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Christ: The Content of the Mosaic Corpus

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Christ: The Content of the Mosaic Corpus

45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
John 5:45-47 (ESV)

I)       Introduction


II)     Main Body

A)    Main Point

Follow along with me if you would and let’s begin by walking through the text together this morning.  Jesus begins…

1)      (v.45a) Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father.

Jesus’ main objective was not to bring judgment but rather salvation. 

(1)   Scripture:

If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
John 12:47 (ESV)

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17 (ESV)

Judgment, condemnation, is unquestionably a consequence of Christ’s coming – as men saw his miracles and heard his words and yet rejected him, they inevitably incurred the wrath of God, brought upon themselves a more severe judgment, a deeper condemnation - judgment is unquestionably a consequence of Christ’s coming, but, As Christ himself reminds us, it isn’t his primary objective or the reason for which he was sent.

(2)   Context Reminder:

The reason that Jesus makes this statement becomes quite apparent as we consider the context again. The Jews may be prone here to think that he is bringing accusations against them. He has explicitly stated that the Father has borne witness to him, John the Baptist has borne a witness to him, the Scriptures bear witness to him, his own works bear witness to him, and so it may seem as if he’s building a case, sort of like, “Look at all the evidence I have collected, just wait until you stand before the bar of my Father and I disclose all of this to him.”

But, of course, that was not at all the case.  And it seems he makes this statement to make that clear.  And really, when it comes down to it, he has no need to bring accusations against them. For, as the latter half of v.45 says…

2)      (v.45b) There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.

(1)   Not Moses properly.

Now, as Jesus will make clear here in a moment, he does not intend us to think here of Moses properly understood. The picture that he paints, though vivid and no doubt affective, of Moses standing before the tribunal of God and accusing these Jews, is only that: a picture. We are not to think that Moses really and truly, as a person, stands before the judgment seat of God accusing these Jews.  Rather, Jesus uses the word Moses here, as is often the case in the New Testament, to refer to his writings(that is Moses’ writings): the first five books of the Bible; the Law, as it is sometimes called; or the Pentateuch.

(2)   The irony.

The irony is so thick here you can taste it. Jesus says to them, “Don’t think that I’m bringing accusations against you. I have no need to. For the very one in whom you have placed your hope and trust does so for me.”

It is as if they stand before the judgment seat of God, on trial, awaiting the arrival of the attorney whom they believe has been provided to defend them, and in walks Moses, and their faces light up as they elbow each other and begin to whisper “Here he is, watch him work his legal magic, we’ll be declared not guilty in no time” and much to their dismay he instead turns and points his finger and cries, “Your honor, these men are guilty!”

The very object, in which they had placed their hope of salvation, is instead, the damning evidence of their condemnation.

And then, in vv.46-47, we have this authoritative statement about the inseparable connection between Moses’ writings and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3)      (vv.46-47) For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?

It may be helpful for a moment to consider this word belief:

(1)   (the term belief)

(a)    The Greek word translated here belief is a form of the word [pisteuo /pist·yoo·o/]. 

It is a quite common word in the New Testament showing up some 245 times, 98 times in John’s gospel alone. And the majority of those instances are in reference to belief in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(i)      Dr. Vines tells us it means:

“to believe,” also “to be persuaded of,” and hence, “to place confidence in, to trust,”[it] signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence.

(b)   In other words, belief, true belief, is more than just mental acceptance. It’s more than just an intellectual assent to the facts. 

One can believe wholeheartedly that Jesus was a historical figure who physically walked the streets of Palestine.  One can even believe that he was a miracle worker who fed 5000 people with five loves and two fish.  One can even, in some sense, believe that he was the Son of God, born of a virgin, sent by the Father to bear the sins of the world on cross, and that he was raised again three days after his bloody sacrificial death, and yet still not have belief such as the Scriptures demand for salvation; i.e. true belief. 

For true belief, as defined by the Scriptures, is much more than just an intellectual understanding and acceptance of those facts.  Multitudes of people intellectual understand and accept those things as fact and yet remain lost and destined for Hell.  James tells us demons, in that sense, believe in Jesus Christ. 

But true belief has as one of it’s necessary components a personal reliance upon, a trust in, a laying hold of the person and work of Jesus Christ with the unwavering trust that he is able to do and be all that he claimed: to save you, to be your Savior.

(c)    (Illustration of D. James KennedyJ

One of the better illustrations I have heard concerning the nature of true belief is one given by the late D. James Kennedy. He tells the story of a man speaking with another man about a chair.

The first man said to the second man, “Do you see that chair over there?”  To which the second man replied, “Yes.”

The first man then asked him, “do you believe that chair can hold you up?”  And it seemed like a sturdy chair and so the second man replied, “Yes, I do believe it can hold me up.” 

To which the first man replied, “No you don’t.” 

