God's Arm of Revelation
Topic: Revelation Passage: John 12:37–12:50
• Carolyn and I reading Luke 20. Got to verse 18. I asked her, “What does that mean?” She said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I don’t know either.” So I looked down at the commentary in my trusty reformation study Bible…But there wasn’t a note on that verse.
• Luke 20: 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
• Next day I was listening to Michael Card and the song Scandalon came on. These were the lyrics:
The seers and the prophets had foretold it long ago
That the long awaited one would make men stumble
But they were looking for a king to conquer and to kill
Who'd have ever thought He'd be so meek and humble
Along the path of life there lies a stubborn Scandalon
And all who come this way must be offended
To some He is a barrier, To others He's the way
For all should know the scandal of believing
He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that He can make them whole
And many will be crushed and lose their own soul
• Scandalon = the Greek word for stone of offense
• Jesus is the stone of offense. And Jesus is very offensive in our text today. I’m going to preach through this text for a couple reasons:
1. In our verse by verse study through John, this is where we are today.
2. The offense is good for you. You must stumble over Jesus Christ and be broken if you are going to be saved.
• The last verse of the song says this:
It seems today the Scandalon offends no one at all
The image we present can be stepped over
Could it be that we are like the others long ago
Will we ever learn that all who come must stumble
• Seeker Friendly Church isn’t doing us a favor: They water down Jesus words and try to present a gospel that won’t offend people. But in so doing they also present a gospel that won’t save anyone either.
• The Stumbling Stone is remembered!: “Miniature memorials, called Stolpersteine (literally – ‘stumbling stones’) were created by artist Gunter Demnig. Believing that a person begins to be forgotten when his name is forgotten, he installed such plates in over 500 places around Germany and Europe, documenting some of the many Jews, Gypsies, political dissidents…and other groups of people who fell victim to National socialism.
• You have walked over many stones in your life, but the one that you remember is the one that makes you stumble and the one that makes you fall.
Disclaimer: So as we jump into the text, you may find Jesus words offensive and hard to stomach. You may look at the text and think, “That can’t mean what I think it means.” There must be some other explanation. Good medicine is good not because it taste good in your mouth, but because it goes down deep inside you and changes you from the inside out.
Title: Can you believe it?
The Scandalon Teaches 10 Lessons on the Nature of Faith
John 12:37-50 (pg. 899 in the black bibles)
Can you believe it?
• The Unbelievers (37-41)
• The Ashamed Believers (42-43)
• The True Believers (44-46)
• The Judgment (47-50)
The Unbelievers (37-43)
The text for today begins with those who do not believe. [VERSE 37]
37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
Warning: Not all will believe and be saved. (37)
• We reject universalism.
1. Convincing proofs are helpful, but do not assure faith. (37)
• Convincing arguments
• Why not?
o One Reason: They didn’t want to believe: These Jews didn’t want a messiah that was going to die, but rather one that was going to conquer Rome.
TRANSITION: Many of these Jews do not believe in Jesus. Isaiah prophesied that this would happen. John points out another reason why they didn’t believe. Their unbelief was fulfillment of the prophesy: They didn’t believe…
38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
2. The hearing of God’s Word is critical for the spreading of our faith. (38)
• Vs 38: Who has believed what he heard from us?
• Rom. 10:14-15: 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
3. God must give divine revelation for someone to be saved. (38)
• Vs 38: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
• 1 Cor. 2:7-10: 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
TRANSITION: This is the hope we have, but all do not have this hope.
4. There are those who cannot be saved. (39-40)
• Vs 39: They could not believe.
• We like to think that every heart has an open door. That no matter who the person is we can love them to Jesus. But in some cases this is not the case. Jesus says emphatically, “They could not believe.” Not they would not believe, though that is also true, but they could not.
• Why not? There are a handful of reasons. Their will is set against God, God has not softened their heart, they don’t want to believe, God has not revealed his arm to them, God has not chosen them, they are not His elect.
• This is not a popular doctrine! But Jesus is very emphatic about it. They could not believe. Why not? [VERSE 39]
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, [Why couldn’t they believe? Because…] 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
• Rog and I witnessing to Ann: We were at a coffee shop at 7 am. We got to share the gospel with my friend, Ann. She was kind and polite, but responded simply, “I just don’t believe.” God had not extended his arm of revelation to her.
• Understand that some of your evangelistic efforts will not result in converts because you are dealing with people that CAN NOT BELIEVE. You are dealing with people that God has blinded and that God has hardened so they will not understand the gospel, they will not repent and they will not be saved.
