John 3 Commentary

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Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Chart from Charles Swindoll

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  • Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, John 3:1, 2.
  • Jesus shows him the indispensable necessity of being born again, John 3:3-11.
  • He shows the difference between earthly and heavenly things, John 3:12, 13,
  • and speaks of his own death and of faith in him, John 3:14, 15.
  • The great love of God, in giving his only begotten Son to redeem the world, John 3:16, 17.
  • Unbelief is the great cause of men’s condemnation, John 3:18-21.
  • Jesus baptizes in Judea and John at Aenon, John 3:22-24.
  • John instructs his disciples who were jealous for his honor, concerning the glory of Christ, the salvation of those who believe in him and the wrath of God abiding on unbelievers, John 3:25-36.

John 3:1  Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;

NET  Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council,

GNT   Ἦν δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων, Νικόδημος ὄνομα αὐτῷ, ἄρχων τῶν Ἰουδαίων·

NLT  There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee.

KJV  There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

ESV  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

NIV  "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

  • of the Pharisees. Jn 3:10. Jn 1:24.
  • Nicodemus Jn 3:4, 9. Jn 7:50. Jn 19:39. Jn 7:47-49 
  • ruler. Jn 7:26, Jn 7:48, 12:42. Lk 18:18. Lk 24:20.
  • the Jews. Jn 5:10.


Persuadable means open to persuasion, able to be urged, or prevailed upon successfully. Capable of being persuaded, open to being caused to believe or be convinced. To persuade means to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action. 

Recall the immediate context in Jn 2:23, 24 "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men." So this passage serves as a good introduction to Nicodemus’ story, since John 3 constitutes tangible evidence of that Jesus does indeed know men’s hearts which clearly speaks of Jesus’ deity. In short, this section is an example of the kind of superficial belief and limited knowledge that characterized the crowd at the Feast.

Mathew Henry - We found, in the close of the foregoing chapter, that few were brought to Christ at Jerusalem; yet here was one, a considerable one. It is worth while to go a great way for the salvation though but of one soul....Not many mighty and noble are called (1 Cor 1:26-29); yet some are, and here was one. 

Now (de) is a conjunction that often marks a contrast (adversative) but in this context (as often in John) it is more "explanatory and transitional, not adversative." (Robertson)

Robertson adds that "Nicodemus is an instance of Christ's knowledge of men (John 2:25) and of one to whom he did trust himself unlike those in John 2:24. As a Pharisee "he belonged to that party which with all its bigotry contained a salt of true patriotism and could rear such cultured and high-toned men as Gamaliel and Paul" (Marcus Dods). (Word Pictures in the New Testament)

There was a man of the Pharisees - He belonged to this religious group, the most influential of the three major Jewish sects (cf Sadducees and Essenes). We first read about the Pharisees in the second century B.C. (see Josephus Antiquities 13.10.5–6). The Pharisees were "supernaturalists" for they believed in the resurrection, the existence of angels and demons (Lk 20:27+; Acts 23:6–9+), predestination, free will, and the validity of both the written and the oral law. Politically Pharisees were generally more conservative than the Sadducees, but on the other hand religiously they were more liberal due to their acceptance of the oral law. So Nicodemus was a learned man in contrast to most of Christ's followers who were unlearned and ignorant men (cf Acts 4:13KJV+)! As Matthew Henry says "The principles of the Pharisees, and the peculiarities of their sect, were directly contrary to the spirit of Christianity; yet there were some in whom even those high thoughts were cast down and brought into obedience to Christ. The grace of Christ is able to subdue the greatest opposition." 

Pharisees (5330)(pharisaios) transliterated from the Hebrew parash (06567 - to separate) from Aramaic word peras  (06537) ("Peres" in Da 5:28+), signifying to separate, owing to a different manner of life from that of the general public. After the resettling of the Jewish people in Judea on their return from the Babylonian captivity, there were two religious groups among them. One party contented themselves with following only what was written in the Law of Moses. These were called Zadikim, the righteous. The other group added the constitutions and traditions of the elders, as well as other rigorous observances, to the Law and voluntarily complied with them. They were called Chasidim or the pious. From the Zadikim the sects of the Sadducees and Karaites were derived. From the Chasidim were derived the Pharisees and the Essenes. (See lengthy note by Barclay on Pharisees) They were not separatists in the sense of isolationists but they were highly zealous for ritual and religious purity according to the Mosaic law and their own traditions which they added to the OT Law (cf warnings in Pr 30:6, Rev 22:18, 19+). 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. 

Named Nicodemus (Nikodemos 3530) - Only used by John 5x in the NT (Jn. 3:1; Jn. 3:4; Jn. 3:9; Jn. 7:50; Jn. 19:39). This is a Greek name which was common among Jews and Gentiles. Josephus mentions this name (but not the same Nicodemus - Josephus Antiquities 14.3.2) (cf Greek names of Philip and Andrew Jn 1:40, 43+). Nicodemus means conqueror of the people or populace, victorious (victor) among his people, "one who has won distinction among the people" (Zodhiates). He is not the young ruler in Lk 18:18+. John records what appears to be the "progress" of Nicodemus in coming to faith in Jesus as the Messiah:

Nicodemus defends Christ against the unjust Pharisees was taking a very unpopular stand in his attempt to protect Jesus, and suggest he was in process of being saved after his initial encounter with Jesus (the Wind had begun to blow, so to speak, in the heart of Nicodemus) - John 7:50-52 Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” 52 They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet

Nicodemus appears to be a follower of Christ as He helps Joseph bury Jesus (See Michelangelos' statute) - Jn 19:38-40  And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body. 39  And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40  And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

A ruler of the Jews - Ruler of the Jews refers to members of Sanhedrin as in Jn 7:26, Jn 7:48, Jn 12:42. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin (usually translated "council" in NAS - e.g., Jn 11:47 - see sunedrion), the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews.  In the NT uses the council or Sanhedrin consisted of 71 members (70 members plus the highest official, the high priest) from the chief priests, former high priests, and the chief priests or heads of the twenty–four courses or divisions, elders, and scribes or lawyers. Apparently the council itself determined who could belong. There were also local councils throughout the Jewish Diaspora with 23 members, which were also called sunedrion. The Sanhedrin tried the most serious offenses and pronounced the severest penalties, including death by stoning (see Acts 6:12-7:60+) The Sanhedrin was formed in imitation of the seventy elders appointed by Moses (Nu 11:16ff.) - The Gospels reveal how the sunedrion tried to get rid of Jesus early in His ministry (John 11:47). Finally, with the help of Judas, they succeeded in having Him arrested, tried, and sentenced. After AD 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.

Luke describes another (different) ruler "A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(Lk 18:18+)

Ruler (magistrate, official) (758)(archon from present participle of archo = to rule) describes one who has eminence in a ruling capacity, referring to earthly figures (Mt 20:25) such as rulers (Acts 4:26), Moses ( Acts 7:27, 35), of Christ as the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5). Archon refers to one who has administrative authority (Ro 13:3; Titus 1:9), including Jewish leaders (Acts 23:5 = reference to the high priest, Lk 8:41 = "an official of the synagogue;" Mt 9:18, 23 = ruler over a synagogue), members of the Sanhedrin (Lk 18:18, 23:13, 35, 24:20), of Gentile officials (Acts 16:19).  Archon refers to the devil as ruler over the demons in Mt 9:34; 12:24; Mk 3:22; Lk 11:15 and Eph 2:2 "the PRINCE (archon) of the power of the air." John's uses of archon - Jn. 3:1; Jn. 7:26; Jn. 7:48; Jn. 12:31; Jn. 12:42; Jn. 14:30; Jn. 16:11

Bob Utley on ruler - Those who thought they had arrived spiritually were told they had to begin again. Faith in Jesus, not adherence to rules (even godly rules), nor racial background, determines one’s citizenship in the Kingdom. God’s gift in Christ, not sincere, aggressive human religiosity, is the door to divine acceptance. Nicodemus’ acknowledgment of Jesus as a teacher from God, though true, was not adequate. Personal trust, exclusive trust, ultimate trust in Jesus as the Messiah is fallen mankind’s only hope!

MacArthur introduces this famous chapter - "Everybody talkin' about heaven ain't goin' there." This line, from an old spiritual, accurately describes many in the church. Outwardly they identify with Christ, but inwardly they have never been genuinely converted. Because they cling to a false profession, they fool themselves into thinking they are on the narrow path leading to life, when in reality they are on the broad road that leads to destruction. To make matters worse, their self-deception is often reinforced by well-meaning but undiscerning Christians who naively embrace them as true believers. Such confusion stems from the watered-down pseudo-gospels that are propagated from far too many pulpits. Cheap grace, market-driven ministry, emotionalism, subjectivism, and an indiscriminate inclusivism have all infiltrated the church with devastating consequences. As a result, almost any profession of faith is affirmed as genuine—even from those whose lives manifest no signs of true fruit (e.g., Luke 6:43-44). For many, no one's faith is to be questioned. Meanwhile, key New Testament passages regarding the danger of false faith (e.g., James 2:14-26) and the need for self-examination (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:5) go unheeded. (MNTC-Jn)

John 3:2  this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

NET   came to Jesus at night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him."

GNT   οὗτος ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτὸν νυκτὸς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ῥαββί, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος· οὐδεὶς γὰρ δύναται ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα ποιεῖν ἃ σὺ ποιεῖς, ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ θεὸς μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ.

NLT  After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. "Rabbi," he said, "we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you."

KJV 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.

ESV  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."

NIV  He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

  • came. Jn 7:50, 51. Jn 12:42, 43. 19:38, 39. Jdg 6:27. Is 51:7. Ph 1:14.
  • Rabbi. Jn 3:26. Jn 1:38. 20:16.
  • we know. The securing of indulgence for what is about to be said. For other instances of this figure see Mt 19:16. Ac 17:22. 22:3-6. 26:2, 3.
  • You. Jn 4:19. 9:24, 29. Mt 22:16. Mk 12:14. Lk 20:21.
  • come from God. Jn 16:27. for. Jn 5:36. 7:31. 9:16, 30-33. 11:47, 48. 12:37. 15:24. Ac 2:22. 4:16, 17. 10:38.
  • signs. Jn 2:11.
  • unless  Mt 4:9. Jn 5:36. 9:33. 10:38. Jn 14:10, 11. 1 Sa 18:14. Acts 2:22, Acts 10:38.
  • him. Ge 30:27. 

Painting by Henry Tanner


This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him - See several reasons he may have come at night. It is interesting that night studies of the Law were held in high esteem by the rabbis.

Why by night? (1) his fear of criticism; (2) his desire for a private conference before committing himself to Jesus; (3) his desire for uninterrupted conversation; or (4) his lack of opportunity during the day (cf. Jn 7:50). It should not be overlooked that "night" has a foreboding significance in this Gospel (cf. Jn 9:4; 11:10; 13:30; 19:34). (W. A. Criswell) 

Matthew Henry on by night - He made this address by night, which may be considered, {1.} As an act of prudence and discretion. Christ was engaged all day in public work, and he would not interrupt him then, nor expect his attendance then, but observed Christ's hour, and waited on him when he was at leisure. Note, Private advantages to ourselves and our own families must give way to those that are public. The greater good must be preferred before the less. Christ had many enemies, and therefore Nicodemus came to him incognito, lest being known to the chief priests they should be the more enraged against Christ. {2.} As an act of zeal and forwardness. Nicodemus was a man of business, and could not spare time all day to make Christ a visit, and therefore he would rather take time from the diversions of the evening, or the rest of the night, than not converse with Christ. When others were sleeping, he was getting knowledge, as David by meditation, Ps. 63:6, and Pr 119:148. Probably it was the very next night after he saw Christ's miracles, and he would not neglect the first opportunity of pursuing his convictions. He knew not how soon Christ might leave the town, nor what might happen betwixt that and another feast, and therefore would lose no time. In the night his converse with Christ would be more free, and less liable to disturbance. These were Noctes Christianae-Christian nights, much more instructive than the Noctes Atticae-Attic nights. Or, {3.} As an act of fear and cowardice. He was afraid, or ashamed, to be seen with Christ, and therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites, especially among the rulers, who have a better affection to Christ and his religion than they would be known to have.... Though now he came by night, yet afterwards, when there was occasion, he owned Christ publicly, John 7:50; John 19:39. The grace which is at first but a grain of mustard-seed may grow to be a great tree.

