20 minutes | Nov 22nd 2019

045 – Baptism in John 3

Jesus and Nicodemus by Crijn Hendricksz, Circa 1640 The Pro-Baptism proponents often point to a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus as one of their favorite proof texts supporting the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation. I have to admit, I have not been completely comfortable with this conclusion, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why until now. After carefully researching this issue for this podcast, I am now confident this passage is not about baptism. By the end of this podcast, I suspect even the most ardent supporter of this view will change their mind too. Here are a couple of thoughts, just to whet your appetite. First of all, the conversation happens long before Christian baptism ever exists and second, Jesus’ commands are directed specifically to Nicodemus. Let’s see if we can dissect the details and uncover the truth. Nicodemus Meets Jesus John 3:1-12 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is Born Again.’” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be Born Again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony I have spoken to you about earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? Who is Nicodemus? Nicodemus is a Pharisee. He is a religious leader for the Jewish people. We are first introduced to him here, in John 3. Later we meet him again in John 7, where he defends Jesus before some furious Pharisees. Next, we meet him again when he and Joseph of Arimathaea recover the body of Jesus from the cross and bury him in Joseph’s tomb. It is probably safe to say; most people believe Nicodemus is a pretty decent guy. He always seems to be trying to do the right thing. In John 3, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at “night.” There is a lot of discussion about why Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Was this a top secret mission? Was Nicodemus uncomfortable? Did he want to avoid detection and do, whatever he was trying to do, without anyone seeing him? No one knows for sure but if we drop all the cloak and dagger, we might get another perspective, more consistent with his character. The Bible says it was night. This means it was the end of the day. Nicodemus probably just got off work! He doesn't come to Jesus in any official capacity. He’s not hiding from his co-workers down at the temple and he’s not on some secret mission. He’s just a curious man with a passion for truth! Work is finished, he’s on his way home, he just drops in… no big deal. There is no indication of him watching over his shoulder, no hushed tones… in fact, he begins his visit with a sort of comfortable and kind recognition of Jesus’ ministry. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Those are friendly, kind words! Those are not the words of a cranky, critical, Pharisee! The Pharisees were, after all,
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