The leaves in my back garden need clearing, leaving them on the lawn will damage the grass over time so its a Saturday morning sweeping the leaves into piles and then putting them into the brown bin. With several piles of leaves ready for clearing and my brush in hand I continue with the tiring task. Jadon my autistic son comes out into the garden and observes my work. Jadon finds himself a brush and walks onto the grass with a smile on his face. No word is spoken between us and he starts to join me in the task.
The only problem is that his ability to clear leaves is lacking and he doesn’t actually grasp the end game of the sweeping task. He swings his brush from side to side hitting the piles of leaves and sending them back over the garden. He’s actually achieving the opposite of what I wanted to achieve and now the leaves are everywhere. All my hard work seems to have gone in an instant. I look at Jadon with some frustration but recognise his happiness – God speaks into the situation and tells me that “this is very often what my relationship with God is like, He is always working in the world and very often when I attempt to join him in the task I end up achieving the absolute opposite of what God intended”
Just like Jadon I find myself doing all the wrong things and failing to do what God wanted me to do. I enthusiastically take part but very often make a mess of things. But God, amongst all the leaves, showed me that for Him there was something far more important than me getting it right. You see when Jadon joined me in the task of clearing the leaves it didn’t really matter that he got it all wrong. What mattered more was that he loved me enough to want to help and join me in the work of clearing leaves.
God wants you to join Him in partnership. He loves your cooperation so much that the mistakes are a side issue.
Don’t be afraid of failure or getting things totally wrong – its your cooperation that matters. At the last day it will not matter if you got it wrong.
What will matter is that you stepped out and cooperated with Him being a partner in the task at hand.
There are many church leaders who faithfully carry out the task of shepherding members of the body of Christ on a daily basis, sacrificing themselves for the people they love both in the church and in the world. How sad it is for the church when a leader falls into sin, the consequences for the Body of Christ are both traumatic and damaging. When a single church leader in elevated to such a place of prominence that individual members find their hope and strength in the leaders abilities it’s very often a recipe for disaster that results in disillusioned and confused Christians when all goes wrong. Why does it happen so often? Well the reality is – it doesn’t happen that often. Its very much like an plane crash, they occur, we think frequently, but when we consider the amount of air traffic its not that often and for those of us jetting off to sunnier lands we still will take the small risk.
It seems that we are faced with another prominent church leader who has fallen into sin and the internet and other social media will soon be buzzing with the scandal without considering the fact that – the plane has crashed and the wreckage needs clearing and the survivors need healing.
I’d like to present some of my thoughts on the case of Richard Taylor and how we as the Body of Christ should interact with the whole issue.
The prophet’s voice
There are many people on the internet who would like to portray themselves as a witness against men like Richard Taylor. I think it’s a legitimate act to establish a web site or blog that’s committed to the revealing of hidden sin or false teaching/prophecy in the church. The problem comes later when the hidden is now revealed! The prophets of the Old Testament would speak out against a king or nation but once the job was done they went back to their previous role. What we find today is people glorying in the “I told you so” and continuing to find some pleasure in the serious wound dealt to the church. One blog actually mentions the fact that two Christians have taken the story of Richard Taylor to the Sun and other worldly media. We should hang our heads in shame and weep that we drag the bride out before a mocking world.
The sin of man discounts the work of God.
King David was a man who sinned greatly before the Lord and yet also repented greatly before Him. There were consequences that David suffered for his sin but it didn’t completely discount the things he had done for God previously. I don’t know that much about Richard Taylor and I live over 100 miles from him and the church in Newport. We can’t discredit the works of a man or his message because of the sin of adultery or other sexual sin committed at a later date. I remember discussing the validity of Todd Bentley’s ministry and for me the far greater problem than his adultery was his teaching which in my opinion was false and a danger to the church.
If you have biblical grounds for critiquing Richard Taylor’s teaching that’s fair enough and that’s were the focus should remain.
Acknowledge when the church gets it right
What’s interesting about the case of Richard Taylor is that the church leaders that oversee his ministry have acted quickly and openly (I know some people think being open is taking it to the Sun!). I understand that as soon as the matter became known to church leaders they removed Richard from Office and openly announced this to the congregation. We should applaud such decisive and effective leadership rather than keeping are eyes fixed on the wreckage. If we want to criticise leaders for telling members to keep the issue within the church then maybe the fact that a brother or sister has gone to the SUN newspaper should make us think their actions make some sense.
Setting men up for a fall
The Church might need to reconsider the whole issue of “One Man” leadership with the “first amongst equals” becoming the norm in a lot of churches. With one man running the show supported by other lesser elders it opens up ground for gradual compromise on the part of those leaders. It’s so easy for a leader to slip into compromising behaviour over the years “Don’t worry love I’ll take the kids to school today”. What’s wrong with taking the kids to school? Well nothing but when the one off becomes a regular habit and leadership facilitates “putting your feet up” it becomes a slow journey towards continued compromise. Now listen I’m not being critical of leaders, I’m criticising the structure of leadership that makes this form of compromise so easily grown. In the church we are all accountable to one another. When the scriptures talk about taking a matter “before the church” it means the whole congregation not a selected group of leaders.
The bride fallen in the mud
When one member suffers all suffer with it! Have we forgotten that we are one church, the Lord’s bride? Yes Richard has taken the bride and muddied her wedding gown. It’s now up to the Lord to bring back His bride and wash down her gown and make her presentable once again. It’s not the job of brothers and sisters to stand in the street and pelt the bride with further filth and to invite their unsaved neighbours to join in! Rather it’s our job to weep and mourn over such great loss and pray for forgiveness and restoration of a fallen soul.
Fallen from Grace
If Richard has repented of his actions and made restitution then he has not fallen from Grace. In fact he is upheld by grace and welcomed amongst the saints and a member of the body. He has fallen from his position in the church and I hope that he humbly accepts that loss. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful testimony to the grace of God and the love of the church if Richard could find a place in the same congregation serving those he has offended. It would take great humility to disqualify himself from any leadership role and simply serve, maybe the teas and coffee’s, stacking the chairs. It would also show great love and grace on the part of Victory Church.
