“The Kindness of God.” Part 8: “…those who are called.”

IV. Called by Grace.

So far, we’ve looked at the role of the Father in planning salvation; we’ve looked at the Son and His securing of it.  In this post, we want to look at the role of the Holy Spirit in one aspect of our salvation, namely, our entering into it.

There are whole movements which focus entirely on the Spirit, but our Lord said that the Spirit’s work isn’t to emphasize the Spirit or to give believers something to be proud of because they have a particular gift.  It’s to emphasize and glorify the Lord Jesus, John 16:4, and it’s emphatic, “Me [the Lord Jesus], He shall glorify….”  

There are some who focus almost entirely on the work of the Father.  Every message must be about or at least include a reference to the sovereignty of God.  Even in the midst of appeals for people to believe on Christ, they will have to insert, “if you’re one of the elect, you will be saved.”  I’ve had this happen.  That may be doctrinally true, but no lost person in Scripture was ever told that.  Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus that he had to be one of the elect.

Without doubt, the Father and the Spirit are important to our salvation.  Indeed, they are essential to it!  Without them, there would be no salvation!  However, the focus of our faith is to be on the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus:  Who He was and what He did.  The Philippian jailer was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

We’re told the same thing.

At the same time, we’ll never do that without the work of the Spirit.  There are more than 75 references to “calling” in Scripture.  Not all of these, of course, refer to the Spirit, but verses like John 6:44; 2 Timothy 1:9, 10; Titus 3:5, etc., are clear that “calling” is a work of the Spirit which infallibly brings an elect and redeemed sinner [the work of the Father and Son] to faith in Christ.

Another word used to describe the Spirit’s work is “efficacious.”  It is “effective,” that is, it gets the job done.

The word most commonly used is “irresistible,” because it fits the particular acronym which inadequately summarizes these doctrines,  This word is usually rejected as being something coercive:  God saving people against their will.  However, even in daily life, there are many instances of people being saved against their will.  People who are drowning sometimes struggle against their rescuers and have to be subdued before they can be rescued.  People trying to commit suicide are sometimes prevented from doing this, and some of them might never “forgive” their rescuers.  Still, such people are looked on as heroes.  It is only God, Who rescues from a far greater danger than anything this world knows about, Who is told that He can’t do that.  We must be “willing,” or He is helpless.

There is, however, another way of defining the word, “irresistible.”  It is food to someone who is starving.  It is water to someone who is dying of thirst,  Our Lord used both of these figures in His own teaching:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Matthew 5:6.  See also John 4:10-14; 6:35, 48.  That’s the Spirit’s work – to make us hungry and thirsty.

In this post, we want to look at two men who experienced God’s call:  Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus.  Two words broadly summarize our topic:  regeneration and reconciliation.  Nicodemus gives us great insight into the first and Saul into the second.

A.  Nicodemus:  You must be born again, John 3:7.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why Nicodemus?”  Why not the woman at the well, or any of the other people Jesus dealt with?  Why is Nicodemus the only one given that message?  It’s never mentioned in the Book of Acts, either.  If Jesus and the Apostles had been like some modern preachers, it would have been in every message.

1.  The man, Nicodemus.

Who was Nicodemus?  In the first place, he was a Jew, and as such already identified with the people of God.  This brought him and them great advantage:  Romans 3:1, 3; 9:4, 5.  Second, he himself was a leader of those people:  the teacher of Israel, John 3:10, perhaps signifying a unique place among his people.  This would have brought him great prestige, honor and wealth.  Third, he was a Pharisee, a bad thing in our day because of those who abused their position, but something highly respected in his own day.  Fourth, simply as a Jew, he would have believed that righteousness before God was something which he could accomplish himself.

Scripture seems to support that idea.  In Deuteronomy 6:25, Moses told Israel, “Then it shall be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”  However, even Moses himself, and God, as well, recognized that Israel would never do that.  There isn’t a single verse in the Old Testament to indicate that they would actually be obedient, even though they twice agreed to do all that the Lord commanded.  Moses wasn’t even down from Sinai before the people had violated the first and seventh commandments in a wild orgy in front of the golden calf.

