2 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.”
do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
“Signs” here need to be understood as works or acts of Jesus, not miracles. Signs will later in the gospel represent miracles. Jesus’ actions in the temple provoked the idea that a prophet had come to the city—or, as Nicodemus said, “a teacher” had come to Jerusalem. These signs mean that what Jesus did proved He was a significant person sent from God.
Signs pointed to the reality of what Jesus did. Nicodemus believed in these signs. A sign is not an end in itself. It is not able to save the soul. Nicodemus was an example of those in the previous chapter who exercised superficial belief (Jn 2:23-24). Mere reliance on signs to believe is not adequate faith. He operated on a façade of pseudo knowledge. He did not know what he thought he knew.
Nicodemus functioned on a sign-based faith, an inadequate faith. He operated on the same spurious faith as those in 2:23-25. The Lord refused to accept this faith based on signs, not because they were untrue but because they were insufficient to save the soul.
Nicodemus understood the signs correctly but failed to interpret them in a Christ-centered way. He did not grasp the full implication of who Jesus was and what He did.
Nicodemus was not a believer at this point; however, he did have positive volition toward Christ, which made him a candidate for salvation. Since he put himself in a position as a learner, Jesus gave him the gospel because he was open to what God would have for him. No matter how righteous or religious he was, he had a spiritual need.
The best way to deal with doubt is to pursue an answer.
Doubt in itself is not wrong as long as we deal with it with integrity. The best way to deal with doubt is to pursue an answer with ruthlessness. I used to tell our university students that the Bible is like a lion; it can defend itself.
Belief is not an end in itself. Belief must have an object, a greater end. The goal of a sign in John is to confirm that eternal life is the result of believing that the signs point to who and what Jesus is.
Salvation by systems other than Christ runs counter to everything Christ represents. Salvation by works is the polar opposite to God’s way.