“The Teachings of John from The New Testament” from Theologian B.B. Warfield (Deity of Christ, God’s Glory, Seeing Jesus)

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The Person Of Christ, According to the New Testament by B.B. Warfield (excerpted)

TEACHINGS OF JOHN

In the circumstances in which he wrote, John found it necessary to insist upon the elements of the person of Our Lord—His true Deity, His true humanity and the unity of His person—in a manner which is more didactic in form than anything we find in the other writings of the New Testament. The great depository of his teaching on the subject is, of course, the prologue to his Gospel.

Gospel of John Prologue

But it is not merely in this prologue, nor in the Gospel to which it forms a fitting introduction, that these didactic statements are found. The full emphasis of John’s witness to the twofold nature of the Lord is brought out, indeed, only by combining what he says in the Gospel and in the Epistles. ‘In the Gospel,’ remarks Westcott (on Jn. xx. 31), ‘the evangelist shows step by step that the historic Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (opposed to mere ‘flesh’); in the Epistle he re-affirms that the Christ, the Son of God, was true man (opposed to mere ‘spirit’; I Jn. iv. 2) .’

What John is concerned to show throughout is that it was ‘the true God’ (I Jn. v. 20) who was ‘made flesh’ (Jn. i. 14); and that this ‘only God’ (Jn. i. 18, Revised Version, margin ‘God only begotten’) has truly come in . . . flesh’ (I Jn. iv. 2). In all the universe there is no other being of whom it can be said that He is God come in flesh (cf. II Jn. ver. 7, He that ‘cometh in the flesh,’ whose characteristic this is). And of all the marvels which have ever occurred in the marvelous history of the universe, this is the greatest—that ‘what was from the beginning’ (I Jn. ii. 13, 14) has been heard and gazed upon, seen and handled by men (I Jn. i. 1).

From the point of view from which we now approach it, the prologue to the Gospel of John may be said to fall into three parts. In the first of these, the nature of the Being who became incarnate in the person we know as Jesus Christ is described; in the second, the general nature of the act we call the incarnation; and in the third, the nature of the incarnated person. John here calls the person who became incarnate by a name peculiar to himself in the New Testament—the ‘Logos’ or ‘Word.’ According to the predicates which he here applies to Him, he can mean by the ‘Word’ nothing else but God Himself, ‘considered in His creative, operative, self-revealing, and communicating character,’ the sum total of what is Divine (C. F. Schmid).

In three crisp sentences he declares at the outset His eternal subsistence, His eternal intercommunion with God, His eternal identity with God: ‘In the beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God’ (Jn. i. 1). ‘In the beginning,’ at that point of time when things first began to be (Gen. i. 1), the Word already ‘was.’ He antedates the beginning of all things. And He not merely antedates them, but it is immediately added that He is Himself the creator of all that is: ‘All things were made by him, and apart from him was not made one thing that hath been made’ (i. 3). Thus He is taken out of the category of creatures altogether.

Accordingly, what is said of Him is not that He was the first of existences to come into being—that ‘in the beginning He already had come into being’—but that ‘in the beginning, when things began to come into being, He already was.’ It is express eternity of being that is asserted: ‘the imperfect tense of the original suggests in this relation, as far as human language can do so, the notion of absolute, supra-temporal existence’ (Westcott). This, His eternal subsistence, was not, however, in isolation: ‘And the Word was with God.’

The language is pregnant. It is not merely coexistence with God that is asserted, as of two beings standing side by side, united in a local relation, or even in a common conception. What is suggested is an active relation of intercourse. The distinct personality of the Word is therefore not obscurely intimated. From all eternity the Word has been with God as a fellow: He who in the very beginning already ‘was,’ ‘was’ also in communion with God. Though He was thus in some sense a second along with God, He was nevertheless not a separate being from God: ‘And the Word was —still the eternal In some sense distinguishable from God, He was in an equally true sense identical with God. There is but one eternal God; this eternal God, the Word is; in whatever sense we may distinguish Him from the God whom He is ‘with,’ He is yet not another than this God, but Himself is this God.

