THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our previous lesson on THE LIFE OF CHRIST, we looked at John 2:13 through the end of the chapter, but we focused most of our time on John 3:1-5. We carefully looked at Jesus meant we He told Nicodemus that he must be born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. I showed that Jesus was talking about being water baptized and how we are taught by the Holy Spirit on how to get saved through the Word of God. I also pointed out that when we are baptized, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in that He seals us and will be our witness that we are children of God.
Those who are opposed to the idea that water baptism is necessary for salvation will object and say that Jesus was not talking about water baptism. So, I want to briefly look at some the objections that some teach about what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus in:
John 3:3 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.
1. Some would say that Jesus is talking about Holy Spirit baptism. I have
already proven in our last lesson that the baptism that saves is water baptism,
but let’s take a look at some more reasons this cannot be talking about Holy
Spirit baptism. Holy Spirit baptism only occurs two times in Scripture, and it
was followed with the miraculous ability to speak in another language. First, at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and
second, at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10). Holy Spirit baptism was a promise that
Jesus would administer, and He only promised it to His apostles (Lk. 24:49;
Acts 1:4; 2:33). If Jesus was talking about Holy Spirit baptism, then it would
be necessary for every single person to receive it to enter the
If Holy Spirit baptism was essential for salvation and water baptism is not, then we are going to have a difficult time explaining why Philip baptized the people of Samaria in water and then left them out of the kingdom as we read in:
Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
The only other way that a person could receive the miraculous gifts of the
Holy Spirit was by the laying on of hands by an apostle, which is why Peter and
John had to go to
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Water baptism was done throughout the book of Acts because it is the one baptism that saves as Paul points out in Ephesians 4:4-5.
2. Some have said the water is talking about the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb, and the spirit is referring to being born of the Spirit, which brings us back to Holy Spirit baptism. First, it would not make sense for Jesus to say that we must be born from the water of our mother because who isn’t born from their mother? If Jesus wanted us to know that Holy Spirit baptism was necessary, He would have told us so, but He did not. Second, Jesus had the chance to explain to Nicodemus that he had already accomplished the first element in verse 5. Instead, He said that he must be born of water and spirit. Jesus was letting him know that he had not experienced this new birth of water and spirit. Third, the word “water” used in this text is never used in the Bible to refer to childbirth, which should be enough to prove the water in this verse does not refer to childbirth.
3. Some have even said that water represents the semen of a man, which I find ridiculous. However, everything I said in point two proves this cannot be what the water is referring to.
4. Finally, some say the water refers to the Word of God. However, I have already shown several passages that prove the Spirit is associated with and works through the Word of God (Jn.6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6; Eph. 6:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Besides, there is nothing in verses 3-5 that would cause us to view the water as being symbolic of something else.
Many in the religious world will also say that the kingdom is still in the future. However, this is not true because the kingdom and the church are the same thing. For instance, they are used synonymously in following verses:
Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
The writer goes on to say this about the church:
ESV Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
The kingdom and the church are synonymous terms. Before Pentecost, the kingdom was always at hand, but after Pentecost in Acts 2, the kingdom is spoken of as a present reality. One example would be:
Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Those who are baptized into Christ have been conveyed into the kingdom or we could say the church. Of course, an easy to prove that baptism is the point that we enter the kingdom is to go right back to
John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Now let’s look at:
John 3:6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jesus sums up His message by teaching that we are born of the flesh from our mothers, but it is our spirit that must be born again and that does not happen until we are baptized. That spiritual birth is accomplished by God (Col. 2:12).
John 3:7 "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."
Since Jesus explained to Nicodemus that the birth He is talking about is a spiritual one and not a physical one, He tells him not to be amazed or surprised that he must be born again. In verse 8, Jesus used the example of how the wind cannot be seen and compares it to the invisible spirit of a person. When we are baptized into Christ, we cannot see a physical change of our bodies because the change has happened to our invisible spirits. So, while we cannot see the spirit being reborn, we can see the results of it just like we can see the results of the wind.
Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered and said to him,
"Are you the teacher of
Even though Jesus has explained this to him, he still cannot grasp this concept. Since he was a teacher of the Law, Jesus knows he is capable of understanding what He said. Since Nicodemus was a teacher, he should have known the Scriptures that foretold of a day when a new covenant would be made and changes would take place (Jer. 31:31-34).
John 3:11 "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?
Jesus seems to be including His disciples when He uses the word “we,” which means His disciples were there as He was teaching Nicodemus. Jesus wants him to know that if he cannot believe in the earthly things He tells Him, then how in the world will he ever believe the heavenly things He could teach him.
John 3:13 "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
Based on context, Jesus is letting us know that He has the authority to teach us about heavenly things because He was in heaven before He descended to the earth. No human has ascended to heaven where Jesus was.
Well, what about Elijah and Enoch? It is true, Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kgs. 2:11), and Enoch was taken by God (Heb. 11:5), but unless these two men are the exception, they did not go into heaven where the Father is. Instead, they went into that part of heaven known as paradise where Abraham is (Lk. 16). Since paradise is a place where the soul goes, I have to assume that Elijah’s and Enoch’s physical body was discarded or changed by God as they entered paradise. So, when Jesus said that no one has ascended into heaven He was talking about the part of heaven where the Father is and not paradise.
John 3:14 "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.
