John Chapter 3 – The Deity Of Christ

John Chapter 3 – The Deity Of Christ

John 3 New King James Version (NKJV)

The New Birth

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Scripture Notes.

3:1–21 The story of Jesus and Nicodemus reinforces John’s themes that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God (apologetic) and that He came to offer salvation to men (evangelistic). John 2:23, 24 actually serves as the introduction to Nicodemus’ story, since chap. 3 constitutes tangible evidence of Jesus’ ability to know men’s hearts and thereby also demonstrates Jesus’ deity. Jesus also presented God’s plan of salvation to Nicodemus, showing that He was God’s messenger, whose redemptive work brings about the promised salvation to His people (v. 14). The chapter may be divided into two sections: 1) Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus (vv. 1–10); and 2) Jesus’ discourse on God’s plan of salvation (vv. 11–21).

3:1–10 This section on Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus may be divided into 3 sections: 1) Nicodemus’ inquiry of Jesus (vv. 1–3); 2) Jesus’ insight into Nicodemus (vv. 4–8); and 3) Jesus’ indictment of Nicodemus (vv. 9, 10).

3:1 Pharisees. See note on Matt. 3:7. The word “Pharisee” most likely comes from a Heb. word meaning “to separate” and therefore probably means “separated ones.” They were not separatists in the sense of isolationists but in the puritanical sense, i.e., they were highly zealous for ritual and religious purity according to the Mosaic law as well as their own traditions that they added to the OT legislation. Although their origin is unknown, they seem to have arisen as an offshoot from the “Hasidim” or “pious ones” during the Maccabean era. They were generally from the Jewish middle class and mostly consisted of laity (business men) rather than priests or Levites. They represented the orthodox core of Judaism and very strongly influenced the common people of Israel. According to Josephus, 6,000 existed at the time of Herod the Great. Jesus condemned them for their hyper-concentration on externalizing religion (rules and regulations) rather than inward spiritual transformation (vv. 3, 7). Nicodemus. Although Nicodemus was a Pharisee, his name was Gr. in origin and means “victor over the people.” He was a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (“a ruler of the Jews”). Nothing is known about his family background. He eventually came to believe in Jesus (7:50–52), risking his own life and reputation by helping to give Jesus’ body a decent burial (19:38–42). a ruler of the Jews. This is a reference to the Sanhedrin (see note on Matt. 26:59), the main ruling body of the Jews in Palestine. It was the Jewish “supreme court” or ruling council of the time and arose most likely during the Persian period. In NT times, the Sanhedrin was composed of the High-Priest (president), chief priests, elders (family heads), and scribes for a total of 71 people. The method of appointment was both hereditary and political. It executed both civil and criminal jurisdiction according to Jewish law. However, capital punishment cases required the sanction of the Roman procurator (18:30–32). After A.D. 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was abolished and replaced by the Beth Din (court of Judgment) that was composed of scribes whose decisions had only moral and religious authority.

3:2 came to Jesus by night. While some have thought that Nicodemus’ visit at night was somehow figurative of the spiritual darkness of his heart (cf. 1:5; 9:4; 11:10; 13:30) or that he decided to come at this time because he could take more time with Jesus and be unhurried in conversation, perhaps the most logical explanation lies in the fact that, as a ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus was afraid of the implications of associating openly in conversation with Jesus. He chose night in order to have a clandestine meeting with Jesus rather than risk disfavor with his fellow Pharisees among whom Jesus was generally unpopular.

3:3 born again. The phrase lit. means “born from above.” Jesus answered a question that Nicodemus does not even ask. He read Nicodemus’ heart and came to the very core of his problem, i.e., the need for spiritual transformation or regeneration produced by the Holy Spirit. New birth is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the believer (2 Cor. 5:17; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18). Chapter 1:12, 13 indicates that “born again” also carries the idea “to become children of God” through trust in the name of the incarnate Word. cannot see the kingdom of God. In context, this is primarily a reference to participation in the millennial kingdom at the end of the age, fervently anticipated by the Pharisees and other Jews. Since the Pharisees were supernaturalists, they naturally and eagerly expected the coming of the prophesied resurrection of the saints and institution of the messianic kingdom (Is. 11:1–16; Dan. 12:2). Their problem was that they thought that mere physical lineage and keeping of religious externals qualified them for entrance into the kingdom rather than the needed spiritual transformation which Jesus emphasized (cf. 8:33–39; Gal. 6:15). The coming of the kingdom at the end of the age can be described as the “regeneration” of the world (Matt. 19:28) but regeneration of the individual is required before the end of the world in order to enter the kingdom.

