We Have a Trustworthy God Who Holds Us
Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in your will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Picture a relay race. The teammates pass a baton after running their leg of the race. While one teammate runs, the next has to wait. After passing the baton, those finished with their leg cheer on the next. Only after the last runner runs his leg of the race do all the runners on the team win. They were in the same race, with the same baton, with the same goal, though each ran at different times. Remembering the 4x100 relay race in Track and Field, it was very strategic. Usually the fastest runner would run the last leg, and each runner had certain strengths which lended themselves well to running either a straightaway, a curve on the track, against the wind, with the wind, etc.
Likewise, God has sovereignly placed us in our time in history, so that He would prove Himself through his people. The course is our time on earth, the goal being glorified with Christ in His coming kingdom. The baton is the testimony of Christ in His Word and the perseverance of the faithful church through history.
vs. 3-4…Paul remembering the Church at Philippi in prayer, thanking God joyfully.
vs. 5…The reason he thanks God with joy is their participation in the gospel. *We can notice that the gospel is something to be participated in.*
vs. 6…”For” (or because) Paul has confidence in God’s ability to finish His work begun in the Church.
vs. 6…Paul is confident because he knows the Lord himself, but also the Lord is proving Himself through the Philippians’ faith! This encourages Paul. He is seeing what he has passed on to the Philippians come to greater fruition—the ultimate goal of being ready for “the day of Christ Jesus”—that is, Christ’s return.
So, “participating in the gospel” is participating in God’s faithful work! It is not just passing along a rote message.
The faithful work of God is to prepare a people for Himself, demonstrated by certain characteristics, as seen in the verses which follow:
vs. 9—abounding in love which stems from knowledge of Christ
vs. 10—discernment on what is of true value, worth focusing on. Sincere and blameless.
vs. 11—full of “fruit of righteousness,” that is Christ Himself being seen in our lives more. It is all about the glory and praise of God—not me.
These are all characteristics of those who entrust themselves to God’s faithful work.
It is not about what we are doing as much as it is about what we are becoming. We all have a different leg of the race we are running. I may have to forget even the ways I have operated in the past in my own life.
Philippians 3:12-14. In view of being perfected in Christ, Paul forgets what is behind and presses on toward the goal. CHRIST HAS LAID HOLD OF HIM, as He has laid hold of us for the same purpose.
THE GOAL OF THE “RACE” IS THE UPWARD CALL.
While we are running different legs of the race with different obstacles and challenges, the same principles are at work which were in Paul’s time. What we have to go through:
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
—power of His resurrection…to live the new life now
—fellowship of His sufferings…the repercussions of living the Christ life now causes waves in the world around us
—being conformed to His death…we have to deny ourselves—our own desires, comforts, goals, plans, ways of thinking, self images (position, power, personality).
—WE WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED. Our trustworthy God will take us through this, ultimately to resurrect us and glorify us with Him.
THE “BATON” OF THE “RACE” IS THE FULL COUNSEL OF GOD outlined in these brief verses.
Is the full counsel of God what we are holding onto and passing along to the next generation? We can suffer through anything as we stay faithful to the gospel, knowing we have a trustworthy God!
Hebrews 11:39—12:2 carries the same message, also with the race illustration. Those who ran before us will not be perfected before us, but they currently stand rejoicing and cheering us on, as those who have run the previous legs of the race!
A trillionaire heard about a volcanic island ready to erupt and sink into the sea. All the inhabitants were helpless to save themselves and would surely perish without outside intervention.
The trillionaire decided he would spend every last penny to build a ship big enough to save everyone on the island. So the ship set sail and arrived at the island. The inhabitants were perplexed. Some recognized that help had arrived, understanding their destiny apart from this gracious act. Others preferred their life on the island, come what may.
The terms were simple. Those on the island were to leave everything behind and trust that the ship would bring them to safer shores. They would be expected to live with their rescuer and serve him in his mansion--a cushy life, though subject to the one they would serve for the rest of their lives. They would be expected to read the book on what life would be like living with the trillionaire. They were told to stay on the boat, even if they did not like the terms. They were promised that their new life was even better than what they could read, and they could hear recordings on the boat of the trillionaire describing himself and their future home--which gave them further hope.
They had their times of restlessness and would often not get along with one another as they were in such close quarters, but, remembering the gracious character of their new master, they grew in that same character--which also gave them further hope.
