What does Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus teach us about the saving message in the OT?

November 3, 2011
By dreiher2

I was studying the account of Nicodemus in John 3, where Jesus is chiding him for not knowing about being born again (3:10). It struck me that the Apostle John is providing a rare glimpse into the saving message in the OT, and how it relates to the good news in the OT. In John 3:2 we read, “This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

Remember the purpose of John in 20:31? It revolves around the signs which move people to the point in time at which they believe in Jesus for everlasting life that cannot be lost (also see John 2:23). It looks to me like Nicodemus got the point of the signs. He believed “. . . God is with him.” That is very significant. He recognized that there was a potential here that this Jesus was the Messiah.

However, Jesus immediately replies in verse 3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The phrase “born again” is from the Greek gennethe anothen. The greek literally means born from above. The usual english translation is “born again” but I think it strongly suggests “born again with a birth from above,” in other words, born in a different way than physical birth with a result that the person has a life which can now qualify them to ENTER the kingdom of God.

In short, Nicodemus believed the facts that Jesus was the Messiah. However, he was missing one important part of the story. In 3:4-9 Jesus explains to him that there is a physical birth, and there needs to be a spiritual birth too. Verse 10 is where we get my main point. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?” Jesus had an expectation of anyone who taught the OT that they would understand the necessity of this “born again” experience where a person would get life from above, or a kind of life that only comes from God, a spiritual life.

Another verse that comes to mind is later on in John, chapter 6 verses 68 and 69. “But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Somehow these “OT” saints in the previous dispensation recognized the necessity of having eternal life. I know there are really no OT passages which say it as explicitly as Jesus explains it, but apparently OT saints had to understand that they needed eternal life. This is a huge subject, and I don’t have time to delve into it here. My point is that the issue in the OT was eternal life, and Nicodemus SHOULD have linked together the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, together with the life from above, God’s kind of life, eternal life.

Nicodemus had the facts about Jesus being the Messiah, but he did not understand the key to appropriating the eternal life. In short, Nicodemus needed to believe in Jesus as the Messiah FOR this kind of life a person needs to live with God forever in the kingdom. Jesus expected him to know this, but he did not.

A lot of people today know the facts about Jesus, (i.e. the Gospel) but do not believe in Him for everlasting life (i.e. the saving message).

What do you all think? Lets be clear about the saving message when we tell people about Jesus!

- Don

One Response to What does Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus teach us about the saving message in the OT?

  1. aicortezjr on November 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks Don. I wish more people would be clear on the subject of salvation.

    Keep up the great work!

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