Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

December 3, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus continued teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

John 7:37

This may have been the eighth day of the feast, but most likely it was the seventh day when the lampstand was lit and the water offering was poured out.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John 7:38-39

He continued using water to illustrate the eternal life that He grants, and now He associated the Living Water that only needs to be drunk once and then becomes an everlasting well in the drinker with the Holy Spirit Who would indwell believers after Jesus’s Ascension.

The response to this teaching was great speculation, conjecture, controversy, and confusion about Who exactly this Jesus was. Was He the Prophet from Deuteronomy 18:15, or was He the Messiah, the heir of David?

So there was a division among the people because of him.

John 7:43

This was very common throughout Jesus’s earthly ministry, not only in John’s Gospel, but in the synoptic Gospels, too. Jesus came to divide between the true and the false, the real and the fake, light and darkness, the devil’s kingdom and His Father’s Kingdom. Here, it provoked a decision to arrest Jesus.

Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?

John 7:45

These Levitical police officers were not Roman centurions. They were unaccustomed to using force in public, especially when the alleged perpertator could actually be the Messiah, or at least a bona fide prophet from God.

The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

John 7:46

Of course, Jesus was no “mere man.”

Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

John 7:47-49

The common people were looked down upon by the Pharisees for their lack of religious training or knowledge.

Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

John 7:50-51

Nicodemus was at least in favor of searching the Scriptures to gauge the truth of what Jesus was teaching. As Christians today, we have access to a fuller revelation of God in our Scriptures than Nicodemus did in his, and we must be even more scrupulous in applying them.

Lifting up the Son of Man

April 4, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Despite Nicodemus’s failure to grasp the concept of the water-spirit birth, Jesus, in His patience, gave him insight into another well-known Old Testament passage of Scripture: the account of the fiery serpents in Numbers 21.

God had sent a plague of venomous and deadly serpents to bite His people in the wilderness. This was because they had been rebelling against Him and complaining about the manna He had provided for them to eat and about the length of time they had been in the wilderness. Every serpent bite was a death sentence, but God, in His mercy, also provided a cure. He had Moses make a snake, of all things, out of brass. Just as the death rate for those bitten was 100%, so the cure rate for those who would raise their eyes in faith and behold the brass serpent was 100%. Many looked and lived, but many also stubbornly refused to look and died.

The brass serpent had been lifted up, just as Jesus would be “lifted up,” an ambiguous term, which at various times could mean physically held aloft, honored, exalted, or even (as in the case of Naboth, who was “set on high”) condemned by the people.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

John 3:14

Nicodemus no doubt knew something of the significance of the title “Son of Man” from the Book of Daniel. It was the title of the then-future heir of David’s throne, the Messiah, so he may have understood Jesus to be saying that the Son of Man would be “lifted up” in the sense of being exalted. However, Jesus was actually revealing a greater truth: that He would be lifted up as the Sin-Bearer, the way the brass serpent in the wilderness was lifted up, to be a symbol of death, but also to be looked to for salvation – the ONLY means of salvation.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

Just as those snake-bitten Israelites were already as good as dead – whether they took any further action or not – so those who do believe on Jesus are the ONLY ones who escape that condemnation.

The Water-Spirit Birth

April 2, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Posted in John | 9 Comments
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Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:5

Not all theologians, Bible commentators, or scholars agree on what Jesus meant by “born of water and of the Spirit.” Some theories include:

1. A contrast between the physical birth, with “water” meaning the “breaking of water” (amniotic fluid) from the mother’s womb. The problem with this interpretation is that “her water broke,” as far as we can tell, wasn’t an expression that was used back then. However, it is possible that Jesus could have meant that this second birth – this RE-generation – was being contrasted with the first, physical birth. Lending weight to this application is the obvious fact that Jesus called it being born “again.”

2. So-called baptismal regeneration. This theory, although perhaps the majority view historically speaking, is wrong. A belief that physical baptism through the immersion in, or sprinkling of, literal water is necessary for regeneration and eternal salvation goes against the vast majority of Scripture in describing salvation as being by grace through faith alone. It is not dependent upon any “work,” rite, ritual, or observable or administered (sacerdotal) initiation. When considering whether Jesus was communicating anything having to do with literal baptism when he mentioned being born of water, it is important to recognize that this concept would have been totally foreign to Nicodemus, the Jewish religious leader to whom he was speaking, and to the Jewish theologians who he represented.

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, WE know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

John 3:1-2 (emphasis added)

Nicodemus may have come to Jesus alone, by night, but he was clearly a representative of a contingent of Pharisees (possibly the Sanhedrin itself) who thought themselves to be the ultimate authority on salvation – on seeing and entering the Kingdom of God. Despite this standing, Jesus, in the following verses, chastised him for not knowing things which he should have known, because they were indicated in the (Old Testament) Scriptures.

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

John 3:7 (emphasis added)

Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

John 3:10 (emphasis added)

This lets us know that the key to the phrase “born of water and of the Spirit” is found in the Old Testament, and not in some obscure text hidden or tucked away in some genealogy somewhere, but in a major prophecy.

