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<ul><li><p>1 </p><p>April 9, 2017 </p><p>ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON </p><p>GODS SAVING LOVE IN CHRIST </p><p>MINISTRY INVOCATION </p><p>O God: We give thanks to You for the manifold blessings to us. You did not </p><p>have to bless us but You did. We shall remain eternally grateful. Amen. </p><p>WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND UNDERSTAND </p><p>We will explore the story of Nicodemus, who learned from Jesus what it </p><p>means to be born again, appreciate how Gods love offers salvation rather </p><p>than condemnation, and seek to live as spiritually reborn people who know </p><p>and respond to Gods love. </p><p>THE APPLIED FULL GOSPEL DISTINCTIVE </p><p>We believe in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost for all believers and that the </p><p>Holy Ghost verifies and validates the Believer as part of the Body of Christ. </p><p>Background Scripture </p><p>Key Verse </p><p>Lesson Scripture John 3:121 (NKJV) </p><p>Christ Witnesses to Nicodemus </p><p>3 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come </p><p>from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. 3 Jesus answered and said to him, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born </p><p>again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a </p><p>second time into his mothers womb and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the </p><p>Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and </p><p>that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be </p><p>born again. 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot </p><p>tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said to him, Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know </p><p>these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what </p><p>We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and </p><p>you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has </p><p>ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is </p></li><li><p>2 </p><p>in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son </p><p>of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal </p><p>life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever </p><p>believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His </p><p>Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is </p><p>condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of </p><p>God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men </p><p>loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing </p><p>evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But </p><p>he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they </p><p>have been done in God. </p><p>COMMENTARY </p><p>3:1 Nicodemus was an important man, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. </p><p>Johns description of him marks him not merely as a community leader but as </p><p>one of the revered seventy, who along with the high priest composed the </p><p>Sanhedrin, the equivalent of the Jewish Supreme Court. As the story </p><p>progresses, it becomes clear to the reader that this leader of the Jews actually </p><p>serves as a first-class example of why Jesus did not believe in human </p><p>believing. </p><p>3:2 Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Although seasonal and day/night </p><p>designations can properly be understood as time notations in this Gospel, they </p><p>usually are more importantly also symbolic representations of the spiritual </p><p>temperature of the people in the story. Light and darkness are conceived as </p><p>opposing principles (1:45) with darkness in John illustrating the negative </p><p>aspects such as the realm of Satan, error, evil, doubt, and unbelief. Some </p><p>interpreters might suggest that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to prevent </p><p>detection or alternatively that (as an intense rabbi) he studied late into the </p><p>night, but most commentators are agreed that the reference to night is a picture </p><p>of a man who was in an uneasy state of unbelief or doubt. </p><p>Nicodemuss initiation of the conversation with Jesus reminds us of a perfect </p><p>example of Nicodemuss ironical misunderstanding of Jesus. Nicodemus, </p><p>representing his learned group, began by addressing Jesus with the polite title </p><p>Rabbi. In so doing, he graciously acknowledged Jesus as his equal, even </p><p>though Jesus would be popularly recognized by council members as one of the </p><p>ignorant, the working people of the land. Since Jesus had to work with his </p><p>hands (a carpenter), He was expected to be unable to spend His time in the </p></li><li><p>3 </p><p>minute study of the law and in the traditions of the elders. He was, therefore, </p><p>not expected to know theology. The irony of John is evidenced, when </p><p>Nicodemus in his evaluation concerning Jesus said, We know. By the time </p><p>Nicodemus had finished with Jesus, however, it was his ignorance rather than </p><p>Jesus that was clearly evident. </p><p>To be fair to Nicodemus, we should note that he was in some ways quite </p><p>accurate because, as