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John Chapter 8 Arthur W Pink.jpg

Exposition of John Chapter 8 - Christ and Nicodemus - John 3:1-8

We begin with the usual Analysis of the passage that is to be before us:—

1.   The Person of Nicodemus, verse 1.

2.   The official Position of Nicodemus, verse 1.

3.   The Timidity of Nicodemus, verse 2.

4.   The Reasoning of Nicodemus, verse 2.

5.   What did Nicodemus’ ignorance demonstrate? verse 4.

6.   The Stupidity of Nicodemus, verse 4.

7.   The Instructing of Nicodemus, verses 5–8.

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him (John 3:1, 2). Nicodemus was a “ruler of the Jews,” which means, most probably, that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. As such, he is to be viewed here as a representative character. He gives us another phase of the spiritual condition of Judaism. First, he came to Jesus “by night” (verse 2); second, he was altogether lacking in spiritual discernment (verses 4, 10); third, he was dead in trespasses and sin, and therefore, needing to be “born again” (verse 7). As such, he was a true representative of the Sanhedrin—Israel’s highest ecclesiastical court. What a picture, then, does this give us again of Judaism! For the Sanhedrin it was nighttime, they were in the dark. And like Nicodemus, their representative, the Sanhedrin were devoid of all spiritual discernment, and had no understanding in the things of God. So, too, like Nicodemus, his fellow—members were destitute of spiritual apprehension. Again we say, What light does this cast upon Judaism at that time! So far, we have seen a blinded priesthood (John 1:21, 26); second, a joyless nation (John 2:3); third, a desecrated Temple (John 2:16); and now we have a spiritually dead Sanhedrim

“The same came to Jesus by night.” And why did Nicodemus come to the Lord Jesus by night? Was it because he was ashamed to be seen coming to Him? Did he approach Christ secretly, under cover of the darkness? This is the view generally held, and we believe it to be the correct one. Why else should we be told that he came “by night?” What seems to confirm the popular idea is that each time Nicodemus is referred to in the Gospel afterwards, it is repeated that he came to Jesus “by night.” In John 7:50, 51 we read, “Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” And again in John 19:39 we are told, “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.” What is the more noticeable is that something courageous is recorded of Nicodemus: his boldness in reprimanding the Sanhedrin, and his intrepidity in accompanying Joseph of Arimathea at a time when all the apostles had fled. It seems as though the Holy Spirit had emphasized these bold acts of Nicodemus by reminding us that at first he acted timidly. One other thing which appears to confirm our conclusion is his use of the personal pronoun when Nicodemus first addressed the Savior: “Rabbi,” he said, “we know that thou art a teacher come from God.” Why speak in the plural number unless he hesitated to commit himself by expressing his own opinion? and so preferred to shelter behind the conclusion drawn by others, hence the “we.”

“The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). This was true, for the miracles of Christ differed radically from those performed by others before or since. But this very fact warns us that we need to examine carefully the credentials of other miracle-workers. Is the fact that a man works miracles a sure proof that he comes from God, and that God is with him? To some the question may appear well-nigh superfluous. There are many who would promptly answer in the affirmative. How could any man perform miracles “except God be with him?” It is because this superficial reasoning prevails so widely that we feel it incumbent upon us to dwell upon this point. And it is because there are men and women today that work miracles, who (we are fully persuaded) are not “sent of God,” that a further word on the subject is much needed.

In these times men and women can stand up and teach the most erroneous doctrines, and yet if they proffer as their credentials the power to perform miracles of healing, they are widely received and hailed as the servants of God. But it is generally overlooked that Satan has the power to work miracles, too, and frequently the great Deceiver of souls bestows this power on his emissaries in order to beguile the unstable and confirm them in error. Let us not forget that the magicians of Egypt were able, up to a certain point, to duplicate the miracles of Moses, and whence obtained they this power unless from that old Serpent, the Devil! Let us not forget the warning of the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 11:13, 14, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” And, finally, let us not forget it is recorded in Scripture that of the Antichrist it is written, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Yes, Satan is able to work miracles, and also to deliver this power to others. So, then, the mere fact that a certain teacher works miracles is no proof that he is “come from God.”

It is because we are in danger of being beguiled by these “deceitful workers” of Satan, who “transform themselves into the apostles of Christ,” that we are exhorted to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). And it should not be forgotten that the church at Ephesus was commended by Christ because they had heeded this exhortation, and in consequence had “tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2). “But,” it will be asked, “how are we to test those who come unto us in the name of Christ?” A most important and timely question. We answer, Not by the personal character of those who claim to come from God, for as 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15 tells us, “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” And not by their power to work miracles. How then? Here is the Divinely inspired answer, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). They must be tested by the written Word of God. Does the professed servant of God teach that which is in accord with the Holy Scriptures? Does he furnish a “Thus saith the Lord” for every assertion he makes? If he does not, no matter how winsome may be his personality, nor how pleasing his ways, no matter how marvelous may be the “results” he “gets,” God’s command is, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (this teaching), receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed” (2 John 10). Let us emulate the Bereans, of whom it is recorded in Acts 17:11, “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

And how did the Lord receive Nicodemus? Notice, He did not refuse him an audience. It was night-time, and no doubt the Savior had put in a full day, yet He did not seek to be excused. Blessed be His name, there is no unacceptable time for a sinner to seek the Savior. Night-time it was, but Christ readily received Nicodemus. One of the things which impresses the writer as he reads the Gospels, is the blessed accessibility of the Lord Jesus. He did not surround Himself with a bodyguard of attendants, whose duty it was to insure his privacy and protect Him from those who could be a nuisance. No; He was easily reached, and blessedly approachable—quite unlike some “great” preachers we know of.

And what was Christ’s response to Nicodemus’ address? This “ruler of the Jews” hailed Him as “a teacher come from God,” and such is the only conception of the Christ of God. But it is not as a Teacher the sinner must first approach Christ. What the sinner needs is to be “born again,” and in order to do this he must have a Savior. And it is of these very things our Lord speaks to Nicodemus—see verses 3 and 14. Of what value is teaching to one who is “dead in trespasses and sins,” and who is even now, under the condemnation of a holy God! A saved person is a fit subject for teaching, but what the unsaved need is preaching, preaching which will expose their depravity, exhibit their deep need of a Savior, and then (and not till then) reveal the One who is mighty to save.

Christ ignored Nicodemus’ address, and with startling abruptness said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This brings us to the central truth of the passage before us—the teaching of our Lord upon the new birth. Here we find that He speaks of first, the supreme Importance of the new birth (verse 3); second, the Instrument of the new birth—“water” (verse 5); third, the Producer of the new birth—“the Spirit” (verse 5); fourth, the imperative Necessity of the new birth—a new nature, “spirit” (verse 6); sixth, the obvious Imperativeness of the new birth (verse 7); seventh, the Process of the new birth (verse 8). Let us consider each of these points separately.

