Monday, January 28, 2008

Doctrines of Grace in the Gospel of John - Part 2

In this series of posts I am endeavouring to show some of the prominent places in the Gospel of John where the author used the truth of God's sovereignty in salvation to demonstrate the deity of Jesus.

In this post we will look at Chapter 3 and examine how John recounted the truth of Jesus' statements to men concerning salvation.

Chapter 3

In this chapter Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, a pharisee, that has come at night (in secret) to speak with Jesus (John 3:1-2). Jesus knew what was in Nicodemus' heart and his desire to know the path to salvation, so Jesus answers: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." In a casual reading of this verse one might miss the importance of the word "see" in Jesus' statement. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that even to have any understanding of the kingdom of God we must first be born again. This speaks to the doctrine of man's total depravity. Without being born again we can not comprehend the path to salvation, let alone obtain salvation. Ephesians 2:1 says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead means spiritually dead in that context. So taken together (John 3:3 and Ephesians 2:1) we can see that all of us our spiritually unable to comprehend the kingdom of God (let alone seek after it) unless and until we are born again.
So the obvious follow on question is how can we be born again? Jesus immediately dialogs with Nicodemus on this distinguishing between physical birth and spiritual birth, then he says this:
"Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

This passage attributes the work of being born again to the Spirit, or Holy Spirit. Just like we humans can not control or summon the wind, we can not summon the Spirit to bring about this new spiritual life. The Spirit causes new birth "where it wishes". In other words God causes whoever He wishes to be born again and that whoever he doesn't wish is not born again. Another word for this concept is regeneration. The Spirit regenerates our souls from being dead spiritually to being alive and able to comprehend the kingdom of God. And now this truth sets the ground work for the rest of John 3, where Jesus invokes the historical truth of God's judgement and mercy on Israel in the desert. Where God instructed Moses to lift up a bronze serpent in the camp and that whoever looked at it (implied: in faith) would be saved from their judgement. Jesus uses this as a foreshadowing of His coming work, and then we get to the familiar John 3:16. And since I wrote some about this verse in the previous post I will simply say that now we should understand that the "whoever" will necessarily be limited to those that are already born again, which is the work of the Spirit.

In the next post we will look at John chapter 5.

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