John 3 – 7
- Man’s Dark Condition & Christ’s Perfect Knowledge of it (2:23-25)
- Nicodemus: Man’s need for New Birth, and the Work of the Cross
- Man’s Need of New Birth (vv.1-3)
- How the New Birth is Caused (vv.4-6)
- Israel’s Need of New Birth (vv.7-10)
- The Father & Son’s Desire to Testify of Heavenly Things (vv.11-13)
- The Cross: God’s Sovereign Provision for Man’s Salvation (vv.14-17)
- Faith: Man’s Responsibility to Believe on the Son of God (vv.18-21)
- John the Baptist’s Testimony of The Son (3:22-36)
Man’s Dark Condition & Christ’s Perfect Knowledge of it (2:23-25)
24 But Jesus himself did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men, vv.24-25 This is evidence of the Lord’s omniscience. Even as a man on earth, Jesus knew everything! God did not need to test man to see what was in man, because God already knew. But the dispensational testing of the first man occurred to show us our utter failure, and puts us into a guilty place before God. Jesus “did not commit Himself” to those who required evidence to believe, because that is not genuine faith. Their belief was founded on the wrong thing, and the Lord would not have fellowship with that.
25 and that he had not need that any should testify of man, for himself knew what was in man. v.25 He didn’t need anyone to tell Him about man in the flesh… He was the omniscient Logos! And what was in man that Jesus knew was there? A little smidgen of good? A spark of “preparatory light”? (See note on “lighteneth every man”, John 1:9). No. He knew that in man was spiritual darkness without any light whatsoever. This is the prerequisite fact to the teaching of New Birth. We must accept that man is without hope in himself, apart from the sovereign work of God.
Nicodemus: Man’s need for New Birth, and the Work of the Cross
New birth or quickening refers to the sovereign action of God to impart spiritual life to a person where there was none before. The expression "born anew" does not merely mean "a fresh start". Nicodemus contemplated entering into his mother’s womb to be born a second time (John 3:4). If that were possible, the rebirth would only result in another fallen human life, no different than the one he had. Rather, new birth is "new" in that it comes from a wholly new and different origin. It is life from God. The new life has a new nature with new desires. A person without new birth has one nature: a fallen human nature. A person with new birth has two natures: the old nature and a new nature (Romans 7). There is nothing but spiritual death apart from the life God gives (Eph. 2:1). The new nature has the capacity for “faith". Faith and life come together. You cannot have life without faith, and you cannot have faith without life. If someone has faith, it is because they are born again. New birth or quickening takes place by the water of the Word and the Spirit of God (John 3:5; Jam. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). New birth is not accomplished through human will or effort (John 1:13). It is the sovereign grace of God to quicken a dead sinner!Read more…
- (vv.1-3) Man needs new birth in order to ever see (or perceive) the things of God. Without new birth man is totally helpless.
- (vv.4-6) The New Birth is caused by a sovereign action of the Spirit of God, using the Word of God.
- (vv.7-10) The subject of New Birth is not unique to Christianity, in fact Israel as a nation is in need of New Birth, and the prophets speak of the day when Israel will be born again!
- (vv.11-13) The Father and the Son desire believers to have something more than New Birth. New Birth is an earthly thing, but it is God’s desire to tell us of heavenly things; specifically Eternal Life. Eternal life is a higher and greater thing than New Birth!
Man’s Need of New Birth (vv.1-3)
How the New Birth is Caused (vv.4-6)
Israel’s Need of New Birth (vv.7-10)
The Father & Son’s Desire to Testify of Heavenly Things (vv.11-13)
The Cross: God’s Sovereign Provision for Man’s Salvation (vv.14-17)
vv.14-15 The Cross meeting Man’s Need – The Death of the Son of Man
- Christ’s death puts our sins away (1 Pet. 2:24)
- Christ becomes the object of our faith (John 12:32, Gal. 2:20).
