Front Matter Book Intro

Detailed Outline Index

D. Revelation 4: The New Birth, 3:1-15

(3:1-15) Introduction: the new birth, along with God's great love (John 2:16-17), is the most important revelation ever made in all of human history. Jesus revealed the new birth.

1. Nicodemus approached Jesus (v.1-2).

2. The new birth: a necessity, an imperative (v.3).

3. The new birth: a spiritual birth (v.4-8).

4. The new birth: a true experience (v.9-11).

5. The new birth: rejected (v.11-12).

6. The new birth: revealed only by Jesus (v.13).

7. The new birth: secured by two acts (v.14-15).

DEEPER STUDY #1 (3:1-15) New Birth Born Again New Creation Regeneration

1. (3:1-2) Nicodemus: Nicodemus approached Jesus. Note these facts about Nicodemus.

1. He was a ruler (archon) of the Jews. This means he was a senator or a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews (see Deeper Study #1 Matthew 26:59).

a. He was a Pharisee (see Deeper Study #3 Acts 23:8).

b. He was the master of Israel (John 3:10, ho didaskalos); that is, he held some official position of the highest rank. He was either the leading official or the leading teacher of Israel who was either authorized or accepted as such by the public.

c. He apparently was wealthy. He spent a great deal of money on the burial of Jesus (John 19:39).

d. He was silent at the trial of Jesus, saying nothing to defend Jesus, but he boldly stepped forth after the Lord's death and publicly helped in the burial of Jesus (John 19:39-42).

2. He came in behalf of the religionists. He said, "We know." Some of the religionists wondered if Jesus was the true Messiah, thinking that perhaps He was. Some eventually become believers (cp. Luke 13:31; Acts 6:7; Acts 15:5; Acts 18:8, Acts 17). Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah and performing the spectacular works that were prophesied of the Messiah; therefore, He was the talk of everyone throughout the nation. The rulers were questioning and wondering: Is He really the Messiah? (See note Matthew 21:8-9; note Matthew 21:23.) This was the question, the thing that Nicodemus felt compelled to find out. (See Deeper Study #2 Matthew 1:18.) Note that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He apparently did this because he feared the other leaders who opposed Jesus. John seemed to be saying this at the burial of Jesus (cp. John 19:39).

3. He acknowledged Jesus only as a teacher from God. He and others saw the miracles Jesus did, and they knew something: only a man from God could do such miracles.

4. In essence, Nicodemus was asking, "Who are you? The miracles show that God is with you, but you are claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Are you truthfully in all honesty?"

Note that Jesus did not answer Nicodemus directly. He saw into the empty, searching heart of Nicodemus and saw the honesty of his question. So Jesus went right to the heart of the matter. Miracles and signs were not what was important. What was important was for Nicodemus to be changed: changed spiritually, changed within, and changed completely to undergo such a spiritual change that it could only be described as being born again.

2. (3:3) New Birth: the new birth is a necessity, an imperative. Two facts show this:

1. The strong assertion, "Except a man be born again." The word "again" (anōthen PWS: 80) has three different meanings in Greek. It means...

From the first: from the beginning or completely and fully (cp. Luke 1:3).

Again: a second time, a repeated act (John 3:4) (cp. Galatians 4:9).

From above: from the top, which means from God (cp. John 19:11).

The point is this. A man must be "born again." He must be...

born completely and fully, a complete and full change.

born all over again, in the sense of a second time.

born from above, from God.

2. The importance of the words, "cannot see the kingdom of God." One must be "born again" or else he will never "see" (John 3:3) nor "enter" (John 3:5) the Kingdom of God. It is an absolute imperative that a person be born again (John 3:7). (See Deeper Study #3, Kingdom of God Matthew 19:23-24.)

"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).

"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Deut. 30:19).

3. (3:4-8) New Birth: the new birth is a spiritual birth. (See note, pt.2 John 3:1-15.) Nicodemus was puzzled by the words "born again." He did not know what Jesus meant. He understood Jesus to be saying that a man must be born a "second time." Jesus answered Nicodemus by doing five things.

1. Jesus gave the source of the new birth. It was being born of water, even of the Spirit (see Deeper Study #1, pt.2 John 3:1-15. Also see Deeper Study #2, Water John 3:5 for discussion.)

2. Jesus repeated the importance of being born again. Note what John 3:3 says: a man "can never see" (grasp, understand, know, experience) the Kingdom of God; John 3:5 says a man "can never enter" (gain entrance to) the Kingdom of God.

3. Jesus gave the nature of the new birth. It is spiritual, not physical and material (see note Ephes. 1:3; note Ephes. 4:17-19; Deeper Study #3 Ephes. 4:24). The flesh cannot bridge the gap between flesh and spirit. Flesh is only flesh; it has no power to be born again, to become spirit (see Deeper Study #1, Flesh John 1:14).

