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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
John 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-15

John 3:1-3. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

There must be a new birth because a new name is absolutely necessary for the discernment of spiritual things. The natural man cannot comprehend spiritual things, they must be spiritually discerned. The new birth is therefore necessary that we may have a spirit within us which can see or understand the kingdom of God; but until a man is born again, “he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:4-5. Nicodemus saith unto him, how can a man be born when he is old/ can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

We understand the passage to mean, “Water, that is, the Spirit;” but it may refer to the purifying influence of the Word as symbolized by water. I do not think that baptism is referred to here at all.

John 3:6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh;

Parents may be the most devout people who ever lived, but that which is born of them is only flesh.

John 3:6. And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

It is only then, as we are born of the Spirit of God that there is any spiritual life in us whatsoever.

John 3:7-8. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

He undergoes a mysterious change, he becomes a new man, he enters into a new life which others cannot comprehend; though they hear the sound of it, they cannot tell whence this man’s new life comes, or whither it goes. He has become a spiritual person, not comprehended of natural men.

John 3:9-10. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knoweth not these things?

“So learned in the law of God, art thou ignorant of the Spirit of God? Hast thou read the law so many times, and yet not found out that natural births and outward washings are of no avail in spiritual things?”

John 3:11-12. Verily, verily I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

“If, at the very entrance to the kingdom of heaven, you say, ‘How can these things be?’ what will you say if I take you into the central metropolis of truth, and introduce you to the great King himself?

John 3:13; John 3:15. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

This exposition consisted of readings from Numbers 21:1-9; and John 3:1-15.


Verses 1-18

If you were called in to see a person who was dying, and wished to read a chapter from the Word of God, and you were afraid that the sick one did not know the way of salvation, you could not select a better portion than the one we are about to read. I have chosen it in the hope that some may now learn from it what they must do to be saved.

John 3:1-2. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night,

Perhaps he was very busy during the day. It is better to come to Jesus at night than not to come to him at all. All hours are convenient to Christ; you may come to him when you are at home tonight. When everybody else is asleep, Jesus is still awake. In all probability, however, Nicodemus did not wish to commit himself by coming to Christ by day. He had not yet tried and tested him, so he would not be thought to be Christ’s follower till he had first had a quiet private talk with him. As a ruler of the Jews, he was wise in acting thus discreetly.

John 3:2. And said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

He admitted the truth as far as he could see it. The miracles of Christ proved him to be a divinely-commissioned teacher. Always be willing to go as far as you can go in the pursuit of truth. If you cannot see everything at once, see all that you can see. Be not of a cavilling spirit; be frank and teachable as this man was.

John 3:3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

It is such a mystery, a thing of such a marvilous character, that his old nature cannot see it. He must have new eyes, be must be a new man, be must be born again, before he can “see the kingdom of God.” Have you caught this idea, my dear hearer? Do you understand that you cannot polish yourself up to a certain point, and then see the kingdom of God? You must be born again; there must be a radical change in you, a new birth, a birth from above, if you are ever to see the kingdom of God.

John 3:4-5. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

At first Jesus said that a man could not see the kingdom of God except he was born again; now he tells Nicodemus that a man cannot enter the kingdom except he is born of water and of the Spirit. There must be a cleansing; he must be “born of water.” There must be a spiritual life; he must be “born of the Spirit”, or he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh;

Nothing more. However godly your father, however gracious your mother, all that is “born of the flesh is flesh.”

John 3:6. And that which is born of the spirit is spirit.

There must be, then, a Spirit-birth, or else you have no spirit; you belong not to the spiritual realm; and you cannot see and you cannot enter the spiritual kingdom.

John 3:7-8. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,

The sounding of the wind blowing through the trees, —

John 3:8. But canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:

Where it begins, whither it goes, or where it comes to an end, you cannot tell.

John 3:8. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.

You do not know where the spirit-life begins; and you cannot tell to what it will lead. There are heights to which the spirit-life can carry you, of which you have never dreamed; this is a mystery beyond your ken.

John 3:9. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

He did not deny that they might be; but he asked how they could be. Ah, many a man has asked the same question! “How may I be made anew? How may I become a new creature?” Only he that makes all things can make all things new. The new birth is as great a wonder as creation itself; and there is as much, and a great deal more, to be wrought upon you to make you a Christian, as has been wrought upon you to make you a man.

