Question: Pastor John, what are the marks of a true church? I have heard people say there are three: 1. The preaching of the gospel takes place. 2. The sacraments are rightly administered. 3. Church discipline is exercised. Read more
King’s Church is committed to the primacy of corporate worship. We believe God sovereignly establishes and increases faith through the ordinary means of grace: the preaching of the Word of God in the gathered assembly, prayer, and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Regular attendance to these means is vital for believers’ spiritual nourishment and growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. God’s people are therefore called to participate regularly in Lord’s Day corporate worship, in dependence upon God’s Spirit, who applies these benefits through these God appointed means.
As such, we encourage you and your family to consider the various ministries, fellowship events, and educational opportunities, such as weekly Bible studies and Sunday school classes, as supplements to corporate worship, but never as replacements of corporate worship.
“Many persons row hard to get the ship to land by a notional belief in orthodox doctrine. This superstition is harder to deal with, but quite as dangerous as the belief in good works. It is quite as legal an idea for me to think to be accepted by believing good doctrine as to expect to be pardoned for doing good works. Yet we have scores of people who if they can get hold of the Calvinistic creed at the right end; if they become masters of it and know how to argue against Arminianism; if they become not only sound Calvinists but a little sounder still, having not only the sixteen ounces to the pound but two or three ounces over and above, so as to make them ultra-Calvinistic; why then they fancy that all must be well. ‘I never can hear a preacher,’ this man will say, ‘who is not sound. I can tell at once when there is a grain of free will in the sermon.’ This is all very well, but he who boasts thus may be no better than the devil; nay, he may not be so good, for the devil believes and trembles, but these men believe and are too much hardened in their own conceit to think of trembling. Away with the idea that believing sound doctrine and chaining ourselves to a cast-iron creed is vital godliness and eternal life. Orthodox sinners will find that hell is hot, and that their knowledge of predestination will not yield a cooling drop to their parched tongues. Condemning other people, cutting off the saints of God right and left, is but poor virtue, and to have these blessed doctrines in the head while neglecting them in the heart is anything but a gracious sign. If ye can “a hair divide betwixt the west and north-west side,” do not therefore fancy that your fine gifts and profound orthodoxy will ensure you an entrance into the kingdom of heaven, Ah! You may row with those oars, but you will not get the ship to land, ye must be saved by sovereign grace, through the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, or you will not be saved at all. As it is not by doing that we are saved, neither is it by subscribing to creeds; there is something more than this needed ere the ship reach the port.”
– C. H. Spurgeon – From A Sermon Delivered on May 1, 1864, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
A Statement from the King’s Church Elders:
Concerning Chapter 22 of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689: OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AND THE SABBATH DAY
At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Martin Luther declared “to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.” How true this is! It is a concept drawn from the Bible itself. “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
It needs to be said, with great emphasis, that there are wonderful, genuine Christians, who truly love God’s word who come to differing conclusions on this issue of the Sabbath. This is not a new phenomenon in any way. This was the case even in New Testament times. Romans 14: 5, 6 says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.” In this chapter (Romans 14), the Apostle Paul outlines how we are to handle these kind of differences in the setting of the local Church, and rather than breaking fellowship with each other, exhorts us to walk together with our fellow Christians in love and understanding, believing the best of each other, while at the same time, never violating our individual conscience.
In the context of outlining what Christ accomplished for His people on the cross, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath (literally, ‘sabbaths’ plural). These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16, 17) Christians are told to never let anyone judge them concerning Sabbath observation. When Church leadership tells another Christian “we cannot walk with you because of your view of the Sabbath” this is a clear violation of Paul’s apostolic command. Such should never be the case.
The Bible alone is the word of God – the sole infallible rule of faith for the people of God. Historic creeds and confessions of the Church, while having great weight and significance, never rise to the level of God breathed Scripture. Only Scripture has the authority to bind the conscience absolutely. This also means that every creed and confession must therefore be in agreement and alignment with the Bible to be true.
As elders at King’s Church, our study of the Scriptures has brought us to the conclusions outlined here below. Yet even as we make our position plain, we wish to make clear that those who hold a strong Sabbatarian view are very welcome at King’s Church. Please know that! We simply ask that they do not seek to promote or push that view on others in the flock. To these precious people we say “we can live with you as long as you can live with us.”