Whatever happens and whatever we think let us keep in mind the love of Christ. If we can truthfully say that our words and actions in this matter are filled with love then God will work together all things for the good of His bride.
If we don’t approach this whole issue with humility then we may end up looking at the future work of God with anger and dismay.
Jonah Chapter 5 – NASB
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
The smash hit series Breaking Bad has caught my interest and become a great source of discussion amongst friends both of faith and no faith. The common feeling amongst many of my fellow watchers is that “Walter White” isn’t really a bad guy and is simply reacting to a tragedy in his life. Then we have his sidekick “Jessy” who seems to be so far away in terms of intelligence and the ability to control himself, especially around the use of drugs that no real comparison exists. In fact it’s the “Jessy Pinkman’s” of this world that the decent amongst us would like to avoid. If you’ve got it all together and are generally living life, as you should then you’re probably going to identify more with Walter White and that’s were your sympathies will remain.
Walter takes on Jessy as an assistant in his “Meth Amphetamine” production with the usual phrase “lets cook”. Yes its not the best way to make money but in this case we can see the logic. Walter has terminal cancer and wants to leave enough money to look after his family when he’s gone. His prior lecturing job supplemented by hours at a car wash tell us he has no real prospect of making money without taking this path. We are now torn between differing emotions, we can identify with the need to look after family and drug production isn’t something that comes naturally to Walter so maybe we should have some sympathy. In contrast “Jessy” is a complete “meth head” totally chaotic and already involved in drug production before Walters involvement. So whilst we are aware that the “cooking” of such an addictive drug is wrong we also feel some sympathy towards Walter and if your like me spend your time in each episode secretly hoping he doesn’t get caught.
What we see in the lives of these two men is not really that clear and we can easily be led astray by our emotions. Is Walter really that much different from Jessy. In some things he is but in others he is very similar. Jessy is clearly a troubled young man who has made some poor choices from the background of a failed family relationship especially with his father. His move into the drug scene has been almost like a chaotic slide into reckless choices that so often sees him using drugs to escape from himself. He is neither good at being a drug producer / dealer or finding success in relationships, something which he looks for in Walter but finds only criticism. He’s considered the loose cannon because of his personal drug use and constant mistakes.
Walter is different, or so we think! he doesn’t use drugs and seems to think carefully about every move he makes. But we find him making some serious mistakes when using his “drug of choice”. On two occasions his over use of “Red Wine” leads him to act in a reckless manner – telling his DEA brother in law that “he hasn’t really caught the meth cooking king” which eventually leads to his powerful Meth “Gus” buyer becoming a suspect!
Walter is different to Jessy – his entry into the world of drug production is one of intelligent choice and justified by necessity. In fact as the series moves on we find Walter becoming more of a natural in the dark world he has entered. Walters wife “Skyler” is a respectable mother of a young child and a disabled son. She initially struggles with Walters activities and judges him accordingly whilst assisting her employer “cook the books” for tax evasion. Her hypocrisy soon departs after considering such vast amounts of money and her obvious attraction to the now “bad boy” Walter White. It’s not long before she’s with Walter on the journey of mass drug production and demonstrating her ability to learn how to “sin” from the Internet.
It’s not really until we get to the end of series 4 that our loyalty to “Walter” starts to take a knock and we start to consider him in a different light. But right from the start of his activities we see him manufacturing meth for a needy population, watching a drug addict die on her own vomit, being linked to the death of many in a plane crash, and the surprising execution of two revival dealers (just an episode before he states to Jessy “we are not killers”) but he still seems like someone who is trying to just get along. Watching the many users in the “meth den” whose lives are clearly a raging train wreck should bring tears to our eyes and yet the focus easily remains on Walter.
The Breaking Bad series can be watched from a simple point of entertainment and for many that’s as far as it will go. We can look at this series at a much deeper level and with some measure of honesty consider ourselves in the grand scheme of Walter’s “lets cook”. Check out your loyalty to Walter and the sympathies that his story prompts in us. Judging Jessy is easy and of course we are not like him! The reality is we are probably all capable of being a Walter or Jessy dependant on the circumstances of our life and the pressures we face. Maybe you’ll say that’s not me, well consider yourself on the sidelines and look at “Skyler White”. Hypocrisy can often go unnoticed and it’s not until we find an opportunity “to sin well” that we jump right in. Most of us don’t get the opportunity to get involved in some really profitable sinning and that’s a good thing. The question for us is what would we really do when such an opportunity arose; it’s easy to be critical of those with the resources to sin profitably when we can only indulge on the periphery.
This series, watched carefully and with discussion amongst friends can be really profitable if your prepared to be honest with yourself. It’s clearly a great “cultural connection” with people and really opens the door to discuss our shared “sinfulness” and the only real answer to “breaking the bad” in all of us.
This is the first of a series of articles on “Dream Interpretation” which has become and is a new ministry in many of our modern churches and maybe in some of the more older and established.
The quick and easy answer to the question – Dream Interpretation – Is it biblical? is “yes”. The interpretation of dreams takes place in the pages of scripture. But does the “dream interpretation” taking place as a ministry in churches actually agree with scripture or is it more in agreement with New Age, Occult practices.
This introduction will give you the reader some questions to ponder, this before we enter into a biblical study of the subject. We will look at these issues in more detail later but this introduction should hopefully do enough to cause someone entering into this new “medium” to stop and think carefully. Maybe delaying the journey until they have really understood the dangers that are ahead.
Do we find any believer interpreting a dream for other believers in the scriptures? The answer is NO. When God speaks to a believer in a dream or vision He does so very clearly so that the believer understands the instruction given. This is in accordance with the New Covenant which states that “No man shall teach another or say to another Know the Lord”.
Do we find believers interpreting dreams for unbelievers in scripture? The answer is YES. But this generally only happens when a high-ranking official is given a dream and always ensures that their own occultic mediums cannot understand the dream. This establishes the fact that the one interpreting comes from God and brings God’s message.
