Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 56
Comparing Kingdom and Grace Doctrines
I John 1:1 – 1:9
We’re ready to start I John. Now these little epistles (James, Peter, John and Jude – and you might as well throw in Revelation as well) are all Jewish epistles. They are all addressed to Jewish believers – never forget that.
Now I’m going to go contrary to tradition (as I am prone to do), but I do not feel that John wrote this letter in 90-some AD. I think these little epistles were all written about the same time that Paul was probably writing the Church-Age epistles. And my number one reason for that is that there is not one word in these little Jewish epistles concerning the resurrection, which is central to our salvation. Not a word about salvation by faith and faith alone. And not a word about the Body of Christ, which we have been placed into.
But, rather, it is all still primarily (not exclusively) the “Kingdom” message. And you’ll see it as we come through here. It is so plain they are not preaching Paul’s Gospel which we, in the Church Age, must believe for salvation. Now, when I refer to Paul’s Gospel, I’m referring to what he said in I Corinthians 15:1-4. “That it’s by my gospel,” Paul says, “that you are saved.” And what is Paul’s Gospel? “How that Christ died for our sins. That He was buried and that He arose again the third day according to the scriptures.” That’s Paul’s Gospel, and you must believe that with all your heart! And if you can’t find that in these Jewish epistles (which you can’t), then you have to recognize that they’re not proclaiming Paul’s Gospel, because they’re in the “Kingdom” economy, and you cannot mix the two, because one was under Law and the other is under Grace!
The “Kingdom Gospel” starts out probably the plainest when Jesus asked the twelve disciples back in Matthew 16, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” And, of course, some said, “You’re John the Baptist, some think you’re one of the prophets.” Then He came back and said, “But whom do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God.” Period. And that’s all these Jews back here in the Four Gospels had to believe for salvation.
Of course, he couldn’t mention the death, burial and resurrection because it hadn’t happened yet and they didn’t know it was going to happen. They had no idea that they would be going up to Jerusalem for a crucifixion. So the Kingdom Gospel is that Jesus was the Christ. He was the Son of God. And He was offering Israel the glories of the earthly Kingdom, promised all the way up through the Old Testament.
So as you come into these little epistles, everything is directed as yet to Jewish Kingdom believers. They had simply believed Jesus was indeed the Messiah. And they’re still under the Law and you’re going to see language that indicates that, even in I John. So, be aware there are things in here that we can apply but, by and large, all of these little Jewish epistles are written to Jewish Kingdom believers who had probably been scattered out of the Church at Jerusalem and are still under pressure from the Romans.
They’re also under the pressure of orthodox Jews who were aghast that these people were ignorant enough to accept this Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. So, they’re under tremendous persecution and the whole theme of all these little epistles, James, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, and Jude is to prepare these Jewish Kingdom believers for the Tribulation that’s right out in front of them. And they would have to go through that Tribulation pressure before their Messiah could come and set up the Kingdom – where we in the this Age of Grace are promised we don’t have to go through the Tribulation, but will be Raptured out before that takes place.
So, watch for those scenarios as we come through these epistles. There’s not a word about the Body of Christ in any of these little Jewish epistles. There’s also not a word about the resurrection. Now there is some indication of His shed blood, and I won’t deny that. But there is nothing pertaining to the death, burial and resurrection that we are to place our faith in as the means of salvation in this Age of Grace. But their means of salvation was to believe Who Jesus really was. And I think you’ll see it if you understand it from that direction as we begin in chapter 1 verse 1.
I John 1:1a
“That which was from the beginning,…” Now this is the same John that wrote the Gospel of John and what does John 1:1 say?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That’s the same kind of thinking that John is still practicing here, see? That which was from the beginning (in other words, from eternity past – out of eternity past, the Triune God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), brought about creation. And the only difference is that God the Son was the One Who was assigned the role of calling it into being. They were all three there, they were all three a part of it. But God the Son, Whom John calls The Word, was the One Who spoke, and creation happened.
God the Son spoke, and all of these things happened in order to make everything ready for the ongoing human experience. All right, so John is taking us right back to the first thought he had in his Gospel, that which was from the beginning.
I John 1:1b
“…which we have heard,.…” Now stop and think – who is this John? He’s one of the Twelve. He spent three years with Him. And so he heard Jesus speaking in the flesh and he says:
I John 1:1c
“…which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;”
Now go back to Luke 24, and verse 39, but let’s start with verse 36 to pick up the flow as I so often put it. Now this is after His resurrection and Jesus is appearing to them.
