The Gospel of John Commentary Chapters 1-11 (by chapter)

John 3 - The New Birth (and John the Baptist exalts Christ)

JOHN 3:1-21 - THE NEW BIRTH. At Passover AD 30.
v1,2 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler 
of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 
"Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; 
for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 

v3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 
v4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? 
Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 
v5-7 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 
Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again.' 
v8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." 

v9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" 
v10,11 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 
v12,13 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
v14-17 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 

v18-21 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practising evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." 

The signs of Jesus were dramatic messages to show who He is and what He will do for those who receive Him. They are given to bring people to faith in Christ, so that they themselves will receive life (“these (SIGNS) are written that you may BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have LIFE in His name” -John 20:31) 

In other words, He will accomplish the Sign in the life of those who believe in Him. His first SIGN (turning WATER into WINE) shows that Jesus is the Son of God, with the power to recreate and transform our inner-being. Thus when we believe in Him and this sign
 of turning water into wine, and receive Him, then He performs it in us.  This is called the NEW BIRTH or REGENERATION. The signs are offered towhosoever will receive Him. We saw in John 2:1-11 that Jesus has to get our authority (permission) to perform the miracle in us. 

Next in John 3 we come to the detailed teaching on the New-Birth that is connected to this first SIGN:
“Now there was a man of the P
harisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (we will see that he was the main Bible-Teacher in Israel, v10) the same came to Him by night (to have some quality time alone with Jesus), and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a Teacher sent from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, except God be with him” (v1,2).   

Nicodemus accepts Jesus as a Teacher sent from God, but does not yet believe He is the Christ - but He will soon enough. He receives Him as a Teacher and so Jesus is a Teacher to him (as John 3 demonstrates). God can give to us according to our faith. If we receive Jesus as our Saviour, Strength, Healer, Wisdom, Life - then He will be 
all these things to us also. Jesus is leading Nicodemus to trust Him as his Saviour and Source of eternal life.

Jesus teaches spiritual things by analogies with natural things: 
“If I told you earthly things and you believe not, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (v12). First the natural, then the spiritual. 

In this talk He uses: 
(1) The BIRTH of a baby, to describe the miracle of salvation, our regeneration by the FATHER of spirits.
(2) The BLOWING of the WIND, to describe the work of the HOLY-SPIRIT in accomplishing the New-Birth.
(3) The SERPENT on a POLE (an Old Testament Type of Christ, 
when all who looked in faith to God’s provision of salvation received life), to reveal the basis of the New-Birth (the CROSS of CHRIST) 
and the kind of FAITH that receives Eternal Life. 

*Notice the Trinitarian structure of this teaching of Jesus. Salvation is from the Father, through the Son and His sacrifice, in the power of the Spirit. 

*Picture (1) - The Work of the Father: BIRTH (v3-7). 
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, 
unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v3). 
Jesus cut straight to the question on his heart, the main issue. He wanted to be where Jesus was, to have His revelation and experience of God. Jesus made a shocking statement: Although he was a educated, good, decent and cultivated man he was outside the Kingdom of God. To be good by man’s standards is not enough to be meet God’s standards of entry. You have to be BORN AGAIN, as a new creation to be in the Kingdom. 

“Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”(v4).   
‘How can I have completely new start? How can this be after all these years. My character is already formed. Surely, it’s impossible to turn back the clock.’ 

“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is (1) born of water and (2) the Spirit, he
 cannot enter into the Kingdom of God!” (v5).  

Here Jesus clarifies this second birth. The first birth you must have is a natural birth coming forth from the water of your mother’s womb -the birth of your flesh, making you a citizen of earth. The second birth you must have is a spiritual birth coming forth out of the womb of the Spirit of God - the birth of your spirit, making you a citizen of heaven. Without this second birth you don’t belong in Heaven - you must be born into the Kingdom to belong there. (If I go to China to live as a citizen there, I would be turned away for I would have to be born there). 

This interpretation is confirmed in v6: “That which is (1) born of the flesh is flesh (the first birth); and that which is (2) born of the Spirit is spirit (the second birth).” It is the rebirth of our spirit (2Cor 5:17). Our first birth equips us to live on earth. The new-birth is of the spirit and so equips you to live in a new realm - God’s Kingdom in the Spirit. “Marvel not that I said to you, ‘You must be born again” (v7). It is not an option but a necessity. Nicodemus was picked to show that even the 
best and most polished natural man is good enough to enter on his own
 merits. He needs the new birth to enter, for without it he does not belong. 