What happens when we create a “Priestly Ministry of Dream Interpretation”? The answer is simple. We go against scripture and raise up a specialist group in the church who have power to control others by their so-called gifting. To raise up a class of believers that will speak to you as a mediator between you and God takes us back to Roman Catholicism and is simply not biblical.
Surely its a good thing if a believer can interpret a dream for a believer! The answer is NO. This activity replicates the occultic practice of mediums and Tarot readers. In the occult practices the medium has power over the person coming for a reading. They are able to Instruct, Guide, Direct and Enslave the individual who thinks that the medium has the power to convey a message. The success of a reading will enslave the one who comes for help to the medium. This same process takes place in the church when dream interpretation is given freedom to control.
Does the use of dream cards validate the ministry? The answer is NO. It amazes me that many faithful Christians are blind to the fact that using a system that gives definite interpretation to an element of a dream ie “teeth falling out” always means??? once again replicates the occult practice of Tarot reading.
But what about faithful ministries that teach this new miracle? The answer is “Look Closely”. If we take the ministry of John Paul Jackson we find that his early web site for interpreting dreams would charge money for a person to submit a dream and also charge others to train and then access the site to interpret the dream!! This may not be biblical but it is fantastic business and marketing.
Before we look into the subject in more depth let me invite the reader to do something they may have not yet done. Search the scriptures and see!
A final warning – New Age and Occultic practices are forbidden in scripture but far worse it is for those who lead others astray.
When we looked at Galatians chapter 1 we spent some time considering the back ground of the book, the Cultural and Political setting so that we could gain a more accurate understanding of Paul’s message
This is so very important, without it we may read into the message something contrary to its real meaning. We should approach the Word in its context and ask what does the Word say to us rather than using the Word to support our own ideas and ideologies.
Rich spoke about the work of the Spirit last week
The gifts of the Spirit
The worship and ministry session takes first place
1. Who was the author of the Word.
Act 1:16 and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
2Pe 1:20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.
2Pe 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. What does the Word do
2. What results from the Word
Rom 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Heb 4:12 12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
1Pe 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
The Spirit enables us to understand the Word.
Why then in a Charasmatic meeting do we find the Word restricted to 30 minutes because of the attention span of the church people.
If the meeting is truly Spirit led and the Spirit is working in people then the Word can be taught or preached for much longer.
We find that the Word, taken out of its context can be used to protect error
Prophecy the doesn’t come true or has inaccuracies.
Confusion in the Word – “we all prophesy in part”
1Co 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part
That signs and wonders result in conversions rather than the preaching of the Word
“I did not come with eloquent language”
1Co 2:1-5 1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
This is why we need to understand the setting or background of the book we read to enable us to come to an accurate understanding of the Word.
Hampster Wheel: The simplicity of the Gospel opens up a life long relationship of faith in Christ. This is where we start and end our walk with Jesus. He is all sufficient.
Very often the real dangers we face as Christians are not from the clearly identified places such as Islam, Secularism or the Occult. These are evidently in conflict with the Gospel.
The real danger is very often found closer to home. The introduction of a gospel that is not the Gospel, but in appearance is similar or complimentary is that which will immobilise the follower of Christ. It introduces a system of works and religious practices that sees us “in the wheel” constantly striving but never reaching our goal. There comes a time when we, exhausted simply give up, because it became all very complex and difficult.
In our introduction to Galatians and in Chapter 1 we saw that Paul was attempting to defend his ministry and message against those who sought to add the Law to the work of Christ.
Paul continues to defend himself against the accusations that had been made against him as we read on into chapter two.
1Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.
Paul tells us that his trips to Jerusalem were infrequent. We remember from our last study that an accusation laid against Paul was that his message, the gospel, was a result of being instructed by the Apostles and that this message had “lost its way” become defective and left out important elements and therefore needed correction. Paul makes it very clear that his trips to Jerusalem were not regular and in fact infrequent and short in duration.
Paul Once again travels to Jerusalem and he states that he did this in response to a revelation or because of a revelation. It is possible to connect this with the revelation of Agabus.
28One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
This would explain Paul’s motive for travelling to Jerusalem and we find Barnabas accompanying him at this time. Paul states that this visit was also the occasion of Paul setting before some of the leaders the gospel preached to the gentiles or the plan and method of its delivery to this group.
But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders; for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
This was done privately and to some of the leaders of the Jerusalem church, James, Peter and John. It is argued by some that this was the Jerusalem Council but then this would not have been a private meeting amongst limited leadership as was the case at this time. It is also more probable that the issue discussed amongst Paul and the three was the methodology of Paul’s delivery of the gospel rather than the content of the message itself for Paul already has acknowledged that this gospel was by direct revelation from God and needed no clarification, confirmation or approval. It is also possible that Paul had heard rumours that the Apostles were unhappy with his ministry and also that his message was contrary to that preached by the leaders in Jerusalem. This would fit in with the accusations that were being made against Paul and his ministry.
3Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Paul mentions that Titus a Greek who accompanied Paul was not compelled to be circumcised and this was the case despite a dispute which arose at that time. Even at this early stage Pauls confesses that “false brothers” had infiltrated the ranks of the “body of faith” in order to return them to the slavery of the Judaic Legalistic system. Paul states that they did not give in to them which indicates a real conflict and struggle. Returning to legalism tears away the very fabric of truth found in the gospel. Notice the words “false brothers” “Infiltrated” “Spy” “make us slaves” – At the very beginning of the early church the threat from false teachers and leaders was evident and a reality. Today we seem to have moved to a place of apathy in regard to this threat. This threat that still exists is ignored and very often an attempt to make a judgement about others is rejected – very often with the statement “we should not judge” – yet this is not the biblical way, we are encouraged to judge others in order to establish their status – else how would we know to share the gospel or to protect our fellowship. We are not to judge others for the purpose of putting them down, to destroy them with malice but we must use our judgement in the Christian life to determine that which is false and genuine.
