John 3:1-36 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Unless a Man is Born Again
Comments for Study 4

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Memory Verse: 3:3

I. A Man Nicodemus (1-2)

Jesus' Early Travels

>1. What kind of person was Nicodemus, humanly speaking and socially?

* "Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council." (John 3:1)

* "'You are Israel's teacher,' said Jesus, 'and do you not understand these things?'" (John 3:10)

* Nicodemus was in the upper class of Jewish society.

* Nicodemus held a position that receive much honor and respect by men.

* "Israel's teacher" -outstanding and nationally known as a teacher to Jews.

* Starting from chapter three, Jesus is involved in a one-to-one ministry. Through this John points out the universal need for mankind for a savior and a relationship with God through Jesus.

* If we can understand at least one person well from God's point of view we can understand much of mankind in general.

>What do you know about the Pharisees?

* They were common people who followed the law by the letter.

* They also, over the period of time, made up an account by account what and how book that added to the laws of God. This book set a legalistic pattern that was often regarded more important that the word of God.

* "Pharisee" -literally, separated. Very moral people.

* Because of their moral life they could not tolerate incompetence and weakness in others.

* Pharisees date back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (approx. 450 B.C.). At that time Jews were returning to Jerusalem and Palestine from their captivity and through Esther's act of faith many Gentiles has accepted the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their God too. Those returning had lost much of the understanding of the word of God (Old Testament). Thus, corruption was all around the returning Jews. So a group of men wanted to keep pure through study of the word of God and obedience. It was a noble beginning, but after time the spirit of the movement changed and was lost; only the letter of the law was left.

>About the significance of being a ruling council member?

* The ruling council was called the Sanhedrin.

* The Jewish ruling council is very similar the America's supreme court. It was the highest ruling body concerning the Torah (aka Law, Old Testament) for a Jew.

* To be on the ruling council one had to know the law of God as well as other laws, be wealthy, and an influential teacher (prominent).

>2. What did Nicodemus know about Jesus?

* "He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'" (John 3:2)

* Nicodemus came at night because he was afraid that someone else might see him. Fear for his reputation, social status, job, and perhaps even his life.

* Nicodemus coming at night is symbolic of him being in darkness. (19,20)

* "Rabbi" -teacher

* He was sent from God.

* Jesus preformed miracles which were no doubt done by God's power.

* God was with Jesus.

* The basis of Nicodemus' belief in Jesus was miracles.

* Jesus was not satisfied with such faith according to 2:23-25. People who believe by miracles can fall. Example: The Israelites saw many miracles coming out of Egypt but built a two golden calves and called them God.

* Nicodemus had much head knowledge but no heart faith.

* "We" -probably other Pharisees and ruling council members thought as he did too.

* Note verse 2, Nicodemus didn't state why he came, he just complemented Jesus.

* Nicodemus was humble toward Jesus even though Jesus was much younger than him. Why? Respect because of miracles and/or because it was the noble thing to do in this society.

>What was his purpose in coming to Jesus?

* In his heart he was still seeking. There was an emptiness which he could not avoid. Because he was getting older and lived his whole life, he thought, before God, he had to solve his life problem. Somehow he knew Jesus had the answer.

* He wanted to learn from Jesus. He wanted to find out who Jesus was and what was he doing. He probably had a little admiration for Jesus because of the miracles and because of Jesus' preaching.

II. He Needed to See the Kingdom of God (3-9)

>3. How did Jesus reply to him?

* "In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."" John 3:3

* Jesus knew what was in Nicodemus' heart.

* Jesus didn't respond to Nicodemus' initial comment directly for he knew what Nicodemus wanted.

* Jesus kept to the point.

* "no one" -Jesus said in the third person because 1) it is a general truth, 2) he didn't want to offend Nicodemus to much for he knew Nicodemus knew he was talking about him.

* Jesus wasn't impressed by Nicodemus' credentials.

* "Must" -no other way.

>How did Jesus see his problem?

* He needed complete rebirth.

* From God's point of view.

>What did Nicodemus need in order to see the kingdom of God?

* He needed to be born again.

* What does born again mean? See John 1:12-13.

* What about baptism? See Acts 1:5.

* How is a person's heart purified? See Acts 10:9-16.

* What is the connection between baptism and being born again? See Acts 10:44-47, Romans 6:34, and 1 Cor. 1:10-17.

* Nicodemus needed to be born spiritually in the heart.

* After following a legalistic life one is not sure if they can enter the kingdom of God.

>How does being born again change one's hope and direction of life? (See 1 Peter 1:3)

* 1 Peter 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,"

* We are born again through God's power and mercy alone.

* "living hope" -always alive. In the kingdom of God and in direction we seek heavenly things.

>4. How did Nicodemus respond to Jesus' words? (4)

* ""How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"" John 3:4

* "!" -Jews pressed hard when writing to made an exclamation.

* Nicodemus' changed of attitude from verse 2 to verse 4 shows his political and outward appearance.

>What does this reveal about him?

* In his inner way of thinking Nicodemus was proud and humanistic. It was not from God's point of view.

>5. What does it mean to "see the kingdom of God"?

* The kingdom of God is were God rules. It is where his word is followed and kept in spirit and truth. Follow the Spirit's leading not the letter of the law.

* So to see the kingdom of God is to see and experience how God works in people's lives and in history.

* It is also going to heaven.

* No spiritual joy and peace.

