Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark. Jesus tells him that he must be born again, this time from above. Nicodemus asked Jesus some questions—like how?
This is a Bible Study. Have your own Bible handy to look up the references mentioned.
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1-2. Nicodemus “came to Jesus at 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.’” (Wiersbe, Warren W, The Bible Exposition Commentary New Testament Volume 1 Matthew-Galatians. [Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2004], 295)
“He was a man of high moral character, deep religious hunger, and yet profound spiritual blindness.” (Wiersbe, 295)
3. “Our Lord began with that which was familiar, birth being a universal experience. The word translated ‘again’ also means ‘from above.’ Though all human beings have experienced natural birth on earth, if they expect to go to heaven, they must experience a supernatural spiritual birth from above.” (Wiersbe, 295)
The problem with Pharisees (Nicodemus was one) “was that they thought that mere physical lineage and keeping of religious externals qualified them for entrance into the kingdom, rather than the needed spiritual transformation which Jesus emphasized (cf. 8:33-39; Galatians 6:15).” (MacArthur, John, The MacArthur Bible Commentary. [Nashville, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005], 1357)
“The coming of the kingdom at the end of the age can be described as the ‘regeneration’ of the world (Matthew 19:28), but regeneration of the individual is required before the end of the world in order to enter the kingdom.” (MacArthur, 1357)
4. “Jesus was speaking about a spiritual birth, but Nicodemus thought only of a physical birth. The situation is no different today. When you talk with people about being born again, they often begin to discuss their family’s religious heritage, their church membership, religious ceremonies, and so on.” (Wiersbe, 295)
5. “We believe that ‘born of water and of the Spirit’ means that a person must be born again by the Holy Spirit using the Scripture.” (McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume IV: [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983], 384)
“I am confident that our Lord saying that one must be born of water and of the Spirit, referred to the Spirit of God using the Word of God.” (McGee, 384)
“Jesus was not teaching that the new birth comes through water baptism. In the New Testament, baptism is connected with death, not birth, and no amount of physical water can effect a change in a person.” (Wiersbe, 295)
“Water baptism is certainly a part of our obedience to Christ and our witness for Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:41).” (Wiersbe, 295)
“In every age, there has been but one way of salvation—faith in God’s promise—through the outward evidence of that faith has changed from age to age.” (Wiersbe, 295)
Flesh and Spirit
6. “In John ‘flesh’ (sarx) means ‘human frailty, weakness or finiteness (cf. Genesis 6:3; Isaiah 31:3) and represents that which is mortal or that which has been created from the dust of the earth (cf. Job 34:14-15).” (Borchert, Gerald L., The New American Commentary Volume 25A, John 1-11. [Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002], 176)
“God does not intend to save the flesh at all. This old nature must be replaced by the new nature. The spiritual birth is necessary so that you and I may be given a new nature.” (McGee, 384)
“The Spirit by contrast with human frailty represented the power of God that can invigorate or transform frail humans into powerful servant for God. The flesh of itself is unable, because of its frailty, to attain the destiny of eternal life, but the Spirit is the empowering means of life (cf. John 6:63). (Borchert, 176)
7. “Nicodemus must have had a surprised and yet bewildered look on this face, for the Lord had to say, ‘You must not be surprised that I told you that all of you must be born again’ (John 3:7 PH [Phillips]).” (Wiersbe, 295)
8. “Jesus’ point was that just as the wind cannot be controlled or understood by human beings but its effects can be witnessed, so also it is with the Holy Spirit. He cannot be controlled or understood, but the proof of His work is apparent. Where the Spirit works, there is undeniable and unmistakable evidence.” (MacArthur, 1538)
“Although we can’t control the wind, we surely can tell when it’s blowing. You and I can be standing out on the street and you can say to me, ‘The wind is blowing!’” (McGee, 384)
We can just look at the trees and see that the wind is blowing.
9. “He’s wondering how these things can be and our Lord is going to talk to him very plainly.” (McGee, 384)
To understand “you have come just as you are; then Jesus will deal with you that way. And this is the way He will deal with this man Nicodemus. (McGee, 384)
10. Nicodemus “enjoyed a high standing among the rabbis or teachers of his day. Jesus’ reply emphasized the spiritual bankruptcy of the nation at that time, since even one of the greatest of Jewish teachers did not recognize this teaching on spiritual cleansing and transformation based clearly in the OT (cf. v. 5). The net effect is to show that externals of religion may have a deadening effect on one’s spiritual perception.” (MacArthur, 1358)
“Nicodemus came ‘by night,’ and he was still in the dark! He could not understand the new birth even after Jesus had explained it to him…Alas, ‘the teacher of the Jews’ knew the facts recorded in the Scriptures, but he could not understand the truths.” (Wiersbe, 296)
Are you like Nicodemus, knowing the facts but not the truths?