The warnings against the false teacher are often neglected today – for example let us look at the book of James “Taming The Tongue”
Taming the Tongue
1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt[a] water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Discuss this passage!!!!!
If we understood this as referring to teachers then we might be more cautious about what we listen to and accept as truth.
6As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message. 7On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles,[a] just as Peter had been to the Jews.[b]
Although not entirely certain it is assumed that Paul is making reference here to the church leaders in Jerusalem and asserts that they added nothing to the Gospel he preached and that they saw, understood, that had been entrusted (by God) with the task of taking this gospel to the gentiles.
When we consider these matters how wonderful the mighty plan of God. Knowing that the gospel would be taken to the gentiles and that because of the many years of opposition, cultural and religious rejection of the gentiles by the Jews this element of the gospels movement would be vigorously opposed. God called one individual who would be a mighty advocate for the gentiles and a worthy opponent of any Jew.
Paul was clearly this man, chosen by God to ensure the movement of the gospel to the gentile nations. When we read that even Barnabas became caught up in the problems of legalism we can see the absolute supremacy of God’s choice of Paul for this opposition was dangerous and a powerful influence on the early church.
8For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul asserts again that it is God who works in him to reach the gentiles with the gospel and that this was the case in his delivering of the gospel to the churches of Galatia.
9James, Peter[c] and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. 10All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
It was James, Peter and John who met with Paul privately on this occasion and they clearly recognized the grace given to Paul. They agreed that Paul and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles, which indicates that the meeting was not about the message of the gospel but was in connection with the method of delivery and strategy of the spread of the gospel. They agreed to concentrate on the Jews whilst Paul went among the gentiles. Once again we might have assumed that a great gentile convert would have been better for this mission but God knew that He needed a champion of Judasim, delivered from that system of death to not only reach the gentiles with the gospel but to defend the gentiles from the party of the circumcision who left unchallenged would have robbed the gentiles of their freedom in Christ and ultimately their precious salvation.
11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
We see here the importance and absolute necessity of God’s choice of Paul. If even Peter and Barnabas could be led astray then the essential nature of this problem was of a considerable threat to the early church. It seems in fact, that this early heresy was the predominant problem in the church at that time and was only settled later at the first Jerusalem Council. It appears that the circumcision group were of a considerable influence on Peter. It is also interesting to note the status of Peter. Although considered a great Apostle Peter still displays his common fault of being to easily influenced by the fear of man.
The Roman Catholic church will tell us that Peter is the “Rock” on which the church is built and that he is the leader of the church from whom all the Pope’s descend. Yet it is interesting to note that Paul has the courage to address Peter as a fellow believer who can be held accountable and be fallible in practice. Had Peter held the status of Pope in the church it is probable that Paul would not have dealt with him in such a forceful manner.
14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Paul challenges Peter which in itself shows the strength of Paul’s character. Considering the position of Peter in the church of that period it would have been understandable if Paul had let matters pass and then confronted the issue at a later date in writing or via a messenger to the Jerusalem church. But Paul confronts Peter “to his face” and declares the hypocrisy of his position in front of “them all”. Clearly this gives further evidence that the Jerusalem Council had not yet taken place at which these very matters concerning the gentiles were settled once and for all in the church. It is also evident that Peter still displayed considerable weakness when faced with the opinions and opposition of men. I share that experience with Peter and very often find myself shrinking back from confrontation and will often find myself concerned more with how people see me than what is in fact the truth of a given situation. Thank God that the Grace given to Peter is available for me and you. That is not to say that we should be content with that character fault, we should be seeking to find the resource of the Spirit to meet us at each point of our need in this area.
15“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Paul still continues his argument directed at Peter and points out that they both are Jews by birth with the great privileges of the Judaic history, covenant and possession of God law. Unlike the nations they had the knowledge of the law which had led in some measure to considerable moral restraint. Yet regardless of this they both know that the observance of the law does not bring justification, It is only faith in Christ that brings this great benefit. Paul asserts that the observance of the law will not bring about the justification that we require.
17“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
A common objection made by the legalising element of Jewish Christian was that the justification of the person by just faith in Christ and no law led to sin and that the Law was in fact needed. The argument suggests that this then means that Christ promotes sin. Paul states that if while seeking justification in Christ we live lives of sin then we only prove that we ourselves have rebuilt that which we put aside. It is therefore we who are responsible.
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[d]
Paul does not describe a literal state for we were not crucified and we do live but this is a description of our spiritual position in Christ. Because Christ has died for us, in our place as our substitute then we are treated as having died with Him. His death becomes my death, it is credited to me. The result of this union with Christ is that “I no longer live” that is I no longer live for myself.
Before you become a Christian your end goal in life is – the highest good for yourself, you in fact live “for yourself” this end goal of life shapes everything you do, even though it may appear outwardly good it is an action based on the end goal of “selfishness” –
Having identified that Christ is “your Lord” and “Your Saviour” and hence placing your trust “committed obedience” in Him – you repent of your end goal “selfish life” and begin a life in which Christ lives “in me” and love / God becomes the end goal of life and therefore all actions are directed to that end.
The work of Jesus, an amazing act of Grace – undeserved mercy and righteousness combined – is so wonderful that it should not be set aside for any other system, and especially the law for in that case Christ would have died for nothing if our salvation could have been attained in any other way.
In the previous two chapters that we have studied we have looked closely at Paul’s defence of his ministry and position as an Apostle. This defence has been as a result of accusations that his message, the Gospel, was flawed and required further clarification. Certain men had come among the Galatians and taught that Jesus Christ was the start of the Good News and that the law in its Judaic form primarily ceremonial and including circumcision was to be added to make this Gospel complete.
Paul very rarely defended himself and only did so in this case because his reputation and position had a direct impact on the message of the Cross, the Good News of Christ our redeemer.
We learnt that Paul’s letter was divided up into three sections, a biographical defence, theological and practical application.
In Chapter 3 Paul begins to introduce theological concepts to counter the argument that faith in Jesus Christ was only the start of the Spiritual life of salvation and a relationship with God. That in order to progress the law and Judaic forms were to be taken in addition to promote true spirituality and salvation.
