‘Jesus, His Life’ was a History channel multiple episode look at the life of Jesus, as told by the people in his life who were closest to him. Eight episodes were aired leading up to Easter told by Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene, and Peter.
I’m not going to reiterate all of the personal comments contained in the reviews we posted, but share three observations and try and answer one question
Pastor Gabe Hughes, whose review of the first episode strongly suggested that this series would miss the true message of the gospel – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, was right. There were only two significant mentions of sin in the series, at least that I could see, and I watched every episode. One commentator, Adam Marshak, told us, “John’s (the Baptist) message is simple; repent of your sins, receive Baptism, receive purification, and you will be saved.” Was he teaching ‘baptismal’ regeneration? If the answer is yes, he was presenting a false gospel, repudiated in both the Old and New Testaments. The second reference to sin was actually an excellent comment. “There is nothing more important in Christianity than the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus defeats death, so he defeats sin, and his being raised to new life is about the promise to Christians that they too will be raised on the last day.” (Mark Goodacre)
The ‘gospel’ message presented was that Jesus was sent by God to save/fix everything that is wrong with the world, over and over again, by multiple commentators. In a word, ‘social justice’ is the gospel message delivered to the viewer. While matters of justice in society are addressed in the Bible, they are the natural result of Salvation, as believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and by that Spirit are urged to love & care for others in a myriad of ways.
In the episode covering the Last Supper, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many.”, using the Mark 4:24 reference. The Matthew 26:28 passage says, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Probably not a really big deal, but certainly a missed opportunity to include the specific reason shed his blood.
So from beginning to end, this film series completely MISSED presenting the gospel message that actually saves sinners – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, the very message the Angel bought to Joseph before the Savior’s birth.!
The Question: WHY?
Why do these sorts of films keep failing to share a message that can actually save sinners?
First of all, let me say that I completely understand why secular film makers, who are not themselves believers in Christ, would miss the true gospel. The Bible I read tells me that all unbelievers are lost and in bondage to sin, living in darkness, and in rebellion against their creator. I get that. Such a message won’t generate a large audience, or sell many tickets at the box office.
But why do professing believers keep failing to share the gospel that is about the problem of sin? Well I know why some do (Think Joel Osteen, the series producer). He told Larry King, during an interview, that he never dwells on sin. After all, we all know we sin and it’s not really necessary. In the same interview Joel said he sees himself as more of a life coach than anything else (like a biblical preacher?)
The series was full of commentators who were ordained ministers or, connected to Christian institutions. They didn’t share the genuine gospel either! This series doesn’t stand alone in that regard. The other productions mentioned at the beginning of this post were exactly same. This missing the gospel trends is also a prevailing characteristic of most offerings from Pureflix. I watched a fair amount of Pureflix offerings and finally stopped. They were too painful to watch.
I suspect this trend is based partly on the thought that if we just tell people how much Jesus loves them – wants to bless them in every way materially, and how special they are (God can’t even imagine heaven without us), they will find it really hard NOT to give their lives to Jesus, ask him into their hearts, walk an aisle, or repeat a special prayer, and all by making own ‘free will’ decision. In all fairness, there are many that believe that this is the BEST way to share the gospel. There was a time when I believed it myself. That was a LONG tome ago, before I read the Bible a few more times, and feel in love with the soul humbling doctrines of Sovereign grace.
The Apostle Paul tells us the true gospel is offensive to unbelievers, in their ‘natural’ state. The bad news about sin is deeply offensive to those who love their sin (all lost people). Paul also told us not to remove the natural offensiveness of the gospel (Gal 5:11, 1 Cor 1:17), yet we do, over and over again. Paul also proclaimed that he was NOT ashamed of that gospel (Acts 1:16). This offensive message is THE message that has the power to save sinners!
