How the Best Man in Town Got Saved

The Salvation of Nicodemus

John 3:1-17


June 8, 2014 AM     20th Anniversary

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland


I.       Introduction (1 Peter 1:3-5)


A.     The Apostle Peter uses a phrase not heard very much “begotten us again.” – “borned us again”

B.     It is a phrase used 14 times in the New Testament by five different authors

C.     It is not a statement, but rather an urgent plea from God Almighty that we GET IT – the NEW BIRTH

D.     So Jesus devotes a whole chapter to explaining it in John chapter 3 – have you ever read it???


II.    Background


A.     Jesus has just started His ministry of preaching, and saving lives just a few months earlier.

B.     He has gathered 12 men around Him, who yearn to learn from Him, and follow His life. They become known as Jesus’ disciples.

C.     Crowds gather daily to watch Jesus constantly do the impossible


1.      Heal the blind

2.      Restore the crippled

3.      Fill the empty hearted

4.      Even raise the dead


D.     But the main thrust of Jesus’ ministry was the preaching of the word of God. And boy did He preach – not “whisper”– there were crowds of thousands who gathered to hear Him preach, and they could hear Him well – The truth was His passion!

E.      Well, don’t you think word got around that this Jesus was someone special?

F.      That brings us to the Gospel of John, chapter 3, where we meet a man named Nicodemus.


1.      He probably was the best man you would ever meet. The best man in the community, and the best all around guy in the town.

2.      But this man named Nicodemus had a couple of problems – with all his religion, and will all his best efforts, he did not know what would happen to him when he died!


G.     And so in John chapter 3 he sets out to have a talk with Jesus!


III. Message - How the Best Man in Town Got Saved ( John 3:1-17)


A.     Who Is He? (John 3:1)


1.      A Pharisee. Extremely religious, totally devoted to God and to his religion

2.      A ruler of the Jews. He was a powerful politician – a leading member of the Sanhedrin. One of the three most powerful men of Israel of the day. He had power, position, status

3.      He was a “master” of theology – knew all there was to know about God.


a.       He had had at least 20 years of formal education – 20 years!

b.      He had studied hundreds of books and opinions about God

c.       He was himself now a teacher, teaching hundreds of students about God every year


4.      He was an old man – not some spring-chicken!


a.       Had seen a lot of hard times, and people’s heart-aches

b.      Been through a lot of history

c.       Had many scars - Had many memories


5.      Probably the saddest aspect of Nicodemus’ life was that, he was ignorant of God, and salvation – nothing he knew could touch the heart!


a.       He had all the rituals

b.      He knew all the ceremonies (Rom 10:1-4)

c.       He participated in all the sacraments

d.      Yet, Nicodemus was empty on the inside – full head – empty heart!


6.      And then there was his fear – very fearful! So many people full of fear!


a.       He was full of the fear of man – worried of being seen with Jesus – afraid of what people might think!

b.      He was unable to cope with the pressure of his peer group – the Pharisees always stayed on the side-lines, and would mock Jesus

c.       Afraid of death and eternity!


B.     His Curiosity – thank God for curiosity (John 3:2)


1.      Obviously, Nicodemus wanted some real answers


a.       Not the ones he had been told since he was a child

b.      Not the ones that people constantly debated about

c.       BUT the ones that were certain, and true!

d.      Nicodemus was seeking something more! Something that only Jesus seemed to be able to answer


2.      So Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night - Afraid of being found out

3.      But you have to give Nicodemus credit – I pity the person who doesn’t ask ANY questions, or seek right answers – at least he was hungry; seeking; willing to risk some things for the truth!