1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Paul calls the Galatians foolish and asks who has bewitched them. This indicates a subtle and deceptive manipulation that seeks to control the Galatians with no real intellectual or spiritually discerned reaction to these new teachings. This makes them foolish and bewitched.
Very often we find people fooled and bewitched by doctrines that have no intellectual substance or subjected to spiritual discernment. So very often what is taught by teachers in the church can be overturned by the simplest of bible study.
Yet like the Galatians many are foolish and bewitched holding to error with a passion simply because it seems so appealing. The error of legalism that has gripped the Galatians is a spiritual deception. A spiritual deception that causes the follower of legalism to seek holiness and spiritual advancement through obedience to laws and ordinances which govern the outward behaviour but fail to have an influence on the motivation of the heart.
Outwardly two people could appear similar, doing similar things, following similar laws but one could be legalistic having no real motivation of love and being essentially selfish in nature. The Pharisee’s were extremely zealous for the law obeying its regulations and outwardly appearing holy but inside they had no love and were in fact evil doers. (scripture)
When we understand the background of society in this region we also see how pointed this remark is. The term used by Paul “Galatians” referred to the educated populous that had left behind the native superstition and magic of the region to become an educated people under Greek and Roman cultural influence, now Paul calls them “foolish”
This is not to be understood as a term used as a result of hatred of the people but one of real reference to foolishness of thinking!
Paul demonstrates the simplicity of this error by asking “just one thing” – this one thing can determine the accuracy and truthfulness of this new teaching that opposes the true Gospel of Christ.
It is simple – did they receive the Spirit by – observance of the law (ceremonial) or
– believing what you heard – faith
The answer is very clear – very simple – thus making them “so foolish”
They began by faith and receiving the Spirit and now they are attempting to complete this process by works or human effort by dependence on the flesh.
The inner desire to produce or work for reward is compelling and a major stumbling block that most Christians struggle with in their Christian walk.
Paul points out that initially they had suffered considerably, probably persecution from the dominant Jewish party of the region and yet now they themselves are taking on Judaic rules and regulations including circumcision. Paul asks again “did God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law or because you believed what you heard. This believing is more than an acknowledgment of the truth but is a commitment to the truth.
The NT deals with this “Even the Demons believe” (scripture)
Faith is not just belief it is a belief with action – Imagery “Train at Birmingham going to London”
What is the difference then between obedience and legalism?
Obedience as a result of love for God
Legalism as a result of love for self
Three ways of dealing with temptation
1. Give In – Loves sin
2. Bind Yourself to a Legalistic Code – Loves sin
3. Love God more than sin – Loves God
The method of sanctification – relationship building with Christ through a life walk and the Word
An alternative – either legalism or the abuse of grace (antinomianism)
Antinomianism (from the Greek αντι, “against” + νομος, “law”), or lawlessness (in the Greek Bible: ανομια, which is “unlawful”), in theology, is the idea that members of a particular religious group are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities. Antinomianism is the polar opposite of legalism, the notion that obedience to a code of religious law is necessary for salvation.
6Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[a] Gen. 15:6
7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[b] Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18
9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Paul directs the Galatians to “Abraham” the claimed father of the Jews and asks them to consider this fact.
Abraham believed God and as a result he was declared “righteous” or in a right standing with God.
The Galatians are to understand that the children of Abraham are those that believe or have faith.
As proof of this fact Paul points to scripture and that it was foreseen that God would justify the gentiles by faith and therefore the gospel was announced in advance to Abraham “that all nations would be blessed through him”
Paul’s emphasis on Abraham is important as the Jews determined great merit and nationhood by their descent from Abraham and this also gave them a belief in an exclusive national identity set apart from the nations. They also believed in an eternal right to salvation through a descent from Abraham and the merits attain by him for the nation and yet Paul declares that “only those who believe” are children of Abraham.
John 8:33 – 45 33They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants[a](greek seed) and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know you are Abraham’s descendants. (greek seed) Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.[b]”
39“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do the things Abraham did. 40As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
a. John 8:33 Greek seed; also in verse 37
b. John 8:38 Or presence. Therefore do what you have heard from the Father.
c. John 8:40 Some early manuscripts “If you are Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then
10All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[c] Deut. 27:26 11Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”[d] Hab. 2:4 12The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”[e] 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”[f] 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
We must remember that the Galatians had been instructed by certain Jews that although Christ was the Messiah, His work alone was not effectual or sufficient and the law of Moses, primarily circumcision and the ceremonial law was to be added in order to raise the Galatians to the higher level of spiritual experience.
Paul therefore aims to show the futility of reliance on the law. Paul quotes scripture and tells his readers that “all” who rely on observing the law are under a curse.
That cursed is “everyone” who does not “continue” to do “everything” in the Book of the Law.
Notice that Paul tells us that “all” relying on the law are under a curse because you must continue to do everything written. Therefore only one mistake places you under a curse!
The result is clear – “No one is justified by this method” therefore it is only those who live by faith that are righteous.
The law is not based on faith
Paul tells us very simply that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. Very often Christians try to make this say more than Pauls intended meaning. Paul simply needed to point out that Jesus died in our place, as our substitute suffering the curse, that we the sinner, deserved. He points out that the law indicates that a person is cursed who is hung on a tree and was not Christ clearly portrayed before them as crucified! Suffering the curse, that we should have suffered, the innocent for the guilty.
If you have listened to the teachings of the “word of faith” movement, which teaches a prosperity lifestyle for Christians this text may be very familiar. This group, taking Pauls teaching out of its contextual meaning claim that the curse had to do with Death, sickness and poverty and therefore Christians are exempt form these three life problems.
Refer this Deut 28 – Sickness Poverty Death (whilst leaving out the rest) being the curse of the law and the death mentioned is physical.
