by Mike Ratliff
For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34 ESV)
ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Θεὸς, τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ λαλεῖ· οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσιν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ Πνεῦμα. (John 3:34 GNT)
In John 3:1-21 our Lord spoke the words of God to “ a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” In this passage our Lord clears the table and tells it like it is. He tells Nicodemus in v3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, Nicodemus doesn’t “get it at first and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” in v4 and, “How can these things be?” in v9. In between those two perplexed questions, our Lord, the Λόγος or logos or Word, the living Christian proclamation as a whole of the New Testament proclaimed τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ or “the words of God” to Nicodemus in a way that he had never heard before. He said,”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” As we read in John 3:34 (above), He spoke or uttered the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ to this man and all who read John 3. What did he say? Only those born again are part of the Kingdom of God and to be born again is to born of the Spirit. Notice carefully that this rebirth is not something controlled by or contained by or comprehended by people of the flesh. Everyone truly born of the Spirit are so by the work of the Holy Spirit not by the works of men. These are the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ.
The word ῥήματα is the present tense, indicative mood, active voice, plural of ῥῆμα or rhēma. It usually relates to individual words and utterances. It is John the Baptist speaking in John 3:34 talking about Jesus. Here is the passage in context.
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison). Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness–look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:22-36 ESV)
John 3:34 is in bold. Think about what this is saying my brethren. John the Baptist was a prophet indeed! Our Lord came and spoke the words of truth from God to Nicodemus and to the multitudes during his ministry yet the number of disciples He had at His crucifixion was very small. On the other hand, they were truly of God. They were truly born of the Spirit and God used them powerfully to also ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ and cause Christianity to grow and spread. God has always worked this way. He takes a few, a remnant, who know Him and and who ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ because that is what they do. God uses them to plant churches and ministries and use people in ways that the world and large flesh driven “ministries” look at and are perplexed because they just cannot understand how God could use “someone like that” to do what they do. There must be some mistake. No, it is not. They are looking at the person when they should be listening to the person ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ.
Those who hear God’s truth being proclaimed and from that they turn in obedience, repentance and belief to the Son have eternal life. On the other hand, those who hear, but reject it because the message is boring or the music isn’t exciting enough or entertaining enough or cool enough, or relevant enough are actually walking dead. They do not obey the Son and so shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on them. Can we make it any clearer?
Soli Deo Gloria!