April 30, 2017 – May 6, 2017
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Study Help: The Desire of Ages, 167–172; Steps to Christ, 23–36.
“The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility.” The Desire of Ages, 172.
1 A JEWISH RULER
Who was Nicodemus and what position did He occupy? John 3:1.
Note: “Nicodemus held a high position of trust in the Jewish nation. He was highly educated, and possessed talents of no ordinary character, and he was an honored member of the national council. With others, he had been stirred by the teaching of Jesus. Though rich, learned, and honored, he had been strangely attracted by the humble Nazarene. The lessons that had fallen from the Saviour’s lips had greatly impressed him, and he desired to learn more of these wonderful truths.” The Desire of Ages, 167.
- In what esteem was Nicodemus held by the people? John 3:10.
Note: “He [Nicodemus] was a strict Pharisee, and prided himself on his good works. He was widely esteemed for his benevolence and his liberality in sustaining the temple service, and he felt secure of the favor of God.” The Desire of Ages, 171.
“This man was rich and honored of the Jews. He was famous throughout Jerusalem for his wealth, his learning and benevolence, and especially for his liberal offerings to the temple to carry out its sacred services.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 126.
2 A PRIVATE INTERVIEW
At what hour did Nicodemus seek to meet with Jesus and why? John 3:2, first part.
Note: “When night came on, Jesus, pale with the weariness of his long-continued labors, sought for retirement and repose in the Mount of Olives. Here Nicodemus found him and desired a conference.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 126.
“He [Nicodemus] greatly desired an interview with Jesus, but shrank from seeking Him openly. It would be too humiliating for a ruler of the Jews to acknowledge himself in sympathy with a teacher as yet so little known. And should his visit come to the knowledge of the Sanhedrin, it would draw upon him their scorn and denunciation. He resolved upon a secret interview, excusing this on the ground that if he were to go openly, others might follow his example. Learning by special inquiry the Saviour’s place of retirement in the Mount of Olives, he waited until the city was hushed in slumber, and then sought Him.” The Desire of Ages, 168.
“As he had witnessed Christ’s wonderful works, the conviction had fastened itself upon his mind that this was the Sent of God. Too proud openly to acknowledge himself in sympathy with the Galilean Teacher, he had sought a secret interview.” The Acts of the Apostles, 104.
“Nicodemus related to John the story of that interview, and his inspired pen recorded it for the instruction of millions. The vital truths there taught are as important today as they were that solemn night in the shadowy mountain.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 136.
How did Nicodemus begin his interview with Jesus? John 3:2.
Note: “In the presence of Christ, Nicodemus felt a strange timidity, which he endeavored to conceal under an air of composure and dignity. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘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’ (John 3:2). By speaking of Christ’s rare gifts as a teacher, and also of His wonderful power to perform miracles, he hoped to pave the way for his interview. His words were designed to express and to invite confidence; but they really expressed unbelief. He did not acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah, but only a teacher sent from God.” The Desire of Ages, 168.
3 THE NEW BIRTH (I)
What figurative language did Jesus use to illustrate conversion? John 3:3.
Note: “Instead of recognizing this salutation, Jesus bent His eyes upon the speaker, as if reading his very soul. In His infinite wisdom He saw before Him a seeker after truth. He knew the object of this visit, and with a desire to deepen the conviction already resting upon His listener’s mind, He came directly to the point, saying solemnly, yet kindly, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3, margin).” The Desire of Ages, 168.
What is the importance of Christ’s words? John 3:5–8.
Note: “Nicodemus had come to the Lord thinking to enter into a discussion with Him, but Jesus laid bare the foundation principles of truth. He said to Nicodemus, It is not theoretical knowledge you need so much as spiritual regeneration. You need not to have your curiosity satisfied, but to have a new heart. You must receive a new life from above before you can appreciate heavenly things. Until this change takes place, making all things new, it will result in no saving good for you to discuss with Me My authority or My mission.
“Nicodemus had heard the preaching of John the Baptist concerning repentance and baptism, and pointing the people to One who should baptize with the Holy Spirit. He himself had felt that there was a lack of spirituality among the Jews, that, to a great degree, they were controlled by bigotry and worldly ambition. He had hoped for a better state of things at the Messiah’s coming. Yet the heart-searching message of the Baptist had failed to work in him conviction of sin.” The Desire of Ages, 171.
“It is one thing to assent in a general way to the agency of the Holy Spirit, and another thing to accept His work as a reprover calling to repentance. Many feel a sense of estrangement from God, a realization of their bondage to self and sin; they make efforts for reform; but they do not crucify self. They do not give themselves entirely into the hands of Christ, seeking for divine power to do His will. They are not willing to be molded after the divine similitude. In a general way they acknowledge their imperfections, but they do not give up their particular sins. With each wrong act the old selfish nature is gaining strength.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 48.
4 THE NEW BIRTH (II)
When is an individual truly born again? John 1:12, 13.
Note: “Through this simple act of believing God, the Holy Spirit has begotten a new life in your heart. You are as a child born into the family of God, and He loves you as He loves His Son.” Steps to Christ, 52.
What does it mean to be born of water? Mark 16:16, first part; Romans 6:3–5.
Note: “[John 3:5 quoted.] Nicodemus knew that Christ here referred to water baptism and the renewing of the heart by the Spirit of God. He was convinced that he was in the presence of the One whom John the Baptist had foretold.” The Desire of Ages, 172.
“Christ has made baptism the sign of entrance to His spiritual kingdom. He has made this a positive condition with which all must comply who wish to be acknowledged as under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Before man can find a home in the church, before passing the threshold of God’s spiritual kingdom, he is to receive the impress of the divine name, ‘The Lord our Righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6).
“Baptism is a most solemn renunciation of the world. Those who are baptized in the threefold name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, at the very entrance of their Christian life declare publicly that they have forsaken the service of Satan and have become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. They have obeyed the command: ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate, … and touch not the unclean thing.’ And to them is fulfilled the promise: ‘I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty’ (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).” Testimonies, vol. 6, 91. [Emphasis author’s.]
“Those who submit to the solemn rite of baptism pledge themselves, before the heavenly universe, to come out from the world. They have taken their position under the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel, to be laborers together with God, and as such to make known His will to those who are perishing in sin. They are to search the Scriptures diligently, feeling that it is of the highest importance for them to understand what saith the Lord. Having learned His will, they are to do it heartily, remembering that the truth is the seed they must sow in order to reap a harvest for God.” The Review and Herald, September 19, 1907.
5 THE POWER OF GOD
What did Jesus say with reference to the two natures of man? John 3:6.
Note: “It is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.’ ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ (Job 14:4; Romans 8:7). Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life.” Steps to Christ, 18.
By what means can a new birth be accomplished? John 3:7, 8.
Note: “There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness.
“The Saviour said, ‘Except a man be born from above,’ unless he shall receive a new heart, new desires, purposes, and motives, leading to a new life, ‘he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3, margin). The idea that it is necessary only to develop the good that exists in man by nature, is a fatal deception. … Of Christ it is written, ‘In Him was life; and the life was the light of men’—the only ‘name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (John 1:4; Acts 4:12).” Steps to Christ, 18, 19.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1 Because of his good works, how did Nicodemus consider himself?
2 In what manner did Nicodemus behave himself in the presence of Christ?
3 What does it mean to be “born again”?
4 How does the new birth take place?
5 Where does true conversion begin—on the inside or on the outside of a person?
Copyright © 2004 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.