In its context Paul is clearly referring to the substituionary death of Christ to redeem us from spiritual and physical death by giving us the Spirit and future resurrection. Once again a simple reading of scripture following the methodology of the word faith movement would have to include an exemption from a whole raft of other life problems and as Rich has correctly pointed out on so many occasions – Paul himself suffered great hardship, poverty etc and was not under the curse.
We have continually seen through this study of Galatians the lesson that “Jesus Christ” alone is sufficient for us … that in simplicity of faith we begin with Him, receiving His Spirit, we continue with Him and we end our earthly life with Him with nothing added.
Today we face many reworked false teachings that tell us that we must reach a higher plain of spirituality. We have churches which have left behind the sufficient Jesus and have added so many strange doctrines and teachings, with goals to be attained and standards to be achieved which have nothing of the “faith” of our father Abraham.
Paul tells the Galatians and us that the promise of the Spirit was received by faith in Christ and was for all peoples.
Paul needs to further counter the false teaching that the Law of Moses was required to complete the work of Christ. He brings an example to the table from everyday life of that period.
15Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[g] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
He points to a solid and unchangeable nature of a human “Covenant” this is unlike a contract that can be amended. The covenant could not be changed or cancelled; it was to remain in force once duly established. Having reminded them of this fact he proceeds to show them that the promises of the covenant made with Abraham were also made to “one” other “Christ”. Therefore this covenant made with Abraham and Christ could not be amended by or cancelled by the covenant of the law introduced some 430 years later. This Pauls says must be the case because if the inheritance was dependant of legalistic observance of the law then it would contradict the promise. This cannot be the case because God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
Paul as so often the case in his letters predicts the questions of his readers. “what then was the purpose of the law” if not to gain the inheritance.
19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.
The law was added because of transgressions until the Seed “Christ” to whom the promise referred had come. Therefore the law had a purpose for a set period of time. Its time span was until Christ had come and its purpose was threefold
1. To reveal sin
2. To restrict transgressions
3. To lead us to Christ
Verse 20: difficult
The clause has been translated thus: “Now a mediator supposes two parties, of which God is but one.”
21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Paul asks a further question “is the law opposed to God’s promises” – he answer No.
He makes it very clear that is a law had been established and given in order to “impart life” then is would have done so – but this law was not given for that purpose.
In proof of this Paul declares that scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, life has never been imparted by the law, as a result what was promised would always come through faith and at that time faith in Jesus Christ being given to those who believe (exercise saving faith)
23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ[h] that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Before this faith came – Paul is not referring to a point in human history as this would lead us to a time when salvation by faith was not possible! Paul refers to our own personal experience. That before we had a revelation of faith we were locked up, held prisoners by the law. Paul speaks here of the law in its wider sense both moral and ceremonial. We could not escape from the condemnation of the law, its constant message to us was “death”. The moral showed us our sin and ceremonial pointed to Christ.
We needed to understand our absolute desperate state under the law for in understanding this we would see our need of a saviour and look for freedom.
Satan hates the law for the law serves to reveal our need of a saviour. Let him remove the words of sin from our daily vocabulary so that the lost will sit less aware of the prison in which they live.
Adultery – Affair
Baby – Fetus
The law is so wonderful; it takes us by the hand and leads us to Christ.
Once faith in Christ has been attained the purpose of the law (the written code) has ended it is no longer is relevant to us but we love it and uphold its moral sanctions so that others may follow its lead.
26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul evidently counters the argument of any ranking in the body of Christ, that some from the Jewish party still held that being of Jewish physical descent made one of a higher class is highly probable. Paul makes it very clear only those who are of “faith” are the actual sons of God and heirs to the promise of blessing.
We read that Jesus in the Gospels declared that the Pharisees who carried on a legalistic observance of law to attain right standing with God were in fact sons of the Devil. John 8:44
Paul states that all of those who have clothed themselves with Christ, he our mantle (see Elisha and Elijah) are sons of God. That within this new family there are no differing ethnic groups, no ranks or gender distinctions, all are one in Christ Jesus.
Therefore we who belong to Christ are the true heirs, we are the “seed” according to the promise given. Notice that the promise was only given to a seed meaning “one” therefore the promise could only be received by those becoming part of the “one”. The promise was never intended for the physical descendants of Abraham but only for those of the faith of Abraham which may and does include many of the physical descent of Abraham.
It is so easy for us to slip into a legalistic mode of living the Christian life, we attend church not because of a love of fellowship or for the Joy of worship and hearing the word.
We arrive here as a matter of ritualistic observance.
It is possible that we may be deceived, bewitched and living as fools, believing that we can work for God and by “doing” we can earn his blessing or gain merit.
If we have an outward life of conformity to the Gospel but an inward life of rebellion and self seeking then we are not saved and not part of the “one” seed. We need to enter into union with Christ by faith, we need to believe that He can change us from within and trust our final destiny to Him.
This involves a belief, an active trust in His promise, to forgive our sins and write his laws on our hearts. It involves agreeing to change our end goal in life from self seeking to serving Him.
In our willing agreement we find His promise to work in us by His Spirit to create and cultivate this change of heart!
Will you turn to Him today
The 3rd chapter of John’s gospel is probably, amongst believers, one of the most well known chapters in the New Testament. It contains the account of Jesus and Nicodemus and the expression “born again” It also includes the well known summary of the gospel in the very often memorised verse “John 3:16”. The clear intention of John in writing this gospel is to reveal Jesus as the divine Messiah, the Son of God, The King of the Kingdom and to lead the reader into faith in Jesus. He makes this evident in his statement in chapter 20
Joh 20:30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
Joh 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
John records just 7 signs or miracles in his gospel and connects these to the 7 “I am” sayings of Jesus. These miracles called signs point to Jesus and expand our understanding of who Jesus actually is. They are written so that the reader might believe and by faith “an active and ongoing believing” have life in Jesus
John 6:35 I am the bread of life
John 6:1-5 Feeding the 5000
John 8:12 I am the light of the world
John 9: 1-41 Healing the blind man
John 10:7 I am the door of the sheep
|John 5:1-8 Healing the Lame Man (Sheep Gate)|
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
John 11:1-44 Raising Lazarus
John 15:1 I am the true Vine
John 2:1-11 Turning water into wine
John 10:11 I am the good Shepherd
John 4:46 Healing of officials son (binds up)
John 14:6 I am the Way the Truth and the Life
John 6:19 Walking on water
This gospel is written for those who are seeking the Kingdom of God and who are asking
“How can these things be?”
