Saturday, March 24, 2012

Qualified to Save (The Kenosis)

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."  John 3:11-13

   This first verse has the meaning of speaking of that which we know, and testifying to that which we have seen.  This is clearly brought out in the presence of relative pronouns in the Greek.  Jesus is bringing to bare the fact that the leadership of Israel had, for the most part, rejected all that was shown them by Christ and His witness, John.  It is a dangerous thing to knowingly and willfully disregard truth that is very obvious to everyone.  At this point, Christ's miracles, deity, and preaching were not accepted by most of the nation. 
He then asks a very simple question, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"  Those who reject the most basic truths of God's Word can never hope to understand and expound upon the more spiritual things, and yet, this is what most "theologians" do.  They reject the faith-based approach to Scripture.  They question the Bible's foundation, history, preservation, and inspiration, and then expect to be able to explain its deep spiritual truths.  Even more sad is the fact that many read after them, hoping to find the answers to difficult passages, only to be tainted by their ignorance and lack of spiritual perception.  Beware, that you do not reject the smallest truth that God's Word has to offer.  Truth builds upon truth. 
   Christ is encouraging Nicodemus to change his unbelieving heart because He is about to reveal to Him that no man is qualified to be the Savior, but the Son of God.  He says, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven...."  The Lord is quoting a portion of Proverbs 30:4 which says, "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?"  This Old Testament verse is prophetic of the Son of God, and Christ uses it to point to His deity and preeminence.  No man has ascended to heaven.  None has the ability to redeem himself or his brother.  Yet there is hope.  Jesus goes on, "but he that came down from heaven...."  One, qualified to redeem mankind has arrived!  Nicodemus is looking right at Him.  Then, in one concise statement, Jesus boldly declares both His humanity and His deity by saying, "...even the Son of man which is in heaven."  The Son of man speaks of His humanity.  Only a man could suffer for the sins of a man (Isaiah 53).  Only a man could experience the trials and temptations that man faces (Hebrews 4:15).  Only a man could shed his blood for men.  But yet, this man must be faultless, unable to be tempted with sin, mighty to save, able to conquer sin and death, sovereign over all!  This man must be God.  The last part of this verse declares His deity, "...even the Son of man which is in heaven."  This last part of the verse is completely excluded from the Critical Text.  Literally translated, it would say, "The Son of man, the one who is being in heaven."  Inexplicable as it is, Christ was in heaven as He sat there in the flesh talking to Nicodemus.  No surprise really.  How can God be pulled apart?  Though Jesus took on human flesh, He never for one moment laid aside any attribute of His deity.  He is God!  He is qualified to be the Savior of mankind, because none other is both man and God.  No other is sinless and yet human, save our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spiritual Blindness

"Nicodemus answered and said unto him,
How can these things be? 
Jesus answered and said unto him,
Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" 
John 3:9-10

   Nicodemus displays his lack of spiritual insight by asking the question, "How can these things be?"  Jesus answers a question with a question.  "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"  For emphasis in the Greek, Jesus uses a personal pronoun (which is not needed for clarity, but added for emphasis) along with the being verb; therefore, the literal rendering would be "You! are you a master of Israel and do not know these things?"  The word for master here is describing a teacher.  Christ is not trying to be cruel and demeaning, but for the sake of Nicodemus and others within his realm of influence, He is trying to get him to think.  What a sad thing that a religious ruler should be so blind to spiritual truth, but the unregenerate man cannot grasp the deep things of God as explained in I Corinthians 2:10-14.  "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 
   At this point, Nicodemus is unsaved; therefore, he cannot grasp deep spiritual truth nor can he lead others to God.  This principal holds true for even the saved man.  When a Christian is carnal, he will not be instructed in the deeper things of God because he has chosen to push the Holy Spirit into the back bedroom of his life and lock the door.  One of the saddest things I ever saw was a church member who could not lead one of his relatives to Christ because of a life of shallow, carnal Christianity.  He had to summon for others to come and help his wayward and searching relative.  May we never give the Lord occasion to say to us, "Are you not supposed to be a teacher, and you don't know these things?" 
   There are many so-called Christian leaders today who are blind and ignorant to spiritual truth because they have either never been born again, or they are so carnal and far from fellowship with God that they are blind and walking in their own wisdom.  Let no man seek to be a master (James 3:1), but rather, let him show out of a godly and meek lifestyle that he possesses the true wisdom of a teacher (James 3:13).  Like a man once said, "If you are truly wise and worthy of being a teacher, you won't have to tell me!"

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spiritual Rebirth

"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.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."  John 3:6-8

   The phrase "that which is born" is a participle in the perfect tense.  It conveys an action that took place in the past and will always be relevant in the here and now.  The tense is very strong.  In this context, it coveys action that cannot be reversed.  Flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit.  The physical birth and the spiritual birth are two separate events.  If a person is not spiritually reborn by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit they will never please God.  That which has been born in the flesh is flesh and worship in the flesh and worship of the flesh can never please God.  Most people have religion.  Many, many people call themselves Christians but they have never experienced the new birth, and therefore, they cannot please God.  "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."  (Romans 8:8)  On the other hand, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ brings about that spiritual rebirth which enables a person to offer acceptable worship to God.  "That which has been born of the spirit is spirit."  Once this rebirth occurs, it is irreversible.  This rebirth cannot be forfeited for any reason, even when the child of God sins and strays from the Shepherd.  Eternal security is evident in this passage.  That which has been born of the spirit is spirit and will always be spirit.  May the child of God take comfort in a salvation that cannot be forfeited or lost.
   Jesus then says, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."  This prohibition has the idea of "do not even begin to marvel."  We should not be amazed that a spiritual rebirth is necessary in order to gain access into heaven because God has always been more concerned with the spiritual aspect of man.  When Adam sinned, he and all his descendants were spiritually separated from God (Genesis 2:17); therefore, a spiritual rebirth is the only way to rectify the situation.  Being born again from above is the only way a person can hope to be right with God.
   "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."  The wind cannot be seen, but its effects can be seen.  The wind, though invisible to our human eyes, is as real as the roaring sea.  Though the act of God's Spirit coming and regenerating the sinner cannot be seen, its effects can be seen.  When a person comes to simple faith in Christ and is born again from above, they become a new creature in Christ and their life is changed.  No change indicates no rebirth.  One would not expect the wind to blow and trees not bend.  A ship with sails does not fail to be moved by the powerful affects of God's wind.  Though the wind cannot be seen, it is certainly at work.  So is everyone that has been born of the Spirit.  Though we cannot physically see it we know it is real by the change that comes about in a person's life as they are turned from sin unto Christ.  If no change occurs, no rebirth has taken place.  All of this must be accepted by faith.  The spiritual rebirth is as real as the physical, but without simple faith in what God said, it will never come about in the life of a lost person.  The physical is physical and will not please God.  The spirit must be reborn in the lost sinner and made fit in Christ to worship God in truth.