Summary: Salvation is a key and central concept of Christianity. One could argue that this is the most important thing with which we must deal during our lives.
Salvation is a key and central concept of Christianity. One could argue that this is the most important thing with which we must deal during our lives. We toss the term about and make professions of whether we are saved or not, and yet most of us are not really sure what it means to have salvation. To many this concept is related to the question of whether we will go to heaven when we die. The answers that some people give to the question “are you saved?” show that they think it is a reward for having more credits for “good” things than debits for “sins” that we have committed. If we have been paying close attention in Sunday School and Church, then we will likely mention something about the importance of believing in Jesus as opposed to good works as the means of our salvation.
Toward the end of chapter two of John’s Gospel we see an interesting statement in verse 23 regarding the response some people had to the signs Jesus was doing at that time. John wrote that “many believed in His name.” That raises a very important question: “Were these people saved?” To adequately answer this question we find some help in looking at the way Jesus responded to their “belief.” In verse 24 we see that Jesus did not entrust (commit) Himself to them. The words believe and entrust or commit are the same Greek word. As Warren Weisbe wrote in The Bible Exposition Commentary, “These people believed in Jesus, but He did not believe in them. They were unsaved believers!” That sounds like an oxymoron. How can one believe and not be saved? As we examine the encounter and conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, we will look for the answer to the question of what it takes to be a “saved believer.”
Are You Interested? – 3:1-3
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3, NASB95)
The Jews were called to be a holy people. The word “holy” means to be separated or set apart for a special purpose. The Pharisees saw themselves as being an especially separated people and were very zealous about it. They were the preservers of traditional Judaism. Their heroes were Moses who had received the Law from God and Ezra who had re-instituted an emphasis on the Law after the return of the captives from Babylon. The Pharisees placed a lot of emphasis on the Law and on the traditions. Nicodemus was an important Pharisee. He was described as a “ruler of the Jews.” This means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jewish community. We don't know if Nicodemus came to Jesus as a representative of a group of interested Jews or strictly on his own. We can't tell from the account why Nicodemus came to see Jesus. We are not told. If he had a question, he didn't have a chance to ask it. He started out complimenting Jesus and acknowledging that He (Jesus) came from God. He also acknowledged that Jesus was a teacher. He was informed in that he knew of the miracles that Jesus had done and, being a Pharisee, he was careful to give God the credit for the miracles. Nicodemus was at the point of many people in the world today: they acknowledge that Jesus was a great teacher, that He was sent from God, that He did miracles and that God was with Him; however, they have not come to accept that He is more than all those, He is God.
Jesus apparently did not wait for Nicodemus to ask a question about the ministry Jesus was doing or on whose authority or whatever. He answered the question that Nicodemus should have asked and that is “How does one enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” Here is where Jesus introduced the phrase “born again.” “Except anyone be born anew, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Do You Have Questions? – 3:4-9
"Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?”" (John 3:4-9, NASB95)