DISSECTING THE SCRIPTURES – No. 7
BY: DAVE and SHEILA GARNER
DECEMBER 14, 2007
FOR COMPARISON: TRADITIONAL KJV
John 3:1-21, 1There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
OUR TRANSLATION: JOHN 3:1-21
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was a ruler among the Jews, who came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Master, we know you are a teacher come from God, for no man can do the miracles which you do except God be with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a person is born anew (from the very first) he cannot see (perceive, know by experience) the kingdom of God.” Ps 51:10-11; 1Pet 1:18-23; 1John 5:1-5
Nicodemus asked Him, “How is a man able to be born again when he is an adult? Can he enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be reborn?”
Jesus answered, “That born from the flesh is flesh, and that born from the spirit is spirit. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is regenerated (birthed) out of water (cleansed, washed by) even spirit, he cannot enter into (be a participant of) the kingdom of God. Do not be amazed at what I said to you; you must be born anew (reborn). The wind blows where it will and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes, so is everyone which is reborn by the spirit.”
Nicodemus asked Him, “How can this be?”
Jesus answering him said, “You are a teacher in Israel and do not know this? Truly, truly I say to you, I know what I see, and I testify of what I witness and you do not receive my testimony. If I tell you earthly things and you do not believe, how then would you believe me if I tell you heavenly things? For no man has ascended (went up) into the heavens except the Son of man which descended (came down) from the heavens. Just as Moses lifted up the brass serpent in the wilderness, Num 21:5-9 the Son of man must be lifted up so all who believe in Him have eternal life. For in this way, God so loved the world that He gave His only-one Son, so whosoever believes in Him has everlasting life in order not to be lost. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn (punish) the world but so the world through Him (His Son) would be saved (preserved, protected, delivered). For he who believes is not condemned. But he who does not believe is already condemned because he did not believe to (into) the authority (name) of the only-one Son of God. The judgment is this: the Light came into the world and because their deeds are evil, men love the darkness more than they love the Light. For everyone who does evil hates the Light and will not come to the Light for fear they will be exposed (reproved) for their evil works. But he who does truth comes to the Light so his works can be seen (become visible) that they are the works of God. (Ps 51:10-19; Eze 11:19; 37:12-13; Rom 7:6)
PART ONE OF TWO:
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
The narrative concerning Nicodemus is found only in the Gospel of John. According to John, Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the governing council, as is seen in John 7:50; he was the one who asked the question during the council meeting if it was right to judge a man (regarding Jesus) before he had been heard. He had to have been fearful of the repercussions he would have to endure, had the others of his sect known he went to see Jesus, so he went to see Jesus privately by night. His visit with Jesus must have been partly out of personal curiosity, but one which greatly influenced him, as is clearly demonstrated when he brought myrrh and aloes to Jesus’ burial. (John 19:39) But even though it was personal because he went to him at night, he began his dialogue with Jesus with the words, “Master, we know.” This leaves reason to believe that there must have been some debates about who He was taking place behind closed doors, and that there may have been others within the sect besides Nicodemus, who had been affected by what Jesus had been doing. The “we” indicates that there was at least a few Pharisees who had been debating about who Jesus really might be, so this gave Nicodemus enough reason to go seek Him out. He acknowledged that they recognized Him as a teacher sent from God, but were obviously not convinced of anything more.
Clearly, he approached Jesus with the desire to know and understand who He was and why He was able to perform the miracles. He knew Jesus came from God, as was demonstrated by the miracles He had performed, but judging by his statement he felt there was much more to understand and therefore secretly sought Him out. On the surface, his statement and Jesus’ response had nothing to do with one another. To fully understand why Jesus responded to Nicodemus with the declaration that he had to be born anew before he could even see the kingdom of heaven/God, we must first attempt to understand the religious mindset of a Pharisee. What was Nicodemus’ belief structure which he had to let go of to be rebirthed again from the spirit?
