It’s scary easy to know your Bible, live an exemplary life, be impressed with Jesus…
…and still fall short of what the Bible calls “faith.”
Just ask Nicodemus.
In this excerpt from Mark E. Moore’s new release Faithful Faith: Reclaiming Faith from Culture and Tradition, we meet someone who…
- Knows the Bible well
- Lives an exemplary life
- Admires Jesus
- Believes that Jesus is a miracle worker
- Acknowledges that Jesus is from God
- Calls Jesus “Rabbi”
…Yet Nicodemus falls short of faith.
Here’s the excerpt from Faithful Faith:
John 3 records a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, likely because he was a ruler of the Jews and was ruled by his desire to make a good impression (John 3:1). He couldn’t be seen with certain types of people.
In short, Nicodemus wasn’t ready for his public persona to be associated with Jesus.
At the time of their meeting, Nicodemus did not have faith in Jesus; he had affinity for him. This affinity could have been driven by political motivations, but he could have just as well been sincerely seeking whether or not Jesus was the Messiah.
The conversation began with an important statement by Nicodemus. He implicitly acknowledged that Jesus was sent by God and that God was with him (John 3:2). He even called Jesus “Rabbi,” which means teacher. Some see this as a statement of faith, but it was far from complete. Nicodemus didn’t quite elevate Jesus as others had. He called him “Rabbi” but not Lamb of God, Messiah, Son of God, or Savior of the world. Nicodemus was testing the water, not diving in. His words were closer to political banter than to a passionate belief.
In the following verses, it was the inward changes in Nicodemus, not his PR image, that Jesus addressed. He told Nicodemus that he had to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Nicodemus’s response was literal: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4, ESV).
This intellectual and literal response says much about his view of Jesus. His belief was like that of many Christians today: a mere intellectual assent. His heart was not open to spiritual teachings. As Jesus pointed out, if Nicodemus was unable or unwilling to understand earthly teachings about the kingdom of God, he certainly wouldn’t be able to understand heavenly teaching (John 3:11).
The only record of Nicodemus’s response indicates his incredulity. Although he acknowledged intellectually that Jesus was from God, he was not willing to follow him fully.
Nicodemus is only mentioned two more times in the Bible. The first is when he stood up for the rule of law during a debate among the Pharisees about the arrest of Jesus (John 7:50–51). The last is when he came by night—again—to help a secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, bury Jesus (John 19:39–42). Nicodemus’s brief appearance in Scripture portrays him as an ally of Jesus, but not as a true follower.
…It’s easy to look very Christian and yet to fall short of the very requirement placed on us to be saved: faith.
Since we are saved by grace through faith, then wouldn’t it be a good idea to be clear on what biblical faith is?
If you’d like to understand what faith actually is—as distinguished from its popular stereotypes in culture and tradition—we encourage you to check out Mark E. Moore’s short but powerful book on the subject.
Check out this free preview of Mark Moore’s Faithful Faith: Reclaiming Faith from Culture and Tradition:
Download free preview HERE.