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Bible Commentaries
John 3

Edwards' Family Bible New TestamentFamily Bible NT

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Verse 1

A ruler ; a member of the Sanhedrin or great Jewish council.

Verse 3

Except a man be born again ; our Lord saw that Nicodemus had no true apprehension of the spiritual nature of the kingdom which he had come to establish, nor of the spiritual character required for admission to it. He therefore met his difficulty at the outset by teaching him that all men, be they Jews or Gentiles, must be made new in the inner man by a spiritual birth, before they can enter into his kingdom and enjoy its privileges. To be born again is to be made new men inwardly by a great change from supreme love of the Creator.

See the kingdom of God ; understand or enjoy its blessings. Matthew 3:2 .

Verse 4

How can a man ; this question referred to natural birth, of earthly parents; the assertion of Christ referred to a spiritual change by the Holy Ghost.

Verse 5

Born of water and of the Spirit ; purified by the Holy Spirit; of which baptism by water is a divinely appointed symbol.

Enter into ; become a member inwardly, and not merely in an outward way.

Verse 6

Born of the flesh is flesh-born of the Spirit is spirit ; by the natural birth, fleshly children come from fleshly parents; by the spiritual birth, spiritual children come from the Holy Spirit. Flesh and spirit are here opposed to each other. The first denotes what is earthly and impure; the second, what is heavenly and holy. Compare Romans 8:1-9 .

Verse 7

As all men are naturally destitute of the love of God, no one should think it strange that he must experience that change which Christ called being born again.

Verse 8

Listeth ; pleaseth-where its author pleaseth to have it.

So is every one ; the Spirit’s operation, like that of the wind, is directed by God, unseen, and known by its effects.

Verse 9

How ; Nicodemus here asked a question which Jesus did not answer. He had revealed the fact, its nature, necessity, and author. The manner it was not necessary, and would not be useful, for Nicodemus to know. The fact might be believed, and all its benefits be secured, without knowing how it was accomplished. It is not necessary, in order to believe a fact and receive the benefit of it, that a man should understand the manner in which it is accomplished; and he should not let his ignorance of what God has not revealed hinder him from receiving and treating as true what he has revealed.

Verse 10

Master of Israel ; teacher, which he was by virtue of his office as a ruler.

These things ; the things relating to the new birth, about which he had been speaking, and which were revealed in the Old Testament, which the Jewish rulers professed to teach. Psalms 51:10 ; Ezekiel 11:19 ; Ezekiel 36:26 .

Verse 11

Do know-have seen ; Christ’s knowledge of truth was direct. He always spoke what he had seen with his Father, chap John 5:20 ; John 8:38 . What his followers, therefore, had heard and learned of him, they could declare with certain knowledge of its truth. As Jesus knew the truth of what he taught, all are bound to believe it, and to let it have its due influence over their hearts and lives.

Verse 12

Earthly things ; things which take place on earth, such as being born of the Spirit, the evidences of which are obvious to the senses.

Heavenly things ; things less plain, relating to God, Christ, heaven, and eternity, the evidences of which are not addressed to sense, but to faith.

Verse 13

Hath ascended up to heaven ; learned heavenly things by actual presence there, and come down from that world to reveal them.

Son of man ; Jesus Christ.

Which is in heaven ; whose proper dwelling-place is in heaven. He left heaven for a season only, to return thither again.

Verse 14

Moses lifted up the serpent ; Numbers 21:8-9

Be lifted up ; on the cross a propitiation for the sins of men. 1 John 2:2 .

Verse 16

Gave his only begotten Son ; the highest expression of his infinite compassion. Chap John 1:14 .

Verse 17

Might be saved ; on their compliance with the terms of salvation.

Verse 18

Not condemned ; Romans 8:1 .

Verse 19

The condemnation ; cause of condemnation.

Light is come ; divine truth is revealed.

Darkness ; error and sin.

Verse 20

Reproved ; shown to be evil, and as such condemned. The reason why men do not believe what Christ has taught is, that they love error, they do evil, and his truth on this account condemns them.

Verse 21

Doeth truth ; acteth according to truth.

Wrought in God ; by the aid of his Spirit, and according to his will.

Verse 22

Baptized ; not personally, but through is disciples, John 4:2 .

Verse 25

About purifying ; the question seems to have had reference to the relative worth of John’s baptism as compared with that of Jesus.

Verse 26

All men come to him ; many more came to Christ than to John. When sinners in great numbers come to the Saviour some men, if it lessen the number who follow them, are greatly grieved. But good men, with right views, rejoice in every accession to the number of Christ’s followers. They are delighted to see him increase, though it cause them to decrease.

Verse 27

Except it be given him ; every office in God’s kingdom, and all success in doing good, is from God. He gives to all their place and work as he sees best. You should not be dissatisfied that a greater than I has come, for this is what I foretold.

Verse 29

Hath the bride is the bridegroom ; in these words John teaches that Christ’s relation to "the kingdom of heaven" is that of the bridegroom to the bride. The church is his own, and ought to render to him supreme honor. John, on the other hand, is only the bridegroom’s friend. He was sent to foretell his coming, and now rejoices to be lost sight of in his greater glory.

Verse 30

He ; Christ.

Must increase ; in influence and honor. It is a high spiritual attainment to be willing that others should excel us in usefulness and honor.

Verse 31

He that cometh ; Christ.

Is above all ; in character and work, and ought to be honored above all.

Is of the earth ; as are John and all merely human teachers.

Is earthly ; inferior in character and teaching, and ought to hold an inferior place.

Verse 32

Seen and heard ; in heaven with his Father.

No man ; few compared with the whole, and none uninfluenced by the Holy Spirit.

Verse 33

Hath set to his seal that God is true ; by believing in Christ he acknowledged that what God hath said concerning him is true.

Verse 34

By measure ; John and the apostles received the Holy Spirit only in a certain measure, but Christ without measure.

Verse 35

Hath given all things ; pertaining to the salvation of men.

Into his hand ; as Mediator, that he might give eternal life to all who should believe in him. Compare chap John 17:2 . As all things pertaining to the souls of men are in the hands of Christ and at his disposal, the eternal life of those who believe in him, and the eternal death of those who continue to reject him, are certain.

Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 3". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fam/john-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.
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