Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spirit Brings Life

1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with You.3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.4 “What do You mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” 5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you cannot explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
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13No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. 16 For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.
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31 “He (Jesus) has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but He has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. 32 He testifies about what He has seen and heard, but how few believe what He tells them! 33 Anyone who accepts His testimony can affirm that God is true. 34 For He (Jesus) is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives Him the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves His Son and has put everything into His hands. 36 And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who does not obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” John 3:1-8, 13-21, 31-36 (NLT)

During Jesus’ public ministry, the people of Israel and even non-Jews (the Gentiles) knew that Jesus came from the living God (e.g., see John 1:14; John 5:36; John 12:20-23; Acts 10:38). One dark night Nicodemus, a highly respected Jewish religious leader, teacher, and a member of the Pharisees, came to Jesus (John 3:1-2, 10). Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that You are a Teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3:2, ESV; see also John 3:13, 34; John 6:38, Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 9:24). During Jesus’ time on earth, Jesus taught the people with authority and performed many miraculous signs, healings, and wonders (e.g., see Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:22, 32-34; John 2:11, 23; John 20:31; Acts 2:22). Yet despite Jesus’ authoritative teaching and miraculous signs, many people refused to believe and accept that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ) and the Son of the living God from heaven (e.g., see John 3:11, 19, 32; John 5:43; John 12:37-43).

Then, Jesus informed Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NASB). Nicodemus shouted to Jesus, “How can someone be born when they are old? . . . Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4, NIV2011). Jesus answered Nicodemus’ question with a summary of the Holy Spirit’s giving of new life:

5 . . . “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:5-8 (ESV)

Jesus informed Nicodemus that unless one is born of water and the Spirit, that person could not enter God’s Kingdom (John 3:5; see also Ezekiel 36:25-27; Acts 2:38-41; Titus 3:5). Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Holy Spirit (John 3:6; see also 1 Corinthians 15:50). The Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven (John 3:6-8; see also John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus taught Nicodemus that unless one is born anew from above by the Spirit of God one cannot enter and see God’s Kingdom (John 3:3; see also John 1:12-13). Everyone is reborn by the Holy Spirit and accepted into God’s Kingdom by their faith, repentance, and belief in Jesus and His Word (Gospel) (e.g., see Acts 2:23-40; Acts 10:37-44; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3, 23; 1 John 5:1, 10-12).

The Greek word pneuma and the Hebrew word ruah are similar for Holy Spirit, stemming from association with breath and the wind (see Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 1:4; John 3:8; Acts 2:1-2). The word wind in both Hebrew and Greek can also be translated “spirit.” One of the symbols of the Spirit of God in the Bible is the wind or breath (see Job 33:4; John 20:22; Acts 2:2). Like the wind, the Spirit is invisible but powerful; and one cannot explain or predict the movements of the wind. When God sends His Holy Spirit, a new life is born (see Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30).

By looking and accepting Jesus and His Word by faith, the Holy Spirit brings a supernatural spiritual birth from above and anew (e.g., see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 11:16; Romans 1:16-17). Just as there are two parents for physical birth, so there are two “parents” for spiritual birth: the Spirit of God (see John 3:5-8) and the Word of God (see John 6:63; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). The combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God bring new life and a new heart. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and, when a sinner believes, imparts the life of God (e.g., see Acts 10:37-44; Romans 10:9-13). Acceptance and belief in Jesus and His Word bring life because the Holy Spirit enters one’s life and heart when one accepts and believe Jesus and His Word (see Acts 10:43-48; Ephesians 1:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; see also Ezekiel 37:1-14). Water baptism is also a part of our obedience to Jesus and our witness for Him (see Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-41). Everyone who believes and obeys Jesus and His Word has God’s new life from above – spiritual, eternal, and abundant (e.g., see John 1:4; John 10:10; John 14:6; Romans 5:17)! The new birth, also known as regeneration, is the act of God that gives new life and new heart to the one who believes and obeys His Son, Jesus (see John 8:30-31; John 14:15, 21, 23; John 15:9-10; Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 5:3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12). Through our wholehearted faith in Jesus, believers undergo a cleansing from sins and a spiritual transformation and renewal (see 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:1, 4, 18). 

