Man’s Heart / God’s Heart
John chapter three is a very familiar passage of scripture. In this famous chapter we find Jesus in discussion with the Pharisee Nicodemus. The term born again is introduced by Jesus here. Even though this maybe a very familiar chapter to you, it’s worth spending sometime here mining for truth.
The second chapter of John provides an important backdrop for Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus. Let’s look specifically at the last three verses in chapter two.
John 2: 23 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (NKJV)
To be honest, when I read these three verses my initial reaction was “Huh? I don’t get it.”
Here is a fine example of why we want to look up keywords in the original language. Both the words “believed” and “commit” are the exact same greek word pisteuō (πιστεύω). According to Logos Bible software, the word pisteuō has the range of meaning believe; trust; put faith in.
I think verse twenty three is telling us that the people believed in Jesus, meaning they believed He was from God. Our natural inclination is to assume this means they were exercising saving faith unto salvation. This is an unfounded conclusion, not backed by textual evidence. The following verse sheds additional light.
Because we understand the words “believed” in verse twenty three and “commit” in verse 24 to be the same word, we can understand verse twenty four this way. “They believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in them”. At least one translation accurately renders it, “Jesus…did not entrust himself to them…” (ESV)
The first thing Nicodemus said to Jesus seems to support this conclusion.
Look at John 3:1-2.
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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.” (NKJV)
Nicodemus not does say he believes Jesus is the Son of God. He says “…no one can do these signs that You do unless God in with him.” This might be the same thing Nicodemus would say to any prophet doing miracles. It’s obvious these are superhuman things you are doing – you must be sent by God.
You’ll notice Nicodemus started the conversation with a statement, not a question. The Pharisees were constantly arguing with Jesus. They tried to expose Him as a law breaker and a fraud. Being a Pharisee, maybe Nicodemus wanted to make sure Jesus knew he wasn’t that kind of Pharisee. Maybe he wanted Jesus to know that he actually believed Jesus to be sent by God. This is a great start to the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus, but Jesus would not allow the encounter to stay shallow. As we see Jesus do so many times, He lovingly and patiently leads Nicodemus step by step into deeper truth.
John 2:25 told us Jesus knew what was in the heart of man. Even though Nicodemus at this point did not yet believe in Jesus as the son of God – as his saviour, Jesus knew what was in his heart. Jesus knew He could lead Nicodemus to saving faith. He tells Nicodemus the prerequisite for entry into the kingdom. Namely, you must be born of water, which means you must be born a human.
If you’ve been born a human, then you can be born again by believing in the only begotten Son of God.
Not only does Jesus know what is in the heart of man, He also knows what is in the heart of God. He explained it to Nicodemus in John 3:16-18.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NKJV)
God’s love for mankind was so intense that He Gave His son, His only son. That’s what was, and remains to be God’s heart toward mankind. If God would have withheld His Son, mankind would have been doomed to perish. Because God lovingly gave His son, mankind has everlasting life available. All we must do is believe.
So the next time an unbeliever asks you “how could a loving God send anyone to hell?”, you can confidently tell them He doesn’t. God provided salvation for all mankind. If someone goes to hell instead of Heaven, it’s because they’ve rejected God and chose hell.