Sunday, October 01, 2006

DG: Session #5: “The Supremacy of Christ and Love in a Postmodern World” (Don Carson)

We sand “Here I am to Worship” Tonight is the full orchestra along with a choir (looks like some 30 or so in that) plus the 12 or so song leaders. “Agnus Dei” by Michael W. Smith was next. The choir performed two numbers, the second of which was “What Wondrous Love Was This?” The we sand “And Can it Be?” Not so bad, these hymns and songs! We finished with quite an amazing corporate singing of “I Will Glory in My Redeemer.”

Dr Piper introduced Dr Carson quoting from the “Gagging of God.” He noted that he felt a deep debt to Dr Carson in so many ways.

John 17 was read and Dr Carson asked that all might respond with the words, “Thanks be to God” after he said, “This is the Word of the Lord” at the end of the reading. [It struck me tonight as we sang and read the Word how we had passed at least a couple of thousand Muslims in the convention centre on their way to prayers… and how the convention centre staff sits through all these sessions, many of them ignoring every thing that is being said.]

Dr. Carson began by quoting an old song. The song suggests we need more love in the world. But what love is this talking about? The song has just enough truth to make us feel good about ourselves. Jesus utters five specific petitions to His followers concerning love on behalf of his followers. They are interwoven, grounded in the Gospel and in God’s intra-Trinitarian love. They are profoundly bound up with the truth that God is love.

I want to trace out these 5 petitions and the ground behind the petition and the purpose of the petition. After we do this, we will think about what this means in the Gospel and in our lives.

1. Jesus prays that god will keep his followers safe (:11-12).

Protection from the devil. The reason for the petition? Because Jesus is going away on this the “darkest and brightest of nights.” He is about to go to the cross. His great concern for his followers, because they are not of the world and the world will trip them up.

2. Jesus prays that his disciples will be one (:

We know there is mystery of the unity in the Trinity. The reason for this prayer is Jesus Himself. Verse 22 is much the same. Further, so the world will believe that God sent Jesus (:23). This is missiological. As we love one another, we gradually teach the world a little more about what God is like. What Jesus is concerned about is the vindication of God – not so that the world would get saved, but “that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Clearly, God is concerned about the salvation of the world, but that is not the focus here.

3. Jesus prays that god would sanctify his followers (:17)

The reason they are sanctified is the truth. Have you thought how often that idea is taught in Scripture without saying the same words. Moses to Joshua. Psalm 1. Deuteronomy 17 closing verses. Romans 12:1-2. “You are not what you think you are – but what you think, you are.” Sanctification must transform what we think. He offers a certain pattern – as He has been sanctified. The Reformers sometimes spoke of positional sanctification – that you used to belong to the world but now you belong to God. The Corinthians are sanctified but they jolly well need to be sanctified too! What does Jesus mean that he grew in sanctification? He knew no sin. He was never progressively sanctified. By sanctifying himself he goes to the cross and effects our sanctification. They cannot be sanctified apart from Jesus’ work on the cross.

Jesus prays for the world.

4. Jesus prays his disciples would experience the full measure of his joy (:13).

The reason he wants them to have this joy, because he is going to the Father and they will no longer see him. But his joy was in doing the Father’s will. He prays these things now so they will remember them.

5. Jesus prays that his followers will be with him forever (:24)

This is part of a massive stream through the bible of God dwelling with his people. “I will be their God and they will be my people.” John 14:1ff Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for them. What is the ground or reason for this? That the Father loved Christ before the foundation of the world. The purpose is to go and see Jesus in his glory – not to have a big party in heaven. We go to heaven not to be saved, but to see Jesus’ glory. God has determined because of his love for his son that his son’s glory will be seen. Sometimes we domesticate heaven by our self-centered assumptions.

This is a most slim and inadequate treatment of this section.

Here it is helpful to trace out some of John’s themes to understand this.

