Summary: In John 3:1-10, Jesus exposes the danger of false assurance and presents the “Starting Point” in the possession of eternal life. It came through 1) The Point of Inquiry (John 3:1–3), 2) The Point of Insight (John 3:4-8), and 3) The Point of Indictment
With Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking resignation this week, Evangelical Christians might be tempted to see this the way a college football fan might view the departure of his rival team’s head coach. But the global stakes are much, much higher. As Pope Benedict steps down, I think it’s important for us to recognize the legacy of the last two bishops of Rome that we ought to honor and conserve: an emphasis on human dignity. (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/02/an-evangelical-looks-at-pope-benedict-xvi)
But on issues of faith, the Catholic Church links regeneration or being “born again” in the life of the Spirit to their sacrament of baptism (CCC, nos. 1215,1265-1266). They see baptism as “the work of Christ which washes away sin and makes us children of God”. For a Roman Catholic, the answer to the question, “Have you been born again?”, would be, “Yes, I was born again in baptism.”
When Jesus met a religious leader in John 3, named Nicodemus, He told him that the Kingdom of God is not in signs or religious observance but in being born again. He made it clear that no sacrament or religious observance enables one to be born again but it occurs as a gift of God through faith.
Quite simply, religion is a human effort to get to God. Being born again, is God’s work in the heart enabling faith and repentance. The human effort of religion gives people a false sense of security of being right with God by human effort. Being born again of God is the realization that all our works are merely filthy rags in Gods sight and we are not naturally right with God but must repent of our sin and trust in the work of Christ on our behalf through faith.
If someone were to ask you, upon what basis you believe you are right with God, how would you respond? If you believe you are just naturally good, then you haven’t really seen God’s standard of goodness. If you believe that you’ve tried your best to please God, then you have failed to realize that our best is not good enough. If your answer to the question “upon what basis do you believe you are right with God” is anything but “through repentance and faith in Christ”, then your answer reveals a dangerous false assurance.
In John 3:1-10, Jesus exposes the danger of false assurance and presents the “Starting Point” in the possession of eternal life. It came through 1) The Point of Inquiry (John 3:1–3), 2) The Point of Insight (John 3:4-8), and 3) The Point of Indictment (John 3:9–10).
1) The Point of Inquiry (John 3:1–3)
John 3:1-3 [3:1]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 are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (ESV)
The first two chapters of the Gospel of John have been concerned with the person of Jesus primarily, but it is also true that they have been concerned with man. In the first chapter, John pointed out that when the true Light shone in the world, people as a whole did not respond to him (vv. 10–11). In chapter 2, John tells us that although many seemed to believe in Jesus as a result of his miracles, nevertheless “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people” (v. 24). The failure of people spiritual things is now John’s theme, and Nicodemus is to be seen as his first concrete example (Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: An expositional commentary (186). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.).
The story of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus is logically tied to the previous section (John 2:23–25). For this pericope begins with what seems to be a clear connection to the linking section of 2:23–25 by the use of the Greek de (best rendered here as “now”) and the vague expression “there was a man (Borchert, G. L. (1996). Vol. 25A: John 1–11. The New American Commentary (169). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).
John 2:23–25 described Jesus’ refusal to accept shallow, sign-based faith, since in His omniscience, He understood the people’s hearts. The story of Nicodemus is a case in point, since Nicodemus himself was one of those superficial believers whose heart He read like an open book. Instead of affirming his profession, the Lord refused to accept Nicodemus’s profession of faith, which was solely based on the signs he had witnessed (v. 2). Jesus pointed him to the life-transforming nature of true saving faith.
Nicodemus, in Hebrew, it is equivalent to innocent blood (נַקִי and דָּם), but if Greek, conqueror of people (the same as Nicolaus). As the Jews gave not only Hebrew, but Greek and Latin names also, to their children, both meanings at last met in Nicodemus.”( Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (123). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)