“There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?'” (John 3:1-4, NLT).
It has been said that perception is reality. In fact, this view could be the mantra of the post-modern era.
The well-known account of the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus is a story of how people often accept their own flawed perceptions and misconceptions as reality.
In this story that is unique to John’s gospel, Jesus gives us a specific description of how God inaugurates His Kingdom in the personal lives of its subjects–in other words, how people get saved.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council. Jesus spoke to Nicodemus as one who had an understanding of spiritual matters and posed a divine proposition about entrance into God’s Kingdom: “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (vs 3).
When Jesus told Nicodemus about the reality of the new birth that is required to encounter God’s Kingdom, He used an adverb with two possible nuances—born “again” or born “from above.” The first meaning seems to be what was understood by Nicodemus while Jesus meant the second.
Nicodemus was seemingly puzzled by the reference to a second birth and made what he probably knew was a ridiculous interpretation of Jesus’ proposition.
While sin and death begin their work in the mortal bodies of all human beings probably from the day we are born, Jesus says that the people of God are constituted by supernatural birth. When we experience birth from above–new birth–the Spirit of God imputes immortal life to our mortal bodies.
And when the Spirit of God dwells in us, then God promises to resurrect our physical bodies to eternal life in the same way that Jesus was raised from the dead.
So, the work of the Holy Spirit is to appropriate spiritual life to God’s people—to birth human beings into spiritual beings, thereby admitting them into God’s Kingdom: “The Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life” (vs. 6).
While the work of Jesus, God’s Son, is to save people from sin and death, the work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus as the way into God’s Kingdom and then initiate concurring people into it.
When the Holy Spirit makes Jesus real to us, then we find our real selves in Him.
- Celestial Citizenship – Philippians 1:27 (stevesbiblemeditations.com)