I see only two possible reasons for not sharing a gospel message that hits to the core problem we all have – SIN. We might have been taught that we just need to ‘attract’ people to Jesus and talking about sin could drive them away. Or, perhaps we are just ‘Ashamed of the Gospel’, as John MacArthur’s book of that name presents to us so clearly.
Again, I’m not trying to be unduly harsh with the makers of this, or any other of today’s popular Christian film offerings. But for this this old soldier, if I fail to share the true gospel, and trust in the sovereignty of God to save His own, just as the Angel promised Joseph, I am either ashamed of the gospel, or I have a very low view of God.
As for this, and many other “Christian’ offerings from the entertainment industry, most are nothing more than ‘adventures in missing the point.’ It was true of the other Bible based offerings we have reviewed here at The Battle Cry. And it it’s true of most Pureflix offerings. It was true of every single one that I watched some of their productions.
A bit of advice. 1) Pray for God to open hearts to receive the ‘bad news’ and the ‘good news’. 2) Pray that He send His gospel to the hearts He opened to hear it. 3) Be ready to be the messenger and share the whole gospel, with gentleness and love. Take the conversation to the ‘bad’ news first, followed by the good news.
“He WILL save His people from their sins.”
In you didn’t have the opportunity to read an old guy’s reviews of the series episodes, here are the links:
Jesus, His Life, Episode 1: Joseph: the Nativity – Pastor Gabe Hughes Jesus, His Life, Episode 2–John the Baptist: The Mission Jesus, His Life, Episode 3: Mary, The First Miracles Jesus, His Life, Episode 4: Caiaphas: The Raising of Lazarus Jesus, His Life, Episode 5: Judas: The Betrayal Jesus, His Life, Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial Jesus, His Life, Episode 7: Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion Jesus, His Life, Episode 8: Peter: The Resurrection
Each part of this film series is more difficult to watch. Although spurred on in my quest to answer the question “Where’s the gospel?”, my hopes are dwindling that it will make an appearance. We have yet to be presented the good news that Christ died for the sins of men. So, onward we go.
The Caiaphas episode revolves around the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas’ attempt to assess the threat Jesus poses to the status quo. Some commentators appear to be sympathetic to Caiaphas, as we will see. Note that much, if not most of this episode is taken from the Gospel of John
Once again, the same format is used, but this time we are provided Caiaphas’ possible thoughts and emotions about Jesus. I won’t give you all the names of all of the commentators, but try and provide an accurate account of what transpired in the film. I will try and not correct the narrative this time, but instead challenge you to examine scripture yourselves.
We are told that Caiaphas, High Priest 18 – 36 A.D., is extremely important, because without him Jesus cannot be arrested.
We begin with the Feast of Tabernacles. Thousands of people are gathered in Jerusalem for the occasion and Caiaphas is the ‘star’ of the festival as he presides over the activities. At one point he is standing on a balcony, pouring life giving water out of a pitcher onto plants below as some sort of ritual. Jesus appears and disrupts the ceremony by speaking: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
The commentator tells us that Jesus is really saying that “Rituals aren’t important, I’m the only one that can bring eternal life.”
We are treated to a short history lesson about the Romans having granted Jewish High Priests quite a bit of power, which is true, but Pilate was ‘large and in charge’. Pilate and Caiaphas talk about the previous Feast and Caiaphas tells Pilate that things are still peaceful, but he knows how quickly things can change.
Flash back several years earlier when Pilate wanted to build an aqueduct using funds from the Temple. An uprising ensued that the Romans forcefully put down. Caiaphas is worried another such revolt and the Romans again reacting with violence toward the Jews. This fear naturally affects the way he views Jesus.
We travel to Bethany, about 2 miles outside of Jerusalem. Bethany is a place where Jesus can experience normal daily living. Bethany is also the home of Mary and Marths, the sisters of Lazarus, who had a very close relationship with Jesus. While there, Jesus also teaches the people. We see Jesus teaching about the good Samaritan. We are also told that Mary and Martha travelled with Jesus as he travelled; female disciples with the same status as the other disciples.