"Son of man" is a title Christ has in special connection with mankind; as either the rejected sufferer at the hands of mankind and on behalf of mankind as the one who assumes the responsibilities of the whole human race, or as exalted heir and head of all that God has purposed for mankind. The Old Testament spoke of a coming "Son of Man" that would reign over all creation and have an everlasting kingdom (Psalm 8:4-8; Daniel 7:13-14). But "Son of man" is a title Christ took in rejection as well as in glorification. The connection between the suffering and glory of the Son of man is beautiful.Read more…
15 that every one who believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal. v.15 Now we get that wonderful word “everyone” or “whosoever”, an expression that goes beyond the limits of Israel to include the poor Gentiles. New birth was required to “see” the kingdom of God, but eternal life is a gift to those who believe on the Son of Man lifted up. What does it mean to “believe on him“?
In scripture there is a difference between "believing", "believing in", and "believing on". If you "believe" someone, you accept what they say as truth. If you "believe in" someone, you have confidence in their character; i.e. it has to do with who they are, although it also includes that they are honest. If you "believe on" someone, they become an object for your faith, and this also includes both confidence in their character and in their words, but goes far higher.We must believe on a Person (Rom. 3:22), on Jesus Christ as the sin-bearer (v.15). Furthermore, we must also believe on Him as the Son of God given (v.16). Then the Person becomes the object of our faith. These two components are vital to a soul’s salvation: the Person and work of Christ.
The term "eternal life" is commonly translated “everlasting life” or “life eternal”. The term is used in two different ways in scripture. In the Old Testament (e.g. Psa. 133:3; Dan. 12:2) and the synoptic gospels (e.g. Mark 10:30) eternal life refers to the Millennial kingdom. But in the other New Testament books, and especially John's writings, "eternal life" refers to a life the Christian possesses now. The word “eternal” does not define the duration of the life, but it defines the character of the life; "the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). It couldn’t be the idea of "living forever" because eternal life pertains to believers, and even the unsaved live forever in eternal fire. What is implied in "eternal life" is the possession of divine life in communion with the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit; "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).3 Old Testament saints had divine life, but not in the character of "eternal life" because they did not know God as Father, since the death and resurrection of Christ was not complete (John 20:17). Eternal life is the highest character of life that one can ever know, because it is the same life that the Father and Son enjoy together (1 John 1:3), and which had existed from eternity to eternity (John 1:2). All that God is as light and love are enjoyed by the believer, who is brought into fellowship with Divine Persons through the indwelling Spirit, such that he enjoys common thoughts and feelings with God! In 1 John we find that Christ Himself personally is that eternal life. He is also the perfect expression of that life; the Word of Life. God purposed in His eternal counsels that the fellowship of the Father and the Son would be shared with the sons of men! Read John 14:18-20. We are brought into this fellowship through the gift of eternal life. It is the greatest blessing that God can bestow on man, as it is the very same life of Christ! This eternal life, which He shares with others, is "in His Son" (1 John 5:11) meaning it cannot be possessed apart from Him, and that "he that hath the Son hath life" (1 John 5:12).4Read more…
vv.16-17 The Cross Manifesting God’s Heart – the Gift of the Son of God
Faith: Man’s Responsibility to Believe on the Son of God (vv.18-21)
To try both your state and your scheme;
You cannot be right in the rest,
Unless you think rightly of him;
As Jesus appears in your view,
As he is beloved or not,
So God is disposed to you,
And mercy, or wrath are your lot.
John the Baptist’s Testimony of The Son (3:22-36)
Simultaneity of John’s Baptism and Jesus’ Baptism (vv.22-24)
A Question raised about the greatness of Jesus (vv.25-26)
A Sevenfold vindication of the Lord’s Ministry (vv.27-35)
#1 – John could take no credit for his ministry as it was given to him of God.
#2 – The ministry of Jesus didn’t contradict John’s, but complemented it.
#3 – John felt about Jesus as a friend of a bridegroom.