So, Nicodemus thought it was up to him.  As far as he knew, he was already “in”.  Our Lord’s message, as it were, blindsided him.

What was the message?

2.  The message to Nicodemus.

a.  He needed something he didn’t have.

For all that he had, he didn’t have the one thing necessary:  life.  That’s what “birth” is all about:  life.  Without getting into the abortion debate, birth is the evidence of life, not its beginning.  A “dead birth” is a contradiction in terms.  (If you, or someone you know, have suffered a “stillbirth,” I’m so sorry.  I don’t mean to add to or make light of that loss and grief.)

b.  He needed something he couldn’t do.

John 3 is the story of one very likely who thought that his heritage, his position, his keeping of the Law – who he was and what he did – were more than enough for him to “enter the kingdom”.  After all, he was a member of the family of Israel, God’s chosen nation.  However, our Lord said to him, “Nicodemus, that’s not enough.  You must be born into God’s family.”

In addition, Nicodemus was and had done this and this and this.  Yet the Lord in effect said, “Nicodemus, that’s not enough.  You need something you can’t do.  Even if you could return to your mother’s womb, it would do no good.  All that the flesh can produce is ‘flesh’.  You need something the flesh can’t do; you need a spiritual birth, a birth produced only and solely by the Spirit of God,”

Boiled down to one sentence, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he, Nicodemus, needed God to do something for him that he himself couldn’t do.  He needed a second birth, a spiritual birth, something that was not, and could never be, the result of anything he could do.  He needed something that could not be done or started by “the flesh”.

Modern error has turned that exactly around.  Now we’re told that God needs us to do something for Him that He Himself cannot do:  “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

That is not what the Lord told Nicodemus.

So many folks today are just like him, trusting in what they are or have done. They are quite content with their religion or church, or lack thereof, thank you. They have walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, had a few drops of water on their foreheads when they were infants.  Their father or mother or grandmother was a Christian.  They have been baptized.  Confirmed.  Seen a vision.  Do their best,  Pay their bills.  Take care of their family.  And on and on.

They are secure in their belief that God will welcome them into “a better place,” but have no understanding that they are under His condemnation because their sins have never been dealt with, and they have no righteousness He will accept.  They are dead in trespasses and sin, Ephesians 2:1, and need a life they can neither generate nor initiate.

The Lord rebuked Nicodemus because, as “the teacher in Israel,” he should have known the OT references to “a clean heart,” “circumcision of the heart,” etc., found in verses like Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 18:31; 36:36.  The promises made to Israel in the New Covenant go far beyond anything human nature or effort can produce.  Yet Nicodemus, like the rest of us apart from the grace of God, missed the message.  We “must be born again.”

Without regeneration, or the new birth, you and I are “in the flesh,” that is, we’re just ordinary human beings with a sinful nature and the corrupted faculties – mind, emotions, will – that go along with it.  Those who are the flesh cannot please God, Romans 8:8.  Repentance and faith in Christ are surely pleasing to God; yet things which are pleasing to God are impossible for the flesh to produce.  “Flesh” cannot produce “spirit,” nor can fleshly efforts have spiritual results.  One can “make his decision,” or do any of a multitude of other things men say will save them, every day for the rest of one’s life and not be saved, because that which is born of – that which comes from – the flesh is flesh.

The new birth is as impossible to mankind as the Virgin birth; both must be of God.

B.  Saul, called…out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9.

In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul wrote, …for this cause I obtained mercy, that in my first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting (KJV).

Paul wrote that he was a “pattern,” a “schematic” for believers.  This doesn’t mean that we’re to travel our world starting churches, though some are called to do that.  Nor does it mean that we receive and write down new revelations from God.  Some have claimed that, some still claim that, and they are all wrong.  God calls no one to deliver further revelation – of any kind – from Him.

What Paul meant was that in himself we can see how God works in every believer, not exactly, of course, because we’re all different, but generally.  There are many ways we could develop this.

1.  The surprise of his conversion.

The last thing on Saul’s mind on the morning of that fateful trip to Damascus would have been that before he got there, he would be a disciple of the very One he was determined to destroy!

