Home » Posts tagged 'spiritualize'
Tag Archives: spiritualize
Week 7 Part 4 John 6:22-71: Focus–Concrete (Concrete Literal) vs Spiritual (Spiritual Reality)
John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
In chapter 6 John continues the steady development of his presentation of the great salvation theme of his letter, and he continues to contrast the concrete-only understanding of the religious pundits of his day with the spiritual realities of eternal life.
I. John 3: Nicodemus and the necessity of being born again of the Spirit
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
II. John 4: The Woman at the Well and Christ the giver of living water that springs up in believers to a fountain of eternal life
John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
III. John 6: Christ the bread of life and the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood
John 6:31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?“
John 6:48 I am the bread of life.
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
- To Nicodemus Jesus said, You must be born again. Nicodemus responded concretely–asking whether he needed to crawl back into his mother’s womb as an old man.
- To the Woman at the Well Jesus said, I will give you Living Water. The woman initially responded concretely by asking for the water so as not to have to go to the well to fill her bucket every day.
- To all the listeners in John 6 (the religious pundits, his larger circle of disciples, and his own group of 12 disciples) Jesus reveals that he himself is the living water, and that those who want the fountain of water springing up to eternal life must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He was not speaking of cannibalism, but of the spiritual necessity of fully embracing himself in deepest communion–also known as believing in him. Many who heard him interpreted his words as though he were speaking of cannibalism, and they were repulsed.
This one verse sums up Jesus’ teaching well–
John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
- Can you find other verses in which a teaching of Jesus is interpreted concretely rather than as the spiritual truth he intends?
- Given the strength and clarity of Jesus’ teaching concerning Spirit and flesh (see John 6:63 above), why do you suppose there are some today whose minds still focus on concrete fulfillment of spiritual words rather than on the spiritual realities to which the concrete symbols point?
Week 4: Spiritual Replaces Concrete
One of the great takeaway lessons we learn from John 3–Nicodemus–and John 4–the Woman at the Well–is that Jesus introduces a Great Shift–the Great Change–away from concrete interactions with his people (physical symbols and types) to spiritual.
This is one of the biggest differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus himself introduced this change, and we see it in both the account of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well.
The reason the Great Shift occurs with the advent of Christ at the beginning of the New Testament is that the Spirit of God in the later pages of the Old Testament had left the temple and never returned. John the Baptist predicts the return of the Spirit at the time of Jesus’s baptism, saying that Jesus would be the one to baptize people with the Holy Spirit.
Further, in the Old Testament, the Spirit dwelled first in the column of fire by night and cloud by day, which hovered over the Israelites in exile. It next dwelt within the Tent of Meeting, and finally, in the temple. All these are EXTERNAL to the human being. Humans did not have the Spirit of God living within them, and ever since Adam sinned, humankind had lost intimate contact with God and lived separate from him. This is why God needed to talk to his people with concrete, physical symbols–pictures formed by real, historic events. Humankind had become SPIRITUALLY DEAD.
In the New Testament, the promised Holy Spirit arrives, not to live outside humans in the spaces of inanimate objects, but to live within humans in the spiritual spaces of human hearts. This is an enormous change from the Old Testament to the New. It’s a change best described as new wine which no longer fits the old wineskins. (Luke 5:36-38) It is the change from CONCRETE to SPIRITUAL.
In John 3 and John 4, the main protagonists understand Jesus’s words in concrete terms only, that would be to say, in literal terms, using the word “literal” in its modern meaning of something physical, something which can be seen and touched.
- Nicodemus interprets Jesus’s words, “You must be born again,” as climbing back into the mother’s womb. (John 3:3-4)
- The Woman at the Well interprets Jesus’s words, “living water” as physical water that she could physically drink and therefore physically never thirst again. (John 4:10-15)
In both cases Jesus patiently explains the new spiritual meaning. He pours his new wine into their old wineskins. And as the text shows, he had more success with the woman at the well than with Nicodemus. The woman at the well understood, believed, and went running off to confess her new belief and her discovery of Jesus the Messiah to her fellow townsfolk. Nicodemus, on the other hand, needed more time.
