Jesus was God manifest in the flesh. He knows our innermost thoughts and what is in our hearts.
In spite of that He loved us and gave Himself for us. In our natural state, we're lost sinners,
and we need a new birth to get the new life He offers us. That life is eternal. In John 3
there is a very religious man who knows he still lacks something, so he came to Jesus.
John 3:1-2, “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
Here is a man seeking truth, and whenever Jesus finds someone who really wants the truth, He'll see to it that that person gets the truth.
The truth is this. All men are headed for hell if we don't come to Jesus in our spiritual darkness.
O.K., what about the heathen who has never heard the gospel? God won't condemn them to hell for not believing in a Savior they never heard of, but, we know from Romans 1, that man inherently knows he is a sinner, and that there is a God. The heathen is already condemned because, just like those who have heard, he is a sinner. God will see that every soul that does seek salvation will get light enough to be saved. He won't let a man be lost if he's seeking the truth.
Romans 1:18-23; "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19: Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.
20: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22: Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23: And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
If man didn't instinctively know there is a Higher Power, why would he build shrines and idols and make sacrifices? Those very actions disprove the theory that they are innocent because they have no knowledge of God.
There are people everywhere who have never read the Bible and have never heard the gospel and yet it's available to them. Many of these people even go to church and still haven't read their Bible or heard the gospel. God has made it available. I suppose there are Bibles in nearly every home in the United States. The individual has a responsibility. God isn't going to hit you over the head with the Gospel. You have to come to Him for it, that's where salvation is found, and mankind knows instinctively we need a God who can save us.
In verse 1 we have a very religious man, face to face with God the Son, and he finds out his religion hasn't made him acceptable to God. A lot of people are like Nicodemus. They're good people and they seek spiritual things, and yet they haven't confessed their sins to God. They aren't born again.
You may think you're all right with God, but you have to come to Christ to be born again. Nicodemus. "...came to Jesus by night," to talk with Jesus after the crowds had left. I'm not going to find fault with him because he came by night. Give him credit, at least he was interested enough to come. He came to Jesus in the dark just like all the rest of us who are saved. We, too, have to come to Jesus because in our natural state we are in spiritual darkness.
Let's be fair and look at his side. Here's a Pharisee who is a member of the Sanhedrin, the most important religious body of the Jewish religion of that day. He's heard about this man who claimed to be the Messiah. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he has a duty to God to uphold the Jewish religion. After all, his religion was given to the Jews by God Himself.
This Man called Jesus, who claimed to be the Messiah, told them to forsake the religion of ritual that his fathers embraced for 1500 years and to accept this new religion. He said it's taught in the Old Testament. He even quotes passages and interprets them that way.
He also does miracles like the Old Testament recorded the Messiah would do. He was even born in the correct Bethlehem identified in Micah. There were two Bethlehems, you know.
Surely an intelligent mind would wonder why God would discard a religion He had sanctioned for 1500 years for a radically different one, and yet, there was a lot of basis in scripture for this teaching. Nicodemus believed that prophets were sent from God. They foretold events of the future correctly. Elijah and Elisha had done miracles.
But, some of the same prophets, like Isaiah, also told of a Messiah who would come as a man and he would die as a blood sacrifice to God for the sins of His people. He would die in their place so that they might be made right with God. How can this be?
In VERSE 2, Nicodemus said, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest except God be with him--" This wasn't the end of his sentence. Jesus stopped him right there. He knew what was in his mind and said, in VERSE 3, "Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Born again? I think the strange terminology must have set Nicodemus back a little. This was something new for sure. What did He mean he needed to be born again?
A few years back we heard the term "born again" a lot but it obviously wasn't a common term in Nicodemus' day. Jesus was saying, "Nicodemus, you need more than a teacher or a miracle worker, you need a Savior and a second birth!" "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
I really believe there are people today who think you can be educated into Christianity, that you can take a child and teach him along the lines of the Christian philosophy and that will educate him into salvation. The Bible is left out because they say it's too hard to understand.
Various groups have different methods but nearly all of them depend on learning their church doctrine and on physical baptism of the person at some age and in some form. They teach that is all you need to make you acceptable to God for the rest of your life, regardless how you live, and it will make you fit for heaven when you depart this scene.
I've found that most of them have only read portions of the Bible. They're relying on something someone else has written or said and not on the Scripture.
It's right and proper to instruct people along Christian lines, but religious education which simply tries to make people Christians by educating them will make them hypocrites instead. God said, “You must be born again.” There has to be a new life.
VERSES 4-5. "Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5: Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus asked a legitimate question, "how can a man be born when he's old?" Can he go through the whole process of nature again? That absurd. "Can I go back and be born of my mother again?” "Is my natural father involved in this?" "My mother may already be dead." "Is it too late for me to be saved if she is already dead?
Jesus told him, “Nicodemus, it wouldn't make any difference if you could enter your mother's womb and be physically born again, you wouldn't be any better off the next time than you were before. It has to be a spiritual birth."
VERSES 6-7, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
It must have been getting more and more confusing for Nicodemus. The Savior had already said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [Verse 5] What did He mean?
I know that there are those who tell us that to be born of water means baptism. Not true. Nobody ever received new life by water-baptism. Search your Bible, it's not in there. Baptism speaks of death and burial. Nowhere in Scripture is baptism likened to birth. Water-baptism is the picture of the burial of the old man, not a picture of a second birth. Water birth definitely is not water baptism.
Some believe this water-birth refers to our natural birth. Many good Bible scholars accept this interpretation. This may well be the case as we all have to be born the first time and there is water present at that birth. The man standing before Jesus had already been born physically. I think the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus concerns spiritual things, not the flesh.
Another view is this. The word “water” in John’s Gospel, his epistles, and Revelation, all of which he wrote by inspiration from God, nearly always refers to the Word of God.
