John tells about Jesus speaking to and questioning Nicodemus a Pharisee, a ruler and teacher of the Jews about “having to be born again”.
‘Jesus Speaks to Nicodemus’
John 3:1-21: There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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.”
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 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?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Commentary: 3:1. Nicodemus represented the best in the nation. He was a teacher, a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. The Sanhedrin had 70 members who were responsible for religious decisions and also, under the Romans, for civil rule. Two Sanhedrin members who appear in a favorable light in the New Testament are Joseph of Arimathea and the Rabbi Gamaliel. The Sanhedrin put Jesus on trial. Nicodemus later rebuked the Pharisees for condemning Jesus without hearing Him, and he helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus.
3:2. Why did Nicodemus go to Jesus at night? Because of fear? Because it was the normal time for visits? Because he wanted a time of uninterrupted conversation without the distractions of the ever-present crowds? John did not say why. And yet nighttime has a sinister tone in the Fourth Gospel (9:4; 11:10; 13:30; 19:39). Nicodemus began, Rabbi, we know You are a Teacher who has come from God. “We” probably means the favorable ones on the council. The titles “Rabbi” and “Teacher” are polite and flattering on one hand, but they showed Nicodemus’ inadequate comprehension of who Jesus is. The words “from God” are in an emphatic position in the Greek. The signs had pointed out Jesus as God’s Man (God was with Him), and Nicodemus wanted to talk to Him as one Rabbi to another.
3:3. But Jesus was not on the same level with Nicodemus. He is “from above” therefore Nicodemus must be born “from above”. To be born again or born “from above” is to have a spiritual transformation which takes a person out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. The kingdom is the sphere or realm of God’s authority and blessing which is now invisible but will be manifested on earth.
3:4. Nicodemus was certain Jesus did not mean something absurd (such as a reincarnation or a second physical birth), but yet he did not grasp the nature of regeneration.
3:5. Various views are given to explain Jesus’ words about being born of water and the Spirit: (1) The “water” refers to the natural birth, and the “Spirit” to the birth from above. (2) The “water” refers to the Word of God. (3) This is not baptismal regeneration for that would be contrary to Paul’s teaching in this book as well as all his other writings and the entire New Testament (Eph, 5:26). Metaphorically, being regenerated is pictured as being cleansed by water (CF. “the washing of rebirth” in Titus 3:5). (4) The “water” is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). (5) The “water” refers to the repentance ministry of John the Baptist, and the “Spirit” refers to the application by the Holy Spirit of Christ to an individual.
The fifth view has the merit of historical propriety as well as theological acceptability. John the Baptist had stirred the nation by his ministry and stress on repentance (Matt. 3:1-6). “Water” would remind Nicodemus of the Baptist’s emphasis. So Jesus was saying that Nicodemus, in order to enter the kingdom, needed to turn to Him (repent) in order to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
3:6-7. There are two distinct realms: one is of fallen man (the flesh) and the other is of God (the Spirit). A fallen person cannot regenerate himself; he needs a divine operation. Only God’s Holy Spirit can regenerate a human spirit.
People should not stumble at or reject the importance of Jesus’ words. They must be born from above. The necessity is absolute and is universally binding.
3:8. This verse contains a wordplay which cannot be adequately expressed in the blowing of the wind (pneuma). Man controls neither.
3:9-10. Nicodemus asked . . . how this spiritual transformation takes place. Jesus answered that Nicodemus, as the teacher of Israel, ought to know. The Old Testament prophets spoke of the new Age with its working of the Spirit. The nation’s outstanding teacher ought to understand how God by His sovereign grace can give someone a new heart.
3:11. But Nicodemus was ignorant of the realm of which Jesus spoke. He represented the nation’s unbelief and lack of knowledge. Jesus, like the prophets, spoke to the nation about divine themes but the Jews rejected His witness. “Witness” (or testimony; martyrian) is a common word in John’s Gospel.
3:12. Since Nicodemus could not grasp the basic teaching of regeneration which Jesus presented in earthly analogies, how could he understand and believe the more abstract heavenly matters such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Jesus’ coming glorification?
3:13. No one has ever gone into heaven and then come back to earth, able to give clear teaching about divine matters. The one exception is Jesus who is the Son of Man. He is the “Ladder” between heaven and earth with access to both realms. Comments on John 1:50-51). He “descended” in the Incarnation and “ascended” in the Ascension. He also was in heaven before the Incarnation, and therefore knows the divine mysteries.
3:14-15. The thought of elevation to heaven leads to the thought of Jesus being lifted up. Moses raised a bronze snake on a pole as a cure for a punishment due to disobedience. So Jesus would be lifted up on a cross for people’s sin, so that a look of faith gives eternal life to those doomed to die.
3:16. Whether this verse was spoken by John or Jesus, it is God’s Word and is an important summary of the gospel. God’s motivation toward people is love. God’s love is not limited to a few or to one group of people but His gift is for the whole world. God’s love was expressed in the giving of His most priceless gift—His unique Son. The Greek word translated one and only, referring to the Son, is monogenē, which means “only begotten,” or “only born-one.” It is also used in John 1:14, 18; 3:18; and 1 John 4:9. On man’s side, the gift is simply to be received, not earned (John 1:12-13). A person is saved by believing, by trusting in Christ. Perish means not annihilation but rather a final destiny of “ruin” in hell apart from God who is life, truth, and joy. Eternal life is a new quality of life, which a believer has now as a present possession and will possess forever.
