For God so loved (a lesson from John 11:1-46)

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by rlvaughn, May 5, 2016.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    The Bible plainly declares that God is love (1 John 4:8). How true! But this truth is governed by God and his word rather than our vain imaginations and unbridled expectations. God is love in the way he means rather than the way we think. The sickness and death of Lazarus recorded in John chapter 11 is an apt illustration of God and his love, and how he deigns to operate in that love.

    The Bible plainly declares that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5). How true! But the behaviour of that love is deliberate and startling. This behavior should inform our expectations and overhaul our presumptions. Lazarus fell deathly sick. Martha and Mary sent Jesus a message to let him know. Jesus did nothing.* Lazarus died. If Jesus really loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, why did he not respond to their message and let Lazarus die of the sickness he had?

    1. For God so loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus that He stayed where He was and tarried even longer. When Jesus received the message of Lazarus’s sickness “he abode two days still in the same place where he was”(John 11:6), tarrying so that by the time he arrived in Bethany Lazarus was buried and “had lain in the grave four days already” (John 11:17).

    Our time is not God’s time. God exists outside of time and is unencumbered by it. Time is man’s master, not God’s. “…be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) Though God exists outside of time he manages it, operates within its events, and interacts with man who is servant of it. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), even “a time to die” with which Lazarus would soon met. Because “therefore will the Lord wait…blessed are all they that wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18) The day that Jesus received the message from Martha and Mary was not “when the fulness of the time was come” according to God’s calendar to hasten to Bethany.

    2. For God so loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus that he didn’t fulfill their desire. The message sent to Jesus was “he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3), and it was a desire of Lazarus’s sisters that he be healed. They could hope for it and believed that “if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11: 21,32). Not only did the sisters believe, but others thought this man Jesus could “have caused that even this man should not have died” (John 11:37). Though we are taught to believe we will receive what we ask God for (Mark 11:22-25), God’s will is the decisive factor. Prayer is no blank check to purchase every man’s whim. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) Lazarus’s sickness was not about sickness and death, but about the glory of God. And, frankly, often our expectations are too low when dealing with “him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

    3. For God so loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus that He raised Lazarus from the dead. Glory! This sickness of Lazarus was “not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4). Clearly there is something much larger operating than the mere sickness and death of Lazarus – an event designed for the glory of God and “to the intent ye may believe” (John 11:15). But wait! While focusing on the glory of a resurrection from the dead, we might forget to consider some practical ramifications. To raise Lazarus from the dead means he had to return from a better place – a place where he gained relief from all present sickness and absence of any future pain. This raising meant Lazarus became something of a “side show”, with people trekking to Bethany “that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead” (John 12:9). Further this miraculous event put a target on Lazarus’s back so that “the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death” (John 12:10) because he was a visible testimony of the glory of God and power of Jesus Christ and “by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.” (John 12:11)

    “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” (John 11:39).
    “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (John 11:43-44).

    “For God is love” and “for God so loved” are wonderful words, but words of love interpreted “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). By man’s reckoning of time, Jesus seemed to be four days late. By God’s schedule he was right on time!

    * We cannot mean to say or believe that Jesus actually “did nothing” – but that from the human perception of the initial events, he appeared to be doing nothing to rectify the problem.
     
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  2. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
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    Thank you, Mr. Vaughn. That is most helpful and encouraging.

    'Return, O LORD! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days' (Psalm 90:13-14).

    How long? Not long! But not long by God's reckoning, not ours.
     
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  3. Van

    Van
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    Speculation is the mother of false doctrine. When we add our "expectations and presumptions" to our understanding of the meaning God intended, we go off the rails. According to the Critical Text scholars, copyists "fixed" the text again and again to match their expectations. Our understanding of "love" is somewhat mired by the fact several different Greek words have all been translated in the same English word. God so loved the world (all of fallen mankind) in the same way He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

    A sacrificial love for all those separated from God by being sinners that provides salvation through faith in Him alone.
     
  4. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Martin, I'm glad you found it helpful and encouraging. Thanks for letting me know.

    Van, thanks for your comments, and observations for the Greek words for love. If you note the main texts referenced, the word used in John 3:16, John 11:5 and 1 John 4:8 is the same (agapao, agape). D. A. Carson, who knows a whole lot more Greek than I do, has an interesting discussion of these words (agape, phileo) in his book Exegetical Fallacies. But...

    Perhaps you may want to discuss love and the extent of the atonement? That's not the topic or intent of my post. It is rather how we as Christians often understand the love of God in a sort of "if God loves, then he will/must do X." This is most clearly seen in the modern Word of Faith movement, but all of us are prone to it if we don't exercise care and biblical discernment.
     
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  5. Van

    Van
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    I have no desire to go off topic. I think my post reinforces the point you made. God's love for us was sacrificial (in the verses you cited) and we are commanded to love the lost in the same sacrificial way.
    Or as JFK might have said, Ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God.
     
  6. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Thanks, Van. I wasn't meaning to chide you for going off topic. It's just that I had misunderstood your comment as your thinking I was on a different topic. But I see now that I misunderstood what you meant.
     
  7. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
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    Welcome back Vaughn... I'm not as learned as some of you brethren on here but I see in this lesson a double meaning, which is earlier emphasized in John... Not only did Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but we would have no hope at all if he didn't raise himself from the same condition... I am the resurrection and the life he tells Martha and earlier in John he makes this statement... Brother Glen

    John 10:17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.

    10:18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
     
    #7 tyndale1946, May 15, 2016
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
  8. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Amen, Brother Glen.

    Good to hear from you. Hope all is well out your way.
     
  9. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
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    Well the Lord has been good to me and I fondly with brotherly Christian love remember you from the earlier days and its good to have you back... We always had such great discussions and I see you are still inspiring us with Gods teaching and word... Brother Glen
     
  10. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Thanks, Brother Glen. I always enjoyed our discussions. I'm going to hope to get around here more and post a little more again, though I won't have as much time to do so as I did in the past.
     
  11. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
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    Well here is a partial part of scripture... Let us reason together!... You post when you can and I for one will welcome the discussion... Like the good old days Brother Vaughn!... Brother Glen
     

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