And the second man responded, “Well, I guess I do, I said I did, didn’t I?”

“No you don’t,” said the first again, matter of factly, and they went back and forth like this for a moment until finally the first man said, “You don’t really believe that that chair can hold you up until you have trusted yourself to it and sat yourself down in it.”

You see, that’s the kind of believe we’re talking about.

Dear friends, merely knowing the facts about Christ, or giving mental assent or even verbal testimony to their truthfulness doesn’t, in and of itself constitute saving faith. You haven’t really and truly trusted Christ, believed on Christ, until you have sat in his lap if you will, raised your arms and legs in the air, and declared I have nothing else that can hold me up.

Unhesitant utter dependence; the gospel demands nothing less.

(d)   Four times in these two verses Jesus uses this term belief

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Jesus exposes here a significant relationship between himself and Moses, between Moses’ writings and his words; and the nature of the relationship is not a difficult one to determine.

It is a matter of cause and effect:

…if you believed Moses, you would believe me…if you do not believe his writings [you won’t] believe my words.

(2)   Jesus again here, as has done repeatedly, denies the validity of their own religious claims.

The Jews, no doubt, believed themselves to know quite well the word of God - having read it many times over and memorized it - and they would have no doubt asserted that they had it abiding within them, living within them, enduring within them, but Jesus tells them explicitly otherwise in v.38 …you do not have His word abiding in you

The Jews furthermore undoubtedly claimed to have a great love for God. They above all people loved God for they above all people had been chosen by him and virtually alone knew the one true God.  But Jesus tells them in v.42 …I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

You see, as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago now, Jesus looks past the façade, he sees past their professed love for the Scriptures and says, “You don’t love the Scriptures.” He sees past their professed love for God and says, “You don’t love god.”

And likewise, he sees past their professed allegiance to Moses and says, “Dear religious men, contrary to your profession, you haven’t got a clue what Moses wrote about.”  For, to use his very words, if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

B)     Application (any or all in an appropriate order)

1)      How so?  How is it that if one truly believes, truly trusts, wholeheartedly assents to the veracity of Moses’ writings that they will inevitably believe in Jesus Christ?

(1)   (The promised seed)

(a)    (Genesis 3:15)

Well, let us consider some of what Moses wrote about. And let us begin at the beginning so to speak. In the first book of the Bible, within the first three chapters, we’re told of God’s creating the whole world and everything in it all in the space of six days, of which creation the apex, the high point, the magnum opus is his creation of mankind in his own image.

But it isn’t long before that image is terribly marred and mankind through his disobedience falls into sin.  And God is evidently dismayed and rightfully angry, and being the just God as he is, he must punish disobedience, and so he does, and he curses man and with him all of creation. 

But, couched within that curse, specifically the curse pronounced upon the serpent, is the promise of hope that one day this curse will be reversed.

In Genesis 3:15 we hear our angered, yet merciful, Creator say to the serpent,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

Hope is not lost. One day in the future, a child will be born, who will wage war against the serpent and the heartbreaking consequences of his sinful schemes, and this child, though he will be wounded himself in the battle, will crush the serpent’s head.

(b)   (Genesis 12ff.)

Fast forward a few chapters and we come across a man by the name of Abram, later to be given the name Abraham. And we find the Lord God making a covenant – a promise – that through him and his offspring – his descendants or descendant – all the nations of the earth will be blessed.

And Moses records for us the promise being repeated to his son after him, and likewise to his son after him and hints of this promise show up over and over again throughout Moses’ writings.  

But the Pentateuch closes without this promise being realized. As a matter of fact, the whole Old Testament closes without this promise being realized.

(c)    (promise realized in Christ)

Do you really believe that God will keep his promise, this promise made by the Lord God as recorded by his servant Moses?  Then you will believe in Jesus Christ. 

(i)      (Gen 3:15)

For he’s the one who, in the words of the writer of Hebrews, … through deathdestroy[ed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (Hebrews 2:14).  He is that promised seed of the woman, who crushed the power of sin and death underfoot while in the process his heel was heavily bruised in is shame-filled crucifixion.

(ii)    (Gen 12ff.)

He’s the one through whom all the nations of the earth are blessed.  He is the promised seed of Abraham, who by his life and death and resurrection brings good news of great tidings for all the people, for all who will believe: Jew and Gentile alike.  He is the one who has, in the words the apostle John in the book of Revelation, ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation... (Revelation 5:10)

If you believe Moses, you will believe in Christ; for he wrote of Christ.

(2)   (the sacrificial system)

(a)    (the insufficiency of animal sacrifice)

Now let’s consider it from another angle.

In the books of Exodus and Leviticus we find an elaborate system of sacrifice instituted.  At Mount Sinai Israel formally enters into covenant with God, it is a covenant intimately related to that covenant which God made with Abraham.  And there are rules that they must follow in accordance with this covenant, and if they do not keep the rules perfectly, they essentially forfeit their lives. 

