The Descent from the Cross, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Source: Olga’s Gallery
What is the Gospel? This may seem a stupid question since the Gospel has been around for 2000 years, but if ever the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was in need of clarification, it is today.
What the Gospel Is Not
It is not the ‘prosperity gospel’ preached by many of today’s so-called TV evangelists. The misuse of this media is an embarrassment to Christianity.
It is not the ‘power of positive thinking gospel’ preached by the most successful ‘TV evangelist’ in the USA.
It is not the ‘say this prayer after me gospel’ preached by easy fix preachers, who are only interested in counting decisions and adding to the Church membership roll.
It is not the ‘works gospel’ preached by those who control their flock by insisting church attendance and good works are sufficient for salvation.
It is not the ‘social gospel’ advocated by liberal preachers, who have substituted the Gospel of Salvation for a message of social reform. Having an insatiable appetite to champion worthy or minority causes at the expense of the spiritual needs of mankind.
It is not the ‘politically correct gospel’ preached by compromising preachers with ear tickling sermons, which are inoffensive and totally ineffective.
It is not the ‘there is no need to be born again gospel’ taught by those who believe Jesus spoke metaphorically when He told Nicodemus he must be born again.
Can you imagine the Apostles preaching any of the aforementioned ‘gospels’?
What Is the Gospel?
1Co 1:23 KJV But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
The Gospel is the good news of the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his finished work of Salvation.
A Quote from the Summarised Bible
1 Corinthians 1:23 ‘The plain preaching of a crucified Jesus is more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy of an unbelieving world. All the boasted science of the world cannot do for souls what ‘Christ crucified’ does. All one needs, or can desire, they may have in Him (1Co 1:30-31). He is made wisdom to the foolish, righteousness to the guilty, sanctification to the corrupt, and redemption to those who are in bonds.’
Rom 5:8 KJV But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
‘Man’ not only sins; ‘man’ is a sinner! Therefore, ‘man’ needs the Saviour only God could provide.
Eph 2:8 KJV For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
If sinners could be reconciled to God by any of the false gospels mentioned above, then Christ need not have died on the Cross.
Nicodemus Was an Example of the Transforming Power of the Gospel
The lifechanging experience of Nicodemus may enlighten and encourage those seeking to know the Lord.
Nicodemus and his Discourse with Jesus by Night
Joh 3:1-2 KJV There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Why did Nicodemus meet ‘Jesus by night’? Perhaps because crowds constantly thronged Jesus by day and Nicodemus being a member of the Sanhedrin was also occupied at that time. It was common practice for Jewish teachers to study together in the evening.
In my opinion, Nicodemus was afraid to be seen publicly in conversation with Jesus. It is interesting John mentioned Nicodemus three times in his Gospel and on each occasion he described him as the one who came to ‘Jesus by night’, thereby implying secrecy. As a religious leader, he may have feared his reputation would be diminished if found in the company of the Galilean, he would also have suffered ridicule and retribution from the Pharisees. Even today ridicule can be off-putting for those seeking to know more about Jesus. What family, friends, and associates might think, has been an obstacle for many.
Joh 3:3-7 KJV Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into 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 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Although Nicodemus was a religious leader, he did not realise his need to be spiritually reborn; in fact, he could not comprehend the concept. Jesus explained by being born again he would enter the spiritual Kingdom of God and understand spiritual matters his natural mind could not assimilate.
Joh 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Jesus compared a natural phenomenon to a spiritual. The wind is incomprehensible, yet acceptable to the natural mind because of its effect. Likewise the spiritual birth is extraordinary, but conceivable only to those born again.
A Quote from Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
John 3:8 ‘Where it listeth – Where it wills or pleases. So is every one … – Everyone that is born of the Spirit is, in some respects, like the effects of the wind. You see it not, you cannot discern its laws, but you see its effects, and you know therefore that it does exist and operate. Nicodemus objection was, that he could not see this change, or perceive how it could be. Jesus tells him that he should not reject a doctrine merely because he could not understand it. Neither could the wind be seen, but its effects were well known, and no one doubted the existence or the power of the agent. Compare Ecc 11:5.’
The Born Again Nicodemus
Nicodemus and Evidence of Transformation
Joh 1:11-13 KJV He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John began his Gospel by explaining that although Christ was rejected by the Jews, many received and believed in Him and were born of God, (prior to the Day of Pentecost).
Nicodemus and his Defence of Jesus
Joh 7:50-52 KJV Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
A Quote from the Popular New Testament
John 7:50-52 ‘Nicodemus has so far overcome his fear that he defends Jesus against the glaring injustice of his fellow-rulers, undeterred by the expression of their scorn just uttered. He appeals to the law, all knowledge of which they have proudly arrogated to themselves, and shows that of this very law they are themselves transgressors.’
Nicodemus displayed evidence of his conversion by being unashamed of his Lord when he defended Him before the Sanhedrin… Romans 9:33
Nicodemus and the Descent of Jesus from the Cross
Joh 19:39-40 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea attended to Jesus at His descent from the Cross. Joseph provided the tomb, while Nicodemus the myrrh and aloes.
Ironically, both were members of the Sanhedrin; nevertheless, they were instrumental in fulfilling Messianic prophecy:
John 19:39 KJV And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Hebrews 1:8-9 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
Isaiah 53:9 KJV And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Matthew 27:57-60 KJV When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
So What Must I Do to Become a Christian?
We need to understand that our sin separates us from fellowship with God, however, He loved us so much He gave His Son to be a sacrifice for our sin.
The crucial part of God’s great plan of redemption was that Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross for us.
If we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent (turn from our sin); He will restore us to our Heavenly Father.
By asking the Lord’s forgiveness, and repenting of our sin, the Holy Spirit resurrects and baptises us spiritually into the body of Christ. Consequently, we become a child of God. Jesus gives us the assurance we are reconciled and by faith He will lead and always be with us.
Nicodemus was never the same again. What about you?
Joh 20:31 YLT and these have been written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in his name.’
Considering Nicodemus was mentioned only three times in the New Testament, the outcome of his conversation with Jesus has played an essential role in the preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Unbelievers often ridicule Christians because they fail to understand that faith in Christ is not mental transcendence but spiritual transformation.
What do you think?