ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON GOD S SAVING ?· ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON GOD’S SAVING LOVE IN CHRIST…
Post on 05-Jun-2018
April 9, 2017
ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
GODS SAVING LOVE IN CHRIST
O God: We give thanks to You for the manifold blessings to us. You did not
have to bless us but You did. We shall remain eternally grateful. Amen.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND UNDERSTAND
We will explore the story of Nicodemus, who learned from Jesus what it
means to be born again, appreciate how Gods love offers salvation rather
than condemnation, and seek to live as spiritually reborn people who know
and respond to Gods love.
THE APPLIED FULL GOSPEL DISTINCTIVE
We believe in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost for all believers and that the
Holy Ghost verifies and validates the Believer as part of the Body of Christ.
Lesson Scripture John 3:121 (NKJV)
Christ Witnesses to Nicodemus
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
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
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
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
Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and
that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be
born again. 8 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. 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
these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what
We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and
you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has
ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is
in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son
of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal
life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His
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
condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of
God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men
loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing
evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But
he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they
have been done in God.
3:1 Nicodemus was an important man, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews.
Johns description of him marks him not merely as a community leader but as
one of the revered seventy, who along with the high priest composed the
Sanhedrin, the equivalent of the Jewish Supreme Court. As the story
progresses, it becomes clear to the reader that this leader of the Jews actually
serves as a first-class example of why Jesus did not believe in human
3:2 Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Although seasonal and day/night
designations can properly be understood as time notations in this Gospel, they
usually are more importantly also symbolic representations of the spiritual
temperature of the people in the story. Light and darkness are conceived as
opposing principles (1:45) with darkness in John illustrating the negative
aspects such as the realm of Satan, error, evil, doubt, and unbelief. Some
interpreters might suggest that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to prevent
detection or alternatively that (as an intense rabbi) he studied late into the
night, but most commentators are agreed that the reference to night is a picture
of a man who was in an uneasy state of unbelief or doubt.
Nicodemuss initiation of the conversation with Jesus reminds us of a perfect
example of Nicodemuss ironical misunderstanding of Jesus. Nicodemus,
representing his learned group, began by addressing Jesus with the polite title
Rabbi. In so doing, he graciously acknowledged Jesus as his equal, even
though Jesus would be popularly recognized by council members as one of the
ignorant, the working people of the land. Since Jesus had to work with his
hands (a carpenter), He was expected to be unable to spend His time in the
minute study of the law and in the traditions of the elders. He was, therefore,
not expected to know theology. The irony of John is evidenced, when
Nicodemus in his evaluation concerning Jesus said, We know. By the time
Nicodemus had finished with Jesus, however, it was his ignorance rather than
Jesus that was clearly evident.
To be fair to Nicodemus, we should note that he was in some ways quite
accurate because, as he said, no one would be able to do the signs Jesus was
doing if God were not with him. Signs were pointers to reality, and one of
the important themes of this Gospel is the recurring call of Jesus for people to
recognize the witness being given in the signs. Thus, Nicodemuss mere
reliance on signs at this stage became an excellent example of the type of
believing that is not really sufficient. Jesus understood the nature of genuine
believing and knowing, and he recognized a faade or pseudo knowledge
when he encountered it. Nicodemus did not realize what he was saying about
The fact that the plural for signs is once again used together with the fact
that there is a close connection with the earlier temple have led a number of
scholars in suggesting that this is a displaced story from the last week of Jesus
3:3 Jesus response to Nicodemus is a play on ability; namely, unless one is
born from above, such a person is not able to see the kingdom of God. Jesus
response begins with that familiar Johannine double amn (lit., truly, truly).
It is a clear signal of an important affirmation by Jesus. The phrase kingdom
of God is used only here and at verse 5 in the entire Johannine Gospel.
Normally John did not use kingdom terminology because he seems to have
preferred eternal life terminology. The use of kingdom at this point reminds
the reader that John was not unfamiliar with the fact that Jesus employed such
vocabulary in trying to explain the dynamic relationship humans can have
The story, however, is intriguing because it suggests a misunderstanding on
the part of Nicodemus. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He meant that this
Pharisee should experience birth from God or birth from above.
3:4 When Nicodemus heard Jesus assertion that he should have a birth
experience, however, his imagination apparently went into high gear, and he
interpreted Jesus birth statement as born again. A birth other than that like
his natural birth seems to have been beyond the thinking of Nicodemus. Birth
for him apparently was limited to physical birth.
