The Gospel According to JOHN

Chapter three


1. Jesus is still in Jerusalem during Passover festivities. Jn. 2:13

2. During this time he had given evidence of Messianic authority.
John 2:14-16

3. The Jews question his authority and ask for a sign for proof. Jn. 2:18

4. Jesus says the only sign given will be of resurrection. Jn. 2:19-22

5. Many other signs were also done which resulted in the salvation of many people. John 2:23

6. It is this background of signs and teaching that bring us to the events of chapter 3.

Verse one

1. Now: the Passover is concluded; Jesus is still in Jerusalem; and his ministry has made a great impact on a small group of religious leaders.

2. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus.
See Topic: Pharisees

3. A ruler of the Jews: A religious leader and teacher who has been trained in all the writings of the Old Testament as well as the customs and traditions of the Pharisees.
It would be "expected" of such a ruler/teacher to "understand" spiritual data from the Old Testament. John 3:10

Verse two

1. This one:

A. A very religious man occupied with tradition all his life.
B. But also occupied with the Messianic hope of his nation.
C. His Messianic expectations outweigh his tradition and provide him with some objectivity.
D. He sees the evidence and must investigate it.

2. Came to Him by night:

A. This is in secret.
B. He came as a representative of a small group of Pharisees who felt that the evidence required a confrontation.

C. They were a small group, probably friends, who did not want the majority of the religious leaders to know.

D. There was yet another secret group of leaders who had actually accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but were still keeping it a secret for fear of ostracism or excommunication. John 12:42-43

1. A prominent member of the "secret" group was Joseph of Arimathea. John 19:38

2. It may very well be that Nicodemus joins or even initiates this group, since we learn later that he had become a believer. John 19:38-39

3. And he said to Him, rabbi:

A. Teacher: indicates that Nic had been listening to Jesus.
B. He recognizes some kind of bona fide authority in Jesus.

4. We know: oida as a perfect active indicative is used to indicate the possession of knowledge based on the past experience of gaining facts.

A. This word indicates that a conclusion has been made.
B. The facts used for the conclusion are all that Jesus has said and done, primarily during this Passover feast, but before as well.

5. That you are a teacher, having come from God:

A. Teacher: didaskalos is a communicator of information.
But this is not the real issue. Any one can be a teacher.

B. Come from God: erchomai as a perfect participle indicates "origin."
Either the origin of one's person or his message.

C. They believe that Jesus represents divine authority as He teaches.
The reason for this belief is the signs that attend the message.

6. For no one is able: dunamai = have ability, power, authority

7. To be doing: poieo, present infinitive indicates his current activity.

8. The signs: sāmeion = a miracle that confirms a message.

9. That you keep on doing: poieo, present active indicative

10. Unless God is with him: This is the conclusion they have reached.
And even though they are caught up in their religion, they were objective enough to not want to reject anything that was truly from God.

Verse three

Jesus is going to rebuke and exhort Nic to not just be "impressed" with what he hears and sees, but to "do" something about it.

1. Jesus answered and said to him, truly truly: amān, amān
In truth, in truth: It is an idiom that means - In absolute truth and absolute authority.

2. To you: singular - I have some personal information for you.

3. Unless one is born again:

A. Unless: ean mā plus the subjunctive mood indicates the conditions required for a particular result.

B. One is born: gennao in the aorist passive subjunctive indicates -

1. aorist tense: indicates that this birth occurs in a single point of time rather than as a process.

2. Passive voice: indicates that the person "receives" this birth from someone else rather than "doing" it himself.

C. Again: anōthen is an adverb = again and/or from above

1. Again = a "new" birth

2. from above = the divine source for this birth.

3. Jesus has both meanings in mind because that certainly is what this birth is - both "again" (new, spiritual birth) and from God.

4. Nic can only think on the human level, so he interprets "again" to be a repetition of physical birth. v. 4.

5. In addition, the use of this word, "again," indicates that Jesus does NOT have in mind any connection to the physical birth as a first step to the new birth, which is suggested by some for an explanation of "water" at verse 5.

4. He is not able: dunamai as a present middle indicative refers to a constant "status" or condition of inability to do something WITHOUT the new birth.

5. To see: horaō = to see, understand, realize, experience.
The aorist active infinitive indicates that at no point of time ever will this person "experience" the kingdom of God.