The fact that Jesus and Lazarus are such close friends tells us that Jesus had friends outside of his closest disciples, demonstrating Jesus’ humanity,
We head back to Jerusalem and Caiaphas fear of Jesus’ healing miracles causing trouble and maybe even Roman violence. Caiaphas is, after all, most concerned with the welfare of the Jewish people and being allowed to practice Jewish religion.
Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and this time heals the man born blind, on the Sabbath, a really big no-no. The story presented in the film is accurate, including the man’s parents being brought in before Jewish leaders to confirm their son was born blind, as well as the healed man saying “All I know is that I was blind, but now I see.”
Caiaphas thoughts at the time: “If so many people can fall for Jesus’ tricks, how can I ignore him?” He KNOWS Jesus is dangerous. He cannot ignore him, especially when Jesus goes to the Temple.
We then see Jesus confronted by the Pharisees who ‘legitimately’ question his identity as the Son of God. Jesus tells them “My sheep know me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish.” (John 6). Jesus tells the Pharisees that he and the Father are One. They pick up rocks to stone Jesus, but he escapes through the streets of Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, we return to Caiaphas and his fears about Jesus. Caiaphas remembers another time, years ago, when he was just a child, another revolt that was crushed by the Romans and 2,000 Jews were crucified (this was mentioned in an earlier episode also). After all, Caiaphas is the defender of the Jewish faith and Jewish people (a common thread of this episode.
Jesus and his disciples have escaped to the ‘other side of the Jordan’, where John had baptized. At the same time, Lazarus becomes very sick at his home with Mary and Martha in Bethany. A messenger is sent to summon Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus is conflicted about what to do, but remains by the Jordan. Lazarus dies and by the time Jesus gets to Bethany, he has been dead four days and has been lying in a tomb, wrapped in linen, as was customary in Jesus time.
We know the story. Jesus shows up and confronts both Martha and Mary, in that order. Martha is angry Jesus did not come sooner. Jesus says Lazarus will live and Martha thinks Jesus is talking about the final resurrection. gives her a lesson about the final resurrection. Jesus tells her that he is the resurrection and the life and that the one who believes in him, though he dies, yet shall he live. He asks Martha “Do you believe this?” Martha confesses that she believes he is the Messiah, the Son of God.
Jesus goes to Mary and responds in a very human manner. Jesus weeps over the death of Lazarus and knowing the pain of Mary. Mary takes Jesus to the tomb. To Mary and Martha’s surprise Jesus tells Lazarus to come out of the tomb (but not with the loud voice spoken of in John’s Gospel). The crowd (Mary & Martha included) were stupefied,
A commentator tells us that Jewish theology would have believed the since Lazarus died and had laid there four days, it was what God ordained. Therefore Jesus was overturning what God ordained, which ways that maybe Jesus’ claims to be the Don of god were believable. This was an enormous threat to the religious establishment.
Spies are sent to Bethany to watch Jesus and find out what his intentions are. After all Jesus threatened the religious establishment in Jerusalem. Malchus, whose ear was cut off in the Garden was among them. If fat, Malchus has appeared throughout the series, having been a servant of Caiaphas.
It was this miracle that convinced Jewish religious leaders that Jesus was a real problem and must be dealt with. This is a major shift and places Jesus on a trajectory of death.
We see Malchus watching Jesus in the crowd at Bethany, wondering how Jesus raised Lararus miracles. Malchus muses: “After all he is not a sorcerer, but just a man, a man made of flesh and blood, and I must not be frightened of him.”
Malchus slips through the crown and returns to Jerusalem to report to Caiaphas. From that day on, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin try and come up with a way to deal with Jesus. There are arguments, but in the end, Caiaphas makes the hard call to get rid of Jesus. There is the risk of another revolt and to silence one man is not too much of a risk to preserve the religious establishment and the Jewish nation.
