John the apostle, the author of this gospel, included Jesus’ nighttime meeting with the Pharisee Nicodemus (vv. 1-21) to show that one must be born again and believe in Jesus to have eternal life. Nicodemus assumed he would be in the coming kingdom because he was a law-keeping Jew, but Jesus corrected his wrong assumption. Merely being religious, doing good things, and knowing a lot of truth isn’t enough. One’s sins must be forgiven (“born of water,” v. 5; cf. Ezek 36:25) and receive spiritual life (“born of the Spirit,” v. 5; cf. Ezek 36:26-27).
As the news about Jesus began to spread John the Baptist’s disciples grew jealous (vv. 22-26). John the Baptist reminded them that (1) God showed them grace thought they didn’t deserve it (v. 27); (2) they heard him say he wasn’t the Christ but pointed all to him (vv. 28-29); (3) he cared only for God’s glory, not his own reputation (v. 30). John the Baptist then indisputably declared Jesus to be God (v. 31), the One who speaks God’s truth (vv. 32-34), the Ruler over all things (v. 35), the Source and Giver of salvation (v. 36).
Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On
- The new birth—regeneration—is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit known only by its effects (vv. 8). Unless God the Holy Spirit gives new spiritual life to the spiritually dead they will stay dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-5). Those to whom God gives spiritual life immediately believe in Christ (Acts 16:14).
- Sinners must believe in Jesus to be saved from death. There is an eternity’s difference between belief and unbelief (vv. 18-21). Unbelievers are already condemned (v. 18b), love sin (“darkness,” v. 9), and thus hate and will not believe in Christ (“come to the light,” v. 20). What is your response to who Jesus is?
- Serving the Lord is always about his glory, never self-glory or even self-preservation. John the Baptist would eventually be put to death. Beware the temptation to focus on “our” efforts—they should be Christ’s efforts!