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John Chapter Three


John 3

But there was a man (chap. 3)-and that a Pharisee-who was not satisfied with this inoperative conviction. His conscience was reached. Seeing Jesus, and hearing His testimony, had produced a sense of need in his heart. It is not the knowledge of grace, but it is with respect to man's condition a total change. He knows nothing of the truth, but he has seen that it is in Jesus, and he desires it. He has also at once an instinctive sense that the world will be against him; and he comes by night. The heart fears the world as soon as it has to do with God; for the world is opposed to Him. The friendship of the world is enmity against God. This sense of need made the difference in the case of Nicodemus. He had been convinced like the others. Accordingly he says, "We know that thou art a teacher come from God." And the source of this conviction was the miracles. But Jesus stops him short; and that on account of the true need felt in the heart of Nicodemus. The work of blessing was not to be wrought by teaching the old man. Man needed to be renewed in the source of his nature, without which he could not see the kingdom. [1]

The things of God are spiritually discerned; and man is carnal, he has not the Spirit. The Lord does not go beyond the kingdom-which, moreover, was not the law-for Nicodemus ought to have known something about the kingdom. But He does not begin to teach the Jews as a prophet under the law. He presents the kingdom itself; but to see it, according to His testimony, a man must be born again. But the kingdom as thus come in the carpenter's Son could not be seen without a wholly new nature, it struck no chord of man's comprehension or Jews' expectation, though testimony to it was amply given in word and work: as to entering and having a part in it there is more development as to the how. Nicodemus sees no farther than the flesh.

The Lord explains Himself. Two things were necessary-to be born of water, and of the Spirit. Water cleanses. And, spiritually, in his affections, heart, conscience, thoughts, actions, etc., man lives, and in practice is morally purified, through the application, by the power of the Spirit, of the word of God, which judges all things, and works in us livingly new thoughts and affections. This is the water; it is withal the death of the flesh. The true water which cleanses in a christian way came forth from the side of a dead Christ. He came by water and blood, in the power of cleansing and of expiation. He sanctifies the assembly by cleansing it through the washing of water by the word. "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." It is therefore the mighty word of God which, since man must be born again in the principle and source of his moral being, judges, as being death, all that is of the flesh. [2]

But there is in fact the communication of a new life; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, is not flesh, has its nature from the Spirit. It is not the Spirit-that would be an incarnation; but this new life is spirit. It partakes of the nature of its origin. Without this, man cannot enter into the kingdom. But this is not all. If it was a necessity for the Jew, who already was nominally a child of the kingdom, for here we deal with what is essential and true, it was also asovereign act of God, and consequently it is accomplished wherever the Spirit acts in this power. "So is every one that is born of the Spirit." This in principle opens the door to the Gentiles.

Nevertheless Nicodemus, as a master of Israel, ought to have understood this. The prophets had declared that Israel was to undergo this change, in order to enjoy the fulfilment of the promises (see Ezek. 36), which God had given them with regard to their blessing in the holy land. But Jesus spoke of these things in an immediate way, and in connection with the nature and the glory of God Himself. A master in Israel ought to have known that which the sure word of prophecy contained. The Son of God declared that which He knew, and that which He had seen with His Father. The defiled nature of man could not be in relationship with Him who revealed Himself in heaven whence Jesus came. The glory (from the fulness of which He came, and which formed therefore the subject of His testimony as having seen it, and from which the kingdom had its origin) could have nothing in it that was defiled. They must be born again to possess it. He bore testimony therefore, as having come from above and knowing that which was suitable to God His Father. Man did not receive His testimony. Convinced outwardly by miracles he might be; but to receive that which was befitting the presence of God was another thing. And if Nicodemus could not receive the truth in its connection with the earthly part of the kingdom, of which even the prophets had spoken, what would he and the other Jews do if Jesus spoke of heavenly things? Nevertheless no one could learn anything about them by any other means. No one had gone up there and come down again to bring back word. Jesus only, in virtue of what He was, could reveal them-the Son of man on earth, existing at the same time in heaven, the manifestation to men of that which was heavenly, of God Himself in man-as God being in heaven and everywhere-as the Son of man being before the eyes of Nicodemus and of all. Nevertheless He was to be crucified, and thus lifted up from the world to which He had come as the manifestation of the love of God in all His ways and of God Himself, and so only could the door be opened for sinful men into heaven, so only a link formed for man with it.