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

Ezekiel 36:23-25

There’s the mention of water, and, according to Psalm 24, who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord and who will stand in His holy place? Only those who have clean (washed by some supernatural metaphorical water) hands AND pure hearts. Ezekiel 36:25 promises that God will cleanse His people from the filthiness of their sin, not by baptism, but by His own divine hand sprinkling/splashing them with His power.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

This was a prophecy about the New Covenant, and would have been very familiar to the typical Jewish scribe or rabbi, and certainly to a chief theologian of the Pharisees. It appears right before Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of the valley of the DRY bones – bones which needed to be revived – brought back to life – regenerated by some type of supernatural “water.”

And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

Ezekiel 37:3-4 (emphasis added)

Son of Man” was the prophetic title which Jesus used to refer to Himself in John 3:14. Clearly regeneration by water and by the Spirit had been indicated and explicitly referenced in Old Testament prophecies.

And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.

Ezekiel 37:13-14

The water and the Spirit are not two separate stages of the new birth. Jesus was talking about a water-Spirit birth – at once cleansing and giving new life – a true heart transplant surgery with antiseptic poured in – eternal antiseptic which eternally prevents infection/corruption.

Here’s Your Sign

January 30, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Posted in John | 3 Comments
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Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?

John 2:18

The temple leaders almost sound reasonable (rather than the responsive anger we might expect from them) as they ask Jesus, in effect, “What gives you the right to regulate Temple practices?” Their criteria for someone who exercised authority without a history of being a priest or even a known and respected rabbi was that He would perform a “sign” – give them a display of miraculous power that would demonstrate He had Heavenly authority. Of course, He had recently given such a “sign” at the wedding in Cana, so we (the readers of John Chapter 2) know He has the ability, and the apparent willingness to demonstrate it, but Jesus would not be provoked into showing off when such signs, though miraculous, would not engender true saving faith in Him, nor serve to heal or help someone who was in distress.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

John 2:19-20

This is a somewhat common occurrence in the Gospel of John, where Jesus reveals a spiritual truth, and the listeners misunderstand and think He is talking crazy or at least expressing earthly and material, rather than spiritual, ideas. Plus, we have, in this instance, the benefit of an editorial comment from the Holy Spirit through John:

But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

John 2:21-22

This makes for a good segue into how Jesus thought about those who believed in Him merely because He could do miracles, rather than because of His teaching and divine revelation.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.

John 2:23-25

These verses look forward to issues that are about to be addressed in John Chapter 3. First, Jesus had divine omniscient knowledge of what other people thought and what was in their hearts. He could read minds, and He knew people better than they knew themselves. He did not “entrust” Himself or “commit Himself” to superficial “believers” the way He did to His true disciples. This helps to understand a little more about Jesus’s famous encounter with Nicodemus which begins Chapter 3.

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

John 3:1

The idea is that Nicodemus was a chief teacher.

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

John 3:2

There are various theories as to why Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, other than the possibility that it might just be noted for us as an instance of accurate reporting. Perhaps he was embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to be seen consorting with this non-Pharasaical rabbi – or with the dangerous loose cannon who caused a scene in the Temple. On the other hand, perhaps Nicodemus merely wanted to speak to Jesus without the interruption that was more likely to occur during a daytime visit. In either case, the darkness of night is most likely a metaphor for Nicodemus’s spiritual darkness, located here in close proximity to passages of Scripture which highlight Jesus as the Light of the World. Nicodemus can probably be classified (because of his statement about teachers who are truly from God being able to do miracles) as one of those who “believed” only because of those miracles.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:3

Why does Jesus basically ignore Nicodemus’s initial statement? Because He “knew what was in” Nicodemus. Nicodemus’s real need wasn’t to find out whether Jesus was a true prophet, or truly sent by God to do miracles, or even to learn from His teaching. His real need was a new hearta new birth – some basis on which He could enter – or even see! – the God of the Kingdom of Whom the Pharisees and their chief leaders thought they were the closest and the best representatives!

Big Words of the Christian Life: Regeneration (Part 2)

February 26, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life, John | 3 Comments
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1. Regeneration is intelligible.
2. Regeneration is irrevocable.

When Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:3 that, “… Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” the Greek word which is translated as “again” also has the flavor of meaning something which comes from above, or from a whole other realm. And in fact regeneration does.

This is not only a second birth – it is a whole new kind of birth – a spiritual birth – wholly the work of God. Physical birth not only gives us resemblances to our parents, but it gives us part of their “natures,” too. When my kids get complimented for their looks, I have to say they get that from their mother. If they are accused of having a bad temper, or if they act ornery, I have to admit that they get that from their dad.

Regeneration is irrevocable. It can’t be undone. Naturally born children can’t be unborn. Spiritually regenerated believers can’t be unregenerated. At regeneration we inherit some of the characteristics of our Father:
-eternal life
-the ability to love
walking in the light as He is in the light

Regeneration will cause a resemblance between the Father and His children.

