John Chapter 3, Part II, Flesh and Spirit

Leave a comment

February 17, 2014 by directorfsm

John Chapter 3   Part II
Flesh and Spirit
John 3 1-7

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2 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.

 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

 4Nicodemus 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?

 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again

This introductory passage of scripture is often overlooked by folks eager to quote John 3:16. The problem is we cannot fully understand the impact of Jesus’s words in John 3:16 without first understanding the context in which they were said.

Whenever studying the bible I find it most useful to ask some simple questions in order to get the deepest of understandings. Questions like who (are the key figures) (is the writers audience) what (are the circumstances of the situation and writer), where (is the event taking place) (is the writing taking place) why write this (what is its purpose) and lastly how does it apply to me.

After the quick reading if these verses let’s see what we can glean.
Who   Nicodemus and Jesus
What  Note came by night (secretly?)
Why    to Question Jesus, to obtain answers, to confirm suspicions
How   We too should ask questions in order to grow

Let us unfold these few verses and see how our preliminary responses hold up

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

The Pharisees were a sect that seems to have started after the Jewish exile. In addition to OT books the Pharisees recognized in oral tradition a standard of belief and life. They sought distinction and praise by outward observance of external rites and by outward forms of piety, and such as ceremonial washings, fasting’s, prayers, and alms giving; and, comparatively negligent of genuine piety, they prided themselves on their fancied good works.

They held strenuously to a belief in the existence of good and evil angels, and to the expectation of a Messiah; and they cherished the hope that the dead, after a preliminary experience either of reward or of penalty in Hades, would be recalled to life by him, and be requited each according to his individual deeds.

In opposition to the usurped dominion of the Herod’s and the rule of the Romans, they stoutly upheld the theocracy and their country’s cause, and possessed great influence with the common people. According to Josephus they numbered more than 6000. They were bitter enemies of Jesus and his cause; and were in turn severely rebuked by him for their avarice, ambition, hollow reliance on outward works, and affection of piety in order to gain popularity.

This is not the usual common folk come to question or Jesus here we have a member of the ruling class.

2 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.

Note Nicodemus comes by night. Why the secrecy? Why not go and ask or confront Jesus about this matter in the daylight on public? He was most likely afraid of being seen and losing his lofty position in society. Remember our discussion previously when we looked at John 3:20.

The second key to this verse is what Nicodemus says. He does not ask Jesus a question but makes a statement he believes to be fact about Jesus; calling Him Rabbi or “master” in this case. He recognizes the works of Jesus but not the Christ.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

           You have got to love Jesus’s response. He answers Nicodemus with a matter of fact statement of His own. Only this one, only a true believer can understand. Jesus preaches the Gospel to him.

Christianity starts with us knowing ourselves not only to be corrupt in part, but to be wholly dead in sin so that our nature has need to be created anew. Jesus recognized Nicodemus was not the pious servant of God He pretended to be and needed correction (and Salvation). Instead of responding with something like Yes Nicodemus, I am sent from God, He wants him to recognize his wicked state and the need to turn from it.

4 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?

Nicodemus in his lost state does not have a clue. Jesus might as well have said I am from the moon.

To me this is clear evidence of the need for the Holy Spirit’s work. We know that no one of his own accord will seek after God:

Psalm 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts

Romans 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that a man will turn towards the light and have any understanding of God’s word.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned

5 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.

The first thing we must recognize is Nicodemus finally gets around to asking questions and what does Jesus do? He ignores them and he tells him what Nicodemus needs to know.  Note also Christ does not directly answer Nicodemus’s question he tells him the path to eternal life.

The question of what Jesus is referring to in be born of water and the Spirit has been interpreted many ways over the centuries.

Many believe that this refers to H20, water. As in this commentator: Except he experiences that great inward change by the Spirit, and is baptized as the outward sign and means of it.

But I dare say if that is your conviction I must disagree. Salvation cannot be accomplished by an external bath. Water brings out no spiritual cleansing. It is merely a symbol…as it was in the Old Testament a symbol of purification. Christ cannot be talking about water.

Another common held belief is that Jesus speaks of the water of physical birth. That He’s saying to Nicodemus you have to be born physically because the baby is born in a physical way. When a baby’s born, it’s born in a sack of water.” And so what He is saying is, “Nicodemus, you have to be born naturally and then spiritually.” This has been the opinion I held until very recently.

The question is, why is He standing there telling this old man that he has to be born physically? He was born physically long ago. Plus the fact that that would be completely read into the text, it appears nowhere else in the Scripture and seems mere speculation.

The Greek word for water here is Hudo (Hoo-dore) and literally means water as in lakes, rivers, streams etc.

John MacArthur says: Well, then, what water is it? Well, let’s take the context. What water would Nicodemus have thought of? If Jesus said to him you must be born of water and the Spirit, what water would have come to Nicodemus’ mind? Very obviously, The Old Testament water used for purification. He would have immediately remembered that whenever an object or a person was defiled and unclean, that person had to go through ceremonial washing of water which symbolized an inward perfection. That’s what the baptism of John the Baptist was all about; it was symbol of cleansing on the inside.

