The Case for Christ Is Convincing!
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee. Amen.
The LORD God here promised His Old Testament people that He would send them a prophet like Moses, who would reveal to them His eternal truths. Their future would lie in His hands and, therefore, it was important that they listen to Him. That prophet was Jesus!
Jesus Christ is the “Word of Life!” John and the other apostles heard and saw Him and then declared His truths to others, so that the Spirit could create bonds of fellowship between them and with God!
Text: John 1:15-18
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
In Christ Jesus, the Son of God—our Savior and Lord, dear fellow redeemed:
Lee Strobel, a former atheist and legal editor of the Chicago Tribune but now a convinced Christian, has written a series of books in which he analyzes the evidence for various teachings of Christianity. At the end of his book, A Case for Christ, he reaches this simple conclusion: “Jesus was who he claimed to be: the one and only Son of God” [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998, p. 266]. Strobel then follows that conclusion with a list of eight “obvious implications.” If Jesus is the Son of God—His teachings “are divine insights” upon which we can confidently build our lives, and He “sets the standard for morality” thereby providing us with a foundation for our choices and decisions. If Jesus arose from the dead, He is “still alive today,” and we can have a personal relationship with Him. If Jesus conquered death, “He can open the door to eternal life” for us, too. If Jesus has divine power, He can help, guide, and transform us. If Jesus personally knows the pain of loss and suffering, He can “comfort and encourage” us. If Jesus loves us as He says He does, He has our best interests at heart and can be trusted with both our present and our futures. If Jesus is who He claims to be—the Son of God, then He rightfully deserves our allegiance, our obedience, and our worship [p. 266f.].
As Strobel reviews the evidence for believing the truths of Christianity in his books, he cites a variety of witnesses. Some of those witnesses are living today—experts in their fields of study. Others, however, are witnesses cited by those experts—eye-witnesses whose evidence is found within the Bible. One of those eye-witnesses was John the Baptizer. Let us consider the testimony of John this morning. We shall see that THE CASE FOR CHRIST IS CONVINCING! John testified that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, that He is the source of grace, that He is also the source of truth, and that, finally, He alone reveals God the Father!
Yes, John testified to any and all who would listen—peasant, priest, sinner, and saint—that Jesus is the eternal Son of God! He did so in language, which at first may appear to be a bit of a riddle. He said, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” Jesus “came after” John in two senses. First of all, He was born approximately six months after John. Consequently His birthday came after that of John—He was his younger contemporary. Secondly, you will want to remember that John the Baptizer was sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus. John’s ministry began shortly before that of Jesus. John came, the evangelist Mark tells us, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (1:4) and so preparing the hearts and minds of people for Jesus’ coming. When Jesus finally arrived at the Jordan River to be baptized by John, John cried out, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29),and so identified Him as the promised Christ.
John, however, also testified that Jesus was “preferred before” him. In other words, He was more important than John. This, by the way, upset John’s disciples. They were loyal to John and were not pleased when Jesus began attracting a greater following than did John. Yet John consistently pointed their eyes to Jesus. He told them: “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’... He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:28, 30). In our text, John then goes on to explain why Jesus was to be “preferred before” him—the reason being that “He was before” John. Jesus was born after John and His ministry began after John—but He was before John, because as true God He had existed from eternity! John explained this as well to His disciples at a later date. He told them, “He who comes from heaven is above all…. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:31b, 35-36). THE CASE FOR CHRIST, in the eyes of John the Baptizer, IS CONVINCING, for John testifies that Jesus is the Son of God!
He also testifies that He is the source of grace! In a rather astounding statement John testifies concerning Jesus: “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” What is Jesus’ “fullness”? The word in the original language refers to that which fills a person or thing up—that which makes something complete. At times it refers to a state of being complete. In what sense was Jesus full or complete? The apostle Paul gives us the answer in His epistle to the Colossians. He writes: “In Him (that is, in Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him” (2:9-10a). The fullness of Jesus is His divinity and all that entails—His power, His glory, His majesty, His mercy, but also everything He was about to and would accomplish—our redemption, our adoption, our eternal salvation!
