John 4:7-15 - Quenched with Living Water - Part I

John 4:7–15 (ESV) — 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

In this Diving Deeper outline, we explore the conditions of the human condition that are in need of Jesus' living water.
• These conditions are what I call "Parched Relations" and a "Parched Understanding".
• Next week will contend with the "Parched Soul" and "Parched Worship".
• All of these parched conditions can be quenched with the living water of Jesus Christ.

Before we begin, I think it is worth acknowledging the purposeful juxtaposition, in John’s Gospel, of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman:
  • “It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast between two persons than the contrast between the important and sophisticated Nicodemus, this ruler of the Jews, and the simple Samaritan woman. He was a Jew; she a Samaritan. He was a Pharisee; she belonged to no religious party. He was a politician; she had no status whatever. He was a scholar; she was uneducated. He was highly moral; she was immoral. He had a name; she is nameless. He was a man; she was a woman. He came at night, to protect his reputation; she, who had no reputation, came at noon. Nicodemus came seeking; the woman was sought by Jesus” – James Boice.
  • “If Nicodemus is an example of the truth that no one can rise so high as to be above salvation, the woman is an example of the truth that none can sink too low” – James Boice.
    o Remember, “For God so love the world…”

John 4:6–8 (ESV) — 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
  • Jesus, “the Word in sandals”, was “wearied” from a long morning’s journey.
  • And whether for water, for speaking the Gospel to this Samaritan woman, or both, Jesus was also thirsty.
  • Oddly, Jesus was left to sit at the well without the skin bucket used to fetch water.
    o Presumably, His disciples must have taken it with them on their food run.
  • So begins this divinely appointed meeting.

POI - It seems to me, as He did with Nathaniel, that Jesus made use of his supernatural ability to orchestrate this meeting between Himself and the Samaritan woman at the well – after all verse 4 says He “had to”.
  • Kostenberger agrees, “Jesus’ going through Samaria was according to the plan and will of God”.
    o John 10:16 (ESV) — 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
      • The Samaritans were part of the “not of this fold”.
    o Acts 1:8 (ESV) — 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

So why did Jesus ordain this meeting?
  • We will see that several “parched conditions” existed that were in need of “quenching”.
  • And Jesus had something that could do the quenching.


John 4:9 (ESV) — 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
  • Why was there such hatred between Jews and Samaritans?
  • Some scholars believe clues can be found in the OT.

2 Kings 17:23–24 (ESV) — 23 until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. 24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.
  • King Esarhaddon, “deported all the Israelites of substance and settled the land with foreigners, who intermarried with the surviving Israelites and adhered to some form of their ancient religion” – D.A. Carson.
  • Their offspring were the Samaritans; a mixed race of Jew and Gentile.
  • And even though, over time, the Samaritans returned to the worship of Yahweh from idolatry, they, as a mixed race, were hated by Jews.
    o It didn’t help that the Samaritans accepted only the Pentateuch as Scripture.

An early example of strained relations can also be found in the OT.

Ezra 4:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.”
  • The Samaritans offered to help rebuild the temple.
  • Their offered was rejected by the Jews of Jerusalem.
  • And as John MacArthur points out, “Rebuffed in their attempt to worship at Jerusalem, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim (c. 400 b.c.). The Jews later destroyed that temple during the intertestamental period, further worsening relations between the two groups.”

Yet, not only was this divine encounter radical in that it ignored the Jewish/Samarian taboos, it was also radical because it violated the man/woman taboos that existed.
  • Jewish men, and especially rabbis, did not usually speak to women in public.
  • And Samaritan woman, in particular, were “considered to be in a continual state of ritual uncleanness” – A. Kostenberger.
  • In addition to this, Kostenberger argues that Jesus’ actions risked being seen as flirtatious.
  • And even worse, this woman was clearly an outcast as well.

Aside from Jesus’ later remarks, how do we know the outcast status of this Samaritan woman?
  • “Women were more likely to come in groups to fetch water (Gen. 24:11; Exod. 2:16; 1 Sam. 9:11) and to do so either early in the morning or later in the day when the heat of the sun was not so fierce (Gen. 24:11: “toward evening”; cf. Gen. 29:7–8). By contrast, this Samaritan woman came alone, and she came in the heat of the midday sun. Both observations suggest that this woman was looked down upon in her community on account of her low reputation" – A. Kostenberger.

So from our text thus far, we can plainly see that the 1st condition in need of “quenching” was both Samaritan/Jew and man/woman relations.
  • Jesus’ radical encounter with the Samaritan woman demonstrates the love for a fallen world that we encountered in John 3.
  • He abandoned any notion of adhering to taboo in order that she, as both a Samaritan and a woman, might hear the truth of the Gospel.
  • But as we will see, there are more parched conditions in need of quenching.


John 4:10–12 (ESV) — 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

Here we go again, like with Nicodemus, the temple, and the wedding at Cana, Jesus jumps into the deep end.
  • And once again he does so with an answer seemingly completely unrelated to her question.
  • Jesus introduces the concept of something called “living water”.
    o And implies that He can provide it.
    o In fact when He says, “If you knew the gift of God, many believe it’s as if He is saying to her, “if you really knew your Torah you would have asked me for it” (John 3:10 - response to Nico) – D.A. Carson.
  • BTW – Jesus apparently doesn’t see the need to “develop” a relationship before he speaks the profound truth of the Gospel (or even make worldly sense for that matter).

POI – Which end of the pool do we hang out in as Christians?
  • If we are justified and thus being sanctified, our life better be characterized by a progression toward the deep end, else, why do we even think we are justified?

So, as with the exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus, it seems understandable that the Samaritan woman had no idea what he was talking about.
  • Therefore her question, like Nicodemus’, seems fair enough.
  • Nicodemus asked how one enters again into his mother’s womb, and the Samaritan woman asked how Jesus could draw water without his skin basket.
    o Obviously, both were literally impossible at each instance.
    o And the thought never crossed her mind that Jesus wasn’t talking about real water.
    o After all, He was at a well and He had asked her for a drink.
  • And more than that, her questioning his credentials by comparing him to Jacob “reveals incredulity” – Carson.
    o It’s as if she is challenging Jesus’ ability to do what He says He can do.
  • But, Jesus endeavors to bring her to the deep end.

John 4:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

As with Nicodemus and the new birth, Jesus explains that he is in the deep end and speaking figuratively; living water is not actual water.
  • Unlike the water at Jacob’s well, the “living water” Jesus offers permanently quenches our deepest thirst.
    o Which, incidentally, answers her question concerning Jesus vs. Jacob (vs. 12) – Jesus is clearly greater.
  • And because its source is divine, those who have it “welling up” within them (those that are born again) have eternal life.
  • Notice, Jesus words here fit squarely with our “Living Inside Out” lesson from John 3.
    o The flow of living is from heart, to mind, then to action for those who have eternal life.

The Samaritan woman’s response, “so that I will not be thirsty, or have to come here to have to draw water”, reveals her lack of understanding.
  • She remains in the shallow end and assumes that Jesus must be speaking of literal water.
  • I guess she thinks that Jesus is preaching some kind of Joel Osteen prosperity Gospel.
  • “This Jesus guy can help me actualize all my worldly dreams and desires”, plus, “I won’t have to come out here in the middle of the day anymore”.
  • No wonder she says, “Sir, give me this water”.

How often are we tempted to ignore the hard truths of our faith and look for worldly gratification?
  • If we are His, God will stretch us in directions we don’t want to go – including the deep end.

So, from our text, we see the 2nd “thirst” in need of “quenching” – a lack of understanding and discernment of spiritual truths.
  • Jesus freely offers it to her – His “prescriptive will” in action and another act of love.
  • But will she drink it?


Luke 2:1-7 - The Christmas Story Revisited

Luke 2:1–7 (ESV) — 1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

This Diving Deeper lesson outline is influenced almost entirely by Kenneth Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.
• Taking his advice, we take a fresh look at The Christmas Story and strip away some of the peeling layers of old paint that have covered up the original.
• And in doing so, we are confronted once again with profound questions about tradition and Scripture and how we should teach our children the Bible.


