3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
It was Jesus who first declared that spiritual rebirth was an absolute necessity for entering the kingdom of God. He declared to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” The word “unless”, in Jesus teaching signals a necessary condition for seeing and entering the kingdom of God. “A New Birth”, is an essential part of Christianity. Without it, entrance into God’s kingdom is impossible.
What would you say if I were to ask you this afternoon, “Give one good reason why you should go to Heaven?” There would be a variety of answers. Some would say “I hope so.” Some would say, “I am trying,” or “I am doing the best I can!” Some would say, “Yes, because I have been baptized.” Others would say, “Yes, because I am a church member.” Or, I am not that bad, the good things I’ve done outweighs the bad. But according to what we have read, none of them would be right.
Now…if you are one of those people who doesn’t believe in God, or a place called heaven or hell, then you would have nothing to worry about in the here and now. You will just be surprised when you do stand before God one day, and He sends you to hell.
Since we are in church, and we all know each other, we are called believers/Christians, correct. So, how did we become believers/Christians? Is it by our choosing? Or, my whole family are Christians, therefore I am one. I do recall Jesus saying, “you did not choose Me, I chose you” (John 15:16) So… from our text, lets let Jesus explain, in His own words, how can we get to heaven?
The question, “Are you going to Heaven? And, if so, why?” It is without a doubt “the” most important question your mind can ever entertain. The reason that this is such an important question is obvious, there is only one alternative to heaven. That is hell, the place the Bible calls outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, where "the smoke of their torment ascends up forever, and they have no rest day or night." And there is nothing in between. It is Heaven or it is Hell. God says in His Word that all men and women must appear before Him. Then they shall be divided as a shepherd would divide the sheep from the goats, one into everlasting punishment, and the other into everlasting glory.
In this text, a man approaches Jesus late one night. His name is Nicodemus and he comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness to ask that question. In verse we read, “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council”.
In order to understand this story, we need to notice three things about this man named Nicodemus.
First… besides his name, the text reveals that he was a “Pharisee.” If you know anything about the Scriptures you probably have a negative view of the Pharisees. You may think that all Pharisees were legalistic hypocrites, but that is not true at all. In the days of Jesus the Pharisees were a very much respected group, known for their knowledge of the Old Testament and their keeping of the law. The Pharisees were the theological conservatives of their day, compared to our time, they would be seminarians/ with a doctorate degree. This was such a demanding life that only a few thousand were ever willing to make the commitment.
Secondly, note also that Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but he was also one of the most important religious teachers of his day. He is also called a “ruler of the Jews.” As mentioned in chapter 7 of the book of John. We can also conclude with some confidence that Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish legal court in the land. This was a select group of seventy men who served as the highest Jewish court in the land, much like our present day Supreme Court Justices. So…Nicodemus was no ordinary man.
Third, it is also important to note that in verse 10, that Jesus refers to him as “the teacher of Israel.” 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? The meaning seems to be that Nicodemus was probably the most popular religious teacher of Judaism at the time.
This man was a very important- well educated man. One thing that I like about this story is that,
As smart, and as religious Nicodemus was, he still did not have all the answers when it comes to spiritual matters. If you want one word that would describe Nicodemus, it would be this, He was good! He was very good! But he still had this nagging question that his religion could not seem to answer. So, he comes to Jesus to ask his question. I can imagine Nicodemus watching from the shadows as Jesus did His work - preaching and teaching and healing. And as he watched, Nicodemus saw something in Jesus that all his religious rule keeping hadn’t been able to provide. He saw LIFE! It was as if God was pouring out life through Jesus. So, he comes to Jesus to ask his questions, because he senses that Jesus has the truth from God.
Not to add anything in this story, but sometimes I wonder if Nicodemus wanted to know…with all the good works he has done, as obedient as he was in his standards, if he really wanted to know, if he could go to heaven?
Basically asking… “Jesus, is my goodness, good enough to get me into Heaven? Is my goodness good enough to make me acceptable to a Holy God? Is my goodness good enough to get me in?” Let’s be honest here, we all, at one point, maybe even now, still have that question in mind. Am I really saved? Am I really going to heaven?
When it comes to getting into Heaven, it doesn’t matter how many good works we are able to perform. It doesn’t matter how much money we give to Christian causes, how many church services we attend, how many quiet times we have, how many underprivileged kids we support who are in need.
No one gets to Heaven by being a “good person”! Nicodemus had devoted his life to being good, trying to live up to the standards his religion said he had to meet in order to please God and to win a place in Heaven. And he did it relatively well, better than most. He was a very good person. And he comes to Jesus pointing at his goodness asking, “Is it good enough?” And Jesus says, with compassion: “NO... No one can get to heaven by being good because no one can ever be good enough!
10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Ok, lets go Old Testament since Nicodemus is an Old testament teacher.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.2 God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
With that being said, we all really, need “A New Birth”. But…is that something that we can do on our own? Do we have that power to be “born again”. Can we, in our strength, by our choosing, go to heaven? Lets continue, and seek the answer from the Lord.
Three things About Being Born Again: Lets imagine, we’re Nicodemus, and we’re asking Jesus this question. Let’s basically put ourselves in Nicodemus shoes.
First, Jesus Tells Nicodemus the Necessity of Being Born Again (3:3)
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
We would have to say that Nicodemus is the “cream of the Jewish crop.” He is a Jew, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a highly respected teacher of the Old Testament Scriptures. Can you imagine being Nicodemus and being told by Jesus that all of this is not enough to get you into Heaven? Yet that is precisely what Jesus tells him! With one sentence Jesus sweeps away everything that Nicodemus stood for, and demands that he be re-made by the power of God. Jesus is turning this man’s world upside down.
