Belief, Faith and Knowledge

The three terms belief, faith and even knowledge are often interchanged as though they are synonyms – all with the same meaning. However, there is a definite difference between them all.

In the Oxford Dictionary – her are the three definitions:
Belief: “something believed (accept as true)”
Faith: “reliance or trust; belief in religious doctrine”

Knowledge: “the facts etc that someone knows; knowing a fact or about a subject”

The easiest one to separate is knowledge, which will be discussed later, but belief and faith do seem to be similar – however a closer look differentiates the two.

Belief “may consist in a merely intellectual assent,” says Elder James E Talmage (Articles of Faith pg 96) whereas “faith implies such confidence and conviction as will impel to action.” (Articles of Faith pg 97). From this, it emerges that someone might believe something to be true – however, they do not act on that feeling. Faith, on the other hand, leads to action – it is a trust or reliance on a subject and acting accordingly. Faith is what is necessary for us to receive salvation and exaltation – not merely believing that to be the case. Another interesting thought is that one can have a belief – or even better, knowledge of a fact – and not have faith whereas you can’t have faith and not believe.

For example, it says in James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Further, a man possessed by devils was causing havoc “But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” (Mark 5:6-7). These devils believed Jesus to be the Christ, in fact, more than that – they knew Him to be the Christ. These spirits, unlike us, do not have a veil over their memory and so they remember perfectly the Grand Council in Heaven and the fact Christ was ordained as our Leader and Saviour. However, despite having this perfect knowledge, it doesn’t help them – they do not have the trust in Him as their Saviour (i.e. faith) because they have enlisted to follow the other ‘leader’.

Now, compare this with Peter’s statement to Christ. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Peter has belief that Christ was the Son of God, maybe even a knowledge but it couldn’t have been much more knowledge than the devils had (after all they knew perfectly he was the Christ from their unveiled experience) – so what was different between Peter’s attitude and the evil spirits? Faith! Peter not only believed THAT Jesus was the Christ but also believed IN Him as the Christ and what He would do.

To illustrate the point that mere knowledge doesn’t save, Elder Talmage uses an example of a scientific man who discovered, through scientific tests and observations, that the supply of water in a great city was tainted and was causing outbreaks of cholera, which was killing many people. He proclaimed this and the people, never having seen the physical tests to prove it, acted on faith and would drink sterilised water. The scientific man, despite his perfect knowledge, one day forgot and drank unsterilised water and died. His sure knowledge didn’t save him, but the people’s faith did save them. The man wasn’t wise and didn’t apply the knowledge he had received to his own life – thus it is with one who has belief but no faith. “Faith in Christ leads to action.” (Preach My Gospel pg 61) and is key as the very first principle of the Gospel.

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Sacrament – “This Do in Remembrance of Me”

The sacrament is a most special ordinance in the fact that it allows the opportunity to remember Christ and renew our covenants made at baptism. Concerning the sacrament – Christ himself said “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:18). When we come to the sacrament meeting, we should be ready to ponder over our worthiness and be prepared for a spiritual experience. In 1 Corinthians 11:28 it says “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of that cup.” I have personally found that when one comes to take the sacrament, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and focus on what is taking place before them and the importance of that ordinance – it can be one of the most profound spiritual experiences in your life. You can feel the Spirit working within you.

The sacrament itself was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper – to usher in the new covenant. Now, instead of sacrificing a lamb to cleanse our sins, the atoning blood of the Lamb of God does that and we show our acceptance of that through the ordinance of the sacrament. Christ declared “Think not that that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17). The doing away of sacrificing animals was not a sign of leaving God’s law – rather it is the shifting to a higher law, from which higher blessings and spirituality can be achieved.

Elder L Tom Perry said “Before the world was organised, God laid out a plan whereby He would offer blessings to His children based on their obedience to His commandments. He understood, however, that we would be distracted at times by the things of the world and would need to be reminded regularly of our covenants and His promises. The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord…” – not only does this ordinance serve as an actual renewing of our covenants but also as a reminder of the covenants themselves, hence the particular wording of the prayer offered over the sacrament.

“Behold, I am the Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ. Wherefore let all men beware how they take my name in their lips,” (D&C 63:60-61) – a stark warning to take the name of the Lord not in vain. We are taking upon ourselves the name of Christ in being baptised and renewing those covenants weekly through the sacrament. If we do this lightly, we are breaking one of the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” (Exodus 20:7). We need to be reverent and ponder over the promises we are making and renewing.

