We have spoken and written much in this series about the incredible resistance demonstrated by the religious leadership in Israel to believe in Jesus as the Christ. Even in the face of undeniable miracles, they were unaffected.
Yet even more startling than this is the unbelief of Judas. Here was a man who witnessed everything, not just in public, but also of the private ministry of Jesus. He truly saw it all, but in the end he was likewise unaffected in terms of faith and commitment.
This would appear to be also impossible. Yet it was true. Surely he was a self-centered person who would not yield control of his heart and life. We might speculate that many elements of the ministry of Jesus were attractive to him, though perhaps he had political hopes of a Roman overthrow. And when seeing that Jesus was about spiritual ministry and renewal rather than being focused upon material world priorities, Judas may have become disenchanted.
Though it was never a surprise to Jesus that one of them was not truly “on the team” and would ultimately be a betrayer, the picture we see of the whole group would seem to indicate that the other 11 did not see this coming. When Jesus said that one of them would turn against him, it is not as if all eyes looked at Judas. It would be interesting to know which of the other 11 was paired with him when they were sent out two by two.
Another curiosity centers around why Jesus would select and have such a duplicitous person among the inner circle. We cannot know for certain. It does demonstrate the magnanimous grace of the universal reach of the message of Christ. For Judas … for any … who do not choose to believe, it is not because there is a lack of love or opportunity to believe and follow wholeheartedly. It has rather to do with the dark grip of sin upon their own lives.
A great sadness that I have felt in pastoral ministry is to have seen more than a few who appeared to possess faith and commitment choose to at some point walk the other way … to even deny the truth. I do not believe this means that they genuinely had a faith that they chose to deny, but that they rather never truly possessed it in the first place. People have the ability to play the role of a follower of Christ, even for an extended time. However, the day comes when perseverance wears out and the true nature of the heart is revealed. And in that it happened even amongst the disciples should make it as no surprise that rejection of faith can occur in our day and among people we knew and even served alongside.
Luke 1:1 – Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
Let’s not forget that some never have an outward rejection of the faith and yet aren’t really walking with Jesus.
Consider that Jesus gave a parable of the wheat and the tares where the “tares” would not be removed until the end.
Additionally Jesus said that when he returns “many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did not we do many great things in your name …'” and Jesus will reply “I never knew you, depart from me you workers of iniquity.”
It is hard to see in people’s hearts. “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5 NIV)
Three times in first John confidence is spoken of. Twice John writes about the importance of “love” in our life in order for us to know we are really in the truth. In the third instance mentioned believing the testimony is significant to having confidence in approaching God and so that we “may know that we have eternal life.”
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:
20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God
22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.
(1 Jn. 3:18-22 NIV)
15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 Jn. 4:15-21 NIV)
10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.
11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
15 And if we know that he hears us– whatever we ask– we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 Jn. 5:10-15 NIV)
Jesus gave other hints about how people will be judged. By the measure we judge others — that same measure will be used against us. In Romans we are told not to judge … but then remarkably many Christians use Romans to judge others. It might be “They don’t accept the evidence that God made clear in creation.”
That is risky business … especially when Christians are among the least likely to embrace or welcome obvious scientific findings. Like Job’s friends many Christians are so eager to defend God that they slander others without evidence. Job’s friends accused him of oppressing the poor and other such things that weren’t true.
My point is that Jesus and God are right, and people that pander to Christian errors rather than confront them … and they gain the praise of Christians … these people are bringing judgment on themselves.
None of this to say that we can demand perfection from our brothers and sisters … as it says in scripture “We all stumble in many ways.” And whoever claims to be without sin does not know God .
Jesus said that we even must pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
And as for Judas, apparently after he betrayed Christ, the other disciples started piecing together the evidence and were able to determine that Judas was stealing from the donations and that his over interest and over – anger against the woman who poured the expensive ointment on Jesus … that his concern was on dipping into the funds for his own use. There is a Psalm that prophesies of Judas, speaking of how smooth his words were … but that he didn’t care for the poor. Anyone who takes what should be going to the poor for himself might be guilty of this.
“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Prov. 14:31 NIV) This passage reminds me of the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus is the maker. “Whatever you have done for the least of these my brothers you have done for me.”