4. Jesus re-emphasized the absolute necessity of the new birth. "Ye must be born again." The word "must" (dei) means absolute necessity, an imperative.

5. Jesus illustrated the point by picturing the wind. The Spirit of God works just like the wind. We may not know how the wind works, but we can see the effects. It is the same with the Spirit of God: we may not know how He works, but we can see the effects of His working.

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which 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 by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).

"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again [caused us to be born again] unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Peter 1:23).

"If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him" (1 John 2:29).

"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9).

"Beloved, let us love one other: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God" (1 John 4:7).

"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him" (1 John 5:1).

DEEPER STUDY #2 (3:5) Water Spirit

4. (3:9-11) New Birth: the new birth is a true experience, a definite experience (see Deeper Study #1, pt.3 John 3:1-15). Nicodemus' heart was touched by what Jesus was saying, and he wished to know what was meant by being "born again." Note: he did not know, but he wished to know. (Think how many do not even care to know.)

"But 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 Cor. 2:14).

Note the great tragedy of Nicodemus. He was the master of Israel, yet he did not know about spiritual things (see note, pt.1 John 3:1-2). Note the strong assertion of Jesus: "We do know...we have seen" (John 3:11. See note John 3:13 for how Jesus knows about the new birth.)

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).

"And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6).

"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (1 Thes. 1:5).

"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. 1:12).

"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3).

"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him" (1 John 3:18-19).

"And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us" (1 John 3:24).

"Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us" (1 John 4:13).

"This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (1 John 5:6).

5. (3:11-12) New Birth: the new birth is rejected. There are two tragic facts here.

1. There are the statements: "ye receive not our witness" and "ye believe not." Apparently, Nicodemus did not believe and receive Jesus at this point in his life. He did what so many do: he rejected Jesus.

2. It is man's nature not to believe (cp. 1 Cor. 2:14. See note John 2:24.)

"He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son" (1 John 5:10).

"He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11).

"He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).

6. (3:13) New Birth Jesus Christ, Son of Man Mediator: the new birth is revealed only by Jesus. Jesus said two things.

1. He came down from (ek PWS: 1609, out of) heaven. No man can ascend up into heaven; no man can penetrate the spiritual world. Flesh is flesh, that is, born of the earth; therefore, it is earthly (1 Cor. 15:47). However, Jesus Christ was different from all other men. His origin was out of heaven, out of the spiritual world and dimension of being. (See Deeper Study #1 John 3:31; note John 1:18; Deeper Study #1 John 14:6, Deeper Study #2 John 14:6, Deeper Study #3 John 14:6 for discussion.)

2. He is timeless. "The Son of Man which is in heaven" means His existence and experience are timeless. He is eternal (see note, Son of Man John 1:51).

"For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world....For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:33, 38).

"This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:50-51).

"Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me" (John 8:42).

"Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God" (John 13:3).

"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5).

7. (3:14-15) New Birth: the new birth is secured by two acts.

1. The first act is Jesus' death. Jesus illustrated His point by using the Old Testament story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9). The children of Israel had begun to murmur and grumble about the trials of the wilderness, wishing they had never left Egypt. God disciplined them by sending fiery serpents to plague them. The discipline worked; the people repented and begged for mercy. God met the people's need by telling Moses to make a bronze image of a serpent and to hold it up upon a pole in the midst of the people. The person who looked upon the lifted up serpent was healed.

Jesus said that He must be lifted up just as the serpent was lifted up. What did He mean? There are several pictures here.

a. The people of Israel had great need, for they were dying from the poison of the fiery serpents. Men today are dying from the poison of the serpent, the deadly poison of sin.

b. The serpent is a symbol of the evil one, Satan (Genesis 3:1f; Rev. 12:9; Rev. 20:2). Jesus Christ destroyed the works of the devil by being lifted up (Hebrews 2:14-15); therefore the serpent hanging upon the pole symbolized the defeat of Satan. By looking upon the defeated evil (the serpent), Israel was healed. Today man is healed by looking upon the Son of Man who has been lifted up upon the cross.

"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:31-32).

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15).

c. The serpent was a cursed creature from the very beginning (Genesis 3:14-15). Jesus became a curse for man (Galatians 3:13).

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Galatians 3:13).

"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

2. The second act is man's belief in Jesus. The man who believes in the Son of Man being lifted up...

will not perish (see Deeper Study #2, Perish John 3:16).

but will have eternal life (see Deeper Study #2, Life John 1:4; Deeper Study #1 John 10:10; Deeper Study #1 John 17:2-3).

Note: if an Israelite believed God's message (the good news of healing), he looked upon the lifted up serpent, and he was healed. If a man did not believe God's message, he did not look, and he died. Thus it is with us today: every man must believe the message of Christ in order to be healed, that is, be born again.

"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" (John 3:16).

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).