The Pharisees doctrinal beliefs were greatly influenced by the Greek Hellenistic teachings of their day. A brief description of the Doctrine of the Pharisees can be found in the “Works of Josephus, The Wars of the Jews.” Josephus was a Jewish historian and a Pharisee himself, who was born shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion and was also present at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. His beliefs were, 1. The Soul never dies. 2. Only the righteous pass into another body. 3. The unrighteous are punished with eternal torment. (Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews”. 18.1.3) In another section of his book he states, 1. The soul is immortal. 2. There are rewards and punishments beneath the earth (in the unseen afterlife) for both the righteous and unrighteous. 3. Those who did good have the possibility of living again, while the ones who did evil are consigned to suffer endless punishment and torment. (Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews” 18.1.3)
The following is an excerpt taken from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. (Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
“Providence, Human Freedom. The Pharisees “make everything depend on fate and on God, and teach that the doing of good is indeed chiefly the affair of man, but that fate also cooperates in every transaction” (Josephus Wars 2.8.14). “They assert that everything is accomplished by faith. They do not, however, deprive the human will of spontaneity, it having pleased God that there should be a mixture, and that to the will of fate should be added the human will with its virtue or baseness” (Josephus Ant. 18.1.3). “If we strip off its Greek form, from what Josephus says, it is nothing more than this, that according to the Pharisees everything that happens takes place through God’s providence, and that consequently in human actions also, whether good or bad, a cooperation of God is to be admitted. And this is a genuine OT view” (Schurer, div. 2, 2:15).”
Nicodemus nor any other within the pharisaic “separatist” movement which he was a part of, had seen anything like the miracles Jesus was doing. In effect Jesus said, let go of everything you used to be and start all over again, or don’t hang onto your religious mindset (understanding) and old way of thinking and doing. Become reborn from the spirit, think differently and change your way of being and doing, leave your old ways (thinking and understanding) behind. Get rid of your old (dead) religious mindset and start all over again, begin to believe in and follow me, until you do, you will never see or participate in the reigning power and authority which produces the miracles you have seen. Jesus was clearly addressing Nicodemus’ religious Pharisaic mindset and Nicodemus was clearly perplexed by what he was hearing, we know this by his question. “How can I enter into my mother’s womb a second time and be born anew?”
By paying attention while reading the scriptures, it is clearly revealed that Jesus identified the kingdom of heaven/God with the active manifestation and presence of the Holy Spirit through the demonstration of righteousness, humility, casting out spirits and miracles of healing, to name a few.
Matt. 5:3, “Blessed are the poor (humble) in spirit for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
Luke 6:20, “Blessed is the poor (lowly), for the kingdom of God is yours.”
Psalms 10:17-18, “The Lord (Yahweh) hears (pays attention to) the desires (delights) of the humble and prepares (establishes) His ear to hearken to judge the hearts of the lonely (fatherless) and the afflicted (troubled), lest more dread (oppression) from out of the earth is added to man.”
Psalms 34:1-3, “I will bless the Lord (Yahweh) at all times for His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul boast in the Lord (Yahweh), and the humble hear and are glad. Magnify the Lord (Yahweh) with me, and together exalt His name.”
Self glorifying pride and a haughty, high minded religious spirit within a man, has been the enemy to the abiding manifesting presence of peace, joy, kindness, love, and compassion since the beginning of time. To remain bound to the past, keeps us from enjoying the riches of the kingdom of heaven/God which is available to us now. Whether we receive the kingdom of heaven/God or not, is determined by the condition of our spirit, not the condition of our flesh, for the flesh cannot see God. No matter how many sacrifices we offer, services we attend, alms we give or even how much we give in tithes, if our spirit is not rebirthed to hunger and thirst after His righteousness it is all just religious activity, having no life nor power within it, for life only comes by accepting and living by the Living Word of God.
Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the clean (unpolluted) in heart (thoughts, feelings), for they see God.” (PRESENT TENSE)
Matt. 5:10, “Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven/God.”
