Studying the Book of John, Chapter 3, we found there is so much about salvation condensed in this chapter alone, that we decided to share it in two or three posts. This chapter not only contains the most popular bible verse (John 3:16) which summarizes the main point of the Christian faith, but also this same chapter explains some critical points about salvation & how a ‘genuine’ Christian life should begin.
Even we don’t belong to the ‘King James only’ camp, we mostly use the King James version here, not only because is one of the best translations in the English language, but also because other bible translations have copy rights which limits their use of words. But in the link to John 3 you will find other bible translations to compare with.
In John chapter 3, Jesus is having a conversation with a Pharisee, a Jewish teacher of the law or ‘Rabbi’ (Hebrew word that means master or great one), but this teacher named Nicodemus was also a leader in their judicial system or ‘Great Sanhedrin’ court that at the time (Second Temple Period) met in the temple in Jerusalem, & acted as a Supreme Court. The Great Sanhedrin was the final authority on Jewish law and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death as a rebellious elder. (It was this same Sanhedrin court that ordered Jesus’ crucifixion!). So, in other words this man was not only a Rabbi or master of the law, but also a judge in the supreme court, very knowledgeable & man of power to the Jewish people at the time.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. John 3:1-2.
Even with all his knowledge about the law, his humble personality (a man of his position coming to Jesus) & all the experience he had, Nicodemus was not saved, but he was about to hear from the Lord Himself that he & everyone need to be ‘born again’ or be born from above!
We know the Sanhedrin was an enemy of Jesus, when Nicodemus says ‘we’ he may be referring to Joseph of Arimathea, who was also a member of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:50) or could be other Rabbis that agree Jesus was a teacher from God but kept it silent.
Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee, believed like the other Jews that because he was born a Jew and kept God’s law, that he should automatically enter into the kingdom of God. The Israelites considered themselves already saved or elected unto salvation because they were descendants of Abraham (in the flesh)!
33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s seed and have never been in bondage to anyone. Why do You say, ‘You shall be set free’? ” John 8:33,39,Mat.3:9..
Sadly most Jews still believe that and consider they are able to sanctify their lives and draw closer to God by fulfilling 613 commandments in accordance with the Talmud.
There are also similar doctrinal errors among other religious groups today, but nobody is elected unto salvation. Jacob (Israel) was chosen to continue to bring the lineage of the Messiah instead Esau, & to carry the blessing of the promise, still he wasn’t chosen for salvation but for a purpose or service.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? John 3:3-4
– Jesus mentioned only one new birth in verse 3, “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” and it is from the Spirit as other verses confirm.
-When Jesus clarifies the 2 ways a person can be born, the first time is of water, & some people interpret this as water baptism. This view is typically held by those who adhere to baptismal regeneration (Catholics, Seven Day Adventist, Calvinists, Church of Christ, etc). But in context, right next to it, in verse 6 Jesus makes again a comparison between born of the flesh & born of the Spirit . In other words we all humans are born of the flesh (of water/amniotic fluid), we often say of this event, “Her water broke! which is an earthly event, & our second birth has to be of the Spirit of God, which is from above, a heavenly event (Luke 15:7). Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that his Jewish birth (born of water) would not get him into the Kingdom of God, and that he needed to be born spiritually (from above).
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:5-6
-In addition, notice that Jesus says (vs.8) “So it is with every one that is born of the Spirit.” If He was intending to say that everyone must be born of water (baptism), and Spirit, then it seems logical that He would have said “So it is with everyone born of water and of Spirit“. These are just 3 examples, but there are still more reasons of why ‘born of water’ is most likely used here as the already accomplished (physical) birth. Other interpretation is that water here means the Word of God (Jn.15:3, 1 Pet.1:23, Eph.5:26, Titus 3:5) this is also an option since water is used to represents the Word ( God-breathed ) & the Holy Spirit, & this won’t change the doctrine.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye (you-plural) must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth (G2309 = pleases, wishes), 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.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? John 3: 7-12
In order to have sound doctrine we must use a good bible translation when studying the bible. I used to dislike the thee’s, Ye’s & thou’s in the King James version, but later I realized they are helping me to make a difference among pronouns. We must not tamper with God’s communication to the world, our duty is to deliver His message, not to change it. Greek is a very precise language, more similar to Spanish, (e.g they both use grammatical gender, specific plural & singular pronouns, etc). When Jesus told Nicodemus “Ye must be born again” He is not saying only Nicodemus is in need to be born again, but all the Jews & all of us as well. Modern versions by eliminating these distinctions, not only lose information, but change the meaning of the text, and in most cases also change doctrine.
The apostle Paul says in 1 Tim. 4:16 “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine (G1319=teachings, precepts); continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
In John 3 verse 8, the Greek word ‘pneuma’ G4151 has also a double meaning ‘wind & ‘spirit’. Jesus uses physical illustrations (that we comprehend) to help us understand better the spiritual things. The new birth is an invisible event, like the wind that we can hear or see its effects, but we cannot see were it comes from or where it goes, the same happens about everyone that is born of the Spirit, or is born of God.
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” (1 John 5:1).
Things we have learned so far from John 3:1-12:
1. We all need to be born again! It doesn’t matter how much knowledge of the Law or the Scriptures we have, or how good, kind or peaceful our personality is, or our experience, etc. We can have all of that combined but still not be born again.
2. Notice verse 2 Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus as a ‘great teacher of the Law’, but not as God or the Son of God. In 1st chapter of the same book of John, we find that we ALL need to receive Christ & believe He is God & the son of God. Nobody is children of God (or born of God) unless they receive & believe in Jesus Christ.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. . . .
The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-14
3. Nobody is elected unto salvation. There is not election because of race, denomination, knowledge, special awakening, elite group, etc. Salvation is by faith alone, available to everybody!! But FAITH comes first then salvation, not the opposite like most Calvinist teach. See more : Foundational Doctrines.
The Scriptures is clear & consistent in showing that faith precedes and is the condition for the new birth:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” Rom.5:1,
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom. 10:17.
“In Him you also, after hearing the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and after believing in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, “. Eph. 1:13. See more – Jn 5:25, John 20:31; John 3:16, Rom. 10:9, 1 Pt 1:23-25, etc.