In John 6:44, 45, the Lord Jesus gave a capsule summary of the problem we all have. It is that not one of us, on our own, has the ability to come to God.  He must “draw” us before we will or even can come to Him.  Some make a great deal out of the fact that the word the Lord used in John 6 for “draw” is the same word used to describe Paul being “dragged” out of the city and left for dead in Acts 14:19.  They just simply cannot conceive of the idea that God would or could, for that matter, “drag” people into the kingdom.

However, in reading the Book of Acts, it seems to me that Paul was indeed “dragged” kicking and screaming to the very edge of salvation.  This leads us to  our second thought for this post.

2.  The “stages” of his conversion.

It seems to me that Paul passed through four stages, the first two not necessarily consecutive, in his journey from darkness to light.

a.  resistance, Acts 6:10 (KJV).  Though not specifically mentioned, we believe that Paul could well have been one of those from Cilicia, cf. Acts 22:3; 23:34, unable to resist the witness of Stephen, yet unwilling to receive it.  Cf. Acts 9:5; 26:14.

b. rebellion, cf. acts 26:9.  Paul was certainly present at the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:58.  From that time, Paul did all he could do to stamp out what he considered blasphemous heresy, and at the same time drown out the conviction coming from the testimony of those whom he was persecuting, Acts 9:5 (KJV); 26:14.  Cf. Romans 1:18, of those who suppress the truth. 

He was breathing out threats and murder against Christians.  He wasn’t asking God to show him the right way; he thought he had it.  He was convinced that he was serving God.  Cf. John 16:2.  Jesus didn’t come to him and ask him if he’d like to be saved. The Holy Spirit didn’t try to “woo” him or in some way “cooperate” with Saul’s will, as is so often taught today that He must do with our wills.  Saul’s will was to kill Christians! That was his “decision.”

In his testimony before Agrippa, Acts 26:11, 12, he says that it was while he was thus occupied in persecuting and killing Christians, being exceedingly enraged against them(!), that the Lord appeared to Him.  Paul didn’t even know who this One was Whose brightness he saw.  This leads to our third point.

c.  realization.  Paul must have been shocked beyond belief to hear a voice from the brightness saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  He thought he had been persecuting blasphemers and heretics, thus being obedient to the OT teaching about such things – and thus to God.  Now, this “voice” from what must have been the Shekinah glory accuses him of persecuting its owner!  in effect, of persecuting God! The fourth point follows closely.

d.  reception.  We mentioned earlier that we believe Paul was indeed “dragged” kicking and screaming to the very edge of salvation.  However, when he found out what was involved, and who “Jesus of Nazareth” really is, he willingly walked over the border, as it were.  He asked, “What do you want me to do?” and then he went out and did it.
___________

We’ll deal more with this in our final post, Lord willing, but for now, there are multitudes of people just like Paul – and Nicodemus, firmly convinced of their standing before God. They’re members of the church, perhaps even active in it or leaders in it.  They’ve gone through the proper ceremonies or rituals, sprinkled as unknowing infants or walking an aisle or praying a prayer.  Why, they’re not heathen, they believe in God! They have their “docs” (doctrines) all in a row and can recite the Catechism from start to finish.  They’re thoroughly orthodox, and thoroughly lost, because they’ve never come to the point where they ask the Lord what He wants them to do.

For far too many others, “faith” is about God doing what they want Him to do.

Where are you in this progression?  Resistant to the truths of the Word, though perhaps you’ve heard them all your life?  Rebellious against them, wanting nothing to do with Christ, even though perhaps you come to church?  Realizing that you do need something only Christ can provide?  You’re a sinner justly under the condemnation of God and you know that only Christ can do something about it, having died for sinners.  Don’t stop there.  You must go through the last step:  receiving.  Coming to Him as your Lord and Savior, trusting Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Believing on Him, resting in Him, relying of Him in every area of life.  Following His leadership.

There is another possibility.  Paul grew up with his beliefs.  So did Nicodemus. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve ever heard, or read, these things.  What will you do with them?  Now that you’ve heard them, where will you start on this progression?

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…, Acts 16:31.

