The Majors and the Minors

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The Majors and the Minors

by Ray B. May IV ~ March, 2018

It has been brought to my attention, that with some recent statements I have made, I may have made some subjects confusing, especially regarding my stance on those subjects. So, first I want to state, for the record, I whole heartedly believe every point listed out on the Believe Better Ministries’ Statement of Faith. I wrote this statement and each word describes my personal beliefs. This is where Believe Better Ministries started. I wrote a paper about feelings I had about Christendom (the special word I use to describe the religion of Christianity as it differs from the Bible and from the people who actually follow Christ).

I wrote this first paper over the course of one night and made this new blog to house it. I wrote it early, early in the morning (between midnight and three in the morning), I remember it vividly as a Thursday night/Friday morning. I had just had a long conversation with a close friend and I was angry, so, I wrote this paper out of anger (not the best frame of mind to be in when writing). This was not when Believe Better Ministries started, but it was when the seed was planted. Believe Better Ministries didn’t really start until the summer, about two years later. This is when things started to coalesce into what is now Believe Better Ministries. This is when I sat down and wrote out my beliefs in order to make sure I would not deviate from them.

I feel pretty secure in not having ever deviated from them over the last three and a half years. However, recently I have written some things which have made some of my brothers and sisters in Christ question whether I was already deviating, or was going to deviate, from them in the future. I must apologize profusely for this. I have never, I repeat never, meant to make anyone feel as if I was moving on ahead (or passed) the Christian Faith. This was not my intent, nor my goal. I was deeply shocked when I received e-mails on this subject.

I want to use this paper to explore contending for the Faith, and, so, I have to ask the question: What parts of the Christian Faith should we earnestly contend for? I had a long chat with two of the Elders of the assembly I attend, recently, and one of them gave me five points of the Christian Faith which he said (and I agree) must be agreed upon to even call one’s self a Christian. (Being nondenominational having these major doctrines to agree upon is so important for it allows us to meet together in love even if we disagree on pet doctrines or other minor points.) This made me think about the Statement of Faith I had written for Believe Better Ministries. I sat down and went through it and most of the points on Believe Better Ministries’ Statement of Faith do correspond to these five points, there are a few (exactly four) which don’t but I still believe them and they are important to me, I digress.

The five beliefs we must share in common are these: The Bible, God, Christ, the Work of Christ, and Our Common Salvation. These are the five which there must be no disagreement on. Confusion? Yes, of course, there will be confusion. Some of these points (as we will see) are pretty confusing. A lack of understanding is rather different from outright denial. (We can – for example – be confused – as I am – on how the Father and the Son are completely one, yet, the Father could turn His back on the Son, or how the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit being one, could separate the Son from themselves (themself?) in order to send the Son to Earth.)

Let’s look at each one of the points now:

1. The Bible: It all starts with the Bible, because everything we know about all the other subjects comes from the Bible. The Bible is the inspired word of God (2 Peter 1:21), which He breathed out (2 Tim 3:16). As I said, everything we know about all the other topics comes from the Bible, so if we cannot believe the Bible, what can we believe about any of the other parts of our faith?

2. God: The Bible takes for granted its readers believe in a deity. Being the Word of God, the expectation is you believe in at least a deity. But, as far as the Bible is concerned the God, who is revealed, is the uniquely one, triune God. We are told time and time, again, our God is one (Deut 4:35; Ps 86:10; 1 Cor 8:4; Gal 3:20; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:15), but He is also triune, which means three in one. He, God, is made up of three distinct persons – Father, Son, and the Spirit – but He is not three gods, but one God. God being three is made clear if we read the Bible and the language it uses to refer to God. (See Matt 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 2:18, 3:14-17; Titus 3:4-7; Rev 1:4-6.) This triuneness is vastly important for two reasons: It is the very thing which sets God apart from other gods, and it is the crux of the matter, for with the Triune God being in a relationship (love) with each other (Himself) for all eternity-past (before the creation) He wants more relationships and so created us (See John 17:5, 10-11, 22-26). People can believe in any god they wish to, but they cannot call him/her/it the God of the Bible, unless He is the Triune God of the Bible.

3. Christ: The Lord Jesus Christ was the very God in eternity (John 1:1; Phil 2:6) who became a man in time (John 1:9, 14; Phil 2:7-8; 1 John 4:2). Because of the two natures – God (John 1:1; Phil 2:6) and man (John 1:14; Phil 2:7; 1 John 4:2) – He is complete in His divinity and perfect in His humanity. In his humanity He was anointed by God with the Spirit (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34) to accomplish God’s purpose. Therefore, He is the Christ (from the Greek Χριστός – Christos which is the Greek translation for the Hebrew Messiah (מָשִׁ֫יחַ – Meshiach) which both mean “Anointed One”), the Anointed of God (John 20:31, 1 John 2:21-22).

