John 3


vs. 1-8 - The interview of Christ with Nicodemus.  This is one of the most

important passages in Scripture.


v. 1 – “there was a man of the Pharisees  - We have a clear proof that, in the

case of the genuine inquirer, Christ did open His very heart; and to a “ruler of

Jews,” (a member of the Sanhedrin, which governed the Jewish community in

ecclesiastical concerns.) to a “Pharisee,” (The most popular and influential of

the Jewish sects - narrow in its particularism, and with a zeal springing out of

a selfish root. According to his view as a Pharisee, every Jew with the authorized

ritualistic qualification would enter the Messianic kingdom as a matter of

right, and saw in the Messiah the Head of a new kingdom that would

annihilate Gentile powers and control the destiny of the world) - to a “teacher

of Israel,” He deigned (because He knew what was in the man, and required

nobody’s help) to unveil the deepest  realities of the kingdom of God and of

the salvation of man.  Nicodemus was attracted, as others had been, by the

signs” which Jesus had wrought; but he had gone further and deeper than they,

and Jesus “knew it.”


named Nicodemus” - Tradition says that he was baptized by Peter and John,

and deposed from his position in the Sanhedrin, but supported by his kinsman,

Gamaliel. Each reference to him (John 7:50 and 19:39) implies a certain timidity,

and perhaps unworthy reticence. These are relative terms. Much moral courage

must have been required for “a ruler of the Jews” - (a phrase only applicable to

a man of high ecclesiastical rank) to have dreamed of doing what he is reported

to have done here and elsewhere.  Nicodemus was of a timid and compromising



v. 2 -  He came to Jesus “by night;” not, as some suppose, because he feared

to give too much importance to the young Rabbi by coming openly, but because

he feared to lose his credit with his unbelieving colleagues of the Sanhedrin. This

timid spirit never left him, though he became somewhat stronger with

experience; for he afterwards defended Jesus without acknowledging any

personal interest in him (John 7:51), and it was not till Jesus was dead

and his body in the hands of Joseph of Arimathaea, that he brought the

precious offering that displayed his faith.


“Rabbi, we know” – He does not conceal a common sentiment at that moment

agitating his own class in society, and he bestows the honorific title of Rabbi,

my Master,” which, as coming from a learned doctor to a humble peasant, was

a remarkable testimony to the effect Jesus had indirectly exerted beyond the

circle of his immediate hearers: “that thou art a Teacher come from God” -

The phrase, ajpo< Qeou~, precedes “the Teacher come.” Certainly it yields

to Jesus great dignity. He is God-sent, like the prophets of old. He has a

right to teach. His doctorate is a heavenly diploma; and Nicodemus draws

a wiser conclusion than the many did who, in some sense, believed on his

Name. They were rushing heedlessly forward to further conclusions.

Nicodemus saw a grand authority as a Teacher of men, a Heaven-sent

Messenger, in the Lord Jesus, and he came to this conclusion from the

settled persuasion that “no man can do the signs which thou art performing,

if God be not with him”. This confession was true, (see ch. 5:36) indicating

candid and honest inquiry and a teachable mind. It was the very truth which

Peter in subsequent times gave to Cornelius as explanation of the healing and

beneficent powers of Jesus.  (Acts 10:38) Christ knew the whole man,

understood at once the honesty of the inquiry, and did entrust himself to

Nicodemus.  (Contrast him with the people of ch. 2:24)


vs. 3-12 - The conditions of admission into the kingdom of God and

the “new birth of the Spirit”.  (A man must be born anew, must undergo

a radical change, even to see the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3)


The Jews boasted that they were born of God (John 8:41), but could not

understand that they needed vital, fundamental, moral renewal — a second

birth, a new beginning. Let the opening of Christ’s Galilaean ministry be

compared with this bold utterance. There in public discourse he called

upon all men everywhere to “repent,” (Matthew 4:17) to undergo a radical

change of mind, and that because the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