* Nicodemus came because his life was dry and seeking this. He came seeking to have what he knew was missing. Jesus now gave it to him.

>6. What does it mean to be born of water and of Spirit?

* "Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." John 3:5

* "water" -this is controversial from one church to the next. But I believe it means at a physical birth, when the water breaks before a child is born. This goes along with the rest of Jesus' words. Verse 6a says, "Flesh gives birth to flesh but Spirit gives birth to spirit." Also, as mentioned in the previous study, Jews only baptised Gentiles when they came to repent and accept the Jew's God. They themselves did not were not baptised. They did however have many ceremonial washings.

* "spirit" -born of God (1:12-13) by the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual birth.

* Both are emphasized as necessary.

* In John 6:3 Jesus said the flesh counts for nothing.

* Nicodemus was an old wineskin. He needed to be changed from an earthly hope and vision to a heavenly one.

* Nicodemus' pride was hindering him from receiving Jesus' words. Old Christians often knew to much to repent.

* Some put to much emphasis on speaking in tongues. This gift of God is more of the flesh than others. How can it be a work which can not save anyone though induced by the Spirit? Some have made this a symbol that one is born again. It is not according to Jesus here.

>What does the flesh give?

* "Flesh gives birth to flesh..."

>What does the Spirit give?

* "...Spirit gives birth to spirit."

* The Holy spirit must work all through our soul and life.

>What is the result of not entering the kingdom of God?

* Eternity without God and punishment which is hell.

* You remain in Satan's kingdom, only totally removed from God's grace.

>7. Why was Nicodemus surprised at Jesus' words?

* ""How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"" John 3:4

* "You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'" John 3:7

* Nicodemus' pride was hurt.

* He didn't expect these words. He expected some little enlightenment, like a little seminar where he would pick up one or two things.

* He was full of human thinking.

* He didn't understand and was reluctant to believe.

>Why do you think Nicodemus didn't want to accept Jesus' words?

* Because of his stature and position in society.

* Basic problem of pride.

* Nicodemus was constantly building up his life according to what he thought was right, now it seemed that Jesus was saying that he had to start all over again and his past was in vain.

>8. How does the Holy Spirit work like the wind in the heart of a person who accepts Jesus' words?

* "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."" John 3:8

* We can not see the wind, but we see its effects. It is this way with the Spirit.

* "wherever it pleases" -the Spirit's work is determined in his way at his time.

* The Spirit being like the wind or breath is also in Genesis and Acts and more.

>What does Nicodemus' question, "How can this be?" mean?

* Nicodemus still didn't understand about God's working spiritually in the heart.

* We don't need to understand intellectually everything, but we do need to accept.

* We don't know how this works, but when we accept and apply the word we will see the kingdom of God.

* Many people misunderstand the work of the Holy Spirit.

III. The Way to the Kingdom of God (10-21)

>9. How and why did Jesus rebuke Nicodemus? (10-21)

* John 3:10-21 ""You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.""

* He was Israel's teacher and was supposed to know these things.

* Jesus humbled Nicodemus by the truth.

>What was his attitude toward Jesus' words and testimony?

* At this point Nicodemus was speechless.

* Jesus is uniquely qualified to tell of God's work in the world and of heavenly things because he saw heavenly things and came down to tell us.

* "earthly things" -wind, born of flesh.

* "heavenly things" -spirit, born of spirit.

* No matter what credentials a person has, if they are spiritual ignorant we should not be intimidated to teach the truth.

>What does the incident about the bronze snake (Nu. 21:4-9) teach about faith in Jesus?

* Numbers 21:4-9 "They travelled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!" Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived."

* John 3:14 "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,"

* Jesus is the bronze snake because he was on the cross.

* Those who look to Jesus by faith on the cross will have their sins taken away as the Israelites who looked at the snake lived.

* When snakes are at the feet we want to look down to avoid them not up.

* With sin removed we will be free from death.

* The bronze snake had no power but faith in God's promise pleased God which had power. So God saved them.

* Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, look at me with faith.

>What can we learn here about how to know Jesus personally and be saved?

* Look up to Jesus on the cross.

>10. According to Jesus, how did God show his great love for sin-sick people who cold not but perish in their sins?

* John 3:16 ""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.""

* By sending us his Son.

* To understand the greatness of this act we need to think of how hard it would be for a father to give his son over to his brutal enemies so that they could be saved through his son's suffering and death by them.

* God is willing to do anything for us to be saved.

* We should learn of God's sacrificial love.

* "Whoever" -no restrictions.

>What are the consequences of not accepting God's love? (16-18)

* John 3:16-18 ""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

* God doesn't condemn we chose condemnation.

>11. Why can't people come into the light of God's love?

* They love the darkness (evil, sin) and refuse to come into the light. Therefore, God lets them where they be. He woes them to come into the light, but he will not force them to come into it if they don't want it. Therefore, those who refuse the invitation remain in darkness even upon death.

* They hate the light (good, truth, righteousness, obedience, faith)

* Fear that their sins will be exposed (fear of condemnation once we come into God's presents).

>What was Nicodemus' real problem?

* He did evil things and was afraid to admit them.

* Evil and good is based on ones response to Jesus not our moral standards.

* "His deeds" -apart from faith in Jesus. Note his viewpoint in this statement and growing attitude. Self righteousness and self confidence which could not accept God's righteousness.

* Nicodemus probably got mad and left for conviction started.

IV. I am not... (22-36)

>12. Why did John answer the way he did?

* He loved and feared God.