“Marvel not that I said unto you, ‘You must be born again.’”
It is a horrible feeling when in a moments time all your hopes and dreams, self-confidence and reliance are dashed to pieces; when the foundation of your beliefs crumbles and your ordered world becomes total chaos. Nicodemus came to Jesus for an explanation of the struggle that he was experiencing. He was not sure if this Galilean was Anointed of God and yet he could not deny the fact that His words and actions were unlike anything he had ever seen or heard. He was a man who had waxed confident in his own understanding which assured him that he was a child of the kingdom yet Jesus stood in total contrast to his venerated teaching and consecrated way of life.
Jesus does not enter into the normal lengthy controversies of the Pharisees about the historical teachings of the Rabbi through the ages concerning genealogies, customs and traditions. He refuses to become engaged in the debates about the rituals and ceremonies of the law, the proper pronouncing of words or the placement of jots and tittles. Instead, He opens the eyes of this chosen vessel to the truth of the seed born from above and the eternal love of the Father for His children. He denounces the natural lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for these were born of the flesh. Instead He speaks of the spiritual lineage of the faithful children of promise whom He loves with and everlasting love. These are the only heirs of God and the true inhabitants of the kingdom. Instead of confirming his preconceived notions of his grandeur and answering the questions in the mind of Nicodemus, the Lord of Glory demonstrates the utter confusion of the natural mind; “But the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).
The concept of being born anew is foreign to the natural world yet like Nicodemus the theology of Adam has attempted to explain this wonder in natural terms and by natural means. Nicodemus imagined a grown man entering a second time into his mother’s womb to be born again. This, were it possible, would constitute a second natural birth in which the natural man was naturally born after the nature of the natural seed. He then would still be nothing more than Adam for, as Jesus said; “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”. Though the Lord used no parable here but spoke in the plain simplicity of the gospel yet still today man teaches that Adam must be remade before he is suitable for the kingdom of God. The Word of God is refuted by the scholars of man who would teach the traditions of flesh and blood as the doctrines of God casting aside that which is Spirit and Truth, yet they are not all Israel who are of Israel (Rms. 9:6).
These words from Messiah confused Nicodemus as he sat in wonder and admiration of Jesus. He was amazed at the simplicity, admired the understanding and wondered as to the means. Even when Jesus gives him another explanation of the working of the Spirit of God, which categorically eliminates any involvement of the will or power of man and sets the chosen vessels as a passive recipient, by saying; “the wind blows where it wills and you (man) hears the sound thereof but cannot tell (explain) whence it comes and whither it goes, so is everyone that IS born of the Spirit”, Nicodemus is held in wonder and amazement as to “How can these things BE?” He does not ask ‘when shall these things be’ or ‘how can one become a recipient of this wonder’ for the question in his mind is “in what way” or “after what manner are these things able to Be”? His quandary was about the power and the authority of these matters because they defied the works and abilities of the arm of the flesh of man.
Nicodemus had been given to fashion for himself that short bed wherein he believed he would find the rest in father Abraham and the covering of the narrow sheet which would conceal his sin from God. Jesus revealed that this was of no use before the throne of God. Nicodemus concluded himself a child of the covenant, wherein he was blameless, but Jesus said that if the wonder of the power of God, wherein was not only the birth of water but also the birth of Spirit, was not already completed in a person’s life, they could not even see the kingdom. Nicodemus was confused and fearful for his friend and companion, the Law, was now his accuser and executioner. He stood alienated from the commonwealth of the Israel of God and without hope as the cognitive abilities of his mind could not lay hold upon the power and capability of this new birth.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Are you a master in Israel and you do not know these things?’” (3:10).