On my mission I had a moving experience whilst teaching a Family Home Evening to a member family. We showed ‘To This End Was I Born’ – a deep film of the Saviour and His Atonement. A very solemn spirit came over the lesson – somehow the sacrament was discussed and every single person in the room committed to take the sacrament more worthily, remembering that “there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17). It is easy to often let our minds drift during the sacrament or be preoccupied – but as we all determine to focus on why we are taking this bread and water – what it can mean for us when we take it in the right spirit – then we will receive the profound, spiritual experiences during this sacred ordinance and then all be ‘filled’.

Learning to Love Learning

Based on a talk by Elder David A Bednar found in the February 2010 Ensign.

Life is like a laboratory – we are constantly conducting experiments and learning from the results of these tests – good or bad. Elder Bednar in his talk gives three aspects in our lives as to why it is important to love the process of this learning experience. There are different categories of students in this laboratory – those who are there, eager to learn what new concept will be addressed today, note pads ready. Unfortunately, there are also those that are there just to go through and get the grade at the end, with as little effort or learning as possible. The three aspects of our lives that learning to love learning develops are:

1. Learning to love learning is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Throughout the scriptures , we are advised and commanded to learn. We are told to ‘seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118) One of the ordinances we receive as members of the Church is the confirmation – or to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This precious gift of God has many roles and purposes, but one is to facilitate learning. Numerous scriptures talk about this role of the Holy Ghost – “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5) “But the Comforter…he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) are just a couple. The Gospel of Jesus Christ revolves around learning “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ…” (John 17:3) – how can we learn of God and of Jesus Christ if we do not learn? We cannot! It takes a lifetime of learning to even begin to know them, therefore we have to be learning now!

As the scripture said – the most important thing that we can learn in this life is about our Heavenly Father. There is priority to what we can learn in this life and we need to be able to discern what in life we can learn that is of eternal importance. The Apostle Paul prophesied that people in the latter-days would be “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) – there are those people who spend their time pursuing knowledge of the world (which in itself is a good thing) but sacrifice learning which will propel them to celestial glory and returning to their Heavenly Father – we need to learn and apply gospel principles to our lives.

2. Learning to love learning is vital to our ongoing spiritual and personal development

If there was a model of someone who loved to learn, it was President Brigham Young. Repeatedly, he would emphasise life being a learning experience and how important it was to learn and love doing so. Here are a couple of things he said on this topic – “The religion embraced by the Latter-day Saints, if only slightly understood, prompts them to search diligently after knowledge. There is no other people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn, and understand truth.”, “We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it: never, never.” (President Brigham Young). As we develop through our life, and life after, it will be hard to avoid learning, especially if we desire to make it back to dwell with our Heavenly Father! As we learn how to truly learn – we will see ourselves develop spiritually and personally. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36) – how can we expect to gain what God has gained without gleaning intelligence from this life?

3. Learning to love learning is an absolute necessity in the world in which we do now and will yet live, serve and work.

Elder Bednar remarked about how the BYU has a motto saying “”Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” This expression certainly does not imply that everything necessary for a lifetime of meaningful service can or will be obtained during a few short years of higher education…” (Elder David A Bednar). He is making the point that – although university is a place solely set aside for learning, it really is a place where people go to learn to love learning. During life, at least once, we will come across a situation or task that we haven’t faced, compelling us to learn something new to rise to the task. Elder Bednar puts this point across even further by saying “For example, the US Department of Labor estimates that today’s college graduates will have between 10 and 14 different jobs by the time they are 38 years old. And the necessary skills to perform successfully in each job assignment will constantly change and evolve.” Fortunately, in today’s world we have many resources at our fingertips to assist us in our quest to learn and to overcome life’s puzzles. However, we must be careful to not “trust in the arm of flesh,” (2 Nephi 4:34) and not remember the Lord our God. If we do that, we will become like Zeniff and his group of people. They wanted to possess the land of their forefathers and journeyed to do so. However, he records “we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.” (Mosiah 9:3). If we ever feel the world is above us in wisdom, remember these words “…if you will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, every man and woman will be put in possession of the Holy Ghost…They will know things that are, that will be, and that have been. They will understand things in heaven, things on the earth, things of time, and things of eternity, according to their several callings and capacities.” (President Brigham Young).

As we learn to love learning and then use what we learn to serve diligently in the world and the Kingdom of God – we will see great blessings and treasures of knowledge.

Choose the Right

Based on a talk/article given by Elder Charles Didier in the February 2010 Ensign.

As we live in a world fraught with spiritual pitfalls and the buffetings of Satan, it is ever more important that we are constantly aware of dangers and threats posed by the world. Just how can we stand up to mounting trials and difficulties, threatening to throw us off the course back to our Heavenly Father?

