The Book of John is unique among the Gospel accounts. You may read it when you are yet in shallow waters near the shore, and you will find Jesus there. You may read it and find yourself totally immersed in deep truths about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I will go deep, and if it is too much, don’t worry! Stay in the shallow waters for a bit. He will take you deeper, as you get to know Him!
Chapter 3 is so rich with meaning and truth. The whole of the Bible is that way, too. It is like honey from the comb. Come, partake!
Verse 1-2 — Not all Jewish leaders rejected Jesus Christ. Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, and he came to Jesus at night (so no one would see him). He called Jesus Rabbi, which is a title of respect. He said he and others knew that Jesus came from God as a teacher. He was right, but he did not yet see the full purposes of God in sending God the Son.
How did Nicodemus and the others know Jesus came from God? Because of the signs, the attesting miracles, that Jesus did. They could not be done unless Jesus belonged to God. Nicodemus had seen the signs, but he did not yet see the King (Jesus) or the kingdom of God.
Verse 3 — Because Nicodemus did not understand the kingdom, Jesus began to teach him. Truly, truly (literally, Amen, Amen) — anytime you see these words together, pull up close and listen carefully. He’s about to speak a very important truth.
Unless you are born again (literally, born from above), you cannot see the kingdom of God. You are blind to it and cannot enter it.
Imagine the implication of being born from above. It goes back to John 1:12-13. To be born, we must be formed in our mother’s womb. This “born from above” means God must work an extreme degree of change in us. We must be re-formed in God’s image, so we are identifiable as children of God.
We are not born of blood (human means) nor are we born of the will of the flesh (because a man and a wife have relations), but born of God. He becomes our Father, and we become His children. And no one can see the “big picture” of God’s kingdom unless that re-formation has been done. Then our eyes open, just like when a child comes out of its mother’s womb. We see for the first time.
Verse 4 — Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, could not comprehend what Jesus had just said. He responded in terms of natural childbirth.
Verses 5-8 — Truly, truly. Another extremely important truth is about to be spoken. Jesus explained that this is not a natural birth. It is a supernatural, spiritual birth. It involves water (baptism of repentance), and the Spirit (baptism of cleansing of heart, per Acts 15:9). And it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God unless this birth has happened.
That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. What does that mean? I should have written about this in John 1, but maybe the Lord had a reason for explaining it now rather than then.
I was born of flesh. I was born to my parents, Richard and Jane. I am a mixture of Richard and Jane, having some qualities of each in my physical being. And so, I was born through humans, and was human and nothing more. Now Psalm 139:13 truly says that God knit my physical body in my mother’s womb. Natural life originates from Him, also.
But when I was born from above, I was born of the Spirit, and God put a portion of Himself, of His Spirit, into my innermost being, my heart, my own spirit, the part of me that can’t be weighed or measured.
Nicodemus was amazed when Jesus said he must be born from above, but Jesus told him he should not be amazed.
Those born from above, those born of the Spirit, are like the wind. You hear the wind, but you cannot see the wind itself — just its effects. So you have no idea where it came from. How did wind come to be? We can talk about the jet stream and fronts and other weather and scientific terms. But where did it originate? We do not know. If we don’t know where it originally came from, we surely can’t know where it is going.
You can hear those born by the Spirit. You see the God works that they do. You see God’s nature in them. But until you are also born by the Spirit, born from above, you do not know where those born by the Spirit came from, and you do not know where they are going. They move around and speak according to the Spirit’s leading. They are no longer children of flesh, but children of God. They are in His kingdom, and His kingdom is in them, because they are born of God, of His Spirit. Where are they going? To live with Him eternally.
That may sound impossible. But I am here to tell you it is real, and there are many like me who have been born from above, who have a portion of God in us. We were changed, entirely re-formed, when it happened. We saw God the Father for the first time. He opened our eyes.