The manner in which the Lord addresses this confused subject of grace is amazing. He does not call him a master as Nicodemus did to Jesus when he said, ‘Rabbi’, but rather in a poignant and a bit sarcastic manner Jesus asks how a teacher does not know the subject he is purported to be teaching (such as Adam trying to teach spiritual matters). The Law of God as given in types and foreshadows was the pattern of heavenly things. It and the prophets spoke exclusively of the Messiah, the judgment of God against all wickedness, the redemption of His people and deliverance from their sin in Adam. No amount of education in the vast subjects of this world could ever convince a descendant of the dust of the wonders of the beauty of His Holiness or the majesty of His power. Only one born of the Spirit may be taught of the Spirit concerning the things of the Spirit and the unsearchable riches of His grace, which is, the power of God unto deliverance.
Nicodemus was of the ruling class of elite educators who had not only mastered the law but were called on and expected to teach others how to keep the handwriting of ordinances. Those who were thusly taught exhausted all their energies, labours and substance striving for the perfection wherein when it came to the righteousness found in the law they would be judged blameless. This would then endear them before God as good and faithful children of Israel who were entitled to the positions of prominence in the coming kingdom of God. Nicodemus lived his life accordingly and instructed all men in the same manner in which he was taught of man. He was ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth for he could not understand how these things could be so. His natural mind could not imagine in what way these things of the new birth were able to be comprehended and executed or by what power such wonders could even exist. The Word of God was and is still diametrically opposed to the ways of man, for His ways are not our ways neither are His thoughts our thoughts (Is. 55:8), yet the ways of man are His design and function completely within the counsel of His Will (Ps. 76:10).
Jesus continues the assault upon the carnal knowledge of Nicodemus when He reminds him that the things which He spoke of were those matters which Nicodemus should have known. The Law and the Prophets were the boast of the Pharisees yet as they professed themselves to be wise yet they were manifesting themselves fools. They had the form of godliness but were deficient of the substance. They made the proclamation of the truth but not the wisdom of God thus man has forever been attempting to express the Word of God in a pleasing manner to his fellow man. Their righteousness was as leaven and their burdens unbearable. This was not as God had spoken neither was it of His intention as Messiah said, “Come unto Me all that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls for My yoke is easy and My burden light” (Matt. 11:28f).
Jesus came to speak the Word of God and to accomplish the work set before Him. He was the bodily manifestation of the invisible God and He came with the signs and wonders which He had afore proclaimed He would do, therefore Nicodemus should have understood these things. The time had not yet come, when it pleased the Father to reveal Himself in this chosen vessel so for now seeing he saw not and hearing he understood not even though there was a ‘kicking against the pricks’ within his soul.
“If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (3:12).
Jesus here turns the very words which Nicodemus spoke against Him. When the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him as He was teaching; “By what authority do you do these things and who gave you this authority?” He turned the words against them. He asked them; “the baptism of John, from where was it? Was it from heaven or of men?” Since they could not tell Him the answer because of their unbelief and the fear of the people He said, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things?” (Matt. 21:23ff). Nicodemus asked Him by what power this new birth could be accomplished and by whose authority did it exist? (Mary asked the same question when Gabriel told her that she would conceive and bare a child; “How can this be seeing I know not a man?” – Luke 1:34) Jesus calmly asked him that if he could not believe natural matters, how (or by what power and whose authority) then could he believe heavenly matters.
Faith is not a natural element of Adam nor an inherited trait of his children. Faith is not the acquisition of information or the assimilation of knowledge by customs and traditions. Faith is a gift of God that is the evidence of the indwelling Spirit of God. Jesus told His disciples that if they had faith of the minutest amount they could move a mountain or displace a tree and replant it into the ocean (Matt. 17:20 & Luke 17:6). Faith is the spiritual reality of the natural impossibility and the obvious manifestation of that which the natural eye cannot see. It is the comforting and peaceful explanation of the confusion and tumult of the natural existence. It is the manner in which the children please the Father in everything they do as they perform every good work they have been created in Christ Jesus unto. It is the confidence in the finished work of the Kinsman Redeemer, the profession of the testimony of the Anointed Salvation of Yehovah and the expectation (hope) of the children of the King in the imminent manifestation of their eternal habitation in their Father’s house. Faith is the absolute assurance and anchor to the soul of the complete and all inclusive sovereignty of the Omnipotent God over all things, whatsoever comes to pass.