We read that the people were observing His signs (miracles) in the city of Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. This was a time when all the leaders and prominent men of Israel would be at the city for the great festival of Passover. The Sanhedrin would have been at full capacity with the leaders of Israel witnessing first hand the events recorded.
Joh 2:23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.
Joh 2:24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men,
Joh 2:25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
Nicodemus and many others would have witnessed the signs that Jesus was doing and all Jerusalem would have been focusing on the events of this Passover.
The question that would have been on the lips of all the people was “when would the Kingdom come”. When would their promised Messiah restore the Kingdom to Israel and once again elevate the nation of Israel to the chief of all nations.
Joh 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;
This man who came to Jesus was a Pharisee, Josephus the Jewish historian states that only 3000 Pharisee’s existed in Israel at the time and so they were small in number but great in influence. The Pharisee’s were acknowledged by the people as those who kept and taught the law. They had members in the Sanhedrin although the majority of the ruling council were Sadducees. Nicodemus was a member of the ruling council and Jewish tradition indicates that he was wealthy. He was also Israel’s leading scholar or teacher. We see Jesus referring to him in verse 10 as the “Teacher of Israel” indicating his exceptionally high status as a teacher in the nation. We also have good reason to believe that he later became a disciple of Jesus.
Joh 3:2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night – we are not given a reason but we can assume that this was either to avoid being seen, to obtain an audience with Jesus away from the crowds in the day or because his duties were so great that this was the only time that he would have opportunity to meet with Jesus. It may have been a combination of all three. Nicodemus acknowledges the “Teacher” status of Jesus by calling him Rabbi, a title desired by the learned Jews of all sects. The Greek word used here is “didaskolos” which signifies a person who not only has the name of teacher, but who actually does teach. The significance of his calling Jesus “Teacher” is that he would have had very little cause to give that title to others in Israel as he himself was “the teacher” of Israel and of the highest rank.
Nicodemus states “We know that” he does not say “I know that” but declares that he comes as a representative of other interested peoples. We can assume that he refers at least to the other council member “Joseph or Armithea” and maybe some other unknown individuals. He declares that Jesus has come from God although not understanding the divine nature of Christ. His limited understanding of Jesus would fit into his understanding of the promised Jewish Messiah and the coming Kingdom.
Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus has declared that the miracles or signs that Jesus had done before the people made it clear that he was a significant man that God was with him and was one who had the divine approval. Like Jesus own disciples the concept of the Messiah being divine was not understood or considered. The expectancy of the time was for the coming of the promised Messiah, a political warrior, like King David, who would re-establish Israel to her rightful place as the head or chief nation to whom the gentiles would show respect and honour. This was the idea of the coming Kingdom.
John was declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Undoubtedly this was the reason for Nicodemus visit, to enquire of the time and manner of the coming kingdom and if they were about to see its coming!
Luk 17:20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;
Luk 17:21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!‘ or, ‘There it is!‘ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Jesus knew the purpose of Nicodemus visit and stated emphatically that to actually see the kingdom a person needed to be born again and that this was something that Nicodemus needed in order to the see and enter the kingdom. Only the Spiritual can see the spiritual.
Joh 3:4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
Nicodemus heard the statement of Jesus and understood it from an earthly perspective considering the requirement to be born physically by natural birth a second time. He rightly recognized that this was not possible or even reasonable. Nicodemus was blind to the spiritual truth that Jesus attempted to convey. But look at the response of Jesus. He did not turn Nicodemus away but attempted to draw him to a place of understanding.
Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Jesus once again strongly affirmed that not only was it not possible to see the kingdom unless born again but that to enter into the kingdom a person must be born of water and of the Spirit. For Nicodemus this was harder still. He a Pharisee, a Jew by birth with a proven lineage in Israel was being informed that he could not enter and was not presently part of the Kingdom. He would have considered himself more qualified than most. His perfect doctrine and religious practice, obedience to the law, position of leadership and carrying the merit of Abraham, how could he not be a part of the coming kingdom for surely earthly Israel was the kingdom of God.
Jesus by changing the term from born again to born of water and the Spirit is leading Nicodemus back to the Old Testament, to the very scriptures that have been the source of this great teachers reputation in order to explain the need for Nicodemus and all people to be “born again”
Jesus expected Nicodemus to link to Ezekiel 36 and the references to the New Birth in verse 25-27 – being a birth of both water and spirit which symbolize Purification and Regeneration.
Eze 36:25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
Eze 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Eze 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
See also Tit 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
Despite this link to the writings of the prophets, Nicodemus was still struggling to move his understand from the physical to the spiritual. The next comment of Jesus was a clear statement of truth. Nicodemus the teacher of Israel was born of the flash and he could not see the things of the Spirit.
Joh 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jesus makes it clear that the one born of flesh is simply that “flesh” having a life that is led by the lusts and desires of our fleshly bodies. No amount of education or self discipline can remove the craving of the body and its hunger for self preservation and self advancement.
Only those that are born of the Spirit can understand the things of the Spirit unless the Spirit of God enlightens the understanding.
No amount of religious education or observance can enable someone to see or even understand the kingdom. The kingdom is spiritual and not physical
1Co 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Joh 3:7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
From this statement we can assume that Nicodemus is amazed by these statements. The concept of being born again is totally alien to everything he has ever understood or believed in connection with the kingdom of God. Jesus affirms that the requirement is “a must” not a “should” or “its better” there is no option other than to be born again. The birth of the Spirit as promised in the New Covenant is essential and a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom.
