Gospel of John [20:19-23]. Sending the apostles - God's destiny for the believer, part 3.

Class Outline:

Title: Gospel of John [20:19-23]. Sending the apostles - God's destiny for the believer, part 3.


Announcements/opening prayer:



After repeating, "Peace be with you," reaffirming their relationship as friends the Lord then presses into three core statements.


1. The unity of the Father and Son and their common purpose are given as a gift to us who are in the sphere of Their unity and love.


2. Breathing upon them the Holy Spirit. We cannot execute the plan that God has graciously given us without the Holy Spirit.


3. The commission of the Gospel - the forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe.


JOH 20:21 Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 


JOH 20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.


The third statement also needs some clarification.


JOH 20:23 "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."


The author of The Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament expands the verbs in this sentence:


JOH 20:23

"Whosoever sins you remit [forgive] shall have already been forgiven them, and whosoever sins you retain [do not forgive] shall have already not been forgiven them" [Dr. Julius Mantey]


In other words, the disciples did not provide forgiveness; they proclaimed forgiveness on the basis of the message of the Gospel.


The apostle's, preacher's, and witnessing Christian's role is declaratory but it is God who effectively remits or retains.


EPH 1:7

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,


ROM 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes


They would be sent out with the gospel and those who rejected it would be judged for the sin of unbelief. Only God can forgive sin. They are commissioned with the message of forgiveness.


If sinners will believe on Jesus Christ we can authoritatively declare to them that their sins have been forgiven; but we are not the ones who provide the forgiveness.


It was not authority to forgive individuals, but to establish in all the churches the terms and conditions on which men might be pardoned, with a promise that God would confirm all that they taught; that all might have assurance of forgiveness who would comply with those terms, justification by faith; and that those who did not comply should not be forgiven, but that their sin of unbelief should be retained.


The Roman Catholic church has falsely interpreted this to mean that individuals can forgive or not forgive sins, which was seen at its worst in the selling of indulgences. This is as far from that as possible. The gospel they taught came directly from Christ and not from themselves. In that gospel is the condition for forgiveness, and that is simply faith in Christ.


JOH 16:8-9

And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me


They could not arbitrarily forgive or remit sins, but they were given the authority to preach the conditions of forgiveness or judgment of which the HS would convict the world.


[slide]They were also given the authority of church discipline. Paul was able to hand individuals over to Satan for discipline. We could conclude that all the apostles had the authority to enforce similar discipline in the church as it began. This would have been necessary, much like temporary spiritual gifts, for the church to become established in the world. Once established this power was no longer necessary. And of course, God would not allow discipline where it was not warranted. As in forgiveness, so in discipline, God has ultimate authority that no man can overrule.


They were also given the authority of church discipline so that the church would be established in the world and not be destroyed from the inside.


JOH 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus [meaning "twin"], was not with them when Jesus came.


Some have stated that Thomas purposely decided not to be with the others, of which there is no evidence. Couldn't it just be that this is given as an explanation for why he came to believe later? Thomas would say that he wouldn't believe in the resurrection unless he saw the resurrected Christ, but this was true of all of them. It is more likely that God the Holy Spirit is protecting Thomas and so giving us a reason for His statement. This is not defending a lack of faith but revealing that we can all be slow of faith at times but this does not mean that God will not use us when our faith does mature.


JOH 20:25 The other disciples therefore were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."


It is hard to believe that on the witness of the other disciples that he would still not believe, but the others were told both by Mary Magdalene and the other woman that they had seen Him and they did not believe. It just shows how alien to them was a bodily resurrection.


Thomas uses a double negative: I positively will not believe.


The force with which Thomas states this shows how deep his unbelief is. We cannot assume that he denied the resurrection of Christ being somewhere in heaven or a spirit, for if he did it is not likely that he would still be with the others, but he denied the description of Christ in a physical, scarred body.


It is not, 'If I see, I will believe,' but 'Unless I see, I will not believe;' nor does he think he will see, though the rest had told him that they had.


It seems as if Thomas is more stubborn than the others but we don't know what they had said to the witnesses of Mary and the other women; perhaps they said something similar.


Jesus does rebuke hard heartedness:


MAT 8:26

And He said to them, "Why are you timid, you men of little faith?"


MAT 14:31

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"


MAT 16:8

 But Jesus, aware of this, said, "You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?


This incident shows, what all the conduct of the apostles proves, that they had not conspired together to impose on the world. Even they were slow to believe, and one of them refused to rely even on the testimony of ten of his brethren.