Finally they arrived to safer shores--a glorious new home. The trillionaire, though he had spent everything, received back what he had spent and more. The ship returned, as it had never ceased to be HIS ship--his wealth had just changed forms for a time. His dependents would graciously and adoringly live with and serve him for the rest of their lives.
This to illustrate some things. Jesus did not cease to be God. He just "emptied himself," "[becoming] flesh," one day to be glorified once again, having accomplished His mission (Philippians 2:6-7; John 1:14). Calvinists and others point to the limited atonement--and misconstrue many Scriptures--because they struggle with the idea that somehow some of Jesus' blood would have been wasted. If he truly died, was buried, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father to return again and establish his everlasting kingdom, then nothing was wasted! Yes, not all of God's creation would choose to honor Him as God, but they did indeed have the chance. Romans 1:20 speaks very clearly, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
A verse cited for the idea of exclusive predestination (related to limited atonement) is Revelation 13:8, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." The Greek verb tense translated "has [not] been written" is a combination of perfect and imperfect tense. The perfect tense implies a completed action with continued results. The imperfect tense implies past action which was continued, repeated, or habitual. John is writing of future events, so the "past" in the context could still be our future from the standpoint of our current time.
Considering the imperfect tense: If God did the writing continuously or repeatedly, that implies a work completed over time--from the foundation of the world onward. This further implies that everyone will have had a chance to have their name written in the book of life.
Considering the perfect tense: their names, once written, would always be written.
Interpretation: Those with a true saving faith have assurance of salvation, and the opportunity for this kind of faith has been given every person from the creation of the world onward.
The sad reality is that many have rejected this gracious offer. Some even put on a ruse or deceive even themselves who make a profession of faith without an actual conversion--submission to the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration.
The key is understanding that God, not man, is the center of all things. It does not diminish God's attributes to say that He has truly offered eternal life to all. In fact, it magnifies His character.
Revelation 4:1-11. This passage is a picture of true worship, and it is fitting that it follows messages to the seven churches (each message was really for the universal Church).
--There are four living creatures which cry “holy, holy, holy.” These most likely represent the cherubim—angels which are messengers or intermediaries. The description of each speaks to an aspect of God’s character.
--There are 24 Elders crying along the lines of “you are Lord & God & Creator.” Most recognize the elders represent the faithful Church before the tribulation. This can be supported by Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
--There were seven churches being spoken to, each with an exhortation to overcome—and something in particular to overcome. By the power of Christ, the Church can overcome the love of self (Ephesus); death (Smyrna); satan (Pergamum); the world (Thyatira); apathy (Sardis); testing/trials (Philadelphia); and the Flesh (Laodicea). Those who do so get the awesome privilege of sitting with Christ—a place of honor and victory.
vs. 1…this is a vision of the future, unlike the instructions just given to the churches for the present.
vs. 2…John saw God on His throne
vs. 3…jasper—crystal clear like a diamond (Rev. 21:11); sardius—bright red (fire, blood); Rainbow—a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness! Emerald (green is a picture of renewal). NEW COVENANT IN CHRIST’S BLOOD. WE WILL SEE HOW BEAUTIFUL HE IS ONE DAY!
vs. 4…24 elders around the throne—these are those who have overcome (Rev. 3:21)
vs. 5…”flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder.” God in His majesty and righteous judgment speaks. The very presence of God, much like Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19). “Seven lamps …are the seven Spirits of God.” This likely refers to the seven functions of the Holy Spirit as in Isaiah 11:2: Spirit of the I AM (LORD)—his very presence, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the LORD. It is also in fulfillment of Zechariah 4:1-10. The word to Zerubbabel was that the LORD would give the Spirit to accomplish the rebuilding of the temple—God’s dwelling place. No human resources would be sufficient. In the vision, the oil was flowing from the olive trees to the lamp. Olive tree represents God making peace with humankind. The expectation on our part is that we would cease from our vain efforts to reach God on our own.
vs. 6…the way to the throne has been paved with what is pure, clean and clear. Nothing is blocking access to those who have overcome.
vs. 6-8..the four living creatures are likely cherubim, or angelic servants. They have eyes in every direction—the purpose is to take in all of God’s holiness and declare it! (Ek 1, 10; Isa. 6)
vs. 9-11…those who have overcome and been given crowns cast them at God’s throne and fall down in worship.