The traditional story goes something like this:
• Joseph and Mary showed up in Bethlehem in the middle of the night.
• Presumably, Joseph had not planned ahead and made arrangements so their only option for lodgings was a room in the local commercial inn.
• When they got to the local inn, it was booked solid; the no vacancy sign was on.
• Dejected, and Mary about to give birth at any moment, Joseph was left with the only choice of finding a cave/stable in which to stay.
• Mary then gave birth that night.
• And the shepherds and wise men came to visit her.

Unfortunately, there are at least (2) main problems with this version of events.
• (1) The translation of the Greek word for “inn”
• (2) A failure to account for the way A.N.E. culture would have influenced the events


What is the inn (Luke 2:7)?
•  In our text, Luke uses the Greek word katályma.
Katályma is the commonly used word for “guest chamber”.
• Strong’s said this “guest chamber” was typically “a dining room where the guests loosened their sandals before they sat down to eat” – Strongs.

In fact, this Greek word is used only two other times in the NT and each is translated as “guest room”.
• Mark 14:14 (ESV) — 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
• Luke 22:11 (ESV) — 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
    o Luke obviously knew what the word meant when he used it.

Interestingly, Young’s Literal Translation of Luke 2:7 is worded as follows:
• Luke 2:7 (YLT) — 7 and she brought forth her son—the first-born, and wrapped him up, and laid him down in the manger, because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.

The Good Samaritan story can also shed some light on the “inn vs. guest room” concept for us.
• Luke 10:34-35 (ESV) — 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
• Significantly, Luke uses a word for “inn” here which is entirely different from our Christmas Story text.
• The Greek word is pandocheíon.
    o It literally means a “place that receives all” – JTME.
    o This was the word for a commercial inn that was “the most widely known across the Middle East” – JTME.
• What is even more telling is that the word for “innkeeper” used here is derived not from katályma, but from pandocheíon – and it is pandocheús.

But we are not done yet, because we also have a problem with the word “room”.
• Notice something else in the YLT version - Luke 2:7 (YLT) — 7 and she brought forth her son—the first-born, and wrapped him up, and laid him down in the manger, because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.
• Where many translations (NIV, ASV, NKJV, NAS) say “room” the ESV and YLT say “place”.
o The Greek word here is topos.
o The word has to do with “having space” not a literal “room” in the way that is thought of when seen as “room in the inn”.

So what are we saying?
• “If Luke expected his readers to think Joseph was turned away from an “inn” he would have used the word pandocheíon, which clearly meant a commercial inn” – Kenneth Bailey, JTME.

So where was the guest-room?
• See picture handout of typical Palestinian home with an attached katályma.
• The katályma is a “guest room in a private home” – JTME.
• This use of the word fits squarely with the usage of the word elsewhere by Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14.

So where was Jesus born; where was the manger?
• In peasant homes of the time, mangers were located in the main part of the house.
• As Kenneth Bailey points out, “Each night into that designated area, the family cow, donkey and a few sheep would be driven. And every morning those same animals were taken out and tied up in the courtyard of the house. The animal stall would then be cleaned for the day”. The animals are put in the house because, “they provide heat in winter and are safe from theft”.

The Bible even reveals this practice of keeping animals in the house:
• 1 Samuel 28:24 (ESV) — 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it,
• Judges 11:31 (ESV) — 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”
    o Jephthah assumed it would be one of his animals not his daughter.
• Luke 13:15 (ESV) — 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?
    o As stated earlier, the animals are taken out of the house (untied) every morning and led out of the house – even on the Sabbath.
    o Interestingly, the phrase used by Luke 13:12, “you are freed” literally means “untied”.
    o And the earliest Arabic version of the NT from the 9th century translates Luke 13:15 as, “does not every one of you untie his ox or his donkey from the manger in the house and take it outside and water it?

So what we are suggesting is that it is likely that Jesus was born in a typical peasant home of the day at the invitation and hospitality of a family related to Joseph.
• The guest room of the house was full and so they were invited to stay in the main part of the house.

But, as stated earlier, we have one more consideration to make that further supports this suggestion.


Cultural considerations that support this view:

(1) The shepherds.
• “If, on arrival, they had found a smelly stable, a frightened young mother and a desperate Joseph, they would have said, ‘This is outrageous! Come home with us! Our women will take care of you!’ Within five minutes the shepherds would have moved the little family to their own homes. The honor of the entire village would rest on their shoulders and they would have sensed their responsibility to do their duty. The fact that they walked out, without moving the family, means that the shepherds felt they could not offer better hospitality than what had already been extended to them” – Bailey, JTME.
• Luke 2:16–20 (ESV) — 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
    o Luke demonstrates not only that the shepherds were satisfied with “all they had heard and seen”, but that they found at Jesus’ birthplace an “all” to whom they made known the angels’ declarations.

(2) Joseph.
• “In the Middle East, historical memories are long, and the extended family, with its connection to its village of origin, is important. In such a world a man like Joseph could have appeared in Bethlehem, and told people, ‘I am Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi’ and most homes in town would be open to him” – JTME.
• Further, Joseph also had royal blood in the line of King David, and being called the “City of David”, inhabitants of the town would have had further reason to welcome him and Mary.

(3) Birthing
• Out of a sense of honor and to avoid shame, any A.N.E. town, such as Bethlehem, would have “sensed its responsibility to help Joseph find adequate shelter for Mary and provide the care she needed” – JTME.
• “To turn away a descendent of David in the “City of David” would be an unspeakable shame on the entire village” – JTME.
• And even if none of this were true, Mary had relatives a few miles away in the hills of Judea – Elizabeth and Zachariah – to which Joseph could have gone.

• It is most likely that, “The manger was in a warm and friendly home, not in a cold and lonely stable” – JTME.
• Joseph was not a bumbling idiot and Mary was not alone – though the men would have left during the birth.
• This is the understanding that is “most authentic to the geography and history of the Holy Land” – JTME.
• Tradition must be evaluated against Scripture!
• Do you think it matters?


My Thoughts on Keathley's Molinism - Contingency, Freewill & Responsibility, and Grace

The following is a brief reply made to a fellow blogger concerning 3 specific issues addressed in Kenneth Keathley's Salvation and Sovereignty. Keathley's book on Molinism seeks to provide a biblical foundation for this view. The book also compares and contrasts this view with Calvinism, primarily, concluding that Molinism provides more satisfying answers on many issues. Three of those issues addressed by the book are a contingent creation, the freewill and responsibility of man, and grace. And these are the 3 that I concern myself with below.

Keathley suggests that on the Calvinist compatibilism view, God’s decisions “to create and to redeem were not contigent but necessary. The god of the determinist is not free to refrain or do otherwise.
  • The contention is that, for the Calvinist, God's "range of options" are limited from the very beginning to just one option.

The problem with his characterization is that it stems from, in my view, a conflation of moral ability and natural ability.
  • Specifically, God is certainly limited by His goodness from doing evil, but He has no limitations in His natural abilities. 
  • And tellingly, Keathley only gives 2 sentences worth of discussion to fleshing these out. 

My opinion is that in order to understand contingency and God from this Calvinist’s view, it is necessary to correctly understand moral ability and natural ability.

Natural ability deals with the powers we have by virtue of being a human being. We can think, walk, talk, see, hear and even make choices. However, there are also some natural abilities that we lack. I would like to fly but I can’t fly (not because of a moral deficiency but a natural deficiency). I would like to be able to move things with my mind but I cannot do so. Now, just as I can use my legs to walk and my eyes to see, I can also use my will to make choices. Choosing is a natural ability that all men possess and use daily” – Jeff Spry.

Moral ability deals with a deficiency that lies within the heart of man. Specifically, it pertains to man’s dead and fallen spiritual nature (which I will have to talk more about later). In this condition, we do not have the moral ability “to break sins allurement” – Piper. All men posses the natural ability to act in obedience to God, but none by default has the moral ability to do so. This does not mean that man is unable to perform moral acts, most certainly, “horizontially speaking”, he is able. But “vertically speaking”, he has no ability to bridge the gap.

