John 3:1-21

Two blog posts in one day. “Are you crazy???” you might be asking. “Well, yes, I probably am,” I would reply. The real reason for this second post today is I’ve been doing a lot of book reviews (well, I do read a lot). That is good and all (I know), but I would like to do a post about the Bible, essentially Christ. He is one of the main reasons I started this blog so I can share my faith in Christ.

So, on to the central subject for this blog post. A little backstory first, though. Just a few days ago I joined a group on Goodreads. Anyways, we started going through the gospel of John, reading a chapter a day. Today being chapter three I decided I would talk about it more in-depth on my blog. Here we go.

John 3:1-2

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

First let’s find out what a “Pharisee” is. Pharisees were usually middle-class businessmen. They were held in higher regard by common man than the Sadducees. They believed the Bible (which was only the Old Testament at the time) was inspired by God, but the same authority given to the Bible was given to oral traditions they had.

Deuteronomy‬ ‭4:2‬

“Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you.”

So these Pharisees were directly disobeying the Word of God they believed in and followed! This man, Nicodemus, was a Pharisee and that means he most likely believed in these things too (at that time, maybe not so much later). Anyways, back to the verses above. Nicodemus came to Christ after dark one evening, which probably means he didn’t want anyone to know where he was going or no one to recognize him on his way to where Jesus was staying. We can only guess, but John did take the time to mention it so it might have some importance. Now, to move on:

‭John‬ ‭3:3-8‬ ‭

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

Here, Jesus tells Nicodemus that to see the Kingdom of God you must be born again. Now, lets think for a moment. We (those of us who have been Christians for awhile) have probably heard the words “born again” so many times that it doesn’t sound strange to us. But for people (like Nicodemus) hearing those words for the first time, imagine how strange that must sound. Born again. I like how Nicodemus is not afraid to ask what “born again” means. The Jesus answers and gives us this simile of how you know the wind is there but you can’t tell where it came from or where it is going, so you can’t tell how people are reborn of the Spirit.

John‬ ‭3:9-15

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked. Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

Though Nicodemus is a Pharisee and probably understands the Old Testament so very well, he can’t understand what Jesus is saying. Jesus assures him that he is telling the truth but Nicodemus just won’t believe. If he can’t believe what Jesus says about earthly things, how can he believe what he says about heavenly things? Yes, if he can’t believe the stuff that is proved right in front of him, how much harder it would be for him to believe in things he cannot see. Next, Jesus says no one has gone to Heaven and returned, but the Son of Man has come from Heaven and must be lifted up (like Moses lifted up the bronze pole) so everyone who believes can have eternal life. The Son of Man is an interesting title to use in this context, don’t you think? Man is from the earth and quite frankly, of the earth. The Son of Man must come from Heaven, but to say the “Son of Man” is almost like saying the “Son of Earth”. Just something to think about.

John 3:16

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I think this sums up the New Testament pretty nicely.

John‬ ‭3:17-21‬

“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants‭‭.”

This is an interesting section. Jesus came to save the world not to judge it, but those who do not believe in Him will be judged. This is the short version.

Well, that’s all for now. I did not realize how long of a post this has turned out to be (I hope I have not been too boring). 🙂

-G. Paige

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Philemon

 

A few months ago I went through the book Philemon in my history curriculum. I was amazed to find so much depth in about a 430 word book. Now I’m not going to read through the whole book with you, but I decided to pull a portion out to read. I’ll take it and break it down piece by piece (or verse by verse, you might say). Before that, I like to shine some light on the background of this letter: Philemon was a wealthy man living in Colossae who had a big enough house for a church to meet in. If he was like the average wealthy man at that time, his household could of had several hundred people in it. Onesimus was one of his many slaves. Onesimus stole something (we don’t know what exactly) and ran away. Then he sought Paul out. He couldn’t have just met Paul in the street because Paul was a prisoner in Ephesus (we also don’t know why Onesimus went to Paul). So Paul writes a letter to a hurt and angry Philemon (and to the church) and probably has Onesimus take it to him. Now, lets read some of this letter.

Philemon 1:10

“I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison.”

So this is pretty simple. Onesimus has recently come to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul, while stuck in prison, has become a father/teacher to Onesimus.

Philemon 1:11

“Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.”

In this sentence, there is a underlining pun (which many moderns consider the lowest form of humor). You see, the name Onesimus means “Useful”. So really Paul is saying that: “Useful hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now Useful is very useful to both of us.” Ha! Funny, isn’t it?

Philemon 1:12-14

“I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart. I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced.”

Paul is politely asking to keep Onesimus with him while he is in chains. He doesn’t want Philemon to be forced to help, but be willing to help.

Philemon 1:15

“It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever.”

Philemon lost Onesimus for a little while (when he ran away) so that he could have him back forever as a brother in Christ.

Philemon 1:16

“He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.”

He is much more valuable now because he is a brother in Christ. As I said earlier.

Philemon 1:17

“So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.”

Paul wants Philemon to forgive Onesimus and welcome him back. Another way of saying it is: Paul wants Philemon to do for Onesimus what he would do for Paul. And Philemon has been praying for Paul’s freedom.

Philemon 1:18-19

“If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!”

Paul usually had people write out what he said in his letters, but in his own handwriting he writes that he will pay back whatever Onesimus owes to assure Philemon that he will.

Philemon 1:20-21

“Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ. I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!”

Philemon is such a good friend to Paul that he trusts that he will do ALL that he has asked and even more! Isn’t it amazing how much trust Paul places in Philemon?

Now some people may ask: is Paul saying that slavery is acceptable or okay because he sent Onesimus back to his master? The answer is no. Paul was giving Philemon subtle hints of key beliefs of the Bible that would lead him to the conclusion that slavery is wrong. Paul did NOT believe in attacking social evils. He wanted Christianity as it was to lead people to the right conclusion.

Can you also see that Paul is acting as Christ to lead Philemon and Onesimus to reconciliation? It is beautiful to see how much care and effort Paul worked to set all to right between them. We should all try to strive to be like Christ, helping our fellow members in Christ to live in harmony as one body (the church).

-G. Paige