We read in the eleventh chapter of Mark’s Gospel about the Triumphal Entry of the Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As He wound his way down the slope of the Mount of Olives, people worshiped Him and spread their coats and palm branches along his path as a symbol of honor. They cried out, “Hosanna!” In the Hebrew language of the first century, hosanna means “save now!” But what did salvation mean to them. And, what type of salvation did Jesus bring?
Many of the people in the crowd that morning had witnessed multiple miracles that Jesus had performed. They believe He had come to save them from the tyranny of Roman rule. For six hundred years the Jewish people had languished under pagan rulers and deeply desired to be able to rule themselves. Many of their heroes were Israel’s great kings of the past, especially David and Solomon. Since Jesus obviously had so much divine power, perhaps He would throw off the heavy yoke of Roman bondage, remove Rome’s governor and legions, and re-establish Israel’s kingdom.
However, that is not what Jesus had come to do. His purpose was not a political salvation or deliverance. He saw Israel in a very different way. He saw them as spiritually blind and helpless. They were bound by sin and were altogether unrighteous. He came to rescue them, but there was more. He came to save them and to give them everlasting life. He came to save not only Israel, but also those who would come to Him by faith. Today we will look at three vital components of the great salvation offered by Jesus Christ: conviction, regeneration, and faith.
SALVATION REQUIRES CONVICTION. John 16:8-11
The Holy Spirit Will Convict the World. Convict means to show someone his or her sin and summon them to repentance before God. John must have had some interest in courtrooms and legal proceedings. In this case, he casts the Holy Spirit as the prosecuting attorney who will attempt to bring about an under-standing of the real guilt and sin caused by the unbeliever’s offence against a holy God. The charge is sin, the verdict is eternal guilt, and the punishment is eternal death. Thus, the Holy Spirit and the Gospel message are designed to bring conviction into the life of an unbeliever about the awful reality of their sin against God and their need for salvation in Jesus Christ.
He Will Convict the World Concerning Sin. Sin is rebellion against God and this rebellion reached its peak in the crucifixion of Jesus. Today the greatest sin is the failure to believe in Jesus. Most people refuse to admit their guilt of sin. Consequently, the Holy Spirit must work in their hearts and minds to convince and convict people of their desperate dilemma. The most repulsive example of the world’s sinfulness was about to be displayed on a cosmic stage. Sinful men would take the pure and righteous Son of God and murder Him on a cross.
He Will Convict the World Concerning Righteousness. In crucifying Jesus, the Jewish people showed that they thought He was unrighteous–only a wicked person would be hanged on a tree and thus be under God’s curse. But, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus vindicated Jesus as God’s righteous Servant. The Spirit convicts women and men of their faulty views of Jesus when the Gospel with its stress on the resurrection is proclaimed. In addition, not only does the Holy Spirit convict men and women of their sin, but also the absolute necessity of having the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to them. Going to the Father is the supreme evidence of His perfect righteousness. Those who heed the Spirit’s testimony about their total sinfulness and Christ’s perfect righteousness and respond to the Gospel in genuine faith are instantly clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
He Will Convict the World Concerning Judgment. The death and resurrection of Jesus were a condemnation of Satan. By His death, Jesus defeated the devil who held the power of death. People in rebellion should take note of Satan’s defeat and fear the Lord who alone holds the power to judge. As the fact of coming judgment is proclaimed, the Spirit convicts people and prepares them for salvation. In His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus proved to the world that it was wrong in its thinking about sin and righteousness and judgment, condemning the world of its sin of unbelief and of its unrighteousness in rejecting the Messiah and Lord, and about the judgment resulting from this rejection.
SALVATION REQUIRES REGENERATION. John 3:1-8
Nicodemus, the Ruler of the Jews. He was a Pharisee. He was a ruler of the Jews. This made him a high ranking member of a very religious group. They read and believed the Old Testament. Since he was a ruler, he must have faithfully followed all the teachings regarding being a religious Jew. He chose to interview Jesus at night. Nicodemus knew about Jesus, in fact, Nicodemus called Him Rabbi. He had evidently witnessed some of the miracles Jesus had performed and had come to the conclusion that Jesus had come from God. His understanding of Jesus was inadequate because he only saw Jesus as a great teacher, not as Savior, or as God incarnate. And, he only believed that God was with Him, not that He was God Himself.