He is the Son of God (Matt 3:17; John 1:14, 3:16-18; 1 John 4:10), as such He is the image of the invisible God (John 14:9; Col 1:15), the effulgence of God’s glory (John 1:14) and the very image of God’s substance (Heb 1:3), subsisting in the form of God (Phil 2:6) and was equal with God (John 5:17-18), and all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily (Col 2:9).

As the Son of God, He came in the flesh with the Father (John 6:46 – Greek παρά – para loses a lot of its meaning in translation, it means “from the very presence of” or “beside, in the presence of” or “alongside, of, with”), and in the name of the Father.

As the eternal God, He is the Creator of all things (Heb 1:2; John 1:3; Col 1:16), and as a man who came in the flesh (1 John 4:2), with physical blood, bone, and flesh, He is a creature, the first born of all creation (Col 1:15). Therefore, Jesus is both Creator and creature.

4. The Work of Christ: Christ first became a man in the incarnation (John 1:14; Phil 2:6-8), lived a genuine human life (as recorded in the Gospels), and died on the cross for our redemption (Phil 2:8; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev 5:9). Then, He rose from the dead for our regeneration (John 3:6; Rom 6:11; 2 Cor 5:17; Titus 3:5), ascended to the heavens to be Lord of all (Heb 1:3-4), and will come back (John 14:3; Rev 2:20) as the Bridegroom to the Church (2 Cor 11:2-4; Eph 5:22-33; Rev 21:2, 9-10) and the King of kings to all nations (Rev 5:9-10). No genuine Christian has any argument about these aspects of the work of Christ.

5. Our Common Salvation: A sinner must repent to God (Acts 2:38, 26:20; 1 John 1:5-10; This word repent is a very important, while misunderstood, word, most believe it means feeling sorry for what I’ve done, and so they repent many times – every time they sin – while really it is a changing of who we are to agree with God about our sin (and sin nature), and so it is really only a one-time thing) and believe in Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43; 1 John 1:7), for redemption (Rom 3:24), for justification (John 3:18; Acts 13:39; Rom 8:1), and for regeneration (John 3:6; Rom 6:11; 2 Cor 5:17; Titus 3:5) in order to receive eternal life (John 3:36; Titus 1:2; Titus 3:7; 1 John 5:11) to become a child of God (John 1:21; 1 John 3:1-2) and a member of Christ (1 Cor 12:27). This is our salvation by God through faith (Eph 2:4-9).

Okay, all of this to say what? This is all to show what we should defend, or contend for. I wrote a commentary on the Epistle of Jude, and Jude’s whole point is for us to earnestly contend for our faith (Jude 3). These five points make up a consistent set of beliefs which all Christians – regardless of denomination, ideology, or creed – should agree upon, we could label them the Faith. These, then, are what Jude exhorts us to earnestly contend for.

The word in Jude 3 is ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnízomai) and Jude’s use constitutes the only use of this compound word in all of the New Testament. Jude here is actually putting two other Greek words together: ἐπί (epi) which is a preposition meaning “on, to, against, on the basis of, at”; and ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnízomai) which is a verb meaning “to struggle, strive (as in an athletic contest or warfare), to contend with an adversary”. Those two words when put together bring the meaning “to earnestly contend for”. The editors and translators of the NET Bible have this to say on the word: “the verb ἐπαγωνίζομαι (epagōnízomai) is an intensive form of ἀγωνίζομαι (agōnízomai). As such, the notion of struggling, fighting, contending, etc. is heightened.”

A heightened contention for the faith, then, against those “who crept in secretly” to teach falsities about the faith. The New Testament, again and again, tells us to defend the faith. Peter, the Apostle on whom Jesus built His congregation (Matt 16:18), put in his first epistle: “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason concerning the hope that is in you: (1 Peter 3:15). Always be ready! Why? Because in Peter’s own words: “Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Paul tells us to take no part in the works of darkness, but instead expose and/or rebuke them (Eph 5:11). (The Greek word ἐλέγχω – elegchō means both to expose and to rebuke, it is an expose as in a courtroom exposing something as being wrong, or someone as being guilty.) Paul, in his pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus) is very harsh on false teaching, telling Titus to make sure all Elders/Overseers/Bishops must hold firm to the faithful word which they’ve been taught so they “may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

I think one of the strongest passages about defending the faith comes out of Paul’s strong defense of the Gospel he preached to the Galatians (of which in Galatians 1:7 he says there is not actually another Gospel besides it). Paul says here in Galatians 1:8-9 this person – whether they be Paul, himself, or an angel from heaven – let a curse be on him! He is so emphatic here he says this statement twice. How much more emphatic can Paul be? He even calls a curse upon himself if he were to come to them preaching a Gospel other than the one he already preached. Can we mince words with Paul? I don’t think so, for Paul is the man who said of a brother in Corinth: “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5, read 5:1-5 to see full context and the extent of Paul’s words). Of those who are divisive Paul said to warn them once, then twice, then have nothing more to do with them (Titus 3:10).