C.     His Confusion (John 3:3-4)


1.      Nicodemus is used to hours of debate and discussion about opinions and human authorities

2.      So he starts very nicey-nicey, expecting a long drawn out discussion

3.      Boy is HE in for a surprise!

4.      Confused About Jesus - Nicodemus thinks he knows who Jesus is


a.       Thinks He is a Rabbi – a teacher – a smart Bible guy

b.      Thinks He is unusual – not like everybody else – especially compared to all the religious teachers of the day

c.       Thinks He has God WITH Him – BOY is HE wrong – Nicodemus is talking straight to GOD HIMSELF, standing there in front of him, in the flesh!


5.      Confused about Religion


a.       Nicodemus thinks there’s really not that much difference between what he believes and what Jesus was teaching.

b.      Born a Jew

c.       Raised in a very religious environment

d.      Very devout

e.       Surely that was all that was important


6.      Confused about The Second Birth


a.       Jesus gets right to the point (John 3:3) “Nicodemus, You need to be BORN AGAIN!”

b.      Notice the words, “verily, verily” as if to say, “Listen, LISTEN!”


1)      You don’t need to be more religious – already VERY religious

2)      You don’t need to be a better man – already a good man

3)      You don’t need to give away more money, or do more good works

4)      Nicodemus, you need a NEW BIRTH!


c.       Deals with Nicodemus’ heart-need


1)      On the outside, Nicodemus looked healthy, wealthy, and even happy

2)      But on the inside, he was lost – he was lacking the most important thing of all – a new birth

3)      “EVERYONE needs a new birth, Nicodemus!”

4)      “Without it NO ONE will ever SEE God’s kingdom!”


d.      Nicodemus was floored! Gobsmacked


1)      Here was this outstanding gentleman, a wonderful man in the community being told he was not good enough

2)      Did you know, the Bible from start to finish clearly tells us all that NONE of us are good enough to enter into God’s heaven!

3)      That’s why people turn away from this Book! Because it doesn’t compliment them, and “appreciate” all their best efforts!


e.       Confuses the physical with the spiritual (John 3:4)


1)      A second PHYSICAL birth? It is even possible?

2)      But Jesus was speaking of the heart being born again, not of the flesh


D.     His Correction (3:5-17) Jesus clears everything up.


1.      It is a Second Birth - There are two births everyone must experience


a.       One of water – another of the Spirit

b.      One of flesh – the other of God’s Holy Spirit

c.       You and I have been born the first time, you need to be born only once more – born again

d.      The first birth came from your parents – it is external

e.       The second birth comes only from God – it is internal

f.       The first birth gives you temporary life – it will end

g.       The second birth gives you eternal life – it never ends!

h.      Jesus drives it home – “Don’t marvel at what I am saying.  I’ll say it again, you MUST be born again Nicodemus!!!” (3:7)


1)      Notice there is no mention of water BAPTISM, but of BIRTHS!

2)      Notice there is no mention of good works, prayers, being in church, giving money away, etc…

3)      Notice Jesus is just trying to give an old man, NEW LIFE


2.      It is an Invisible Birth (John 3:8) - To make sure Nicodemus is with Him, Jesus explains a little more


a.       Uses the wind for an example

b.      Nobody sees the wind, but we sure can see its effects!

c.       The natural man hears the wind even though he doesn’t know where it came from or where it is going

d.      Only the spiritual man can sense the Holy Spirit of God – it is not something that you sense in a big church building, or in Rome, but rather in your heart! You sure can see its effect!!!


3.      It is a Frustrating Truth (John 3:9)


a.       Now Nicodemus is frustrated. “How come I never knew this before?”

b.      Nicodemus had read books and books about the Bible, and yet had never noticed anything about being born again before? How could that be?!

c.       Nicodemus had been to synagogue all his life and yet had never heard about the need to be born again from God – how could that be?!

d.      Nicodemus was a smart man – how is it that he had missed such an important truth? How could this be?

e.       Multitudes ask the same question still today!

f.       “Jesus, This means the whole of Judaism, and even the whole of the world is wrong if you are RIGHT!”

g.       Talk about frustration! But Jesus isn’t finished!