John 3:10. Jesus answered and said, unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

These truths lie on the very doorstep of our holy religion. There are deeper and higher mysteries than these.

John 3:11-12. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things,

Common-place things, the lower things of faith. “If I have told you these,”

John 3:12. And ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

There are mysteries in our holy religion which we would not tell to everybody. It would be casting pearls before swine to mention them to unregenerate men. Christ tells Nicodemus that the primary truths must be believed before the more advanced doctrines can be revealed.

John 3:13. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even, the Son of man which is in heaven.

It is Christ who knows everything. He understands all mysteries; he can teach all truth, for he has been in heaven, he came down to earth, and he has gone back again to heaven. Now, perhaps, some of you will be saying, “How are we to be saved? If there is no salvation without the new birth, how can we obtain the new birth?” Listen. The same chapter which tells you of the mystery of regeneration, tells you of the simple way of salvation by faith in Christ.

John 3:14-15. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

“Whosoever.” If you believe in Christ, you are born again. If you trust him, you have the new life. This simple way of salvation is not contradictory to the way of salvation by the new birth, it is the same thing stated in a form that we can comprehend.

John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This text has saved thousands of souls. The constellation in the heavens, called the Great Bear, has in it the two pointers which direct the eye of the observer to the pole star; and this verse points to Christ so clearly, so distinctly, that many have found him by it, and have lived. Let me read it again: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:17-18. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn, the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth, not is condemned already,

Not, “shall be condemned at the last,” though that also is true; but “he that believeth not is condemned already,” —

John 3:18. Because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

May the Lord bless to us the reading of this very simple gospel chapter, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.


Verses 1-21

Let us once more read together part of this blessed soul-saving chapter. I suppose that more souls have been saved through the reading of this chapter than through almost any other portion of Holy Writ.

John 3:1-2. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night,

He could not have come at a better time; the business of the day was over, and all was quiet.

John 3:2. And said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him.

It is always well to go as far as you can in your avowal of belief in Christ. Nicodemus confessed what he knew to be true, and he drew from it the thoroughly accurate conclusion that Christ must be a teacher come from God because of the miracles which he wrought. Dear hearer, if thou dost not yet fully know Christ, take heed that thou dost not trifle with the truth which thou dost know. If God has taught thee a little about him, prize that little, and thou shalt have more, as we have often said, “He that values moonlight shall yet have sunlight.” Thank God if thou knowest as much as Nicodemus knew, and ask him to teach thee more.

John 3:3-4. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, how can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Staggering at the symbol, he stumbled at the letter of Christ’s saying, and did not perceive its inward sense.

John 3:5-6. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh;-

Flesh, and nothing more; and it never can be anything more than flesh. The first birth brings no one any further than that. The children of the most godly parents, so far as their sinful nature is concerned, are in precisely the same condition as the offspring of the most ungodly. If they are ever to be numbered amongst the children of God, they must be born again, because “that which is born of the flesh is flesh;” —

John 3:6. And that which is born of the Spirit-

And that alone —

John 3:6. Is spirit.

Now, the flesh cannot enter into the spiritual kingdom, only the spirit can enter that realm; and hence the need of a new birth, that this spirit may be created in us.

John 3:7-8. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

He is a mystery. The effect of the work of the Spirit upon him is seen in him, but no man understands what the Spirit of God is, or how he works, any more than he knows whence the wind comes, and whither it goes.

John 3:9-10. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

A very similar query to that might be put to some who are living now “Are you profound philosophers, students deeply learned in classic lore, or wise concerning many of the mysteries of nature; yet know you not these things? What will be the good of all your knowledge if you do not know how to gain admission into the kingdom of heaven? It would be better for a man to be ignorant of all other things, and to know this one thing, than to have all possible human learning, and yet to miss this knowledge which is the most essential of all.

John 3:11. Verily, verily, I say unto thee,

Christ speaks with an authority that no mere human teacher can ever possess.

John 3:11. We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

In a certain sense, every true minister of Christ and every true child of God, can say this, for we know that there is a spiritual kingdom. We have seen it, we have entered into it; and we can testify that there is another life which is as much superior to the ordinary life of men as the life of men is superior to that of the brutes that perish; and we know that we have that superior life. We have other eyes than these eyes that are visible, and other ears than the ears of our flesh. There is a higher and better life to be enjoyed even now, and he that believeth in Christ has that life. “We speak that we do know and testify that we have seen;” and yet, though our testimony would be believed if we gave it concerning anything else, we are not believed when we witness concerning this higher and better life.

