ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON GOD S SAVING ?· ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON GOD’S SAVING LOVE IN CHRIST…

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    April 9, 2017

    ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON

    GODS SAVING LOVE IN CHRIST

    MINISTRY INVOCATION

    O God: We give thanks to You for the manifold blessings to us. You did not

    have to bless us but You did. We shall remain eternally grateful. Amen.

    WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND UNDERSTAND

    We will explore the story of Nicodemus, who learned from Jesus what it

    means to be born again, appreciate how Gods love offers salvation rather

    than condemnation, and seek to live as spiritually reborn people who know

    and respond to Gods love.

    THE APPLIED FULL GOSPEL DISTINCTIVE

    We believe in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost for all believers and that the

    Holy Ghost verifies and validates the Believer as part of the Body of Christ.

    Background Scripture

    Key Verse

    Lesson Scripture John 3:121 (NKJV)

    Christ Witnesses to Nicodemus

    3 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come

    from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. 3 Jesus answered and said to him, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born

    again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a

    second time into his mothers womb and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the

    Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and

    that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be

    born again. 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot

    tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said to him, Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know

    these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what

    We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and

    you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has

    ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is

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    in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son

    of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal

    life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever

    believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His

    Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is

    condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of

    God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men

    loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing

    evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But

    he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they

    have been done in God.

    COMMENTARY

    3:1 Nicodemus was an important man, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews.

    Johns description of him marks him not merely as a community leader but as

    one of the revered seventy, who along with the high priest composed the

    Sanhedrin, the equivalent of the Jewish Supreme Court. As the story

    progresses, it becomes clear to the reader that this leader of the Jews actually

    serves as a first-class example of why Jesus did not believe in human

    believing.

    3:2 Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Although seasonal and day/night

    designations can properly be understood as time notations in this Gospel, they

    usually are more importantly also symbolic representations of the spiritual

    temperature of the people in the story. Light and darkness are conceived as

    opposing principles (1:45) with darkness in John illustrating the negative

    aspects such as the realm of Satan, error, evil, doubt, and unbelief. Some

    interpreters might suggest that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to prevent

    detection or alternatively that (as an intense rabbi) he studied late into the

    night, but most commentators are agreed that the reference to night is a picture

    of a man who was in an uneasy state of unbelief or doubt.

    Nicodemuss initiation of the conversation with Jesus reminds us of a perfect

    example of Nicodemuss ironical misunderstanding of Jesus. Nicodemus,

    representing his learned group, began by addressing Jesus with the polite title

    Rabbi. In so doing, he graciously acknowledged Jesus as his equal, even

    though Jesus would be popularly recognized by council members as one of the

    ignorant, the working people of the land. Since Jesus had to work with his

    hands (a carpenter), He was expected to be unable to spend His time in the

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    minute study of the law and in the traditions of the elders. He was, therefore,

    not expected to know theology. The irony of John is evidenced, when

    Nicodemus in his evaluation concerning Jesus said, We know. By the time

    Nicodemus had finished with Jesus, however, it was his ignorance rather than

    Jesus that was clearly evident.

    To be fair to Nicodemus, we should note that he was in some ways quite

    accurate because, as he said, no one would be able to do the signs Jesus was

    doing if God were not with him. Signs were pointers to reality, and one of

    the important themes of this Gospel is the recurring call of Jesus for people to

    recognize the witness being given in the signs. Thus, Nicodemuss mere

    reliance on signs at this stage became an excellent example of the type of

    believing that is not really sufficient. Jesus understood the nature of genuine

    believing and knowing, and he recognized a faade or pseudo knowledge

    when he encountered it. Nicodemus did not realize what he was saying about

    knowing!

    The fact that the plural for signs is once again used together with the fact

    that there is a close connection with the earlier temple have led a number of

    scholars in suggesting that this is a displaced story from the last week of Jesus

    ministry.

    3:3 Jesus response to Nicodemus is a play on ability; namely, unless one is

    born from above, such a person is not able to see the kingdom of God. Jesus

    response begins with that familiar Johannine double amn (lit., truly, truly).

    It is a clear signal of an important affirmation by Jesus. The phrase kingdom

    of God is used only here and at verse 5 in the entire Johannine Gospel.

    Normally John did not use kingdom terminology because he seems to have

    preferred eternal life terminology. The use of kingdom at this point reminds

    the reader that John was not unfamiliar with the fact that Jesus employed such

    vocabulary in trying to explain the dynamic relationship humans can have

    with God.

    The story, however, is intriguing because it suggests a misunderstanding on

    the part of Nicodemus. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He meant that this

    Pharisee should experience birth from God or birth from above.

    3:4 When Nicodemus heard Jesus assertion that he should have a birth

    experience, however, his imagination apparently went into high gear, and he

    interpreted Jesus birth statement as born again. A birth other than that like

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    his natural birth seems to have been beyond the thinking of Nicodemus. Birth

    for him apparently was limited to physical birth.

