Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle John unto the saints which were at Ephesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirteen through twenty-one of the fifth chapter. When we come to this particular passage of Scripture we find the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle John coming to a close. I have to admit that the more I read the words contained within this particular epistle, the more I am drawn and captivated by the fact that in order to truly understand the language and context surrounding the epistle, it is necessary to read the gospel account which the apostle John wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus. I am convinced that what we find in the gospel which the apostle John wrote at the beginning of the New Testament is the precursor and foundation for what we find within this entire epistle. The apostle John did set out to write a volume concerning the life, the ministry, the works, and the teaching of Jesus the Christ, and he even states such in the final two verses of the final chapter of the book. Consider if you will the words and language which are found in verses twenty-four and twenty-five of the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John: “This is the disciples which testified of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:24-25). What the apostle John set out to do in, with and through his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ was bring his readers and audience face to face with the man whom He had spent three and a half years walking with—a man whose footsteps he had spent three and a half years walking in. With the gospel account which is found towards the beginning of the New Testament we find the apostle seeking to set forth a powerful discourse concerning the One whom had secured his allegiance, his loyalty, his fidelity, his love, his affection, and everything within his being. In fact, this final gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ was written by the disciple of whom it is recorded was beloved of Jesus, thus indicating the intense and tremendous relationship Jesus and this disciple had with each other. This disciple experienced everything else the other disciples did during those three and a half years, but in addition to everything he observed and saw with his own eyes—he, along with Peter and James experienced deeper manifestations and experiences than the other nine disciples .
As we read this first epistle written by the apostle John, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand the fact that this epistle—together with the gospel which John write—were written based on personal and private experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. That which the apostle John set out to write in his gospel account, as well as with the three epistles which were found towards the end of the New Testament weren’t written based on hearing stories and experiences from other individuals. None of the writings which we read from the apostle John within the New Testament came as a direct result of a thorough and careful investigation of the facts, and interactions with eyewitnesses of the life, the ministry, the works, the miracles, and the teaching of Jesus, as was the gospel which Luke wrote. The New Testament gospel which Luke wrote was a gospel account which was put together based on collecting as many facts as he possibly could concerning Jesus the Christ from those who had walked and talked with Him. Consider if you will how the New Testament gospel of Luke opens up within the first chapter of the epistle: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:1-4). With these words the beloved physician Luke wrote unto Theophilus how many sought to engage themselves in the task of putting forth a declaration of those things which were believed among them—namely, those things which were spoken and believed concerning Jesus Christ. It was the various accounts from those who were eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus that so stirred, gripped and consumed the heart and soul of Luke, and set him on the path to put together a genuine telling of the events within the life and ministry of Jesus. That which we find in the New Testament gospel of Luke came not from personal experiences and personal encounters which Luke himself had with Jesus, but rather from eyewitness accounts which Luke himself heard from those who walked with, talked with, and even followed Jesus during His life and ministry here upon the earth.
When we come to the first chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle John—much like the gospel account concerning the life and ministry of Jesus—we do not find written that which was based off of stories and accounts from others who were eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, but came from a firsthand knowledge and experience with Jesus the Christ. Notice the difference between that which the beloved physician Luke rewrote in the first five verses of the first chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus, and the opening words which the apostle John wrote in the opening verses of the first chapter of this first epistle. Beginning with the first verse of the first chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle John we find the following words written by the apostle: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declared we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declared unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:1-5). You will notice from these words which were written by the apostle John that the words which he wrote were not written based on the opinions and experiences of others, but were written based on an actual eyewitness account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The words which the apostle John set forth in this particular passage of Scripture suggests that what he was writing was based off of a personal experience and encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, as he walked and talked with Him for three and a half years. In the opening verse of the first chapter of this epistle we find the apostle John speaking of that which was from the beginning—“in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”—that which they had heard, that which they had seen with their eyes, that which they looked upon, and that which their hands handled of the Word of life.
As I continue reading the words which the apostle John set forth in this epistle, I can’t help but be drawn into the tremendous fact that there is a vast difference between the opinions and experiences of others, and an actual experience with Jesus Christ, and personal revelation from the Father. Although I have already written concerning this reality, I feel within my heart it bears repeating and consideration one more time. I feel so incredibly strongly within my heart and spirit that the Lord is speaking to me concerning the difference between the opinions and experiences of others, and personal revelation from the Father mixed with an actual experience with the true and living Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of a certain passage which is found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Within this particular chapter we find a very interesting dialogue between Jesus and His disciples concerning who others thought, said and believed Him to be, and who they themselves believed Him to be and said He was. Within this passage we find Jesus asking His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was, and once He had exhausted the opinions of man, He narrowed it down and made it more personal by asking them point blank whom they said that He was. In other words, although Jesus entertained the opinions of others, He wasn’t so much interested in the opinions and experiences of others, as much as He was interested in their own belief, and their own perception concerning who He was. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the thirteenth verse of the sixteenth chapter:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto Him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the Keyes of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou s halt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged He His disciples that they should tell no man He was Jesus Christ” (Mathew 16:13-20).