Why am I writing all this? I recollect that in 2 Samuel 18:23 Ahimaaz told Job, “”Come what may, I want to run.” (2 Sam. 18:23 NIV)
I looked up your favorite professor and mentor (the one tweaked someone else’s number based analysis of the Book of Daniel … and in turn others continue to tweak those numbers to remove his errors … (but according to I think it was the Dallas Theological Seminary website) he died after going for a run.
Proverbs 15:23 says, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!” (Prov. 15:23 NIV) So while Ahimaaz enjoyed running, it appears that I enjoy writing.
Let’s not talk about Joab’s brother Asahel … he died when he didn’t stop running!
Are there any examples of anyone in the Bible who died because they wouldn’t stop writing?
Just being humorous.
Also maybe it is kind of weird that I like learning about theology (truth about God) but I find that arbitrary words etc that people try to impose on scripture to define and confine God and explain God … while sounding very intelligent are rather boring because they (in my mind) show that people haven’t really grasped the fullness of God’s love.
If a loveless theologian concocts some theology of Christian salvation that totally misses everything Jesus said about love, everything that Paul said about love, everything in the letters of John about love … and we hold that up as our theological measuring stick … no wonder theologians are so out of step with general bible readers.
Has anyone ever read Martin Luther or Calvin and been confused about whether they were instead reading 1st John? Probably not.
John Calvin’s writing is extraordinarily clear… is like reading something the guy down the street wrote and does not have that feel of being many hundreds of years old. A part of PhD studies in theology (at least at DTS) is to be able to read French and German so as to read these guys (and other Reformers) in their original language.
I won’t argue with you if you are suggesting that Calvin’s writings are clearer than the teachings in 1st, 2nd and 3rd John.
Of course being a prolific writer we have much more of his writings than we have of John’s writings I suppose. I concede that I haven’t read Calvin. Still that doesn’t mean that I don’t have opinions on the questions of predestination that Calvin is quite known for.
And though not known as a pillar of love by the standards of our modern generation, Calvin may not have engaged in the flaming rhetoric that I understood Martin Luther to have engaged in.
Calvin, in the standards of our modern society, is judged for his willingness to have one of his critics executed. Yet after just looking into the person executed it appears he was apparently just as hostile or more so to Calvin … so I’ll withhold judgment on Calvin. Another area of controversy was in regards to Calvin’s position on Copernicus. On that issue too I’ve heard conflicting arguments.
Is Calvin smart? No doubt. Yet someone could have come up with a compilation of all the scriptures that deal with love, and made a much better theological edifice than the one Calvin came up with. Paul wrote that of the three things that exist, Faith, hope and love, that the greatest of these is love. Calvin focused on the importance of faith – if I understand it correctly based on how his arguments have been expressed to me by his many adherents.
Do you find that Calvin echoes the writings and teachings in 1st, 2nd and 3rd John? Or do his writings cover other issues, but not love as taught by John?
Again, I’m at a loss here, I haven’t learned German or French, nor have I read his institutes. I’ll likely take your word for it. If you agree that he didn’t write about the role of love much … you can just not write anything … that way you won’t have to incriminate him.
It is also a bit weird to my thinking that people call themselves “Lutherans” or “Calvinists” after the warning Paul gave about following men.
I do not identify as a Calvinist because of the man or anything about him. Rather, he historically is the one who best articulated the biblical position of the lost condition of man… totally helpless and dead to God. Understanding this, one is even more amazed at the love of God to still in grace reach to such to bring life to those who will believe in his provision of Christ.
On the particular topic of the sinfulness of man, I may not have a disagreement with Calvin (remember I haven’t read much or anything of his writings, … just what people have said about him).
However I do sense that I may have a disagreement on the causes of the sinfulness of man.
For one thing Paul somewhat excused himself in Romans when he said that there was a law in his flesh that was a slave to sin while he himself wanted to do good. So Paul claimed that it wasn’t actually himself sinning but that sin living in him was sinning. Now none of this is to say that either a sin committed out of instinct or some human drive is less harmful to others but God judges each differently because the motives are different.
Calvin had this quote. “Though Satan instills his poison, and fans the flames of our corrupt desires within us,we are yet not carried by any external force to the commission of sin, but our own flesh entices us, and we willingly yield to its allurements.”