To belong in the kingdom of earth we must be born into it with an earthly nature generated from our earthly father. To be in the Kingdom of Heaven we must be born into it with a heavenly nature which can only be generated from our Heavenly Father (we receive the love-nature of God in the New Birth, our reborn spirit possesses eternal life: even the love and life of God - see Romans 5:5, Galatians 5:22,23, John 3:16). “As many as received Him (Christ), He gave the right to become children of God, even those who believe on His name: who were born ... of God” (John 1:12,13). Because we enter by birth, salvation is all of GRACE not works. You can’t take the credit for your birth! It was your Mother’s work which you just received. Likewise the New-Birth is all God’s work not ours - we can’t earn or deserve it- it is an act of God that we simply receive.

How does God perform the New-Birth? He answers this in the next picture.

*Picture (2): The Work of the Holy-Spirit, whose action is compared to the WIND. 

“The WIND blows where it will,and you hear its sound, but know not from where it comes, and to where it goes: so it is with every one that is born of the SPIRIT” (v8). 

The word ‘pneuma’, translated WIND is also the word for SPIRIT. Both wind and the Spirit are invisible but they communicate energy and produce visible results. Jesus is saying that the New Birth happens when the invisible wind of the Spirit blows into our spirit to recreate it. It is God’s work and energy that does it, not man’s. We just receive the action of the wind (Spirit). We can’t see Him but He is real. He moves in and brings change on the inside that will show on the outside. 

The Spirit is a Person, Whom we cannot control, but He always comes when we ask or invite Him: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them who ask Him?” (Luke 11:12,13). 

The wind moves according to laws, from high to low pressure. When we inhale, we set up a low-pressure condition in our lungs into which the fresh wind blows. When the right conditions of receptivity (humility and faith in Christ) are set up in our heart, the Spirit moves in and works His miracle for we shall see that whosoever believes in Christ (calling upon Him in humble faith) receives eternal life, through the action of the Spirit. 
 
“Nicodemus answered and said to him, ‘How can these things be?” (v9) 
That is: “By what process does this happen? 
How can I have the Spirit blow into me?” 

*Picture (3) - The Work of the Son on the Cross (the Brass-Serpent), purchasing our salvation, and the LOOK of FAITH by which we receive it. 

We have seen that the New-Birth originates from the Father. He sends the Spirit to accomplish it. Now we will see that the Spirit blows from the Father through the Son. The Spirit comes through the Son, on the basis of the Work of the Son (in death and resurrection), so that all who look upon the Son (believing) receive the Spirit.

Firstly, Jesus establishes His unique authority to speak on the Kingdom of God and how to enter it: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you ‘the teacher of Israel’, and you understand not these things? Truly, truly, I say to you,‘We (the Godhead) speak of what we know, and bear witness of what we have seen; and you (the nation of Israel as a whole, not Nicodemus himself) receive not our witness. If I told you earthly things and you believe not, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?’ And no one has ascended into heaven (by his own works and righteousness), except He (God’s eternal Son) who descended from Heaven (in the incarnation), even the Son of man(Jesus), who is (also) in Heaven (eternally, as the Son of God)” (v10-12). 

Jesus is the only man authorised and qualified to tell us how to enter God’s Kingdom, for He lives eternally in Heaven. He alone knows the Way to Heaven. He alone is the Way. He alone has the required righteousness. He alone came down from Heaven to earth to bring us to Heaven with Him. He proved it by ascending to Heaven so we must listen to Him.

Having prepared us, He now reveals the basis for our salvation (His death on the Cross), and how we must believe in order to receive life: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up (on the Cross, to bear the judgement for our sins) that whosoever believes (looks in faith upon Him) may have (receive) eternal LIFE (the life of God) in him. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have eternal LIFE (as a present possession,  produced by the action of the Spirit upon us). For God sent not the Son into the world to condemn the world (but rather to condemn the sin of the world in Him) but that the world should be saved through Him (through Jesus bearing our sin and condemnation in our place)” (v14-17). 

Here Jesus preaches the Gospel: that the Son of God who came from heaven and became a man, will die on the Cross for our sins before ascending back to Heaven, so that whoever believes (trusts) in Him (as Saviour and Lord), having seen Him die on the Cross for their sins and rising again, will receive from Him forgiveness and eternal life. 

Jesus said that this salvation was foreshadowed in Numbers 21:5-9,
 where because of their sin (v5), fiery serpents (representing sin) entered and bit the people, bringing much death (v6). For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). When they repented, Moses prayed for them for their salvation (healing, v7) and the Lord answered and said, 

“Make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a standard and it shall come to pass, that every one who is bitten (by the serpent of sin), when hesees it, shall live (he receives forgiveness and life).’ Moses made a serpent of brass upon a standard: and if a serpent had bitten any man, when he LOOKED upon the serpent of brass, he LIVED” (v8). 