To Finally circle back to where I started all of this I want it known I will earnestly contend (epagōnízomai) for these five points, for the Faith. This is part of the reason for Believe Better Ministries, and why it was named such. I want to help the people of the world to Believe in Something Better. This is where this whole journey of blogging started. I have learned so much along the way, and I consider myself to still be learning. I will put forth those doctrines of the Faith and cleave to my Lord Jesus Christ.

I will try to help you believe in something better.


  1. “Majoring on the Majors”, Zuber, John, 2018
  2. ESV Study Bible, Crossway, 2008
  3. NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 2002
  4. Recovery Version New Testament, Living Stream Ministry, 1991
  5. NET Bible®, Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 1996-2018,
  6. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Bible Hub, 2004–2018

To read the first article I wrote click here. I have since removed the article which gave me so many e-mails to wade through about whether I was changing my beliefs or not. As always if you would like to chat, feel free to e-mail me.

Episode 0 – Believe Something Better Podcast

Click Here to download this Episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast

This is a simultaneous release of this episode in audio and video. If you would like to watch this episode please feel free to click here.

This is the first episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast. It is an introduction to myself (Ray “RB” May IV) and my beliefs. It is also an introduction to the show itself. You can read the thought on relationships here.

We also look forward to hearing from you! If you would like to get in touch with us you can send us an e-mail here. Thank you for listening!

If you would like more information about the Willamette Bible Chapel click here.
More info on the Plymouth Brethren here.
More info on the Open Brethren here.

Just a side note it’s fitting this first episode is posted on my (RB’s) birthday.

The Epistle of Jude – Believe Something Better Commentary Series

Well we are excited to announce the first commentary in the Believe Something Better Commentary Series has been finished. (It is important for you to understand this is not the first volume of the series but rather the first commentary of the series.) The commentary on the Epistle of Jude is finished.

We are posting three things on this blog here today for you to see. The first is the commentary which has recently been finished. We are always open to hearing feedback on anything we post here and you can give us your feedback through e-mail or comments here on the blog. The second thing we’re posting is a set of study notes and an outline for Jude (as you will see the outline is in the commentary as well). These notes are based on the commentary and a set very similar will be made available for each book of the Bible. They are meant to be supplementary to the commentary. These study notes would allow you to have notes available while you study the Bible. The third and final thing we are posting is a complimentary copy of the Epistle of Jude (from the Breath of God Version). This will allow you to refer to this version of the Epistle as you go through the commentary or notes.

These three things are the first in many posts you will see in the future (Lord willing) giving you similar announcements. We do not plan on posting the commentary every time we finish one, but rather just giving a general announcement. We also have the books lumped together to allow for publishing.

We hope you enjoy this and we look forward to seeing feedback from you. Please not this is not the final layout for the commentaries, just an easy layout for it to be presented here on our website for you.

Jude to Come

So the Believe Something Better Commentary Series is about to have its first entry finished. The commentary on Jude is going through its final round of editing then it will be read to be unveiled as the inaugural entry in the series. We will be posting a version of it here under a creative commons license. We also plan on recording it as a free audio teaching here. We plan on putting Jude up here for you to see what things are going to look like.

As far as the rest of the series goes we will only be publishing the audio for free as well as notes and outlines. We plan on having these study aids available for free for everyone to download and use. The commentary series will be available for purchase as an ebook or hardcopy book with all proceeds going back into the ministry to help produce more content and upgrade the website.

All in all this update is here to let everyone know to keep your eyes peeled to see Jude coming out. We have a plan in place as far as getting through the rest of the Bible as well. We look forward to putting this forward soon.

John: John the Baptist’s Final Testimony (3:22-36)

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Part 8: John the Baptist’s Final Testimony (3:22-36)

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Jesus now leaves Jerusalem and heads out into the “Judean countryside”. Here in this little prelude we see Jesus and John the Baptist being compared to each other. This isn’t the negative comparison that world does, but rather it is a comparison of just the facts. Then we come to verse twenty-four and we get a preview of things to come. It tells us that John wasn’t in jail yet.

From this we shift the scene just to John and his disciples. An argument arises between one of his disciples and the Jews about purification, or the purpose of baptism. It is right here in verse twenty-six where the comparison really starts. This comparison is started or stated in a negative way. “Everyone is going to Him instead of us.” This is almost a complaint on the part of John’s disciple. Can’t you feel the thought going through the man’s head and hear his winy tone of voice? He’s thinking to himself: “If you’re really from God as you say you are then why is everyone going to Jesus rather than coming to us?”

John jumps at this question without even flinching. He starts off telling them that anything that anyone has is directly from God. This really is a call for them to wake up and start thinking. From here John again points out that he is not the Messiah and jumps into a beautiful metaphor for his and Jesus’ ministries and how they complement each other. His metaphor of a groom and best man eloquently articulates this point.

