“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
How does the Christian answer the four big questions of faith?  The Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments offer real insights.
Who is God? In the Apostle’s Creed, God is one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who we can know through the story of Jesus as revealed in scripture. In the Lord’s Prayer, God, through His sovereign rule over all creation, shapes us in his image day by day as we walk in obedience to Him. In the Ten Commandments, God is the supreme covenant maker who expresses his love for us through concrete guidance. The Triune God is alive and works in the world to form the church, forgive sin, and grant us re-created life.
Who are we? In the Apostle’s Creed, we are invited into relationship with the Triune God and to participate in the story of Jesus. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are seen as created in God’s image which then offers us dignity and intrinsic value. However, our reflection of God’s image is imperfect because of the influence of sin. In the Ten Commandments, God initiates a covenant relationship with us, which provides us clear guidance for living in a way that pleases Him.
What is good to do? In the Apostle’s Creed, a detailed picture of God is presented, especially in the life and work of Jesus Christ, in whom we are exhorted to believe and emulate in life, death, and resurrection (Phil 3:9–11). In the Lord’s Prayer, we are enabled to commune directly with God in prayer and in bearing God’s image in the world. In the Ten Commandments, law guides us in daily living through concrete action.
How do we know? The Apostle’s Creed reminds us that we stand together with the church throughout the ages before a holy and loving God. Scripture records the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. The Holy Spirit inspired the authors and illuminates our reading. Christ’s divinity anchors scripture because Jesus expressed confidence in it (Matt 5:18Matt 5:18). As Jesus prophesied—”if these were silent, the very stones would cry out”—archaeological research has confirmed the validity of many events and places in scripture (Luke 19:40) .
Our faith in God is paradoxical . Like the child who is able to play with abandon because of the watchful eye of a parent, we are free in Christ to live within God’s will for our lives. In Christ, the gap of time, space, and holiness between us and God is bridged. Freedom in Christ accordingly brings rest for our souls .
 As mentioned earlier, the four big questions in philosophy are: metaphysics (Who is God?), epistemology (How do we know?), and anthropology (Who are we?), and ethics (What is good to do?) (Kreeft 2007, 6).
 If you are unconvinced, read a few of the stories in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan, 2005).
 The Apostle Paul wrote: “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.” (Cor 13:4).
 Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:29)
Kreeft, Peter. 2007. The Philosophy of Jesus. South Bend, IN: Saint Augustine’s Press.
Zondervan. 2005. NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3 ESV).
We really want to be in control. From a very young age, we do not want to depend on other people, to be told what to do, or to answer to anyone. We take seriously the Declaration of Independence when it reads:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (July 4, 1776).
Not only do we want the freedom to deny the control of other people and other nations, we want to deny the restrictions placed on us by God himself. Rather than a sign of maturity, this control fetish is a sign of childishness—children always imitate their parents wanting to do adult things before they are ready.
For the Corinthians, childishness had two prominent features. They considered themselves to be very spiritual people (v 1) and they divided themselves into political parties (v 4). The Apostle Paul responded by offering them a lesson in Christian leadership.
Christian leadership, according to Paul, consists in building on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ (v 11), serving God as we are assigned (v 5), and compensated according to quality of the work done (VV 8,13-14). Paul writes: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth (V 6). In this agricultural motif, the farmer does not know how the seeds grow; farming consists only in fostering the growth of healthy seeds. Paul’s point is that God is responsible for growth—follow Jesus, not his servants.
Paul’s lesson clearly applies to us today.
Don’t we consider ourselves spiritual? Paul talks about the wisdom of this age (v 18). Hays (49-50) notes that spiritual elitism can take the form of spiritual gifts, scholarly knowledge, doctrinal correctness, moral uprightness, or political correctness. When we do not consider ourselves spiritual elites, we can, of course, simply support our favorite pastor, denomination, or author who expresses our elitist preferences. Is it any wonder that schisms in the church appeal over and over through the ages and frequently find root in a selective reading of scripture itself?
Paul sees this tendency towards spiritual elitism in the Corinthians (vv 18-20) and cites the Prophet Job:
He [God] frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end (Job 5:12-13 ESV).