In His answer the Lord was revealing how He would provide salvation for all men from sin and death (not just Israel). Brass is a symbol ofJudgement. When Israel looked upon the brass serpent, believing and obeying the word of God through Moses, they saw their sin removed from them and judged. Thus they received FORGIVENESS and LIFE by faith. 

Jesus said that He would be as the brass serpent lifted up (v14, see also Rom 8:3, 2Cor 5:21). He would be our Sin-Bearer (remember this was spoken during the Passover week), lifted up on the Cross bearing all our sin (hence He is as the serpent lifted up on the pole), and be judged in our place (hence the serpent was of brass). In this way He fulfilled the first Messianic prophecy (Gen 3:15). He paid the penalty and suffered the just punishment for our sins, so that when we hear the Gospel and LOOK in faith to the Son dying for our sins on the Cross, then we receive LIFE from the Spirit of Life. John 3:16 summarises it all: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son (the love of God the Father is supremely shown in that He gave His Son to die for us on the Cross - see v15), that whosoever believes on Him (anyone who looks to Jesus in faith, seeing Him die and be judged for his sins) should not perish (by being condemned to eternal destruction in hell), but have eternal life (through the wind of the Spirit regenerating his spirit). Salvation is for ‘whosoever’ will accept it by faith.

The wind of the Spirit is breathed out from the Father and blows (proceeds) through the Son and His work on the Cross, and enters us (if we believe) accomplishing the New Birth in us. (1) ASK the FATHER for the Spirit, (2) SEE (LOOK to) the SON and His Work -seeing the Spirit flowing through the crucified, risen and ascended SON and (3) RECEIVE the SPIRIT. Say: “I receive the Holy-Spirit who is 
given to me from the Father, through the Son.” You may find it helps to physically breath in as you receive the Spirit, purely as an aid to faith.

Verses 18-21 contrast believers with unbelievers in destiny and lifestyle: 
(1) Different destinies: “He who believes on Him is not condemned. He who believes not has been condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the LIGHT (Jesus Christ) has come into the world and men loved the darkness (sin) 
rather than the LIGHT; for their works were evil.” 
Believers trust in Christ who bore all judgement on their sin, and so are saved from condemnation. Unbelievers are judged because they reject Jesus Christ (the true Light and Salvation of man). He is their only salvation from the deadly power and guilt of sin, and so by rejecting Him they reject salvation. They must stand before God on their own merits and this means certain condemnation. Their sinfulness before God is proved by their rejection of God’s Light (Jesus Christ).

(2) Different Lifestyles: 
“For everyone who does evil (an unbeliever) hates the LIGHT and comes not to the LIGHT (Jesus), lest his works should be reproved. But(in contrast) he (a believer) who does the TRUTH (of the Word) comes (continually) to the LIGHT, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God.” 
The characteristic lifestyle of believers is they open their life up to God’s light for correction, ready to confess any sin and be cleansed,so that they may learn to please and glorify Him. Unbelievers by contrast go their own way, independently of God. 

John 3:22-36 - John the Baptist Exalts Christ.

v22-24 After these things (after Passover AD 30) Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea (from May AD 30 to January/February 31), and there He remained with them and baptised. Now John (the Baptist) also was baptising in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there (notice this confirmation that baptism is by full immersion as the meaning of the word itself teaches). And they came and were baptised. For John had not yet been thrown into prison. 

v25,26 Then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan..” (Notice John had spent some quality time with Jesus in the month after His Baptism and Temptation, before John identified Him as the Lamb of God in 1:19-34. This time spent with Jesus explains his depth of insight shown in 1:19-34 and 3:22-36. He would have asked about the meaning of Christ’s baptism and through that found out about His future death and resurrection as the Lamb of God). “...to whom you have testified - behold, He is baptising, and all are coming to Him!"    It seems that in their dispute with John’s disciples, the Jews used the occasion to sow discord by arousing their competitiveness, pointing out how Jesus had adopted John’s methods and was successfully taking John’s crowds. Actually they were ministering together in unity. By admitting that John testified of Jesus, John’s disciples convicted themselves here,. This should have led them into following Jesus, but being drawn by John’s personality they missed the meaning and purpose of his message which was to point men to Christ. As a result out of loyalty to John, they were even tempted into be competitive with Jesus.