Meta>noia (met-an’-oy-ah -  repentance) portrays the same change as

paliggenesi>a; (pal-ing-ghen-es-ee’-ah; (spiritual) rebirth (the state or

the act), i.e. (figurative) spiritual renovation; specially Messianic restoration)

regeneration. but one term denotes that change as a human experience and effort,

the other as a Divine operation.  Neither repentance nor regeneration commended

itself to the rabbinic mind as a necessity for one who was exalted by privilege and

ennobled by obedience.


v. 3 - OUR LORD’S ANSWER TO HIS INQUIRY. “Except a man be born

again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We have here the statement of

the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Ghost. The answer is, in

substance, “You are asking, Am I the Messiah, and is my kingdom near, as

my miracles seem to testify? I answer that my kingdom is at hand; but it is

not a kingdom that men see coming ‘with observation,’ but a spiritual state

into which men enter by a transformation of character.”


Our Lord asserts the fact of the new birth:


  • This new phrase is used six times in this Gospel, six times in the First

            Epistle of John, and once in the First Epistle of Peter. It marks the starting

            point of a new spiritual experience.


  • It is more than moral renovation or outward conformity to a rule of life.

      It is not a New Year’s Resolution, neither is it “turning over a new leaf”


  • It is more than baptism, to which some think it a theological equivalent;

            for baptism was no mystery to the Pharisees, as this new birth appeared to

            be, for they were familiar with the baptism of proselytes.


  • It signified the change of heart which is wrought by the Spirit of God,

      when a sinner believes repentingly on Jesus Christ. It is no mere fact of

      New Testament experience (Ezekiel. 11:19; 36:26).


  • Yet it was a mystery to Nicodemus, notwithstanding his presumed

            knowledge of Scripture; else he never would have asked the absurd

            question, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter

            the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (v. 4) - He

            confounded a second beginning with a different beginning — the

            sphere of nature with the sphere of grace.


v. 5 - Our Lord asserts the condition of this new birth, and the agent in its

accomplishment. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he

cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” The usual interpretation is that the

water refers to a definite external rite — baptism — and to an internal

spiritual operation. The theory of baptismal regeneration points to this

passage as one of its favorite proofs. Many able divines, however, believe

that there is no allusion whatever here to Christian baptism:


  • Because this ordinance was not then instituted, though the baptism of

      John must have been familiar to Nicodemus.


  • Because, if the expression, “born of water,” refers to baptism, and the

            expression, “born of the Spirit,” to regeneration, they are distinct. The very

            use of the two terms implies that baptism will not of itself save.


  • Because, in an analogous passage, “He who believeth and is baptized,

      shall be saved,” baptism and faith are not regarded as the same thing. There

      may be baptism without faith, and faith without baptism.


  • Because to understand baptism by “the water” here involves the

            absurdity of extending the same meaning to the word everywhere in this

            Gospel wherever anything spiritual is meant by water.

            But let it be conceded that “born of water” does refer to baptism, there is

            nothing in the passage to justify the theory of regeneration by baptism.


  • Consider that John the Baptist made a marked distinction between

            baptism by water and baptism by the Holy Ghost. He could administer the

            one; Jesus only could administer the other.



v. 6 - THE NECESSITY OF THE NEW BIRTH. “That which is of the

flesh, is flesh; and that which is of the Spirit, is spirit.” Nicodemus had

spoken of a man entering once more into his mother’s womb, and being

born again. Our Lord declares that if such a thing were possible, it would

not effect the new birth. Children will always be like their parents. Grace

does not descend with blood. Therefore there is a profound necessity for

the life of the Spirit being imparted by the Spirit.


v. 7 – “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again”


v. 8 - THE MYSTERY OF THE NEW BIRTH. “The wind bloweth where it

listeth,…but thou canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.”

We cannot account for the beginning, or the influence, or the direction of

the wind. So there is deep mystery in the action of the Holy Spirit upon the

spirit of man; for while man preserves his absolute moral freedom, the

Spirit works in him to will and to do according to His good pleasure.

THE EVIDENCE OF THE NEW BIRTH. “Thou hearest the sound

thereof.” We cannot know all the mysteries of the wind, but we see and

feel the effects of its presence in nature. So the mystery of regeneration

comes visibly to the surface of Christian life in the fruits of that life.


Our ignorance of the way of the Spirit is akin to our ignorance of the

formation of bones in the womb of her who is with child!


v. 9 – Nicodemus asks “How can these things be?”