Jesus is the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah (Christ) that the living God had sent from heaven to save the world and give new life through faith in  Him, Jesus (e.g., see Matthew 1:21, 23; Luke 2:10-11; Mark 1:1; John 3:15-17, 31; John 6:61-65; Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 5:12). Everyone (Jews and non-Jews) who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and they will receive a new life, a new heart, and eternal salvation (e.g., see John 3:36; John 7:38-39; John 20:31; Acts 16:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4; 1 John 5:1). The living God did not send His Son Jesus into the world at His first arrival to condemn the world, but to save the world through faith in Him (John 3:17; see also John 1:14, 29, 34-35; 1 John 4:9-10). There is no eternal doom and condemnation awaiting those who genuinely call upon and trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior (John 3:18; see also John 6:40; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

However, everyone who rejects and do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) and Son of God have already been sentenced and condemned because of their rejection of Jesus (see John 3:18). The unrepentant and unbelieving people’s sentence is based on this fact: that the Light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the Light, for their deeds were evil (John 3:19, TLB). Sadly, even today as the first century many people reject the heavenly Light that Jesus brings because they love sin and the darkness (see John 3:20). Instead of turning to the Light found in Jesus, many unrepentant people stay away from that Light for fear their sins would be exposed and they would be punished by God (John 3:20; see also Ephesians 5:11-13). However, those doing right come gladly to the Light of Jesus so everyone can see that they are doing what God delights (John 3:21; see also Matthew 5:13-16). The true and living God is omniscient, and He sees everything even our secret sins (see Psalm 90:8).

Afterward, Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and stayed for a while in Judea and baptized many people by the Jordan River (see John 3:22). At this time, John the Baptist was also baptizing people (see John 3:23). One day someone began an argument with John’s disciples, telling them that Jesus’ baptism was best over John’s baptism (see John 3:25). John informed his disciples that his work was to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah and urge everyone to trust Jesus (John 3:28; see also Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-4; Luke 3:3-6; John 1:6-7, 23; Acts 19:4). Jesus is the Light, and John the Baptist, coming in the spirit of Elijah, pointed everyone to the Light of Jesus (see John 1:6-8). Moreover, John knew that Jesus came from heaven and is greater than any other human (John 3:31; see also Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:1, 7; Luke 3:16; John 1:1-5, 14-15, 18, 27, 30; Acts 13:25). Jesus speaks God’s words for God’s Spirit is upon Him without measure and without limit (John 3:34; see also Isaiah 42:1; Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38). Importantly, John testified that Jesus is God’s Son, and all who trust in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:35-36).

In summary, everlasting life is in Jesus, and this life gives light to all humankind (e.g., see John 1:4; John 5:26; John 11:25; John 14:6; Acts 3:15; 1 John 5:11). Jesus is the Light and Life of the world (John 3:19; see John 1:4-5, 7; John 8:12; John 14:6). Jesus’ life is the light that shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish Jesus’ life nor light (see John 1:5). Everyone who wholeheartedly and genuinely seeks, believes, and obeys Jesus will turn away from darkness (sin) and turn to the Light found in Jesus (see John 3:19-21). By turning to the Light, everyone will find salvation and new spiritual life that will make one godly (see John 3:6, 36; see also John 12:46; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 5:6; 2 Peter 1:3-4).

When we wholeheartedly receive Jesus into our lives, we share Jesus’ very life and become children in God’s eternal family (e.g., see John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:26-29). The Holy Spirit is the essence of Jesus’ gift (see John 6:63). Life and wisdom come through the gift of the Spirit (see John 14:15-20; John 20:21-22; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30). The life-giving Presence of the Father, Son, and Spirit works in perfect unity to bring life to all faithful believers of Jesus. In the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit), there is life. God the Father is life (e.g., see John 5:21, 26; John 6:33; John 17:3). Also, God the Son Jesus is life (e.g., see John 5:21, 25-26; John 6:33; John 17:3). Finally, God the Spirit has life (e.g., see John 3:6, 8; John 6:63). The transforming power of God’s Spirit is a seal of God’s ownership for Jesus’ faithful followers (e.g., see 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14).

As to Nicodemus the Pharisee, the Holy Scriptures reveal that he finally did “come to the light” and accept Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. In opposition to his colleagues on the Jewish high council, Nicodemus strongly argued that Jesus should be given a fair trial (see John 7:50-51). After Jesus’ sacrificial crucifixion and death, Nicodemus brought seventy-five pounds of expensive perfumed ointment for His burial (see John 19:38-42). Thus, Nicodemus appears to be an example of a Jewish Pharisee, like the Apostle Paul, who came to believe in Jesus (see Acts 23:6).

Let everyone come to Jesus Christ!

NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

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