As to the question, “ARE THE SABBATH LAWS BINDING ON CHRISTIANS TODAY?”
We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are typological and associated with the Mosaic Covenant, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have been fulfilled along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.
1. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to Sabbaths as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). Paul is referring to all kinds of Sabbaths, which is why he used the Plural.
2. The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.
3. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.
4. In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
5. Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so That is certainly strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle. Also, a Gentile cannot be expected to practice a sign of a covenant of which he is not a member; thus requiring Sabbath observance by Gentiles makes no sense. It’s like requiring unbelievers to attend the Lord’s Supper.
6. There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses.
7. When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.
8. The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.
9. In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).
10. In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).
11. Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord’s Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).
So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord’s people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as “the Sabbath.”
Note on Col. 2:16
A. Why do some translations translate the last part of vs. 16 as “or a sabbath day” (using the indefinite article and render “Sabbath” as singular), while others translate “or sabbaths” (not using the indefinite article but render “Sabbath” in the plural)?
It seems to us that the original intent of Paul, using the plural without the definite article, was to refer to multiple “kinds” of sabbaths – i.e. weekly, seasonal, etc. – which were commanded in the mosaic covenant.
To illustrate in English, using the term “holiday” – if we said, “let no one judge you in regard to a holiday” (using the indefinite article and singular noun) – we would mean, let no one judge you in regard to all of the days we classify as holidays – i.e. 4th of July, Memorial Day, Easter, Christmas, etc. Also, if we said, “let no one judge you in regard to holidays (omitting the indefinite article and using the plural noun) we would understand the same thing – i.e. let no one judge you in regard to any days we classify as holidays since there are different types of holidays.
The fact that Paul used the plural can only mean one of two things.
1. Either the thought is since the weekly Sabbath is repeated he put it in the plural because he wanted to say let no one judge you in regard to any particular week’s Sabbath. We do not think he meant this – but if he did it supports the non-sabbatarian position.
2. If the reason for the plural is not #1, then the plural must be being used as in the “holiday” illustration above – i.e. there was more than one type of “Sabbath” and Paul wanted to address them all.
Now if we are to be Sabbatarians we must go further in explaining Paul’s use of the plural. We must say he wanted to address more than one kind of Sabbath (the non-weekly ones) but not all kinds of Sabbaths (i.e. not the weekly)! And we would need to say that his readers (mainly Gentile Christians) could be expected to conclude this!
In summary, it may be clarifying to ask (and answer) this question:
What did the 4th commandment mean to the Israelites to whom it was given?
The fourth commandment was to be observed as a sign of the Mosaic Covenant the Israelites had just entered:
Exodus 31:12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.
Ezekiel 20:9 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 10 So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 I gave them my statutes and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live. 12 Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them… 19 I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, 20 and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.
Sabbath observance was to remind Israel that they were in covenant relationship with Yahweh. The reason the sign was a day of rest was to remind them that Yahweh redeemed them from the house of bondage and gave them rest.
Deut. 5:12 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Israel practiced this command because they were a redeemed-by-Yahweh-people. This is what the Sabbath in the Decalouge, in the Mosaic Covenant, is about. This is not a natural law matter written on all human consciences. It’s a redemptive revelation revealed in the “gospel” in the law – God giving His people rest and rolling back the curse.
None of the Israelite observance was applicable to non covenant members, i.e. Gentiles. Actually it would be a misuse of the command for Gentiles to practice this Sabbath as if they were one of Yahweh’s people (much like an unbeliever practicing the Lord’s Supper in our day).
*The WCF/LBCF sabbatarian needs to show that 1) Non covenant members were required to keep the 4th commandment and 2) when they do keep it, keeping it means something different for them from what it means for covenant members.
Concerning Chapter 26 of the Confession: OF THE CHURCH
Paragraph 4 – we revise to say:
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner. As the Lord Jesus is the single head of the universal church it is impossible that any person has been or ever will be the single head of the universal church on earth.
During a recent sermon series at King’s Church, we have been taking a fresh look at the Five Solas of the Reformation. In that time, we have drunk deeply at the well of salvation and seen the Lord Jesus Christ and His power to save in new and fresh ways. It has been a joy!
I hope the series can be a blessing to others also, and so make these sermons available here.
