Ye Must be born again
JOHN: DIVISION I
THE REVELATION OF JESUS, THE SON OF GOD, 2:1-3:21
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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
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—
1. (3:1-2) Nicodemus: Nicodemus approached Jesus. Note these facts about
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
DEEPER STUDY #1
(26:59) Sanhedrin: the ruling body of the nation of Israel, both the governing council and supreme court of the Jews. It had seventy-one members and was presided over by the High Priest. Its membership was made up of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes or lawyers
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
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
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
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
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”
(anothen 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).
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
3. (3:4-8) New Birth: the new birth is a spiritual birthNicodemus 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
3:5 for discussion.)
(3:5) Water— Spirit: the word “and” (kai PWS: 137) can also be translated “even.” The
way it is translated here is left up to the translator. In light of the rest of Scripture, it
probably should be translated “even.” This would mean that water with all of its
cleansing power is a symbol of the Holy Spirit: “Except a man be born of water, even the
Spirit, He cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
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, 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 (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).
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).
“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).
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 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”
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
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
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
“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).
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).
2.The second act is man’s belief in Jesus. The man who believes in the Son of Man
being lifted up...
1.will not perishJohn 3:16).
2.but will have eternal life #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.
“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).
 The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995, S. Mt 7:15-17