Summary: 1) The Problem of unbelief (John 3:11-12) , provided the 2) Answer for unbelief (John 3:13–17), and warned of the 3) Results of unbelief (John 3:18-21).
It was dark and 15 degrees below zero — nearly twice that with the wind chill — when a 20-year-old woman who “wasn’t feeling well” stumbled the few blocks with her mother toward Humber River Regional Hospital’s Finch campus early last Sunday morning. Not quite making it down the streets of Toronto’s most notoriously dangerous neighbourhood, the young woman dropped down on the cold hard sidewalk and gave birth to a child at 6 a.m.
Upon their arrival, paramedics tried to get the newborn baby’s heart beating — to hear that telling cry. Once they made it to the hospital, the baby was declared dead, shrouded with a cloth and guarded by two police officers for about 90 minutes as they waited for the coroner to arrive. But then, out of the corner of his eye, one of the officers saw a slight movement under that blanket. He whipped it off and found the little girl’s once absent pulse.
Now, as the baby recovers and the Humber River Hospital launches a review of its procedures followed early Sunday, the public is trying to make sense of how a newborn baby can appear to be dead and come back to life. (http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/02/18/did-deep-hypothermia-help-bring-a-toronto-newborn-back-from-the-brink-90-minutes-after-she-was-declared-dead)
Last Sunday we heard the account of Nicodemus in John 3:1–10, trying to make sense of the concept of being born again. He was told that religious rituals, good works, and self-reformation cannot solve the problem of spiritual death (Eph. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). Only the radical transformation (2 Cor. 5:17) wrought by God in regeneration can impart spiritual life to the spiritually dead. Although the Lord’s teaching on the new birth was solidly grounded in the Old Testament, Nicodemus was unconvinced. He struggled to accept that his religious efforts were useless and needed to be abandoned altogether as a means to gain God’s kingdom.
You may have left last week scratching your head to discover or being reminded that human effort cannot bring to life the spiritually dead. Being born again, the God-wrought work of regeneration is God generating the spiritually dead. Yet I presented Jesus’ message of repentance and faith. I did so to tie into what we are going to see this morning, in the doctrine of conversion: What is the human response to the call of repentance and faith.
Because Nicodemus responded in unbelief, he apparently walked away from his conversation with Jesus unconverted. (He did become a believer later, however.) His initial response typifies those who reject the gospel. Unrepentant unbelief is the sin that ultimately condemns all lost sinners (cf. Matt. 12:31–32), for unless they confess Christ’s lordship, and repent of all sin, including the sin of trying to earn heaven, they cannot be saved. In this discourse on the meaning of salvation, Jesus addressed 1) The Problem of unbelief (John 3:11-12) , provided the 2) Answer for unbelief (John 3:13–17), and warned of the 3) Results of unbelief (John 3:18-21).
1) The Problem of Unbelief (John 3:11-12)
John 3:11-12 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (ESV)
Chapter 3 began by recounting Nicodemus’s nighttime interview with Jesus. But after his question in verse 9, the renowned Pharisee added nothing more to the conversation (at least nothing that is recorded), as the dialogue between the two men moved into a discourse by Jesus. Although Nicodemus twice professed ignorance of Jesus’ teaching (3:4, 9), his real problem, was not a lack of divine revelation. He was highly educated in the Old Testament (3:10) and had just dialogued with the Teacher who was the source of truth. Nicodemus did not receive/accept the truth to which Jesus testified, because he refused to believe it. For the third time in this conversation Jesus uses the solemn “truly, truly/I tell you the truth” (vv. 3, 5). This time it is not the truth that one must be reborn that is underlined, but the other truth that Jesus can be relied on (Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (196). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
Please turn to Romans 1 (p.939)
Paul wrote, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Even those who have never heard the gospel are still culpable for their ignorance, because they reject the truth that they do have:
Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (ESV)