In v.10 Jesus asks Nicodemus  Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not

these things?” - The Jewish rabbi ought to have been familiar with the idea of the

new heart” and “right spirit,” and the marvellous and mighty change wrought

in men by the Holy Spirit; but the spiritual idea had been overlaid by rabbinic

ritualism, and all the hopeless entanglements of ceremonial purity which had

been made to do duty for spiritual conformity with the Divine will.


vs. 11-12  – “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and

testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness”


“We speak… we testify.” Jesus and His disciples are witnesses to the truth.

Yet it was rejected by the rabbinical teachers. “And ye receive not our

testimony.”  The Pharisees “rejected the counsel of God against themselves,

being not baptized by him [John]” (Luke 7:30). The acceptance of John’s

work involved the acceptance of that of Jesus.  Our Lord desires Nicodemus to

break with his party.


“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe,

if I tell you of heavenly things?”



The answer of Jesus to the question“how?” of v. 9 involves the revelation

of  the Son of man,” and the redemption by the cross, and the ascension of the

Son of man into heaven, and the love of God to the world, and the gift of

eternal life to faith.  These are the secrets of Heaven which are to be received

on the word of Christ!


v. 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” -  These words imply

the Incarnation of the Son of God; for they imply His pre-existence.

They teach His possession of two natures in one Person; for He who is

the Son of man as to His human nature, is in heaven in His Divine nature.



vs. 14-15 - The Revelation of the Divine Plan of Salvation.  Redemption is the

essential content of revelation. The Incarnation carries with it the necessity of the Crucifixion.



            PRESENTED TO OUR VIEW. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent

            in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”


ü      This refers to the last miracle wrought by Moses on the borders of

       the promised land. (Numbers 21:7-9)


ü      The Israelites were to see in it the sovereign hand of God, and not

       to ascribe the efficacy of the cure to the mere outward symbol  -

       the brazen serpent - apart from Divine power.


ü      They were to see in the whole incident, not a mere effective

       comparison, but a preparatory type — a figure of “good

      things to come,” (Hebrews 10:1) exhibiting:


Ø      the punishment of sin


Ø      and the image of a vicarious dispensation. “By His stripes

      we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).




  • THE WORK OF CHRIST. “Even so must the Son of man be lifted

            up.” The meaning of this expression His being lifted up on the cross.

            This is the commentary of the apostle himself: “This He said, signifying

            what death He should die” (ch.12:33). The cross was to be the step to the



ü      There was a Divine necessity for the death of Christ. “The Son of

      man must be lifted up.”


ü      The Divine prophecies must be fulfilled.


ü      The justice of God demanded the sacrifice. Sin can no more exist

                        without punishment than it can exist without hatefulness. The

                        justice of God is as manifest as His grace in the death of his Son.


Ø      The love of God was the grand motive for this sacrifice.


Ø      The necessity of Christ’s death is attested by many passages

      of Scripture



            whosoever believeth in Him should have eternal life.” Mark the

            various points of comparison between the type and the antitype.


ü      The poison of the serpents in the wilderness represents the deadly

                        nature of sin. That poison was death; so sin is death.  The fiery

                        flying serpent, with its poisonous bite and its deadly malice, was the

                        vivid type of the evil of disobedience to the Divine command, infusing

                        its malign venom into the whole nature of its victim.



ü      The gaze of the stricken Israelites answers to the look of faith.

                        “There was life in a look.” He who believes, who looks with

                        God-taught longing to the Christ, to the Son of man uplifted to

                        save, sees God at His greatest, His best, and discerns the

                        fullest revelation of the redeeming love. “Believing” corresponds

                        with “looking” in the narrative of Numbers 21. Whosoever

                        looked, lived.” Such looking was an act of faith in the promise

                        of Jehovah; the despairing, dying glance of poisoned men

                        was a type of the possibility of a universal salvation for

                        sin-envenomed, devil-bitten, perishing men. Let them believe,

                        and there is life. Let them understand the meaning of the Son

                        of man thus exhausting the curse, and enduring in love the

                        burden and penalty of human transgression, and they have                                              

                        straightway a life that is spiritual, fundamentally and radically

                        new, a life heavenly and eternal. Thus can this vast change of

                        which he had spoken to Nicodemus supervene. “How,” asks

                        Nicodemus, “can this be?”  “Thus may it be,” answers the

                        Son of man!  (I would like to recommend – Isaiah 45 – Spurgeon

                        Sermon – Life for a Look and Isaiah 45 – Spurgeon Sermon –

                        The Life Look  this web site – CY – 2009)


Ø      Faith is the eye of the soul looking to a Savior. “Look unto

      me, and be ye saved” (Isaiah 45:22).


