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May we, and all who formulated the letter of “testimony” to Classis East, put off the shoes from our feet and submit our every thought to the instruction of Christ as this was given to a “teacher in Israel,” Nicodemus. That is, indeed, salutary and sobering, leading to the true sobriety which can compare spiritual things with spiritual. I Cor. 2:13

Then may we notice particularly that in this entire section, the verses 3-21, our Lord unfolds to us the entire Mystery of godliness that is great. This Mystery is that only reborn men and women, those born from above, can see the Kingdom of heaven. Says Jesus “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born from above he cannot see the Kingdom of heaven.” It is a question of having an entire new birth in our hearts, our will and mind. All the hatred and rebellion must be taken out of us and new life must be infused into, our mind and will. It is wholly the Wonder of grace. Man must be saved. And Jesus came exactly to save His people from their sins; He is an entire and a complete Savior. Either He saves alone and completely or He is no Savior at all. 

Such is the teaching of Jesus. And all, who would maintain and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, will here with bowed head and holy adoration say: Amen! O, some may with Nicodemus say: How can these things be? I venture that even some “leaders in Israel” may ask this question of Nicodemus, or at least ought to ask this question so seriously and fundamentally that they study this question to salvation and to the keeping of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And from this latter group I shall not count myself exempt. It is with this sobering reality in mind that I have set myself to this study. 

Notice, then, how Jesus teaches that the birth from our parents out of Adam profits nothing. The flesh profits nothing. It is the Spirit that giveth life. We must be born out of water and Spirit, that is, out of the Spirit of the Christ, who shall be lifted up, even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Num. 21:8, 9. That birth alone makes our seeing the Kingdom and our entering into it a reality. By that birth from above this seeing of the Kingdom is made a reality, it is brought about

Notice too that the subject Jesus is here discussing is not simply the fact of the cross in history, but he looks at the cross as the realization of our new birth in ChristJohn 3:3-21 is really speaking about appliedsalvation, Soteriology, and not simply about what Christ did for us on the cross. No, Jesus is speaking of this salvation as it is such a reality in our heart, in our mind and will, that we are indeed the possessors of everlasting life! The point of departure in the Argument, here is regeneration, faith, and not the cross. 

Hence, we have a very marked duty to perform. In this study we must point out that John 3:16 is not a mere aphorism, a little text of Scripture into which we may place our own meaning, as do the Arminians and all, who teach the “free-will” of man. For them John 3:14-16simply teaches that God in Christ made salvation “possible” and that now it is up to man whether he will believe in this “offered” Christ. And they can do this only by placing this text in their own context and by pulling it brutally and unbelievingly out of the contest in which Jesus Himself placed it. Such “study” of Scripture is indicative of neither faith nor godliness. It is a denial of the “testimony” of Jesus and the Word of His patience! For they will say: Christ made salvation possible for all, but a reality only for those who shall believe. Here the distinction between meriting of salvation and the application of the same is employed to deceive the innocent. In this category of thought one will surely wish to preach everywhere: God promises every one of you, that, if you believe you shall be saved! And such Arminians will surely insist that such is the “face value,” the simplicity of the Scriptures here, and insinuate that, they, who will to read this text in the light of Jesus’ entire discourse to Nicodemus, will not receive Scripture at “face value,” but are making a simple thing so complex and involved that “only the elite” and those that study “Thayer’s Lexicon” (Dictionary) can understand such an involved gospel. Forsooth, only the so-called “face-value” of the text is the “simple gospel.” 

But we shall, however, cling to the aged old and tried rule of sound exegesis that Scripture must be interpreted in the light of Scripture. That is the analogia fide, the analogy of the word of faith. 

Applied here we will then see that John 3:14-16 is Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus’ question as to how this new birth by the Holy Spirit, Who blows sovereignly and powerfully where He desires, is realized. He receives an answer to the question how such a profound and glorious reality can be realized, come to pass (genesthai) under heaven. It is, indeed, a strange matter that a “teacher in Israel” does not understand these things. And, yet, we should realize that relatively this is true with the best of us, and absolutely this is true with those who pervert this Scripture to their own destruction as they do with all the Scriptures! That our birth in Christ is a matter of sovereign grace, a matter in which we do, not cooperate in the least, nor that it is simply a matter of our believing with aiding grace, is certainly a truth that we must so thoroughly understand and confess that we never let go of it, but keep it in our hearts as a cherished gem, a matter for which we will sell our all to keep it. For only thus do we see the kingdom of God, and only thus do we give indication that we ourselves are born from above and give God, our Father, all the glory in His church, world without end! 

