Sunday, February 16, 2020
“Born to Believe”
Service Orientation: Mankind’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. However, because of sin, we must be born again in order to glorify and enjoy God forever. To be born again we must believe in the One God has sent; His one and only Son, Jesus.
Memory Verse for the Week: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
- John describes Nicodemus as “a man of the Pharisees,” which meant he was one of the separated ones, an elite lay theologian dedicated to studying and living out every jot and tittle of the law and “a ruler of the Jews,” meaning he was a member of the Sanhedrin, that exclusive council which controlled the religious life of Israel. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament:
John, 80) .
- Verse 14 looks back to the incident described in Numbers 21.5-8. During their wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites grumbled against Moses, and were punished by poisonous snakes invading the camp, killing many of them. God gave Moses the remedy: he was to make a serpent out of bronze, put it on a pole and hold it up for people to look at. Anyone who looked at the serpent on the pole would live. The serpent entwined around the pole, a symbol which appears in other cultures too, remains to this day as a sign of healing, used by various medical organizations. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 32)
- First, Moses was commanded by God to make a serpent of brass —it was of the Lord’s providing — and the spiritual significance of this we have already looked at. Second, Moses was commanded to fix this brazen serpent upon a pole. Thus was Divine remedy publicly exhibited so that all Israel might look on it and be healed. Third, the Lord’s promise was that “it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Num. 21:8). Thus, not only did God here give a foreshadowing of the means by which salvation was to be brought out for sinners, but also the manner in which the sinner obtains an interest in that salvation, namely, by looking away from himself to the Divinely appointed object of faith, even to the Lord Jesus Christ. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 133)
The question to be answered is…
What does Jesus mean when he says one must be “born again” to see the kingdom of God, and how does this even happen?
When Jesus speaks of being born again, he is illuminating the fundamental transformation that takes place when by faith someone turns from sin, death, and condemnation to Jesus. This happens when by God’s grace, the Spirit of God draws someone out of their former life into a new life with Jesus.
The word of the day is… Regeneration
What can we unpack about new/spiritual birth from Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus?
- Regeneration is required for kingdom entrance. (v.3)
(Ez. 36:26; John 3:5, 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:9; Gal. 6:15; Tit. 3:5; 1 John 3:9, 5:12)
The new birth is an imperative necessity because the natural man is altogether devoid of spiritual life. It is not that he is ignorant and needs instruction: it is not that he is feeble and needs invigorating: it is not that he is sickly and needs doctoring. His case is far, far worse. He is dead in trespasses and sins. This is no poetical figure of speech; it is a solemn reality, little as it is perceived by the majority of people. The sinner is spiritually lifeless and needs quickening. He is a spiritual corpse, and needs bringing from death unto life. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 113)
- Regeneration originates from God. (v.6)
(Zec. 12:10; John 1:13, 6:44; 2 Cor. 1:21, 6:11; Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 5:1, 5:11)
This birth has an otherworldly origin, and cannot be brought about by any human means. This birth belongs in a completely different category than human (physical) birth. This birth can be accomplished only by the Spirit of God. So completely distinct are these two types of birth, and so utterly impossible is it for the one to merge into the other, that they represent two separate realms: Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (3:6). (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 70)
There is a mystery about God’s working which we can only anticipate and prepare for. He is the One who moves when He wills! (Fredrikson, 84)
- Regeneration is available to all who by faith believe and follow Jesus. (v.16)
(John 5:24, 6:47; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9; Heb. 7:25; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 5:4)
There is a ‘kindness and love’ in God towards all mankind. It was in consequence of that love that Christ came into the world, and died upon the cross. Let us not be wise above that which is written, or more systematic in our statements than Scripture itself. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God is not willing that any should perish. God would have all men to be saved. God loves the world. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 101)
- Regeneration implies fundamental transformation. (vv.20-21) (Ps. 51:2; Rom. 6:3-11, 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18, 5:17; Eph. 4:21-24; Jam. 1:18; 1 John 2:29, 5:18)
The new birth is conditioned on the repentance and confession of the individual in response to the appeal of God and by the transformation of life by the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 47)
Any hope of salvation (seeing or entering God’s kingdom) rests entirely upon God’s actions from outside the human realm through the Spirit to transform human beings. All other options, however religious or meaningful to their adherents, fall short of the target. The ultimate question asks not about human experiences, morality or beliefs, but inquires whether God has acted to transform. Genuine experiences, morality and beliefs flow from that. (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 70)
