John 3:1-21 (AD 27) – Part 1
Christians tell people that in order to be saved they need to repent of their sins, which is exactly what Jesus preached (Matthew 4:17).
However there are often objections – even offended ones – at the exclusivist notion of repentance being necessary. Becoming a Christian is only a matter, they say, of ‘believe in Jesus’, by which they often mean a general approval of him. Or the belief that he will save people because he is nice (though they will usually rule out lack of belief as a hindrance to being saved). Or that being in a relationship with God involves merely the belief that Jesus existed, along with a preference for going to heaven.
That same idea of repentance being unacceptable exclusivist leads others to say they would rather be in hell, than in a heaven populated only by people who went along with that theology.
At the other end of things, many will say that we need to do our best and no-one but God can judge whether we’ve done well enough. Or that we need to be good enough in a measurable way, so that our conscience tells us we’re accepted by God. Or even, according to many sub-Christian sects, that we need to obey a certain set of rules to incredible standard and die with no idea one way or the other where you’re going because God hasn’t told you yet.
All those notions may find a home in a phrase or word contained in John chapter three. In it, Jesus uses “believe” (v.15), “believe in him [i.e. Jesus himself]” (v.16, 18) and “lives by the truth [i.e. obeys God]” (v.21) when he talks about what a disciple of God is.
Jesus also in this chapter says that it’s necessary to “be born of water and the Spirit” (v.5), and to “be born again” (v. 3, 7)
So which is it? Belief generally? Belief in someone or something? Good behaviour? Not doing bad things? Rebirth? All of those things?
Yes, and none of them.
(To be concluded tomorrow.)