April 25, 1941
First chapter of John’s Gospel verse 29. I am reading this verse in order to lead us up to Nicodemus in the third chapter.
In the Gospel of John things are presented to us from a dispensational standpoint, as they are in Matthew. In Luke, they are presented to us in the moral aspect—grouped together for a moral purpose, not as they happen chronologically, what you might call topical teaching. Mark, as we all know, is from the servant’s standpoint.
John chapter 2, verses 1-3: “There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there.” Just for the sake of brevity, I will read you the 11th verse.
John 1:29: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him.” The next day after what? You see, the Gospel begins with eternal realities—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then we step out from eternity into “certain days.” We leave, so to speak, that wonderful vista of glory in the eternal past, and we now step into dispensational days, beginning at the cross of Christ and ending with the kingdom. So that when John the Baptist sees Jesus the next day, he says, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Everybody knows, of course, that this refers to the cross, but the cross has another very wonderful aspect, not that of bearing our sins, but of clearing out of the universe every trace of sin; that has not come yet, but we know it will come, when the Lord sits on the Great White Throne, and the heaven and earth shall pass away. The foundation of everything is the cross. God has yet to be justified in this scene, justified in the presence of the whole moral universe. It is a moral blot on God’s earth that sin should be here, and the Lord Jesus not only undertakes to remove our sins, but to do more than that.
It is the Lamb of God, not your Lamb, but God’s Lamb, that bears away the sin of the world; He looks right on again into eternity in the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and then we have these “certain days” which typify certain dispensations. When John the Baptist sees the Lord he says, so to speak: “There is the remedy for everything, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” In the meantime, of course, every believer knows his sins are gone, but that is not the meaning of the verse—it is the sin of the world, and not till the Lord sits on the Great White Throne will that take place, but in the meantime, every Christian knows that his sins are gone.
Then the next statement dispensationally is in verse 33. That is Pentecost. We have the cross of Christ in verse 29, and then we have Pentecost in verse 33—the beginning of Christianity. When the Lord Jesus baptized with the Holy Ghost on that day of Pentecost, it was the first time anyone was ever baptized with the Holy Ghost. On the ground of the cross in verse 29, He sent down the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost to form the Church, the Body of Christ. That is the idea of being baptized with the Holy Ghost. But it does not mean that you are a powerful preacher. It means that God is going to have divine unity formed upon this earth. “By one Spirit we are all baptized into one Body, Jew or Gentile, bond or free, all made to drink of that one Spirit.”
Let us see the order of dispensational teaching. I repeat, first comes the cross, on the basis of which the sin of the world will one day be cleared out of it, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness shall dwell and God shall be all and in all. Next comes Pentecost, when the Lord sends down the Holy Ghost to put the Jews into one Body; and Acts 10, He puts the Gentiles into it; so that now we are told, “We are all baptized into one Body, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, and are all made to drink into one Spirit.” Then further on in this first chapter of John, there is a man called Nathanael. He is under the fig-tree; that is the Jewish remnant after the Church’s day is over—that present day in which the Body of Christ is formed and the house of God is built. There is where Nathanael comes in. We get the house brought before us in verse 42 when Peter was told he should be called “Cephas,” which is by interpretation, “a stone.” In other words, God is going to have a building composed of living stones, “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” This runs parallel, in our day, with the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is one aspect and the House of God is another aspect, and it is taking place in our time. Then when the House of God is completed, when the Body of Christ is completed, and when the Bride of Christ is completed, there will be another divine movement in connection with the man called Nathanael, an Israelite in whom was no guile.
There he was in his hiding-place under the fig-tree. The Jews will, brought out of their hiding-place and set up again in this world. That is what the Lord Jesus told him: “You shall see greater things than that; you shall see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
In chapter two, there is a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and water is turned into wine. There are six stone waterpots which at the Lord’s command are filled to the brim with the purifying water, a real figure of Israel in a future day being born again when God will sprinkle clean water upon them. I am giving you these things as a dispensational chart. It is God’s dispensational chart. Not only is there a Jewish remnant typified by Nathanael, but all Israel is typified by the pots. All the converted ones will be gathered from one end of the earth to the other. What a process will they pass through! Why, it says, these stone pots were filled with purifying water; they will be born of water—not baptism, of course, but born of the water of the Word of God which will be sprinkled upon them in the power of the Holy Ghost. There will be a marriage in Cana of Galilee; Jehovah and His people brought together again. Not a remnant here, but all the truly born-again Israelites. The six waterpots of stone for the purifying of the Jews by the new birth—born of water as we are born of the water of the Word. That is what the new birth is. They have moral purification. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;” but when they will be born again, then the water is turned into wine. There will be joy; for wine is a type of joy. It is a marriage feast and Jesus is there.