-All things created by God, and all things are to be rendered back to Him (see also Rom. 11:36).
What about NOW?
The Question is, “What Do You Adore?”
In light of the future expectation of seeing the fullness of God’s glory, honor and power, we should be seeking that in the present by overcoming what the 7 churches were expected to overcome.
The questions to reflect on:
1) Where am I selfish? …*I could want attention and recognition for service. *I can set goals and aspirations without thinking of others. “What’s in it for me” rather than laying down my life.
2) Afraid of death? …Or Afraid of losing anything? …Relatives or friends: I can be overprotective or possessive of those relationships. Job: I’ll do what I have to, even lie cheat or steal. Dying: I’ll exhaust my family’s and my resources to preserve my life instead of trusting in my Heavenly Father.
3) Succumbing to temptation? I am not content with what I have, so I could develop obsessions and bad habits—overeating, tobacco, technology, immoral thoughts of others…”Why not if it doesn’t hurt anybody?”
4) Following worldly patterns? Have to live the “American Dream” with what I own. I could get caught up in gossip or course joking. I could get involved in church activities while neglecting my own relationship with the Jesus.
5) Apathetic? *Many needs around me I could fill easily, but I think others can take care. *Children in need of a home…soften my heart to help! *Lost and dying world needs the hope of the Gospel.
6) Victorious or defeated over various trials? Health: I can see God’s hand at work and adjust my outlook/lifestyle, or I can get down on myself. *Mistreatment: I can love others, knowing I am accepted in Christ, or I can return insult for insult. *World systems: I can have peace, knowing Jesus will make all things right, or I can force peace.
7) How is my submission to Christ?
SOLUTION: Christ at the Center
WE SEEK TO OVERCOME BY THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT. THIS IS NOT FOR OUR GAIN EXCEPT THAT WE WOULD SEE GOD FACE TO FACE!
THE ROOT PROBLEM OF ALL WE NEED TO OVERCOME IS SELF AT THE CENTER.
(See Diagrams below)
He came once, and He is coming again!
Do you adore Him and value Him above all else?
He is not asking us to “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps,” but to simply submit to Him.
Rely on Him, and He will finish His work in you.
OVERCOME AS HE OVERCAME.
RESPONSE: Are you self-centered or submitted to Christ? Those are the only two possibilities. THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE: Those who have not committed to Christ (Self-centered by default), 2) Self-centered Christians, 3) Submitted Christians. Are you content where you are, or do you want to grow?
This day represents the harvest--an enjoyment of what has been given and worked for all year long. For many, it is a time to remember all the blessings that are in one's life, yet it is a lonely time for some.
The Lord is reminding us that it is a time to give thanks to His name--the giver of all good things--and to remember that no matter our situation in life, Jesus loves us, is calling us back to a relationship with our Creator, and He is faithful to His promise of eternal life for all who believe.
There is a harvest to come, as the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 shows us. Seed is down by the road, on rocky places, among thorns and in good soil. The word of eternal life from the King of kings is offered to all--to "fakers," "flakers," "makers," and "shakers."
The Fakers are those who in their heart still value what God calls evil. They have not truly turned from the way, or road, which leads to death.
The Flakers are those who lack resolve to follow the Lord, and they do not walk in obedience to Him when things get hard. They may have a shallow faith.
The Makers are those who think they can make a life for themselves, maybe even earn everlasting life. Maybe they have even said a prayer of salvation, but Jesus is not enough for them. These self-centered will not see true fruit despite their efforts.
The shakers are those who rest in God's faithfulness, who experience victory in the eternal life, and they increasingly display Christ to those around them as He causes the growth. They are the ones whom God is using to share His message of hope and to ask the question, "What kind of person are you going to be when God's harvest of souls comes?" We do not know the day or the hour, so let's be ready. Let us be found faithful as Jesus is faithful.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Observations / Interpretations
-Crucified with Christ—What Jesus experienced should be my experience. His flesh was put to death, and so was mine. All who accept Christ—having been baptized into Him— are now free from sin (Romans 6:6-7). POWER of sin, not just past actions.
