Here in John 3 we read about a man named Nicodemus. It is a story that most of you are familiar with.
- But as it is with many of the stories in the Bible there are some verses and some lessons that just seem to get skipped over.
- So, what I would like to do is look at this story again and point out some important lessons that hopefully we will learn. Lessons that can make a difference between life and death.
Now, we have read the account of Nicodemus meeting with Jesus but I want to go back just a little at the end of chapter 2 and look at vs. 23 -25.
In vs. 23. John says: Now when He (that is Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name…
- Now, stop right there. That is great; exciting!
- “Many believed in His name!” This is awesome!
- Get their names. Put them on the mailing list. Put them to work!
- These people are believing in Him so let’s strike while the iron is hot!
But keep reading: Many believed in His name…now notice what John says; observing His signs which He was doing.
- There is their motivation, their reason for believing.
- The word “observing” is the Greek word theoreo; it is a present active verb; so they were believing because they were seeing the signs or miracles that He was performing.
- And we might think, “That is ok. At least they are believing.”
But notice Jesus’ response; vs. 24: But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them,
- The King James Version says that “Jesus did not commit Himself to them.”
- This is something a lot of people need to learn!
Do you see the word “entrusting” or if you have the King James the word “commit” in vs. 24? In the Greek that is exactly the same word in vs. 23 translated “believed.”
- So, this is what John is saying. He is saying, “Many believed in Jesus, but (Jesus) did not believe in them.”
- Jesus recognized the conditional faith that they had: As long as He was performing signs; as long as He was doing the sensational; as long as He was doing what they liked; they believed!
- But, that kind of faith, the conditional faith, the superficial faith, the shallow faith; the fair weather faith that these people had and that many people have today is not a faith that Christ commits to.
- That kind of faith will not save anyone.
It is so hard to get people to understand that.
- Every day we see people who will tell you that they believe in Jesus, and they do.
- As long as it is convenient or as long as they can believe in Him and not have to change their lives; as long as they don’t have to change the direction of their walk.
- As long as they don’t have to obey they believe in Jesus.
- But Christ is not committed to that kind of faith; that kind of faith will not save them
The kind of faith that Jesus commits to is the kind of faith that fully trusts in Him for salvation.
- The kind of that that trusts in Him in good times and in bad times; that obeys Him when others around refuse to; the kind of faith that fully trusts in His word as a guide as we go through the wilderness.
- That is the kind of faith that Jesus commits to and that is the kind of faith that will save you.
- The lesson from Vs.23 and 24 is so important even though the verses are often passed over.
Now, look at Vs 24 again: But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man.
- Does Jesus know when someone’s faith is superficial or conditional? Absolutely.
Now, look at vs. 1 of chapter 3 and as we read this notice Nicodemus’s credentials: Now there was a man of the Pharisees (very religious: Pharisees dedicated themselves to learning and observing the Law of Moses), named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (a man of authority); and if you look at John 19:38-39, he brought spices to embalm Jesus’ body with; and spices were expensive; so he was apparently a wealthy man.
- And in vs. 2, Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus has come from God.
Now, you would think that if anyone was going to “see the kingdom of God” it would be Nicodemus!
- But, in vs. 3 Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge Nicodemus’ compliment or any of his other credentials.
- He instead says, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- That makes being “born again” pretty important.
Now, Nicodemus was a Jew. He was born a Jew. He was under the covenant of Israel. Did the fact that he was a Jew grant him automatic entrance into the kingdom of God?
- If so, why did Jesus tell him that he “must be born again?”
Many people believe that the Jews are still God’s chosen people and I am sure you will hear a lot of that as a result of what has happened this past week in Israel (“We must support Israel because they are God’s chosen people.”)
- The Jews were chosen for a function (to bring forth the Messiah; to bring forth the gospel (Gal. 3:7-9); to reveal the nature of God through Israel; so the Jews were chosen for a function.
- But the Jews were never God’s chosen people for
- In fact, if you want to know who God’s chosen people are; look at this found in 1 Peter 2:9:
But you (those who are in Christ) are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
- Salvation has always been the result of faith and obedience; therefore, if Nicodemus wanted to enter into the kingdom of God he must manifest his faith and obedience and be “born again” into Christ.
So, Jesus tells Nicodemus that “he must be born again?’ How many of you have been “born again?”
That term has been used almost like it is talking about a separate religion; an off-shoot sect of Christianity; and many don’t like to be referred to as being “born again.”
- But, let me ask you; when it comes to being a Christian is there any other kind?
- If you have obeyed what Christ says here in this passage, you are a “born again Christian.”
So, what does it mean to be “born again?” Nicodemus was confused about this. He asked, “How can a man enter into his mother’s womb a second time?” How are you “born again?”