For this brought out another fundamental truth. If heaven was in question, something more was needed than being born again. Sin existed. It must be put away for those who should have eternal life. And if Jesus, coming down from heaven, was come to impart this eternal life to others, He must, in undertaking this work, put sin away-be thus made sin-in order that the dishonour done to God should be washed away, and the truth of His character (without which there is nothing sure, or good, or righteous) maintained. The Son of man must be lifted up, even as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, that the curse, under which the people were dying, might be removed. His divine testimony rejected, man, as he was down here, shewed himself to be incapable of receiving blessing from above. He must be redeemed, his sin expiated and put away; he must be treated according to the reality of his condition, and according to the character of God who cannot deny Himself. Jesus in grace undertook to do this. It was necessary that the Son of man should be lifted up, rejected from the earth by man, accomplishing the atonement before the God of righteousness. In a word, Christ comes with the knowledge of what heaven is and divine glory. In order that man might share it, the Son of man must die-must take the place of expiation-outside the earth. [3] Observe here the deep and glorious character of that which Jesus brought with Him, of the revelation He made.

The cross, and the absolute separation between man on earth and God-this is the meeting-place of faith and God; for there is at once thetruth of man's condition, and the love that meets it. Thus, in approaching the holy place from the camp, the first thing they met on going through the gate of the court was the altar. It presented itself to every one that quitted the world without, and entered in. Christ, lifted up from the earth, draws all men to Him. But if (owing to man's state of alienation and guilt) it needed that the Son of man should be lifted up from the earth, in order that whosoever believes in Him should have everlasting life, there was another aspect of this same glorious fact; God had so loved the world that He had given His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should have everlasting life. On the cross we see the necessity morally of the death of the Son of man; we see the ineffable gift of the Son of God. These two truths unite in the common object of the gift of eternal life to all believers. And if it was to all believers, it was a question of man, of God, and of heaven, and went outside the promises made to the Jews, and the limits of God's dealings with that people. For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it. But salvation is by faith; and he who believes in the coming of the Son, putting all things now to the test, is not condemned (his state is decided thereby); he who believes not is condemned already, he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God, he has manifested his condition.

And this is the thing that God lays to their charge. Light is come into the world, and they have loved darkness because their works were evil. Could there be a more just subject of condemnation? It was no question of their not finding pardon, but of their preferring darkness to light that they might continue in sin.

The rest of the chapter presents the contrast between the positions of John and of Christ. They are both before the eye. The one is the faithful friend of the Bridegroom, living only for Him; the other is the Bridegroom, to whom all belongs: the one, in himself, an earthly man, great as might be the gift he had received from heaven; the other from heaven Himself, and above all. The bride was His. The friend of the Bridegroom, hearing His voice, was full of joy. Nothing more beautiful than this expression of John the Baptist's heart, inspired by the Lord's presence, near enough to Jesus to be glad and rejoice that Jesus was all. Thus it ever is.

With respect to the testimony, John bore witness in connection with earthly things. For that end he was sent. He who Himself came from heaven was above all, and bore witness of heavenly things, of that which He had seen and heard. No one received His testimony. Man was not of heaven. Without grace one believes according to one's own thoughts. But in speaking as a man on the earth, Jesus spoke the words of God; and he who received His testimony set to his seal that God was true. For the Spirit is not given by measure. As a witness the testimony of Jesus was the testimony of God Himself; His words, the words of God. Precious truth! Moreover, He was the Son, [4] and the Father loved Him, and had given all things into His hand. This is another glorious title of Christ, another aspect of His glory. But the consequences of this for man were eternal. It was not almighty help to pilgrims, nor faithfulness to promises, so that His people could trust in Him in spite of all. It was the quickening life-giving Son of the Father. All was comprised in it. "He who believeth in the Son hath everlasting life, he who believeth not shall not see life." He remains in his guilt. The wrath of God abides on him.