John 3:12. If I have told you earthly things,-

Things that take place here below, such as the new birth, —

John 3:12. And ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

Christ will not go on to teach us the deepest doctrines of the Christian faith if we will not learn that which is simplest. Shall the boy be taught the classics if he will not study the spelling-book? If men will not believe that there is such a thing as the new birth, shall they be taught the doctrine of union to Christ, and all those higher truths that rise out of it? They would not believe these things if they were taught them.

John 3:13. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

There was a nut that Nicodemus could not crack, a riddle that he could not solve; and the Saviour left him thus puzzled, for the time being, that he might learn that, unless he was taught of the Spirit, he could not understand the teaching of Christ. You and I, who have been taught of the Spirit, understand the meaning of these words, but Nicodemus did not, though he was “a master of Israel.”

Now follows another passage of Scripture which I always rejoice to read in this chapter. There are two great truths revealed here; the one is, that we must be born again, and the other is, that whosoever believeth in Christ is saved. Sometimes those two truths seem to come into conflict with one another. A man says, “You say to me, ‘Only believe, and you shall be saved;’ and then, by-and-by, you tell me that I must be born again. Are both these statements true?” Yes, they are both true, and they are both in this chapter. We have been reading about the necessity of regeneration, now comes the glorious freeness of the gospel of Christ.

John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

You must be born into a new life if you are to be saved; how are you to have that great blessing? There is life for a look at Jesus Christ lifted up upon the cross, and lifted up in the preaching of the gospel. Look to him, then; and, as surely as those who were bitten by the serpents in the wilderness were healed the moment that they looked at the serpent of brass, so surely shall every son or daughter of Adam, who gives a faith-look at the crucified Saviour, be saved at once and for ever.

John 3:16-17. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

There was no necessity for Christ to come here to condemn us, for we were condemned already by our sin. Why, then, did Jesus come? He must have come upon an errand of mercy, to bring salvation to the lost. It is even so; God sent him for that very purpose, that he might give eternal life to as many as believe on him. Oh, the glorious freeness of this precious gospel! Surely they deserve the deepest hell who will not have heaven upon such terms. They must forever perish if they reject life when it is set before them in this truly gracious manner.

John 3:18-19. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation,-

The very first form of it, the proof of it, and the reason for it: “This is the condemnation,” —

John 3:19-21. That light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Those who love their sins cannot at the same time love the Saviour; they must love the one, and hate the other; and it is a terrible choice when they deliberately reject the only Saviour; “the Light of the world,” and choose the darkness of sin, the darkness of woe, the outer darkness, where there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.


Verses 1-24

This is a very wonderful chapter, because, while it teaches the doctrine of regeneration, and the necessity of a great moral and spiritual change, it yet also reveals the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, — a very wonderful combination, which puzzles many who read what is here recorded. Many have been staggered by one or other of these great truths, yet they evidently agree together, for they are taught by the same unerring Teacher, and they are preserved to us by the Spirit of God in the same chapter.

John 3:1-2. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

Nicodemus was very candid; he went as far as he could go. If he had not yet learned to believe in Christ as his Saviour, he did at least admit that Christ, upon the evidence of his miracles, was “a teacher come from God.” There is always hope of a man who is willing to see all that he can, and who acknowledges what he can see. He will see “greater things than these” if he is willing to use his eyes.

John 3:3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

Without a new birth, “he cannot see,” he cannot comprehend, he cannot understand, he cannot know anything about “the kingdom of God.”

John 3:4. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Ah, me! our blessed Master taught much by parables, and parabolic teaching is the best of teaching; but you see how readily it can be misunderstood, how men can take the emblem in a carnal way, and not understand its spiritual meaning. This is how the false doctrine of transubstantiation is taught. When Christ says of the bread, “This is my body,” the Romanists take his words literally, and so miss their spiritual meaning. It was in the same way that Nicodemus fell into error concerning Christ’s teaching.

John 3:5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

If the water here signifies baptism, — mark you, if it does, — then, observe, that there is no entering into the kingdom without it. I do not think that baptism is here intended at all, but the purifying influence of the Word of God symbolized by water. We might read the verse “Except a man be born of water, even of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” There is a great change of character necessary for entrance into the kingdom; seeing it is one thing, entering into it is another matter; yet one cannot even see the kingdom of God without being born again, or born from above.