What is the point:
In our Natural ability we (saints and sinners) are free to decide what to wear, eat, say, or what to watch on TV or do at any given moment.
  • We consider and deliberate the options and make a choice based on our ability and desire.
  • A week later, we could very well choose to watch an entirely different TV show for whatever reason.

In our Moral ability (saints or sinners) we are free to decide not to lie, cheat, put our wife’s needs ahead of ours, not shoot the neighbor’s cat, etc.
  • Mankind, however, has a problem.
  • Because we are dead in sin, our moral ability is deficient.
  • We have a depraved heart, mind and will.
  • We cannot love God or trust Christ.
  • We rebel against Him; His word is foolishness.
  • We do not have the moral ability to choose Christ on our own (even Keathley acknowledges this...maybe).

It is important to note that fallen man can live a moral and ethical life – most still have that ability.
  • An atheist can choose to refrain from lying to his spouse or not cheat on his taxes, for example, if he desires to do so.
  • If fact, John Frame points out concerning our being made in the image of God that, “part of that image is knowledge of God, which, though repressed (Rom. 1), still exists at some level”.
  • In other words, we have a natural ability to know God and are held accountable on that basis alone.

With Respect to God and His Abilities:
God, however, has no deficiencies in His abilities (something ALL would agree on).
  • And creation out of necessity would indicate some sort of deficiency.
    o Only a God who had a deficiency in ability would have to create out of necessity.
    o And certainly God has abilities we can't even fathom that could further impact the equation.

But, the Calvinist does admit that God is "limited" in his actions without jeopardizing the contingency of creation.

The problem is that Keathley seems to overstate the nature of these limitations.
  • The existence of a perfect moral and natural ability means that God cannot be the author of sin; cannot lie; and, yes, cannot be compelled to create out of necessity; etc.
  • This is because the limitations on God do not mean that he does not have a “range of options” available to Him when deciding to express His perfect desires through His perfect moral and natural abilities.
  • On a side note, I would argue that because God can do whatever He desires without violating what is right, His freedom to do what He desires is perfect – God has perfect freedom!
    o In perfect freedom, there is not creation out of necessity.

A simple illustration will clarify this.
  • Suppose I desire to give $1000 dollars to a charity and have both the moral ability (selflessness) and the natural ability (money) to do so.
  • I have a huge range of options before me through which I can fulfill this desire.
  • Firstly, I can consider and then pick one of thousands of charities after deliberating over a variety of variables.
  • Secondly, I can then choose to give $1,000.00 cash; I can donate an old car; I can give $500 cash and an old computer; I can give a scholarship to support volunteers; and on and on we go.
  • In responding to my heart’s desire, I have not limited my range of choices at all and none were “necessary” but all were contingent.

Likewise, God apparently had a desire to create man to glorify Himself.
  • He could have created whatever world He saw fit, without (in His case) ever violating what was pure, holy, good and just because none of His abilities are deficient and His freedom and desires are perfect.
  • This specific world he chose to create was contingent in that he had any number of options available to Him just as I did in my donation.
  • So God being God in this Calvinist's view does not make creation necessary.

Freewill and Responsibility:
Keathley argues that freedom of the will (soft libertarianism) must exist for man to be held responsible for his sin.
  • He says to be responsible one must be able to make reasonable choices from a range of options.
  • Geisler puts it as follows, “moral obligation implies moral freedom”.

Calvinist Jeff Spry sums this view up as follows:
  • “Libertarians take very seriously the widespread judgment that we are morally responsible for our actions and that moral responsibility requires  freedom [libertarian freewill]. That is, a person cannot be held morally responsible for an act unless he or she was free to perform that act and free to refrain from it.

Moreover, if man lacks the moral ability and moral freedom to choose God, the argument goes, the offer from God is disingenuous and God is the author of man’s sin.
  • Keathley puts like this, “…the Calvinistic message made God in some way or another the author of evil and thus called into question both the justice and the universal love of God.

Keathley says that Calvinism’s compatibilism which he describes as a causal determinism view of freewill, can also be described philosophically as “event causation”.
  • This is in opposition, he says, to the “agent causation” of the libertarian which is what is needed to have “moral freedom”.

He works it out as follows:
  • He explains that Calvinists believe that “all things that happen are caused by sufficient prior conditions such that nothing else could have happened” (not exactly true as explained above).
  • Under Calvinism then, “Adam’s choice to commit the original sin was the effect of a prior chain of causes.
  • And therefore the ultimate “prior condition”, the “event”, or the “determining cause”; the one who tipped over the first domino to get it all started had to be God.

BTW – He fails to consider, however, that the only way to truly philosophically escape this conclusion, even under his view, is to argue that man created himself, that man was his own first cause.
  • Any view that holds God as the source of man’s will (creator) is vulnerable to this accusation.
  • This is simply because God could have made a different world or a different kind of will (one impervious to temptation, for example), but God chose to make the world we are in.
Keathley, to drive home his point even further, then proceeds to hold up R.C. Sproul, Jr. as the Calvinist representative on the issue and suggests that, as appalling as R.C. Sproul Jr.’s view is, it is really the only intellectually honest view a Calvinist can have.
  • This approach is as disappointing as it is disingenuous.
  • As one so concerned with what a genuine offer of the Gospel must look like, why would he abandon a concern for genuineness at this point in dealing with the Calvinist view.

This Calvinist’s view of responsibility:
We are NOT accountable to God due to a choice made in the context of libertarian freewill.

Profoundly, we ARE responsible for our actions before God because He, as Creator, has spoken to us and thereby obligated us!
  • Genesis 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
  • Exodus 20:1–3 (ESV) — 1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me…
  • John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • Romans 1:20 (ESV) — 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

In other words it is NOT, “Why am I accountable for my sin?”
  • Well, because I freely chose to disobey (free from influence from my moral deficiencies) thereby validating that the Gospel invitation is genuine and I am truly guilty.

It IS like this, “Why am I accountable for my sin?”
  • Because God spoke to me
And, “Why is the Gospel offer genuine?”
  • Because God spoke it and Christ’s resurrection vindicated it.

Oshea Davis has the following take on it:
"In order to be responsible freedom is not required, but sovereignty. Romans 8:7 shows mankind without freedom to obey God and yet God will hold these responsible for this very thing. Without a sovereign parent a child is not responsible, without a sovereign government a citizen is not responsible. It is for the very reason we are not free and God is All Sovereignty over us that we are responsible. Any more than this adds to our responsibility, but only this is needed."

The offer of the Gospel cannot be deemed genuine because of something in man (freewill)!
  • This is presupposition and worldly philosophy run amuck.
  • This flatly usurps God’s sovereignty.
  • The Gospel is genuine because it is from God and He spoke it.
  • We are responsible because He spoke and thereby obligated us.
  • Or in the words of John Frame, “revelation [God’s words/speaking] is so clear that it obligates belief and obedience leaving us without excuse”.

By speaking, God healed the blind; multiplied food; turned water into wine; raised the dead; made the lame walk; cast out demons; created the world; turned away temptation; and obligated man – all for His glory.
  • And in no case was cooperation required prior to His work; they/it responded after the work was done.

What’s more, using Keathley’s logic, it MUST BE that God had a range of choices available to him at the time of creation from which He could choose to make man responsible that did NOT include and necessitate the existence of libertarian freewill.
  • If libertarian freewill were necessary, then contingency, as the libertarian understands it, is in jeopardy.

On the Calvinist view, however, God desired to create a world in which man was responsible to Him and thus created the very world He desired to create.
  • Yet, like the charity example above, He had any number of choices available to Him in which He could make this world while still being true to His desire to create it.
  • Therefore, it is possible (in the range of choices available to Him) that He made us responsible by obligating us by his Word, NOT by libertarian freewill.