Sola Scriptura: Sermon: The More Sure Word
Sola Fide: Sermon: The Heart of the Gospel
Sola Gratia: Sermon: Every Christian is a Miracle
Solus Christus: Sermon: Federal Headship – Adam and Christ
Soli Deo Gloria: Sermon: The Meaning of Life
The eBook and Audio Book Version of my new book is also now available at this link.
IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY – WHY EVOLUTION WON’T WORK
Rev. John Samson
What “science” once thought of as the “simple cell” is now understood to be far more complex than all the goings on in a large city! ALL the mechanisms would need to be in place and functioning perfectly at the very start, or else the cell would die. This is called “irreducible complexity”, and forever destroys secular atheistic evolution as an intellectually viable option.
From the article found here: concerning the 5 part mouse trap… “an irreducibly complex system cannot come about in a gradual manner. One cannot begin with a wooden platform and catch a few mice, then add a spring, catching a few more mice than before, etc. No, all the components must be in place before it functions at all. A step-by-step approach to constructing such a system will result in a useless system until all the components have been added. The system requires all the components to be added at the same time, in the right configuration, before it works at all…. the complicated biological structures in a cell exhibit the exact same irreducible complexity that we saw in the mousetrap example. In other words, they are all-or-nothing: either everything is there and it works, or something is missing and it doesn’t work.”
.. and remember that in the cell, we are talking about a system FAR more complicated and complex than that of an entire city!!!
“Darwinism has no mechanism for adding all the components at once. Remember, Darwin’s mechanism is one of gradual mutations leading to improved fitness and survival. A less-than-complete system of this nature simply will not function, and it certainly won’t help the organism to survive. Indeed, having a half-formed and hence non-functional system would actually hinder survival and would be selected against. ”
The bacterial flagellum is a cellular outboard motor that bears the marks of intelligent design. Taken from http://www.arn.org/docs/mm/motor.htm.
“Evolution simply cannot produce complex structures in a single generation as would be required for the formation of irreducibly complex systems. To imagine that a chance set of mutations would produce all 200 proteins required for cilia function in a single generation stretches the imagination beyond the breaking point. And yet, producing one or a few of these proteins at a time, in standard Darwinian fashion, would convey no survival advantage because those few proteins would have no function – indeed, they would constitute a waste of energy for the cell to even produce. Darwin recognized this as a potent threat to his theory of evolution – the issue that could completely disprove his idea. So the question must be raised: Has Darwin’s theory of evolution “absolutely broken down?””
The answer seems to be a resounding “yes.”
Evolution is a theory in absolute crisis, yet for many, the alternative (Creation by God) is so utterly distasteful, it is dismissed out of hand.. but even as they do so, their conscience screams “there is a God.”
All of this is significant because according to the Bible, this is not a morally neutral issue without consequence. God is angry when the truth He has made manifest (of His existence) is suppressed.
Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools…
Dr. James White remarked, “The progress in our knowledge of the irreducible complexity of life has rendered us truly “without excuse” when it comes to our attributing to the natural order that which God reserves for himself. Any person who can look at the mechanics of the cell, realize the order, the information, the complexity that makes any computer you are using to read this post look like a stick and a rock in comparison, and yet continue in the suppression of the God-instilled knowledge of His own existence is a person remaining in utter rebellion.”
The more we learn of science, the more we are “without excuse.” God does not believe in atheists.
Pastor John Samson
The chief reason for me being a Reformed Christian is not a heartfelt devotion to the Magisterial Reformers like Martin Luther or John Calvin. No, the main reason is that the Reformed message thunders out from the pages of Scripture when the principles of hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation) are applied. When the Biblical text is left to speak for itself, within its own context, the truth is clearly seen. Texts taken out of their setting can be made to support many erroneous views and heresies. Surely, a text out of context is a pretext for all false doctrine. However, error is exposed when individual texts are subjected to analysis such as identifying the background, use of words, context, syntax, etc.
Some people are very quick to say that “the Lord” showed them the meaning of a verse. Yet it is often the case that the context of the verse totally repudiates the interpretation given. To fail to study the text’s context is not a mark of spirituality, but the exact opposite – a failure to honor the Holy Spirit who inspired the original words. We would never wish for our own words to be treated this way. How much more should this be the case when it is God the Holy Spirit who has inspired Scripture?