Well, Jesus tells us. In vs. 5 Jesus says that unless “one is born of the water”…and a lot of people dispute that this is talking about baptism but the only water ever connected to salvation in the Bible is the waters of baptism…
So, unless you are “born of water and the Spirit”; what does he mean by “born of the Spirit?
- For Nicodemus being a Jew was a matter of physical birth into the covenant people of God.
- But Jesus says that physical birth cannot give anyone spiritual life.
What Jesus is saying here is, the new birth, not only involves the washing away of sin at baptism (Acts 22:16); but it also involves the inward change that comes about when the Holy Spirit creates faith in Christ in the heart and leads you to a changed and obedient life.
- An individual can be baptized but if he refuses to allow the Holy Spirit to create an ongoing faith in his heart and refuses to let the Holy Spirit guide and change his life; all that individual has done is get wet.
In fact, look at vs. 6: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
- Physical birth cannot get anyone into the kingdom of God.
- Only when you or I allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and change our lives will we have a home in heaven.
Now look at vs. 7. This is important for us to understand, especially in the light of what is taking place in the middle east. Jesus says, “Do not marvel that I said to you (singular – Nicodemus) , ‘You (plural – a wider audience – Jews – everyone) must be born again.’
- Everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike, must go through the “new birth” if they want to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
- Jews, the nation of Israel, do not have an automatic entrance into the kingdom of God just because they are Jews.
8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
- Jesus has said that everyone “must be born of the water and the Spirit.”
- And when someone is born of the water or baptized, we can visibly see that.
- But, how can we tell if someone is born of the Spirit?
- By the changes that are manifested by the Spirit in the one who has been reborn.
Jesus says “the wind blows and you cannot stop it or control it; you can hear it but you don’t know where it comes from and where it is going; so how do you know it is blowing?
- Well, you can feel and see its effect.
- And that is true of everyone who is born of the Spirit.
- You can see the changes in the individual who is born of the Spirit.
- Changes where immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, have been replaced by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?
- One of the important aspects of the last days of the Jewish dispensation in the Old Testament is the pouring out of God’s Spirit and the promise of “a new spirit that God will put with them”; Isaiah 32:15; Joel 2:28-29; Ezekial 36:26.
- Nicodemus who was a Pharisee should have understood this and recognized it; but he didn’t.
- And consequently he failed to teach his fellow Jews this.
Now, look at vs. 11. This isn’t just addressed to Nicodemus. The word “you” in this verse is plural which means this is spoken to the Jews as a whole. Look what He says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, we (reference to the Father’s witness with Jesus back up in vs. 2) speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you (the Jews) do not receive our witness. 12 “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
13 “And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.
- The “heavenly things” of vs. 12 have not come from some man who has gone up into heaven. They came from the Son of Man who came down from heaven.
- And this is the core, the bottom line of Christianity. There is no way that a person here on earth can reach up and apprehend God.
- The essence or core of Christianity is that God came down from heaven and that is the only way that we can know God and obtain salvation; and that is what God did.
- He, through Jesus, took on human form and stepped into our world the we might be saved.
And this idea of being born again of the water and the Spirit was not an idea that came from man; it came from heaven (Luke 20:4) and yet, they refused to believe and as a result they would not enter the kingdom of God.
Now look at vs. 14: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
Jesus reminds these people of an incident in Numbers 21 starting in vs. 5 where the people spoke against God and Moses. And as a result God sent fiery serpents among the people and those who were bitten died.
- And the people asked Moses to intercede with God that He might remove the serpents from among the people.
- And Moses interceded for the people; and the Lord told Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard, and everyone who is bitten, when they look at that fiery serpent will live.
And here Jesus says, “That same thing is true for HIm and these people. He must be lifted up (crucified) and if anyone wants to live; if they don’t want to die they must look to Him.”
- They cannot save themselves; they must put their faith in Christ and look to Him.
- And that is true today.
And that helps us to understand the most popular verse in all the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
I think it is interesting that most people turn to this verse to say, “All I have to do to be saved is believe in Jesus” and they completely ignore what Jesus says in the first 15 verses of this chapter…in fact, even the rest of the Bible.
Salvation requires faith; but Christ is not committed to a weak, superficial, conditional faith.
- And He knows what kind of faith we have.
- Any faith that trusts in human accomplishments is not a saving faith.
- Only a faith that trusts in and is obedient to Christ will save.
- And unless you are born of the water and the Spirit you will not even see the kingdom of God.
- And you can tell when a person is born of the Spirit; you will be able to see the changes in their life.
- And salvation is found only in Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.
Are you born again? Will you do that today?
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023