Questions

The sermon today was on John 5:31-47.

The pastor emphasized the four witnesses that testify to Jesus’ deity: John the Baptist, Jesus’ miracles, the Father, the Scriptures.

Here are some questions our family had afterwards.

  • Verse 36 says that Jesus’ miracles show that he was from God. Yet other Scriptures talk about people who are not from God doing miracles. So do miracles prove someone is from God, or not?
  • Jesus says later in John that his disciples would do “greater works” than he did. How can they be greater than raising someone from the dead? What does that verse mean?
  • What is the testimony of the Father mentioned in verse 37? Our pastor first connected it to the testimony Scripture, as mentioned in verse 39. In that case, there are only three witnesses in this passage, with the last being “the Father through the Scriptures”. Later he connected it to the announcement, “This is my beloved Son” at Jesus’ baptism. But then what does it mean, “You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form”?

Our family had a really good discussion about the first two of these questions. We ended up talking about miracles, and about living with the expectation that God may still work supernaturally today.

Other questions I’ve been wondering about recently:

  • Acts 2:42 refers to “the breaking of bread”. I’ve always assumed it meant communion. A pastor a couple of weeks ago preached that it meant having a meal together. So what does it mean?
  • James 2:26 says “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” This is backwards from what I always think it is saying. I think of works as being the body — the outward form — and faith as being the thing that makes them of value to God. Works have spiritual value when they come from a believing heart. But this verse turns it around. I think it says that faith is like the body. It is just the form, the shell. When faith is fulfilled in works it becomes alive. The works that proceed from faith are what provide the life, the power, the “spirit” that animates the faith. The question is, am I right? Am I missing something? What more is there to add that would illuminate this?

I love having questions. Every question is a promise that there is more out there for me to learn.

(By the way, we did come to some satisfying conclusions about most of these questions. I just didn’t tell you what they were!)

Oh, one last thing I almost forget: Go check out my brother’s brand new website. Say something on it. You could even ask him my questions and see how smart he is 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Questions

  1. I love questions, but usually they just show how smart the person asking them is, rather than the person answering them. 🙂 I suspect that the “greater works than me” refers to the church as a whole and I think over the course of history this is a complete accurate statement, but I’m not 100 percent about that interpretation. Thanks for mentioning my new website, and interestingly my last “pilgrimage” post talked about breaking bread/communion and I kind of reached the conclusion you heard a few weeks ago, that it refers to a meal. However i don’t think this means it didn’t also become highly ceremonial even in the early church. I just think that when Paul encourages people to not get drunk at the “Lord’s Supper” her certainly couldn’t be speaking about the little tiny cups we drink out of today!

    • “… interestingly my last “pilgrimage” post talked about breaking bread/communion and I kind of reached the conclusion you heard a few weeks ago, that it refers to a meal.”

      That was no coincidence. Your post was in the back of my mind when I heard the sermon.

      My answer would be that “breaking of bread” refers to the communion (i.e., “Lord’s Supper”) as part of a communal meal, to both together in one event. I think the fact that it is called “THE breaking of bread” and paired with “the prayers” points to it being an official worship event rather than merely hanging out together, but I think it is called “breaking of bread” because that worship event took the form of a hanging-out-together-and-eating event with communion as its central part.

      I suspect that is what you mean by your answer too. (Is it?)

      I suspect that the breaking of bread in Acts 2:46 also involved communion, although most pastors around where I live would deny that because they assume communion is only permitted when the entire church is gathered together.

      I have always wondered what “as often as you do it, do it in remembrance of me” means. As often as you do what? Celebrate the Passover? Eat together with the rest of the church? Celebrate communion itself? The latter is what everyone assumes, but that seems a little redundant. Communion is specifically the thing we do in remembrance of Jesus; if we didn’t do it in remembrance of Him, it wouldn’t be communion. So why would Jesus say, “When you do this in remembrance of me, be sure to do it in remembrance of me”? :-). Probably that is what it means anyway though. It just makes me wonder a little.

  2. ” suspect that is what you mean by your answer too. (Is it?)”

    I suspect in remembrance of me referred to passover itself. They were already doing it as a remembrance, now he wanted them to shift what they were remembering, not just the passover lamb and the salvation from the Egyptians, but the true lamb and salvation from sin.

    • But wouldn’t that imply that he expected the church to observe the Jewish Passover in the future? Which they definitely didn’t. And that if they didn’t observe the Passover, there was no need to observe communion?

      • Well I suspect in some sense they did do that for a period at least and that this is what Jesus meant; that also, being God, He understood that the ceremony would change as it did into something different. But my main point is that what He was communicating primarily was to make it clear that He was the lamb, that the lamb had always been Him, a type of Him and that what used to be a generic ceremony was now a ceremony with a specific object. This made a change in ceremony likely, but not mandatory. So we could have continued doing passover with new meaning (as some churches in fact still do) or adopt new ceremonies (as most churches did.) Does this make any sense?

  3. Hi. I really liked what you said about the verse in James. I guess we are all inevitably affected by our Christian heritage and the dogmas that has shaped it over the centuries e.g. Luther/Augustinian thinking about works etc. My feeling is that the challenge by NT Wright and others on what “works of the law” means is going to open many more people to the types of thoughts that are in your paragraph on James above. Isn’t it amazing how powerful and blinding our predispositions can be towards a verse which would otherwise be much more clear. That is one reason I am quite afraid of studying too many theology books.

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