1. The supreme Importance of the new birth. This is exhibited here in a number of ways. To begin with, it is profoundly significant that the new birth formed the first subject of the Savior’s teaching in this Gospel. In the first two chapters we learn of a number of things He did, but here in John 3 is the first discourse of Christ recorded by this apostle. It is not how man should live that we are first instructed by Christ in this Gospel, but how men are made alive spiritually. A man cannot live before he is born; nor can a dead man regulate his life. No man can live Godwards until he has been born again. The importance of the new birth, then, is shown here, in that the Savior’s instruction upon it is placed at the beginning of His teaching in this Gospel. Thus we are taught it is of basic, fundamental importance.

In the second place, the importance of the new birth is declared by the solemn terms in which Christ spoke of it, and particularly in the manner in which He prefaced His teaching upon it. The Lord began by saying, “Verily, verily,” which means “Of a truth, of a truth.” This expression is employed by Christ only when He was about to mention something of a momentous nature. The double “verily” denoted that what He was about to say was of solemn and weighty significance. Let the reader learn to pay special attention to what follows these “Verily, verily’s” of the Savior, found only in John.

In the third place, Christ here plainly intimated the supreme importance of the new birth by affirming that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (verse 3). If then the kingdom of God cannot be seen until a man is born again, the new birth is shown to be a matter of vital moment for every descendant of Adam.

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). There is some doubt in our mind as to exactly what is referred to here by “the kingdom of God.” In the first place, this expression occurs nowhere else in this Gospel but here in John 3:3, 5. In the second place, this fourth Gospel treats of spiritual things. For this reason we think “the kingdom of God” in this passage has a moral force. It seems to us that Romans 14:17 helps us to understand the significance of the term we are here studying. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In the third place, the kingdom of God could not be “seen” by Nicodemus except by the new birth. We take it, then, that the “kingdom of God” in John 3 refers to the things of God, spiritual things, which are discerned and enjoyed by the regenerate here upon earth (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10, 14). The word for “see” in the Greek is “eidon,” which means “to know or become acquainted with.” The full force, then, of this first word of Christ to Nicodemus appears to be this: “Except a man be born again he cannot come to know the things of God.” Such being the case, the new birth is seen to be a thing of profound importance.

“Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4). What a verification was this of what the Lord had just told Nicodemus. Here was proof positive that this ruler of the Jews was altogether lacking in spiritual discernment, and quite unable to know the things of God. The Savior had expressed Himself in simple terms, and yet this master of Israel altogether missed His meaning. How true it is that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14), and in order to have spiritual discernment a man must be born again. Till then he is blind, unable to see the things of God.

2. The Instrument of the new birth. “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” (v. 5). Regeneration is a being born “of water.” This expression has been the occasion of wide difference of opinion among theologians. Ritualists have seized upon it as affording proof of their doctrine of baptismal regeneration, but this only evidences the weakness of their case when they are obliged to appeal to such for a proof text. However, it may be just as well if we pause here and give the scriptural refutation of this widely held heresy.

That baptism is in no wise essential to salvation, that it does not form one of the conditions which God requires the sinner to meet, is clear from many considerations. First, if baptism be necessary to salvation then no one was saved before the days of John the Baptist, for the Old Testament will be searched from beginning to end without finding a single mention of “baptism.” God, who changes not, has had but one way of salvation since Adam and Eve became sinners in Eden, and if baptism is an indispensable prerequisite to the forgiveness of sins, then all who died from Abel to the time of Christ are eternally lost. But this is absurd. The Old Testament Scriptures plainly teach otherwise.

In the second place, if baptism be necessary to salvation, then every professing believer who has died during this present dispensation is eternally lost, if he died without being baptized. And this would shut heaven’s door upon the repentant thief, as well as all the Quakers and members of the Salvation Army, the vast majority of whom have never been baptized. But this is equally unthinkable.

In the third place, if baptism be necessary to salvation, then we must utterly ignore every passage in God’s Word which teaches that salvation is by grace and not of works, that it is a free gift and not bought by anything the sinner does. If baptism be essential to salvation, it is passing strange that Christ Himself never baptized any one (see John 4:2), for He came to “save his people from their sins.” If baptism be essential to salvation, it is passing strange that the apostle Paul when asked point blank by the Philippian jailer, “What must I do to be saved?” answered by saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Finally, if baptism be essential to salvation, it is passing strange the apostle Paul should have written to the Corinthians, “I thank God I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius” (1 Cor. 1:14).

If then the words of Christ “born of water” have no reference to the waters of baptism, what do they signify? Before replying directly to this question, we must observe how the word “water” is used in other passages in this Gospel. To the woman at the well Christ said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Was this literal “water?” One has but to ask the question to answer it. Clearly, “water” is here used emblematically. Again, in John 7:37, 38 we are told, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Here, too, the word “water” is not to be understood literally, but emblematically. These passages in John’s Gospel are sufficient to warrant us in giving the word “water” in John 3:5 a figurative meaning.

If then the Lord Jesus used the word “water” emblematically in John 3:5, to what was He referring? We answer, The Word of God. This is ever the instrument used by God in regeneration. In every other passage where the instrument of the new birth is described, it is always the Word of God that is mentioned. In Psalm 119:50 we read, “For Thy word hath quickened me.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 4:15 we find the apostle saying, “I have begotten you through the gospel.” Again, we are told “Of his own will begat he us with (what?—baptism? no but with) the word of truth” (James 1:18). Peter declares, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

The new birth, then, is by the Word of God, and one of the emblems of the Word is “water.” God employs quite a number of emblems to describe the various characteristics and qualities of His Word. It is likened to a “lamp” (Psalm 119:105) because it illumines. It is likened unto a “hammer” (Jer. 23:29) because it breaks up the hard heart. It is likened unto “water” because it cleanses: see Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26: “Born of water” means born of the cleansing and purifying Word of God.

3. The Producer of the new birth. “Born of water, and of the Spirit” (John 3:5). The Holy Spirit of God is the Begetter, the Word is the “seed” (1 John 3:9) He uses. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). And again, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). Nothing could be plainer. No sinner is quickened apart from the Word. The order which is followed by God in the new creation is the same He observed in the restoring of the old creation. A beautiful illustration of this is found in Genesis 1. The opening verse refers to the original creation of God. The second verse describes its subsequent condition, after it had been ruined. Between the first two verses of Genesis 1 some terrible calamity intervened—most probably the fall of Satan—and the fair handiwork of God was blasted. The Hebrew of Genesis 1:2 literally reads, “And the earth became a desolate waste.” But six days before the creation of Adam, God began the work of restoration, and it is indeed striking to observe the order He followed. First, darkness abode upon “the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2); Second, “And the Spirit of God moved upon (Hebrew ‘brooded over’) the face of the waters”; Third, “And God said, Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3); Fourth, “And there was light.” The order is exactly the same in the new creation. First, the unregenerate sinner is in darkness, the darkness of spiritual death. Second, the Holy Spirit moves upon, broods over, the conscience and heart of the one He is about to quicken. Third, the Word of God goes forth in power. Fourth, the result is “light”—the sinner is brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. The Holy Spirit, then, is the One who produces the new birth.

