St. John 3:1-17
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the third chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Nick at Night
Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. He’s a ruler of the Pharisees, a teacher of the Jews. He knows his bible. He lives by the Law of Moses and the tradition of the elders. He’s been waiting for the consolation of Israel, the promised Messiah, the One whom Moses and the Prophets have written about. And Nicodemus has seen what Jesus can do. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God were with Him.” He knows because of the signs he’s seen.
And for Nicodemus it’s all about the signs. The signs show us by what authority Jesus says and does these things. The signs convince the doubters. The signs attract the seekers. The signs move the hearts of the people. The signs, the signs, the signs, everything about Nicodemus’ spirituality hinges on the signs because the signs He does display power. And whether he admits it or not Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night because he is drawn by Jesus’ power.
Coming to Jesus Nicodemus is confronted with his spiritual depravity. And so are we. For in this “nick at night” moment, we are given a glimpse of our Old Adam’s inability to do anything towards God and the saving of our souls. Jesus answers Nicodemus, and He answers us, when He says, “truly, truly I say to you that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” For the real question in every man’s heart, the real issue in our text, is how does one get to heaven? How does a person enter the kingdom of God? How am I saved?
Will Power: Rationalizing the Word
Nicodemus, like all of us, does not expect the answer he’s given. Unless one is born again – he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven? Born again? “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time his mother’s womb and be born?” Nicodemus doesn’t get it. Even people today don’t get it, because the issue isn’t really about being born again nor is about what Jesus really meant regarding the water and the Spirit. The real issue here is that there is no work for you to be done. There is no role for you to play. And Old Adam always wants a part to play. “what must we do to be saved?” cried the crowd on Pentecost Sunday. Nicodemus wants something to do and he wants to be rewarded for it. Look at me Jesus, look how I live my life for God. Look how I fast twice a week. Behold how I pray every day. See how I love you and sing to you praise and adoration. Look at me. Look at my works
The same is true in our day, and in the lives of so many Christians. There must be something for me to do for God. I must do my part. He sent His Son, now I must have faith. I must believe. And my faith, my believing must be an act of my will. After all, we all have free will, don’t we? Well, is that what Jesus says? Is that what the bible says?
Old Adam always wants to exert himself into the equation. We all want to have some part to play in our salvation. We all want to think that our believing is our part. But the bible teaches us differently. When Jesus says that Nicodemus needs to be born again, what He’s really saying is the Nicodemus is not alive right now. Nicodemus is dead and needs to be made alive – spiritually. He needs to be regenerated – not by him mom, but by the Holy Spirit. If Nicodemus is dead then so is his will. This is what scripture teaches about us before baptism and conversion. St. Paul, teaches, “You were dead in your sins and trespasses.” Before faith in Christ we are dead, dead to God and dead to one another.
And dead means dead,
not mostly dead,
not a little bit of dead,
not the sort of dead that can decide to be alive
not the sort of dead that can choose to believe
not even the sort of dead that can _______________________
but dead dead, dead and not able to live, move, or have any sort of being toward or with God. That means our will is dead. And dead will is not a free will it is a bound will, a will bound to death and a slave to sin. For what can a dead person do? Nothing good. Nothing living. A dead person can only do dead things. This is true of Nicodemus. This is true of you. This is true of adults and this is true of children. We all conceived in sin and born already dead to God and our neighbor. The first birth is of the flesh and will not save us. We need a second birth a birth of Water and the Spirit. Everyone needs a second birth. Everyone needs baptism. It’s not optional. “Unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. “
The Promises of God
This is a terrible stumbling block for many. Maybe even you. This is why some churches don’t baptize children. How can a child have faith? This is why some churches re-baptize adults? It’s not baptism if it happened before the age of accountability. Everything is rationalized according to Old Adam’s understanding of himself and of God. For old Adam is not bound to the promises of God. Old Adam is bound to himself. Old Adam cannot love as God loves. He cannot think as God thinks. And He cannot will as God wills. Old Adam, our sinful nature is always opposed to the Word and promises of God.