John’s answer shows again his humility before the supremacy of Christ:
v27 John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” John was content with the ministry God had given him. What matters is receiving the call and anointing God gives you, and then faithfully discharging it. It is foolish to compete with others who have been given a different call and anointing. All your striving and competing and imitating in the flesh, to have a ministry like others and bigger than others is futile because you can only receive what God gives. 

v28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 
"I am not the Christ,' but, "I have been sent before Him.' 

John was the forerunner of the Christ, so they should not be surprised that the ministry of Jesus was growing and John’s was declining. In fact this showed the success of John’s ministry of turning men to Christ. In ministry if we lead people to look to Christ rather than to us - this is success. If others after us seem to do better than us - that too is success.

v29 “He who has the Bride is the Bridegroom; but the friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.”
The Bride consists of the believers. The Bridegroom is Christ, who came to call His Bride, showing His love by laying His life down for her. John had a special role as the Friend of the Bridegroom, who acted under His directions as the go-between making the arrangements for the ceremony, setting the stage for Bride and Bridegroom to come together. The Friend does not want to draw the Bride to himself, but to ensure she is united with the Bridegroom. So when he hears the Bridegroom come calling His Bride and sees the Bride respond and come to Him, he rejoices because his job has been successful, his mission has been fulfilled.

v30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This again reveals the humility of John. We can apply this saying to our lives. It is not about us, but about Jesus. We want His will, His power, His presence to increase in our lives, and we want our ‘I,I,I’ (our self-centredness and pride) to decrease. John knew his ministry was temporary and subordinate to Christ’s. He was telling his disciples that Jesus’ ministry must continue to increase and his ministry would continue to decrease but it was OK, 
for it was God’s will (John was arrested later that year). 
  
v31,32 “He (Jesus) who comes from above (Heaven) is above all (Lord)”
John declares Christ’s supremacy and authority based on His heavenly origins, His pre-existence and Deity. He is not to be placed on the same level as John or any other man. He is in a different category altogether: “he who is of the earth (John and all other men) is earthly and speaks of the earth (he is limited by his earthly experience and speaks from an earthly viewpoint). (But) He who comes from heaven(Jesus) is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies... (Jesus came as the eternal Son from heaven and so speaks from a full knowledge of God)”  Therefore the words of Jesus surpass those of all others, for they are the direct personal words of God.

Faith and Unbelief (there can only be two responses to Christ’s testimony).
v32-33: “And what He (Jesus) has seen and heard (as the Son from Heaven) that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.” 
Even though He has given His clear, reliable testimony, mankind as a whole rejects it, because of sin (1Cor2:14). However due to God’s grace alone through the Holy-Spirit, some are enabled to believe His testimony and to receive Him: “He who has received His testimony(believes in Christ) has certified that God is true.” He attests that God is truthful, for the testimony of Christ is not the words of a man but the words of God (also his transformed life confirms the truth of Christ’s words): 

v34 “For He (Jesus) whom God has sent (this phrase confirms Christ’s Pre-existence and Deity, as well as the Father’s sovereignty in planning and initiating the Son’s incarnation) speaks the words of God (even though He became a man, and spoke from His humanity) for God does not give the Spirit by measure.”    Any other finite and sinful man whom God anointed with the Holy-Spirit to speak for Him, can only have a limited measure of the Spirit (and he must be careful not to go beyond his anointing). The perfect God-man, however, was able to receive and have a full endowment of the Spirit upon His humanity. Therefore, His words are the undiluted, uncompromised words of God. He was anointed with the Spirit without limit. When He ascended on high, He poured out this fullness of the Spirit upon the Church, so that this anointing is distributed among all of us. Each of us has only a portion, so that in unity together the full anointing can flow. 

v35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 
This gives us great insight into the relationship between Father and Son in the Trinity. They are united in perfect love. The Father is the Initiator, the Source of all life and authority. He loves the Son and gives all things to the Son. He entrusts the Son with all authority over Creation. Therefore, your attitude and relationship to the Son defines your relationship to God:

v36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life (possessed already, 
to be fully manifested later throughout eternity); and he who does not believe in the Son shall not (ever) see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." 
He is already under condemnation, awaiting the full manifestation of God’s wrath in judgement that will continue throughout eternity.
 

Notice the contrast between faith and unbelief: Receiving the Son (faith) is accepting His word and trusting (committing) oneself to His authority as Lord, which results in receiving eternal life. Rejecting the Son (unbelief), is rejecting God and His authority and resulting in rejecting His eternal life).

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