-No longer I who live; Christ lives in me—my life does not belong to me. Freed from sin, we are now constrained to live the new life (Romans 6:4). newness of life: Romans 6:11
-Live by faith in the Son of God—Paul knows who Jesus is—who He proved Himself to be. He rose from the dead, proving He was indeed the Son of God. Therefore, the “life which I now live” is a resurrected life, and one that has to be lived by faith. It is not necessarily a life that can be physically seen, at least not right now.
-Who loved me and gave Himself up for me—everything Jesus has done is out of His love for us, the ultimate proof of which is Him giving up His life for us.
-I do not nullify the grace of God--grace instead of wrath! (Rom. 6:23)
For if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (cite a few 10 commandments, ask who has never broken). The grace of God is what empowers a person to live a righteous life. The righteous life is not something which can be done through a set of rules and practices by human effort. The righteous life is the resurrected life of Christ working in a person. MY RIGHTEOUSNESS IS BASED ON HIS PERFORMANCE—NOT MINE.
By the grace of God, a person can be put to death and be given a new life pleasing to God—CHRIST’S LIFE.—The Exchanged Life.
Watch the video above for application points and for an illustration. The diagrams in the sermon were used by permission of Grace Fellowship International (https://gracefellowshipinternational.com/), specifically from Charles R. Solomon's Handbook to Happiness.
A father took his 2-year-old son on a hiking trip to the Appalachian Trail. They pulled in to the trailhead and the father got a brand new backpack out of the car, as the son looked on with glee.
"Ok, son, this is going to be a long, hard walk, but I know this trail well. Stay close to me and listen to my instructions and we'll get to the top of the mountain safely."
Before the father could finish his pep-talk, the little boy grabbed the backpack, stuffed in a few of his favorite toys, and ran to the trailhead, looking back at his father with a huge smile on his face.
The father smiled back with joy over his son's eagerness to walk with him. So they began the trek. As they went, the son would stop to look at all the beautiful leaves and rocks, stuffing the backpack full. The terrain began to get rough, and the son continued to struggle.
"You okay, son?" the father asked.
"Uh...yeah?" the son said sheepishly. Then he sat down and began to cry.
"Oh, my dear son. Let's empty this backpack of all this worthless stuff. This isn't why I gave it to you--to fill it with everything in the world. I gave it to you so you will know that I can carry you. I love you and I want you to enjoy this trip." The father said this tenderly as his son looked up at him with teary eyes and reached up to his wise, able Father.
The rest of the trip, the son sat in the backpack with his arms wrapped around his father's neck. They both felt so much joy as they walked and talked together--and the view at the top was truly magnificent.
The Lord, our Heavenly Father, is looking to support a dependent people. The little boy, while eager to walk with the father and excited for the journey, did not understand the nature of the relationship nor the dangers ahead. Too often, Christians trust in Jesus Christ for salvation yet forget the implications of eternal life given in the present time. We need to remain teachable, recognizing our need of Him every moment of every day.
Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. ... Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:25, 28-30).
The wise and intelligent think they know how to live life, to "carry their own weight," so to speak. Jesus is not telling us to take His yoke upon us and figure things out. No. Our burden is our very life. He is simply offering to carry us.
Are you among the "wise and intelligent," as Jesus said, or are you okay with being dependent on the Lord?
The one who in his heart loves God's righteousness more than anything will see a mighty work of God. To find our life in Christ alone, rather than anything in this world including ministry, is the wisdom by which souls will truly be saved. We can rest in that as we labor in our faithful efforts which in this time may seem unfruitful.
To force "results" can be deceptive wages. A tree takes a long time to grow, and those who take its fruit can most definitely not give it life...to sow righteousness is to put our fleshly efforts to death by the power of the Holy Spirit...
"The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward" (Proverbs 11:18).
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls" (Proverbs 11:30).
"...God was causing the growth...each will receive his own reward...you are God's field..." (1 Cor 3:5-9).
"I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls..." (2 Cor. 12:15)
We have nothing to gain, as we already have everything we need in Christ!
REST IN GOD'S GRACE.
