Wednesday, June 1, 2016
In the darkness Nicodemus stands listening to the Lord Jesus. This deeply religious man has been told by the Lord that to see God's kingdom he must be born again. To enter God's kingdom Nicodemus for all his religion, must be the recipient of a spiritual birth brought about by God, the Holy Spirit. V5 "..verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Jesus taught this religious man that true religion is being born again. Jesus teaches that the true religion is being born again. Jesus teaches Nicodemus that God initiates this new birth, and Jesus teaches Nicodemus that to be born again is absolutely essential. It is not an optional extra experience that some Christians have and others don't. You must be born again or you cannot see God's kingdom.
We must remember that Jesus is talking to this man who is a religious pharisee. The pharisees liked to be in complete control of their religion. That is why Jesus says in V8 that Nicodemus has as much control over being born again as he did over the wind. V8 "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." You must be born again. Jesus says that in V7 "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." did you know that this Greek verb means that it is an action completed in the past..it is a passive verb. You don't do it. To be born again is something that God does to you. To be born again is of God. John 1: 12-13 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Born of God. The new birth is of God. Nicodemus is astounded and he says "how can these things be"
To be born again is hard to understand: This religious man cannot understand the kingdom of God because he is not born again. He doesn't have spiritual life. The person who is not born again is a natural man (1 Corin 2:14) who receives not the things of the spirit of God, they are foolishness to him, neither can he understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Jesus says in V10 "..Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Master means teacher. Of Israel means renowned in Israel. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he is a renowned teacher among God's people and yet he was ignorant in these matters.
Nicodemus should have had a knowledge of what it says in Ezekiel 36:26 "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." God is going to take way hearts of stone and give living hearts of flesh. That is God in the old testament talking about the creation of spiritual life within people being born again. Nicodemus was a spiritual leader who was unacquainted with the basics of spiritual life. In V9-13 Jesus goes on to say that these things are real, they can be explained. People being born again change from the inside out. How these things originated in heaven in God's plan and purpose, Nicodemus doesn't understand. Jesus said that he was in heaven and that he had planned it all.
Great learning is not much help if you are not born again. This great man, Nicodemus, was nothing but a baby in knowledge when it came to real salvation, being born again. We also learn from this that there was and always will be spiritual leaders with no spiritual knowledge. So don't be too worried sometimes if you hear people on the TV or on the radio and they don't understand the need to be born again. Christians wouldn't either if we didn't have the Holy Spirit inside us. History continually repeats itself. People never really seem to learn that organized national religion ends up as totally spiritless religion. Unbelievers end up in charge. Phariseeism. Spiritual blindness. It's the same for people today.. you must be born again, you must have that new birth from above.
The source of salvation, how its paid for and received: V14-17 Jesus is moving on from being born again to simplifying salvation. Salvation is God's way of saving sinners. Now that Nicodemus has not understood what it means to be born again, Jesus is becoming more general concerning salvation. The way that God saves sinners. The source of salvation V16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God's love for the world. This verse is the bible in miniature. What does that mean? what does the world mean? it means the human race. The heavenly father loves the human race. Though sin-laden, exposed to judgment and in need of salvation, the human race is in need of his care. 3:16 is speaking of the general love of God to people but please remember that God's love doesn't mean that all people are saved, it doesn't mean that he won't send people to hell. It means that God so loved the world, that he sent his son to die to provide a way of salvation.
How was salvation paid for? Jesus says the Son of man must be lifted up from the earth referring to his crucifixion when he was lifted up to hang on a wooden cross to die. God's righteous and just demands were met and paid for by Christ's death bearing the punishment for sin, when he was made sin for us. Whosoever looks at that uplifted Christ on that cross receives God's salvation. Our salvation had to be paid for. It wasn't an option, it wasn't a way, so MUST the son of man be lifted up. It is THE means of salvation, there is no other way that sin could be paid for.
How is salvation received practically? By faith. John 3:15-16, 18 "hThat whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life...He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Here we see continuous repetition: believeth, believeth, believeth. Jesus is emphasizing this very important essential thing. It's those that have faith that are saved.
It's very important where you put the emphasis in this verse.. some people put the emphasis on "whosoever" and they say "whosoever will is saved" and they emphasis the will as the important thing as if man's will is the center of the whole thing. But please remember the bible does not even say once whosoever will may be saved. That is not in the bible. The bible says "whosoever believeth is saved." Man's will is not the important thing, it is the believing, the faith. Whosoever will is not saved. Whosoever believeth is saved. "Whosoever will may be saved" is a tradition and is not biblical truth. You and I are not the authors of salvation, our will is not the author, God is. And the only important thing is your faith,.. do you trust in Jesus?
How is salvation received? Not by the will of man but of God. It is received by faith. "Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." And that is true of you, even if you are the biggest sinner , if you trust in Christ you can be saved. You are the whosoever, but do you believe in the Lord Jesus? Are you trusting in him? The emphasis always needs to be put on the personal faith. God's people have a personal faith in Jesus. Unsaved people will perish if they are not believing in Jesus.
Do you believe in the Lord? do you have faith in him? are you trusting in him? it is not your will that will save you, it is God that will save you when you trust in him.
You may say "I am not a Christian, I do not understand".. but you don't understand about being born again because being born again is the infinite work of God. If you are not a Christian, don't worry about being born again until you are born again and then you will understand it.
Do you believe salvation is from God? Do you believe that Jesus was crucified being punished for your sin? do you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Saviour? If you don't, please trust him today. If you do that on the authority of the bible, you will be saved that instant and you will have everlasting life. John 3:16 Believe it and do it.
The above notes were made by myself from the sermon by Paul Dowling of Whiteabbey Congregational (Reformed) at Sermon Audio