JOHN:The Gospel Of Heartfelt Belief
Godís Valentine to You
Jerry A. Collins
My grandfather often told me that I should not believe anything I hear and only half of what I see. Sometimes that is good advice. Other times we may say I have got to see it to believe it. I am not going to rely upon someone elseís testimony. I want to see this firsthand. This is what happened when Jesus performed miracles in John 2. In verse 23 we are told that many people believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs he was doing. It is true that sometimes seeing is believing. So, we are going to learn what it is we are to believe when we look to Jesus and what happens to us when we do.
Apparently Jesus did do some signs that verified His right to cleanse the Temple. They produced a group of followers who believed in His name vs 23. This seems to be a genuine belief. They seem to have interpreted these miracles as having Messianic significance. So far so good. Then they seem to have wanted to make Him the head of some new movement or something. This was probably why Jesus did not entrust himself to them vs 24-25 since that would of course generate an agenda for Him different from the one He already had from God the Father. The point is that Jesus is not simply looking for a crowd of people who will follow Him that He can entrust himself too. He already had an agenda from his father and that was the only one he was going to fulfill.
We should not allow Jesusí agenda for our lives to be in competition with anyone elseísí including our own. We only have one person we must please and that is our Father in heaven. Our problem today is that we have had 2000 years to add traditions and convictions to the New Testament that confuse Godís agenda with our own. That was the same problem the Pharisees had in Jesus day. The answer is to stay in a systematic and faithful study of the scriptures so that our prejudices can be exposed and we can replace this with Gods perspective so we do not lose sight of what it is He wants for our lives.
This section serves as an introduction into the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus knew what was in a man and what follows with Nicodemus is a specific example of such. While Jesus did not fully entrust himself to Nicodemus either, he did not openly reveal his true identity and mission to him, we do take a next step in gaining an understanding of who Jesus is and why He has come.
1. A New Spiritual Birth is Necessary for Anyone to have Access into Godís Kingdom 3:1-3
Nicodemus appears only in the book of John 7:50, 19:39. He had significant religious credentials as a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council, the Sanhedrin. He had a reputation and had made a name for himself. It would be easy to conclude that his religious heritage and devotion qualified him for the kingdom of God. Outwardly, anyway, one would believe so. Possibly Nicodemus came at night vs 2 because he was afraid of public association with Jesus or he wanted a lengthy conversation without interruptions. The timing of his coming though is significant with Johns light/darkness motif throughout the book 9:4, 11:10, 13:30, 19:39. Out of the darkness of his life and religiously Nicodemus came to the light of the world. Now we see Nicodemus linked to the crowd in vss 23-25. Those people believed in Jesus because of the signs he performed. Nicodemus had apparently seen some too. But for him all the signs meant is that Jesus is a great teacher sent from God. He has failed to grasp the Messianic significance of Jesus sign-miracles.
We learn that it is possible for someone to have the right religious credentials, serve in professional roles and still miss the truth. Jesus shatters what self confidence and religious arrogance might exist by declaring in vs 3 that it is only for those who are born again or born from above who will see Godís kingdom! Jesus never mentioned being born again to anyone else. He did not say this to the cowardly Pontious Pilate or the hypocritical Judas. But Christ spoke these words to a man who is doing his best to attain the kingdom of God. The point is that there needs to be a fundamental shift in our position before God and we cannot produce that ourselves. It is like trying to build a bride from here to Milwaukee. We might begin it but we will never complete the 80 mile project. Onesí religious devotion, including Nicodemus, cannot get us into Godís Kingdom but when we experience a new spiritual birth, then God says we are in because of what he built. Nicodemus has trouble putting all of this together as we see in vs 4.
2. It Takes Godís Spirit To Conceive New Life In Us4-8
A. IT IS SOLELY A WORK OF GOD 4-7
Nicodemus understands Jesus statement as an earthly birth not a spiritual one. This misunderstood question gives Jesus an opportunity to extrapolate more fully and in detail as to what he really meant. Jesus begins His clarification in vs 5 using the analogy of water and wind as figures representing the new life that the HS works in our lives. Water and wind come from above so the new life also comes from above. It is not something from the earth. It cannot be manufactured by us in any way. It is heavenly in origin and source. Without this work one cannot enter Gods kingdom. And unless Nicodemus misunderstand again and took these figures literally, Jesus clarifies that He is again talking about the spiritual not physical, the water and wind being indicative of the Spirits work of new life. In other words what is born of physical heritage is physical and the Spirit is spiritual. The flesh cannot give us new life because it is infected with the sin virus. So the only alternative Jesus says in verse 7 is to be born from above, of heavenly origin. We cannot join gods family we must be born into it 2 Pt 1:4.
B. IT IS A MYSTERY 8
Again the physical illustrates the spiritual and here the wind does refer to the Holy Spirit. Like the wind which we cannot figure out, so is the new birth a work of God. I can stand amazed as I watch the HS make liars honest people and drunkards sober and blasphemers pray and abusers compassionate. God takes sin filled, guilt ridden people and gives them new life Titus 3:5.
3. I RECEIVE NEW LIFE WHEN I TRUST CHRIST 9-17
It is clear that Nicodemus has still not grasped what Jesus is saying vs. 9. Jesus provided sound answers but they created more confusion and stimulated more discuission which was never summarized or concluded. Jesus gave to people what they neede to know not what they wanted to know. not to satisfy their curiosity as much as teaching them truth. This is also the his last appearance in the dialogue. Having served the purpose of John, Nick disappears from the scene. Jesus answer is ironic in vs 10 since it is Nicodemus, a teacher of israel, who should know these things. In other words, Jesus is saying that he had enough information at his disposal from the OT scriptures to have understood Jesusí statement about the necessity of being born from above by the life-giving work of the NS. Isaiah 44:3-5; Ezeki 37:9-10 and especially Proverbs 30:4-5 for instance. Jesus testimony in vs 11 is similar to Johns later in 1 John 1:2. Johns thoughts were saturated with the words of Jesus. In vs 12 Jesus is saying that if you have a hard time comprehending the things which happen on the earth like the origin of wind, then you will find it impossible to comprehend the spiritual stuff which is of heavenly origin he is talking about including the necessity of the new birth. Jesus point sout in vs 13 that no one from earth has ever gone up to heaven and come down again, the Son, who has come down from heaven is the only one who has been up there so he knows that it is he is talking about! Then, Jesus predicts his crucifixion in vs 14 which will be the means of eternal life for all who believe. it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Christ. The climax of the whole dialogue is vs 15, a persons regeneration by the HS can come about thru the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of the Son of Man which enables a person to enter the kingdom of God. So that there are only 2 alternatives in vs 16. (1) Believe unto eternal life or (2) unbelief and perish forever. This was the fulfillment of Jesus mission from the father, namely, was the salvation of the whole world vs 17.
1. Make sure you are ready. You can do that now.
2. When it occurs it is forever.
3. Remember it is whoever will.
4. Share it with others.
It is as simple as do vs done.