MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419
John 3:1 There 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.
NICK AT NIGHT
Luther said that the Bible is a book for heretics, and John's Gospel has been especially favored in promoting false teaching. Nevertheless, the Fourth Gospel clearly teaches Christian doctrine in the simplest language. People have misused the Gospel from the beginning because its clear message.
The Gospel of John has the clearest apostolic authority, assuming the use and knowledge of the first three gospels. The other gospels have more narrative, while John's gospel has more of Jesus' teaching.
Knowledge of the original text of the Gospel can defeat many false views, but a proper understanding of the English will also defeat the wolves. English alone is enough, but when Greek is used to advance a phony argument, Greek is needed to defeat it. For instance, Lutheran feminists would have us believe that the Greek word anthropos (the root for anthropology and misanthrope) can only refer to humankind in general and never to a man. For that reason, they cannot confess that the Son of God "became man," only that he became "fully human." But let's read the first phrase of this lesson again, ” There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus…"
The word for "man" in this phrase is anthropos! It is impossible to translate the word in any feminist form and make it sound like English. Examples:
1. There was a fully human from the Pharisees named Nicodemus.
2. There was a human being from the Pharisees named Nicodemus.
3. There was a person from the Pharisees named Nicodemus.
4. There was an individual from the Pharisees named Nicodemus. (We use "individual" when we want to hide the gender and ordination status of someone. Confessions are not meant to hide information.)
I recall someone who wondered a bit about having a woman preacher at his Pentecostal church. I said, "The Bible clearly precludes women preaching to men and teaching men. And how can she be "the husband of one wife" when she is the wife of one husband? The man answered, "She says the passage doesn't mean that."
We would have funny looking homes if every builder and contractor had a different concept of one inch. The canon of Scripture means "measuring rod." The standard is unchanging. Otherwise we must argue that God's Word is infinitely flexible and constantly changing.
The use of John's Gospel by heretics can be clearly seen in this lesson. As we know from this familiar passage, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, probably because of his fears, since he was a religious leader of the Jews. Jesus converted Nicodemus to faith in Him by teaching him the Word, as we see from the Gospel.
He spoke up for Jesus when the leaders wanted to kill the Son of God:
John 7:50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them…
He was rebuked for his attempts.
Later, he helped in the burial rites.
John 19:39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, the Savior said, "You must be born from above." This is a pun, because the same word can be used for again, and Nicodemus in his confusion asked how a full-grown man could be born all over again.
We might ask, "Why didn't Jesus speak more clearly?" But whenever Jesus spoke of spiritual matters, people misunderstood Him. This happened with the woman at the well and when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. It reminds us that when God speaks to us about matters of eternal salvation, we worry about the daily concerns of this earthly life.
When parents take children on a long car trip, they will ask, "When are we going to eat?" The father or mother is tempted to say, "Do you think we are going to let you starve to death? Don't be so anxious."
In the discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus defined what He meant by "You must be born from above." The decision theology people say that He meant we must make a decision for Christ, defining that moment when we decided to accept Jesus, an act of the will. This is so important that some denominations have made that a requirement, giving the date in which the person made a decision.
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.
Here we must mention Greek again, because the original text is our standard. "Born of water and of the Spirit" is often mumbled by Baptists. Once a radio sermon by a Baptist, passed over this phrase very quickly. The actual phrase completely destroys their anti-Sacrament argument. Non-Lutheran Protestants deny that baptism grants forgiveness of sin, planting faith in the heart of the baptized person. Some of them baptize infants; some refuse to, although they dedicate them with the Word. But they agree together that baptism is not God acting upon us.
By taking this away, these same people have paved the way for Pentecostals, who separate water baptism and Spirit baptism, by saying, "I was a baptized Christian for many years, but I was not a real Christian until I was baptized by the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues." False teaching about baptism leads to confusion, two or more baptisms. Many are baptized again and again. Many tongue-speakers look for ever increasing signs of God's blessing upon them.
Jesus does not separate water and Spirit baptism. Neither should we. The phrase " Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit" lacks any articles. The Greek New Testament is very generous with its use of the word "the." Therefore, when "the" is lacking, the words can be seen as hyphenated. Except a man be water/Spirit born. This is the real meaning of the phrase. Water baptism is Spirit baptism because the Gospel promises are linked to the earthly form of water.
Luther's opponents wanted to make fun of water accomplishing anything, but they ignored the role of the Word of God connected with baptismal water. A dog or a cat would look into a baptismal font and see only something to quench their thirst. We are not to listen to God's Word and hear no more than an animal would.
Being water/Spirit born teaches us that God is indeed involved in each and every true baptism. Birth itself suggests an image of a new person. The apostle Paul also wrote of washing and rebirth. Washing is the clearest possible image of sins being forgiven. Rebirth means a new life has started.
Jesus distinguished between the carnal and the spiritual. The apostle wrote: 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The "natural man" is used by the Greeks to describe the noblest aspect of man. Whoever is considered a great hero for all his virtues - he cannot receive Spiritual things. They are comical to him. He sees no more than a cow or a horse. Many wise men of the ages have said that the Bible is nothing but foolishness to them.
No one can believe unless the Holy Spirit has planted faith in that person's heart through the Word. Adults are converted and receive baptism as God's sacrament of forgiveness. Children hear the promises of God through baptism and are converted to faith. Their parents, then, must nurture this faith. One does not plant a seed and then let it dry up and wither away. People spend more time nurturing their gardens than nurturing their children's faith.
The comfort of baptism cannot be overstated. No baptized person need doubt his standing with God. All despair can be answered by this, "God has baptized you into His kingdom. He has done this because of His gracious, kindly and forgiving nature." If someone has fallen into deep and terrible sins, he can nevertheless rest forgiveness upon his baptism. Through faith we receive the Gospel message of Jesus redeeming us from sin, death, and the devil.
Parents also have the comfort and blessing of baptism in their children. They have no reason to question whether their baptized children are in fact in the Kingdom of God. It is a sad day when we have to plead for the innocence of children when their lives are cut short by accident or diseases. The most helpless child can be proud, obstinate, jealous, and even vindictive. The Old Adam does not wait to arrive until a convenient time. We inherit this sinful nature. But when we lose a child, we can say, "God made him a member of His kingdom through baptism."
The blessings of baptism are infinite. Children grow up with faith and hear the Word of God with great love and confidence. They have their little distractions but they do not have the skills of adults in rejecting what they hear in the Word. They are dry sponges, absorbing what they hear. One girl cried and begged her family to take her to Sunday School, when they wanted to sleep in all weekend. This does not come from the flesh, because kids like to goof around too. It comes from the Holy Spirit.
A child who grows up in the Christian faith will be blessed in many ways and be a blessing to everyone as well. His impact will be impossible to determine, but God knows.
As adults and as children, we are united by what God has done for us, so that we are water/Spirit born.