In John 4:13-14, Jesus is talking to a sinful woman by a well in Samaria. He said, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” That water was the Word of God that gives everlasting life. The water that Jesus gives is the water of the Word. It is the testimony of the gospel. Believing it will give you this new birth that guarantees everlasting life.
In John 15:3, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now are ye clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.” We are born again by the Word of God, revealed to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Revelation 22:17, John also wrote: “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The water of life is the gospel message.
Many centuries before Christ, King David asked the question, in Psalm 119:9, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.” We are cleansed of our sins by believing the Word of God, and that is called being "born again."
In Ephesians 5:25-26, Paul wrote: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.”
Regardless of whether you believe being born of water is the natural birth or if you believe that it means the Word of God, they both point to the same place. You must be born again by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Redeemer and Savior.
VERSES 6-7, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
We're born again by the Word of God, brought home to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The Lord makes it very clear that there is a distinction between the flesh and Spirit. You can do anything you want to with the flesh, but it won't turn it into spirit. If you baptize it, you baptized flesh. If you make it religious, it's religious flesh. Flesh is flesh until it returns to dust, but our spirit lives forever.
Nicodemus was having a hard time understanding all this, so Jesus explained that there are also mysteries in nature that we can't understand, but we believe them. Some things we are asked to take on faith alone. He likened these to spiritual things.
VERSE 8, “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 can't see the wind, but you recognize its power. You can't see the Holy Spirit, but you can recognize His power.
People can't see if you are born again, but your life and conversation will tell if you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He's invisible, but He makes His presence felt when He convicts us and then enables us to understand God's promise of salvation.
He changes men completely. We can recognize the power of the Holy Spirit even though it isn't physically visible. How about an answered prayer for someone we've never seen?
Sometimes it's seen in a person we know whose life changes. I knew a young man once who was as bad as they get. He married a girl who was a Christian. She told our daughter she made a mistake in marrying him because it was the unequal yoke. She refused to divorce him because she believed it was wrong by Biblical standard and she was correct. She never gave up her Prayer and Bible study or going to church, or praying for him.
Several years later, her consistent life for the Lord was witness enough to him that he got saved. I didn't know he had gotten saved, but one evening he came with his family and sat down in our living room. He saw my Bible laying on my footstool, where it always is, and started talking about Jesus and asking me questions.
A few years before, that young man wouldn't have set foot in my house for any reason, much less initiate a discussion of the scriptures or tell me about having faith in Christ!
That's how the Holy Spirit works. You can't see Him, but you could see His power in that life. I'm still amazed about the change in that young man. Frankly, I couldn't stand him before, and now I'm happy that I'll spend eternity with him, and his wife. He's got five kids and I'm sure they will be taught the way of salvation from both parents, just like God wants it to be. He's also active in a Bible teaching and Bible believing church and is witnessing to his dad who isn't a believer.
Nicodemus asked another question. VERSE 9, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered with VERSE 10, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things ?" He should have known that God was going to bring about a spiritual rebirth. “Nicodemus, you're a teacher in Israel and you're surprised when I speak of being born of water and the Spirit! You should have known this from the Scriptures” God wasn't going to let Israel go on forever without a Messiah. There had to come a change and this would be the new birth.
VERSE 11. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness." Jesus told him the Old Testament prophets foretold this and the Jews hadn't believe them.
VERSE 12. “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things ?" These earthly things were spoken of in the Old Testament. The Jews had to believe and accept Jesus as the Messiah for God's Kingdom to be established on earth, but their religious leaders refused to recognize Him.
Jesus knew that His earthly kingdom would be set aside for the present. He said, “you don't understand earthly things like the prophecy of My death, how do you expect to understand heavenly things?”
Nicodemus wasn't ready for a revelation of the heavenly kingdom because he hadn't accepted the truth of the earthly things the Scriptures foretold about Christ.
Then, in verse 13, Jesus proceeded to tell him about some of the limitations of men as opposed to the total power He has as the Son of Man.
VERSE 13. “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.”
No one in history had come down from heaven before. Enoch, Noah's great grandfather, was caught up into heaven by God. God sent a whirlwind to take Elijah up to heaven. Now, Jesus was speaking of the near future when He would ascend back into heaven. Many had gone up to heaven but Jesus was the only one who ever came down from heaven.
The wonder of it is this--The One who came down from heaven had the power to ascend back to heaven. He came to earth as the Son of Man, and He would die for the sins of mankind, be buried and rise again the third day, and 40 days later He would return to the right hand of God in heaven.
Jesus brought up an incident from the wilderness journey centuries before to help Nicodemus understand that He, Jesus, would die for sinners before He returned to heaven.
VERSE 14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
The Son of Man had to be crucified on a cross and die for man's sin.
The serpents were a picture of Satan and the sin that is in the world. Their bite was poison and caused death every time.
The brass serpent on the pole was a picture of Jesus on the cross. That brass serpent had no poison in it. It had never done anybody any harm. It was a picture of the sin-offering to come.
When the people looked, they were healed. If they refused to believe and wouldn't look, they died.
Jesus would be made sin on the cross so that sinners could become righteous by looking to Him in faith.
The people in the wilderness had asked God to take the snakes away but He provided a cure instead. If the snakes had been taken away, only those who hadn't been bitten would have lived. God provided a cure for all those who had been affected, if they would only accept it.
Sin is still with us but God has provided a cure for sinners. The One who had no sin of His own took our sins on Himself on the cross.
VERSE 15, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." When we look to Him in faith we are born again and have eternal life. This is the message that Jesus was giving to Nicodemus that night. That message is just as true today as it was nearly 2000 years ago.
Are you born again right now? Tomorrow morning may be too late.