John 12:25-26 - The Law of the Kingdom of God

Last week we saw the expectations the Jews had for God’s anointed King.
• We discussed how this King would participate in a great battle; cleanse the temple; His kingship would contain proclamations; and he would have a final great victory.
• We also saw how OT prophecy detailed that a renewal of the heart would be necessary to enter into God’s new Kingdom.
• Finally, we saw the prophetic announcements about Gentile inclusion in the Kingdom.
    o This explained the significance of Jesus declaring the time had come when the Greeks expressed a desire to meet with him.

In today’s text, Jesus changes the focus from the Kingdom and it’s King to citizens of the Kingdom.
• In doing this, Jesus makes clear that the Gospel message consists of far more than just salvation.
• It also consists of a life of action and direction under the rule of King Jesus.
• Jesus is ruling, but as in the Garden of Eden, He is using humans (born again humans) as the stewards and the heralds of the Kingdom and its King and the King’s purposes.

As we get into the text today, I hope we can answer a couple of peculiar questions:
Why is it that the Gospel is not merely a private, personal “sin management” program?
    o It is much bigger than that.
Why does the Gospel seem to produce seemingly few “disciples” but scores of “vampire Christians”?
    o What is a “vampire Christian”?
    o They “want a little blood for their sins but nothing more to do with Jesus until heaven” – Dallas Willard.


John 12:25–26 (ESV) — 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

A quick rabbit trail before we begin.
• Verse 25 is a “Semitic idiom” and a “Hebrew parallelism taking the form of a māšāl with two antithetical lines” (loves his life vs. hates his life) – Kostenberger.
• This relates directly to the oral transmission of Jesus sayings we spoke of a few weeks ago.
• We learned that Jesus spoke in ways that were easy to remember in an oral culture.
• This verse is one such example.

Now, Beasley-Murray calls our text the “exposition of the law of the kingdom of God”.
• In other words, members of the Kingdom, those born again, are characterized by the principals Jesus’ teaches here.
• And obviously it involves much more than salvation.
• It involves a call by King Jesus and a certain kind of submission by citizens of the Kingdom.
• A Kingdom Call and Kingdom Submission.

What is the King’s Kingdom Call?
• The Kingdom Call is to hate our life – “whoever hates his life”.
• Kostenberger tells us this is “pointing to preference [for one thing over another] rather than actual hatred” – Kostenberger.
Ok, so if this is “pointing to a preference”, what is the preference Jesus is pointing us to?

James Boice wants us to notice that the word “life” is used three times in this verse.
• But, importantly, the first two uses are the Greek word “psyche”.
• The third use is the Greek word “zoe”.
• He says understanding the differences is “the heart of what this verse is saying” – James Boice.
• Therefore, understanding what each means will show us what the Kingdom Call is with respect to preference.

The “psyche” is the “seat and center of the inner human life” (BDAG) – such as the mind, desires, feelings emotions.
• An appropriate description of this would be the fallen will of man.
• It is that part of us that “thinks, plans for the future, and charts its course” outside of God’s will.
• And it is this that we are to hate – it is not to be our preference.
• So that means the Kingdom Call is that we give preference to the “zoe”.

The “zoe” is the “transcendent life” (BDAG).
• In our context, this is our “Kingdom life”.
• This is the life that is eternal but lives now in the Kingdom of God ushered in by King Jesus.
• When we no longer seek selfish fulfillment of our “psyche” the “zoe” flourishes.
• This is how we were created to live.
• The “zoe” life (or Kingdom life) is how we are called to fully live as citizens in the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom Call, then, is to hate “the fallen will of man” and give preference to the Kingdom life.
• The Kingdom Life is one led in submission to this Call.
• And this leads us to the next point – Kingdom Submission.

What is Kingdom Submission?
• We submit to the Kingdom Call when we live life in self-denial.
• Self-Denial is how we heed and submit to King Jesus’ Kingdom Call.

Scripture has much to say about this kind of life.
• Matthew 10:38–39 (ESV) — 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
• Matthew 16:25 (ESV) — 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
• Matthew 19:29 (ESV) — 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
• Luke 9:23 (ESV) — 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
• Acts 20:24 (ESV) — 24 But I do not account my life [psyche] of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
• 1 John 2:6 (ESV) — 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

What does the life lived in Kingdom Submission, in self-denial, look like?
• It should be clear that Jesus exemplified this life.
• It looks like Him.
• But there is more to be said about it.

