February 9th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Jhn 10:22-42 ESV] 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. 40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.
What is the likelihood of a Christian persevering to the very end? Many forces are arrayed against the Christian. The schools teach atheism. The media teaches immorality. The culture teaches relativsm. There is pressure to capitulate coming from all directions.
Even from inside of us there is pressure. We sin and surely cannot look to ourselves for the ability to persevere to the end.
Where then is our hope? With all against, who is for us?
You know the answer. He who is for us is none other than God himself. And if any force aligns up to oppose Him, they stand no chance. We shall persevere in the faith and one day be in Glory because the Lord God Himself will never allow ANYONE to snatch us out of his protecting hand. Thus perseverance is a promise, an assurance we have because the Lord is for us, and we are the sheep protected by the Shepherd Jesus Christ.
We shall look more into this doctrine—called the perseverance of the saints—later in the sermon, but now lets look at today’s passage starting with its context.
We are getting to learn quite a lot about the Old Testament as we study John’s Gospel. Especially when it comes to the topic festivals. We’ve seen the Feast of Passover (John 2ff) and the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) (John 7ff). Now we find reference to another feast, the Feast of Dedication.
What then is this Feast of Dedication? Unlike the other festivals, this is actually not mentioned in the Old Testament. It is not a feast instituted by God. Rather, it was a feast that came into existence in the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament, in that period we call intertestamental.
It is called the Feast of Dedication because it was a celebration of the rededication of the Jewish Temple. The temple had been desecrated by a foreign ruler – Antiochus Epiphanes – and then reconsecrated when the Jews, under Judas Maccabeus, took back control. The Feast of Dedication then traces its history back to in 165 B.C. And today that feast is still celebrated by the Jews who call it Hanukkah.
The mention of this festival in John 10:22 is the only mention of it in the New Testament. And as this was not a festival instituted by God, it was not something that Jesus had to be at. His presence there is coincidental rather than for the specific fulfillment of prophecy. The mention of the festival by John seems very much in passing. It, with the statement, “It was winter” seems mostly to be a temporal reference. It is saying, “this is another event,” “Jesus is no longer at the Feast of Booths, but at the Feast of Dedication.”
DIALOGUE WITH THE JEWS
It is at this Feast of Dedication that we find Jesus once again talking with the Jewish leaders. They want to know, once and for all, who does Jesus claim to be. They say, if you are the messiah, tell us plainly! No more of this metaphor and allegory. Tell us plainly!
Jesus responds, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep”
His works—his miracles—prove that he is the Christ. There can be no doubt. It is not for lack of evidence that the Jewish authorities do not believe. It is from their hardness of heart. They simple cannot believe – they cannot hear the voice of God because they are not of His sheep! Not only do they not believe in Christ, they were predestined from eternity not to believe. They (unlike the sheep) have NOT been given to Christ from the Father. “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”
Jesus then switches to talk about the Sheep. He says:
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Here, we come to the first of 2 major points I have for the sermon today. From Jesus’ response to the Jews, the first point we have is this: “No power can take you away from the Lord.” [REPEAT: “No power can take you away from the Lord.”]
I. NO POWER CAN TAKE YOU AWAY FROM THE LORD
Last week I spoke about the fact that God will not reject you who believes in Jesus Christ. THE LORD WILL NOT REJECT YOU. But now we look at the fact that there is NO POWER that can take you away from the Lord. So neither will He reject you, nor will any power be able to contest the Lord over you. You are His sheep and forever shall be His sheep, never to be snatched away by a wolf or a foreign invader. What great comfort this gives to Christians.
This doctrine, this teaching, is the letter P in the acronym TULIP. The Perseverance of the Saints. This point teaches us—as the Bible passage today teaches us—that we persevere because God perseveres. We shall ever be with the Lord because HE will not let anyone snatch us out of his hand.
No power can take you away from the Lord.
This is why it is called ETERNAL life. It does not come and go, but remains. It is eternal. No power can take you away from the Lord.
We have so many fears but we need not fear this—falling away from the Lord. God will see to it that we forever remain in his hands.
Isn’t that a great assurance?
But upon hearing what Jesus has just said, what is the reaction of the Jews? [PAUSE]
31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
The emphasis might be on the word “again” for how many times now have we seen an attempt on Christ’s life in the Gospel of John? Here are some of those times:
John 5:18 – “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
John 7:30 – “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”
John 7:44 – “Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.”
John 8:20 – “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”
John 8:59 – “So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple.”
So they now “once again” pick up stones.
But, the attempt does not succeed, because Chris’s hour has not yet come.
No power can foil the plan of God for the mission of Jesus Christ.
This is our second point: No power can foil the plan of God for the mission of Jesus Christ.
II. NO POWER CAN FOIL THE PLAN OF GOD FOR THE MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST.
This is clear throughout John’s Gospel. The Lord’s plan stands! Jesus will die, but he shall do so on His own timing. And he will willingly give himself as a sacrifice because that the is the plan of God from all eternity.
But why now are the Jews again trying to kill Jesus with stones?
The text explains that the charge is blasphemy! As before, Jesus has made himself equal to God, and the Jews cannot tolerate this, for they believe he is merely a man.
So Jesus has this answer to the charge of blasphemy which he gives in verses 34-38, and it can be a little hard to understand. But I shall attempt an explanation.
Let’s re-read those verses first:
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
The reference Jesus makes is to Psalm 82:6. We read this Psalm as our Old Testament reading today. In that Psalm there is twice a reference to “gods” in the plural.
Psalm 82:1 – God had taken his place in the divine council, in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.
Psalm 82:6 – I said “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you
When you hear these verses, your natural instincts should flare up to think “surely this is not referring to Polytheism.” And you’re right. There is only one God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So what is being referred to here under the term “gods”?
This is referring to the rulers, the kings and judges, on the earth. These positions on earth have been invested with the authority of God to institute judgment. Thus, they act in a way like God and are so called “gods” in that capacity.
But why is Jesus talking about this Psalm?
Here he is arguing from the lesser to the greater.
The argument is this: You Jews did not contest the Psalm which calls certain men “gods,” how then can you contest me [Jesus] being called “God” when I [Jesus] am doing the works of God. Jesus has shown their inconsistency.
Again, they sought to arrest Jesus, but he escaped from their hands and went across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first and there he remained.
Here we see that no power can foil the plan of God for the mission of Jesus Christ. He will not be stoned. He will not be arrested. Not now. Only in the Lord’s timing with the death of Christ occur.
What then do our two points have in common?
Point 1: No Power Can Take You Away from the Lord
Point 2: No power can foil the plan of God for the mission of Jesus Christ.
The common theme is that which I’ve title the sermon. “No Power Can Stand Against God.”
My former pastor well said it this way:
“What God decrees no man can resist. What God has done, no man can undo. What God has made crooked no man can make straight. What God has made straight, no man can bend.”
What then is the likelihood of the Christian persevering? The likelihood is 100% But it is not because one’s own abilities. Rather, the likelihood of the Christian preserving till the end is 100% because no power can take you away from the Lord. No power can stand up against God. No one is able to snatch you out of the Father’s hand.