Nicodemus and the Apostle Paul (Two extremes of the Nature of the Tree of Good and Evil)
Men, throughout history, have believed in God, or tried with their best understanding, to know what is our purpose and our earthly existence. There have been many kinds of religion, cultures, customs, and philosophies, which men have based their entire life upon, only to find that the life that they are living comes way short of the life and happiness they have strived for.
The Bible tells of two men whose life branched from the same teaching but are different in their living and how they practiced what they believed in. The first man was Nicodemus who visited the Lord Jesus under cover of darkness so as not to be seen by others.
John 3:1, There was a man of the Pharisees, whose name was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2, the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”
There probably wasn’t a more refined man on earth, at that time of Jesus, than Nicodemus. If there was, the Bible doesn’t reveal him. He lived his life according to the teachings of Moses to the best of his ability.
The religious leaders were always critical of the teachings of Jesus in the breaking of the Sabbath, John 9:16. Jesus and His disciples did not practice the same ceremonial washings as they did, Matthew 15:2. The religious leaders would fast, and Jesus disciples didn’t, Mark 2:18. They accused Him of not following the law of Moses, John 8:5.
In all these differences, Jesus was destroying the customs, traditions, and teachings of the religious leaders. They were like many of us who follow the things in which we believe, but find that our world had been turned upside down because of false beliefs.
A New Kind of Life
. The Book of Genesis gives us the created life according to it’s order. The first life we see is the plant life which is the first order of life consisting of trees, grass, and all kinds of vegetation. Next we see the creation of the animal life which is higher than the plant life. The next kind of life is the human life consisting of both male and female. This human life is higher than the plant life or animal life. This is the order of life leading to the creation of men outwardly, who were created in the image of God. Each form of life is a graduation of the created life before it and is raised to a higher standard. Man created in God’s image is only outward and can be seen by men as to what they think and by what they do. God never wanted man to stop at a human level but was given the opportunity to choose for himself, a higher than human level, by taking within Himself, God’s uncreated life. The created life will eventually die but only God’s uncreated life will live as God lives, eternally. That is the meaning of the Trees in the Garden of Eden. Adam was given the opportunity, after God speaking to him and given a warning, he was to make the choice for himself. The man Adam disobeyed God and was put out of the Garden, along with His wife, and the Tree representing God’s life was closed to all those born after the same similitude as Adam, Romans 5:12. Since Adam failed, God’s had to have a remedy to continue His purpose for mankind. His promise for man would be through the Woman and her seed, Genesis 3:15.
As good and as humble as Nicodemus was, he still had within him the nature of Satan, represented by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. His natural life was of the old man which had to be eliminated if he was to be in the Kingdom of God, Ephesians 4:22. All men, before being dealt with by God, no matter how good or bad they might be, have within them, the contaminated nature of Satan.
Man Needing a New Birth
The first thing Jesus said to him is that he needed to be born again. Nicodemus never realized that as good and as noble as he was, his old life, or natural life had to be eliminated. He needed a new birth. Although he was in the kingdom of man and putting into practices the rules and regulations passed down through their religious traditions, he needed a new life through a new birth.
John 3:3, Jesus said unto him, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
This kingdom is higher than the plant kingdom, higher than the animal kingdom, and higher than the kingdom of man. This is the highest kingdom and it is referred to as the Kingdom of God.
Jesus told him that he had to be born of water and of the spirit. Being a Pharisee he most certainly knew of the ministry of John the Baptist, and of believers being immersed into water, putting away of the old man, Ephesians 4:22, and of his being raised from his dead position in resurrection to a new man, Ephesians 4:24. Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel and didn’t understand this being raised from the old created life through death and being raised to a new beginning in resurrection.
His keeping of the rules and regulations, as perfectly as possible which were handed down through Moses, would never have given him life.
John 10:10, (last part of verse), “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Jesus has the only life which is eternal. Evidently, Nicodemus eventually believed in the teachings of Jesus for he is seen participating in the burial of Jesus, John 19:39.
Paul, the Other Extreme of the Tree of Good And Evil.
Saul, before his name was changed to Paul was a Pharisee also and as zealous as Nicodemus was in his faith and serving God. This is the function of Satan’s tree and nature. It can be seen as very good in one sense but it can be seen as very bad in another sense. This tree is a mixture and can never be pure. This fallen nature brought in sin which had to be dealt with. The only way to deal with such a nature is to eliminate it or allow it to die. This is the nature of men and women who need to be brought to the cross with Christ, once to die in order to undergo resurrection, Hebrews 9:27.
Acts 8:1, and Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen’s) death.
Acts 9:1, And Saul, yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the Lord, went unto the high priest,2, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, and if they found any of this way, whether they be men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
Saul’s mission was to destroy all those who were followers of Jesus, until the Lord Jesus struck him down, Acts 9:3-6. In the Book of Acts 13:9, Saul is now referred to as Paul.
Both Nicodemus and the Apostle Paul underwent the experience of death, burial, and resurrection, that is the submitting to the obedience and teachings of the gospel. As good as Nicodemus was, he could not improve his old life. Why?
Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so, death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
There are some churches which say that we can improve our behavior, or becoming better people by keeping God’s laws. Improving ourselves and trying to keep God’s laws is not what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Jesus implied that he had to get rid of his old man through death and be raised into a new man through resurrection, Ephesians 4:22 and 24. He needed to be born again into a new and living way, Hebrews 10:20. He was once born physically in a flesh body, now he needed to be born with a new body, and grow with a new nature, the nature of Christ, 2nd Peter 3:18.
As far as God’s law is concerned, with the washings, fasting, or Sabbaths, who was it who could try to keep God’s laws better than Nicodemus, yet Jesus told him that he had to be born of water and of the spirit.
The Pictures In The Old Testament and Christ as the Reality in The New Testament
The reality of religious leaders today is that many times, just as in the days of Nicodemus and the Apostle Paul, religion treasured the Ten Commandments, the writings of Moses, the tabernacle, and the priesthood. But history has shown us that these great men of history did not understand the spiritual meanings of these things. Nicodemus did not know that the temple and the tabernacle were types of Jesus. As a teacher in Israel, did he understand the spiritual significance of the manna and the showbread table along with the golden lamp stand? He had not known the real significance of the Ark which contained the law and the hidden manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. As a teacher in Israel, Nicodemus did not understand these things but he did treasured them in his heart.
These religious practices were all outward in appearance, and when Christ, as the reality of all these outward things came, Nicodemus as well as the apostle Paul did not recognize Him. Jesus was a threat to the good leaders as well as the bad leaders. They both were products of the same tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good And Evil. This serpentine nature is the nature of all men since Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden.
Most people believe that God’s purpose is to make the human race better and lovable. This is not the biblical teaching; we all need to be born again of Water and of the Spirit. Only when we are born again, will we be raised through resurrection from our physical life and to be able to see the Kingdom of God. That is the highest and final process of life.