John, the Gospel of Grace (5)


John has set before the reader the case for who the man Jesus is. He is God, the Creator, the Life and Light of the world. Now we come to an important section of text in chapter 1 verses 9-13.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Once more John gives a contrast. In the previous verses it was the contrast between light and darkness. Here it is the difference between receiving and not receiving Christ. In verse 11 is the record of the failure of the Jews to see Jesus as he is and to receive him.
“He came to his own” (Jewish people), and his own people did not receive Him” (vs 11)

The Jews “did not receive Him“. They preferred darkness to light. Later in John Jesus will explain this in great detail. They stayed in the darkness of death rather than have the light of life.

They “did not receive Him” but the story doesn’t end there. There are those “who did receive Him”! This group stepped out of darkness into light, out of death into life, and out of the life of being an alien and into the household of God.

Verses 12 and 13 are very, very important. This is how God saved sinners then, and it is how He does it now. It is always this way and no other way. The Jews said no to Jesus but others (including some Jews of course) said yes and they were made children of God.

Notice the progression in verse 12 and following:

who did receive Him”
who believed in His name”
who were born”

In each statement the “who” is the same.

You receive Christ by believing in His name (All that he is, and all He has done). Those who receive Him by believing on Him are born of God (v 13) The text could not be more clear and concise. Verse 13 should be understood as authoritative and final. John here makes clear that it is God who saves and not us. He does not need our help.

John 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Who were born…of God” This is a positive statement of fact. The very people “who” received, the same ones “who” believed, were born…”of God”!

A positive statement, now the negatives that are just as compelling and just as true.

“not of blood”
“nor of the will of the flesh”
“nor of the will of man”

A child of the Father can claim no personal merit and no part of saving himself. Salvation is God’s work. Again and again John will bring this truth to the reader’s attention. Our security is not in human ingenuity, the plans of men, or personal righteousness but in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Oh what a Savior! Oh what good news!

Royce Ogle

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Now, But Not Yet


My study of Scripture has led me to these conclusions.

  • I “have” eternal life, but wait for it.
  • I  have been “made” righteous, but am unrighteous.
  • I have been “justified”, but wait to be justified.
  • I have become a “child” of God, but wait to fully experience that relationship.
  • I have been “sanctified”, but am being sanctified.
  • I have a “place” prepared for me to live in, but wait to live there.

All of this is to say I am “saved” , I am being saved, and I wait to be fully saved.

  • I  have eternal life as a present possession but being earth-bound and flesh- bound I will not fully live the eternal life I have until Jesus comes to finally complete his reconciliation of all things to himself (God).
  • I now am counted by God as righteous based wholly upon the worth and work of Jesus but I would be a liar, and be calling God a liar, if I claim I don’t still sin. I do, you do.
  • I have been justified, or ‘set right” with God though Chris,t but until I receive the immortality promised I will not have complete justification.
  • I am now God’s child but I have yet to literally sit at his table, to look Jesus in the face, and to experience all that is mine as an heir to all God owns. And, to share it all with my siblings.
  • I am now sanctified (set apart for God) but my sanctification will only be complete when the very presence of sin will be forgotten history. I’m not there yet but it’s certain I will get there.
  • There is a place reserved for me in eternity outside of time but I must wait to see it and experience it until the new heaven and new earth are revealed along with the sons and daughters that will inhabit them.

I live solidly and without doubt in the now of today, sure of the promised tomorrow. I do so with NO merit of my own. My promise realized is my promise sealed by God himself based not on me or what I have done, or will do, but wholly upon the sinless life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ the righteous. When at last I stand before the Lord of all that is I can claim nothing but the blood of the Lamb poured out for ungodly sinners like me.

While I wait for my blessed hope I am content for Jesus to be my peace, my hope, my joy, my comfort, my righteousness, my advocate, and my promise of seeing the glory of God for myself. Christ is the vine, I am a branch. There is no me without Him. I’m working at abiding in Him.