An old heresy, based upon a misinterpretation of John 10:34, suggests that men can become gods. This is the doctrine espoused by the LDS (Mormons) and other cult groups. I will let an excerpt from Dr. James White’s book “Is the Mormon my Brother?” show the context and true meaning of John 10:34.
– Pastor John Samson
Dr. White writes:
John chapter ten is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture, for it speaks of the Lord Jesus’ relationship to His people in the terms of the Shepherd and His sheep. In the midst of talking about the glorious salvation that belongs to those who know and trust Christ, Jesus asserts that He and the Father are one in their bringing about the final and full salvation of all those who are given by the Father to the Son (vv. 28-30). When the Lord says, “I and the Father are one,” He offends the Jews, who realize that such a claim implies deity. No mere creature can be fully one with the Father in bringing about redemption itself! This prompts the dialogue that concerns us here:
“I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:30-36)
The use of this passage in LDS literature is widespread. “I said, you are gods” is used to substantiate the idea of a plurality of gods, and men becoming gods. Yet, even a brief review of the passage demonstrates that such is hardly a worthy interpretation, and some of the leading LDS apologists today avoid trying to press the passage that far, and for good reason. The unbelieving Jews seen in this passage, with murder in their hearts, are hardly good candidates for exaltation to godhood. What is more, the Lord Jesus uses the present tense when He says, “You are gods.” So, obviously, He is not identifying His attackers as divine beings, worthy of worship by their eventual celestial offspring! What, then, is going on here?
When we allow the text to speak for itself, the meaning comes across clearly. As usual the context is determinative. The Jewish leaders were acting as Jesus’ judges. They were accusing Him of blasphemy, of breaking God’s law. Their role as judges in this instance is determinative, for the Lord is going to cite a passage about judges from the Old Testament. The Jews make it plain that they understand Jesus’ words to contain an implicit claim of equality with God (v. 33). It is at this point that the Lord quotes from Psalm 82:6, which contains the important words, “I said you are gods.” But when we go back to the passage from which this is taken (and surely the Jewish leaders would have known the context themselves), we find an important truth:
God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:1-6)
Here we have the key to the passage, for this is a psalm of judgment against the rulers of Israel. God takes his stand in His own congregation, that being His own people, Israel. He judges in the midst of the “rulers.” The Hebrew term here is “elohim,” which could be translated “gods.” The NASB however, recognizes that the context indicates who is being discussed, for the next verse reads, “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked.” Who judges unjustly and shows partiality? Human judges, of course, human rulers amongst the people. Hence, the NASB rendering of “elohim” as “rulers.” It is important to recognize the use of the term elohim in verse 1, for the very same term appears in verse 6, and is what lies behind Jesus’ citation in John 10:34. Before moving on in the text, it should be noted that even at this point recognizing that this passage is talking about unjust human rulers removes this passage from the realm of possible passages to cite in support of a plurality of gods, and certainly, Jesus was not, by citing this passage, calling His accusers true divine beings.
When we get to verse six, we find that God has placed the judges of Israel in a position of being “gods” amongst the people. They were entrusted with the application of God’s law. God calls them to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute (v. 3). This is their task, their duty. But they are failing that duty. They are not acting as proper, godly judges. Verse six, then, begins the pronouncement of judgment. Jesus only cites the beginning of the judgment-which was enough to make His point. But since many today do not immediately know the context the way the Jews did, we need to point it out. The rest of the phrase Jesus quotes is this: “Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.” Such is hardly the terminology one would use of divine and exalted beings! And this explains the use of the present tense verb “You are gods” in John 10:34. Jesus is saying His accusers are, right then, the judges condemned in Psalm 82. And what kind of judges were they? Unrighteous judges, who were judging unjustly. Jesus was calling His accusers false judges, and they well knew it.
That this is the meaning of Jesus’ use of the passage is seen by going back to John chapter ten. Jesus refers to these rulers as those “to whom the word of God came.” Surely this is an apt description of the rulers who were set to judge in God’s place. Once He has made His application, and identified His accusers as false judges, He then asks, “Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Here He points to their judgment of blasphemy and contrasts their errant decision with the Father’s sanctification and sending of the divine Son. The folly of their false judgment is manifest to all. This is the meaning of the passage, and pressing it to support the idea that men can, after aeons and aeons of evolution, become gods, only shows how far removed the LDS position is from biblical Christianity.