A religious PHD friend of mine a number of years ago said something that Calvinists didn’t talk much about Satan. So I had just looked up “John Calvin” and Satan and found this quote.
I think that John Calvin is over-eager to condemn people. It reminds me of Job’s friends who kept doubling down in attacking Job. Yet I would imagine that if Calvin was up in heaven when God told Satan that Job was “blameless and upright” (Job 1:8 NIV) that Calvin would have been siding with Satan.
Also, I’m not aware of how Calvin would reconcile many scriptures with his attacks on humans. Note what Jesus said of Nathaniel
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47 NIV)
There is this brand of Christianity that warps God into the most monstrous brand of cruelty. There is only so much you can understand (all that old wine stuff being better than new wine).
If I offer a choice to either believe a straightforward interpretation of Jesus parable of the sheep and the goats as an outline of how Christ will act in the judgment or offer the teachings of John Calvin what would you choose?
Most people who grow up with Calvinist teaching don’t really know what to do with the parable of the sheep and the goats. Some other people who aren’t aware of Jesus teachings about the nations being separated into sheep and goats at the judgment … some of them reject Christianity. It is as if they understood the scriptures that “God has bound all men over to sin” … but they were never taught the part about “so he can mercy on them all.”
Yet Calvin wasn’t entirely wrong about people “willingly yield to [sins] allurements.”
I could get into greek words but this post will be excessively long. And if you are still at a point in your life where you think there is more theological stuff to learn … you could ask. As it is now you’ve got what you’ve been taught. You don’t create much of a problem with your current outlook. You’ve got a whole bunch of good things that you are trying to do. I shouldn’t wrangle with you over theology which you don’t traditionally have a burning interest in right now. If I’m right, you are actually “burnt out” on the topic of theology.
With all the great things that you are trying to do … have love in the church … create connections between different cultures, communities and races … even if I had some magical theological flamethrower that could erase all errors … it would take a lot of time to erase all those errors. It would also create a whole lot of stress.
Now just because I quoted the scripture “so he may have mercy on them all” – it doesn’t mean that I’m arguing God will have mercy on them all.
John MacArthur in a sermon or talk a few years back said that a hundred people die each minute and so that means a hundred people are going to hell each minute. (I’m aware of his positions because I’ve sent him a number of letters … and was following his thinking for a while.) I also acknowledge that John was exaggerating … even if he doesn’t himself know it. He is trying to be intentionally provocative. In his zeal to be provocative he forget that believes children and mentally handicapped people somehow get a get out of hell free pass. So if I bothered to write John MacArthur a letter he would certainly incorporate the demographics of how many die in youth or with mental handicaps … and change his 100% going to hell ratio. He identifies himself as a Calvinist.
I’m not arguing for the flip side of John’s position. I’m not saying that because scripture says god “will have mercy on them all” that this means all will be deemed worthy of eternal life.
So in summary, I agree with Calvin that God knows the future. I also agree with the straightforward reading of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. I also believe the people in the sheep and the goats scenario, are rather oblivious to doctrine and the teaching of Jesus. They are there wondering what is going on.
I also believe we as called Christians are like the laborers hired early in the day. Few people today are following Jesus as he really wants us to follow him. True Christianity is the narrow way. Few people today deeply grasp the truths of scripture. Even those of us who do hear the word of the Lord, we have to battle with the typical weeds of life, the worries and cares of the this world, and or the desires of other things entering in.
If we truly desire to serve God, we realize how much we fail and how fragile we are. This subject alone is worth a lot of writing. I mean if we are to truly “aim for perfection” then we become truly aware of how often we are failing … to adequately love both God and neighbor … which is the perfection we are called to … at least as scripture says according to our ability to do such things. Mostly we are like the poor widow who had nothing more to give. Insufficient time, insufficient ability, conflicting missions, even the apostle Paul wrote that he wanted to visit people many times but was unable. On top of this all, toss in a large family or a family with more needs and you have people being pulled in many directions making it harder to dedicate all one’s time to serving the Lord,
With all the writing I do … sadly I don’t get all the things done that many effective people do. “Oh what a wretched man I am …”