Nicodemus’ Religion Was Not Enough! Nicodemus had the same problem that plagues all humanity–he was a sinner. Being a sinner meant that he was spiritually dead and was incapable of creating spiritual life himself. The Bible tells us that all people are spiritually dead in their sins and trespasses. And, it declares that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Nicodemus, just like everyone else, could not save himself. Jesus explained that Nicodemus needed to be born again. Being born again is the radical spiritual change in which God brings an individual from a condition of spiritual defeat and death to a renewed condition of holiness and life.
The Need for Regeneration. The great need for an experience of regeneration is apparent from the sinful condition of human beings, "dead in trespasses and sins". Left to themselves, human beings will corrupt God's revelation of Himself and turn to gross forms of disobedience (Romans 1:18-32). God, however, demands holiness as a condition for having fellowship with Himself (Hebrews 12:14). Human beings therefore must have a radical change in the very character of their personality. God promises such a change in the experience of regeneration.
A Closer Look At Regeneration. Being born again by the Holy Spirit involves a counteracting of the effects of sin. Regeneration is instantaneous, not a process, but a single action. Scripture never characterizes re-generation as incomplete. It is not sanctification. However, regeneration does begin the process of spiritual and moral growth that continues throughout the believer’s lifetime. Regeneration is a spiritual occurrence and it cannot be appropriated, directed or enhanced by human effort. Regeneration is accomplished in the believer solely by God through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration depends entirely on the sovereign action of God.
Regeneration is the beginning of the process of transformation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The person who was “dead” in sins is made alive. Regeneration in the believer is essentially the same as God creating Adam. (Genesis 2:7) When God breathed into Adam’s lifeless body, he became a living being. Regeneration is a restoration of a person’s spiritual life. God causes a lifeless sinner to come alive. By requiring a new birth, Jesus is here declaring that the human race as having lost that divine life in Adam’s fall and needed a second impartation of divine life through the new birth.
Flesh and Spirit. (verse 6) This statement declares regeneration is not something that can occur in the natural realm. We are corrupted by a sinful nature and are completely incapable of bringing about our own regeneration. Regeneration is fully and completely an action of the Holy Spirit with absolutely no human effort at all. The divine imperative stated: (verse 7) This is a divine absolute imperative. Regeneration is an absolute necessity for any person and is entirely universal. It applies to every man and woman from the moment of mankind’s fall into sinfulness. It was completely necessary for Nicodemus even though he was a very religious person and wise widely acclaimed in his generation as an example of faithfulness. Every person must be confronted with the question, “Are you born again.”
God’s Sovereignty Controls Regeneration. (verse 8) Regeneration cannot be controlled by people any more that we can successfully control the wind. Only God controls the instantaneous action of spiritual regeneration.
SALVATION REQUIRES FAITH. John 3:14-18
The Purpose of the Cross. The narrative of Moses and the lifted serpent comes from Numbers 21:9. As often happened during their wilderness wanderings, the people of Israel begin to complain. In order to discipline the nation for their lack of faith and disobedience, God sent snakes into the camp. A snake bit each Israelite. Each bite was fatal. In the midst of this crisis, the people called out to God. At this point, God commanded Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole for the people to see. Those who trusted God and obeyed Him looked at the bronze snake and were healed. Those who lacked faith or who chose to disobey died.
The word “as” indicates Jesus is using a simile. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent, Jesus would be lifted up. This is the first reference in John’s Gospel to the cross. The cross is God’s provision of grace that enables and empowers regeneration. People cannot regenerate themselves because they are deeply stained with a sin nature. The requirements of God’s justice were met by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. By receiving Christ, the sin problem is removed enabling God to spiritually transform the sinner, granting him or her, by grace, the status of saint and empowering them to be eternally in God’s family. Therefore, regeneration is absolutely mandatory for a soul to go to heaven. Regeneration is enabled by the cross of Christ. Once again, we find God has done all that is necessary for people to be born again.