" 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Review (chapter 1 in a nutshell): God our creator has shared his life with us through His Word. God is recreating willing vessels who will receive that Word and live a grace-driven life. God by His grace has come in the flesh as the Lamb of God to take away sin and the Son of God to give the gift of the Holy Spirit. The invitation is that we would “come and see,” that is, to take part in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit as we witness His glory, with the future hope of the revealing of His everlasting dominion.
vs. 1-2, A wedding in Cana of Galilee which Jesus, his disciples, and “his mother” are invited to
vs. 3…The “mother of Jesus” comes to Jesus when they run out of wine
vs. 4…Jesus replies, “my hour has not yet come.”
vs. 5…”His mother” tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them.
vs. 6-8…Jesus tells servants to fill up water pots used for “Jewish custom of purification” then draw some and and take it to the headwaiter
vs. 9-10…the water had become wine, and the headwaiter recognizes it as the best tasting wine of the day.
vs. 11…This was the first of Jesus’ signs. He manifested His glory. His disciples believed in Him.
vs. 12…Jesus goes down to Capernaum for a few days with “his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.”
vs. 13…Jesus went to Jerusalem in time for the Passover.
vs. 14…He found people selling animals for sacrifice in the temple.
vs. 15-16…Jesus drives out the money changers and the livestock. To the sellers of doves he says “stop making my Father’s house a place of business.”
vs. 17…His disciples were reminded of an OT Scripture when seeing this.
—Specifically, “Zeal for Your House will consume me.”
vs. 18…The Jews are asking for a sign of Jesus’ authority.
vs. 19…:Jesus: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
vs. 20-22…Jews thinking he is speaking of physical building, but He was talking about His body—something which his disciples realized in hindsight. Upon the sign of being raised from the dead, his disciples believed the Scriptures and Jesus’ word.
vs. 23…Many believed in Jesus during the Passover, given the signs he was performing.
vs. 24-25…Jesus not entrusting Himself to people because “he knew all men” (plural) and “knew what was in a man” (singular).
vs. 1-3…”His mother…” Much like John the apostle who simply refers to himself throughout as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and like John the Baptist who says he is unworthy compared to Jesus, Mary is downplayed. Her significance is only that she is related to Jesus.
vs.3-4…Jesus and his mother both knew what he was able to do and, more importantly, who He was. “My hour has not yet come…” It was not the time for his death, resurrection and exaltation. While the promise of the Messianic kingdom includes “abundant wine,” Christ’s atoning death and resurrection had to be accomplished first.
vs. 5…Mary’s command: do what Jesus tells you. She recognized Him as Lord (Luke 1:26-35).
vs. 6-8…”jewish custom of purification.” Jesus’ cleansing work is permanent and transformative, unlike the Jewish traditions.
vs. 9-11… There is new life in the wine, just as Christ offers new life—the best one—HIS.
vs. 12…Jesus’ brothers are also now with Him. They must have been convinced of who Jesus is. “The disciples” also refers to more than just the 12. Jesus often had a large crowd following Him wherever He went.
vs. 13…The Passover in Jerusalem…*See “Christ in the OT Festivals” handout.*
vs. 14-16…driving out the “marketplace” from the “Father’s house.” The temple a more permanent dwelling of God than the tabernacle, but still merely foreshadowed Christ Himself.
vs. 17…Psalm 69:9…JESUS’ PASSION FOR REVERENCE.
vs. 18-19…the sign which the Jews will be shown is Jesus’ death and resurrection. THE CROSS as a sign. THE RESURRECTION as a sign.
vs. 22…The Scripture and Jesus’ words are equally authoritative! The proof of that is that He indeed rose from the dead. Also, the Scriptures all speak to the Messiah achieving victory through atoning death and resurrection—not just an earthly conquering king as many supposed. Jesus’ POWER OF RESURRECTION.
vs. 23…Many believed because of the signs, unlike his disciples such as Nathanael who believed because of what kind of person He was and that His words were consistent with Scripture.
vs. 24…”Men” refers to all the individuals. Just like He had proven in the previous chapter that he knew the individuals whom He had called. He was not entrusting himself—that is the full revelation of His glory—to those who were not looking for Him, unlike the disciples.
vs. 25…”What was in a man” refers to the natural condition of man. can be seen in the Pharisees who merely sent a delegation—PROUD. Can also be seen in the moneychangers—GREEDY. Can also be seen in those buying and offering sacrifices—HYPOCRITES. They see God as someone to appease based on their performance/offering. Again, “men love the darkness,” which is their natural way of life, ways of the world and ways of our enemy, satan. “What was in a man” will be fleshed out more in the dialogue to come (John 3:19). Men are fickle. They only believed because they saw results/outward displays of power. Those who only look at the outward miss seeing Jesus’ glory. Jesus had the proper PERCEPTION OF REALITY.
