Some Thoughts on John's Gospel: Chapter 3

John 3
But (supply "but,") amongst the many who had believed in Jesus, to whom nevertheless He did not commit Himself, there was one who had the sense of need in his soul. He was not satisfied with merely seeing, and then returning to his own works, as the rest had done. He felt the necessity of having his spiritual wants satisfied; and in this condition he comes to Jesus. And he comes too by night, for lie had a presentiment that between Jesus and the world there was a vast gulf, and he does not wish to encounter the hostility of the world.
Although he had wants in his soul, nevertheless he went to Jesus with the same knowledge as the rest had. " 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." But the Lord stops him, and surprises him with a truth-the most simple, that to enter into the kingdom of heaven (God?) one must be born anew. Jesus gives him, in other words, this reason-' You are, with all your doctrine, a child of Adam, as to your state, like that of all men; I cannot instruct you, because the flesh cannot be instructed; the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit (of God); you " must be born anew."' And He puts Nicodemus and all the Jews on the same footing as the Gentiles-"Ye must." By works,-if you speak of being born anew, it is no more possible for a Jew than for a Gentile.
Here then we have the needs-be ' of a new life. The first life of Adam will not do to enter into the kingdom, we need a new birth, a new life, according to God, and communicated by Him. This new life has feelings and affections totally different from the natural man. The new birth, or conversion, is not then an improvement of the natural man (Adam), but it is a new life. If men could go to heaven in their natural state they would be unhappy there, and would try to get out of it as quickly as they could, and to come back down here to this world of sin, because they would not have a nature capable of enjoying God and heaven. And by works men can find no pleasure in the company of Jesus; on the contrary, they hate Him, because their tastes, their inclinations are all opposed to those of Jesus. In heaven they would find none of those things that they love.
To be " born of the Spirit" is a communication of a new life; as it is said, " that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The water is the word of God, which detects and judges the carnal thoughts opposed to Christ, and introduces those of God by the revelation of Christ. (Comp. Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26), John 15:33Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3)-"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.")
The Lord speaks to Nicodemus of earthly things (v. 12), that is of things which refer to millennial blessings, things of which Nicodemus should have known, having been announced by the prophets, as we see in Ezek. 36 If then, they could not receive these earthly things that had been brought to them, how much less would they receive heavenly things which refer to the blessings and portion of Christians who are a heavenly people, and blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places!
From v. 11 to 13 we see that Jesus alone could reveal heavenly things. No one else had gone there and then returned, to tell of the things of heaven; but Jesus, while He was on earth, was at the same time always in heaven as God. How sweet it is to have the words of the very One who came from heaven, from the presence of God. Christ, having been rejected, has been lifted up from the earth, between heaven and earth, to draw men to Himself outside of this world (v. 14, and 12:32, 33). There upon the Cross, love and justice have met. The first is fully free, and the second is perfectly satisfied. It is there upon the Cross that is verified what is said-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), "Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." If God had exercised His righteousness against man, the sinner would have been destroyed. In such a case God would not have been able to show His love. And similarly, if God had only shown His love in not punishing man, He would not have been just; but the Cross has fully satisfied these two attributes of God while saving man; grace reigns, but it is not without having respect to justice.
Verses 14-16 give us two aspects of the work of Christ. The first points out the necessity man had that the Son of man should die; the second spews us that God has given this Son of man who had need to die, and that He has given Him in the person of His own Son, because no other creature whatsoever could undertake this work. Each of these verses ends with "whosoever believeth in him has everlasting life." A third aspect of this work is, that Jesus, by the offering of Himself, accomplished the will of God, by
which will we are sanctified. This truth is found in Heb. 10
At v. 17 the Lord again insists on the truth, that God has given His own Son, in order to attract the more attention to a subject so important. This Son He has given to the world, and not only to Israel, and the " whosoever" is for all men, and not for Israel only. "He that believeth not is condemned," because it is not the question of a second law which man had whereby to be justified, seeing be did not keep the law-the first law. No! but now man is irremediately lost, and if He does not believe in Jesus, given by God for His salvation, he remains in his sins, and has nothing else to look for but the second death. He is now condemned, not only for his sins, but also for having rejected the Son of God.
The Lord then comes to speak of the light (vv. 19-21). That is one of two qualities essentially divine, love and light-God is love, God is light. God is not the truth; though He could not but speak the truth. God is not power, though He be powerful, &c., &c., but He is light and love. These two essential qualities go together, and they cannot be separated in the effect they produce in man, when they work on him. Love works in the heart, but this does not satisfy. Man likes to hear of the love of God, of pardon; but if the light does not reach his conscience he believes that God will treat his sin lightly as he himself would treat it. The light of God must shine in the conscience to make everything manifest then the conscience, seeing its real state, is terrified; as we see in the case of Peter (Luke 5). He says, " Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." The light of the glory of Christ had terrified him, and he discovered himself to he a sinner. Thus too we see the prodigal Son, and the woman of Samaria; the light of God had convicted them. But the light of God is never separated in the soul in which it shines, from a measure of confidence in the love. While Peter bids Jesus depart from, nevertheless, in his heart, he does not wish Him to depart, since he clung all the closer to Him. Apparent contradiction, because his heart attracts him to Jesus, but his conscience makes him feel how unfit he is to be in His presence. The true light can make him say—' Though I should die, let me die at the feet of Jesus.' The new life desires this light, and can say with the Psalmist (Psa. 139:23,2423Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23‑24)), " Search me O God and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Thus the new life hates evil, and loves the light. It is a bad sign when a Christian has things to conceal; it is the cause of weakness. In connection with this the thought of the judgment seat of Christ is most important. The apostle Paul was continually manifested when thinking of the tribunal of Christ. This is a thought that would make us progress in holiness. The Christian should desire in his heart to be searched by God, to see if He finds in him any evil whereby he could be condemned, because when we live with evil manifested and judged, we enjoy communion with God more fully; and if we are sincere we will do this.
John bears testimony to Jesus (v. 27, &c.), puts Jesus before all, and puts himself after Him. His desire was that Jesus should increase, and he decrease. The bride of which he speaks is not properly the church nor Israel, but a general principle.
Verse 32, embraces in a single line the doctrine of the works of Christ described by the other evangelists. "He that believed in the Son hath eternal life," and hath "set to his seal that God is true." These latter words are the definition of faith. Thus if we believe in the Son of God we have eternal life; and perhaps this is presumption? No! it is simplicity, and wisdom, and obedience.