This passage has long been one that has intrigued and captivated me, for while Jesus first and initially asked His disciples who there said that He the Son of man was, He didn’t remain in that place. JESUS DOESN’T REMAIN IN THE PLACE OF OPINIONS! JESUS DOESN’T REMAIN IN THE PLACE OF THE EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS! What I so love about this passage of Scripture is that immediately after He listened to the disciples convey the opinions of others concerning whom He was, He transitioned to asking them very candidly, very pointedly, and very strategically concerning who they said and who they believed Him to be. It’s worth noting that only the apostle Peter spoke up upon hearing this question, and when he spoke he declared that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God. What Jesus says to the apostle Peter, and how He responds to him is actually quite astounding and remarkable, for Jesus commended Peter’s confession, and then went on to declare how flesh and blood had not revealed this reality unto him, but His Father which was in heaven. In other words, the declaration and confession which the apostle Peter made on this particular day was one that was not rooted in the opinions of men, nor was it based on the encounters and experiences of others, for it was based on a personal revelation from the Father who was in heaven. What I find to be so absolutely captivating about this passage is that Jesus seems to draw a distinctive line between the opinions of men and the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was willing to listen to and even entertain the opinions of others, and He was willing to listen to what others thought about Him, and who others said He was, but at the end of the day He was concerned with one thing—who they said, and who they believed Him to be., It would be very easy to get caught up in the opinions of others—particularly and especially when considering them concerning Jesus the Christ—and yet to do so would be to completely neglect and ignore personal revelation from the Father. If there is one thing this passage of Scripture reveals, it’s that even though Peter had spent a considerable amount of time walking with Jesus, there was still an additional element that was directly linked and connected to it—namely, revelation from the Father which is in heaven. It would be very easy to think and believe that merely walking with Jesus helped bring the apostle Peter to this place of revelation, however, Jesus spoke nothing of walking with Him as having anything to do with bringing about this declaration and confession. When Jesus praised the confession and declaration of the apostle Peter in Caesarea Philippi, He first acknowledged the flesh and blood did not reveal or make known this reality unto him but rather His Father which was in heaven revealed it unto Him.
Pause for a moment and think about this. Jesus had just finished asking the disciples whom men said that He the Son of man was, and He transitioned to asking them whom they said He the Son of man was. When Peter opened his mouth to make this absolutely remarkable declaration and confession, Jesus first acknowledged that flesh and blood—the opinions, the experiences, the teachings of men—did not reveal this unto him, but rather, his Father who was in heaven. I happen to find this to be something that warrants strong consideration on our part, for within Jesus’ declaration is a powerful truth that needs to be understood by us who would seek to walk with and follow Jesus the Christ. What makes this particular experience and encounter with Jesus so incredibly unique is that Jesus spoke nothing of this revelation coming to the apostle Peter based on walking with and following Jesus during those three and a half years, but rather, this revelation came directly from the Father. Peter’s confession concerning Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the living God came more from a personal and intimate revelation from the Father than anything else, and we would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this. It was true that Peter walked with Jesus, and it was true that Peter heard the words which Jesus taught and preached, and it was true that Peter witnessed the miracles and works which Jesus performed, however, when it came time for this declaration and confession, it came not from a place of experience, but revelation. I fully and firmly believe that experience in and of itself is absolutely necessary and incredibly vital for our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, however, I am convinced that experience must be met with and by revelation from the Father who was in heaven. Experience is absolutely necessary, however, when Jesus heard the confession and declaration which Peter made, He spoke nothing of experience, but rather of revelation which came directly from His Father who was in heaven. It was revelation which served as the foundation for the dedication and confession concerning Jesus the Christ, and that Jesus the Christ was indeed and was in fact the Son of the living God. In fact, I would dare say that it was experience which positioned the apostle Peter to stand in the place where he could receive revelation from the Father who was in heaven, for it was experience which unlocked the door to revelation. EXPERIENCE UNLOCKS THE DOOR TO REVELATION! If there is one thing we must recognize concerning experience, it’s that experience is merely the gateway and the door by which we enter into and receive revelation from the Father who is in heaven. It would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in experience alone, however, experience must ultimately bring us to the place of revelation. I can’t help but be reminded of the encounter Peter had with Jesus on the water after spending an entire evening laboring and toiling in the open sea, only to come up empty handed:
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s and prayed him that he would thrust out a little form the land. And he sat down and taught the people out to the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch outinto the deep, and let down your nets for a drought. And Simon answering said unto him, master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their patterns, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the drought of the fishes which they had taken: and so was also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (Luke 5:1-11).