John 3:6-7. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Nicodemus was well born, no doubt; probably, he was a pure Jew; yet he must be born again. And you may have descended from a long line of saints, your parents may be in the Church of Christ, and your parents’ parents, too; but still the truth remains, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” at its very best. Iit cannot rise above that which gave it birth, it is but flesh. “Ye must be born again.” There is no hope for you apart from the new birth from above. You cannot see, and you cannot enter, the kingdom of God merely by your first birth. Birthright-membership is a great delusion, for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh;” and only “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

John 3:8. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

It is a mystery. Thou canst never fully understand it, but thou canst enjoy it. If thou art born again, thou wilt know what it is; but thou canst no more discover thy second birth than thy first birth, except by its results and effects. May God give you to know what it is to be born again! There are many doctors of divinity and men of great learning who know nothing about this new birth, and there are many who are mere babes in Christ who nevertheless enjoy the fruit of this blessed regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

John 3:9-10. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

These A B C truths, which are taught in the very first school-book used by Christ’s scholars, — “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”

John 3:11. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

This is true of all faithful ministers of the gospel; we do not preach theories, we preach facts. We do not talk about speculations; we speak of a new birth through which we have ourselves passed. If there be no such thing, we are liars unto you; but there is such a thing, and this is our witness: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” The fashion, nowadays, is to make statements upon religious matters with great caution, expecting to have them disputed; but we need exercise no caution when we state what we know to be true. We will be positive, we will utter our “verily, verily,” when we speak what is a matter of fact to our own consciences: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.”

John 3:12. If have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

Regeneration is a work that is wrought here on earth, and belongs to this present life. High as the mystery is, it lies but at the very threshold of the temple of divine truth: “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” No doubt, unbelief hides much of heavenly truth from us; but if we begin to doubt the very elementary doctrines of our holy faith, how shall the great Master take us on and up to the higher science that he is ready to teach us?

John 3:13. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

This saying must have puzzled Nicodemus; he had, doubtless, read a great many riddles, but into the meaning of this riddle he could not enter; yet, beloved, any child of God, though he was converted only yesterday, may know what Jesus meant. Now observe that, as the first part of this chapter sets forth the need of a great and supernatural change, the latter part of the chapter shows us the door of mercy wide open, and tells us that faith in Christ will save us.

John 3:14-15. And, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

There is no contradiction here to what we have been reading. He that believes in Christ receives the new birth, receives eternal life, and thus by faith, he gets that which is essential to a sight and entrance into the kingdom of God.

John 3:16-18. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned:

What a charming sentence! What comfort it ought to bring to the mind of every sinner who will now believe in Christ!

John 3:18. But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

“He that believeth not is condemned already.” If you have heard of Christ’s salvation, and you have not believed in him, that is evidence enough of your condemnation. There is no need to prove your evil works, no need to fetch your diary, and turn over the record of your life. If you have not believed in Jesus Christ, it shows a natural want of holiness, a lack of love to the loving God; and by that evidence you are condemned already, because you have not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.

John 3:19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

The dislike of Christ is caused by a love of sin. If men did not hug their sins, they would embrace the Saviour.

John 3:20-21. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

If you do not like self-examination, be sure that you are wrong. If you do not like reading heart-searching books, or listening to a faithful gospel ministry, be sure that you are wrong. If you do not like that part of the Word of God which judges you, and makes you tremble, be sure that you are wrong. The man in business, who cannot bear to look at his books, most probably has good reason to be afraid of his books. He shuts them up because they would shut him up if he were to pay attention to them. O sirs, there is no more damning sign of human’s condition than his endeavor to avoid the light. Search and see, look and examine. Make sure work for eternity, whatever you trifle with, trifle not with your souls. Take other things on hearsay, if you please; but not your condition towards God. Let that be searched into with all earnestness and sincerity; and be not satisfied till the truth has satisfied you.

John 3:22-24. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.

We ought to be thankful that God’s ministers are not silenced in this age. May the Lord raise up, in these evil days, many a John the Baptist, who shall faithfully declare his testimony concerning the Lamb of God!


Verses 13-36

John 3:13. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that come down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

We are in the stairway now between heaven and earth; Christ has came down; Christ has gone up, and yet he was always there; a mystery, but one that is true, and new. Today we can go up by thought and prayer, and blessings can come down; and Christ is always there. “He is at the Father’s side, the Man of Love, the Crucified.”