The predicate ‘God’ occupies the position of emphasis in this great declaration, and is so placed in the sentence as to be thrown up in sharp contrast with the phrase ‘with God,’ as if to prevent inadequate inferences as to the nature of the Word being drawn even momentarily from that phrase. John would have us realize that what the Word was in eternity was not merely God’s coeternal fellow, but the eternal God’s self.

Now, John tells us that it was this Word, eternal in His subsistence, God’s eternal fellow, the eternal God’s self, that, as ‘come in the flesh,’ was Jesus Christ (I Jn. iv. 2). ‘And the Word became flesh’ (Jn. i. 14), he says. The terms he employs here are not terms of substance, but of personality.

The meaning is not that the substance of God was transmuted into that substance which we call ‘flesh.’ ‘The Word’ is a personal name of the eternal God; ‘flesh’ is an appropriate designation of humanity in its entirety, with the implications of dependence and weakness.

The meaning, then, is simply that He who had just been described as the eternal God became, by a voluntary act in time, a man. The exact nature of the act by which He ‘became’ man lies outside the statement; it was matter of common knowledge between the writer and the reader. The language employed intimates merely that it was a definite act, and that it involved a change in the life-history of the eternal God, here designated ‘the Word.’

The whole emphasis falls on the nature of this change in His life-history. He became flesh. That is to say, He entered upon a mode of existence in which the experiences that belong to human beings would also be His. The dependence, the weakness, which constitute the very idea of flesh, in contrast with God, would now enter into His personal experience. And it is precisely because these are the connotations of the term ‘flesh’ that John chooses that term here, instead of the more simply denotative term ‘man.’ What he means is merely that the eternal God became man. But he elects to say this in the language which throws best up to view what it is to become man.

The contrast between the Word as the eternal God and the human nature which He assumed as flesh, is the hinge of the statement. Had the evangelist said (as he does in I Jn. iv. 2) that the Word came in flesh,’ it would have been the continuity through the change which would have been most emphasized. When he says rather that the Word became flesh, while the continuity of the personal subject is, of course, intimated, it is the reality and the completeness of the humanity assumed which is made most prominent.

That in becoming flesh the Word did not cease to be what He was before entering upon this new sphere of experiences, the evangelist does not leave, however, to mere suggestion. The glory of the Word was so far from quenched, in his view, by His becoming flesh, that he gives us at once to understand that it was rather as ‘trailing clouds of glory’ that He came. ‘And the Word became flesh,’ he says, and immediately adds: ‘and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth’ (i. 14).

The language is colored by reminiscences from the Tabernacle, in which the Glory of God, the Shekinah, dwelt. The flesh of Our Lord became, on its assumption by the Word, the Temple of God on earth (cf. Jn. ii. 19), and the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. John tells us expressly that this glory was visible, that it was precisely what was appropriate to the Son of God as such. ‘And we beheld his glory,’ he says; not divined it, or inferred it, but perceived it. It was open to sight, and the actual object of observation. Jesus Christ was obviously more than man; He was obviously God.

His actually observed glory, John tells us further, was a ‘glory as of the only begotten from the Father.’ It was unique; nothing like it was ever seen in another, And its uniqueness consisted precisely in its consonance with what the unique Son of God, sent forth from the Father, would naturally have; men recognized and could not but recognize in Jesus Christ the unique Son of God. When this unique Son of God is further described as ‘full of grace and truth,’ the elements of His manifested glory are not to be supposed to be exhausted by this description (cf. ii. 11). Certain items of it only are singled out for particular mention. The visible glory of the incarnated Word was such a glory as the unique Son of God, sent forth from the Father, who was full of grace and truth, would naturally manifest.

That nothing should be lacking to the declaration of the continuity of all that belongs to the Word as such into this new sphere of existence, and its full manifestation through the veil of His flesh, John adds at the close of his exposition the remarkable sentence: ‘As for God, no one has even yet seen him; God only begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father—He hath declared him’ (i. 18 in.).

It is the incarnate Word which is here called ‘only begotten God.’ The absence of the article with this designation is doubtless due to its parallelism with the word ‘God’ which stands at the head of the corresponding clause. The effect of its absence is to throw up into emphasis the quality rather than the mere individuality of the person so designated. The adjective ‘only begotten’ conveys the idea, not of derivation and subordination, but of uniqueness and consubstantiality: Jesus is all that God is, and He alone is this. Of this ‘only begotten God’ it is now declared that He ‘is’—not ‘was,’ the state is not one which has been left behind at the incarnation, but one which continues uninterrupted and unmodified— ‘into ‘—not merely ‘in’—’the bosom of the Father’—that is to say, He continues in the most intimate and complete communion with the Father. Though now incarnate, He is still ‘with God’ in the full sense of the external relation intimated.