One valuable support that we have is revelation – revelation from earlier prophets, latter-day prophets and revelation we receive for ourselves by the Spirit. We are told in the scriptures “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18) and also in the Bible Dictionary “Without revelation, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion.” (Bible Dictionary pg 762). This vital gift from God can help us avoid situations where we would be tempted to lower our standards and give in to the adversary. Not only do we have words from the scriptures echoing, encouraging us to heed revelation but also living prophets today. President Ezra Taft Benson said “The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life.” As we hold fast to the sacred words and inspirations from those three undiluted sources of knowledge and truth we will find the Spirit assisting us in our day to day lives – so much so that we are more able to choose the right in circumstances where others may mock or question why we are trying to do so.

Choosing the right in the face of larger ‘trangressions’ is imperative – but it is also watching out for the smaller mistakes which we need to be ever mindful of as it’s these violations which can fulfil what we read in 2 Nephi 28:21 “…thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” Satan often works subtly to carefully lead the Saints away in ways that make us think that we’ll be happier for it. However, President Gordon B Hinckley counselled “Evil never was happiness, sin never was happiness. Happiness lies in the power and the love and the sweet simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” For example, Sodom and Gomorrah are known for their disregard for keeping the commandments of God. However, if we look closer in the Old Testament at this city’s journey, it is actually something more subtle that begins their eventual downfall. We are told “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her…neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” (Ezekial 16:49). These subtle traps might have led to the wanton disobedience that Sodom was known for later on – hence the large impact of actions which may seem small and even insignificant at the time. Of course “no unclean thing can dwell with God,” (1 Nephi 10:21) so even those smaller transgressions need to be avoided.

Overall, we need to be “an example of the believers,” (1 Timothy 4:12) and actively try to influence others for good. Elder M Russell Ballard said We should work to stem the tide of sin and evil instead if passively being swept along by it. We each need to help solve the problem rather than avoid or ignore it.” We can make a much bigger difference than we think – we need to do it boldly, meekly and with the Spirit and we will be able to help others to choose the right.

A Creator

Many people believe that this Earth which we live on was a random chance which occurred many years ago with which they can explain the origin of life itself.

Elder James E Talmage gave his thoughts on this perspective. “…man’s ingenuity has invented theories to illustrate…a possible sequence of events by which the earth has been brought from a state of chaos to it’s present habitable condition; but by these hypotheses this globe was once a barren sphere, on which none of the innumerable forms of life that now tenant it could have existed. The theorist therefore must admit a beginning to life on the earth, and such a beginning is explicable only on the assumption of some creative fact…” (articles of Fatith pgs 34-35).

The theories developed by man are indeed logical in many cases – however, to say that a monumental, cataclysmic event from nothing (as was once explained to me) is illogical to me. Elder Talmage also mentioned this – “we conclude that something must have existed always, for had there been a time of no existence, a period of nothingness, existence could never had begun, for from nothing, nothing can be derived.” (Articles of Faith, pg 34).

Many scientists do actually concede that there must be a greater power out in the universe and they are trying to explain how this Power caused these things to occur so perfectly. Said Alma to Korihor “…all things denote there is a God; yea even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and it’s motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” (Alma 30:44).

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1) – the Earth began with it’s creation and it was the Old Testament Jehovah, under the direction of the Father, that undertook this task. There was, and is, a Maker, an Organiser, a God. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psalms 14:1). Often, the problem is that we need to have the Spirit of the Lord with us to begin to build a testimony of God and His influence. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18) Because many shut their eyes from the Spirit, they cannot feel it’s light.

We do have a Heavenly Father and He, through His Son Jesus Christ, created this Earth for us to come and dwell. We can all receive this witness but we have to be ready to listen to the quiet promptings of the Spirit. We read “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:4) – one needs a broken heart and a contrite spirit to know these things, and God will provide an answer.

Sharing the Restored Gospel

 

 

A Divine Mandate

President Dallin H Oaks gave an excellent talk about sharing the gospel in October 2016 and he began by saying:

“Nearing the end of His earthly ministry, our Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded His disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). All Christians are under these commands to share the gospel with everyone. Many call this the “great commission.””

All of us, especially those that renew sacred covenants in the name of Christ, are all commissioned to share the gospel with our fellow man. We must do it – it is not an option. We read this in many places in the scriptures but one example is Mosiah 18:9, where the new converts were taught…:

“…to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life…”

Elder Oaks went on further about us recognising our responsibility:

“Latter-day Saints are surely among those most committed to this great responsibility. We should be because we know that God loves all of His children and that in these last days He has restored vital additional knowledge and power to bless all of them.”

