I was reading a post by John Piper here where he said this:

But it is not saving faith. Nicodemus was not born again

The same week my Pastor made a derogatory reference to the faith of Nicodemus, which took me by surprise. I read some more online.

On bible.org I found this quote in a larger work on faith and some that included Nicodemus.

Nicodemus seems to be John’s first example of one who “believes” by virtue of our Lord’s signs, yet he is also one to whom our Lord does not “entrust” Himself

Finally, when doing a simple read through wikipedia I find this:

He is venerated as a Christian saint.

While some might gloss over this topic in my mind this is actually a very, very drastic difference in opinion. From a Saint, to a false believer, and somewhere in between there are educated opinions all over the map on Nicodemus. I think this creates a great litmus test for my own view of one snapshot of what saving faith is and if there is a ranking system to it as some obviously contend.

This question isn't about my opinion, of which I do have a strong one. I would like for you to present information about existing research and viewpoints of different vetted sources on the ultimate judgement that Nicodemus had inferior or unsaving faith.

♣ Bible references are best (I would think James might have something to say, and probably Paul would argue with him ☺)

♣ Existing doctrines on the topic are good (I have no clue if these exist)

♣ Denominational statements on the topic are good (same as above)

Your opinion, like mine, should be left out of this discussion.

4 Answers 4


What are the main biblical interpretations used to defend the point of view that Nicodemus had inferior faith?

As Jesus had not yet ascended into heaven, those with faith could not yet receive new and eternal life in Jesus.

Hebrews chapter eleven is often called the “hall of faith” as numerous old testament figures are commended for their faith. Yet they are said to have been incomplete;

Hebrews 11:39-40 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

I would rather call the faith of Nicodemus weak or incomplete rather than “inferior”. It is difficult make an accurate comparison of the faith of someone who has the indwelling Holy Spirit as proof of his new life in Christ with the faith of someone who has this future hope as his faith.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.


In John 7:46-52, we have evidence that Nicodemus' spiritual condition has changed since his first meeting with Jesus:

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted.

48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him?

49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked,

51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

A man who would defend Jesus against the unjust anger of the leaders of his people is not a man without faith. Nicodemus did go to hear Jesus first to find out what he was doing. By his own standard, if he had found something wrong with Jesus' teachings and activities, he would have joined in with the accusers. He did not.

Later on, in John 19:38-42, Nicodemus helps Joseph of Arimithea prepare Jesus' body for burial. It says that Joseph of Arimithea asked for the body in secret because he was afraid, but lists him as a disciple. It does not specifically say there that Nicodemus was a disciple, but by including the two of them in the same account, it is reasonable to assume that Nicodemus was by that time also a disciple.


I am compelled to answer a narrower question: immediately following his meeting with Jesus, what evidence was there that he was NOT YET SAVED?

This question, I believe, has good answers.

  1. There is no description of Nicodemus falling at Jesus' feet or immediately worshiping him in some other way. Compare to a number of people who were healed (the man possessed by Legion, the one leper in ten) or who had a family member healed (man with ill servant). They had an immediate reaction of gratitude and thanksgiving. We do not see that from Nicodemus.

  2. Compare also to people who were forgiven: the woman at the well, the adulteress, the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her hair. They exhibited powerful emotions and displays of affection or allegiance.

  3. He did not openly associate with Jesus as a public disciple (again, see John 19).

  4. He did not ascribe divinity to Jesus as did Peter and others.

  5. He did not immediately confess his sinfulness, as did Zacchaeus.

People had many different responses to Jesus to show the condition of their heart, but Nicodemus did not exhibit any of them at the first meeting except that he did not condemn Jesus, question his authority, or criticize his disciples. So he did not do what the wicked did or the righteous, which is most peculiar.


I read this article: http://sbctoday.com/13132/

This made me consider the story of the snake that Moses lifted up to save the lives of the Israelites bitten by snakes. Until and unless they looked at the snake in faith and confessed their sins, they were sick and would soon die. Since we have the story of Nicodemus helping to collect Jesus' body and prepare it for burial, I believe that the story of Nicodemus was intentionally left unfinished. He was told that the Son of man must be lifted up. Thus once Nicodemus saw Christ lifted up on the cross and intentionally went to see him in that state, he was saved, not before. Thus at the time when Nicodemus first visited Jesus, he was not saved, but when he saw Christ lifted up, he was.