1) We should note that this passage is not teaching that the Father is the Son. The doctrine of the Trinity expressly denies the identification of the Father and the Son as one Person. The verb used in this passage is plural; hence, it can literally be translated “I and the Father, we are one.” LDS often assume that Christians are modalists, who believe the Father and the Son are one person, when this is untrue. The issue is always one Being shared by three Persons.
2)In fact, the common LDS usage of the passage is directly contradicted by a leading LDS authority, James Talmage, in his book, Jesus the Christ, 15th ed., rev. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1977), p. 501, LDSCL. Note Talmage’s words:
“Divinely Appointed Judges Called “Gods.” — In Psalm 82:6, judges invested by divine appointment are called “gods.” To this scripture the Savior referred in His reply to the Jews in Solomon’s porch. Judges so authorized officiated as the representatives of God and are honored by the exalted title “gods.” Compare the similar appellation applied to Moses (Ex. 4:16; 7:1). Jesus Christ possessed divine authorization, not through the word of God transmitted to Him by man, but as an inherent attribute. The inconsistency of calling human judges “gods,” and of ascribing blasphemy to the Christ who called Himself the Son of God, would have been apparent to the Jews but for their sin darkened minds.”
(“Is the Mormon my Brother?” pp. 155-158 by Dr. James R. White)
Pastor John Samson
In the early verses of John chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus in no uncertain terms, the absolute necessity of being born again (or born from above). Unless a man is first born again (regenerated) he can never enter or even see the kingdom of God. Jesus stresses the fact that this new birth is not merely an optional extra. It is imperative. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (3:7).
Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus what he must do to be born again. Why? Because it was not within Nicodemus’ power to perform this miracle. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6) Flesh can only reproduce flesh. It takes the Spirit to regenerate the human spirit. This miracle of regeneration cannot be achieved by human effort, or by self performed surgery.
The new birth is not the improvement of the old nature, but the creation of an entirely new one. It is a birth, a new birth, and like the first one we experienced, it did not occur because of our decision to be born. Our will was not a factor in any way. We were born as a result of the will of others – that of our parents, and of course, God’s will to create us using the means of human, physical intimacy.
In contrast to our first birth, this new birth does not occur through human means. God alone brings about this new creation in Christ Jesus. As John, the Gospel writer had already pointed out in chapter 1:12, 13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Jesus makes it clear that human flesh can only reproduce flesh. It is the Holy Spirit alone who can recreate human spirits. The Holy Spirit is the sole Agent working regeneration in the human spirit.
In explaining this phenomenon of the new birth, Jesus then speaks of something very mysterious – the wind. Wind is mysterious, not because it is not real, but because it is not something we’ve ever actually seen. Though we know when it is around because of its effects, we’ve never actually observed wind with our eyes. Oh, we’ve seen trees swaying, leaves falling, papers flying through the air. Sometimes the effects of the wind are so powerful that the only word we can use for its effects would be devastation. The wind can cause havoc on a massive scale, as the victims of hurricanes can testify. But wind is mysterious because we can’t see it, and we are never sure about where it came from, or where it is going. It seems to have a mind of its own.
Concerning this, Jesus said, “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.” (3:8)
The word “pneuma” in Greek, like the word “ruach” in Hebrew means “breath, wind or spirit.” Jesus uses an obvious play on words here, describing the activity of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
Of course, much more could and should be said about these opening verses in John chapter 3. But just for a moment, can we stop to appreciate the impact of verse 8? Here Jesus teaches us that when anyone is born of the Spirit, like the blowing of the wind, the invisible Sovereign Spirit of God has moved in mighty power. Yet in contrast to when a town or city experiences storm damage on a large scale, the effects of this “wind” are not in any way negative. Though powerful in the extreme, the Spirit’s work is amazingly precise.
When someone is born again, it is evidence of the fact that God, the Holy Spirit has performed extensive Divine surgery. He has taken out the stony heart and put in a heart of flesh (using the biblical imagery of Ezekiel, flesh is spoken of in contrast to stone, wheras Jesus, in John 3 is using the word flesh in a different way, speaking only of physical, human flesh). Ezekiel 36:26-27 declares, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” What an amazing miracle this is!
