Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for January 1

EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES

John 3:4–18

The conference presenter welcomed questions. Attendees took her up on it early and often. Some present became irritated at the interruptions. Each question, however, allowed her to clarify her comments. I left with a better understanding because of the questions.

Nicodemus asked sincere questions of Jesus, whose answers contrasted the old way of Judaism with the new way of the Messiah. Allow the Q&A to clarify some things.

Born Again? (4–8)

Nicodemus, a high-ranking Pharisee, approached Jesus respectfully. He wanted Jesus to explain Himself. Jesus challenged the Jewish belief that based salvation on heritage and obedience to law. Entry into God’s kingdom requires a new birth.

The terminology confused Nicodemus. Did Jesus mean a second physical birth? Nicodemus got stuck on the physical level.

Jesus sought to move Nicodemus away from his narrow thinking. God requires spiritual birth for humans to enter His kingdom. Fleshly birth results in a weak, sinful human. Spiritual birth produces a regenerate new person made for relationship with God. Jesus cautioned Nicodemus not to be tripped up by a mystery humans can’t explain.

Jesus’ example of wind offered further explanation. No one can see the wind. We observe trees swaying. However, the wind remains invisible. The Holy Spirit is not seen, but the effects of His work are viewed in changed lives.

How? (9–13)

Jesus’ words befuddled Nicodemus. His presupposition that faith is built on knowledge hindered understanding. Faith can’t be implanted through knowledge alone. Nicodemus pondered Jesus’ down-to-earth illustrations.

The Pharisee remained in a fog about heavenly things. Jesus comprehended spiritual things because of His spiritual origin. His awareness became the basis of His mission. Jesus came to earth as the Son of Man sent from the invisible God to make God visible. He conveyed divine truths of love and eternal life.

The journey to faith is a process of gradual enlightenment.

Believe (14–18)

A patient Jesus instructed Nicodemus further. When poisonous snakes struck Israel in the wilderness, their faith waned. Moses lifted a bronze serpent on a pole (Num. 21:6–9). God healed the people when they looked at it.

Similarly, Jesus referred to the Son of Man being lifted up, a likely allusion to the cross (John 12:32–33). God’s unlimited love rescues sinners. Through the cross He offers belief and eternal life. He invites you to look to Him to receive them.

Believe refers to a trusting commitment to Jesus made by repentant persons. You don’t create belief. God grants it. Faith involves acceptance of something beyond you. Some refuse to acknowledge God until they can explain Him. He doesn’t require you to understand. He expects only trust.

Eternal life means more than life without end. It represents a new quality of life that begins now and lasts forever. Christians live at a different level because of Jesus’ sacrifice. He can make you a new person.

Jesus obeyed God all the way to the cross. He died to save. Reject Him and bring judgment on yourself. He offers a choice.

Do you see how Jesus used Nicodemus’ questions to expose God’s deepest truths? He takes all questions. Are you willing to hear His answers and apply them?


By Darryl Wood
Retired pastor, current hospice chaplain and interim pastor

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