New Birth – John 3

The Lord showed Nicodemus. a Jewish rabbi who should have understood new birth, that what was of the flesh could not inherit God’s kingdom. It was necessary to be born anew (from above). We learn that as having died, we are quickened. Our delight is in looking to the perfect Man, and being partakers of His own things. Our goodness is in desiring to be like Him.

JohnNelsonDarbyThe Lord showed Nicodemus. a Jewish rabbi who should have understood new birth, that what was of the flesh could not inherit God’s kingdom.  It was necessary to be born anew (from above).  We learn that as having died, we are quickened.  Our delight is in looking to the perfect Man, and being partakers of His own things.  Our goodness is in desiring to be like Him.

There is a lot of erroneous teaching in the present day.  The true believer’s safeguard is Christ and His work, together with the truth of the Holy Spirit. Satan is working, and his craft must be met by the truth of God.

In the early chapters of John’s gospel, people saw Jesus was the coming One sent from God.   We have the work of the Spirit in quickening souls (ch. 3), and this contrasts with man’s mere recognition of the outward evidence.  There might be a sincere profession of Christ, even as the Messiah, but without the quickening life  it was nothing in the sight of God.

Mere professors wanted to have Christ on their own terms. There are none so hostile to truth as those who know what the truth is, but refuse it. The cross is not pleasant, of course, and it never was intended to be pleasant. When I see that Christ has a right and claim on my conscience, my nature rises to resist His power. He ought to have the first place, but other things get in the way. I do not like taking up the cross, though doing so is infinite gain.

Christ spoke to Nicodemus about the things that he, as a Jewish rabbi, ought to have understood. In Ezek 36:26 it says, ‘And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you’.  That is why He says, ‘If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?’ (John 3:12).  God’s earthly things were not evil or fleshly things, but the promised earthly portion which the Jews were looking for.  In the latter day they Israel will have a new heart from the Spirit.  Nicodemus should have known this.

The Lord then talked about heavenly things, which are better. He spoke about the wind blowing – the sovereign actions of God’s grace.  God takes poor sinners, Jews and Gentiles, and blesses them. ‘For God so loved the world [not just Israel], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (v. 16).  For everybody, Christ was needed; for the best, the Son of man was lifted up; for the worst God gave His only-begotten Son.

So the Lord met Nicodemus with the declaration, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except any one be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3 – Darby).  The KJV says ‘born again’ but ‘anew’ is a stronger word, and is ‘from above‘ (νωθενanothen).  It is certainly not ‘renewed’.  New birth is just that, totally new.  You may find lovely qualities in human nature; but the natural man never loves Christ – it loves creation; it loves nature.  One might have a very amiable disposition, but the most amiable person the can be last to turn to God.  Christianity does not alter the flesh. To see the kingdom of God, we must have a nature altogether distinct from the one we have got – we must be born anew.

When we have been born of God, we can appreciate how the truth sanctifies and cleanses us –‘the washing of water by the word’ (Eph 5:26).   But we must be born of the Spirit first. otherwise we would be washing man’s nature which is unwashable.

Man has fallen and creation is ruined.  He proved what he was in the treatment he gave the Lord Jesus.  Adam was innocent before the fall.  He did not know good and evil, only that it was his duty to obey God.  His sin was in trying to be like God. In sinning he got a conscience, and was ruined in getting it, because it was a bad conscience.  Hence he was afraid of the God he wanted to be like.

By contrast, we are renewed after the last Adam – Christ.  In Christ we have all that God delights in, displayed perfectly in a man.  Man was created in the image of God, and Jesus expressed that perfectly.  After the image of God, we are created in righteousness and true holiness, made partakers of the divine nature, learn to judge sin as God judges it, and to love holiness as He loves it.  So we delight in what is of God, and are satisfied with Christ.  Our goodness is in desiring to be like Him. We are ‘holy and without blame before Him in love’ (Eph 1:4).

Because sin is unchangeable, God has passed the sentence of death on all flesh. This is a positive blessing, for the flesh, the first man, has been condemned.  But the condemnation was born by Christ, the second man (or last Adam).  Now we can live in the power of that new Man. There is an important point as to this, which is often misunderstood: we must live that we might die – not die that we might live. Death, morally, is the consequence of having life.  This is the difference between a monk and a true Christian.  A monk mortifies himself in order to have life; a Christian, having life from from God, reckons himself dead unto sin (see Rom 6:11). This is liberty.