4. The imperative Necessity of the new birth. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). By his first birth man enters this world a sinful creature, and because of this he is estranged from the thrice Holy One. Of the unregenerate it is said, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Unspeakably solemn is this. When Adam and Eve fell they were banished from the Paradise, and each of their children were born outside of Eden. That sin shuts man out from the holy presence of God, was impressively taught to Israel. When Jehovah came down on Sinai to give the Law unto Moses (the mediator), the people were fenced off at the base of the Mount, and were not suffered to pass on pain of death. When Jehovah took up His abode in the midst of the chosen people, He made His dwelling place inside the holy of holies, which was curtained off, and none was allowed to pass through the veil save the high priest, and he but once a year as he entered with the blood of atonement. Man then is away from God. He is, in his natural condition, where the prodigal son was—in the far country, away from the father’s house—and except he be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” This is not an arbitrary decree, but the enunciation of an abiding principle. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. And this is the very nature of the case. An unregenerate man who has no relish at all for spiritual things, who is bored by the conversation of believers, who finds the Bible dull and dry, who is a stranger to the throne of grace, would be wretched in heaven. Such a man could not spend eternity in the presence of God. Suppose a fish were taken out of the water, and laid upon a salver of gold; suppose further that the sweetest of flowers surrounded it, and that the air was filled with their fragrance; suppose, too, that the strains of most melodious music fell upon its ears, would that fish be happy and contented? Of course not. And why not? Because it would be out of harmony with its environment; because it would be lacking in capacity to appreciate its surroundings. Thus would it be with an unregenerate soul in heaven.

Once more. The new birth is an imperative necessity because the natural man is altogether devoid of spiritual life. It is not that he is ignorant and needs instruction: it is not that he is feeble and needs invigorating: it is not that he is sickly and needs doctoring. His case is far, far worse. He is dead in trespasses and sins. This is no poetical figure of speech; it is a solemn reality, little as it is perceived by the majority of people. The sinner is spiritually lifeless and needs quickening. He is a spiritual corpse, and needs bringing from death unto life. He is a member of the old creation, which is under the curse of God, and unless he is made a new creation in Christ, he will lie under that curse to all eternity. What the natural man needs above everything else is life, Divine life; and as birth is the gateway to life, he must be born again, and except he be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. This is final.

5. The Character of the new birth. But what is the new birth? Precisely what is it that differentiates a man who is dead in sins from one who has passed from death unto life? Upon this point there is much confusion and ignorance. Tell the average person that he must be born again and he thinks you mean that he must reform, mend his manner of life, turn over a new leaf. But reformation concerns only the outer life. And the trouble with man is within. Suppose the mainspring of my watch were broken, what good would it do if I put in a new crystal and polished the case until I could see my face in it? None at all, for the seat of the trouble is inside the watch. So it is with the sinner. Suppose that his deportment was irreproachable, that his moral character was stainless, that he had such control of his tongue that he never sinned with his lips, what would all this avail while he still had (as God says he has) a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked?” The new birth, then, is something more than reformation.

Others suppose, and there are thousands who do so, that being born again means becoming religious. Tell the average church-goer that “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and these solemn words afford him no qualms. He is quite at ease, for he fondly imagines that he has been born again. He will tell you that he has always been a Christian: that from early childhood he has believed in Christianity, has attended church regularly, nay, that he is a church-member, and contributes regularly toward the support of the Gospel. He is very religious. Periodically he has happy feelings; he says his prayers regularly, and on Sundays he reads his Bible. What more can be required of him! And thus many are lulled to sleep by Satan. If such an one should read these lines, let him pause and seriously weigh the fact that it was man eminently religious that the Savior was addressing when He declared, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was not only a religious man, he was a preacher, and yet it was to him Christ said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

There are still others who believe that the new birth is a change of heart, and it is exceedingly difficult to convince them to the contrary. They have heard so many preachers, orthodox preachers, speak of a change of heart, that they have never thought of challenging the scripturalness of this expression, yet it is unscriptural. The Bible may be searched from Genesis to Revelation, and nowhere does this expression “change of heart” occur upon its pages. The sad thing is that “change of heart” is not only unscriptural, but is it antiscriptural, untrue, and therefore, utterly misleading. In the one who has been born again there is no change of heart though there is a change of life, both inward and outward. The one who is born again now loves the things he once bated, and he hates now the things he once loved; and, in consequence, his whole line of conduct is radically affected. But, nevertheless, it remains true that his old heart (which is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”) remains in him, unchanged, to the end.

What, then, is the new birth? We answer, It is not the removal of anything from the sinner, nor the changing of anything within the sinner; instead, it is the communication of something to the sinner. The new birth is the impartation of the new nature. When I was born the first time I received from my parents their nature: so, when I was born again, I received from God His nature. The Spirit of God begets within us a spiritual nature: as we read in 2 Peter 1:4, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”

It is a fundamental law which inheres in the very nature of things that like can only produce like. This unchanging principle is enunciated again and again in the first chapter of Genesis. There we read, “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind” (John 1:12). And again, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind” (John 1:21). It is only the blindness and animus of infidelistic evolutionists who affirm that one order of creatures can beget another order radically different from themselves. No; that which is born of the vegetable is vegetable; that which is born of the animal is animal. And that which is born of sinful man is a sinful child. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Hence, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” It cannot be anything else. Educate and cultivate it all you please, it remains flesh. Water cannot rise above its own level, neither can a bitter fountain send forth sweet waters. That which is born of flesh is flesh; it may be refined flesh, it may be beautiful flesh, it may be religious flesh. But it is still “flesh.” On the other hand, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The child always partakes of the nature of his parents. That which is born of man is human; that which is born of God is Divine. That which is born of man is sinful, that which is born of God is spiritual.

Here, then, is the character or nature of the new birth. It is not the reformation of the outward man, it is not the education of the natural man, it is not the purification of the old man, but it is the creation of a new man. It is a Divine begetting (James 1:18). It is a birth of the Spirit (John 3:6). It is a being made a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). It is becoming a partaker of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). It is a being born into God’s family. Every born again person has, therefore, two natures within him: one which is carnal, the other which is spiritual. These two natures are contrary the one to the other (Gal. 5:17), and in consequence, there is an unceasing warfare going on within the Christian. It is only the grace of God which can subdue the old nature; and it is only the Word of God which can feed the new nature.

6. The obvious Imperativeness of the new birth. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Without doubt, Nicodemus was startled. The emphatic statements of Christ staggered him. The vital importance and imperative necessity of the new birth were points which had never exercised his conscience or engaged his serious attention. He was amazed at the Savior’s searching declarations. Yet he ought not to have been. Really, there was no cause for him to stand there in openmouthed wonderment. “Marvel not,” said Christ. It was as though the Lord had said, “Nicodemus, what I have said to you should be obvious. If a man is a sinner, if because of sin he is blind to the things of God, if no amount of religious cultivation can change the essential nature of man, then it is patent that his deepest need is to be born again. Marvel not: it is a self-evident truth.”

