Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Response, Opportunity & Obedience in John 3:1-21

The restoration plea has always called us back to the Scriptures as they were first written. From the day our brother Paul penned I Corinthians 1:10fl until this very moment constitutes what we refer to as the Restoration Movement. God continually, through His Word, hearkens us back to what He said in the first place; clear, singular and plain truth. God “says what He means and means what He says!” When we presume to add to or take away from the Word we are found to be liars (Proverbs 30:6). Unfortunately, many continue to distort the very words of God.

A certain passage, perhaps more than any other, continues to be assaulted by those who would have God’s Word conform to their preconceived notions. That passage is John 3:16. Most recently it has been misapplied by a famous denominational author in a book entitled; 3:16. Since the time of Martin Luther and John Calvin, most Protestants have claimed that baptism is a “work of man” and therefore not necessary for salvation. (The Bible clearly identifies baptism as a work…a work of God as noted in Colossians 2:12). Based upon this false premise (that baptism is a work of man), the author of 3:16 replaces the “…should be saved” conditional language of the original Greek with the subjectively arrived at “shall be saved” contractual language of circular interpretation. Under this kind of devilish eisigesis, the universal opportunity of salvation upon responsive obedience morphs into the “assumed” universal “guarantee” of salvation for the non-responsive and non-obedient “believer” regarding the absolute necessity of baptism. (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1fl; et. al.) Few changes to God’s Word have rendered more damage over the years to the truth of the gospel.

A contextual look at John 3 will reveal that Jesus exegesis of Numbers 21:4-9 in John 3:14 is not only critical to the understanding of the entire John 3 passage, it is core, central and foundational to that understanding. Jesus teaches in John 3 that God’s Salvation requires a RESPONSE to an OPPORTUNITY through OBEDIENCE.

Though Satan twists the passage to teach a “faith only” pseudo-salvation, Jesus clearly teaches that “faith alone” will do as much to save one spiritually as “staying in the tent” saved the Israelites physically!

Non-response and non-obedience to God’s opportunity of salvation will leave one dead in their sins now, just as it did in the wilderness. Here is an exegetical outline highlighting Jesus’ teachings on this critical subject in John 3 in order as they are made:

1. John 3:3 – Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
2. John 3:5 – Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
A. When Christ had died on the cross a soldier pierced His side and “out flowed both blood and water.” – John 19:34
B. Christ came “by both blood and water.” – I John 5:6
C. Jesus shed his blood in his death.
D. We are baptized “into his death” (Romans 6:3)
E. There is “no remission (of sins) without the shedding of blood. “ – Hebrews 9:22
F. The Blood of Christ renders many gifts:
1) Propitiation – Romans 3:25
2) Justification – Romans 5:9
3) Salvation – Romans 5:9
4) Redemption – Ephesians 1:7 & Colossians 1:4
5) Forgiveness – Ephesians 1:7 & Colossians 1:4
6) Peace – Colossians 1:20
7) Reconciliation – Colossians 1:20
8) Remission – Hebrews 9:22
9) Sanctification – Hebrews 13:12
10) Cleansing – I John 1:7
G. The blood of Christ renders “remission (of sins).” – Hebrews 9:2
H. Baptism is for “the remission of sins.” – Acts 2:38
I. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is given ONLY in baptism – Acts 2:38
J. “Three” bear witness in the earth.” – I John 5:8
1) The Spirit
2) The Water
3) The Blood
a. These 3 are found together ONLY in Baptism and no where else!
K. NOTE on John 3:5 – The well know evangelical preacher John MacArthur et al assert that this passage could not possibly refer to water baptism for the church had not yet been established and Nicodemus could have had no knowledge of things to come. “IF” such were the case, then the entire gospel section of the New Testament applies ONLY to the Old Testament dispensation! In truth, the gospels contain the WILL of Chirst, His New Testament if you please. This WILL was read on the day of Pentecost and required both repentance and baptism for ALL persons of understanding there present. John 3:5 DOES refer to baptism for the remission of sins, regardless whether Nicodemus understood it or not and is the time, place and portal of salvation under the current Will of Christ.

