Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
In my previous post, I put up two passages for comparison. One was from Deuteronomy 18; the other from John 6. In this post, I would like to explain how I have handled the John text.
If you read from most, if not all, translations, you will notice that I have rendered those portions that say "believe in" or "believe on" as "believe." Verse 27 ends with the phrase, "…for on him God the Father has set his seal." This seal is a stamp or a mark denoting the authenticity or genuineness of the article in question.
So when you go to the auto parts store for a replacement alternator, because your old one has stopped working, you look for the OEM stamp designating Original Equipment Manufacturers genuine replacement parts. You want to know that you aren't getting something shoddy. The proof of your "belief" is the act of trading your money for the alternator. You accept the stamp as proof of authenticity.
Jesus said, "This is the work of God that you believe him whom he has sent." So the Jews, like good consumers, demand, "What sign do you perform, what mark of authenticity do you display that we may see and believe." (Note: this is the one instance where this word is rendered "believe" and not "believe in" or "believe on".)
Jesus' answer is all about the bread that comes down from heaven. "He who comes to me shall not hunger, he who believes me shall never thirst." "This is the bread that comes down from heaven that a man may eat of it and not die."
The proof of the alternator is to install it in the car, tighten up the belts, and start the engine. Is your battery charging? Do you have lights? Does it stand up to the job?
One can "believe in" the alternator, write creedal statements, hold conferences about our statements of "faith" that alternators produce electricity. But one only "believes" the alternator once it is installed and has been shown to work properly.
"Believe in" is a passive, distant sort of agreement to accept certain statements as "fact." "Believe" implies a working relationship where we receive and depend upon the contributions of Christ. It is continuous and uninterrupted.
I am convinced that this passage is all about Jesus being stamped as the genuine or authentic Prophet like Moses whom we are to hear in all things: "believe him whom the Father has sent." The chapter ends with a dialog wherein Peter states, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know that you are the anointed," [the one consecrated to the office of the Prophet like Moses who speaks God's word to God's people, restoring them into the image of God.]
The Israelites were given manna as food to sustain them on their passage from Egypt to Canaan. But here is a further exodus: to leave the dominions of the serpent and to enter the kingdom of God. We are to be not only restored to the state of Adam and Eve before the fall but to come beyond them to sit down in Christ who never fell.
By eating, man fell from the image of God. And so he died and returned to dust from which he had come. Now the serpent crawls upon his belly feeding upon the dust, the fallen ones. But the bread given to us by our prophet like Moses is such that those who eat of it have life. "The flesh profits nothing. It is the breath that gives life. The words which I speak to you, these are breath and life."
"Woe to those disobedient children," cried Isaiah, "Who cover themselves but not with my breath." (Isaiah 30:1) This woe is not some magical curse that causes those people to come to grief. It is a statement of fact that except you have this breath of life, you are fed upon by the serpent. When you are covered by the breath of life, the serpent cannot enter. He may rage and storm against you, but he dare not enter into the life. He may try to entice you to leave behind the breath, but not one bite can he take. He cannot feed upon the life and light which are abomination to his nature, death and darkness.
So the true believers in the "one God has sent upon whom he has set his seal," are those who install him in the Prophet-Like-Moses place.
So hear his voice, everyone of you, that speaks from heaven, whose voice shakes the earth, and not the earth only, but the heavens also. The heaven imports joy: so all the false joys, the lifted-up joys, or exalted joys, and joys in vain glory, and joys in the world, or any outward thing or creature, and men or women; his voice that speaks from heaven shakes the earth and the heavens and these must be shaken and removed, both the heavens and the earth, before that doth appear that can never be shaken, the noble, royal seed, elect and precious, before the world began. Being heirs of him, come to inherit him: in him you shall know that which cannot be shaken, and there is the true joy, in that which is from everlasting to everlasting, who is the beginning and ending: here are not any either lifted up or fallen down to despair. So, I say, hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for not hearing the voice, you harden your hearts and then you provoke God to wrath and sore displeasure. Let him have your ear, that speaks from heaven, that you may come to observe his counsel, teaching, instruction, and direction;… And as your ears are attentive to the Lord's voice, that speaks from heaven, iniquity's mouth is stopped in you, the throne of iniquity is thrown down in you; that is, the wicked spirit and power, where iniquity sits; and the chambers of imagery are thrown down in you, where all thoughts and imaginations are. As the ear is attentive to the voice of him that speaketh from heaven, you will come to the throne of the Lamb, who hath the power, who hath the power, who hath the victory and the dominion, that all may live there in the everlasting power of God, that goes over all deceit, which was before deceit and darkness were; and always feel a growing in the power of the Lord God, that is universal and everlasting, that you may all be heirs of the power of an endless life, and come to inherit it, and possess it, and sit down in the possession of the same, that every one's lot may fall in the land of the living, where the Lord hath his glory and his honour for ever and ever. Oh! The glory, glory of the Lord, that spreads over all! And here you have his savour, and can taste your meat in the power of the Lord God, feeding upon every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, having every one's ear attentive to his voice: in this you grow up in the life that is eternal. (Works of Fox, Vol. 7, pp. 280-281)
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I have found these two posts interesting. I'm new too the site. It's true that the phrase 'believe / believe in' is very problematic and is usually taken to mean something passive or legalistic. Could 'trust' be a better word to use?
Trust certainly seems to be part of the equation! Part of the point I am making with the distinction between believe and believe in is that you can believe in a Christ who is absent, but you can only believe Christ when you have heard him. The faith of Abraham, to which we are called, consists of hearing the voice of God, believing and trusting what we hear, and acting in accordance. The faith Christ writes upon our hearts rests upon the foundation of a dialogic relationship of hearing, responding in obedience, and discovering the trustworthiness of this process.