NLT Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition - Flipbook - Page 27
J ohn 3
people. 25No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee.
2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with J
esus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all
know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God
is with you.”
3Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,* you cannot see the
Kingdom of God.”
4“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his
mother’s womb and be born again?”
5Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born
of water and the Spirit.* 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit
gives birth to spiritual life.* 7So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You* must be born again.’
8The 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.”
9“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand
these things? 11I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t
believe our testimony. 12But 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? 13No one has ever gone
to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man* has come down from heaven. 14And as
3:3 Or born from above; also in 3:7. 3:5 Or and spirit. The Greek word for Spirit can also be translated wind; see
3:6 Greek what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
3:7 The Greek word for you is plural; also in 3:12. 3:13 Some
manuscripts add who lives in heaven. “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself.
3:1-21 Nicodemus came to Jesus personally, although he could have
sent one of his assistants. He wanted to examine Jesus for himself to
separate fact from rumor. Perhaps Nicodemus was afraid of what his
peers, the Pharisees, would say about his visit, so he came after dark.
Later, when he understood that Jesus was truly the Messiah, he spoke up
boldly in his defense (7:50-51). Like Nicodemus, we must examine Jesus’
life and teachings for ourselves—others cannot do it for us. No one has
improved upon his teachings in 2,000 years. No one has lived out his
teachings better than he did. No one has predicted his or her death and
resurrection as he did. If we believe he is who he says, we will want to
follow him and speak up for him.
3:1 Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council
(called the high council, or the Sanhedrin). The Pharisees were a group
of religious leaders whom Jesus and John the Baptist often criticized for
being hypocrites (see the note on Matthew 3:7 for more on the Pharisees).
Most Pharisees were intensely jealous of Jesus because he undermined
their authority and challenged their views. But Nicodemus was searching, and he believed that Jesus had some answers. A learned teacher
himself, he came to Jesus to be taught. No matter how intelligent and
well educated you are, you must come to Jesus with an open mind and
heart so he can teach you the truth about God.
3:3 What did Nicodemus know about the Kingdom? From the Bible,
he knew it would be ruled by God, it would be restored on earth, and it
would incorporate God’s people. Jesus revealed to this devout Pharisee
that the Kingdom would come to the whole world (3:16), not just the
Jews, and that Nicodemus wouldn’t be a part of it unless he was personally born again (3:5). This was a revolutionary concept: Jesus’ Kingdom
is personal, not national or ethnic, and his entrance requirements are
repentance and spiritual rebirth. Jesus later taught that God’s Kingdom
has already begun in the hearts of believers (Luke 17:21). It will be fully
realized when Jesus returns again to judge the world and abolish evil
forever (Revelation 21–22).
3:5-6 “Being born of water and the Spirit” could refer to (1) the contrast
between physical birth (water) and spiritual birth (Spirit) or (2) being regenerated by the Spirit, a rebirth signified through Christian baptism. The water
may also represent the cleansing action of God’s Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
Nicodemus undoubtedly would have been familiar with God’s promise
to give a new heart and a new spirit to the faithful (Ezekiel 36:25-26).
John 7:50; 19:39
Acts 2:22; 10:38
2 Pet 1:11
1 Cor 15:50
John 6:38, 42
John 8:28; 12:34
Jesus was explaining the importance of a spiritual rebirth, saying that
people enter the Kingdom not by living a better life but by receiving a
new life from God.
3:6 Who is the Holy Spirit? God is three persons in one—the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit. God became a human in Jesus so that Jesus
could die for our sins. Jesus rose from the dead to offer salvation to all
people through spiritual renewal and rebirth. When Jesus ascended into
heaven, his physical presence left the earth, but he promised to send the
Holy Spirit so that his spiritual presence would still be among humankind
(see Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit first became available to all believers
at Pentecost (Acts 2). Whereas in Old Testament days the Holy Spirit
empowered specific individuals for specific purposes at specific times,
now all believers have the power of the Holy Spirit available to them all
the time. (For more on the Holy Spirit, see John 14:16-28; Romans 8:9;
1 Corinthians 12:13; and 2 Corinthians 1:22.)
3:8 Jesus explained that we cannot control the work of the Holy Spirit.
He works in ways we cannot predict or understand. Just as you did not
control your physical birth, you cannot control your spiritual birth. It is a
gift from God through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 2:1012; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6).
3:9 No one is beyond the touch of God’s Spirit. Are there people you
disregard, thinking they could never be brought to G
od—a world leader
you have never prayed for or a difficult person you have never shared
the Good News with? Don’t ever assume that a certain person will never
respond to the gospel. God, through his Holy Spirit, can reach anyone,
and you should pray diligently for whomever he brings to your mind. Be
a witness and an example to everyone you are in contact with. God may
touch those you consider most u nreachable—and he may use you to do it.
3:10-11 This Jewish teacher of the Bible knew the Old Testament
thoroughly, but he didn’t understand what it said about the Messiah.
Intellectual knowledge does not guarantee true understanding or salvation. You should know the Bible, but even more important, you need a
relationship with the God whom the Bible reveals so you can receive the
salvation that he offers.
3:14-15 When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God
sent a plague of snakes to punish them for their rebellious attitudes.
Those doomed to die from snake bites could be healed by obeying God’s
command to look up at the elevated bronze snake and believing that God