I say, beloved friends, these are divine dispensational touches from the cross of Christ right on to the kingdom. You say, “Where is the kingdom?” In John 2:11: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested forth His glory,” and His disciples believed on Him. In the coming kingdom that water is turned to wine. What joy and gladness there will be when Jehovah and His people are united! Then they will have the best wine last. He manifested forth His glory.” His glory is now hidden in the heavens, but in that day, the millennial day of the marriage of Jehovah with His people, the glory of God shines in His face, when they are first purified by that cleansing water; then that is followed by the wine of joy. The best wine last; and so we have reached the kingdom. He manifested forth His glory. Purified with the water of the Word, born again, they drink of that wine of the kingdom.
The reason, beloved friends, I am seeking to give you this, is that after it says the Lord “manifested forth His glory,” which is a figure of the kingdom, then Nicodemus appears (John 3:1). The Lord Jesus says to him, “You will not do, for except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” There is the kingdom already. In the marriage at Cana with its wine of gladness we have a miniature picture of the Lord manifesting forth His glory; and now there comes a candidate for that kingdom. He is a very fine candidate, M. P. (Man of the Pharisees), M. I. (Master in Israel), R. J. (Ruler of the Jews) and the Lord says: “You won’t do.” You are a candidate for that kingdom of which you have just had a picture, but you are not fit because you have not been born again: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. You MUST be born again” to be in the kingdom.
I need not say to any intelligent Christians—you must be born again to be in the Father’s house. However that is not the point I want to make here. The kingdom is set up in picture with the purifying water, the wine of gladness, and Jesus manifests His glory as He will do in the coming kingdom. Then a man presents himself to whom the Lord says, You won’t do. Nicodemus says, “We know that you are a Teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles except God be with him.” He was a remarkable man, yet he was not born of the Spirit of God. He was not fit for the kingdom, and neither are you, dear hearer, if you are not born again. If you are not converted, no matter how much you may appreciate the Lord in certain ways, you are not saved. Are you born again? We get a very clear statement of how this is in John 3:8 which I shall now read to you: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The wind blows where it likes—divine sovereignty. We are born, “not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The new birth is, beloved friends, necessarily an act of divine power.
A Christian lady adopted a deaf mute and wanted to teach the boy that God is everywhere. She also informed him by sign language that he must not tell lies. “If you tell lies you will have to have your tongue taken out.” He thought he would test her words to see if they were true. She had been telling him that God is everywhere. He looked above, around, and all about, north, south, east and west, and could not find God anywhere. Very much excited, he came to her and said—“If you tell lies you will have to have your tongue taken out. You told me that God is everywhere, I could not find Him anywhere.” Then she said, “Lord, give me a word for him.” It was a cold day, and his hands were blue and cold, and she took up a small pair of bellows which were by the fire and blew on his hands. He said, “You mustn’t do that; my hand is cold already.” She said, “What? “Did you see anything?” and again she blew. The light of God broke in on the boy and he said: “God is like the wind; you can’t see Him, but you can feel Him.” “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.”
I will tell you what you can do, dear hearer, you can resist the Holy Ghost and be damned; but when you are born again it is the act of divine sovereignty, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. That is how Nicodemus is spoken to by the Lord; he is convicted in this way. “We know you are a teacher come from God.” I believe the very night that he visited the Lord he got beyond conviction, and I believe that that very night he was born of the Spirit of God.
Born of water is the purifying effect of the new birth. “Clean through the Word which I have spoken to you.” Do not confound being cleansed with water with being cleansed by blood. We are cleansed by blood judicially; cleansed by water morally. What do you mean by morally? Character! Born of water. The moment you are born again, you are a changed man, you have a changed character. I am afraid that sometimes we are very crooked in our theology. If a man talks of cleansing with water, you say he is not sound in doctrine. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin,” that is judicially it puts every spot away, but the new birth changes my character—“Clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” That is moral cleansing. The new birth, the divine nature that is in me, makes me a clean man in my habits. My tongue is clean, my thoughts are clean; “through the word which I have spoken to you.”
Now we have reached the kingdom by these stages, the Cross, Pentecost, the building of the House, the formation of Christ’s Body. A new Israel has been brought back to Jehovah, to the marriage feast and the best wine. Then Nicodemus presents himself, and the Lord Jesus says, “You will not do. You must be born again.”
