A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!




Tempting Christ

As Jesus began to trouble the Jews more and more by His teaching, pointing out their failings, their frustration with him grew. At first, they brought the simple challenges to try to discredit him publicly. They ask questions of him designed to fault his position: Mar 12:14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see [it]. 16 And they brought [it]. And he saith unto them, Whose [is] this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.

A tougher question is brought out when the first one failed. Mar 12:18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave [his] wife [behind him], and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.

Mar 12:24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

We can be sure the leaders of Jerusalem were non-stop in their efforts to trap the Lord in a slip of the tongue, a mistake, any error in the law.

Let me quickly set the background we’ll need to understand their most devious experiment. In the Old Testament law, there is a test given to a woman whose husband believes she has been unfaithful. Some refer to it as the Trial of Bitter Waters. You can read the details in the 5th Chapter of Numbers. Summarizing the events, a jealous or suspicious man brings an offering with his wife before the priest in the temple; the priest places in his hand a vessel of holy water while he writes curses on a book. Gathering dust from the temple floor, he mixes it with the water and uses the blend to blot the curses. The water, ink and dust are now all mixed together and given to the woman to drink. When she drinks the mixture, it will cause her belly to swell and her thigh to rot if she has been unfaithful. If innocent of the accusations, the bitter water causes no harm.

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Here comes the strongest test the rulers of the day can create.

Jhn 8:1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not]. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

How hard do you imagine it might be to catch a random person in the act of adultery? Was it the custom of the scribes to bust down every door and inquire what was going on inside? This capture had to be timed so they could find Jesus during his morning teaching in the temple. Something more sinister than a happenstance observance of adultery had to take place. Either the woman was tricked, forced against her will, or was such a creature of habit she was followed.

Most people reading John 8 will invariably ask, “Where was the man?” Indeed, if the woman was “taken in the very act,” the man had to be in collusion with the scribes and Pharisees. The absence of the man helps clarify our options about what probably took place in order to “catch” the woman.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? Jesus did not need to be told what the law said, but now we see the seriousness of the situation. Whether the woman was tricked, set-up or followed, the rulers were so determined to trap Jesus in his own words they were willing to commit murder. They will gladly sacrifice her to cause Jesus to stumble. Think about it. This woman is going to be stoned to death if Christ follows the law.

Lev 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man's wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

We’ve always looked at this scenario as an example of the love and forgiving nature of Christ. And certainly that shows here, but there’s more. Much more.

But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not]. Writing in the dust of the temple floor, He who wrote the original law now writes the curses and begins the trail of bitter waters.

All the elements are present. We have the woman, the temple, the dust –Christ as the Offering for Sin, the Living Word, the Living Water, and the High Priest.

Only one thing is missing. The man. The husband. He is the only one who has the option of accusation. The spirit of jealousy must come upon him. Unless the husband catches her, no other accuser will be heard.

Num 5:13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and [there be] no witness against her, neither she be taken [with the manner]; Num 5:14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
One by one the scribes and Pharisees left. Unfortunately, we get our mental images from Hollywood and TV. Christ and the woman alone between the buildings. Not so. The temple is still full of people, but up front, near Moses’ seat, only Jesus and the woman.  In the midst.

Woman, where are those thine accusers?
Rev 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Satan never appeared before God and made up idle things about us. In the presence of the Creator he could not lie. He detailed our sins and transgressions of the law. The law is the standard to which we were held. Satan pointed out every time we broke God’s law.

This picture of the scribes and Pharisees departing in frustration is like Satan’s final visit. He appears to accuse us before God, only to see us covered in the blood of Christ, and then he is cast down, never to appear before the throne again.

In this elaborate and devious scheme by the rulers, Christ not only frustrates them, but fulfills the law to a jot and a tittle. He conducts the trial of bitter waters on the woman and by doing so saves her from being murdered. There stands no accuser before the Lord against the woman. How wonderful for her the Holy water used to conduct the trail on this day could never be bitter. Sweeter waters never existed. The offering of memorial required by the law is Christ himself.

It is only with hindsight and revelation we can see all the elements that were present that day. Psa 85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other].

Jhn 8:16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.

Fulfil, or fulfill
1. To bring into actuality; effect: fulfilled their promises.
2. 2.To carry out (an order, for example).
3. To measure up to; satisfy.
4. To bring to an end; complete.

