By: Steve Shirley
Let's begin by reading (Jn 3:1-8).
(Verse 1) Nicodemus "a Pharisee... a ruler of the Jews" His name means "victor over the people." "A ruler of the Jews" most certainly means that Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin. The "greater" (it appears there was a greater and lesser) Sanhedrin functioned much like our Supreme Court in the U.S. does. It consisted of 71 members, with the High Priest being in charge. It was made up primarily of the Pharisses and Sadducees.
We see Nicodemus two more times in the book of John after this conversation with Jesus. Let's take a look at these:
(Verse 3) "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" This is perhaps one of the most important verses in the Bible. SO much could be said about this verse, but we will try to keep it short. In essence, being "born again" is equal to the more often used term of "being saved." In the following verses, Jesus tells us what it means to be "born again" or "saved."
(Verse 4) How do you think you would have responded if Jesus had said this to you? Nicodemus asks the logical question, right?.
(Verse 5) Jesus replies that one must be "born of water and the spirit" to "enter the kingdom of God." What does this mean?
There is a bit of a debate about the meaning of "born of water." Here are the views:
1. Some believe this refers to baptism, meaning you must be "baptized" to be saved, but this is unlikely. Baptism is done "after" we are "born again." It is an outward act, showing to others an "inner" decision we have made. Some verses showing baptism does not save: (Acts 10:44-48)(1 Cor 1:13-17)(Eph 2:8-9)(Gal 3:2,5,14).
2. Others believe that this is referring to "physical birth," meaning we are born "in water" (water is involved). (Tying verse 5 to verse 6 makes this seem likely.)
3. Still others believe this is not referring to "literal" water, but instead to the need to be "renewed" or "cleansed" by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (see: Eph 5:25-26, 1 Pet 1:23, Titus 3:5, Jn 7:38-39).
#2 or #3 must be combined with being "born of the spirit."
When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit (who is God: Acts 5:3-4) comes to live inside of that person! Our body becomes the Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16-17)(1 Cor 6:19-20)! This is the proof that a person is saved, and is the "guarantee" of our salvation (Eph 1:13-14)(Eph 4:30)(2 Cor 5:5)(2 Cor 1:22). If a person does not have the Holy Spirit, they are not saved (Rom 8:9). Again, we must be "born of the Spirit" to see the kingdom of God.
(Verse 8)(NASB) "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." What do you think this means?
Next, let's read (Jn 3:9-21). In the previous verses, Jesus tells us that we must be "born again / saved." In these verses, Jesus tells us "how" we are born again.
The word "believe," or a form of that word, is used 7 times in these verses. The most prominent and well-known of these are found in (verses 15 & 16): "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal / everlasting life." (Verse 18) continues, "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."
So, what does it mean to "believe" in Jesus? Does it mean that we just have to believe that Jesus existed? Is there something more to "belief?"
Let's look at some other verses that the Bible talks about in relation to being "born again / saved."
FAITH: What is "faith?"
(2 Tim 3:15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
(Gal 3:26) For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
REPENTANCE: What is repentance?
(Acts 3:19) Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
(Lk 3:3,5) I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
We must first admit that we are indeed sinners (Rom 3:10,23)(Eccl 7:20)(Prov 20:9), and that the "wages of our sin is death" (Rom 6:23). Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins (1 Pet 2:24), and through His shed blood we can be forgiven of our sins (Col 1:14)(Eph 1:7)(Heb 10:16-19).
GRACE, NOT WORKS: What is grace?
(Eph 2:8-9) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.
(Rom 11:6) And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
CONFESSING JESUS IS LORD, AND THAT HE AROSE FROM THE DEAD (THE RESURRECTION)
(Rom 10:9-10) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
CALLING UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD
(Rom 10:13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The Bible ties these things to "salvation," just as it does with "believing." (Rom 10:17) says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." In other words, we come to "faith" in Jesus Christ, and to "salvation" (being "born again" or "saved") through hearing (or reading) God's Word and "believing" it.
Therefore, salvation is more than simply "believing" in Jesus, or that He existed, it is also about "believing" what God's Word says is needed for salvation. Make sense?
This "belief" and "faith" in Jesus Christ, and God's Word is what separates Christianity from every other "religion." For example, nearly every religion "believes" in Jesus, however, they deny His deity, or they deny that He died on the cross for their sins, or they deny His Resurrection. In addition, every "religion" but Christianity believes that "doing good works" is necessary for salvation. (A good little phrase to remember is: "They say do, we say done." This means that the atonement for our sins was finished on the cross, and we can do nothing to add to that [meaning works].)
Ok, let's finish by reading (Jn 3:22-36). The heading for these verses in my Bible is: "John the Baptist Witnesses Concerning Christ."
In (verses 22-23) we see the disciples of John, and the disciples of Jesus baptizing people. (Jn 4:2 tells us that "Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples [were]").
(Verse 24) tells us that "For John had not yet been thrown in prison." As we learned in our biography of John the Baptist, John was thrown into prison for condemning Herod, because he had married the wife (Herodias) of his brother Philip. If we look at this in the "synoptic Gospels" (Matthew, Mark, Luke), it appears that this occurred right around the time of Jesus' temptation (see: Mt 4:1-12, Mk 1:12-15). However, we learn here that there was some time between the end of the temptation of Jesus, and John being thrown into prison. If you remember from our New Testament Survey on the Book of John, we said that about 90% of John differs from the "synoptic Gospels." One of the primary reasons for John writing His Gospel was to "provide additional info not found in the synpotics." This verse is an example of this.
(Verses 25-26) We do not know exactly what this "dispute" about "purification" was. Many scholars believe that it may have been a debate about whose baptism was more "powerful," the baptism of Jesus, or the baptism of John. Based upon the comment of John's disciples that follows in verse 26, this seems logical. (Jn 4:1-3 tells us that Jesus left afterwards because of this dispute.)
In the remaining verses, John humbles himself, and praises and glorifies Jesus.
(Verse 27) The Living Bible (a paraphrase) puts this verse this way: "John replied, "God in heaven appoints each man's work." MacArthur says this, "This verse emphasizes God's sovereign authority in granting ministry opportunity (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; 15:10).
(Verse 28) "I am not the Christ" Many were confused about who John was. Some believed he was "the Christ" (Lk 3:15-17). Some believed he was Elijah (Jn 1:21). He denied he was Christ here (and in Jn 1:20), or Elijah (Jn 1:21).
(Verse 30) "He must increase, but I must decrease." A good verse for us all to remember!
(Verse 34) "For he whom God sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." (KJV) Most versions leave off "unto Him." It is possible that these words were not a part of the autographa (original writing), however, they fit, as in context this appears to be speaking of Jesus. In other words, Jesus had a fullness ("measure") of the Holy Spirit that was unlimited, and more than any human has ever received.
(Verse 36) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
The Greek word used for "believeth not" is "apeitheo." Strong's says: "This word means "to refuse to be persuaded, to refuse belief, to be disobedient" and is translated (1) "believeth not" (Jn 3:36); (2) "unbelieving" (Acts 14:2); (3) "believed not" (Acts 17:5; 19:9; Heb 3:18; 11:31), (4) "do not obey" (Rom 2:8), (5) "disobedient" (Rom 10:21), (6) "have not believed" (Rom 11:3,31), (7) "do not believe" (Rom 15:31), (8) "disobedient" (1 Pet 2:7,8; 3:20), (9) "obey not" (1 Pet 3:1; 4:17)."