I remember going to a Christian service at age 14, not wanting to be there, hoping for the service to end (even though it had just begun). I was only there because my father had asked me to go. I had no interest in Christ, nor in what I was observing when the congregation sang, and certainly, had no interest in what the preacher had to say. But sometime during the message, my attitude changed. I became interested. In fact, I became intrigued. I was fascinated, and struck by the realities of heaven and hell, and the need for a Savior, and for the first time in my life, was attracted by a Treasure I had never seen before.
I didn’t know it then, but I know now, that what happened in a little metal shed-like building in Chester, England that Sunday night of May 10th, 1980 was this… God, the Holy Spirit, invisibly blew into that service, and while I was hearing the Gospel (under the ministry of Cliff Beasley), in Sovereign and colossal power, yet with the skill of an expert Surgeon, He went to work on my soul. In an instant in time, I was born from above, the old heart of stone was removed and a new heart was put in that with every beat, wanted to know the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. This Jesus, so to speak, stepped off the old dusty pages of the Bible and became a living Person in my eyes. All of a sudden, I really wanted to know Him, I really wanted Him to save me, and I really wanted His will in my life. And when the Gospel appeal was made, I came to Christ willingly in repentance and faith.
If you are born of the Spirit, God did the exact same thing for you. The Reformation sola of Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) simply expresses in doctrine what God has done for His people in experience. It is God and God alone who has saved us. All the credit for it goes to Him, because this birth had nothing to do with our intelligence (that we somehow worked out who Jesus was for ourselves), or our humility (we having conquered our own pride, were able to humble ourselves to be able to respond in faith to the Gospel). No, a thousand times, no! We are Christians because of the all conquering power of the mighty Spirit of God, who graciously stormed our hearts and worked His Sovereign will. He brought us forth by the word of truth, causing us to find sheer delight in the presence of God both now and for all eternity.
When Lazarus was raised from death, he did not immediately seek an attorney in order to sue Jesus for violating his right to stay dead! Nor did all the town’s people sue Jesus for not at the very same time raising all of their dead relatives from the graves. No, everyone marveled at the all-powerful call of Jesus. By the power of just His word, He actually brought a putrifying corpse back to life. Of course, no one was more thrilled with this Divine mercy than Lazarus himself.
Why do we speak so much about God’s grace? Because with Lazarus we can say that by the effectual call of God, grace has conquered our hearts and brought us to life. When we were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (the Greek word for dead in Ephesians 2:1, “necros” means “dead like a corpse”) God made us alive (Eph. 2:5).
C. H. Spurgeon once said, “The great King, immortal, invisible, the Divine person, called the Holy Spirit: it is He that stimulates the soul, or else it would lie dead forever; it is He that makes it tender, or else it would never feel; it is He that imparts power to the Word preached, or else it could never reach further than the ear; it is He who breaks the heart, it is He who makes it whole; He, from first to last, is the great worker of Salvation in us, just as Jesus Christ was the author of Salvation for us.”
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…” Eph. 2:1-5
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me… Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, Sovereign King, hear our cry. As Your gospel is heralded around the world, may the Holy Spirit of God, like a mighty triumphant wind, conquer dead human hearts today! It is man’s only hope! For Your great Name’s sake and for Your glory alone. Amen.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul
THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS HIMSELF
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
THE TESTIMONY OF PETER
Acts 4:10-12 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
THE TESTIMONY OF PAUL
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
One of the main objections people have to the Christian Gospel is this issue …of exclusivity: that the Christian proclaims that only in Jesus Christ is salvation to be found. Certainly it would be less objectionable if Jesus was merely presented as simply one of the many ways to God. Yet it needs to be pointed out that it is not the Christian who came up with this idea, but the claim comes directly from Jesus Himself. Because of this, either Jesus is the Way to God as He said, or else He is a liar and a deceiver, and not even one way to God!
Lets think about this idea of there only being one way to God by looking at it from a hypothetical perspective. Follow the logic of Dr. R.C. Sproul as he writes the following in his book “Reason to Believe”:
Let’s suppose that there is a God who is absolute in His holiness and righteousness. Suppose He freely creates mankind and gives each human being the gift of life. Suppose He sets His creatures in an ideal environment with the freedom to enjoy the wonders of the entire creation. Then let’s suppose that God imposes one small restriction upon them, and warns them that if they violate that restriction, they will die. Would such a God have the right to impose such a restriction with the penalty of forfeiture of the gift of life if His authority was violated?