Ø      The look implied a dependence in the divinely appointed



ü      The brazen serpent answers to Christ the Son of man. The one point of

      analogy is in the “lifting up.” Jesus is the Object to be looked at by

      faith; and, as such, is seen:


Ø      in the excellence of His Person,

Ø      in the completeness of His work,

Ø      in the fulness of His grace.


ü      The healing of the Israelites answers to that eternal life which is

      the result of faith. Thus the death of Christ is indispensable to

                        the life of believers.


v. 16 - The Immensity of God’s Love to the World. “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.”


From a human standpoint, this has to be one of the greatest verses in

the Bible – I learned it as a child and in the “old country church” it

was studied and preached with much EMPHASIS! (CY – 2009)


·        The apostle here emphasizes the love which was manifest in the

      method of salvation.


ü      The True Origin of Salvation . “God so loved the world, that

                        he gave His only begotten Son.God’s love, infinite, eternal,



Ø      Salvation was not wrung from the Father but was

                                    freely given!


Ø      This love is no contradiction to the wrath of God, which is

      implied in this very verse as the doom of unbelievers.



ü      The Infinite Sacrifice for the World - “He gave his only

                        begotten Son.”


Ø      It was the Son of God who was given by God




Ø      The gift of the Son implies His sacrificial death,

                                    whether it refers to the Father’s act in giving Him

                                    (Romans 8:32), or to the Son’s act in giving Himself

                                    (Matthew 20:28; Galatians 1:4). The expression points to

                                    sacrifice, because the offerer of the victim in the Levitical                                                          

                                    economy presented it himself as part of the established



ü      The Unworthy Objects of this Love. “God so loved the world.”

                        This love was destined to extend to the whole world, not just

                        to the Jews.


ü      The Design of the Sacrifice of Christ. “That whosoever

                        believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”


Ø      The channel of Divine life is opened by faith.


ü      The Tremendous Evil that is Averted.  “Should not perish” – this



Ø      Separation from God both here and hereafter

      (2 Thessalonians 1:9);

Ø      The sufferings of hell (Revelation 20:10,15)

Ø      An eternity of punishment (Matthew 25:46).



ü      The Infinity of the Blessings Received by Faith. “Everlasting life.”

      It is contrasted:


Ø      with the wrath of God (John 3:36);

Ø      with destruction (Matthew 7:13, 14);

Ø      with eternal fire (Matthew 18:9);

Ø      with judgment or death (John 5:24).





vs. 17-21 – “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world;

but that the world through Him might be saved.  He that believeth on Him is

not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he

hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is

the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness

rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil

hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made

manifest, that they are wrought in God.”



  • THE DESIGN OF THE INCARNATION. “For God sent not His Son

            into the world to judge the world; but that the world through Him

            might be saved.”   Observe that the word “sent” (ajposte>llw) – [the

            sending on a special mission] replaces the word “gave” of the previous

            verse.   Christ was sent, not to judge the world. This judgment is not

            the end of His manifestation. This statement is not without difficulty,

            because we learn from John 5:27-28 and 12:48 that there is a great

            function of judgment which will ultimately be discharged by Him. This is            

            confirmed by the declarations of our Lord in Matthew (Matthew 13:24-30,

            47), that the judgment would be delayed till the consummation of His work,

            but would then be most certain (see Matthew 25.). But judgment is not the end

            or purpose of his mission. Judgment, discrimination of the moral character of     

            men, is a consequence, but not the prime nor the immediate purport of His       

            coming.  Jesus Christ came to save the world from its sins and death!

