The Gospel of John, The Interview with Nicodemus, John 3:9-15 in the Period of Consideration or the Object of Belief, Part IV - Lesson 17
Verses 3:9,10, Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
Nicodemus was flabbergasted.
He was astounded.
He was ignorant of this fundamental and primary spiritual truth.
He was a natural man and the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit.
The natural man thinks in a natural way.
He has no capacity to rise above the physical.
Look at the attempts by man to know God.
Look at the myths and legends that abound in the world.
Inventions of the natural mind.
Romans 1:23 "They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."
Jesus Christ chooses to have this interview recorded in his Word with a ruler of Israel.
You would think a ruler of Israel, with the highest education available would understand spiritual things.
Nicodemus had taught the minute details of the Pharisaic legalism.
All this learning and no understanding.
Truth must be revealed and God reveals it unto babes!
Jesus shows that the natural man, regardless of his standing, or background, or intelligence must be given the key to the knowledge of spiritual things by God himself.
Ye must be born again, Nicodemus!
You must be given a new nature, you must be born from above.
To Nicodemus' credit he asks how.
How can these things be?
He admits his ignorance and asks questions.
He wants to know.
He doesn't argue with Jesus Christ because of foolish pride.
The seed of the Word that has been planted in Nicodemus is causing him to seek light.
Jesus Christ tells us, by his question to Nicodemus, to put no confidence in man.
Here was a member of the Sanhedrin, trained in the highest theological school of his day having no spiritual discernment.
Our lesson is that even if a preacher has graduated with honors from a top theological school that is no proof that he is a man taught of the Holy Spirit.
We should not put dependence on human learning.
Education is no guarantee of spiritual discernment.
The test of any instruction is the Word of God.
We are to emulate the Bereans, and compare any teaching, any writing, with God's Word and reject anything that does not match up with the Word of God.
Unless you believe in the inspiration of the scriptures and the infallibility of the Word of God you will fall for anything.
You are open to any doctrine of demons and of the devil.
Study to show yourself approved unto God.
No one has to tell you.
God tells you through his Word.
Verse 3:11, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
Verily, verily, of a truth, of a truth, Amen, Amen.
What I say is of great importance.
Listen up. Open up your ears. Perk up. Don't sleep.
Nicodemus began his interview with Jesus with the phrase, "We know."
The Lord had just pointed out to the learned teacher that he couldn't know.
Perhaps Nicodemus should have said, "We think."
Without truth revealed we don't really know anything.
But when we have the Spirit to teach us then we can say "We know."
The Lord uses Nicodemus' phrase and says "We speak that we do know.
Jesus knew, but Nicodemus only could surmise or postulate.
Jesus did not surmise or propose an hypotheses or put out a trial balloon to see if someone accepted his philosophy.
But he was emphatic.
We know. We have seen.
What Jesus said was not based on reasoning but on experience, he and the prophets that went before him are witnesses because they were there, he had hard facts, facts from the one who is the Truth.
Note also the order of things.
Jesus says that Nicodemus does not know because he has not received the witness.
He does not know the things of God because he has not received God's witness concerning them.
First receiving, then knowledge.
Hebrews 11:3, says "Through faith we understand."
You receive, then you understand.
God honors our faith by giving us an understanding of divine things.
Faith first, then understanding.
Verse 3:12, If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?
Here we see a principle of growth in knowledge.
God will not reveal to us a higher truth until we have thoroughly understood and obeyed the simpler ones first.
The things of God can be seen in two spheres.
There are earthly things, things with their sphere on earth.
Regeneration happens on earth, it is an earthly thing.
It's origin is heavenly but it is done on earth.
The revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is a heavenly thing.
The Millennial kingdom is an earthly thing, the mystery of the kingdom of God is a heavenly thing
This principle is revealed also in nature.
First the blade, then the ear, and last the full corn in the ear.
Jesus expects us to understand earthly things.
They are the elementary things that should be comprehended easily.
Heavenly things are invisible and beyond our grasp until divinely revealed to us.