Matt. 5:20, “For I say to you unless your righteousness greatly exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 12:25-28, Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to nothing (laid to waste). Every city or house divided against itself cannot stand, and if the accuser (devil) cast out the accuser (devil), he is divided against himself, how then does his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons (bad spirits, devils), by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they are your judges. But if I cast out demons (bad spirit, devils) by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of heaven/God is come upon you.”
Luke 11:17-20, “But He knowing their thoughts said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid to waste, and a house divided against a house falls. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons (bad spirits, devils) through Beelzebub, and if I by Beelzebub cast out demons (bad spirits or devils), by whom do your sons cast them out, for by this they will judge against you. But if I cast out demons (bad spirits, devils) by the finger of God, no doubt the kingdom of God has already came upon you.”
Luke 10:8-11, “And whatsoever city you enter into and they receive you, eat what is set before you. And heal the sick that are in them and tell them the kingdom of God is brought close upon (near) them. But whatsoever town you enter into and they do not receive you, go out into the street of the town and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which is stuck to our feet we do wipe off against you, know this nonetheless, the kingdom of God is approaching near.’
John 18:36, Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world for if my kingdom were from this world (arranged system, orderly arrangement) then my servants would now fight so I would not be delivered to the Jews, but my kingdom is not of here.”
Jesus did not identify the kingdom of heaven/God with Nicodemus’ religious system, Jerusalem or even Israel; rather He identified it with the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. John the baptizer identified it with the arrival and appearance of Jesus. (Matt. 3:2) Nicodemus was born into the worldly system (orderly arrangement) which was, and was trained as a Pharisee. The Pharisaic religious order was so much a part of his mindset that he had climbed up the ladder of success within the order to become a member of the ruling body and a teacher as well. So when Jesus said to him that he had to be reborn from the spirit, this was a concept which was totally alien to his understanding, as is demonstrated by his question, “How is a man able to be born again when he is an adult? Can he enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be reborn?”
We have heard the statement Jesus made described as “You must be born from above,” and we do not feel this is erroneous as we firmly believe and teach that all must be filled with the Holy Spirit which is from above (the higher authority of God) and we acknowledge its sovereign greatness with all of our hearts. But clearly Nicodemus heard Him say, he had to be reborn from a physical aspect for his question, “can we reenter into our mother’s womb a second time,” reveals he interpreted what Jesus said on a natural level, not that he had to be reborn from a spiritual aspect. Nicodemus was unable to comprehend the spiritual application Jesus was applying to being reborn. Nicodemus as a teacher must have been well versed in the law, but Jesus did not tell him to go back and read and study the law to get an understanding of who He was and how He performed His miracles, neither did He tell him to return to his established religious order and discover it there. He identified Nicodemus, even in his distinguished position as a teacher and member of the ruling body of the Pharisees, as walking in the flesh, ignorant and unable to hear the deeper things which only He could teach him. There are many within the churches today who are suffering from this same problem. They have not separated the physical aspect of the religious performances and dogma from that of true repentance and a spiritual rebirthing experience.
Jesus identified two distinct realms of being; one as being in the flesh and the other, being partaker of the kingdom of heaven/God, which requires an inner choice of our own volition, to be reborn from the spirit. For a person to remain in the flesh and not experience a rebirth from the spirit is to be excluded from seeing, much less participate in, the miraculous works of heaven/God. Jesus went on to describe the difference between a man who has been reborn (walking in the spirit) from one who has not been reborn (walking in the flesh). A person who has had a true rebirthing experience has the opportunity to no longer be subject to the natural laws which confine him to ritualistic dead performances, rather his spirit is led (inspired and motivated) by his hunger for the Word of God and desire to follow Jesus. When Nicodemus asked how can these things be, Jesus plainly told him that if he was unable to understand what He was saying concerning things on a natural realm, that even if He told him the deeper spiritual things, the more complex spiritual elements of the subject, he would not be able to understand until he was willing to be born from water, even spirit. “Except a person be born anew, regenerated by water, even spirit, it is not possible for him to enter into the kingdom of God.” If a man walks in the flesh, he cannot walk in the spirit, in the kingdom of heaven/God.
