Witness in Action – Nicodemus

John 3:1-21

1. The Samaritan Woman – one who knew little and had little interest (at first)

2. The Rich Young Ruler – one who knew a little and had a wrong understanding

3. Nicodemus – the one who had the facts but not the understanding

A. The Dialogue

1. Nicodemus initiated the conversation v.2

a. We see you have come from God

b. We recognize the signs (miracles)

c. He implied a claim to 20/20 spiritual eyesight

2. Jesus’ response corrected him v.3

a. Your eyesight is off – unless you meet this condition, you cannot see the kingdom

b. Jesus responded by stating a requirement Nicodemus was unable to meet

c. and addressing his area of real need – not new information but a new birth

used language capable of more than one interpretation –ἄνωθεν– can mean either “again” or “from above”

pointing Nicodemus to his need for something beyond himself

3. Nicodemus, like the Samaritan woman, can’t get past the physical v.4

a. his questions make it plain he’s still thinking temporally

b. shows not only his lack of understanding but also his lack of experiential knowledge of God’s truth, a big problem for a spiritual leader

4. Jesus clarifies what he means vv.5-8

a. there is more than one sort of birth

b. works of God shouldn’t surprise you!

c. being born of the Spirit is out of your control; you can’t figure it out

5. Nicodemus still isn’t convinced v.9

a. I still don’t get it!

b. stuck on the “how things work” aspect, trying to figure it out

unlike the blind man of John 9 and his parents – all I know is here’s what he told me to do and now I see

6. Jesus rebukes him vv.10-15

a. You’re a teacher of Israel; you should know this stuff vv.10-13

i. It’s strange you don’t get it even when it’s explained

ii. We’re credible witnesses; I’ve told you about things within your experience, how will you ever get it if I talk about spiritual things outside your experience

iii. serves to remind Nicodemus how great his true need is – you’ll never get to heaven by yourself

iv. and the fact that he, Jesus, is truly qualified to instruct Nicodemus having “come down from heaven”

b. Here’s my connection with the OT (your knowledge base) vv.14-15

i. and why you should get it

What other things could be meant by the circumcision of the heart, commanded by Moses, Deu. 10:16, promised in Deu. 30:6; by the new heart, and the new spirit, promised Eze. 36:26; by the clean heart prayed for by David, Psa. 51:10? A teacher in Israel should from hence have understood the necessity of a new and of a clean heart. Matthew Poole

7. And points Nicodemus to Himself vv.16-21

a. Here’s some solid doctrine for you to sink your teeth into vv.16-21

i. God loves more than just the Jewish people

ii. Because He loves, He sent His Son

iii. Through Him is the entrance to the Kingdom v. 15, 16, 17, 18

B. The Strategy

1. Jesus understood Nicodemus’ knowledge base

a.the teacher of the Israel – a widely recognized and prominent teacher of Israel

b. not likely to have reached that “position” without a comprehensive education

2. Jesus identified the weak link in his “doctrinal system”

a. had knowledge without understanding – knew Scripture, didn’t know how to apply it properly

b. ignorance of the true spiritual nature of the covenant

c. a wrong view of Christ and his deity

d. failure to recognize the need for an “external” savior

3. Jesus correctly applied the truths Nicodemus knew

a. Like many Pharisees, he knew the text; Jesus took him to Scripture, its meaning and authority

i. words like unless/cannot (v. 3, 5) must (v. 7, 14)

b. Jesus spoke from personal experience – he had come down from heaven

i. The true Christian can speak confidently from personal experience coupled with doctrinal understanding and the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Every Sunday school teacher should be able to say, “I know what I am communicating; I have experienced what is meant by the new birth, and the love of God, and the religion which I am teaching.”Albert Barnes

4. Jesus pointed Nicodemus to God

a. Remember the particular knowledge/personality/position dynamic here

i. Nicodemus was an authority figure, not a shy seeker

ii. Jesus was responding as a master teacher to a student teacher

b. Jesus was relentless, never wavering from the goal

i. born again v.3, 7 born of water and the Spirit v. 5 born of the Spirit v. 6, 8

ii. believe(s) in him v. 15, 16, 18 be saved through him v. 17

iii. kept the focus on the one solution to Nicodemus’ questions and needs

iv. did not alienate Nicodemus – defended Jesus before Sanhedrin (John 7:50-52) and assisted Jesus’ burial (John 19:39-42) – only a true believer would do that

c. Don’t forget – we’re dealing with individuals on an individual basis

i. We must seek to engage seekers and others in spiritual conversations

ii. Our goal should always be to move people from where they are closer to Christ

iii. Since God loved the world, we must love the world too

enough to speak: we are means God ordained to point others to Christ – Acts 1:8 witnesses 2 Cor. 5:20 ambassadors

enough to move: we shouldn’t wait for others to make the first move – Matt. 28:19 Go, therefore Acts 1:8 Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the rest


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