Conclusion… Challenge yourself…
A. Have I been born again?
(Ps. 51:10-12; Rom. 6:23, 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; 2 Cor. 1:22; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:14, 4:7)
Only God, the divine Spirit, can give the believer spiritual life. At the same time God puts his Spirit into us, we are given a new regenerated human spirit. It is God’s Spirit, not our effort, that makes us children of God (1:12). Jesus’ description corrects human hopes that we might somehow inherit goodness from parents, or earn it by good behavior, church background, or correct associations. At some point we must be able to answer the question: Have I been born of the Spirit? (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 57)
True believing will always be accompanied by godly living. But that which gives a man an interest in Christ, is not his living, but his faith. If we would know whether our faith is genuine, we do well to ask ourselves how we are living. But if we would know whether we are justified by Christ, there is but one question to be asked. That question is, ‘Do we believe?’ (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 103)
B. Am I being regenerated? If so, what evidence exists of my new life in Jesus?
(Ps. 139:23-24; Mat. 12:33; Gal. 5:19-26; Phil 1:6; Col. 3:1-17; 1 Pet. 1: 22-25; 1 John 3:9)
Jesus used the illustration of the wind to depict the effect of the Spirit in the person born of the Spirit. In Greek the same word (pneuma) can have several meanings: “spirit,” “wind,” and “breath.” God’s Spirit, like the wind, has free movement and, like reviving breath, has power. Jesus used this illustration to show that the reality of the Spirit living in a person is evidenced by the effect of the Spirit on that person’s life. People can control neither the wind nor the movement of God’s Spirit. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 58)
We are saved by God’s grace when we believe in Jesus and put our faith in him, but biblical belief is more than something we confess with our mouths; it’s something we confess with our lives. (Kyle Idleman, Not A Fan, 104)
When we are born again, our created purpose to worship becomes possible once again.
(Ps. 86:9; Is. 12:2; 43:7; Mat. 4:10; John 1:3; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11)
We are saved to worship God. All that Christ has done for us in the past and all that He is doing now leads to this one end. (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship 94)
As a Christian, what you are called to do always flows from what Jesus has already done. (Noel Jesse Heikkinen, Wretched Saints, 65)
Jesus offers new, eternal life to those willing to exchange their old lives for it. This is great news!
(Rom 6:11, 23; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; 5:24; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Tim. 2:11)
We all start out dead. But life can come, through belief in Jesus. And this is not just a belief that He existed or still exists (because even the demons know that, James 2:19), but it is placing your faith in His work on the cross, where He was lifted up in the middle of the camp to save us. This is what it means to be “born again.” (Noel Jesse Heikkinen, Wretched Saints, 158)
The Bible teaches that every unregenerated human being will continue to wrestle with the problems of his own natural ego and selfishness. His human nature dates back to Adam. But the Bible also teaches with joy and blessing that every individual may be born again, thus becoming a “new man” in Christ. (A. W. Tozer, The Radical Cross, 19)
Spiritual Challenge Questions…
Reflect on these questions in your time with the Lord this week, or discuss with a Christian family member or life group.
- Have you been “born again”? If so, what’s your story as to how this came about? Also, what evidence can you look back on as indication of your regeneration?
- Does being “born again” imply sinless perfection? If not, what marks the life of someone “born again” or someone being regenerated?
- How does or should regeneration effect how you interact with others?
- Does the fact that “God so loved the world” impact the way you view the world at all? If so, how?
