by Mike Ratliff
34 ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ λαλεῖ, οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσιν τὸ πνεῦμα. (John 3:34 NA28)
34 For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God for he gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
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 be 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.
22 Μετὰ ταῦτα ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν καὶ ἐκεῖ διέτριβεν μετʼ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐβάπτιζεν.
23 Ἦν δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰωάννης βαπτίζων ἐν Αἰνὼν ἐγγὺς τοῦ Σαλείμ, ὅτι ὕδατα πολλὰ ἦν ἐκεῖ, καὶ παρεγίνοντο καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο· 24 οὔπω γὰρ ἦν βεβλημένος εἰς τὴν φυλακὴν ὁ Ἰωάννης.
25 Ἐγένετο οὖν ζήτησις ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν Ἰωάννου μετὰ Ἰουδαίου περὶ καθαρισμοῦ. 26 καὶ ἦλθον πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· ῥαββί, ὃς ἦν μετὰ σοῦ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, ᾧ σὺ μεμαρτύρηκας, ἴδε οὗτος βαπτίζει καὶ πάντες ἔρχονται πρὸς αὐτόν. 27 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰωάννης καὶ εἶπεν· οὐ δύναται ἄνθρωπος λαμβάνειν οὐδὲ ἓν ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ δεδομένον αὐτῷ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ. 28 αὐτοὶ ὑμεῖς μοι μαρτυρεῖτε ὅτι εἶπον [ὅτι] οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ὁ χριστός, ἀλλʼ ὅτι ἀπεσταλμένος εἰμὶ ἔμπροσθεν ἐκείνου. 29 ὁ ἔχων τὴν νύμφην νυμφίος ἐστίν· ὁ δὲ φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου ὁ ἑστηκὼς καὶ ἀκούων αὐτοῦ χαρᾷ χαίρει διὰ τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ νυμφίου. αὕτη οὖν ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ πεπλήρωται. 30 ἐκεῖνον δεῖ αὐξάνειν, ἐμὲ δὲ ἐλαττοῦσθαι.
31 Ὁ ἄνωθεν ἐρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν· ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστιν καὶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ. ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐρχόμενος [ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν] · 32 ὃ ἑώρακεν καὶ ἤκουσεν τοῦτο μαρτυρεῖ, καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν αὐτοῦ οὐδεὶς λαμβάνει. 33 ὁ λαβὼν αὐτοῦ τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἐσφράγισεν ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀληθής ἐστιν. 34 ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ λαλεῖ, οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσιν τὸ πνεῦμα. 35 ὁ πατὴρ ἀγαπᾷ τὸν υἱὸν καὶ πάντα δέδωκεν ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ. 36 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον· ὁ δὲ ἀπειθῶν τῷ υἱῷ οὐκ ὄψεται ζωήν, ἀλλʼ ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ μένει ἐπʼ αὐτόν. (John 3:22-36 NA28)
22 After these things, Jesus and his disciples came into the Judean countryside, and he was staying there with them and was baptizing.
23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim because there was much water there and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been thrown into prison.)
25 Then a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have given testimony, look, this one baptizes and all men are coming to him.” 27 John answered and said, “A man is not able to receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear witness to me that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but I have been sent before him. 29 The one having the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, standing and hearing him with joy, rejoices because of the voice of the bridegroom; therefore, this joy of mine has been made full. 30 It is necessary for him to increase, but for me to decrease.”
31 He who comes from above is over all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in from the earth. He who comes from heaven is over all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one receives his testimony. 33 He who receives his testimony certifies that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one disobeying the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:22-36 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
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 the 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!