            Through Him the world may be saved from its ruin, by reason of individuals      

            accepting His grace. The saving of humanity as a whole issues from the

            believing and living of men. God’s love of the world and His sending of His

            Son aim at the saving of the world as their Divine end. Salvation (swthri>a)

            is the largest of all the famous biblical terms which denote the restoration and

            blessedness of man. It means all that is elsewhere denoted by “justification,”

            but much more than that. It connotes all that is included in “regeneration”

            and sanctification,” but more than these terms taken by themselves.

            It includes all that is involved in “redemption” and “adoption”

            and the “full assurance,” and also the conditions of “appropriation” - the

            subjective states which are the human antecedents of grace received, such

            as “faith” and “repentance,” with all the “fruits of the Spirit.” These

            Divine blessings originated in the bosom of the Father, where the only

            begotten Son forevermore abides, and they are all poured forth through the

            Son upon the world in the coming of the Christ. He was sent to save.



ü      It was a design to save man:


Ø      from the guilt of sin,

Ø      from the power of sin,

Ø      and to give him an eternal inheritance in glory.






ü      The application of the judgment. “He that believeth on him is

      not judged: but he that believeth not is judged already, because

      he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

                        Such non-belief reveals insensibility to truth, indifference to the

                        reality of things, unsusceptibility to the light, and a moral perversity

                        which has been persisted in. The approach to such a one of the

                        Eternal Logos did not move him, the unveiling of the Divine face

                        did not awe him into reverence. The sin of his life had blinded his

                        eyes, closed his ears, hardened his heart, and the consequence was

                        that when the Name of the only begotten Son was made known to him,                                    

                        like all previous Divine self-revelations, it exercised no commanding                              

                        influence upon him, no convincing power, no saving grace. To refuse                             

                        Christ, to manifest unbelief under such circumstances, proves that the

                        laws of Divine judgment which are always going on have already

                        enacted themselves. He has been (and is) condemned. He is “judged                                   

                        already,” and the unbelief is the judgment which the self-acting moral                           

                        laws, or rather which the Logos actively at work in every human being,                         

                        pronounces upon him. The manner in which any man receives Divine                             

                        revelation is the judgment passed upon his entire life up to that moment

                        by the unerring and infallible wisdom of the supreme Judge. The final                             

                        judgment is thus anticipated, but it is not irreversible, and, should

                        repentance and faith supervene by Divine grace on this stolid

                        indifference and damnable unbelief, the once unbeliever will become

                        the believer, the judgment upon whom is no more a judgment of                                                

                        condemnation, but one of life and peace. Nothing can indicate a more                           

                        untractable, unspiritual, and carnal state than a refusal to admit so great                                    

                        and imposing a manifestation of the Divine nature as the Name of the

                        only begotten Son of God.


Ø      Judgment does not touch the believer, because, being in

      Christ, there is no condemnation against him (Romans 8:1).

      The death of the Surety is his guarantee against judgment.


Ø      Judgment rests on the unbeliever by the very fact of his

      unbelief.  The greatest sin is unbelief, because it is a

      rejection of God’s dear Son, His sacrifice, His work.


ü      The peculiarity of the judgment. “And this is the judgment, that

      light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than

      the light.” The unbeliever unveils his moral state by rejecting Christ.


ü      The light - which is Christ - is offered, setting forth the revelation

                        of God in the clearest manner - The darkness is chosen because it is                         

                        loved more than light.  “The light,” though so needed, and so lovely in                                    

                        itself, was not loved by men. It brought consequences from which

                        men recoiled and revolted. They loved their own ignorance and peril.                                   

