Taught of God
Br Phillip McKenzie
It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. (John 6:45)
[Reading: John 6:22-45]
The part of our reading today that I want to focus our attention on is verse 45.
This is an incredible truth that the Lord reveals and this is what I wish to encourage you with today; that God desires to be our teacher. I must ask myself, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?”
Notwithstanding, if we indeed listen and hear, we will be taught of him.
In today’s message, I would particularly like to show HOW God teaches us. Learning in itself, is such an in-depth subject and I found it difficult to restrain myself when it came to putting this message together. By this I mean that it was hard to separate the how, what, why and who of learning.
Before I continue I’d like to spend a moment just to set the scene.
Our reading today follows a set of amazing events and probably two of the most well-known miracles in the bible. The previous day the Lord miraculously fed 5000 men. Later that evening Jesus walks on water.
As with all of Christ’s miracles we are taught something. When he healed the blind he taught us about spiritual blindness. When he cured the leper he taught us about the incurable disease of sin. When he made the lame to walk he encouraged them to walk with him. When he opened the ears of the deaf, he enabled them to hear the words of eternal life.
Jesus never acted on a whim. We see this when Jesus is tempted by Satan to turn rocks into bread (Matthew Chapter 4); Jesus resisted the temptation to act out of pride.
In these two miracles we are taught this:
We are taught that Jesus as Creator had power over the laws of nature.
Scripture tells us that Jesus knew what he would do prior to multiplying the loaves and fishes and therefore demonstrates his omniscience.
We are taught that Jesus is the bread of life; using the occasion to preach the gospel.
In the other gospel accounts of the same miracle, Jesus warns his disciples saying “beware (of) the leaven or doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees”. As teachers of the law they were guilty of feeding their disciples lies; rather than being taught by God they were happy to be taught by man. We face a similar apostasy today as false teachers are only too willing to scratch the itching ears of those who would “heap” such teachers unto themselves indulging their own evil desires.
It is therefore imperative that we learn directly from the Lord according to the means which he has ordained.
Inevitably Christ’s message was regarded as contentious as we see by the Jews’ reaction; murmuring among themselves. He defends his position as a legitimate teacher by saying “It is written in the prophets” thus pointing to these 2 scriptures; one in Isaiah and one in Jeremiah:
And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. (Isaiah 54:13)
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that it was always the purpose of God to be our teacher. The passage in Jeremiah speaks of the covenant; the new and everlasting covenant in Christ’s blood. This is God’s eternal plan of salvation; it was always meant to be. Jesus was slain from before the foundation of the world and now in the fullness of time; now we see in this passage (in John 6) he is walking this earth; proclaiming the everlasting gospel.
Those Who Hear God are Saved
We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. It is through hearing and more importantly heeding the gospel that we qualify [as students in God’s classroom so to speak].
Jesus says, “…every man that hath heard…cometh unto me”. The fact that God is heard presumes that he has spoken.
The writer of Hebrews spells this out clearly for us.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Yes, God has spoken; there has never been a time when he has not spoken; from “Let there be light” to the final “Amen” God has spoken.
And now in our passage today the very one that is called the Word of God is speaking plainly and clearly. Christ’s message throughout this chapter is first and foremost to believe on him for eternal life.
God has and continues to speak to mankind through various means which (theologically speaking) we call revelation.
God has revealed himself through creation.
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
God speaks to mankind through creation and thus through his creation God has taught mankind that he can logically conclude that there is a Creator.
God speaks to us through his word.
Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law; (Psalms 94:12)
God speaks to us through Jesus [Hebrews 1:1-2]
God speaks to us through his law and the conscience.
[I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:33]
Therefore as we read in the book of Romans it is inexcusable to deny the existence of God.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:20)
We Learn Through the In-dwelling of His Spirit
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
It was always God’s intention to dwell among his people; firstly in the tabernacle in the wilderness, then the temple in Jerusalem and finally to indwell the believer who is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Aside from the intimacy of such a closeness and unity with our Lord (which I in no way desire to diminish or play down), the teaching role of the Holy Spirit is of vital importance to the believer. As we have just read it is he who teaches us all things and brings them to remembrance.
Memory plays an important role in learning; the act of repetition reinforces the lesson. Our message on Deuteronomy was title “remember”; the word appears 14 times in the text. Do you think remembrance is important?
We Learn Through His Word
From a practical sense it is obvious that we are taught from his word. If it wasn’t for his word how would we know the things we are supposed to learn? Yet the word of God is so much more than just an instruction manual.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
God desires to change us from the inside and through his word he is able to spiritually dissect us and perform surgery. I think of it like a Barium meal (the drink which you take before an x-ray). It goes through the body and under x-ray it reveals our diseases or defects.
Similarly James describes God’s word as a mirror which shows our flaws. We are encouraged therefore to be doers of the word and not just hearers lest we forget our faults.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
We can’t go past this scripture when we are referring to scripture. The words doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction are indicative of some form of teaching as God perfects us and equips us for his work; again from the inside out (throughly). Modern versions use the word equipped rather than furnish but there is something about that word which paints a picture of a place suitable for the Lord’s habitation.
Think about the exactness and lavishness of Solomon’s Temple. Now reflect on the fact that (as born-again believers) now we are the temple of God.