Jesus gives Nicodemus an illustration
from Moses’ day (Num. 21: 4-9). He used this illustration to show how He would
die. The children of
Isaiah 45:22 "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
Verse 15 says that whoever wants eternal
life must believe in Jesus. This verse teaches that salvation is available for
everyone, which opposes the Calvinistic view of predestination. Those who teach
the faith only view like to use this verse and verse 16 to make their case.
However, these verses do not teach what they want it to. When we look at these
verses in context, we can see that more than just belief is necessary to have
eternal life. Jesus just finished telling Nicodemus that he must be born of water
and Spirit to enter or even see the
John 3:16 "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.
John 3:16 is sometimes called the golden text of the Bible. Most people, whether they are religious or not, know this verse because it is quoted often. However, many people have no idea what it actually teaches because it has been taken out of context.
“For God so loved the world.” This is a figure of speech used to show that God loves every human in the world and not the world itself. He demonstrated His love by giving His best for us, “His only begotten Son.” “Only begotten” describes Jesus as being unique and does not mean He was created by God as the Jehovah Witness teach. Before He became the Son of God in the flesh, He was the eternal Word (Jn. 1:1, 14). Again, we learn that salvation is for “whoever believes.” From our previous verse, I have already shown this is not talking about mere belief and it does not support the faith only doctrine.
In verse 17, we learn that Jesus did not come to condemn the world. He did not have to condemn us because we were already condemned due to our sinful nature. Jesus came to provide a way for us to be saved and it came through His death on the cross.
John 3:18 "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."
As Jesus finishes His discussion with Nicodemus, He points out the difference between a believer and an unbeliever. Notice, all unbelievers are condemned already, and they do not like the light where the truth is found because it exposes their wickedness. So, those who love to live in sin, hate the light. However, all believers, who are not condemned, love the light of truth. They will do their best to walk in the light by living their lives according to the Word of God. What Jesus said gave Nicodemus a lot to think about and it should give us a lot to think about as well.
John 3:22 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.
Some unspecified time passes and Jesus and His disciples go somewhere into the land of Judea, and they were baptizing people there. This baptism was not a new one, it was the same baptism that John the Baptist had received from God. Jesus was baptizing people through His disciples (Jn. 4:2) because He did not baptize anyone Himself. One of the reasons the Gospel of John is unique is because it talks about Jesus’ early ministry in Judea, and it shows that John the Baptist and Jesus were teaching and baptizing at the same time. Verse 24 proves this is talking about Jesus’ early ministry because John had not been put in prison yet.
While Jesus was baptizing in Judea, John was baptizing in Aenon. There is a disagreement on the exact location of this place, but one thing that cannot be disputed is that there was much water there. This shows the baptism John and Jesus were administering was done in water. We also learn from the original meaning of the Greek word “baptizo,” which is transliterated as baptism, means to dip, plunge, immerse or submerge, that they would dip the person all the way under the water, which is why John was at a place with much water. We can see this at Jesus’ baptism as well because once He was immersed, He came up out of the water (Mt. 3:16).
Immersion in water is the same method that is used with the baptism Jesus commanded (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16). It is to be done in water (Jn. 3:3-5; Acts 8:38; 10:47-48; 1 Pet. 3; 20-21), and a person is to be immersed or buried in that water (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Some say it is acceptable to sprinkle or pour, but both of these words have their own specific Greek word, and they are not associated with the meaning of baptism. There are no examples in the Bible for sprinkling or pouring for remission of sins.
John 3:25 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!"
Some of John’s disciples were confused. Apparently they did not know if John’s baptism was the same as the one that Jesus was administering. These men were concerned because most of the people were going to Jesus to be baptized.
John 3:27 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.
John is not jealous or concerned that Jesus is increasing because he knew that he was just the forerunner for Him. John is correct when he said that Jesus would not have the success He was having unless God willed it (Ps. 127:1-2; 1 Cor. 3:6). John never claimed to be the Christ, but only a witness for Him. He uses the idea of marriage and compares Jesus to a bridegroom and himself as the bridegroom’s friend. The friend would not even consider taking away the honor of the bridegroom because he wants Him to be successful. John is rejoicing because he knows he has fulfilled what God has asked him to do, and now he must decrease and Jesus must increase. Jesus’ work would bring in the new kingdom that would last forever, which would begin on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
John 3:31 "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.
John is comparing himself to Jesus. John is from the earth and is limited in his knowledge, but Jesus is from heaven and His knowledge and authority is infinite. Many of those who saw and heard Jesus speak did not believe Him, but John believed, and he continued bearing witness that Jesus was the coming one.
John 3:34 "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."
Jesus did not receive the Spirit in measure or in part because the Spirit descended on Jesus and remained there after He was baptized (Jn. 1:33). The Father gave all things into Jesus’ hands (Mt. 28:18). However, the same cannot be said about us. Not even the apostles had the full measure of the Spirit as Christ had it, and Christians today only have the seal and earnest of the Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:22).
The KJV and NKJV do not fully capture the meaning of verse 36. However, several other translations do:
NKJV John 3:36 "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."
ESV John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
ASV John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
We have two different Greek words in play here “pisteuo” and “apeitheo” You will notice that the translators of the NKJV decided to use the word believe for both Greek words, but the ESV and ASV has a better translation in this area because they make it easy to see that one must have an obedient faith to have eternal life and not just belief alone. Besides, Paul clearly teaches us that those who do not have an obedient faith will suffer the wrath of God (2 Thes. 1:7-9).
This concludes our study for this lesson. I hope you have found today’s lessons helpful and that you might be able to use what you learned to help others understand what it really means to be born again.