Verses 9-10 — Nicodemus still didn’t understand. Jesus asked him how he, as THE teacher of Israel — a ruler among teachers, the top teacher — couldn’t understand. After all, as the chief teacher, Nicodemus knew the Tenakh (the Old Testament) like the back of his hand. But he only knew the words. He didn’t understand what God had announced from the beginning. He couldn’t connect the dots to see the prophecies of the kingdom of God.
Verses 11-12 — Truly, truly. Another great truth was about to be spoken by Jesus. He said we (those of the Spirit) speak of what we know (God), and testify of what we have seen (the kingdom of God, which we can now see because we are born from above). But Nicodemus and others do not accept our testimony.
Jesus spoke of natural birth and natural wind, which are earthly things, and compared them to being born again from above and what those born by Spirit are like. Those are heavenly things. Nicodemus did not understand anything that Jesus said, even the earthly comparisons. So how would Nicodemus believe if Jesus told him heavenly things?
He did not understand that Jesus spoke of a total re-formation of humans so that they become something they absolutely could not become on their own. I could not be born naturally without the action of my parents. I cannot be born from above except by the actions of God the Father and His Spirit.
Verse 13 — Jesus told Nicodemus another heavenly thing. At the time He spoke to Nicodemus, He was descended from heaven, sent by God the Father. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, because it was necessary for Him to be born by the Holy Spirit’s touch upon Mary, in order to accomplish the mission for which He was sent. The One who would take away sin of the world needed to be born of a human, and yet fully God, sinless and perfect. Only God the Son fit the bill.
Verse 14-15 — Jesus referred to a passage Nicodemus would have been familiar with. Numbers 21 records a plague upon the people of Israel in the wilderness — fiery serpents. The Lord told Moses to quickly make a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole. Whoever gazed intently at the serpent would live. It was an Old Testament symbol (a “type”) of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was lifted up onto a cross, with all mankind’s sin upon Him, He was unclean, like the serpent. But whoever looks intently upon Him and believes, that one will not only live, but will have eternal life.
What is eternal life? It is zoe in Greek, it is life as God has it, and it is in us when we are born from above, by the Holy Spirit. Not only is this eternal life in us when we are born by the Spirit, but it is the promise that death has no victory, death has no sting (1Corinthians 15:55). It is the promise that when our bodies fall away, we simply continue on in the presence of God, forever. Our bodies die, but we do not. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ, that one has this eternal life.
Verse 16-17 — God loved the world so much, He so loved the world which He and His Son created, that He gave His only begotten Son. His Son was given by Him as a gift. We do not need to pay for His Son, we can’t work really hard to become worthy to take this gift. What gift have you ever had to work for? It is a gift, something God holds out to us, and says, “Here. This is for you.”
Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. There are two choices that all humans have. Perish, or have everlasting life. The word “perish” means destruction in a prolonged form, a destruction that does not end, for those who reject God’s gift of His Son. They remain under God’s wrath (John 3:36).
To have everlasting life is to have life as God has it, now and forever. Hallelujah! All fear of death is gone (Hebrews 2:15).
God so loved the world — God is love (1John 4:8, 16). Does the fact that He is love mean God loves sin (willful disobedience)? No, He hates sin (Isaiah 61:8, Jeremiah 44:4). Does the fact that God is love mean God loves that we are sinning? Not at all, but He offers us a solution, out of His love for us.
Do you see the difference? He does not love sin, nor the fact that we are sinning. But OUT OF HIS LOVE for His creation, He offers us the solution to sin, His Son Jesus Christ.
He offers Jesus as a gift, something we don’t have to work for. He offers His Son, the One who existed in beginning, who was God and was geographically with God.
Why His Son? Jesus Christ is the only One who is qualified to take our past sins upon Himself and create the way for us to become born from above, by the Spirit.
He offers His Son, who rose from the dead and ascended to heaven and was glorified and poured out the Spirit. He offers His Son, who commands believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire, so our hearts are purified, we have power over sin, and we have His unmistakable divine nature in us, because we are filled with His Holy Spirit (2Peter 1:4).
