The New Birth…
John chapter 3
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus about the New Birth (3:1–21)
3:1 The story of Nicodemus contrasts with what had just gone before.
Many of the Jews in Jerusalem professed to believe on the Lord, but He knew their faith was not genuine.
Nicodemus was an exception. The Lord recognized in him an earnest desire to know the truth.
Verse 1 should begin with a connective: “But there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.”
Nicodemus was recognized as a teacher among his people. Perhaps he came to the Lord for instruction, so that he might return to the Jews with this additional learning.
3:2 The Bible does not say why Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. The most obvious explanation is that he would have been embarrassed to be seen going to Jesus, since the Lord had by no means been accepted by the majority of the Jewish people.
However, he did come to Jesus. Nicodemus acknowledged the Lord to be a teacher sent by God, since no one could perform such miracles without the direct help of God.
In spite of all his learning, Nicodemus did not recognize the Lord as God manifest in the flesh.
He was like so many today who say that Jesus was a great man, a wonderful teacher, an outstanding example.
All of these statements fall very far short of the full truth.
Jesus was and is God!
3:3 At first sight, the answer of the Lord Jesus does not seem to be connected with what Nicodemus had just said.
Our Lord is saying,
“Nicodemus, you have come to Me for teaching, but what you really need is to be born again. That is where you must begin. You must be born from above. Otherwise, you can never see the kingdom of God.”
The Lord introduced these wonderful words with the expression: “Most assuredly” (lit. Amen, amen).
These words alert us to the fact that important truth is being given.
As a Jew, Nicodemus had been looking for a Messiah to come and free Israel from the bondage of Rome.
The Roman Empire was then in control of the world, and the Jews were subject to its laws and government.
Nicodemus longed for the time when the Messiah would set up His kingdom on earth, when the Jewish people would be chief among the nations, and when all their enemies would be destroyed.
Now the Lord informed Nicodemus that in order to enter this kingdom, a man must be born again.
Just as the first birth is necessary for physical life, so a second birth is necessary for divine life.
(The expression born again may also mean “born from above.”)
In other words, Christ’s kingdom can only be entered by those whose lives have been changed.
Since His reign will be a righteous one, His subjects must be righteous also. He could not reign over people who were going on in their sins.
3:4 Here again we see how difficult it was for men to understand the words of the Lord Jesus.
Nicodemus insisted on taking everything literally. He could not understand how a grown-up could be born again.
He pondered the physical impossibility of a man entering his mother’s womb again in order to be born.
Nicodemus illustrates that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
3:5 In further explanation, Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born of water and the Spirit.
Otherwise, he could never enter the kingdom of God.
What did Jesus mean?
Many insist that literal water is intended, and that the Lord Jesus spoke of the necessity of baptism for salvation.
However, such a teaching is contrary to the rest of the Bible.
Throughout the Word of God we read that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Baptism is intended for those who have already been saved, but not as a means of salvation.
Some suggest that water in this verse refers to the Word of God.
In Ephesians 5:25, 26 water is closely associated with the Word of God. Also, in 1 Peter 1:23 and James 1:18, the new birth is said to take place through the Word of God.
It is quite possible, therefore, that water in this verse does refer to the Bible.
We know that there can be no salvation apart from the Scriptures.
It is the message contained in the Word of God that must be appropriated by the sinner before there can ever be the new birth.
But water may also refer to the Holy Spirit.
In John 7:38, 39 the Lord Jesus spoke of rivers of living water, and we are distinctly told that when He used the word water He was speaking of the Holy Spirit.
If water means the Spirit in chapter 7, why can it not have the same meaning in chapter 3?
However, there seems to be a difficulty if this interpretation is accepted.
Jesus says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
If water is taken to mean the Spirit, then it would appear that the Spirit is mentioned twice in this verse.
But the word translated “and” could just as correctly have been translated “even.”
Thus, the verse would read: Unless one is born of water, even the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
We believe that this is the correct meaning of the verse.
Physical birth is not enough. There must also be a spiritual birth if one is to enter the kingdom of God.
This spiritual birth is produced by the Holy Spirit of God when a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This interpretation is supported by the fact that the expression “born of the Spirit” is found twice in the verses to follow (vv. 6, 8).
3:6 Even if Nicodemus could in some way have entered his mother’s womb a second time and been born a second time, that would not have corrected the evil nature in him.
The expression that which is born of the flesh is flesh means that children born of human parents are born in sin and are hopeless and helpless as far as saving themselves is concerned.
On the other hand, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
A spiritual birth takes place when a person trusts in the Lord Jesus.
When a person is born again through the Spirit, he receives a new nature, and is made fit for the kingdom of God.
So who is the Holy Spirit?
God is three persons in one—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
God became a human in Jesus so that Jesus could die for our sins.
Jesus rose from the dead to offer salvation to all people through spiritual renewal and rebirth.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, His physical presence left the earth, but He promised to send the Holy Spirit so that His spiritual presence would still be among humankind (see Luke 24:49).
The Holy Spirit first became available to all believers at Pentecost (Acts 2).