Quotes to note…
They are mistaken who suppose that the kingdom of God means Heaven; for it rather means the spiritual life, which is begun by faith in this world, and gradually increases every day according to the continued progress of faith. (John Calvin, Commentary on John: Vol 1, 80)
In Christ there is no condemnation. Those who are not in Christ are already condemned. There are a great many who feel that the world is on trial today. It is not. The world is lost. You and I live in a lost world, and we’ll not wait until the final judgment to see that we are lost. Our position is something like a man who is in prison being asked whether or not he will accept a pardon. That is the Gospel. It is not telling a man that he is on trial- He is already condemned. He is already in prison waiting for execution. But the Gospel tells him a pardon is offered to him. The point is, will you accept the pardon? How wonderfully clear that is. The Gospel is to save those who are already lost. (J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary Series, John, 60)
A newborn baby cannot be arrested because he or she has no past! When you are born again into God’s family, your sins are forgiven and forgotten, and your future is bright with a living hope. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 295)
Humankind as a whole has been smitten with a deadly disease. The only cure is to look at the son of man dying on the cross, and find life through believing in him. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 33)
There is a mystery about God’s working which we can only anticipate and prepare for. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament: John, 84)
Grace ceases to be grace if any price is paid for what it brings. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 131)
Religion operates on the principle of “I obey-therefore I am accepted by God.“ The basic operating principle of the gospel is “I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ-therefore I obey.” (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 128)
FURTHER QUOTES & RESEARCH….
Regeneration is a biological term which illustrates that by a new relationship in Christ, one does in fact have a new life and a new spiritual nature capable of faith, love and obedience to Christ Jesus as Lord. The believer is born again and is a new creation. The old life is past; a new life is begun. (2015 Free Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶117 13)
Through prevenient grace He seeks to bring every individual to himself but grants to each the responsibility of accepting or rejecting that salvation. (2015 Free Methodist Book of Discipline, 3)
The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the salvation planned by the Father and provided by the Son’s death, resurrection and ascension. He is the effective agent in our conviction, regeneration, sanctification and glorification. He is our Lord’s ever-present self, indwelling, assuring and enabling the believer. (2015 Free Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶106 10)
A new life and a right relationship with God are made possible through the redemptive acts of God in Jesus Christ. God, by His Spirit, acts to impart new life and put people into a relationship with Himself as they repent and their faith responds to His grace. Justification, regeneration, adoption, sanctification and restoration speak significantly to entrance into and continuance in the new life. (2015 Free Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶115 12)
Worship is a voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Savior, by the healed to the Healer, and by the delivered to the Deliverer. (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, 1991)
When you recognize God as Creator, you will admire Him. When you recognize His wisdom, you will learn from Him. When you discover His strength, you will rely on Him. But only when He saves you will you worship Him. (Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference 2010)
George Whitefield often declared that, to be saved, we need to repent of two things: our sins and our righteousness. Its obvious why we have to repent of our sins, but it’s less obvious why we have to repent of our righteousness. He knew we had to repent of what’s not wrong with us too, because otherwise we will think we are saving ourselves. (Noel Jesse Heikkinen, Wretched Saints, 56)
It is way too easy to read the Bible and feel condemned. And to be honest, parts of the Bible are intended to condemn- they must condemn. No one would come to Jesus unless they felt the sting of condemnation that comes from offending a righteous and holy God. But if these parts of the Bible are used to condemn a believer in Jesus, they are being misused (1 Timothy 1:8-11). Noel Jesse Heikkinen, Wretched Saints, 65
The concepts of “repent” and “believe” are necessarily linked. You need to repent (change your mind, turn around) to believe something new—the good news of Jesus. (Noel Jesse Heikkinen, Wretched Saints, 75)
Careful obedience to God’s law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God. (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 43)
“Run towards the darkness and bring your light.” (Arthur Brooks, 68th Annual National Prayer Breakfast)