Dan’s Final Comments:
There is a lot I could say, but as I said, I challenge to the reader is to investigate for themselves. This isn’t because I’m lazy, I just know that interested believers, when they search the scripture for themselves, come away tremendously enriched for having done do!
I will mention something that was omitted from this episode that I think was a tremendously significant part of the final discussions between Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. We find in John’s account an actual God given prophesy made by Caiaphas about Jesus, while they were plotting to kill Jesus:
“47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:47-52)
This prophecy is clearly about Jesus dying for the sins of the Jews and not only the Jews, but for Gentiles also – ALL of the true children of God everywhere.
On one hand I am personally upset this was omitted, but on the other hand, it fits perfectly with the social justice narrative we have seen, as opposed to Jesus dying for the sins of people, not their earthly welfare. The ‘social justice’ theme is intact.
Next up: Judas: The Betrayal
‘Which is true, whosoever will or sovereign election?’ Like many questions this one demands a false answer. The Bible does not teach one or the other, it teaches both. Considered together the concepts may seem profound and difficult, but they are neither irreconcilable nor opposed to each other. Both are found in Holy Scripture and we cannot choose one and reject the other and remain true to the word of God. To believe all of the Bible, we must believe both whosoever will and sovereign election because they stand alongside each other in Scripture. Both teachings are divine jewels, true and precious. We must never allow anyone to force us to choose between them.
Read the rest of the article at The Banner of Truth
The short answer is that scripture teaches it:
1 Corinthians 2:14
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)
A natural person, one born of flesh only, is incapable of understanding that which is spiritually understood. Salvation (repenting and believing the gospel) is a spiritual transaction that requires spiritual understanding, for which regeneration is an absolute requirement.
”For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)
A mind can be fleshly (carnal), spiritual, or in the case of believers, in whom sin still resides, BOTH carnal and spiritual. The unbeliever is controlled by a fleshly mind and cannot please God. True repentance and belief in Christ pleases God, Therefore spiritual regenerating must precede faith.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Eph 2:1-5)
What can a ‘dead’ man do? WHEN WE WERE DEAD, we who now believe were made alive in Christ. That’s the very definition of ‘regeneration’.
2 Corinthians 4:1-4
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice[b] cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Who is perishing? All who have not received and believed in Christ. Why have they NOT received and believed in Christ? Their minds have been blinded by the god of this world. Regeneration opens blind minds and necessarily precedes faith.
”But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
The children of God are those who receive Christ and believe in his name. Those who receive and believe in Christ are those born of God, not by any form of human desire or will. To be born of God is to be regenerated. Note that no one is regenerated by an act of human will.
”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.””
To ‘see’ the kingdom of God in the above passage means “to perceive” Just as we must have been born naturally to physically see, we must be born spiritually (regenerated) to spiritually see.
Those who believe that human faith precedes regeneration generally fall into two groups:
I believe the above passages refute the first proposition, on its face. I also believe the second proposition to be in error simply because prevenient grace, in the Wesleyan sense is nowhere taught in the Bible. The thought is that God bestows prevenient grace to the lost sinner, who is then able to consider the claims of the gospel message and either freely accept or reject them by an act of natural human will.
Additionally, I can find NO language in all of the Bible that discusses some sort of decision making process in the process of the salvation of men. Even IF true and a human free will decision determined the eternal destiny of anyone, that person will have saved himself/herself, although God made it possible to be saved through the death of Christ.
It is my belief, based on the above passages, that the human will must ‘itself’ be changed for the natural man to desire to repent of sin and believe in Christ.
