Nicodemus and the 3-3 Principle :: by Gene Lawley

It was beyond his imagination. How totally ridiculous to even think of it— being born-again? How can a man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again? Jesus had laid it on him without hesitation, as Nicodemus came secretly at night, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That was recorded in John 3:3, thus we have the 3-3 Principle coming into focus here.

There is a way of looking at it more than just a Scripture verse reference. When God created Adam, He breathed into him the breath of life and Adam became a living soul or being (Genesis 2:7). That soul was living because it had the life of God in it, that eternal life from God. He created a garden with all kinds of trees that were pleasant to see and good for food. In the midst of the garden was the tree of life and also, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9).

He put the man in the garden to tend it and  keep it, and told him, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

But after He had created a help-mate for Adam, she fell prey to the tempting of God’s advisory, Satan, and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and enticed her husband to eat of it also, and they were aware of their nakedness and made coverings of fig leaves for themselves. (Genesis 3:1-7).

There is no statement made that they died that day; they did not fall to the ground dead, but one thing they were aware of and that was that they did not want to encounter God in that place. But He sought them out and made clothing for them with the skins of animals to cover their nakedness or sinfulness, the first blood sacrifice made to cover the sins of mankind.

So what actually died at that moment? The spiritual life God had breathed into their bodies and their bodies carried that physical death to their graves. For Adam it was 930 years (Genesis 5:5). Romans 5:14 tells us that death reigned over all men, even though they did not actually commit the same transgression that Adam had done.

In other words, all mankind after Adam were “born dead.”  Paul echoes that when he writes, in Ephesians 2:1, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,” giving us a forward look at how it can be when the 3-3 Principle is in place.

Nicodemus was totally encased in the leaven or doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, as Jesus explained later to His disciples in Matthew 16. It was the doctrine of the efforts of “flesh and blood,” doing the works of the law, not the belief of faith. Knowing Jesus for who He really was had to be revealed by God, for Peter was not able to know that on his own ability: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you [His identity], but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

In Luke 5:36-39, Jesus explains why the new birth is a “must,” as well as why man has a hard time of accepting that principle:

“No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”

(To the unsaved person, works, not faith, makes more sense for it is impossible for him to comprehend the concept of faith, just as it was with Nicodemus. Spiritual death abounds within them.)

Actually this was not a new idea that popped up when Jesus came on the scene, for Ezekiel wrote of this as a future event (Ezekiel 36:26-27) and it was confirmed by what happened at Pentecost:

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

But when Jesus came with this message to His own Hebrew people, unlike a few like Nicodemus, they did not accept Him and this new concept:

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him, but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).

No one can rely on being born of Christian parents or in America (of blood), or by being baptized and joining a church (of the will of the flesh), or by being confirmed by a priest or pastor (of the will of man), but only of God. It is a one-on-one connection with Him; god has no grandchildren.

Jesus further explained to Nicodemus what He meant and why:

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:6-7)

The 3-3 Principle comes together like this:

An unsaved person is a spiritually dead person living in a dying body, destined for an eternity in outer darkness where “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). In a spiritual sense, only one-third of the person is here, the body, and that only temporarily.  When he accepts Christ and is born again, three things happen

1.      He is redeemed from spiritual death, the eternal dying of the soul;

2.      The Spirit of God indwells his body, joining his spirit: “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17);

3.      His body is redeemed in the promise of its resurrection: “…In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

Also Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

There you have three thirds, a completeness that Paul describes this way:

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:9-10).

Perhaps this was what Paul had in mind, the total completeness of the redeemed person, as he was moved to write the following by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (the 3-3 Principle):

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

You must be born again!

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