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MAN'S KNOWLEDGE, GOD'S WISDOM

St. John 3: 1-21

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.

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.

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?

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. 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.

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? 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. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 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. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

This is, perhaps, the most important passage of scripture for Man, today. And, not for the usual reasons. Usually, verse 16 is separated out of context, and we are told that “our faith in Jesus will save us from hell.” While that is true, Jesus’ words in this passage, say much, much more. And His words are specific answers to Man’s most pressing questions. The first question….

….“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.”

The importance of this statement is amplified by the “importance” of the man making it. Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews”, in Man’s estimation, and called “a master of Israel” by Jesus. Nicodemus was the embodiment of all of Man’s wisdom. He masked his question inside an authoritative statement, indicating that he only wanted verification for what he believed he already knew (which was: that Jesus was sent from God). This is very similar to the musings of the intellectuals today; no questions, just answers. He was learned in the affairs of everyday life, and, the religion of the Jews (and, most likely, any of the religious practices of the time). He was “educated”, in every sense of the word. But that education failed when confronted with what Jesus was doing. It is one thing to know about things, and quite another, to do things. Nicodemus’ reliance on learning is evident in the words “we know that thou art a teacher come from God”. He was interested in learning, not doing; even though the doing is the evidence of superior knowledge, as Nicodemus acknowledges in the remainder of the statement. And, his acknowledgement that God must be involved simply because he could not otherwise understand how Jesus did what He did, allowed Jesus to make a statement which, He knew, would bewilder His questioner.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Now, being born, is something most anyone can understand, since it is a common experience amongst men. Our total knowledge of our birth process is limited only by our willingness to learn what man knows about it. However, to be born again, is another thing altogether. The Greek word translated again, literally means from above, connotative of being born of God, since God dwells above.

Nicodemus did not even consider the meaning of “again”, which was obvious by the choice of words, or the last part of Jesus’ answer, “…he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Our physical existence takes our eyes off any other ways of seeing. This is the whole point of his next question:

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

The “again” is nowhere in evidence. The natural, physical act of being born is all that Nicodemus considers. Jesus is using a natural act to teach a spiritual lesson; something which can be seen, to explain something unperceivable by the human eye. Simply stated, Jesus is telling us that our normal perception of things is, in no way, adequate to know the things unseen. This is reinforced by Jesus’ later statement that “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” There is no way we can physically look inside ourselves to find something which cannot be perceived by our eyes. Jesus’ reply makes this amply clear:

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. 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.”

First, Jesus is emphatic that man born of woman cannot perceive, understand, comprehend, or enter into the state of being described as “the kingdom of God” without spiritual discernment. In His earlier answer to Nicodemus, Jesus used the word see, and, here the word enter to denote man’s relation to “the kingdom of God.” The Greek word for see, used above, is archaic even in the Greek, meaning that current Greek uses another word for the same meaning. The original word was used in the sense of both “to see” and “to know”. It is one thing to perceive something, and another, to know through experience that a thing is real. It is in either sense that Jesus uses the word. The Greek word translated enter, literally means to “come in, come into”. In this instant, within the Greek context, (other parts of speech and words used) it implies to come into the condition or state ofthe kingdom of God.” (God is telling Man to “come to Me.”) Jesus is telling us that “the kingdom of God” is both an experience and a condition beyond the normal range of man’s experience and knowledge. He separates the physical (“that which is born of the flesh”) from the spiritual (“that which is born of the Spirit”), and leaves it there. These are the only two states of being in which man can be described. Physical health, wealth, prosperity (existence) is just that. Spiritual health, wealth, prosperity (existence) is just that. As demonstrated by Jesus’ miracles, those which the disciples were empowered to perform, and those occurring very regularly today, only God can bring the spiritual into relation with the physical; and we cannot discount what that relationship makes available to us today as demonstrated by the disciples. This is what Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand, and what we must understand.

The last statement Jesus makes in His reply: “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”, is descriptive of the man (not just the preacher, teachers, etc.) of God. We can only be witness to what the man of God does. How he actually gets into the proper relationship is incomprehensible. Where he’s going in this life is strictly between him and God. It is in his passing through our lives that we have the opportunity to “hearest the sound thereof”, and learn. And, like Nicodemus, we just have to keep asking questions:

How can these things be?”