In that fullness, Paul says, we “are complete!” Of that fullness, John says, “we have all received!” Received what? We have received “grace for grace!” Grace is the undeserved love of God for us. Oh, how we need that grace, if we are to stand before God…if one day we are to enjoy His presence eternal, rather than enduring eternal judgment. But what does John mean when he says we have all received “grace for grace”? That phrase is found nowhere else in the Bible. One student of the Bible wrote the following inspiring explanation: “God’s unfathomable love, which He gives us in spite of our unworthiness, never ends. We use some, and more takes its place for us to use another time. It is there to comfort us when we hurt. It forgives us when we sin. It relieves us when we feel guilty. It supports us when we’re afraid. It gives everything to us who can give nothing to earn it or to repay it. God’s love is so great that the eternal Word became flesh and sacrificed Himself on the cross for us. Jesus gives us grace in place of grace. We always have His love. We cannot exhaust the supply” [Gary Baumler, The People’s Bible—John, Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, p. 21]. THE CASE FOR CHRIST IS indeed CONVINCING, for John testifies that Jesus is the source of grace!
John also testifies that He is the source of truth! John stated: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ!” The two major teachings of the Bible are the law and the gospel. That is a very simple truth, but we human beings by nature cannot grasp the significance of either without the Spirit’s illumination. Many of the people to whom John was talking were either members of the sect of the Pharisees or living under their spiritual guidance. The Pharisees, like all people by nature, misunderstood the nature and purpose of the law. God had intended that the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai would have, as its chief purpose, the condemnation of sin. It was to serve as a mirror to show Old Testament Israel and everyone else who read it that they were sinners before God and deserving of His wrath. That sounds harsh, but it is necessary to break the pride of man and demonstrate to him his need for God’s promised Savior. The Pharisees, failing to understand this basic truth, made of Moses’ law an elaborate system of laws by the keeping of which they hoped to gain God’s favor and earn their eternal salvation. But as the apostle Paul so clearly states in opposition to that thinking: “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).
Dear friends, do not allow the common misunderstanding of men, that in order to be saved you simply must be good, undermine your faith, for you and I could never be good enough! No, the law of Moses was given to show us our sin. Jesus came to reveal the truth that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in His atoning work. Once saved, Jesus reveals in His Word the truth that we, who have been declared righteous, are now to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. His truth is to inspire, to guide—yes, to control our thoughts and actions so that they reflect the grace and mercy of our God! In Him is the power to grow in our faith and to change those tendencies that can and at times do control our lives, so that we might truly be free to love and serve our God and each other. Study the lives of men like the apostle Paul, Augustine, Luther, and others to see the transforming power of God’s truth as revealed through God’s Son, Jesus Christ! Truly, THE CASE FOR CHRIST IS CONVINCING, for He is the source of truth!
Finally, we see from the testimony of John, that He alone reveals God the Father! John concludes our text with these words: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” There are no questions of greater importance in our day than the questions: “Who is God?” and “Can we know Him for sure?” Is He the LORD God of the Bible? Is He Allah of the Koran? Is He Krishna of the Vedas? Is He “all of the above,” as is so popularly believed today? Who is to say? Who can say with authority?
John the Baptizer witnessed that there is only one Person, who can speak with authority in answer to these most important questions. That person is Jesus Christ! “No one (that is, no human being),” John says, “has seen God at any time.” The claims, therefore, of Joseph Smith and others like him to have seen God are false! In fact, as was explained to Moses by God when Moses asked to see Him, “No man shall see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:20). “The only begotten Son,” John says, however, “is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Jesus is the Son of God. He was, therefore, and remains omnipresent. While He walked on this earth, He was still intimately connected to His Father—God. He was sent by His Father and identified as “the Word” who became flesh and dwelt among us (cf. Jn. 1:14). His purpose was to reveal His Father and His Father’s will for us. He alone can and has done that!
Do not allow either the skepticism of this day or its many heresies to poison your mind and weaken your faith. Rather, look to Jesus. He assures us, that if you and I abide in His word, we will know the truth, and that truth will set us free (cf. Jn. 8:31-32)—free from falsehood, free from fear, free from guilt and shame, free to live and to love, free to be and to do all that God has planned for us in this life until that day that He has determined to deliver us from this world and take us to Himself in heaven.
My dear friends, THE CASE FOR CHRIST IS CONVINCING! Recognize and rejoice in that fact as you prepare your hearts once again for the celebration of Christmas! Then you and yours will be truly blessed! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
To God alone be the glory!