I want you to open your Bible to John 6 again, as we did last week. As you can tell, the title of the message is the same: “Christian Deconstruction.” For many generations of the church no one would understand what that means. But in this contemporary scenario, maybe over the last five or six years, that has become a very popular term to describe people who once professed to be Christians but who turned away. They deconstruct their Christian faith. It primarily find its adherence on the Internet through the normal, ubiquitous social media means, as they give their testimonies to being liberated from the oppression that Christianity once was for them. This is the typical scene. And most of them who defect do so because of an unwillingness to turn from iniquity, transgression, and sin, and be obedient to the Lord. And it comes down to that: that true Christians obey, and false Christians resent that. And so trying to get a handle on that, and help you to see it and understand it, I’ve chosen John chapter 6 as a great passage to explain this, because it is a widespread phenomenon.
As I said last week, there are so many false forms of Christianity, so many churches that preach an inadequate gospel that there’s a proliferation of false disciples. There is so much sowing tares amidst the wheat that we should not be surprised that there’s a lot of deconstruction, because people who aren’t genuinely Christian are very likely to at some point abandon whatever profession they made about Christianity to cling to their transgressions.
There’s an incident here that you would look at and say, “This is a heartbreaking incident,” and you would be right. This is defined most clearly by verse 66 of John 6: “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” Defecting disciples. Very strong language in verse 66, very strong, expressing finality. This comes—strangely, you might think—right at the high point of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee. He’s been doing miracles, particularly in the city of Capernaum where this incident takes place, and He has been raising people from all manner of illness and disease and demon-possession. He has proclaimed His deity as the Son of God, and He’s demonstrated the validity of the claim by His miracle power.
And then in this very chapter He just created food to feed a crowd, we would estimate, of 25,000 people. He literally created food out of nothing. A massive, incomprehensible miracle. And you would think that after that miracle and all the others that He had done in Capernaum that His disciples would be locked down on the fact that this is indeed the Son of God, this is indeed the Messiah.
But instead of that, you have this defection, this rebellion, this abandonment. And while it seems like a horrible moment in human history, it’s not uncommon. In fact, it’s pretty much the pattern even in biblical history. Go back to Deuteronomy chapter 6. Very familiar chapter. The children of Israel are on the edge of going into the Promised Land, and God is giving them instructions. They have seen His power. They saw His power unleashed in the plagues in Egypt. His protection and deliverance in the wanderings in the wilderness have put His display—His power on display in creating food, manna from heaven, water from a rock. They have seen the power of God. And now it’s time for them to go into the land. They have been given the Ten Commandments, and other commands; and here is what the Lord expects from them, chapter 6 of Deuteronomy. We’ll being at the beginning of the chapter.
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you’re going over to possess it, so that you, your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well for you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. These words, I am commanding you today, and shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up”—in other words, all the time. “Bind them as a sign on your hand,” so that even the work that you do is interpreted by these commands. “They shall be as frontals on your forehead,” that your thoughts even are filtered by these commands. And even “write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gate,” so that in your going in and going out you are always reminded of these commands.
Down in verse 18—well, verse 17 of that same chapter, “You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers.” And this continues.
If you drop down to verse 24, “So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today.” And chapter 6 ends with verse 25, “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded us.” You could see that the foundation of a relationship to God, a foundation of God’s relationship with His people, is a matter of His commands being obeyed. And this continues.
For example, chapter 7, verse 11, “Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I’m commanding you today, to do them.” Verse 12, “Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.”
Even into chapter 8, verse 1, “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.” Again, just constantly repeating the necessity of obedience.
A couple more: chapter 8, verse 11, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today.” Verse 19, “It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God.”
Now I took my time in going through that because I want you to understand one dominant theme there, and that is that your relationship to God, whether you’re Israel of old or the professing people of God in the modern era, your responsibility to God is defined by obeying His words, His commands. It’s not a sentimental relationship, it’s a relationship of specific commands and specific obedience.
So what happened? They went into the Promised Land. Did the nation Israel obey? No. Did they love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, strength? No. Did they keep His commandments? No. And so the rest of the history going through the Old Testament features God’s reaction to their disobedience.
