Glimpses of Nicodemus

January 24, 2020

Seek the truth. We are introduced to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. Jesus calls him “a teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). Despite his position, Nicodemus is a seeker for truth. Nicodemus states, “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” (John 3:2 ESV). He has reached the proper conclusion from the signs. He is not aligned with the Pharisees who accuse Jesus performing miracles by the power of Satan. Seek the truth.

Speak for the truth even when you are in a minority. The religious leaders have sent officers to arrest Jesus. They return empty handed saying “No one ever spoke like this man!” They belittle the officers, but Nicodemus speaks up, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does” (John 7:52)? The religious leaders give him their condescension. But Nicodemus has demonstrated the principle: Speak for truth even when you are in the minority. Note the situation will not always bring rational discourse. John will later note that others failed to confess Jesus for fear of the Pharisees and being expelled from the synagogue “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43, ESV).

Practice the lifestyle of truth. Joseph of Arimathea boldly asked for the body of Jesus to bury it in his own new, rock hewn tomb. Nicodemus is also in this scene bringing seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes (John 19:39). It indicates that he is a man of wealth, but one who is also capable of generosity. Jesus gives us truth to be believed and trusted, but also truth to be lived, a lifestyle of truth. We gain a glimpse of the lifestyle here in generosity.

Nicodemus disappears from the record at this point. There is much we might like to know. But that is also true for a number of people in the New Testament including some of the apostles. John has given us glimpses of Nicodemus. These glimpses give us things to ponder and practice.

— Russ Holden


Submission to God’s Written Word

June 3, 2016

Dr. Harvey Floyd was my Greek teacher at Lipscomb as well as having him for many important Bible classes like Romans. I recently came across an interview of Floyd from the Gospel Advocate (October 1993). His words are still instructive though said over twenty years ago.

My greatest emphasis in life is to convince everyone of the complete authority of Scripture. If churches of Christ ever abandon submission to God’s written Word, we’ve lost everything.

Restoration only makes sense with an authoritative source. Without the guidance of Scripture, life becomes a sea without a shore.

Today’s religious leaders are far too interested in trendiness. They float from one fad to another without any clear emphasis or substance. Instead of the Bible, they fill their teaching with insight into “many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings” very entertaining, perhaps, but not distinctively Christian.

In the past, you could accept that our brethren were inerrantists — that cannot be assumed today. We are moving into a vague religiosity instead of a passion for restoring New Testament Christianity. This is more dangerous than anything else.1

Rodney Stark gives a memorable illustration of the loss of confidence in the authority of Scripture in his book, The Triumph of Faith. After World War I, the majority of missionaries to Africa came from the United States. At that time, ninety percent of these American missionaries came from Congregationalists (today known as the United Church of Christ), the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Episcopalians. By 1935, they were only sending half of all American missionaries. By 1948, it dropped down to 25 percent, and today, the number is only 4 percent. Stark explains:

Why the decline? The liberal denominations stopped sending missionaries because they lost their faith in the validity of Christianity.2

If there is one thing Floyd taught me, it is that there are good, satisfying reasons for believing in God, the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. When questions are raised about our faith, you only need to search for answers, and they will be found. Making fun of faith is nothing new (“a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”), but the wisdom of God is always stronger. It is a vital thing to learn submission to God’s written Word.

1Gregory Alan Tidwell, “An Interview with Dr. Harvey Floyd” Gospel Advocate (Oct. 1993):14. The quotation in Floyd’s interview is from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

2Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith, Kindle location 2260.


Truth and Credibility

February 13, 2015

Bryan Williams, the anchor for NBC Nightly News, has been placed on a six month suspension without pay. The problem is that he has told a story about his reporting during the Iraq war where the helicopter he was on came under RPG and AK47 fire. Military witnesses claim that was true of another helicopter that day, but not the one Williams was on. The story raises questions about his credibility.

Williams has received some severe criticism in the media. This incident has raised questions about other reports he has made. Questions are being raised about some of his first person reporting during Katrina, and did he really rescue puppies from a fire?

What I find intriguing about the media is that they are the same ones who have given us reports through the years that suggest lying is normal. “Everyone lies,” they report. One expert said, “Lying has long been a part of everyday life. We couldn’t get through the day without being deceptive.” In the course of a week, people deceive 30% of the face to face contacts they have. Society, we have been told, often rewards and encourages lying. Lying is presented as a social lubricant that prevents us from hurting people’s feelings. One article ended with the reflection that “perhaps our social lives would collapse under the weight of relentless honesty.”1

This kind of theme has been in news reports off and on for the past twenty years. Humanity may have trouble telling the truth, but I’ve never bought the premise that it isn’t a big deal. In my mind the wisdom of scripture confronts us. Lying is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 6:17). “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Proverbs 12:19, ESV). “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9–10 ESV). Being honest matters; lying has consequences.

So which is it for the media? Is lying a serious matter than undermines credibility or is lying something everybody does and is really no big deal. History would seem to suggest that it depends on the slant of a particular news story.

In life, however, I’ve known some habitual liars. My approach around such a person is to be extremely guarded. You can’t trust them. You can easily be hurt by them. In the real world, there seems to be a connection between telling the truth and credibility.

1https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199704/the-truth-about-lying