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John 12:32

Posted 01/12/22, by Dan Vis

The charter of the Christian church (found in Matthew 16) begins with an affirmation of Christ's identity as the Son of God, and then extends a call to build a strong united church upon that truth.

Next up, we see that the church is going to be an invincible, unstoppable power. Consider for example today's verse:

John 12:32
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

Clearly this verse implies that the message of the church--the truth of who Jesus was--is going to have an irrepressible influence on those who hear it. The higher He is lifted up, the more drawing power it will have. And on everyone who sees it! More specifically, the next verse makes clear Jesus was talking about "what death he should die" (John 12:33This he said, signifying what death he should die.).

Elsewhere, Jesus hinted at this unstoppable power. "If ye have faith, and doubt not", He said, "ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; [and] it shall be done" (Matthew 21:21Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.). The Gospel would have such a winsome and compelling power, nothing would be able to stop it's advance!

This is clearly implied in the church charter as well. In building His church, on the truth of His identity, Jesus promised: "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.). Note that this is describing an offensive, not a defensive posture. It is not describing the church, huddled behind gates sheltering them from the assaults of the enemy. No, it describes the gates of hell, not being able to withstand the assaults of the church!

The enemy has made every effort to securely imprison his captives, that none might escape his wiles. And at times, the prisons that hold those we love seem insurmountable. But the Bible promise is--those gates shall not prevail. However mountainous the obstacle, it can be thrown out of the way. If Christ is but lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself.

Ultimately, we know "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world" before Jesus returns (Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.). Every person will be brought to decision. Given their chance. There's no place on earth so well obstructed the church cannot enter in, and conquer.

That's a powerful picture of the church, isn't it? May it inspire each of us to approach all our church ministries with a renewed determination to reach every nook and cranny of our community.

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Posted by Dan Vis on 01/21/22
I first read this years ago in a book and have thought about it many times since then Qing. What has most perplexed me is that over the last 30 years or so since, almost every time I have ever heard this verse referred to, it is invariably interpreted in the exact opposite of how it's actually written. Quite remarkable, isn't it?

It probably says something about where we are as a church, that we live in a more defensive kind of cultural mindset. And as a result that influences how we read Scripture.

A good warning that we really need to be careful to guard against letting our own mental framework filter the things we study. And to read Scripture carefully.
Posted by Qing Ling on 01/21/22
Note that this is describing an offensive, not a defensive posture.

I never noticed that in the verse. Thanks for drawing it out Dan :)


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