The woman at the well in John 4 received the living water.  The Lord’s word had a cleansing power.  It made her realise what was in herself, and she hated it.  Instead she delighted in the Man who told her all things that she had done, and judged everything contrary to it.  Similarly Christ said to His disciples, ‘Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken to you’ (John 15:3).  The figure of this is in baptism – not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must not look at, or take pleasure, in ourselves.  As renewed we need an object outside of ourselves – Christ Himself.  This is perfection – to be so occupied with Christ, as to be forgetful of self.

Having been quickened by the Spirit, we see how God and man can be connected. There had been the inseparable barrier of man’s will on one side, and the power of death on the other.  So in the blessings of Ephesians 1, those who were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (ch 2:1), have ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge … the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead .. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.’ (ch 1:17-20 and ch 2:6-7.  In the joy of resurrection we can be set together.

Here is the double revelation of God: Christ as a divine Person, and as a Man who had seen divine glory. ‘No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him’ (John 1:18).  He knew, and saw, as was at ease with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And though we were fallen creatures outside of it all, as born of God we are brought into such wonderful blessings. We are one spirit with the Lord, having resurrection-life in Him.  This is not a renewal of good qualities, but it is Christ, the Son, Himself making us partakers of His own things.



Summary by Sosthenes

Based on   ‘Born Again’ – Collected Writings vol. 21 (Evangelic 2) page 121 ,

March 2016


A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – John

In John we have the divine person of the Lord as life and light. We also have the sending of the Comforter down here in His place. Finally John gives us a brief view of the whole course of the dispensation until the millennial kingdom.

Outline of Bible coverIn John we have the divine person of the Lord as life and light. We also have the sending of the Comforter down here in His place. Finally John gives us a brief view of the whole course of the dispensation until the millennial kingdom.

Chapter 1

John 1:1-18 presents the person of the Lord Jesus. Though largely shown to be God, the Lord is, from v.14 onwards, always looked at in John as a man living on earth, manifesting the Father.

  • in verses 1-5 – abstractedly, as to His nature, and the effect of His appearing
  • verses 6-11, John’s testimony to this, and the effect of his coming
  • verses 12, 13, the effect and way of grace
  • verses 14-18, the Word made flesh;


  • verses 19-34, John’s testimony to what He would be as to His work and effectual power for man – Lamb of God, Baptiser with the Holy Ghost, owned here Son of God by the Holy Ghost descending on Him
  • verses 35-42, John’s testimony historically gathering to Him (this is the first day of active gathering)
  • verse 43 to end, the Lord’s gathering

This embraces God’s dealing with the remnant during the life of Christ’s here, and afterwards, till He is owned by the remnant at the end. This is represented by Nathanael. He is owned as Son of God, King of Israel, but takes a wider title too, that of Son of man, on whom the angels wait.

Note in v. 38-42 that Christ is the divine centre, God is manifest in flesh; and secondly we have the only path through the world when Jesus says, “Follow me”.

  • The world is condemned,
  • Christ separates His own out of it to Himself, as
  • God is revealed
  • Heaven is opened on Him, and the angels wait upon Him as Man.

Note, we have our part as Stephen had – heaven opened, and He, the Son of man, there. Note too, that Christ does not have an object to look at, but we have one – He is the object.

Chapter 2 v.1-22 gives the millennial character of the third-day concerning Israel:

  • the marriage
  • purifying judgment.

In v. 23-25 the Lord does not accept a present reception according to the intelligence of flesh.

However, in chapter 3, a man must be born again. This is true even for the earthly promises made to Israel. But the thoughts of God for man go on to heaven, for the divine Son of man came down from heaven and He speaks of it. God loves the world, and gives us to believe in Him by faith individually so as not to perish. This introduces the cross, the Son of man lifted up like the serpent – the Son of God given. Condemnation hangs on believing or not in the Son of God; for light has come into the world, but men love darkness. This is a great moral truth altogether outside Israel. Jesus has fully revealed heaven as He knows it, and made man, by believing in Him, fit for it. John then bears witness to Christ, in contrast to himself and his testimony, as divine and heavenly: the One to whom His Father has given all. Those who believe in Him have life; those who do not believe, will not see life and wrath abides on them. All this ministry was prior to His entering on His public ministry, for this took place after John had been cast into prison.