That entrance into the kingdom of God is only made possible by the new birth, that is, by the reception of the Divine nature, follows a basic law that obtains in every other kingdom. The realm of music is entered by birth. Suppose I have a daughter, and I am anxious she should become an accomplished musician. I place her under the tuition of the ablest instructor obtainable. She studies diligently the science of harmony, and she practices assiduously hours every day. In the end, will my desire be realized? Will she become an accomplished musician? That depends upon one thing—was she born with a musical nature? Musicians are born, not manufactured. Again; suppose I have a son whom I desire should be an artist. I place him under the instruction of an efficient teacher. He is given lessons in drawing; he studies the laws of color-blending; he is taken to the art galleries and observes the productions of the great masters. And what is the result? Does he blossom out into a talented artist? And again it depends solely on one thing—was he born with the nature and temperament of an artist? Artists are born, not manufactured. Let these examples suffice for illustrating this fundamental principle. A man must have a musical nature if he is to enter the kingdom of music. A man must have an artistic nature if he is really to enter the realm of art. A man must have a mathematical mind if he is to be a mathematician. There is nothing to “marvel” at in this: it is self-evident; it is axiomatic. So, in like manner, a man must have a spiritual nature before he can enter the spiritual world: a man must have God’s own nature before he can enter God’s kingdom. Therefore “Marvel not … ye must be born again.”

7. The Process of the new birth. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). A comparison is here drawn between the wind and the Spirit. The comparison is a double one. First, both are sovereign in their activities; and second, both are mysterious in their operations. The comparison is pointed out in the word “so.” The first point of analogy is found in the word “where it listeth” or “pleaseth”; the second is found in the words “canst not tell.”

“The wind bloweth where it pleaseth … so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The wind is irresponsible: that is to say, it is sovereign in its action. The wind is an element altogether beyond man’s control. The wind neither consults man’s pleasure, nor can it be regulated by his devices. So it is with the Spirit. The wind blows where it pleases, when it pleases, as it pleases. So it is with the Spirit.

Again; the wind is irresistible. When the wind blows in the fullness of its power it sweeps everything before it. Those who have looked upon the effects of a tornado just after it has passed, know something of the mighty force of the wind. It is so with the Spirit. When He comes in the fullness of His power, He breaks down man’s prejudices, subdues his rebellious will, overcomes all opposition.

Again; the wind is irregular. Sometimes the wind moves so softly it scarcely rustles a leaf, at other times it blows so loudly that its roar can be heard miles away. So it is in the matter of the new birth. With some the Holy Spirit works so gently His work is imperceptible to onlookers; with others His action is so powerful, so radical, revolutionary, His operations are patent to many. Sometimes the wind is only local in its reach, at other times it is widespread in its scope. So it is with the Spirit. Today He acts on one or two souls, tomorrow, He may—as at Pentecost—“prick in the heart” a whole multitude. But whether He works on few or many He consults not man; He acts as He pleases.

Again; the wind is invisible. It is one of the very few things in nature that is invisible. We can see the rain, the snow, the lightning’s flash; but not so the wind. The analogy holds good with the Spirit. His Person is unseen.

Again; the wind is inscrutable. There is something about the wind which defies all effort of human explanation. Its origin, its nature, its activities, are beyond man’s ken. Man cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. It is so with the activities of the Holy Spirit. His operations are conducted secretly; His workings are profoundly mysterious.

Again; the wind is indispensable. If a dead calm were to continue indefinitely all vegetation would die. How quickly we wilt when there is no wind at all. Even more so is it with the Spirit. Without Him there could be no spiritual life at all.

Finally, the wind is invigorating. The life-giving properties of the wind are illustrated every time a physician orders his sick patient to retire to the mountains or to the seaside. It is so, again, with the Spirit. He is the One who strengthens with might in the inner man. He is the One who energizes, revives, empowers. How marvelously full was the figure employed by Christ on this occasion. How much is suggested by this single word “wind.” Let the above serve as an example of the great importance and value of prolonged meditation upon every word of Holy Writ.

God has thrown an impenetrable veil over the beginnings and processes of life. That we live we know, but how we live we cannot tell. Life is evident to the consciousness and manifest to the senses, but it is profoundly mysterious in its operations. It is so with the new life born of the Spirit. To sum up the teaching of this verse: “The wind bloweth”—there is the fact. “And thou hearest the sound thereof”—there is evidence of the fact. “But knowest not whence”—there is the mystery behind the fact. The one born again knows that he has a new life, and enjoys the evidences of it, but how the Holy Spirit operates upon the soul, subdues the will, creates the new life within us, belongs to the deep things of God.

Below will be found a number of questions bearing on the passage which is to be before us in the next chapter. In the meantime let each reader who desires to become a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed” diligently study the whole passage (John 3:9–21) for himself, paying particular attention to the points raised by our questions:—2

1.   What does verse 9 go to prove?

2.   What solemn warning does verse 10 point?

3.   What is the force of the contrast between earthly things and heavenly things in verse 12?

4.   How are we to understand verse 13 in view of Enoch’s and Elijah’s experiences?

5.   What Divine attribute of Christ is affirmed in verse 13?

6.   What is the connection between verse 14 and the context?

7.   Why was a “serpent” selected by God to typify Christ on the Cross? verse 14. Study carefully the first nine verses of Numbers 21.[1]

 

 

2 (No doubt the reader will be glad to know that the Author has published a booklet containing the substance of the above entitled The New Birth, which the Lord has been pleased to own in blessing to many. Price 15 cents per copy. Order from the Bible Truth Depot, Swengel, Pa.—I. C. H.).

[1] Pink, A. W. (1923–1945). Exposition of the Gospel of John (pp. 103–119). Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot. (Public Domain)

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The God Who Made the World

The God Who Made the World

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24–25, ESV)

God that made the world. The main object of this discourse of Paul is to convince them of the folly of idolatry (ver. 29), and thus to lead them to repentance. For this purpose he commences with a statement of the true doctrine respecting God as the Creator of all things. We may observe here, (1) That he speaks here of God as the Creator of the world, thus opposing indirectly their opinions that there were many gods. (2) He speaks of him as the Creator of the world, and thus opposes the opinion that matter was eternal; that all things were controlled by Fate; and that God could be confined to temples. The Epicureans held that matter was eternal, and that the world was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. To this opinion Paul opposed the doctrine that all things were made by one God. Comp. ch. 14:15.

Seeing that, &c. Greek, "He being Lord of heaven and earth."

Lord of heaven and earth. Proprietor and Ruler of heaven and earth. It is highly absurd, therefore, to suppose that he who is present in heaven and in earth at the same time, and who rules over all, should be confined to a temple of an earthly structure, or dependent on man for anything.

Neither is worshipped with men’s hands. The word here rendered worshipped (θεραπέυεται) denotes to serve; to wait upon; and then to render religious service or homage. There is reference here, undoubtedly, to a notion prevalent among the heathen, that the gods were fed or nourished by the offerings made to them. The idea is prevalent among the Hindoos that the sacrifices which are made, and which are offered in the temples, are consumed by the gods themselves. Perhaps, also, Paul had reference to the fact that so many persons were employed in their temples in serving them with their hands; that is, in preparing sacrifices and feasts in their honor. Paul affirms that the great Creator of all things cannot be thus dependent on his creatures for happiness, and consequently, that mode of worship must be highly absurd. The same idea occurs in Ps. 50:10–12:

For every beast of the forest is mine;

And the cattle upon a thousand hills.