“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” Were these men just as human as we are? Well, of course. Even though they had spent three years with Jesus in His earthly ministry, they were just as ordinary as you and I.
How would you feel if all of a sudden Someone that you had seen on a Roman cross a matter of hours before is all of a sudden standing in front of you? They didn’t know anything of the resurrection. They couldn’t comprehend that this was the risen Christ standing in front of them and it just scared them. And so Jesus sensed it:
“And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? (Now he shows them) 39. Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” He’s standing in front of them in that physical body with which He was, crucified and then laid in the tomb, and now resurrected, of course, into the resurrection power. But, nevertheless, He still shows them His hands and His feet. “Touch Me and see for spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see Me have.” See how sensible this is? And this is after His resurrection. Verse 40:
“And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. (He showed them the wounds) 41. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, (and now to prove it a little more:) he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?”
Now verse 42, and here is Christ in that resurrected body standing before them, as any other normal being, and yet He’s in that resurrected body that, in a split second, can go from there to who knows how far away. But now He’s going to prove a point. Not only is He the One that was crucified; not only is He the One that was in the tomb; He’s the One that’s resurrected and He’s going to give us a little inkling of our eternal state. What can we look forward to?
“And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43. And he took it (and what did He do with it?) and did eat before them.”
Now, many people don’t understand that. Jesus, in His resurrected body, “ate”? Yes, of course He did. Right in front of them to prove the point. He ate. All right, now I’ve got to stop there a minute. Go to Philippians chapter 3 because you’ve got to compare Scripture with Scripture in order to put this whole scenario into an understandable state. Now, remember when Jesus ascended back into Glory – it was in that body that’s standing in front of the men there, I think there were only ten of them, not all twelve. But He’s standing in front of those disciples eating and it’s that same Christ that will ascend from the Mount of Olives in a matter of forty days. All right, and it’ll be that same Jesus Christ that’s going to return for us one day and give us an inkling of our future state. We’re not going to be floating around up there in some invisible ethereal state; we’re going to have bodies. All right, here it is.
“For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; (if you’re a believer here today, your citizenship is already registered in the Glories) from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” Now remember this is Paul writing. And so Paul is going to use Pauline language. So “We’re looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Who (the Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who’s standing back there in our verse in Luke – eating meat and honeycomb) shall change our vile body, (this body that’s prone to death and corruption. Look at this. This is enough to make you hit the ceiling, isn’t it!) that it may be fashioned (or made) like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Now what does that mean? Just exactly what it says! That one day our eternal body is going to be fashioned after this resurrected body in which Christ is now appearing to His disciples after His resurrection, after His death. Let’s read it again, “Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body according to the working whereby he (Christ) is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” What does that mean? Every believer is going to be suddenly changed and made into a body like His eternal body for all eternity.
Now what we’re going to be doing, the Bible doesn’t really tell us – but it tells us this much; this is the kind of a body that we’re going to have and yes, we’re going to eat and not have to worry about pounds! And you won’t have to worry about pollution, and you won’t have to worry about tainted food, or anything like that. But we’re going to be able to eat.
All right, now let’s come back to I John. I hope I made my point regarding when John says, “We’ve heard Him, we’ve seen Him, we’ve handled Him,” Even the post-resurrection Christ – they had seen the nail-prints in His hands.
I John 1:1b
“…which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” Noticed the Word is capitalized. The same Word that you see in John’s Gospel verse 1, “In the beginning was the Word.” And when we teach John 1, what do we always associate with words? Communication. And so when it was time to create God the Son, the Word of God spoke and He communicated with that which was seemingly nothing, and out of it came everything. And that’s how He’s always done it. And that’s why we make so much of The Word, God the Son, as the great Communicator.
I John 1:2
“(For the life [that is that life of the Messiah, the Christ] 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;)”
Now, you know, I try to be so careful and yet once in a while (fortunately not very often) someone will totally, totally hear me wrong, and they’ll write and say, “Well you said….” “NO, I didn’t say.” They say, “You said that Jesus never existed until He became the only begotten,” Now that one was just a few programs back. I never said such a thing. And so I had to reply, “Of all the thousands of people we know are listening now, you are the only one who heard me wrong! And you heard me wrong!” And they were trying to put it that I had said that Jesus Christ, or the Son, never existed until His resurrection. No, the point I was making was that the terminology “the only begotten Son of God” applied to His resurrection. But people can get it so fouled up, so I try to be very careful.
