Gospel of John Sunday School | Week 21

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Notes on John 7:1-24

Throughout scripture, great care is taken to distinguish between the inward and the outward. In the economy of God, what is on the inside is truly what matters. God looks at the heart, whereas man is concerned with appearances (1st Samuel 16:7). God looks at motives, not mere lip service (Isaiah 29:13). God is concerned about the significance of spiritual things, not purely on the present physical needs (John 5:14). It isn’t that appearance, words, and the flesh are of little consequence. Rather, they derive their purpose and meaning from the deeper, spiritual reality that is beneath them.

At the Feast of Booths, Jesus has a confrontation with the Jewish authorities regarding this very issue. This issue, that inward/outward dichotomy, is core in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom. The kingdom of God and the gospel are often antithetical to man-made religion and earthly values. What Jesus offered is in stark contrast to what the Pharisees were offering. They operated under the false pretense of speaking for God, so Jesus’ words were considered blasphemous. He points out this difference in motivations, which only resulted in their further agitation (John 7:15-19).

To illustrate that His message was holy and consistent with the Old Testament He used the law. He points out that Levitical, eighth-day circumcision is permitted on the Sabbath. Although it would seem that this pits Leviticus 12:3 against Exodus 20:8-11, He acknowledges that they rightly observe the “exception.” What they are not doing rightly is observing the purpose of the law. It should direct them to their sinfulness. It should direct them to the messiah – to Jesus Himself.

However, in their spiritual blindness they lifted the law above true righteousness. Therefore, Jesus rebukes/commands “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

Legalism is the contemporary, global label for Phariseeism. Although there are outward actions that are sinful and require correction, legalism only offers criticism and correction for the surface irrespective to what lies beneath. Music that doesn’t conform is sinful. Dress that doesn’t conform is sinful. Drinking, eating, and associating that doesn’t conform is sinful. Reaching out to them is probably sinful.

Righteous judgment is true justice, kindness, and compassion (Zechariah 7:9). There is no spiritual gift of seeing into the hearts of men. Observing fruit, living in fellowship, and practicing righteous discernment according to scripture is the only manner in which we can judge our brothers and sisters.

A sinful world doesn’t conform to a legalistic ethic. Ironically, a legalistic ethic doesn’t conform to the message of the kingdom. The goal of the Christian ought to be humble ministry in good, holy conscience that glorifies God and not men.

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