Christ’s discourse with Nicodemus. (Verse 1-21.)
The baptism of John of Christ John’s testimony. (Verse 22-36.)
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
If anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ they would be kicked out of the synagogue and surely Nicodemus would be removed from his high position as a have ruler of the Jews (the Sanhedrin) if they were to find out, and that is why Jesus gets right to the point with Nicodemus. note how the phrase “There was a man…” ties in with the very last thing Jesus said in chapter two (2:25) about Christ knowing “what was in man.” This encounter with Nicodemus serves to prove that Jesus knows what is in man. – “Pharisees” were one of the religious groups of Jesus’ day, the other major sect being the Sadducees. The Pharisees were noted for being very religious but very hypocritical as will be seen throughout the book of John. Pharisees serve as a practical illustration of how a person can be religious and yet unsaved, in their sins, and on their way to hell.
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.
First of all Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, a Pharisee. He was a part of the strictest sect in Judaism and would have been considered a fundamentalist in many areas. His problem was his pride, just like many fundamentalist of today.
He wouldn’t dare come to Jesus in the day time because he feared the brethren more than he feared God. He feared what all his friends might think if they knew he had been talking to Jesus
If anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ they would be kicked out of the synagogue and surely Nicodemus would be removed from his high position as a ruler of the Jews (the Sanhedrin) if they were to find out, and that is why Jesus gets right to the point with Nicodemus.
he came to Jesus by night presumably because he was afraid of the other rulers of the Jews. Note how Nicodemus’ peers react to his suggestion in John 7:45-53.
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.
note how very bluntly Jesus dealt with Nicodemus. Jesus was often unimpressed by a person’s status, wealth, etc. and dealt with the spiritual needs at hand. – seeing the kingdom of God is an exclusive privilege for those who have been born again. – “kingdom of God” in its most general sense refers to that which belongs to God compared to that which belongs to the Devil, or Satan. A person who has never been born again belongs to the Devil – note John 8:44.
Jesus told Nicodemus exactly what he needed to hear even though it was not what Nicodemus came to hear. He told Nicodemus he needed to be born again or else he would not see the kingdom of God that all Jews hoped to enter.
Jesus was not talking about some mystical kingdom that is in the heart of every man or that could be if they would only believe, he was talking about a spiritual re-birth that he elaborates on in the next couple of verses and it will not sound like what many of you have been taught in the past.
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?
Nicodemus is asking an honest question to Jesus for anyone who didn’t know the scriptures very well, but Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews and he ruled the people of Israel using the very word of God, but he was clueless concerning the matter of being born again as a means of entrance into the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus was thinking and responding in the flesh with his response to Jesus’ statement, he wasn’t taught what Ezekiel 37 instructed concerning the issue of Israel being born of the spirit or born a second time (born again) prior to her entering into her kingdom.
Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, 2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. 4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. 9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. 12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
What is God’s requirement for being born again and being allowed entrance into the kingdom by means of being born of the spirit?
In other word’s those living in Christ’s day during his three-and-a-half-year ministry needed to trust in him as
They must be born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God (1 Peter 1:23) while they are still living the first time after they were born physically. their Messiah before they died before they could enter into his kingdom at the resurrection spoken by Ezekiel.
The Lord God is going to one day put his spirit into Israel’s dried bones (at the resurrection) and they will live again, a second time.
The first time they were born of water as Nicodemus was and this time they will be born of God’s spirit or born a second time. The reason you cannot enter into the kingdom of God if you have not been born again is because you will still be dead.
You have to be born of water to enter into this world from your mother’s womb and die before you can be born of the spirit and enter into the kingdom. This is not for the body of Christ.
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.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Here we learn that being born of water is the same thing as being born of the flesh, and we also learn here that being born again is the same thing as being born of the Spirit.
Notice that the King James says that which is born of the Spirit (God’s holy Spirit with a capital “S”) is spirit with a small s.
Those that are born again by God’s holy Spirit are spiritual bodies or glorified resurrected bodies like the one Christ had when he appeared and disappeared to his disciples in during his forty-day post resurrection ministry prior to his ascension.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
the topic of the passage is the new birth, which Jesus refers to here as being “born again” – This phrase occurs one other time in the New Testament in I Peter 1:23 which says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” – Nicodemus confused the new, spiritual birth Jesus was speaking of with a second physical birth (note vs. 4). Jesus clarifies this by making a clear distinction between “being born of water” and “of the Spirit” in verse five. In verse six He emphasizes again this same thought by again pointing out the difference between the first fleshly birth and the second, spiritual birth. – Some groups try to make this passage mean that being baptised in water is necessary to be saved. The student however, will notice that the word “baptise” appears nowhere in the passage. When Jesus speaks of being “born of water” he very carefully explains what he means in the very next verse – a physical, fleshly, human birth – not water baptism. Such private interpretations to prove the peculiar beliefs of one’s denomination obviously fails to take the written words of God at face value, as they stand.
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.
[1st Cor 12:11, Heb 2:4]
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
Notice Jesus uses the wind to explain how a person under Israel’s kingdom program was born again or (born of the Spirit), in John 20:25 ten of the apostles received the holy Spirit/Ghost when Jesus breathed on them.
The word spirit is the Greek word pnuema, which is where we get the word wind, or breath from.
