“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).
Nicodemus came to Jesus as one of those superficial believers mentioned in John 2:23–25. But the Lord refused to accept Nicodemus’s profession, which was based on the signs he had witnessed (v. 2).
Jesus went straight to the real issue—the transformation of Nicodemus’s heart by the new birth, which is the act of God by which He imparts eternal life to those who are “dead in . . . trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Jesus answered his unasked question, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
By the “kingdom of God,” Jesus is speaking specifically of the kingdom of salvation, the spiritual realm where those who have been born again by divine power through faith now live under the rule of God mediated through His Son. Nicodemus, like his fellow Jews, eagerly anticipated that glorious realm. But they believed that being descendants of Abraham, observing the law, and performing external religious rituals would gain them entrance into that kingdom. As Jesus made clear, no matter how religiously active someone might be, no one can enter the kingdom without experiencing the personal regeneration of the new birth.
What are some questions you commonly hear that purport to be genuine interest toward Christian discipleship, but in reality are dodges and smokescreens that disguise a rebellious, disinterested heart? What’s the best way to respond to comments like these? What can you learn from Jesus’ dealings with Nicodemus?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610