I know all the fowls of the mountain;

And the wild beasts of the field are mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell thee;

For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.

Seeing he giveth. Greek, he having given to all, &c.

Life. He is the source of life, and therefore he cannot be dependent on that life which he has himself imparted.

And breath. The power of breathing, by which life is sustained. He not only originally gave life, but he gives it at each moment; he gives the power of drawing each breath by which life is supported. It is possible that the phrase "life and breath" may be the figure hendyades, by which one thing is expressed by two words. It is highly probable that Paul here had reference to Ge. 2:7: "And the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." The same idea occurs in Job 12:10:

In whose hand is the life (margin) of every living thing;

And the breath of all mankind.

And all things. All things necessary to sustain life. We may see here how dependent man is on God. There can be no more absolute dependence than that for every breath. How easy it would be for God to suspend our breathing! How incessant the care, how unceasing the providence, by which, whether we sleep or wake—whether we remember or forget him, he heaves our chest, fills our lungs, restores the vitality of our blood, and infuses vigor into our frame!  (Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Acts. (R. Frew, Ed.). London: Blackie & Son. Public Domain)

When Jonathan Edwards was older, he set forth in a formal manner that "True Knowledge" was not an abstract correspondence of our thinking with reality.  But rather "True Knowledge" was, "the consistency and agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God."  Because it is the Creator who created the things that people studied and who made it possible for humankind to understand something of the creation.  Edwards believed that "all the arts and sciences, the more they are perfected, the more they issue in divinity, and coincide with it, and appear to be as parts of it."  (Dr. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind)  paraphrase mine.

The Epicureans believed that the world was created by a fortuitous concourse of atoms (I'll bet you thought the "Big Bang" was a new idea).  None of us were there in the beginning.  Therefore, the how remains elusive.  I find it sometimes laughable when those with many letters after their name strain to find explanations of the how.  I remember watching one such astronomer make the assertion (ex cathedra) that all the water on earth came from comets.  I guess he never saw Meteor Crater near Winslow Arizona.  I am always humbled that by Grace alone am I able to know (noeo, ginosko, oida) the glory of Christ displayed throughout His creation.  I certainly do not know the how!  But I am more than blessed to know the Who!

 

Food for Thought (Dietary Tidbits) on the 16th of December, 2019

It’s really interesting how life shapes our dietary habits. At any given moment in time, how we view food, and the consumption thereof, changes. One person’s eating habits will invariably differ from everyone else’s, both in food preferences themselves and preferred mealtimes/schedules. Take the ‘DanDee’ couple in Fountain, Colorado. This is a septuagenarian couple that has been married for 44 years and are now empty nesters. Their journey together has resulted in having lived, as a military family, in various types of on-base military housing in several places here and abroad. There are grown children and grandchildren to dote upon. It’s been an interesting and wonderful journey through life!

If you haven’t figured it out already, this is Dan, the guy whose military career lasted nearly 30 years and by whose side the beautiful Dee has remained through all of the ‘stuff’ of life.

So back to food. On this particular morning I found myself thinking about our different breakfast habits. Dee loves her bacon (must be crispy) and eggs and will probably have both in her small breakfast when she gets up later. As for me, it was up really early to let our little Maltese, Betty Jean, out in the back yard (snow covered) for her regularly scheduled early morning business. I cranked up my work laptop to check on some things, knowing there would probably be a delayed opening of Schriever Air Force Base, where I am currently employed. It’s almost 6 AM now and I’ve already accomplished a few necessary things, including taking care of the snow in the driveway and sidewalks, which made me hungry. Being a bit hungry, I found a small pastry to go with a second mug of coffee (Kuerig & Sumatran Reserve). That’s when I thought about Dee’s bacon and eggs, my own eating habits, and how they have been shaped over time by life circumstances.

I remembered being a teenager and my Dad asking me if I ‘lived to eat’ or ‘eat to live’. I used to panic if the fridge wasn’t full of food, you see. Fast forward to a military career, mess halls (now consolidated dining facilities but the food is probably not much different), K-rations, C-rations, LRPs (Long Range Patrol) rations, and MREs (Meals Ready to eat). At times it was living off whatever nature had to offer. All of those wonderful menus will develop a great appreciation for wonderful meals prepared at home and shared with family.

Then my thoughts turned to our spiritual diets as believers in a great God and most gracious and wonderful Savior. The Christmas hymns in the background also contributed to the present condition of a heart so full it feels like it might burst! I have been so greatly blessed!

Back to diets. When I think of all of the various sources (and quality) of spiritual nourishment that I have consumed through the years, a few things really stand out. There are definitely comparisons to be made with the aforementioned types of cuisine a profession of arms afforded me. Then there is being able to eat a home cooked meal with family and friends. There is nothing like it! It’s not exactly going from starving to feasting, but awfully close.

The years spent as a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords have taught me that the written Word of God should be the main component of a good spiritual diet. Everything else in life should be measured by its golden text.

Then we have the ‘dinner table’ around which sit family and friends. That ‘dinner table’ seems to be available whether here or abroad, as we fellowship with other believers in local churches, military chapels, small group Bible studies, and even we happen to meet another believer on the street or in the workplace. How awesome is that?!!!!!

The ‘dinner table’ still exists when we are alone and by ourselves. We might be the only human being in the room, but in reality, we are never alone! Within us lives the Holy Spirit – leading, comforting, and guiding. Before us is a Bible, God’s very words to us, feeding us absolute truth and never-failing guidance for our lives. In addition to God’s very words to His children, in our day, with all of its technology, we also have a veritable plethora of resources available to us to help us along the way. There is so much out there that we need to have a discerning eye when we pick and choose what resource to use.

One such resource for this guy has been the set of Discipleship Training Objectives available through Christian Military Fellowship. To share what the CMF DTOs have meant to me would require another article. (If you think this is a shameless plug for something, you might be right, but then again you might be in error. I just wanted to put it out there.) If you are interested in what they might be about, contact me. 😊

My encouragement to you is really think about your spiritual sustenance as you grow in faith and serve in the Kingdom of God, a citizen already, with an eternal home in heaven waiting for you when your pilgrimage here is done and you hear the words of your Savior – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Be blessed, today and forever!

 

 

 

 

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Excellence in All Things

While our adversary prowls around … seeking someone to devour (1Pe 5:8), we resist him, strengthened in The Lord by praying for each other, supporting each other as the Proverbs 11:14 multitude of counselors, living the seven “reproducibles”. Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, and Scripture Memory were outlined last month. Here we’ll consider Excellence, Growing Together, and Pray-and-Plan.

Excellence in all things. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col 3:17) Part of an integrated life, this is an attitude to be lived, modeled, encouraged. Military duties, marital and family relations, social life, recreation…everything reflects who we are and how God is working in us, so everything deserves to be excellent, high-quality, … an act of worship (cf Col 3:17,23). In addition to making “even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Pr 16:7 NKJV), such worship reveals God’s transforming, empowering Life in us!