                        They shrank from the demands - from the repentance, the transformation                                  

                        of habit and character, the utter moral revolution that must be consequent                                  

                        upon the reception of the light. Darkness was loved, hailed, accepted,                           

                        rested in. The process of the judgment was conspicuous in demonstrating                                  

                        this unholy love. If a man love the deformed, the misshapen, the defiled,                                    

                        and the corrupt thing, rather than the truly beautiful, this is a judgment                            

                        passed upon his entire previous life and on his present character, which

                        is the outcome and upshot of the life. If a man love sensual gratification,                         

                        its objects and its means, rather than virtue and chastity and serene and                         

                        sacred purity, this is in itself a terrific kri>siv (by implication justice                             

                        [specially divine law] accusation, condemnation, damnation, judgment)

                        - the announcement of his previous career of dissipation and folly. If a                           

                        man love the darkness of unrenewed humanity rather than the

                        uncreated light embodied, this is his kri>ma, (condemnation, damnation)

                        passing over him and the process by which it is made evident is the                               




ü      It is hard to conceive of a rational creature loving darkness, walking in

                        it, having fellowship with the works of darkness, because, darkness

                        suggests the idea:


Ø      of stumbling,

Ø      of discomfort,

Ø      of danger.



ü      The Reason of their Choice. Because their deeds were evil.”

                        The love of darkness was the consequence of their wicked ways.

                        The judgment of eternal law has fallen upon their violation of

                        it. The great penalty of sin is sinful desire. A bias towards evil is                                         

                        originated and confirmed by sinful compliance. The blinding of the

                        eye, deafening of the ear (Matthew 13:13), is the judicial result of

                        their unwillingness to see or walk in the light of the Lord.


Ø      Thus the evil life reacts upon the mental judgment.

Ø      The unbeliever is resolved to continue in his evil, and

      therefore will not allow the light to fall upon him.



            twofold moral state:


ü      Those who do evil hide from the light, because they dread its

                        manifesting power. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the

                        light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be

                        reproved.”  There are those whose heart is made fat by sin,

                        who dreads conviction of sin, who flees from the man of God,

                        and disdains the revealing Word of God, he rejects the blessed

                        Christ, and he loves darkness. 



Ø      This displays the cowardice of man in unbelief.

      He is afraid of himself. He is afraid to see himself as he

      really is in the sight of God’s unerring Law.

Ø      It displays the folly of man, for there is a day coming in

      which the secrets of all hearts shall be made manifest.

      No sinner can escape from final judgment.

Ø      It shows how the principle of unbelief is more moral than intellectual.


ü      The true believer seeks the light, because he seeks the manifestation

      of his divinely done acts. “Right action is true thought realized” in

      the case of the “doer of truth.”  There are those souls who are

      taught by the Holy Spirit, who long for more light, yearning to

      know the truth about themselves regardless of how humiliating

      it might prove to be!


Ø      He recognizes the true source of all his holy deeds - they are

                                    wrought in God;” for God works in him to will and to do

                                    of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:14-15).

Ø      He seeks to give God the glory of his obedience

      (1 Corinthians 10:31).


vs. 22-30 -  “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of

Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.  And John also was

baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and

they came, and were baptized.  For John was not yet cast into prison.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews

about purifying.  And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that

was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the

same baptizeth, and all men come to Him.  John answered and said, A man

can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.  Ye yourselves bear

me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom,

which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bride-

groom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I

must decrease.”


Christ moves from the city to the country.  If He is rejected in Jerusalem,

He will appeal to the people of Judea.  He went about every day doing

good!  “All men come unto Him” (v. 26)


There was a controversy between John’s disciples and the Jews about

purifying – was there more efficacy to Jesus’ baptism than to John’s?

(see ch. 4:1-2)


JOHN SETTLES THE CONTROVERSY.  He makes no allusion to the question of

baptism.  He resolves it by pointing out, with a noble and touching humility, the

exact relation existing between himself and our Lord, as one not of opposition or

comparison at all.


  • He represents the greater success of Jesus as due to God. “A man can

            receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” It is God’s will,

            not man’s energy or zeal, that secures success. All good service, all high

            faculty, all holy mission, all sacred duty, are assigned to us by Heaven.

            “No man taketh this honor unto himself, unless he be called of God.”

            (Hebrews 5:4)  The ministers of the New Testament all take up the same

            note of Divine praise and of self-depletion as they prepare the way of the

            Lord to human hearts. They hide themselves behind the greater glory of

            their Lord. However considerable their powers, they are serviceable only

            as they contribute to the glory, and succeed in unveiling the face, of their



  • He reminds his disciples that he had all along consistently represented

            his mission as purely provisional. “Ye yourselves bear me witness that

            I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.”