Chapter 4: The jealousy of the Jews drives Him from Judea. The woman of Samaria, who is outside and independent of Judaism is brought in. God is present there to give the living water. The Lord humbly asks her for a drink: this blessedly inspires confidence for her to ask for it, He having already given her the desire. Now she has a spiritual spring rising up to eternal life within her. But nature cannot receive spiritual things. God reaches the conscience by the word. This is recognised as of Him, and then Christ is known and owned as Saviour of the world. And though salvation be of the Jews, God, who is a Spirit, must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. And the Father (the name now revealed in grace) seeks such to worship Him, meeting a needy soul. This is Jesus’ joy in grace.

In Chapter 5 we find that law, with all its ordinances, can do nothing through the weakness of the flesh. The truth however is, that the Father and the Son are working, not man. The Jews cannot have their sabbath in sin and misery. But as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to Jesus the Son to have life in Himself, and He quickens whom He will; and committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honour Him as they honour the Father. There is no confusion in these ways of honouring Him. He who hears His word, and believes on the Father who sent Him, has everlasting life, and does not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life. There is then a resurrection to life, and another to judgment (see v. 30-47). Jesus is presented as life to the responsible man, witnessed by John Baptist, the Lord’s works, the Father, and the scriptures. But the Jews, who rejected Moses’ writings speaking of Christ, would not receive Him or His works. When the false one comes in his own name, they will receive him.

Chapter 6 gives a picture of the order of God’s ways in Christ. Already Prophet, He would not be King, but goes on high alone to pray. During this time the disciples are toiling without Him against the wind; He rejoins them, and they are at land. This is in connection with the passover, and Christ’s proving Himself the Jehovah of Psalm 132. (Arise, Jehovah, into thy rest, thou and the ark of thy strength) v.8JND. Instead of that now, He is the bread coming down from heaven to give life to the world, and must be received spiritually and inwardly as the One incarnate, but also as dying, as there is no life in any man. Also He, the Son of man was going up to where He was before.

In chapter 7, the Jews (His brethren) do not believe on Him, and He cannot show Himself to the world. This is the feast of tabernacles. He promises the Spirit to those who believe: instead of His visible presence, as rivers of living water, springing up unto eternal life. The Jews (of Judea) and people (Galilee, etc.) are distinguished.

Chapter 8 gives the word rejected; chapter 9 the works.

In chapter 8 Christ is the light of the world and the Light to lead. He deals with conscience in contrast with the difference between gross sins and sinfulness. His word is the absolute expression of Himself. He is from above; unbelieving man is of the devil from beneath, The devil is a liar and a murderer, and abides not in the truth. Jesus is God, and the Jews reject Him.

In chapter 9 He gives eyes to see. This is by incarnation, which in itself gives no spiritual sight. However, by the Spirit and word, He is known as the sent One, there is sight. He is confessed as Prophet, and then through the word received, He is believed on as the Son.

Chapter 10 gives us His care of the sheep. They are put out, but He goes before. He comes in by, and is, the appointed way, giving salvation, liberty, and pasture. He lays down His life for the sheep; He knows them, and they Him, as His Father knew Him, and He His Father. In laying down His life, He becomes the special object and motive for His Father’s love. He has other sheep (Gentiles), and there is to be one flock (not fold), one Shepherd. He goes from His obedient lowliness to being one with His Father. Father and Son are the names of grace.

In chapter 11 He is declared Son of God by resurrection power. He is the Resurrection and the Life. When He is present, the dead live, and the living do not die. But while showing divine power, He is the dependent Son as man. He feels for and with us, but He is always heard.

In chapter 12 He is the Son of David. The time of His glory as Son of man has come. But then He must die. Before this, He is received at Bethany, where the taught remnant enter into His death. This lays the ground for the new thing, while the enmity ripens. His death, as rejected by the hopeless and judicially blinded hostility of Israel, now comes fully before us.

