Nicodemus was a man of intellectual power, intellectual courage and intellectual curiosity (Jn 3:2). He talked to the Supreme Intelligence the world has ever seen, that is, Jesus of Nazareth and yet do not understand what has been foretold in Ezekiel 36:25-27 even though “You are the teacher in Israel”.
As a member of the Jewish ruling council, meeting with Jesus would be a very unpopular thing to do but Nicodemus feels he still has things to learn.
The 3 areas of Christian experience, Christian truth and Christian ministry are all indispensable and absolutely central to the Bible and therefore central to Christians.
1 Christian Experience (3:7):
Firstly, the New Birth experience is a must and indispensable (Jn 3:3,5,7). A person cannot be a Christian, cannot enter heaven, cannot know God now, cannot serve Christ unless born again. The New Birth is not reformation but regeneration. It is not improving things. It is completely a new work of God. It is a new life that God gives. It is eternal life (Jn 3:15, 16). If anyone is in Christ, a New Creation. (2 Cor 5:17)
What is eternal life (Jn 17:3)? According to John’s Gospel and the conversation with Nicodemus – it is something that does not happen after death but something that starts here and now. It is an experience of God, it is knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ, it is a relationship with God, it is an experience of life. The fundamental gift of God to us is LIFE – spiritual life.
Secondly, the New Birth is a powerful work of the Spirit of God (Jn 3:8). It is like the wind blowing through our life, it is God breathing into our life. This new experience of the Holy Spirit is actually a miracle – no one can do it, no one can plan it, no church can bring it to pass, it is God’s work.
Thirdly, the New Birth is a person’s entry point into God’s family (Jn 3:5).
The significance of the New Birth in the conversation with religious Nicodemus is that salvation is a supernatural work of God involving a radical change of nature. Nobody else can change human nature except God. Only God can save. Religion cannot save. Although many religions are sincere, religion cannot give this new life. This is the essence of John 3.
2 Christian Truth (3:14)
Jesus as Teacher (3:3, 5, 11-13)
Jesus brings truth into the world in an entirely new way, as one from God, with truth first hand from God. No limit to his divine inspiration and therefore he speaks the very words of God. Christ’s teaching is the most important teaching in the world.
Most non-Christians are frightened of the Gospel: light, illumination has come into the world but men loved loved darkness instead of light, loved ignorance instead of knowledge because their deeds are evil (Jn 3:19). Men want to hide, the light leaves them with no excuses. It uncovers their defences, it imperils their proud self-satisfaction.
God’s truth is indeed remarkable.
The church is not meant to take up weapons to fight for its faith. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world but the truth of God that captures stubborn minds and brings them into obedience to Jesus Christ. That’s the power of the truth with signs and wonders that will accompany.
Jesus as Saviour (3:17)
The New Testament church taught that Jesus is coming back to this world as a Judge. The Apostles’ Creed: He will come again to judge both the living and the dead. All will stand before Jesus Christ. It is not an option. God has ordained it.
Our conscience should be rightly alarmed and fearful about that.
However, the Judge who is going to come at the end of time had already come to prepare us for that 2nd Coming, knowing that we were not ready to stand before him, knowing that we were unfit to stand before him. He came to save us from the Judgment Day (Jn 3:17,18). That means if we put our trust in Jesus Christ, there is no fear of the Judgment Day, we will not be condemned. It is finished.
But … whoever does not believe stands condemned, not on the last Day, but already. We are already condemned in anticipation of that Day if we do not trust Jesus Christ, and we are already freed from condemnation, if we put our trust in Jesus Christ.
That’s the wonderful news of the Gospel!
How is that possible? Jesus must be lifted up by God on the Cross (Jn 3:14,15). That is what made it possible for God to forgive us.
3 Christian Ministry (3:30):
John the Baptist represents Judaism, the final prophet of the Old Covenant, he’s the great final word from Israel. He is glad to give way to the Groom now that Israel is superseded, that Judaism is fulfilled and that the final answers come in Jesus (Jn 3:27).
The essence of real Christianity and Christian ministry is marked by the end of self-centredness, end of egotism, end of self-importance and the beginning of laying down our life for him who laid down his life for us.
Motto for life and ministry: He must become greater, I must become less.