Yet the concept of birth from above was hardly one that would have been
readily discussed by Jews like Nicodemus. His questioning and puzzlement at
the possibility of being born when one is old or of the reentry into a mothers
womb (3:4) are quite understandable for one unfamiliar with the regeneration
terminology of the New Testament age.
3:58 Jesus responded to Nicodemuss twofold frustrated question by
providing a more precise statement concerning this birth. He began once again
with a double amn statement. Then he identified this birth from above as a
birth of water and Spirit. These two words also should not be bifurcated as in
some inadequate folk interpretations of the text where water is equated with
the water of natural birth (either that of the sack in which the baby floats or
the male fluid of the sex act). Water appears with Spirit conjunctively in 3:5,
and flesh is contrasted with Spirit disjunctively in 3:6. Accordingly, water and
flesh should not be equated. In this Johannine context, the combination of
water and Spirit represents birth from above, a picture of life that involves a
direct contrast to Nicodemuss perspective on life as involving physical
existence. As indicated earlier, the linkage between water and Spirit would
have been familiar to the Jews since both are related to the theme of life. For a
people like the Jews, who lived on the edge of the desert, water was an
indispensable requirement of life and even Christians viewed heaven as
having a life-endued stream flowing from the throne of God. Concerning the
life-giving Spirit, one only needs to be reminded that the breath of God
brought life to Adam), and the Spirit/wind/breath of God brought life to dry
3:910 Nicodemuss final question to Jesus reveals that he was stuck in an
intellectual and philosophical quagmire of the flesh (earthly realities) and that
his earlier lack of comprehension seems to have deteriorated into helpless
doubt. Jesus reply in 3:10 is an excellent example of Johannine patterns of
reversal. Nicodemus, as leader and teacher, 3:10) of the Jews, had come to Jesus
as a seeking knower. By the time Jesus asked his first question of
Nicodemus (a man who was filled with questions), it became clear that
Nicodemus was a confused nonknower. The irony in the exchange is that
Nicodemus, the earthly teacher, was shown to be a poor learner of the message
of Jesus, the teacher sent from God. Nicodemus was in fact one who did not
know) the core subject matter of his vocation as a Pharisee.
With the present question, Nicodemus ceases to be important to the evangelist,
and the focus of attention shifts to Jesus and His personal witness.
3:1112 The overall motif of this section deals with the purpose of Jesus
coming and with the importance of receiving or of believing in Him. It is
brought into focus by referring to speaking and witnessing, couplets that are
based on knowing and seeing.. The statement obviously is intended to be a
solemn assertion about the nature of bearing witness and the fact that
adequate testimony is rooted in personal experience.
The preceding conversation is pictured as one that took place only between
Jesus and Nicodemus.
3:13 The next three verses provide an answer to Nicodemuss perplexity and
doubt and expands the Christological significance of the Gospel. The descent
of the Son of Man (3:13), however, is not like the mythological journeys of the
ancient Hellenistic heroes or the mythological formulations of the Gnostics.
The text is rooted in an affirmation that the heavenly realities (3:12) are being
opened to humanity because the divine Son of Man descended into history!
The descent picks up the theme of a preexistent Son of Man in those earlier
Jewish texts, but the descent and ascent of the Son of Man in John is clearly
unlike anything in Jewish or Hellenistic literature. This descent of Jesus, the
Son of Man, involved Jesus becoming human (flesh,), an idea totally
rejected by the later Gnostics and, although hinted, actually missed by Jewish
interpreters. Indeed, it was hardly understood by Jesus own disciplesuntil
after the resurrection!
This combination of ascent and descent is part of the great Christological
formulation concerning Jesus, whom John knew had come to earth from
heaven, lived, died, was raised, and is once again with God in heaven. To
understand about heavenly realities therefore, the God-given means is
through no one but the one who has descended from heaven (3:13). For John,
with his post-resurrection perspective, the Christian gospel was the only way
to salvation because Jesus alone descended and has ascended to heaven. He
knew the whole incarnational story when he started writing.
3:1415 With the fact of the descent and ascent of Jesus clearly in mind, John
employed another illustrative saying to emphasize his point concerning the
death of Jesus. The sign or pole on which Moses placed the bronze snake
served as a symbol of life to the dying, snake-bitten Israelites of the exodus.
That symbol has been employed here to illustrate the lifting up of Jesus on the
cross as Gods way of providing eternal life to all who believe.