Heavenly things are matters which the Son of man, by his coming down from heaven, had to reveal as new and distinctive.
Jesus is saying that the new birth is an earthly thing, because Nicodemus asked, How can these things be and Jesus refers to earthly things he just told him.
Nicodemus didn't understand this.
Jesus told him about the wind as an illustration of the Spirit's operations in bringing forth the new birth.
These were things that Nicodemus should have known and when told by Jesus should have simply been a reminder of knowledge already known.
Nicodemus! Haven't you studied Ezek. 36:25-27 in your Old Testament classes? "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them."
Why is our progress so slow in the things of God?
What is it that retards our growth in the knowledge of the truth?
The answer is in this statement of Jesus.
The earthly things are things pertaining to this life here on earth, here in this earthly realm.
They are the commands of God which pertain to our daily walk down here.
If we do not believe the earthly things and submit ourselves to them then God will not reveal the higher mysteries, the heavenly things.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
God expects us to know the rudiments, the earthly things.
God expects our ways to be pleasing in his sight.
If our vessel is clean on this earth he will reveal heavenly things to us.
Is it not important then to teach our children the principles of God's word and to teach obedience to God's word?
Does not this verse of Jesus Christ teach that obedience to the beginning principles are an all important preamble to learning heavenly things?
Hebrews 5:14, amplifies this, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Verse 3:13, And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Here the Lord tells Nicodemus that only the Son of man, himself is qualified to reveal heavenly things.
Only one who was a resident and a witness of heaven is capable of telling him of heavenly things and describing heavenly things.
He is the only one with a fullness of heavenly knowledge.
Did he not know about the Father's house with many mansions?
Did he not say that I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also.
The heavenly things that Jesus Christ was to have spoken about were known by the one and only one who had ascended up to heaven and was now talking to Nicodemus.
The word "ascended" in this verse indicates the power to go up that is inherent in the one going up.
Jesus Christ was the only man who had this power.
His ascension after the resurrection opened the way for us who believe on him.
Note also the phrase "even the Son of man which is in heaven."
He was in heaven, even while speaking to Nicodemus.
Another evidence of his Omnipresence.
Verse 3:14,15, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Here Jesus Christ asks Nicodemus to remember the last miracle of Moses which occured near the borders of the promised land.
The people had been bitten by fiery serpents and were dying without hope.
They cried unto the Lord for relief.
Nicodemus! Remember Moses, who lifted up the brass serpent on a pole in response to God's command, so that all who looked at the object were healed and their lives were saved.
Sinners are the seed of the serpent.
The serpent was on the pole but not spiked by the pole.
Not spiked by the pole because that would have pictured judgment on the sinner himself and would have misrepresented our sinless substitute.
It was not a serpent but a piece of brass made to look like a serpent.
So too, was Jesus made in the likeness of sinful flesh and God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
The serpent was the exact symbol for Christ who was made sin for us.
The brazen serpent foreshadowed Christ as he was lifted up.
It was a reminder and emblem of the curse. In Gal. 3:13, we are told. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us."
Jesus Christ says to take that lesson and apply it to him, because he too must be lifted up, there was no other alternative.
But when those who are perishing look at him the life they receive is not just life for a few more years but life eternal.
Jesus in this verse verifies that Moses served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, but Jesus Christ is the perfect Way leading to eternal life.
Jesus is saying here that in order to obtain life man must be born again, he must be given divine life.
But for this to be given the Son of man must be lifted up.
Life can come only out of death.
The Christ must be sacrificed in order for the Holy Spirit to have a basis for his operations.
Eternal life cannot be given to one whose sins have not been forgiven and sins can only be forgiven by the Son of man being lifted up on the cross.
His blood must be shed to satisfy the decree that the wages of sin is death and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
Notice that Jesus Christ uses the phrase "the Son of man," Not the Son of God here because the sacrifice had to come from the race that had caused the offense.
A man had to be the sacrifice if God's justice was to be satisfied. Only as man was God's son capable of taking upon him the penalty prescribed for the sinner.