Robertson on by nightThat he came at all is remarkable, not because there was any danger as was true at a later period, but because of his own prominence. He wished to avoid comment by other members of the Sanhedrin and others. Jesus had already provoked the opposition of the ecclesiastics by his assumption of Messianic authority over the temple.

Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher - Note the plural "we" which would support that Nicodemus is speaking of our men of his esteemed class (cf "we" in Jn 9:31+). Have come is in the perfect tense signifying permanence. Observe Nicodemus has the insight to recognize this obscure Galilean peasant Jesus as (1) Rabbi, (2) come from God and (3) a teacher (not THE teacher). For Nicodemus to address Jesus as Rabbi "It was a long step for Nicodemus as a Pharisee to take, for the Pharisees had closely scrutinized the credentials of the Baptist in John 1:19-24+." (Robertson) So here Nicodemus calls Jesus Rabbi out of respect (even as Andrew and John who would become his disciples - Jn 1:38+) and and in another nighttime setting Judas betrays Jesus calling Him "Rabbi" (Mt 26:25, Mt 26:49, Mk 14:45)! Same Name, two diametrically opposite destinies. Calling Jesus Rabbi or even Lord (see Mt 7:21-23+) does not result in salvation. It is only by believing fully in one's heart and soul that He is from God and that He is God that results in salvation. Nathanael's recognition of Jesus was greater than that of Nicodemus for he acknowledged Him as “Rabbi, You are the Son of God (Mk 1:1+); You are the King of Israel.” (Jn 1:49+

Rabbi (4461)(rhabbi from Hebrew rab 07227 = >400x in OT - great one, master, chief) means my master (most common rendering in KJV) or my teacher. It was an respectful title of honor by which one would address a teacher who was recognized for their expertise in the Mosaic Law or Scriptures. Jesus' disciples repeatedly address Him as Rabbi (Jn. 4:31; Jn. 6:25; Jn. 9:2; Jn. 11:8)  The suffix -bi signified "my master" "and was a title of respect by which teachers were addressed. The suffix soon lost its specific force, and in the NT the word is used as courteous title of address." (Vine) It is interesting that In Mt. 23:7-8 Jesus forbade His disciples to desire to use it ("do not be called Rabbi").

Rabbi - 15x in 15v - Matt. 23:7; Matt. 23:8; Matt. 26:25; Matt. 26:49; Mk. 9:5; Mk. 11:21; Mk. 14:45; Jn. 1:38; Jn. 1:49; Jn. 3:2; Jn. 3:26; Jn. 4:31; Jn. 6:25; Jn. 9:2; Jn. 11:8. Not found in the Septuagint. 

See Wikipedia on Rabbi.

Gibrant on Rabbi Theologians were held in such high regard that according to Talmudic tradition even King Jehoshaphat addressed them as “my father, my teacher, my lord.” Since the scribes were generally addressed as rabbi in the presence of others, it gradually became a term used for those who had completed their studies and were ordained teachers of the Law. With regard to the New Testament use of rabbi the suffix lost its specific force by the middle of the First Century A.D.; hence, it became a courteous title of address (ibid.). As such it was applied to John the Baptist in John 3:26. (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Zodhiates This was introduced as a title into the Jewish schools under a three-fold form, Rab, as the lowest degree of honor; Rab with the first person suffix i, Rabbi, my master, with higher dignity; and Rabboni, meaning my great master, the most honorable of all. This was publicly given to only seven persons, all of the school of Hillel and of great eminence.... In the days of Christ the title (RABBI) was misused by Jewish teachers in that they used it to require implicit obedience to their decisions and traditions and words rather than to those of the law and the prophets. Our Lord charged the Jewish scribes and Pharisees with being very fond of this presumptuous title, but commands His disciples not to be called Rabbi in the Jewish acceptance of the word (Matt. 23:7, 8). Although the title Rabbi was often given to the Lord Jesus, we do not find that He ever rebuked those who gave it to Him because He was in truth the Teacher sent from God, even that great Prophet who should come into the world, and of whom the Lord had said by Moses in Deut. 18:18, 19: "It shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." (Complete Word Study Dictionary)

Teacher (1320)(didaskalos from didasko = teach to shape will of one being taught by content of what is taught <> cp didaskalía) is one who provides instruction or systematically imparts truth. The teacher teaches in such a way as to shape will of one being taught by content of what is taught or at least that is the desired goal. Didaskolos in John -  Jn. 1:38; Jn. 3:2; Jn. 3:10; Jn. 8:4; Jn. 11:28; Jn. 13:13; Jn. 13:14; Jn. 20:16. Didaskalos is the usual translation of the Hebrew word Rabbi (see Jn 1:38+, cp the Aramaic word for teacher = Rabboni in Jn 20:16+), a term which in Jesus' day described those who were acknowledged as authorities on the Old Testament and were teachers of divine truth.

Didaskalos refers to Jesus (the Master Teacher) in 41 of 58 NT uses. Twice Jesus calls Himself Teacher (Mt 26:18, Jn 13:13-14+). He is referred to as Teacher by His disciples (Mk 4:38+; Mk 9:38+; Mk 13:1+; Lk 7:40+; Lk 21:7+), by the Pharisees (Mt 8:19, 12:38), by Pharisees and Herodians (Mt 22:16); Sadducees (Mk 12:19+), a teacher of the law (Mk 12:32+), Jewish deceivers (Lk 20:21+); the rich young ruler (Lk 18:18+), tax collectors (Lk 3:12+) and His friend Martha (Jn 11:28+). As an aside someone has said our great Teacher writes many of His best lessons on the blackboard of affliction.

Richards writes that "Jesus’ teaching focused on shaping the hearers’ perception of God and God’s kingdom, and thus it dealt with the implications of a personal relationship with God. In John’s Gospel, much of Jesus’ public instruction focused on himself and his own place as Son of God."

Mounce makes the point that when the Jewish leaders called Jesus "Teacher", they may not have been sincere "For instance, in Lk 10:25+ an expert in the law comes to test Jesus and calls him didaskalos. However, attempts to expose him as a pretender to the title of teacher are unsuccessful and therefore serve to endorse his status as rabbi (Mt 22:46; Mk 12:34+; Lk 20:39+). (Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words)

And although Jesus was frequently called Teacher, C S Lewis makes the point that He was far more that just a Teacher

"I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God (Mk 1:1+); or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (Mere Christianity)

For (gar) is a term of explanation which always begs the question "What is the writer explaining?" In context Nicodemus is explaining how he can be so certain that Jesus is from God as a teacher. 

No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him - So the main indication that Jesus is from God are the signs He does. Which specific signs John does not tell us. Here the signs clearly accomplished one of God's objectives which we see in John's summary of the purpose of his Gospel. Unless God is with him indicates Nicodemus recognizes these signs as supernatural signs

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing (Doing is in the imperfect tense over and over. Jesus did His first sign in Cana, but now He was doing many signs in Jerusalem. Already Jesus had become the center of all eyes in Jerusalem at this first visit in His ministry.) (Jn 2:23+)

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that (PURPOSE OF THE SIGNS) you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (THE MESSIAH), the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (Jn 20:30-31+)

Can (1410)(dunamai) in the present tense conveys Nicodemus' belief that Jesus had the inherent (supernatural) ability to continually accomplish supernatural signs. And remember from other Gospels Jesus derived His dunamis from the indwelling Spirit, Luke recording for example "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power  (dunamis) of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district."  (Lk 4:14+). Although Luke is describing the impact of Jesus' ministry in the "power of the Spirit" which occurred in Jesus' second year of ministry, clearly this same "power of the Spirit" had allowed Him to perform signs which had spread the news about Him throughout Jerusalem.

NOTE: The derivative word dunamis (from dunamai) refers to intrinsic power or inherent ability, the power or ability to carry out some function, the potential for functioning in some way, the power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature. The word group (dunamai, dunamis, dunatos, etc) gives us our English word dynamic, (synonyms = energetic, functioning, live, operative, working) which describes that which is marked by usually continuous and productive activity or change. That which is dynamic is characterized by energy or forces that produce motion, as opposed to that which is static.

Signs (4592)(semeion akin to semaino = to give a sign; sema = a sign) is a distinguishing mark or symbol that carries a special meaning or like a simple sign points to something else. Semeion is used of God's miraculous works (contrary to usual course of nature) which point to spiritual truth. Semeion describes a miracle whose purpose is that of attesting the claims of the one performing the miracle to be true. Stated another way, in the NT a sign speaks of a token which has behind it a particular message to be conveyed. In other words, in John's Gospel (where semeion is most concentrated) the apostle recorded certain miracles not for the wonder (cf "wonders") they produced, but because of the message they taught (Jn 20:31+). The purpose of a sign is to direct attention away from its unusual nature to the meaning and the significance of what it points to, in this case, to Jesus as divine and thus speaks of outward compelling proof of His divine authority. In John a sign points to deeper spiritual significance in connection with the event (Jn 2:11, 18+).

Related Resource:

Unless God is with him - This is a conditional statement of the third class which speaks of it as a probability but not a definite fact. It was enough "probability" to attract this ruler of the Jews! Peter states it as a fact that God was with Jesus in his "summary" of Jesus' 3 year ministry declaring "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38+). So what Nicodemus only alluded to, Peter knew as truth. And to reiterate, that truth is that Jesus performed these signs in the power of the Holy Spirit.

THOUGHT - While believers today should not seek or expect to perform signs like Jesus, we can live a supernatural life like Him (1 Cor 11:1, 1 Jn 2:6, 1 Pe 2:21) that should cause interested and curious unbelievers (like Nicodemus) to recognize that we could not live the way we live, respond the way we respond (to trials and afflictions), speak the way we speak, etc, unless God the Spirit was with us, in fact even IN us! Hallelujah! May our Father in Heaven grant that we each live up to our Spirit filled "supernatural potential" in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation that others might be drawn to come speak with us about Jesus. ( Php 2:15+, 1 Pe 3:15+ cf Mt 5:16+) Amen!

John 3:3  Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

NET  John 3:3 Jesus replied, "I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

GNT  John 3:3 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

NLT  John 3:3 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God."

KJV  John 3:3 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.

ESV  John 3:3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

NIV  John 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. "

  • Truly. See on Jn 1:51. Mt +*5:18. 2 Co 1:19, 20. Re 3:14.
  • Unless Mt 4:9. Jn 3:5, 6. Jn 1:13. Mt 18:3. 1 Co 2:14. Ga 6:15. Ep 2:1, 4, 5. Titus 3:5. Jas 1:18. 1 Pe 1:3, 23. 1 Jn 2:29. 3:9. 5:1, 18.
  • again. or, from above. John 3:7, 31. Jn 1:13. Jn 19:11. 2 Co 5:17. Ga 4:9. Gal 6:15. Jas 1:17. 3:15, 17. 1 Pe 1:23.
  • he cannot see. Jn 3:5, 36. Jn 1:5. 12:40. Dt 29:4. Jer 5:21. Mt 13:11-16. 16:17. Mk 16:16n. 1 Co 6:9, 10. 15:50. 2 Co 4:4. He 12:14.
  • the kingdom of God. Jn 18:36, 37. 1 Ch 28:4, 5. Mt 12:28. 25:34. Mk 1:15. Lk 4:43. 22:29, 30. Ac 1:3, 6. Acts 8:12. 14:22. 19:8. 20:25. 28:23, 31. Ro 9:8. Ro 14:17. 1 Co 4:20, 1 Cor 6:9, 10, 1 Cor 15:50. Ga 5:21. Ep 5:5. Col 1:13. 4:11. 1 Th 2:12. 2 Th 1:5. 2 Ti 4:1, 18. He 12:28. Ja 2:5. 2 Pe 1:11. Re 5:10. Rev 12:10

Jesus answered and said to him - Actually Nicodemus does not ask a question. Jesus jumps right into the message that addresses Nicodemus greatest need. Jesus cuts to the chase and tells Nicodemus his greatest need is to be born again. 