Another consideration:
  • “We must accept what the Bible teaches, which is: God is sovereign; Man acts according to his nature; Man is responsible. The only way the statements above can be considered contradictory is for one to bring a 4th statement into the situation: Man cannot be responsible or free unless he possesses libertarian free will” – Jeff Spry.
  • And it is my opinion that this is exactly what the Molinist/Arminian is doing.
    o They are trying to comport Scripture with a worldly philosophical presupposition.
    o And though I am sympathetic with their concern, I think it is completely unfounded.

And finally:
Freedom is not contradictory to sovereignty. However, autonomy is! To be autonomous (auto=“self” and nomos=“law”) is to be a law unto yourself. To be autonomous is to be self-governing and answerable to no one else. To be autonomous is to be absolutely free. Only God is autonomous and absolutely free” – Jeff Spry.

Keathley expresses a good deal of agreement with the Calvinist on man’s relationship to God’s grace.
  • Keathley agrees that man does not have the moral ability to choose God when he says, “In short, they [Calvinists] contend that the lost do not have the capacity in their natural state [moral ability] to turn to God. So far, so good; on this point there is universal agreement”.
  • He even concedes that, “The Holy Spirit must be the one who brings a person to saving faith”.

However, I think it is important to have a clear understanding of this depravity and consider the fact that logically Keathley’s position cannot actually remain valid and embrace what he says it does.

John Piper sums up our depravity nicely with the following when he says that, apart from the new birth:
  • We are dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-2).
  • We are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
  • We love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19-20).
  • Our hearts are hard like stone (Ezek. 36:26; Eph. 4:18).
  • We are unable to submit to God or please God (Rom 8:7-8).
  • We are unable to accept the gospel (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).
  • We are unable to come to Christ or embrace him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 12:3).
  • We are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17).
  • We are slaves of Satan (Eph. 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
  • No good thing dwells in us (Rom. 7:18).

An important implication of this is that the unbelievers’ problem is not simply an intellectual one rooted in his reason and will, but a profound moral inability as discussed earlier.
  • This is why John Frame says that we do not, “appeal merely to the unbelievers reason and will, for his will is bound by sin and his reason seeks to distort, not affirm, the truth…he seeks to operate his reason autonomously and thus is deep in error from the outset”.

So the million dollar question is, what is it about a "dead" man that can respond to God’s grace?
  • Is it nothing or something, it can’t be both.

But, Keathley tries to have it both ways.
  • “God must graciously invade the darkness of a person’s heart”.
  • The Holy Spirit and gospel “enable a response that a lost person does not intrinsically have the ability to give”.

And then he gets trapped by the question (philosophical presupposition) that comes up over and over in his book (which I addressed earlier) – “how can presenting the gospel to those from whom God withholds the ability to respond be in good faith?
  • In other words, man must have something in him that can respond.
  • This seems to completely contradicts his previous concessions.
  • In fact, his ambulatory description of God’s grace confirms this contradiction.

He suggests that God’s grace is an ambulance that is transporting all to salvation.
  • He concludes that, “The only thing that could stop it is if, inexplicably, a person decides to refuse”.
  • And later he says, “The mystery of exactly why one says ‘no’ to grace remains unsolved”.

The problem he seemed to forget about is that man is dead before he even is put into the ambulance.
  • He doesn’t decide to refuse – refusal is his default position; this is what depravity is; this is what moral deficiency is.
  • There is no neutral position from which to decide – man is not autonomous.

And in contradicting himself he also reduces the unbeliever’s problem to one of his reason and will.
  • Jeff Spry puts it like this, “The true nature of sin and guilt is denied. Sinners are told they are guilty of a major mistake of not accepting the wonderful benefits that God longs to give them. His unbelief is really no more than a mistake…At the point where a helpless sinner needs God’s help and power the most, the sinner is pointed away from God and told to look to himself. He is told that God has done all He can do”.

I still have to whole-heartedly agree with John Piper.
  • “The new birth is something that happens in us when the Holy Spirit takes our dead hearts and unites us to Christ by faith so that his life becomes our life” – John Piper.
Granted, the Calvinist is left with wondering why one man is chosen and not another.
  • But this mystery resides in God where it should reside.
  • Keathley turns this on its head and says, “The mystery of exactly why one says ‘no’ to grace remains unsolved”.
  • He usurps the prerogative of God to act mysteriously with His Grace and moves the mystery to man.

Unfortunately, I believe Keathley holds the same presuppositions as the Arminian and so suffers the same problems from a Calvinist's point of view.
  • He elevates man to having a neutral, autonomous position while sacrificing God’s sovereignty.
  • The validation of a sincere gospel offer rests, not in God, but in man.
  • God is implicated in evil, unless there is a certain kind of will in man.
  • The ambulance (God’s grace) will bring the sinner to salvation, but, alas, man.
  • And as just stated, he takes the mystery of God’s grace and makes it the mystery of man’s rejection.
  • Also, he says its grace alone, but…it’s not really.
  • And he says man in his depravity can’t choose God, but…he can really.

Admittedly, there is much to be learned from this book, and I will turn to it frequently.
  • In fact, some of his insights can be accommodated to a reformed view of man and salvation.
  • This notion of middle knowledge is certainly intriguing, but not necessary on a reformed view.
  • Ultimately, though, I am not a convert .


John 3:31-36 - Bears Witness to the Wrath of God

John 3:31–36 (ESV) — 31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

The title of this Diving Deeper lesson outline comes from John 3:36, "but the wrath of God remains on him".
• These eight words seem to be so much at odds with John 3:16, that we must try and reconcile them.
• And in so doing, we will learn just how much the sinner is at enmity with God.
• There is no autonomous, neutral stance!

But to set up that discussion, we need to get a general sense of the “heavenly” and “earthly” elements of our text today.


John tells us that Jesus “comes from heaven”, and because of that He:
• Is above all
• Bears witness to heavenly things
• Utters the Father’s words
• Has the Spirit without measure
• Has been given all things

By implication, then, whatever Jesus teaches is the transcendent and absolute Truth!
• And with the fact of His resurrection, all that he taught was shown to have been true; his ministry was vindicated.
• John 2:22 (ESV) — 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

No surprises here, but there is another element that John discusses.


John goes on to tell us those “who belong to the earth” (John the Baptist specifically and humanity generally) respond to the heavenly (Jesus) in either one of two ways.
• There is no third choice.
• There is no neutral stance.

And this was no different in the OT.
• Joshua 24:15 (ESV) — 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
• 1 Kings 18:21 (ESV) — 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

1st Choice – Believe in Him:
John describes these people as –
• Receiving the testimony (vs. 33) – “receives his testimony
• Acknowledging the truth of God (vs. 33) – “sets his seal to this, that God is true
• Entering into, now and at death, eternal life (vs. 36) – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life
    o “The present tense “has” in the phrase “has eternal life” indicates that eternal life is not merely a future expectation but already a present experience” – A. Kostenberger.

2nd Choice (Man's Default Position) – Do Not Believe in Him:
John describes these people as –
• Speaking in an “earthly” way (vs. 31) – “speaks in an earthly way
• Rejecting the testimony of Jesus (vs. 32) – “no one receives his testimony
• They will not see life (vs. 36) – “shall not see life
• The wrath of God remains on them (vs. 36) – “but the wrath of God remains on them
    o Please notice that it does not come upon them, but remains on them.
    o Being under the wrath of God is humanity’s default position.
    o Therefore, logically, those that believe are removed outside of God’s wrath!

Based on what does this movement or transaction of believers relationship to wrath occur?
• Romans 5:9 (ESV) — 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
• 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
• 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (ESV) — 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

In order to tie this in with what we have learned thus far in John 3, who are those that are “not destined” for wrath?
• Those that Jesus’ trusts
• The born again
• Those that “look upon” Jesus’ work on the cross in belief

Now, what is the wrath of God from which believers are removed and in which unbelievers remain?