  • 1
    Paul, this is interesting, but the question is asking for reasons to say that Nicodemus was not saved, and your post makes the opposite argument. Dec 4, 2015 at 17:57
  • I would hate for people to think that Nicodemus was not saved if he really was. My list of reasons that Nicodemus was not saved is the empty set, {}. Dec 4, 2015 at 18:13
  • I totally understand. The best approach in that case is to ask a new question, perhaps along the lines of "what is the biblical basis for Nicodemus ultimately being saved?" and answer it. Then, you could link this question and that question, as they would be related, and users could see both sides. Dec 4, 2015 at 18:19
  • 2
    The key here is to focus on what is the question asking. If you don't like the premises of the question, it's often a good idea to skip answering. Instead, you can search for a related question that you can answer according to the premises, or ask a new question and answer it yourself. Dec 4, 2015 at 18:33
  • Good; this is a definite improvement. You can continue to improve it by focusing on the "he apparently wasn't saved in John 3" part. I suspect that that's what John Piper and others focus on anyway: they find his faith in John 3 lacking, and don't find it necessary to consider the possibility that he was saved later. Dec 4, 2015 at 19:19

How about researching the passages concerning Nicodemus in which he appears? In John 3:2, we find that Nicodemus sees Jesus as a teacher, not a savior:

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.”

Jesus then gave him an example of the born-again life at 3:8:

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus does not get it, which means he is not born of the Spirit, 3:9:

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus affirms that he has much religious knowledge, but not the kind that matters; he does not truly believe, 3:10-12:

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

So we learn from this encounter that Nicodemus is merely religious, with much knowledge about the Scriptures, but does not have the faith Jesus is looking for in His followers, especially of those who are yielded by the Spirit (according to His illustration of the wind in 3:8). He believes that Jesus is merely a teacher; he has a greater relationship with a book of laws and history than he does in a relationship with God.

  • The main point of your answer seems to ignore the fact that Nicodemus helped to bury Christ and consider the implications of such an act to his implied faith.
    – Adam Heeg
    Dec 4, 2015 at 18:59
  • No information is given in that passage about his faith. A religious man can do what he did.
    – Steve
    Dec 5, 2015 at 0:46

I will provide an answer which has a component of NT textual criticism, because it is based on a biblical verse whose text is contested:

"No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven." (Jn 3:13)

The ending who is in heaven is omitted in some old manuscripts of Alexandrian text-type (P66, P75, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Washingtonianus). On the other hand, it appears in the works of early Christian writers such as Tatian's "Diatessaron" (c. 160-175) and Hippolytus' (170–235) "Against Noetus", and then consistently in the works of almost all Church Fathers. I share the view [1] that, just as it probably happened with the "worship" verse Jn 9:38, the ending was omitted by an NT scribe to avoid the challenge posed by Jesus telling Nicodemus that, at the same time that He was there talking to him, He was also in heaven!

In my view, it is perfectly likely that Jesus made such a clear and direct statement of his divinity to Nicodemus at an early time of his ministry if He knew, per his divine insight into minds and hearts, that Nicodemus was able to handle the challenge involved. Besides, the ending has even better manuscript and patristical support than Jn 7:53-8:11, the Pericope Adulterae, as the latter is absent in Codex Alexandrinus, which contains the ending.

The relevant point for this question is that Jesus' telling Nicodemus that, at the same time that He was there talking to him, He was also in heaven, amounts to a direct, explicit assertion of divinity. When faced by that, a monotheistic Jew will take one of the options of Lewis' trilemma: this man is a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. If Nicodemus had taken one of the first two, he would not have then defended Jesus before the Pharisees:

“Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (Jn 7:51)

[1] http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/ntesources/ntarticles/gtj-nt/black-jn3-gtj-85.pdf

  • It seems as though you're arguing the opposite point, that Nicodemus was saved at this time. That's not what the question is asking, however, and because this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, answers need to address the question asked, not merely related subjects. Jul 4, 2016 at 2:13
  • The OP asked for "existing research ... on the ultimate judgement that Nicodemus had inferior or unsaving faith", and I presented my humble original research, which supporting the notion that the judgment is incorrect. If the OP had said "supporting the judgement" instead of "on the judgement", I would have stayed out. Anyway, I have no problem deleting this answer if a moderator asks me to do so.
    – Johannes
    Jul 4, 2016 at 2:39

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