  • He distinctly marks the inferior place assigned to himself. “He that hath

            the bride is the bridegroom.” He is himself not the Bridegroom, but his



ü      The bride is the Messianic community;

ü      Christ is the Bridegroom;

ü      John is “the friend of the Bridegroom,” whose office it was to

                        bring them together.


  • He is perfectly satisfied with this position. “This my joy therefore is

            fulfilled.” He is delighted to bear the Bridegroom’s voice, and to be the

            agent of bringing the Jews to recognize his Messiahship.


  • He regards his own importance as destined to diminish from day to day

            before the increasing acceptance of the Messiah. “He must increase, but I

            must decrease.


ü      It is a great trial to human pride to efface one’s self in the midst of a

                        career of extraordinary popularity, while the energies of life are still

                        unbroken, and the hopes of expanding usefulness are strong in the



ü      As a test of character, this declaration marks the true greatness of

      the Baptist. There is something sublime as well as touching in his           



vs. 31-36 – “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is

earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all.

And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth; and no man receiveth

His testimony.  He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that

God is true.  For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God

giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.  The Father loveth the Son, and

hath given all things into His hand.  He that believeth on the Son hath

everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the

wrath of God abideth on him.”



THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST!  He gives several reasons why Jesus must

increase, and he himself must decrease.


  • THE ORIGIN OF JESUS. “He that cometh from above is above all: he

            that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth.”


ü      Jesus belongs to heaven; the Baptist to the earth.


ü      Jesus is above all servants of God; the Baptist is one of his servants.


ü      Jesus must ever eclipse all his servants, causing them to fade away

      like the morning star before the sun; they find their true enjoyment in

      the resplendent glory of Christ.


ü      John is hemmed in by the peculiar limitations of an earthly

       existence; his ideas are derived and. dependent; he sees heavenly

      realities from the imperfect standpoint of faith. He can summon

      the world to repentance, but he cannot give repentance.



            seen and heard, that he testifieth.”  Christ can and does unveil the

            heart of the Eternal Father.  All cruel suspicions of God vanish when

            the veil is lifted which sin and corruption of the human heart have

            hung over the Holiest of All! The ultimate issue is eternal life to

            the believer and condemnation to those who love the darkness and

            do not believe.


ü      His Divine origin secures the unique glory of his teaching; for, being

      in  the bosom of the Father, He is acquainted with all His counsels.

      He is a witness who has both seen and heard what He declares to man.


ü      Consider the perverse unbelief that rejects the teaching. “And no

      man receiveth His testimony.” Jerusalem, as the religious center

      of Judaism, gives it no welcome.




ü      The believers witness to the truth of God. “He that receiveth His

                        testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.”  Every separate

                        believer becomes a seal, a ratification, of the veracity of God!


Ø      The Jews’ rejection was not total. There were many believers

      in Christ’s words.


Ø      The believer bears his testimony — the testimony of his

      inward experience — to the truth of God, just as the unbeliever            

      makes God a liar (1 John 5:10). What a grand reality is faith!


Ø      The reason of Christ’s words being the very truth of God; for

      “God giveth not the Spirit by measure.” Therefore he is

      full of grace and truth,” and “in Him are all the treasures

      of wisdom and knowledge.”


ü      Christs filial dignity and sovereignty. “The Father loveth the

      Son, and hath given all things into His hand.”


Ø      The love of the Father is the source of all gifts to the

      Head, and, through the Head, to the members.


Ø      The sovereignty in the hands of Christ enables Him to make

      all things work together for the good of His people. He has a

      hand of power, of pity, of blessing, always stretched out over

      his Church.


ü      The issue of eternal life. “He that believeth on the Son hath

      everlasting life.”


Ø      It is not a mere brief in the Son’s Godhead, or Mediatorship, or

                                    ability to give life; it is not a mere assent to Divine testimony

                                    concerning the Son.  It is an actual trusting in the Son, and                                                        

                                    therefore an act of the will and the heart as well as of the                                                           



Ø      The object of faith. “The Son,” who is able to save, because He

      is the Son of God, and therefore Divine; He is the Son of man,

      and therefore human. Faith derives all its importance from its      object.


