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Sabbath School Lessons on John
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: Grace is All-Inclusive *
Introduction: John 3:16 is one of the most famous verses in the
Bible. It is an offer of eternal life to "whoever" believes in
Jesus. This week our study of John continues with the stories of two
people who crossed Jesus' path. Proving the truth of "whoever," one
who comes to Jesus is a rich, exalted Pharisee named Nicodemus. The
other who comes to Jesus is poor, despised Samaritan woman. Let's
jump into our study and find out how Jesus approaches these two!
- The Nicodemus Visit
- Read John 3:1. What does this tell you about the social
status of Nicodemus? (He was a prominent fellow. A
religious and political leader.)
- Read John 3:2. Nicodemus says "nice things" about Jesus,
but does not reveal why he wants to meet. Why do you think
Nicodemus wanted to have a private meeting with Jesus?
- Read John 2:23. Then consider our discussion last
week about Jesus driving out the thieving
"businessmen" from the temple. Add these two facts
and then put yourself in the place of Nicodemus. Does
this give you a different view about why Nicodemus
would have been interested in talking to Jesus? (John
3:2 confirms that Nicodemus was aware of the miracles
spoken of in John 2:23. Just like every other sincere
Jew, Nicodemus was also looking for the Messiah. I
recall discovering a clue in Josephus' writings that
the House of Nicodemus was one of extraordinary
wealth. Since Nicodemus did not need money, perhaps
he was also offended by the money-grubbing crooks in
the temple and he privately cheered Jesus.)
- Nicodemus came at night to see Jesus. What does that
suggest to you? (He wanted to know more about Jesus.
It would be smart for Nicodemus to avoid being
publicly associated with this "trouble-maker/possible-Messiah" until he could learn more. Of
course, considering the crowds around Jesus, coming
at night allowed him to be able to speak privately
with Jesus. It just made good sense all the way
- Should Jesus have been insulted or complimented by
Nicodemus opening line ( John 3:2)? (This is a "damned
by faint praise" problem. Nicodemus meant it as a
compliment. But, it is a "compliment" for a prophet,
not the Messiah.)
- Read John 3:3. Wait a minute! This verse starts out, "In
reply Jesus declared." How is this statement a reply to
Nicodemus' statement Jesus was from God?
- Step back from this just a moment. What reasons did
you decide Nicodemus came to see Jesus? Did he show
up to tell Jesus "we know you are a teacher from
God?" (No. I doubt that handing out compliments to
people he did not know was very high on Nicodemus'
list of priorities. Nicodemus wanted to find out if
Jesus was the Messiah. If Jesus was merely a
prophet, Nicodemus was still not wasting his time.)
- Now, let me ask again, is Jesus' statement in verse 3
a "reply?" (Yes. Jesus is "cutting to the chase." He
knows Nicodemus is there to find out more about the
kingdom of God. Jesus goes straight to the point by
saying "You are not part of the Kingdom of God unless
you are "born again." No need for us to be discussing
the finer points of the Kingdom if you are not part
of it." See, E.G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 171.)
- Let's continue and add verse 4 to John 3:3. Put yourself
in Nicodemus' place again. Would you be insulted by Jesus'
reply? (Irritated, if not insulted. Certainly, the
conversation is not going the right way. You are a very
important person. Jesus should be delighted to have a
conference with you. Instead, Jesus seems to be
questioning your salvation.)
- Do you think Nicodemus is serious in his question?
(It is so obvious that a person could not literally
be born again. I think Nicodemus is being defensive.
According to several commentaries, Nicodemus would
have understood the need for a "new birth" for
Gentiles who wanted to be converted to Judaism, but
it would not make any sense for Jews. The suggestion
would be particularly inappropriate for an important
person like him.)
- Read John 3:5. Jesus now makes plain what He means by
being "born again." What is it? (To be "born of water and
- Do you think Nicodemus understood what Jesus was
saying? (Read John 4:1-2. Since Nicodemus had been
keeping up with Jesus' miracles, he surely kept up
with the reports of Jesus' conversions. My bet is
that Nicodemus knew that being "born of water" meant
- Read John 3:6. Would Nicodemus want to be baptized? (No.
This would seem to be a huge admission he was unworthy. He
was a religious leader, not part of the rabble. His proud
heart would resist this. This is why "flesh gives birth to
flesh." Human hearts naturally resist the gospel.)