Christ manifested the law, fulfilling, completing, carrying out, measuring up, satisfying, bringing into actuality and completing it. Rom 10:4 For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Where is the man? Child of God, where is thy accuser? Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Royce Ellis

The New Birth Part I

The scriptures have a lot to say about being born again and the consequent effects upon those who are born again. Many erroneous ideas have been put forth about what man must/can do to cause himself to be born again. One highly popular evangelist wrote a book on the subject of how man can be born again. The problem with such concepts is that they simply are not true. The plain biblical teaching is that God is sovereign in bringing about the new birth. By the term, sovereign, we mean "independent of all others." God is under no dependency on man to bring about the new birth. God does not cause anyone to be born again because of their actions of either belief, works, or following a prescribed course of action.

John 3:8 describes God's sovereignty in causing someone to be born again. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whether it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." Just as God is sovereign, the wind is also independent of the actions of man. "The wind bloweth where it listeth" No man has ever had the power or knowledge to direct or control the direction or force by which the wind blows. Likewise man does not have the power or knowledge to bring about the new birth. "And thou hearest the sound thereof" While we have the evidence of the wind's blowing, this knowledge is not a cause of the wind's blowing, but is an effect of the wind's blowing.

Likewise there are many evidences of the new birth given unto us to assure us of that birth, but those evidences are an effect of the birth and not the cause. "But canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth" we are not able to pinpoint a place on earth and say the wind originates here, or pinpoint a place on earth and say this is the final destination of the wind. Thus we conclude the wind is totally independent of man in its blowing, its direction, its origination and its destination. Likewise the Holy Spirit is totally independent of man in bringing about the new birth. The new birth takes place when and where the Holy Spirit chooses. Likewise it is God's choice and not man's choice as to who will be born again and who won't be born again.

Likewise John 3:6 teaches us the sovereignty of God in the new birth and affirms that the new birth is not a cooperative endeavor between God and man: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." In our natural birth it is the actions of the flesh that brought about our natural birth into the world. Even here, it was not our actions, but our parent's actions that brought about our natural birth. By parallel, the spiritual birth is brought about by the Holy Spirit. Again it is the actions of the Holy Spirit that brings about this spiritual birth and not our actions. The Lord said in John 6:63, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." Now if I in my flesh could do something to help bring about the new birth, then there would be a profit in the flesh, but the Lord affirms that there is no profit in the flesh, but that the Holy Spirit does the quickening (new birth). Similarly, John 1:11 13 teaches us that God is sovereign in bringing about the new birth: "He came unto his own...even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." This passage teaches the Sovereignty of God in causing us to be born again by first ruling all other possible causes. First, man's belief is ruled out as a cause for the passage shows that the birth took place prior to man's belief. This leaves us with the only logical conclusion that belief cannot be a cause of the new birth. Secondly, the new birth is not the result of a blood relationship to Abraham or anyone else. Thirdly, the new birth is not the result of the will or desire of the flesh. Man, by nature, does not desire to be born again. Fourthly, the new birth is not the result of man's will or choice. Thus, man does not choose to be born again and because of his choice the new birth comes about. Therefore, having ruled out all other possible causes of the new birth, John simply states that the new birth is "of God." While there are other scriptures, which show God's sovereignty in bringing about the new birth, these sufficiently prove God's independence of man in causing anyone to be born again.

The New Birth Part II

In our last installment we looked at the sovereign work of God in bringing about the new (spiritual) birth in an individual. In this installment we will look at the condition of man prior to being born again and see his total inability to do anything to bring about the new birth.

Ephesians 2:1, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins..." The word, "quicken," means to make alive." When we "were dead in trespasses and sins" we were "made alive" spiritually. Our condition prior to being born again was "dead in trespasses and sins."

Verses 2 and 3 describe this condition of being "dead in trespasses and sins," "Wherein in time past (i.e., prior to being born again) ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others." When we "were dead in trespasses and sins," we "walked according to the course of this world." The course of this world is abomination to God. The scriptures say that whosoever is the friend of "this world" is the enemy of God. Thus, we conclude that when we were dead in trespasses and sins that we were the "enemies of God."

Secondly, we followed after the "prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Jesus is the "prince of peace." Satan is the "prince of the power of the air." We, being dead in trespasses and sins walked after Satan and had the spirit of Satan working in us as he now works in the children of disobedience.

Thirdly, we had our "conversation" or life style "in the lusts of our flesh..." Paul said "that in me that is in my flesh dwelleth no good thing." "The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the father but is of the world" (1 John 2:16). For our life style to be after fleshly lust is to live selfishly and carnally.