The idea here is that a man will pick his best friend to be his best man at his wedding. This best friend is full of joy for his friend’s wedding. How could he not be? The next statement is because Jesus “has come to His wedding” the best man has to step out of the spotlight and allow the groom to take the spotlight. This is natural in its flow. Of course the best man must step out of the spotlight to allow the wedding to proceed. If the best man stole the spotlight would he really be the best man or rather an opponent?

John the Baptist moves her from his metaphor of marriage, or a wedding, onto telling what he means. John makes a statement about Jesus twice, here, but only makes the statement about himself once. “The one who come from above is above all,” he says about Jesus, but the one from the earth (John, himself) can only speak of earthly things. Then John goes on to restate what he had said about Jesus, but this time pointing toward heaven rather than just “above”. John deals with Jesus’ testimony next.

Here John echoes Jesus’ words from earlier in the chapter (verse 11). He starts moving into a grand statement about not only Jesus’ ministry, but who Jesus is, exactly. “The one who does accept His words,” this person will put all of themselves “on the line for this one thing: that God is truth, completely and totally.” This statement points out what we have to do to really say we believe in Jesus. We have to believe “that God is true.” (ESV) If you stop and truly think about this statement you see: How can it be any other way? How can you believe in something that you think is a lie?

John moves onto material that Jesus, Himself, covers later (Chapter 5). John succinctly gives his explanation of who Jesus is. This is how Chapter 3 closes. It started with grand, eloquent statements made by the Son of God and it is ended with statements of the authority of the Son. “The Father loves the son so much that He put everything under the Son’s control.” The WEB translates this verse “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”

The final remarks of John the Baptist in this chapter reflect Jesus’ own in verse 18. This allows us to see the unity across teaching. So it comes down to one question at the end of this chapter: Do you believe in the Son of God, Jesus, or not?

John Jesus Teaches Nicodemus (3:1-21)

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Part 7: Jesus Teaches Nicodemus (3:1-21)

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The very outset of this chapter we receive an introduction that is quite different from the others we have seen in John’s Gospel, so far. He introduces a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a teacher of the nation of Israel, and a member of the Sanhedrin. (The Sanhedrin was the ruling council of the Jews, who were in charge of everything from politics to religion.) In other words we could say that this was a man who knew a lot and was in charge with that knowledge.

His interview with Jesus shakes him so radically that he later defends Jesus (John 7:50) and finally helps prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39). Tradition holds that he became a believer. He starts this conversation with an interesting confession, not just for himself but for all the Pharisees. “We know that You are sent by God.” This deconstructs the Pharisees’ whole stance against Him! The fun thing for me to look at is Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush but jumps right into the heart of His message, almost ignoring Nicodemus’ statement and answering the question that he is asking in his heart. This occurs in verse 3.

Nicodemus was understandably confused. I can almost see him taking a step back. The information Jesus just thrust his way is so vastly different from the rest of his knowledge as well as physically impossible. Nicodemus naturally points that out to us in verse 4. Jesus tries to move Nicodemus’ eyes from physical birth to spiritual birth showing that He is talking about spiritual rebirth rather than anything physical. Nicodemus, however, will have nothing to do with it.

With Nicodemus’ inability to understand comes a radical insight to Judaism and the belief of the Jews. The Jews did not see thing spiritually but rather physically. This comes directly out of their Holy Scriptures (the Old Testament). You can see in the way that blessings and curses are written: “Do this and you will be blessed with that; don’t do it and you will be cursed instead.” The blessing always being something physical (i.e. a long life, much wealth, much land etc.) the curses are also just as physical. It can be easy to see – at least in some cases – then why the Jews (even in many cases Jesus’ own disciples) did not understand Jesus. We automatically think of spiritual things, but the Jews? Religion was always physical to the Jews. One other place this can be seen is in their reverence for a specific location as where God is: the Temple.

In response to Nicodemus Jesus gives quite a strong rebuke: “You’re supposed to be the teacher of Israel and you don’t even understand the simple things?” This direct response is so poignant not only to this Pharisee, but any religious leaders. If Jesus were here teaching us would He say the same to us? “You’re supposed to be the teacher of My people” [the Christians] “and yet you don’t understand the simple things?” Could you answer Him?

This rebuke brings us to one of the most quoted and beautiful monologues that Jesus delivered. In my opinion it rivals the Sermon on the Mount in its content and beauty. He starts off with His iconic statement: “I tell you the truth” in other translations it is translated differently. In the WEB it is “Most certainly I tell you”; in the King James Version it is translated “Verily, Verily I say unto thee”; in both the New American Standard Bible and the ESV it is translated “Truly, Truly, I say to you”. This, in the Greek, is “Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι” which is literally “Amen, amen, I say to you”. This phrase is almost used as a punctuation to point out the reader needs to pay attention to what is about to be said.

Jesus moves onto expressing His deity (Godhood) here. How could He not be God if He is not only speaking from his own knowledge but from his own experience? He is speaking only from His own knowledge and His own experience as God the Son. Still Nicodemus (and many others) refuse to believe His words. His follow up question is blatantly challenging to the way that Jews think and their religious point of view.