6. The kingdom of God:

A. The place of spiritual life and relationship with God.
B. It consists of all believers since Adam.
C. See TOPIC: The Kingdom of God

Verse 4

1. Nicodemus said to him:

A. He really did not understand the spiritual significance of what Jesus said.

B. He looks at it from the human viewpoint. And his question reflects his misunderstanding.

2. How is a man able to be born when he is old?
Nicodemus is talking about a physical birth.

3. He is not able to enter his mother's womb a second time and be born is he?

A. Some interpret this as sarcasm.
B. I suggest that this is a continuation of his genuine humility in searching for truth as indicated by the entire context.

Verse 5 - Jesus gives him more information

1. Truly truly: In absolute truth and absolute authority
2. Except a man be born: gennao, aorist passive subjunctive
3. Out from: this is the preposition, ek, to indicate source and mechanics.
4. water and the Spirit:

A. Because Nic is in a human viewpoint rut, Jesus must give him information based on the Old Testament, with which he should be familiar.

B. Water should take him back to Isaiah 55:1-5 and Ezek. 36:25, where it is symbolic for the word of God.

C. It refers to the ministry of the truth of God's word as the means of the new birth.
Cf. John 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:23; James 1:18; Eph. 5:26

D. Spirit should take him back to Ezek. 36:25-27.
The Holy Spirit is the agent of the new birth. Titus 3:5

E. The "new birth" is not something NEW to God's plan of salvation.
It too is referenced at Ezekiel 36:26 by the terms, "a new heart and a new spirit within you."

5. He cannot: he is not able = dunamai in the present middle indicative.

6. To enter: eiserchomai = aorist active infinitive
Amplifies "seeing" to the point of actual experience WITHIN.

7. The kingdom of God: This refers to entering into relationship with God through association with the presence of the Messiah on the earth through total trust in His person and promise of salvation.

8. Thus, the use of "water and Spirit" indicates the water of the word and the Holy Spirit as agents of the new birth.

9. Pentecost argues against this idea for "water" as follows:

"Difficulty arises in interpreting our Lord's statement because we tend to read subsequent New Testament doctrine into this passage. It must be interpreted in the light of the context. to interpret water as only a symbol of the Word of God, a figure often used in the New Testament, would be to render our Lord's answer unintelligible to Nicodemus, who did not have the light of that later revelation."
(The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, by Dwight Pentecost, page 125)

However, as indicated above, water as a symbol for the word of God is indeed, used in the Old Testament and Nic would most certainly have this knowledge in his frame of reference.

10. The suggestion that John 3:5 refers to water baptism by the use of the word, "water" has no substance because water baptism is not a means of regeneration. See TOPIC: Baptism and Regeneration

11.The idea that Jesus has in mind "physical birth" by the use of "water" at verse 5 and spiritual birth by the use of "spirit," has no viability in that it becomes a superfluous and almost redundant expression. It is "obvious" that a person must be living on the earth, having been "physically" born, before salvation is even an issue.

As in, "Ok, Nic, now to get into the kingdom, you need to be alive physically first - and then you have to be born spiritually. So now, let's deal with the first step, first. Are you alive? Have you been born physically. Now be certain about this, because it is really important."

Wuest writes of this as follows:

"Some interpret the word 'water' here as referring to human birth as coming in a sac of water, and this in contrast to the birth by the Spirit. But the question arises at once as to whether the Lord Jesus would waste words on such a self-evident truth to the effect that in order for a person to be born into the kingdom of God, he must first be brought into existence by being born physically.
(Great Truths to Live By, page 55, by Kenneth Wuest)

Verses 3-5 - summary

1. Nicodemus is caught up in and saturated with the traditions of his religion.

2. Even though they look to the Old Testament scriptures for the hope of salvation through the Messiah (John 5:29), their viewpoint has been distorted to a purely human level devoid of spiritual reality.

3. The coming of the Messiah and the establishment of his physical reign on earth is connected directly with man's spiritual relationship to God.

4. The Bible teaches that the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth is preceded by the spiritual birth of a multitude of peoples.

5. This spiritual birth - the spiritual relationship with God based on trust and dependence on the character and plan of God - is what was lacking in Nicodemus.

6. When Jesus told him he must be born again, Nic could only relate to it on a human viewpoint level.

7. Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to give him spiritual information based on the Old Testament scriptures that would relate to him the principle of the spiritual birth.