Grace to you,

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

Have you received the word?


Isn’t is odd how you can read passages in the Bible, for years, and suddenly see something you had before overlooked? Recently as I was reading through Acts I noticed some reoccurring phrases that for some reason my mind had up to then simply dismissed. Those phrases are, “received his word”, and “received the word of God”. This experience is sort of like detectives I see on TV who work “cold cases”. An ambitious detective will pull the files of an unsolved crime and begin sorting through and analyzing all of the evidence in that file. Many, many times I have either seen on TV or read in the news about some case forgotten long ago that was solved because someone cared enough to give the evidence another critical look and the detective saw something others had overlooked time and time again. I don’t ever remember anyone discussing the appearance of these phrases, “received his word” and “received the word of God”, as they appear in Acts 2, 8, and 11.

Each time they appear they have a specific meaning, and the same meaning, that I think gives the texts some needed context that is not there if they are ignored. The first appears in Acts 2. Every church of Christ member knows part of chapter 2 very well and most Christians know parts of it, but maybe not this part of it.

The setting is a festival in the city of Jerusalem in the first century. It is Pentecost and seven weeks since Jesus rose from the dead. Pentecost was a Jewish holiday/festival celebrating the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. The scene was alive with celebration as people from all across the known world converged on Jerusalem to observe Pentecost, to renew old acquaintances, and likely even to see family. This festival had been celebrated for many years and people knew what to expect, it was a good time! But this year, this Pentecost, things would be very different. They were there to celebrate Law but God was about to lay some Grace on them.

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples the scene was so boisterous and noisy and the followers of Jesus so out of the ordinary that many people took notice and were sure those men had just had too much wine and were drunk. Not the case! Peter stood up and gave an explanation. “These men aren’t drunk as you think, it’s early in the morning”. He announced that a prophecy was being fulfilled before there very eyes. It as from Joel concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit and the results of that coming. He concluded the quote with these words, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) Then Peter starts preaching about Jesus quoting David and making the case that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was indeed the Christ of God they were looking for. He put the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus squarely on them! 

Upon hearing this shocking news, these Jews asked, “What shall we do?”  Then comes the familiar text of Acts 2:28, “ And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Many people evidently stopped reading there. A doctrine of salvation has been built largely upon this one verse and in the minds of many it trumps all others. As one man recently put it, “Any verse of Scripture that seems to contradict Acts 2:38 is “iffy” “. Well, I suggest that since Peter didn’t stop there we shouldn’t either. 

Peter first said “repent”. This is important. “Repent” of what and how? Well, repent of your unbelief! You have rejected Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of God and had him killed, Peter accused them twice of the murder of Jesus. After they were convicted of their sins and convinced of the truth about Jesus (“cut to the heart”) they first needed to repent of their unbelief and believe what Peter had preached. And they did. They “received the Word” Peter preached. Salvation is by grace through faith and these men obviously repented and believed and then were baptized. It is always that order, repentance and faith in Jesus first, and then baptism. The Bible is very clear about this. Notice in Acts 2:41a,So those who received his word were baptized”.  Those who received his word were those who had believed Peter’s preaching, the prophecy of Joel and of David. They had repented of unbelief and had put their faith in the Christ. That is what it means to “receive the Word”.

One other important thing before I leave chapter 2. Peter told those who listened that the promises he gave were to “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39b) . There are two things to take note of  in this 2nd chapter of Acts. First, Peter preached to everyone who had ears. And so it is with us. We are to herald the good news about Jesus to anyone and everyone possible. We are to peach to the whole word, every creature! There is no doubt about that. But, what is just as true is that not everyone will repent. Not everyone will “receive the Word”. Not everyone will believe on Christ. Not everyone will be baptized. The ones who will “receive the Word” are those whom the Lord our God calls to himself. Not one more and not one less. This truth is repeated over and over in the Scriptures.

