Notes on John 3:11

John 3:11  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Thus far then Nicodemus as a Jew, as a teacher of Israel, should have known the nature as well as the necessity of the new birth. The ancient prophets were not silent about its application to Israel, even for the days when blessings shall be shed abundantly on them from God according to His promise. Not the heathen only but His people (whatever might be their present self-complacency and the pride which wraps itself up in ignorance) are described as unclean till He sprinkle clean water upon them and put His Spirit within them. Undoubtedly the Lord, as was due to His personal glory, presents the truth with incomparably greater clearness and depth, as well as with an all-embracing comprehensiveness; but what was presented ought not to have been strange to Nicodemus on his own ground. The new thing follows the cross whether in statement or in fact, as we see it implied in chapter 4.
But even here the Lord intimates a knowledge to be communicated as in fact it was first by Himself in person, then by the Holy Ghost through chosen witnesses, transcending that of the prophets and of a character, not measure only, quite different. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our testimony.” (Ver. 11.) It is no vision of things out of the ordinary sphere of him who was inspired to be a prophet, nor message founded on the authority of Him who sent His servant with a “Thus saith Jehovah.” Jesus only, a man among men, could none the less say because He was none the less God, We speak that which We know and bear witness of that which We have seen. He knew what was in man, needing no testimony about man (chap, 2); He knew what was in God, and alone of men could testify of Him without testimony about Him. (Chap, 3) I have known Thee, says Himself to the Father later on in this Gospel (chap. 17:23), but the world knew not the Father; least of all were the Father and the Son known by those who, in persecuting the disciples, thought to do God's service. But, blessed be His name, if none knew the Father but the Son, there were not lacking those to whom the Son reveals Him; and so the Holy Ghost who searches all things, yea the depths of God, reveals what was previously hidden even from prophets and gives to Christians the mind, or intelligence of Christ. For a divine person knows in Himself all things in themselves; not as the prophets from One without and above who gives the commission, vision, and message. These therefore might often speak that which they knew not, and learn on searching that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported by those, that have preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. But Jesus spoke what He knew. Coming from God and being Himself God, He knew the divine nature perfectly and was here a man to reveal it to men. If none had seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father has declared Him; He, alone of woman-born, had this competency, both as Son and as the image of the invisible God, in a sense not only preeminent but exclusive, as the Epistles to the Colossians and the Hebrews formally teach. And this He spoke in ineffable grace, expressing the grace and truth of God and of the Father through the heart of a man to the hearts of men. Of the glory too, familiar to Him with the Father before the world was, He testified. For what was divine love keeping back from those about to share with Him the glory in which both will be displayed to the world and to behold His glory as none else will see it? In heaven, or in its brightest glory, He was at home, and as He was about to prepare a place in the Father's house for His own, so He bears witness of what He alone had seen to those whom sovereign grace would call and fit to be with Him there.
And what a testimony is this twofold knowledge, to the person of Jesus yet in absolute relation! It is indeed the true God, but withal eternal life. It was not empirical, but intrinsic. As a divine person alone could, He knew both, man and God; and, after He has urged the indispensable need of being born anew, He speaks of God known above in nature and glory, as before it we had His knowledge of what was in man. How blessed to have such a knowledge communicated to us as now in Christ and Christianity! Would not man needy, ignorant, blind, welcome such a boon? Alas! no: not even when grace brings it down and tells all out in the tones of human speech. “And ye receive not our testimony.” It reveals God, it reveals the Father. It leaves no room for receiving glory one of another. It condemns man as he is, self-willed, and not only without heart for God but unwilling to believe what is in His heart for man expressed in every word and way of Jesus. As the Apostle tells us, The things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God. Nor does the natural man receive them, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.