THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14
SCRIPTURE: John 3:1-21
AUTHOR: Jeremy Witt
Have you ever characterized a person because they belonged to a particular group? Maybe you have said something like, “All Sooner football fans are ___________” (insert laughing emoji) or “all those Californians are a bunch of ___________.” Then you meet someone who disproves that characterization as false. We are introduced to a man named Nicodemus who belongs to what I call the “religious police” or the Pharisees. They were quite strict and religious in Jewish law. They had their own code or rules that they implemented on top of what God gave Moses. In fact, Jesus and John the Baptist clashed with Pharisees and used terms such as “hypocrites”, “brood of vipers”, and “white-washed tombs” to describe the Pharisees. But Nicodemus is a man very different from most of the Pharisees that we read of in the New Testament.
First, we read that he came to Jesus at night, so he wouldn’t have been seen. Whether he came for a Pharisee purpose or his own, we are not sure, but Nicodemus comes to Jesus seeking a conversation. Maybe Jesus was causing him to believe. Maybe he was confused or maybe he was coming to trap Jesus, but we know that Nicodemus was seeking answers and/or information. Notice verse two that he uses “we.” Could there have been other Pharisees who recognized Jesus was no ordinary man? We discover that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were two who would come to believe in Jesus. (John 19:39)
In this conversation, Jesus speaks of being “born again” in verse three that is foreign to human ears. The phrase is “church speak” even to most today. How can one be born again? Quite literally in the physical sense, it is impossible. However, when we read the Bible, we must determine what is literal and what is symbolic. Context helps us grasp the original intended purpose, and further reading shows us what Jesus meant. Jesus explains in verses 5-8
There is some theological meat in this conversation as well. When Jesus refers to being born again or “born of water and of the Spirit in verse 5. The physical birth is referred to as when the water breaks in childbirth, and the spiritual birth refers to when the Holy Spirit comes to reside in a person at their moment of salvation or justification. This birth of the Spirit is signified with baptism as when Jesus was baptized, and they saw a dove descending upon Him. The issue of water and Spirit has confused some and even brought division in what this means.
It should be noted that some “tribes” or denominations use this passage of Scripture to say that there are two baptisms, one in water and another baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, to use this passage to support this belief is not rooted in good hermeneutics (how you properly study and understand Scripture) in this context.
Verse 8 is simply stating that just as you cannot control the wind, you cannot control the Spirit. The Spirit works in ways that we simply cannot understand or predict. Just as you could not control your physical birth, we cannot control a person’s spiritual birth. It is a gift from God (Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 and 1 Thessalonians 1:5,6.
Notice that Nicodemus was confused in this conversation in verses 4 and 9. He asked the question that many today are asking, “How can this be true?” As we read throughout the Gospels, we learn that Nicodemus came to his defense in John 7:50,51.
When we read the most famous verse of the Bible, we see that Christ came for all who would believe. God loves the whole world and sought to give each one eternal life to all. However, they must believe in whom Jesus was/is/will be. Verse 17 shows that He came in this appearing to save the world. It will be in the 2nd coming that He will come to judge it as we read in Revelation.