Nicodemus would offer some resistance to the chief priests in their condemnation of Jesus (7:51), and would join Joseph of Arimathea in caring for the body of Jesus (19:38-42). Just how nearly these positive actions approach genuine faith in the view of the Evangelist is hard to determine, especially if Nicodemus feared publicly confessing Jesus (see 19:38; 12:42-43). (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 68)
Salvation (seeing or entering the kingdom of God) can be realized only through the radical “restart” of an individual; a “restart” so complete that one becomes, in a sense, a brand-new baby. (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 69)
But belief in the Son of Man must extend beyond belief in His teaching, for in His teaching He claimed that what would happen to Him would provide the basis of salvation. The Son of Man would be lifted up (3:14), and belief in this lifted-up Son of Man would bring life. Jesus appealed to the story in which Moses fashioned a bronze snake, fixed it on a pole, and. lifted it up for any snakebite victim to look at . . . and live (see Numbers 21:4-9). To be lifted up, as Jesus understood it, had primary reference to being lifted up on the cross to die (see John 12:31 -34). Those who seek life must look to the crucified One as God’s provision for salvation. (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 72)
What began as a dialog exposing a Jewish leader’s spiritual poverty now ends as an exposure of the world’s spiritual poverty. (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 73)
“Born again”! The phrase is arresting and fresh, alive with meaning. Another chance, starting over, new life! Is it possible? That is exactly what Jesus is saying. In our age, which has vulgarized so many great realities, we have tossed these words about as if they were simply another fad, a chic “in” phrase to be bandied about at some cocktail party. “You say he was born again. How delightful!” Even in church circles, sad to say, the words have become shopworn and jaded, part of our professional jargon, sapped of their original radical meaning. But this was not the case with Nicodemus. He is brought up short, baffled and confused. This is not what he expected. “How can a man be born when He is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be horn?” How else can he respond? In spite of all his religious knowledge and living by the levitical code, he is locked in flesh. He can only understand from an earthly perspective. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 80-81)
Physical life is born through the intimacy of human love shared by male and female in which there is the union of egg and sperm. But there is also a spiritual act of divine grace in which God gives Himself to a particular person, who, in receiving Him, is born anew. 81
Birth from above cannot be manipulated or programmed. It is a gift given in God’s own way and time, an act of sovereign grace. It is a birth as mysterious as the wind, which comes and goes as it wills. Unseen, yet real! (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 84)
Love is never passive. It is the very nature of love to give the best and not hold back. And the gift is unique, “the only begotten.” The greater the object of love, the more costly the gift. “Any old thing” is not good enough. That would not be love. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 86)
The invitation is as wide as God’s heart— “whoever believes.” He will not cheapen the terms, or He would not be true to Himself. We can only accept the invitation by trust, faith, submission. It has been that way with God since the beginning. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 86)
There is an egocentricity in each of us that constantly insists I can work out my own salvation. It is the cross, the lifting up of the Son of Man, that finally unmasks this ego and thus becomes the agent of discrimination and judgment (1 Cor. 1:18). (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 86)
To be born again, or “born from above,” means a transformation of a person so that he is able to enter another world and adapt to its conditions. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 47)
6-8 Jesus asserted that the entrance into the kingdom of God that Nicodemus desired could not be achieved by legalism or outward conformity. It requires an inner change. Membership in the kingdom of God is not a prerogative of any particular race or culture, nor is it hereditary- It is given only by the direct act of God. The origin arid the destination of the wind are unknown to the one who feels it and acknowledges its reality. Just so, the new life of one born of the Spirit is unexplainable by ordinary reasoning; and its outcome is unpredictable, though its actuality is undeniable. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 47)
Belief consists of accepting something, not doing something. The result of belief is that one receives eternal life. He is freed from condemnation and lives in a relation of total honesty with God, for he does not fear having his real self exposed. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 50)
