How John’s Prologue Placards the Glory of God’s Son: 10 Things About John 1:1–18

john03Sunday we begin a new sermon series on John’s Gospel. Whereas other sermon series may need an introductory sermon, John gives us his own in his opening “prologue.” In what follows, we will note ten things about those opening 18 verses.

1. John 1:1–18 introduces us to themes that will run throughout John’s Gospel.

In his commentary on John, Colin Kruse paints two word pictures to describe John’s opening verses. He says that the prologue functions like (1) an overture that introduces an opera or (2) a foyer to a theater “where various scenes from the drama to be enacted inside are placarded” (John, 52). With these visual aids in place, he helps us “see” how John 1:1-18 previews many themes in John’s Gospel.

These themes include,

  • Jesus’s pre-existence (1:1a / 17:5, 24)
  • Jesus’s union with God (1:1c/8:58; 10:30; 20:28),
  • the coming of life in Jesus (1:4a/ 5:26; 6:33; 10:10; 11:25-26; 14:6),
  • the coming of light in Jesus (1:4b, 9/ 3:19; 8:12; 12:46),
  • the conflict between light and darkness (1:5 / 3:19; 8:12; 12:35, 46),
  • believing in Jesus (1:7, 12 / 2:11; 3:16, 18, 365 5:24 6:69; 11:25; 14:1; 16:27; 17:21; 20:25),
  • the rejection of Jesus (1:10, 11/ 4:44; 7:21; 8:59; 10:31; 12:37-40; 15:18),
  • divine regeneration (1:13/3:1-7),
  • the glory of Jesus (1:14/ 12:41; 17:5, 22, 24),
  • the grace and truth of God in Jesus (1:14, 17/ 4:24; 8:32; 14:6; 17:17; 18:38)
  • Jesus and Moses/the law (1:17/ 1:45; 3:14; 5:46; 6:32; 919; 9:29),
  • only Jesus has seen God (1:18/ 6:46), and
  • Jesus’ revelation of the Father (1:18/ 3:34; 38; 12:49-50; 14:6-11; 17:8). (52)

2. John 1:1–18 demonstrates a very clear chiastic structure.

In his article, “The Pivot of John’s Prologue,” Alan Culpepper makes a compelling argument for a chiastic structure in the prologue. Continue reading

Seeing is Believing: Returning to John’s Gospel

john03In the Spring of 2020, our church began a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. Little did we know that things would get really weird in March of that year, when the onslaught of Covid-19 led us to stop gathering for eight weeks. During that time and after, we looked Psalm 90–106 and Joel. Thereafter, our church studied Daniel, 1 Peter, and Proverbs 1–9, to name a few. Yet, it has always been the hope to resume our sermon series in John.

Thankfully, and under the Lord’s providence, we plan to restart this series next Sunday. In that sermon, I will give an overview of the whole Gospel. The following week, I will (Lord willing) restart a verse-by-verse exposition of John’s Gospel. That first message will begin where we left off in John 3 with the incredible encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Today, for those in our church or others who might benefit from a sermon series on John’s Gospel, I share the five messages that we preached in 2020.

Continue reading

A Grace That Endures: Eleven Words of Comfort in Times of Crisis (Psalm 119:25–32)

boat out at sea at dusk

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found, / Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, / And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear / The hour I first believed.

These lyrics are the opening words to John Newton’s famous hymn Amazing Grace. And they recall his miraculous conversion from a trader of slaves to a slave of Christ. And if you have tasted the grace of Christ  in your life and experienced the forgiveness of sins, the regenerating work of the Spirit, and the undeserved love of the Father, then his lyrics are precious beyond words. For in Newton’s hymn, we find a testimony of grace that recalls our salvation as well.