From here Jesus moves into yet another expression of His deity: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven”. He is simply telling Nicodemus that no one has gone up to heaven except for a certain person who was there already. This person is? Jesus doesn’t say “Me, you ninny,” instead He gives a term that He has used to refer to himself throughout His ministry: “the Son of Man”. For Jesus this is as clear a statement of who He is as you are likely to receive. You cannot skirt around this to try and say “Jesus never said He was God” because clearly here, He is saying He comes from heaven and is the only one who can do so.

In the next two verses Jesus moves into a beautiful metaphor. Nicodemus, being a Pharisee, had the entire Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) memorized by heart. Jesus points Nicodemus’ attention back to the Torah by bringing up Moses. Moses was told by God to raise up a serpent on a pole in order to heal the Israelites after they had spoken against God and Moses. Jesus points to this as the same thing that must happen to Him (the Son of Man). This is for us to look to the cross and be saved not just from physical ailments but from eternal, spiritual death.

Jesus now says the most famous verse in the Bible. Many people, Christian or not, can recite this verse from memory. In the King James Version (KJV) it was translated this way: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The meaning of this verse, and the ones following it, resonates deeply in the hearts and minds of not only Christians but people around the world.

These verses, here, point out the eloquence of this particular response and in Jesus’ speaking in general. The next two verses I really like and they have really resonated with me. In the ESV they are translated: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18 ESV). These verses point out not just the purpose of Jesus’ Ministry but also point to the freedom from accusation of the believer.

He starts out in verse 17 pointing Nicodemus’ focus back to the Torah, again, in equating His Ministry to the blessing of Abraham in Genesis. In Genesis God tells Abraham (still Abram at this point) that through him all nations (or families) will be blessed. Jesus uses similar verbiage here to explain His own ministry. This is not just His earthly ministry, but the spiritual ministry after His death, resurrection and ascension. He moves from there to explaining the spiritual state of the believer. This is a great statement. We’re not under condemnation! The WEB translates that word (which is κρίνεται – krinetai) as judged and one thing that is just awesome is there is a period after it.

We are not condemned, Period!

Here, in the end of this section, Jesus explains what the judgment is. This judgment shows what exactly the human heart is like. “The Light came into the world, but the people wanted the darkness more than the light because the things they did were evil.” This is exactly the way that the human heart works. We’re given the most amazing opportunity and we turn it down in order to be able to just keep doing what we’re doing. We don’t want to be exposed for how bad we actually are.

For anyone who actually does come to the light. They won’t be scared because their work will clearly be seen for the work of God. That is who we want to be: Those whose work is clearly seen. That is the only place that as a believer we will feel comfortable. God knows that we will mess up, but because of His grace He loves us anyway and there is no condemnation.

That is my hope for my life. What is your?

John Jesus Cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)

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Part 6: Jesus Cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)

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We are now moving into Jesus’ first public Passover. What is the importance of the Passover? To answer this question we must go all the way back to the book of Exodus. Specifically we want to turn to Exodus chapter 12. In this chapter we have what the Passover is laid out in clear language. The Passover was when the Lord passed over Egypt killing every first born man or animal except those of the people who had put the blood of a pure lamb on their door frame. (As we will see later Christ is our Passover Lamb.) God later gave commands about this being a covenant between Israel and Himself, and the lamb was sacrificed to God to fulfill this covenant and cover the sins of the people for that year.

Passover has a special meaning for us because Jesus was the final Passover Lamb. The Passover Lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people for one year. Jesus as the Passover Lamb, gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin for all time. And so because of Jesus’ sacrifice during the judgment God will Passover our sin and read from the book of life. This is the importance of Passover to us as believers. During Passover Jesus goes to the temple and finds that the Jews have turned the sacred things into a form of business. This brings out His wrath. Why did this make Him so angry?

This made Him angry because these people were bringing sin into the Holy Temple (known as the House of the Lord). They were exchanging money (at a price) and selling animals (probably for more than they were worth). One thing to note here is that Jesus didn’t just fly off the handle, but instead sat down and methodically thought the whole thing out. We know this because in verse 15 it tells us that, “He made for Himself a whip of cords”. This is a task that He would have just done in a few moments but would take some time (maybe as much as a whole day). That means Jesus was thinking it out before hand, then, when He was done is when He “drove them all out of the Temple, along with their animals.” He throws over the tables scattering coins everywhere. Then He delivers the line that exclaims the heart of the issue: “Stop making My Father’s house a place of business!”

The next interchange is the first of many that takes place between Jesus and the Jews. The Jews (as recorded several times in the Old Testament; one specific time is Deuteronomy 9:6) were (and are) a stubborn bunch. They considered themselves right and everyone else wrong. This caused them to argue with everyone, even themselves. This is not atypical for the Jewish people.