    Yet the concept of birth from above was hardly one that would have been

    readily discussed by Jews like Nicodemus. His questioning and puzzlement at

    the possibility of being born when one is old or of the reentry into a mothers

    womb (3:4) are quite understandable for one unfamiliar with the regeneration

    terminology of the New Testament age.

    3:58 Jesus responded to Nicodemuss twofold frustrated question by

    providing a more precise statement concerning this birth. He began once again

    with a double amn statement. Then he identified this birth from above as a

    birth of water and Spirit. These two words also should not be bifurcated as in

    some inadequate folk interpretations of the text where water is equated with

    the water of natural birth (either that of the sack in which the baby floats or

    the male fluid of the sex act). Water appears with Spirit conjunctively in 3:5,

    and flesh is contrasted with Spirit disjunctively in 3:6. Accordingly, water and

    flesh should not be equated. In this Johannine context, the combination of

    water and Spirit represents birth from above, a picture of life that involves a

    direct contrast to Nicodemuss perspective on life as involving physical

    existence. As indicated earlier, the linkage between water and Spirit would

    have been familiar to the Jews since both are related to the theme of life. For a

    people like the Jews, who lived on the edge of the desert, water was an

    indispensable requirement of life and even Christians viewed heaven as

    having a life-endued stream flowing from the throne of God. Concerning the

    life-giving Spirit, one only needs to be reminded that the breath of God

    brought life to Adam), and the Spirit/wind/breath of God brought life to dry

    bones.

    3:910 Nicodemuss final question to Jesus reveals that he was stuck in an

    intellectual and philosophical quagmire of the flesh (earthly realities) and that

    his earlier lack of comprehension seems to have deteriorated into helpless

    doubt. Jesus reply in 3:10 is an excellent example of Johannine patterns of

    reversal. Nicodemus, as leader and teacher, 3:10) of the Jews, had come to Jesus

    as a seeking knower. By the time Jesus asked his first question of

    Nicodemus (a man who was filled with questions), it became clear that

    Nicodemus was a confused nonknower. The irony in the exchange is that

    Nicodemus, the earthly teacher, was shown to be a poor learner of the message

    of Jesus, the teacher sent from God. Nicodemus was in fact one who did not

    know) the core subject matter of his vocation as a Pharisee.

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    With the present question, Nicodemus ceases to be important to the evangelist,

    and the focus of attention shifts to Jesus and His personal witness.

    3:1112 The overall motif of this section deals with the purpose of Jesus

    coming and with the importance of receiving or of believing in Him. It is

    brought into focus by referring to speaking and witnessing, couplets that are

    based on knowing and seeing.. The statement obviously is intended to be a

    solemn assertion about the nature of bearing witness and the fact that

    adequate testimony is rooted in personal experience.

    The preceding conversation is pictured as one that took place only between

    Jesus and Nicodemus.

    3:13 The next three verses provide an answer to Nicodemuss perplexity and

    doubt and expands the Christological significance of the Gospel. The descent

    of the Son of Man (3:13), however, is not like the mythological journeys of the

    ancient Hellenistic heroes or the mythological formulations of the Gnostics.

    The text is rooted in an affirmation that the heavenly realities (3:12) are being

    opened to humanity because the divine Son of Man descended into history!

    The descent picks up the theme of a preexistent Son of Man in those earlier

    Jewish texts, but the descent and ascent of the Son of Man in John is clearly

    unlike anything in Jewish or Hellenistic literature. This descent of Jesus, the

    Son of Man, involved Jesus becoming human (flesh,), an idea totally

    rejected by the later Gnostics and, although hinted, actually missed by Jewish

    interpreters. Indeed, it was hardly understood by Jesus own disciplesuntil

    after the resurrection!

    This combination of ascent and descent is part of the great Christological

    formulation concerning Jesus, whom John knew had come to earth from

    heaven, lived, died, was raised, and is once again with God in heaven. To

    understand about heavenly realities therefore, the God-given means is

    through no one but the one who has descended from heaven (3:13). For John,

    with his post-resurrection perspective, the Christian gospel was the only way

    to salvation because Jesus alone descended and has ascended to heaven. He

    knew the whole incarnational story when he started writing.

    3:1415 With the fact of the descent and ascent of Jesus clearly in mind, John

    employed another illustrative saying to emphasize his point concerning the

    death of Jesus. The sign or pole on which Moses placed the bronze snake

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    served as a symbol of life to the dying, snake-bitten Israelites of the exodus.

    That symbol has been employed here to illustrate the lifting up of Jesus on the

    cross as Gods way of providing eternal life to all who believe.

