The Gospel According to JOHN
1. Jesus is still in Jerusalem during Passover festivities.
2. During this time he had given evidence of Messianic
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.
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.
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
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
1. This one:
A. A very religious man occupied with tradition all his
B. But also occupied with the Messianic hope of his nation.
C. His Messianic expectations outweigh his tradition and provide him with
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
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
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,
7. To be doing: poieo, present infinitive indicates his
8. The signs: sāmeion = a miracle that confirms
9. That you keep on doing: poieo, present active indicative
10. Unless God is with him: This is the conclusion they
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.
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,
In truth, in truth: It is an idiom that means - In absolute truth and absolute
2. To you: singular - I have some personal information
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
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
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
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
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
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
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"
"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
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
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
3. And that which has been born: gennao = perfect passive
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
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.
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
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)
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
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
3. for these things: all Jesus has mentioned concerning
the new birth.
4. To become: ginomai, aorist mid. infin. = become, come
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
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
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
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"
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
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;
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.
B. And the humanity of Jesus was matured completely through
pursuit of wisdom. Luke 2:40, 52;
5. And we are bearing witness: martureo, present active
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
1. If: 1st class condition of assumed reality = since.
2. I told you: again, PLURAL refers to the whole religious
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"
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
7. I tell you heavenly things?
A. Spiritual details about the kingdom of God.
B. They would not believe the information provided concerning
enter into relationship with God through faith in the
C. How shall they be able to understand information about
living with God
D. If they cannot understand the basics, they will not
be able to
comprehend the "mysteries" of the kingdom of
E. In verse 2, Nic indicates that he and his "group"
are impressed with the
human-level information and signs that Jesus
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
additional will help. Principle of Luke 16:19-31; John
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
B. Ascended into: no member of the human race had ever
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
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
scriptures and familiar Messianic passages. Is. 48:12-16;
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
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
of time in history when this will take place.
E. Furthermore this prophecy takes us once again to the
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
"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,
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
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"
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
idea with the
present tense as to have a continuous idea.
We must rely on the entire context of scripture to decide
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
1. Acts 16:31, "believe" is an aorist active
2. Romans 10:8-9, "that if you confess - - and believe,"
are both aorist
3. Eph. 1:13, "having believed," is an aorist
4. John 4:53. "And he himself
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
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,
C. Have: echo, present active subjunctive which completes
and indicates the effects when the condition of "faith"
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
the force of a "futuristic present."
c. John 3:36 - "he who believes, has (right now, present active
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
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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