1 Peter 1:22-23, “He who submits himself to the truth cleanses his soul. Sincere fervent love, one for another, comes from a pure (clean) heart, born not out of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides for ever.”
Immediately after telling Nicodemus he could not understand the deeper spiritual matters unless he was spiritually reborn; Jesus said no one had ascended (risen up) into the heavens (present tense), except the Son of Man. Not one person had ascended into the heights of the heavens (present tense) so they could receive (comprehend) the depth of what only He could give them. Jesus was not talking about “heaven” as a physical place. He was still talking about the spiritual realm of understanding and being which Nicodemus could not possibly perceive (understand, see, hear) because it could only be received by walking in the heavens, and he could not walk in the heavens unless his spirit was regenerated, thereby made ready to receive spiritual things.
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is regenerated (birthed) out of water (cleansed, washed by) even spirit, he cannot enter into (be a participant of) the kingdom of God.” It can be debated from which spirit the rebirthing comes, whether the rebirthing comes from Nicodemus’ spirit or it is comes from God’s Spirit, either way you see it, it is clear the end result is a definite visible change in Nicodemus’ spirit. We are persuaded he had to be reborn (redeemed, released) in his spirit from the old Pharisaic mindset, by the cleansing process, the washing of the water of Jesus’ word as he turned to follow Him. He had to separate himself from his past understanding, beliefs, actions and way of living, and begin again. For as long as he remained a Pharisee in his heart (spirit), he could never experience salvation and become a follower (disciple) of Jesus. If he did not turn and follow Jesus he would remain where he was, stuck in the religious turmoil of his natural understanding.
Jesus said, He alone had ascended into the heavens and He alone descended from the heavens. He dwelt in the heavens, and unless He lowered Himself and become as one of us, He could not even talk or communicate with Nicodemus. He continually resided (dwelt) in the realm of the heavens which Nicodemus could not even fathom, because Nicodemus was still operating out of his own natural perception based upon his past religious training. Jesus’ actions and words were so far above Nicodemus’s comprehension, He had to use the imagery of the past, the brass serpent which Moses lifted up in the wilderness, to explain Himself’. Jesus likened Himself to the brass serpent so Nicodemus would have something he could relate to. In Numbers 21 the Israelite people began again to complain and murmur against God and Moses, so God sent fiery serpents among them which bit the people and caused them to die. Moses prayed and sought the Lord for mercy on behalf of the rebellious people and the Lord instructed Moses to make a brass serpent, place it upon a pole and lift it up to stop the plague. If the people were bitten, when they looked upon the lifted up serpent, they were healed (saved).
Jesus told Nicodemus if he or anyone else wanted eternal (age lasting) life, the Son of Man had to be lifted up or exalted (glorified) within their heart, but until they were reborn in the spirit they could not do this. Jesus was and still is, the Living Active Word of God, and all who look upon Him and believe in Him and put their trust in Him have eternal life. It is certain that we must be reborn from the Spirit before we can truly lift Him up from our spirit, but it is equally as certain that we must lay down our past and start all over by seeking, asking, and knocking with all of our spirit to know and follow Him. We cannot truly lift Him up in our spirit while we still remain bound to flesh. He is lifted up as we exalt and demonstrate His character and authority over our life. As we are washed by the Word, our spirit becomes regenerated into life. As we learn of Him we lift Him up more and more, becoming the Living expression of His Word, He becomes exalted above everything else in our life and it becomes a joy, not a sacrifice to give honor to Him. When the light of His presence is revealed and expressed, emanating from out of us (His living Word expressing in and through us), all those who look upon Him manifest through us are drawn to Him. Those who choose not to be reborn of water, even spirit, who choose not to look upon him lifted up are not saved and remain in the realm of flesh. By remaining in the flesh realm they remain vulnerable to the bites of the serpents of death, bound by and subject to all of the elements, conditions and dangers generated by living in the flesh. Salvation only comes through believing in and trusting in Jesus the Anointed One, the Living Word of God.
