Summary: The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn The Work of the Spirit in the New Birth, part 2 John 2:23-3:8
The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn
The Work of the Spirit in the New Birth, part 2
January 15, 2016
We started a new series last week, The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn. The goal is to learn about the person and the work of the Holy Spirit, to unlearn wrong understandings about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and relearn biblical understanding of the person and work of the Spirit. We are starting with the work of the Spirit in us as we come to faith, then the work of the Spirit in spiritual growth, then we will move to the work of the Spirit in ministry and mission, and then we will close with the unpardonable sin. This week I want us to look at “The work of the Spirit in the New Birth” from the gospel of John chapter three where Jesus describes God working behind the scenes when someone comes to faith.
John tells us while “Jesus was in Jerusalem many believed in his name because they saw the signs he was doing (2:23).” One would think Jesus would be happy about this but John says that “Jesus did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and he knew what was in man (2:24-25).” There is something wrong with the human condition that Jesus did not entrust himself to those who believed in him. Paul gives us insight into the human condition in Ephesians, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (2:1-3).”
Then one of those who believed, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews came to Jesus (3:1). He was a member of the Sanhedrin, Israel’s supreme court of seventy religious who were the final authority concerning the law of God. They made the decision to hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities to be crucified. He was well educated, a well known teacher, and probably very wealthy. But Jesus has a similar opinion of these religious leaders as he does about the rest of humanity. In Matthew twenty-three Jesus says this about them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves (23:15).” “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence (23:25).” “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell (23:33)?” Listen to what Nicodemus says, “Rabbi we know that you are a teacher from God for no one can do these signs or miracles unless God is with him (3:2).” The Pharisees had been discussing this teacher and miracle worker and concluded that Jesus must be from God.
Jesus ignores Nicodemus’ opinion of him and tells him that, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God (3:3).” Stated positively, one must be born again, to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus sees the supernatural working in Jesus but has not experienced the supernatural within himself. It does not take a supernatural work of God within in someone to acknowledge the supernatural but it does require the supernatural work of God within in someone to see the supernatural or any spiritual realities for what their worth. Jesus sees Nicodemus as one of the many (2:23) who are spiritually dead even though they acknowledge his miracles and that Jesus is from God. Miracles do not guarantee saving faith; one can recognize a miracle, even experience one but not believe the gospel. We need to be careful how we present the gospel to people.
Nicodemus does not see or understand that Jesus is talking about spiritual realities so he begins to talk about physical birth. Jesus’ statement is an indictment; you do not see nor can you see without the work of God within you. Nicodemus comes to Jesus when it is dark (3:2), a metaphor in John’s gospel for evil that opposes Jesus, the light. So, for instance, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (Joh 3:19-20).” Sin is so entrenched in us that we cannot see the goodness of spiritual truth unless we experience the new birth. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1Co 2:14).”