Turn, please, to John 10:16. There is no such thing as “fold” today; although people must have it in their hymns. The fold is Judaism; the flock is Christianity. “Other sheep I have which are not of this (Jewish) fold, then also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” A totally different word is used here; any man who can read two Greek words knows the one is “fold” and the other is “flock.” So the Gentiles will be brought into blessed unity with the Jew. “Other sheep I have which are not of this (Jewish) fold; them also I MUST bring.” “Ye MUST be born again.” Notice these MUSTS. “Ye MUST be born again.” Then comes the other MUST. “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I MUST bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” One Body, one Building, one Bride, one set of brethren, one flock. How are they brought into the blessed unity of this one flock? There is another verse: “The Son of Man MUST be lifted up.” Here then is another MUST. John the Baptist says: “I MUST decrease, he MUST increase.” These four MUSTS go together to produce the new birth. “The Son of Man MUST be lifted up”; “Ye MUST be born again”; “Them also I MUST bring”; then John says, “I MUST decrease, He MUST increase.” These four blessed elements are at work to produce the new birth.
Now turn back again to John 3:8: “The wind bloweth.” Let this sink down into your hearts, brethren. The new birth must be the effect of divine sovereignty. “The wind blows where it likes. You cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes, so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Salvation is the mighty work of the Holy Ghost, and as I have already said: “You can resist the Holy Ghost and go to hell; and you will if you resist Him.” It is a very solemn thing for people to hear the gospel. Don’t resist the Holy Ghost if He strives with you, beloved friends. Give in; yield. But “the wind bloweth where it listeth,” and, therefore, dear friends, if you have not been brought to Christ, I urge you, if there is any movement of the Holy Ghost in your conscience, yield, and you will be in the kingdom. You will be in the kingdom by the new birth, and yet the operation is in the power of the Holy Ghost, in divine sovereignty—the wind does it. The wind blows along, and you don’t resist it. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit.
I want to go a bit further in connection with the Holy Spirit. Please turn to John 4:13, 14: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him, a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” A fountain of water—the new birth! The Holy Ghost forms a divine nature in us—born of the Spirit. That is why we hate wicked things and love divine things. Drop that pack of cards, drop that billiard cue and drop the theatre, because God has given us a divine nature which loves holiness.
But there is another step further. When I believe the blessed gospel of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Holy Ghost comes to dwell in me. “The water which I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” That is, beloved friends, you are satisfied; you never thirst. Is it so? Do we never thirst? These things, beloved friends, are spoken of from the divine aspect. “The water that I shall give him shall be in him.” Not the new birth now, but the Holy Ghost forming the divine nature. This is the living water, the Holy Ghost coming to dwell in you Himself and springing up into everlasting life. I hope you are enjoying the springing well, and I hope, beloved Christian, you can say, I am a satisfied Christian; I never thirst. God has been gracious to me in a governmental way. I am not wanting anything particularly; I am not thirsting for worldly things; I am not grasping for money. I have in me a well of water that satisfies. I never thirst.” And the water that Christ gives him is springing up. Does it spring up? If He has His way it will spring up.
I never could understand that verse till I went to California. There I found wells springing up. In the Old Country, about the deadest thing in the world are those wells—no spring at all. They are as dead as ditch-water. I saw many of them there. There is a great big iron chain, and you look down into the well and it look like midnight down there; not a bit of spring in it at all. With a young fellow and his father, I went to California, where they had a ranch. They were supposed to get some fruit, I remember, but no fruit was forthcoming; but the boy was very clever and he said, “Father, I think we will have to get a specialist down here, one who understands water.” They got the specialist down, and the young fellow took me to the well to see what he would do. He put high boots on. He unscrewed the cap and dug down about four feet, and then when he removed the top of the well—whsh-sh-sh. I never saw water spring up in the air till then. It was really springing up—“Springing up into everlasting life!”
“The water I shall give you”—it is in you springing up, the Holy Ghost Himself springing up. Have you had any springing up today, brother or has this been a flat day? Not very enjoyable? A down-in-the-dumps day? I know, beloved friends, there is plenty of sorrow in the world. I am not making light of that, but if the Holy Ghost is in you as a fountain of water, and if you let Him have His way, He will lift you up—“springing up into everlasting life”—“up”—and that is what everlasting life is. He is in you, and springs up into everlasting life. If you go on with the world, you will be choked. You know Isaac had very valuable wells. Isaac’s father left them to him as an inheritance, and the Philistines came along and filled up those wells with earth, and it stopped all the springing. The Philistine means a worldly professor—a man who keeps the world; there will be a choking going on instead of springing up.