he said, no one would be able to do the signs Jesus was </p><p>doing if God were not with him. Signs were pointers to reality, and one of </p><p>the important themes of this Gospel is the recurring call of Jesus for people to </p><p>recognize the witness being given in the signs. Thus, Nicodemuss mere </p><p>reliance on signs at this stage became an excellent example of the type of </p><p>believing that is not really sufficient. Jesus understood the nature of genuine </p><p>believing and knowing, and he recognized a faade or pseudo knowledge </p><p>when he encountered it. Nicodemus did not realize what he was saying about </p><p>knowing! </p><p>The fact that the plural for signs is once again used together with the fact </p><p>that there is a close connection with the earlier temple have led a number of </p><p>scholars in suggesting that this is a displaced story from the last week of Jesus </p><p>ministry. </p><p>3:3 Jesus response to Nicodemus is a play on ability; namely, unless one is </p><p>born from above, such a person is not able to see the kingdom of God. Jesus </p><p>response begins with that familiar Johannine double amn (lit., truly, truly). </p><p>It is a clear signal of an important affirmation by Jesus. The phrase kingdom </p><p>of God is used only here and at verse 5 in the entire Johannine Gospel. </p><p>Normally John did not use kingdom terminology because he seems to have </p><p>preferred eternal life terminology. The use of kingdom at this point reminds </p><p>the reader that John was not unfamiliar with the fact that Jesus employed such </p><p>vocabulary in trying to explain the dynamic relationship humans can have </p><p>with God. </p><p>The story, however, is intriguing because it suggests a misunderstanding on </p><p>the part of Nicodemus. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He meant that this </p><p>Pharisee should experience birth from God or birth from above. </p><p>3:4 When Nicodemus heard Jesus assertion that he should have a birth </p><p>experience, however, his imagination apparently went into high gear, and he </p><p>interpreted Jesus birth statement as born again. A birth other than that like </p></li><li><p>4 </p><p>his natural birth seems to have been beyond the thinking of Nicodemus. Birth </p><p>for him apparently was limited to physical birth. </p><p>Yet the concept of birth from above was hardly one that would have been </p><p>readily discussed by Jews like Nicodemus. His questioning and puzzlement at </p><p>the possibility of being born when one is old or of the reentry into a mothers </p><p>womb (3:4) are quite understandable for one unfamiliar with the regeneration </p><p>terminology of the New Testament age. </p><p>3:58 Jesus responded to Nicodemuss twofold frustrated question by </p><p>providing a more precise statement concerning this birth. He began once again </p><p>with a double amn statement. Then he identified this birth from above as a </p><p>birth of water and Spirit. These two words also should not be bifurcated as in </p><p>some inadequate folk interpretations of the text where water is equated with </p><p>the water of natural birth (either that of the sack in which the baby floats or </p><p>the male fluid of the sex act). Water appears with Spirit conjunctively in 3:5, </p><p>and flesh is contrasted with Spirit disjunctively in 3:6. Accordingly, water and </p><p>flesh should not be equated. In this Johannine context, the combination of </p><p>water and Spirit represents birth from above, a picture of life that involves a </p><p>direct contrast to Nicodemuss perspective on life as involving physical </p><p>existence. As indicated earlier, the linkage between water and Spirit would </p><p>have been familiar to the Jews since both are related to the theme of life. For a </p><p>people like the Jews, who lived on the edge of the desert, water was an </p><p>indispensable requirement of life and even Christians viewed heaven as </p><p>having a life-endued stream flowing from the throne of God. Concerning the </p><p>life-giving Spirit, one only needs to be reminded that the breath of God </p><p>brought life to Adam), and the Spirit/wind/breath of God brought life to dry </p><p>bones. </p><p>3:910 Nicodemuss final question to Jesus reveals that he was stuck in an </p><p>intellectual and philosophical quagmire of the flesh (earthly realities) and that </p><p>his earlier lack of comprehension seems to have deteriorated into helpless </p><p>doubt. Jesus reply in 3:10 is an excellent example of Johannine patterns of </p><p>reversal. Nicodemus, as leader and teacher, 3:10) of the Jews, had come to Jesus </p><p>as a seeking knower. By the time Jesus asked his first question of </p><p>Nicodemus (a man who was filled with questions), it became clear that </p><p>Nicodemus was a confused nonknower. The irony in the exchange is that </p><p>Nicodemus, the earthly teacher, was shown to be a poor learner of the message </p><p>of Jesus, the teacher sent from God. Nicodemus was in fact one who did not </p><p>know) the core subject matter of his vocation as a Pharisee. </p></li><li><p>5 </p><p>With the present question, Nicodemus ceases to be important to the evangelist, </p><p>and the