John 3

Listen to John 3

You Must Be Born Again

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named 1Nicodemus, 2a ruler of the Jews.
2 This man came to Jesus[a]3 by night and said to him, 4"Rabbi, 5we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do 6unless God is with him."
3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is 7born 8again[b] he cannot 9see the kingdom of God."
4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born 10of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 11That which is born of the flesh is 12flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c]
7 13Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You[d] must be born 14again.'
8 15The wind[e] blows 16where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
9 Nicodemus said to him, 17"How can these things be?"
10 Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel 18and yet you do not understand these things?
11 Truly, truly, I say to you, 19we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but 20you[f] do not receive our testimony.
12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
13 21No one has 22ascended into heaven except 23he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[g]
14 And 24as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man 25be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes 26in him 27may have eternal life.[h]

For God So Loved the World

16 "For 28God so loved 29the world,[i]30 that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not 31perish but have eternal life.
17 For 32God did not send his Son into the world 33to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 34Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not 35believed in the name of the only Son of God.
19 36And this is the judgment: 37the light has come into the world, and 38people loved the darkness rather than the light because 39their works were evil.
20 40For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, 41lest his works should be exposed.
21 But whoever 42does what is true 43comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and 44was baptizing.
23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized
24 (for 45John had not yet been put in prison).
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over 46purification.
26 And they came to John and said to him, 47"Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, 48to whom you bore witness--look, he is baptizing, and 49all are going to him."
27 John answered, 50"A person cannot receive even one thing 51unless it is given him 52from heaven.
28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 53'I am not the Christ, but 54I have been sent before him.'
29 55The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. 56The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, 57rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
30 58He must increase, but I must decrease."[j]
31 59He who comes from above 60is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and 61speaks in an earthly way. 62He who comes from heaven 63is above all.
32 64He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, 65yet no one receives his testimony.
33 Whoever receives his testimony 66sets his seal to this, 67that God is true.
34 For he whom 68God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit 69without measure.
35 70The Father loves the Son and 71has given all things into his hand.
36 72Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; 73whoever does not obey the Son shall not 74see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Images for John 3

John 3 Commentary

Chapter 3

Christ's discourse with Nicodemus. (1-21) The baptism of John of Christ John's testimony. (22-36)

Verses 1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13 , and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. ( 11-13 ) , shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the "HE THAT IS," and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, ( Numbers 21:6-9 ). In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, "Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?"

Verses 22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his government and peace there would be no end, while he himself would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained; whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon them.

Cross References 74

  • 1. John 7:50; John 19:39
  • 2. See Luke 24:20
  • 3. [John 12:42]
  • 4. See John 1:38
  • 5. [John 9:29; Matthew 22:16]
  • 6. Acts 10:38; [John 5:36; John 9:33; Acts 2:22]
  • 7. See John 1:13
  • 8. [2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; 1 Peter 1:3, 23]
  • 9. ver. 36
  • 10. [Ezekiel 36:25-27; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22]
  • 11. 1 Corinthians 15:50
  • 12. John 6:63
  • 13. John 5:28
  • 14. See ver. 3
  • 15. [Ecclesiastes 11:5; Ezekiel 37:9]
  • 16. 1 Corinthians 12:11
  • 17. John 6:52, 60
  • 18. [John 9:30]
  • 19. See ver. 32
  • 20. See ver. 32
  • 21. Proverbs 30:4; [Acts 2:34; Ephesians 4:9]
  • 22. [John 7:34]
  • 23. ver. 31; John 6:38, 42, 62; 1 Corinthians 15:47; [Romans 10:6]
  • 24. Numbers 21:9
  • 25. John 8:28; John 12:32, 34
  • 26. [John 15:4; John 16:33; 1 John 5:12, 20]
  • 27. ver. 36
  • 28. Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:9, 10
  • 29. See John 1:29
  • 30. Romans 8:32
  • 31. John 10:28
  • 32. John 5:36, 38; John 6:29, 57; John 7:29; John 8:42; John 10:36; John 11:42; John 17:3; John 20:21; Romans 8:3; 1 John 4:9, 10, 14
  • 33. John 5:45; John 8:15; John 12:47
  • 34. John 5:24; [Mark 16:16]
  • 35. See 1 John 5:13
  • 36. [John 9:39]
  • 37. See John 1:4, 5, 9
  • 38. [Isaiah 30:10; Jeremiah 5:31]
  • 39. John 7:7
  • 40. [Job 24:13; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:13]
  • 41. Ephesians 5:11, 13
  • 42. 1 John 1:6
  • 43. Psalms 139:23, 24
  • 44. ver. 26; John 4:1, 2
  • 45. [John 5:35]; See Matthew 4:12
  • 46. John 2:6
  • 47. ver. 2
  • 48. See John 1:7
  • 49. John 12:19
  • 50. 1 Corinthians 4:7; Hebrews 5:4
  • 51. John 6:65; [James 1:17]
  • 52. See Matthew 21:25
  • 53. See John 1:20
  • 54. Malachi 3:1; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:17; Acts 19:4
  • 55. See Matthew 25:1
  • 56. Judges 14:20; Song of Songs 5:1
  • 57. Matthew 9:15
  • 58. Matthew 3:11
  • 59. John 8:23
  • 60. Romans 9:5; Ephesians 1:21
  • 61. [1 John 4:5]
  • 62. See ver. 13
  • 63. Romans 9:5; Ephesians 1:21
  • 64. ver. 11
  • 65. [ver. 19; John 1:11; John 5:43; John 12:37]
  • 66. [John 6:27; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; Revelation 7:3-8]
  • 67. [1 John 5:10]
  • 68. See ver. 17
  • 69. [Ezekiel 4:11, 16]
  • 70. See John 5:20
  • 71. See Matthew 28:18
  • 72. ver. 15, 16; John 5:24; John 6:40, 47, 54; 1 John 5:12, 13; [John 11:25, 26; John 20:31]; See Matthew 19:16
  • 73. [Romans 2:8; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6]
  • 74. ver. 3