Whoever Believes Has Eternal Life. Faith is the key that opens the gate to eternal life. But, notice that it is not just a blind, existential faith; a leap in the dark. True, saving faith is faith that is directed at Jesus Christ. We must believe He is God, and always has been and always will be. We must believe in His death, burial, and supernatural resurrection. Eternal life is exactly what it sounds like. People who are (or were) alive on this earth are, by God’s grace through faith, given life that will continue on through the eternity to come. That means eternal living without and concern about death. Jesus is here offering eternal life to anyone who will believe.
God So Loved the World. God is the Initiator of salvation. God began the plan of salvation long ago. He is the center and the purpose of the Gospel. People like to think of salvation as a man-centered message. We believe it is all about us and that we are in the center. This verse states that we are not in the center of salvation at all, that it is the Lord who is the center. Rather than being man-centered, the gospel is God-centered.
God So Loved. God’s motivation toward lost mankind is love. It was, in fact, God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ on the cross who suffered for sins in order to bring His beloved creation back to Himself. The cross is God’s work. Jesus Christ came to earth to express God’s mind.
The World. The offer of salvation and eternal life is unlimited and global. There are no boundaries to God’s loving offer of His Son.
That He Gave His Only Begotten Son. God expressed His love by sending His most precious gift–His One and Only Son. Salvation is exclusively through God’s One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.
That Whoever Believes. The access to God’s love, redemption and regeneration is by faith. God’s love is unlimited–it is available to every person. We are justified by faith and by faith alone. Our side in this wonderful gift is simply to believe. A person is saved by believing, not by earning. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. “Believe” is much more than a mental assertion to historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth. The word means a complete conviction about the Son of God as revealed in the Bible. It is a devotion of the entire life to Jesus as Master and Lord.
Will Not Perish. Perish, which means spiritual and eternal death, is a reality. This shows that while the offer of salvation is universal and available all people, the possession of salvation is limited to the people who believe. This verse does not teach universal salvation. Those who refuse to believe perish, which is seen as the opposite of eternal life. “Perish” does not mean annihilation, but a final destiny of ruin in hell apart from God, who is life, truth and joy.
But Have Everlasting Life. The gift of God’s Son and the sinner’s faith in Him results in the bestowing of eternal life. Something the sinner did not possess becomes his or hers by God’s gracious act in Jesus Christ. Eternal life is a quality of life, which a believer has now as a present possession and will possess forever.
Saved Through Jesus Christ. There are two choices that lead to two distinct destinies. Choice One: Believe and be saved. Christ’s first coming was to offer salvation to those who would believe. He is the Judge of all people, but His judgment comes at His second coming. Jesus uses the word “saved.” Being saved is equivalent to being “born-again,” and having eternal life.
Choice Two: Do nothing and come under judgment. Not coming under the judgment of God for our sinfulness requires faith. If there is not commitment to Christ or conviction about His Lordship, only judgment remains. Jesus came into a world that was already lost and under condemnation for sins. He did not come to a world that was of neutral spiritual status in order to save some and condemn other. The world was already lost and condemned; He came to save some out of that lost condition. Each sinner stands condemned because of his or her sin nature. If he or she does nothing, they will remain forever in that state of condemnation. People are born in need of a Savior because they are born in sin. Rejecting Christ’s offer of salvation compounds his or her guilt by not believing in Jesus Christ. According to verse 14, the means of God’s offer of salvation is believing in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. People who reject that offer are already in a sinful condition and therefore under God’s judgment.
Reading these verses leaves us with several obvious questions: Am I born again? Has the conviction the Holy Spirit brings been in evidence in my life? Have I truly trusted and believed only in the Lord Jesus Christ for my salvation? Have you been saved? Jesus is waiting for you right now to receive Him as your Savior. Will you call upon Him?
Updated 4/16/2018 by Pastor Vernon Welkner