The expression eternal life occurs only once and is linked with the concept
of resurrection and is most clearly represented in the later thought
development of the Pharisees. In John the expression probably is best
translated eternal life, stressing the qualitative feature of life as over against
mere physical endless life or everlasting life. Such a rendering, however, is not
meant to exclude the idea of life without end because it is also said that those
who eat the bread of life will live forever. The point of the Johannine
illustration is the lifting up of the Son of Man and the power of God in
giving life to the believer. Beyond that, Jesus was operating according to a
divine imperative. He was under necessity to be crucified. The life and
death of Jesus was a model of the meaning of obedience, and the Father later
pointedly affirmed the Sons obedience in the voice from heaven.
Of course, Jesus is alive and has experienced an ascent to heaven. This
evangelist took the death of Jesus seriously because it was in the death of the
Son that God revealed most clearly the loving purpose of the divinely initiated
work of salvation. Verse 16 serves as a statement of fact involving the agency
(the Son) God used to bring salvation to the world. Verse 17 expands on Gods
intention and clearly identifies Gods Purpose in sending the son. Verse 18
provides a pointed reality statement concerning the present nature of
judgment, a reality no reader should fail to understand. When the three verses
are allowed together, the reader begins to grasp the full meaning of the coming
of Jesus and the message of salvation expounded.
Christian salvation has been very costly because it cost God his Son.
Therefore, one does not truly enter the process of salvation unless one
recognizes the incalculable cost and accepts the implications of that cost in
ones life. The lifted up one is Gods gift that must be received by authentic
believing. To come to Jesus like Nicodemus with a superficial view of who
Jesus is will not result in salvation but will lead to confusion and frustration.
John 3:16 can be read from different theological perspectives and has been a
source of different doctrinal positions. The full perspective is that God is the
initiator and principal actor in salvation, and we should never think that
salvation originated with us. God, however, has given humanity a sense of
freedom and requires us to make a choice. Accordingly, people are responsible
for their believing. It is unproductive theological speculation, therefore, to
minimize either the role of God or of humanity in the salvation process. Gods
purpose in sending his only Son was not to destroy the world or humanity.
God is not angry and self-centered. God is a caring God. Loving-kindness is a
principal characteristic of the God of the covenant. In the New Testament,
Gods purpose in sending Jesus was not to condemn but to build the bridge in
reconciling sacrifice for human beings. Gods goal always has been the
salvation or wholeness of the world. The sin problem is a human one that
since the beginning of time has been repeated continuously.
Gods plan has been to reverse the human problemnamely, to provide the
means by which humanity might be saved. Undoubtedly, Gods desire is that
all might be saved but because of human freedom or choice (whosoever,
3:16), all of humanity does not respond in believing acceptance of the Son. As
a result, the rejection of Gods love brings judgment or condemnation.
Although many people think primarily of this Gospel in terms of the bright
side of love, it has a dark side that is perhaps more threatening to the
unbeliever than almost any other document in the New Testament. To
overlook the dark side in John is to miss the full message of the Gospel. Gods
judging is a negative theme that also is foundational to this Gospel and is
obvious in these verses.
What makes human choice so crucial in this Gospel is the immediate nature of
judgment/condemnation. Condemnation is not left to some remote future that
might lull the unbeliever into a comfortable feeling that for a while one can sit
on the fence of un-commitment. John makes it clear that condemnation has
already taken place for the unbelievers. The idea is not one of a possible
projected condemnation for the unbeliever but the necessity of escaping an
already existing condemnation.
The authentic believer thus begins to deal immediately with future realities
such as the threat of ultimate death and condemnation. Therefore, the believer
does not need to fear the death threat because the believers expectation is a
resurrection to life. But the unbeliever, who in the present time is under
condemnation (3:17), has in the future, only the prospect of a resurrection to
condemnation (5:29). When dealing with condemnation, the Gospel is
genuinely consistent. Condemnation is a present reality that will be clearly
evidenced in the future resurrection. The only way to overcome that
condemnation is to believe in Gods Son and thereby experience the present
reality of the kingdom of God (3:3, 5), that reality called eternal life (3:16).
3:1921 Darkness, hating, and doing evil together are set against light, living
by the truth, and the works done through God. The close connection between
doing and beingnamely, between practicing good or evil works and the
nature of a personis an important theological concept in John because
believing is not merely a matter of mental affirmation but of life commitment.
The world hated Jesus and continues to do so not merely because of some
intellectual reason but because the deeds of world-oriented people are evil.
RELATED DISCUSSION TOPICS
My God: I am grateful to have found You and kept You in the forefront of my
being. Bless us continually with Your grace and mercy. They represent
bountiful blessings for all of us. Amen.