- The Sons of the bridechamber (Matt. 9:15, Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:34-35). In this case Christ is the bridegroom of Israel, and the sons of the bridechamber are the faithful remnant.
- The Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-10). In this case Christ is the bridegroom of the Church, but the bride isn’t mentioned. Instead, the ten virgins are a picture of the Christian testimony through the ages. See also Matt. 22:1-14.
- The marriage of Cana (John 2:9). This is a Millennial picture, and Christ is the bridegroom of restored Israel. The bride isn’t even mentioned.
- The friend of the bridegroom (John 3:29). Christ is the bridegroom of Israel, and the faithful remnant is the bride.
#4 – John knew the relative greatness of Jesus demanded a change.
#5 – John’s ministry was earthly, the Lord’s was heavenly, thus far greater.
- The general response (v.32b). “No one receives his testimony”. Though crowds may have flocked to Him, the Lord’s testimony was generally not received (see John 6:66). But there were some individuals who believed…
- The response of faith (v.33). “He that has received his testimony” was anyone who (by sovereign grace) did receive His testimony. They simply and honestly from the heart attested that God is absolutely true; taking God’s side regardless of my will or understanding (c.p. John 2:22-25). This verse has been rightly called “a definition of faith”!
#6 – God had specially marked Jesus out by permanent sealing of the Spirit.
- someone was going on well, like Gideon (Jud. 6:34) or Jephthah (Jud. 11:29) or David (1 Sam. 16:13), or
- someone was going on poorly, like Samson (Jud. 14:19), or
- someone was not even a believer but was being used by God, like Balaam (Num. 24:2) or Saul (1 Sam. 10:10).
#7 – the Father’s disposition toward “the Son” is unmatched and incalculable.
Conclusion: What does all this mean for man? (v.36)
- Believers – have eternal life as a present possession.
- Rejecters – remain in their guilt awaiting eternal punishment.
- The earthly man, John the Baptist, yet with a ministry from God, would stop his testimony with what he had heard, read in the prophets, and saw (vv.27-34).
- The apostle John, a Christian, himself sealed with the Holy Ghost, would interpose and conclude this section. Only a person with eternal life could speak about eternal life.
- John could take no credit for his ministry.
- The ministry of Jesus didn’t contradict John’s.
- John felt about Jesus as a friend of a bridegroom.
- The relative greatness of Jesus demanded a change.
- John’s ministry was earthly, the Lord’s was heavenly.
- God marked the Son out by permanent sealing of the spirit.
- The Father’s disposition toward “the Son” is unmatched and incalculable.
- Personally, I tend toward thinking that the Spirit has quickened people who never had access to the written word, but only had either the witness of creation or else dreams from God. This is based in part on Psalm 19, and also on general principles concerning the character of God. For example, Paul quoted Psa. 19 in Romans 10:18 to show God’s desire for all men to receive a testimony of Himself, showing that God's heart is no less toward the Gentiles as the Jews. Would God give His testimony to every nation, and then not use it for the blessing of at least some? We have also the statement of Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:35), showing that God is no respecter of persons.
- It is good to see the hand of God in creation, but this will never save the soul; God's power unto salvation is not in the message of creation, but in the word of the Gospel. Many vainly imagine that the recognition of God in His creation, in the beauties of nature, in the glories of the heavens, and in other works of His hands, is sufficient to secure a passport to heaven; but unless they believe in the Gospel of God concerning His Son, they can never have the blessing of God. - William C. Reid. Divine Power in Romans 1. An Outline of Sound Words Magazine.
- Another has stated that eternal life is... "the possession of divine life in fellowship with the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit." - Anstey, B. The First Epistle of John.
- A deeper blessing it is impossible for God to bestow or for man to receive; for it is exactly what characterised the Lord Himself, Who is the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. Only Christ could be said to be that life; we as believers are not, but we have it in Him; and as by faith alone it is received, so in faith it is exercised, sustained, and strengthened. - Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- One of four kinds of love.