8. The two words, water and spirit, relate directly to the spiritual renewal of Israel and the coming of Messiah.

9. When Nic finally understands what Jesus is talking about, he asks the question, "how can this come about."

10.Jesus then gives him an analogy from the history of Israel that communicates the principle that spiritual life is dependent on personal trust in the character and plan of God.

Verse 6 - The difference between physical birth and spiritual birth.
This is spoken to get Nic's mind OFF the idea of "physical" birth as he expressed at verse 4.

1. That which has been born: gennao - perfect passive participle
Communicates a completed action with results existing in the present.

2. Out from the flesh is flesh: ek = out from and "sarx" indicates a normal human conception and birth which results in physical life.

3. And that which has been born: gennao = perfect passive participle

4. Out from the Spirit: reference to God the Holy Spirit as the agent of the new birth.

5. Is spirit:

A. What has been born from the Spirit is "spiritual life."

B. What has been born physically, is "physical life."

C. "Is spirit" indicates that there is now present in the born again person, the spiritual life of relationship with God.

Verse 7

1. Do not marvel that I said to you: Ie, don't be surprised, don't think it strange. thaumadzo, aorist active subjunctive + the negative.

2. You must: dei, present indicative = it is constantly necessary

3. For you: PLURAL = y'all; every one who is human.

4. To be born again: aorist passive infinitive

A. The new birth takes place in a moment (point) of time.
B. It happens once, is complete and is not to be repeated.

Verse 8 - an illustration of the spiritual birth.

1. The spirit: pneuma, but clearly referring to the wind as the context indicates.
It is invisible - but you are aware of its presence.

2. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit: ek (out from) pneuma.
It is an invisible birth, but you are aware of its presence.

3. You experience both the "wind" and the new birth of the Spirit.

A. The initial joy of salvation. Rom. 5:11; Luke 8:13
B. The witness of the Holy Spirit through the growth process "after" salvation. Rom. 8:16; Gal. 5:22-23

Verse 9

1. Nicodemus answered:

A. Now he knows what Jesus is talking about.
B. But like every unbeliever -

- religious or not
- familiar with the vocabulary or not he's dominated by his human viewpoint and must be LED to the water.

2. How can: dunamai, present middle indicative = How is there ability

3. for these things: all Jesus has mentioned concerning the new birth.

4. To become: ginomai, aorist mid. infin. = become, come about, happen.

A. He recognizes the information as valid OT principles.
B. But he still does not know HOW to partake of them.
C. Basically, he is asking "What must I do to do be saved?"
D. The answer is found in verses 10-15.


V. 10-15 - Jesus answered

There are three parts to the answer.

1. The inadequacy of his religion - v. 10
2. The failure of the people to accept Him as Messiah. v. 11-12
3. The true issues in salvation. v. 13-15

Verse 10 - The inadequacy of religion

1. Are you a teacher of Israel:

A. Reference to his religious position and authority.
B. Indicates his extensive background and scholarship in the Old Testament scriptures.

C. Sarcasm directed toward his religion to indicate it failure and inadequacy. Luke 11:52


2. And do not understand: ginosko, present active indicative

A. Basic academic perception of the facts.

B. Through all his exposure to the Old Testament, he should have an adequate awareness of what is taught as requirements for salvation and acceptance before God.

C. These things: information about the spiritual birth and salvation.

3. First Jesus makes him aware of his personal and religious inadequacies and then He gives him more information.

Verses 11-12 - The rejection of Messiah

Verse 11

1. Amān amān: in absolute truth and authority

2. I say to you: singular - referring to Nicodemus personally.

3. We speak: laleo, present active indicative = communicating. This is tricky.

     A. To make the "we" refer to Jesus PLUS other "people" makes those
         other people participants of the "know" and "see."

     B. However, it is not likely that horao, "what we have SEEN," can truly
         apply to anyone other than Jesus.

     C. The only other place where Jesus uses "we" is at John 9:4, where we
         find a very clear reference to He and His disciples who "must work the
         works of Him who sent me."

     D. I suggest therefore, that the use of "we" here refers to Jesus AND the
         one whom He represents on the earth, Ie, the Father.

     E. It becomes then, a reference to His Messiah-ship as at John 5:17,
        "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working."