A good illustration of their defection is found in Jeremiah chapter 2, Jeremiah chapter 2, where Jeremiah, indicting, obviously, the unfaithful people. And verse 11—just picking out some of the highlights of this message in chapter 2, verse 11, “Has a nation changed gods when they were not gods? But My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.” Their glory was God. They exchanged God for idols.
Verse 12, “‘Be appalled at this, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,’ declares the Lord.” Verse 13, “For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water”—a way to describe idols.
Verse 17, “Have you not done this to yourself by your forsaking the Lord your God?” Verse 19, “ Your own wickedness will correct you, and your apostasies will reprove you.” Verse 21, he says, “You turned yourself before Me into a degenerate shoot of a foreign vine.” Verse 22 he adds, “The stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord God.
Verse 29, “Why do you content with Me? You have all transgressed against Me.” Verse 32, “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number.” In Deuteronomy the Lord says, “If you forget Me, you will perish.” And Jeremiah indicts them by saying, “That’s exactly what you have done: You have forgotten God; you have defected.” It’s apostasy; it’s rebelling. This is not new. This is essentially what you see throughout the history of the Old Testament, a history of the people of God, the Jewish people.
So the idea of defecting is not at all new, and in the New Testament it is addressed as well; and we looked at some of the passages last week—just to add a couple of ones that I think will be helpful. Second Timothy 1:15. This is a compelling passage; it has always caused me to wonder just exactly how this looked from the vantage point of the apostle Paul at the time—so faithful, ready to pass the baton of ministry to Timothy, having served the Lord so faithfully, particularly in province of Asia Minor.
But he says to Timothy as he instructs him, “You are aware of the fact that all”—not some, not a few, not many—“all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” “All . . . turned away.” It’s a strong word, apostrephō, “to turn and go far the opposite direction.” Defectors were a part of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, and not just a few, but “all in Asia Minor”—shocking statement.
In 2 Peter chapter 2 there’s a more thorough description of apostasy in verse 20, 2 Peter 2:20, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”—what does that mean? That means that they have “escaped the defilements of the world” in the sense that they have moved into some relationship with Christianity, with the Christian religion; and so as a consequence of that, they have decreased their moral contamination from what it was in their past life. These are people who connected themselves to the church, to God’s people. They “escaped,” in some measure, the corruption that was ubiquitous in their previous lives. And “by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” they came to understand something of the gospel; they were influenced by it.
However, if “they are again entangled in them”—that is, “the defilements of the world”—“and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” And he gets specific: “It would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” And notice again how the gospel itself is called a “holy commandment,” because it always comes down to the words that God has revealed in terms of what He desires for us to do in obeying Him. And he gives two illustrations of this: It’s like “a dog returns to its own vomit,” or “a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
There are people who superficially and externally—by their association with Christian people, with religion—escape some measure of moral contamination. However, it doesn’t last. They are “entangled again” with those very things. They are “overcome” by them. Their "last state is worse than the first. It would have been better for them if they had never known the truth. Why? Because punishment is greater if you knew the truth and rejected it than if you didn’t know it. That’s Hebrews, isn’t it, chapter 10—how much severer punishment shall fall on those who knew the gospel and rejected the gospel.
You can feel sadness for people who never heard the gospel and perish without the knowledge of Christ, but you have to understand that far more severer eternal punishment is waiting for people who knew the gospel, were around the gospel, exposed to the gospel, and turn away from it. That’s far more severe. It would have been better for them if they had never heard the gospel. So you have to declare to this current trend of people that are fascinated by Christian deconstruction that they would have been better off if they’d never heard the gospel, for their eternal punishment will be more severe, more severe. In that same tenth chapter of the book of Hebrews it says there remains, therefore, for them no sacrifice for sin once they turn away, and all that is left is God’s fury and anger and vengeance. Nothing to trifle with, even though it’s trendy and popular.
The current trend in Christian defection, or deconstruction or rebellion or betrayal or backsliding or whatever you want to call it, is so lightly treated that people call themselves “exvangelicals,” #exvangelical, and there wear it as a badge of liberation. They are a new group of people who have come out from under oppression. And the majority of those who opine on this Christian deconstruction—and there are hundreds of thousands of them—talk about the liberation that they felt when they disconnected themselves from the Word of God, from Christianity. And there are on the Internet countless testimonies and supposed “safe spaces” and therapy programs and all kinds of counseling and motivational approaches to help others deconstruct and get free from the oppression of Christ and the gospel. They look at Christianity, and they identify toxic churches. They talk about oppressive patriarchy. They speak of the narrowness of biblical morality, misogyny, racism, white supremacy, homophobia—everything in the woke library, they hold up as reasons to abandon Christianity.