What it is not:
• It is not self-rejection – Dallas Willard.
• It is not works and legalism – in other words, refraining from drinking, dancing, etc.
• It is not mortification – in other words, climbing up steps on your knees or whipping yourself on the back to empathize with Jesus.
• It is not loving one’s “psyche” life or life in the flesh (see coming Scriptures).
    o “For to love one’s life [this way] is a fundamental denial of God’s sovereignty, of God’s rights, and a brazen elevation of self to the apogee of one’s perception, and therefore an idolatrous focus on self, which is the heart of all sin” – D.A. Carson.

What it is:
Scripture says this:
• Galatians 6:8 (ESV) — 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
• Romans 8:6 (ESV) — 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
• Colossians 3:3 (ESV) — 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

So self-denial is “death to self” and the flesh, and a commitment to the things of God (“to the Spirit” or “on the Spirit”).
• Or as Jesus put it in our text today, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me”.

What does this mean?
• It is to “not make ourselves and our ‘survival’ the ultimate point of reference in our world”, or to “treat ourselves as God” – Dallas Willard.
• It is to follow after and serve Christ in “holiness and faithfulness in his teachings” – Willard.
• It means that “the object [of] securing myself, promoting myself, indulging myself, is to be set aside” – Dallas Willard.
• It is pushing “psyche” attachments out of your life and developing attachments to things of the kingdom.
    o What are some things of the Kingdom?

Important practical point:
• "Can I still think about [things of the flesh]" you may ask. Yes, you can. But you increasingly won't. And when you do, as formation in Christ-likeness progresses, they simply won't matter. In fact, they will seem ridiculous and uninteresting” – Dallas Willard.

So the Kingdom Submission we are Kingdom Called to make via self-denial involves the action and direction we mentioned at the very beginning.
• This means that the Gospel is much more than “getting saved”.
• And this answers the two questions we posed in our introduction.
(1) Why is it that the Gospel is not merely a private, personal “sin management” program?
(2) Why does the Gospel seem to produce seemingly few “disciples” but scores of “vampire Christians”?

First question answered:
• The Gospel is not merely a personal and private “sin management” program because we are called to deny the self.
• As we have seen, in the Kingdom we are called to self-denial and to divert our energy and concerns to the things of Christ and of the Kingdom and “of the Spirit”.
• The things of Christ, Kingdom and Spirit include other people and not just other citizens of the Kingdom.
• So a Kingdom life lived in self-denial is a life lived in public!
• The Gospel is not private.
    o Yet another reason we are to be in fellowship with believers.

Second question answered:
• The Gospel, as taught so often today, produces more “vampire Christians” than disciples, because we often fail to teach the entire Gospel.
• In other words, along with the “plan of salvation”, the Gospel is that Jesus is King and we are to live in His Kingdom and serve Him in self-denial.
Jesus never made it easy, why do we try to create what John MacArthur calls a Gospel of “easy-believism”?

Jesus also points out a perk of living in the Kingdom of God.
• In addition to eternal life, there is something available now, in the Kingdom of God.
• That something is to be honored by the Father.


When we live our Kingdom Life in self-denial, we are honored by the Father.
• Specifically, He says in verse 26, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

It must be emphasized that if the honor we are to seek is the Father’s there must be an honor that can be incorrectly sought.
Whose honor might that be?
    o Galatians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
• In the Kingdom of God, honor comes from the Father and not from man.
• What this tells us is that living in the Kingdom of God as Jesus would have us to do will cost us something in the eyes of the world.
• Seeking the honor of man is not a life lived in self-denial.

What is to be honored by the Father?
What does it look like?
• Literally, it means that the Father will “show high regard for” us – BDAG.
• The TDNT describes this as the Father granting us “a share in his own glory”.
• It seems to be the idea that as Christ’s service of the Father was vindicated and authenticated at the Resurrection, our service of Christ will also somehow be vindicated and in a marvelous way.
• Kostenberger tells us that it, “is sure and firm and lasting rather than the fleeting and precarious honor awarded in the eyes of humankind”.
    o 2 Timothy 2:10 (ESV) — 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
    o 2 Timothy 2:12 (ESV) — 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;

James Boice imagines it as follows:
“Stand back, you angels! Make room, you seraphim! Make way! For here comes the man, here comes the woman, who was with my Son. He was only a poor sinful man. He was born in an ungodly time in the midst of an ungodly people. He did not know much. But he was with my Son. He was like him. He stood by him. Now I will honor him. Come up here. Here, take this crown, and then sit there with my Son on his throne and reign with him. For you shall indeed be with my Son in his glory, even as you were with him in his shame” – James Boice.