All this is a kind of introduction. The ministry of the Lord, properly so called, comes after. John (v. 24) was not yet cast into prison. It was not till after that event that the Lord began His public testimony. The chapter we have been considering explains what His ministry was, the character in wh ich He came, His position, the glory of His Person, the character of the testimony He bore, the position of man in connection with the things of which He spake, beginning with the Jews, and going on, by the new birth, the cross, and the love of God, to His rights as come into the world, and the supreme dignity of His own Person, to His properly divine testimony, to His relationship with the Father, the object of whose love He was, and who had given all things into His hand. He was the faithful witness, and that of heavenly things (see chap. 3:13), but He was also the Son Himself come from the Father. Everything for man rested on faith in Him. The Lord comes out from Judaism, while presenting the testimony of the prophets, and brings from heaven the direct testimony of God and of glory, shewing the only ground on which we can have a part in it. Jew or Gentile must be born again; and heavenly things could only be entered by the cross, the wondrous proof of God's love to the world. John gives place to Him, bringing out-not in public testimony to Israel but to his disciples-the true glory of His Person and of His work [5] in this world. The thought of the bride and Bridegroom is, I believe, general. John says indeed that he is not the Christ, and that the earthly bride belongs to Jesus; but He has never taken her; and John speaks of His rights, which for us are realised in a better land and another clime than this world. It is, I repeat, the general idea. But we have now entered on the new ground of a new nature, the cross, and the world and God's love to it.


[1] That is, as it was then come. They saw the carpenter's Son. In glory, of course, every eye on earth shall see it.

[2] Observe here that baptism, instead of being the sign of the gift of life, is the sign of death. We are baptised to His death. In coming up out of the water, we begin a new life in resurrection (all that belonged to the natural man being reckoned to be dead in Christ, and passed away for ever). "Ye are dead"; and "he that is dead is freed [justified] from sin." But we live also and have a good conscience by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus Peter compares baptism to the deluge, through which Noah was saved, but which destroyed the old world, that had, as it were, a new life when it emerged from the flood.

[3] On the cross, Christ is not on the earth, but lifted up from it, rejected ignominiously by man, but withal through this presented as a victim on the altar to God.

[4] The question presents itself naturally, where John's testimony closes and the evangelist's begins. The last two verses, I apprehend, are the evangelist's.

[5] Observe here, that the Lord-while not concealing (v. 11-13) the character of His testimony, as indeed He could not-speaks of the necessity of His death, and of the love of God. John speaks of the glory of His Person. Jesus magnifies His Father by submitting to the necessity which the condition of men imposed on Him, if He would bring them into a new relationship with God. "God," said He, "hath so loved." John magnifies Jesus. All is perfect and in place. There are four points in that which is said with regard to Jesus: His supremacy; His testimony-this is the Baptist's testimony to Him. What follows (v. 35, 36)-His having all things given to Him by the Father who loved Him, life everlasting in contrast with the wrath that is the portion of the unbeliever from God-is rather the new revelation; the purpose of God giving all things to Him, and His being Himself eternal life come down from heaven, is that of John the evangelist.

── John DarbySynopsis of John


John 3

Chapter Contents

Christ's discourse with Nicodemus. (1-21) The baptism of John of Christ John's testimony. (22-36)

Commentary on John 3:1-8

(Read John 3:1-8)

Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, 13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, verses 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the "HE THAT IS," and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Numbers 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, "Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?"

Commentary on John 3:22-36

(Read John 3:22-36)

John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his government and peace there would be no end, while he himself would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained; whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon them.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on John


John 3

Verse 2

[2] The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

The same came — Through desire; but by night - Through shame: We know - Even we rulers and Pharisees.

Verse 3

[3] Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Jesus answered — That knowledge will not avail thee unless thou be born again - Otherwise thou canst not see, that is, experience and enjoy, either the inward or the glorious kingdom of God. In this solemn discourse our Lord shows, that no external profession, no ceremonial ordinances or privileges of birth, could entitle any to the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom: that an entire change of heart as well as of life was necessary for that purpose: that this could only be wrought in man by the almighty power of God: that every man born into the world was by nature in a state of sin, condemnation, and misery: that the free mercy of God had given his Son to deliver them from it, and to raise them to a blessed immortality: that all mankind, Gentiles as well as Jews, might share in these benefits, procured by his being lifted up on the cross, and to be received by faith in him: but that if they rejected him, their eternal, aggravated condemnation, would be the certain consequence.

Except a man be born again — If our Lord by being born again means only reformation of life, instead of making any new discovery, he has only thrown a great deal of obscurity on what was before plain and obvious.

Verse 4

[4] Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

When he is old — As Nicodemus himself was.

Verse 5

[5] Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit — Except he experience that great inward change by the Spirit, and be baptized (wherever baptism can be had) as the outward sign and means of it.

Verse 6

[6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh — Mere flesh, void of the Spirit, yea, at enmity with it; And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit - Is spiritual, heavenly, divine, like its Author.

