Nicodemus Meets Jesus
In John 3:1-21, we read what transpired between Jesus and Nicodemus one night. Sadly, people use this chapter to justify salvation by faith alone and other false doctrines. Let us study this text, and learn the truth.
Nicodemus Came To Christ (v. 1-2)
As we begin, we need to remember that Nicodemus was not just any man. He was one of the Pharisees and “a ruler of the Jews” (v. 1). His reason for meeting Jesus at night is not known. Some suggest he was afraid that others would see him with Jesus. Others suggest he went at night thinking he would have a better chance of having an audience with Jesus at that time. Whatever the reason, he came to Jesus, and told Him that he was not the only one who believes. He said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God…” (v. 2). He and others recognized His authority as the Son of God. His response to Christ was not unlike the response of those who heard Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7.
Jesus Explained That Nicodemus Needed To Be Saved (v. 3-5)
Here, Jesus answers a question before it is asked. He told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). Nicodemus had not asked a question yet, but Jesus knew what was in his heart. However, Nicodemus misunderstood and thought Jesus was talking about a physical rebirth. He asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (v. 4). Jesus’ response was, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v. 5). What we read is Jesus explaining that it is a spiritual birth, not a physical rebirth, that one must undergo in order to be saved. Our Baptist friends and others like to say that the water is the physical birth, and the spirit is the spiritual birth. Yet, this is not what Jesus was teaching.
The truth is that those who teach this have no greater understanding of the new birth than Nicodemus did! Read this section again and see that Jesus wasn’t explaining how babies are born, but how a man can be spiritually born! Therefore, to be born again is to be born of water and the spirit, and vice versa. He was not talking about two separate births, but one spiritual birth that puts one into the kingdom of God!
Jesus Explains The New Birth In More Depth (v. 6-10)
In the next several verses, Jesus continues His teaching. John 3:6 says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” This passage compares two aspects of one’s life: The flesh (living after the flesh, not simply being born, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Ephesians 2:3), and the spirit (living after the spirit, in a spiritual way). Jesus then tells Nicodemus not to wonder, or marvel about the fact that one must be born again.
Jesus explains further by talking about the wind. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (v. 8). Many have made this verse very difficult to understand when it does not have to be. What Jesus is teaching is that while we cannot see the wind, we see the results of the wind. So also with the Holy Spirit. We cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we see people who have been born spiritually. They have laid aside the cares of this life, and are living for Christ (Gal. 2:20). This is not a miraculous thing. The Holy Spirit works through God’s word (Heb. 4:12), “reproving” people as needed (John 16:7-8). In every case of conversion, we see this happen (Acts 2-19), and it would happen to Nicodemus this way if he was born again.
Some have compared the wind to the new birth. It is not so. This section speaks about the one born anew! “So is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8)! With those things said, we see Jesus rebuking the teacher for not understanding this simple truth (John 3:9-10). How sad it is when folks calling themselves teachers do not understand!
Jesus Prophesies His Death And What It Means (v. 14-16)
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” Jesus prophesies that His death will be a crucifixion. Just as Moses lifted up the brass serpent on a pole, so will Christ be lifted up on a cross. In Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19, we see that He was crucified. Yet, as a result of His death on the cross, people today can be saved (v. 15-16).
When Jesus said those words, He revealed the greatest plan for salvation ever offered. He said, “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:15-16). Many denominational folks have taken this to mean that we may obtain salvation through faith alone. This is not true. The word, “believeth” is a comprehensive term. It not only means that we must believe He exists; but that faith must motivate us to obey His teachings. What did Jesus teach? “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” His teaching not only includes what He said on the earth, but also what the apostles were moved by the Holy Spirit to say (John 16:13-14). Friend, in order to be saved, you not only need to believe that Jesus is, but you need to obey His teaching (James 2:24; Hebrews 11:6)!
Some Simply Refuse To Come To Jesus (v. 17-21)
Jesus stated His mission in John 3:17 (see Luke 19:10). The light has come (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5), but men have refused (John 3:19). Men refuse because they love the darkness, and will not come to Jesus. They would rather stay in ignorance and be lost, than to come to Christ, change for the better, and live. Some Christians are like this as well. They have been baptized, and feel like that is enough. They would rather be ignorant of God’s word and then wish that they are pleasing to God.
The one that wants the truth will yield to Christ (1 John 1:7). It is important that we understand God’s word and obey it! We can have fellowship with God (and with one another) by walking in the light! While we are alive, we have time to make our lives right with God. If you need to submit to Jesus, believing in Him, and obeying His word, do not wait any longer! You need to believe that Jesus is, and be born again (Mark 16:16). Why wait? There is still hope while this world stands! (2 Corinthians 6:2)