Yet, Amazing Grace is not only a hymn of salvation, it is also a hymn of preservation. For it continues . . . Continue reading

The Seed of the Woman is Born: A Sermon on Matthew 1–2

1920x1080 CradleWhen you preach a sermon, you never know exactly how it will be received or what responses it will generate. And this week, in response to last week’s message about serpents and serpent slayers, I received two pictures.

Apparently, adding a few snakes to the Christmas decor works out well, as it celebrates the victory of Christ. Adding a live snake to your tree is another story.

In this week’s sermon, we took up the theme of Genesis 3:15 again and watched how Matthew presented Jesus as the seed of the woman in Matthew 1 and Herod as the seed of the serpent in Matthew 2. In between these two rival kings, the Magi are presented as the kings of the earth who must make a choice to serve one of these two kings and not the other.

Matthew calls all of us to see the spiritual warfare around us and to choose wisely. Truly, the world is filled with the serpent’s seed, but there is one king who was born of a virgin and who proved to be the long promised seed of the woman. At Christmas, it this Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who we celebrate, worship, and proclaim.

And to help you see the connection between Genesis and Jesus, you can listen to this sermon here. If you want to think more about this biblical theme, I encourage you to pick up one of these books. There’s still time before Christmas.

Soli Deo Gloria and Merry Christmas, ds

The Seed of the Woman Has Come: The Real Reason for the Season (Genesis 3:15)

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15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
— Genesis 3:15 —

When we lived in Indiana, our parsonage was located next to the church. The church sat at 1200 North Ewing, our home was next door at 1202 North Ewing. At the same time, our house sat next to a snake pit. And to be clear, I’m not talking about the church. Rather, I am referring to the swamp-ish depression that ran alongside the parking lot, what we might call 1198 North Ewing.

Indeed, right next to the church building, the place where the bride of Christ would gather every Sunday, there was a nesting-ground for snakes. It was very much like Genesis 3. And how did we know that we had a snake infestation?

Well, every year, we had snakes in our garden, on our driveway, and in our house. And during the five years we lived there, I became quite skilled at picking up the shovel and beheading the snakes that drew near.

Now, why do I bring up snakes, especially as at Christmas time? The answer is that Christmas is often filled with trees and lights, but not enough trees and snakes. It’s like we get our messaging about Christmas from the Victorian Era of Charles Dickens, instead of letting the victory of Christ over the serpent be the reason for the season.

And so, to make Christmas more meaningful, I suggest we add a few pictures of dead snakes to our holiday decorations. Let me know if you have a crafty friend on Etsy who can work that up for us.

For as strange as it sounds to think about snakes at Christmas time, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 is why we celebrate the birth of Christ. His birth in Bethlehem is but the first step for the Son of God towards the cross on which he would hang like the bronze serpent (see John 3:14–15). And by keeping the impaled serpent in view at Christmas time we are reminded that the babe born in a manger is the Victorious Warrior who now reigns on high.

In truth, Christmas is a war memorial. Or at least, we discover the military imagery as soon as we read the birth story in light of the Big Story. In fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies (see Isa. 7:14; 9:6–7; 11:1ff.; etc.) we celebrate at Christmas the arrival (read: invasion) of God’s king entering the enemy occupied territory.

Accordingly, the goal of Christmas is not to merely coo over baby Jesus, but to bow down before him as the King of kings and Lord of lords. For it is the victorious Christ whose birth we celebrate. And we celebrate his birth because in his life and death, we finally see the head of the serpent crushed, just as God promised at the very beginning.

The Seed of the Woman

The first promise of the gospel, the protoevangelion found in Genesis 3:15, was the theme of this week’s sermon. And in that sermon, I tried to show how this promise is enlarged and illustrated in the history of Israel. And for those celebrating the birth of Christ this year, this sermon outlines how the birth of Christ begins to fulfill the promise of the seed (singular) of the woman coming to crush the seed of the serpent, and thereby saving the seed (plural) of the woman.