Truly, truly, I say to you -  Truly is amen and only Jesus uses the double "amen" and only Jesus uses "amen" at the beginning of a sentence rather than the end. When used at the end confirms the preceding words and invokes their fulfillment. But placed at the beginning of the sentence it gives a strong affirmation, guaranteeing the truth of what His says and underscores His authority, for He alone is the "Amen, the faithful and true Witness." (Rev 3:14) "For all the promises of God in Him (CHRIST) are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." (2 Cor 1:20KJV) (I.e., the promises of God find their certain fulfillment, their Yes, in Christ!)  Jesus "amen's" His teaching and we should do the same beloved! 

Truly, truly (amen, amen) is only used by Jesus in the Bible - 25x in 25v - 8:8; Jn. 1:51; Jn. 3:3; Jn. 3:5; Jn. 3:11; Jn. 5:19; Jn. 5:24; Jn. 5:25; Jn. 6:26; Jn. 6:32; Jn. 6:47; Jn. 6:53; Jn. 8:34; Jn. 8:51; Jn. 8:58; Jn. 10:1; Jn. 10:7; Jn. 12:24; Jn. 13:16; Jn. 13:20; Jn. 13:21; Jn. 13:38; Jn. 14:12; Jn. 16:20; Jn. 16:23; Jn. 21:18

Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God -  Unless is a critical conjunction in this passage. In English dictionaries "unless" means "except under the circumstances that; except on the condition that." Another says 'Unless is defined as except something else happens." In this case that "something else" that must happen is that Nicodemus must be born again. We must be born again, born from above by the Spirit. John spoke of this supernatural, spiritual rebirth earlier writing "But as many as received (HAVE MADE THE CHOICE OF THEIR WILL TO ACCEPT) Him (JESUS AS SAVIOR, REDEEMER, LORD), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jn 1:12+, Jn 1:13+)

Born (1080)(gennao from genos = offspring, in turn from ginomai = to become) means to beget, to bring forth, to give birth, to procreate a descendant, to produce offspring, to generate. Gennao is a key word occurring 6 times in John 3 (Jn 3:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) John uses gennao in a passage that gives us his test for whether a person is truly born again writing "you know that everyone also who practices (present tense - as their general direction, not perfection!) righteousness is born (perfect tense = speaks of permanence of one who has been born again. So even this tense underscores the truth that one cannot lose their salvation!) of Him." (1 Jn 2:29+) John's point is the new birth will result in a new pattern or lifestyle of behavior of pursuing those things which are "right" in God's eyes. The corollary is that if a person says "Yes, I have been born again," and yet sees absolutely no change in their lifestyle or behavior, then it is very possible they are deceiving themselves and have never actually been born again. (see 2 Cor 13:5+). 

William Barclay on non-Biblical concepts of born again  - Now this (NEW BIRTH) was not an idea which was in the least strange to the people who heard it in NT times. The JEW knew all about REBIRTH. When a man from another faith became a Jew and had been accepted into Judaism by prayer and sacrifice and baptism, he was regarded as being reborn. “A proselyte who embraces Judaism,” said the rabbis, “is like a new-born child.” So radical was the change that the sins he had committed before his reception were all done away with, for now he was a different person. It was even theoretically argued that such a man could marry his own mother or his own sister, because he was a completely new man (!!!), and all the old connections were broken and destroyed. The Jew knew the idea of rebirth.

The GREEK also knew the idea of REBIRTH and knew it well. By far the most real religion of the Greeks at this time was the faith of the mystery religions. The mystery religions were all founded on the story of some suffering and dying and rising god. This story was played out as a passion play. The initiate had a long course of preparation, instruction, asceticism and fasting. The drama was then played out with gorgeous music, marvellous ritual, incense and everything to play upon the emotions. As it was played out, the worshipper’s aim was to become one with the god (NOTE INCREDIBLE COUNTERFEIT OF ONENESS BELIEVERS HAVE WITH CHRIST IN THE NEW COVENANT!) in such a way that he passed through the god’s sufferings and shared the god’s triumph and the god’s divine life. The mystery religions offered mystic union with some god. When that union was achieved the initiate was, in the language of the Mysteries, a twice-born. The Hermetic Mysteries had as part of their basic belief: “There can be no salvation without regeneration.” Apuleius, who went through initiation, said that he underwent “a voluntary death,” and that thereby he attained “his spiritual birthday,” and was “as it were reborn.” Many of the Mystery initiations took place at midnight when the day dies and is reborn. In the Phrygian, the initiate, after his initiation, was fed with milk as if he was a new-born babe. (cp 1Pe 2:2). 

The ancient world knew all about REBIRTH & REGENERATION. It longed for it and searched for it everywhere. The most famous of all Mystery ceremonies was the taurobolium. The candidate was put into a pit. On the top of the pit there was a lattice-work cover. On the cover a bull was slain by having its throat cut. The blood poured down and the initiate lifted up his head and bathed himself in the blood; and when he came out of the pit he was renatus in aeternum, reborn for all eternity. When Christianity came to the world with a message of rebirth, it came with precisely that for which all the world was seeking. (Barclay - John Commentary)

Again (from above)(509)(anothen from ano = above, upward, up + suffix "-then" = from) literally means from above with a secondary meaning of again. Anothen can speak of place or time.  John uses anothen to speak of place in Jn 3.31 "He who comes from above is above all" and again in Jn 19:11 where Jesus says to Pilate "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above (anothen)." Anothen is used in Mt 27:51 and Mk 15:38 in describing the curtain in the Temple torn from "top (another) to bottom."  Barclay says anothen, has three different meanings. (i) It can mean from the beginning, completely radically. (ii) It can mean again, in the sense of for the second time. (iii) It can mean from above, and, therefore, from God. 

NET Note - The word (anōthen) has a double meaning, either “again” (in which case it is synonymous with [palin]) or “from above”. This is a favorite technique of the author of the Fourth Gospel, and it is lost in almost all translations at this point. John uses the word 5 times, in Jn 3:3, 7; 3:31; 19:11, 23. In the latter 3 cases the context makes clear that it means “from above.” Here (Jn 3:3, 7) it could mean either, but the primary meaning intended by Jesus is “from above.” Nicodemus apparently understood it the other way, which explains his reply, “How can a man be born when he is old? He can’t enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born, can he?” The author uses the technique of the “misunderstood question” often to bring out a particularly important point: Jesus says something which is misunderstood by the disciples or (as here) someone else, which then gives Jesus the opportunity to explain more fully and in more detail what he really meant.

The phrase born anew, this idea of rebirth, runs all through the New Testament. Peter speaks of being born anew by God’s great mercy (1Pe 1:3); he talks about being born anew not of perishable seed, but of imperishable (1 Pe 1:22, 23). James speaks of God bringing us forth by the word of truth (Jas 1:18). Titus speaks of the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). Sometimes this same idea is spoken of as a death followed by a resurrection or a re-creation. Paul speaks of the Christian as dying with Christ and then rising to life anew (Ro 6:1-11). He speaks of those who have lately come into the Christian faith as babes in Christ (1 Cor 3:1, 2). If any man is in Christ it is as if he had been created all over again (2Cor 5:17). In Christ there is a new creation (Gal 6:15). The new man is created after God in righteousness (Eph 4:22-24). The person who is at the first beginnings of the Christian faith is a child (Heb 5:12-14). Throughout the New Testament the idea of rebirth, re-creation occurs. 

Leon Morris said "in one sentence, He (JESUS) sweeps away all that Nicodemus stood for, and demands that he be re-made by the power of God."

He cannot see the kingdom of God - Cannot see literally "Absolutely continually will not be able to see" where able is the same verb dunamai (and in present tense = continually) as above in Jn 3:2. Jesus is speaking first and foremost of spiritual sight ("insight"), of seeing with the eyes of faith so to speak as  in 2 Cor 4:18+) (cf 2 Cor 5:7+). The kingdom obviously speaks of a king, and the first thing a person needs to see by faith is the King of that kingdom, Jesus Christ. As the Spirit of God carries out the miraculous work of regeneration, they begin to see Him by placing their trust fully in Him, being born again, and at that moment of new birth the eyes of their heart are enlightened and they can see spiritual truths for the first time in their life! At that moment they also become subjects of the invisible spiritual kingdom of God even though they may not fully understand what that entails (it was years before I fully understood this great truth). In Luke 17:21 Jesus declares "behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst." He is referring to the invisible Kingdom of God which every believer enters by grace through faith in Christ and what writers have referred to as the “already now” or realized aspect of God’s Kingdom (Lk 17:20, 21-see commentary, cf advantageous of this "already now" aspect of the Kingdom in Ro 14:17+, cf 1 Co 4:20NLT = "living by God's power" = dunamis = relying on the supernatural power of the Spirit!). Then Jesus continues in Lk 17:22–37 (see commentary) where He speaks of the “not yet” or future literally visible aspect of the Kingdom of God. One day our faith will become literal sight and not only will we see King Jesus, we will see and experience His glorious Messianic Kingdom on earth, the "not yet" aspect of the Kingdom of GodLeon Morris summed up the Kingdom of God as “God’s rule in action” (Luke [IVP)

NET Note on the kingdom of God - John uses the word kingdom (basileia) only 5 times (Jn 3:3, 5; 18:36 [3×]). Only here is it qualified with the phrase of God. The fact that John does not stress the concept of the kingdom of God does not mean it is absent from his theology, however. Remember the messianic implications found in John 2, both the wedding and miracle at Cana and the cleansing of the temple. For Nicodemus, the term must surely have brought to mind the Messianic Kingdom which Messiah was supposed to bring. But Nicodemus had missed precisely this point about Who Jesus was. It was the Messiah Himself with whom Nicodemus was speaking. Whatever Nicodemus understood, it is clear that the point is this: He misunderstood Jesus’ words. He over-literalized them, and thought Jesus was talking about repeated physical birth, when he was in fact referring to new spiritual birth. (ED: BECAUSE HE WAS STILL BLIND TO SPIRITUAL TRUTH!)


In Hearts of
Present Age
(Between 1st & 2nd Comings)
On earth
Messianic Age
(After 2nd Coming)
New Earth
Eternal Age
(After Christ gives Kingdom to Father)
  1. Internal, Invisible - in hearts of believers only - in this present age (between Christ's First and Second Comings). In other words the Kingdom of God is present to the extent that people live in submission to God’s authoritative Word.
  2. External, Visible - literal earthly Kingdom - It is future in that the day is coming when Jesus returns, the Second Coming, and rules with a rod of iron (Rev 19:15+) on the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7+). 
  3. External, Visible - literal heavenly Kingdom - only believers ("internal" aspect of Kingdom) - following age #2 (After Christ gives the Kingdom to His Father - see 1 Cor 15:24-26)

Related Resources

The phrase Kingdom of God occurs 66x in 65v - 

Matt. 12:28; Matt. 19:24; Matt. 21:31; Matt. 21:43; Mk. 1:15; Mk. 4:11; Mk. 4:26; Mk. 4:30; Mk. 9:1; Mk. 9:47; Mk. 10:14; Mk. 10:15; Mk. 10:23; Mk. 10:24; Mk. 10:25; Mk. 12:34; Mk. 14:25; Mk. 15:43; Lk. 4:43; Lk. 6:20; Lk. 7:28; Lk. 8:1; Lk. 8:10; Lk. 9:2; Lk. 9:11; Lk. 9:27; Lk. 9:60; Lk. 9:62; Lk. 10:9; Lk. 10:11; Lk. 11:20; Lk. 13:18; Lk. 13:20; Lk. 13:28; Lk. 13:29; Lk. 14:15; Lk. 16:16; Lk. 17:20; Lk. 17:21; Lk. 18:16; Lk. 18:17; Lk. 18:24; Lk. 18:25; Lk. 18:29; Lk. 19:11; Lk. 21:31; Lk. 22:16; Lk. 22:18; Lk. 23:51; Jn. 3:3; Jn. 3:5; Acts 1:3; Acts 8:12; Acts 14:22; Acts 19:8; Acts 28:23; Acts 28:31; Rom. 14:17; 1 Co. 4:20; 1 Co. 6:9; 1 Co. 6:10; 1 Co. 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Col. 4:11; 2 Thess. 1:5

THOUGHT - Dear reader all of this "erudite" discussion on the Kingdom of God can obscure the most important question - Are you in the Kingdom of God? Jesus explained to the Jewish leader Nicodemus how one (Jew or Gentile) can gain entrance into the Kingdom of God...