This being true, He has much more than seen God, and is fully able to ‘interpret’ God to men. Though no one has ever yet seen God, yet he who has seen Jesus Christ, ‘God only begotten,’ has seen the Father (cf. xiv. 9; xii. 45).

In this remarkable sentence there is asserted in the most direct manner the full Deity of the incarnate Word, and the continuity of His life as such in His incarnate life; thus He is fitted to be the absolute revelation of God to man.

This condensed statement of the whole doctrine of the in-carnation is only the prologue to a historical treatise. The historical treatise which it introduces, naturally, is written from the point of view of its prologue. Its object is to present Jesus Christ in His historical manifestation, as obviously the Son of God in flesh. ‘These are written,’ the Gospel testifies, ‘that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’ (xx. 31); that Jesus who came as a man (i. 30) was thoroughly known in His human origin (vii. 27), confessed Himself man (viii. 40), and died as a man dies (xix. 5), was, nevertheless, not only the Messiah, the Sent of God, the fulfiller of all the Divine promises of redemption, but also the very Son of God, that God only begotten, who, abiding in the bosom of the Father, is His sole adequate interpreter.

From the beginning of the Gospel onward, this purpose is pursued: Jesus is pictured as ever, while truly man, yet manifesting Himself as equally truly God, until the veil which covered the eyes of His followers was wholly lifted, and He is greeted as both Lord and God (xx. 28). But though it is the prime purpose of this Gospel to exhibit the Divinity of the man Jesus, no obscuration of His manhood is involved. It is the Deity of the man Jesus which is insisted on, but the true manhood of Jesus is as prominent in the representation as in any other portion of the New Testament. Nor is any effacement of the humiliation of His earthly life involved. For the Son of man to come from heaven was a descent (iii. 13), and the mission which He came to fulfill was a mission of contest and conflict, of suffering and death. He brought His glory with Him (i. 14), but the glory that was His on earth (xvii. 22) was not all the glory which He had had with the Father before the world was, and to which, after His work was done, He should return (xvii. 5). Here too the glory of the celestial is one and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

In any event, John has no difficulty in presenting the life of Our Lord on earth as the life of God in flesh, and in insisting at once on the glory that belongs to Him as God and on the humiliation which is brought to Him by the flesh. It is distinctly a duplex life which he ascribes to Christ, and he attributes to Him without embarrassment all the powers and modes of activity appropriate on the one hand to Deity and on the other to sinless (Jn. vii. 46; cf. xiv. 30; I Jn. iii. 5) human nature. In a true sense his portrait of Our Lord is a dramatization of the God-man which he presents to our contemplation in his prologue.

Benjamin B. Warfield

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“Is Spiritual Transformation Really Possible? by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D. Min. (repentance, faith, redemption)

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Is Spiritual Transformation Really Possible?

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
President Emeritus of the C.S. Lewis Institute

source: From the Fall 2019 issue of Knowing & Doing: C.S. Lewis Institute

My answer to the question above is an emphatic yes! Let me briefly tell you a story that illustrates why.

  In June of this year, I retired as vice president of the C.S. Lewis Institute and director of the Washington Area C.S. Lewis Fellows program, a role I had filled for nine years. Prior to that, I had served for twelve years as president. Before coming to the Institute, I was copastor of an interracial church and, even earlier, was in campus ministry. That profile sounds normal enough.
  But here’s the backstory. I was a white teenager in the deep South who came of age in the early 1960s, just as the civil rights movement was gathering momentum. Society was in turmoil as the federal government implemented court-ordered desegregation plans in the public schools. I became very angry about the changes in my high school and began to read racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in literature that was being circulated on campus. Soon I met those who were distributing the material. This led to a process of indoctrination into far-right ideology that would eventually have tragic consequences for me and others.