Finding an “excellent” solution involves understanding the problem and balancing solution approaches and quality with expectations and such realities as resources and time available…a second opinion often helps me recognize traps like perfectionism (late at best, maybe impossible) or laziness (“just get something out the door”). Whether that opinion comes from my wife, friends/co-workers, or the guys I pray with, it’s an example of encouraging one another unto love and good works (Heb 10:24)

Pray and Plan, below, is an excellent way to find our way to excellence individually, as families, as groups/teams, etc.

Grow together. We “Run Together” because we value and need each other. Interacting, learning from, and strengthening each other we move beyond anonymity and isolation, beyond dependence to empowerment, to finding the way forward through prayer and Bible study together, guided by the Holy Spirit. Often this means regularly getting together face-to-face, but we can maintain the connections by a handshake as we cross paths at shift-change, etc, or from a distance by messaging app’s, cell-phone, etc. Far beyond “another meeting to go to,” this can lead to the Jesus-centered lifestyle, unity, and joy of Acts 2:42-47, to favor with all the people, to The Lord adding to those who are being saved!

We’re in this together! We benefit from whatever leadership experience or Biblical background anyone brings to the group, while respecting the IBS guideline that “All who want to may participate; No one dominates.” This lets us all explore together with “awe-inspired fear and trembling” how to “bring (our salvation) to full effect” (Phil 2: 12, Amplified). Check out the Australian MCF’s “Small Group Code of Conduct” at the link below.

In between meetings there’s a low-tech approach to growing together: “journal” by screenshots inside a smartphone Bible app or DTO study form and “text” it to your buddy (see the briefing at the link). There are printable cards at the link to use with your pocket Bible in a no-electronics environment; pray for a buddy on the same outpost or “inside the same fence”.

The key is staying centered on learning and living the Word, connected with each other to grow together, to recognize and resist the enemy’s lies and distractions together, to build up one another. Use simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities...SIMPLE ENOUGH THAT THEY GET USED!

Pray and Plan. “Running Together” implies that we’re going in the same direction toward shared goals. Pray and Plan (P&P) engages us together in developing direction and goals as we prayerfully let our insights complement and complete each other, working together in Jesus’ presence to let Him align our wills with His (Mt 18:20), to understand His direction.

Whether it’s a small group deciding what to study next, or a group of leaders planning a large-scale event like a conference, the distinguishing aspect of P&P is how the meeting is conducted. The AMCF Reference Manual (access via the link below) describes the process:

The Process. The essential start point for a Pray and Plan is prayer and praise … to “take every thought captive to obey Christ." (2 Cor.10:5) … mention the subjects for which prayer is needed…explain a bit of background where necessary…prayer for each subject mentioned.

Discerning The Plan. …The discussion should not be dominated by any one member … a group of sharing and expectant Christians who are sensitive to the Lord's leading. When there is no agreement on an issue the group should turn to specific prayer and then try again to discern by discussion what the Lord is saying. The characteristic of Pray and Plan should be consensus, but sometimes when seeking to undertake a new initiative a group will have to meet three or four times before the Lord will reveal the fundamental issue, such as the essential aim of the undertaking from which all else depends. The Lord can as easily reveal detail to a Pray and Plan team as He can reveal principles.

The Pray and Plan team should close each meeting with a time of praise and thanksgiving that the Lord has given the team His wisdom and discernment.

A small group is likely to P&P about what to study next; how to bring a new member up to speed on E&RT basics; how to serve “where we are” (the needs, how to reach out effectively )’; “have we grown to the point where we should become 2 groups (‘divide to multiply’)?”

Pray and Plan works for individuals praying alone, for families, for teams, ….
Conclusion. See http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm  for the previous E&RT articles, a briefing, resources & links.

Think of the E&RT “reproducibles” as aspects of a single, integrated, Christ-focused life. As they come to characterize our daily lives we’ll realize we’re already leading by example … the topic for next time.

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Live the Essentials

Live the Essentials

Live the essentials as we Engage & Run TOGETHER!

Following Christ in a demanding environment calls for simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities, and personal initiative. Inductive Bible Study, Conversational Prayer, and scripture memorization, the three individual / small group “Reproducibles”, help us continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)

The Holy Spirit is our primary counselor as we study and pray. He also uses a group as part of Proverbs 11:14’s “multitude of counselors”, confirming or overriding human insights which may come up, directly or by bringing up the appropriate Scripture for teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness….(2 Tim 3:16)

Inductive Bible Study (IBS) is the study of a limited portion of Scripture by a small group in an informal, discovery style. It emphasizes hearing from God, devotion, and obedience (“what do I do with this”) in context of all of Scripture, while not trying to force acceptance of controversial doctrines or denominational distinctives. The basic guidelines are: Stick to the passage; All who want to may participate; No one dominates; Answer 3 questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? The traditional who/what/where/when/why/how questions can be useful for understanding what it means; the CMF DTOs offer Bible study tips and a study form to provide additional structure. The DTOs and verse cards at the link below are a good place to start.

The leader’s role is primarily administrative, rather than “teaching”, involving start/stop times and helping the group follow the guidelines. It’s normally best to stay in the agreed passage so that those with less experience aren’t intimidated; at times it will be important to refer to complementary or balancing scriptures for “the rest of the story.”

A group as small as two (The Holy Spirit plus one) can engage in Inductive Bible Study!

Conversational Prayer (CP) is clearly not the only way to pray. It is presented here because many national Military Christian Fellowships have found that it produces an increased consciousness of God's presence, resulting in greater group vitality and unity. CP follows the normal rules of polite conversation … only one speaks/prays at a time … 2-3 sentences or a short paragraph as the others pray along silently. Someone else prays next. At least one person follows up the current topic before a new topic is started, perhaps praying about other details or from a different perspective. Who is the next to pray? Anyone else! Silence in between is fine; it leaves time to hear God speak. Include adoration & praise to God, confession & petition for ourselves, intercession for others. Leave “who’s next” to the Holy Spirit rather than “going around the room.”

And consider conversational prayer as a group of two…God plus one!

Scripture Memory and Meditation help us live Joshua 1:8’s “… you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” (NKJV) Learn the passage (with its “address” before and after), and understand the context. Hide/treasure it in your heart that you may not sin against Him (Ps 119:11). Meditate on it as you review, prayerfully asking “what does it say/mean/mean to me”, sing it, chant it, pray it … let the Word transform / renew your mind, your reactions & relationships. Some printable verse cards are available at the link, along with a template for making your own.

Conclusion: IBS, CP, & Scripture memory/meditation are practical forms of individual and small-group worship reproducible in even the harshest, most primitive environments. They’re simple ideas, simple tools, low overhead activities.
This is the second article in the “Engage & Run Together (E&RT)” series. Article #3 will address “Excellence in all Things”, “Grow Together”, and “Pray and Plan”. For the overview article, briefing, & further resources see
http://ow.ly/qCfk30e12lm

Let’s invite others to join us in living this self-reproducing integrated life of faith!

