There are spiritual laws which God has put into place to govern spiritual matters just as surely as there are physical laws which govern the natural world. The spiritual world is not a land of make-believe. Its very real and has its own order. There are things that can be done and things that cannot be done. Even God submits Himself to the spiritual laws He has established. But many people dont realize this. They think of Him as a chaotic tyrant who can and will do whatever He wishes. All sorts of silly assumptions have been made about Him and one of the worst is that He happily sends people to hell. Those who believe this picture Him as an arbitrary judge who decides who He will and wont let into heaven. And the standard they believe He uses is frighteningly vague. They think He weighs our good deeds and our bad deeds, examines our lives to see if weve been religious enough, and then picks those He likes. Its no wonder that many people openly or secretly fear and even hate Him. They think His will is arbitrary and that His future kingdom will be a place where every aspect of a persons life is controlled by a harsh dictator.
These assumptions havent arisen in a vacuum. Theres been so much false teaching about God. Many have been taught these things since they were children, and to make matters worse there seems to be a perverse impulse in us that tends to blame God for everything bad and take the credit for everything good. And something strange happens to our minds when we feel shame. It causes us to assume that everyone is judging us, and that leaves us defensive and angry. But no one gets more blame for the guilt we feel than God, which is why we desperately need someone to introduce us to the true God. And thats what John is doing in these opening verses to his gospel. Hes destroying these lies by showing us the amazing steps God took to save us. We discover a very different God from the false image so many carry in their minds.
From heaven to earth (Jn 1:5-14) DBS (Sun-Sat)
Every one of the terms John uses in this passage is so full of meaning its hard to summarize what Hes saying. But theres no missing the fact that the Son of God left heaven and came to earth to rescue us. God didnt lay out a standard of holiness and demand that we climb up to Him. He has come to us and invited us to welcome Him, to receive Him, to believe in Him. That means God is not the one whos doing the rejecting; its us. He initiates the relationship; He comes after us; He knocks on our door. And he had to do this according to His own spiritual laws.
Gods mysterious laws
When the Father, through Jesus, spoke the physical and spiritual worlds into existence, He established laws to govern those worlds, and those laws reflect His character. They are an expression of who He is, so they are unchangeable; they are eternal.
Since He knows all things, God knew before He made us that if He gave us a free will and an opportunity to rebel we would walk away from Him. So when He laid into the foundations of the universe the deep laws that would govern everything, He secretly put into place a plan to rescue us. He alone knew how He would do this and He hid His plan from the rulers of this age, and the prophets, and, I think, even the angels. Listen: 1 Peter 1:10-12.
we speak Gods wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him (1Co 2:7-9).
Yet now when we look back at the Old Testament from the perspective of the New, we discover that those deep spiritual laws were already at work from Adam and Eve onward. Here are some that we can now recognize:
1) Sin produces physical and spiritual death (separation). In physical death the soul (biological life) is separated from the body. In spiritual death the spirit (the conscious person with intellect, will and emotions) is separated from God.
2) It is possible for the guilt of one persons sin to be transferred to someone else, providing that there is a suitable substitute. The penalty of death can be transferred so that another may die in our place.
3) The substitute to whom our sin is transferred must meet very exact qualifications. He must be:
Sinless: death has no claim on it
Identical: one of us
Infinite: possessing a worth greater than our weight of sin
Willing: chooses this role, not a victim
Tested: someone who is genuinely good, who has overcome the temptations we face
Costly: God the Father must pay the ultimate price (Ge 22:1-18)
4) No one will be forced to love God. We can reject Him. He gives free will and respects our choices because He wants children, not slaves. He invites us to join Him in the eternal love, unity and joy He shares with His Son.
5) God initiates relationship. He comes to us and is willing to endure rejection.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to Him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Rev 3:20).
True spiritual union
There is one more spiritual law which is so important it deserves a category of its own: By faith we can be spiritually joined to another person. A real spiritual union can be formed, and we can become one with someone else. Which means when we put our faith in Jesus, we can become as one with Him, just as He and the Father are one. Listen:
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us
This means that by faith we can die with Him, and by faith we can participate in His resurrection. Literally, His death becomes our death, and when He escaped the grave, we escaped with Him. (Colossians 2:11-14)
The last Adam (1Co 15:21-22, 45)
Knowing that Adam, by his sin, would bring death to all humans, God from the foundations of the world ordained that the reverse could also be true: that the death of one man, a man who would meet His standard, could restore life to all humans. Listen:
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1Co 15:21-22). So also it is written. The first Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1Co 15:45).
The first Adam was composed of body (dust), soul (breath) and spirit (image of God), and began his existence in full spiritual fellowship with God. His flesh had normal appetites, but his spirit was still in control of his body. He was not helplessly overwhelmed by temptation as we are now. But once he rebelled, the power of the Holy Spirit left him naked and alone. Once that break in relationship took place he and all his children became helpless victims of temptations too great for us to resist. And that was true of every human until the Word became flesh.
Paul calls Jesus the Last Adam because He came to earth and became a man in a spiritual condition similar to Adams before he fell. Jesus experienced the same temptations we experience, but like the first Adam, before he sinned, Jesus spirit was not separated from God. His temptations were real, and because He did not yield to them they were more ferocious than ours. And He could have sinned but He did not; He resisted; He remained holy so that when He died, death had no right to hold Him. Death gets a grip on us when we sin, but Jesus never sinned which made Him the one, unique Person who could become our substitute.
Our perfect substitute
No one else could do this. No one, no human or angel, is capable of meeting the God-ordained standards which were established at the moment of creation. Either God would send His Son or the human race would perish, not because God is a harsh judge, but because we humans have sold ourselves into a terrible bondage and there are righteous laws that demand our death.
But God did send His Son. The Word of God became flesh and tabernacled among us, so that He could become the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, so that the life in Him could become the Light of Men.
Children of God (Jn 1:12-13)
Gods goal has never changed. He created the human race because He wanted children. Yes, He always had a begotten Son, but the love the Father and Son share is limitless; it overflows and the Father and Son long for more sons and daughters to fill Gods household. So the Father sent His Son, and Jesus willingly came so that He could give those who believe in Him the right to become children of God.
1) As simply as you can, explain the following terms: the Word of God, the Light of Men, and the Lamb of God.
2) If a child asked you, Why did Jesus have to die? What would you say?