11. “What was the problem? For one thing, the religious leaders would not submit to the authority of Christ’s witness.” (Wiersbe, 296)
Jesus “tells Nicodemus that he hasn’t received His witness even as it was spoken to him.” (McGee, 385)
12. “‘I have used earthly illustrations,’ said Jesus, ‘and you cannot understand. If I began to share the deep spiritual truths, you still would not believe.’” (Wiersbe, 296)
“This story of Nicodemus thus provides a profound combination of theology and history. It calls on the reader to think theologically about the meaning of the coming of Jesus and to reflect on the implications of that coming based on diving inspiration and the church’s witness.” (Borchert, 180)
“Created, earthly people were the object of his conversation. But if earthly people like Nicodemus (and by implication the readers of the Gospel) have difficulty understanding spiritual in human terms (the ‘earthly things’—dpigeia—about which Jesus was speaking), what would happen to human receptive capacities if Jesus were to have started talking about ‘heavenly’ (epourania) realities?” (Borchert, 180)
13. “Jesus insisted that no one has ascended to heaven in such a way as to return and talk about heavenly things (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Only He had His permanent abode in heaven prior to His Incarnation and, therefore, only He has the true knowledge regarding heavenly wisdom (cf. Proverbs 30:4).” (MacArthur, 1358)
14. “This is a veiled prediction of Jesus’ death on the Cross. Jesus referred to the story of Numbers 21:5-9 where the Israelite people who looked at the serpent lifted up by Moses were healed…Just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole so that all who looked upon it might live physically, those who look to Christ, who was ‘lifted up’ on the Cross, will live spiritually and eternally.” (MacArthur, 1358)
15. “The expression ‘eternal life’ (zoe aionios), which appears seventeen times in this Gospel, is used in 3:15 for the first time.” (Borchert, 182)
“This ‘eternal life’ is in essence nothing less than participation in the eternal life of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. It is the life of God in every believer, yet not fully manifest until the resurrection (Romans 8:19-23; Philippians 3:20-21).” (MacArthur, 1359)
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. [KJV]
For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. [AMP]
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. [HCSB]
“There are two things that we need to note here. One is that we must be born again. The other is that the Son of Man must be lifted up. Note underline
“God does not save by love, friends. God saves by grace!” Ephesians 2:8-9 (McGee, 385)
“We trust Him as the One who bore the penalty for our sins. This is a personal thing. We must believe that He died in our place and in our stead. My friend, you must believe that He died for you.” (McGee, 385)
17-18. “Did all this happen for judgment and condemnation? No. That was never God’s purpose. Notice how central Jesus is to the passage. Verse 15 emphasizes the words “in him” and they appear again in verses 16-18, while verse 17 talks about God’s saving the world through him. Every human being has a choice—eternal life or eternal death. And as the Bible describes it, to perish is not to cease existence, but to experience utter failure, futility, and loss—an eternity without God.” [Max Anders and Kenneth O. Gangel (2012). HNTC Vol. 04: John. B&H Publishing Group. Retrieved from https://read.lifeway.com]
Jesus “didn’t come as a Judge the first time. He came as the Savior: He will come the next time as the Judge.” (McGee, 386)
“Whoever does not believe in Him is condemned. Friend, if you don’t believe, you are already condemned. Why?” (McGee, 386) (John 3:18)
“Remember that He is talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah, when He came, would be a judge.” (McGee, 386) (Psalm 2:9; Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 45; Isaiah 11; Isaiah 42)
“He did not come to condemn or to judge the world but to save the world.” (McGee, 386)
Believed in the name. [KJV] “This phrase (lit. ‘to believe into the name’) means more than mere intellectual assent to the claims of the gospel. It includes trust and commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior which results in receiving a new nature (v. 7) which produces a change in heart and obedience to the Lord.” (MacArthur, 1359)
Men loved darkness
19. “Why will sinners not come into the ‘light of life’? Because they love the darkness!” (Wiersbe, 297)
“It is not ‘intellectual problems’ that keep people from trusting Christ; It is the moral and spiritual blindness that keeps them loving the darkness and hating the light. (Wiersbe, 297)
“The condemnation, or the judgment, is that light is come into the world, but because men’s deeds were habitually evil, they love the darkness.” (McGee, 386)
20. “Darkness, hating, and doing evil together are set against light, living by the truth, and the works done through God.” (Borchert, 186)
“Those who side with the way of darkness were for John children of the devil, the prince (archon) of the world (cf. John 8:44; 12:31). (Borchert, 186)
21. “Whoever habitually practices what is wrong hates the light. ‘Light’ and ‘truth’ are used in the same way…Error and darkness are always in contrast to light and truth.” (McGee, 386)
“We talk about ‘giving the invitation’ but God demands repentance. What possible excuses keep people from Christ? Failure to understand their need? No time for hearing the truth? Insufficient evidence to affirm the gospel? This passage tells us they refuse light because it shows up the darkness in their own lives. The contrast of our text continues:
• Believers possess eternal life but unbelievers do not.
• Believers are not condemned, but unbelievers are condemned already.
• Believers live in the light while unbelievers live in the darkness. The last phrase of this paragraph should encourage all of us.
Those who practice the truth, who continuously live in the light of God’s spirit, demonstrate that their righteousness has been brought about by God.” [Max Anders and Kenneth O. Gangel (2012). HNTC Vol. 04: John. B&H Publishing Group. Retrieved from https://read.lifeway.com]
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS) [PH]
The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by Permission.
New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
In this article Scripture quotations taken from KJV.
Borchert, Gerald L., The New American Commentary Volume 25A, John 1-11. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002
Max Anders and Kenneth O. Gangel (2012). HNTC Vol. 04: John. B&H Publishing Group. Retrieved from https://read.lifeway.com
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume IV: Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983
MacArthur, John, The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005
Wiersbe, Warren W, The Bible Exposition Commentary New Testament Volume 1 Matthew-Galatians. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2004