But it’s never a result, as I said last week, of Scripture study. It’s never because they looked at the Word of God and the gospel did not hold up to their scrutiny. No. It’s because they love their sin, and they’re not willing to let go of it. And it comes down to not just Jesus, but it comes down to whether or not they will obey His commands. The Great Commission is to “go into the world and teach people to obey everything I have commanded you.” Christianity is an affirmation of a covenant to obey God, to obey Christ, and that means in every issue.
But what the Bible has to say about morality, what the Bible has to say about women, what the Bible has to say about so many things is an offense to the contemporary culture and to the unregenerate mind, that half-converted people very prone to abandon it and find themselves in the state of an apostate. And there will be a lot of them because there are so many churches that are preaching an inadequate gospel, that are filled with non-Christians who think they’re Christians, many of whom will at some point deconstruct because there was no real satisfaction in the brand of Christianity that they were exposed to.
I found a letter, just to give you an illustration, really a typical letter. I read a lot of them. But this is a letter from a girl who deconstructed happily. And this gives you kind of a feeling for what is very, very typical. She identifies herself this way: “I self-identify as an exvangelical pastor’s daughter missionary kid who went through a crisis of sexuality, a crisis of faith, and I'm now a lesbian with the most amazing partner. And she tells her story in a few words.
“My own journey of deconstruction began well before I was aware of it. As a high schooler on various social media sites like Tumblr and MySpace . . . and surrounded by peers coming from backgrounds and walks of life completely foreign to me, I began to see that my worldview was much too narrow to encompass so much of life.
“What really got my attention was the multiple friends and acquaintances throughout those four years in school who embraced gender identities and sexualities much different from what I had been brought up to understand. Even as I spoke the familiar phrases (‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ and ‘Jesus loves everybody’), I saw that my intent and my impact were incredibly different. My words were meant to soothe and comfort lost souls in search of healing. Instead, they alienated those I loved and elevated me to a higher, more enlightened circle wherein they were not welcome.
“In 2014, Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenaged girl, [committed] suicide in Ohio. I learned about her death because she had left a final post on Tumblr in which she said, ‘There’s no winning. There’s no way out.’ Her family had forced her into faith-based conversion therapy in life and buried her under the wrong name in death. Leelah’s passing shocked me into waking up to a more bitter reality than I had previously lived in; LGBTQ youth’s [sic] lives were endangered by the very people I trusted to protect and provide truth to them.” This is a footnote: “LGBTQ lives are put in danger by Christians”—that’s the message.
“As I thought and talked about this tragedy, I realized that most Christians in my day-to-day life . . . weren’t aware or weren’t interested in this topic. Those who would discuss it with me had a very different perspective—that those in the LGBTQ community were putting themselves in danger due to their lifestyles”—in other words, as long as they’re living out a homosexual lifestyle, they’re safe. As soon as they get anywhere near a Christian, they put themselves in danger.
“I couldn’t believe it. I saw the ways in which Christians either [actively or passively] played a hand in Leelah’s death and [I] knew that something was wrong. . . . My interest in LGBTQ issues allowed me to admit to myself that I didn’t experience attraction to men the same way many female friends around me did. It took a few more years of unlearning a lot of homophobia to understand that I am attracted to women, and that this [doesn’t] leave me isolated from the love of God.
“. . . It seemed no one wanted us, unless we were willing to change ourselves to the core of our souls in order to reflect the same whitewashed, heterosexual identities Christian leaders presented the world.” And that’s the issue: They don’t want to give up their sin.
She goes on, “I learned about liberation theology, womanist theology, and the other dozens of perspectives that can be utilized when looking at the Bible, as well as Christian history and theology. . . . I am no longer in a race against time to save every non-Christian person I know. I have a larger, more expansive view of myself, my fellow humans and of God. I am in community with other fantastic seekers of the Christ.” That’s full-scale, outright, complete rebellion, so that Christianity is now the enemy, the enemy. That is very typical of the kind of things you read over and over and over again.