This is a gospel promise that runs from Genesis to Jesus and one that is outlined in the chart below and in the sermon entitled “The Seed of the Woman.” Indeed, as Christmas draws near, may we celebrate the fact that the babe born in Bethlehem is the killer of serpents and victorious warrior-king. Continue reading

The Supremacy of Christ: Living for His Glory and Not Our Own (Hebrews 9)

1920x1080-it-is-finishedImagine that you were writing the script of your life. In your story, the place was yours to decide, as well as the people, the problems, and the pleasures. As the author of the story and the inventor of your universe, you got to decide how you would do it.

So, how would you do it?  How could you write up something so large, so complex, so weighty? And would it even be possible to write a grand story without imitating the story that God has written?

As I tell my kids all the time, all the best stories—the epic novels, the literary masterpieces, the Jeremy Bruckheimer movies—all of them plagiarize from the greatest story ever told. And in God’s story, we find a God who designed the whole universe to glorify his Son.

And knowing that, it is not too much to say that the heavens above us, and the trees around us, and the blood flowing in us, all of these elements were made by God to play a part in the story of God’s glory.

Just the same, the sacred history of Israel is filled with texts and tabernacles, priests and promises, crises and christs (i.e., anointed ones) that bring us to the cross of Christ and the new covenant that holds it all together. In fact, when we speak about the cross, it takes the entire Bible to understand its meaning. And without all the Bible, we would miss much of Christ’s glory. That said, if there was one chapter in the Bible that put all the pieces together, it might be Hebrews 9.

Hebrews 9 is a chapter rich in biblical theological intratextuality, which is a complex way of saying: Hebrews 9 is an explosion of biblical glory, which brings together all the elements of God’s story—the the covenants, the priests, sacrifices, etc. And when all of them find their fulfillment in Christ, we see that the story of the universe has a place for us, if we will draw near to God in Christ.

In other words, the Bible teaches us to stop seeking our own glory or to use God to write our stories. Instead, we are called to see and savor the supremacy of Christ in all God’s Word and God’s world. Hebrews 9 helps us to do that. And this last Sunday I preached a message on this glorious chapter, as the culminating sermon in our series on the cross. You can find the sermon here, and the rest of the series here.

May the Lord use this meager attempt to declare God’s glory to help us all delight in the supremacy of Christ and to live for his glory over and above our own.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Passion of God’s Propitiation: How the Cross Demonstrates, Defines, and Diffuses God’s Love (1 John 4:7–12)

brown sand love text on seashore

In Plato’s Republic, that ancient philosopher declared, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its law.” Thankfully, in the Bible, God cares about laws and songs and he provided both.

Outside of the Bible, however, there is something to the wisdom of capturing hearts and imaginations with song. And it seems that for decades, the songs of our nation have been filled with love, love, and love me do.

From Elvis Presley to Taylor Swift, love has trained a generation to embrace love as love and love as life. If you go back to the British Invasion of the Beatles, you will find that in less than 5 years time, the Fab Four had four chart-topping singles with “love” in the title, as well as four more top forty songs with “love” in the title. And the focus on love has not abated in the decades since. Indeed, it is not too much to say that Top 40 love songs have formed the appetites and affections of our age, all the while obscuring what love really is or ought to be.

It is remarkable, then, that when love gets so much attention in our world, our streets are overrun with rage, our social media posts spew hate, and our love-seeking leaders are so loveless. In fact, while the market for love has never been greater, the supply has never been more empty.

Made in the likeness of a God who is love and fashioned to know God’s love and to share love with others, it is both ironic and tragic that a world hungry for love is so starved for the same. And most strange of all, those who are most adamant about love are often the ones coming up with laws to penalize others who don’t love the way they do.

Apparently, when individuals and societies seek love without God’s love, they will form new laws to protect and promote their idea of love. Sadly, these new laws of love jeopardize God’s holy and good law, erase true love, and secure a future for love that is nothing like what the songs of our nation promise.