Then let’s suppose that for no just cause, the ungrateful creatures disobeyed the restriction. Yet suppose that when He discovered their violation, instead of killing them instantly, He redeemed them.
Suppose the descendants of the first violators increase their hostility and disobedience to God to the point that the whole world become enemies of God.
Suppose God still determined to redeem these people, and set aside a distinct nation for Himself, giving them special gifts, so that through them, the entire world would be blessed.
Suppose He kept delivering them from all their enemies, yet as soon as they were liberated, they rose up in rebellion to Him. Suppose, because of His mercy and grace, God sent specially endowed messengers or prophets to plead with His people to return to Him.
Suppose the people killed these divine messengers and mocked their message. Suppose they then began to worship idols of stone and things they had made. Suppose they then invented religions which were totally opposed to the truth He had made clear to them, and they worshiped creatures rather than the Creator.
Suppose in an ultimate act of redemption, God Himself became incarnate in the person of His Son.
Suppose this Son came into the world not to condemn the world, but to redeem it. Suppose this Son were rejected, slandered, mocked, tortured, and murdered.
Yet, suppose that God accepted the murder of His own Son as punishment for the sins of the very persons who murdered Him. Suppose this God offered forgiveness, and a cleansing from all guilt, victory over death and eternal peace with Himself. Suppose God gave these people as a free gift the promise of a future life that would be without pain, without sickness, without death, and without tears.
Suppose that God said to these people, “There is one thing that I demand. I demand that you honor my one and only Son and that you worship and serve Him alone.”
Suppose God did all that, would you be willing to say to Him, “God, that’s not fair, you haven’t done enough?”If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, but why is there any way at all?
“There seems to be growing up amongst us an idea that a man is of a persecuting spirit if he does not think that the one who flatly contradicts him is as right as himself. If we do as some wish, we shall in time reach that blessed state of charity which had been attained by the courtiers of the Sultan, who, when he said at mid-day, “It is midnight,” replied, “Yes, sire, there is the moon, and there are the stars.” Today, we are expected not to protest against Popery, lest we should be considered bigots; we must subscribe to all that men teach, if only they are sincere. Suppose a man, travelling due North, was sincere in thinking that he would get to the South, do you think his sincerity would bring him to the desired destination? If a man was sincere in thinking that prussic acid was a wholesome food, would the poison do him no injury? If a man starved himself while he sincerely believed himself to be feasting, how long would it take him to get fat? You say “these things are contrary to the laws of nature.” Just so, and the laws of God’s gospel are as fixed and true as are the laws of nature. If you are honest and sincere in keeping to the road of ruin, you will reach the natural end of that road, eternal destruction. Sincerity in believing a lie does not change that lie to the truth. There is only one way to heaven; there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ is exclusively “the way.” This excludes all by-paths, all cross-roads, and all short cuts. Scripture knows nothing of the new theory, that we may be all right though we are in direct opposition to the Word of God.”
– C. H. Spurgeon, from a sermon delivered on a Sunday evening in 1856, at New Park Street. Notes taken by Pastor T.W. Medhurst.
Pastor John Samson
In a communist Russian dictionary, Jesus is described as “a mythical figure who never existed.” Of course, no serious historian could hold to that position today. The evidence is overwhelming as to the fact that Jesus existed, not just from the Gospels and other Christian literature around the first century, but also from non-Christian sources.
Well respected historians of the day, including Tacitus (a Roman) speak of him, as well as the noted Jewish historian Josephus. He writes “Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him, both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians so named after him, are not extinct at this day.” Josephus: Antiquities XVIII 63f
Of course, a whole book is needed to cover all the evidence regarding the existence of Jesus. In fact, Josh McDowelI has already written one, called “He walked among us.” Suffice it to say that there is overwhelming evidence to say that Jesus was a real historical person.
At this point you might say, “O.K. so he existed, but what does that have to do with me?”
Knowing that Jesus existed is not only relevant to lovers of history, but, as we shall see, is of supreme importance to everyone.
Why? The answer lies in discovering who this Jesus really was.
