Monday, May 05, 2008Who's doing the work???
"Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God." (Ezekiel 36:22-28)
The above passage of Scripture is actually what Nicodemus should have remembered when the Lord Jesus Christ taught him about the Second Birth. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, which meant he should have been quite familiar with the Old Testament. This is why the Lord, appalled by Nicodemus' ignorance said, in John 3:10: "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Nicodemus should have remembered the passage in Ezekiel about being "cleansed with water", and receiving a "new spirit" when the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of "being born of water and the Spirit".
What we have in Ezekiel 36:22-28 is the salvation of Israel, nationally (which matches perfectly with the teachings of Romans 11). That is, all Jews, one day, will be gathered by God and brought into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God will give them the Second Birth, which is nothing short of being washed clean, receiving a new heart (or nature), and receiving the Holy Spirit. Sound familiar?
Now, notice something very important in Ezekiel 36: what part do the End-Time Jews have to play in being washed with water, receiving a new heart and the Holy Spirit? Do they have to repent? Do they have to 'accept Jesus as personal Saviour'? Do they have to recognize that they are sinners and Jesus died for them in order to be washed and receive 'the goods'? READ THE PASSAGE! The answer is obviously: NO! God makes it clear that all the Jews were, are and will be good for, in a spiritual sense (and this can be said of any other group of people) is profaning God's Holy Name! The picture isn't one of a nation repenting, exercising faith and then getting a favourable response from God; the picture is one of a Holy God, for His Holy Name's sakes alone takes an undeserving Nation and washes it clean, blesses it with a right disposition, and seals it with His Holy Spirit. The only part the End-Time Jews will play in all this is this: they'll receive God's grace. PERIOD.
Fast-forward back to John 3. This time, let us bear in mind what Nicodemus should have had in his mind: Ezekiel 36. Why didn't the Lord Jesus Christ tell Nicodemus what TO DO to be born-again after His statement in verse 3? Simple! There was nothing Nicodemus COULD do to be born-again, it wasn't his work to perform. It was/is/will be God's. Note verse 6 of John 3:
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
The only "birth" that comes from Man is carnal; and that would be our physical births (from our mothers). Then note, "that which is born of the Spirit", that is, of God, "is spirit". If one is to be spiritually born, it will be the work of God, the Holy Spirit. Plus NOTHING! The second you add personal repentance, or faith, or confession, or whatever... YOU ARE ADDING TO SCRIPTURE. The Second Birth is God's work. It is initiated by Him. It is completed by Him. This is why, all over Scripture, we have incredible statements like:
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)
"So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." (Romans 9:16)
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:4-6)
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)
"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:3-5)
"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." (James 1:18)
So how does all this fit in with "salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone" (which is clearly taught in the second half of John 3) ? Well, believe it or not, it does fit. Fits rather well too! But that will have to wait for part IV.