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Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
John 3

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-36

II. Eternal Life Imparted:

What it is and What it Includes

Chapter 2:23-17

The second part of this Gospel contains the blessed teachings the Son of God gave concerning eternal life, how it is imparted and what it includes. Everything in these chapters is new. The story of Nicodemus, the woman at Sychar’s well, the healing of the impotent man, the discourses of our Lord, etc., are not reported by the synoptic Gospels. There is not a word of the Sermon on the Mount reported by John; the many miracles, so significantly arranged in Matthew, are omitted (except the feeding of the 5000); nor do we find a single parable concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. The progressive revelation concerning eternal life will be brought out in the annotations. As already stated the teachings begin with the new birth, in which eternal life is imparted, and end with the destiny of those who are born again. This is revealed in His high priestly prayer, “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.”

CHAPTER 2:23-3:36

1. The Many Who Believed on Him. (John 2:23-25 .)

2. Nicodemus and the New Birth. (John 3:1-8 .)

3. How the New Birth is Accomplished. (John 3:9-21 .)

4. The Last Testimony of John. (John 3:22-36 .)

He worked many miracles in Jerusalem, which are unreported by John. Many therefore believed in His name, but the Omniscient One knew that they were only convinced, but their hearts had not been touched and so they did not receive Him as the Son of God. But there was one who was more deeply exercised, an earnest, seeking soul, Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night and addressed Him as Rabbi, acknowledging that He was a teacher come from God. The Lord did not permit him to go on with his address nor to state the object of his visit. The Lord treated him in an abrupt, almost discourteous, way and informed him at once of the absolute necessity of the new birth. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again (literally: born from above) he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Not teaching, mere knowledge, was the need Nicodemus had to see the Kingdom, but to be born from above.

But what Kingdom does our Lord mean? It refers primarily to the Kingdom of the Old Testament, promised to Israel. When that Kingdom comes, with the Return of the Lord, only those of Israel will enter in who are born again. The unbelieving and apostate mass of Jews will be excluded from that earthly, millennial Kingdom. Only the believing remnant inherits that Kingdom to come. This may be learned from Ezekiel 36:1-38 and Isaiah 4:3 , and other passages. That is why the Lord said to Nicodemus: “Art thou the teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things?”

But the truth our Lord gave to Nicodemus has a wider application. Man is spiritually dead, destitute of spiritual life. In order to enter the Kingdom of God, to be in the presence of God, man must be born anew. Such a statement is nowhere found in the preceding Gospels. In the Gospel of John, the Gospel of Eternal Life, it is put into the foreground. Nicodemus is the only person to whom the Lord spoke of the absolute necessity of the new birth. He never made such a statement to the publicans and the harlots. And who was Nicodemus? A Pharisee, and therefore an extremely religious man. A ruler of the Jews, which necessitated a moral life. The teacher of Israel, one who possessed much learning. Religiousness, morality, education and culture are insufficient to save man and give him a place in the Kingdom of God. The new birth is the one thing needed. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” The flesh is the old nature which every human being brings into the world; it is a fallen, a corrupt nature and can never be anything else. And “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8 ). The natural man may do anything he pleases, become religious and philanthropic, but he cannot please God. What then is the new birth? It is not reformation. Nor is it, as so often stated, an action of the Holy Spirit to make an evil nature good. The flesh cannot be changed into something better. The new birth is the impartation of a new nature, the divine nature, by the Holy Spirit. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” This new nature is absolutely holy, as the old nature is absolutely corrupt. This new nature is the only thing which fits man to be in the presence of God.

But what is the meaning of “water” in John 3:5 ? “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” The water is claimed by ritualists to mean baptism. If a little water is put upon the head of an infant, they would have us believe, regeneration takes place. Others hold upon this statement of our Lord that the water is Christian baptism, and that therefore water-baptism is necessary to salvation. But the words of our Lord have nothing whatever to do with baptism. (Ezekiel 36:25-27 must be linked with John 3:5 and must be considered here as a national promise to Israel, how they will enter the Kingdom. But the verses in Ezekiel have absolutely nothing whatever to do with baptism. To apply them thus is ridiculous.) The water cannot mean Christian baptism. Christian baptism (an entirely different thing from the Jewish baptism of John) was not instituted till after His death and resurrection. If it meant Christian baptism, the Lord’s rebuke to Nicodemus would be unjust. How could he know something that was still undivulged? Water in this passage is the figure of the Word of God, which the Spirit of God uses for the quickening of souls. The following passages will demonstrate this fact: Ephesians 5:25-26 ; 1 Corinthians 4:15 ; 1 Peter 1:23 ; James 1:18 . Begotten again by the Word of God, and water is the figure of that Word.

The Lord speaks next of revealing heavenly things (in distinction from earthly things relating to Israel). Then the Cross is revealed by which the heavenly things are realized, and how lost man is to be saved and receive eternal life (the new nature). The Son of Man must be lifted up. He Who knew no sin was made sin for us. “God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”--”In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent His Only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 ). Blessed words these! It is by believing on the Son of God, who died for our sins, that we are saved and are born again.

John bears his final testimony in John 3:23-26 . He testifies of Christ as the bridegroom, who is to have the bride. John calls himself the friend of the bridegroom. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Note the three &(must’s” in this chapter. “Ye must be born again”; the necessity of the new birth. “The Son of Man must be lifted up”; the necessity of the death of the Lord to make salvation possible. “He must increase, but I must decrease”; the result of salvation. The final testimony of John the Baptist takes us beyond the cross. (John 3:35-36 ). Blessed assurance! He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.--Solemn declaration! He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on John 3". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/john-3.html. 1913-1922.
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