become preoccupied with the legal rules of the Torah. The New Geneva Study Bible
reads: “By means of their interpretations of the law……….. [the Pharisees] altered
many of the biblical requirements. This practice in effect lowered the standards of
God’s holiness and helped foster the illusion that people could please God by their
A. Nicodemus approached Jesus by night and began the conversation with references
to Jesus’ teachings. Jesus immediately moves away from that to the statement,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a person is born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God.”
1. Nicodemus mentioned religious teachings, and that’s fine; but Jesus went in the
direction of something deeper: salvation, regeneration, and then actions done
due to that new birth by the Holy Ghost.
B. Luther: “But I am not telling you of new articles, laws or works, for those the Law
enjoins are already more than you can do and keep. But I teach that you must
become altogether different persons. My teaching is not concerning what you must
do or not do, but concerning what you must become. It aims not at the performance
of new works, but first at being born anew; not at a different life, but at a different
birth. It will not do to put the end before the beginning, or alongside of it; to expect
fruit before or as soon as there is a root. The tree must first be made new and there
must be a good and proper root, if the fruits and works are to be good. It is not the
hand and foot or their actions that must be changed, but the person, that is, the
entire man. If this has not taken place, works are of no value and of no avail
whatever and a person cannot see the kingdom of God; in other words, he must
remain under the condemnation of sin and everlasting death.”
1. Luther is telling us that salvation isn’t just about being rescued, it’s about being
transformed. It isn’t about simply trying to be better in the sense of making a
new year’s resolution, it’s about becoming a “new creature in Christ” as Paul
describes it at 2 Corinthians 5:17. This God offers the human being in the
finished work of Christ.
2. Alexander MacClaren: And so when a man comes with his poor little ‘Thou art a
Teacher,’ no words are wanted in order to set in glaring light the utter
inadequacy of such a conception as that. What the world wants is not a Teacher,
it is a Life-giver. What men want is not to be told the truth; they know it already.
What they want is not to be told their duty; they know that too. What they want
is some power that shall turn them clean round. And what each of us wants
before we can see the Lord is that, if it may be, something shall lay hold of us,
and utterly change our natures, and express from our hearts the black drop that
lies there tainting everything. Now, this necessity is met in Jesus Christ.
VI. Beza once said when speaking about a new translation of the Bible in the
Reformation age: “Let them rather enjoy so great a benefit, which God hath
bestowed upon them, being so necessary for the restoring of the Christian religion.”
A. Luther’s work helped to bring about the United States, how fortunate we are.
B. However, as Beza said, God restored the true Gospel in Europe, and used Martin
Luther as a major instrument.