This is the matter in which Nicodemus is here instructed. 

He asks: How are these things able to realized? How can one elect child be born again? How will this be realized in the 144,000 out of every tongue, tribe, people and nation? That is, indeed, the “face value” of the text, as is evident for all who are not blind with the blindness of unbelief. All who have eyes to see the Kingdom of heaven and its glory will know that the subject here is: how can a man be born Again, one man or thousands upon thousands, who shall sing the song of Moses and the Lamb! 

I repeat: the subject here is not how did Christ make salvation “possible,” but that it is most emphatically as to how, according to the will and love of God, salvation is made a “reality” in the hearts of all of the elect. Jesus here tells us explicitly how He saves His people from their sins in their inmost heart and life. Of this His “signs” speak. Blessed is he who is not offended at such a Savior! 

Bearing the foregoing in mind let us pay a little closer attention to the terms in the text.

Notice then that Jesus here calls attention to a certain “pattern” of things in the realization of the salvation of the elect believers. It is the pattern of the “heavenly things.” The “earthly things” are here distinguished from the “heavenly things.” These are not two different realities, entities. Nay, they are the same work and wisdom of God in our salvation viewed from the viewpoints of what is manifest of salvation in faith and walk and of what is the divine design, pattern and purpose of God in all of this. The latter are the “heavenly things” and the former are the “earthly things.” Now, if one does not understand what rebirth is in his own life, faith, conversion, the fruit of the blowing of the sovereign power and grace of the Spirit, how shall he possibly ever have any knowledge of the great love and design of God, the architect in this work of salvation. Then all these things of the “depths of divine plan and purpose in all things” are foolishness. And we will never really truly have life eternal in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent. 

Those who do not love God in all of His virtues, His praises, surely have not been called by regeneration out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. Then surely God’s elective love is not the “heart of the gospel” inJohn 3:16. The “heart of the gospel” is then “whosoever believeth” considered as dissected from the sovereign and elective love in the first part of the text. The “pattern” of God’s love is mutilated with the shears of man’s misinterpretation, by separating what God had in elective love joined together. The “golden chain” is broken. And as separated and disjoined links they are no gospel, neither does this make a simple gospel, understandable to God’s simple people, who love the simplicity of all God’s attributes and works! 

The simple gospel, in which all God’s virtues come to manifestation, simply cannot be seen by the man, who is not born again. He cannot see the simplicity of our rebirth, the blowing of the Spirit where He listeth, and the resultant faith in our hearts by which we have life. That is too simple! It is too much the oneness of God works in which man cannot at all find himself as contributing something. It says too much “the Lord our God is one Lord” and “He is a rock and all His works are perfect.” He stumbles at the simplicity of the gospel, and, therefore, proclaims a “simple gospel” which is neither gospel nor is it simple, as a manifestation of the simplicity of God in all His virtues. 

This simplicity of God’s works in Him, the Son of man, Jesus here underscores in this portion of Holy Writ. 

He does two things here. 

He first of all shows how the eternal foundation of our salvation, of the rebirth of all the children of God is brought about. It is given in verses 14 and 16a. Here we read in each respective passage “Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness thus must the Son of Man be lifted up . . .” And, again, “For God thus loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . .” 

Secondly, He also indicates in this passage who the objects and recipients are of this lifting up of the Son of Man. They are: every one believing in this lifted-up Son of Man! And by this “believing” we may know whether we, are born from above by the sovereign blowing of the Holy Spirit or not. 

And this is not performed by God, according to whim or fancy, but it is performed according to the “manner of God’s love.” And this love is elective love, directing the Spirit in the hearts of all His own! This God constitutes them believing children, by the Spirit of the Son, whom He hath exalted on high. And everyone that believes surely will not perish but have everlasting life. 

Yes, unto that faith all are called in the external preaching of the gospel, to whom God in His good-pleasure sends the gospel. But in this preaching “eternal life” is not “promised to all, if they believe.” It is promised to “everyone believing.” It is a general preaching of a very particular promise! 

Such a general preaching of a particular promise is faithfully performed by those who heed the “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again . . .” and who therefore understand that “everyone believing” in the text in John 3:14-16 may not be read as if it read, “That everyone, if they believe, might have everlasting life.” 

Only the blind cannot see this distinction. 

One marvels how sane man will call this a “like passage” with the “Statement” “God promises everyone one of you, that if you believe, you will be saved” And one is equally amazed how “everyone believing” could be interpretated (not sophisticated) as being a prerequisite to enter the kingdom. 

Yet, a “Classis” thus stated it, and mirabile dictu, under the alleged banner of Reformed truth! 

G.L.