And again, I just say for you to understand: People aren’t jettisoning Christianity because the Bible doesn’t make sense, they’re jettisoning Christianity because they don’t want to give up their transgressions, they don’t want to give up their wretched lifestyle. And if there’s any one dominant lifestyle that appears more than any other, it’s homosexuality. I mean, obviously it’s everywhere in this culture, and it’s a major factor in Christian deconstruction. And if that’s where you deconstruct, that severer dysfunctional iniquity, you can imagine that lesser sins would make deconstruction even easier.
So this is what we face. So how are we to understand this? And with that we go back to John 6, back to John 6. How are we to understand this? Well, here is an incident in John 6 that gives us insight into that question. I’m just going to read it very quickly and make a few comments.
Verse 60, Jesus teaching in Capernaum. Verse 60, He has just fed 25,000 people in this massive miracle and taught them about Himself. “Therefore”—verse 60—“many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’
“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” And there’s a finality in the Greek construction of that statement. “So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, [was] one of the twelve, [who] was going to betray Him.”
This is a shocking, dramatic moment in the Galilean ministry of Jesus, when not a few, but “many,” verse 66, verse 60, “many” said, “This is too hard to take. This is not something we can believe.” Many said that. And in verse 66, “Many . . . withdrew,” in a final act of withdrawal, and didn’t walk with Jesus anymore.
What’s going on here? Well, we looked back at the beginning of chapter 6 in the feeding of the multitude here, and you remember we said these disciples were drawn by the crowd. That’s true of the disciples; the massive crowd had drawn these people. And that’s kind of how false disciples sometimes get their connection to Christianity: There’s a crowd, there’s a megachurch, there’s a concert, there’s whatever. And the crowd, based on the fact of the crowd alone, draws people. And so there were thousands drawn to the crowd in Galilee.
Secondly, they were fascinated by the prospect of the supernatural. Once they found out Jesus was there and He was the one who had been healing, casting out demons, they were fascinated by the supernatural. This is typical even in today’s false discipleship pattern. The crowd draws people, and there is a kind of a longing in their mundane hearts for a taste of the supernatural, which is very often artificially created by light and sounds and music.
The crowd was together, together on the basis of the supernatural, and they saw it. He fed them, after they gathered together, with food that He created on the spot. It turns out they wanted worldly benefits. They wanted more food. They wanted Jesus to become their king so they could have Him create their food all the time. What a life that would be, in an ancient time when you had to work so hard to get your meal; imagine somebody who could create your food. They wanted worldly benefits. And again, this is true of false disciples today. They’re drawn to the crowd, they’re fascinated by the prospect of the supernatural, and they think somehow it’s going to benefit them in a worldly way.
The next thing that happened was they demanded their requests to be met. They wanted more out of Jesus, and they wanted more food out of Jesus; and that’s what happens with false disciples even today. They want their needs to be met. They want you to deliver the prosperity gospel that you’ve promised them. They want you to deliver the satisfaction, the soul peace and quiet, tranquility that so many people are offered, as if that’s what the gospel gives. And when it doesn’t happen, they’re disillusioned.
And then, of course, Jesus began to talk to them about the fact that He was going to die. He said, “You have to eat My flesh and drink My blood.” In other words, “You have to accept Me, first of all, as the Son of God, come from the Father, come down from heaven”—all this is in that sixth chapter—“and you have to understand that I have to die, I have to give My flesh for the life of the world.” And they were not interested in that. They weren’t interested in Jesus as a person. They weren’t interested in the fact that He had come down from heaven. They were not interested in His atonement, the fact that He was going to be a sacrifice for sin; they didn’t need that. They reject His atonement.
So the crowd draws them, fascinated by the prospect of the supernatural. When they see the supernatural, they want personal benefits that fit their carnal desires. They put the demands on for those to be delivered; and where they’re not delivered, they will defect because they have no real interest in the person of Christ, and certainly no interest in His atoning sacrifice.