In furnishing us the word of God both removes sin (but not the temptation to sin) and adds virtue to the believer thus making him fit for service. It transforms us by renewing the mind and enables us to pull down arguments which contradict the truth of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
We must acknowledge the role of the Holy Spirit in combination with his word with regard to teaching us. It makes perfect sense that the one who authored the word is the one who must assist in the teaching of it. [No word of prophecy is of private interpretation]
I remember as a new believer reading the bible for the first time and being amazed at the sense it made. Prior to this it was open to all sorts of interpretation. I was saved out of New Age beliefs and the term born again had an entirely different meaning for me; one which was more in line with reincarnation.
As believers if God’s word is going to teach us then our attitude to God’s word will determine the effectiveness of our learning. Whilst the parable of the sower deals predominantly with unbelievers, there are still lessons we can learn from the principles involved. The word of God which falls by the wayside (on stony ground) will not take root nor will it bear fruit. Likewise the word of God which falls on an un-believing heart is swallowed up by Satan.
We Learn Through His Grace
The grace of God which saves us also teaches us.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (Titus 2:11-12)
What then about the grace of God that it teaches us (to live godly lives)? If nothing else, then it is because it was given freely, without merit to wretched sinners who once were vessels of God’s wrath and are now vessels of his mercy. Therefore because his grace is as wonderful as his wrath is terrible; we present our bodies as instruments of his righteousness.
It is a grateful heart which is eager and motivated to learn. Remember that his grace is not cheap.
Paul explains it thus.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2)
We that were dead in our sins ARE now dead to it.
We Learn Through Submission
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Remember at the beginning of our message we saw that those who heard and consequently learned of the Father, came to Jesus. Now again we see the call for lost sinners to come to Christ.
Jesus says, “take my yoke upon you”.
What is a yoke? A yoke is a wooden cross-piece or brace that goes across the necks of two oxen and joins them to a cart or plough. Typically the beast on the inside sets the pace. By taking Christ’s yoke we walk in step with him.
There is one condition and it is the condition of the heart. He asks us to submit to his authority and take direction from him by exchanging our yoke and our burden for his. It is a matter of trust; even though his burden is easy and it is light trusting God goes against our natural tendency to rely on ourselves.
There is also another way to look at Christ’s yoke and that is in view of the cross. Jesus bore our sins when he died in our place at Calvary. In his obedience he yoked or bound himself to the will of Father. He says that if any would follow after him, they too must take up their cross. In taking his yoke upon us we must acknowledge our sin; seeking his forgiveness if we have not already done so or rejoicing in the fact that our sins are forgiven.
It is through the cross that we enter into the Master-disciple relationship.
Jesus tells us, “learn of me”; that is to say: learn from my example. As Paul writes, let this mind be in you, which also was in Christ Jesus. Again this is one of humility and submission; Christ himself learning obedience through the things he suffered.
Know this then: a humble heart is a teachable heart.
As believers we are familiar with the notion that we are (or at least ought to be) disciples of Christ and as part of the Great Commission we ought to be making disciples of Christ. It is no surprise then that as disciples we can emphatically say that we are taught by God:
We are taught through the in-dwelling of his spirit.
We are taught by his word.
We are taught by his grace.
We learn through submission.
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (2 Peter 1:2-3)
As I meditate on this verse, the truth contained within is enough to make me dizzy. Through his divine power he has given us everything we need to live a godly life. I believe we have captured some of this in our message today; the power of his spirit, the power of his word, the power of his grace, the power of submission.
And yet also as we also meditate on this verse, we should tremble knowing that there is no excuse for not becoming the person he wants us to be.
In all of these elements of learning, humility is a key attitude.
All learning has an expected outcome and without going off on a tangent; the goal of our learning is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
This is a message for another time.
We saw at the beginning of our message the importance of hearing in the process of learning and this is my final point.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
Psalm 95 gives a poignant lesson in regard to the Israelites and their wanderings in the wilderness. Because they refused to believe God they were refused entry into the Promised Land.
The writer of Hebrews expounds on this in Hebrews 4:1-11
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4:1-11)
The lesson for us as believers is not to harden our hearts through unbelief and pride when we hear God speak to us through his word.
Matthew Henry gives a very good commentary on this portion of scripture in Hebrews which I could not go past.
Christ calls upon his people to hear his voice. You call him Master, or Lord; then be his willing, obedient people. Hear the voice of his doctrine, of his law, and in both, of his Spirit: hear and heed; hear and yield. Christ’s voice must be heard today. This day of opportunity will not last always; improve it while it is called today. Hearing the voice of Christ is the same with believing. Hardness of heart is at the bottom of all distrust of the Lord. The sins of others ought to be warnings to us not to tread in their steps. The murmurings of Israel were written for our admonition. God is not subject to such passions as we are; but he is very angry at sin and sinners. That certainly is evil, which deserves such a recompense; and his threatenings are as sure as his promises. Let us be aware of the evils of our hearts, which lead us to wander from the Lord.
Let me finish with this:
We started our message today talking about two miracles. I would like to finish by talking about another two miracles; the one making it possible for the other. The first miracle is this:
God became a man; born of a virgin. He lived a perfect life and at the age of 33 he died on a cross to pay the just penalty for your sins. He rose again on the third day and 40 days later he ascended up to heaven.
The second miracle is this; man being dead in sin and trespass can receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
The question is: will you believe?