The clinical definition (TDNT) is that wrath is both an action of God against sin and the alienation from God by those who are under it.
• It occurs throughout history and at the final judgment.
• It is not a capricious “petty tirade” or just a “function of His personality” as exhibited by pagan God’s of the ANE.
    o It is an expression of both His holiness and justice.
    o “God’s wrath is not some impersonal principle of retribution, but the personal response of a holy God who comes to his own world, sadly fallen into rebellion, and finds few who want anything to do with him. Such people are ‘condemned already’” – D.A. Carson.
• It is a prerogative of God to act in wrath against creation because, as Creator, He is sovereign over it.
• “It is not a permanent attribute of God. For whereas love and holiness are part of his essential nature, wrath is contingent upon human sin: if there were no sin there would be no wrath” – TDNT.
    o Do you agree with this statement?

Of course, put simply, God’s wrath means that, “He intensely hates all sin” – Wayne Grudem.
• Or, as Martin Luther put it, it is the backhand of God’s love.

In fact, to drive home the necessity of a holy God acting in wrath consider the following question that Wayne Grudem proposes:
If you had to list attributes of a God that was not worthy of worship, what would some of those attributes be?
Surely, sin is worthy of both being hated and judged?

Biblically, God’s wrath is well documented in both the OT and NT.
The Old Testament:
• Exodus 22:21–24 (ESV) — 21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
• Exodus 32:9–10 (ESV) — 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
• Deuteronomy 9:7–8 (ESV) — 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.
• 2 Kings 22:13 (ESV) — 13 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
• Psalm 78:21–22 (ESV) — 21 Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, 22 because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power.
    o In fact, in Romans 11:20, Paul says unbelieving Israel was broken off so that the believing Gentiles might be grafted in to the “nourishing root of the olive tree”.
• Isaiah 30:27–28 (ESV) — 27 Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire; 28 his breath is like an overflowing stream that reaches up to the neck; to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction, and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray.
• Jeremiah 50:25 (ESV) — 25 The LORD has opened his armory and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Lord GOD of hosts has a work to do in the land of the Chaldeans.

The New Testament:
• Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
• Romans 2:5 (ESV) — 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
• Colossians 3:6 (ESV) — 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
• 1 Thessalonians 2:16 (ESV) — 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!
• Revelation 6:16–17 (ESV) — 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

BTW – As evidenced by just a few NT verses, “It is not accurate to say, as some have said, that God is a God of justice in the Old Testament and a God of love in the New Testament. God is, and always has been, infinitely just and infinitely loving as well. And everything he does in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, is completely consistent with both of those attributes” – Wayne Grudem.
• And of course, our text today makes this clear as well, “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”.

From a survey of these verses, we can see examples of sins that have incurred the wrath of God throughout history.
• Idolatry
• Rebellion
• Covenant Trespass
• Pagan Arrogance and/or Israel’s Enemies
• Unbelief – as clearly revealed in our text.

Curiously, the first four examples are more prevalent in the OT, with the fifth being more prevalent in the NT.
• It seems that with the advent of the new covenant, the focus of God’s wrath, at least for the NT writers, became the unbelief of sinners.
• In point of fact, in a slightly different tone from the OT's words about Israel's Pagan oppressors, Paul says the following about the necessity of obedience to the governing authorities [Rome]:
    o Romans 13:4 (ESV) — 4 for he [secular ruler appointed by God] is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
    o BTW – this demonstrates another avenue through which God’s wrath is revealed.
So, why is there comparatively less talk of God’s wrath against Israel’s enemies like Rome, or the pagan temple cults, etc., in the NT?

I think the answer can be found in one of the most violent and costly occasions of God’s wrath.

Matthew 26:39 (ESV) — 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
• Let the cup of what pass from Him?
• Most believe Jesus’ words allude to the “cup of his wrath” as spoken of in the OT.
• Jeremiah 25:15–16 (ESV) — 15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”
• Isaiah 51:17 (ESV) — 17 Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.

In my opinion, this narrowing of focus was intended to ultimately point us directly to the relationship between God’s wrath and Jesus.
• The cross was the place where God’s wrath was born by the Son of Man for the sake of believers
    o Part of the advent of the new covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31.
• In fact, going back to our definition of God’s wrath, we see both elements in play on the cross.
    o Not only did Jesus bear the wrath of God (action of God), He was also alienated from God while bearing that wrath – “My God, My God, why have your forsaken me?

Therefore, even the exercise of God’s wrath points us, urges us, and directs us towards Jesus, as both its recipient for our sake, and even as its arbiter at His 2nd Coming!

Moving on, so that we can, again, tie God’s wrath in with what we have learned thus far in John 3, let’s now consider the following:
• We previously learned, concerning Christ’s work on the cross, that “…all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." [But all men are not] intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way” – John Piper.
• See lesson on John 3:16-21 for the details.

Our text today provides further insight into this principal.
• We have seen that believers are no longer under God’s wrath and that they have entered into eternal life, in some sense, even while they yet live.
• Yet, unbelievers are, in some sense, not yet finally condemned and even “live long and prosper”.
Why is this?
    o Romans 2:4 (ESV) — 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
    o 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) — 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

It appears that God’s patience mitigates the immediate exercise of His wrath on mankind.
• John told us in verse John 3:16 that God loved a sinful world.
• And the fact that this planet, and all that it contains, continues to exist from moment to moment, bears witness to the fact that an expression of this love is God’s patience.

But the world should never mistake God’s patience as evidence of a “neutral” state before God.
• For as we have said already, John makes plainly clear that there are only 2 responses to Christ – Believe or Do Not Believe.
• And, in spite of God’s patience for the unbeliever, “the wrath of God remains on him”.
• Even Peter follows up his talk of God’s patience in verse 9 with the following from verse 10:
    o 2 Peter 3:10 (ESV) — 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Lessons for Us:
• John’s third chapter presents us with one of the deepest discussions on salvation and its relationship to the new birth, the Holy Spirit, Jesus work in the cross, God’s love and God’s wrath that you will find in the Bible.
• John makes clear that humanity can respond to all of this in either one of two ways.
• And we are fully responsible before God for whichever choice we make.
• What about you –
    o Are you a born again believer that chose to trust in Jesus’ testimony and his work on the cross?
    o Or, do you still “belong to the earth” and reject the testimony of Jesus Christ?
    o There are no other options!
    o You, right now, are either removed from God’s wrath or you remain under it.


John 3:22-30 - He Must Increase


John 3:22–24 (ESV) — 22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

In our text today, we have something peculiar taking place.
• Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ are baptizing “at Aenon near Salim”.
• And each has his own disciples with him.
• And, in spite of Jesus presence, people were still coming to John for baptism.

Something that makes it even more peculiar is that both groups were doing water baptisms.

How do we know this?
• The geographical location – “Aenon” is a Semitic term meaning “springs” – A. Kostenberger.
• The comment that John was “also” baptizing there (his was a water baptism).
• And the question in verse 25 concerning purification, which was a Jewish concern, “over the matter of ceremonial washing…not on the relative merits of the baptism administered by John versus the baptism administered by Jesus” – D.A. Carson.
• Therefore, “the context requires that this be taken as water baptism, not the baptism in the Holy Spirit the Baptist promised Jesus would administer [Matthew 3:11]” – D.A. Carson.

So what we don’t have going on explicitly is:
• Folks coming to John for his water of repentance baptism.
• And then folks heading over to Jesus for His Holy Spirit baptism.

POI - Did Jesus personally baptize?
• “Only the Fourth Gospel mentions that Jesus baptized, and 4:2 specifies that he himself did not perform the rite but left it to his disciples” – D.A. Carson.
• John 4:2 (ESV) — 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

So a couple of questions obviously arise:
Why did John the Baptist continue to fulfill his heavenly call of a water baptism of repentance even though Christ’s ministry was underway?
• The answer I found over and over is “Perhaps John continued his ministry of baptism so as to have further opportunity to bear witness to Jesus as the Christ” – Kostenberger.
• This answer is valid only if the scene as presented in our text today really does “bear witness to Jesus as the Christ” and increases Jesus’ standing while decreasing John’s.

So, this leads us to our second question.
Did the event described in our text (an overlapping ministry) “bear witness to Jesus as the Christ”?
• To answer that question, we need to get a little background.

