Summary: Understanding baptism


March 8, 2020

John 3:1-17

The Secret Disciple

The Reading

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born [a]again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man [b]who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should [c]not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:1-17

The Message

Let’s begin by looking into just who is Nicodemus. Nicodemus is often referred to as A SECRET DISCIPLE of Jesus. He was most likely a member of the Sanhedrin. Okay, so what is a Sanhedrin? Glad you asked! The Sanhedrin was the Jewish Council of Pharisees and judiciary of political and religious matters.

That being so, it becomes easy to understand why he would be a follower or disciple of Christ in secret. He would most certainly come under strict scrutiny of the council itself and probably removed from office. Nicodemus means “conqueror for the people”.

We read that Nicodemus came to Jesus in the darkness of night, furthering our understanding of the secrecy. He acknowledges to Jesus in verse two that Jesus is sent from God, recognizing that no one could do what Jesus does (His ministry) otherwise.

But he becomes confused by what Jesus says in response: “…..Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (verse 3) That had to be confusing for anyone who had never been exposed to that wording. As common as that phrase is used today, it is confusing to many new disciples and followers.

So Nicodemus pushes for an explanation. “How can an old man like me or Pastor Howard be born. Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Butchered from verse 4. As much as most of us would relish any means of starting all over again, knowing what we know now, that is not what Jesus is teaching Nicodemus.

Jesus again responds inverse 6-8 offering a deep overview. (1) unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. This new birthing process is a SPIRITUAL BIRTH – that is becoming a “new” person, a new beginning alright but not a starting over from scratch. (2) Being born of water or becoming a new person via baptism is realized by the symbolic death and burial of the old person in the submersion in water and being spiritually cleansed by that water and then rising from the water as a new person, spiritually.

Every time we talk about baptism, it becomes so very important to emphasize some points.

1) The person being baptized must seek that rebirth of his/her own volition. It is not in any way meant to be a social standing or to attain some sense of belonging to a group, even church. The motivation must be to be a new person spiritually and dedicated to Jesus Christ in readiness to enter the heavenly kingdom.

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