Questions

1.  What does “efficacious grace” mean?

2.  What is another way of looking at the term “irresistible” beside “coercive”?

3.  Why is Nicodemus the only recorded person told about the new birth?

4.  What four things did Nicodemus have “going” for him?  Can you think of any others?

5.  What was the meaning of the message he was given?

6.  What was God’s purpose in saving Saul of Tarsus?

7.  Would Saul have “accepted” Jesus?  Why or why not?

8.  What is the significance of the first two “stages” of his conversion?

9.  What is the significance of the final two stages of his conversion?

10. At which stage are you?  You don’t have to write, just something to think about.

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Nicodemus: The Rest of the Story

Nicodemus is usually known only for his nighttime visit to our Lord in John 3.  This, however, is not the only time he appears in the NT, even though this visit is referenced each time he is mentioned.

The Intimidated Nicodemus, John 3.

We know this story, although perhaps not as well as we might think, as we noted in our last post on Nicodemus.  Some people fault him for coming at night.  At least he came.  We don’t know why he came.  The scribes and Pharisees were noted for their arguments back and forth.  There were two noted Rabbis at the time:  Hillel and Gamaliel.  Perhaps Nicodemus came to ask Jesus which one was right.  We don’t know.  Again, the thing is, he came.  And the Lord sidetracked him right away, taking him into an area about which he had neither knowledge nor understanding, as we saw in the last post.  It worked, as we see from following Nicodemus through the NT.

The Influential Nicodemus, John 7:50, 51.

This event happens during the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the three times in the year that all Jewish males were required to visit the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was crowded.  The teaching of Jesus created quite a furor, as if often did, with the common people asking a lot of questions about who He was, and the rulers of the people denying Him and doing all they could to downplay His importance.  One of the questions here seems to concern where Jesus came from, namely Galilee.  Somebody mentioned the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  The crowds and the rulers apparently overlooked or didn’t know that He had actually been born in Bethlehem.

The Pharisees and chief priests sent a deputation to arrest Jesus.  When the deputation came back empty-handed, the leaders were furious, accusing them of being followers of Him.  A remark reveals what they thought of ordinary people: “…this crowd that does not know the law is accursed,” John 7:49,  apparently because they were listening to Jesus.

At this point, Nicodemus steps in, he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them, and said to them, “Does our law condemn a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”  

Even though the others responded with a remark about no prophet coming from Galilee, apparently Nicodemus’ question broke up the meeting, because we read in v. 53, And everyone went to his own house.

As for the remark about Galilee, a region “on the wrong side of the tracks” as far as these leaders were concerned, Jonah, Hosea, Nahum and perhaps Elijah, Elisha and Amos were from Galilee or very close to it.

The Irreversible Nicodemus, John 19:39-40.

In our fluid and tolerant society, we don’t really understand this act of Nicodemus.  Oh, sure, it was an act of love and loyalty to the Savior, but we don’t really think about it.

Nicodemus did.

You see, by doing what he did, touching a dead body, he became ceremonially unclean.  Deliberately doing this during Passover meant that he could not partake of the Passover sacrifice.

So?

Nicodemus risked ostracism by his society.  He risked losing his position as a leader and teacher in Israel, John 3, with its attendant wealth, power and prestige.  He risked whatever family he might have had, parents or wife and children.  He risked being able to enter the Temple.  He risked eternal damnation, cutting himself off from all OT observances

IF JESUS WASN’T WHO HE SAID HE WAS!

There was no going back.  It was all or nothing for this one “who came to Jesus by night”.

All

or nothing.

Nicodemus

Jesus answered and said to [Nicodemus], “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘you must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?” John 3:3-9 (NKJV).

That question is as applicable now as it was for Nicodemus.

To answer it completely might take a book.  A rather long post will have to do.

To start with, have you ever wondered why it was Nicodemus and not the woman at the well in the next chapter, for instance, to whom Jesus gave this message?  There is no Gospel account of Jesus telling this to anyone else.  Furthermore, even though the NT is filled with allusions that can only be about the new birth, no preachers in the Book of Acts mentioned it.  If our Lord and the early church has followed some of our modern “evangelistic” methods, they would have mentioned it every time.

So.

Why Nicodemus, and no one else?