God didn’t send Jesus Christ into the world to judge the world. The words He spoke will judge those who refuse Him. He came so that those in the world may be saved. Saved from what? The willful disobedience that God hates, the sins that humans commit because of it, the sin that results in perishing. The payment (wage) you earn for sinning is death (Romans 6:23). It is eternal destruction.
Verse 18 — You might say, “God is cruel, because He sends people to hell.” But here, Jesus tells us that people send themselves to hell. Everyone has a choice. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you will not face God’s judgment at the end of things. If you do not believe, you have already been judged, because you have refused God’s gift. You have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. You have not believed that He is who He says He is, and that His words are not only true, but the truth above all truths.
Verses 19-21 — Here is how we are judged. The Light, Jesus Christ came into the world. Some men loved the darkness (sin) rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. Everyone who is evil not only rejects but hates the Light. Such ones do not want to come into the Light because their evil deeds will be exposed by His Light.
But if you believe in God the Son and live out what you believe, you come into His Light, and your deeds are seen as God deeds, worked through you by Him. Others can detect God’s Spirit in you.
Verse 22— After Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, He and His disciples went to Judea. He spent time with them. The Apostle John says that He was baptizing (water baptism for repentance and forgiveness of sins), but it was His disciples who actually did the baptizing in water (John 4:2). It was not yet time for Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Verses 23-25 — John the Baptist wasn’t in prison yet, so he was also baptizing in Aenon, because there was much water there (a hint that he was baptizing by immersion in water).
John the Baptist’s disciples had a discussion with a Jew about purification. And they came to John the Baptist, telling him about Jesus and His disciples, and how He was baptizing (though it was His disciples). And all were coming to Jesus. They wanted to know why someone else was doing the same work, when John the Baptist had been called by the Lord to do it.
Verses 26-29 — John the Baptist said he received his marching orders from heaven. His disciples were his witnesses that he was not the Christ, and that he was sent ahead of the Christ.
Then he spoke of the bride and the bridegroom. He said this bridegroom has arrived for His bride. John the Baptist was the friend of the Bridegroom, whom he is about to identify as Jesus Christ. He stood and heard Jesus Christ. And he rejoiced greatly because he heard the voice of this Bridegroom, so much that his joy was made full. He was filled to overflowing with joy. He had finished his work, preparing the way in hearts for mankind to receive Jesus Christ. (I will not go into an explanation of Jewish wedding customs just now, but John the Baptist referred to them with the words he spoke.)
John the Baptist recognized Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and as the Bridegroom. Who is His bride? The church, which is all believers in Jesus Christ (2Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7).
Verses 30-33 — John the Baptist continued. He (Christ) must increase, but John the Baptist must decrease. He meant that he and his ministry were about to fade into the background, and Christ’s ministry was to be in the forefront. He confirmed Jesus Christ came from above, and is therefore above all. He is God the Son, greater than John the Baptist, who was born from the earth, who was not conceived in his mother’s womb by the Holy Spirit. He speaks from an earthly position, because he did not come from above. The One that comes from heaven is God the Son, and He is above all.
Jesus Christ testified of what He saw and heard in heaven, before He came to earth. He testified of it, but no one received His testimony. They heard it, but they didn’t absorb it into themselves. They rejected it. But John the Baptist received Jesus Christ’s testimony, and he set his seal — he guaranteed — that God is true.
Verse 34-36 — John the Baptist received the Spirit in the Old Testament way. He was baptized for a specific purpose, in a limited way, to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. John the Baptist confirmed that Jesus was sent by God and spoke God’s words and noted that the Spirit remained upon Him in an unlimited way (without measure). God had done a new thing.
John the Baptist confirmed that God the Father loves the God the Son and has poured out and given all things into His hand.
John the Baptist ended his words to his disciples by saying he who believes in Jesus has everlasting life, but he who rejects and does not obey Jesus will not see life, but the wrath of God abides (remains) on him, because he rejects God the Son whom the Father sent.