BibleTools
verse

(e.g. john 8 32)
  or  

John 3:3  (King James Version)
version

A.S.V.
Amplified®
Darby
I.S.V.
K.J.V.
N.A.S.B.
NASB E-Prime
Young's


Compare all


Book Notes
   Barnes' Book Notes
   Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Book Notes
   Robertson's Book Notes (NT)
Commentaries
   Adam Clarke
   Barnes' Notes
   Forerunner Commentary
   Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
   John Wesley's Notes
   Matthew Henry
   People's Commentary (NT)
   Robertson's Word Pictures (NT)
   Scofield
Definitions
Interlinear
Library
Topical Studies
X-References
E-mail this page
Commentaries:
<< John 3:2   John 3:4 >>


John 3:3-4

Nicodemus grasps that Jesus is speaking of a birth. The Greek word following "born," anothen—translated in our Bibles as "again," "anew," or "from above"—magnifies his puzzlement. It is this word that he questions when he asks, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4).

As an adult man, he is perplexed by the second occasion of being born. His reply indicates, not that he is contemplating being conceived again and entering his mother's womb, but that he is thinking of the end of the pregnancy, departing the womb in birth. He obviously does not understand that, in God's view, despite being physically alive, he is a spiritually dead man who needs God to resurrect him and give him the spiritual life that he lacks.

He immediately relates Jesus' words to a literal, physical, fleshly birth, thus his thoughts take him in the wrong direction. Jesus' spiritual intent has nothing to do with a second physical birth of a human being. Commentator Albert Barnes suggests that Nicodemus' spiritual prejudices turn Jesus' words into an absurdity, illustrating how disconnected he is from Jesus' spiritual intent.

The Greek term gennao (Strong's Concordance #1080) underlying "born" can be confusing because it broadly means "to procreate" or "to father," and figuratively, to regenerate." It can also be used as "to bear," "to beget," "to be born," "to bring forth," "to conceive," "to be delivered of," "to engender," and "to make." The Greeks used the term for both conception and birth, for the entire gestation process. Therefore other parts of Jesus' and the apostle's instruction must be sought to reveal more clearly which Jesus means.

In his The Complete Word Study New Testament, p. 313, Spiros Zodhiates reveals that gennao in this verse is aorist subjunctive and in the passive voice. Word Pictures in the New Testament, "John," p. 44, confirms that gennao is "aorist passive subjunctive" here. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 104, relates that, in the passive voice, gennao means "to be born." In addition, the Interpreter's Bible, vol. 8, p. 505, states, "Birth can be considered either from the father's side, in which the verb is to 'beget,' or from the mother's side, in which the verb is to 'bear.' The Johannine metaphor uses the former verb, with the meaning 'beget' (verses 3, 5, 6, 8)." Thus, it is translated grammatically correct in English Bibles as "born," not "begotten."

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines the English word born as "brought into life; brought into existence; created and resulting or arising." In brief, it indicates a beginning, whether that beginning is an actual birth of a human, animal, concept, circumstance, process, or organization.

When anothen (Strong's #509) is combined with gennao, the phrase most strongly indicates a second birth, not a conception. This is why Nicodemus responds by saying in verse 4, "How . . . can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born [also in the passive voice]?" He does not say, "How can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be begotten?"

Another term that needs further thought is "regeneration," Greek paliggenesia (Strong's #3824). As seen above, it is a synonym for gennao anothen. The prefix palin means "again," while the root is genesis, meaning "beginning" or "start." In this context, it means "spiritual rebirth" or "spiritual renovation." It is used twice in the New Testament, once by Jesus in Matthew 19:28 and once by Paul in Titus 3:5. Regeneration stresses the inception of a new state of things in contrast with the old.

When Jesus uses it, the setting is when He "sits on the throne of His glory." In Paul's usage, the occasion is the beginning of a person's salvation. Both settings indicate new beginnings. The American Heritage College Dictionary states the English meaning of regeneration as "to reform spiritually or morally; to form, construct, or create anew, especially in an improved state; to give new life or energy to; revitalize"—which is almost perfectly synonymous with paliggenesia. It describes a new beginning, a new birth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)



John 3:1-8

The teaching on the born-again doctrine—found primarily in John 3 but expanded by Paul, Peter, and John in later writings—has been prone to misunderstanding since Jesus Christ spoke to Nicodemus about it nearly two thousand years ago. In fact, Nicodemus immediately misconstrued what Christ meant, understanding His analogy on a purely physical level, as another literal birth. He was not alone in this. A study of Jesus' discourses throughout the book of John shows that people frequently interpreted His entirely spiritual instruction in a physical manner, and thus failed to grasp the truth He taught.