Consider the man.

Who was Nicodemus?  In the first place, he was a Jew, and so already shared with other Jews identity as the people of God, with the advantages that brought to them, Romans 3:1, 2 and 9:4, 5.  Further, among the Jews, he was a leader: a Pharisee and and a teacher, John 3:1, 10, and even a ruler of the Jews, 3:1.  To us, the word “Pharisee” has a bad connotation, but in their day, the Pharisees were looked on as examples of holiness and zeal.  No doubt, there were some, perhaps many, like the proud Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and publican in Luke 18:9-14, who were thankful that they were not like others, but I would rather believe he was a good man, one of those the Bible depicts as righteous before the Lord, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, as the NT describes the parents of John the Baptist, Luke 1:6.  Still, even in our view, it was a “good” man to whom the Lord gave this message, and not some notorious sinner.

Even as a Jew, leaving aside all his accomplishments and his position, he would have believed that righteousness was something to be obtained by his keeping the Law.  His whole heritage would be centered around obedience to the divine commands.   Everything he desired and expected to receive was based on this obedience.  It was up to him.  True, he lived under a covenant – the Mosaic Covenant – in which obedience was required and disobedience was severely punished.  The whole history of his people was graphic evidence of this.  He lived in a society where almost the entire focus was on the individual and what he did.  Because of this, the Lord’s message astonished and confused him.

There is still a lot of confusion about it.

Consider the message. 

There are many things that could be said about this, but we’ll limit it to two.

1. Nicodemus needed something he didn’t have.

We’ve already seen many things that Nicodemus had:  he was a member of God’s OT covenant community, in which he was a leader and teacher, knowledgeable in the Scriptures, a man of importance, influence and, no doubt, wealth.  Yet he was without the one necessary thing.  What was it?  Think for a moment….

You’ve probably figured it out, but just in case, what is birth?  It is the beginning of life.  More accurately, and without getting into the abortion debate, about which there should be no debate, it is the evidence of life.  “Birth” does not happen without “life.”  “Birth” implies “life.”  A “dead birth” is a contradiction in terms.

What the Lord was telling Nicodemus was that he needed “life,” life begotten, not by human parents, but by the Spirit.

Have you ever heard preachers say, “If you miss salvation, you miss one of the great things in life?”  That’s not true.  Salvation isn’t just one of a number of “great things in life.”  It IS life!

2. Nicodemus needed something he couldn’t do.

Here is the important lesson and here is where the most misunderstanding and confusion are.  Nicodemus himself had it.  His first question was, “How can I do that?” or words to that effect.  The answer to the opening question of this post is found here:  “Why Nicodemus?”

No doubt, Nicodemus thought he was already headed for the kingdom.  He was already among the people of God and, we believe, like Simeon before him, he was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, Luke 2:25.  Among all the recorded encounters of our Lord, Nicodemus was one of the ones most likely to believe that his heritage, his position, his righteousness from the Law, what he did and who he was, was enough for him to “enter the kingdom.”  In this, he is probably representative of Pharisees in general.

Very likely, he was confident of his acceptance before God.  After all, he was a member of the family of Israel.  Our Lord said, “Nicodemus, that’s not enough.  You must be born into the family of God.”  Nicodemus was, and had done, this and this and this.  Yet the Lord in effect said, “Nicodemus, all that is not enough.  You need something you can’t do.  Even if you could return to your mother’s womb, it would do no good.  All the flesh can bring forth is ‘flesh’.  You need something the flesh cannot do.  You need to be born spiritually, to be born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus was so astonished and confused about this because he had no idea of any such thing as a “new birth,” or that he needed it himself.

How many there are today, just like him, trusting in what they have or are or have done.  They are content with their religion or church.  They have walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, had a drop or two of water on their forehead when they were infants.  They’re not like so-and-so, they pay their bills, love their spouse, their children, their neighbors.  Their father or mother or grandmother was a Christian.  They have been baptized.  Confirmed.  Seen a vision.  Belong to the church.  They believe God will take care of it when they stand before Him on their way to that “better place.”