This was one of the many encounters the apostle Peter had with Jesus the Christ the Son of the living God, and one that dramatically altered and transformed his life. This encounter was perhaps the encounter that sealed the deal for Peter, and caused Peter to forsake everything and follow Jesus. Luke records how once Peter and the others had brought their ships to land with the great catch of fish they had just hauled in, they forsook all and followed Him. I mention and bring this particular encounter of the apostle Peter to your attention, for I am convinced that this was the beginning of several encounters which opened the door for the apostle Peter to receive revelation from the Father who was in heaven concerning this man he was walking with and following. What’s so unique about that which Matthew records concerning the apostle Peter and this confession and declaration is that nowhere are we given any indication when the apostle Peter received this revelation. Nowhere in any of the four gospels do we come face to face with that moment when the Father revealed unto Peter that Jesus was the Christ, and was the Son of the living God. What we find in this chapter came even before Peter would join John and James atop the mountain where Jesus was transfigured before them and shone with the glory He had with the Father from the beginning. What’s more, is that we don’t know if the apostle Peter was present at the Jordan River when Jesus emerged from the waters of baptism, and when the Spirit descended upon Him in the bodily form of a dove, and when the heavens were opened, and the voice of the Father spoke concerning Jesus that He was His beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. CONFESSION BETWEEN THE RIVER AND THE MOUNTAIN! DECLARATION ETWEEN THE RIVER AND THE MOUNTAIN! It would be very easy to make such a confession and declaration after experiencing the heavens opened and the voice of the Father speaking from the midst of it concerning Jesus the Christ, however, we aren’t at all certain whether or not Peter was even present at the river on this particular occasion. What’s more, is that it would be very easy to read of such a declaration coming after seeing Jesus transfigured before them, and radiating the glory which He had with the Father from the beginning. The truth of the matter, is that Peter’s confession came before the experience with Jesus Christ, the glory of the Father, and the voice of the Father atop the mountain. Peter’s confession and declaration came between the river and the mountain, and I would dare say had absolutely nothing to do with either experience. The confession which Peter made before Jesus and the other disciples came between the river and mountain, and came as a direct result of experience with Jesus as he walked with and followed Him wherever He went.
When we come to the fifth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle John, and when we begin reading with the thirteenth verse we find the apostle John declaring once more the purpose of writing the words within the epistle—namely that they might know that they have eternal life, and that they may believe on the name of the Son of God. What’s more, is that the apostle John wrote concerning his audience that they believed on the name of the Son of God, and that as a direct result of believing on the name of the name of the Son of God, they might have eternal life. Furthermore, the apostle John wrote unto them concerning confidence they had in Christ—namely, that if they asked any thing according to His will, He would heard them. The apostle John would go on to write and declare that if and since we know that He hears us, whatsoever we walk, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him. While it would be nice to read these words and somehow get lost in them, I feel compelled to issue a word of warning and caution which is found in the New Testament epistle which was written in James. Beginning with the second verse of the epistle written by James we find the following words: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you. Lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbriadeth not: and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tosses. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A doubly minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:2-8). While it is true that James writes about asking of the Lord, James goes on to issue a word of caution and warning—namely, that when we do ask of the Lord, we ask in faith with absolutely nothing wavering. James would go on to write and declare that he which wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. James then raises this a step further and declares that such a man should not think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord, for this man is double minded and unstable in all his ways. It is true that we we can ask of the Lord any thing according to His will, however, by doing so we must ensure that we ask in faith, and with full assurance and confidence in our hearts, believing that not only does He hear us, but He is also able to do what we ask. Consider if you will the words which Jesus Himself declared unto His disciples when speaking of asking of the Lord:
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:7012).
This same teaching was also recorded by the beloved physician Luke in the treatise he wrote concerning that which Jesus said, and that which Jesus did within and upon the earth. Beginning with the first verse of the eleventh chapter of Luke’s gospel we find the following words spoken by Jesus after his disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. Consider if you will the following words which are recorded by the beloved physician Luke in his gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry:
“And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say. Unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, now how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him” (Luke 11:1-13).
When concluding this first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus, the apostle John speaks of the confidence we have—not only in knowing that the Father hears us when we pray, but also the confidence that we shall have any thing which we ask in His name, and according to His will. This language was actually not new to the apostle John—perhaps even to the saints which were in Ephesus—for this language was first recorded in the gospel account which the apostle John wrote. In fact, if you journey back into both he fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel of John you will find the following words which were spoken by Jesus the Christ, and recorded by the Lord Jesus Christ. Beginning to read with the first verse of the fifteenth chapter you will find the following words: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; not more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the first, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:1-10). As you continue reading in the fifteenth chapter of John’s gospel you will find the following words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:11-16). This reality is again found in the sixteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel beginning with the twenty-second verse: “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:22-24). Again in the fourteenth chapter of the same book we find the following words spoken by Jesus: “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:11-14).