Can we trust the Bible? Is it true? John Piper answers a resounding YES. We’ve been following his reasons. In this final section of his book, Piper argues that God’s glory in the Scriptures authenticates them. In chapter 15, Piper contends Jesus’ miracles (as do his fulfillment of prophecy in chapter 14) show his glory–and thus show the Scriptures true.
THE LINK BETWEEN MIRACLES, GLORY AND FAITH
The apostle John wrote, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Included in that glory were miraculous signs. When Jesus changed water into wine, John commented, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory” (John 2:11).
Jesus spoke of his works as reason to believe in him. “Even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 14:11).
FAITH WITHOUT THE SIGHT OF GLORY
But Jesus warned that it’s possible to believe in his miracles without believing who he is. John reports: “ . . . as he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews WHO HAD BELIEVED IN HIM, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples’ . . . ” (John 8:30,31). Then, talking to the same Jews, Jesus said, “You seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (John 8:37). They “believed”, but refused his word!
In the same way, after Jesus fed the 5000 crowds enthusiastically followed him. In fact, they wanted to make him king. But Jesus said, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26). They followed him only for their stomach’s sake. In neither case, says Piper, did they have saving faith.
EVEN HIS BROTHERS SAW THE MIRACLES BUT DID NOT BELIEVE
“But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:2-5).
“So his brothers see the miracles, believe that Jesus is doing them, are excited about the impact they will have, and do not ‘believe’. What are they missing? The clue lies in the fact that they tell Jesus to go to Jerusalem publicly, but Jesus says no and then goes privately . . . and starts teaching” (Piper, p. 242).
THE PECULIAR GLORY CAN BE SEEN BY ONLY THE RIGHT HEART
What was wrong with his brothers’ faith? The answer lies in what Jesus taught the Jews in Jerusalem . .
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him” (John 7:16-18).
“The mark of authenticity in Jesus’ miracles is not their raw power but that their power was in the service of God-exalting humility, not self-exalted crowd pleasing. This was the peculiar glory of his miracles . . . This Messiah was not what the brothers of Jesus (or anyone else) expected” (Piper, p. 243).
His brothers’ “unbelief” was not due to ignorance of Old Testament messianic prophecies, but to hearts not in harmony with God’s will. “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17). “The deepest problem is not ignorance but a will that does not will to do God’s will” (Piper, p. 243).
YOU CAN’T BELIEVE IF YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH HUMAN PRAISE
Jesus makes this clearer: “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41-44).
The answer to Jesus’ rhetorical question is, “You can’t”. Why? Because you love men’s praise more than God’s glory.
TRANSFIGURATION: THE COMING, THE GLORY AND THE SCRIPTURES
The one moment in Jesus’ life, writes Piper, when his majesty uniquely shown forth was on the Mount of Transfiguration. “ . . . what is most significant about this exceptional revelation of glory is the impact it made on the apostle Peter and what he made of it. Peter saw in this revelation a confirmation of the written word of God in the Old Testament, especially as it relates to the second coming of Christ in glory at the end of the age” (Piper, p. 245).
Mark’s Gospel is representative of Matthew and Luke who report the same statement . . .
“And [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Truly I say to you there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God come after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1).
Jesus made this promise immediately before being transfigured. Piper says the “seeing” of God’s kingdom in power was in the transfiguration. That event looks forward to the second coming of Jesus in glory and backward to Moses and Elijah who prophesied it.
Peter tells us what the apostles made of that amazing event . . .
“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:16-19).
Piper claims Jesus confirms the Old Testament’s authority. “ . . . he confirms the Scriptures by revealing the very glory that he will have when he comes at the last day to fulfill all that had been written about him . . .
“For one brief moment, the transfiguration broke the pattern of the incarnation. It pulled back the curtain on the future when the glory of Christ would not be clothed in fragile lowliness any longer . . . And all of that serving to make the Scriptures more sure” (Piper, p. 248).
Where God does his blindness-removing work, we see Jesus for who he really is “and the peculiar glory of his miracles becomes a good foundation for well-grounded faith” (Piper, p. 249).
THE PECULIAR GLORY OF THE MIRACLES AND THE SCRIPTURES
The apostle John connects Jesus’ miracles with the Scriptures. In his Gospel, he records seven miracles (“signs”) and explains why he wrote them . . .
“These are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Piper explains: “In other words, John intends for his writing to put the glory-revealing signs on display for future generations—for us. Just as the miracles of Jesus displayed the peculiar glory of Christ in his earthly life, so they do the same for us as we read” (Piper, p. 249).
PECULIAR GLORY ON DISPLAY
“ . . . the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) is its own confirmation. “In the end, we do not deduce by logical inference that the eyes of our heads are seeing objects in the world. Sight is its own argument. Similarly, in the end, we do not deduce by logical inference that the eyes of our hearts are seeing the peculiar glory of God in his word. Sight is its own argument” (Piper, p. 250). In this way, the glory of Jesus’ miracles confirm that the Scriptures are God’s word.
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When I read the Gospels, I believe Jesus really performed miracles. But Piper claims more, and we shouldn’t miss it. He explains that John intended that we see Jesus’ glory in the miracles–and further that Jesus’ glory in the miracles, coupled with John’s intention, authenticates the Gospels as God’s word.
It’s (sort of) like this. I write you a letter telling you how Lois loves me. I describe her self-giving acts, her affectionate words. I communicate so well, you feel as if you know her. And, because you care about my happiness, you cherish my letter.
So, if we read John’s Gospel with his intention in mind and with reliance on the Spirit, we may catch a glimpse of Jesus’ glory in his miracles, and find our faith in the Scriptures well-grounded in the glory.