John 3

1 Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and also a ruler of the Jews; that is, he was a member of the main Jewish religious committee called the SANHEDRIN. This Sanhedrin, made up of seventy members, exercised authority in all Jewish religious matters. The Roman governor held authority in all civil matters, but the Romans allowed the Jews to take charge of their own religious affairs—as long as they did not oppose the Roman government.

17 Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world (Luke 19:10). His purpose in coming was to save us. If He had not come, all men would have been condemned. Now there is no condemnation for those who believe in Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:1 and comment).

But we must understand another truth. When Christ came into the world, some people believed and some did not. Those who believed were saved; those who did not believe were condemned. And the same is true today.

Therefore, when Jesus came into the world, some people were condemned because they refused to believe His words. They brought condemnation upon themselves (see verse 18). Jesus’ coming separated believers from unbelievers.

Although Christ’s main purpose was to save men and women, He also through His word brings judgment on those who refuse to believe (John 12:47-48). The sun shines in order to give light; but at the same time, it also creates shadows. Just as the sun causes shadows to appear, so the light of Christ reveals unbelief and sin, and condemns it (verses 19-20).

Christ is man’s Savior (1 John 4:14). But it is also true that He will be man’s judge on the day of judgment. God has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:22,27). If we do not accept Christ as our Savior today, we will have to accept Him as our judge tomorrow.

18 Here again, John emphasizes the importance of faith (see verse 15). We are judged according to our faith. Those who believe are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned. John is talking about those who continue in unbelief until their death. Such people are already condemned.

19-20 Light—that is, Christ—has come into the world (see John 1:4-5,9). But men did not want the light, because it exposed their evil deeds (Ephesians 5:13). Rather, men loved the darkness—that is, evil. In this, they condemned themselves.

What is the main reason people refuse to believe in Christ? In these verses John has given us the answer. They do not believe because they do not want to give up their evil and selfish ways. They love darkness, because in the darkness their evil remains hidden—though not from God!

This is why faith is so important to God. When we believe, it means we truly want to leave the darkness and come into the light of Christ. Thus, in God’s eyes, unbelief is the same as unrighteousness. Likewise, faith is the same as righteousness. We are justif ed—declared RIGHTEOUS—by faith (see Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:15-16 and comments).

21 … whoever lives by the truth comes into the light. To live by the truth means to repent of one’s sins and to open one’s heart to receive Christ. It means to turn from darkness and to hate evil. Such men do not need to fear the light.

Those who come in to the light are born again of the Spirit (verse 5). Their new life and new heart is from God. They cannot say, “These are my good works.” All good works are done through God. Man can claim no credit for his good works (see Ephesians 2:8-9). All our righteousness comes from the Holy Spirit, who lives within us who believe.

22 After the Passover festival (John 2:13) and the conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus went out into the Judean countryside—into the surrounding district of Judea.30 He and His disciples began to baptize also, calling on people to repent and turn to God (Mark 1:15). The actual baptizing was done by Jesus’ disciples under Jesus’ direction (John 4:2).

23-24 John was also baptizing nearby. John had not yet been put in prison (Mark 6:17-29). From this we can understand that the Galilean ministry of Jesus mentioned in Mark 1:14 had not yet begun. According to this, Jesus had not yet finally called Peter, Andrew, John, and James (Mark 1:16-20). Only after He returned to Galilee (John 4:43) did He finally call those four disciples.

25 Some of John the Baptist’s disciples began to argue with a certain Jew about the Jewish purification laws. Perhaps the Jew was one of Jesus’ disciples. Perhaps he had said it was not necessary to follow the purification laws (Mark 7:1-2,5).

26 During the argument over purif ying, John’s disciples learned that people in increasing numbers were going to Jesus to be baptized. More people were now going to Him than to John. John’s disciples felt badly about this. It seemed to them as if everyone was now going to Jesus. They were envious.

27 John admonished his disciples not to complain about Jesus’ success. Each man is appointed by God for a certain task. Each man is given different gifts to enable him to fulfill that task. A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. John was appointed only to prepare the way for Christ. Therefore, it was according to God’s will that people should now begin to turn to Jesus.

Let us never envy others who have received from God a greater appointment or greater gifts. Envy is one of the most common and also one of the most harmful sins found among Christians. Envy is a great cause of strif e within the church. Let each of us be thankful for the gifts God has given us, and let us use them diligently in His service (1 Corinthians 4:7).

