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John Chapter 14 – Connolly (16) Title: Comfort for a Troubled Heart – Lecture Title: Incarnate Faith

This lecture could have been given three titles at the very least  –   Incarnate Faith, Trinitarian Faith, Comforting Faith! Lecture was actually titled Incarnate Faith (I had written this on whiteboard and was picking this up from John ch. 1 – Word came in the flesh to live with humankind. This means “God’s truth and God’s life are incarnate in Jesus.” John’s use of “the way” is christological and “sharpens the claim to christocentric exclusivism. Jesus is the sole adequate revealer of God, for he alone knows God fully (3:13; 6:46).”

Sadly, 14:6 is a hot-button item and apparently, one of the most popular verses used by evangelicals and protestant christians to answer questions such as: are non-believers – non-christians saved? (they answer no; personal salvation is only through Jesus because of 14:6); will non-believers go to heaven? (they answer no; heaven is only for those who believe in Jesus, again using 14:16). Thus,14:6 is said to be “exclusive” because it excludes non-believers – nonchristians. In response, here are two different views
of scholars about 14:6:
1) Some who prefer to reinterpret the exclusivism of 14:6 do so in light of a particular reading of cosmic-Christ texts such as John 1:9.
2) Others note that John’s exclusivity is not a claim that other ways to the Father existed and Jesus closed them off. The claim is more universal than that: given the world’s alienation from God, there was no way to the Father, and Jesus provided one (3:18-19, cf. 1:10; I John 5:19).

For us, who are seeking to grow deeper in our faith, and not just follow Jesus but also to imitate him, ch. 14 is a “testament of Jesus.” This is part of his Farewell Discourses, Jesus is witnessing to the Father, it is Jesus’ last “will” to his followers – last set of instructions. Look at the context (John ch. 13-14) and the question Thomas asked, very closely. The disciples are troubled. Thomas is confused – what is Thomas really asking? Thomas says I don’t know where you’re going, Lord, how can I know the way? Jesus answers, I am the way…. Consider “the way”: Throughout John what do we see as Jesus way? Obedience to God’s will, healing, compassion, forgiveness, love, acceptance, inclusivity. BL: Jesus broke all sorts of barriers, ethnic, economic, etc.), and sacrifice (self-sacrificial love). And, throughout chapter 14 Jesus is giving them advance notice of his departure (so their faith can grow) and keeps turning his disciples towards “trust” – believe in God, believe also in me. It should be a matter of joy that I, Jesus, am now going back to the Father. So we have to be careful not to take John 14:6 out of context. We have to try and understand what the text would have meant to its original audience. Ch. 14 is about God coming to dwell with us in the form of Jesus, the Incarnation, and the continuing presence of Jesus in his followers. This has great implications for our spiritual growth. As the scholar J.J. Packer puts it:
“Faith-knowledge focuses on God incarnate, the man Christ Jesus, the mediator between God and us sinners, through whom we come to know his Father as our Father (John 14:6).”

How do we develop the type of intimacy Jesus had with his Father? In 8:29 and 11:42 we saw that the way to develop that intimacy is to keep his commandments – e.g. the love that Jesus has for the father is “obedient love.” The word “works” in the Gospel of John also means doing the will of God. Faith and love unite us to God. To do the “greater things” (v. 12) will require God’s resources. Last couple of weeks we’ve discussed how very hard it is to follow Jesus’ new commandment: Love others as ourselves. Now, we find that we have a “Helper.” We are not “orphans.” Even though we’ve never “seen” God, we “believe”. We experience the continuing presence of the Father and Jesus the Son through the gift of the Holy Spirit (14:15-17) (trinitarian faith).

The Spirit is experiential, not just theoretical, and has a distinct role. How do we hear and listen to the Spirit? In 14:26 we see the Spirit’s first function: to teach about Jesus. [In the other Paraclete passages in John (ch. 15 and 16) we’ll read about the other functions of the Spirit.] Finally, in ch. 14 there are great promises – gifts for believers besides the Holy Spirit. I referenced these very briefly as ‘”comfort” in the beginning (could have called this lecture Comforting or Comfortable Faith – our faith comforts us, as we trust in Jesus our faith-knowledge grows, our experience grows and we gain confidence). E.g. v. 27, the peace of Jesus (calmness and confidence) is a great source of comfort; v. 23-24, the Father and the Son will make their home with those who love Jesus and obey his teachings. Jesus continues to be present in believers, helping them become more like him. Our bodies are the temple of God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are not alone and we don’t have just Jesus or one “helper” (Holy Spirit). Instead we have the Triune God. This is powerful, heady stuff. Jesus clearly says he is subordinate to the Father (v. 28) (i.e. Jesus has chosen to make himself subordinate, submitting to the Father). Just how comforting is this? This is why the Apostle Paul was able to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This sort of incarnational faith and deeper understanding of the Trinity can and should give us total confidence in our pursuit of holiness – in other words, our goal to be like Jesus, to imitate Jesus, submit and surrender to God like he did. As we see, we have the most powerful resources  – not just ourselves – to help us be obedient and do what Jesus asks: love self-sacrificially, not be troubled, trust in God and glorify him.

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