Study 1 NICODEMUS THE PHARISEE
TEN NEW TESTAMENT CONVERSIONS
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 3:1-16)
Three times in John’s Gospel we read that Nicodemus was the man who came to Jesus at night (3:2; 7:50; 19:39). Why did he visit the Lord at night? Was it an indication of cowardice? Surely not! Was it that he was a prominent man and did not wish to create a stir by seeking an interview with the Lord? Possibly this is the answer. Or, it could have been that Nicodemus knew that Jesus was very busy during the day and would be more likely to be free for an unhurried talk at night. Whether men and women come to Jesus by night or by day, privately or publicly, the important thing is that they do come. Thank God, anyone who comes can be sure of a royal welcome (John 6:37)! Nicodemus soon found that Jesus was ready to receive him. So, what kind of a man was Nicodemus?
1. His character
In the gospels we are told of many different kinds of people who came to the Lord; for example, the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23); Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10); the woman at the well (John 4:5-30). What about Nicodemus? It’s easy to see from a careful reading of this man’s conversation that he was sincere, courteous, earnest, intelligent and influential – “a member of the Jewish ruling council” and a Pharisee (verse 1). These facts tell us that he was a very religious man. This member of the Sanhedrin was “Israel’s teacher” (verse 10). We also know from the record that he was a moral man, that is, he lived a good and upright life. There is nothing on record against Nicodemus. This is the man who came to Jesus and who needed to be born again. Good people need to be born again as well as bad people! – look at verse 3.
2. His curiosity
Perhaps the word should be ‘concern’ rather than curiosity, but there is an element of curiosity indicated in verse 2. Nicodemus was an enquiring man. It was with a sense of wonder that he came for an interview with the Lord, and when he did so he got more than he bargained for – as we discover in verses 2 and 3. Think of it – this religious, moral man was spiritually dead and needed to be born again! How many people there are like that, many of whom are in churches! They are God-fearing but have never been born again; they are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1); they need to receive Christ and be born into God’s family (John 1:11-13). But if it was only curiosity that made Nicodemus seek Jesus out, it is certain that before long his curiosity changed to concern – verses 4 and 9 assure us of this. It’s great when a man begins to feel really concerned about his soul’s salvation (Acts 16:30). This concern is produced by the convicting, or convincing, work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11). Compare Acts 2:36-41 where we have an illustration of this very thing! It’s only when we know and feel we are lost that we seek the way of salvation.
3. His candour
When Jesus spoke about the new birth Nicodemus was puzzled, so he answered Jesus by saying – look at verse 4. It’s interesting that he wasn’t afraid to admit his ignorance. He didn’t pretend to know all the answers. He was open in his conversation with the Lord Jesus; but notice that all he said and the questions he asked indicated that he was not only spiritually dead but he was blind too (1 Corinthians 2:14). He just could not understand spiritual truth, any more than anyone can until he has been born again. Nicodemus was honest enough to say so and his honesty led to the Lord making a fuller explanation of the necessity, the meaning and the method of the new birth (verse 5). This doesn’t refer to baptism; “born of water” refers to the Word of God, the gospel, which is the agent the Holy Spirit uses in producing the miracle of the new birth. Water is a symbol of the Word of God (Titus 3:5; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). Then Jesus went on – read verses 6-8. Even Nicodemus could not fathom this great truth (verse 9); notice what Jesus said (verse 10)! How amazing! Did Nicodemus leave the Lord unconverted, unsaved, not born again? We cannot be absolutely sure about the answer to this question but we do know that later on he testified to his faith in Christ and to his devotion to the Lord.
4. His conversion
It is possible that he went home to think deeply upon all that he had heard, and that on that particular night he did not make any commitment of his soul to the Lord Jesus for salvation. We cannot be sure. What we are sure about, however, is that as a result of this interview with Him Nicodemus was born again, he was converted, he became a Christian, he really entered into a life of discipleship – look up and compare John 7:45-52 and John 19:38-42.
How can a man be sure that he has been born again? In the only way that it is possible for anyone to be sure, Jesus made it quite clear (we read His words in John 3:14-16; compare Numbers 21:6-9), that anyone is born again by looking in simple faith to the Lord Jesus, who died on the Cross to save us, who rose again, and who lives now at God’s right hand to be the Saviour of all who will put their trust in Him. Anyone who looks away from sin and from self, and looks to the Saviour for salvation, will experience His saving grace. He will experience the grace of the Lord Jesus in salvation in a moment of time, as these verses and many other promises in the Bible teach us. Think about this and ask yourself, Where do I stand? Have I been born again? Have I looked away in simple faith to the Lord Jesus for salvation? Look up Isaiah 45:22. Is all my trust in Him for time and for eternity?