Verse 7

[7] Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born again — To be born again, is to be inwardly changed from all sinfulness to all holiness. It is fitly so called, because as great a change then passes on the soul as passes on the body when it is born into the world.

Verse 8

[8] The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

The wind bloweth — According to its own nature, not thy will, and thou hearest the sound thereof - Thou art sure it doth blow, but canst not explain the particular manner of its acting.

So is every one that is born of the Spirit — The fact is plain, the manner of his operations inexplicable.

Verse 11

[11] Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

We speak what we know — I and all that believe in me.

Verse 12

[12] If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

Earthly things — Things done on earth; such as the new birth, and the present privileges of the children of God.

Heavenly things — Such as the eternity of the Son, and the unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Verse 13

[13] And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

For no one — For here you must rely on my single testimony, whereas there you have a cloud of witnesses: Hath gone up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven.

Who is in heaven — Therefore he is omnipresent; else he could not be in heaven and on earth at once. This is a plain instance of what is usually termed the communication of properties between the Divine and human nature; whereby what is proper to the Divine nature is spoken concerning the human, and what is proper to the human is, as here, spoken of the Divine.

Verse 14

[14] And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

And as Moses — And even this single witness will soon be taken from you; yea, and in a most ignominious manner. Numbers 21:8,9.

Verse 15

[15] That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

That whosoever — He must be lifted up, that hereby he may purchase salvation for all believers: all those who look to him by faith recover spiritual health, even as all that looked at that serpent recovered bodily health.

Verse 16

[16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Yea, and this was the very design of God's love in sending him into the world.

Whosoever believeth on him — With that faith which worketh by love, and hold fast the beginning of his confidence steadfast to the end.

God so loved the world — That is, all men under heaven; even those that despise his love, and will for that cause finally perish. Otherwise not to believe would be no sin to them. For what should they believe? Ought they to believe that Christ was given for them? Then he was given for them.

He gave his only Son — Truly and seriously. And the Son of God gave himself, Galatians 4:4, truly and seriously.

Verse 17

[17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world — Although many accuse him of it.

Verse 18

[18] He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

He that believeth on him is not condemned — Is acquitted, is justified before God.

The name of the only-begotten Son of God — The name of a person is often put for the person himself. But perhaps it is farther intimated in that expression, that the person spoken of is great and magnificent. And therefore it is generally used to express either God the Father or the Son.

Verse 19

[19] And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

This is the condemnation — That is, the cause of it. So God is clear.

Verse 21

[21] But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

He that practiseth the truth (that is, true religion) cometh to the light - So even Nicodemus, afterward did.

Are wrought in God — That is, in the light, power, and love of God.

Verse 22

[22] After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

Jesus went — From the capital city, Jerusalem, into the land of Judea - That is, into the country.

There he baptized — Not himself; but his disciples by his order, John 4:2.

Verse 23

[23] And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

John also was baptizing — He did not repel them that offered, but he more willingly referred them to Jesus.

Verse 25

[25] Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.

The Jews — Those men of Judea, who now went to be baptized by Jesus; and John's disciples, who were mostly of Galilee: about purifying - That is, baptism. They disputed, which they should be baptized by.

Verse 27

[27] John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

A man can receive nothing — Neither he nor I. Neither could he do this, unless God had sent him: nor can I receive the title of Christ, or any honour comparable to that which he hath received from heaven. They seem to have spoken with jealousy and resentment; John answers with sweet composure of spirit.

Verse 29

[29] He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom — He whom the bride follows. But all men now come to Jesus. Hence it is plain he is the bridegroom.

The friend who heareth him — Talk with the bride; rejoiceth greatly - So far from envying or resenting it.

Verse 30

[30] He must increase, but I must decrease.

He must increase, but I must decrease — So they who are now, like John, burning and shining lights, must (if not suddenly eclipsed) like him gradually decrease, while others are increasing about them; as they in their turns grew up, amidst the decays of the former generation. Let us know how to set, as well as how to rise; and let it comfort our declining days to trace, in those who are likely to succeed us in our work, the openings of yet greater usefulness.

Verse 31

[31] He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

It is not improbable, that what is added, to the end of the chapter, are the words of the evangelist, not the Baptist.

He that is of the earth — A mere man; of earthly original, has a spirit and speech answerable to it.