- Those of you who have been following the GoBible lessons
know that I love to look at the logic of the Bible. I ask
you to put yourself in the story, consider what is being
said and analyze it in terms of human nature and logic.
Will that approach convert the heart? (All the logic in
the world and all the insight into human behavior, will
simply not convert the heart. It is all "flesh." The
essential ingredient is the Holy Spirit.)
- Why not ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to come into
your heart so that you view God's word not simply
with your brain, but also with His Spirit?
- Read John 3:7. What does this tell us about the way
Nicodemus was looking at the moment? (He must have looked
shocked, or Jesus would not have commented on his
- Read John 3:8. Is the Holy Spirit logical? (In God's great
Creation we see order. Therefore, I'm reluctant to say
that part of the Godhead is not logical. However, this
text at least says the Holy Spirit is not predictable by
humans. The Holy Spirit does what it wants, humans can
sense the Spirit's presence, but they cannot tell if the
Spirit is coming or going.)
- Will a particular style of worship encourage the
Spirit to fall on people? (I wish I could say, "yes."
I have definite views on worship. Services that are
dry, boring and devoid of praise irritate me.
However, the plain teaching of this verse is that
being "born of the Spirit" cannot be tied to a
certain type of worship because humans cannot predict
- Read John 3:9-10. Can you sympathize with Nicodemus? He
wants to know why logic and obedience are insufficient!
- Israel's teacher did not understand this idea that
being "born again" involves baptism and
regeneration(rebirth)by the Holy Spirit. Do you
understand this? (Simply knowing the Bible and
following the rules is not enough. It is the Holy
Spirit that brings us to repentance. Forgiveness
comes from the unmerited grace of God. We cannot earn
these things. Pride is a barrier to accepting these
- Read John 3:14-16. Why would Jesus compare Himself to a
snake - the first symbol of evil (see Genesis 3)? Except
for the "lifting up" analogy to the cross, doesn't this
comparison seem all wrong? (Just like the people needed to
look at the serpent, so we need to face our sins. In Luke
13:3 Jesus tells us that unless we repent we will perish.
If you consider the context of Luke 13:3 you will find
that Jesus says "don't consider others suffered, instead
of you, because they were more sinful." We all must
repent. We all must come face to face with our sins and
acknowledge them - even valued, honored religious leaders
- The Visit at the Well
- Read John 4:4-6. Let me give you a little background
here. The most direct way for Jesus to go back to Galilee
is to travel through Samaria. He has been doing that, it
is noon and the disciples have gone off to buy food (John
4:8). Jesus is tired. He sits down at a historic well to
- What kind of relationship did the Samaritans have
with the Jews? (It was pretty bad. The Jews thought
the Samaritans were inferior and the Samaritans had
the kind of reaction you would expect.)
- Read John 4:7&9. What kind of an attitude do you sense in
this specific Samaritan woman?
- Is she justified in her attitude? (It is about what I
- Read John 4:10-12. What kind of an attitude do we see now
with this woman? (It is not getting any better. She is
getting annoyed with this "uppity" Jew.)
- How would you compare her attitude towards Jesus with
the attitude of Nicodemus when he said "How can a man
be born [again] when he is old?" ( John 3:3) (I think
they sound very similar. They both seem a little
irritated and they are uncertain what Jesus is
- Let's skip down and read John 4:19. Who does this sound
like? (Again, this is very much what Nicodemus said. It
reminds me of an old movie I saw where people keep saying
to the action hero "I thought you'd be taller." Jesus is
the Messiah and people keep calling Him a mere prophet.)
- Read John 4:25-26. What truth is Jesus sharing with this
- Is this the same truth Jesus shared with Nicodemus?
- Do you remember that we started our study of John by
saying that he wanted to "fill in the gaps" of the other
gospels. By putting the story of the discussion with
Nicodemus back to back with the story of the discussion
with the Samaritan woman, what lesson do you think John is
trying to teach us? (John takes us from the highest,
richest, smartest, most scholarly and powerful segment of
Jewish society to the poorest, least scholarly, least
powerful segment of Samaritan society. Jesus makes the
same approach to each. He truly is blind to class, race
and intelligence. He desires all to have eternal life.
- Friend, how about you? You are not "too" anything to be
beyond the love and care of Jesus. He calls you to
acknowledge Him today, not as a prophet, but as your
Messiah. Face your sins, repent, and turn to Him for life
- Next week: The Struggle to Be Real.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.