Therefore Nicodemus could not believe anything but that which was ordained of old, empowered and given to him of God in the fullness of time. He could not produce his own righteousness before the throne for without faith it is impossible to please Him. He could not bring down this new birth by any labour, prayer or incantation. The cumulative summation of all his good intentions could not curry the favour of God to bestow upon him that which belongs to the children; “But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled for it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast unto the dogs” (Mark 7:27). Nicodemus was feeling the condemnation of the Law and the inability of the body of this death. His lifestyle and convictions were making the Word of God of none effect through traditions while the warfare was in his inner man wherein he delighted in the Law of God. He was slowly being taught of the Spirit of God that it is not by works of righteousness which he had done but that salvation was by grace through faith. He thought he had ascended to the apex of human accomplishment in his spotless perfection of the law but in fact he was in the pit of hell as; “the sorrows of death compassed me and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow” (Ps. 116:3).
“And no man has ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, the Son of man which is in heaven” (3:13)
Jesus further eliminates the cooperation or assistance of man as He excludes Adam from the equation of the new birth. ‘No man’ has a very prominent role in the kingdom of God; he cannot see it and cannot enter into it for he knows nothing about it. Yet the books of this world are filled to overflowing with the ramblings and speculations of Adam about this kingdom and the ways and means of not only entering into it but also ruling as the preferred of God. Jesus said that it was exclusively for those who ARE born of the Spirit but man says it is for ‘whomsoever wills’. Jesus said it was the exclusive work of the Spirit of God to be born from above but man says that a person may obtain this regal right by self-imposed contrition and simply asking for it. Jesus said that when one is thusly born from above, the natural man could no more control or detect it than he could the winds of nature, but Adam says that he can not only detect the presence of the Spirit but can pin-point the hour and the day that it happened. Thus the theology of Adam attempts to sit in the seat of God and proclaim itself greater than the Creator.
Here Jesus tells Nicodemus that no man can ever, has ever or shall ever ascend up into heaven but first he came down from heaven. Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and God breathed into his nostrils to make him a living soul but that which is born of the Spirit is spiritual. The Spirit of the new man which is the spiritual man born from above comes down from heaven into the earthen vessel at the time appointed of the Father for the children to become partakers of flesh and blood. When the time of this habitation is ended, the spiritual man shall return unto the Father; “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7).
This spiritual man is not of himself independent for though he is a member in particular yet is he one in the body of Christ. Messiah is the Son of God who set aside His glory to be made in the likeness of sinful man. He Himself, in the same manner as the children, became a partaker of the same flesh and blood, yet without sin, “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the Devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Heb. 2:14f). Nicodemus was in fear of death for the ministration of death, now fulfilling the part of the schoolmaster, while convincing him of his guilt in trespasses and sin, had brought him to Messiah who told him all things that must come to pass. He had no answers for the arm of the flesh had failed him as he was slain by the Law of God.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:14).
Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of God who must be lifted up for the sin of His people in the same manner as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness for the sins of Israel. This again was an intentional reference to the scriptures which Nicodemus should know but indeed did not understand. The children of Israel had demonstrated their inherent inability to believe those things which were manifestly evident before their eyes as they murmured against God and Moses. God sent in the fiery serpents which bit those who complained and they cried unto Moses to intercede for them to God. God instructed Moses to fashion a brazen serpent and place it upon a pole that; “if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Num. 21:9). Many who were bitten did not believe in this ‘hocus pocus’ remedy and died in the wilderness but whosoever believed, was caused to look upon the serpent upon the pole and these were delivered from death.
