John 3:1-8 – 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. (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? (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. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (8) The wind bloweth where it listeth, 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.
This whole discourse follows a logical flow of thought. Let’s give a brief summary of what’s happening:
Verse 1: Nicodemus comes on the scene, who was a Pharisee and Ruler of the Jews. Note, Nicodemus was not just your ordinary religious person, he was an extremely devout Jew, earning for himself a seat on the famed Sanhedrin of Israel, a choice privilege that only 70 men enjoyed such a position under the High Priest of Israel. Therefore if anybody could be saved by their religious devotion, no doubt, Nicodemus would be the first in line.
Verse 2: Nicodemus however was afraid to confess Jesus openly at this time, coming in the cloak of night to inquire of Him. However, that is much better than most of the Pharisees, who refused to come to Jesus at all! Nicodemus then acknowledges that Jesus is a Teacher sent from God. He recongizes the divine power and authority of the Most High upon Jesus’ life and ministry and understands that He is not just any normal man.
Verse 3: Despite the religious devoutness and traditional devotion of Nicodemus, his good works, and his acknowledgement of Christ as having divine authority, he was still spiritually dead. He needed to be born again and given new spiritual life from above or else he would perish eternally.
Verse 4: Nicodemus reveals his spiritual blindness and thus confirms that Christ was speaking the truth about his spiritual condition. He does not understand that Jesus is speaking in symbolic language about the necessity of regeneration and of becoming a new creature by the power of supernatural grace. A dead man cannot see, and Nicodemus here revealed that he was in fact dead, because he still couldn’t “see the Kingdom of God”.
Verse 5: Jesus now somewhat repeats what He said in verse 3 about the New Birth and our need for it. However, whereas in verse 3 Jesus emphasized the necessity of the New Birth, here in verse 5 He explains the instruments of the New Birth. It is not by religious deeds, but by water and the Spirit.
Verse 6: Jesus emphasizes that religious works cannot save. They are only flesh. They can be done in the strength and ability of the flesh. The natural man can produce them. When trying to do them to gain righteousness as the Pharisees did, they only produce more flesh and more bondage. Only the Spirit can produce in us spiritual life which makes us alive unto God.
Verse 7: Jesus repeats Himself, emphasizing the desperate need of Nicodemus and all sinners that have not been made new creatures by the Spirit of God.
Verse 8: Jesus explains the cause of the New Birth. It is not by any effort, force, power, ability, or desire on man’s part. It is like the wind, which has a mind of it’s own and goes wherever the sovereign will of God directs it. No man can stop it and no man can cause it. It blows where it wills, and God regenerates who He wills. Furthermore, just as the wind is a mystery, so the New Birth is a mystery. We cannot always explain it, but we can certainly feel its effects when it blows upon us.
Next time, Lord willing, we will begin to look at this discourse more in depth.