3:17. Though light casts shadows, its purpose is to illuminate. Though those who do not believe are condemned, God’s purpose in sending His Son is salvation (to save), not damnation (to condemn). God does not delight in the death of the wicked. He desires that everyone be saved.
3:18. The instrumental means of salvation is believing in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. But people who reject the light of the Logos are in the dark and are therefore already under God’s judgment. They stand condemned. They are like those sinful, dying Israelites who willfully rejected the divine remedy. A believer in Christ, on the other hand, is under “no condemnation”; he “will not be condemned”.
3:19. Men love darkness not for its own sake but because of what it hides. They want to continue undisturbed in their evil deeds. A believer is also a sinner (though a redeemed one), but he confesses his sin and responds to God. In the ultimate sense, man’s love of darkness rather than God is his love for idols. He worships and serves “created things rather than the Creator”.
3:20. Just as natural light shows up what is otherwise unseen, so Christ the Light exposes people’s deeds as “evil.” Unbelievers have no ultimate meaning of life, no worthy motivation, no adequate goal, and a destiny of doom. Yet everyone who does evil hates the light (as well as loves darkness, 3:19). He fears that if he comes to the light his deeds will be seen as worthless, and he would need to turn from them.
3:21. Jesus is like a magnet. His people are drawn to Him and welcome His revelation. Though the light rebukes their sin, they respond in repentance and faith. They live by the truth. By regeneration they live differently than their former lives of darkness. Their new lives are by faith in Jesus and His Word. And the Spirit, working in their lives, gives them new power, goals, and interests (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10).
The Bible reflects on New Birth. This a great list of facts with scripture listed. It speaks forcefully about what new birth is, how it affects or changes our life, adoption, and about backsliding.
10 Facts About the New Birth
- It is a moral and spiritual Change, not a physical one (Gal. 4:29; Jn. 3:1-8)
- It is a change of heart, will, motives, desires, life and conduct, and not organism (2 Cor. 5:17-18)
- It is a change of masters not of constitutional makeup of body, soul, or spirit (Rom. 6:11-23; 8:1-4)
- It is an adoption of one from the satanic family into the family of God (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5)
- It is not a coming into existence of the body, soul, or spirit, as in the natural birth, but a consecration of them to serve God and holiness instead of Satan and sin ( Rom. 6:16-22; 8:1-13; Col. 3:5-10; Gal. 5 16-26)
- It is not a begetting of the Holy Spirit in the sense Jesus became and is the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16), but a renewal in righteousness and true holiness of one who is already in existence (Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10; Ps. 51:10)
- It is a change of nature, but not the coming into existence of that nature (Rom. 3:24-25;2 Cor. 5:17; Tit. 3:5)
- It is a change of favor, a new understanding before God (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:1-9; Tit. 2:2:11-14; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1Jn. 3:8-10)
- It is a change of character, state of service (Gal. 5:21-22; 1 Cor. 13; Rom. 3:24-31; 5:1-11; 2 Tim. 2:21; Tit. 2:11-14)
- There is no comparison between the natural and spiritual birth as to choice in the matter, conception, embryo, process, and actual birth. The very moment one is grown enough to recognize he is a sinner and when he repents and believes the gospel a moral and spiritual change takes place (Mk. 1:15; 2 Cor. 5:17-18; Rom. 1:16; 10:9-19; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Jn. 1:9). The very moment he decides to sin again he has a moral fall, incurs the penalty of broken law again and comes under the sentence of death again (Jas. 1:13-15; 5:19-20; Rom. 6:11-23; 8:1-13; Jn. 8:34; 2 Pet. 2:19-22; Heb. 6:4-9; 10:26-29; Gal. 5:4;19:21; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1Jn. 3:8-10;Ez. 18:4; etc.).
If man sins he must repent and be forgiven and restored or pay the death penalty as in Gal. 6:7-8 and in the above scriptures.
God in his mercy does not give us what we do deserve but God in his grace gives us what we don’t deserve.
To live as children of light one must discern what pleases the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 5:9; Col. 1:10).
God is testing us every day and has given us the right to make our own choices. Do you know which ones are the right choices in Gods mind?
Fear God, love God, hoor God, and trust God with all your heart, mind and soul and you will receive and experience the joy of the promises of God’s blessings in His time.
Prayer: Father in heaven, I praise You for Your Son and the Holy Spirit. I praise You for Your grace in sending us Your wisdom about New Birth. Please bless those who have read this article for they too are seeking Your righteous truth, love, wisdom and understanding. I pray they will practice the inspirations of this article. I pray for those who either disagree or do nothing to comply.
May God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Christianity be our guiding lights, our safety nets and our inspiration for loving happiness in all of Your kingdom. Father into your hands I commend my spirit. Not my will, but Yours be done. Please come Lord Jesus.
I pray in Jesus sweet name and to His glory,