28 John the Baptist himself had said, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). John had never tried to exalt himself. When people tried to give him more honor than he deserved, he did not accept it. How many of us do likewise? Let us strive to follow John’s example. John’s sole aim was to lead men and women to Jesus, not to himself. Let that be our sole aim also.

29 John was only the friend of the bridegroom. The bridegroom is Christ. The bride is the church, that is, all believers (Ephesians 5:23,31-32; Revelation 19:78). The bride belongs to the bridegroom, not to the friend of the bridegroom.

Instead, the friend rejoices in the bridegroom’s happiness. In the same way, John rejoiced that people were coming to Jesus.

30 As the morning light increases, the light of the morning star decreases. John the Baptist was like the morning star, sent to announce the coming dawn of Christ.

John knew his place. His entire goal was to magnif y Jesus. That is the purpose of all disciples of Christ. Our work is to show forth the light of Christ among men, not our own light. We must remain nothing, in order that Christ might be all.

If church leaders would concentrate only on exalting Christ, they would soon stop trying to exalt themselves above each other. Let every church leader continually say to himself, as John did: “I must become less.” Paul gave us the rule: Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10). And, of course, we must honor Christ above all (verse 31).

31 The one who comes from above—that is, Christ—is above all.31 John the Baptist was from the earth. Only Jesus came from heaven (John 3:13; 8:23). Therefore, Jesus was greater than John—indeed, greater than all men. He is above all.

32 Jesus testified to what He had seen and heard in heaven. His testimony, then, was absolutely sure and true (see verse 11 and comment). The prophets of the Old Testament saw and heard things in visions and dreams. But Christ received the things of God directly from God Himself.

Nevertheless, no one accepted Jesus’ testimony. That is, worldly men did not accept Jesus’ testimony. They refused to believe. They rejected the light. Natural worldly men cannot accept Jesus. They cannot understand heavenly things. Only when a man’s heart is humble and open to the Holy Spirit can he accept the testimony and teaching of Jesus.

33 Whenever we “certif y” someone’s testimony, we are agreeing that that person’s testimony is fully true and trustworthy; that is what certif ying means. The man who has opened his heart to Christ and has accepted His testimony has also certified that God is truthful. Christ is God’s Word (John 1:1). If Christ is true, then God also is true. But if a man rejects Christ, he also rejects God. The man who does not accept the testimony of Christ calls God a liar (1 John 5:9-10).

34 Jesus speaks the words of God. Jesus has come from above. He knows the Father’s mind completely. He has God’s Spirit without limit, that is, in full measure. We believers receive the Holy Spirit according to measure. … to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it (Ephesians 4:7). But to Christ unlimited grace was given. Christ was given the Spirit in full measure. He was filled with all the fullness of God. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Colossians 1:19).

35 We can trust Christ completely, because God the Father has placed everything in his hands (see John 13:3). The Father has given Christ the Spirit without limit (verse 34). Jesus said, “All things have been committed to me by my Father” (Matthew 11:27). “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

Men can come to Christ as they would come to God. All of God’s spiritual blessings are available to us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). As God has given His Holy Spirit to Christ,32 so Christ gives the Spirit to those who believe in Him. And when Jesus gives us His Spirit, He also gives us His knowledge (John 15:15), His authority (John 17:2), His joy (John 17:13) and His glory (John 17:22).

36 Above all, Jesus gives us eternal life. This is the sum of all His spiritual blessings. To believe in Jesus is to have eternal life. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

When we believe in Christ, we are reborn from “above” (from heaven) and receive new spiritual life. This life begins as soon as we believe and it never ends. Our bodies will die, but our spirits will never die.

But there is a greater gift even than eternal life. And that gift is Christ Himself. All gifts are included in Christ. When we receive Christ as our Savior and Lord, we receive all the riches of heaven. He who has the Son has life (1 John 5:12). He who has the Son has everything (see Romans 8:32 and comment).

But we must never forget what happens to the man who rejects33 Christ. He will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him (see verses 16-17 and comment). He stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (verse 18).

We Christians talk much about God’s love, but we must not neglect to talk about God’s wrath. God is opposed to all who oppose Him. To refuse to believe in Christ is to oppose God. It is to disobey God. Man must either believe and be saved, or not believe and be condemned. Man must choose one of these two; there is no other choice.

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