They come to Him and demand what His authority for cleansing the temple is. Jesus’ answer is cryptic at first glance. He tells them that if they “destroy this temple,” He would rebuild it in three days. For the meaning of this statement and the following one by the author (v. 21) we must look at three passages. Let’s start systematically by looking at the Old Testament first. The first two passages are 2 Samuel 7:1-17 and its parallel passage of 1 Chronicles 17:1-15. This is where God makes His covenant with David (known as the Davidic Covenant). In these two passages (which some believe to be a Messianic Prophecy) God promises David an heir who will build God a house and whose throne would last forever. You’ll notice that the language of where this house and throne will be is non-specific.

In the time before Jesus there had already been two candidates to fill this position. These two were Solomon – who built the first temple – and Zerubbabel – who built the second temple. Both of these men were direct descendents of David in the Kingly Line. Solomon in fact was his heir who took the throne before he died. Neither of these men, however, had a throne established forever, and both of their temples were destroyed (Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC and Zerubbabel’s Temple in 70 AD). These two men had both been viewed as a completion of this promise until it was seen that they weren’t.

Now what does Jesus say about the place of worship? We find His words in chapter 4 of John. In verse 23 He tells the Samaritan Woman that a time was coming – and had come already – when people would worship God in their spirits. These words turn the believer into the house of God! This fulfills the words that God told David but in a completely different way than Solomon or any other heir of David ever could. This establishes a house for God that all human kind could worship in. So this must be what Jesus is talking about here. Verses 21 and 22 help clarify that really Jesus is saying kill me and I’ll be back in three days.

Finally at the end of this chapter we come to a conclusion about this Passover and one more point to show us Jesus’ deity. We have here a statement that points to Jesus being completely understanding of human nature. We know from other scripture that man only looks at the outward appearance but God knows the heart. In this section many see His miracles and believe in Him, but He is still keeping His own council. It says that, “He knew what was in man’s hearts and minds.” Most translations put it this way: “He knew what was in man.” This is a statement to say what I paraphrased it as. If it was the more literal meaning then it really has no meaning or purpose. But He knew what was in our hearts and minds.

He knows what is in our hearts and minds still He loved enough to come to Earth and die for us. Can you think of anyone who loves more? I can’t.

John Wedding at Cana (2:1-12)

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Part 5: Wedding at Cana (2:1-12)

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Now we get to move into chapter 2. Three days after Jesus calls Philip He is invited to a wedding. Not just Him, but all His disciples as well. This is a really interesting scene. Here we have Jesus, who has started His public ministry and His mother who was apparently helping with the catering of the party. This probably means that it was the wedding of a relative of Jesus. During this party they had drank all the wine and Mary comes to Jesus and tells Him so. This interchange is quite interesting and kind of comical. Jesus’ response to His mother is – at first glance – pretty typical of a parent/child relationship. The last sentence of Jesus’ response makes the reason for His response clear. “It’s not my time yet.” The WEB translates it this way: “My hour has not yet come.” His appointed hour of revelation was not yet here.

His mother doesn’t even respond to this statement, but immediately turns and orders the servants. Her words are simple and she gives the servants a simple order. Have you ever heard your mom make such a simple command but you couldn’t help but do anything but follow it? Mary does that here giving the servants a command to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus doesn’t question His mother again but moves on to the task that she appointed to Him. There is a lot of imagery and metaphors in the miracle (Jesus’ first miracle). We start out with the first verse (verse 6).

In this verse we have water pots, large water pots. They held about 20 to 30 gallons of water. These pots are important because they were used for something specific: Purification. These were used for rituals of purification in Judaism. Jesus then tells them to fill the six water pots. After they do so Jesus doesn’t make any loud words or calling to the Father. He just simply says, “Now take some to the host of the party.” The scene shifts from Jesus and the servants to the party. We’re told, here, that the wine that comes out was the best of the day. It’s interesting to consider if we look at this miracle through the last supper we see something interesting happing. These pots, which were used by the Jews in their purification rituals, were useless for such rituals. God comes in and gives his perfect Lamb as sacrifice and the Old Testament Laws are fulfilled.

In this metaphor we can see that man through his attempts to fulfill the Law was utterly useless, but we see the sacrificial of Christ (the wine) is miraculously added to the situation and the best thing happens: We are saved from sin and death. How great is that? After man’s attempts to fulfill the Old Testament (the wine earlier in the party) God miraculously sends down the best. Is there anything better?

John adds on a tag here to let us know that this is the first sign that Jesus gave as a glimpse of His glory. This is important as we see many glimpses of Jesus’ glory in the Gospel of John. In fact in the first half of the book there are seven signs that will be presented to us in order to prove Jesus’ deity and His messianic identity. The final statement of verse 11 is key to the premise of the book. It says, “His disciples believed Him.” This is important, because how would we find out about Him if His disciples didn’t believe Him?

This is His first sign to show us His glory. How great is that? What signs can you think of that Jesus performed?