3. John 3:9-13 – When Nicodemus asks the question (“How can these things be?”) Jesus replies with ALL the authority of the Godhead.
A. As “The” teacher of Israel, Jesus asserts that Nicodemus should have already been aware of Messianic prophesies in the Old Testament in the form of a rhetorical question.
B. “WE speak of what WE know, and bear witness to what WE have seen…” – If Nicodemus ever listened to anyone or anything…this is that time!
1) Jesus speaks with the authority of the triune Godhead.
C. Jesus speaks on His own singular authority as well as the “son of man.”
1) No one ever (except Jesus Christ) EVER did, or ever will, ascend and descend to and from heaven as He did.
D. These verses contain perhaps the most powerful introduction to any
statement in the entire Scripture! What follows next is the key verse
in the entire passage and essential to understanding the passage in
it’s proper context. In fact, ANY exposition of John 3 not hinging upon
John 3:14-15 will miss the message of salvation!
4. John 3:14 – “And as Moses…” are the three most important words in the entire passage. Jesus sets up a metaphoric parallel between the uplifted serpent and the soon to be uplifted Christ. In other words the physical salvation of physical Israel in the wilderness is a type, a shadow, of spiritual salvation of spiritual Israel. Salvation in the wilderness required a physical response to God’s free offer of salvation just as God’s free offer of spiritual salvation requires a physical response today. Jesus tells Nicodemus in the very strongest of terms (a direct message from the Triune God by way of the Son of Man) that Nicodemus (and us by extension) cannot understand what Christ says next in 3:16-17 until Nicodemus (and us by extension) grasps what Christ says in 3:14-15.
A. The word “as” is from the original kathos which, according to Strong’s means: “…according to which thing, that is, precisely as, in proportion as: - according to that, (inasmuch) as.”
1) By using kathos, Jesus makes clear the fact that we understand, comprehend and partake in our spiritual salvation “as” the Israelites in the wilderness understood, comprehended and partook in their physical salvation.
5. John 3:15 – Jesus here uses very specific language when discussing the opportunity for and response to the free gift of salvation just alluded to by the serpent / cross parallel.
A. “Whomsoever / Whoever” – The opportunity of salvation is universal and is offered to every person.
B. “Should / May” – The response, however, is conditional. Some will respond and be saved, others will not and be lost…JUST AS with the Israelites and the brazen serpent. All were offered salvation in the wilderness, not all took advantage of the free gift of life. The same parallel reigns true today, ALL are offered salvation…some respond to it, some reject it. The language is clearly conditional when these words are chosen. Mere belief without response is not sufficient as it was not sufficient in the wilderness…those who stayed in their tents perished. “Just as….”
6. John 3:16 – The world’s most beloved verse…for all the wrong reasons.
A. God DOES love the world enough to send His only begotten Son that…
1) “Whosoever / Whoever” – The opportunity for salvation is universal and open for all.
2) “Should / May” – The response Jesus referred to in vs. 14 and 15 requires responsive action “just as” the Israelites in the desert had to physically respond to God’s free gift of life…
a. They had to move out of their tents far enough to actually look upon the brazen serpent to complete their obedience and be saved from physical death.
b. In like manner, (“And as Moses..”) we must contact the saving blood of Christ in the waters of baptism (water and spirit of vs. 5) where “the Spirit and water and the blood bear witness in the earth” for “life is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11) Jesus Christ shed his blood in his death, into which we are baptized, for “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
c. Jesus’ language here to Nicodemus is not contractual in a quid quo pro kind of way with God, it is conditional upon a proper physical response…just as in the desert.
7. John 3:17 – “…in order that the world through Him might be saved.”
A. Again, the language of salvation used by Jesus to Nicodemus is conditional.
8. John 3:18 – “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned…”
A. As the Israelites “belief” in the desert required a response, so does the belief Jesus is relaying (the new birth) to Nicodemus, and by extension, you and I.
1) Belief and obedience are synonymous
a. “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” – John 3:36 (ASV)
A) Believeth – pisteuo – “…to entrust, commit…”
B) Obeyeth – apeitheo – “…to disbelieve, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving…”
1. Belief and obedience are synonymous as are faith and works (James 2:14-26)
a) Repentance cannot be achieved and validated without baptism (Acts 2:38)
b) Forgiveness of sins cannot be achieved without both repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
c) The Gift of the Holy Spirit cannot be received without both repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
9. John 3:19 – Judgment is that Light has come into the world and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
A. Evil deeds = darkness
10. John 3:20 – Evil deeds mean two things:
A. Evil deeds = a hater of the light
B. Evil deeds = will not take one to the light
C. Why?
1) So evil deeds will not be exposed by the light
11. John 3:21 – True deeds mean one thing
A. True deeds take one to the light
B. Why?
1) So that it will be clearly seen that “his works have been carried out in God.”
12. Conclusion of John 3:19-21:
A. Belief…true belief that is both intellectual and responsive…is required of Nicodemus, and by extension, you and I.
B. Evil deeds condemn
C. True deeds save.

The conclusion of the entire passage is that God’s free gift of salvation, just as it was with Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness, requires a RESPONSE to the message. The message of salvation is an OPPORTUNITY that can be accepted or rejected. The proper RESPONSE to the OPPORTUNITY is OBEDIENCE. OBEDIENCE requires that a person must be “born again of both the water and the spirit.” Jesus came by both “blood and water.” We access the saving blood of Christ in the waters of baptism. OBEDIENCE to both repentance and baptism is a “true deed” that takes us to the light. One cannot be saved without OBEDIENCE to the commands of Christ which includes baptism. Repentance and baptism is a “true deed” that RESPONDS to the OPPORTUNITY of salvation in complete OBEDIENCE. Thank God for the inquiry of Nicodemus!

Russ McCullough
8 April 2009 – Charlotte, NC

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