210718 In Him
I have often thought of John, the only surviving apostle of Jesus Christ, on the Isle of Patmos. The traditional understanding of his situation is that he was exiled by the Romans because of his work in the province of Asia. Which is located on the western shore of what is today Turkey. All of the historical accounts from the early years agree to that. John was responsible for supervising the churches and he had hundreds, perhaps thousands of followers who would protect him in the case of his arrest. So, I don’t believe he was arrested. Exiled is kind of house arrest. But a man in his 80s or even 90s would not have been posted to hard labor. We do need to remember that when a Christian is in prison, or exiled, it is allowed by God. I don’t believe God allows us to suffer without a purpose. So I believe God parked John on Patmos to catch up on his writing. There is no indication in the Bible as to when John wrote the three little letters that are designated as: first John, second John, and third John. There is not even a direct link between John’s Gospel and the book of Revelation. We do know that John was definitely on the island of Patmos when he saw the visions that became the book of Revelation. If you travel today to the island of Patmos you will be shown a cave where, it is believed, John wrote Revelation. I believe the gospel of John happened about the same time.
If John were not in exile he would have been traveling from church to church keeping them focused on what is most important. In Revelation John was identified as one, “who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Revelation 1:2). He must’ve had many thoughts about the need for another gospel. But he didn’t have time to write it down. Now, he is in exile. He can’t travel from church to church training their pastors. So he can write! I believe he had access to the Old Testament writings and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He may have also had the writings of Peter, James and Luke’s history that we call The Acts, or the Acts of the Apostles. Let’s use our imagination. John is isolated from his work as an Apostle. He might have even thought, “Why can’t I do what I am called to do.” As I said I can see him in my mind’s eye sitting at his table, remembering and writing. You see, God has sent him there for this very purpose. I believe he wrote the Gospel first. He did not use verse and chapter numbers. Those tools were added centuries later.
Without the numbers he began to write, John 1:1-5, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
These verses, along with 1 John 1:1, and Revelation 19:13 are the only instances where the Bible refers to God the Son as “the Word” or “the Word of God,” so this usage is not common. But it does indicate that among the members of the Trinity it is especially God the Son who in his person, as well as in his words, has the role of communicating the character of God to us and of expressing the will of God for us.
So John, sitting at his table, does not begin with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as Mark did. He did not begin with Jesus’ genealogy as Matthew did. Nor did he explain how he gathered the information contained in his gospel as Luke did. Instead, he began with “In the beginning” as Moses did when he began the Torah (Genesis) with, “In the beginning, God.”
John understood his purpose in writing. He put that purpose into words near the end of his gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31).
John’s life had been invested in introducing people to the living Lord Jesus and assisting those who believed in their spiritual growth. He was given the opportunity of presenting the gospel of life in the name of Jesus because he was an eyewitness. John confirms his status as a witness in the beginning of the little letter called First John. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
When I began prepare for the sermon, I intended to talk to you about what we have in Christ Jesus. John got in the way. I do admire John. The disciple whom Jesus loved. What an honor! Similar to being called a friend of God. Abraham and Moses are in that fellowship. (2 Chronicles 20:7 and Exodus 33:11). To be especially loved by Jesus would be one of the most humbling experiences I believe a person could have.
Now, let’s move back to my original plan and begin with, Ephesians 1:3-14, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
This passage is one long flowing sentence! In the original Greek is a single sentence.
Now let’s walk through the passage and see what it has to offer us as far as being in Christ counts.
In verse three we find we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Paul is definitely talking about more than the “stuff” we accumulate around us. Taking verse three out by itself could leave us confused. God definitely does not want us to be confused about spiritual blessings. After all, a little later in the Ephesian letter Paul tells us God not only saves us but he has raised us up with Jesus and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus! This is past tense meaning that it has already happened in the mind of God. Praise God! We do not serve a God who has to wait see what we will do. He knows the end from the beginning and always has. Ephesians 2 verse six tells us that we have been raised up with him and are seated with him in the heavenlies. We do not have to wait around and wonder whether or not we will “make it”! God’s promise is that he has already met our spiritual needs.
We need to remember constantly that our spiritual reality is believers in Christ have received everything we need in him.
In verse four we are chosen before the foundation of the world. Peter tells us that we are living stones and “you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5) This is wonderful and should cause us to rejoice! As living stones we are bonded to the building which is the body of Christ. We can’t be taken out of it because it would then fall apart. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been chosen to be holy and blameless before him.
Verse seven tells us in him we have redemption through his death on the cross. As for deliverance from bondage to sin, Paul says, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus … For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:11, 14). We have been delivered from bondage to the guilt of sin and from bondage to its ruling power in our lives. In him we are rescued from bondage to sin. God determine our destiny before time began because he loves us and wants to pour his blessings on us as his children. In verse 10 we see that all things are united in him.
In verse 11 in him we have an inheritance. And it is secure. It cannot be taken away from us. It is the best investment we have ever made. We go back to Peter who tells us that we have an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and unfading. Not only do we have this inheritance but it is kept for us in heaven and secured by God’s power. If that doesn’t make you rejoice you have no joy in you. We must remember that in him we have hope and that hope is in Christ.
As I look at the last promise here I’m reminded of sealed railroad cars. There was a railroad spur near our home and I often played in that area. I saw on each freight car had a piece of metal sealed with lead, or some soft metal. When the freight car was dropped off the seal told the buyer that his shipment had made it to its destination. There are now no railroad lines in the area but I observed that many of the semi-trucks have a very similar seal on the handle and it serves the same purpose.
In verse 13 when we heard the word of truth, the gospel and believed in him we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Nothing can be more secure than our inheritance that is kept in heaven for us.
I hope every one of you have recognized your need of salvation and have responded to the Spirit’s call by confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: StanPdard Bible Society.