Nicodemus has never heard such a thing before, all his life he has understood that one gets to Heaven by keeping God’s law. This means that everything that Nicodemus has done in his life to this point means absolutely nothing. Jesus tells this remarkably good man, "If you want to get to Heaven, if you want a relationship with God that begins now and lasts forever then you must go about it in a totally different way, you will have to be born again...” In other words, Jesus is saying, “You can’t do it, Nicodemus, but God can! He can transform you from the inside out and make you good enough! And he wants to do that for you.
To understand we need to focus first, on the key phrase “born again.” The Greek adverb (anothen) translated here as “again” has a double meaning, it can either mean “again” or “above.”
(ANOTHEN) Greek adverb, translated as “again” or “above”. ( POWERPOINT )
In this case, both meanings apply, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that the only way to find what he is looking for is to be born again from above. Not only does Jesus tell Nicodemus About the Necessity of Being Born Again but ….
Secondly, Jesus Tells Nicodemus the Non-Negotiables of Being Born Again (3:4-7)
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely, they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Nicodemus’ Response is given in verse four. “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?”
Nicodemus’ response is a little surprising, in that Jesus quite obviously was not referring to a second physical birth. After all, if we have no control or power over our physical birth, on how we were born, how can we possibly get, be born again?
Nicodemus is plainly asking, “is it possible to enter a second time into my mother’s womb to be born again?” or is Nicodemus now starting to understand…wistful thinking, “Is it really possible for a man to begin again?” Another chance, starting over, a chance for a new life, if it were only possible! Yet that is exactly what Jesus is saying!
In our day and age the term “born again” has been nearly stripped of its true meaning, the words have been tossed about, so but that they can mean anything or nothing. In our day, being born again is mans decision, and not Gods. That’s why its good to go straight to Jesus and get the answer that we need.
Verse five which says, “5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit”. has often been misinterpreted. To quote one of the old commentaries on this subject, “Certainly Jesus was not saying that baptism was necessary to salvation. Baptism is an outward thing and conversion is an inner thing of the heart. A man … can be baptized many times but that water will not wash away a single sin nor admit him to heaven. If baptism is necessary to salvation, no one was saved before John the Baptist because baptism was not mentioned in the Old Testament….
Please don’t get me wrong, am I minimizing the importance of baptism? Not at all, I am simply saying that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. But baptism has everything to do with your obedience.
So what did Jesus mean by being “born of water and of the Spirit?” Throughout the New Testament, the term “water” is used to indicate the Word of God. For example…
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
How is anyone saved? Understand this if you are saved, review your salvation. How did you get saved? Was it not because the word of God got a hold of you?
1 Peter 1:23-25
23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.
In verse seven Jesus says to Nicodemus…
7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
Being Born Again Is Not An Option!!!
We need to also note the use of the strong word “must.” Jesus is not saying that being born again is just a good idea for some people. It is not just something Jesus is recommending, it is an imperative. Jesus Not Only Tells Nicodemus the Non-Negotiables of Being Born Again but …..
Thirdly, Jesus tells Nicodemus the nature of being born again, is a mystery (3:8-13)
8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
In verse eight Jesus gives Nicodemus an example of the mystery of the new birth by comparing it to the wind. “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.” We accept all kinds of earthly mysteries by faith, and we believe it, If we are able to believe things we don’t completely understand on earth, why are we not willing to accept heavenly truths by faith? Especially when it comes from the words of God.
Nicodemus asks once again in verse nine, “How can these things be?” Jesus counters by saying it is not a question of understanding but a question of belief. In verse ten Jesus said to Nicodemus, 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that He (that is Jesus) alone can convey what Heaven is like, for He alone has been to Heaven and returned. Jesus, is “The Way, The Truth, And The Life, no comes to the Father except through Me.” Believe Me Nicodemus, I’ve been there! Believe Me church, that is Jesus, I’ve been there!
It ultimately becomes a matter of belief, Jesus is asking, “Nicodemus are you ready to place your faith and trust in Me!” Did Nicodemus ever get saved? I think he did! Why?
Nicodemus stood up for Jesus before the Sanhedrin, its like their Supreme Court.
45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” 46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” 47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
And Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathaea, bury the body of Jesus after the crucifixion…
38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
You see, anyone who has been called by God, chosen by God as gift to His Son, been born again…a new creation, that new life in Jesus will never be the same again. That is why Jesus explicitly commands, “you must be born again”. If you are not, then you are still dead in your sins, and are in need of the Savior! Cry out for Jesus if you’re not sure. Cry out to God to save through His Son. If you are here today, then you have heard Him speak, you have seen the words of God in our powerpoint. Cry out to your Savior!!!
Let me close with one final thought, “Wouldn’t be terrible to wake up one morning, to find yourself standing before Jesus and find out that you had missed heaven by eighteen inches?” Perhaps you can say, “How is it possible to miss Heaven by eighteen inches?” Well it is possible to miss Heaven by eighteen inches because that is the approximate distance from the head to the heart. What does it mean to have a ‘heart” knowledge rather just a “head” knowledge of Jesus? To have a heart knowledge is to have a saving relationship, a heart of gratitude, rather than simply having religion. Having a head knowledge about Jesus will not save you. You can know all facts and still not be saved. You can know all there is to know about Jesus and still not know the real Him at all. It would a sad time for a claiming Christian to stand before Jesus and instead of a welcome Jesus says those scary words, “away from Me, I never knew you”.
Just with those scary words from Jesus, is enough to convince me that being saved, being born again, is all of Gods work. Man has no claim in the matter outside of being obedient.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Pastor Richard Santos
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