focus of attention shifts to Jesus and His personal witness. </p><p>3:1112 The overall motif of this section deals with the purpose of Jesus </p><p>coming and with the importance of receiving or of believing in Him. It is </p><p>brought into focus by referring to speaking and witnessing, couplets that are </p><p>based on knowing and seeing.. The statement obviously is intended to be a </p><p>solemn assertion about the nature of bearing witness and the fact that </p><p>adequate testimony is rooted in personal experience. </p><p>The preceding conversation is pictured as one that took place only between </p><p>Jesus and Nicodemus. </p><p>3:13 The next three verses provide an answer to Nicodemuss perplexity and </p><p>doubt and expands the Christological significance of the Gospel. The descent </p><p>of the Son of Man (3:13), however, is not like the mythological journeys of the </p><p>ancient Hellenistic heroes or the mythological formulations of the Gnostics. </p><p>The text is rooted in an affirmation that the heavenly realities (3:12) are being </p><p>opened to humanity because the divine Son of Man descended into history! </p><p>The descent picks up the theme of a preexistent Son of Man in those earlier </p><p>Jewish texts, but the descent and ascent of the Son of Man in John is clearly </p><p>unlike anything in Jewish or Hellenistic literature. This descent of Jesus, the </p><p>Son of Man, involved Jesus becoming human (flesh,), an idea totally </p><p>rejected by the later Gnostics and, although hinted, actually missed by Jewish </p><p>interpreters. Indeed, it was hardly understood by Jesus own disciplesuntil </p><p>after the resurrection! </p><p>This combination of ascent and descent is part of the great Christological </p><p>formulation concerning Jesus, whom John knew had come to earth from </p><p>heaven, lived, died, was raised, and is once again with God in heaven. To </p><p>understand about heavenly realities therefore, the God-given means is </p><p>through no one but the one who has descended from heaven (3:13). For John, </p><p>with his post-resurrection perspective, the Christian gospel was the only way </p><p>to salvation because Jesus alone descended and has ascended to heaven. He </p><p>knew the whole incarnational story when he started writing. </p><p>3:1415 With the fact of the descent and ascent of Jesus clearly in mind, John </p><p>employed another illustrative saying to emphasize his point concerning the </p><p>death of Jesus. The sign or pole on which Moses placed the bronze snake </p></li><li><p>6 </p><p>served as a symbol of life to the dying, snake-bitten Israelites of the exodus. </p><p>That symbol has been employed here to illustrate the lifting up of Jesus on the </p><p>cross as Gods way of providing eternal life to all who believe. </p><p>The expression eternal life occurs only once and is linked with the concept </p><p>of resurrection and is most clearly represented in the later thought </p><p>development of the Pharisees. In John the expression probably is best </p><p>translated eternal life, stressing the qualitative feature of life as over against </p><p>mere physical endless life or everlasting life. Such a rendering, however, is not </p><p>meant to exclude the idea of life without end because it is also said that those </p><p>who eat the bread of life will live forever. The point of the Johannine </p><p>illustration is the lifting up of the Son of Man and the power of God in </p><p>giving life to the believer. Beyond that, Jesus was operating according to a </p><p>divine imperative. He was under necessity to be crucified. The life and </p><p>death of Jesus was a model of the meaning of obedience, and the Father later </p><p>pointedly affirmed the Sons obedience in the voice from heaven. </p><p>Of course, Jesus is alive and has experienced an ascent to heaven. This </p><p>evangelist took the death of Jesus seriously because it was in the death of the </p><p>Son that God revealed most clearly the loving purpose of the divinely initiated </p><p>work of salvation. Verse 16 serves as a statement of fact involving the agency </p><p>(the Son) God used to bring salvation to the world. Verse 17 expands on Gods </p><p>intention and clearly identifies Gods Purpose in sending the son. Verse 18 </p><p>provides a pointed reality statement concerning the present nature of </p><p>judgment, a reality no reader should fail to understand. When the three verses </p><p>are allowed together, the reader begins to grasp the full meaning of the coming </p><p>of Jesus and the message of salvation expounded. </p><p>Christian salvation has been very costly because it cost God his Son. </p><p>Therefore, one does not truly enter the process of salvation unless one </p><p>recognizes the incalculable cost and accepts the implications of that cost in </p><p>ones life. The lifted up one is Gods gift that must be received by authentic </p><p>believing. To come to Jesus like Nicodemus with a superficial view of who </p><p>Jesus is will not result in salvation but will lead to confusion and frustration. </p><p>John 3:16 can be read from different theological perspe...</p></li></ul>


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