POI – What is the purpose of verse 24?
• “Rather than representing a discrepancy with the Synoptics, the Fourth Evangelist seeks to clarify the chronology, indicating that everything that happened up to this point in his Gospel took place prior to John’s imprisonment by Herod Antipas, which is recorded in Mark 1:14” – Kostenberger.

So back to our “bear witness to Jesus as the Christ” question.

Background we need to know:
(1) John was divinely called to do this.
(2) And his ministry was a fulfillment of prophecy.
• Luke 3:2–4 (ESV) — 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
(3) John had “achieved a great deal of popularity as a result of his preaching” – Boice.
• Luke tells us that “crowds”, “tax collectors”, “soldiers” all came to hear him preach.
• Matthew tells us in Matthew 3:5 (ESV) — 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him,
• Mark tells us in Mark 6:20 (ESV) — 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
    o Even the powerful were attracted to John’s ministry

So from points (1) and (2), we see that he continued his ministry out of obedience to his call and in fulfillment of prophecy.
• And in this obedience he did “bear witness to Christ”.
    o John 1:29 (ESV) — 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

And from point (3), we will see that our text today will demonstrate to us the nature of his obedience.
• John’s obedience was a humble obedience not a calculated or self-serving obedience.
• Facing competition and declining success, John could have easily been tempted to:
    o Quit and go back to a safe, normal life.
    o Or even to join up with Jesus; we know that a couple of his disciples did (John 1:37).

But John kept going in humble obedience.
How exactly did he do this and how did it “bear witness to Christ”?
• John’s words to his disciples will flesh this out for us.


John 3:25–30 (ESV) — 25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I believe a preview of how John’s humble obedience “bore witness to Christ” can be found in the following observation:
• For John to halt his ministry at the onset of Jesus’ would have been done under the influence of worldly considerations:
    o “My ministry is waning and Jesus’ is growing – I should quit while I’m ahead”.
    o “My ministry must not be as good as His because I’m losing my own disciples and some of the crowd to His ministry.”
    o “My ministry is just a distraction from Christ’s, so it is time to stop”.

But this is not what John the Baptist said or did.
• He used the John/Jesus baptizing event to “bear witness to Christ” with his humble obedience.
• And he did this in at least 5 ways.

John 3:25 (ESV) — 25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.
• As mentioned earlier, this was question about Jewish stuff not Jesus/John stuff.
• Or as Kostenberger puts it, the question was a concern over the relationship between water baptism and “more traditional ceremonies practiced in contemporary Judaism.

John 3:26 (ESV) — 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”
• In the course of this discussion between the Jew and John’s disciples, John’s disciples came to John to point out something that obviously was a concern to them – a worldly one that we alluded to earlier.
• In the words of James Boice, “This was the same as saying, “John, your star is sinking. What shall we do?

John 3:27–28 (ESV) — 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’
• In reply to their worldly concern, John, once again, “bore witness to Christ” and made much of Him.
• John, in verse 27, discloses a profound truth.
• Our ministries for the kingdom are bestowed by God from heaven to serve Him – (1) God is sovereign.
• They are not bestowed by man to serve the interests of man.
• That means, for John, not only was his ministry but Christ’s also was bestowed from heaven.
• And as measured by John’s words and actions, he, “was entirely content with his” ministry – D.A. Carson.

This wisdom expressed by John discloses another profound truth – (2) a right understanding of his ministry.
• The value and effectiveness of His ministry was not determined by comparing it to another’s, but by following the ministry through, in all obedience, no matter the cost.
• In other words, John is not capitulating to the circumstances and reluctantly accepting his “defeat”.
• He is wholeheartedly embracing God’s will both in his ministry and Christ’s!

And it is this attitude of John the Baptist that enables him to be humbly obedient in spite of the worldly concerns of his disciples and worldly temptations that were buffeting him.
• He declares, in recognition and full acceptance of the ministry given him by God, “I am not the Christ”.
• “For John the Baptist to have wished he were someone else, called to serve in a way many would judge more prominent, would simply be covetousness by another name; if the person he envied were the Messiah himself, he would be annulling the excellent ministry God had given him” – D.A. Carson.

So the message given by John loud and clear to his disciples and to us is:
• “If the newcomer was attracting and winning more followers than John himself, this was not because he was stealing them away from John or acting dishonestly in presenting his claims. It was because God was giving them to Christ to be his followers” – James Boice.
• And the benefit to anyone’s ministry in recognizing “that all spiritual insight and advance comes from God is to be freed from jealous efforts at comparison” – James Boice.

John goes on and continues to “bear witness to Christ” in his humble obedience in 2 more ways.

John 3:29 (ESV) — 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
• John makes mention of the bride, the bridegroom and the “friend” or best man.
• Clearly, John sees himself as the best man.
• He sees Jesus as the bridegroom.
• And, “In light of the OT background where Israel is depicted as “the bride of Yahweh”, the Baptist is suggesting that Jesus is Israel’s [the bride’s] awaited king and messiah” – Kostenberger.
    o And we know that ultimately, the bride of Christ is the Church as Paul says in Ephesians 5:25 (ESV) — 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

So with these words, John is downplaying himself and not only (3) fixing his eyes on Christ but also (4) pointing all in the direction of Christ.
• The fact of this can be demonstrated with the following cultural insight.
• In the A.N.E., the best man was “absolutely prohibited” from marrying the bride.
• So when John identifies himself with the best man, he is acknowledging that the salvation of Israel is Jesus’ God given ministry and not his.
• His support and his eyes are firmly fixed on the heavenly ordained ministry of Christ.
• And he invites us and his disciples to do the same, thereby pointing to Christ as Messiah.
• And he explicitly states that in this knowledge his joy “is now complete”.
    o As mentioned earlier, another example of embracing and expressing God’s will.

And finally, John brings us to one of the fundamental truths of any effective ministry, and the 5th way he he uses the occasion to “bear witness to Christ”.

John 3:30 (ESV) — 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
• With these words, John reveals what ultimately defines a successful ministry – (5) the glorification of Christ.
• Whether his ministry succeeded in the eyes of the world (his disciples) or not was irrelevant.
• His aim was humble obedience to his heavenly ordained ministry.
• And in seeking to understand the practice of John’s humble obedience, we can point to the words of A.W. Pink, “Humility is not the product of direct cultivation, rather it is a by-product. The more I try to be humble, the less shall I attain unto humility. But if I am truly occupied with that One who was ‘meek and lowly in heart,’ if I am constantly beholding His glory in the mirror of God’s Word, then shall I be ‘changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord’ (2 Cor. 3:18).”
• John’s ministry truly led to the “by-product” of humble obedience!
• And this statement was again an affirmation of God’s sovereignty, for who would determine when John’s time had come and his ministry was over?

So this leads us back to our second question from the beginning of our lesson.
• We saw that John was simply being obedient.
• But we wondered how that obedience could be helpful at this point in the story.
How did John’s ministry during the onset of Jesus’ ministry “bear witness to Christ”?

It did so because John’s obedience was a humble obedience as demonstrated in the following (Boice):
(1) Recognizing and submitting to the sovereignty of God.
(2) Knowing and understanding his ministry in light of God’s will, directives and expectations, not the world’s.
(3) Fixing his eyes on Christ and His desire to save and establish his Church – John was only the best man.
(4) Pointing and leading others to Christ.
(5)The final factor in John’s humility was his knowledge of the fact that whatever might happen in this world, whatever glory the world might or might not give him, the ultimate outcome would be increase of the glory given to Jesus Christ and the bowing of every human knee before him” – James Boice.

At first glance, it made no since that John would continue in his ministry after Jesus’ started His.
• In fact, the other three Gospels leave this info out all together.
• But, clearly, we have seen that what can make little worldly since, can make heavenly since.
• However, one necessary ingredient for this to be the case is humble obedience.
• John the Baptist has unequivocally set that example for us.

Lesson for Us:
What is your heavenly ordained ministry in the Church?
How do you evaluate its success – with heavenly or worldly standards?
Do your actions and attitudes “increase” Christ or yourself?