That Christ's teaching on being born again is pivotal is revealed in the fact that it is the first major discourse that John records. In addition, it is introduced with the words, "Most assuredly, I say to you" (NKJV) or "Verily, verily, I say unto thee" (KJV), a construction that announces that what follows is significant and weighty, urging us to pay close attention.

Even so, it is not necessary for us to understand all the particulars of the born-again doctrine to be saved, although a deeper understanding of it helps us to grasp how God perceives us once we experience the born-again event. This teaching reveals that God sees us as His children, already part of His Family Kingdom, and able to function as adults before Him in this world. Further, it shows that, to Him, we are a new creation embarking on a spiritual journey, in which we will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and transform into His image.

In turn, this doctrine should also teach us how to perceive ourselves once we are converted. We are not what we once were—spiritually dead to God and His way of life—but now we are alive in Christ, heirs of salvation, and free from spiritual bondage, able to pursue the holy, righteous character of our Savior. Jesus' teaching reveals that we are special to God, and at the same time, that we are responsible for what we have been given and under judgment, unlike the rest of the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Two)



John 3:1-3

The born-again teaching's importance is emphasized by Jesus' introduction of the doctrine by proclaiming, "Verily, verily"—or "Truly, truly," "Most assuredly," or "Amen, amen," depending on the translation. All of His "Verily, verily" statements appear in the book of John, and they are used by Christ only when He is about to teach on a profound matter. The doubled "verily" denotes that what follows is of especially weighty and solemn significance, so we are to pay special attention.

It is evident from Nicodemus' words as he approaches Jesus that he desires to be taught and has a readiness to hear. He acknowledges that Jesus has been sent by God and offers that His miracles are evidence that God is with Him. Even so, it seems to him as if Jesus speaks to him in a foreign language.

The Jews call Jesus' statement in John 3:3 a mashal, a difficult saying. Nicodemus is obviously puzzled by its intent. The interesting thing is what triggers Nicodemus' response. If he understood some of the ramifications of Jesus' statement that "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," he would realize that even he, a Jew of high position, was already disqualified unless he met the requirement of being born again! That would have been shocking to one so highly placed and regarded.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)



John 3:3

Since the church is composed of flesh and blood mortals, it cannot be the Kingdom of God! God's children, begotten by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11, 14-17), will be born again—changed to spirit like God is (John 4:24)—at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:16-17), and then we will enter into God's Kingdom. Thus, only Jesus Christ and His Father comprise the Kingdom of God in its fullness at this time.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel



John 3:1-12

The root and trunk of the born-again doctrine is found within John 3. Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not speak directly of it at all, though without directly naming it, they supply supporting information. It is not until the epistles of Paul, Peter, and especially John that main branches of this doctrine make appearances. Thus, as we begin, it is helpful for us to perceive the wide treatment of figures John uses to prepare us for how he uses them to support the various elements of this important, foundational doctrine.

He begins using symbolism immediately in John 1, identifying Jesus as the Word, the central Figure in God's spiritual work in men's behalf. He continues, speaking of light, darkness, baptism, the Lamb of God, and the Temple, among others, before the reader arrives at John 3.

The imagery regarding the Temple (John 2:18-22) is especially interesting because it immediately precedes Jesus' teaching on born again in John 3. The Jews listening to Jesus immediately reject what He teaches based on what He says being a physical impossibility. Indeed, it is physically impossible, but note that this is the same reason Nicodemus rejects Jesus' teaching on born again. Similarly, in John 4:7-15, the woman at the well immediately jumps to the conclusion that Jesus speaks of natural water, and in John 4:31-38, even Jesus' disciples fail to grasp the spiritual significance of food.

In John 6:32-63, those who listen to His manna discourse follow the same pattern. In fact, His "eat My flesh and drink My blood" imagery so offends many of His disciples that they stop following Him! This consistent failure to grasp the meaning of His imagery continues through the entire book. If, in studying John 3, we follow the same pattern of misunderstanding His spiritual imagery, like Nicodemus, we will also misunderstand being born again.

We must recognize that this spiritualizing continues in John 3. In fact, for the children of God, it not only continues, but it also increases exponentially in terms of its importance to their spiritual lives! It is an unvarnished truth that only those who are born again will see and enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). Jesus is teaching that, besides one's biological birth, one must also experience a supernatural, spiritual birth. Just as surely as a Christian is not merely biologically begotten but born, there is no such thing as a non-born-again Christian.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)



John 3:1-12

Among all of the Bible's teachings, the instruction given in John 3 regarding being born again is perhaps the most liable to being misunderstood. In fact, as soon as it was out of Jesus' mouth, Nicodemus misconstrued His meaning, taking Christ's spiritual symbolism literally and physically. Ever since, people have stumbled over various parts of Jesus' teaching in this passage, and usually the stumblingblock is the imagery.