Chapter 13: His departure does not close His service to His disciples. He fits them to be with Him when He cannot stay with them. This is essentially necessary according to His true nature and glory. He came from God, and went to God; the Father had given all things into His hand. His human nature continued in divine purity and perfectness, whereas man was traitorously hostile. He loved His own who were in this world absolutely and He loved them through all, to the end. Having regenerated them by the word, He washes their feet as their servant, and gives them an example in service. He shows His personal love to them, the advantage of habitual nearness to Him to be able to know His mind. After Judas had gone out, He shows that the foundation of the new, but essential and everlasting, relationship with God is laid in the cross, under the title of Son of man. The Son of man is glorified in it, with all the essential attributes of God seen in Him. God is glorified in Him, but does not wait for the kingdom. He glorifies Him in Himself, and does so immediately. He then tells them to love to one another, but warns Peter he could not follow Him now. The path was through death, destruction, and wrath for man, as having only natural life. Note, in the washing: at first one is washed or bathed all over. This cannot be repeated. It is the feet which pick up dirt in the walk; but the believer is fundamentally clean, once and for all

In chapter 14, the Lord first shows that, though absent, He is an object of faith as God is.  He was not going to heaven to be at ease, and though they were distressed, He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’.  If that had been the end, He would have told them.  But He went to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house, and would come again and receive them.  Then we learn what they had in His presence, and what they would have after His departure.  They knew where He went, for He was going to the Father, and they had seen the Father in Him.  They knew the way, for in coming to Him they found the Father.  He could not stay, but on His going He would ask, and the Father would send, another Comforter to stay and dwell in them.  He had as yet been only among them.  Now they would know Him.  If a man kept His words, His Father would love him, and He, Jesus, would manifest Himself to Him.  If he kept His word, His Father and He would come and make their abode with him.  He left peace with them, giving them His own peace. Next, he expected in His disciples such love that they should be glad that He went, that is that they should be interested in His happiness, an immense witness of His nearness.

In chapter 15 Christ replaces Israel, the old but not the true vine on the earth; the disciples are branches, clean through the word. The Father purified the fruit-bearing, cutting off the unfruitful branches. They were to abide in Him, and He in them. If a man (not they) did not, he would be cast out and burnt. If they abode in Him, and His words abode in them, they would be endowed with power. Dependence and confidence (Christ’s words) are first; desires and thoughts come next. In bearing fruit they would resemble Him.

Next, they were to abide in His love: this by obedience, and all this that their joy might be full. They were to love one another, as He had loved them. He laid down His life for His friends: they were such (not He their friend – that He is Friend to sinners; but they are His friends) – that they might love one another. The world would hate them, as it had Him. Next, the Comforter would come, and testify of Him. As glorified, The Father would send Him; and they would testify of Christ as having been with Him.

Note that in chapter 14 the Father sends the Comforter. He brings to their remembrance that all He had said to them. Thus their witness was made good. But He would also reveal His heavenly glory, sending the Spirit from the Father.

Chapter 16 gives the Comforter, as present down here and His work in the world and in the church, in contrast with the disciples’ own state in a hostile world and with blinded Judaism. The disciples, absorbed with their loss, did not look to what God was bringing about; yet the Comforter’s presence was worth His leaving. He would demonstrate to the world sin, righteousness, and judgment:

  • Sin in rejecting Christ; for His presence proved the rejected one, gone to the Father.
  • Righteousness, as He was deservedly God’s righteousness, and the world (disciples and all), who had rejected Him, would never see Him again. The breach was absolute.
  • Judgment: the world was convinced of judgment, because its prince, who had led it against Christ, was judged. That was the proof of Christ’s power over him and his wickedness. Satan’s position was a judged one already.

The Comforter would guide the disciples into all the truth. He would show them things to come – Christ’s things, all the Father had. However soon He would see them again (that is, after His resurrection), and they would enter into the consciousness of their relationship with the Father. As yet they would be scattered, and He would be left alone; but He had the Father with Him. They might be of good cheer because He had overcome the world.

In chapter 17 Christ addresses the Father before He departs.

Verses 1-5: He lays the ground of all He has to ask. Having finished the work, He is to be glorified as Son. He establishes the glorious relationship, and our title to enter into it. He has power over all flesh, and gives eternal life to those saints that the Father had given Him. The knowledge of the Father, and of Him as sent, is eternal life.