John 3:16-21 - Two Worlds, Two Whoevers, Two Wills

John 3:16–21 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

In John 2:23-25, John showed us why Jesus does not believe in man.
• The heart of man is depraved, full of sin and iniquity and is incapable of saving faith.

In John 3:1-13, John revealed to us the nature of the new birth.
• The new birth is something made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit.
• It is a regeneration of the heart which makes saving faith possible.

In John 3:14-15, John introduced the necessity of Jesus work on the cross.
• It is our belief in the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross as punishment for our sins that is the object of our saving faith.

In our text today, John 3:16-21, John explains both the reason God chose to provide for us the object of our saving faith and the consequences of having or not having saving faith.
• In order to really dig deep into these verses, we will look at the implications developed “behind” the text.
• We are introduced to 3 concepts – Two Worlds, Two Whoevers, Two Wills.
• We will deal first with Two Worlds.


John 3:17 (ESV) — 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

We get a glimpse of these “Two Worlds” in verse 17.
• John tells us Jesus as Messiah did not come to condemn or pass judgment on the world.
• He came to save it.
• John echoes this same thought in chapter 12.
    o John 12:47–48 (ESV) — 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

Judge” or “Condemn” is the Greek word “krima”.
• It is an action whereby the righteous are approved and the wicked are condemned – Strongs.
• From this, we can see that John is telling us that the purpose of Christ’s incarnation was the first action and not the second.
• God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die (the action) to save those that would “look at the bronze serpent and live” (John 3:14-15).
• The “First World” is the one which contains “the action” of Christ’s work on the cross that believers might be saved.

From this observation we can conclude what the “Second World” is.
• Revelation 20:13–15 (ESV) — 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
• The “Second World” is the one which contains “the action” of Christ’s judgment of the unbelievers.
• That action is the 2nd coming of Christ.

So we have a clear picture of the world about which John was talking in our text today; it is the “First World”.

However, it doesn’t take long to discover that within John, there are some apparent contradictions to what we have just learned.
• John 5:27 (ESV) — 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
• John 9:39 (ESV) — 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

These verses answer squarely those that try to argue that “Jesus didn’t come to judge us”.
• But, how do we reconcile them with John’s words in verse 17?
• We know that whatever judgment Jesus is talking about, it is not the “Second World” judgment.

The world into which Christ came was not a neutral one morally and in relation to the truth of God.
• Christ, the Light and the Truth, came into a wicked and fallen world.
    o Remember, in John 2:25 we are told that Christ couldn’t believe in men because he knew what was in them.
• So when Christ shed His Light and Truth into this “First World” there were and are unavoidable consequences for unbelievers.
• There is a judgment taking place – just not the “Second World” judgment.
• “The provision of “salvation for all who believe implies judgment for those who do not believe”; while “the purpose of Christ’s coming was redemptive, when His saving work is rejected, judgment results. Even though judgment results from unbelief, condemnatory judgment was not the purpose of the incarnation” – Andreas Kostenberger.

This implied judgment is why John says as much when he tells us in our text today:
• John 3:19–21 (ESV) — 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
    o When Christ’s light shines, judgment is unavoidable.

Now let’s deal with the Two Whoevers that reside in the world Christ came to save.


John 3:18–21 (ESV) — 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

BTW – The contrasts presented here are another excellent example of what we discussed in the Heart and Mind of Belief lesson.
• Born again believers with regenerated hearts think and thus act in the direction and presence of the Light.
• Unbelievers with wicked hearts think and thus act in the direction and presence of darkness.

Moving on, our text must be understood in light of the “Whoevers”.
• Remember, Jesus is telling Nico about being born again (what makes saving faith possible) and the cross (the object of our saving faith).
• In our text today, John is revealing the consequences of the presence or absence of saving faith.
• And John does this by introducing us to the Whoevers (ESV).

The first “Whoevers” John describes as the following:
• They believe
• They come to light
• They are not condemned
• They do truth
• These are the people described to Nicodemus as the born again in John 3:1-8 and thus have saving faith.

The second “Whoevers” John describes as the following:
• They don’t believe
• They hate the light
• They are condemned
• They do wickedness
• These are the people John tells us about in John 2:23-25; they have no saving faith.

There is no 3rd option.
• All of humanity is either the first or the second Whoever.
• You are either in the light (3:21) or you are in the darkness (3:19-20).

To understand the gravity and consequences of the Whoevers, we need to answer the following:
Which Whoever does Jesus say will “see the kingdom of God” in 3:3?
Which Whoever does Jesus describe to Nico as able to “enter the kingdom of God” in 3:5?
Which Whoever does Jesus say understands “heavenly things” in 3:12?
Which Whoever does Jesus send His only begotten Son in 3:16 to save?
Which Whoever “is not condemned” in 3:18?
Which Whoever “comes to the light” in 3:21?

This leads us to an obvious question, did God even send Jesus into the “First World” for the “Second Whoevers”?
• Our next section on Two Wills will help us answer this question.


John 3:16a (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world…”
• John goes on to tell us that an expression of this love that God has for the world is demonstrated in Christ.

But implicit in John’s declaration of God’s love is that His love for the world has a purpose.
• In other words, it is not a flimsy, superficial, feel-good, worldly love.
• For God to express His love to the world in Christ, is God expressing an intention He has for the world.

And this intention or purpose is what leads us in these verses to a discussion of the Two Wills of God.
• Understanding the Two Wills of God will help us further understand our text today and answer the question mentioned earlier, “Did God send Jesus into the “First World” for the “Second Whoevers?”

What are the Two Wills of God?
(1) God’s Prescriptive Will
• This is God prescribing what HUMANITY SHOULD DO.
• God desires for everyone to respond to gospel with belief and bring them under His saving grace.
• However, God’s Prescriptive Will is often disobeyed.

Examples of God’s Prescriptive Will:
• 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV) — 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
• 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) — 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
• Matthew 23:37 (ESV) — 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

(2) God’s Decretive (Decreed) Will
• This is God determining what HE WILL DO.
• God does not save the unbeliever, but brings him under His holy and just wrath.
• God’s Decretive Will is always accomplished.

Examples of God’s Decretive Will:
• Acts 18:9–10 (ESV) — 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
• John 12:37–40 (ESV) —37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
• Romans 1:18; 24–25 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

An implication of God’s Two Wills:
Does all of humanity “come to knowledge of the truth” or “reach repentance”?
• No, and in fact Scripture tells us they “would not” in spite of the fact that “God so loved the world…”
• God wants them to, but because they are the “Second Whoevers”, Scripture tells us “they could not believe”.
• So God’s salvation is, on the Prescriptive level, available to all, but on the Decretive level, only for a few (Matt 7:13-14).
• “The free offer of the gospel is broad enough to encompass the vilest sinner (1 Tim. 1:15), yet narrow enough to exclude all who reject Christ (John 3:18)” – John MacArthur.

So as asked earlier, did God send Jesus into the “First World” for the “Second Whoevers?”
• It seems the answer is yes, but not in the same way as for the First Whoevers.
• John Piper says, “…all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." [But all men are not] intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way.”

Here is how this is best understood:
• Prescriptively, we learned that clearly God loves the Second Whoevers and wants them to be saved.
• And Jesus had to come for that to ever be a possibility.
• But Decretively, they are not the beneficiaries of God’s work on the cross in the same way as the born again are because God’s holiness must condemn the unbeliever.

How do we know they don’t benefit the same way?
• John 3:17–18 (ESV) — 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
    o Here, John tells us Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but then in verse 18 qualifies his statement with “whoever believes” is not condemned and “whoever does not believe is condemned already”.
    o There is a clear difference in how the Two Whoevers relate to the “Son of God” – the first have saving faith and the second do not.

But how do the Second Whoevers benefit from the cross?
• “How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ's death so clearly demonstrates God's just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness. In this sense Christ is the savior of all men. If God sent Jesus in the same way for everybody, everyone would be saved” – John Piper.

And another way to dig into the Two Wills of God is via the following questions:
Did God send Christ to die hoping that people would believe (prescriptive will)?
Did God send Christ to die knowing that people would believe (decretive will)?
    o And did He know simply because He knew the future or because He chose them ahead of time?