NOTE: For more in-depth discussions concerning ‘Prevenient Grace’ See:
Not long ago we wrote a blog post titled “The Most Precious Golden Chain?, the Golden Chain of Redemption, also called the ‘Ordo Salutis’, or ‘Order of salvation’, from Romans 8:29-30. Here are those passages with the links in that unbreakable Golden chain underlined:
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)
The ‘links’ in this chain are foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, to use the noun forms of what we are told that ‘he’ (GOD) ‘did’ for each and every one of his remnant people (the ‘whom’ in the passages). Once you understand God’s foreknowledge the remaining links are easier to understand.
The topic of this post is the first link in the chain, God’s foreknowledge, perhaps one of the most contentious issues in Christendom, right up there with ‘election’ and ‘predestination’. The intent of this post is a bit like the Fox News motto, ‘We Report, You Decide. This is not about convincing anyone of a personal opinion – that’s God business. J
Having said that, let’s tackle the first link in our chain, ‘Foreknowledge’.
The Definition of Foreknowledge
The meaning of the term is simple – it literally means ‘before’, or ‘earlier’ knowledge’ (Gr. ‘prognōsis’). In our passage of scripture we are told that God, based on knowledge He had beforehand, God took actions on behalf of those whom he would save from their sins. (see Matt 1:21).
The two definitions of foreknowledge in view here is that 1) God simply knows everything, which for most of us is true, and/or 2) God knows ‘His people’ in a much more intimate way. The question for us is “What does the Bible tell us about God and His knowledge? We’ll report and you can decide.
By far, the most prevalent definition among Christians in our day is the first definition, meaning that God looked down the corridors of time, saw those who would freely choose Him, then chose them to be the recipients of the other actions in our Golden Chain (predestination, calling, justification, & glorification). Let’s look at foreknowledge in Scripture.
First of all, the term foreknowledge/foreknow does not appear in the Old Testament, but it does appear in the New Testament:
In reference to Christ:
“this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge (prognōsis) of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:23)
In reference to believers:
“ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Pet 1:1-2)
In reference to Christ again:
“He was foreknown (progonisko) before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” (1 Pet 1:20)
Note that the same term is used in 1 Peter, verses 2 & 20, in reference to both Jesus Christ and believers. That might be rather significant.
But our question remains, “What does “for those whom he foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Which definition of foreknowledge is at play? Is it definition1, definition 2, or BOTH? Since we know what ‘fore’ means’ let’s now take a look at the term know and how it is used in Scripture. Here are just a few examples from both the OT and the NT, Hebrew (yada) & Greek (ginosko):
There are more examples, but these verses clearly tell us that God’s ‘knowing’ of His people is much more intimate than just knowing about them or what they will or will not do.
So again, does the ‘foreknowledge’ of God simply mean ‘know beforehand’, that God knows beforehand the actions of men and acts in light of that knowledge (by far, the prevailing view these days), or does it mean more?
How we answer that question has implications concerning evangelism:
If we believe God saves based on the foreseen faith/free will decision of men, we can be prone to appeal to that ‘free will’ and share Christ in such a manner that that is appealing to the lost man, who is by nature at enmity with God, who dwells in darkness, hates the light and loves sin. What that means is making the gospel that is offensive to those whose hearts have not been opened by God, actually appealing. So we leave out the bits that talk about sin (they love theirs) and the need for confession and repentance because of it, and instead talk about how much Jesus loves, loves, loves and wants to make their lives better. Everything we do, from personal discussions about Jesus to our church services needs to become attractive in order to elicit a free will decision to follow Christ.
If we believe that God saves based on His intimate foreknowledge and predetermined will we need only lovingly share the gospel that Christ died for the sins of his people.
Regardless of what we believe, it is our great privilege to share the gospel far and wide!___________________________
There is much more that can be said about the foreknowledge of God, and I hope this short summary will stimulate your spiritual thinking.
And as always I like feedback:
1. Did I accomplish my goal of just presenting the facts? I’d love to hear your opinion.
2. What’s your belief concerning God’s foreknowledge and why? No answer necessary, just think about it.
In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts about what I believe and why. I believe it.
Thanks for stopping by!