Joh 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Luk 17:20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;
Luk 17:21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!‘ or, ‘There it is!‘ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Jesus in his attempt to lead Nicodemus to a place of understanding introduces an earthly analogy in order to try and explain the working of the Spirit and the nature of the coming Kingdom. Nicodemus fails to understand that all those that are born again in accordance with the New Covenant promise are members of the Kingdom. That the Kingdom is like the wind which is untamed and although unseen can be understood to be presently active and alive by the work of the Spirit just as the winds work is experienced and felt although not seen.
Joh 3:9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?”
Joh 3:10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?
Joh 3:11 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.
Joh 3:12 “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
Nicodemus still fails to understand the nature of the Kingdom and the work of the Spirit in the lives of those who make up this Kingdom generation.
Jesus exclaims that he as the teacher of Israel should have grasped these things. He affirms that both he and John the Baptist have been teaching the message of the Kingdom and as yet their testimony has not been accepted.
Jesus points out that having used earthly analogy to teach the kingdom and Gods salvation Nicodemus was still ignorant and therefore if Jesus attempted to teach him things that have no earthly comparison he would surely fail to understand.
So we see the meeting of two Teachers both of whom have a different understanding of the Kingdom, there is a clash of two ideas – One earthly and the other Spiritual
This clash of earthly and spiritual remains a reality today
Nicodemus believed in an earthly Kingdom. The kingdom promised to Israel by the prophets a restoration of the glorious kingdom of David. That the nation of Israel was the kingdom of God awaiting its re-establishment by the Messiah.
Nicodemus would have understood that the Kingdom was first established during the exodus.
Exo 19:5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
Exo 19:6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
This was the founding of the earthly kingdom of Israel which prefigured the future spiritual kingdom. It was an earthly type of a spiritual reality. The OT nation of Israel was God’s kingdom on earth. He was the king and the people of Israel his subjects. They were called to “obey His voice” and “keep his covenant” and so gave them the Law. But all this was an earthly image pointing to the future spiritual reality of the coming Kingdom.
In the OT the king of Israel was God himself and He dwelt in the midst of the people in the Tabernacle. He was the life of Israel securing their victory in battle, healing them and feeding them in times of hunger.
Nicodemus was locked into an earthly understanding of the Kingdom. He could only see the physical and did not recognize that all of these things pointed to the true Kingdom of God which was and is a spiritual kingdom.
The Kingdom that John and Jesus were presenting to the people of Israel was a spiritual kingdom. This kingdom was and is “the body of Christ”. This kingdom has a King, Jesus, and he calls people to enter His Kingdom to “obey His voice” and “Keep His Covenant” Those that enter the kingdom are those that are born again, cleansed as with water, forgiven and restored to Jesus. Given a new heart, a spiritual birth by the Spirit of God.
This change of life from earthly to both physical and spiritual is essential to the Kingdom and as a result of this change a new character (or heart) is created in the one who is born again. Mention Gnosticism
Rom 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
These are the characteristics of those that make up the Kingdom and John is leading his reader to understand that this Kingdom has a King. He is the head of the Kingdom, Jesus the Christ.
Joh 3:13 “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. “who is in heaven” Alexandrian text leaves this out but older manuscripts include this (possibly a parenthesis of the author)
Joh 3:14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
Jesus presents Nicodemus with great light on the matter in answer to “how can these things be”. He continues to lead Nicodemus from the physical to the Spiritual and to an event in the OT that the Jewish teachers understood as referring to the salvation of God. He compares his “lifting up or crucifixion” with that of the lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Numbers 21:9 tells the story of the Israelites being bitten by snakes and that God commanded Moses to raise up a bronze snake on a pole. The Hebrew word indicates a “banner pole” which would have resembled the cross.
The apcrophal book – Book of Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon gives us an insight into the Jewish understanding of this event in Israel’s history.
Book of Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon – Scholars believe that the book represents the most literary post-classical Greek language found in the Septuagint, having been written during the Jewish Hellenistic period (the 2nd or 1st century BC).
16:5 For when the horrible fierceness of beasts came upon these, and they perished with the stings of crooked serpents, thy wrath endured not for ever:
16:6 But they were troubled for a small season, that they might be admonished, having a sign of salvation, to put them in remembrance of the commandment of thy law.
16:7 For he that turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by thee, that art the Saviour of all.
Nicodemus is presented with a story from the OT that will explain the state of Israel and their present rebellion. The people had been rebellious and then, as now, amongst them sin and death moves unchallenged. Now at this time God is to lift up His salvation in the midst of the peoples. The Messiah would be lifted up for the salvation of Israel.
Joh 3:15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
Jesus graciously leads this great Jewish teacher to the good news by the use of Nicodemus own knowledge of scripture. He presents Himself in place of the serpent and as one to whom all those that “gaze” or fix their sight upon him in faith will live and live eternally.
Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Once again the reality of God’s plan of salvation is presented in this so famous a verse. God is presented as loving the “world” not just “Israel” and that this salvation is for “whoever” rather than a select group or nation.
Joh 3:17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
The mission of the Messiah was not about introducing a Jewish Davidic Kingdom that would rule over the gentiles and implement the judgement of God on the nations. Instead this was a divine rescue mission that would save the world from the great enemy of man “death” introduced by the serpent in the early chapters of Genesis. It would be about the establishing of a Spiritual Kingdom consisting of all those that would accept by faith the saving work of Jesus and accept Him as KING of the Kingdom.
This Kingdom is a present reality today and continues to “come” as peoples from all nations are called to be subjects of this Kingdom. The glorious Gospel of the Kingdom is that today there IS A KINGDOM and there IS A KING who calls all to come into a relationship with him as their King and for a time it is still possible to enter this Kingdom.
At the cross Jesus has dealt with your sin or rebellion, canceling the penalty or punishment that you deserve by His death in your place. Those that choose to enter the Kingdom give up being the “King” of their own lives receive God’s forgiveness and place themselves under the Kingship of the King. As a result they enter the Kingdom, the body or family of God and are given the Sprit of God that gives them righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The subjects of this Kingdom are given a new heart and power to live lives pleasing to God. This is the uniqueness of the Kingdom.
Heb 8:10-12 “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
“AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
“FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”