|Volume 18 Number 8 August 2016||
The Voice of God
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone asks for an explanation of John 5:37 in light of Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5. The petitioner is concerned that there is a biblical contradiction between John and Matthew.
John 5:37 reads, “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form” (NKJV). Matthew 3:17 records the voice of God at the baptism of Jesus Christ, and says, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 17:5 pertains to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ and reads, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’”
First, we need to identify to whom Jesus was speaking in the context of John 5. In John 5:16, we see that those to whom our Lord was speaking were His enemies, fellow Jews who “sought to kill Him.”
Secondly, Jesus did not say that God had not spoken to mankind, but on the contrary, He did affirm that especially those to whom Jesus was speaking on that occasion had not listened and heeded the voice of God. God “testified” (John 5:37) of Jesus, but those Jews in particular did not listen to God. Through the centuries on occasion, God did speak to mankind.
In the third place, the human auditors of the voice of God in Matthew 3:17 and 17:5 were different persons from those to whom Jesus was speaking in John 5:37. According to the context of Matthew 3:17, those present at the baptism of Jesus may have included residents of “Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan” (Matthew 3:5) as well as “many of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” who became our Lord’s enemies. Even if some of those Pharisees and Sadducees were in the group to whom Jesus spoke in John 5, they certainly did not hear the voice of God in the sense of acknowledging and obeying it.
Fourthly, those present to hear the voice of God at the Transfiguration of Christ in the account of Matthew 17 were some of the apostles (“Peter, James, and John” v. 1). Those three apostles comprised a different audience from the one addressed critically by our Lord in John 5.
Fifthly, the Transfiguration of Christ occurred after the context of John 5:37. Therefore, under no circumstances could there be any conflict between John 5:37 and Matthew 17:5. The voice of God heard at the Transfiguration had not been heard by anyone yet when John 5:37 occurred.
In conclusion, there is no contradiction between John 5:37, Matthew 3:17 and 17:5. Primarily, Jesus did not teach that God had not spoken to mankind, but rather that the enemies of Jesus were not listening to God, Who had spoken to them through the Old Testament prophets.
Why Were They Called Christians?
In Acts 11:26, we find an interesting statement, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Peter said that we should be proud of wearing that name. “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).
Why were the early disciples first called Christians in Antioch rather than in Jerusalem? After all, the church had been in existence for several years (possibly 10 years), so why would the name be given or taken in Antioch after several years rather than in Jerusalem? At first, the church was composed of only Jews and was considered to be a sect of the Jews. However, in Antioch, this designation would not work because this was the first predominately Gentile church. They were no more Jews than they were pagans. Both Jews and Gentiles now met on equal terms, so a new name was needed to identify these people. Now ethnicity was replaced by an identity with Christ. Luke’s message in Acts 11:26 is that the church was so identified with Christ that even outsiders could find no better label to characterize this group.
We need to be so intimately connected to Christ that the same would be true today. When people see us and look at our lives, they should immediately think about the teachings of Jesus and identify us with Him. Is this true of your life?