1. The supremacy of Jesus Christ in the mediation of God’s love (:25-26).

All of this coming to know god is bound up with the glorious prospect of knowing this love which Christ has already known. 17:25-26 harks back to the beginning of the chapter. I cannot unpack this without unpacking John 1:14-18 and the theme of God’s glory. These 5 verses have 6 references back to Exodus 32-34. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us we beheld His glory.” John tracks out the glory theme – Jesus turns water into wine and they behold His glory. Again and again this theme is developed until you come to 12:23. Jesus is returning to the glory He had with the Father – but through being lifted up on the cross. “I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you” – John understood what this meant!

The very revelation of Jesus Christ is out of the matrix of the Father’s love for the son. All of God’s love for us is precisely mediated to us by all of God’s love for His son. When you think of the love of God, how do you demonstrate it. We are a family of birdwatchers and we love to see what God has done in creation. But if you really want to see the glory and goodness of God – then you come to a small hill outside Jerusalem.

How is the cross love?

McGill University had me getting to know a Pakistan Muslim. He was trying to convert me – even though it took me a while to figure it out. He asked how can there be one god when you say there are three? What is infinity plus infinity plus infinity? He urged him to read John. On a trip to Ottawa, they ended up with a Pakistani Muslim asking, “Where is Jesus Christ?” He understood that grace and truth came in Jesus Christ.

2. The role of Jesus Christ in the experience of God’s love (John 5:9f)

The Rabbi’s were debating whether or not God obeys the Law. The paralyzed man carries his mat which breaks the Rabbi’s interpretation of Law. Jesus replies that He is working and His Father is working too! He is very close to making Himself out to be God. All that follows this is Jesus describing his relationship with the Father. One more bit of background. For us, sonship is bound up with genes. But in the first century had another set of associations with it – the son ended up doing what the father did. You learn from your father. Jesus is called both “the son of the carpenter” and “the carpenter.” He is also called “son of Belial” – the worthless one.

Sonship is a functional category.

5:19 – the son can do nothing by himself… for the Father loves the Son and shows Him all he does… Does this language jeopardize Jesus deity? No. No Gospel is so clear on the deity on Christ – but no Gospel demonstrates the functional dependence of the son on the father.

8:29 – “I always do what pleases him…”

“Whatever the father does, the son also does…” This is a massive statement. The son perfectly reflects the Father. Because the Father loves the Son and shows Him all.

14:29 – Jesus’ love is demonstrated by doing exactly what His Father has commanded him. Within the Trinitarian relationships, the Father gives and commands. We must think of the eternal Father’s love for the Son before we can think of God’s love for us.

3. The exclusiveness of Jesus Christ in our experience of God’s love (17)

What guarantees that Jesus reflects the will of God so perfectly is the perfection f the intra-trinitarian love of God. The ultimate purpose of Jesus going to the cross is to obey His Father. “Not my will but yours be done.” He loves the Son, so that is why He sends the Son to the cross. He is determined that all will honour the Son as they honour the Father.

When justification is well-defined, the first that is clear is that god is vindicated. Then you are prepared to read John 3:16. The love of God is simply past finding out.

When Jesus prays for our oneness, He is praying for our mutual love for one another. A willingness to do whatever He gives us to do. We are modeling our oneness on God! That the world may know you…

Christians are so to love each other that they tell others of Jesus. This is gospel love.

What has this to do with pomo?

Many recent books suggest that the essence of the gospel is in the great commandment. These books say we must look at the teaching of Jesus to know the Gospel. This is tragic beyond utterance.

We used to say, “the gospel according to _________” We are all perspecitivalists. We just need to admit it. But they are all bearing witness to one gospel. There is no good news without cross and resurrection. The “gospel of Thomas” is not a gospel – it has no cross or resurrection! If you think the gospel is the greatest commandment and activity – you have sold out the gospel. Recommend you read, “The Cross at a Distance”

Extended quotes from 1 John.

I love because you first loved me.