In response to this loveless, law-filled pursuit of unholy love, we should ask the question: What is love? Where do we find love? And who gets to define love? These are important questions and one’s that God’s Word answers in full.

In particular, 1 John 4:7–12 gives a thorough, cross-centered explanation of God’s love. And this last Sunday I preached a message from this text: The Passion of God’s Propitiation: How the Cross Demonstrates, Defines, and Diffuses God’s Love (1 John 4:7–12). I pray it may be a help to all who are looking for love and looking to understand how the cross of Christ proclaims a message of sin-forgiving love.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Personal Reconciliation and Personal Subjugation: How the Cross of Christ Achieves ‘Cosmic Reconciliation’ (Colossians 1:15–2:15)

1920x1080-it-is-finishedSince the start of our series on the cross, one recurring theme has been the way that judgment and salvation are paired. In the Passover, God saved his firstborn and judged Egypt’s firstborns. At the Red Sea, God saved his people and destroyed Pharaoh and his army. Just the same, as I read 2 Kings 3 last week, I found this theme again. The water that God provided to save Israel is the same water that brought the Moabites to their death.

In short, God’s judgment is never without salvation. And his salvation is never without judgment. From the flood of Noah to the end of time, we find salvation and judgment. And in this week’s sermon, we saw it in Colossians 1–2.

In Colossians 1:20, Paul says that the blood of Christ’s cross is reconciling all things in creation. And in what follows (1:21–2:23) he explains how that happens – through salvation and judgment. In these two chapters Paul identifies whom the cross saves and whom the cross judges. And for us, as we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, we learn how the cross has cosmic, as well as personal implications.

To learn more about the cosmic effects of the cross, you can watch this sermon. You can also read about it here.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)ever Read: Twenty Lessons on Leviticus

imageThe Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)ever Read. 

That’s how I framed the book of Leviticus when I invited members of our church to study it last January. And this week, by God’s grace, we finished going through the book. Admittedly, our study could have done more. But for 20 weeks (Spring and Fall), those who were at first skeptical of Leviticus kept coming back to the see the good news proclaimed in Moses’s central book. Many even would agree that Leviticus is an exciting book.

In the list below are the lessons I taught on Leviticus. Again, they do not exhaust the book, but they give a general sense of the book and its message, with regular connections to Christ and the Church. I share them here for anyone who wants to know more of Leviticus. Continue reading

The Righteousness of God Revealed: A Sermon for Social Justice (Romans 3:21–31)

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The Righteousness of God Revealed: A Sermon for Social Justice (Romans 3:21–31)

No justice, no peace.

Know justice, know peace.

For the last few years, the theme of justice has filled city streets, social media posts, and more than a few church pulpits. Yet, for all the attention given to social justice, there remains an insufficient understanding of this precious virtue.

In Scripture, the God of justice, the righteous God of Israel, displays his justice in ways beyond the sending of prophets to decry Israel’s sin. Yes, the Old Testament has numerous prophets condemning Israel for their sins of injustice and idolatry. Just read Isaiah 5 or Amos 5. Yet, the prophets’ main message centers on the coming messiah and the justice, make that the justification, that he will bring (1 Pet. 1:10–12).

Indeed, justice apart from justification is a pronouncement of law without gospel. Not surprisingly, a world that does not know the grace of the gospel will call for justice based upon their fallen understandings of law. For Christians, however, when we speak of justice, we must begin with God and follow his Word until it brings us to Christ’s cross. For on the cross, we see justice and justification. And from Paul’s careful attention to God’s righteousness in Romans 3:21–31 we see what justice truly looks like.

In this sermon, I outline seven truths about God’s justice and justification. Of all the sermons I have preached touching on social justice, this is the one I would recommend to anyone inclined to chase social justice causes. You can also find an entire sermon series on the subject here.

In any case, when it comes to the contemporary cries for justice, we must continue to go back to Scripture to learn what justice is and what it isn’t. Hopefully, these sermons can help.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds