• O Lord our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; But through You alone we confess Your name. [Isa 26:13 NASB]. Your face, LORD, do I seek. [Psa 27:8 ESV].

John 2:23-3:3 Professing Faith Is Not Being Born Again

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man. Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [Joh 2:23-3:3 ESV].

In this passage, the Apostle John wrote many believed in Christ when they saw the signs He was doing (v23). However, Christ’s unwillingness to rely upon them indicates they were not truly saved.

For those who claim to believe in God, there is more to being saved than tipping your hat toward God or stating a belief – a mere head knowledge. These people believed and they were not saved.

The Apostle James challenged us to consider even the demons believe and shudder (Jam 2:19). Demons cannot be saved, yet they know without a doubt Jesus is the Son of God. If we cling to knowledge but it bears no fruit in our lives, we are not saved.

John wrote Christ did not rely upon their profession of faith because He knew what was in their hearts (v24-25). In another passage, Christ said he could not accept the praise of man because He knew man.

I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. [Joh 5:41-42 ESV].

Many profess Christ as Savior – but this does not make one saved. God knows our hearts. If we claim to know our hearts, we deceive our selves; for the Bible tells us our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked – and we cannot know what is in it (Jer 17:9).

Many make their profession based upon how they think they feel. They are deceived by their hearts. We are not saved based upon how we feel about God or how we feel about our faith in Him. Our salvation rests upon God alone.

Here are some examples of Christ separating professing believers from true believers:

  • The Jews claimed to serve God. Jesus said they could not believe the truth because they were seeking the praise of man (Joh 5:44).
  • Christ claimed the crowd of believers were following Him because He had given them food. They were not looking to follow Christ; they were looking for physical satisfaction (Joh 6:26).
  • When Christ said He was the Bread of Life, many who believed in Him were having a difficult time accepting what He said. But Jesus knew from the start those who did not believe and who it was who would betray Him (Joh 6:64).
  • When Christ was speaking to His believers about truth, they had a difficult time accepting the truth. In the end, His believers accused Him of having a demon and Christ accused them of serving their father, the devil (Joh 8:31-59).
  • He challenged the Jews saying they search the Scripture thinking in them they will find life. Ironically, they refuse to receive the truth of Christ from the Scriptures (Joh 5:39-40).

He knows what is in man – and He knows what is in you.


Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews (v1) and a teacher (v10); he was a member of the Sanhedrin (7:50). People called him “Rabbi.” He called Christ “Rabbi,” meaning he acknowledged Christ to be a higher authority than he was.

Nicodemus is spoken of three times in the Book of John.

  1. The first time, in this chapter, having a conversation with Jesus;
  2. the second time, he brought up a question of law for those who were plotting Christ’s arrest (Joh 7:50); and
  3. the third time, he was collecting the body of Jesus and preparing it for burial (Joh 19:39).

In other words, He visited with Jesus and later tried to prevent His arrest. Then, after Christ was crucified, he buried His body.

He came to Jesus by night (v2). Here is how we find Nicodemus: he was certain Christ had come from God and wanted confirmation of this but it appears he was afraid his association might become known and cost him his position of authority. So he visited at night.

As the Apostle John later wrote, “Nevertheless, many, even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” [Joh 12:42-43 ESV]. Church history reveals Nicodemus was later active in the new church and vocal about his faith.

Something to think about: Is our quest for Christ pursued in secret, as Nicodemus was at first? or is it open and notorious? We cannot keep our faith secret and believe we are saved.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. [Psa 118:8 ESV].

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? [Joh 5:44 ESV].

Why did he come to meet Jesus?

  1. Was it to ask Him, like the rich young ruler, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” [Mat 19:16 ESV].
  2. Or was he concerned what Jesus did and said when He cleared the temple a few days ago – and how this looked to the others?
  3. Or did he simply want clarification of Christ’s commission from God – did he want to confirm Christ truly was a prophet?

His purpose may have been a combination of all three reasons.

Nicodemus began the conversation – “We know You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

  • “We know…” Meaning he is not alone in this analysis. There were other Pharisees who considered Christ had come from God.
  • “… You are a teacher come from God.” He may have been looking for Christ’s confirmation of this.
  • “… for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” He knew Christ was from God, but did he know Christ was the Messiah?

He commended Christ for having won the favor of himself and many of the Jewish leaders. They believed Christ was a teacher come from God – most likely a prophet. This was the direction he intended the conversation to go.

Jesus’ response to Nicodemus was straight-forward and struck at Nicodemus’ need: He was a religious man but he was not saved. Like Nicodemus there are many in search of religion and learning – and they may be very successful at it but they need salvation. Are you looking for knowledge of God or are you looking for salvation?

Christ prefaced His answer with “Truly, truly” or “Verily, verily.” Meaning “you need to pay close attention to this.” Three times Christ said “Truly, truly” while talking with Nicodemus:

  1. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [v3].
  2. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” [v5].
  3. “Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak of what We know, and bear witness to what We have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.” [v11]


Nicodemus began the conversation by commending Christ but Jesus gave an unexpected response. He said you must be born again.

Being born again is a new birth. In the first chapter of John we read we receive this by the will of God rather than by our own will.

But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [Joh 1:12-13 ESV].

No one has control over their physical birth. So it is with being born again: it is accomplished according to the will of God. The saved are chosen by God. The Apostle Paul wrote God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world and He chose us according to His purposes (Eph 1:4-11). The Psalmist wrote:

Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts. [Psa 65:4].

Jesus said no one comes to Him unless the Father draws him (Joh 6:44). The Apostle Paul wrote we are saved by grace through faith – it is the gift of God and not accomplished by anything we do, lest any man should boast (Eph 2:8-9). In this discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus described the work of the Spirit in bringing a man to salvation.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. [v8 ESV].

What does it mean to be born again?

  • The Apostle Paul wrote if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature – the old is gone; it is replaced by the new (2Co 5:17).
  • He also warned the Galatians we are not saved by following the Law nor does grace mean there are no rules. What confirms we belong to Christ is a new creation or being born again (Gal 6:15).
  • Or, as he put it in Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
  • Being born again is revealed in one’s life by their walking in a new way – following Christ. Yet, we cannot come about this new life by our own efforts. Jesus Christ said this salvation is according to the will and movement of the Spirit of God (v8).


Many believed in Christ when they saw the signs He was doing but they were not saved. There are other Scriptures which speak about people believing in Christ but not being saved. This gives us something to think about. The Apostle Paul warned us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2Co 13:5).

Salvation is not head knowledge nor is it received by attesting to facts. Demons have seen God and they believe but they are not saved.

Jesus said we must be born again.

To be born again is the work of God. We can receive Christ – or not – but it is not accomplished by anything we do.

To be born again means we are a new creation. The fruit of following Christ will be to leave the life of sin and walk in newness of life.

Are you born again? Have you turned away from sin and death? Are you walking in the newness of life?

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