•  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
How the steps of the grace of God to sinners ascend continually from one point to another. All must, however, come from God, and all that is from Him will return to Him; so that if His goodness prevents a soul, that soul inquires diligently (perhaps for its own satisfaction and because of its own needs) of the thoughts of God towards it; but will surely end in apprehending to its joy and perfect sense of security, that God's glory was engaged in saving them that believe.
This, with the head doctrines of our faith, is beautifully set forth in the history of Nicodemus. The first introduction to his knowledge of the divine dealing in grace is in the well-known history of the third chapter of John's gospel. He came to Jesus by night. He yet feared to be seen consulting the Savior. The same knowledge that Nicodemus had, brought none of the rest of the rulers to Jesus. They knew, with him, that He must be come from God, but their part was taken to do without God and follow their own ambitious thoughts.
How safely the soul follows when. God leads as He led Nicodemus! His conscience had become aware of the defects of that with which he was daily conversant amidst his fellow-rulers, and Christ presented Himself to his soul as having a true claim on him from God, as a teacher at least.
We find mention of him twice afterward. The first time pleading for common Jewish rights to the sent one of God; and he is reproved as being His client. This was a great step, though not out of the circle of that which was to be soon " the dry tree " of Judaism. It was feeling towards the Lord that prompted it, and so the council knew; and any right given to Jesus, under these circumstances, would have been to have received Him. So will any right given to the world by the saint be an acknowledgment of it. How gracious is the revealing the steps of Nicodemus's convictions. It is most interesting to consider that the Lord did not dismiss him without discovering to him the key of all blessing in the words, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." It easily suggests itself that John the Baptist and the Lord having preached the kingdom, that Nicodemus would readily have transferred his allegiance to Jesus, but was met by Him, as we read in John 3 with the words, "Thou must be born again." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit; marvel not that I said unto you, you must be born again." Out of the flesh nothing of the Spirit could come.
The flesh was sin; Christ became sin for us in the flesh, though without sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, and a new creature manifested. Jesus was not an angel, but such as I am, (but without- sin,) that He might be the Savior of such as I am. All are so to be saved. " And we are to be saved even as they," (that is, as the Gentiles) says Peter, i.e. by faith. For SUCH WAS CHRIST, that faith in Him, the given one of God, was the begetting (by the word. of truth) unto a new existence in the new and second Adam-the old existence and all its trespasses, and the manner of their having been counted, being put away forever in Christ.
The sweet current of life, the source of action, the words that proceed therefrom, and such a difference in everything, is established in passing over to Jesus, that the world could not recognize the source, and the aims, and ends, of the thoughts of the believer become the disciple of Jesus, born of the Spirit. No: man in the spirit and ordinary path of the world knows not whence such an one cometh, nor whither he goeth-how should he? Blessed whither! and blessed point of starting where all the springs of a divine call and life are in God. This was all needful for the earthly obedience to Christ, how much more to an apprehension of "heavenly things," and it!, communion and obedience according as it is given. One door indeed is to both in the lifting up of the serpent.
The convictions of Nicodemus, as to the person of the Messiah, had been steadily increasing, and the word thus given in divine wisdom prevented the crucifixion being the grave of his hopes, as it was to so many; and we find him now bold in circumstances of shame, and giving his service at the burial of Jesus, and bringing an hundred weight of myrrh and aloes to embalm the body of Jesus. What a blessed education he had been undergoing, how ready now to be introduced to the "heavenly" things, which things were before withheld because he could not apprehend what was needful even to earthly blessing, under God, which are in a renewed heart, in faith and the Holy Ghost. He that came down from heaven alone could reveal the heavenly things. The Lord expressed to Nicodemus the expectation that through the Scriptures he would have known what was needful to what he sought, and his conscience being dissatisfied with the unrighteous dealing of Jewish rule and piety, he came to hear from Jesus of the kingdom He preached; but no conformity to the establishment of an outward and visible order of things would secure that accordance with the thoughts of God that belonged to it. He had to learn that the death and the resurrection of a Savior, (and that Savior the Son of God) must come in as a new source of life to give entrance to it.