By Night, John 3:1-9

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’” John 3:1-2.

You may already be aware that the Pharisees were an inbred lot who thought that ordinary Jews were little better than the heathen. As a result of this they were very critical of Jesus.

This exclusive mindset is seen throughout the gospels, and can be seen best in the quote below when the Pharisees had sent officers to seize the Lord.

“Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’ Then the Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’” John 7:45-49.

“But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” What arrogance! As leaders of the people, it was their job to teach them. The curse is on them.

This curse is upon all who knew the word of God throughout the ages and refused to extend a hand to the dying.

The Levites were separated to the work of God by the Law of Moses to serve in the tabernacle and temple; they received a stipend from the tithes to the Lord, and were given a few cities but no real portion of the land other than fields for themselves.

Along with this they had the responsibility of teaching the people. How well did they do?

After the death of Moses, Joshua led the people into the land of Israel to conquer it about 1400 B.C. They failed to conquer all of their territory, leaving many of the idolatrous residents within it.

Read the first three chapters of the book of Judges to better understand this. After Joshua’s death and all of his generation things degenerated.

“So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:7.

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6.

The Levites were to educate the people. If they had done so, the Law of Moses would have been followed, instead of their own vile passions and the idolatrous heathen around them.

As stated above, there was no visible king. Yet they had a King, God; and He was available, one needed only to take their problem to the priests and God would have answered through them.

Many pastors and teachers today have either given in to politically correct insanity, liberal heresy, or are selfish enough to start a church for their own benefit having little or no knowledge of Scripture.

Hell is not preached because it may offend someone (or being warned, accept Christ as savior). Others do not believe the Bible is relevant, or true. And some have never studied it or read it cover to cover; others are just in it for the money.

Fortunately many still preach Christ and Him crucified. However the ungodly spirit that stopped the Levites and Pharisees from doing their jobs has polluted this generation until everyone does what is right in his own eyes and have given in to superstition and abominable religions.

This man Nicodemus was of a different sort of Pharisee, he had an open mind, and was of the ruling class, a member of the Sanhedrin.

The Sanhedrin were very intelligent men, well versed in the law, science, medicine, and foreign languages. There were 71 of them with 2 presiding officers, the rest being made up of, chief priests, elders, and scribes. At least three of them had to be fluent in the languages of each witness.

See “Bible doctrines for Today” by Michael C. Bere, published by A Beka Book.

These are impressive credentials in anyone’s estimation. The man Nicodemus was not only highly intelligent, he was also teachable, a quality found in few scholars, then or now.

“You are a teacher come from God…” again we see this man’s openness to the things of God because he comes to a man with no credentials.

Jesus was not taught by any of the great teachers of the day, and He came from a disreputable place, Nazareth. With this kind of background a man deserved little respect at all.

Nathaniel said of Jesus.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46b.

So what made Jesus different?

“The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’” John 7:46.

“Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.” Luke 4:31-32.

“…in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:1b-2.

“…for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” This is the crux of the matter, the signs were the Lord’s credentials, this separated Him from many that claimed to be the Christ.

Most importantly they signified His authority as God Himself, as God had promised.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.

It is plain that Jesus Christ is none less than Almighty God, the only One who could do these signs.

“I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.” Isaiah 42:8.

The word LORD here is capitalized with ORD in small caps, meaning that the name is actually Yahweh, God’s covenant name with Israel.

It is God the Creator who says “…My glory I will not give to another…” Christ had to be Christ or He could not have done anything.

For all of Nicodemus’ honesty, Jesus hits him right between the eyes with his real need, salvation.

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3.

Nicodemus was seeking to serve God, but he was making all the same mistakes that the Apostle Paul made.

In Philippians 3, Paul gave all of his bragging points, an Israelite, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as concerns the law a Pharisee (very strict); zealously persecuting the church (thinking they were heretical).

Consider this last one carefully, “…concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” That is a powerful statement! Now read his conclusion to the matter.

“But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…” Philippians 3:8-9.

This was Nicodemus’ problem; he had his “…own righteousness, which is from the law.” rather than the righteousness “…which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”

Scripture says this of the law.

“…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Galatians 2:16.

Having lived his life keeping the law to get to heaven, Nicodemus is hit with this new phrase, born again, which represents something that happens within the heart rather than outwardly through the law.

You can almost see the struggle in his mind as he attempts to come to grips with this foreign concept.

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’” John 3:4.

As utterly ludicrous as his statement is, it sets up the real contrast between religion and Christianity and gives the Lord an opportunity to highlight that contrast and to answer some tough questions for all men.

The next four verses can be very insightful for those who have struggled with the same question.

“Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” John 3:5.

What is water? Some say this is the water of our natural birth, but this has to be rejected because the Lord states in the next verse that there are two different births, of the flesh and of the spirit.

Others have said that this refers to the baptism of John the Baptist. This too must be rejected because John’s baptism ceased after his death. His baptism was one of repentance which prepared folks for the Christ.

Another view is that it refers to today’s water baptism. But this baptism is done only after a person confesses Christ as their savior and is done as an outward show of their confession to everyone. This baptism is to Christ’s death.

“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4.

The best answer is that the water refers to the word of God.

“Husbands, love your wives, just 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, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27.

The word of God sanctifies (sets apart), and cleanses the Christian as well as the church. The power of the word of God is further emphasized when it states that the church or the Christian can be cleansed to the point of being without spot or wrinkle, even holy and without blemish.

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9.

Jesus means the same thing when He tells Nicodemus:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:5.

As when He tells His disciples that they are already clean, cleansed, by His word.

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” John 15:3.

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” John 17:17.

Concerning being “…born of water and the Spirit…” if the water is the word of God and the Spirit is the working of the Holy Spirit, then salvation depends on the working of God’s word within the heart as it is applied by the Holy Spirit.

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11.

It is the Holy Spirit who forges these words into a sharp two-edged sword and causes it to accomplish God’s will.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13.

God sees the heart and it is God who applies His word to any given individual’s situation. We cannot read anyone’s mind.

“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” John 6:45.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17.

Without this, none shall enter the kingdom of God.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:6.

With this statement, the Lord answers Nicodemus’ question, “How can a man be born when he is old?” the flesh is one thing, utterly dead to God, but there is hope for the spirit, one can be born again in the spirit, by the Holy Spirit.

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…” Ephesians 2:1-5.

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7-8.

The Spirit is like the wind; you can feel it and hear it, but you cannot see how it works. God’s Spirit works in the same manner, within the heart and behind the scenes. Someone speaks a word, or a meaningless action taken by someone may cut to the quick the one under conviction by the Spirit.

A joy, a disaster, affects folks in different ways, you do not know what to do, but God does; and just as you hear the wind, or put up the sail on a boat and see its effects, so God moves in ways you cannot know.

“Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’” John 3:9.

By Night, John 3:1-9 taken from posted on 7-5-12, updated on 6-21-17.

Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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