We all know this. We are encouraged generally on a weekly basis to engage in missionary work. It is linked with one of our Europe Area Goals (which are still in force this year). It has been a part of Christ’s Church since He walked the Earth and it forever will be. On top of this, when we depart from this life, we will still be expected to share the Gospel with those who did not receive it. In D&C 138:30-31 we read an account by President Joseph F. Smith of this commission:

“But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.”

Missionary work, or the work of salvation, is an eternal principle. Does this make it any easier? Of course not. I, personally, did not find sharing the gospel easily.

What Can Help Us?

This is the first key to sharing the Gospel – having a desire to share it. We can pray for charity. Elder Oaks also shares three things that we all can do to help in this great work of salvation:

“First, we can all pray for desire to help with this vital part of the work of salvation. All efforts begin with desire.”

I am going to take a guess here – I may be wrong – but I do not think that every person has an innate desire to share the gospel. If you do not think this is the case, then I will admit to this. Sharing the gospel is something that comes naturally to some, not others. However, we can all develop desire. We read in Proverbs 10:24:

“…the desire of the righteous shall be granted.”

That is our first invite – to pray for a desire to help in this vital work. This works – if we consistently pray with the energy of our heart, then we will be blessed with the desire. Elder Oaks continued with his suggestions:

“Second, we can keep the commandments ourselves. Faithful, obedient members are the most persuasive witnesses of the truth and value of the restored gospel. Even more important, faithful members will always have the Savior’s Spirit to be with them to guide them as they seek to participate in the great work of sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Throughout the scriptures we read of incredible missionaries. One such missionary was Ammon – a classic example. He decided, along with his brothers to go on a mission to the Lamanites, a group of people that were known to attack and even kill Nephites on sight. He went to a civilisation of Lamanites led by a man called King Lamoni and became his servant. We know the story – it’s a favourite with young boys like my son – Ammon ends up protecting the king’s sheep by chopping off arms and these arms are brought before King Lamoni as a sign of Ammon’s power. We will start to analyse here: what is first interesting is the diligence of Ammon. After defending the king’s flocks he could be forgiven for going before the king to let him know, or at least having a rest. However we hear he went straight away to prepare the king’s chariots. We read:

“Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them. Now I surely know that this is the Great Spirit, and I would desire him that he come in unto me, but I durst not.”

We find that Ammon was not only exactly obedient to his God but also to the man who had earthly leadership over him. This obedience was impressive to Lamoni, to the point he was amazed by it. However, the most important evidence of the need to be obedient to commandments comes next. Ammon enters and is greeted by a stunned Lamoni. There is silence for an hour – I could be silent for ten seconds and it would become slightly awkward. There was silence for an hour! Then, we see the blessing of Ammon’s obedience for his missionary work:

“And it came to pass that Ammon, being filled with the Spirit of God, therefore he perceived the thoughts of the king. And he said unto him: Is it because thou hast heard that I defended thy servants and thy flocks, and slew seven of their brethren with the sling and with the sword, and smote off the arms of others, in order to defend thy flocks and thy servants; behold, is it this that causeth thy marvelings?”

Ammon was attuned to the voice of the Spirit, because of his obedience. We too, once we receive the desire to engage in missionary work, can be lifted and supported in this by simply keeping all the commandments. We will be given in the exact moment what to say. Finally, Elder Oaks shares as his final suggestion to all:

“Third, we can pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances to share the gospel with others. This is different than praying for the missionaries or praying for what others can do. We should pray for what we can do personally. When we pray, we should remember that prayers for this kind of inspiration will be answered if accompanied by a commitment—something the scriptures call “real intent” or “full purpose of heart.” Pray with a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive, promising the Lord that if He will inspire you to speak to someone about the gospel, you will do it.”

This is probably the scariest part. I can testify that this works. If you want to prove me wrong, then try it. I had an experience when 14 years old. I was invited by our leaders to sincerely pray for missionary opportunities. I had never really done this so I tried it. In the space of the following four days, I had three opportunities to share the Gospel with people I hadn’t before. I was so freaked out that I stopped praying for the opportunities! This was an important lesson for me – prayer works. Now, I am not saying that opportunities will come instantly. Also, I sincerely doubt that if we pray for missionary opportunities then we magically receive more chances to share. Often, we will simply be more aware of those opportunities because we are looking out more for them.

