Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nick at Night

I'm preaching this week from John chapter 3 where Jesus has an encounter with Nicodemus. The famous "You must be born again" text (although some dispute whether the "water" in v. 5 is baptism, I believe that a strong case can be made that it is). It's a shame that verses often get ripped from their context. There is some great teaching in John 3:1-21. The most famous verse in all of Scripture is here (John 3:16) -- yet that verse isn't on an island by itself, it's a part of a larger conversation.

I love Jesus' allusion to the snake-bitten Israelites (Numbers 21 , where God sent venomous snakes to bite those complainers. But he relented and told Moses to make a bronze snake for them to look upon and be saved). Jesus indicates that just as Moses lifted up the snake, He must be lifted up (on a pole/tree) and people must look to him for salvation.

If in verse 5 Jesus is referring to baptism (which would become part of the kingdom entrance requirements), then baptism is our bronze snake (provided by God's grace).

Do you know what happened to that bronze snake? Israel began to worship it! (2 Kings 18:4). They began to make an idol out of the means/instrument/mode/tool of salvation rather than GOD who made salvation possible. I wonder if we sometimes slip into the same thing with our bronze snake (baptism). Was looking at the snake necessary? Sure, if they wanted to be saved. Is baptism (new birth) necessary? Of course. But let's remember that it is God who gets the glory/credit for our salvation, not us.

4 comments:

David H. Willis said...

Mike that's really good, insightful stuff. Your point is right on. Thanks for seeing that and sharing it.

David H. Willis said...

David Bercot: “The early Christians universally understood Jesus’ words (in John 3:5) to refer to water baptism.”

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog Mike.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Keith Wood said...

Ditto to Dave's comment(s). We sometimes get so caught up in worshipping baptism we forget or at least diminish the prerequisites of genuine faith and true repentence.