You can’t see the wind, but it is there doing its job just like the holy Spirit can’t be seen, but it is there doing its job, and anyone in those days who believed the incorruptible word of God was born of the spirit by God’s holy Spirit.
Nicodemus was still confused so Jesus elaborated even more for him something that he should have known himself 1being a ruler of the Jews.
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
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.
notice how Christ refers to himself as “we” (three times) and “our” – he is including God the Father and God the Holy Spirit with himself by using these plural pronouns. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
Nicodemus had not yet believed Jesus was the Christ and to not see what was so clearly going on right in front of his physical eyes and hearing what he heard with his ears it would be impossible to understand the deeper things such as being born again by the Spirit of God.
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.
the “Son of man” is a term Jesus often used when referring to himself. – “which is in heaven” – according to this verse, Jesus was in heaven even while he sat in front of Nicodemus on that night in Jerusalem. Being God, Jesus has the ability to be everywhere at once – an attribute sometimes called “omnipresence” [which means “everywhere present”]. As this is a difficult truth to believe, many of the newer English versions of the Bible simply omit this phrase from their versions
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness is a reference to the Old Testament account of Numbers 21:4-9 – “And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” Just as Moses “lifted up” this brass serpent on a pole, Jesus was “lifted up” on the cross. Just as the one who looked upon this brass serpent “lived,” the one who looks upon Jesus Christ and believes in him receives eternal life.
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
What does it mean for a Jew under Israel’s program to have eternal life? Not the same as it does for us in the body of Christ.
Since Christ is life the Jew had to believe in their Christ to be born of the Spirit and once they did after their death at the resurrection they would be resurrected to live forever on the earth in the kingdom promised to Israel.
We in the body of Christ today are not promised eternal life on this earth but we will spend our eternity in the heavens.
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.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
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.
the only thing a person has to do to go to hell (be “condemned”) is NOTHING. Not doing anything, that is, never believing in Jesus Christ is all that is necessary in order for a person to die in their sins and go to hell.
The requirement for Israel to be born again of the Spirit was to believe not on the death, burial and resurrection (that hadn’t happened yet), they had to believe in the name (Jesus) of the only begotten Son of God.
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.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Jesus is the light of the world spoken about here that Israel as a whole did not receive because they loved their evil deeds.
By them staying in their sins they would naturally want to stay away from the light that would expose their darkness, the same is true today.
22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
24 For John was not yet cast into prison.
25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.
“purifying” was a major concern of the Jews who were more concerned with outward shows of religious tradition than righteousness within their hearts. Often the student will see in the Bible references to the very religious Jews washing their hands, eating utensils, cooking utensils, etc. This was not washing in order to make the items clean, but ceremonial washings to “purify” the items in question.
26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
Israel’s baptism was administered by both John and Jesus disciples, notice here that this baptism is related to purifying Israel.
Israel is to be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:5-6) in the kingdom and they must be healed of all infirmities for no one with an infirmity (blindness, deafness, leprosy, muteness or demon possession) could be a priest according to the book of Leviticus.
That is why Jesus went about healing all (Jews) who had infirmities to prepare them to become a nation of priests to minister to the Gentiles in the kingdom.
They should have known that Ezekiel spoke about God sprinkling Israel with clean water prior to their going into their kingdom, but they did not.
Ezekiel 36 speaks of this but when Christ came baptizing the first time he only reached a remnant of Israel. When he comes back he will baptize all of Israel, for all Israel shall be saved at the end of the tribulation period and enter in their kingdom.
27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
[1st Cor 4:7, 1st Peter 4:10]
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
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.
Revelation chapter 19 points out that one day Jesus Christ will get married. His bride will be the church (all of those in this age who are born again). References to this marriage will be frequently seen throughout the New Testament. John the Baptist makes it clear that he is not part of the church, but the “best man” so to speak.
Believing Israel is the bride (A.K.A. the remnant, or the little flock) not the body of Christ (the church today), the term, the bride of Christ is not a biblical term. It is not found in the bible.
The bride of Christ is the city of new Jerusalem which comes down from heaven after the tribulation period and is inhabited by believing Israel, it is not our home.
Sorry, but that’s the bible folks, not your tradition. See Revelation 21:2 Show me the phrase the bride of Christ anywhere, you can’t because it is not in the bible.
Christ does have a bride however. John was saying he was sent before the bride (believing Israel) to prepare the bride for her bridegroom (Jesus).
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
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.
32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.
33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
anyone who is genuinely sent from God will speak the “words of God” as Christ did. In our day and age, many prophets, teachers and preachers claim to be from God and yet do not speak God’s words. They claim to have new prophecies, visions, or revelations that often contradict what God has already said in the Bible. This verse makes it clear that such people are FALSE teachers, prophets, etc.
35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
[Matt 11:27, 28:18, Luke 10:22, John 17:2, 1st Cor 15:27, Eph 1:21]
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.
Whoever believes on Christ then, and in the tribulation period, will have eternal life in the kingdom, but those who do not, whether they be Jews or not, will not see the kingdom because they do not have the new birth by God’s Spirit and therefore they do not have life.
If someone does not have life, then they will experience the second death, which is the wrath of God in the lake of fire.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 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, ch. 1:13,. 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, ver.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?”
Verse 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.