4.      It is a Bible Truth! (John 3:10)


a.       Christ from here on fits everything together. Fills in the gaps in Nicodemus’ understanding, and urges him to get born again himself. Watch!

b.      Points out that everything is found right in the Bible!

c.       Any master of religion SHOULD know this stuff! It is a shame that 90% of church ministers are only actors, and empty of Bible teaching.


Ezek 36:26,27  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Eze 11:19  And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Deut 30:6  And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (FOREVER)

Psa 51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Jer 31:33  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.


5.      It is an Absolute Truth (John 3:11)


a.        “I and my disciples don’t teach the Bible like you Pharisees. We teach what we know!” The new birth is something We KNOW about!!!


6.      It is THE Priority Truth (John 3:12-17)


a.       Jesus says, “Everything important is at stake Nicodemus!”

b.      If you find it hard to accept what I say even about earthly things, like the wind (there were lots of superstitions about the wind and weather), you will never be able to trust me about heaven!

c.       What I am telling you Nicodemus, is not as a mere man, but as Someone who has come FROM heaven, and yet is still IN heaven as we speak (can you see Nicodemus’ eyes wide open?)

d.      Do you remember Numbers chapter 21?


1)      The whole nation of Israel was dying because of judgment on their sin! 23,000 died that day. But God said to judge the sin, by-way of a bass snake on a pole.

2)      A young man named Phineas was commanded to run throughout the valley where the almost 2 million Jews were camped, crying out “LOOK and LIVE!” Let the judgment be passed from YOU to the serpent – by faith let it be so!

3)      Do you remember that event in your Bible Nicodemus?

4)      Well, that was about ME! The Son of Man being put on a pole, a tree, a cross, and the whole world being commanded to LOOK to ME, and be saved! Let ME take your place!


e.       Oh, it is all by faith – let JESUS do the work! Let HIM pay the price! Let JESUS be the Saviour of your soul! The giver of NEW LIFE!

f.       That’s what makes John 3:16,17 so precious – because they cap-off one of the greatest discussions ever held between two people


1)      The love of God is in Jesus giving His life in your place

2)      The work of God is in Jesus being what you never could be

3)      The will of God is that NO ONE would perish, but live eternally

4)      The call of God is that every person believe on Christ! Repent of their own feeble attempts, and their filthy sins, and trust Jesus to be sufficient for all our sins!


g.       We don’t need to be condemned any more – the whole world lieth in wickedness according to 1 John 5:19

h.      What God wants, and has made provision for, is that the whole world through JESUS alone, could be saved!


E.      His Conversion – Three stages. You would think that Nicodemus would have just surrendered to the truth right then and there – but pride, and peer pressure are hard to break!


1.      First stage – dealt directly with Jesus seeking answers (Jn 3) – not saved yet – just seeking. Just because people go to church doesn’t make them saved!

2.      Second stage – took a step away from the crowd (Jn 7:50,51). Stumbled, and found it hard, but at least opened his mouth, and tested his own faith! Not ready yet to follow Jesus – so not saved!

3.      Third stage – stood with his Saviour when everyone else had fled (Jn 19:38-42). Decision made! NOW he is born again! Didn’t care what anyone else thought or said! It may seem like it was too late, but not when trusting Jesus!!! He was going to get up again, real soon!

4.      Nicodemus had been forever changed. No longer was he a Pharisee, or a Jew, or just a Good man, or a politician – he became known as a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ! Forgiven and forever changed by faith in Jesus alone!


IV.  Conclusion – What About You?


A.     What’s Your Condition? Spiritual condition, not physical, or emotional.

B.     What’s the level of YOUR Curiosity – thank God for curiosity (3:2)

C.     Are YOU still a bit Confused? We are BORN that way!

D.     Have you been Corrected this morning? Jesus clears everything up through this Bible!

E.      Then, Now YOU can be truly Converted – not to a church, or religion, but to faith in the living Lord Jesus Christ!!