3:4 A teacher himself, Nicodemus understood the rabbinical method of using figurative language to teach spiritual truth, and he was merely picking up Jesus’ symbolism.

3:5 born of water and the Spirit. Jesus referred not to literal water here but to the need for “cleansing” (e.g., Ezek. 36:24–27). When water is used figuratively in the OT, it habitually refers to renewal or spiritual cleansing, especially when used in conjunction with “spirit” (Num. 19:17–19; Ps. 51:9, 10; Is. 32:15; 44:3–5; 55:1–3; Jer. 2:13; Joel 2:28, 29). Thus, Jesus made reference to the spiritual washing or purification of the soul, accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God at the moment of salvation (cf. Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5), required for belonging to His kingdom.

3:8 The wind blows where it wishes. Jesus’ point was that just as the wind cannot be controlled or understood by human beings but its effects can be witnessed, so also it is with the Holy Spirit. He cannot be controlled or understood, but the proof of His work is apparent. Where the Spirit works, there is undeniable and unmistakable evidence.

3:10 the teacher. The use of the definite article “the” indicates that Nicodemus was a renowned master-teacher in the nation of Israel, an established religious authority par excellence. He enjoyed a high standing among the rabbis or teachers of his day. Jesus’ reply emphasized the spiritual bankruptcy of the nation at that time, since even one of the greatest of Jewish teachers did not recognize this teaching on spiritual cleansing and transformation based clearly in the OT (cf. v. 5). The net effect is to show that externals of religion may have a deadening effect on one’s spiritual perception.

3:11–21 The focus of these verses turns away from Nicodemus and centers on Jesus’ discourse regarding the true meaning of salvation. The key word in these verses is “believe,” used 7 times. The new birth must be appropriated by an act of faith. While vv. 1–10 center on the divine initiative in salvation, vv. 11–21 emphasize the human reaction to the work of God in regeneration. In vv. 11–21, the section may be divided into 3 parts: 1) the problem of unbelief (vv. 11, 12); 2) the answer to unbelief (vv. 13–17); and 3) the results of unbelief (vv. 18–21).

3:11, 12 Jesus focused on the idea that unbelief is the cause of ignorance. At heart, Nicodemus’ failure to understand Jesus’ words centered not so much in his intellect but in his failure to believe Jesus’ witness.

3:11 you do not receive Our witness. The plural “you” here refers back to the “we” of v. 2, where Nicodemus was speaking as a representative of his nation Israel (“we know”). Jesus replied in v. 11 with “you” indicating that Nicodemus’ unbelief was typical of the nation as a collective whole.

3:13 No one has ascended to heaven. This verse contradicts other religious systems’ claims to special revelation from God. Jesus insisted that no one has ascended to heaven in such a way as to return and talk about heavenly things (cf. 2 Cor. 12:1–4). Only He had His permanent abode in heaven prior to His incarnation and, therefore, only He has the true knowledge regarding heavenly wisdom (cf. Prov. 30:4).

3:14 so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Cf. 8:28; 12:32, 34; 18:31, 32. This is a veiled prediction of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus referred to the story of Num. 21:5–9 where the Israelite people who looked at the serpent lifted up by Moses were healed. The point of this illustration or analogy is in the “lifted up.” Just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole so that all who looked upon it might live physically, those who look to Christ, who was “lifted up” on the cross, will live spiritually and eternally.

3:15 eternal life. This is the first of 10 references to “eternal life” in John’s gospel. The same Gr. word is translated 8 times as “everlasting life.” The two expressions appear in the NT nearly 50 times. Eternal life refers not only to eternal quantity but divine quality of life. It means lit. “life of the age to come” and refers therefore to resurrection and heavenly existence in perfect glory and holiness. This life for believers in the Lord Jesus is experienced before heaven is reached. This “eternal life” is in essence nothing less than participation in the eternal life of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. It is the life of God in every believer, yet not fully manifest until the resurrection (Rom. 8:19–23; Phil. 3:20, 21).

3:16 For God so loved the world. The Son’s mission is bound up in the supreme love of God for the evil, sinful “world” of humanity (cf. 6:32, 51; 12:47; see notes on 1:9; Matt. 5:44, 45) that is in rebellion against Him. The word “so” emphasizes the intensity or greatness of His love. The Father gave His unique and beloved Son to die on behalf of sinful men (see note on 2 Cor. 5:21). everlasting life. See note on v. 15; cf. 17:3; 1 John 5:20.

3:18 believed in the name. This phrase (lit. “to believe into the name”) means more than mere intellectual assent to the claims of the gospel. It includes trust and commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior which results in receiving a new nature (v. 7) which produces a change in heart and obedience to the Lord (see note on 2:23, 24).