” So those who received his word were baptized..” Acts 2:41a

Now lets look at Acts chapter 8. Phillip travels to Samaria and preaches Christ to the people. And, the Bible says “the crowds with one accord paid attention to what Peter was preaching. There were unclean spirits coming out of people, others were being healed and many believed on the  Lord and were baptized. One man was mentioned by name for he was a hard case I suppose, but God saved him too. A man named Simon had the attention of the people for a long time. He practiced magic and people feared him. But he too believed after hearing Phillip preach the kingdom of God and about the Christ. God meets people where they are and saves who he will, the down and out, the rich and the poor at his discretion.

The story continues that when the church leaders at Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria “had received the word of God” they sent Peter and John to minister to them. It’s the same story as Acts 2. Someone preaches Christ, some repent and believe “receiving the Word”, and are baptized. The narrative is a bit different here in chapter 8 in that the Samaritans did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John came and laid hands on them. So we might not want to be so rigid about using Acts 2:38 as a blanket, once size fits all promise, it clearly isn’t. In Acts 2 Peter preaches, they repent and believe (received the Word) and were baptized and I’m sure they received the Holy Spirit as Peter said. In Acts 8 Phillip preaches, the people believe (receive the Word) and are baptized and don’t receive the Holy Spirit. Then as we will see later in Acts when Peter preached to Cornelius and his folks they too believed and while Peter was preaching Christ they received the Holy Spirit. An unusual set of facts. Why did God do it this way? I don’t have a clue! I only know he did it. What is common in all three cases is that the people heard Christ preached, they “received the word” and were then baptized.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God…” Acts 8:14a

Now to chapter 11. Peter has had a vision, three times, that convinced him that God loved Gentiles as much as Jews and that he should go to them with the gospel. You can read the story in Acts 10. It was after his sermon about Jesus, and after they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit that Peter asked (my paraphrase..) “Can anybody think of a reason why we shouldn’t baptize these people? They received the Holy Spirit just like we did when we believed!” So Peter baptized them. It is worth mentioning that Peter ended his sermon with this sentence. “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43) This was true in Acts 2, in Acts 8, in Acts 10, and in Monroe, Louisiana today. I can think of no reason to try to qualify these words of the Apostle Peter to our ancient ancestors, the first Gentiles to be saved by grace.

The story continues,this was a huge deal! A few days ago a Jew wouldn’t even speak to a Gentile and now they are calling them brothers and baptizing those who believed the gospel. Chapter 11 begins with the apostles and brothers hearing that the Gentiles also “had received the word of God”. There is that phrase once more. The text says “…the Gentiles also had received the word of God”. Also? Yes, the saved Jews, Peter and the other brothers and Apostles were saved the same way as the Gentiles, they “received the Word of God”. They accepted it by believing it!.

In Acts 11:4-17 Peter carefully detailed the story of his going to the Gentiles and what happened when he preached the gospel to them. When Peter finished you could have heard a pin drop. They were completely silent for a time. And then they gave glory to God! That section ends with these words,  “And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (vs 18b) Remember earlier how God calls some to himself? He also gives repentance to those he calls. The Bible is clear about this. Some he hardens and some he softens. He is God and can do what he will. It is repentance that leads to life. Unless a person repents of his or her unbelief, receiving the Word by faith, that person will remain alienated from God.

Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.” Acts 11:1

We Christians are to publish the Word of God across the world to every person possible. The gracious offer of the gospel from God is addressed to “whosoever will..” Some of those to whom we preach Christ will “receive the Word”, only some of them, not all, will repent of their unbelief. There is someone there, someone yonder, who waits to hear and receive the Word of God. They will not hear until we tell it.

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

 

You didn’t build that!


You didn’t build that…

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12,13)

If you did it it isn’t done. Christ came to save the ungodly. He did not come to give sinners the chance to save themselves. Surrender to Christ as the helpless and hopeless person you are. It’s the posture of repentance. Only when we see the folly of self does God and the good news about Jesus become attractive.