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, 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? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:3-5)

Jesus tells us that the key that opens the door to the Kingdom of God is the new birth. Paul explains how we are born again by the Holy Spirit -- "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9-note)

Barna Research Study -- Despite the efforts of evangelists, parachurch ministries and local churches, the percentage of American adults who are born again Christians is no different now than in 1982, according to a study by the Barna Research Group. The study found that 34% of all Americans can be identified as born again—that is, they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, and say they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their Savior. Among those surveyed, 62% said they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives today. However, among those who have made a commitment to Christ, only 55% believe they will go to heaven because of accepting Christ as their personal savior (the basic belief in the “born again” movement). Most of those surveyed said they would go to heaven because of living a good life, or obeying the 10 commandments, or because all people will go to heaven. Others who said they had made a commitment to Christ said they were unsure about what will happen to them after they die. 

The following anecdotal comment is included but is frankly difficult to rationalize with Scripture: A study conducted by The Roper Organization for High Adventure Ministries in 1990 found that the moral behavior of "born again" Christians actually worsened after their conversions. Examined were incidences of illegal drug use, driving while intoxicated and marital infidelity. (ED COMMENT: Could it be that the definition of "born again" was a watered down secularized one and not the Biblical definition of a work of grace through faith that results in a radical transformation of one's person and purpose [eg, 2Co5:17, cp Titus 1:16]?! Let the Scripture be the judge.)

Boice gives an Illustration - Quite a few years ago Governor Neff, of the state of Texas, received an invitation to speak at one of the penitentiaries in that state. He spoke to the assembled prisoners, and afterward said that he would be around for a while to listen to anything any of the convicts might wish to tell him. He would take as much time as they wanted, and anything they would tell him would be kept in confidence. The convicts began to come, one at a time. One after another told him a story of how they had been unjustly sentenced, were innocent, and wished to get out. Finally one man came through who said to him, "Governor Neff, I don't want to take much of your time. I only want to say that I really did what they convicted me for. But I have been here a number of years. I believe I have paid my debt to society and that, if I were to be released, I would be able to live an upright life and show myself worthy of your mercy." This was the man whom Governor Neff pardoned. I know, of course, that there are imperfections in that illustration. For one thing, some of the men who claimed to be innocent might actually have been innocent. For another, the man who was pardoned might have been deceiving the governor and might have led a much more disreputable life after his release. Still, the point of the story stands: the first step in the rehabilitation of any man lies in his admission of guilt. To benefit from a doctor, the patient must admit that he is sick. (An Expositional Commentary – John, Volume 1: The Coming of the Light)

John 3:4  Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"

NET  Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother's womb and be born a second time, can he?" 

GNT  λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν [ὁ] Νικόδημος, Πῶς δύναται ἄνθρωπος γεννηθῆναι γέρων ὤν; μὴ δύναται εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ δεύτερον εἰσελθεῖν καὶ γεννηθῆναι;

NLT  "What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"

KJV  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?

ESV  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?"

NIV   "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

  • How.  Job 4:17. Jn 4:11, 12. Jn 6:53, 60. 1 Co 1:18. 2:14.

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? - Obviously Nicodemus did not understand Jesus' question and took it literally. 

Dods makes an interesting point "“Had our Lord said: ‘Every Gentile must be born again,’ he would have understood.” 

Guzik explains - In His description of new birth, Jesus recalled a familiar theme from Old Testament promises of the New Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-6+, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Jeremiah 31:31-34+ ( 31“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” ) , Jeremiah 32:37-41+, Ezekiel 11:16-20+, Ezekiel 36:16-28+, Ezekiel 37:11-14+, 37:21-28+). These passages essentially made three promises in the New Covenant:

  1. The gathering of Israel.
  2. The cleansing and spiritual transformation of God’s people.
  3. The reign of the Messiah over Israel and the whole world.

In Jesus’ day, the common teaching among the Jewish people was that the first two aspects of the New Covenant had been fulfilled. They saw Israel gathered – at least in part – after the Babylonian exile. They saw strong spiritual movements like the Pharisees, which they believed fulfilled the promise of spiritual transformation. All they waited for was the reign of the Messiah. That’s why Jesus’ statement about the new birth was so strange to Nicodemus. He thought that the Jewish people already had it; they certainly weren’t looking for it. They only looked for a triumphant Messiah. (The Enduring Word Bible Commentary – John)

He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" - The grammar of this question calls for a negative response.

John 3:5  Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God

NET  Jesus answered, "I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

GNT  ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος, οὐ δύναται εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

NLT  Jesus replied, "I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.

KJV  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.

ESV  Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

NIV   Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

  • Truly. Jn 1:51.
  • Unless. Mt 4:9.
  • born. Jn 3:3. Is 44:3, 4. Ezek 36:25-27. Mt 3:11. Mk 16:16. Ac 2:38. Ep 5:26. Ti 3:4-7. 1 Pe 1:2. 3:21. 1 Jn 5:6-8.
  • of water. Jn 1:33. 7:38. 13:10. Ps 119:9, 11. Ezek 36:25. Mk 16:16. Ac 1:5. 2:38. 8:36. 10:47. 11:16. 22:16. Ep 5:26. Ti 3:5. He 10:22. 1 Pe 1:23. 3:20. 2 Pe 3:5, 6. 1 Jn 5:6, 8. Rev 22:1, 17.
  • and. Jn 1:13, 6:63. Mt 3:11. Mk 16:16. Ro 8:2. 1 Co 2:12, 6:11. 1 Jn 2:29, 5:1, 6-8.
  • Spirit.  Lk 1:17. Jn 6:63. Ezek 36:26, 27. Mt 3:16. 1 Co 15:45.
  • cannot enter. Mt 5:20. John 18:3. 28:19. Lk 13:3, 5, 24. Acts 2:38. 3:19. Ro 14:17. 1 Co 6:9, 10. 2 Co 5:17, 18. Gal 6:15. Ep 2:4-10. 2 Th 2:13, 14.
  • the kingdom. Jn 3:3. Mt 8:11, 12. 21:43.


Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you - Truly, truly (amen, amen) is used 3 times in this interchange  Jn. 3:3; Jn. 3:5; Jn. 3:11. All three uses speak of the solemn  

Unless one is born of water and the Spirit - Note that born of water and the Spirit parallels the phrase born again in John 3:3. 

What does born of water  mean? This is almost assuredly (but not everyone agrees) not literal water (eg, amniotic fluid or baptismal waters), but most probably refers to the Word of God (cp "washing of water with the Word" Ep 5:26, 1Pe1:23)  

Jesus most likely was referring to the need for "cleansing"  in which God gives us a "new heart and a new spirit" as recorded in Ezekiel 36:24-27, a passage Nicodemus would had been aware of.

“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Water is used figuratively in the OT, usually always referring to renewal or spiritual cleansing, esp when used in conjunction with "spirit" (Nu 19:17-19; Ps 51:9, 10; Isa 32:15;  44:3–5; 55:1-3; Jer 2:13; Joel 2:28, 29).  Thus, considering that Nicodemus would have been quite conversant in the OT,  Jesus' meaning here is mostly likely a reference to the spiritual washing or purification of one's soul, an internal work of grace accomplished by the Holy Spirit thru the Word of God at the moment of salvation (cf. Ep 5:26; Titus 3:5 Jn 15:3, Jas 1:18).. Peter said we are "born again" (Peter however uses a different verb "anagennao") by the living & abiding Word (1Pe 1:23) which supports the role of the "seed" of God's Word to "fertilize" a new birth. The idea of a new beginning thru a new birth with the infusion of divine life is an idea which was widespread in the ancient world. It was an idea present in the mystery religions and also in Judaism. Proselyte converts to Judaism were said to become “as newborn children” when they were baptized to remove Gentile impurity. “Born of water” thus might emphasize for Nicodemus that “born from above” was referring to conversion & not to a second physical birth.

Nelson's Study Bible summarizes the interpretations:

(1) Jesus was referring to water baptism (Acts 10:43-47). (This view contradicts other verses that make it clear salvation is by faith alone; eg., Jn 3:16, 36; Ep 2:8-9; Titus 3:5) 
(2) Water is to be understood as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Thus the phrase could be translated “born of water, even the Spirit.” (Jn 7:37-39)
(3) Water is to be understood as a symbol of the Word of God. Similar imagery can be found in other New Testament passages, specifically [Ep 5:26; 1Pe 1:23].
(4) Jesus used the phrase “born of water” to refer to physical birth. He then used the contrasting phrase “of the Spirit” to refer to spiritual birth.
(5) Jesus used the phrase “born of water” to refer to John the Baptist’s baptism.(the repentance ministry of John the Baptist, and the “Spirit” refers to the application by the Holy Spirit of Christ to an individual.)
(6) Jesus used the OT imagery of “water” and “wind” to refer to the work of God from above (Isa 44:3-5; Eze 37:9, 10). 

Bible Knowledge Commentary: The fifth view has the merit of historical propriety as well as theological acceptability. John the Baptist had stirred the nation by his ministry and stress on repentance (Mt 3:1-6). “Water” would remind Nicodemus of the Baptist’s emphasis. So Jesus was saying that Nicodemus, in order to enter the kingdom, needed to turn to Him (repent) in order to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

Calvin makes water and Spirit refer to the one act (the cleansing work of the Spirit). 

One truth is clear: the new birth is from God through the Spirit. 

he cannot enter into the kingdom of God - In Jn 3:3 Jesus said "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” There is not a significant difference between seeing and entering, although in some ways the latter verb depicts more definitively one is in the Kingdom of God. 

Cp. Ezek 36:25-27; Jn 4:14; Ep 5:26; Titus 3:5, 6) Clearly this refers to the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing about a new creation in Christ.

John 3:6  "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit

NET  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

GNT τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς σάρξ ἐστιν, καὶ τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος πνεῦμά ἐστιν.

NLT  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.

KJV  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

ESV  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

NIV  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

  • That with is born. Mt 1:20. Jn 1:13. Ge 5:3. 6:5, 12. Jb 14:4. 15:14-16. 25:4. Ps 51:10. Ro 7:5, 18, 25. 8:1, 4, 5-9, 13. 1 Co 15:47-49, 50. 2 Co 5:17. Ga 5:16-21, 24. Ep 2:3. Col 2:11.
  • flesh. Jn 6:63. 1 Pe 3:18. 4:6.
  • and that. Ezek 11:19, 20. Ezek 36:26, 27. Ro 8:5, 9. 1 Co 6:17. Gal 5:17. 1 Jn 3:9.
  • born. Jn 1:13.
  • the Spirit. Mt 3:16. Jn 7:39.
  • is spirit.  Lk 1:17. Ps 51:10. Jdg 11:40.Jn 4:24. 2 Sa 15:6  Ps 119:59 Ga 5:22. Gal 6:8. Ep 4:22, 23. 1 Jn 4:7.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh - Flesh cannot be made into spirit. A person must experience a spiritual rebirth (Ge 3:7).  There are two distinct realms: one is of fallen man (the flesh) and the other is of God (the Spirit). The flesh and the spirit are in perpetual conflict (Ge 6:3; Jn 1:13; 1Co 15:50; Ga 5:16-25). Even if Nicodemus could in some way have entered his mother’s womb a second time and been born a second time, that would not have corrected the evil nature in him. 

William McDonald - The expression that which is born of the flesh is flesh means that children born of human parents are born in sin and are hopeless and helpless as far as saving themselves is concerned. On the other hand, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. A spiritual birth takes place when a person trusts in the Lord Jesus. When a person is born again through the Spirit, he receives a new nature, and is made fit for the kingdom of God. " (Believer's Commentary)

and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit - The “spirit” that is born from God’s Spirit has an OT parallel in the “new spirit” of Ezekiel 36:26, 27.

John 3:7  "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.

NET   Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must all be born from above.'

GNT   μὴ θαυμάσῃς ὅτι εἶπόν σοι, Δεῖ ὑμᾶς γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν.

NLT   So don't be surprised when I say, 'You must be born again.'

