling everyone who came out to hear his preaching that humanity is in a corruption so great that the only way men can even begin to grasp it is through the analogy of a massive nest of vipers. This is a signal of a very significant "a"nthropological issue. It signals a significant problem in man as he thinks about himself.
Now, given the fact that Luke has recorded these two major problems, we need to give some thought to the issue of how they are to be resolved. The greatest danger that we will face as we attempt to resolve it is the danger of ignoring the words of God and attempting to solve the problems ourselves. If we do this we will do two things simultaneously: we will reduce the true glory of God and we will reduce the truth about our own condition. We will do these two things in order for it to "make sense" to us that we can have a relationship of acceptance with God. In order to escape this danger, we are going to seriously consider the words of God so that He may lead us into the reality of a relationship of acceptance without that relationship being diminished by the corruption of false conclusions.
The words we are going to consider this morning are those written by Luke in 3:15-16. We are going to ask ourselves, "How could the people have been so wrong about John?"
April 2, 2006
- I. What the People Were Thinking.
- A. The people were thinking about the promises of God concerning the coming of Messiah as they were thinking about the most recent events in their personal history.
- 1. We know they were thinking about the coming of Messiah because Luke tells us this plainly.
- 2. We know they were thinking about the possibility of John being the Messiah because Luke tells us this also.
- 3. We know that they had a history regarding John because Luke had said that the details of John's remarkable birth had been talked about all over the hill country and the people had "kept them in mind" for the duration of the intervening years (2:65-66).
- B. The people were "wondering in their hearts".
- 1. The word translated "wondering" (NASB) is everywhere used in the New Testament to indicate that there is a "problem" that needs to be resolved and that it is being "handled" by a process of mentally considering various possibilities to see if one can be found that enables the "piece of the puzzle" to "fit" into the larger setting.
- 2. That this was going on at the "heart" level indicates that this was no minor issue that could be easily dismissed or "resolved" with a superficial answer.
- 3. The "problem" with this kind of "reasoning" is that it automatically falls back upon earlier "reasonings" that have been "resolved" without any guarantee that those earlier resolutions are accurate.
- a. This means that people are going to use their "previously accepted theological conclusions" to make their decisions.
- b. This means that, to the degree that the earlier decisions were flawed, the present decisions will also be flawed.
- C. The people were terribly off track in even speculating about whether "John" could be the Christ.
- 1. Their earlier "theology" had absolutely dismissed the "men are snakes" thesis.
- a. This dismissal was so absolute that Nicodemus didn't even know how to approach Jesus' statement about the necessity of a new birth for entrance into God's kingdom (John 3).
- 1) When the leading lights of the "theological system" are so grossly ignorant that they do not even have a clue as to one of the most basic issues of the most basic issue (whether one can enter God's Kingdom), you can be sure that the "rank and file" are even more clueless.
- 2) When the "rank and file" can be stirred up by hatred to act like an unreasoning mob in the face of enormous contrary evidence (as they were at the crucifixion of Jesus), you can be sure that something has been derailed for a long time.
- b. This dismissal had been replaced by a "free will theology" that automatically assumes that men are not snakes.
- 1) No one believes that snakes have a free will that can be used by the snake to get it to act like a dove.
- 2) Israel's legal theology rested upon the belief that men have the capacity to "freely choose" to love the Lord their God completely and their neighbors as themselves in spite of the fact that no one in Israel was an example of that ability.
- 2. Luke's record of the virgin birth of the true Messiah clearly demands an understanding of the fact that there is something so horribly corrupt about "man" that God simply bypassed the "male" when He brought Messiah into the world.
- II. What John Knew to be the Truth.
- A. First, John's experience was that he was "filled with God's Spirit" from conception.
- 1. He knew that God had not "bowed to the demand that He respect the 'freedom of choice' of His own creation."
- 2. He knew that God would not have "filled him with His Spirit" from conception if the problem of man was resolvable by any human means.
- 3. He knew that the "grace" of God was more committed to bringing a real salvation to humanity than the "justice" of God was committed to allowing men to not only exercise their "snake-wills" but to endure the automatic results.
- 4. He knew that when men complain about how "unfair" it is for God to ignore their "freedom of choice", they were blaspheming God, for it is precisely those who do this complaining who are being allowed to "make their own choices".
- B. Second, John's experience was such that, when he considered the radical stupidity of the people's thought that he might be the Christ, he knew that, in spite of the fact that he had been filled by the Spirit of God from conception, he had not, by that, been raised to the moral level that would have qualified him to even undo the thong of Messiah's sandals.
- 1. John's statement was not a kind of "showy humility": it was the most basic truth regarding just how profound an impact Adam's action had made upon all his offspring.
- 2. John's statement was not a dismissal of the impact of the indwelling Spirit of God -- he, more than any other, knew how often that Spirit of Grace had kept him safe from the impulses of sin -- but it was a declaration of just what the limits really are: the filling of the Spirit does not change the essence of what man is -- only physical death and resurrection can do that.
- III. What We Should Think.
- A. First, we should permanently "get over" our objections to God's right to deal with us as He pleases.
- B. Second, we should deeply embrace the biblical claim that God's grace is most deeply experienced by those who "get over" their objections to His actions.
- C. Third, as the children of the gracious Father, we should bow before Him in glorious gratitude that, for whatever reasons He had, He has invaded our lives to bring His grace into play for us.
- 1. This gratitude should not be diminished by what He has not yet done.
- 2. This gratitude should be founded upon the clear biblical declaration that He is not finished yet...the promise delayed does not mean the promise denied.