• Dean shared we me that we have one comfort in this. God is not hardening the hearts of people who are seeking after him. These are people that hate God, that have turned against him. Like Pharaoh. He hardened his own heart and then God hardened his heart some more. Similar to those sexually immoral people referred to in Romans 1 whom God gave over to their sin.
• None who seeks God: The truth of the matter is that we all start out that way. “There is none who seeks God, no not one.” How grateful I am that God went against my will. Instead of hardening my heart, he softened it. Think of Paul. His heart was hard. He was going around killing Christians. God could have hardened his heart some more. He could have said, “If you want to be my enemy, then go right ahead.” But he didn’t. He stopped Paul dead in his tracks on the road to Damascus and turned him around. Paul’s will was bound over to sin, and God changed his heart.
• Why would God blind eyes and harden hearts?
• Vs 40: He does this [it says in verse 40] lest they turn and God would heal them.
• Heal them?: This is another way of saying “save them”.
o Some are quick to jump to physical healing, but from the context it’s clear that is not what it’s talking about. This about the ultimate healing from the disease of sin.
o Not talking about healing your cancer or your back pain. He can totally do that, but this is about the ultimate healing.
• Is 53:5: But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
• He has promised in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” He has committed that he will save all who turn from their sin and believe on Christ, but he has not promised opened eyes, softened hearts and revelation to all.
5. God blinds and hardens some so they will… not see, not understand and not be saved.
• 1 Peter 2:6-8: 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
• Why would God do this? Paul comments on this. I think because he knows this is such a controversial issue, Paul comments in the form of a question:
22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
TRANSITION: What a strange thing to prophesy about? Why would Isaiah prophesy about those who reject Jesus, about those who don’t believe him. Why? I think it’s because Jesus gained glory for himself through being rejected. The text is arguing that Isaiah by divine revelation looked forward in time, saw the Jews reject their messiah, and Isaiah said, “That’s glory!” [VERSE 41]
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
• It says that “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory.”
• Isaiah, perhaps more than any other pre-incarnation human being ever to walk the planet, saw the glory of Christ:
THE PROPHECY THE FULFILLMENT
The Messiah: Jesus of Nazareth:
Will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) Was born of a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:26-31)
Will have a Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1,2) Ministry began in Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:13-16)
Will be an heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 11:1, 10) Was given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32, 33)
Will have His way prepared by john the baptist (Isaiah 40:3-5) Was announced by John the Baptist (John 1:19-28)
Will be spat on and struck (Isaiah 50:6) Was spat on and beaten (Matthew 26:67)
Will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13) Was highly exalted by God and the People (Philippians 2:9, 10)
Will be disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2) Was scourged by Roman soldiers who gave Him a crown of thorns (Mark 15L15-19)
Will make a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5 Shed His blood to atone for our sins (1Peter 1:2)
Will be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3) Was not accepted by many (John 12:37, 38)
Will bear our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4, 5) Died because of our sins (Romans 4L25; 1Peter 2:24, 25)
Will be our substitute (Isaiah 53:6,8) Died in our place (Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment for sin (Isaiah 53:7,8) Jesus took on our sins (John 1:29; Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Gentiles will seek Him (Isaiah 11:10) Gentiles came to speak to Jesus (John 12:20,21)
Will be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) Was silent before Herod and his court (Luke 23:9)
Will save us who believe in Him (Isaiah 53:12) Provided salvation for all who believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)
Will die with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) Was numbered with the transgressors (Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37)
Will heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,2) Healed the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18, 19)
God's Spirit will rest on Him (Isaiah 11:2) The Spirit of God descended on Jesus (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; 4:1)
Will be buried in a rich man's tomb (Isaiah 53:9 Was buried in the tomb of Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42)
He will judge the earth with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4,5) Jesus was given authority to judge (John 5:27; Luke 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:1,8)
• What aspect of Christ’s glory is being referred to here?
• The text says, Isaiah said “these things” because he saw his glory. What are “these things”? These things are the preceding verses where Isaiah describes the unbelief of Israel.
• I thought you only get glory when you win. You get glory when you cross the finish line in first place and everyone is singing your praises. How does Jesus get glory by being rejected?
• God gets glory when God gets rejected: First, consider that God got glory in the OT by being rejected?
o Noah’s Flood (Actually God’s flood during the time of Noah): The entire world, minus Noah’s family, had rejected the Lord. Every time a rainbow appears in the sky, we are reminded of several aspects of God’s glory:
1. God in his mercy will never flood the world again.
2. God in his holiness did flood the world to destroy a world filled with wickedness.
3. God in his grace rescued Noah’s family on the ark.
o Sodom and Gomorrah: God displayed the glory of his justice and his wrath as he destroyed these wicked cities.