Verses 6-8 put the disciples in their position. He manifested the Father’s name to them: so the relationship would be founded. They knew Him as having all things from the Father, not Messiah’s Jewish glory from Jehovah. All that the Father had communicated to Him in His position, He had given to them, so that they might enjoy it fully as well as having it.

In verses 9-13 He prays the disciples – those who had been given Him by the Fathe. He does not pray for the world. They are the Father’s (all is mutually possessed), and He, Christ, is glorified in them. The object is that they might have His joy complete in them.

In verses 14-19 they are put into the place of His testimony. The word (not words) was in connection with the place of relationship: not of the world. Christ was not of the world: they were not to be taken out of it, but kept from evil. They were to be morally set apart to the Father by the truth, the Father’s word. They are sent by Christ into the world as He had been sent by the Father. And He set Himself apart to the Father as the heavenly Man. The Holy Spirit might set them apart. It was Christ as well as truth, but still truth.

In verses 20, 21, He prays that those that believe through their word should be one in the Father and Son: that the world may believe.

In verses 22, 23, He has given them the glory, in order that they might be one in the display of that glory, and that the world may know it.

In verses 24-26 He would have them where He is: He who was loved before the world was. They are loved as He was. He had and would declare the Father’s name, that they might enjoy it, He being in them.

Chapter 18: We have to remark the character both of Gethsemane and the cross. It is the Son of God above the temptation, seen out of the suffering. There is no “if it be possible let the cup pass“, no “why hast thou forsaken me?” Those who had been sent to take Him go backward and fall to the ground. He puts Himself forward that the disciples might escape untouched.

In chapter 19, He heals in the garden, but Peter denies Him. In calm superiority, He answers the chief priests and Pilate, who witnessed that He was truth. Yet He submits to him as to power given from above, but Pilate leaves it to the priests to settle the matter. The Jews deny having any king but Caesar. The Jews are treated with slight, as everywhere in this Gospel.

On the cross, knowing that one scripture had yet to be fulfilled, He commends His mother to the beloved disciple, and charges him to be to her as a son. He then gives up His spirit. Of Him not a bone is broken, but He is with the rich in His death.

Chapter 20 gives us a picture of the whole time, from the remnant, through the church period and on to the converted remnant when they see the Lord. Mary Magdalene, who represents the remnant, called as a sheep by her name, is attached personally to the Lord. Then the disciples are now called brethren, in the same relationship to God and the Father as Himself. They are gathered and are told ‘Peace be unto you’ (v.19). They receive the Holy Spirit, and are sent by Christ for remission of sins. Lastly the remnant (Thomas), who did not believe at first, does on seeing. But they who have believed without seeing, are especially blessed. Twice therefore, He had shown Himself.

In Chapter 21 we have the great gathering of the millennial time: the net does not break at all. Christ had some fish on shore already; these had been brought in from the great waters. Peter, restored, has to care for Christ’s sheep, especially the Jewish flock. Thus we have the Peter’s ministry to the Jewish church. John is left to watch in his ministry over the saints and witness of God till Christ comes. This carries us on to the Apocalypse. John’s epistles and the Revelation refer to Christ’s appearing. Paul’s ministry comes in between, and speaks of the hidden mystery, the church and the rapture, before the appearing.

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original

What does it Mean to be ‘Born Again’

there is so much confusion as to what it is to be ‘born again.’ A believer will talk of him or herself as a ‘born again Christian’, as if he or she were something special. New birth is what is effected by God in the soul, and every believer must be born again, or they would not be a believer. The confusion is often with the reception of the Holy Spirit, and the certainty of His work in the soul. But that is not new birth.

About New Birth  –  John 3:1-21

A summary in the same conversational style of John Nelson Darby’s article The New Birth – click for original.  Collected Writings Volume 10 (Doctrinal 3).

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

I have written this summary of one of JND’s articles, because there is so much confusion as to what it is to be ‘born again.’   A believer will talk of him or herself as a ‘born again Christian’, as if he or she were something special.  New birth is what is effected by God in the soul, and every believer must be born again, or they would not be a believer.  The confusion is often with the reception of the Holy Spirit, and the certainty of His work in the soul.  But that is not new birth. – Sosthenes.