KJV  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

ESV   Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

NIV  You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'

  • Do not be amazed. Jn 3:12. Jn 5:28. 6:61-63. 1 Jn 3:13.
  • You must. Jn 3:3. Jn 4:24. Job 14:4. 15:14. Mt 13:33-35. Ac 4:12. Ro 3:9-19. 8:5, 7. Ro 9:22-25. Ro 12:1, 2. 1 Co 2:14. Ep 4:22-24. Col 1:12. He 12:14. 1 Pe 1:14-16, 22. Rev 21:27.
  • be born. Ac 13:33. Ga 6:15. 1 Pe 2:2.
  • again. or, from above. Jn 3:3 Jn 1:12, 13. Ezek 36:27. Ezek 37:14. Mt 19:28. 2 Co 5:17. 1 Pe 1:3, 23.

Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again -  Nicodemus was not to marvel at the teachings of the Lord Jesus. He must realize that one must be born again and understand the complete inability of human nature to remedy its own fallen condition. He must realize that in order to be a subject of God’s kingdom, a man must be holy, pure, and spiritual. People should not stumble at or reject the importance of Jesus’ words. They must be born from above. The necessity is absolute and is universally binding. Even godly, righteous, scholarly Nicodemus must be born again, and therefore, so must every other individual.

The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook defines conversion as: "The decisive act in which a sinner turns away from sin in genuine repentance and accepts the salvation that Christ offers. The imagery in conversion is that of turning. A person is going along a road and realizes that he or she is on the wrong track. They will never reach the destination if they continue in that direction. So the person “turns,” or “is converted.” He or she ceases to go in the wrong direction and begins going in the right one. Conversion changes the direction of one’s course of life from the wrong way to the right way, the way that God wants."

Our lives are like fields that primarily contain weeds. We cannot produce strawberries. We can mow the weeds, but that effort alone will never produce acceptable fruit. If we really want that fruit we will have to go deeper. We must allow God to plow up the whole field and start again with new plants. Don't marvel then that God calls for a radical "plowing" of our hearts. Without His "horticultural" miracle we shall never see His glorious kingdom. 

TSK - This absolute requirement for salvation is nowhere retracted in the pages of scripture and is nowhere limited to a particular favored group. To allege that this requirement applies only to a select few, the “little flock,” who are the 144,000 (Re 7:4), who alone can have a “heavenly hope” (Re 7:4), in contrast with the rest of mankind who can only aspire to an “earthly hope” (Re 7:4), is a human addition to the word of God which finds no support in the Bible. For any group to teach this viewpoint will certainly result in the loss of salvation for any who are led to believe this false doctrine.

John 3:8  "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

NET   The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

GNT τὸ πνεῦμα ὅπου θέλει πνεῖ καὶ τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ἀκούεις, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ οἶδας πόθεν ἔρχεται καὶ ποῦ ὑπάγει· οὕτως ἐστὶν πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος.

NLT   The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit."

KJV   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.

ESV  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

NIV  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

  • wind. Mt 3:16. Ge 9:3. Job 37:10-13, 17, 21-23. Ps 107:25, 29. 135:7. Eccl 11:4, 5. Ezek 37:9. Acts 2:2. Acts 4:31. 1 Co 2:11. 12:11.
  • the sound. Ac 2:6.
  • so. Jn 1:13. Is 55:9-13. Mk 4:26-29. Lk 6:43, 44. Ro 9:15, 16. 1 Co 2:11. 1 Jn 2:29. 3:8, 9.
  • Spirit.  Mt 3:16.

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it - This is the only the NT use of pneuma for "wind", although OT commonly used  the same Hebrew word (ruach) for both "wind" and "spirit." The reason for its unique use in this case is obviously to emphasize the similarity of the operation of the Holy Spirit to that of the wind. As the wind is invisible and gentle, so is the Spirit. And as the wind also exhibits great power on occasion, so does the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

One of the symbols of the Spirit of God in the Bible is the wind or breath (Job 33:4; Jn 20:22; Acts 2:2). Like the wind, the Spirit is invisible but powerful; and you cannot explain or predict the movements of the wind. 

but do not know where it comes from and where it is going 

When Jesus used this symbol, Nicodemus should have remembered Ezekiel 37:1-14+. The prophet saw a valley full of dead bones; but when he prophesied to the wind, the Spirit came and gave the bones life. Again, it was the combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God that gave life. The nation of Israel (including Nicodemus and his fellow council members) was dead and hopeless; but in spite of the self-righteous morality and religion of the people, they needed the life of the Spirit. The new birth from above is a necessity (“Ye must be born again”), but it is also a mystery. Everyone who is born of the Spirit is like the wind: you cannot fully explain or predict either the wind or the child of God! For that matter, human birth is still a mystery, in spite of all that we know about anatomy and physiology. Each new life is exciting and different. 

So is everyone who is born of the Spirit -  As one cannot see the wind at work unless he sees its results so it is with the new birth. The movement of the Spirit is mysterious, like the wind. You cannot see the wind; you can only see the results of its moving, such as the movement of tree branches. You cannot see the Spirit; you can only see the results of His works, such as the changed lives of those who have been born again. 

Likewise the NEW BIRTH is mysterious & may come about slowly or suddenly, from one direction or another. One cannot detail the mechanics of the regeneration process. Just as one does not remember his physical birth, he may be unable to pinpoint his spiritual birth. If someone ask you today "How do you know you were born? You weren't there to witness it?" You would answer them by saying the fact that I have life today is proof that I was BORN PHYSICALLY. By the same analogy, if one asks you how do you know that you have been born again, you would answer because of the new life that is now in me...this new life, with new desires, new motivations, new power, new hope, new direction, etc, etc, is the present proof that I have indeed been born again from above by the Spirit of God & the Word of God. Thus as the proof of the one is the reality of his physical life, so the proof of the other is the reality of his spiritual life! We must not miss this vital point in the modern day church. No root means no fruit & no fruit is a dead tree which will be thrown away (Jn 15:6). Do not be deceived. Not all who cry "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do (motivated by new desire in their heart & new power from the Spirit) the will of the Father. (Mt 7:21) A wise man HEARS Jesus' "TRULY, TRULY" and ACTS upon what he hears. (Mt 7:24) Lord, open the eyes of those who are walking in darkness, falsely thinking they are walking in the light. Amen.

Augustine's Testimony -  I was weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when I heard the voice of children from a neighboring house chanting, “take up and read; take up and read.” I could not remember ever having heard the like, so checking the torrent of my tears, I arose, interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book and read the first chapter I should find. Eagerly then I returned to the place where I had laid the volume of the apostle. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: “Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not is strife and envy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” No further would I read, nor did I need to. For instantly at the end of this sentence, it seemed as if a light of serenity infused into my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away. 

Related Resource:

John 3:9  Nicodemus said to Him, "How can these things be?"

NET  John 3:9 Nicodemus replied, "How can these things be?"

GNT  John 3:9 ἀπεκρίθη Νικόδημος καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Πῶς δύναται ταῦτα γενέσθαι;

NLT  John 3:9 "How are these things possible?" Nicodemus asked.

KJV  John 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

ESV  John 3:9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?"

NIV  John 3:9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

  • How. Jn 3:4. Jn 6:52, 60. Pr 4:18. Is 42:16. Mk 8:24, 25. Lk 1:34.

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can these things be? - More literally "Nicodemus answered and said to him, 'How are these things able (dunamai) to happen?' This is not a question of doubt but expresses his desire to understand which is what Jesus actually says in the next verse.. 

Matthew Henry - Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, vs. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the "HE THAT IS," and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. 

John 3:10  Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?

NET  John 3:10 Jesus answered, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don't understand these things?

GNT  John 3:10 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Σὺ εἶ ὁ διδάσκαλος τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ταῦτα οὐ γινώσκεις;

NLT  John 3:10 Jesus replied, "You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don't understand these things?

KJV  John 3:10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

ESV  John 3:10 Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

NIV  John 3:10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things?

  • Are you Ge 3:22. Is 9:16. Isa 29:10-12. Isa 56:10. Je 8:8, 9. Mt 11:25, 15:14. 22:29.
  • The teacher Lk 2:46. 5:17. Ac 5:34. Ro 2:20.
  • Israel. Jn 1:31.
  • do not understand these things. Jn 9:30. Ex 33:19. Dt 10:16. 30:6. 1 Chr 29:19. Ps 51:6, 10. Ps 73:1. Is 11:6-9. Isa 66:7-9. Jer 31:33. Jer 32:39, 40. Ezek 11:19. Ezek 18:31, 32. Ezek 36:25-27. Ezek 37:23, 24. Mt 22:29. Ro 2:28, 29. Php 3:3. Col 2:11.

TSK - Since Jesus expected Nicodemus as a “master in Israel” to know these things, clearly they must be taught in the Old Testament, and in fact they are. Being “born of water” is taught in Ezk 36:25, “sprinkle clean water” and being “born of the spirit” is taught in Ezk 36:26, 27, “a new spirit will I put within you,” both expressions in Ezekiel pertaining to the spiritual awakening required for Israel to be restored to God’s favor in order to receive the promised theocratic kingdom in the land of Israel (Ezk 36:28). Since the three elements “water,” “spirit,” and promised “kingdom of God” appear together in both passages in precisely the same connection, it is unnecessary to look elsewhere for the proper explanation of Jesus’s words.

Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel - KJV has "Master of Israel," but teacher is more accurate rendering.  What is Jesus alluding to with this question? First note "THE" teacher of Israel, where the definite article suggest Nicodemus was the main teacher. Nicodemus as the preeminent Bible scholar among the Jewish leaders should have been able to discern these truths from the prophetic Scriptures of the OT (Isa 44:3; Ezekiel 11:19, 20, 36:26, 27, Jer 31:31-34, Jer 32:39,40, Dt 30:6, Zechariah 12:10). 

And do not understand these things? - How could Nicodemus understand or know these things?  To what things were Nicodemus (John 3:8) and Jesus referring? The truths Jesus declared in John 3:1-8.

It was outside of his groove (Rote, Rut, Rot, the three terrible R's of the traditions of men).  Nicodemus came “by night,” and he was still in the dark! He could not understand the new birth even after Jesus had explained it to him. Our Lord stated clearly that Nicodemus’ knowledge of the Old Testament should have given him the light he needed. Alas, “the teacher of the Jews” knew the facts recorded in the Scriptures, but he could not understand the truths. 

What was the problem? For one thing, the religious leaders would not submit to the authority of Christ’s witness (Jn 3:11). We will see this “authority conflict” increase as we continue in our studies. The religious leaders claimed to believe Moses, yet they could not believe Jesus (Jn 5:37-47). The Pharisees were more concerned about the praise of men than the praise of God (Jn 12:37-50). 

Jesus' point is that especially as "the teacher" Nicodemus should have and could have had some knowledge of these truths for they are similar to the description in Ezekiel 36:24-27. Observe the correspondence between the “clean water,” the “new spirit,” and the “new heart” of the Ezekiel passage and the “water,” “Spirit,” and new birth (“born again”) of Jn 3:3, 7.

For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Ezek 36:24-27+)

Comment -  Nicodemus obviously did not understand what Ezekiel was referring to for example in [Ezekiel 36:26] (I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you) and so he was unable to comprehend Jesus' reference to new birth, even though Ezekiel's language was very similar to that of Jesus. 

THOUGHT - Note this may possess much knowledge of Scripture and yet still lack the God given spiritual insight necessary to see (cf Jn 3:3 "cannot see") spiritual truth in God's Word. Beware: The externals of religion may have a deadening effect on one’s spiritual perception! There may well be a lot of "Bible scholars" in Hell because they had amazing head knowledge of the Word of God but no heart change wrought by the Word and the Spirit! 

ILLUSTRATION - While studying in the Holy Lands, a seminary professor of mine met a man who claimed to have memorized the Old Testament--in Hebrew! Needless to say, the astonished professor asked for a demonstration. A few days late they sat together in the man's home. "Where shall we begin?" asked the man. "Psalm 1," replied my professor, who was an avid student of the psalms. Beginning with Psalm 1:1, the man began to recite from memory, while my professor followed along in his Hebrew Bible. For two hours the man continued word for word without a mistake as the professor sat in stunned silence. When the demonstration was over, my professor discovered something even more astonishing about the man--he was an atheist! Here was someone who knew the Scriptures better than most Christians ever will, and yet he didn't even believe in God. (Jack Kuhatschek) 

And of course the devil has memorized Scripture (which he used on Jesus in the wilderness temptation) but it has no impact on him! 