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Romans 8:24 - Better in Hope

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? (NASB)

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (KJV)

We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it. (NLT)

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? (NET)

Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don't need to hope for it. (NLT96)

No matter how you slice it, we have hope of the future when we shall be with Christ. Perhaps the New Living Translation, First Edition (NLT96) captures the language for modern thought. Deliverance received is hope now for our future estate. We see now (as through a dark glass) but a little light. However, the light of future glory is nevertheless seen. It is the lamp of hope burning in our hearts, a gift of God's presence.

For we are saved by hope - It cannot be said that hope is the instrument or condition of salvation. Most commentators have understood this as meaning that we have as yet attained salvation only in hope; that we have arrived only to a condition in which we hope for future glory; and that we are in an attitude of waiting for the future state of adoption. But perhaps the word “saved” may mean here simply, we are kept, preserved, sustained in our trials, by hope. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. This is the proper meaning of the word “save”; and it is often thus used in the New Testament; see Matthew 8:25; Matthew 16:25; Mark 3:4; Mark 8:35. The Syriac renders this, “For by hope we live.” The Arabic, “We are preserved by hope.” Hope thus sustains the soul in the midst of trims, and enables it to bear them without a complaint. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

Mat 8:25 The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" (NET)

Mat 16:25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. (NET)

Mar 3:4 Then He turned to His critics and asked, "Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?" But they wouldn't answer Him. (NET)

Mar 8:35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. (NET)

1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (NET)

Col 1:5 Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel (NET)

1Ti 1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, (NET)

Heb 6:18 so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. (NET)

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Romans 8:23 - Beauty Fades and Loveliness Decays

The world is one where beauty fades and loveliness decays; it is a dying world; but it is waiting for its liberation from all this and the coming of the state of glory. (William Barclay)

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (NASB)

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (KJV)

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us. (NLT)

Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (NET)

It is the longing of my heart to be with Christ. This is an attitude shared among all those who have been redeemed by His blood. Is it not considered part of love to be with Him who first loved us? Though we now experience the foretaste of what is to come by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we long for the fruition of the promise and are assured our hope will not lead to disappointment.

Rom 8:23
The first fruits (tēn aparchēn). Old and common metaphor.
Of the Spirit (tou pneumatos). The genitive of apposition. The Holy Spirit came on the great Pentecost and his blessings continue as seen in the “gifts” in 1 Corinthians 12-14, in the moral and spiritual gifts of Galatians 5:22. And greater ones are to come (1Corinthians 15:44.). (WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by Archibald Thomas Robertson)

Rom 5:5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (NLT)

2Co 5:5 God Himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee He has given us His Holy Spirit. (NLT)

Eph 1:14 The Spirit is God's guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him. (NLT)

Eph 5:9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. (NLT)


Romans 8:22 - The Whole Creation Groaning

Romans 8:22 — The Whole Creation Groans

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now — If for man’s sake alone the earth was cursed, it cannot surprise us that it should share in his recovery. (A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown)

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (NASB

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (KJV)

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NLT)

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. (NET)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (ESV)

What a sad state of affairs. The condition of everything is bondage and corruption. Could we not understand that the fall from the garden changed all. The future redemption will again be for all. Therefore, all groans. For us who belong to Christ we have our earnest expectation of His return and the new heave and new earth that will not be afflicted nor in need of groaning but rather praise to the glory of the Son.

However, this groaning is not a useless thing: Paul compared it to a woman in travail. There is pain, but the pain will end when the child is delivered. One day creation will be delivered, and the groaning creation will become a glorious creation! The believer does not focus on today’s sufferings; he looks forward to tomorrow’s glory (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:15–18). Today’s groaning bondage will be exchanged for tomorrow’s glorious liberty!
(The Bible exposition commentary)


He had said (Romans 8:20-21) that the condition of a Christian was one of bondage and servitude. It was an imperfect, humiliating state; one attended with pain, sorrow, and death. This might be regarded as a melancholy description, and the question might arise, why was not the Christian at once delivered from this? The answer is in this verse. “It is just the condition of everything.” It is the manifest principle on which God governs the world. The whole creation is in just this condition; and we are not to be surprised, therefore, if it is the condition of the believer. It is a part of the universal system of things; it accords with everything we see; and we are not to be surprised that the church exists on the same principle of administration; in a state of bondage, imperfection, sorrow, and sighing for deliverance. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which the creature has contracted by the fall of man: the creation is sullied and stained, much of the beauty of the world gone. There is an enmity of one creature to another; they are all subject to continual alteration and decay of the individuals, liable to the strokes of God's judgments upon man. When the world was drowned, and almost all the creatures in it, surely then it was subject to vanity indeed. The whole species of creatures is designed for, and is hastening to, a total dissolution by fire. And it is not the least part of their vanity and bondage that they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. (Matthew Henry)

2Pe 3:13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness. (NLT)

Jer 12:11 They have made it an empty wasteland; I hear its mournful cry. The whole land is desolate, and no one even cares. (NLT)

 

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Romans 8:20 - Creation and the Curse

Romans 8:20 — Creation and the Curse

Rom 8:20  For the creature was made subject to (x) vanity, not (y) willingly, but by reason (z) of him who hath subjected [the same] in (a) hope,

(x) Is subject to a vanishing and disappearing state.

(y) Not by their natural inclination.

(z) That they should obey the Creator's commandment, whom it pleased to show by their sickly state, how greatly he was displeased with man.

(a) God would not make the world subject to be cursed forever because of the sin of man, but gave it hope that it would be restored. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope (NASB)

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, (KJV)

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, (NLT)

 For the creation was subjected to futility — not willingly but because of God who subjected it — in hope (NET)

We must be mindful of the literal genesis of our current estate.  When our parents fell from their paradisiacal estate, the whole creation became subject to the fall as well.  We see in the Scriptural account a host of first words, "thorns, thistles, sweat, ect., that are indicative of the pain cause by sin and the judgment justly delivered.  But we have hope that this will not remain forever but for a season.  So let us be busy making sure that none should perish.  Let us be swift of foot delivering the words of life by our words, by our actions and by the witness of our whole life.  Lives that have been delivered from the marketplace of sin into the glorious resurrection light.  Let us be the purveyors of this hope to a lost and dying world.  