John Jesus’ First Disciples (John 1:35-51)

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Part 4: Jesus’ First Disciples (John 1:35-51)

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Here now we’ve come to Jesus’ Earthly ministry. There is a short prelude to His Ministry. Just as the day before John the Baptist sees Jesus, but this time he is standing with two of his disciples. He – John the Baptist – repeats his words of the previous day and his disciples hear. Now why would these two men trust John’s words so heavily that they would seek out Jesus? Well discipleship – at that time – was not just being a student of a teacher. You gave up everything and lived with the teacher. You would believe them fully. These men exemplified this quality in this scene.

Now these two guys go and follow Jesus. They don’t announce themselves, they just kind of follow behind Him. One of these men we know the name of because it tells us: Andrew brother of Simon Peter. Jesus knew they were following Him, He was just waiting for the right time to talk to them. He finally foes by asking them, “What do you want?” Their answer is interesting in the fact that they don’t answer His question but ask one of their own. They call Him Rabbi – or Teacher – ask Him where He’s staying. His response is so easy and simple: “Come and see for yourselves.” They do. They go with Him and stay with Him for the rest of the day.

One of these two men – as we saw before – is Andrew the brother of Peter. Peter and Andrew were obviously very close because the first thing that Andrew does is go find Peter. He tells Peter that the Messiah is found, and brings him to meet Jesus. When Peter meets Jesus he is not called Peter, yet, he is known as Simon. Here we have something happening in the New Testament that we have seen time and again in the Old Testament. Simon is given a new name! He was born Simon son of Jonah (or John depending on the manuscript) and now Jesus tells him that he will be known as Cephas. (Cephas and Peter are the same name one is Hebrew and the other is Greek.) Name changes are important in the Bible. They mark people who have been called for a specific task.

I can think of a few off the top of my head: Abram/Abraham, Sarai/Sarah, Jacob/Israel and Hoshea/Joshua. All of these people had their names changed as they were called to specific ministries. What was Peter’s task? For our answer we can go back to Matthew 16:18: “and on this rock I will build my church and even Hell and the enemy won’t be able to stand victorious against it.” That’s Peter’s task to be the foundation of the Church. This was not who Peter was when Andrew brought him to Jesus, but this was the man that God grew Peter into. This is a huge lesson for us. Peter was not a courageous man, when asked if he was a follower of Jesus he denied Him three times. Just as Peter was grown into a great man by God, God takes us up out of our mire and sin and grows us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus.

We see Jesus calling more disciples to Him: Philip who goes and gets Nathanael to follow Jesus also. Here at the end of the first chapter we get our first taste of Jesus’ teaching. He shows us an example of His omniscience (all-knowingness) when He speaks to Nathanael. Jesus tells Nathanael things about himself that only Nathanael could have known. From this Nathanael recognizes Him to be the Son of God. Jesus tells Nathanael that He will do things far greater than just tell Nathanael that he was sitting under a fig tree.

In fact Jesus calls their attention back to the Patriarch Jacob and his vision of a ladder (Genesis 28:12). This was to show them that He was the link between God and them. It is not only to them, but also to show us. This is similar to His words in John 14:6. He is the only way! The link between us and God. No one comes to the Father except through Him. With these words of angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man like a ladder chapter one closes.

This is an important transition from introductory material to Jesus’ open ministry. With the statement that Jesus is the only link between man and God Jesus sets the tone for His ministry. What do you think this tone is? What does Jesus being the only way to God mean to you?

John The Testimony of John the Baptist (1:19-34)

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Part 3: Testimony of John the Baptist (John 1:19-34)

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Next we’re going to take a look at what John the Baptist said – specifically – about not only who he was, but also who Jesus was. This section is verses 19 through 34. Here we are going to get to see a lot of exciting things. Though John the Apostle doesn’t actually ever show the baptism he uses the Baptist’s own testimony to show it. We’ll see how the Baptist points out his own purpose on the Earth and then points out Jesus’ purpose. Finally in this section we’ll see the Baptist point Jesus out as the One he is speaking about – who is the Son of God.

Let us get into the text. The Apostle starts off here pointing out that this is exactly what John the Baptist said. The Baptist starts off, here, answering questions about himself and who he is. He tells these Jews (who were priests and disciples of the Pharisees) that he’s not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet. Let’s deconstruct this section for a moment. Why is it so important what this scene is explaining? First let us look at who John’s interviewers are: Priests, Levites and Disciples of the Pharisees (1:24).

Why is this important? Really it is important because John the Apostle is pointing out that these are people who should have known the scripture and known the prophecies. They shouldn’t have had to ask who the Baptist was. They should have known! They ask him multiple times who he is, but there is three important people they’re asking about. These people are the Messiah, Elijah and the Prophet. Who are these people?

First let us start with the Messiah. We know who the Messiah is, but what did the Scripture of the time say of Him? The entire Old Testament is laced with prophecy about Him. Starting with the simple fact he would be born of woman (Genesis 3:15) all the way through His entire life to the crucifixion as a substitution for our sins (Zechariah 12:10–13:1). Even the Psalms have prophecy about Jesus. It’s everywhere. The key point is they should have been able to tell who the Messiah was.

