Theme: The Necessity of Teaching Others
In this week’s lessons we look at the story of Jesus and Nicodemus, and learn of the need to be born again, which can only happen by the sovereign working of God through the Holy Spirit.
Scripture: John 3:1-3
The importance of teaching for regeneration no doubt explains why so much teaching is found in this chapter of John’s Gospel. In addition to the doctrine of the new birth and the Holy Spirit, Jesus also talks about the Incarnation when he refers to himself as the One who came from heaven. He mentions the crucifixion when he uses the story of Moses and the bronze serpent to show how he himself is going to be lifted up, and that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Do you remember the story from the Book of Numbers? When the people were bitten by poisonous serpents as judgment for their sin, God told Moses to put a bronze serpent on a staff and lift it up in the middle of the camp. Moses told the people that if anybody would look on that serpent, they’d be healed. Jesus says that’s a picture of what he has come to do. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man, that is, the second Person of the Trinity, now incarnate, must be lifted up, that whoever looks to him for the forgiveness of their sins will be saved. Related to this teaching on the crucifixion is the doctrine of the necessity of faith and God’s great love for lost sinners, seen in verse 16, which is probably the first verse we were ever taught and memorized as children.
And then he speaks about the judgment upon those who have not believed. Already they stand condemned, even though they have not yet come to that great day when they will stand before God and be eternally judged in hell. Unless a person repents, he or she is already under the judgment of Almighty God.
Finally, toward the end of this paragraph we are even taught about the Christian life: “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly, that what he has done has been done through God.” When you are born again, the way you show it is by living according to the light. That means, in the first instance, that you come to Jesus in faith. And in the second instance it means that you turn from evil. Because of the new birth, you now love what is good and hate what is evil. You cleave to the light and shun the darkness.
All these doctrines are found in this chapter. What John records in this third chapter is probably a great shortening of what Jesus and Nicodemus discussed that night. Given how many doctrines are brought up, the two of them must have spent a great deal of time together. I would think it would take hours and hours to go over this in a way that would be helpful to Nicodemus. Jesus explained these things to Nicodemus, and now John is summarizing it here in the Gospel for our benefit.
If Jesus took time like that with Nicodemus and explained all of this to someone who was not born again and needed to understand these things, shouldn’t we do that as well? Shouldn’t we take time with those who don’t yet understand spiritual things? It is a great failure among Reformed people to give up on someone when trying to talk about spiritual things is difficult. Some might actually conclude, “Well, obviously, they’re not among the elect or else they would understand and respond to what I am telling them.”
But you see, that kind of thinking is wrong because we don’t know whether the person we are trying to talk with is among the elect or not. The only way we ever know whether they’re among the elect is whether God calls them through our teaching of the Gospel, and so that is what we do. And it is not just the job of the preacher. That is what all God’s people should do, as we have opportunity to do it. This great Gospel says, “God so loved the world that he gave his One and Only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This Gospel says you must be born again. And that’s what we teach.
And when we are faithful in being witnesses to these truths, and we try to instruct people in God’s holy Word, he blesses that Word, and brings forth spiritual life in men and women. They become born again from above, and they begin to understand the things that they did not understand before. Let’s be faithful in that because that’s our responsibility. The day will come when we’ll stand before the throne of God’s grace, facing the Lord Jesus Christ, who has committed to us this task of proclaiming his gospel. He told his disciples to go into all the world and teach all nations what he has commanded, and that he will be with them as they go. You’re going to stand before him, having done that, and he’s going to say, “You didn’t know it at the time, but that message that you gave, that witness you bore, that verse you quoted, that person with whom you wrestled during that struggle in their life, has been born again. I used the Word, I used the teaching to do it, and here they are in glory. I determined that they should be born again through your witness, in order that the glory might come to me, and that by my grace you might participate in that great work.” And that will be our joy, to have participated with Jesus in that message.
What other doctrines are communicated in John 3?
How is the crucifixion taught?
Application: Pray for opportunities to talk with unbelievers about spiritual things, and trust the Lord for the results.