1. Regeneration is intelligible.
2. Regeneration is irrevocable.
3. Regeneration is imperative.

Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:7 that, “… Ye must be born again.” This is not only a fact; it is a commandment. It is an imperative, as well as an indicative. Regeneration is the fundamental change in your nature – in your ontology, in your consciousness, in who you are on the inside – that allows your justification and your adoption and your sanctification. We speak of a dead person as being buried, but really we only bury a body. The person has gone somewhere else. A lifeless body can’t respond to stimuli. Spiritually dead people can’t respond to God in love.

Regeneration is real: it results in a real change in who you are. If I claimed I had just tripped and fallen in a mud puddle, and yet I looked perfectly clean and neat, you would think I was either lying or delusional. God is infinitely more powerful than a mud puddle. If you have a regenerating encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, you are going to be infinitely different. A profession of regeneration must be a reflection of a real work of God. It is always worth considering whether you truly have been regenerated. Has God supernaturally changed your basic nature from a sin-loving and righteousness-hating lost person, to a sin-hating and righteousness-loving child of God? Sadly, as Christians, we still sin, but one of the great blessings of regeneration is the in-dwelling, loving, convicting presence of the Holy Spirit.

1. Regeneration is intelligible.
2. Regeneration is irrevocable.
3. Regeneration is imperative.

Big Words of the Christian Life: Regeneration (Part 1)

February 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life, John | 68 Comments
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Justification is not how you get into God’s family. It is what God declares about you once you become part of His family: that you are righteous before Him because of having put your trust in Christ.

Adoption is not how you get into God’s family. It is how you enjoy your place in God’s family: God gives you the “standing” of an adult child.

Regeneration is how you get into God’s family.

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:28

There is a sense in which all of creation will one day be regenerated. It will be returned to the pristine condition in which it was originally created by God. So, even though this type of regeneration is not precisely the same thing we’re talking about in the salvation of men, it does teach us that regeneration deals not only with re-creation – a new birth – a new start – but with a new start that is specifically directed to be “unto God.” The soteriological implication of regeneration is not just a re-creation for a blank slate of experimentation. It is a re-creation pre-ordained to set things right – with God Himself as the focus of all life.

The basis for our definition of regeneration in the salvific sense can be found in Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

We were not justified by our own works or merit. We are not adopted because of our own works or merit. We are specifically told that our very salvation in every aspect is completely of God. It is according to His mercy, which flows from Him.

The word “regeneration” means “born again.” When a person is “born” the reason that you know he has been born is because of one over-arching feature about him or her: Life. People have been born once in sin, and the experience of being “born” spiritually is a second birth. We call it – just as Jesus called it – being “born again.”

If we received only a physical form of life at our first birth, we must receive some “new” type of life at our second birth. Here is a fuller definition of Regeneration: It is the act of God which grants a second, spiritual birth, and new life, to the person who has trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior.

Over and above just having a definition, I want describe three main things about regeneration from Jesus’s most overt teaching about it: John 3:1-9.

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

John 3:1

Nicodemus would have been very religious. He would have sacrificed and prayed in keeping with the Old Testament law. He would have been outwardly moral, and would have been in the habit of giving generously to the poor.

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

John 3:2

Maybe Nicodemus came to Jesus at night out of shame, or maybe just out of a desire to have a private conversation with Him.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:3

Nicodemus struggled with this idea, but not because he wasn’t sharp enough to grasp it, and not because the concept was too obtuse. No, he couldn’t see the point because he was lost and, therefore, spiritually blind.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

John 3:4

People did this with Jesus’s teachings throughout the New Testament. There was once a lady at a well who wanted to know how Jesus could give her water when He didn’t have a dipper, even though He was talking about the Living Water of eternal life (John 4:6-14). When Jesus talked about eating His Body and drinking His blood, meaning fellowshipping with Him in the Life-giving blessings of His crucifixion, some may have accused Him of cannibalism (John 6:47-66). Many of the people that Jesus encountered were spiritually, albeit willfully, blind – just like lost folks today.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

John 3:5-7

Regeneration is intelligible. It’s understandable. It is basic. The meaning of it is simple (even though I don’t like the expression, “It’s simple to be saved,” because it minimizes the great and mighty work of salvation that the Lord accomplished in the plan of redemption).

In a natural biological birth two parents are involved. In the Spiritual birth there are also two Parents involved: The Word of God…

Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

James 1:18

… and the Spirit of God (John 3:5).

In natural biological birth the baby’s effort does not play a part. In the Spiritual birth Christians are born by God’s will, not our own.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13

There is a simplicity to regeneration. There is a mystery to it, too, but everyone is familiar with having a baby, and with the truth that a baby is a brand new life. Christians are brand new creatures in Christ Jesus from the moment of salvation, with a new kind of life: eternal life, God’s life.

1. Regeneration is intelligible.
Next time we will see that:
2. Regeneration is irrevocable.
3. Regeneration is imperative.


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