The word “vanity” here ματαιότης  mataiotēs is descriptive of the present condition of the Christian, as frail and dying; as exposed to trials, temptations, and cares; as in the midst of conflicts, and of a world which may be emphatically pronounced vanity. More or less, the Christian is brought under this influence; his joys are marred; his peace is discomposed; his affections wander; his life is a life of vanity and vexation. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

Rom 8:20 
For the creature was made subject to vanity - The Gentile world were subject to vanity of mind; but how? not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same. May we not say, it became vain willingly, but was made subject to vanity unwillingly? For, let us recur to the origin of Gentilism, the confusion of languages, by reason of the attempt to build the tower of Babel; and though there are some passages in the gloss of the Targumists upon this matter that are sufficiently ridiculous, yet as to their scope and design they are worthy of notice. “They said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, and let its head reach unto the top of heaven; and let us make a house of worship in the top of it; and let us put a sword in his hand that he may wage war for us against our enemies, before we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” It is an ancient tradition among the Jews, that this tower was built on an idolatrous account. The confusion of tongues, by which true religion was lost in the world, is a proof that the builders of this tower sinned against God in the highest degree. They were inclined to vanity, i.e. idolatry, Willingly; but they were subjected to vanity Unwillingly; for this proceeded from the just indignation and vengeance of God. From this time the world lay under heathenism till the bringing in of the Gospel, upwards of 2000 years after. See Lightfoot. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

Rom 8:20  For the creature was made subject to vanity,.... This designs the vanity and emptiness of the minds of the Gentiles, who were without God and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, without the law and Gospel, and grace of God; also the vain conceits they had of themselves, of their wisdom, knowledge, learning, and eloquence; likewise their vain philosophy, particularly their gross idolatry, their polytheism, or worshipping of many gods; together with their divers lusts and vices, to which they were addicted, to such a degree, that they might be truly said to be made subject thereunto, being under the government of these things, slaves unto them, and in such subjection, as that they could not deliver themselves from it. (Dr. John Gill)

Was made subject to vanity, not willingly — that is, through no natural principle of decay. The apostle, personifying creation, represents it as only submitting to the vanity with which it was smitten, on man’s account, in obedience to that superior power which had mysteriously linked its destinies with man’s. (A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown)

There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which has come upon the creature by the fall of man. There is an enmity of one creature to another. And they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. (Matthew Henry)

For the creature was made subject to vanity. The creation was subjected to vanity; i. e., became empty; lost its original significance. The Greek word rendered "vanity," means "to seek without finding." God placed "the creation" under man's dominion, and when man fell the whole was subject to vanity by God. (The People's New Testament (1891) by B. W. Johnson)

To vanity (tēi mataiotēti). Dative case. Rare and late word, common in lxx. From mataios, empty, vain. Eph 4:17; 2Pe 2:18. (WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by Archibald Thomas Robertson)

Eph 4:17  This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, (KJV)

2Pe 2:18  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. (KJV)

Gen 3:17-19  And to the man He said, "Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.  By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return." (NLT)

Gen 6:13  So God said to Noah, "I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth! (NLT)

Job 12:6-12  But robbers are left in peace, and those who provoke God live in safety—though God keeps them in His power.  "Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.  Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you. Let the fish in the sea speak to you.  For they all know that my disaster has come from the hand of the LORD.  For the life of every living thing is in His hand, and the breath of every human being. (NLT)

Isa 24:5-6  The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God's instructions, violated His laws, and broken His everlasting covenant.  Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin.  They are destroyed by fire, and only a few are left alive. (NLT)

Jer 12:4  How long must this land mourn? Even the grass in the fields has withered. The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land. For the people have said, "The LORD doesn't see what's ahead for us!" (NLT)

Jer 12:11  They have made it an empty wasteland; I hear its mournful cry. The whole land is desolate, and no one even cares. (NLT)

Jer 14:5-6  Even the doe abandons her newborn fawn because there is no grass in the field.  The wild donkeys stand on the bare hills panting like thirsty jackals. They strain their eyes looking for grass, but there is none to be found." (NLT)

Hos 4:3  That is why your land is in mourning, and everyone is wasting away. Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea are disappearing. (NLT)

Joe 1:18  How the animals moan with hunger! The herds of cattle wander about confused, because they have no pasture. The flocks of sheep and goats bleat in misery. (NLT)

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Romans 8:19 - Eager Expectation or Annexed to Glory

Romans 8:19 — Eager Expectation or Annexed to Glory

In Rom 8:19 Paul uses a wonderful word for eager expectation.  It is apokaradokia (<G603>) and it describes the attitude of a man who scans the horizon with head thrust forward, eagerly searching the distance for the first signs of the dawn break of glory. (William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. (NASB)

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (KJV)

For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. (NLT)

For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. (NET)

I suppose it is a bit like the architect wanting to see the long awaited completion of an intricate project.  But here it is the creation (project) itself that longs to see its destiny.  We are that project that waits in hope for the day when we will see with our own eyes what the Lord of Glory has prepared for us because of His wondrous Grace.  The very thought makes my heart flutter.  So far it is above our current post paradisiacal estate where impurity, infirmity, and deformity rule the day and the headlines define the spot where even the saints have fallen into the ditch and sullied themselves by bathing in the filthy water of a lost and fallen world.  All the while the creation itself groans to be delivered from the agony.  Yet we in this modern age have little concept as to the great sufferings made manifest in ancient times where our forefathers in the faith were despised, rejected, counted as outcasts, and even slain (The People's New Testament (1891) by B. W. Johnson, paraphrase mine).  What then is the point to ponder?  Is your heart all a flutter in earnest expectation?  If not, confess your fallen estate (each day) and find your earnest expectation of glory awaiting you in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior and friend.

For the earnest expectation - ἀποκαραδοκία  apokaradokia. This word occurs only here and in Phil 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope,” etc. It properly denotes a state of earnest desire to see any object when the head is thrust forward; an intense anxiety; an ardent wish; and is thus well employed to denote the intense interest with which a Christian looks to his future inheritance. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

Php 1:20  For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. (NLT)

Earnest expectation (ἀποκαραδοκία)

Only here and Phil 1:20. From ἀπό away κάρα the head, δοκεῖν to watch. A watching with the head erect or outstretched. Hence a waiting in suspense. Ἀπό from, implies abstraction, the attention turned from other objects. The classical student will recall the watchman in the opening of Aeschylus' “Agamemnon,” awaiting the beacon which is to announce the capture of Troy. (Vincent's Word Studies, Marvin R. Vincent, D.D., Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature in Union Theological Seminary New York.)

He teaches us that there is an example of the patience, to which he had exhorted us, even in mute creatures. For, to omit various interpretations, I understand the passage to have this meaning — that there is no element and no part of the world which, being touched, as it were, with a sense of its present misery, does not intensely hope for a resurrection. (John Calvin)

In these words the apostle describes a fourth illustrious branch of the happiness of believers, namely, a title to the future glory. This is fitly annexed to our sonship; for as the adoption of sons entitles us to that glory, so the disposition of sons fits and prepares us for it. (Matthew Henry)

“The apostle, fired with the thought of the future glory of the saints, pours forth this splendid passage, in which he represents the whole creation groaning under its present degradation, and looking and longing for the revelation of this glory as the end and consummation of its existence” [Hodge]. (A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown)

Isa 65:17  "Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. (NLT)

Act 3:21  For He must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through His holy prophets. (NLT)

2Pe 3:11-13  Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames.  But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness. (NLT)

Rev 21:1-5  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."  And the One sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!" And then He said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." (NLT)

Mal 3:17-18  "They will be My people," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. "On the day when I act in judgment, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.  Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not." (NLT)

Mat 25:31-46 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home. I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.' "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?' "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!' "Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn't feed Me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn't invite Me into your home. I was naked, and you didn't give Me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit Me.' "Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help You?' "And He will answer, 'I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help Me.' "And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life." (NLT)

1Jn 3:2  Dear friends, we are already God's children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is. (NLT)


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