Ephesians 4:3-6; One Lord – His Priesthood and ours, part5.
length: 64:00 - taught on Mar, 10 2021
Wednesday March 10,2021
Christ has to make us priests by His own sacrifice for sin.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, would have only thought of the kingdom of God as the coming age of Messiah, who in his mind was a great warrior and statesman like David. Jesus is telling him that he can enter the kingdom of God now, but it can only happen by rebirth, which birth, the Son of God would provide through His own sacrifice.
Nicodemus has no reference by which to understand his own rebirth, and so grabs a reference that he might understand, the New Covenant.
“Born of water and the Spirit.”
"Therefore, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God," It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23 "And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord," declares the Lord God, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. 24 "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit 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 you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 "And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.
This promise is amplified in the vision of the valley of dry bones. The same nouns, ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek may be rendered ‘breath,’ ‘wind,’ or ‘spirit’ according to the context.
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 And He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord God, Thou knowest." 4 Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.' 5 "Thus says the Lord God to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. 6 'And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.'"
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God," Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life. "'" 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
"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."
The promise in Ezekiel had primary reference to a national revival, of which, individual salvation was obviously known. The cleansing with water in EZE 36:25 was invoked as biblical authority for the baptism of proselytes. John the Baptist called on his hearers, born Israelites, to confess, repent and be baptized in preparation for the coming Lord, but John pointed out that One was coming who was greater than he, and that while he baptized with water, that One would baptize them with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is explaining this to Nicodemus. The coming One was there in person urging Nicodemus to accept the promise of the fulfillment of the New Covenant and be born again of water and Spirit. The kingdom of God is a spiritual order which can only be entered by spiritual rebirth.
Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and 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 "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You [plural = You all] must be born again.' 8 "The wind blows where it wishes [ministry of the Holy Spirit] 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." 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? [meaning the students don’t understand either] 11 "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness. 12 "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.
It may seem strange to classify the new birth as an earthly subject, since it is by its very nature a birth from above; but it is earthly in the sense that it takes place on earth and can be illustrated by earthly analogies. In Jesus’ teaching the new birth belongs to the elementary stage. There is much more to be learned after this first lesson is grasped, but this lesson has to be grasped if we’re going to move on to lessons of heavenly things.
Nicodemus has still failed to grasp the teaching about the new birth when it was presented to him in terms drawn from Ezekiel’s prophecy; now it is presented to him by means of an object lesson, from a story with which he had been familiar since childhood. This is likely the end of their discourse and vs. 16 onward is from the author’s inspiration.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.”
From earliest times, the serpent has been regarded as man’s most dangerous enemy - more subtle than any beast of the field. Yet, strangely enough, in the very countries in which it was recognized as the symbol of all that is deadly, it was also recognized as the symbol of life. It casts its skin annually, seeming to renew its youth. Its poison can be valuable medicine.
The symbol of the serpent that Moses lifted up represented the powerlessness of the serpents that were biting the people. So all the virulence and venom of sin, all that is dangerous and deadly in it, our Lord bids us to believe is absorbed in His Person and rendered harmless on the cross.
This representation is much more than being “lifted up” as He would be on the cross. The verb John uses is carefully chosen (hypsoo); it denotes not only literal lifting up in space but also exultation in glory. The image of the serpent is vital, and with it Paul perfectly agrees:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
He was made the venom of sin so as to draw it out of the veins of us.
Had Christ merely become a man so that He could identify with our sufferings, having the sole intent of showing us how to overcome them (this is the picture of Him taught by liberal theology) then the symbol of the serpent wouldn’t be fair. A better image for that would have been a poisoned Israelite. Christ did more than identify with our sufferings. He became the very sin that we were guilty of and thus drew its judgment away from us. His own death is the death of sin. In His death, sin was slain, its power to hurt had ended.
But it was not an actual serpent that Moses put up on the pole, but a serpent of brass. And so, Christ never once was tainted by sin. He was never a sinner, which would have unqualified Him as a Savior.
The brazen serpent represented all the snakes, all the venom, and so, all the sin. Sin is not taken away by instruction, or by example, but the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world had to be sacrificed.
Still an act by the people was necessary. God could have healed all the Israelites with a word, if all He desired was their healing. But their present agony was a result of their unbelief, distrust, and subsequent rebellion; the real cure, the permanent cure is to move from distrust to belief. And still, nothing less could have been asked of them - to look at the serpent; and still further, nothing more could have been given to them. Their deliverance was by faith and nothing more, and by that wonderful truth either Jesus talking to Nicodemus or the apostle relating the statement, uttered is one of Jesus’ most famous statements.
If there is a sentence which sums up the message of the fourth Gospel, vs. 16 is it. The love of God is limitless; it embraces all mankind. No sacrifice was too great to bring its unmeasured intensity home to men and women - the best that God had to give, He gave - His only well-beloved and begotten Son. The gospel of salvation and life has its source in the love of God.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 "But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."
John does not use the terminology of justification by faith but he teaches it as plainly as Paul does.
In a gallery where artistic masterpieces are on display, it is not the paintings but the visitors that are on trial. The works reveal taste or lack of. When a person dismisses as rubbish a truly wonderful work like the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel, it tells us nothing about the artwork and much about the person. Christ is the true masterpiece, and anyone who rejects Him has judged himself already. His rejection says nothing about Christ and much about himself.