In all the surveys I’ve conducted, asking people who they thought Jesus was, I received a number of different answers. Some said, “He was a good teacher who lived 2,000 years ago.” Others, that “He was a miracle worker and one of the many ways to God.” Others said that they didn’t know who Jesus was, and didn’t want to look into such a controversial question. Of course, I met a number of people who said, “Jesus was and is the Son of God.”
“But what’s the big deal? Does it really matter what we think about Jesus?”
My answer may startle you, but I suggest that your answer to this question, is the biggest single issue in your life! “What?” you might say. Yes, who you believe Jesus to be is the most important question you will ever be asked. That’s because if Jesus is the Son of God, and His claims are true, then your acceptance or rejection of Him will mean either eternal life with Him, or eternal separation from Him, and an eternity in hell. Wow, that’s heavy duty stuff, but let me give you an example to illustrate what I’m saying.
Suppose I met you in the street, and said, “Hi, I’m John Samson, and I’m the only way to God. Me and God, we’re one. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God. I am the Way, the Truth and the life, no one comes to God but through me. If you believe in me you’ll have eternal life, but if you don’t you’ll be punished forever.”
How would you react? Well there’s a number of ways you could react. One of them would be to call for the guys in white coats to come and collect me!
But, wait a minute. Did you know that the things I said about myself to you in the street, are exactly the same things Jesus said about himself? Now think logically about this.
If Jesus was not all that He claimed to be, then it would be impossible for him to be put in the class of a good teacher.
Because Jesus’ whole teaching centered around who he was claiming to be. Jesus was the one making those claims, not the Christians that followed him. The problem is that he has led multiplied millions astray in following after him as the way to God. If indeed, Jesus was not who He claimed to be He would be nothing more than another false teacher, leading his followers into error. He would be just another clever con man.
“So, he can’t be a good teacher, and be leading people into deception. I get that! But are there any other options?”
Another option is that Jesus was a stark raving lunatic! I’ve never heard anyone suggest Jesus was a madman but we must face that possibility. In fact, experts in the realm of psychology and the mind sciences have commented that in their study of Jesus from the Gospels, they conclude that he was perhaps the person who was “most whole” in all of history. It’s nice that they say that, but could they be wrong?
Well the evidence points towards the fact that Jesus was fully aware of his surroundings, and that he knew he was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. We all know the story of Jesus birth, but did you know that these events were foretold centuries beforehand in the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. He was born of a virgin, in a town called Bethlehem, as the Bible declared he would be (see Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2). And just before you say that he tried to fulfill prophecy to claim he was the Messiah, let me just point out that it is pretty impossible to control who your parents are and where you’ll be born. Ever tried it?
In fact, he fulfilled around thirty prophecies in just one day – the day He died. He even claimed that after his death He would be raised again to life in three days. This was a known claim of Jesus, and the Romans made sure that a strong troop of soldiers were posted around his tomb to make sure that none of Jesus’ disciples could secretly break in to the tomb, steal the body, and claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. One scholar of history has said that there is more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, than any other event in history. That’s quite a claim isn’t it? (for more on this I recommend Frank Morrison’s book, “Who Moved the Stone?”)
Let me take you to a passage in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 16. It reads as follows:
13 When Jesus came into the region Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Obviously, Jesus said and Jesus taught, that he was the Christ (or Messiah) the Son of God.
“So, are there any other views on who Jesus is? What are my options?”
There are only three options to choose from concerning who Jesus was:
#1 JESUS WAS MAD – He was a misled man who deceived many because he was deceived himself
#2 JESUS WAS BAD – He was an artist, a con man, who managed to start a whole world wide religion
#3 JESUS WAS GOD! – He was exactly who He claimed to be..
Certainly, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Divine Son of God.
John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Talking of Jesus, verse 14 of that same chapter says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
(You can check it out more references on this yourself if you look up these verses in a Bible: Isa 9:6; John 20:28,29; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; – these are just a few of the many verses that could be quoted)
C. S. Lewis once wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.)
So that’s it! Those are the options. Jesus of Nazareth was either MAD, BAD OR GOD! The choice is yours to make. But remember, you must choose well, because if Jesus is indeed who He claimed to be, then the moment after you die, you will face Him, and stand to give an account of your answer. Here’s the good news, if you make Jesus the Lord (the Boss) and Savior of your life, you can look forward to eternal life with Him. Jesus Himself said, ” For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus said “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out!” (John 6:37)