Ø      The connection between faith and life. Faith brings the

      sinner into possession of everlasting life, because it unites

      him to Christ as his life. “Because I live, ye shall live also.”


“The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son

of   God” (Galatians 2:20).


ü      The issue of abiding wrath. “But he that believeth not the Son” - But

      he that is disobedient to the Son).    The words oJ ajpeiqw~n are, in the

      English Version, translated “believeth not,” and  again so in Romans

      11:30, where ajpistei~n (unbelief) and ajpeiqei~n (disobedient) are

      used interchangeably. The word means one who is (ajpeiqh>v distrustful,

                        who refuses to be persuaded, is contumacious [stubborn, rebellious]

                        and expresses the  opposite to faith in active exercise, who repudiates                           

                        faith on its fiducial and practical side – “Shall not see life” shall not

                        even see so as to be able to conceive of, much less enjoy, life  (v.3).

                        There is a blinding power in disobedience, which prevents those who                             

                        are actively hostile to the essential excellences and glories of Christ                              

                        from even knowing what life is.  Life is obviously here and elsewhere                                   

                        more than physical existence.but the wrath of God abideth on him.”                                  

                        (v. 36)  It represents active and terrible displeasure revealed from

                        heaven (Romans 1:18; 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16). Much of the                            

                        wrath of the Lord is said to be temporary in its character (Wisd. 16:5;                          

                        18:20); but this is abiding, and, so far as is here revealed, permanent.                                   

                        The most terrible expression in the New Testament is the “wrath of

                        the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16). The last word of the Baptist, even in

                        the Fourth Gospel, is a word of thunder, and he disappears from

                        view when he has delivered this terrible condemnation on those

                        who are wilfully, actively resisting that Son whom “the Father

                        loves,” and to whose hands He has “entrusted all things.” The

                        ministry of John is, after all, that of the Elijah, not that of the Christ.  

                        The message flashes with the fire of the prophet of the wilderness;

                        and men are threatened with the peril of abiding under the wrath of                                 

                        Almighty God.


Ø      Unbelief is disobedience, as faith is obedience, to the Son of

      God. Thus it is essentially a practical principle controlling



Ø      The guilt of disobedience is enhanced by the supreme dignity

      of him to whom it is due.


Ø      Disobedience is incapacity to see life. The sinner has no

      conception of its nature, and no enjoyment of its blessings.







ü      The retribution of disobedience is permanent.


Ø      So long as a sinner obstinately refuses to receive the Son of

                                    God, there is nothing to break the connection established by

                                    Divine law between disobedience and wrath. “The wrath of

                                    God abideth on him.”


Ø      There is wrath as well as love in God.


Ø      The last words of this discourse represent the last words of the

                                    Old Testament — for the warning voice of the Baptist is no

                                    more heard; and they recall the closing sentence of that

                                    Testament, “Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

                                    (Malachi 4:6)




                                                ADDITIONAL NOTES


The great mystery of religion is not the punishment but the

FORGIVENESS OF SINS, not the natural permanence of character,



v. 20 – “For every one that practiseth bad things” (pra>ssein from  pra>ssw, —

pras’-so; a primary verb; to “practise”, i.e. perform repeatedly or habitually (thus

differing from (poiei~n from poie>w poy-eh’-o),  which properly refers to a single act);

by implication to execute, accomplish, commit, deeds, do, exact, keep, require, use arts. 

pra>ssein and poiei~n are  contrasted, not only here, but in Romans 1:32; 2:3; 7:15,

19-20. The first suggests the repeated acts of a man’s conduct, his habits, his practice,

and not unfrequently it has a bad sense attributed to it, while the second, poiei~n,

refers to the full expression of an inward life, and is more appropriate to denote the

higher deeds and grander principles). This practice of bad ways (fau~la fow’-los;

- evil) leads infallibly, by the just judgment of God, to a hatred of that which will

reveal and confound the transgressor.  This love of darkness proceeded from a hatred

of the revealing power of the light. This rejection of the only begotten Son of

God proceeded from a long habit of sin, showing more emphatically than

before the need of radical spiritual regeneration — a birth of water and of

the Spirit.