3:22–36 This section constitutes John the Baptist’s last testimony in this gospel regarding Christ. As his ministry faded away, Jesus’ ministry moved to the forefront. In spite of the fact that John the Baptist received widespread fame in Israel and was generally accepted by the common people of the land as well as those who were social outcasts, his testimony regarding Jesus was rejected, especially by the leaders of Israel (cf. Matt. 3:5–10; Luke 7:29).

3:22 into the land of Judea. While the previous episode with Nicodemus took place in Jerusalem (2:23), which was part of Judea, the phrase here means that Jesus went out into the rural areas of that region. baptized. Chapter 4:2 specifically says that Jesus did not personally baptize but that His disciples carried on this work.

3:23 Aenon near Salim. The exact location of this reference is disputed. The phrase may refer to either Salim near Shechem or Salim that is 6 mi. S of Beth Shean. Both are in the region of Samaria. Aenon is a transliterated Heb. word meaning “springs,” and both of these possible sites have plenty of water (“much water there”).

3:24 John had not yet been thrown into prison. This provides another indication that John supplemented the synoptic gospels by providing additional information that helps further understanding of the movements of John the Baptist and Jesus (see Introduction). In Matthew and Mark, Christ’s temptation is followed by John’s imprisonment. With this phrase, John the apostle fills in the slot between Jesus’ baptism and temptation and the Baptist’s imprisonment.

3:25 there arose a dispute. The dispute probably concerned the relation of the baptismal ministries of John and Jesus to the Jews’ purification practices alluded to in 2:6. The real underlying impetus, however, centered in the concern of John’s disciples that Jesus was in competition with him.

3:25–36 This section may be divided into 3 parts which highlight the significance of what was occurring in relationship to John’s and Jesus’ ministry: 1) John the Baptist constituted the end of the old age (vv. 25–29); 2) the transition to Jesus’ ministry (v. 30); and 3) Jesus’ ministry as constituting the beginning of the new age (vv. 31–36). Instead of jealousy, John exhibited humble faithfulness to the superiority of Jesus’ person and ministry.

3:26 all are coming to Him. The potential conflict between John and Jesus was heightened by the fact that both were engaged in ministry in close proximity to one another. Because baptism is mentioned in v. 22, Jesus may have been close to Jericho near the fords of the Jordan, while John was a short distance N baptizing at Aenon. John’s followers were especially disturbed by the fact that so many were flocking to Jesus whereas formerly they had come to John.

3:27 given to him from heaven. This verse emphasizes God’s sovereign authority in granting ministry opportunity (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7; 15:10).

3:29 bridegroom…friend of the bridegroom. John conveyed his understanding of his own role through the use of a parable. The “friend of the bridegroom” was the ancient equivalent of the best man who organized the details and presided over the Judean wedding (Galilean weddings were somewhat different). This friend found his greatest joy in watching the ceremony proceed without problems. Most likely, John was also alluding to OT passages where faithful Israel is depicted as the bride of the Lord (Is. 62:4, 5; Jer. 2:2; Hos. 2:16–20).

3:31–36 In these verses, John the Baptist gave 5 reasons for Christ’s superiority to him: 1) Christ had a heavenly origin (v. 31); 2) Christ knew what was true by firsthand experience (v. 32); 3) Christ’s testimony always agreed with God (v. 33); 4) Christ experienced the Holy Spirit in an unlimited manner (v. 34); and 5) Christ was supreme because the Father sovereignly had granted that status to Him (v. 35).

3:31, 32 above all. These verses bring together several of the themes from the entire chapter. From the immediate context, John explained why Jesus the incarnate word must become greater, i.e., He alone is “from above” (heavenly origin) and therefore “above all.” The Gr. term “above all” recalls v. 3 where the new birth “from above” can only be experienced by faith in the One who is “from above.” In contrast, all others are “of the earth” signifying finitude and limitation. In the immediate context, John the Baptist had to become less (v. 30) because he was “of the earth” and belonged to the earth. Although he called for repentance and baptism, John could not reveal heaven’s counsel like Jesus, the God-Man.

3:34 the Spirit by measure. God gave the Spirit to the Son without limits (1:32, 33; Is. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1).

3:36 This constitutes a fitting climax to the chapter. John the Baptist laid out two alternatives, genuine faith and defiant disobedience, thereby bringing to the forefront the threat of looming judgment. As John faded from the forefront, he offered an invitation to faith in the Son and clearly expressed the ultimate consequence of failure to believe, i.e., “the wrath of God.”

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The scripture text was taken from

The translation of the text is from The New King James Version.

Scripture notes were taken from The MacArthur Study Bible notes that are contained in


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