By Nigel Bernard
"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."
This verse is taken to prove that a man can be given the right answer by the influence of the Spirit upon him.
1. All things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ are revealed to men by God. Of his own flesh and blood man cannot find out about these things. God reveals Himself to men through His word which he gives to them. So Peter would have learnt that Jesus was Christ from the Word of God. Almost certainly he would have learnt this by listening to the words which Jesus spake. In Matthew 11:27 Jesus says "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him". So there is an order of events which begins with God delivering things to Jesus. Jesus then in turn reveals them to others. So when Peter listened to the words which Jesus spake concerning himself they were words which had not originated from flesh and blood but from God in heaven.
2. God revealed things concerning Himself through several people in addition to the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter himself was to be later given things by the Spirit to write which included the words: "... prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). The apostle Paul was one man in particular whom God had chosen to reveal things through. Paul wrote: "But when it pleased God...To reveal His son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen: immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal. 1:15-16). These words provide tremendous insight into what Jesus had said to Peter. God was to reveal Jesus through Paul. So by listening to what Paul spake people would learn about the Lord Jesus. However it would be wrong to say that what they heard was being revealed to them by flesh and blood because Paul had originally learnt the things which he was revealing, not from flesh and blood, but from words spoken by God through His messengers.
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"
It is argued that this verse gives believers today a clear command to ask for the Holy Spirit to be given to them.
1. The Holy Spirit truly was given to many who asked.It was something which the apostle Paul also commanded believers to desire (1Cor. 14:1). The Holy Spirit was given in the form of gifts, but these gifts were to be "done away" (1 Cor. 13:10). In 1 John 5:14 the spirit shows the principle which underlies the answering of prayer, that is, we can ask for anything providing it is according to the will of God: "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us". In that God has done away with the Spirit-gifts, and thus it is not His will that the Holy Spirit should be given at present, it is now quite wrong to ask God for the Holy Spirit. The need for such a prayer has gone.
2. At the beginning of Luke 11 the Lord Jesus commanded his disciples to pray "Thy kingdom come" (Luke 11:2). When the Kingdom has come it will be wrong to pray these words because they they will no longer be appropriate. In like manner it is no longer appropriate to pray that we might be given the Holy Spirit because the Spirit-gifts achieved their purpose and were consequently done away in the fist century.
"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""
It is claimed that this shows that the believer receives the Spirit at baptism.
1. There are two ways that a believer is "born...of the Spirit". The first is by the begettal of the inspired Word: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet. 1:23). Moreover this new birth is manifest by the way of life of the believer for "ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (1 John 2:29).
2. The second way that a person can be born of the Spirit is by being given an incorruptible body by the Sprit of God. The Lord Jesus has already been born of the Spirit in this way: "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Acts 13:33). The need for a physical change brought about by the Spirit is spoken of by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, as it is written: "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body" (v. 44). The resurrection being likened to birth is rooted in the Old Testament. For example Jeremiah compares the womb to the grave: "...or that my mother might have been my grave..." (Jer. 20:17) and in Psalm 139 the womb is referred to as the "lowest parts of the earth" (v. 15).
3. So to be born of the Spirit refers to the Spirit-Word begetting a new man in Christ and it also refers to being given a Spirit-body after being found worthy at the judgement seat. The Evangelical view of this passage is alien to Scripture.
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
This verse is used to claim that a person can only come to Jesus if the Holy Spirit acts upon his heart.
1. This verse does not tell us how God draws, but only that He does.
2. The next verse shows us how God draws a person to Christ: "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45). So God causes a person to come to Christ by teaching him through His Word which has to be heard and learnt.
3. In His Word God shows that redemption is through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus upon the cross. In John 3 this is likened by the Lord Jesus to the serpent in the wilderness: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14-15). In Numbers 21:8 Yahweh said to Moses: "Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live". Here was a case of God drawing people unto Him. By telling how looking at the pole would bring healing, people who desired to be healed would be drawn towards the pole. This is taken up by the Lord Jesus in John 12:32: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me". So people who are drawn today to the Lord Jesus by God are responding to His Word which tells them that they are in need of healing and that if they believe they will not perish but have everlasting life.
"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
This verse is used by Evangelicals to show that if we come to Jesus then we receive the Holy Spirit.
1.That this verse is talking about the Spirit is confirmed by the next verse: "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified". Earlier, in John 4, Jesus had compared everlasting life to water: "...the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:140. The two passages do not contradict because everlasting life will be given to a person by the Spirit: "afterward that which is spiritual" (1 Cor. 15:46). Also the Spirit-gifts were a taste of "the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:5). So when the Spirit-gifts were given in Acts 2 the living waters flowed out of the belly, but this flow was only a foretaste of the flow which will occur in the kingdom when the Spirit will not be distributed in measure, restricted to a few gifts for each individual, but will be given without measure to people possessing immortal Spirit bodies.
2. The statement "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" does not occur in the Old Testament but nevertheless Jesus said "as the scripture hath said". Therefore different parts of this statement must be taken from different parts of the scripture. The following table gives some of the Old Testament background to this verse:
John 7:38 "out of his belly"
"out of his belly" Judg. 3:22, Job 20:15
John 7:38 "shall flow rivers"
"rivers...shall flow" Joel 3:18
John 7:38 "rivers of...water"
"rivers of water" Psa. 1:3
John 7:38 "living water"
"living waters" Jer. 17:13
There are other passages which also provide the source for the quotation by Jesus. The verses in the above table do not exclude these. Jeremiah 17:13 has been chosen ahead of other sources for "living water" because of the way the latter part of the verse links with what was to follow at the beginning of John 8 where Jesus writes on the ground. The two passages providing the source for "out of his belly" may seem surprising and require special attention.
In Judges 3:22 the two-edged dagger of Ehud cannot be drawn out of Eglons belly. Instead dirt comes out. As is well known the dagger represents the Word of God ("errand", v. 19, and "message", v. 20 translate the Hebrew word for word, see also Heb. 4:12). Ehud was a wicked man. He was exposed by the Word, and instead of the Word coming out of him dirt came out. In Job 20 Zophar is speaking. He tells how God would cast the riches from out of the belly of the wicked. Yet, as so often with the friends of Job, his words really spoke about himself. For, in contrast to the Spirit of God which moves men without them having to think (Matt. 10:19), Zophar begins his words by saying: "Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste. I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer" (Job 20:2-3). When the Holy Spirit was given to cause men to speak it was Gods understanding not their own which caused them to speak. By his own admission Zophar was contrasting his words with those of God. These were his riches and they would be cast out of his belly. So in a contrasting way the phrase "out of his belly", taken as it is from Judges and Job, directs us to what would be given by the Spirit as it flowed out of the belly, namely the Word of God. Perhaps the last word in this paragraph should be left to Zophar as he speaks, inspired by his spirit, concerning the wicked: "Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung" (Job 20:7).
3. The living waters spoken of by Jesus refer to the Spirit, both its outpouring at Pentecost and that time when the Spirit will be given to change mortal bodies to immortal bodies. The latter aspect is reflected in the Old Testament passages from where the quotation has been built up. However, as we have partly seen, the Old Testament background also relates to the work which the Spirit did in the first century. But, as usual, there is no room for the Evangelical interpretation of the way the Spirit is supposed to work in them today.
Continued Vol.9 #1
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