17-18 Notwithstanding this gloomy picture of “lost” or “perish,” God’s purpose toward man is positive. God’s attitude is not that of suspicion or hatred but of love. He is not seeking an excuse to condemn men but is rather endeavoring to save them. His purpose in sending Jesus into the world was to show his love and to draw men to himself. If they are lost, it is because they have not committed themselves to God, the only source of life. Beginning at this point, the contrast between belief and unbelief is increasingly exemplified. John has here defined the crux of belief and unbelief and has indicated the effects of each. The progress of both in the characters of those associated with Jesus becomes increasingly evident as the drama of this Gospel unfolds. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 50)
The difference between the believer and the unbeliever does not lie in the guilt or innocence of either; it lies in the different attitudes they take toward the “light.” The unbeliever shrinks from the light because it exposes his sin; the believer willingly comes to the light so that his real motives may be revealed. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 50)
Nicodemus is one of these who have an untrustworthy faith. John signals this connection by his repetition of the word man (2:25; 3:1) and by the fact that Nicodemus’s assessment of Jesus is based on the signs he had seen (3:2; cf. 2:23). Later in the story we find him defending Jesus among his fellow Pharisees (7:50-52) and assisting Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus (19:38-42). He will end the story as a disciple, but here at the beginning he is something less. (Rodney A. Whitacre, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: John, 87)
Thus we again find the antinomies of divine sovereignty and human view held by many that everyone is a child of God and that all we have to do is get to work and then we will achieve eternal life. Instead, we learn that we lack life and do not have it within ourselves to cause our spiritual birth. We are utterly dependent on God, whose Spirit blows where he will. A second view is also clearly condemned, namely the self-satisfaction of religious folk who have made idols even out of the teachings in the Bible. This is a difficult area because we are to hold fast to what God has revealed. The point is that we must hold fast to the living God himself and realize that our understanding of him will continue to develop. (Rodney A. Whitacre, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: John, 94)
Nicodemus was a “ruler of the Jews”, which means, most probably, that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. As such, he is to be viewed here as a representative character. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 103)
In the third place, Christ here plainly intimated the supreme importance of the new birth by affirming that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). If then the kingdom of God cannot be seen until a man is born again, the new birth is shown to be a matter of vital moment for every descendant of Adam. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 108)
God, who changes not, has had but one way of salvation since Adam and Eve became sinners in Eden, and if baptism is an indispensable prerequisite to the forgiveness of sins, then all who died from Abel to the time of Christ are eternally lost, but this is absurd. The Old Testament Scriptures plainly teach otherwise. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 109)
If then the words of Christ “born of water” have no reference to the waters of baptism, what do they signify? Before replying directly to this question, we must observe how the word ‘water is used in other passages in this Gospel. To the woman at The well Christ said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Was this literal “water”? One has but to ask the question to answer it. Clearly, “water” is here used emblematically. Again, in John 7:3, 38 we are told, “In the last day” that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Here, too, the word “water” is not to rivers of living water. Here, too, the word “water” is not to Gospel are sufficient to warrant us in giving the word “water” in (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 110)
An unregenerate man who has no relish at all for spiritual things, who is bored by the conversation of believers, who finds the Bible dull and dry, who is a stranger to the throne of grace, would be wretched in heaven! Such could not spend eternity in the presence of God. Suppose a fish were taken out of the water, and laid upon a salver of gold; suppose further that the sweetest of flowers surrounded it, and that the air was filled with their fragrance; suppose, too, that the strains of most melodious music fell upon its ears, would that fish be happy and contented? Of course not. And why not? Because it would be lacking in capacity to appreciate its surroundings. Thus would it be with an unregenerate soul in heaven. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 112-113)
Here, then, is the character or nature of the new birth. It is not the reformation of the outward man, it is not the education of the natural man, it is not the purification of the old man, but it is the creation of a new man. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 115)
Every born again person has, therefore, two natures within him: one which is carnal, the other which is spiritual. These two natures are contrary the one to the other (Gal. 5:17), and in consequence, there is an unceasing warfare going on within the Christian. It is only the grace of God which can subdue the old nature; and it is only the Word of God which can feed the new nature. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 116)