Salvation is not just a one time experience. It is an ever present, ever active relationship with the Son of God through the energizing, life giving power of the Holy Spirit of Truth working within us continuously. If we are following Jesus (the living Word of God) we remain “saved” (protected or safe), but if we are not following after Jesus, the Word of God cannot protect or keep us safe. The Word of God can protect us only when and as much as we submit to its authority by giving credence to it and believe and trust in it. As we lift Him up by exalting His life through our words and actions, accepting and living by His Word, we are in the energizing life giving flow of His Holy Spirit. If we lose our way and neglect to lift Him up before us, we become subject to doubt in our thoughts and actions, separating ourselves from the protection which can only be generated from faith in His Word. When we stop exalting (lifting up) Him who is our salvation, and turn back to the weak and beggarly elements of the world, we remove ourselves out from under His protection. When we reject the cleansing of His Word, we nullify the life producing effects of His death upon the cross, and thus make void the redemptive power of His love bestowed upon us through His death and resurrection. “Whosoever believes in Him has accepted His Father’s love and has by, and because of, their faith (present tense) everlasting abundant life.” Whosoever does not believe, rejects the Father’s love offering and does not have life, and still walks in the flesh.
Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be reborn and think (believe) differently. He had to lay down what He was and come to the light of truth. The heavenly Father did not send His Beloved Son, His Word of Truth manifest in the flesh, into the world to condemn or punish the world. The ones who chose not to come to the light were already condemned because of their unbelief. Because of the darkness which was in their hearts, they could not perceive that He was sent from God, nor did they believe in His authority (name). He sent His Son that through Him (by accepting the Living Word of Truth) the world (humanity, mankind) is saved (protected, kept safe). When we accept and live by His authority (name) with all of our heart, by being reborn from the spirit, we are no longer walking in the realm of condemnation, we are washed clean by the living Word of God and are spiritually regenerated (given new life). Jesus’ disciples did not learn this just by walking with Him in the flesh, even after about three years of training, it still took a heavy dose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Truth in the upper room, before the impact of what they had been taught became an active force in their life.
When we do not believe and trust in Jesus enough to lay down our lives to follow Him, we cannot walk in the authority (the Living Word of God) and miraculous power of the Holy Spirit of Truth, for our will and God’s will are contrary to one another. When we choose by our unbelief to remain in darkness, we reject His authority (name) over our life. Jesus said judgment was already upon those who chose to remain in darkness, who do not want to come to the light of truth because the light would expose their works (their actions) as being evil. Those who want to live and hear the deeper things, which can only come from walking in the kingdom of heaven/God, must be born again before they are able to lift up (demonstrate) the authority of Jesus in their life. It is impossible to stay in darkness and lift up Jesus at the same time; either we are walking in the flesh realm or by the spirit, but not both. We choose either to remain in the darkness of confusion from the death realm, unable to spiritually see Him as our life and experience Him high and lifted up, or we come to the light and accept Jesus into our heart by laying down our past and with all of our spirit, soul and body, a whole heart with all of our strength, follow Jesus, the living Word of God. God chose not to make this decision for us, He leaves it up to us to make the decision to turn our hearts to Him and come into the light or reject His Word and remain in darkness.
For those who are not born anew, it is easier to stay in doctrines and teachings which do not challenge them to do anything other than pay their tithes and attend church services and wait for Jesus to come, than it is to come to Jesus and say “Lord, wash me clean from my past, for I am willing to lay down all my stinking thinking, ritualistic pretences, dead and empty religious mumbo jumbo, all that I have been and be renewed in the spirit of my mind, so I can follow you and receive all which you have already prepared for me to receive.” Truly, if we are unwilling to become born again from water, even spirit and focus our all upon Him and allow the Spirit of His Word to wash clean our spirit, to cleanse away all of the false images of the past, we will never be able to see, much less enter into, the kingdom of heaven/God, now or ever.
JOHN No. 7 [Dave-Sheila Garner] 12-14-07 ~ BIBLE STUDY 1