You can’t cancel sin.
You may have done a whole bunch of good stuff, but if you’ve done one bad thing, that good stuff doesn’t cancel it out. And here’s the kicker – There will be NO SIN IN HEAVEN.
Heaven is perfect, holy and pure. God is perfect, holy and pure. He will not dwell in the presence of sin.
So, any person who has any sin in their life – which is each and every one of us since we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God – is disqualified for heaven. Because none of us can cancel out old sin. God doesn’t grade on a curve; and you can’t get into heaven because you have sinned at least once in your life.
This is why God provided a way – one singular way.
It’s not politically correct to say this, but it is the truth. God provided one, and only one, way to spend eternity with Him.
So, to understand this, let’s look at John 3:1.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
As a Pharisee, he was a corrupt, hypocritical, office-seeking legalist. As a ruler of the Jews, he was a member of the Sanhedrin – think of them as the Senators or Judges of the day. He had a couple of high-powered hats that he could wear, and he wore them both proudly.
Until he met Jesus.
John 3:2 tells us a little about this first encounter:
This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Now wait… why did Nicodemus come see Jesus at night? Was it because Jesus’ calendar was full and He didn’t have any appointments available during the day?
The odds are that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night so that no one saw him.
Then, Nicodemus speaks honorably to Jesus, acknowledging that He had a following and called Him “Rabbi”.
But, Nicodemus’ next word is interesting. He said, “we know that you are a teacher…” Why did he use the word “we”? He was all alone when he came to Jesus that night. He is basically saying that there were some, at least more than a couple, Pharisees that secretly recognized that Jesus came from God.
Other Pharisees, as we see in Matthew 12:24, believed that Jesus was not from God, but actually working with the devil!
But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”
So, not all the Pharisees were on the same page and thought along the same lines as Nicodemus.
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mothers’ womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:3-7)
Now, some people believe that when Jesus said “unless one is born of water”, He meant that Christians must be baptized in order to secure their eternal salvation. But that’s not what Jesus is saying here.
We see this point coming up in the first fight within the Christian church. The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem believed that if Gentiles wanted to follow Christ, they would first have to become Jewish and be circumcised. These people, like Nicodemus, had come to Christ, but they had brought their legalism along with them.
So Christians argued about circumcision and the need to become a Jew before becoming a Christ-follower.
But Paul put an end to the debate. He said, “Jesus did a completed work on the cross. You can’t add to that.”
Now there are some things that you ought to do as a follower of Jesus: you ought to pray; you ought to read your Bible; you ought to be baptized; you ought to take communion. These are all things that Christians ought to do, but they are not things that will save you.
Only Jesus can save you.
So don’t add anything – not even those things that you ought to do – to the completed work of Christ on the cross.
So, getting back to Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus, “born of water” can’t be baptism, because Jesus says being “born of water” is a requirement to be born again. But if you check the parallel nature of being “born of water”, “born of the flesh”, and “born of the Spirit”… we’re talking about birth! When Jesus says “unless one is born of water”… He meant physical birth, when your mother’s water broke and you were physically born.