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John 3:7  (King James Version)
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Commentaries:
<< John 3:6   John 3:8 >>


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 3:1-12

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 3:6-8

When "spirit" is used in this sense, "air" is the closest physical thing Jesus could use to illustrate His instruction. Air is material, but it is invisible to our eyes, and its invisibility is what He wants us to focus on. Spirit is invisible—but immaterial—and in this specific sense, it has no form or substance. It is non-physical, but it can affect the around and the about, the environment, including a person begotten by means of it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)



John 3:5-8

Ruach is translated as "wind" in the Old Testament. Here, the Greek word is pneuma, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew ruach meaning "an invisible force or power." The illustration refers to wind. A person cannot see air, but it is real, is it not? Its molecules can be packed so solidly, so close together, that they will lift a huge airplane right off the ground. One cannot see the molecules, the atoms, the electrons, or protons, but they are there. We deal with other invisible forces or powers, like electricity and light, on a daily basis, and they certainly exist.

That is the gist of the meaning of spirit. No one would argue that air, of which wind is constituted, is not real, and though it is invisible, it is made up of particles too small for the unaided eye to see. The Bible provides ample evidence to prove that God and angels are not universal nothingness floating around in nowhere. God is not universal mind, conscience, or goodness. He is not an abstract power filling the whole of space. Except for the vast differences in power and potential, the only difference between humans and God is that mankind is earthly flesh and bone whose life is in the blood, while God's body is also flesh and bone but composed of Spirit and immortal.

This has practical ramifications that must be explored because it means that God cannot be omnipresent in the body. The Bible's consistent description of God shows Him at one place at one time, and He is generally seen managing or participating in His creation. We see Him sitting, standing, walking, talking, eating, drinking, commanding, etc., in specific locations. Nowhere is there any mention of God's size, and therefore the conclusion must be that He is of ordinary, human size, and when He became a man, the Scripture says, there was nothing notable about Him except His character and His powerful teaching.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 3)



John 3:7

John 3:7 addresses a false teaching in which Nicodemus was no doubt well-schooled: "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'" The fullness of the word must as used by Christ here is often misunderstood. People think of being born again as a moral duty that they are required to meet, but that was not Jesus' intention. He does not mean that a person must see to it that he becomes born again. No, Jesus says it in terms of being "something that has to happen to you." He intends us to understand that the Father, by an act of His will, must implant His Spirit in an individual's heart for this birth to take place (Romans 9:6-16).

No one can bring about his own human birth; it is the gift of a person's parents. In the same manner, spiritual birth and life are gifts from our Father in heaven. He is sovereign over His creation, and He is engineering the salvation of His Family Kingdom from the birth of each child to his glorification. Did Rebecca's son, Jacob, in any way initiate his calling and receipt of salvation? Yet, though God had chosen him for that while he was still in her womb, Jacob was not actually called and converted until many years after he was born and had produced a life of sinful acts apart from God. Paul explains God's sovereign choice in Romans 9:11-13:

. . . (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

Undoubtedly, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, had been circumcised and therefore had become a party to the Old Covenant in that customary manner. All of his associates—indeed, everyone in the entire Jewish culture—believed essentially the same things regarding salvation. In John 3, however, Jesus is teaching something a great deal different from what Nicodemus had believed all of his adult life. This passage makes it clear that he was having difficulty grasping it. He is being taught that salvation is a gift of God, and God solely and personally initiates it in a circumstance in which the person is essentially passive. God, by means of His Spirit, is entirely sovereign in this matter of producing the spiritual regeneration of which Jesus speaks.

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




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 3:7:

John 3:3-8
John 19:38-40
1 Corinthians 15:50
Ephesians 2:15
Ephesians :
Colossians :
1 John 5:1

 

<< John 3:6   John 3:8 >>
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