Jesus has no recourse but to inform Nicodemus of the inadequacy of his knowledge: “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 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?” He just informed Nicodemus that all of what He had said earlier is within the realm of earthly knowledge as demonstrated by His use of the natural to describe the spiritual. Then He tells Nicodemus that, “because you think you know, and you say that you understand”, you do not really want to learn something new, that is, “ye receive not our witness”, or what I’m telling you. Then, he is says, “If you cannot understand these things, which should be obvious. How can you understand any “heavenly things”? Remember that Jesus had the accepted fact that He was “a teacher come from God” to recommend Him to the world, but Nicodemus was devoid of any spiritual insight. Today, the man of God is generally recommended by his scholastic credentials, not that he was sent “from God”. Jesus' next statement presented an even greater paradox:

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

In the Greek, the first phrase most emphatically states “absolutely nothing has ascended”, not just man. The second phrase, “but he that came down from heaven,” is dependent upon “the Son of man which is in heaven” in the last part of the statement. Here, Jesus is asserting His deity. God can speak of the present and the future as the past, because He knows. Nicodemus, being a scholar, would be well aware of this since it occurs several times in the Old Testament. The next statement is NOT a statement of HOW HE IS TO DIE, rather of HOW WE ARE TO GLORIFY HIM, after He is glorified. There is no way Nicodemus, a Jewish religious scholar, would have related the spiritual significance of the lifting up of the serpent to the death of their Messiah who would restore Israel as a nation, by a Gentile means, crucifixion.  He was looking for a political messiah, much as folks are today.

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

The serpent was not being crucified; rather, it represented God’s remedy for disobedience, sin. “Sin for sin”. The real serpents were God’s condemnation (judgment) against Israel’s disobedience, bringing death. The brass serpent, “judgment rendered”, “sin sacrificed”, signified God’s forgiveness. “Looked upon” or believed in for what it was, the brass serpent brought life; a new life, which every Israelite knew was given to him by God. Therefore, Paul could say, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” God will never be sacrificed. Sin must be sacrificed, by us; just as we sacrificed Jesus. God showed us how to do it through Jesus. At the cross, sin was crucified, not God. Jesus, as sinful man, as our representative, though He “knew no sin”, was the sacrifice. We must turn to God, seeing our sin sacrificed, yet ever before us, to remind us of God’s provision for our disobedience, sin. Thus Peter can write, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:” The “revelation of Jesus Christ” is that instant in which we “see Him for what He is”; since grace is immediately given to us. We do not have to wait for His return to earth. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

(From AMG Complete Wordstudy Bible and Reference, with Strong’s Dictionary and Greek Lexicon)

BELIEVETH

“4100. pisteuvw pisteúo; fut. pisteúso, from pístis (4102), faith. To believe, have faith in, trust. NT meanings:………

(VI) The pres. part. ho pisteúon (John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 7:38; 11:25, 26; 12:44, 46; 14:12) should not be taken as the one holding on to God constantly lest he would let loose and fall. It rather indicates that, once one believes, he continues to believe, for he has eternal life in him (John 3:15). The assurance Christ gave in John 10:28 is this: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Once a believer places himself in Jesus, it is He who holds him firmly without someone being able to snatch him away, for if this could happen then there would be the acknowledgement that someone is mightier than Christ, which cannot be.”

The Greek word translated as “world” is “kovsmo, or kosmos” from which we get “cosmos”, which is, generally, much more inclusive than simply “the world”. The word kosmos, in the Greek, has a primary meaning of order, regular disposition and arrangement. The Greek word translated as “perish” is “apollumi” meaning to be wholly destroyed, not in the sense of extinction or ceasing to exist; rather in the sense of becoming something completely different from what was created. So, what God loved was the creation He had ordered, or arranged. Since mankind chose the “knowledge of good and evil” over the knowledge of God, he changed from the original creation into a totally different creation. (See Genesis 5: 1-3). Mankind had become ‘lost’ in his own world of “things”(“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”); he had violated the law, the “order” which God had established; he “missed the mark” (sinned) by losing sight of the purpose for which he was created. //The real purpose of man’s creation is to be God’s representative on earth.// Jesus, the Christ came to show us the way back into that orderly arrangement, back into a “proper relationship with God”: because, that is the only way to truly know that we have be given “everlasting life”.

