Study 3 WITH NICODEMUS BY NIGHT
OUR LORD’S INTERVIEWS
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 3:1-16)
The third chapter of John’s Gospel is very wonderful. If you are not a Christian you should read it and try to understand its message. If you lack assurance of salvation, read it many times and assurance will come. If you want to be ready to lead others to Christ make sure you are familiar with this chapter. It contains the record of Jesus’ interview with Nicodemus, “who came to Jesus at night” (verse 2). Nicodemus was the Master of Israel and a Pharisee; no-one in Jerusalem would have been more religious or of finer morals. He had an enquiring mind and had heard from many people about the miracles and teaching of Jesus.
We read that Nicodemus came with his problems and questions, but no sooner had he come into the presence of the Lord than it was revealed to him (despite being so moral and upright) that he was spiritually blind, dead and lost. He was ignorant of the most elementary and fundamental spiritual truths relating to the Gospel – and there are thousands of people like that today: they go to church, but they are just as blind, dead and lost as Nicodemus (2 Timothy 3:5). We do not know how long our Lord’s interview with Nicodemus lasted, but consider some of the truths that he would have discovered.
1. The Lord Jesus is always ready to meet the need of a seeking soul.
In John 3:2 we read of this man’s quest. He did not stumble across the Lord but set out deliberately to meet Him and to bring his problems to Him. If anyone does that they can be quite sure that the Lord will welcome them and will grant them His help (John 7:37). Compare Psalm 107:9. Nicodemus was thirsty for the truth and he had a hungry soul that could only be satisfied by the Bread of Life. How great it is when we really mean business, when we put aside all our prejudices and seek the Lord! – look up Isaiah 55:6-7.
2. The Lord Jesus is infinitely more than a great teacher.
In verse 2 we are told that he declared his belief in the Lord as a teacher and he gave his reason for this belief, but before he had been with the Lord for long he discovered He was very much more than a teacher. Thank God, He is a teacher – quite the most wonderful teaching in the world has come from the lips of the Lord Jesus. If you study His teaching, His code of ethics and His philosophy of life, you will find that His teaching is realms above all other teaching in its purity, its standard and its authority. But though our Lord is a great teacher, first of all He is a Saviour, because our primary need is not for someone to teach us but for someone to save us. You cannot be educated into Christianity. You only become a Christian by a radical work of grace in your heart, which the Bible calls salvation, conversion, or being born again.
3. Nicodemus discovered that “flesh gives birth to flesh”.
Verse 6 tells us this. The ‘flesh’ can never be altered into anything other than the flesh. We cannot alter the nature with which we were born, and that nature is a fallen nature. We were “sinful from the time of birth” (Psalm 51:5) – there has been a moral downfall in every heart. The flesh may be dressed up, it may in fact be religious, reformed and respectable, but it is still the flesh. Are you only “in the flesh”, or have you been “born…of the Spirit”?
4. God’s way of salvation is not reformation, or religion, but regeneration.
Jesus described it as spiritual re-birth – compare verses 3,5,6,7. It is not simply an outward change, it is a new nature, a spiritual, new birth, the giving of a new life, the start of the life of God in the soul; it is not just patching up the old broken-down life and saying, “From now onwards I am going to church and going to read my Bible, and I am going to be a Christian!” All that is outward. God’s way of salvation begins within a man, right at the very core of his personality, where God implants within him the seed of a new life and he is born again spiritually, born from above, just as twenty, thirty or forty years previously he was born naturally.
5. The new birth is absolutely imperative.
Jesus said this in verses 3 and 7, and because the Lord used the word “unless” in verse 3 and the word “must” in verse 7, we are left in no doubt about the matter. We simply must be born again if we are going to be saved and if we are going to heaven to live forever with the Lord. Have you been born again?
6. No-one is too old to be born again.
Look at verse 4 to see the question Nicodemus asked – and the Lord answers in verse 5: ‘Yes, Nicodemus, you can be born again, not in a natural sense, but spiritually born from above.’ Thank God, it does not matter how old a person is; he can be born again. By far the majority of Christians were born again when they were young, but there is not a single word of scripture that leads us to believe that older people cannot be born again.
7. There is only one way to be born again.
Look at verses 14 and 15. Jesus said, ‘I am going to be lifted up on the Cross, and the way for the new birth to take place in your heart is for you to trust in Me completely.’ It is so simple and so wonderful. If you, by faith, will look away to the risen Lord Jesus, He promises you will pass from death to life (John 5:24)!