2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into 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 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus, a secret follower, came to Jesus to learn.
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night signifying that he was not an open follower; we know no more of him than that. By inference, commentators say that Nicodemus believed in the miracles and “that thou art a teacher come from God”, but they had no real faith in Christ. John brings us again and again to crowds, people swarming around our Lord, but people who did not commit to Him. They were interested in Him because He fed them, or they were interested in His miracles, and hoped they might see another one.
McGee points out the historical record is in unanimity about the miracles; even the enemies of Jesus did not argue against the miracles. They were plain for all to see. But evidently the miracles themselves were what people wished for. John six tells us that the crowds came by force to make Him a king. The people were very upset with the presence of Jesus, but they did not know how to act. They were, in the words of this chapter, not born again, but were struggling in their flesh even to honor and accord the Son of God. But to no avail.
Knowing the gospel, and realizing who Jesus is, is not enough to save you. Are you trusting God? Are you believing Him, and are you walking with Him? James challenges us to show faith without deeds, and tells us that he will show us his faith by what he does. Here is a great mystery. We cannot be saved by our works; it is the grace of God alone which saves us as we trust in Him. But neither are we saved apart from our works. The works which I would choose to do for God are naught but folly, doomed to never please Him. But the works that I do by faith, leaning on the Spirit himself, and trusting Him to do through me, these works are works that Jesus does expect of me.
Second Corinthians has lots to teach us on walking the Christian life. “And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) Do you see the mystery revealed? Our work is to reflect the glory of Jesus, but that glory comes from Jesus through the Spirit. In other words, we are to walk in the Spirit, let Him use us, and for that use, we will be changed more and more into the likeness of Jesus. What a mystery!
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4) When I have the wonderful privilege of leading someone to Christ, it is me speaking the Word, but it is the Spirit of God doing the actual drawing. That is why my prayer focus should be that the Lord would send me as a laborer into HIS harvest. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay [the musical group got its name here] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7) And again: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being transformed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)
John says the wind blows where it will, and so the Spirit goes where He will, to bring life and the peace of knowing Christ to lives that we would not expect. Did the disciples expect the Spirit to speak to Saul of Tarsus? The record is complete, and those who found the reborn Saul on their hands had to have a special revelation from God to put their trust in Saul. Paul, formerly know as a sinner before God by the name of Saul, knew what a miracle God worked in changing his heart. Saul worked very hard to please God; as a Pharisee of renown he had memorized the first five books of the Bible. He worked hard for God, dressing right, teaching others, but all the time he himself was not reached.
It was not until Jesus appeared to Saul that Saul became Paul. I believe that when Jesus did this, he was appointing the apostle to replace Judas. I do think the church erred when they picked their two apostles—neither one ever came close to the record of the one whom Jesus picked. In fact, we never hear about anything of the rest of their lives. They were godly men, but not apostles, because they were not picked personally by Jesus. At least that is my view. According to the book of Acts he was in the desert many years unlearning much of what he thought he knew. So is it when one is born of the Spirit. God’s grace confounds the wisdom of man. Therefore it is my responsibility to be used of God for His purposes. Probably around some of the people who I despise the most, if we are to learn for Saul’s conversion.
So James is very correct when he challenges us; the only way we can show our faith is by our works. Yet the mystery of God comes in when we find we cannot do the works ourselves. It is the work of the Spirit within us, as we yield to God, that does the works which are approved of God. And I should not make the mistake of thinking I will not be held accountable. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10) Please do not misunderstand this bema seat of judgment. We have already been found to be worthy of being with Christ, because of our trust in God. At this seat we will receive rewards, crowns, and perhaps responsibilities. If what we have done is unrighteous, not in the Spirit, our works will be burned up, yet we ourselves shall be saved.
Salvation by grace
[Lord, we confess our num'rous faults,
How great our guilt has been!
Foolish and vain were all our thoughts,
And all our lives were sin.
But, O my soul! for ever praise,
For ever love his name,
Who turns thy feet from dangerous ways
Of folly, sin, and shame.]
['Tis not by works of righteousness
Which our own hands have done;
But we are saved by sovereign grace
Abounding through his Son.]
'Tis from the mercy of our God
That all our hopes begin;
'Tis by the water and the blood
Our souls are washed from sin.
'Tis through the purchase of his death
Who hung upon the tree,
The Spirit is sent down to breathe
On such dry bones as we.
Raised from the dead we live anew;
And, justified by grace,
We shall appear in glory too,
And see our Father's face.