• There are certain aspects of the glory of God that you would never see unless there were people present, lots of people present, who had rejected the Lord.
6. [Similarly], Jesus gains glory for himself by being rejected by unbelieving Israel.
• The glory of Jesus’ Rejection: That’s exactly what we see here. Lots of unbelieving Jews and lots of glory for Jesus Christ. We see the glory of Jesus’…
o Determination: as he goes to the cross in the face of such opposition
o Long Suffering: as he chooses to die for people who mistreat him
o Sovereignty: as he chooses a people for himself; he saves some and hardens others. God is in charge. God gets his way. God’s will will be done.
• The prophet Isaiah looked forward in time and saw the glory of Jesus Christ shimmering brilliantly against the backdrop of a dark, wicked and unbelieving Israel.
TRANSITION: We have the masses that have rejected Jesus, and we have some that believe in secret. Those who believe, but hide the fact that they believe.
The Ashamed Believers (42-43)
42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
• What do we make of these “believers”? The text says that they are some of the authorities and it says that they believe. We get a little excited at first. People of prominence, leadership, authority, power… And they’re believers!!!
• Do you get excited when you hear about a celebrity who’s a Christian?
o We do this math in our heads. If a=b, b=c, then c=a.
o He’s cool – He’s a Christian – I’m a Christian – Therefore I’m cool.
o If Cool Person = Christian, and Christian=Me, then I must be Cool. I must be a celebrity, too, right?
• I’ll admit when a prominent person in society, goes public with their faith in Christ and uses their notoriety to promote the gospel, my heart rejoices. And I think it should!
• BUT: When a little birdy tells me that some celebrity happens to be a closet Christian, my heart does not leap for joy.
• These Jewish Authorities Believe: Perhaps they believe that Jesus came from God, that Jesus is the messiah and that Jesus saves souls. But they don’t tell anyone.
• Why not? – The text gives us 3 Reasons – Just remember the future farmers of America… the FFA): Fear of man, fear of consequences, and After the wrong glory.
o Fear of man: They were afraid of what people would think of them.
ï‚§ Vs 42: for fear of the Pharisees
o Fear of consequences: They would get kicked out of the synagogue. They would be ostracized from society. They would lose their position of prominence. They wouldn’t be the authorities any more.
ï‚§ Vs 42: so that they would not be put out of the synagogue
ï‚§ Note this: Position comes with a price! – If the world promotes you to high levels, there are often strings attached.
ï‚§ Illustration: Senior year of high school. Greatest year as far as prominence at Piner High, but it may have been my least fruitful year for the kingdom of God. I was the Anchor Man for the CTEC Weekly News Show. I remember walking down the hall and a girl who I’d never met said, “Hi John.” I thought to myself, “Wow! I’m famous.” My position allowed me to promote news stories and to promote myself, but it did not allow me to promote Jesus Christ. If I started doing that, you can be assured that my position would have been taken from me. Often, Position comes with a price!
o After the wrong glory:
ï‚§ Vs 43: They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
ï‚§ People pleasers rather than God pleasers.
ï‚§ Vs 26 Jesus speaks of true believes: If anyone serves me, the father will honor him.
ï‚§ Seek after that honor. The honor that comes from God.
• They won’t confess Jesus for fear of man, fear of consequences and because they are after the wrong glory.
o Jesus says in Matt. 10:32-33: 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
• Knock on Heaven’s Door: “Hi it’s me.” The Father turns to Jesus. “What about this one?” Jesus responds, “He’s not with me.”
• It says they “believed”, but I would argue that this is not saving faith. This is the kind of faith that Satan and the demons have.
• James 2:19: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
7. True believers go public with their faith. (42)
• Vs. 42: These Jewish authorities believed, but they did not confess it.
• True believers confess their faith: They don’t hide their faith saying that it’s a personal matter. They tell others. They are proud to be known publicly as a follower of Christ.
o Do your co-workers know that you’re a born-again Christian?
o Do your classmates at school know?
o Do your friends or your family members know?
o Do you want them to know or do you want to keep it secret?
o Are you a true believer or are you like these authorities who are ashamed and afraid of telling others.
• Have This Attitude: I’m going to follow after Christ and let the chips fall where they fall. If people hate me, so be it. If I face difficulties because of my love for Jesus Christ, so be it. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and I am proud of it.
• Gal. 6:14: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
• I will boast: Not in my intelligence, not in my accomplishments or my good looks. I will boast in Jesus Christ! He is my boast. You want to hear me brag? Ask me about my Jesus! He is my everything. His righteousness is my glory. His cross is my hope. His resurrection is my assurance. He is the one I want to please. Let the world hate me if they so choose, but my target is not to please them, but to please Him!