Jesus’ glory is seen only by those who seek Him—not self gratification. True disciples’ hearts are enraptured with the words of our Lord, the words of Scripture, when He proves Himself in this physical realm. The message is “Life in His name,” (20:31) which requires leaving the old life as the disciples in chapter 1 did. We have hope as we look to the power of His resurrection to overcome the reality of our condition (pride, greed, hypocrisy).
Do I have the same Passion for Reverence which Jesus (and David) has?
How have I seen the Lord proving Himself in my life and the world around me? Do I experience the cross and resurrection daily (Power of Resurrection)? (Paul’s example: Phil. 3:7-11)
How am I living a life of pride, greed or hypocrisy? ( Do I have Jesus same Perception of Reality?) Jesus has given power to overcome that.
Has the power to overcome directed me to the message of Scripture, “life in His name,”(by denying self) or something self-gratifying? Perhaps I need to check my understanding if the latter…
Review: Chapter 2 showed Jesus turn water into wine and clear the temple during the passover. The Lamb of God came to the temple to see who were seeking God for the new life He offers. His disciples had been looking and recognized Him when the saw Him (Chapter 1). Those who do likewise will behold his glory, even now. “What was in man” is pride, greed and hypocrisy—a self-sufficient and self-gratifying life. Those who recognize Jesus as Son of Man (everlasting dominion) and Lamb of God (atonement for sins) leave their old, worthless life behind.
John 3: 1-21
vs. 1-2…Nicodemus, a “ruler of the Jews”—a Pharisee—came to Jesus at night.
-He addresses Jesus as “Rabbi,” that is, teacher, and acknowledges that he is sent from God. He is wondering what Jesus is teaching, having observed the signs (ch. 2).
vs. 3…Jesus tells Nicodemus the whole message of His ministry in a simple statement: “unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
vs. 4…Nicodemus doesn’t understand the statement. Natural birth is what came to his mind.
vs. 5…Jesus clarifies—must be born “of water and Spirit” to enter kingdom of God.
vs. 6…that which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. Two different births beget different types of people.
vs. 7…”do not be amazed” implies that Nicodemus was amazed.
vs. 8…Just like they could not understand the path of the wind, so the one born of the Spirit also cannot be understood.
vs. 9-11…Nicodemus doubts, and Jesus points out Nicodemus’s rejection of the “testimony.”
vs. 12…How will you believe heavenly teaching if you don’t believe earthly teaching?
vs. 13…Jesus once again claiming the title “Son of Man” and pointing out that He is the only man on earth who has been in heaven.
vs. 14-15…As Moses lifted up the serpent, so the Son of Man must be lifted up to give eternal life to whoever believes.
vs. 16…God in his love has made eternal life available to the whole world.
vs. 17…The Son was not sent to judge the world but to save it.
vs. 18…Those who believe are not judged. Those who do not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God are already judged.
vs. 19…the judgement is that men loved darkness rather than the Light. Evidence of that is that “their deeds were evil.”
vs. 20…those who do evil hate the Light because they don’t want to be proven they are evil.
vs. 21…Those who practice truth come to the Light. The purpose
Interpretation / Correlation
vs. 1-2…Nicodemus was somewhat ashamed/proud (came at night), yet showed more humility than other Pharisees. He wants to be taught, so he came to Jesus.
vs. 3…The first birth does not make one worthy. Nothing you can do—you need a new life
vs. 4…We don’t have understanding of new life apart from Jesus explaining to us.
vs. 5-6…Born of water refers to natural birth (amniotic fluid). Can’t be spiritual if you have only experienced natural birth.
vs. 7…Nicodemus was amazed at the spiritual nature of the message of the kingdom.
vs. 8…I won’t understand my own life—“where it comes from or where it is going.” Only God knows.
vs. 9-11…Jesus interpretation of Israel’s history—and the history of creation—is different than Nicodemus.’ Jesus pointed out Nicodemus’ hardness of heart. The “testimony” is that of John the Baptist: God is making this message of true LIFE available to all, which John was to share with his life (ch. 1:6-8).
vs. 12…There is a greater meaning beyond even what Jesus has taught regarding being born of the Spirit. The “earthly things” are the taking away of the sin of the world. They did not see Jesus as the one who could be the once-for-all sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The “heavenly things” are the experience of eternal life through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This goes beyond the mere Jewish understanding of the Messiah who would be a natural king to establish an everlasting earthly kingdom. They had no concept of the Messiah as being God Himself.