All right so here again, “the life that was manifested” (or brought into the spotlight) is speaking of those three years of earthly ministry. Because, remember, this is written to Jews. John was one of the Twelve. He was one who had spent three years with the Lord up and down the highways and byways of ancient Israel.
I John 1:2b
“(…which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)”
You see, all three Persons of the Godhead are from eternity past, all three. Not just one or not just two. They’ve all been part and parcel of the God from eternity past and “that life was manifested (he says) unto us.” How? Through His earthly ministry when He came in the flesh at Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth and then began His three years of earthly ministry to prove to the Nation of Israel that He was that Promised Messiah. Now verse 3.
I John 1:3a
“That which we have seen and heard.…”
Again, John is referring to Christ’s earthly ministry and that’s what makes me think that he had to write this in the early part of the Scriptures, like in maybe the 50’s AD instead of way out there almost at 100 AD. But here he is, writing at the same time that the rest of the New Testament is being written and so the earthly ministry wasn’t all that long ago. Fifteen, twenty years at the very most.
I John 1:3
“That which we have seen and heard declare 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.”
Now remember when we taught Hebrews how I emphasized “the Son-ship” of Christ and how that that was His title? And that He was a part of the Godhead?
I John 1:4
“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
Now, I have to go back (it’s running through my mind constantly so that’s usually, I think, a prodding of the Spirit) to Matthew 16, and I’ve already quoted a portion of it. Remember, the vast majority of church people in Christendom still do not understand the difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom, which Jesus and the Twelve preached to Israel, and the Gospel of the Grace of God, which is preached to us Gentiles. But they are two totally different scenarios under the same Headship of the same God.
But here in Matthew 16, it’s at the end of the three years. And they’re about to go up to Jerusalem for the crucifixion. Three years Jesus has been performing signs and wonders and miracles. What percentage of Israel has responded? Very few. Just a small percentage have responded to all of His signs and wonders and miracles.
Now then, He comes to the heart of the matter as He approaches the Twelve up there in Northern Israel – just a matter of hours before Passover and His crucifixion. Remember, this is to the Nation of Israel and Israel was under the Law. The Temple is still going full speed. Animals are sacrificed every day. Every good Jew is still going up to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Every good Jew is still keeping the feast days. Every good Jew is still eating kosher. Every good Jew is keeping the Sabbath. Every good Jew is keeping the Commandments. Now, He approaches the Twelve after three years of miracles and signs and wonders to prove Who He was.
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, (up in Northern Israel) he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Why did He ask that particular question? Because this is what He’d been proving. This was the whole purpose of His signs and miracles – to prove that He was that Promised Messiah.
Now, you come into Isaiah chapter 4, and here we come to a term of Christ that is unique. He’s called the “Branch” – out of the stem of Jesse – and He’s referred to as the “Branch,” more often than not, in the Old Testament. But every time He’s referred to as the Branch, He is referred to as another aspect of the four views of Christ in the Four Gospels. They all fit. One of the Branches is that He’s to be the King in Matthew. One of the Branches is that He’s to be the Servant in Mark. Another one of the Branches depicts Him as the Son of Man in Luke. And another one of the Branches depicts Him as God, Deity; that’s John. So all through Scripture you have, especially the Old Testament, all the things that are pointing to this coming Messiah Who would be the King of Israel.
And when He came and John the Baptist announced Him, what did John the Baptist go out and preach? “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” But was he just spitting out empty words? Of course not. The King was about to appear and the Kingdom was within the grasp of the Nation of Israel. And that’s why we call it, then, the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Matthew 16: 13b-15
“…Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14. And they (the twelve) said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.(and He stops and He says, okay,) 15. …But whom say ye that I am?” Have you learned anything in three years? And here’s Peter’s answer,
“…Thou art the Christ, (the anointed, the Messiah) the Son of the Living God” Did Peter finish that by saying, Who’s going to die for our sins and be buried and raised from the dead – NO, he doesn’t know that. And God doesn’t expect him to.
Peter simply gives us the heart of the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus was the Christ. And that’s what Israel was to have believed for their salvation, but they couldn’t. They couldn’t swallow it. All right, now I haven’t got time to go any further, but we’ll pick it up in our next program. But, here in Matthew then, when Peter says “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – how does Jesus answer? “Peter what’s the matter with you?” No. He says:
“…Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
And that’s what we have to understand – Who Jesus was, was the heart of the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is totally different than the Gospel of Grace, the finished work of the cross – which we believe today for salvation in the Church Age.