Study Notes 3-25-12

3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

  • We can’t control the Spirit just as we can’t control the wind.  Jesus once again illustrates God’s sovereign work in salvation – this time in a very tangible way.
  • It’s amazing to think that Jesus, who tells us here that no one knows where the wind comes from or where it goes, was the One who calmed the wind on the Sea of Galilee.  And, of course, the Spirit is not going to do anything that isn’t in perfect harmony with Christ’s mind and the Father’s plan from all eternity.

3:9-10 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” [10] Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

  • The Lord is telling him that these truths are things that he should have known from close study of the Old Testament.  But Nicodemus was not a believer, nor did it seem he was much of a scholar (though that commentary might have been made about many of the ruling class of the Jews during Jesus’ day).
  • We ought to take this rebuke and apply it to our lives as Christians.  In Hebrews 5:11-6:1 Paul echoes a similar sentiment – to be mature as Christians.  We aren’t to be naïve.  And though you may not be a teacher of large groups of people, or part of the “ruling class”, we are all teachers of our children.  We are all rulers of our homes.  We are responsible to learn and to press forward toward maturity.

3:11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.

  • There’s a contrast being made here between the “we” that Jesus is saying and the “we” that Nicodemus used in verse 2.  Nicodemus was referring to some of his pals on the Sanhedrin Council, but Jesus is likely referring to Himself and His disciples – this probably included John the Baptist (MacArthur).

3:12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

  • This is part two of His rebuke.  First Jesus rebuked Him by inferring in verse 10 that he didn’t have an adequate understanding of the Old Testament prophets, and here he seems to be rebuking him for not being able to understand what He was showing him now.
  • This verse reminded me somewhat of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
  • It is evident that unless the Holy Spirit does a supernatural work in our lives, we’ll never be able to understand heavenly things.  RC Sproul explains and summarizes this section of scripture, “A Person must be changed by God; the disposition of his heart, which by nature does not want to do God’s bidding, must be altered by God the Holy Spirit.”

3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

  • This is Jesus simply reaffirming His deity.  He is the only one who has descended from heaven and the only one who has ascended into heaven.  It is an interesting statement.  It seems to me that He is first asserting that He has some amazing (heavenly) things to impart to the people of this world, and that here He is saying that He’s the only one qualified to impart those things.  It’s almost as if He’s saying, “there’s never been anyone like me who can tell you these things, and there never will be another like me.  I’m the only one who has ever come with this kind of authority straight from heaven.”

3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, [15] that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

  • Here another shadow in the Old Testament is made clear to us.  In this case, Jesus is appealing to a story Nicodemus certainly would have known.  The story can be found in Number 21:5-9.
  • In this account, the people of Israel had just been delivered from the land of Egypt and because of their unbelief, we find them here in the midst of their 40-year wandering in the wilderness.  God sent poisonous snakes to plague them because of their grumbling, and Moses intercedes for them.
  • Interestingly enough, the snake eventually became the source of idol worship!  The ESV Study Bible notes say this, “The redness of copper suggested atonement (see 19:1–10), so symbolically it was well chosen for this occasion. Jesus compares his own death on the cross to the uplifted serpent (John 3:14–15). By the time of King Hezekiah of Judah (c. 715 B.C.), this copper serpent had become an object of worship among the Israelites and had to be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).”
  • So, by the grace of God, they are given a way out of their troubles.  They have only to look upon the fiery serpent in faith and trust that by looking upon this poll they will be healed by God.
  • We also must look to the Lord upon the cross and come to Him with faith that He will heal the sickness of our sin and misery.  He alone grants us the opportunity to be healed of this sickness, and He alone is gracious and powerful enough to ensure that we are saved.
  • The result of the healing in this Numbers passage was a saved life, the result of the healing that Christ brings is Spiritual, and because it is spiritual it is eternal.  This is the first instance where John has mentioned eternal life.   It’s significant that Christ uses an Old Testament passage here to illustrate His point – in my opinion it further shames Nicodemus because it would have been a passage he would have been (hopefully) familiar with.

In summary, how do we teach this to our children? 

Today we learned that the Holy Spirit cannot be seen, and He operates in ways that we as humans cannot understand.  The same thing is true about being born-again – its God’s work in us and we can’t really fully understand it, but we trust the God has done it and we notice the change in our hearts.  We also talked about how we (as parents) are responsible for teaching our children the truths God has taught US in the Bible.  Lastly, we learned that humans have always been grumblers – just like the Israelites in grumbled and complained to Moses and God about their food, we also do the same thing don’t we?! On our own strength we will never be able to overcome this sinful nature, but must look to Jesus for redemption and salvation.  Once we have been born again/saved, God sends us the Holy Spirit to help us obey and please God even through trials.

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