Lesson for Us:
• If God wants to save everybody why doesn’t He?
• This question may not have a good answer this side of heaven, but Piper urges us to realize that God is glorified in this First World with the consequences incurred by both Whoevers.
• “The coming of Jesus into the world clarifies that unbelief is our fault, and belief is God’s gift. Which means that if we do not come to Christ, but rather perish eternally, we magnify God’s justice. And if we do come to Christ and gain eternal life, we magnify God’s grace” – John Piper.


John 3:9–15 – Jesus Makes it Personal: Jesus and Being Born Again

John 3:9–15 (ESV) — 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Since entering chapter 3, we have learned:
• (1) How Jesus sees us – as totally depraved with sin.
• (2) The Heart and Mind of belief – the desires of the heart lead to the designs of the mind which lead to action.
    o Therefore, as goes the heart, so go the designs of the mind, and so go our actions.
    o For example, a born again heart produces a born again mind which leads to born again actions – belief, repentance, confession, etc. – our new nature in Christ.
    o A depraved heart leads to a depraved mind and actions.
       *Philippians 3:19 (ESV) — 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
• (3) What it is to be Born Again – the Holy Spirit regenerating our heart.

In our text today Jesus makes His conversation with Nicodemus personal; He makes it about Himself.
• As a result, we learn what Jesus has to do with being Born Again.

We also see a change in tone and tactic with how Jesus had been dealing with Nicodemus inquiries.
• And it seems to me that Jesus had a specific, constructive reason for this.
• In my opinion, what we have from Jesus in our text today is a challenge from Jesus to Nicodemus to rethink what he always thought he knew about Truth of Scripture.


There is no such thing as a dumb question?
John 3:9 (ESV) — 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

As we examined last week, even though Nicodemus was caught up in a works based salvation, the OT he would have known so well, contained the very truths about which Jesus spoke.
• Ezekiel 36:25–27 (ESV) — 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Yet even after Jesus alluded to Ezekiel as we discussed last week, Nicodemus remained unconvinced.
• He continued to question Jesus about this Born Again business.
• It seems that Nicodemus just couldn’t fathom that God could and would make a provision for the “heart of flesh” that Ezekiel taught about.
• And this provision from God was standing right before Nicodemus and he simply didn’t get it.
• In his mind, Jesus was simply “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2).

Jesus Changes His Tone and Tactic:
Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus’ was not an explanation, as it was in John 3:3 and John 3:5, but more of a condemnation.
• John 3:10 (ESV) — 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

Jesus seems to be telling Nicodemus that he does not know Scripture as well as he ought or as well as he thinks he does.
• This is because from Jesus’ point of view, Scripture is clear on the issue.

And the idea of God creating in us a new heart was not just to be found in Ezekiel.
• Deuteronomy 10:16 (ESV) — 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
• Psalm 51:10 (ESV) — 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
• Psalm 73:1 (ESV) — 1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
• Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
• Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV) — 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

So, Nicodemus was both unable to grasp AND not expecting such a work as the birth of a new heart.
• The Scripture he seemed to know so well on one level, he didn’t know at all at the level it really matters most.
How can a man of Nicodemus’ stature and knowledge not understand what Scripture has been pointing to since the call of Abram?

In Isaiah, God asks a similar question:
• Isaiah 50:2 (ESV) — 2 Why, when I came, was there no man; why, when I called, was there no one to answer? Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst.
    o His answer to His question is that He is not to blame for man’s rebellion.
    o His power to save is perfect.
    o Or in NT language, God is not to blame that men don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear His provision.

So what is to blame for Nico’s fog?
Why doesn’t Nico get it?

Possible reasons for Nicodemus’ inability to understand:
• John 3:3 (ESV) — 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
• John 6:65 (ESV) — 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
• 2 Corinthians 4:3–4 (ESV) — 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
• And let’s not forget a sprinkling of pharisaical, self-righteous pride.

No matter the reason for Nicodemus’ spiritual blindness, we will see in verses 11 and 12 that there are consequences for it.

Jesus holds Nicodemus responsible for not knowing these things:
Jesus’ criticism goes even further.
• John 3:11–12 (ESV) — 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

If Nicodemus can’t grasp the concept of the new birth (earthly thing) even when coupled with both the testimony of Jesus, His signs and wonders, AND the teaching of the OT, how could he possibly grasp the heavenly things into which the new birth provides entry?

What are the heavenly things?
The ‘heavenly things’ are then the splendours of the consummated kingdom, and what it means to live under such glorious, ineffable rule – D.A. Carson.
Some examples?

And so now, in hopes that Jesus might bring Nicodemus out of his spiritual haze, He makes it personal.
• He reveals what being born again has to do with Himself, Jesus.


John 3:13 (ESV) — 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man
• Jesus refers to Himself in His favorite way, as the Son of Man.

First, in verse 13, he speaks of His authority.
• He declares that He is qualified to speak on the heavenly things that Nicodemus can’t comprehend because he is the Davidic Son of Man.
• For Jesus, “heaven was his home in the first place, and therefore he has ‘inherently the fullness of heavenly knowledge’” – D.A. Carson.
• And as the Gospels demonstrate, those who believe and follow Jesus, such as the disciples, have access to and the ability to enjoy and contemplate the heavenly things of our faith.
• The disciples’ access to Jesus at the wedding in Cana is an example of this principal – remember, Jesus is Deep.

Secondly, in verses 14 and 15, Jesus then makes a radical claim about Himself, the Son of Man, using the OT.
• John 3:14–15 (ESV) — 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

It is here that Jesus answers our question about what He has to do with the new birth.

To unpack this, let’s look at the source.
• Numbers 21:7–9 (ESV) — 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Jesus seems to be making at least two very important points here (D.A. Carson):
God’s Provision
    o As God in His grace provided relief for believers from the consequences of their sin with the serpent on a pole, He would also see to it to provide a way to replace our hearts of stone with new hearts.
    o The serpent was the provision then; the Son of Man is the provision now!
Lifted Up
    o As the serpent was lifted up so that those who look upon it would live, the Son of Man must also be lifted up so that born again believers might look upon Him and live!

I can’t think of any clearer way for Jesus to teach Nicodemus that:
• God’s provision is not the works of the law but the Son of Man
• And one must believe in the Son of Man to have eternal life.

POI - This idea of the Son of Man being lifted up is an important part of John’s theology.
• John 8:28 (ESV) — 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.
• John 12:32 (ESV) — 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
• John 12:34 (ESV) — 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

So in making these 2 points, He is the Provision and He must be Lifted Up, Jesus was challenging Nicodemus:
• By making it personal, Jesus was confronting the authenticity of Nicodemus’ religious beliefs head on.
• “Nicodemus was being challenged to turn to Jesus for new birth in much the same way as the ancient Israelites were commanded to turn to the bronze snake for new life” – D.A. Carson.
    o And as discussed last week, Nicodemus did witness the Son of Man being lifted up and apparently did “look” at Him in belief and “lived”.

And so what does Jesus have to do with the new birth?
• “Here then is the frankest answer to Nicodemus’ question. ‘How can this happen?’ (v. 9). The kingdom of God is seen or entered, new birth is experienced, and eternal life begins, through the saving cross-work of Christ, received by faith” – D.A. Carson.
In other words, what is it that a born again heart believes?
    o The provision of Christ and His work on the cross on our behalf!

Lesson for Us:
(1) Even as believers, we can’t get in the way of Jesus’ willingness to teach us of heavenly things.
So, are we missing out on what Jesus is teaching?
Like Nicodemus, are we being merely religious in our faith and not authentic?

(2) Why don’t we have the original NT documents, or the crossbeam to the cross Christ was crucified on?
• 2 Kings 18:4 (ESV) — 4 He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).

We must be careful and worship neither the cross nor the Scripture that brings us its truth.
• Jesus Christ the man/God is the giver of life.
• He alone is worthy of our worship!

Next week, John 3:16 – The scope of Jesus Work.