Verse 32

[32] And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

No man — None comparatively, exceeding few; receiveth his testimony - With true faith.

Verse 33

[33] He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

Hath set to his seal — It was customary among the Jews for the witness to set his seal to the testimony he had given.

That God is true — Whose words the Messiah speaks.

Verse 34

[34] For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

God giveth not him the Spirit by measure — As he did to the prophets, but immeasurably. Hence he speaketh the words of God in the most perfect manner.

Verse 36

[36] He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life — He hath it already. For he loves God. And love is the essence of heaven.

He that obeyeth not — A consequence of not believing.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on John


Chapter 3. Nicodemus

Born of the Flesh
Born of the Spirit

I. Born Again of Water and the Spirit

  1. Who Must Be Born Again?
  2. Why Must Be Born Again?
  3. How to Be Born Again? 

II. The Ends of Believers and Unbelievers

  1. God Loves the World
  2. Eternal Life for Believing in the Son
  3. Perish for Unbelief

III. Witness of John the Baptist

  1. He Must Increase
  2. I Must Decrease
  3. Fulfilled Joy
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
The New Birth (3:1-21)
1. A commonly used phrase is "born again Christian"...
   a. Often in the context of distinguishing between Christians who are
      "born again" and those not
   b. Which is a really an incorrect distinction, for all true
      Christians have been "born again"
   -- But what does it mean to be "born again"?
2. The Bible uses the expression "born again" only a few times...
   a. Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus - Jn 3:3,5,7
   b. Peter in his first epistle - 1 Pe 1:3,23
   -- Although the idea of being "born" of God is used many times 
      - e.g., Jn 1:13; 1 Jn 5:1
[In His discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals much about being "born
again."  With His comments as the basis of our study, let's examine what
the Bible reveals about "The New Birth".  After we are introduced to
Nicodemus (cf. also Jn 7:50; 19:39), we observe Jesus emphasizing...]
      1. Unless one is born again, he cannot see (enter) the kingdom 
         - cf. Jn 1:3,5,7
      2. What is the kingdom of God?  In brief...
         a. The rule and reign of God in the person of Christ - cf. Mt
            28:18; Ac 2:36; Re 1:4
         b. A spiritual kingdom not of this world - cf. Jn 18:36; Lk 17:
         c. A kingdom made up of faithful subjects (i.e., the church) 
            - cf. Co 1:13; Re 1:6,9
         d. A kingdom both present and future - cf. Mt 13:41-43; 1 Co
      -- Do you wish to be in the kingdom now and hereafter?  You must
         be born again!
      1. To be in the kingdom is to be saved from the powers of darkness
         - cf. Co 1:13
      2. Salvation requires a rebirth, a regeneration - cf. Ti 3:5
      -- Do you wish to be saved from your sins?  You must be born
[Nicodemus is confused, assuming that Jesus has in mind a physical
birth.  So Jesus explains...]
      1. Note carefully:  one birth involving two elements - water and
         the Spirit
         a. Not two births (born of water and born of the Spirit)
         b. But one birth (born of water and the Spirit)
      2. Compare Paul's description - cf. Ti 3:5
         a. A washing of regeneration (water)
         b. And renewing of the Holy Spirit (Spirit)
      3. An obvious reference to baptism
         a. "There can be no doubt, on any honest interpretation of the
            words, that gennethenai ek hudatos (born of water) refers to
            the token or outward sign of baptism, gennethenai ek
            pneumatos (born of Spirit) to the thing signified, or inward
            grace of the Holy Spirit.  All attempts to get rid of these
            two plain facts have sprung from doctrinal prejudices, by
            which the views of expositors have been warped." - Alford
            (Greek Testament)
         b. "By water, here, is evidently signified baptism." - Albert
         c. "Baptism by water, into the Christian faith, was necessary
            to every Jew and Gentile that entered into the kingdom of
            the Messiah." - Adam Clarke
         d. "There is not any one Christian writer of any antiquity in
            any language but what understands it of baptism....I believe
            Calvin was the first that ever denied this place to mean
            baptism.  He gives it another interpretation, which he
            confesses to be new." - William Wall (History of Infant
      -- The new birth occurs when one is baptized, for in that simple
         act of faith they are born not only of the water out of which
         they arise, but also born of the Spirit (regenerated) by the
         working of God at that moment - cf. Co 2:12-13