And so we meet them in verse 60. There the many disciples, who when Jesus had given this message, said, “[It’s] a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” “Statement” there could be translated “teaching,” “teaching.” It’s “difficult”—that’s an interesting word. “Difficult” is sklēros; get that from cirrhosis of the liver. In English, that’s “a hardening.” It means “dried out,” “rough,” “harsh,” “stiff.” It can extend to being “unpleasant, objectionable, offensive, unacceptable, violent, fierce, repulsive, defiant, grating to the mind,” one lexicon says.
This discourse of Jesus about Him being from heaven, being from the Father, being the bread of life—“this is not acceptable to us,” that He came from heaven, that He is the true food for the soul, that He is the one who can give eternal life, that He would die as an atonement, a sacrificial substitute for sinners. This is not possible to them. It can’t be possible.
If you go back to verse 41, “The Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ [And] they were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven”?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves.’” They were grumbling about His claims, and then they were grumbling about His description of His sacrifice. What you can say is they were fascinated by the supernatural person of Jesus, they were not interested in His words, the words that expressed who He was and why He came. It was the “statement” that was the message that they couldn’t tolerate.
Sure, people gladly welcome someone who’s going to show them compassion, kindness, mercy, healing, restoration. But that’s all superficial. The question is, Will you accept His words? Will you accept what He said about Himself and His ministry and everything else?
Over in the eighth chapter of John, verse 30, “As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.” Verse 31, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.’” How do you define a true disciple? That is one who continues in the Word, loving the Word, and obeying the Word. It’s not about a sentimental attachment to Jesus—which very often is an imaginary Jesus that has nothing to do with the real one.
Over in chapter 5, verse 24, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life.” It’s that simple: You hear His word, you believe it, and you believe in the God who sent Him, you have eternal life, you don’t come into judgment, but pass out of death into life. That’s why Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the message concerning Christ, hearing and believing the truth.
Well, they were offended by it. They were offended, verse 61, “Jesus, conscious that His disciples”—interesting that He calls them “His disciples” even though they were false, they were externally part of the group—“conscious that His disciples grumbled”—complained—“at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble, skandalizō?’” “Are you offended by My words? Are you offended by My words?” And of course, they were.
Over in chapter 7, verse 7, “The world . . . hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” Sure, they can take all the miracles He can deliver, all the free food He can create. It was the words that they didn’t like. It was the words that offended them. It was the words that were too harsh and unacceptable.
In verse 62 the Lord offers a plea: “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” “Why don’t you just stick around until the Ascension and watch Me go back into heaven to prove that I came from heaven?” But the false disciples have no intention of staying because they have no interest in Jesus or His sacrifice. And He says to them in verse 63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” “All you want is what satisfies your flesh—to what end? The words, the words, the words that I’ve spoken to you are spirit and are life.” And again, let me say this: People who defect out of Christianity don’t do so because the Bible can’t make the case for the validity of the Christian faith, they do so because they don’t like the words that the Bible speaks.
I saw yesterday, another schoolboard has removed all Bibles from the library in a public school. They hate the Bible, the words. You can have a sentimental Jesus, but you can’t let Him say what He says in Scripture. It’s the words that give life.
Verse 64, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” “You’re unwilling to accept the words.” In John 8:51 we read, “If anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” And I read you verse 31, “If you continue in My word, then you’re My mathētēs alēthōs, my real disciple.” It’s what do you do with Scripture. John 14, John 15, “If you love Me, you keep My”—what?—“My commandments.” Everything focuses on hearing, believing, and obeying the words, the words, the words. They didn’t believe. They didn’t believe.
Verse 64, “‘Some of you . . . do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.” Of course He knew; He knew everything. John chapter 2 says He knew what was in the heart of man. He knew Judas, and He knew these false disciples to be false. It was their unbelief then that caused them to walk away, verse 66, “As a result of this”—this unbelief with regard to the words that He spoke—“many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”
And remember, 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us . . . [because] they were not of us; if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out [from us], that it might be made manifest they [never were] of us.” They didn’t lose their salvation, they didn’t have it. They walked away not because they didn’t see miracle power; they saw it. Not because He wasn’t the most profound teacher they had ever heard; they heard it. They walked away because they did not want to obey His commands. They did not want to acknowledge His heavenly origin, because if that’s the case, then they have to obey His command. So they didn’t want to accept who He was or what He said.