Why the Lord did not Trust Man

When Jesus was here, many people believed in Him when they saw the miracles that He did.   Howeve Jesus did not commit Himself to them.  That was because He knew what was in man. (Chap. 2:23-25.).   They may have come to a right conclusion about Him, but it was a perfectly worthless human conclusion.   It left a man or woman in his or her own nature, and subject to the same motives, influences, and passions as before.   It did not take him out of the domain of Satan, who had power over the flesh and the world.  His conclusion may have been right; but it was only a conclusion: the man remained unchanged.   Jesus, who knew what flesh was could have no confidence in it.

What Nicodemus should have Known

Nicodemus in John 3, goes a step further.  The Spirit of God was at work, producing a craving and desire after God, and he had a sense of his own deficiency.  He wanted something better for his soul.  He came by night: being a ruler and especially an ecclesiastical ruler, it was difficult for him.  He said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (Ver. 2.)   It was a conclusion drawn from proofs, perfectly correct, but that was all.   Still he wanted something from Jesus, but he took for granted that, as a Jew, he was a child of the kingdom, and would know the teaching.  Knowing Nicodemus to be sincere, the Lord meets him at once, declaring that the whole ground that he was on was wrong.  God was setting up a kingdom of His own.  To see this, a man must be born again, completely born anew.  The kingdom had not yet come visibly, so to see it a man must have a wholly new nature. Nicodemus, arrested by the language, does not understand how this could be; he reasons humanly.

Jesus had brought out great truths already:

  • First God is not teaching and improving man. He sets up a kingdom of His own: a sphere of power and blessing, and He acts there.
  • Secondly, man must have a new nature or life. He must be born again.   Flesh cannot even perceive the kingdom.

The Lord does not leave Nicodemus here. He shows  the way of entering into the kingdom: “a man must be born of water and of the Spirit” (ver. 5).  The word of God — the revelation of God’s thoughts — must operate in the power of the Spirit, judging all in man, and bring in God’s mind instead of his own.  It is not two births, but two important aspects of being born again.   The water acts on man as man, his person is not changed; but the Spirit communicates a new life of itself — just as flesh’s nature is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (ver. 6).

There is blessing to the Gentiles.  Jesus says , “Ye must be born again”.  That is the Jews.   Now, every one that is born of the Spirit, applies to both Jew and Gentile.   The new nature given is as applicable to a Gentile as to a Jew.

Now Nicodemus doesn’t say, “We know” again: he must learn.  He ought to have understood that Israel had to be born again, born of water and of the Spirit.  “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”  (Ezek 36:25-27).

Another Life

But the Lord knew the very nature of things themselves.  He could tell absolutely what was needful for God, because He was God and came from God.   He shows what is needful for God and tells us what a Christian is.   The Lord testified that which He had seen.   He could tell of the heavenly glory and what was needed to have a part in it.  Man did not receive this testimony.  That which was heavenly and spiritual was darkness and foolishness to man in the flesh.   Those who received this witness were born again.

Let us reflect on this.   In Christ we have One fully revealing God Himself.  His words told man His nature, the nature of God Himself; so as to reveal what was needed in man in order to have to do with God in blessing.   No prophet could say “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” (Ver. 11.).  He connects man with heaven.  He could tell perfectly what was there, and was ever there, for He was God.   But this divine knowledge was knowledge for man; for it was the Son of man had it. Heaven and man were connected in the person of Christ.   How could man, even a teacher of Israel, who thought according to the old nature, understand the reality of the new nature, and hence understand heavenly things?  But this brought out another truth: the door to what was heavenly – an open door to every believer.

Christ Lifted up

There are further counsels of God.   The Son of man — for Jesus was more than Messiah — must, in the counsels of God and in the need of man, be lifted up, rejected from this earth.   Christ could not (for man was a sinner) take His place as Messiah in blessing to Israel.   It says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” (ver. 14).  The Son of man must be lifted up, like the serpent in the wilderness, and made sin for us, that men may look on Him and live   Instead of a living Messiah, the Jews were to have a rejected, dying Son of man.  The cross was healing saving power for man.  Whoever believed in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life; for God so loved the world.  This immense truth opened the way to the fullest display of God and His grace.  As well as new birth, atonement must be made, and redemption must be accomplished, if sinful man was to have to say to a holy God.