      1. One is born again by the Word - 1 Pe 1:23
         a. The incorruptible Word that is preached - cf. 1 Pe 1:25
         b. The instrument through which the Spirit convicts the sinner
            - cf. Jn 16:7; Ep 6:17
         c. Which includes the command to be baptized - cf. Mk 16:16; Ac
            2:38; 22:16
      2. Jesus sanctifies and cleanses His church by the washing of
         water by the word - Ep 5:26
         a. The "washing of water" is another allusion to baptism 
            - Jameison, Fausset, Brown
         b. Yet baptism must be administered in conjunction with the
            Word of God to be of benefit
      -- The new birth involves several elements (water, Spirit, Word of
         God), all coming together when one responds to the gospel in
         baptism - e.g., Ac 2:37-39
[While there is evidence that one is born of water as they rise from the
watery grave of baptism, the evidence of their being born of the Spirit
comes later...]
      1. We should expect that what the Spirit produces is spirit (i.e.,
         spiritual) - Jn 3:6
      2. Like the wind (the same Greek word as Spirit), we do not see
         the Spirit itself but the effect that it produces
      -- Has one been truly born of the Spirit (i.e., born again)?  With
         time there should be clear evidence that a change has occurred 
         - e.g., 1 Jn 3:14
      1. Paul describes the fruit (evidence) of the Spirit - Ga 5:22-23
      2. Which comes not only being born of the Spirit, but walking in
         the Spirit - Ga 5:16,25
      -- Where the fruit does not appear, either there was never any
         rebirth or one is walking after the flesh, not the Spirit! 
         - cf. Ga 5:17
[As the discussion continues (Jn 3:9-13), it soon turns into a
discourse (Jn 3:14-21), the latter in which Jesus describes...]
      1. Jesus compares His eventual crucifixion to Moses' lifting up of
         the serpent - Jn 3:14; Num 21:4-9
      2. So people would be saved from perishing by believing in Jesus 
         - Jn 3:15
      -- Without redemption from sin, regeneration would be meaningless;
         the new birth provides both! - cf. Ac 22:16; Ti 3:5
      1. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that
         those who believe might have everlasting life (i.e., enter the
         kingdom of God) - Jn 3:16
      2. God does not want anyone to perish or be condemned, but to be
         saved - Jn 3:16b-17
      -- God's love for man is what makes Christ's sacrifice and the new
         birth possible! - cf. 1 Jn 4:9-10
      1. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish, but have
         everlasting life - Jn 3:15-16
      2. They will not be condemned, unlike those who do not believe 
         - Jn 3:18
      -- The new birth requires faith in Jesus; without faith, being
         born of water is meaningless, and born of the Spirit impossible
         - cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 8:24; Ac 8:36-37
[Christ's sacrifice and God's love, in cooperation with man's faith,
makes the new birth possible.  Yet many remain condemned for lack of
faith in Jesus.  Why?  Jesus offers one reason for...]
      1. Light (Jesus) has come into the world - Jn 3:19a; 1:5,9; 8:12
      2. There are those who love the darkness instead, because of their
         evil deeds - Jn 3:19b
      -- Their love for things of the world cause them to reject the
         light of Jesus - e.g. Lk 16:14
      1. They know that coming to Jesus will expose their evil deeds 
         - Jn 3:20; cf. Ep 5:13
      2. But those willing to obey (does the truth), do not fear the
         light - Jn 3:21
      -- Unwilling to give up their evil deeds, they are unwilling to
         submit to the new birth which acknowledges one's sinfulness and
         requires repentance - e.g., Ac 2:36-38
1. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals much about being
   born again...
   a. The necessity of the new birth (one cannot be a Christian unless
      "born again")
   b. The nature of the new birth (a birth involving both water and the
      Spirit, i.e., baptism)
   c. The evidence of the new birth (observable by its effects, i.e.,
      the fruit of the Spirit)
   d. The basis of the new birth (Christ's sacrifice, God's love, man's
   e. The rejection of the new birth (why many refuse to submit to it)
2. What about you?  Have you been born again...?
   a. Born of water and the Spirit (i.e., a washing of regeneration and
      renewing of the Holy Spirit)?
   b. Born through the Word of God (i.e., by responding to the gospel
   c. Responding to God's love and Christ's sacrifice by expressing your
      faith in baptism?
Remember the words of Jesus...
   "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does
   not believe will be condemned." (Mk 16:16)
   "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'"
                                                          (Jn 3:7)


--《Executable Outlines