A quick look at John 3:1-12 reveals how Jesus taught Total
Inability to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews.
Nicodemus was obviously well schooled in Old Testament
Judiaism. And because he was a ruler, chances are pretty good that
he was a lot older than Jesus when they spoke. He probably knew the
major teachers in Israel, and none had ever mentioned teaching a
student named Jesus of Nazareth. Curious of the origins of Christ's
authority, Nicodemus goes to meet Jesus at night. From the very
beginning Nicodemus was not able to see that Christ was the Son of
God. Nicodemus thought Jesus was just a "man of God" and a teacher,
but surely this old Jewish ruler would not think this young rabbi
Jesus was the Christ.
Jesus cuts through the introductions and immediately exposes
the inabilty of Nicodemus to believe. Jesus says a man must be
"born again" to see the Kingdom. Nicodemus not only does not
understand, but lets his hyper-literalism confuse him even more.
That is, Nicodemus thinks Jesus literally meant that Nicodemus
would have to return to his mother's womb to be born a second time.
This would be doubly impossible if his mother was already dead and
buried. So now Nicodemus really sees the dilemma of his inability
to be "born again."
Jesus was talking about regeneration, and Nicodemus didn't
understand. Jesus went back over it so Nicodemus could understand.
Then Nicodemus understands but does not assent to this teaching.
Jesus said, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not,
how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"
Indirectly, this proves assent, or belief, is not the cause of
eternal life. What's the cause? Look again at verse 8. Jesus says
it is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
Man's ability to believe/assent is a result of the Holy Spirit
first doing a work in him. Regeneration precedes assent. For
Nicodemus, a spiritually dead man, to see the Kingdom of God, he
must first be made spiritually alive. And Jesus made sure that
Nicodemus understood flesh has no part in the process.
But, "Marvel not" is what Jesus told Nicodemus. It is
impossible with man, but not with God. Jesus explained that like
the wind, man cannot see or control the Spirit. The Holy Spirit
sovereignly chooses where and when to work. And if a man is
regenerated, it is because the Holy Spirit comes and breathes life
Unfortunately, commercial religion is too much like Nicodemus.
Always thinking man must contribute something to salvation,
commercial religion believes it is up to man to unlock the power of
the Holy Spirit. This wrongly means the Holy Spirit is not really
a person; but rather, He is a force to be manipulated by formulas,
principles and laws. Commercial religion refuses to believe in the
doctrine of Total Inability. Professional holy men, like Nicodemus,
try to find ways around the dilemma. They seek to contribute
something toward salvation, even if it's only their faith. Not
believing faith is a gift from God, they skirt around the first
three chapters of Romans where Paul systematically teaches man's
total inability to please God and be found righteous.
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of
10851 Ansley, Apt B.