To convey essential, spiritual principles, Jesus uses imagery extensively in the gospels, and perhaps the most in the book of John. Along with John 3's imagery of the new birth, the book contains many references to light, water, bread, blood, blindness, sheep and shepherds, fruit, seed, vines, and several others. In nearly every case, they have spiritual meanings that transcend a plain, literal sense.

The book of John also contains a remarkable witness to the fact that Jesus was constantly being misunderstood. An example appears in nearly every early chapter and continues sporadically to its end. Even in the last chapter, Jesus has to tell Peter three times to feed His sheep before the apostle realizes that His Master is teaching him that he could demonstrate his love for Him by truly caring for His people for the rest of his life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Three)



John 3:3

At the end of John 3:3, Jesus makes a revealing statement that contains a significant term: "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "See" is the significant word. One's first reaction to the word "see" is to assume a literal, visual observation. However, the Greek word here is eidon (Strong's #1492), which means "to know, be aware, consider, perceive, be sure, and understand." Its usage also includes "behold," "look on," and "see." The Bible frequently uses it in the sense of mental apprehension rather than visual sight, that is, as "I get it," "I understand," or "now I see it."

The apostle Paul is a dramatic example of a man who made a sudden sharp turn in conduct and attitude when he "saw" that he was in reality a hardened sinner and not headed into the Kingdom of God. Here in John 3:3, then, Jesus' emphasis is on the Kingdom of God being something to be understood or comprehended rather than visually observed.

His remark has this sense: "Except a man be born again, he cannot come to know the things of God; he cannot be fitted for it or enjoy its benefits." In this context, He teaches the Kingdom of God as an entity of valuable spiritual and moral force. Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 91, explains its intent in this context: "The things of God's kingdom are not apparent to the natural vision. A new power of sight is required, which attaches only to the new man."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)



John 3:3

John 3:3 begins to show the profound importance of the born-again instruction by the fact that this doctrine is the subject of the very first of Jesus' discourses recorded by John. It is as if everything regarding our spiritual future begins and proceeds from this point. Interestingly, this discourse does not cover how men should live but how men are made alive spiritually.

In Ephesians 2:1-6, the apostle Paul reveals a major detail of why a spiritual birth is necessary:

And You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Twice, Paul says in these six verses that we "were dead"—not physically dead but spiritually dead. An individual cannot conduct his life before he is born, nor can a dead person direct his steps and regulate his life. Clearly, God perceives a person as spiritually dead before he is born again. Being born again thus begins a convert's progress toward his transformation into Christ's image and living in the Kingdom of God for all eternity.

Interestingly, Romans 4:17 states that "God . . . gives life to the dead." Being born again is also likened to a resurrection, but nowhere does the Bible show resurrected people as begotten as a fetus confined to a womb. Rather, Scripture shows the converted as adults freed from spiritual death and at liberty to move about, live life, make choices, and interact with others, putting their new spiritual life to practical use.

Luke 9:60 confirms Paul's declaration in a statement by Jesus that illustrates how God perceives the overwhelming majority of people on earth. Jesus commands the man who said he would follow Him but first wanted to bury his dead father, "Let the dead bury the dead." He obviously means, "Let those yet physically alive but spiritually dead bury one of their spiritually—and now physically—dead companions." Jesus thus confirms that God perceives those not yet truly Christian as spiritually dead and in need of spiritual resurrection to spiritual life.

Psalm 115:17 adds to this: "The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence." Though this statement obviously applies primarily to the physically dead, it also suggests that the spiritually dead cannot praise God with true spirituality. Jesus' teaching on being born again speaks of a new birth, a new beginning from a state of spiritual death imposed on us because of our sins. Thus, a person cannot begin spiritual life and truly praise God as a Christian until he is first born spiritually. Plainly, discerning figurative language is vital to understanding this doctrine.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 3:3:

Matthew 1:20
John 3:1-8
John 3:1-3
John 3:2-8
John 3:3
John 3:3
John 3:3-8
John 3:3
John 19:38-40
Romans 8:29
1 Corinthians 15:50
1 Corinthians 15:50-53
Ephesians 2:15
Ephesians :
Colossians :
1 John 5:1

 

<< John 3:2   John 3:4 >>
E-mail this page



The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 110,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.

Email Address:

   

We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.
©Copyright 1992-2014 Church of the Great God.   Contact C.G.G. if you have questions or comments.