John 3:11  "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony

NET  John 3:11 I tell you the solemn truth, we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.

GNT  John 3:11 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι ὅτι ὃ οἴδαμεν λαλοῦμεν καὶ ὃ ἑωράκαμεν μαρτυροῦμεν, καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἡμῶν οὐ λαμβάνετε.

NLT  John 3:11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won't believe our testimony.

KJV  John 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

ESV  John 3:11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.

NIV  John 3:11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

  • Truly - Jn 3: 3, 5. Jn 1:51.
  • We. Ge 29:27.
  • speak. Jn 3:13, 32-34. Jn 1:18, 7:16, 8:14, 28, 29, 38. Jn 12:49. Jn 14:24. Is 55:4. Mt 11:27. Lk 10:22. 1 Jn 1:1-3. 1 Jn 5:6-12. Rev 1:5, 3:14.
  • you do not accept Jn 3:32. Jn 1:11. Jn 5:31-40, 43. Jn 12:37, 38. Isa 49:4, 5. Isa 50:2. Isa 53:1. IIsa 65:2. Mt 23:37. Ac 22:18. Acts 28:23-27. 2 Co 4:4.
  • our.Ge 29:27.

Truly, truly - "Amen, amen" acknowledges that which is valid and binding, true, trustworthy. This is the third time Jesus uses this vivid repetition with Nicodemus, a combination only found in John's Gospel. Obviously Jesus is placing great emphasis on this discourse (and rightly so in view of it's eternal truth re the necessary new birth). 

I say to you - you is plural (could be reference to "you Pharisees" or "you Jews" cp 1:11 "His own") . Jesus had others in mind beyond Nicodemus. Here Jesus rebuked not only Nicodemus, but the other Pharisees as well.

we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony - "The testimony theme is found throughout John (3:31-36; 5:31-47; 8:12-20)." (Ryrie)

John 3:12  "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things

NET  John 3:12 If I have told you people about earthly things and you don't believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

GNT  John 3:12 εἰ τὰ ἐπίγεια εἶπον ὑμῖν καὶ οὐ πιστεύετε, πῶς ἐὰν εἴπω ὑμῖν τὰ ἐπουράνια πιστεύσετε;

NLT  John 3:12 But if you don't believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

KJV  John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

ESV  John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

NIV  John 3:12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

  • If.1 Co 15:2.
  • earthly. Jn 3:3, 5, 8. Ezek 36:25-27. 1 Co 3:1, 2. 1 Cor 15:40. 2 Co 5:1. Php 2:10. Php 3:19. Col 3:2. Heb 5:11, 12. Jas 3:15. 1 Pe 2:1-3.
  • if I tell. Mt 4:9.
  • heavenly. Jn 3:13-17, 31-36. Jn 1:1-14. 6:51-53. Jn 8:58. Jn 10:30. 1 Co 2:7-9. Ep 1:3, 20. Eph 2:6. Eph 3:10. Eph 6:12. Ph 2:10. 1 Ti 3:16. 1 Jn 4:10, 14.

If I told you earthly things and you do not believe - Note again that "you" is plural, so not just reference to Nicodemus.

how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things -  “I have used earthly illustrations,” said Jesus, “and you cannot understand. If I began to share the deep spiritual truths, you still would not believe”

John 3:13  "No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man

NET  John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven– the Son of Man.

GNT  John 3:13 καὶ οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

NLT  John 3:13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.

KJV  John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

ESV  John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

NIV  John 3:13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.

  • no man. Jn 1:18. Jn 6:46. Dt 30:11, 12, 14. Pr 30:4. Ac 2:34. Ro 10:6-8. 1 Co 15:50. Ep 4:9, 10.
  • has ascended.  Jn 6:62. Ge 5:24 w He 11:5. 2 Ki 2:11. Mt 22:32. Lk 24:51. 2 Co 12:1-4. 1 Ti 2:5. Rev 4:1
  • Into heaven. Ezek 28:2.
  • but He. Jn 3:31. Jn 6:33, 38, 42, 51, 62. 8:42. 13:3. 16:28-30. 17:5. Ge 11:5. 1 Co 15:47.
  • from heaven.  Ezek 28:2.
  • even (KJV) Jn 1:18. Mt 28:20. Mk 16:19, 20. Ac 20:28. Ep 1:23. 4:10.
  • Son of man. Jn 1:51. 4:27. 5:27. 13:31. Ps 80:17. Da 7:13. Mt 16:27. Mt 19:28. Mt 26:64. 25:31. Mk 8:38. 13:26. Lk 9:26. 21:27.
  • which is in heaven (KJV) Mt 2:13. 

The ground of the title Son of Man lies in the Davidic covenant (Is 55:3. Ezek 37:24).

No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man - (cf.Da 7:13; Mt 26:64). Jesus is the “Ladder” between heaven and earth with access to both realms (Jn 1:50,51). He “descended” in the Incarnation and “ascended” in the Ascension. He also was in heaven before the Incarnation, and therefore knows the divine mysteries. And so Jesus makes an emphatic claim to deity in quoting in essence from (Pr 30:4) which He appropriates as applying uniquely to Himself, thus claiming to be the only begotten Son of God. Not even David had yet "ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:34), but Jesus had descended from heaven (Jn 3:31), and would soon ascend back to heaven (Jn 20:17), and even now (by virtue of the indissoluble union of the triune Godhead) was still "in heaven."

The interesting point is that this truth 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 Co12:1-4). Only He had His permanent abode in heaven prior to His incarnation and, therefore, only He has the true knowledge regarding heavenly wisdom 

>John 3:14  "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up

NET  John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

GNT  John 3:14 καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,

NLT  John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,

KJV  John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

ESV  John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

NIV  John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,

  • As Moses lifted up the serpent Mt 12:40. Nu 21:7-9. 2 Ki 18:4.
  • even. Jn 8:28. Jn 12:32-34. Ps 22:16. Mt 26:54. Lk 18:31-33. Lk 24:20, 26, 27, 44-46. Ac 2:23. 4:27, 28.
  • must. Jn 3:30. Jn 4:4. 9:4. Jn 10:16. Jn 12:34. Jn 20:9. Lk 13:33. Ac 1:16.
  • Son Ge 11:5.
  • lifted up. Jn 8:28. Jn 12:32, 34. Ac 2:33. 5:31. Ph 2:9.

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness - A The bronze serpent was merely a shadow of the substance to come in Christ (Col 2:17). Nu 21:5, 9 See interesting parallels in uses of Hebrew word for pole (upon which Moses raised the bronze serpent = nec 05251)

Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up - The story in [Nu 21:4-9] was certainly familiar to Nicodemus. It is a story of sin, for the nation rebelled against God and had to be punished. God sent fiery serpents that bit the people so that many died. It is also a story of grace, for Moses interceded for the people and God provided a remedy. He told Moses to make a brass serpent and lift it up on a pole for all to see. Any stricken person who looked at the serpent would immediately be healed. So, it is also a story of faith: when the people looked by faith, they were saved from death by snake bite.. 

The verb lifted up has a dual meaning: to be crucified (Jn 8:28; 12:32-34) and to be glorified and exalted. In his Gospel, John points out that our Lord’s crucifixion was actually the means of His glorification (Jn 12:23ff). The CROSS was not the end of His glory; it was the means of His glory (Acts 2:33).  Much as the serpent was lifted up on that pole, so the Son of God would be lifted up on a cross. Why? To save us from sin and death. In the camp of Israel, the solution to the “serpent problem” was not in killing the serpents, making medicine, pretending they were not there, passing anti-serpent laws, or climbing the pole. The answer was in looking by faith at the uplifted serpent. 

The whole world has been bitten by sin, and “the wages of sin is death” (Ro 6:23). God sent His Son to die, not only for Israel, but for a whole world. How is a person born from above? How is he or she saved from eternal perishing? By believing on Jesus Christ; by looking to Him in faith. 

Testimony of C H Spurgeon - An Example of Looking unto jesus: On January 6, 1850, a snowstorm almost crippled the city of Colchester, England; and a teenage boy was unable to get to the church he usually attended. So he made his way to a nearby Primitive Methodist chapel, where an ill-prepared layman was substituting for the absent preacher. His text was Isa 45:22—“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” For many months this young teenager had been miserable and under deep conviction; but though he had been reared in church (both his father and grandfather were preachers), he did not have the assurance of salvation. The unprepared substitute minister did not have much to say, so he kept repeating the text. “A man need not go to college to learn to look,” he shouted. “Anyone can look—a child can look!” About that time, he saw the visitor sitting to one side, and he pointed at him and said, “Young man, you look very miserable. Young man, look to Jesus Christ!” The young man did look by faith, and that was how the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon was converted. The difference between perishing and living, and between condemnation and salvation, is faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus could well have come to this world as a Judge and destroyed every rebellious sinner; but in love, He came to this world as our Saviour, and He died for us on the cross! He became the “uplifted serpent.” The serpent in Moses’ day brought physical life to dying Jews; but Jesus Christ gives eternal life to anyone who trusts Him. He has salvation for a whole world! 

John 3:15  so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life

NET  John 3:15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

GNT  John 3:15 ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

NLT  John 3:15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

KJV  John 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

ESV  John 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

NIV  John 3:15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

  • whoever. Jn 3:16, 36. Jn 1:12. Jn 6:40, 47. Jn 11:25, 26. Jn 12:44-46. Jn 20:31. Isa 45:22 (Verse that Spirit used to save C H Spurgeon). Mk 16:16. Ac 8:37. 10:34, 35. Acts 16:30, 31. Ro 4:23-25. Ro 5:1, 2. Ro 10:9-14. Gal 2:16, 20. Gal 3:11. He 7:25. Heb 10:39. 1 Jn 5:1, 1 Jn 5:11-13.
  • believes. Jn 5:44.
  • in Him. Jn 15:4. 16:33. 1 Jn 5:12, 20. not. Jn 5:24. ✓10:28-30. Mt +*18:11. Lk +*19:10. Ac 13:41. 1 Co 1:18. 2 Co 4:3.

 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life -  This is the first of 10 references to eternal life in John’s gospel. Eternal life refers not only to eternal quantity but divine quality of life. It can mean literally “life of the age to come” and refers therefore to resurrection, glorification and heavenly existence in perfect glory and holiness. However this life for believers in the Lord Jesus is meant to be experienced and enjoyed before heaven! This “eternal life” is participation in the eternal life of the Living Word, Jesus Christ (cf Paul in Gal 2:20). It is the life of God, by the Spirit of Jesus in every believer, which will only be fully manifest when we receive our resurrection bodies (cf Ro 8:19–23; Phil. 3:20, 21).