Many now are unwilling to believe because they do not see the Lord Jesus, and with just as little reason as Thomas had. The testimony of those eleven men including Thomas who saw him alive after he was crucified; who were willing to lay down their lives to attest that they had seen him alive; who had nothing to gain by imposture, and whose conduct was removed as far as possible from the appearance of imposture, should be regarded as ample proof of the fact that he rose from the dead.


Thomas is a good warning to all of us not to miss meeting with God's people. Because Thomas was not there, he missed seeing Jesus Christ, hearing His words of peace, and receiving His commission and gift of spiritual life.


He had to endure a week of fear and unbelief when he could have been experiencing joy and peace! Remember Thomas when you are tempted to stay home from church. You never know what you might miss!


The Lord comes to Thomas as He graciously does to all of us when we are unbelieving in an area of the plan of God.


JDG 6:36 Then Gideon said to God, "If Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken,


JDG 6:37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken."


JDG 6:38 And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.


Just in case the wet fleece was a fluke:


JDG 6:39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let Thine anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground."


JDG 6:40 And God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.


JOH 20:26 And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace be with you." 


JOH 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing." 


JOH 20:28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"


Eight days would include the day of their first meeting so we conclude that this is the next Sunday. The days of the festival of unleavened bread were over, and the disciples were probably preparing to return to Galilee, but Jesus appears again before they set out, and as far as we can see, He did so for the sake of Thomas and likely explaining to Thomas all that He has told the others and breathing upon him the Holy Spirit.


Thomas directly calls Him God and he is not rebuked. This is one of several passages for the deity of Christ.


We know this, but it has to be documented. More importantly here is the change in Thomas when faith in the resurrection of Christ finally overruns his soul. With absolute conviction and with overwhelming awe Thomas affirms that Jesus is His Lord and His God.


It is believed that Thomas would establish his ministry in Parthia which is the area of modern day Iran.


This is the first time that anyone calls Christ "my God." It is the climactic end of John's gospel corresponding to his prologue -


JOH 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.


He has been called the Son of God [mostly by demons] and the Christ, but this is the earliest recorded example of Him being addressed as ho theos.


Mark's gospel has a similar climactic admonition corresponding to his prologue:


MAR 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.\


MAR 15:39

And when the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"


The Lord immediately affirms and commends him for His belief.


JOH 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."


Both verbs, "seen" and "believe" are in the perfect tense. This wouldn't imply a question but a statement that Thomas has seen with his eyes and has believed and this will never again come into unbelief for him. With the exception of John who believed at the empty tomb, this is just as true for all of them, including Paul on the road to Damascus. So then we can view it as a rebuke, but I would not say it is a harsh one.


Added is the fact of blessedness to those who believe without seeing, which will be the majority of the church by far.


Blessed refers to spiritual prosperity, which goes beyond faith for salvation into faith in all the scripture says about Him.


We studied 1JO 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. This refers to faith at salvation as well as faith in all that He is, as revealed in the scripture. Believe in His name is to believe all that His name and titles encompass in the truth of the scriptures.


In love for Thomas, Christ desired to include him in the blessings that accrue to all who believe in Him and believe His word.


Does Thomas miss out on anything that Christ gave to the others because he was a week late?


MAT 20:9 "And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.


MAT 20:10 "And when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius.


Thomas took the scientific approach by stating that he would absolutely not believe unless it was proven to him by sight and touch. They all did this but Thomas, being the last one to come to faith in the resurrection, missed out on the joy of the other disciples for an entire week, a joy he could have and should have had.


This reveals the dangers of unbelief. In unbelief we do not recognize the blessings of God and they pass us by.


JER 17:5-6

Thus says the Lord,

"Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind

And makes flesh his strength,

And whose heart turns away from the Lord.

"For he will be like a bush in the desert

And will not see when prosperity comes,

But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,

A land of salt without inhabitant.


This last beatitude had a special message for the readers of this gospel when it was first published; it has the same message for readers of the gospel today. They had not seen, and neither have we; yet they might believe, and so may we.


Faith is not blind. He was told by the others that Christ was resurrected.


We are always witnessed to by the gospel and the word and by God in the circumstances of life. We are never asked to believe blindly but to believe in what God reveals to us. We are never asked to figure it out on our own. Many people want to do that out of pride, but in that pride they will never be able to find the truth of God. God always comes to us, we do not go to Him, and our proper response to His love is faith.