Adam in the garden was not content with the provisions which Almighty God had given him, therefore he and his wife looked and saw the fruit that it was good for meat and to make one wise. They took and ate as they were ordained to do so by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God according to their natural desire to improve upon what God has done. This was the means whereby God decreed that sin should enter into the world and death by sin, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Thusly the Israelites murmured for better accommodations in the wilderness as another confirmation of the corruption of man. The bite of the serpent is upon all who are of the house of Adam, yet only those who are born from above have the faith to believe. These are given to look and live. The remedy of the brass serpent was not intended for those who were ordained to die in the wilderness anymore than the sting of death was to those who were ordained unto life and there were none who wanted to look but were forbidden as the aspersions of the scoffers will say.
The lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness was a manifestation of the wrath of God against the unrighteousness of man. It was the bringing down of every self-exalted son of Adam who thinks more highly of himself than he ought and the abasing of the proud and lofty (Is. 2:12). It was the foreshadowing of the ensign which He Himself lifted up (Is. 5:26) and as surely as Moses had accomplished this deed many years prior so the Son must also be lifted up in His crucifixion. He laid down His own life for the sheep and no man took it from Him (John 10:18). His authority was of Himself and the work that was set before Him was assigned unto Him by His own will. His actions were His own as He was coerced by no man nor forced by duress into submission. He made Himself of no reputation and became obedient to death even the death of the cross. Therefore, He rose up and was exalted as He was lifted up upon the pole of Calvary.
Jesus manifestly declared Himself God as he foretold those things which were not yet manifested in time; “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things that are not done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure: calling the ravenous bird from the east, the man that executes My counsel from a far country. Truly I have spoken, I will bring it to pass; I have purposed I will also do it” (Is. 46:10). The perfection of His Holiness openly manifested Nicodemus as being devoid of all hope in this world because he stood a condemned man in Adam. He had no right, nor portion nor memorial in the kingdom of God by means of his good intentions, hard work, blood line or his alleged obedience to the law. The Zionistic persuasions which concluded the nation of Israel as the chosen people of God were demonstrated as being completely erroneous as Jesus said, “whosoever believes” as faith was equated with the inherent nature of those who have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (3:16).
The mystery of the gospel was revealed to Nicodemus that night by the Word of God. Jesus revealed to him that the power was of God, the right of inheritance was of the Spirit and the authority and strength of the matter was based upon the love of God. He told him that the kingdom was not of this world and that just because one was naturally born of Abraham they were not qualified as the sons of God. The result of this wondrous and mighty work of God is eternal life which has no beginning and no end therefore the objects of this love must be the eternal incorruptible seed and not the limited carnal man.
This indeed was strange to Nicodemus and his elitist attitude but as he grew in the grace and knowledge of the will of God in his life, he would witness this magnificent truth. Being numbered with the disciples at the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, he would later see the mighty power of God in the resurrection. He no doubt would have been of the upwards to 500 whom the risen Lord appeared unto and an eye witness to the miracle of the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Here the Spirit was given in fulfillment of the prophesy of Joel which manifestly declare that the day of the Lord had come in the last days; “and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of Yehovah shall be delivered for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance as Yehovah has said and in the remnant whom Yehovah shall call” (Joel 2:32).
The wrath of God was poured out that day and the Lamb of God endured it for His people. These are they who were risen up together with Him before the foundation of the world; who stood as the redeemed house of Israel of every kindred, nation, tongue and people. They have eternal life in Him because He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). These shall never perish but have eternal life because of the eternal love of the Father for His Beloved.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sits upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:12f).
Every child born from above has been predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. He endured the temptations which are common to all men and so shall the children. He has endured the contradiction of sin against Himself in the exact same manner in which the Redeemed of Yehovah war within themselves over the vanity and corruption of this existence. There can be no conflict, no warfare and no endurance if there is no spiritual life. Herein is the evidence of assurance; that His children have been counted worthy to suffer for His name sake. And so they run the race with patience, which has a complete and perfect way through trials and tribulations, looking unto the Salvation of Yehovah, the Author and Finisher of their faith.
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
January 4, 2015