Next is Elijah. Why would the Jews think he was Elijah? Elijah was one of the greatest prophets to ever have lived. He lived in the 9th century B.C. (approximately 875–850 B.C.) and preached heavily against the pagan religions to which Israel had turned. But again why would they think that John the Baptist was Elijah? First it was because if you read the story of the end of Elijah’s Ministry he doesn’t die (2 Kings 2:11). And secondly it was because of prophesied by the Prophet Malachi that God would send Elijah before the “Day of the Lord” comes.

This is important to understand, though, as a prophecy of the second coming of Christ. This is because every use of the “Day of the Lord” is talking about the end times. We can look at several examples from the New Testament where we are shown that the Day of the Lord has not happened yet. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is on this very subject and in Chapter 5 he brings up the phrase for which we’re looking. It says “You guys understand completely that the day of the Lord comes like a thief at night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2 emphasis added). Paul is saying it hasn’t happened yet. So we can tell that this is the Second Coming of Jesus. Then why would the Jews think Elijah was coming?

The answer is they don’t see a first and second coming. They only see one coming of the Messiah. So what does the rest of Scripture say about being Elijah? Jesus, Himself, in Matthew 11:13 said that John was Elijah. This can be confusing because why are they contradicting each other? Luke tells us in 1:17 that John “will go out before Him and he will minister in the same way, in spirit and power, as Elijah.” So John the Baptist would come as a type of Elijah and fulfilled the prophecy about the messenger that would go before Jesus but was not Elijah himself.

Third is The Prophet. Where is the prophecy about this Prophet? It actually comes all the way from Deuteronomy. In chapter 18 God is talking to Moses and tells Moses that He “will put in place another prophet and he will come from among themselves. He will be like you, Moses, and I will put My words in his mouth and he’s going to tell them everything I command him to.” This is the Prophet they are talking about. Who was this man to be? John says it’s not him and we already see he fulfilled prophecy about Elijah. Who was he then? The prophecy seems a little open ended. It seems like it could include all the prophets of Israel except for the word is singular.

Peter thought that this was Jesus. In Acts he quotes Deuteronomy (Acts 3:22) and points it out to be Jesus. Stephen thought so as well in chapter 7 of Acts (specifically Acts 7:37) and he also quotes the Deuteronomy passage about the coming prophet. Where would these men get such an idea though? They got it from Jesus, Himself. As we’ll see later on Jesus said in chapter 5 that if the Jews “really believed what Moses said then you would believe Me too, because Moses wrote about Me.” This is Jesus speaking of Moses writing where we get this prophecy.

So the Baptist tells us he is none of the three that the Jews were asking about. Who is he then? For his answer he takes us all the way back to Isaiah, specifically Isaiah 40:3, which is the verse he quotes here. He says “I am the voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make the path of the Lord straight.’ ” That’s who he is: a forerunner or someone who comes before. A messenger sent before the Lord. The prophet Malachi spoke of him too. In Malachi 3:9 God sends His messenger who will prepare the way before God. This is who John the Baptist is.

These people either didn’t believe him or still didn’t understand because they go on questioning. John the Baptist’s answer points further to his role as a messenger that would come before Jesus. What he tells them is also pretty ironic too. He tells them that they didn’t even know anything. He says to them, “There is One among you and you don’t know Him. It’s Him who comes after me.” The WEB translates this as, “Among you stands one whom you don’t know.” (Emphasis added.) This is a very strong statement being made by John the Baptist. But why is it so?

It turns out to be so strong because John is telling the Priests, Levites and Pharisees that the promised Messiah stands among them already. That is powerful, because he is pointing out to them how ignorant they are. He is also showing them to be fools by their own definition (Proverbs 1:5-7). They’re not listening to instruction. John moves on to tell us that this person who was among them was so great that John was not even worthy to touch His sandals. The Apostle moves on to the next even in John the Baptist’s testimony. Here we have the Baptist specifically pointing out Jesus. The Baptist wasn’t just some exegetical teacher who spoke in riddles about someone who would come after him. He specifically points Jesus out.

First he points Jesus out then he refers back to what he had said previously about Jesus. It is interesting to notice, here, that this is the third time that this statement has been repeated. This is also one of the many phases that the Gospel of John and the other three differs. Matthew, Mark and Luke all show the Baptism of Christ (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22) but John’s Gospel doesn’t show us the Baptism. Instead he gives the Baptist’s witness of the Baptism.

John the Baptist was an eye witness of the Baptism, as he performed it. Here he points out the Spirit coming down out of heaven like a dove. John tells us that this was to fulfill what the Lord had told him already. John also gives us a summary of Jesus’ post crucifixion ministry. We can see this because John the Baptist tells us of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit. For now, though, we must look at the Baptist’s final statement: “This is what I have seen and told you, that this is the Son of God.” With these words the introduction to Jesus’ Earthly ministry ends and next we get to look at Jesus on the Earth.