You have to deny both. You can’t accept who He was and then deny His word. You can’t say, “Jesus is the Son of God, but I don’t believe what He said was true.” If you say He’s the Son of God, then His words are from heaven.
So you see the defection of the false disciples, it comes down to the offense of the words. The Bible’s crystal clear on what God hates and what God loves, and what God tolerates, what He doesn’t tolerate. And if you’re uncomfortable with those words, even your sentimental interest in Jesus will fade away because you’re holding your transgressions so tightly.
So that’s the defection of the false disciples. The text closes with the affection of the true disciples. It’s an obvious difference, verse 67, “So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’” And then Simon Peter sums it up perfectly: “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You can create food’”—no. “We’re not here because You create food, we’re here for the words, we’re here for the words”—“You have words of eternal life.” As Jesus said back in verse 63, “It’s the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Peter understood exactly what dominated the heart of a true disciple. They wanted the words from the mouth of the Son of God.
And Peter adds in verse 69, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God,” Isaiah’s favorite name for God, by the way. The demons knew this; Mark 1:24, “I know You, the Holy One of God,” the demons said. “We know who You are. You are the Holy One of God!” “You have come from heaven, Your words have eternal life, and so we believe.” If you’re a false disciple, you reject the words; if you’re a true disciple, you love the words because they are eternal life. And that’s the difference.
And then in the end of this little section Jesus answers them and said, “‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” We’re not allowed to dwell on Peter’s confession very long, actually; only a brief pause before we face the pathos that dominates this moment. Judas, the archetypal false disciple, is exposed.
Judas didn’t believe the words that Jesus spoke, had no interest in Jesus or in obeying His commands. Judas wanted temporal things; and when Jesus didn’t deliver, he wanted to get out. And since he’d wasted three years of his life, he wanted to get out with some money at least, so he started stealing from the small treasury. The materialist—no interest in the words, even though he saw who He was. So adept at hypocrisy that even the other disciples didn’t know until he was exposed in the upper room, about six months after this.
And this is Jesus’ way of sort of closing this narrative and saying, “You’re going to face this, and it’s going to come at very high levels: a disciple, one of the twelve, a pastor of a church, the head of a Christian institution. But understand, I know who they are, I know who they are.”
There’s a sadness in this that is resolves, really, theologically. Why do I say that? Go back to verse 65. Here’s where Jesus rests at this sad reality of defection: “He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’” That is a powerful statement. This salvation is all a work of God.
Go back to verse 37 of John 6: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” Verse 44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” And here for the third time He says the same thing: “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” This is where you resolve this: in God’s sovereign will, in God’s sovereign will.
The bottom line for you and for all of us is, Do you believe? Right? Some of you have not believed. You don’t believe the words—the words of the gospel, the words of sanctification, the words of truth. But others of you believe; and for you, the word is life. But in the end, we rest it all in the Father’s will, so that Christ will accomplish redemption. He will build His church because that’s the divine design, and it will come to pass.
Our Father, we are grateful, again, for the Word that gives life. And we have experienced that life. We know it to be a profound transformational life, so that we are new creations in Christ when we receive that eternal life. Lord, I pray that You would move on the hearts of any who are here who have come partway but not all the way to Christ. May they not harden their hearts as they did in the Old Testament. May they come all the way to Christ. May You draw them, O Father, for Your glory. And help us to know that the mark of discipleship is obedience—and it’s not an obedience out of fear, it’s an obedience out of love. It’s an obedience that we cherish and that we enjoy and that we love. With David, we say, “O how I love Your law.”
We love You; that love compels our obedience. We love Your law, which is a righteous manifestation of Your nature, which we love as well. May all of us examine our heart to see whether we’re in the faith—and we know that if we love You. That’s what You said to Peter three times: “Do you love Me?” And if we love You, we manifest that by obedience—not perfect obedience, but heartfelt, continuous, faithful obedience, under the power of Your Spirit.
We’re grateful for the calling from heaven that the Father extended to us who believed. May we be faithful in following, and may we be faithful in proclaiming the glorious gospel that alone can save. And Lord, I ask in this culture, in this generation, that You would make Your words known and heard. Don’t let this society silence Your Word. May Your Word go forth loudly against the satanic messages that drown out everything, and may Your truth prevail, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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