vs. 13…Like Jesus alluded to in ch. 1:51, Jesus claiming the title “Son of Man”—the one with everlasting dominion (see Daniel 7)—and the fact that he is the one who offers direct access to God. This also reminds us of his humility in becoming like us (man) —See Phil. 2:5-11. GOD ALMIGHTY MADE HIMSELF NOTHING FOR US.
vs. 14…”As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” is an allusion to Numbers 21:5-9…The people spoke against God, complaining about no food or water despite God’s miraculous deliverance from their enemies and provision of manna. What God provided for them was not good enough. The fiery serpents were a picture of the peoples’ nature—like satan. The serpent on a standard was a picture for them: put your natural desires and rebellious nature to death and be healed. To look upon it was to see one’s own condition. Similarly, we look to Christ.
-The Son of Man must be lifted up…Jesus is interpreting “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-18). The Jewish understanding was one of a conquering king whose victory they would share in. This would have turned Nicodemus’ understanding upside down. Jesus not only made Himself a man, but made himself the object of God’s wrath to bind forever the work of satan.
vs. 15…Eternal life is available to “whoever believes.” To believe in Christ, in the context, means that I accept He is the one who took the punishment I deserve so I can escape God’s wrath. I recognize His authority in giving access to God and his everlasting dominion to which all nations will be held accountable. The eternal life is experienced through being born again—or baptized—by the Holy Spirit.
vs. 16…This is all an act of God’s love. The snake on a stick foreshadowed Jesus on the cross. The snake healed the disease, but the fiery serpents were still present. They had to continue to look to the snake; likewise, we must continue to look to Jesus to overcome. This is available to anyone in the world, not just Israel.
vs. 17…The time for judgement had not come, accept a choice to accept the offer of eternal life
vs. 18…The name of the only begotten Son of God is the Word, The Lamb of God, the Son of Man. Those who do not repent of their way of life and accept Jesus as divine revelation, atoning sacrifice and the everlasting ruler of creation are judged already.
vs. 19…The “evil deeds” are the way of life exposed by the Light which is in complete opposition to the life God is offering. In other words, there is nothing good in a person.
vs. 20…People don’t want to admit they need to change. Again, “what was in a man” is pride, greed and hypocrisy (chapter 1 and 2).
vs. 21…”Practicing the truth” is sharing in the eternal life by the power of the Spirit in the present time. This starts by coming to Jesus and recognizing the need for a new life. God will accomplish His work in those who recognize this need. Those people desire to see God glorified in this. The question left with Nicodemus is, “now that you know the truth, what are you going to do with it?” Will you practice the truth by letting the Light search you and have His way?
There is nothing good in a person, but God in His love has made it possible to have eternal life now in which we witness His working in us. This experience is one we will not fully understand as we simply fix our eyes on Christ; therefore, we are dependent on Him.
Practice the truth that only Christ in you is good.
Prayer: “Lord search my heart because I don’t even know what is in there!”
Do I think more highly of myself than I ought?
Do I think I lack something?
Am I okay with not understanding the course of my life as I trust Jesus to do HIS work?
Jude 17-25, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Jude is a Christian pastor, likely another name for Judas, Jesus’ brother. Jude is authoritative even if short! He is writing to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” (v. 1). Christians are supposed to remember the end goal of being presented to Christ to whom we belong. Implied in this is that we should be living accordingly in the meantime. (John 17:20-25—Jesus’ prayer that we will be with Him; 1 Cor. 6:19-20—we have been bought).
However, Jude gives an important warning that there will be people among the Christians who do not keep this in mind and will lead some astray. That is why they must “contend earnestly for the faith” (3). It is a fight (Paul encouraged Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith,” in the midst of people who will not hold onto “doctrine conforming to godliness”— 1 TIm. 6:3-12). Jude is reminding Christians to remember the words (teaching / doctrine) that was “spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (17).
v. 18—The words of the apostles were warnings of mockers in the last times. The Greek word for “mocking,” by implication, means a false teacher. They are one who takes the name of Christ but misses the spirit of the message, maligning the truth. They are more interested in their own gain (“lusts”). Part of this gain is getting a following —see verse 16.