Top Tips

To finish, I will share some great ‘top tips’ again given in Elder Oaks’s inspired message:

  • Listen to people’s discussion – if someone starts talking to you about a seriously ill relative, or a death in the family – sharing about the Book of Mormon (whilst we understand how this may link) may not link to a non-member
  • Share the Gospel – not the Mormon Church. We are commissioned to preach the Gospel of Christ – once someone can receive the witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel, a testimony of the Church will follow
  • Do not just be willing to share with your friends. Obviously they should be someone we can share with – however we can share the Gospel with anyone – Elder Oaks stated: Clayton M. Christensen, who has impressive experience as a member missionary, states that “over the past twenty years, we have observed no correlation between the depth of a relationship and the probability that a person will be interested in learning about the gospel
  • Use Social Media – honestly, it is such an easy thing to do. Whatever platform you use, commit to share something at least weekly about the Gospel – people do notice and they respect it. You never know when you share something whose heart it may touch.

A Successful Missionary

We can all become a successful missionary. What does a successful missionary look like? Elder Oaks said:

“We will come to understand that success in sharing the gospel is inviting people with love and genuine intent to help them, no matter what their response.”

One by One – John 3:1-13

The next entry shared by Elder Bednar is found in John 1:1-13 where Christ meets with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. What is interesting is that this time the one is not a future Apostle but a man from a group that reviled the Saviour.

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named 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.

In this instance, the one came to be ministered unto. What is interesting here is that Nicodemus does not actually ask a question or state his desires. He approaches the Saviour but does not say what his question is. Does this mean he doesn’t know what his query is? Maybe he did know but he didn’t want to say? Or perhaps he was going to but he did not have the chance? Whatever the reason is, Christ speaks to him next…

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Christ spoke to this one and addressed his concerns. As we minister to the one we need to know them as the Saviour knows His Father’s children. Of course we will not be able to reach this level of knowing those whom we minister to in this life but we can aim to try and know them well. As we do this, the Spirit will be able to support us to know what it may be that they need, as the Saviour knew with Nicodemus.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

What is interesting about the Saviour’s response here is that he listens to Nicodemus’s question and tries to answer it in a way where Nicodemus has to listen to the Spirit to be taught the answer. One thing that I am often suspect to is solving everyone’s problems. If I meet with someone and they have a concern, I feel like I want to solve it with them. However, once again, the Saviour’s way of ministering to the one is insightful. What is sometimes required is for us to enable to one being ministered to search the answer for themselves. We talk of self-reliance and this applies to spiritual matters and concerns as well as physical trials to overcome. The Saviour is leading Nicodemus to search the answer for himself.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

At this stage in the ministering to Nicodemus, it is clear that he is still not understanding the Master’s guiding questions. We can draw presumptions from the context – perhaps Nicodemus is struggling to follow the guidance from the Saviour as he (along with most of the leading members of the Jewish religion at the time) are more focused on letter of the law than the Spirit and is therefore not able to comprehend the Saviour’s meaning. There could be other reasons. However, the Saviour knows our Father’s children and he provides the response that He knows Nicodemus will best respond to.

10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Here the Saviour seems to reprimand Nicodemus about his apparent lack of understanding. To some this may seem like a harsh response. However, there is an important principle to learn again about ministering to the one. It is important that we get to know those we minister to so that we know what they best respond to. Once we do this we can truly minister effectively to the one and assist our Heavenly Father in His work.

The question may arise: how do we know that this answer was appropriate for Nicodemus? How do we know that he didn’t leave this experience bitter and became part of the large amount of religious leaders intent on causing the downfall of this self-proclaimed Saviour? The answer is that we find him in two later events of the same Gospel.

In John 7:50-52 we find him defending Jesus when others are discussing their opinions of Him:

50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)

51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

He clearly has been affected by this one-to-one experience with our Redeemer. He is trying to talk for the Lord amongst others of the Pharisees who would have him removed. Remember, this Nicodemus was a man of the Pharisees so he must have been impressed by the Saviour to at least defend him. However, does this mean that he was convinced of the Saviour’s divine mission? We read of more in John 19:38-40:

38 And after this Joseph of Arimathæa, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Nicodemus – a man of the Pharisees – was not only defending the Saviour but after His death, he was part of a group that secretly sought to take the crucified Lord’s body and give Him a custom burial of His people when others of their culture would not allow it. Not only this, he provided the means for this to happen with expensive spices (one of the same gifts that were brought at the time of his birth by wise men who heralded his birth as a foretold King – a coincidence?). Clearly the Saviour had ministered to this one the way that had the biggest impact. We can learn a lot from the Saviour and his personalised ministering to Nicodemus – to this one.