Can't there be other ways to God than through Jesus? - Not even for Nicodemus

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 30, 2014 2 comments

Coming up at the end of this weekend, we have the most popular sporting event of the year in our country. I’m of course talking about the Super Bowl. Some gather to watch it just because it’s a reason to party. Others watch the game to see the newest and most clever commercials. Many more watch it because they actually like football. Right now, millions of people are making plans for the game and are hearing and learning new information about the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. Many who haven’t watched a single game all season will watch the Super Bowl and be able to talk about the game, the halftime show, and the commercials the next day at work.

I don’t know if it will happen this year or not, but I can remember when I was younger seeing at least one person at the Super Bowl every year that had a sign saying “John 3:16” on it. It would be accurate to say that John 3:16 is kind of like the “Super Bowl of Scripture”. There’s a good chance you could quote your favorite translation of it right now and many who know nothing else about the Bible know at least a little bit of this verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). The problem is that many who know the verse don’t know the context of it. I’ve said before that the books in the Bible were originally written without chapters and verses, so they weren’t meant to be read out of context. In this case, the words were spoken by Jesus himself and they were spoken directly to ONE man.

The story in John 3 deals with Nicodemus, who was “a member of the Jewish ruling council” (v. 1). The commentary in my Expositor’s Study Bible states that Nicodemus was said to have been one of the three richest men in Jerusalem. He comes to Jesus, calls him “teacher” only because he doesn’t understand that he is God in the flesh, and tells him that they know he has come from God based on the miracles he has done (v. 2). Jesus responds, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (v. 3). He was telling Nicodemus that regardless of his religion, he couldn’t even begin to understand anything about God without being born of the Holy Spirit (vv. 5-8). Throughout their conversation, Nicodemus continues to try to understand it intellectually. But Jesus makes it clear that being born again by the Holy Spirit is not something you simply “figure out”. It’s something you experience without understanding in the same way you experience wind without knowing its direction (v. 8).

The story continues with Jesus referencing an event from Numbers 21:4-9, where God commanded Moses to make a statue of a snake and put it on a pole so that those who had been bitten by poisonous snakes could look up at it and be saved. It was their ONLY hope for salvation in Israel. In the same way, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he will be “lifted up”, referencing the crucifixion, so that “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). With that, the stage is set for the “Super Bowl” of Scripture verses. Jesus again declares that it is only through him that people are saved from their eternal death. The NIV says “one and only Son” and other translations say “only begotten Son”. I was taught since I was very young how amazing it is that God would give up his only son for me and it was likened to other parents who only have one child. However, this completely undersells what God did for you and me. The Greek word for that phrase actually means “only and UNIQUE” (The Greek New Testament [caps mine]). Do you see the difference between what we think when we first read the words and what the original language says? This wasn’t a big deal because it was God’s only son. It was a big deal because Jesus Christ is the ONLY and UNIQUE one of his kind there ever was or ever will be! No one else came from God, no one else was the perfect sacrifice, and no one else was God in the flesh.

Jesus is the only way to God because he is the only one who COULD be. Others claimed to be the Messiah in early centuries before and after Jesus. There were even some who were ascribed the title unwillingly by their peers. John the Baptist was one such person. He was a prophet whose sole purpose was to be a forerunner for Jesus and to prepare the way for him (Matthew 3:2-3). He had disciples who falsely believed he was the Messiah even when he told them he was not. Later in John 3, he testifies again as to who he is and who Jesus is. He completes his testimony to his disciples by echoing the words of Jesus to Nicodemus. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (v. 36).

The disciples of John the Baptist gave up their lifestyle and followed him in the desert as he prepared the way for Jesus, yet only faith in Jesus as the one who took God’s entire wrath which they deserved could save them. Nicodemus was a rich and religious man who knew the Scriptures that we refer to today as the Old Testament. But only a spiritual rebirth that came through faith in Jesus as not just teacher, but also God in the flesh who came to die for his sins, could save him. So it is for you and me. Regardless of what advantages or disadvantages we’ve had in our lives, our need for Jesus levels the playing field. There is no other way to life with God except through him.

2 comments:

Mike Terrian said...

Sometimes I wonder what Jesus did that we even need to look for another way. I find it intriguing that we do all we can do push Jesus out.

Logan said...

Mike,

Thanks for reading the blog and sharing the thoughts God has given you. You're absolutely right! The trick of sin is that it makes us think that what we have isn't good enough. It started with Adam and Eve, who had everything they needed in their relationship with God. He walked and talked with them and they didn't even need clothes! But when the serpent led them to believe that having the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3) would be better than whatever they had with God and obeying him, they sinned and were destined to die. We have everything we need in Jesus. However, the devil tempts us to believe that we need more and are not truly satisfied in Jesus, or that his sacrifice isn't good enough and we somehow must EARN our way to heaven with good religion. Either way, it's a lie. In Jesus, we have peace, joy, hope, love, forgiveness, and security that we simply cannot find through anyONE or anyTHING else. But as Jesus told Nicodemus, we can't logically comprehend this until after we have been born again.