Scripture Study: John 3

John 3  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Verses 1-4. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night”—at an hour when the eyes of the world would not be upon him. He was a religious man, a ruler of the Jews and a teacher of Israel. He had desire in his heart for God. He was not satisfied with religion and its forms, and he saw in Jesus a power beyond man, and owned that Jesus was come from God. His miracles proved it: “No man can do these things that Thou doest, except God be with him.”
He wanted some instruction, but Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This was teaching away beyond him, and he asks in a surprised manner for an explanation of what was so contrary to nature.
Verses 5-13. 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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 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.” This teaching shows the depravity and incorrigible character of the flesh in man. It is utterly unfit for God, it cannot be made better, and unless the Word of God (the water) is applied by the Spirit of God to man, so that by it he is born again, there is nothing in him that can enter into the kingdom of God. The natural man understands not the things of God, nor can he receive them or know them. (1 Cor. 2:1414But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)).
Then that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and the flesh remains flesh, but this work of the Spirit has begotten a new life in the soul, so that the man that is born of God can enter into and know the things of God by the Spirit’s teaching. It was therefore a positive necessity for even the religious man, yea for every man, “Ye must be born again.”
If He told of what concerned the earth and he would not believe, “How shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” Then this marvelous verse comes in, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man who is in heaven.” Wonderful Son of Man, in heaven, yet here on earth, God manifest in the flesh. How different from all other men! He as a man was “that Holy Thing” born of the virgin. We are the fallen children of Adam. It is said truly of us, “In my flesh dwelleth no good thing,” and again, “So then they that are in the flesh can not please God.” (Rom. 7:18;8:818For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Romans 7:18)
8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8)
). The believer has a new life, he is born anew. Israel boasted in their parentage, in their flesh (Phil. 3:4,54Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; (Philippians 3:4‑5)), but believers are “born of God” (John 1:12,1312But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12‑13)), “Not of blood,” not of some special family or tribe or nation. “Nor of the will of the flesh,” not of some religious efforts or works of men. “Nor of the will of man”—man’s will led him away from God, but did not lead him back. It is always so. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed,” like Israel; “but of incorruptible,” so proving its divine origin; “by the Word of God,” the divine instrument; “which liveth and abideth forever,” its abiding character (1 Peter 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23)). And like the wind, we can see and feel its effects, but cannot explain life, for it comes from God. And faith in God believes what He says and does.
Verses 14, 15. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Sin had reigned unto death with those bitten Israelites (Num. 21), but God had ordered and provided a means of life to those who looked to it. It taught that sin had ruined man, and God, in sovereign mercy, had brought in blessing for whosoever believeth in Him. But how can a just God bless guilty man? In only one way, “the Son of Man must be lifted up.” For none but He could bear the judgment of the sinner, and God in righteousness can bless, because the Son of Man has been lifted up as a victim upon the cross to die for sin. In verse 7 the “must” shows the necessity of a work of the Spirit in our souls. The “must” of verse 14 shows that atonement for sin must be accomplished before God in grace and righteousness can forgive and bless whosoever believes on Him. But how did it come about? It was love, it was from God:Verse 16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” How this would strike the heart of a religious Jew. Could God love the world in its guilt, its depravity, and so much as to give His only begotten Son? This looks on to the cross where He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. And though sin has reigned unto death, so now, for all who believe, grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:2121That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)).
It came from the heart of God. He did not need to be reconciled to men. Men need to be reconciled to God, and Jesus Christ has died that they might be reconciled, and the message now goes forth, “As though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, Be ye reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:2020Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)). This is God’s message today, proving that His love to man is unabated, and His message is from the same loving heart. O, that our hearts were bathed in that ocean, that we might feel for the unsaved as God feels!
Verse 17. “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Verse 18. Divides between the believer, and those who will not believe.
Verse 19. The light has shone on them, but they hasten out of it because their deeds are evil; they love darkness.
Verse 21. He that “doeth truth”—not good works, trying to put away your sins; it is owning up before God and men what a sinner you are by nature and by practice, and from the time you take that place, it will be manifest that your doings are wrought in God. You will judge evil in all your ways. It is then forgiveness is known; that is, when the soul takes its place as “guilty before God,” for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Verses 22-34. John’s testimony is seen here contemporaneous with Jesus, but decreasing as the voice or forerunner, and when some come and tell him of the crowds attending the words of Jesus, John answered, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.’” John said he was like a bridegroom’s friend, rejoicing in the bridegroom’s joy. “This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. 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. And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth; and no man receiveth His testimony. He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure.” How John exalts his Lord and Master! And he is so willing to pass out of sight, as he was willing at the beginning to go on before as a voice, heard and used, but not to be known any longer. John was of the earth, Jesus was from heaven and above all. Jesus was the Christ. John was glad to be His friend. John owns, “He came from God,” and spoke only the words of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure. He was the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit had taken up His abode in Him as a man. How could His testimony be aught else, but declaring all that God is?
Verses 35, 36. Here our evangelist gives by the Spirit the divine testimony concerning Him: “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son (is not subject to Him) shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
Reader, how are you treating Him?