     F. Cf. John 5:19-20, 36; 4:34; 8:18-19, 25-27; 10:37-38; 14:10

4. What we know: oida, perfect active indicative, indicates knowledge that goes beyond simple perception and speaks of that which has become a functional part of the soul.

     A. The deity of Jesus of course came down from God. Jn. 8:42; 13:3

     B. And the humanity of Jesus was matured completely through the faithful
         pursuit of wisdom. Luke 2:40, 52;

Verse 11

5. And we are bearing witness: martureo, present active indicative

6. to what we have seen: horao, perfect active indicative, refers to an experiential reality about the kingdom of God. The testimony is that of One who came down FROM the Father.

7. And you: PLURAL - and y'all (you people)

8. are not receiving: lambano, present active indicative communicates the present attitude and action reflected by the Jewish leaders.

9. Our testimony: marturia refers to the content of the message which can be summarized at John 1:1-12

Verse 12

1. If: 1st class condition of assumed reality = since.

2. I told you: again, PLURAL refers to the whole religious crowd.

3. earthly things: in contrast to heavenly things

     A. The person of the Messiah
     B. The work of the Messiah
     C. The required attitude of the Messiah
     D. Information give, basically, on a "human" level.

4. And you are not believing: present active indicative + negative = rejection of Messianic information as revealed by Jesus.

5. How shall you believe: pisteuo, future active indicative

6. If: 3rd class condition of potential = maybe this will be taught.

7. I tell you heavenly things?

     A. Spiritual details about the kingdom of God.

     B. They would not believe the information provided concerning how to
         enter into relationship with God through faith in the Messiah.

     C. How shall they be able to understand information about living with God
         after salvation?

     D. If they cannot understand the basics, they will not be able to
         comprehend the "mysteries" of the kingdom of God.

     E. In verse 2, Nic indicates that he and his "group" are impressed with the
         human-level information and signs that Jesus provided.

     F. But the information that Jesus has already provided is sufficient for
         entrance into relationship with God.

     G. If this information is not accepted and embraced, then nothing
         additional will help. Principle of Luke 16:19-31; John 5:45-47

     H. So in the following verses, Jesus will teach again the "basics" of who
         He is and the purpose for which He came.

Verses 13-15 - Jesus concludes his answer to Nicodemus by giving a 3-fold outline of the plan of salvation. Information however, that is still on the "basic" level and which had been previously provided. (Old Testament principles and human analogies)

V. 13 - the person of the savior

1. And no one has ascended into heaven:

     A. Heaven: the 3rd heaven which is the location of the throne of God.
        The official presence of God as related to His physical creation.

     B. Ascended into: no member of the human race had ever entered into
         heaven at the time Jesus spoke this.

2. Except He who descended from heaven:

     A. From heaven refers to the deity of the Messiah coming from the
         presence of the Father. Jn. 8:42; 13:3

     B. Descended: focuses on deity becoming humanity in the person of the
         Messiah via "the incarnation." John 1:14

     C. Again, this information should take Nic back to the Old Testament
         scriptures and familiar Messianic passages. Is. 48:12-16; 61:1

3. Even the Son of Man: Title used by Jesus to emphasize the true humanity of the Messiah.

     A. The representative of man before God: Heb. 4:15
     B. The last Adam: 1 Cor. 15:45

     C. Fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the "man" who
         would come as the savior of the world. Isaiah 9:6

     D. And He would ascend to the Father to await the victory which was yet
        future. Psalm 110:1; Dan. 7:13-14

Verse 14 - the work of the Messiah

1. And as Moses lifted up the serpent: Numbers 21:5-9
This is an Old Testament illustration of total trust on the character and plan of God.

2. Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up:

     A. It is necessary for . . .to be lifted up.

     B. It is necessary: is dei, present active indicative to indicate the only
         way salvation can be provided for the human race.

     C. Refers to the crucifixion with the word hupsoo in the aorist passive
         infinitive to indicate a "point of time" event in history.

     D. Jesus referred to it later at John 12:32-33, using the same word,
         Hupsoo as an aorist passive subjunctive to indicate the specific point
         of time in history when this will take place.

     E. Furthermore this prophecy takes us once again to the Old Testament.
        Ps. 22:1-18; Is. 53:1-12

Verse 15, The proper attitude toward the savior

1. So that: hina introduces a purpose/result clause to indicate not only the purpose for the Son to go to the cross, but what the result is for those who trust in Him. The clause contains 2 factors.