Footnotes 10

  • [a]. Greek him
  • [b]. Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7
  • [c]. The same Greek word means both wind and spirit
  • [d]. The Greek for you is plural here
  • [e]. The same Greek word means both wind and spirit
  • [f]. The Greek for you is plural here; also four times in verse 12
  • [g]. Some manuscripts add who is in heaven
  • [h]. Some interpreters hold that the quotation ends at verse 15
  • [i]. Or For this is how God loved the world
  • [j]. Some interpreters hold that the quotation continues through verse 36

Chapter Summary


In this chapter the apostle exhorts to a holy life and conversation in general, and to the exercise of brotherly love in particular. The former of these is urged from the consideration of the great blessing of adoption, which springs from the free love and favour of God, is unknown to the men of the world, and indeed, in the present state of things, does not appear to the saints themselves in all its fulness and advantages, as it will do in the future state, when the children of God will be like to Christ, and see him as he is; the hope of which should engage them to purity of life and conversation, 1Jo 3:1-3, and this is further enforced from the nature of sin, which is a transgression of the law, 1Jo 3:4, from the end of Christ's manifestation in the flesh, which was to take away sin, and who was without it, 1Jo 3:5, from communion with Christ, expressed by abiding in him, seeing and knowing him, which such must be strangers to that live a sinful course of life, 1Jo 3:6, from this, that only such that do righteousness are righteous persons, and these are righteous as Christ is, 1Jo 3:7, and from a man's being of the devil, that is, of a vicious conversation, who was a sinner from the beginning, and whose works Christ was manifested in the flesh to destroy, 1Jo 3:8, and from the nature of the new man, or that which is born of God, which is not to sin, nor can it, 1Jo 3:9, and from the distinction there is between the children of God and the children of the devil, those not being of God who do not righteousness, nor love their brethren, 1Jo 3:10, from hence the apostle passes to brotherly love, and excites and engages to that, from its being a message which had been heard from the beginning, 1Jo 3:11, which is illustrated by its contrary in the instance of Cain, who by the instigation of Satan slew his brother, because his works were righteous, and his own were evil, 1Jo 3:12, wherefore, it is no wonder that good men should be hated by the world, who, as Cain, are of the same wicked one, 1Jo 3:13, brotherly love is further urged unto, from its being an evidence of passing from death to life, or of regeneration; whereas he that hates his brother openly continues in a state of death, is a murderer, and so has not eternal life abiding in him, 1Jo 3:14,15, and from the great instance of Christ's love, in laying down his life for his people, the saints are incited to lay down their lives for one another; to such a pitch does the apostle carry brotherly love, 1Jo 3:16, wherefore, he that is rich, and is uncompassionate to his brother in distress, cannot be thought to have the love of God dwelling in him, 1Jo 3:17, hence he presses the exhortation to brotherly love, that it be not in profession only, but true, real, and cordial, 1Jo 3:18, and that by observing the advantages of it, as that hereby men know they are of the truth, and can assure their hearts before God; and which is illustrated by the contrary, the condemnation of the heart, 1Jo 3:19,20, the advantages of non-condemnation of the heart are confidence before God, and receiving whatsoever we ask of him; the reason of which is, because his commandments are kept, and things done which are pleasing to him, 1Jo 3:21,22, the commandments are explained of faith in Christ, and love to one another, 1Jo 3:23, and the happiness of them that do them is, that Christ dwells in them, and they in him, the evidence of which is, the Spirit that is given unto them, 1Jo 3:24.

John 3 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.