Eternal Life - 41x in 41v - Matt. 19:16; Matt. 19:29; Matt. 25:46; Mk. 10:17; Mk. 10:30; Lk. 10:25; Lk. 18:18; Lk. 18:30; Jn. 3:15; Jn. 3:16; Jn. 3:36; Jn. 4:14; Jn. 5:24; Jn. 5:39; Jn. 6:27; Jn. 6:40; Jn. 6:47; Jn. 6:54; Jn. 6:68; Jn. 10:28; Jn. 12:50; Jn. 17:2; Jn. 17:3; Acts 13:46; Acts 13:48; Rom. 2:7; Rom. 5:21; Rom. 6:22; Rom. 6:23; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Tim. 6:12; Tit. 1:2; Tit. 3:7; 1 Jn. 1:2; 1 Jn. 2:25; 1 Jn. 3:15; 1 Jn. 5:11; 1 Jn. 5:13; 1 Jn. 5:20; Jude 1:21

John 3:16  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life

NET  John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

GNT  John 3:16 Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾽ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

NLT  John 3:16 "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

KJV  John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

ESV  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

NIV  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • God. Je 31:3. Lk 2:14. Ro ✓5:8. 2 Co 5:19-21. Ep 2:4-7. 2 Th 2:16. Ti 3:4-7. 1 Jn 3:1, 4:9, 10, 14, 19. Re 1:5.
  • loved. Ge 4:1.
  • world. Gr. kosmos, Mt 4:8. Jn 1:9, 29. 4:42. Metonymy of the Subject B576. The world is put for its inhabitants, affirmed by some to denote without distinction but not without exception. See related notes and figures listed at Ge 24:10n. For other instances of this figure see Jn 7:4. Ac 17:31. 2 Co 5:19. 1 J ✓2:2. 5:19. Re 12:9.
  • gave. Ge 4:1. Jn 1:14, 18. Ge 22:12. Is 9:6. Mk 12:6. Ro 5:10. 8:32.
  • only. Jn 3:18. Jn 1:14. Ge 22:2,12. Lk 7:12.
  • begotten. 1 Jn 5:18.
  • Son. ver. 35. Jn +5:25. Is +*9:6. that whosoever. ver. 15. Mt *9:13. 1 Ti *1:15, 16. Re 22:17.
  • believes John 3:18, 36. Jn 1:12, Jn 4:39, 5:44, 6:35, 47. Jn 12:46. 20:29. Isa 28:16. Isa 45:22. Mt 11:28. Mk 9:23. Lk 7:50. Acts 10:43, 16:31. Ro 1:16. Ro 4:5. Ro 9:33. Ro 10:4. Ga 3:7, 9, 22. Ep 2:8-10. 1 Ti 4:10. He 6:12. Heb 10:38, 39. 1 Pe 2:4-6.
  • in him. Jn 15:4. Jn 16:33. 1 Jn 5:12, 20.
  • perish.  Mt 2:13. Jn 10:28. Lk 19:10. 23:35. 2 Pe3:9.
  • eternal.  Mt 18:8. Jn 17:2, 3. Ro 5:21. Ro 6:22, 23. 1 Jn 2:25. 1 Jn 5:13, 20.

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 (Jn 6:32, 51; 12:47; 1:9; Mt 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 on sinful men (2Co 5:21).

that He gave His only begotten Son - Gave is didomi which refers to the bestowing of favor by One in a superior position to one in an inferior position.

(2Co9:15) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

that whoever believes in Him - Believers is present tense but the idea is not that continued believing per se is what saves us (THAT WOULD BE A "WORK") but that the one in whom all things are made new, who is truly a new creation in Christ, will continue to trust in the One Who saved Him until "that day". He who endures to the end will be saved. His faith may wax and wane but he continues to believe because God's Spirit enables Him to believe. Endurance to the end simply demonstrates that his belief in Christ was genuine and he is truly born again. 

shall not perish -  There is not one Bible passages that say apollumi signifies cessation of conscious existence or of consciousness. This truth is important as some well known writers such as Clark Pinnock and John Stott have introduced annihilation in place of eternal punishment! But is that what Jesus taught?  Here are Jesus' own words 0-- “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Mt 25:46) Apollumi indicates here that state of conscious suffering which continues eternally and is the inevitable result of sin.

but have eternal life -

Criswell writes "There are two words used for "life" in the Greek N.T. Zoe, meaning "life" in its absolute sense, as God has given it, is used in this verse. It signifies spiritual life in John. This word is frequently used for "eternal life" with its special emphasis upon the quality of life and its endless duration through the ages to come. This life is available only through belief in God's Son. The biblical concept of "eternal life" is more than immortality, and it involves not only the soul but also the body. From creation man was made for never-ending life, not for death. The death and resurrection of Jesus provide the basis for and give the picture of the divinely appointed redemption-life (cf. Heb. 9:14). "Life" in its purest and noblest sense is inextricably joined to regeneration (cf. Titus 3:5). John uses the Greek adjective aionion ("eternal") only in the expression "eternal life" (John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2, 3). As in rabbinic tradition, it has the meaning of "the life of the age to come" (cf. Da 12:2). To have eternal life means more than to live forever. The stress is more on the quality than on the quantity, though both are affirmed. Furthermore, John reveals it to be not only an eschatological and future possession but also a present reality (cf. John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47; 1 John 5:13). This is the life Jesus offers to the world. The other word translated "life" (bios, Gk.) denotes "manner of life" (1 Tim. 2:2), "period or duration of life" (Luke 8:14), or "means of livelihood" (Mark 12:44).

(1 Jn 5:20) And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 

John 3:17  "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

  • God. Jn 5:45. 8:15, 16. 12:47, 48. Lk 9:56.
  • send Jn 3:34. Jn 4:34. 5:36, 38. 6:29, 38, 57. 7:29. 8:42. 10:36. 11:27, 42. 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25. 20:21. Ro 8:3. 1 J 4:9, 10, 14.
  • Son. Jn 3:35.
  • to judge. Jn 4:42. Jn 5:22, 45. Jn 8:11, 15. Jn12:47. Lk 9:55.
  • world. Gr. kosmos, Mt 4:8.
  • but. Jn 1:29. 6:40. Is 45:21-23. Isa 49:6, 7. Isa 53:10-12. Zec 9:9. Mt 1:23. Mt 18:11. Lk 2:10, 11. Lk 19:10. 1 Ti 2:5, 6. 1 Jn 2:2 1 Jn 4:14
  • world Jn 1:10

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him

John 3:18  "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

  • He who. Lk 2:34, 35.
  • believes. Jn 5:24. 1 Jn 5:13.
  • is not judged. Jn 3:36. Jn 5:24. Jn 6:40, 47. Jn 20:31. Ro 5:1. Ro 8:1, 34. 1 Jn 5:12.
  • he who does not believe. Pr 1:29. Is 66:4. Mk 16:16. He 2:3. 12:25. 1 Jn 5:10.
  • has been judged Ge 15:14. Ge 2:17. Ga 3:10. 2 Th 2:12.
  • has not.  Mt 5:18.
  • the name. Ge 4:26. Dt 28:58. Jn 1:12.
  • only begotten. Jn 3:16.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:19  "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

  • this. Jn 1:4, 9-11 Jn 8:12. Jn 9:39-41. 15:22-25. Mt 11:20-24. Lk 10:11-16, Lk 12:47. Ro 1:32. 2 Co 2:15, 16. 2 Th 2:12. He 3:12, 13.
  • judgment Ge 31:1 Ex 6:6.
  • world. Mt 4:8. Jn 1:9. 12:46.
  • men loved. Ps 11:5. 2 Sa 13:9. Isa 30:10. Jer 5:31. Ep 5:12.
  • darkness. Jn 1:5, 6. Jn 8:12. Jn 12:35, 46. 1 Jn 1:5. 2:8, 9, 11.
  • rather than. Jn 12:43, 48. Mt 7:26, 27. 11:20-24. 12:41. Lk 11:31, 32. Lk 12:47, 48. Ro 5:13 Ep 4:30 Heb 10:26-29.
  • for. Jn 5:44. Jn 7:7. 8:44, 45. 10:26, 27. Jn 12:43. Ge 6:5. Ge 37:2. Is 30:9-12. Jer 17:9. Mk 7:21-23. Lk 16:14, 15. Acts 24:21-26. Ro 2:8. 1 Pe 2:8. 2 Pe 3:3.

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil

John 3:20  "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

  • every. Jn 7:7. 1 Ki 22:8. Job 24:13-17. Ps 50:17. Ps 64:4. Pr 1:29. Pr 4:18. Pr 5:12. 15:12. 22:8. Am 5:10, 11. Lk 11:45. Ro 13:12. Jas 1:23-25.
  • who does evil  Jn 5:29. 1 J 3:9.
  • exposed. Jn 16:8. Ep 5:11-13. Rev 3:19

For everyone who does evil hates the Light,

and does not come to the Light

for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

John 3:21  "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

  • he who practices Jn 1:47. Jn 5:39. Ne 9:33. Job 13:6. Ps 1:1-3. Ps 119:80, 105. Ps 139:23, 24. Isa 8:20. Acts 17:11, 12. 1 Jn 1:6.
  • comes. Ps 139:23, 24.
  • so that his. Jn 9:3. *15:4, 5. Is 26:12. Ho 14:8. 1 Co 15:10. 2 Co 1:12. Ga 5:22, 23. Gal 6:8. Ep 5:9, 13. Php 1:11. Php 2:13. Col 1:29. Heb 13:21. 1 Pe 1:22. 2 Pe 1:5-10. 1 Jn 2:27-29. 4:12, 13, 15, 16. Rev 3:1, 2, 15.
  • may be manifested 3 Jn 11.
  • in God. Ro 16:12. Php 2:13. 1 Jn 3:24

But he who practices the truth comes to the Light,

so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God

John 3:22  After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.

  •  these. Jn 2:13. 4:3. 7:3.
  • disciples. Jn 2:2.
  • and baptizing. Jn 3:26. Jn 4:1, 2.

After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea,

and there He was spending time with them and baptizing

John 3:23  John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized--

  • was baptizing. Mt 3:5, 6. Mk 1:4, 5.
  • Aenon. i.e. fountains, springs; to praise; cloud, darkness, only here. Ezek 47:17. 48:1
  • near Salim. only here.Ge 14:18. Ge 33:18, Shalem. 1 Sa 9:4
  • much water. lit. “many springs.” much refers to number of springs. Ex 15:27. Nu 24:7. 2 Sa 22:17, 18. 2 Chr 32:3, 4. Ps 18:16. 77:19. 93:4. 107:23. Isa 17:13. Jer 9:1. Jer 51:13, 36. La 2:11, 18, 19. La 3:48, 49. Ezek 1:24. Ezek 19:10. 43:2. Rev 1:15. Rev 14:2. 17:1. Rev 19:6.
  • people were coming Mt 3:5, 6. Mk 1:4, 5. Lk 3:7.

John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim,

because there was much water there;

and people were coming and were being baptized

John 3:24  for John had not yet been thrown into prison.

  •  For. Jn 1:24. John. Jn 5:35. Mt 4:12. 14:3. Mk 6:17. Lk 3:19, 20. 9:7-9.

for John had not yet been thrown into prison

John 3:25  Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purification.

  • disciples. Jn 1:35
  • about purification  Jn 2:6. Nu 19:7. Mt 3:11. Mk 7:2-5, 8. Lk +*11:38. He 6:2. *9:8-10, 13, 14, 23. 1 P 3:21

Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purification

John 3:26  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."

  • Rabbi. Jn 3:2. Jn 1:38.
  • he who. Nu 11:26-29. Eccl 4:4. 1 Co 3:3-5. Ga 5:20, 21. 6:12, 13. Jas 3:14-18. 4:5, 6.
  • beyond the Jordan. Jn 1:28. 10:40. Mt 19:1.
  • to whom. Jn 1:7, 15, 26-36.
  • He is baptizing. Jn 3:22.
  • and all. Ge 2:24. Jn 1:7, 9. Jn 11:48. 12:19. Ps 65:2. Is 45:23. Acts 19:26, 27.

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

John 3:27  John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

  • A man. Nu 16:9-11. 17:5. 1 Ch 28:4, 5. Je 1:5. 17:16. Am 7:15. Mt 25:15. Mk 13:34. Ro 1:5. 12:6. 1 Co 1:1. 2:12-14. 3:5. 4:7. 12:11. 15:10. Ga 1:1. Ep 1:1. 3:7, 8. 1 Ti 2:7. Jas 1:17. 1 P 4:10, 11.
  • receive.  He 5:4, 5.
  • unless Mt 4:9.
  • has been given. Jn 4:10. 6:65. 17:2. 1 Ch 29:14. Is 55:11. Ro 9:16. 1 Co 3:7. 4:7. Php 2:12, 13. Jas 1:17, 18. 1 Pe 4:10. 1 Jn 5:20.
  • from heaven. Ps 73:9. Jn 19:11. Mt 21:25. Mk 11:30, 31.

John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven

John says in essence all blessing and ministry are from God [cp Jas 1:17, Ro 11:36], which should put a stop to all competition! Would it be that this were so in all our churches! God is the Giver of every good gift and thus He alone deserves the glory! We can do nothing that He does not initiate and then work through us to complete (cp Jn 15:5, 2Cor 3:5,6).

