Nicodemus is a fascinating person in the Bible. He had a conversation with Jesus by night (John 3:1-21). But what can we say about his faith in Jesus? Was it genuine, saving faith? Or was it mere interest in the person of Christ?
The conversation about regeneration
Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus is a famous story in the Bible. Here we have a man, one of the Pharisees and member of the Sanhedrin (the ancient High Court and Legislature in the land of Israel) coming to Jesus. Jesus Christ, who will be rejected by the religious leaders, tells Nicodemus that he must be born again – even as a Pharisee! Nicodemus listens, but he doesn’t seem to understand it. Unlike most Pharisees, he responds respectfully. He doesn’t ask questions in order to put Jesus to the test. He tries to understand what Jesus is saying. He even admits that Jesus comes from God and that He is a Prophet. Although his responses to Jesus’ words are sympathetic, Nicodemus doesn’t confess Him as the Messiah. He doesn’t declare that Jesus is the Son of God. This confession is necessary in order to be saved (John 3:16).
Nicodemus defends Jesus
The apostle John has recorded two other stories in which Nicodemus was involved. In John 7:46-53, we read of a dispute among the Pharisees. The majority of the Pharisees are condemning Jesus – even without fairly asking questions – but Nicodemus tries to defend Jesus, by asking them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:51). The other Pharisees didn’t like his words. They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee” (John 7:52).
Nicodemus buries Jesus
There is another text in which the apostle John mentions Nicodemus. In John 19:38-42, we read about the burial of Jesus and, surprisingly, Nicodemus is one of the people who buried Him. Is it possible, then, having read about these three events – Nicodemus’ conversation with Christ, the way he tries to defend Jesus before the Jewish counsel, and his involvement with the burial of Jesus – that this Pharisee became a genuine believer in the Son of God?
Did Nicodemus believe in Jesus?
The answer is we don’t know for sure. We don’t find a clear statement about Nicodemus’ faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can have a certain level of sympathy for him, because he has spoken with Jesus and he tried to defend Him. But overall, these things are no indication that someone is really saved.
Do you believe in Jesus?
While we don’t know for sure whether Nicodemus really believed in Jesus or not, the importance of the question still remains. Do we truly believe in Jesus Christ? Are we born again? Do we confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? When we read the Bible, the ultimate question should not be: how did these people respond in this particular situation? Rather, we should ask ourselves: how would I respond here? And so, the question whether Nicodemus was regenerated or not ultimately leads to the question whether we are regenerated.