“The wind bloweth where it pleaseth… so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The wind is irresponsible: that is to say, it is sovereign in its action. The wind is an element altogether beyond man’s control. The wind neither consults man’s pleasure, nor can it be regulated by his devices. So it is with the Spirit. The wind blows where it pleases, when it pleases, as it pleases. So it is with the Spirit. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 117)
“Sometimes the wind moves so softly it scarcely rustles a leaf, at other times it blows so loudly that its roar can be heard miles away. So it is in the matter of new birth. With some the Holy Spirit works so gently His work is imperceptible to onlookers; with others His action is so powerful, so radical, revolutionary, His operations are patent to many.” Arthur Pink (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 118)
The brazen serpent only foreshadowed Christ as He was “lifted up.” The lifting up manifestly pointed to the Cross. What was the ”serpent?” It was the reminder and emblem of the curse. It was through the agency of that old Serpent, the Devil, that our first parents were seduced, and brought under the curse of a Holy God. And on the cross, dear reader, the holy One of God, incarnate, was made a curse for us. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 129)
The Love of God! How blessed is this to the hearts of believers, for only believers can appreciate it, and they but very imperfectly (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 136)
The dramatic cleansing of the temple and the works that followed had created quite a stir. Surely these happenings had become common gossip on the streets of Jerusalem. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament: John, 80)
How else can he respond? In spite of all his religious knowledge and living by the levitical code, he is locked in flesh. He can only understand from an earthly perspective. Nicodemus can “move only within a world of categories and interests circumscribed by itself. Flesh builds its own prison and trivializes its own mysteries.” Thus, hemmed in, Nicodemus can only phrase his wondering response in fleshly terms. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament: John, 81)
Just as a human birth is a mystery, mystery, but a very specific reality, so there is a deeper mystery and reality about spiritual birth. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament: John, 81)
A Mystery: As Wind Blows (v. 8). Birth from above cannot be manipulated or programmed. It is an act of sovereign grace. It is a birth as mysterious as the wind, which comes and goes as it wills. Unseen, yet real! Again, Jesus has spoken of birth, then water, and now wind. This breath of God brings life, not capriciously, but according to His gracious purpose.(Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament: John, 84 )
Love is never passive. It is the very nature of love to give the best and not hold back. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament: John, 86)
Here is the great paradox, the two-edged meaning of Jesus’ coming. He came in love to save, to heal, and to offer spiritual birth. He did not come to condemn or judge. But His coming sharpens the issue. Now we must decide! There is both wondrous possibility and great peril in Nicodemus’s coming to Jesus. If he chooses to lay aside all his preconceived ideas and learning and accepts Jesus as the One who has come down from heaven, he will be born again! But if he chooses to turn aside, to leave, to work out his own salvation by his own stubborn efforts, however noble, he stands under condemnation and will perish. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering The New Testament: John, 86)
The two are closely joined. Nobody in the early church supposed that spirit-baptism mattered so much that you could do without water-baptism. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 30)
If we want to understand not only the heavenly world, but the way in which God is now joining heaven and earth together, we must listen to him, and walk with him on the road he is now to take. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 31)
The evil which was and is in the world, deep-rooted within us all, was somehow allowed to take out its full force on Jesus. When we look at him hanging on the cross (or ‘lifted up’, as John says here and several times later in the gospel; the cross is an ‘elevation’, almost a ‘glorification’), what we are looking at is the result of the evil in which we are all stuck. And we are seeing what God has done about it. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 33)
God’s action in the crucifixion of Jesus has planted a sign in the middle of history. And the sign says: believe, and live. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 34)
Not all of the Pharisees were hypocrites (as one may infer from Jesus’ comments recorded in Matt. 23), and evidence indicates that Nicodemus was deeply sincere in his quest for truth. He came to Jesus by night, not because he was afraid of being seen, but most likely because he wanted to have a quiet uninterrupted conversation with the new Teacher “come from God.” (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 295)
Though all human beings have experienced natural birth on earth, if they expect to go to heaven, they must experience a supernatural birth from above. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 295 )