Fourthly, we "fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind." Thus we weren't just walking after them, but we were actually doing those things.  Fifthly, our nature was the same nature that the children of wrath now possess, i.e., we "were by nature the children of wrath even as others." This was our condition before we were born again.

We have described in Romans 3:9 18 our condition under the law of sin and death from which bondage we were delivered by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). It is said of man before the new birth that "There is none righteous, no, not one." Thus we conclude that before we were born again we were in our fleshly state totally unrighteous before God.

Secondly, we are told that "there is none that understandeth." I Corinthians 2:14 says that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." Without the new birth we cannot discern spiritual things, we cannot know them and we cannot understand them. We must be born again to understand the gospel, to know God, and to discern spiritually the word of God.

Thirdly, we read where "there is none that seeketh after God." Prior to being born again, no man will nor can seek after God. How foolish it is that men will say that seeking after God is a prerequisite condition for being born again. Contrariwise a man must be born again in order to be able to seek after God.

Fourthly, "there is none that doeth good, no not one." Prior to being born again a man cannot do good. Is being baptized, or believing the gospel, or repenting, or believing on the Lord Jesus Christ doing good? If it is, then man must be born again prior to doing any of those things.

Finally, we read that "there is no fear of God before their eyes." A man who does not fear God will not come to God. Therefore, a man cannot come to God prior to being born again.

Jesus said in John 6:63, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." If I through preaching the gospel or you through believing the gospel can bring about the new birth, then there is a profit in our fleshly undertakings and the Lord was wrong. He never has nor will make a mistake. His spoken voice gives life, not our deeds!

We conclude with John 5:25, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." When we were dead in trespasses and sins we heard the life giving voice of the Son of God speaking spiritual life into our very being and thus we now live spiritually.

Having that spiritual life we can understand spiritual things, seek after God, know God, do good, worship God, fear God, believe the gospel, repent, and become the disciple of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

The New Birth Part III

The new birth is compared to or said to be many things including: resurrection, circumcision, and creation. In this installment we will look at the new birth as a spiritual "creation." First, the bible tells us that God is the only creator as follows:

a. Ephesians 3:9, "...who created all things by Jesus Christ."
b. Colossians 1:16, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible...all things were created by him, and for him."

c. Revelation 4:11, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."

Since God is the only creator, thus, by inference man has created nothing, nor is he capable of creating anything.

Secondly, while God completed his natural creation in six days and rested on the seventh, his creation of spiritual things continues as evidenced by Revelation 4:11 where it is said that for God's "pleasure they are and were created." The word "are" indicates a now creation whereas the word "were" indicates a past creation. Natural creation is past, spiritual creation continues.

Third, those who are born again are said to be the created workmanship of God in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." In Ephesians 4:24 we read, "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Thus, we conclude that the "new man" is the creation of God. In the new birth the inner or new man is created in righteousness and true holiness by our faithful Creator.

Fourth, those who are born again are said to be new creatures as follows:
a. II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature..."

b. Galatians 6:15, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."

Furthermore, the use of the term, creature, in the New Testament has reference to those who are born again in all but a few scriptures in which natural creation is indicated by the context.

Fifth, when we are born again (created) we are given a new set of senses. We are told in I Corinthians 2:9, 14 that the natural senses and the natural man cannot discern spiritual things. It is only after we have been born again (created) that we are enabled to have senses that can discern spiritual things. Eight times in the gospels and eight times in the book of Revelation we are told, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear..." These verses have reference to spiritual ears for we cannot discern spiritual things through the natural man. Also we are told that "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Thus it takes spiritual eyes to perceive that spiritual kingdom. In addition, since God is a Spirit we must have spiritual feeling in order to "feel after him" (Acts 17:27). Furthermore, to "taste the heavenly gift" (Hebrews 6:4) and to "taste the good word of God" (Hebrews 6:5) and to "taste that the Lord is gracious" (I Peter 2:3) takes spiritual taste buds that we come into possession of when we are born again (created).

Finally, to perceive the odor of a sweet smell from Christian sacrifices (Philippians 4:18) we must possess a spiritual nose.

In conclusion, God alone and without the help or assistance of man creates us spiritually (causes us to be born again). We must have been created spiritually in order to perceive spiritual things. Thus to hear and respond to the gospel we must have been born again. For these reasons we may conclude that the gospel is for those already born again and not for those who haven't been born again. (To be continued.)

Elder Vernon Johnson

Primitive Baptist