They have no idea at all that they have no idea at all.  They are secure in their belief that God will welcome them into heaven, but have no understanding that they are under His condemnation because their sins have never been dealt with and they have no righteousness that God will accept.  They are dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, and need a life they can neither generate nor originate.

The Lord rebuked Nicodemus because he, especially, as a “teacher in Israel,” should have known Old Testament references to “a clean heart,” “circumcision of the heart,” “a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone,” in verses like Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 18:31 and 36:36.  He should have recognized that the blessings promised to the nation of Israel in the prophecies of the New Covenant go far beyond anything sinful human nature is capable of.  Yet he had overlooked or missed the meaning of these Scriptures.  His whole focus was on himself, or at least on “man.”  It’s up to him.  In most preaching today, the focus is still on “man:”  “God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”  Or another one:  “If it’s to be, then it’s up to me.”

Birth isn’t the only figure the Bible uses to describe salvation.  It is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17; it is a “resurrection:” life from the dead, Romans 11:15; Ephesians 2:5-8.  These are not just figures of speech; they are realities we cannot overlook.

Birth.  How did you effect or contribute to your own birth?    You received life from your parents, not as an active participant, but passively, like a cup receives coffee or tea.  Resurrection.  What part will you play in your own eventual resurrection from the dead?  You will be dead.  In the same way, the lost person is dead in trespasses and sins.  Creation.  How did creation in Genesis 1 and 2 “cooperate” in its coming into existence?

These truths, taught to Nicodemus, are almost completely ignored in the “do-it-yourself,” self-help Christianity of today.  You must take the first step toward God before He can take a step toward you.  Even when “grace” is mentioned, it’s usually with the idea that salvation is a “cooperative” affair between God’s will and man’s will.

The problem with all this man-centered thinking is that it doesn’t have a Scriptural basis.  It takes more than just some sort of “wooing” by the Holy Spirit; it takes more than appealing to man’s desire to escape the consequences of his sin – “you don’t want to go to hell, do you?” – to get sinful men and women to drop the weapons of their rebellion against God and yield to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Man-centered evangelism fails to take into account that, even though they wouldn’t put it this way, and don’t understand that this is what they are choosing, most people would rather go to hell than submit to the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, Romans 10:3, 4.  They would rather be divorced from their spouse than their sin.  They think Christianity is simply some round of religious duties, joyless and thankless, or that their own religion, or lack of it, is quite good enough, thank you.  They think they would have to give up too much, that the devil is a better paymaster than the Lord Jesus.  Perhaps they are offended at the idea that they are not good enough for God, or that God can and does require more of them than they can do.  They scoff at the idea of blood sacrifice and sneer at the teaching of imputed righteousness.  Too many are like the lady who said in a conversation with me about some spiritual matter that if God didn’t like it, that was too bad.  Or like the lady who wrote to the editor of the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News in Denver that she would rather spend eternity in hell than with the God of the Bible.  Alas, she is likely to get her wish.

Boiled down to one sentence, the Lord was telling Nicodemus that he, Nicodemus, needed God to do something for him that he could not do himself.  Whatever Nicodemus was or had done or could do, was not enough.  It would never be, could never be, enough.  He needed to be “born again.”  He needed a second birth, a spiritual birth, something that was not and could never be the result of anything he could do.  He needed something that could not be done or initiated by “the flesh.”

Modern error has turned this exactly around.  Now it is commonly taught that God needs us to do something for Him that He cannot do Himself.  Take that first step.  Open your heart’s door.  Make your “decision.”

But, doesn’t the Scripture – even the later part of John 3 – tell us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved?  Yes, it does.  There is no contradiction, as we have written about in “God’s Will, My Will, Whose Will?”  It isn’t necessary, as a brother preached, to say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, but you can’t do that unless God enables you to do that.”  Or as another brother preached, “If you are elect, then you will be saved.”  He even inserted this in a proposed tract which was trying to get people to see the importance of being saved.  Both of those statements are doctrinally true, but the Scripture never approaches it that way.

It simply tells us that whoever believes in Him [the Lord Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life, John 3:16.  Don’t mistake the word “should.”  It doesn’t speak of possibility, but of certainty:  “whoever believes in Him” will not “perish….”