True Believers (44-46)
Vs 44-46 speaks about some of the content of this revelation: 44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
8. True believers have a specific knowledge of God’s work through his Son, Jesus Christ.
• Vs 38: To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
• Arm: God’s strength and power in his work here on earth. How is God’s arm stretched out to this earth? Yes, God stretched out his arm to us through the prophets. But primarily, how did God’s mighty arm reach out to humanity?
• Let Us Reason Ministries: There are examples of God using His arm, which is a symbol of His power to reach into the affairs of man. The arm was used representing God in His agency of strength. When the Bible refers to the Arm of the Lord it is consistently about the Son, as God reaches into the Earth to do His work. The Lord redeemed Israel “with an outstretched arm”(Exod.6:6) [and] “To who has the arm of the Lord been revealed” (Isa.53:1).
• Primarily, the work of God is done through his son. Jesus Christ is the arm of God extended to earth. All who believe on Jesus receive the aide of that mighty arm and they will be saved.
• Specific knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel must be revealed by the Holy Spirit for anyone to be saved.
• To be saved, you must believe certain truths:
o Jesus is the messiah come down from heaven.
o He is the light of the world and the only way for us to escape from darkness.
o He is God’s messenger to the world.
o He lived the perfectly righteous life that we could not.
o He died to save sinners of which I am one.
o I’m trusting in his death on the cross to pay the price for my sins.
o I am assured of eternal life because my savior resurrected from the dead. He didn’t stay dead, and after I die, I will not stay dead either. I will be resurrected to new life!
TRANSITION: There are specific things that God’s children believe and there are specific things that they do.
9. True believers become doers of the Word.
47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
• James 1:22: Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
• Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are they who hear God's word and keep it” (Luke 11:28).
• Just hearing Jesus word and giving intellectual assent to it, WILL NOT SAVE YOU.
• Jesus words will be the standard by which you are judged on judgment day. Your life will be held up to the standard of his Word.
• Believe and Obey are Used Synonymously: Verses 47 and 48 are parallel verses. The word “keep” (obey) in 47 is parallel to the word receive (believe) in 48. 47 – The one who does not keep his words will be judged. 48 – The one who does not receive his words will be judged.
o Hebrews does this as well: Hebrews 3:18-19 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
• Real faith changes your behavior. If you truly believe in Jesus Christ, your life begins to change. Not that you’re perfect overnight, but you start growing in righteousness.
• This is why James says in James 2:14 and 17: 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? [No!] … 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
• True believers become doers of the Word.
The Judgment (47-50)
10. True faith in Jesus’ teaching is essential to escape the judgment of God.
• 47 – Jesus says, I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.
• Jesus’ purpose in coming to the world 2000 years ago was to bring salvation.
o Salvation from what?
o From judgment. Judgment based on what?
• 48 - The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
o Jesus came to save you from Jesus!
o At the end of the world on the day of judgment, Jesus words will be the standard by which mankind is judged.
o What’s the standard? Jesus said it clearly in Matt. 5:48, “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.”
o Who matches up to that perfection?
ï‚§ Only Jesus
ï‚§ And those who are in Jesus: 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
ï‚§ Jesus is our only hope. He is the one that came from heaven with the words of heaven.
ï‚§ Vs. 49-50: 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
ï‚§ The commandment, that body of knowledge that we must believe, will produce in us eternal life.
ï‚§ On that final day, do not cling to your own merits and try to convince God that you’re a good person. You have not been good enough to earn heaven.
ï‚§ On judgment day, you will not be compared with average Joe, but rather you will be held up to the standard of Christ’s Word and you will fall short.
ï‚§ Instead, believe that Jesus has been good enough to save you. Believe on Christ and be saved. His blood was shed for your sins. Believe on Jesus and you will be credited with His righteousness. When the day of judgment comes, you will be safe because you will be in Christ.
Review: Saving Faith: The kind of faith that delivers you from your sin, gives you eternal life and gets you into right relationship with God.
• Proofs – helpful but not a guarantee
• Hearing – God’s word is required
• Revelation – God’s arm of revelation must be extended to the sinner
• Specific knowledge – Must result in specific knowledge of the gospel.
• Public Confession – Confesses Jesus before others.
• Life Change – You become a doer of the Word.
1. Stand in awe of the God who sovereignly rules the universe.
“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” Psalm 115:3
2. Be grateful that God has extended his arm of revelation to you.
3. Understand that Christ didn’t come to make your life easy; he came to be the stumbling stone that breaks you to pieces so that you might repent of your sin, believe on him and be saved.
He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that He can make them whole
And many will be crushed and lose their own soul