  My anger grew into hatred for black people, Jews, liberals, and communists — people I saw as enemies of God, America, and the southern way of life. By my early twenties, my hatred had led me to become involved with the most violent right-wing terrorist organization in America at the time, Mississippi’s White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. One night, an accomplice and I were ambushed by a police SWAT team as we attempted to bomb the home of a Jewish businessman. My accomplice was killed, and I was so badly wounded that doctors gave me only forty-five minutes to live.

  Miraculously I survived my injuries and was later tried and sentenced to thirty years in prison. But I had learned nothing from my experiences; about six months after entering prison, I escaped with two other inmates, intending to resume my activities. But a couple of days later, another SWAT team found me and my accomplices, one of whom was killed in the barrage of gunfire. Had the man who was killed not relieved me early from lookout duty, I would have been the one who died.

  Back in prison, I was confined to a six-by-nine-foot cell in the maximum security unit. To escape the boredom of being locked up alone twenty-four hours a day, I began to read almost continuously. At first, it was racist, anti-Semitic books, which reinforced my extremist beliefs. Then, unexpectedly, my interest shifted to classical philosophy — Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. This led to an intellectual awakening and a search for truth and self-understanding that eventually took me to the New Testament. Through reading the Gospels, I discovered the truth I was seeking in the person of Jesus Christ. I was particularly stuck when I read, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt.16:26).1 Under conviction of my sins, I was brought to repentance and faith and trusted my life to Christ in wholehearted surrender.

  The next morning, I awoke with three strong desires in my heart: to read the Bible, to pray, and to live for God. As the apostle Paul had said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). These desires were characteristic of that change. ( : LW )

And so was the love that replaced racial and ethnic hatred in my heart. Hours of daily Bible reading fed these changes and helped fuel the beginnings of spiritual transformation. It also stimulated the desire for a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and an interest in theology and apologetics. It was here that I first encountered the works of C.S. Lewis — books such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, among others. The works of Lewis were formative in my thinking and would continue to be so for many years to come. Other writers also had a major impact on me — Louis Berkhof, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.I. Packer, John Stott, Andrew Murray, Thomas à Kempis, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to name a few. Two years of extensive daily Bible reading and the study of Christian classics helped me develop a solid foundation in the faith.

  Fast forwarding a bit, after serving eight years in prison, a near miraculous set of circumstances opened the door for me to be released from prison to attend the University of Mississippi. At the age of twenty-nine, I was now eager to prepare myself to serve God in some way, and I gave myself to my studies with diligence. I also became part of a good church, where I could experience weekly worship, teaching, and fellowship. This helped accelerate my spiritual growth. Later I moved to the Washington, D.C., area and eventually went to seminary, earning a master’s degree and later a doctoral degree. Along the way, doors opened for me to serve God in campus ministry, then pastoral ministry, and finally at the C.S. Lewis Institute.

  It has been almost fifty years since I met Jesus in that prison cell. Over those years, God has been steadily working in my life, helping me to change — to become more like Jesus. It hasn’t been quick, and it hasn’t always been easy. There have been temptations, trials and tribulations, some of which I overcame and others I failed. There have been ups and downs, twists and turns along the way. And there have been painful sorrows to endure. But through it all, there have been many joys and blessings from God’s generous hand. His grace has truly been sufficient for me. And He has patiently, lovingly kept calling me to “come further up, come further in.” I still have a long way to go, for it is a lifelong journey, but I am thankful for the progress made thus far by God’s grace. That is why I can say without hesitation that spiritual transformation is certainly possible. Not only is it possible; it is unquestionably God’s agenda for each of His children, for He intends that we “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
So in spite of the challenges and difficulties of the transformation process,

we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17–18)

  Such transformation is not just for the few. It is for everyone who really wants it, even the worst of people, as I once was. History is full of examples of notorious sinners who have been transformed by Jesus Christ. Think of the apostle Paul, a violent religious extremist; Augustine, a pagan philosopher and sex addict; Francis of Assisi, a rich playboy. More recently, C.S. Lewis was a convinced atheist, and Chuck Colson was a ruthless political operative. It is also for ordinary people who have not been saved, including those church people who make professions of faith and believe they are Christians but whose lives have never changed. (This is a major reason throughout history why people don’t believe Christian faith changes people in a positive way.)