Now, “sin” has two distinct aspects as discussed in the Bible. The first is the “missing the mark”, in the sense of not living in harmony with our Creator, God. This is what happened in the Garden of Eden, and in every single life since. Each of us has chosen (actually, we are taught) the world as man describes it over a relationship with God. We include enough of God in our life to appease our conscience, to make us feel good, to impress others, to try to obtain His blessings; whatever works for our own goals in this life. “Missing the mark” in this sense is really to “miss the point (purpose) of existence altogether”; thereby “perishing” as far as God is concerned. Sin, in this aspect, is strictly related to our individual relationship with God.

The second aspect of “sin” is in the “transgression of the law”. Since man has decided he either doesn’t need God, or he will use God for his own purposes; a moral law is necessary to keep us from destroying ourselves and our earth. The moral law is the law handed down to Moses (in the Judeo-Christian tradition), and is mirrored in every other religious tradition. The possibility of mankind self-destructing is outlined in the flood narrative in Genesis. Of course, everyone knows that, individually, we cannot fulfill the moral law, regardless of our religion. Outside of a proper relationship with God, it is impossible to fulfill, or “live up to” the ideal of the moral law. The followers of all other religions are in the same condition as the “Christian” when it comes to the moral law; and when the moral law is the basis of his relationship with God, man utterly fails.

These two aspects of sin are reflected in the Hebrew concept of God as a gracious, loving, compassionate Creator, and of God as the ruler of the universe. As Creator, God is viewed as willing to go to any lengths so His creation will be in accord with the order and disposition with which it was created: He arranges all events and circumstances to achieve His purpose, which is, as stated above, to maintain order. As Ruler, God is viewed as Judge, Magistrate, General, and even Father; all that have authority and demand accountability: His law is unequivocal, never changing: justice is demanded in every circumstance: every transgression must be accounted for, and restitution made.

Jesus, the Christ, manifested a relationship with God in both these aspects. First, as Christ, Messiah, Savior, Redeemer, He manifested the power of God in each miracle performed, in each encounter with the religious sector, and in His resurrection. As the man, Jesus lived the law; He fulfilled the law (which made the law of none effect to Him); and, then, He died (rather, He chose to die) to show us how we could, likewise, make the law of none effect to us (so now there is no accountability, no restitution under the law, i.e. no condemnation); AND, He showed us (that in order to enter that right relationship with God), we must, likewise, die.

You see, Jesus did not die to forgive us our sins. He died to remit our sins. That is to take us to a sinless condition. That condition exists only when we die to this world, which we have made, and come to realize that “whether you live for God or die to God, you are God’s”.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

It is not only man that Jesus came to save. Consider the total consequences of man’s disobedience, sin. And man is not being saved just to go to heaven when we die. The Jehovah’s Witness believe in a paradise on earth. God’s vision is a paradise throughout all creation. And, man is destined to be God’s representative both now, and then. To be saved is to be delivered, made whole, and preserved from danger, loss, and destruction. I believe that applies in every sense of the word to the word "Man".

CONDEMN:

2919. krivnw kríno; fut. krinom, aor. ékrina, aor. pass. ekríthen, perf. kékrika. To separate, distinguish, discriminate between good and evil, select, choose out the good. (Ibid)

SAVED:

4982. swvzw somzo; fut. somso, aor. pass. esomthen, perf. pass. sésosmai, from soms (n.f.), safe, delivered. To save, deliver, make whole, preserve safe from danger, loss, destruction. (Ibid)

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.

It is not just His name in which we must believe. There’s more about the Christ than just a name, Jesus; and all those things are imputed to us when we believe.

NAME:

3686. o[noma ónoma; gen. onómatos, neut. noun. Name, title, character, reputation, person.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

//I LOVE THIS STATEMENT// It is what we believe that determines what we do. But, it is what we do that defines what we are. If we do nothing, we are nothing!! And, there is only TWO things we have to do: “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Hear, heed, and do!! It is what we love (doing) that gets everything else we do reproved or approved. Any doubts about love being an action? How can we know God loves us, except by what He does for us? Speaking a word (“I love you”) is only “honoring with (our) lips”. It’s in the doing that it is proven.

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