Jesus, however, binds us to His Word in our text this morning. Being born again, born from above, born anew, born of water and the Spirit is not an option and leaves no room for me to add anything. Everything hinges on the promises of God and what He works through Holy Baptism. For the promises are many and undeniable. Through the water and the Word our God
- Pours the Holy Spirit upon us – says Romans chapter 5
- renews and regenerates us – says Titus chapter 3
- washes away sins as recorded in Acts 22
- Unites us to Christ’s death and resurrection – as it says in Romans 6
- Clothes us with Christ’s righteousness – Galatians 3
- Saves us through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and pledges a good conscience towards God as it says in 1 Peter 3
- All of this is for all Nations – Matthew 28:19-20
- And “all nations” includes you and “all nations” includes babies! For the promise is for you and your children! Acts 2:38-39.
To say otherwise is to explain away the clear word of Scripture and to exalt your own understandings of God and faith and salvation over and above the wisdom of God as clearly and plainly revealed in His written Word.
Holy Baptism is full of these promises because Holy Baptism is full of Christ; His perfect life and His innocent death, His triumphant resurrection and His glorious ascension to the Father’s right hand. Baptism is full of these gifts for you not because of you. In Baptism God does the work for you, on you, and in you. Therefore you can be sure that what Christ promises here in our text gives what He says. No need to do it again, even if the person baptized came as a hypocrite looking for fire insurance but determined to continue in his or her sin. Baptism is still baptism because of what Christ says and what Christ does, not because of what you do or who you are. Thus there is only 1 baptism for the Christian, and there ought never be re-baptism. To re-baptize is to say something wasn’t right the first time. It is unbelieving of the promises of God and an attempt to make it better by your own actions or sincerity.
The Power of the Word
New birth of water and the Spirit is a gift God gives to you and your children. Gifts of God cannot be made better by adding more water or using a certain kind of water. Nor can baptism be made invalid because of less water, or how that water is applied. And baptism is not undone by hypocritical intentions – it’s blessings may be rejected but baptism itself is not undone. Baptism is what Scripture says it is. You are called to believe it. Christians are bound to the Word of Christ. Christ teaches the necessity of rebirth through water and the Spirit.
Nicodemus came to Jesus because of the signs he saw Jesus doing. He was drawn by what he saw, not by what he heard. What Nicodemus saw did not create faith. Seeing is not believing. Faith comes from hearing and hearing the message of Christ and him crucified. There’s nothing great and grand about pouring, splashing, sprinkling or even immersing a person in the water. But this gift isn’t about the water. It isn’t about the will of man or what Nicodemus brings to Jesus or what you bring to Jesus. This text is about how one enters the kingdom of heaven, how one is saved. This gift of Water and the Spirit gives salvation because of the power of the Word. Baptismal water is holy water because of God’s Word joined with that water. God’s Word makes the Water holy and God’s Word makes the baptized holy, thus God’s Word has made you holy. For “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Everything in our text hinges on Jesus and His Word for you.
Live in the Light
Beloved in the Lord, this Holy Word which fills up the heart with Christ Himself brings you out of the darkness and into His Marvelous light. You were dead in your sins and trespasses. You were bound to death and a slave to sin. You were no body, no people. But now, washed in the Word you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1Pe 2:9-10 ESV) And as God’s chosen, royal, holy people you are called to walk in the light as He is in the Light. No more living in the darkness. No more hiding in the shadows. No more fearing the gloom of night. You have been awakened, enlightened and made new. Your newness is to be lived for His glory and for the good of your neighbor. You are not your own for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body as you serve your neighbor with love and good works not to save yourself and not to preserve your salvation, but to show the love of Christ to those who don’t know it, don’t believe it and don’t have it. That on the last day all may sing, to God alone be Glory! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!