The “mockers” being spoken about in Jude’s time were physically present among the believers. In our information age, we may see this in more indirect terms. (famous preachers, ideologies, etc.)
The Seriousness of the Charge
vs. 19—These mockers “cause divisions” are “worldly minded” and “devoid of the Spirit.”
vs. 20-21—“But you…” We are supposed to be different, but how? Unlike the mockers, we should be unified, heavenly-minded and full of the Spirit. Jude outlines some specifics which speak to those principles.
-“building yourselves up in on your most holy faith…” This is not just an individual exercise, but one we do in COMMUNITY. There is only one true faith—that which trusts fully in the grace of God in Christ Jesus—unlike those who “turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only master and Lord, Jesus Christ…” (vs. 4). To build ourselves up means to strengthen our resolve to love and obey the Lord in everything. If we do that, we will not have any divisions, but experience true unity!
-“praying in the Holy Spirit…” We can only do that through the spiritual discipline of prayer. He has given us power to overcome our flesh and worldly influences. We must have our mind set on understanding God’s will. This speaks to our individual devotion—our relationship with the Lord—which informs us how to build up others.
-“keep yourselves in the love of God…” Christ’s love is the source of our life. He is our identity—nothing in this world. I must remember His love constantly and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance on how to more fully experience his love, sharing it with others.
-“waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” This speaks to Christ’s return and our full experience of the eternal life we have already been given. This is a certain promise which we need to remember. If I am anxious for the return of Christ, then I am not content with this world!
Again, we are being Kept for Christ. Is this what is on my mind most? Jude’s exhortation is to not be distracted by anything that would cause me to forget Christ’s finished work. Rather, we should be proactive in reminding one another to live out our faith—holiness unto the Lord.
Kept for Christ, Build Up One Another
As I meditated on these verses, an illustration came to mind. WHITEWATER RAFTING. Having gone rafting a few times, I can speak to the adventure, thrill, fear and triumph of the experience. First, there is a raging river with various dangers to be avoided. There is a raft which a guide takes us on. We each have a PFD, a helmet and a paddle. The guide gives us instructions beforehand and gives orders while on the raft. Sometimes one side of the raft has to paddle and the other has to stop in order to avoid rocks and strainers. We have to trust the guide’s instructions. One of the instructions is to keep both hands on the paddle. if we don’t do that, we could lose it or misuse it by hitting someone accidentally! If we don’t use the paddle at all, we can fall off the raft more easily. The best way to stay balanced is to keep cutting through the water with the paddle.
The raging river is this life. There is an end destination but we have to stay in the raft to get there intact. The raft is the love of Christ which we are to keep ourselves in. The Guide is the Holy Spirit. We must follow His instructions. The paddles are the Word of God. We must put it to use—and properly. Keeping both hands on is a picture of our faith. If we lack “most holy faith,” we can misuse the Word of God and inflict harm on others. If we lack faith, we miss the love of Christ, and actually fall into worldly patterns, like falling off the raft into the river. You can see why Jude so strongly encourages believers to “Contend earnestly for the faith!”
There are different types of rafters:
—The Faithful…listen to the Guide and build others up—Know and Show Christ
—The Doubter…misuse God’s word, inflict harm on self and others
—The Swimmer…fallen into patterns of this world / sin
—The Self-er…don’t identify with Christ OR they serve in self-strength
The Call for the Faithful
1) Mercifully and gently help and correct those who doubt in various ways. (KEEP YOURSELF IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST). Most who misuse God’s Word don’t do so knowingly. The false teachers and teachings have them in their grasp. God has promised a full experience of eternal life. FIX YOUR HOPE ON HIM.
2) Seek to save those who are worldly—INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE CHURCH. But BE CAUTIOUS. We should not join them in their activity, but lovingly show them a different way to live.
—IT CAN FEEL GOOD to be in fellowship with these people. “Bad company corrupts good morals”
—As those who experience the love of Christ, point people to HIM—NOT YOU.
TAKE HOLD OF THE WORD OF GOD AND THE LOVE OF CHRIST. By the Power of the Holy Spirit, go to work with your faith.
REMEMBER WHO CHRIST IS
If I am truly holding onto Christ and His promises, I will realize the power of His salvation, past, present and future. That is the truth punctuated by verses 24-25, and it is all wrapped up in who HE is!
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!