Whereas in Old Testament days the Holy Spirit empowered specific individuals for specific purposes at specific times, now all believers have the power of the Holy Spirit available to them all the time.
3:8 Jesus explained that we cannot control the work of the Holy Spirit.
He works in ways we cannot predict or understand.
Just as you did not control your physical birth, you cannot control your spiritual birth.
It is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6).
3:9 No one is beyond the touch of God’s Spirit.
Are there people you disregard, thinking they could never be brought to God—a world leader you have never prayed for or a difficult person you have never shared the Good News with?
Don’t ever assume that a certain person will never respond to the gospel.
God, through His Holy Spirit, can reach anyone, and you should pray diligently for whomever He brings to your mind.
Be a witness and an example to everyone you are in contact with.
God may touch those you consider most unreachable—and He may use you to do it.
3:10-11 This Jewish teacher of the Bible knew the Old Testament thoroughly, but he didn’t understand what it said about the Messiah.
Intellectual knowledge does not guarantee true understanding or salvation.
You should know the Bible, but even more important, you need a relationship with the God whom the Bible reveals so you can receive the salvation that He offers.
3:14-15 When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God sent a plague of snakes to punish them for their rebellious attitudes.
Those doomed to die from snake bites could be healed by obeying God’s command to look up at the elevated bronze snake and believing that God would heal them if they did (see Numbers 21:8-9).
Similarly, our 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.
3:16 The message of the Good News comes to a focus in this verse.
God’s love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in.
Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships—when you love someone dearly, you are willing to give to them freely, to the point of self-sacrifice.
God paid dearly with the life of His Son, the highest price He could pay.
Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that He had bought for us.
When we share the Good News with others, our love must be like Jesus’—willing to give up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love.
3:16 Some people are not interested in the idea of eternal life because their lives are miserable.
They wouldn’t want them to go on forever.
But eternal life is not an extension of a person’s mortal life.
In eternal life, there is no death, sickness, enemy, evil, or sin.
When we don’t know Jesus, we make choices as though this life is all there is, and we can’t imagine the bad being eliminated or redeemed into something good and wonderful.
In reality, eternal life can be entirely different from the life you are living now..
But you will need to ask Jesus for the new life He offers and follow Him in order to receive it.
Then you will begin to evaluate all that happens to you from an eternal perspective, and you will begin to truly look forward to eternity.
GOD SPECIALIZES IN finding and changing people we consider out of reach.
It took a while for Nicodemus to come out of the dark, but God was patient with this “undercover” believer.
Afraid of being discovered, Nicodemus made an appointment to see Jesus at night.
Daylight conversations between Pharisees and Jesus tended to be antagonistic, but Nicodemus really wanted to learn.
He probably got a lot more than he expected—a challenge to a new life!
We know very little about Nicodemus, but we know he left that evening’s encounter a changed man.
He came away with a whole new understanding of both God and himself.
Nicodemus next appears in the story as part of the Jewish high council (John 7:50).
As the group discussed ways to eliminate Jesus, Nicodemus raised the question of justice.
Although his objection was overruled, he had spoken up.
He had begun to make his faith public.
Our last picture of Nicodemus shows him joining Joseph of Arimathea in asking for Jesus’ body in order to provide for its burial (John 19:39).
Realizing what he was risking, Nicodemus was making a bold move.
He was continuing to grow.
God wants us to continually grow in our faith; He isn’t looking for instant perfection.
How well have you continued to grow spiritually in good times and bad?
God can always make a way where there doesn’t seem to be a way but…
Unless we are born again, we can never be part of the Kingdom of God!
God is able to even change those we might consider unreachable.
God is always patient, but persistent.
If we make ourselves available, God can use us.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Thursday, August 11, 2022
God’s Holy Fire:
ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES BIRTH TO SPIRITUAL LIFE
[Jesus continued,] “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”
— John 3:6 NLT
Ten times in five verses in the Bible’s first chapter we are told that each living thing produced according to its kind (Genesis 1:11-12; Genesis 1:21; Genesis 1:24-25).
In today’s verse, John reminds us that this principle is still true:
Human beings can produce only human life; they can’t give birth to true spiritual life.
The power to give birth to spiritual life comes only from the Holy Spirit.
The work of the Holy Spirit is essential to true conversion (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-7).
When folks were baptized in New Testament times and the Holy Spirit wasn’t involved, they were taught more fully about Jesus and were baptized again with a recognition of the Spirit’s involvement (Acts 19:1-7).
When there was a question of whether to include Gentiles into the family of God, the work of the Holy Spirit in their conversion was crucial to their acceptance (Acts 10:44-48; Acts 11:15-17; Acts 15:8-9).
For us to be reborn into God’s family, for us to be true followers of Jesus, and for us to be cleansed and made holy, the Holy Spirit must be involved.
Only “the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life”!
Almighty God, I know that I cannot give birth to my own spiritual life. So I thank you for giving me the gift of the Holy Spirit who cleansed me, gave me a new birth into your family, and lives inside me making me your holy temple.
Please accept my life as a living sacrifice as I live to bring you glory by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Come join the Adventure!