Now think with me on this, don’t lose yourself. To the Jews, water meant cleansing. And Nicodemus’ brain would have gone right back, cause he knew the Old Testament, to Ezekiel 36:24 to 27. And you know what he would have read there? Listen, “I will sprinkle you with clean water,” and then two verses later, “I’ll put My Spirit within you.” In Ezekiel’s prophecy that God would redeem Israel, He says it will take two forms, I’ll sprinkle water upon you and you shall be clean the water of cleansing and I’ll put My Spirit within you. That’s what it was. It was a symbol of cleansing. H20 water isn’t even there in verse 5, that’s not talking about water, that’s talking about purification in the inside. So He is saying, “Except a man be cleansed, purified, he can’t enter the Kingdom of God.” And it’s interesting to me, also, that the agent of this purification is the Word of God.

So, here’s the picture. This person needs to be purified. That purification is done by the Holy Spirit using this water. And what is the water? Ephesians 5 says that Christ shall wash His church by the water of the…what?…Word.

Ephesians 5:25-27 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

A.W. PINK= The new birth is a Divine work. It is accomplished by the Holy Spirit applying the Word in living power to the heart. The reception Christ met during the days of His earthly ministry is the same still: the world “knows him not;” Israel “receives him not;” but a little company do receive him, and who these are Acts 13:48 tells us—”as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

            Ok, I have quoted enough folks and text to get the point. I believe that Christ is referring to the Old Testament water used for purification. He is telling Nicodemus that just as in the OT one needed purification so too does Nicodemus. We today understand that this purification starts with the blood of Christ at Calvary and is accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Man by his natural birth, is a mere natural man; that is, he is carnal and corrupt, and cannot discern spiritual things; nor can he, as such, enter into, and inherit the kingdom of God 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The Geneva Study Bible says of this verse: That is, fleshly, namely, wholly unclean and under the wrath of God: and therefore this word “flesh” signifies the corrupt nature of man: contrary to which is the Spirit, that is, the man ingrafted into Christ through the grace of the Holy Spirit, whose nature is everlasting and immortal, though the strife of the flesh remains.

A man that is regenerated by the Spirit of God, and the efficacy of his grace, is a spiritual man; he can discern and judge all things of a spiritual nature;

Spurgeon says of this: It is only then, as we are born of the Spirit of God that there is any spiritual life in us whatsoever.

Flesh = Sarx Used some 130 times in the New Testament

* All Life; relatives; outward appearance

* Human Weakness   Matt 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

* Human Nature  John 1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

* Human Depravity or Evil Rom 7:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

1)  Produces Death  Rom 7:5  For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

2)  Fights God’s Law  Rom 8:5-9 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

3)  Dominates Man’s Thoughts Eph 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

4)  Fights the Holy Spirit  Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

5)  Reaps Corruption Gal 6:8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

6)  Seeks Outward Recognition  Gal 6:12-13  As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

Spirit = Pneuma

Note the two words here, Spirit and spirit. They are the same Greek word with very different meanings.

*  the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son

* the rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides

the soul

“Spirit”, signifies the Holy Spirit of God, the author of regeneration and sanctification; whence that work is called the sanctification of the Spirit, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, ( 1 Peter 1:2 ) ( Titus 3:5 )

Who is born of the Spirit? Only those regenerated born again believers in Christ. Along with that new birth comes some character traits:

1) New Creature 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2) Changed Life Style Rom 6:4-11 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.For he that is dead is freed from sin. (note this does not mean a believer cannot or will not sin as some teach)Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

3) One at war with the Flesh Rom 7:18-23  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

4)  Makes no Room for Fleshly desires  Rom 13:14  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

5)  Crucifies the Flesh Gal 5:24  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Nowhere is this distinction between Flesh and Spirit more apparent than in Galatians 5:16-26. I am here quoting from the Amplified Bible:

16 But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).

17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.

18 But if you are guided (led) by the [Holy] Spirit, you are not subject to the Law.

19 Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency,

20 Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies),

21 Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

 (If you are living the life described above Christ is not in you)

 22 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,

 23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [[a]that can bring a charge].

 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.

 25 If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit [b]we have our life in God, let us go forward [c]walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.]

 26 Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another.

 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Without giving Nicodemus a chance to reply Christ continues and says what should have been apparent to Nicodemus. The law requires all who are tainted, stained with sin to be regenerated through washing away those stains as it were.

I am guessing that Nicodemus had the deer caught in the headlights look and Jesus said the obvious to snap him out of it.

Does it work? Does a man really change because of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit? One of my favorite songs by Bill Gaither is Thanks to Calvary the chorus goes:

Thanks to Calvary I am not the man I used to be
Thanks to Calvary things are different than before.
And as the tears ran down my face I tried to tell them (him,
Thanks to Calvary, I don’t come here anymore

It surely does work. True believers will always Thank Calvary for the new life they have.

Until then may God richly bless and preserve you in his mercy and grace.

Let us pray.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

Archives

%d bloggers like this: