John 3


John 3:1 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."


Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, which means he was considered to be a great man, and he was a teacher of the Law (Jn. 3:10). He was convinced that Jesus was a teacher that had came from God because of the signs He had performed. Since he came to Jesus at night, some have suggested he did this to be secretive so none of his fellow Jews would know what he was doing. However, this is just an assumption because he could have spoken to Him at night because it was convenient. The only thing we know for sure is that he spoke to Jesus at nighttime. Nicodemus is only mentioned two other times in Scripture (Jn. 7:50; 19:39), and both instances refer to this meeting at night he had with Jesus. Nicodemus speaks of a plurality of signs, which indicates that Jesus had done more signs than the ones that are recorded for us (Jn. 20:30-31).


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.


Jesus’ answer confused Nicodemus because all he could think of was the physical. He knew that he belonged to the physical kingdom of Israel and as Jew, he was considered to be part of God’s chosen nation. Now, Jesus is telling him you must be born-again or you cannot enter the kingdom of God or even see it.


In verse 4, Nicodemus is trying to make sense of Jesus’ statement from a physical point of view, which is why he asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" He thought Jesus’ statement was crazy because he knew it was impossible to be physically reborn. So, Jesus restates what He said to help Nicodemus understand that He was talking about a spiritual rebirth and not a physical one. Jesus makes it clear that a person cannot enter the kingdom of God, which John the Baptist said was at hand (Mk. 1:15), unless he is born-again. This teaching means a person cannot be saved unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Since these two elements are necessary for salvation, we need to take a closer look at what they are and how we are born-again.


First, let’s examine the word “water” and how it relates to being born-again. The word “water” comes from the Greek word “hudor,” which simply means water. Obviously, water is one of the elements necessary to be born-again, which points to baptism. In fact, we can see that water is required for baptism. For instance, when John was baptizing, he baptized with water (Mk. 1:8-10; Jn. 3:23). When the apostles and disciples were carrying out The Great Commission, they baptized with water (Acts 8:36-39; 10:47). When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he taught that there is only one baptism that saves (Eph. 4:4-5), and Peter taught that one baptism is by water (1 Pet. 3:20-21). In Romans 6:3ff, Paul describes baptism as a burial in which we die to our sins and we are made alive with Jesus (Col. 2:13), which is exactly what Jesus was describing to Nicodemus about being born-again. At the point of baptism, we put to death our old man of sin as we are buried under the water, and we are “born-again” as a new creature of Christ without our sins when we are raised from the water. All this evidence proves that water baptism is one of the essential elements necessary to enter the kingdom of God and be saved.  In fact, all the early writers, known as the “church fathers,” agree that John 3:5 is talking about water baptism.

In his monumental work, History of Infant Baptism, William Wall, a leading scholar in the Church of England, asserted that not a single writer of antiquity denied the identification of the “water” of John 3:5 with baptism. He suggested that John Calvin was the first to disassociate the two items, and that Calvin even conceded that his interpretation was “new” (Oxford, 1862, Vol. I, p. 443 -

Not only does the Bible prove that Jesus is talking about water baptism, all these early non-inspired writers understood that Jesus was talking about water baptism as well.

Second, let’s take a look at the word “spirit” and how it relates to being born-again. We need to keep in mind there is only one birth and it consists of water and spirit. Therefore, there are not two births as some teach, but only one. Jesus is teaching that the Holy Spirit is involved in us being born-again. But the question is, how? To answer this question, we must go beyond this one passage and look at the whole counsel of God. When we do this, we will discover that the Holy Spirit instructs us through the Word of God on how to be saved, which is the role He plays in our being born-again.

The Holy Spirit’s main role was to reveal the Word of God to us (Jn. 14:26; 16:13-15). He spoke through some of Jesus’ disciples, who in turn recorded these revelations to us in our Bibles (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). These men would prove that they were speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by working a miracle by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mk. 16:20; Acts 2:43; 5;12; 6:8; 8:13; Rom. 15:19).

Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Paul refers to the New Testament as being a spirit (2 Cor. 3:6), which teaches us that the Holy Spirit works through the Word to show us how we are to enter the kingdom of God (Eph. 6:17). It is through the Word, or we could say by the Spirit, that we learn how to be saved (1 Pet. 1:23; Rom. 1:16, Jam. 1:18, 21).

 To further show how the Holy Spirit works in our conversion with water baptism, notice the following parallel passages:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

Notice, the 3 elements: the word, washing of water, and cleanse. The “word” is obviously a reference to the Word of God. “Washing of water” refers to water baptism. “Sanctify and cleanse” refers to being saved with our sin being removed.

“…He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Notice the 3 elements: Holy Spirit, washing of regeneration and saved. “Renewing of the Holy Spirit” refers to how the Holy Spirit works through the Word to save us (James 1:21). “Washing” is defined as “Washing, cleansing; water (USB). “Regeneration” is defined as a new birth or renewal or restoration of life after death (Strong’s). So, “washing of regeneration” is referring to water baptism and “saved” means salvation.

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).

Notice the 3 elements: Spirit, baptized, one body. Please notice Paul says, “By one Spirit” and not “With one Spirit.” This detail is important because it shows the baptism being spoken of is not Holy Spirit baptism because it is by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit instructs us through the Word that we must be baptized in water into the name of Jesus for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). So, “baptism” refers to water baptism. “One body” is the same as saying the kingdom because the body is the church (Col. 1:18, 24), and the church is the same as the kingdom (Mat. 16:18-19). This truth can be seen in following chart:

John 3:5




Eph. 5:26




Tit. 3:5

Holy Spirit



1 Cor. 12:13




All these verses prove that the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God, which teaches us what we must do to be born-again. To be born-again, we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 8:24), repent (Lk. 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10) and be baptized (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 22:16). When we obey the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we are added to the kingdom by God (Acts 2:47), which is Jesus’ church or body (Col. 1:18, 24) that He will save (Eph. 5:23).

 Whenever we are born-again, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32), which means we have been sealed by Him (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22). The word “seal” means “To mark with a seal as a means of identification, mark, seal so that the mark denoting ownership also carries with it the protection of the owner (BDAG).” This fits perfectly with The Great Commission (Mat. 28:19), which teaches that we are baptized into the name of, or into the possession of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This seal is our guarantee of a home in heaven if we remain faithful (Rev. 2:10). Just as the Holy Spirit was a witness for Jesus (1 Jn. 5:6), He bears witness that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). Once we are born-again, we are considered to be the temple of God, and all three members of the Godhead will dwell in us (Holy Spirit: 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Rom. 8:9, 11; Father: 2 Cor. 6:16; Jn. 14:23; Jesus: Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Jn. 6:56). How do they dwell in us? It is by our faith (Eph. 3:17). We can know that they dwell in us just like we can know that our sins are being removed, and we are being united with Christ at the point of baptism (Col. 2:12). Again, it is by our faith in the working of God.

So, Jesus has taught Nicodemus and us a valuable lesson. If we want to be saved and be able to enter the kingdom of God, we must be born-again by obeying the instructions of the Holy Spirit, which includes being water baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of our sins.

Now, I want to deal with the objections some have with these verses. 

1. Some would say that Jesus is talking about Holy Spirit baptism. I have already proven the baptism that saves is water baptism, but let’s take a look as 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 kingdom of God. Again, we only have two cases of this recorded for us in Scripture.

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 (Acts 8:14-16). 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 Samaria. This ability died out with the last apostle, and is not available today. If Holy Spirit baptism was necessary, then why did Ananias tell Paul to get up and get himself baptized (Acts 22:16)? If Holy Spirit baptism is what saves, then the Holy Spirit could have baptized Paul right then and there even if he was standing on his head. It should be obvious that water baptism is what Jesus is talking about in this verse because it was commanded, which means it is to be done by us (Mat. 28:18). Water baptism was done throughout the book of Acts because it is the one baptism that saves (Eph. 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? So, if Jesus wanted us to know that Holy Spirit baptism was necessary, he would have simply said you must be born of the Spirit. 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. Obviously, 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 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 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 Mat. 16:18-19 and in Heb. 12:22 – 24, 28. Before Pentecost, the kingdom was always at hand, but after Pentecost in Acts 2, the kingdom is spoken of as a present reality (Col. 1:13).

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 body because the change has happened to our invisible spirit. 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.

John 3:9 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?

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 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.  

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 (Luke 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) to show how He would die. The children of Israel had sinned and God sent fiery serpents to bite them. Many of them died, but Moses prayed to God for help, and he told him to make a bronze serpent and to lift it up on his staff. If someone was bitten, they could look at the bronze serpent and they would be healed. In a similar way, we were all lost in our sins, but Jesus was raised up on the cruel cross where He died for our sins, and the only way that we can be healed from our sins is to look to Jesus for our salvation. God has always wanted us to look to Him for salvation (Isa. 45:22).

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 kingdom of God. So, there is more to salvation than mere belief. The rest of the Bible makes it clear that we are saved by an obedient faith and not faith alone (Heb. 5:8-9; Mat. 7:21; Jam. 2:24). Our text also teaches that those who believe “should not” or “may not” perish. Again, this tells us that not all who believe will be saved because a person can fall away from God’s grace (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 6:4-7). 

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 given His best to us, “His only begotten Son.” “Only begotten” describes Jesus as being unique and does not mean He was created by God the Father 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 the believer and the unbeliever. Notice, all unbelievers are condemned already and they to 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 are not condemned, and they love the light of truth. They will do their best to walk in the light by living their life according to the Word of God. What Jesus said gave Nicodemus a lot think about and it should give us a lot to think about as well.

 John 3:22After 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 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 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 (Mat. 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 there 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 (Mat. 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:

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.


The second part of the verse uses a different Greek word “apeitheo” than the first part “pisteuo”. “Pisteuo” means to obey, which is significant because it shows that one must have an obedient faith to have eternal life and not just belief alone. Those who do not have an obedient faith will suffer the wrath of God (2 Thes. 1:7-9).