THOUGHT - Are there people in your life that you have found yourself resenting simply because they may be more gifted than you or have enjoyed more success than you? If there are then I would suggest that you at this very moment take time to not only thank the Lord for His eternal plan but also that you would thank Him for all those that He is using to accomplish His eternal plan… When we loose track of the truth that everything that we have has been received from the hand of God, not only can it lead us to becoming resentful of others, but it can also lead us to become boastful in terms of ourselves. Again take a moment and consider your life. Are there certain successes that you are enjoying that cause you to think more highly of yourself than you ought? Most of you will most likely say, I don’t think so. But let me ask you a question when you find yourself successful at something, what is your response? Is it to sit back with a sense of personal satisfaction basking in the glow of that success, or do you quickly go into the presence of God through prayer and give Him thanks for entrusting you with the gifts and talents that He has bestowed on you that made that success possible. So, whether we are looking at our success, or the success of others, the proper philosophy for us to have is this, "A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven." (Valley Bible Church)

John 3:28  "You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent ahead of Him.'

  • I said. Jn 1:20, 25, 27.
  • but. Jn 1:6, 15, 23. Mal 3:1. 4:4, 5. Mt 3:3, 11, 12. Mk 1:2, 3. Lk 1:16, 17, 76. 3:4-6. Ac 19:4.

You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent ahead of Him

John 3:29  "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. So this joy of mine has been made full.

  • has the bride  Ps 45:9-17. SS 3:11. 4:8-12. Is 54:5. 62:4, 5. Je 2:2. Ezek 16:8. Ho 2:19, 20. Mt 22:2. 25:1. 2 Co 11:2. Ep 5:25-27. Rev 19:7-9. 21:9.
  • the friend. Jdg 14:10, 11, 20. P s 45:14. Song 5:1. Mt 9:15.
  • So this joy  Jn 15:11. Is 66:11. Lk 2:10-14. 15:6. 1 Pe 1:8.

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. So this joy of mine has been made full.

John definitely puts an end to any sense of competition between himself and Jesus by placing himself in the position of the bridegroom's friend or "best man". Once the bridegroom and bride have been brought together, the "best man's" work is completed and he fades off the scene. How foolish it would be for the best man to attempt to upstage the bridegroom, even to the point of trying to take his place! That would be absurd! And that is John's point to his disciples. John hearing of the voice of Jesus gave him joy, joy filled to the brim. While he was still in his mother Elizabeth's womb, John had leaped for joy when he heard the sound of Jesus' mother Mary (Lk 1:41, 44), which reflects the fact that even before birth John was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:15) (So much for the argument that infants in utero are not human beings, even capable of emotional expression!) John the Baptist was content to be the voice announcing the Bridegroom Jesus to be the Word (Jn 1:23). In the same way he was also content to be be the witness pointing others to Jesus, Who was the Light (Jn 1:6, 7, 8 - see Merrill Tenney's discussion of the Imagery of John which includes "Light").

John 3:30  "He must increase, but I must decrease.

Greekekeinon dei (3SPAI) auxanein (PAN), eme de elattousthai. (PPN)

Amplified: He must increase, but I must decrease. [He must grow more prominent; I must grow less so.] (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

BBE: He has to become greater while I become less.

Cathers: The very nature of things demands that He and His ministry grow and that I become lesser in popularity.

CEV: Jesus must become more important, while I become less important

ESV: He must increase, but I must decrease.” [Note: Some interpreters hold that the quotation continues through Jn 3:36]

NLT: He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Wuest: It is necessary in the nature of the case for that One to become constantly greater but for me constantly to be made less.

Young's Literal: Him it behoveth to increase, and me to become less;

John 3:31  "He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

  • He who comes Jn 3:13. Jn 6:33. 8:23, 24. 1 Co 2:8. 15:47. Ep 1:20, 21. 4:8-10. Php 2:6. Ja 2:1.
  • is above all. Jn 3:35. Jn 1:15, 27, 30. *5:21-25. Ne 9:6. Ps 97:9. Mt 28:18. Ac 10:36. Ro 9:5. 1 Co 1:30. 12:3. Ep 1:21. Php 2:9-11. 1 Pe 3:22. Re 19:16.
  • he that is. Jn 3:12. Mt 16:23. 1 Co 15:47, 48. He 9:1, 9, 10.
  • and speaks. 1 Jn 4:5.
  • earth.  Jdg 11:40.
  • he who comes Jn 3:13. Jn 6:33, 51. 16:27, 28.
  • above all. Jn 1:15. Ps 89:27. Ac 10:36. 1 Co 2:8. 15:47. Col 1:15, 18. Heb 1:4-6. Rev 1:5. 3:14.

He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

John 3:32  "What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.

  • what. Jn 3 11. Jn 1:18. 5:20. 7:16. 8:26, 28, 38, 40. 12:49. 14:24. 15:15. 18:37. Re 1:5.
  • no one receives His testimony. Ex 20:10,  11, 19, 26, 33. Jn 1:11. 5:43. 12:37. Is 50:2. 53:1. Ro 10:16-21. 11:2-6.

What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony

John 3:33  "He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.

  • has set. Jn 6:27. Ro 3:3, 4. 4:11, 18-21. 2 Co 1:18. Ti 1:1, 2. He 6:17, 18. 1 Jn 5:9, 10.
  • seal. Neh 9:38. Ro 4:11. 15:28. 1 Co 9:2. 2 Co 1:22. Ep 1:13. 4:30. 2 Ti 2:19. Re 7:3-8.
  • God is true. Jn 8:26. Ro 3:4. 1 Jn 5:10.

He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.

John 3:34  "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.

  • For He Whom. Jn 3:32. Jn 7:16. 8:26-28, 40, 47.
  • has sent. Jn 3:17. Jn 20:21. 1 Jn 4:14.
  • speaks Ezek 3:4.
  • the words. Jn 8:47.
  • for He gives Jn 3:17. Jn 1:16. 5:26. 7:37-39. 15:26. 16:7. Nu 11:25. 2 Ki 2:9. Ps 45:7. Is 11:2-5. 59:21. 62:1-3. Ro 8:2. Ep 3:8. 4:7-13. Col 1:19. 2:9, 10. Re 21:6. 22:1, 16, 17.
  • Spirit. Mt 3:16. Ge 1:2. Ps 45:7. Is 11:2. Isa 61:1. Jn 6:63. Lk 11:13. Ac 19:2. 1 Co 14:12, 32. Ga 3:2. Ep 5:18. 1 Th 5:19.
  • without measure. Ezra 7:22. Ezk 4:11, 16. 12:19. 2 Co 1:22. 5:5. Ep 1:13, 14. 4:7. 5:18. 1 Jn 2:20, 27.

For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.

John 3:35  "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.

  • The Father loves. Jn 5:20-23. 15:9. 17:23, 24, 26. Pr 8:30. Is 42:1. Mt 3:17. 17:5.
  • the Son. Jn 3:17, 36. Jn 5:19-26. 6:40. 8:36. 14:13. 17:1. Mt 24:36. 1 J 2:22. 4:14. 2 Jn 3, 9.
  • and. Jn 13:3. 17:2. Ge 41:44, 55. Ps 2:8. 110:1, 2. Is 9:6, 7. Mt 11:27. 28:18. Lk 10:22. 11:22. 1 Co 15:27. Ep 1:22. Php 2:9-11. He 1:2. 2:8, 9. 1 Pe 3:22.
  • all things. Jn 5:20. Ge 39:4, 8.

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.

John 3:36  "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

  • He who believes in the Son Ge 3:15, 16. Jn 1:12. Jn 5:24. Jn 6:40, 47-54. 10:28. 11:25, 26. Jn 20:31. Hab 2:4. Mt 19:16. Ro 1:17. 6:22. 8:1. 1 Jn 3:14, 15. 1 Jn 5:10-13.
  • has eternal life Mt 18:8.
  • he who does not obey  Heb 5:9.
  • the Son. Jn 8:24. Ac 4:12. Ro 5:1.
  • will not see life Jn 3:3. Jn 8:51. Nu 32:11. Job 33:28. Ps 36:9. 49:19. 106:4, 5. Lk 2:30. 3:6. Ro 8:24, 25. Rev 21:8.
  • but the wrath of God Jn 9:39. 12:40. 2 Ki 22:13. Ps 2:12. Mt 3:7. 22:7, 12. 24:28, 30. 25:12. Lk 19:27. Ro 1:18. 2:4-9, 17. 4:15. 5:9. 11:22. 2 Co 5:11. Ga 3:10. Ep 5:6. Col 3:6. 1 Th 1:10. 2:16. 5:9. He 2:3. 10:29. Jude 1:15. Re 6:16, 17. 11:18.
  • abides on him. Is 55:7. Jon 4:2. Mt 12:3, 32, 25:46. He 9:27. Re 22:11


This is the greatest choice in life. 

As Barton says "We are responsible to decide today whom we will obey (Joshua 24:15). God wants us to choose him and life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). God’s wrath is his final judgment and rejection of the sinner. To put off the choice is to choose not to follow Christ. Indecision is a fatal decision." (Life Application New Testament Commentary)

He who believes in the Son has eternal life - Notice that has eternal life indicates present and continuing possession. We do not have to wait to see if we will be granted eternal life! In other words eternal life begins the moment a person believes in Jesus and is born again. Jesus reiterates this truth declaring "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has (present tense = continually has) eternal life, and does not (NOT IS ABSOLUTE = ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT) come into judgment, but has passed out of (PAST TENSE) death into life." (Jn 5:24)

THOUGHT The question for individual believers, then, is: How does our way of living demonstrate the fact that we expect to live eternally? (Bruce Barton)

Spurgeon comments on he who believes - He may think that his not believing is a very small business, but, indeed, it is a barbed shaft shot against the Deity.”

But - This is a dramatic term of contrast in destinies of every man or woman ever borne, either in Heaven or in Hell, eternal life versus eternal death. There is no in between. There is no second chance. There is no purgatory. To reject the Son is to choose eternal death in the Lake of fire. 

He who does not obey the Son will not see life - Note that obey parallels believes. Does not obey in no way suggest that one's obedience merits salvation. What John the Baptist is saying is that the one who genuinely believes will genuinely obey. After Pentecost every believer was given the indwelling Spirit to enable them to obey. A person who says he or she believes in Jesus and yet does not obey the precepts of the Holy Scripture demonstrates that they do not have the ability to obey and thus they are not true believers. 

We see the contrasting ends of those how obey and who not obey in Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians

For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you (BELIEVERS), 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire (SECOND COMING), 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God (COMPARE Mt 7:23) and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These (CHRIST REJECTERS) will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (NOT ANNIHILATION BUT LOSS OF THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH THEY WERE CREATED = TO GLORIFY GOD FOREVER!), away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (HELL IS THE ABSENCE OF GOD'S PRESENCE! THIS IS INDESCRIBABLE LONELINESS FOREVER!), 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day (SECOND COMING), and to be marveled at among all who have believed–for our testimony to you was believed. (2 Th 1:6-10)

but the wrath of God abides on him - Abides is present tense indicating the wrath of God continually abides on the unbeliever and it does so now. He does not say "will abide." The present state of the unbeliever parallels the earlier statement that "“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already (PAST TENSE AND PRESENT CONDITION), because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Jn 3:18) The final dispensation of this judgment of course awaits their appearance at the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-15). And so The wrath of God is an unbeliever's present state which will continue into the next world.  Of course the wrath of God now is no comparison to the wrath of God they will experience in their future eternal punishment after their final judgment at the Great White Throne. 

Paul alludes to the present tense aspect of the wrath of God in Romans 1:18 writing "For the wrath of God is (present tense and divine passive = continually being) revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who (present tense - continually) suppress (ACTIVELY HOLD IT DOWN!) the truth in unrighteousness." 

Tenny on the wrath of God  - “The word does not mean a sudden gust of passion or a burst of temper. Rather, it is the settled displeasure of God against sin. It is the divine allergy to moral evil, the reaction of righteousness to unrighteousness.”

Leon Morris adds that "‘The wrath of God’ is a concept which is uncongenial to many modern students, and various devices are adopted to soften the expression or explain it away. This cannot be done, however, without doing great violence to many passages of Scripture and without distracting from God’s moral character.”