    The expression eternal life occurs only once and is linked with the concept

    of resurrection and is most clearly represented in the later thought

    development of the Pharisees. In John the expression probably is best

    translated eternal life, stressing the qualitative feature of life as over against

    mere physical endless life or everlasting life. Such a rendering, however, is not

    meant to exclude the idea of life without end because it is also said that those

    who eat the bread of life will live forever. The point of the Johannine

    illustration is the lifting up of the Son of Man and the power of God in

    giving life to the believer. Beyond that, Jesus was operating according to a

    divine imperative. He was under necessity to be crucified. The life and

    death of Jesus was a model of the meaning of obedience, and the Father later

    pointedly affirmed the Sons obedience in the voice from heaven.

    Of course, Jesus is alive and has experienced an ascent to heaven. This

    evangelist took the death of Jesus seriously because it was in the death of the

    Son that God revealed most clearly the loving purpose of the divinely initiated

    work of salvation. Verse 16 serves as a statement of fact involving the agency

    (the Son) God used to bring salvation to the world. Verse 17 expands on Gods

    intention and clearly identifies Gods Purpose in sending the son. Verse 18

    provides a pointed reality statement concerning the present nature of

    judgment, a reality no reader should fail to understand. When the three verses

    are allowed together, the reader begins to grasp the full meaning of the coming

    of Jesus and the message of salvation expounded.

    Christian salvation has been very costly because it cost God his Son.

    Therefore, one does not truly enter the process of salvation unless one

    recognizes the incalculable cost and accepts the implications of that cost in

    ones life. The lifted up one is Gods gift that must be received by authentic

    believing. To come to Jesus like Nicodemus with a superficial view of who

    Jesus is will not result in salvation but will lead to confusion and frustration.

    John 3:16 can be read from different theological perspectives and has been a

    source of different doctrinal positions. The full perspective is that God is the

    initiator and principal actor in salvation, and we should never think that

    salvation originated with us. God, however, has given humanity a sense of

    freedom and requires us to make a choice. Accordingly, people are responsible

    for their believing. It is unproductive theological speculation, therefore, to

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    minimize either the role of God or of humanity in the salvation process. Gods

    purpose in sending his only Son was not to destroy the world or humanity.

    God is not angry and self-centered. God is a caring God. Loving-kindness is a

    principal characteristic of the God of the covenant. In the New Testament,

    Gods purpose in sending Jesus was not to condemn but to build the bridge in

    reconciling sacrifice for human beings. Gods goal always has been the

    salvation or wholeness of the world. The sin problem is a human one that

    since the beginning of time has been repeated continuously.

    Gods plan has been to reverse the human problemnamely, to provide the

    means by which humanity might be saved. Undoubtedly, Gods desire is that

    all might be saved but because of human freedom or choice (whosoever,

    3:16), all of humanity does not respond in believing acceptance of the Son. As

    a result, the rejection of Gods love brings judgment or condemnation.

    Although many people think primarily of this Gospel in terms of the bright

    side of love, it has a dark side that is perhaps more threatening to the

    unbeliever than almost any other document in the New Testament. To

    overlook the dark side in John is to miss the full message of the Gospel. Gods

    judging is a negative theme that also is foundational to this Gospel and is

    obvious in these verses.

    What makes human choice so crucial in this Gospel is the immediate nature of

    judgment/condemnation. Condemnation is not left to some remote future that

    might lull the unbeliever into a comfortable feeling that for a while one can sit

    on the fence of un-commitment. John makes it clear that condemnation has

    already taken place for the unbelievers. The idea is not one of a possible

    projected condemnation for the unbeliever but the necessity of escaping an

    already existing condemnation.

    The authentic believer thus begins to deal immediately with future realities

    such as the threat of ultimate death and condemnation. Therefore, the believer

    does not need to fear the death threat because the believers expectation is a

    resurrection to life. But the unbeliever, who in the present time is under

    condemnation (3:17), has in the future, only the prospect of a resurrection to

    condemnation (5:29). When dealing with condemnation, the Gospel is

    genuinely consistent. Condemnation is a present reality that will be clearly

    evidenced in the future resurrection. The only way to overcome that

    condemnation is to believe in Gods Son and thereby experience the present

    reality of the kingdom of God (3:3, 5), that reality called eternal life (3:16).

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    3:1921 Darkness, hating, and doing evil together are set against light, living

    by the truth, and the works done through God. The close connection between

    doing and beingnamely, between practicing good or evil works and the

    nature of a personis an important theological concept in John because

    believing is not merely a matter of mental affirmation but of life commitment.

    The world hated Jesus and continues to do so not merely because of some

    intellectual reason but because the deeds of world-oriented people are evil.

    RELATED DISCUSSION TOPICS

    CLOSING PRAYER

    My God: I am grateful to have found You and kept You in the forefront of my

    being. Bless us continually with Your grace and mercy. They represent

    bountiful blessings for all of us. Amen.

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