In every age, there has been but one way of salvation—faith in God’s promise—though the outward evidence of that faith has changed from age to age. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 295)
Jesus could well have come to this world as a judge and destroyed every rebellious sinner, but in love, He came to this world as our Savior, and He died for us the cross! He became the “uplifted serpent.” The serpent in Moses’ day brought physical life to dying Jews, but Jesus Christ gives eternal life to anyone who trusts Him. He has salvation for a whole world! (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 297)
‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ By this expression he meant Nicodemus to understand that ‘no one could become his disciple, unless his inward man was as thoroughly cleansed and renewed by the Spirit, as the outward man is cleansed by water.’ To possess the privileges of Judaism a man only needed to be born of the seed of Abraham after the flesh. To possess the privileges of Christ’s kingdom, a man must be born again of the Holy Ghost. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 86)
The change which our Lord here declares needful to salvation is evidently no slight or superficial one. It is not merely reformation, or amendment, or moral change, or outward alteration of life. It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character It is a resurrection. It is a new creation. It is a passing from death to life. It is the implanting in our dead hearts of a new principle from above. It is the calling into existence of a new creature, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new appetites, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes, and new fears. All this, and nothing less than this is implied, when our Lord declares that we all need a ‘new birth.’ (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 86)
Wherever Jesus went, changes occurred. He challenged systems, powers, and individuals. He helped people see that they couldn’t see. He invited men and women to follow him as if he expected them to drop everything and do just that. To our surprise (not his) many of them did follow. The invitation to transformation is still open. If we are listening, we can hear it in the darkness as did Nicodemus. Or it comes to us at noon, when we, like the woman at the welfare slipping through life, desperate to avoid any more troubles than we have already gotten ourselves into. Or it comes to us with shattering directness in the face of death or suffering around us, as the nobleman discovered. When the invitation comes, trust Jesus and follow him. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 49)
Nicodemus was also a member of the Jewish ruling council. Although the Romans controlled Israel politically, the Jews were given some authority over religious and minor civil disputes. The Jewish ruling body was the council (sometimes called the Sanhedrin) made up of seventy-one of Israel’s religious leaders. They functioned in a way similar to the Supreme Court in the United States, handling civil and religious issues. Thus Nicodemus was a very prominent figure in Israel, representing the “cream” of the nation; in fact, Jesus called him “a teacher of Israel” (3:10 nrsv). (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 51 )
Human beings (the flesh) can produce only more human beings; this answers Nicodemus’s question in verse 4. Only God, the divine Spirit, can give the believer spiritual life. At the same time God puts his Spirit into us, we are given a new regenerated human spirit. It is God’s Spirit, not our effort, that makes us children of God (1:12). Jesus’ description corrects human hopes that we might somehow inherit goodness from parents, or earn it by good behavior, church background, or correct associations. At some point we must be able to answer the question: Have I been born of the Spirit? (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 57)
In Numbers 21:6-9, the perishing Israelites looked upon the lifted-up snake and lived. Similarly’ salvation happens when we look up to Jesus, believing he will save us. God has provided this way for us to be healed of sin’s deadly bite. The Israelites were spared their lives; the believer in Jesus is spared eternal destruction and given eternal life. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 61)
in the whole of our nature there remains not a drop of uprightness (John Calvin, Commentary on John: Vol 1, 84)
For as men are not easily convinced that God loves them, in order to remove all doubt, he has expressly stated that we are so very dear to God that, on our account, he did not even spare his only-begotten Son. (John Calvin, Commentary on John: Vol 1, 92)
“Believing” is the primary condition of eternal life. (Beacon Bible Expositions, Volume 4: John 36)
We have no written evidence from John that Nicodemus “came into the light” at this time. But later evidence shows him coming through when he joined Joseph of Arimathea in recovering the body of Jesus. Love shone through in that tender ministry in that dark hour. The Galileean conquered even by His death! (Beacon Bible Expositions, Volume 4: John 37)
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. (John Wesley, Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, 149)