Christ’s propitiatory work met the need of man, but it did not give full liberty to the soul.   The holiness of God’s nature, and His righteous judgment were maintained as regards sin – and all in love.  The object was that sinful man, whosoever believed in Jesus, should have eternal life.  The gift of eternal life maintained and displayed the love, holiness and righteousness of God.

Christ Risen

If the Son of man was lifted up, and died to bring us to God, where and how is life?   It is in resurrection.   This leads us to another important element of truth.  I am risen with Him   Our deliverance requires the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We receive Him as our life.  He is a life-giving Spirit.  Because He lives, we live.  He is our life — that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.  He died to sin once; and now, alive in resurrection, lives to God.  We receive Him into our hearts by the Spirit, and have life.   “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:11, 12.).   This is the life of Christ in us, as risen from the dead.   The power of life is in resurrection, so we can say, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Gal. 2:20).

What we are taught in the Epistles

Man may be viewed either as alive in sin (Romans); or as dead in sin (Ephesians).  His flesh is alive and active as regards evil; it is utterly dead as regards God.

The Ephesians saw Christ as dead, and the sinner dead in sin (ch. 2:1);.  Because of the great love wherewith he loved us, we have been raised up together, and “quickened us together with Christ” (ver.2:5)  Thus we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Ver. 10).

In the epistle to the Romans, Christ is seen risen from the dead, but not ascended.    We are not said to be risen with Him.   The object is to show the putting away of the old state, and the introduction in life and justification into the new.  Man’s guilt is proved; Christ has died for us; but He is also risen for our justification.  So we are justified — dead to sin and alive to God —  and delivered from the law.

Colossians is between the two in doctrine.  It views the Christian as having died and now quickened with Christ.   Our new nature, as born of God, takes the character of our having died and risen again with Christ – where He is.

Had Christ not been raised, no sinner could have been united with Him and He could not have given anybody life according to God.   The corn of wheat would have abode alone.  Life and the power of life would have been in Him, but the righteousness of God would have been in abeyance.   But He accomplished the work.  Now Christ, not the first Adam, is my life as a believer.   I can say, “I was in the flesh; I am now in the Spirit.  I have died to sin; I am crucified with Christ; I am alive to God through Jesus Christ.”    “In that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves.” (Rom 6:10-11).   We are alive in Christ, who has died, and we view ourselves as dead, because Christ who is our life has died.  So “Christ liveth in me.” (Gal. 2:20.).   “The Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom. 8:10).  We have died in Christ: this is the doctrine of scripture.

The epistles to the Galatians, Romans, and Colossians all teach this.   I am wholly delivered from the system in which I lived as alive in the flesh.  Ephesians goes a step farther. It does not view Christ as alive and man in sin; but man as dead in sin, and Christ is seen first as dead.  Then having put away sin as guilt, and redeemed us out of that condition, God raised Him up, and raises us by the same power.   “What is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe . . . which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph 1:19-20).

What we are taught in John 3

John 3 teaches us the nature of the life which we receive (i.e. born of the Spirit).    The epistles show us the position that this new life places us.  It is the life of Christ risen, after being delivered for our offences and having died to sin once.   We are in Christ, and Christ is our life: alive in Him and alive in what He is alive to — to God.  Consequently our standing is not in the first Adam at all.  We have died as in the first Adam and to all that he is; we are alive in the last Adam, the Lord Jesus, according to all the acceptance in which He now lives before God.

So we also have in John 3, the intrinsic excellency of the life that we receive from God.  Christ spoke what He knew, showing that we must have a nature from God, fit for God Himself.   This life is contrasted with flesh.  In John we see its proper character and excellency.   Ephesians confirms this: “That we should be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Chap. 1:4).  In the epistles, we are looked at as dead to sin, with a new life wholly distinct from the old man, and we as alive in Christ.   We are not in the flesh; we have died and are risen again.  We have left Adam behind with his nature, fruits, condemnation, death, and judgment.   We are in necessary and righteous acceptance, according to Christ’s acceptance before God.  I am not in the flesh; I have died; I am risen again; I am accepted in Christ risen; I am a partaker of the divine nature and to enjoy its fullness in God.


© Sosthenes – April 2014 – May be reproduced acknowledging source, and where appropriate a link to  Unless the original is being quoted, J N Darby must not be cited as the author.  “Summary  by Sosthenes of Article by John Nelson Darby” – is recommended.