And so we see that God is Spirit and truth, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
For more information on how the Gospel of Christ changes the concrete into the spiritual, read Does Paul Spiritualize the Concrete?: The Great Shift Exemplified in Colossians 2:8-3:4
Click for Text Here: Colossians 2:8-3:4
Gospel Precedents and Biblical Background of Spiritual Elements in Colossians 2
I. One of the great markers of the New Testament Gospels is the translation of concrete and historical Old Testament realities into spiritual and historical realities:
A. Jesus becomes the sacrificial lamb.
1. OT: Abraham begins to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)
2. OT: Passover blood of the sacrificial lamb on the lintel (Exodus 12:7)
NT: Jesus sacrificed during Passover (Luke 22:7-8)
B. Jesus becomes the temple.
1. OT: (2 Chronicles 7:11-12)
NT: (John 2:19-22)
C. Concrete worship becomes spiritual.
1. OT: God commanded a certain location where he was to be worshiped (Deuteronomy 12:2-7)
NT: Jesus changed a specific, physical (concrete) location of worship into a spiritual locus of worship with no physical correspondence (John 4: 20-24)
2. OT: God gave the Israelites manna to keep them alive in the wilderness (Exodus 16)
OT: (Hosea 11:1)
E. The Old Covenant becomes the New Covenant
1. OT: The many OT covenants had physical (concrete) markers
a. the Noahic Covenant, marked by a rainbow, in which God promised not to physically destroy all living flesh by water (Genesis 9:12-17)
b. covenant with Abraham marked by the sacrifice of a physical ram (Genesis 22:9-18)
c. covenant with Israel through Moses (Exodus 24:3-8) marked by sacrificial blood (“This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” Exodus 24:8) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:8, 12; 25:16; 34:28)
2. NT: Jesus gives a New Covenant marked by the concrete (physical) sacrifice of his own body on a cross and the symbolic remembrance of that sacrificed blood in communion (“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20
II. The New Testament epistles continue to replace concrete (physical) realities with spiritual realities sometimes marked by concrete symbols:
A. Continuation of Jesus’ blood as a symbolic marker of the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25)
B. Continuation of the spiritual temple motif (Hebrews 10:19-20)
Paul’s Movement from Concrete (Physical) to Spiritual in Colossians
I. In matters of food, drink, festivals, new moon, a sabbath
Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
A. Paul’s list includes all concrete substances (food and drink) or practices (celebrating a festival, a new moon, or a Sabbath).
B. He calls these a “shadow,” but Christ is the “substance,” or the reality that casts the shadow. Not being physically present on Earth at this time, Christ is Spirit, present by means of the Holy Spirit, who lives in believers and among them.
C. Paul calls these concrete religious practices “elemental spirits” or “elementary principles” as in the NAU. (Gr: στοιχεῖον) (Colossians 2:20)
E. These practices concern concrete (physical) items, such as food and drink, which perish as they are used–i.e., they have no eternal value–and they are not useful in helping one to achieve the spiritual practices God desires (Colossians 3:23). The spiritual practices which God desires Paul begins to present in 3:5.
II. Paul moves circumcision from concrete to spiritual
Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
III. Baptism, itself a concrete action, signifies a spiritual correspondence to and spiritual identification with Christ’s death and resurrection
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
IV. In a spiritual way, the record of debts owed under the Old (First) Covenant was nailed to the cross with Christ and thereby cancelled, forgiven (2:13)
Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
V. Paul’s point is that the Colossians, as believers in Christ, have moved from the old, concrete form of worshipping God to the new, spiritual form of worship.
Colossians 2:20a If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world,
They are therefore free of the old ways, having died with Christ to them, and having been raised with him into newness of life under the New Covenant of Spirit
and no longer need to follow these old, concrete (physical, fleshly) ways of worship and thinking and living
Colossians 2:20b why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations–
A. His rationale
Colossians 3:1a Since, then, you have been raised with Christ
Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
B. His conclusion
Colossians 3:1b set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
C. How should the Colossians’ thinking change?
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
D. What will the end result be?
Colossians 3:4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
VII. Paul begins to answer the question, How then shall we live?
NIV Colossians 3:5a Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature (your concrete, fleshly body)
[not in text: and begin to live to the spiritual in the following ways, which he begins to state in 3:5b]