“The water I shall give him shall be in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” So that we are not only born of the Spirit, but indwelt by the Spirit. If things do not choke His blessed activities, He will spring up to where the blessed Lord Jesus is. In Him is eternal life. God has given to us eternal life—and is this life in you? It is in you, it is true; but when He talks of the source of it, He says this life is “in His Son,” the blessed Source of it. His Son is the blessed Source, and if the water had its way, it would spring up and reach Him in glory there. The water shall be “in him” a “fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Do you not chide yourself sometimes for being a sort of grumbling Christian, getting in the dumps, feeling depressed, and so on? What’s the matter with you? Haven’t you got the Holy Ghost in you, that living fountain? Let Him have His way and He will reach Christ in glory, springing up into everlasting life, and we will never thirst!
“I thirst, but not as once I did,
The vain delights of earth to share;
Thy wounds, Immanuel, all forbid
That I should seek my pleasures there.
“It was the sight of Thy dear cross
First weaned my heart from earthly things,
And taught me to esteem as dross
The mirth of fools, the pride of kings.”
“Shall never thirst,” never thirst—satisfied forever.
There is a very striking verse in Philippians. In chapter 4:11 the Apostle Paul says: “I have learnt in those circumstances in which I am, to be satisfied in myself.” That is how J. N. Darby makes it read. He was a gold medallist in Greek, and his translation of the Book was in front of the authors of the Revised Version when they were at work. He was one of the most wonderful men that ever lived, according to my estimation. He reads it in Philippians: “I have learnt in those circumstances in which I am, to be satisfied in myself,” because I have the Holy Ghost and the living water. It is not, “satisfied WITH myself,” but “IN myself.” You have the Holy Ghost, the living water, and if He has His blessed way, dear friends, He will carry you right up to where the Lord is in glory.
Now let us turn to John 7:38. In John 3 we are born of the Spirit; in John 4 we are indwelt by the Holy Ghost, and the springing up is in John 7. The water flows out from us and thirsty souls drink from that overflow. “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his inward parts —shall be”—pumped? No. “Shall flow rivers of living water!” Pumping is no good, Spontaneity is the thing. We drink of the hidden Christ in glory, and then the Holy Ghost flows through us. What blessing we shall have!! What power we shall have! Sinners, indeed, will be converted, and the people of God will be refreshed.
The only power on earth that is effectual is the Holy Ghost. He quickens the dead and seals the living. He is in the believer. Out of our inward parts, if we go to Him and drink, shall flow rivers. Would to God it were so! Channels of blessing! Don’t you want to be that, brethren? But if we are to be channels of blessing, we must go to Him and drink. Drink of Him, the Fountain-head of living water. In Genesis, the river went out of Eden to water the garden, and divided itself into four heads, one north, one south, one east, and one west. In Exodus, they had the smitten rock, and the river from the smitten rock in the wilderness. In Ezekiel, the water comes from under the altar; and in The Revelation John saw the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God. That is yet future; but what is it to come from now? Through you! Through me! “Out of his inward parts shall flow rivers of living water.” We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, born of the Holy Spirit. Indwelt with the Spirit! Satisfied because He is in us! A well of water!
Let us, beloved friends, see that we do not let the Philistines shovel in the earth of the well. Be careful, beloved children of God, that we do not let the Philistines choke the whole thing up. It is there, but the Philistines will put their earth into it. What did Isaac do? He re-dug the wells and threw the earth out. Some of us want to do some re-digging. The Holy Ghost is there, but He is grieved by our half-heartedness and worldliness. Dig out the wells, and then the water will spring up again. Do you know what they sang in Moses’ time? “Spring up, O well.” They took their staves and re-dug the well. Is there anything in you, my beloved children of God, that grieves the Spirit of God? If there is, judge it; turn it out, so that, ungrieved, He may work in you.
I finish with a verse which has been greatly misused, somehow. We do not seem to be able to get it all out: “Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,”—and there we stop. Oh, don’t stop there—“Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think—according to the power that worketh in us.” That is the Holy Ghost. Christ wrought for us on the cross objectively. Now the Holy Ghost is in us and we can say, “According to the power that worketh in us.” Is He working in me?—Clearing out the things that hinder? Am I a satisfied Christian? Do I never thirst? May we make more room for the Holy Ghost. He is all-sufficient. First of all, He satisfies, then the living water springs up into everlasting life, and flows through the believer, and out to those who are perishing around us in their sins, and the Christians get refreshed.