Paul ends this section with another admonishment about boasting saying: For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future– all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (vv 21-23)
As the church, we collectively are God’s temple  and under his watchful eye (vv 16-17).
Hays, Richard B. 2011. Interpretation: A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching—First Corinthians (Orig pub 1997). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς (1Corinthians 3:17 BNT). Translated is: for God’s temple is holy, and you all are [that temple].
How was your week? Did anything special happen?
What questions or thoughts do you have about 1 Corinthians 2?
What does it mean to be spiritual (πνευματικοῖς)?How about worldly (or fleshly; σαρκίνοις)? What is an infant (νηπίοις) in Christ? (vv1,3)
What would you say that the milk teachings of the church are as opposed to the solid food teachings?(v2)
What particular problem does Paul focus on? (vv3-5)
What does Paul say about this problem?
What is important in leadership? (vv6-11)
How is a leader measured or tested?(vv12-15)
What does Paul say about the temple? What is confusing about this statement in English but not Spanish (vv16-17)
What wisdom is Paul talking about? What does he say? (vv18-20)
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3-4 ESV).
Have you been born again?
The Apostle John actually uses the enigmatic expression, born from above, to talk about spiritual rebirth (vv 5-6). Commentators often wonder why Nicodemus was surprised by Jesus’ teaching because the prophet Ezekiel wrote something similar: And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:27). Nicodemus was perhaps surprised, not because he does not know his scripture; he is surprised because the usual Jewish teaching focused on complying with the Law of Moses. Pharisees taught that the law could be obeyed if the proper rules were known and followed—God’s intervention was not required to comply with the law.
Being born again impliesthat God comes to us—we do not come to him. Following the law; being good; attending the right church will not bring you closer to God. God is not far from us in terms of physical distance; He is far from us in terms of holiness—moral distance. He is infinite; we are finite. God must choose us; because we cannot choose him. And when God chooses us, we are radically changed.
The discourse with Nicodemus is the first of three sections in chapter three. The other two are Jesus’ teaching on love and further comments by John the Baptist.
The dialog with Nicodemus ends with a series of statements by Jesus which ends in verse 21. Among these statements is the familiar passage: John 3:16—For God so loved the world…
God’s love of an unholy world is unexpected. The rebellion of the created order from God sets the world in opposition to God. This was, for example, the reason for God sending the flood but saving Noah and his family (Genesis 6:5-7). Jesus, as God’s son, is the champion promised in Genesis 3:15 who would defeat Satan. God’s love in Christ not only allows God to keep his promise, but Christ’s example also sets God’s people apart from the world—when they pay attention. By looking to that example, we are saved (Numbers 21:9).
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45 ESV).
In our own lifetime, Bishop Desmond Tutu applied this principle of love for enemies when he formed South Africa’s Truth and Justice commission. The abolishment of Apartheid accordingly became an opportunity for healing rather than an excuse for genocide. John the Baptist, who recognized the power of God in Christ, voluntarily gave up his own ministry to make room for Jesus saying: He must increase, but I must decrease (v 30). In like manner, the people of South Africa gave up their legitimate claim for revenge to make room for Christ’s love and became an example to the entire world.
Do you want to love the world? Give up your rights and practice Christ’s love.
How was your week? Do you have anything about your week that you would like to share? Do you have any thoughts about last week’s lesson?
Who was Nicodemus? (v 1)
Why might he have come at night to see Jesus? (v 2)
How does Nicodemus describe Jesus? (v 2)
What is a sign? (v 2) How does it differ from a wonder, a miracle, or healing? For example: And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people(Acts 6:8 ESV).
What does Jesus say? Why is it surprising? (v 3)
Why does Nicodemus respond the way he does? (v 4)What does he say?
How many times does Jesus repeat the phrase born again (v 3, 5, 7)? Why?
What does “born again” mean? What does it imply?
What is said in verse 6? Why is it important?
10.Does Nicodemus understand? (v 9)
What do verses 10 through 21 have in common? Is Jesus speaking throughout this section? For example, who is speaking in John 3:16? Why?
12.Where does Jesus go in verses 22-23 and what does he do?
Why is verse 24 interesting?
14.Who is carrying on the discussion that starts in verse 25?