Friday, November 13, 2015

The Flesh Profits Nothing

John 6:52-71

“The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52)

Most of the Jews were still caught up in the thought of physically eating the body of Christ and were having trouble with what he was saying.  They could not understand how he could give them his body to eat.

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.  As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” (John 6:53-58)

When Jesus insisted they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life they were even more confused.  The only way that was possible was if he died.  It is this passage coupled with his statements at the last supper that is the basis for the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.  Matthew 26:26-28 describes what happened.  “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Like the Jews, the Catholic Church assumed Jesus was speaking in a literal sense, concluding that one had to physically eat the body and drink the blood of Christ to be saved.  They interpreted Jesus’ statements to mean the bread and drink of the communion service were literally changed into Christ’s physical body.  While most of the Protestant churches do not believe the elements are transformed into Christ’s literal body and blood, several of them taught partaking communion is essential for salvation. 

The Jews did get one thing correct.  Jesus was in effect telling them he would have to die for them to be saved.  However, they didn’t understand was that the eating his flesh and drinking his blood was a spiritual rather than a physical concept.  Christ would die on the cross, offering his blood as a sacrifice for sin just as the sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament.   The person offering the sacrifice had to place his hand on the animals head while it was killed, admitting his guilt and identifying that sacrifice as being for his sin.   It was a physical act, not as spiritual one.  Salvation is the result of doing the same thing spiritually, of personally acknowledging one’s sin and by faith accepting Christ’s sacrifice as atonement for our own sins. 

“These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.   Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?  When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?  What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (John 6:59-62)

Many of those who came to hear what Jesus said concluded what he was saying was too difficult for anyone to understand.  Jesus said if they were confused and upset by this, what would they think if he just went back to heaven without making the sacrifice?   Would seeing him go even make them understand what they were missing?

 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.  And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:63-65)

Jesus than made the point that the physical sacrifices or actions mean nothing unless the heart attitude is right.   Even praying the sinner’s prayer will not make any difference unless the spirit is right is a waste of time.  Sadly, in the church there are many doing all the right things but who have never accepted Christ.   About two years before his crucifixion, Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him and that many others did not believe.  As he told them earlier, no man could come to him unless God draws him and makes him to understand. 

One of the basic requirements for teaching is a pupil who is willing to learn.  It is impossible to teach someone who has decided they know everything they need to know or that they aren’t interested.  God is not willing for anyone to go to hell, but if they refuse to listen and learn he will not force them to accept him.  As a result. They will not be saved. 

“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.  Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?  Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:66-69)

When they heard that they would need to change their inmost attitudes rather than just their outward actions, many of the people walked away.    Over the years we have had a lot of people come to the church because they saw others who came get victory over alcoholism or marital problems.   After a while they dropped out because it wasn’t doing them any good, because they were not willing to let God change their underlying attitudes.  They wanted to continue to hang around with their drinking buddies and wicked friends.  This is exactly what these disciples were doing.    Jesus asked the twelve if they were more committed or if they would turn away as well.  Peter said they were convinced there was nowhere else to go because they were sure he was the Messiah. 

“Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?  He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” (John 6:70-71)

Jesus pointed out that he had personally chosen them and one of them was a devil, was following Satan.  Judas was called by Christ, and he served as one of the apostles, attaining such respect that even when Jesus clearly identified him as the one who would betray him, they thought they were more likely to betray him than Judas, yet the whole time he was a devil.  He didn’t lose his salvation, he never had it. 

There is an important lesson here for the modern church.  Judas was called of Christ, he went soul winning with the others and was so active that they made him their treasurer, preaching and teaching others, yet he had never been saved and was serving Satan.  He is perhaps the supreme example of what Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 11:13-15.  “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.   And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 

Far too many Christians have been deceived by a person like Judas’ actions.  Jesus did not say we would know them by their actions, but by their fruit, by what the Holy Spirit produced in them.  The fruit of the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-23 shows up in a person’s life as a group of attitudes.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  If he is present, the Holy Spirit will produce all of these attitudes to some degree.  Romans 8:9 is very specific, “…if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  If these attitudes are not present in a person’s life it implies he isn’t a Christian, no matter how zealous he may be.  

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