  If you long for this — if you really want to become more like Jesus — cry out to God with a sincere heart. He will help you. The first step for everyone is repentance and faith. That is, to recognize and turn from your sins to Jesus Christ and trust Him as your Savior and Lord. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30). He is the only way to God: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
If you have been born again, your next step is clear: with gratitude to God for His grace and love, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). This means giving yourself to Him wholeheartedly, body and soul, holding back nothing. It is a surrender to God’s love and a commitment to pleasing Him through joyful obedience to His will. This launches the process of transformation, and you will need to reaffirm it daily. The process moves forward as we take the necessary initiative: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). This involves forsaking the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the fallen world and seeking the renewal of our minds through earnest engagement with the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the people of God. Our goal in doing so is to develop the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5–8), our Savior, Lord and great High Priest. And as we walk this path through life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). 



Notes:
1  Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are English Standard Version.

Tom Tarrants is President Emeritus of the C.S. Lewis Institute. After serving twelve years as president and nine years as vice President, he retired from his position as Vice President for Ministry and Director, Washington Area Fellows Program, with CSLI in June 2019.  Tom holds a Master of Divinity Degree, as well as a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Christian Spirituality. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Church Alliance and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Going forward, Tom will be spending his time writing, mentoring, consulting and traveling. His life story is told in Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Recommended Reading:
Thomas A. Tarrants, Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love: How a Violent Klansman Became a Champion of Racial Reconciliation (Thomas Nelson, 2019)

From L.Willows: I am so honored to have personally met Dr. Tarrants through his extensive ministry at the C.S. Lewis Institute and beyond. I have witnessed the strength of his faith, the expanse of its impact and the depth of his humility. I look forward to reading this book.

“Recieve His Rest”, from L.Willows with scripture (heal, pray, God’s comfort)

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I met someone who was deeply broken-hearted. I had known her for a while without knowing but after a deeper conversation, she shared her heart. We talked about sharing our hearts and burdens with Jesus and what that looks like. When our hearts become heavy or weary, there is one sure place that we can go for respite, we can go to The Lord. It is a hope that I turn to in times of greatest need, one that has been the anchor of strength and comfort.

The Lord knows our hearts and can see every part of us, even in-between the parts of the parts (as my Pastor said on Sunday). More, this One gazes towards us with such great love, we are drawn near to his heart; warmed by the Light of His Spirit and called by His Father to be comforted and filled with tender mercy.

This is no ordinary rest, no ordinary peace. It is the love and comfort of God. It is like the warm embrace that a child receives when he or she asks to be received by their father. It is hope answered. It is the gentle reprieve that bends to receive each of our hearts on the most burdensome days of our lives. Jesus is able to see, know and reach into our hearts beyond words that we may or may not be able to form and respond with love and wisdom.

Even if you don’t think that you know how to “go to the Lord in prayer”, it is possible to take your heart to him at this moment. Simply find a quiet place. Ask in His Name. Believe in Him. Tell Him what is on your heart. Start with the first things that come to mind like you are speaking to a friend that is very near. (If you have trouble speaking it, try singing it.) Listen to a song. Then start again. Some of us have difficulty asking for help and before praying need to practice saying “Lord, help me”. That is a prayer too.

We walk in God’s joy; filled by his Love as his sons and daughters. We have a near and merciful Sheperd that seeks to unburden us. He says, “Come to me” with a promise of rest.

Knowing that we can go to God for rest and comfort is one of the greatest gifts that we are given. Scripture encourages us. We are given these promises:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Isaiah 40:11

A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isaiah 42:3-4

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isaiah 57:15

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;
Isaiah 61:1-3

I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy I will feed them with judgment.
Ezekiel 34:16

 

© 2019 Linda Willows

“This, but a Moment”, a Praise poem from L.Willows (joy, His glory)

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This, but a Moment

Do you see what I see
in the slant of sun’s crest?
Do you hear all Gods’ beauty in the colors that rest?

Greens in the hollow of deepening curves,
Mint mists that follow the whispering birds.
Blue touches with promise, they hover above,
almost embracing, covering like love.

There in the fields, I see buds lifted sweet-
colored like honey, rising to greet.
All in the midst of the afternoon sun,
this but a moment, a glorious one.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11