     A. The condition which must be met - "believe."

     B. The result which accrues when that condition is met - "may have,"
         which will always occur in the subjunctive mood.

2. whoever: the provision goes out to all men and salvation is thus available to ALL who will accept it on God's terms. The Greek literally reads,
"all who believe."

     See Topic: Unlimited Atonement

3. Believes in Him: pisteuo, present active participle.

     A. The present tense is used to indicate a universal "principle" of what is
         necessary for one to be saved. (Jn. 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24)

     B. Some claim that the present tense is used to indicate the need for a
        "continuous" expression of faith in order for salvation to become a
         reality, thus the condition of "faithfulness" instead of a one- time total
         faith commitment in God's character and plan as that which
         establishes our salvation.

     C. However the present tense may also be used to indicate either that
         which is "customary" as in "universally required," or that which occurs
         in a present "moment of time." Especially as it occurs in the present
         "participle" which it does in each of the above examples.
        For in those cases, the participle is used as a "substantive" to indicate
         the action that is "characteristic" of the subject of the sentence.

     D. A.T. Robertson notes that, "the so called 'present' tense may be used
        therefore to express an action simply (punctiliar), a process (durative)
         a state (perfective)."

     E. So it is just as possible to have an aoristic (punctiliar) idea with the
         present tense as to have a continuous idea.
        We must rely on the entire context of scripture to decide the case.

     F. And to help that decision, we simply need to recognize the many times
        that the aorist tense itself is used to indicate the "point of time"
        response of faith that is required in order to assure salvation from that
        moment onward.

        1. Acts 16:31, "believe" is an aorist active imperative

        2. Romans 10:8-9, "that if you confess - - and believe," are both aorist
            active subjunctive.

        3. Eph. 1:13, "having believed," is an aorist active participle
        4. John 4:53. "And he himself believed."

     G. The issue is further clarified from a "negative" angle when we observe
         at John 3:18 that the present participle (plus the negative) is amplified
         by the Perfect active indicative PLUS the negative.
         Here, the PRINCIPLE of believing as a requirement is indicated by the
         present participle, but the perfect tense focuses on the past
         expression of faith that fulfills the requirement. The perfect tense plus
         the negative clearly indicates the fact that he has not made a "past"
         faith/dependence commitment to the gospel message.

     H. Also a comparison with John 5:24 shows that the universal principle
         idea is in view by the use of the present participle.
         Here, "he who hears and believes" shows that the focus is on a
         point-of-time (punctiliar) idea with both verbs as both are in the
         present participle form. And clearly, HEAR is not a CONTINUOUS
         action, but a point-of-time action.

Verse 15

4. May have everlasting life:

     A. This describes what Jesus meant by the terms "see" and "enter" into
         the kingdom of God. It is everlasting life.

     B. It also makes the very important connection between being born again
         and belief. It is "believing" which results in the new birth which in turn
         provides "spiritual life" ie, everlasting life.

     C. Have: echo, present active subjunctive which completes the clause
         and indicates the effects when the condition of "faith" is met.

        1. The present tense communicates the "present" and immediate result
           at the moment of time that the condition of faith is met.

        2. That "present" result can be summarized by the passages we have
            already mentioned in this study.

             a. John 3:16 -

                 1. should not perish: aorist middle subjunctive of apollumi

                 2. but HAVE: echo, present active subjunctive.

                 3. The "point of time" of a future judgment is offset by the
                     present possession of everlasting life.

             b. John 3:18 - Is not being judged: present passive indicative
                 carries the force of a "futuristic present."

             c. John 3:36 - "he who believes, has (right now, present active
                 indicative) everlasting life.

             d. John 5:24 -

                 1. Has everlasting life - present active indicative

                 2. Does NOT come into judgment: ouk erchomai - present middle

                 3. BUT has passed out of death: perfect active indicative.
                    A completed result based on the condition of a "point in time"
                    decision to trust in Christ.

Verses 16-21, rather than spoken by Jesus, seem more likely to have been added by John as further explanation of the conflict between light and darkness and the required "activity" (faith) for man to escape the darkness and the condemnation associated with that darkness and instead possess everlasting life.

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