The Powerlessness of Man in Salvation

The Powerlessness of Man in Salvation

The Powerlessness of Man in Salvation
Text: John 3:1-10

As we step into John 3, we’re moving into a passage that where John is intent on showing us the reality of John 1:13. There is perhaps no greater explanation of the sovereign work of God in salvation than right here.

As Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Pet 1:3

Now don’t miss the connection with what we dealt with last week. Last week we considered the subject ‘Faith That Doesn’t Save’ and we saw that there were those that committed themselves to Jesus, but Jesus did not commit himself to them because he knew the emptiness of their commitment.

Ch 3-4 we have three interviews with three very different individuals where Jesus DOES commit Himself to them, but this one is the most unsettling for us because it deals with the new birth.

Which shows:
i) Our hopelessness – we’re lost.
ii) Our impotence – we cannot cause it ourselves.
iii) Our reliance – we depend upon God to help us entirely

Few topics confront us with our hopelessness like the new birth. Without it we’re dead, morality corrupt, guilty and lost, and I’m a little sensitive about dealing with this in that those of you who don’t need to be worried will worry, and those who do need to worry won’t.

Note two ‘Verily, verily’s’ both focused on the need for the new birth v3 & v5. And Jesus is emphatic on this truth. “Except” i.e. this is the ONLY way.

But note also Christ is stating a fact, not giving a command. Often this is preached as a command, but it’s not. Far from giving us a command, these words tell us of our impotence to do anything to save ourselves.


Everyone of us has life. All of our hearts are beating, right? There’s blood flowing through our veins and activity in our brains. 
But Nicodemus had this and Jesus says, v3.

i) Religious efforts won’t do it – “Pharisee” 
John didn’t have to tell us this information, but he does. These men are examples of spiritual discipline, of prayerfulness, and seriousness.

ii) Religious knowledge won’t do it – “a ruler of the Jews”
John elaborates on the position of Nicodemus among the spiritual elite of his day.

iii) Religious sensitivity won’t do it – v2
Nicodemus could see God working through Jesus without God working in him. He was sensitive to spiritual things, but had no spiritual life. Jesus doesn’t respond by saying, ‘this is great Nicodemus, I wish others could see this’ he says v3.

Note also that Jesus sees the spirit of inquiry in Nicodemus v3 “Jesus answered”. Nicodemus hadn’t asked anything, but there’s inquiry in his approach which is why it says this.

Jesus is telling him that the origin of this life is outside of himself. It is from above. If you have a margin it may say that ‘again’ means ‘from above’, it’s found also in 3:31 “from above”.

And Nicodemus gets the point which is clear from v4. This does not show his stupidity, but his limited grasp of Christ’s teaching. In fact, Nicodemus gets more than most, since many refuse to see the need for the second birth altogether.

The new birth is not the removal of anything from the sinner, or the changing of anything in the sinner, but the communication of something to the sinner – even life.


v6,8 – makes it clear Jesus is dealing with the supernatural here.

Jesus shows here that like produces like. The natural produces the natural and the supernatural the supernatural.

Now in the scripture we see that the Trinity is at work in a supernatural way to bring about salvation in the sinner.

Speaking of the Father – James 1:18 “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth”
Speaking of the Son – John 5:21 “even so the Son quickeneth whom he will”

But this is particularly the work of the Spirit – John 6:63

But we’re also told that the Word gives life “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” The implication being that the Spirit uses the Word of God to bring this life.

Gen 1:1-3 – God speaks and light appears because the Spirit of God is moving/brooding, as if waiting for the command from the word, and both then work together. The word and Spirit make it happen. And this is what happens in salvation… 2 Cor 4:6 “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

John 3:5 – this is what Jesus is teaching. Word and Spirit. Water is used figuratively of the Spirit, and of the scriptures. 
Ps 119:9 “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” 
Eph 5:26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” 

And what I’m trying to show here is the supernatural aspect of salvation, and in none of it are we included. We can no more tell the wind where to blow as we can save ourselves.


2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” 
2 Pet 1:4 “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” 

This is the experience of every Christian, and what we need to see is that this is all supernatural and it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to do it ourselves.

Not just in the NT, Ezek 36:26-27 “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 an 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.”

Close – So the question is, if I am powerless, what should I do? If I can’t originate life, do I just sit here? No no… The Spirit applies life sovereignly, but Christ is the source of life. John 14:6, “I am the life..” John 20:31 “that believing ye might have life through His name”. 

So life is in Christ, and so what the Spirit does to apply this life to us is unite us to Jesus Christ. So what you are to do my unsaved friend, is to flee to Jesus and stake your entire being upon Him. Receive Him as Lord, embrace Him as King, and if you feel the urge to run to Him tonight that’s the Spirit. The Spirit drives you to Jesus to believe on Him, and if you go to Jesus by the prompting of the Spirit you will be saved.

Our believing in Jesus is the expression of the new birth having taken place in us. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11-12

Don’t separate 3:3 from 3:36. Do you get this sinner? 

Does Jesus have to say v10 to you? Are you attending this church and knowest not these things? Oh may God open your eyes.