You Must Be Born Again
3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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 answered him, “Truly, truly, 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 mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, 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.’ 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 said to him, “How can these things be?” 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? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
For God So Loved the World
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
John the Baptist Exalts Christ
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
John 3 Commentary
by Hank Workman
I love, love, love this chapter. It is completely packed with unreal truths and conversations.
We’re first introduced to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who comes to Jesus at night with questions. Let’s keep in mind, Jesus was already targeted and the religious order had him marked. Nicodemus though had questions and instead of sending someone else to inquire he wanted to hear it firsthand. The conversation is amazing on every level – as the most famous verse of all is spoken – John 3:16.
Jesus gave Nicodemus much to chew on that night. The rest of the story is found much later after Jesus’ death when Nicodemus went very public. In particular, when the religious order put Jesus to death, Nicodemus stepped forward with Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27) and helped him take Jesus’ body down from the cross and brought myrrh and aloes weighing 75 pounds to use in the burial. He had weighed all those words Jesus said and aligned himself completely with Him.
Second, we have John the Baptist who was challenged by his own disciples about Jesus. Jesus’ ministry had become full-blown and from their standpoint, He was taking all their ‘business’ away as the crowds were following Jesus now and theirs had thinned. John was direct with them, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
In both of these stories, one significant thing happened, in the end, Nicodemus laid down his personhood and life for Jesus. He decreased. John knew his role as being the forerunner for the Christ and that was it. There was nothing left for him to do. He had fulfilled his calling. He decreased.
For each of us, this should truly be our own stance on things when it comes to Jesus. Beyond our own personal relationship with Him, our goal should be to point others toward the Christ. They need to see Him tangibly before us while our transformation is evident. as we decrease and He increases in every aspect of our life.
John 3 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
If we take a bird’s eye view of chapter 3, we find that John is intentional about giving us stories that refute the familiar view of Salvation in ancient times.
The Path To Salvation
The Jewish path to Salvation was adherence to the rules and rituals of their religious system. As Jesus alluded to many times, the Pharisees focused on “cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside was filthy.” Jesus was opening Nicodemus (and us) to the reality of Salvation. It was a spiritual cleansing that could only come from being born again in the Spirit. The works are always tainted by the flesh, but through the Spirit, we have the ability to obey God. Ritually cleansing the body could never wipe away the stains of sin, but through Jesus, a new spiritual cleansing could be found.
We know all this, but it is difficult to unravel our works-based mindset. Nearly everything we do is based on a system of positive or negative reinforcement. In all avenues of life, you basically get what you give. In our interpersonal relationships we work to earn trust, respect, and even love. Hard workers are viewed positively and lazy people are ignored and chastised.
Now, don’t get me wrong. All these principles I’ve mentioned are true and important in Scripture, but they really only matter from a perspective of post-Salvation fruitfulness. What do I mean by that?
The motivation for working hard for God (like the Pharisees did) is self-serving. This is because of our sin problem. We can never outwork sin, so we can never please God. If we can never truly please God, then why are we doing it? The only rational conclusion would be for the approval of man or to elevate ourselves. This is exactly what Jesus accused the Pharisees of. They ignored their sin while attempting to exalt their reputations.
On the other hand, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice and being born-again into a right standing with God brings joy and peace. This can only come from Him and can only be received through repentance. We receive the Holy Spirit who affirms our place in God’s Kingdom. Therefore, the post-Salvation works are the only works that ever matter because they are the only works that glorify God. If we are working hard after we’ve received what Jesus has done, we will produce good works for God. If you’ve truly experienced grace, why wouldn’t you want to work hard for God?
The Scope of Salvation
Another theory refuted in this chapter is the idea that only God’s people (the Jews) could receive Salvation. Directly after proclaiming that we must be born again, we read the most famous verse in Scripture – John 3:16. It begins with a shocking, revolutionary statement for people living in the ancient world. “For God so loved the world…”
What? God loves the world? That can’t be right… In that time they would have been thinking, “How can He love the Egyptians, and the Samaritans, and the Romans? How could He love ANY Gentile?”
Today we think much the same. How can He love the addicts and the mass murderers and the demented sex-trafficking maniacs?
His grace is enough. Even though we tend to misunderstand both the path and the scope of Salvation, Jesus makes it absolutely clear how it is accomplished and who is it for.
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16 HCSB