But God, showing himself merciful, gives them a provision by which they can be forgiven if and when they do break the Law: animal sacrifice.  Bulls, goats, lambs are to be sacrificed, their blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  Thousands, tens of thousands of these animals are laid on the altar day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year; a life for a life.

But there is something incomplete in all of this. How is it that the life of a mere animal can be considered of the same worth as the life of a man, the animal being merely that, an animal, yet the man or the woman or the child being an image bearer, one made in the image of God and therefore of infinitely greater worth.  How can the death of the one, of little significance really in the created order, sufficiently atone for the sins of the other: man, who is greatly significant, the highest of all created beings?

Furthermore, if the blood of these bulls, and goats, and lambs was indeed sufficient to take away the guilt of sin then why did these sacrifices have to be repeated so often?  Can you imagine being and Israelite in this economy? Every sin you become aware of, either sins of commission or sins of omission, and in fact even those sins you’re unaware of, needed to be atoned for.  How wearisome.  Would you not be driven to think, “Will there ever come a day in which my sins can truly be paid for, once and for all, and this apparently insufficient method of payment can be ceased and I can be assured that all of my sins are forever forgiven?”

(b)   (Christ the ultimate sacrifice for sin)

And that day came, with the life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the quintessential sacrificial lamb.  He is, in the words of John the Baptist, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.  He was a sacrifice of infinite worth, for not only was he not a mere animal but a full fledged member of the human race, but he was also a spotless member, a perfect member, the one and only man who ever walked the earth who never sinned.  In him all the typological insufficiencies, divinely and purposefully inherent within the Mosaic sacrificial system found their fulfillment.

If you believe Moses, you will believe in Christ; for he wrote of Christ.

2)      (the Ten Commandments)

(1)   (their crushing weight)

Now consider with me for a moment the essence of the covenant I just referred to on Mt. Sinai: the Ten Commandments.  These were and are the foundation upon which the whole of Jewish life was built. But much more than that, they are a formal proclamation of that standard of righteousness which God requires of all men. 

There is much talk in the public square today about the Ten Commandments. But the fact the matter is few people – even few among those with loud voices concerning the need for us to keep them, as a nation, before our eyes – few could tell you what they are.  I ask you to listen closely as I read them for you:

3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Exodus 20:3-17 (ESV)

This is the standard to which God holds all men, there is no leniency. If you want to approach God on your own, if you desire a relationship with your Maker without the aid of another, you must perfectly keep all these laws.

Do you believe that?  You ought to, for it is the explicit teaching of the Bible, your Maker’s revelation to man. 

So can you keep them?  Have you done all those things perfectly?  Have you perfectly honored your father and mother? Have you kept your eyes from looking at a member of the opposite sex lustfully outside of marriage?  Have you kept your eyes, your heart, your mind, from desiring something your neighbor has? Perfectly!  Never once!

If someone looks at the Ten Commandments and comes to the conclusion that they can and will or have followed those without fail, and thus that they are accepted and will find acceptance before God based upon their keeping of His commands, then they give evidence to the fact that they do not truly believe what it is they say.

(2)    (the need for a Savior)

For if you believe Moses, you will believe in Christ

One honest, believing look at these laws crushes a person under the weight of their own guilt and sends them longing for, looking for, insatiably searching for someone to save them from their own sin.  And to quote the apostle Paul:

…there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV)

How will you be saved from the wrath you deserve for having shunned the Law of God, spit in your Maker’s face, shaken your fist in defiance – for you fool yourself if you think you have done anything less – how will you escape?  What plea will you give before his judgment seat?  I tell you there is only one plea that will be accepted: Jesus Christ and him crucified.  The Law, recorded for us by Moses, is, as the Scriptures explicitly state, a tutor to lead us to Christ.

If you believe Moses, you will believe in Christ; for he wrote of Christ.

3)      Oh Christians, let us take comfort here.

It is not, nor will it ever be, our keeping of the Law that grants or sustains life, nor is it the basis for our relationship with our gracious God.  It’s not the standard by which we measure our relationship with God.

Have you found yourself doing that? Looking upon your sin, considering your personal and pervading transgression of the Law, and feeling as if somehow you have sinned yourself out of favor with God?  Oh dearly beloved, that is not the purpose of the Law, it is not the reason why the Holy Spirit through Moses recorded it.  Yes, look upon it.  Yes, consider your sin. Yes, lament your unfaithfulness, but let the mirror of the Law, which painfully and grotesquely reflects your deformity, turn your gaze toward the One who kept it for you.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  For salvation and favor and love and grace and mercy  are yours through the sinless Son of God, slain for sinners like you and I.

III)  Conclusion

If you believe Moses, you will believe in Christ; for he wrote of Christ.

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