John 3:14-15. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

What a glorious word! Here is the gospel in a verse, the whole Bible in a line or two. If we believe in him this morning, we have eternal life; not merely life, but life similar to the very life of God himself — eternal life. We have in us that which will outlast the world, the sun, the moon, and the stars; we have a life which, being like the life of God, we shall live for ever and ever.

John 3:16-17. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Condemnation does come to the world through Christ, because the world rejects him; but that was no part of God’s design in sending him. His design is salvation — salvation only. Oh! that we might so believe as to answer to the divine purpose in the sending of his Son. “He that believeth on him is not condemned,” not even now, notwithstanding every sin he has committed, he is not condemned; “but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” Unbelieving is the condemning sin; it seals upon us the condemnation of every other sin. If thou dost not believe in Christ this morning, my hearer, thou art not in a state of probation, thou art condemned already; he that believes on him is not in a state of probation, he is not condemned, he is already acquitted, he is at this moment free from condemnation before the judgment-seat of God.

John 3:19-21. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

You see why men do not come to Christ; they do not want to give up their sin; they do not want to be made uneasy in it; they are afraid of being reproved. You see why saintly men do come to Christ, for they take a delight in beholding him, and in having their faith and their grace made manifest, both to themselves and to onlookers.

John 3:22-24. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea: and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.

So he was busy until he was cast into prison. He would not waste an hour while he had an opportunity of doing good; he did it with all his heart. John! are you here in this sanctuary at this moment, not yet laid up, not yet obliged to keep your bed? Work while you can then; spend every moment in your Master’s service.

John 3:25. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

Is it not a come-down — from reading about looking to Christ and loving, to a contention about purifying? There always are in the Church more or less idle quarrels about the dress of the preacher, about the mode of administering sacraments, and so on — a discussion about purifying.

John 3:26. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

“They are leaving you.” They felt an envy on behalf of John, because his influence appeared to be declining. John was quite a stranger to this feeling; he loved to see his Master grow, even at the cost of his own effacing.

John 3:27. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing except it be given Him from heaven.

No spiritual power, no power to bless his fellow-men, except it come from God. Shall I quarrel with God, therefore, if he gives to this man more power than he gives to me? Shall I dispute about it? It is God’s sovereign will, and he does as he pleases.

John 3:28-29. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

They were vexed, but John was joyful; he loved to hear of Jesus prospering.

John 3:30. He must increase, but I must decrease.

So he did. This is John’s one song, last of his utterances almost. He preaches no more sermons that are recorded; he must now go to prison, and there lie in a silence which he could scarcely bear. It was very hard for John to be quiet; he had an active, noble mind, and he became the victim, we fear, of doubts when he was shut up in prison. The breezy air of the wilderness suited him much better than the dull, heavy atmosphere of a prison. I daresay some of you may feel this at this time; do not set it down to spiritual results, to spiritual causes; set it down to the atmosphere, for so it is. We feel dull and heavy often, but heaviest when the heart is in a heavy air; every wind that rises blows away despair. So we must not think too much of our feelings, which even the wind can change.

John 3:31. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

However good a man may be, he is earthly; there is flesh and blood about him, akin to the earth; and even if he handles heavenly things, the earthiness of the preacher peeps out every now and then. Christ had nothing of that about him; he was above all.

John 3:32. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

Sad note! The news that all men went to Christ pleased John, but the fact that none received his testimony, comparatively none, grieved his heart.

John 3:33-34. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

There is an infinite spiritual power about the words of Christ; they are the words of God, and the Holy Spirit concentrates all his energy in those words.

John 3:35-36. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

So John’s last words are thunder; his dying speech has in it the word most terrible to all of you who believe not in Christ, “The wrath of God abideth on him.”


Verses 14-17

John 3:14-15. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

“Whosoever.” Note that word, for it means you, and it means me. No matter though you are near to death’s door, crushed and broken, bruised and mangled, look to the Crucified One, and, looking, you shall find that there is life eternal for you. Though your soul has been ready to choose strangling rather than your life, yet there is a better life for you by trusting in Christ. Choose that, and rest in him. Say, from your heart, the last lines of the hymn we sang just now, —

“Jesus, to thy arms I fly;

Save me, Lord, or else I die.”

John 3:16-17. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Now this, which is good teaching for those who have but lately come to Christ, or for those who are seeking to come to him, is the very same teaching which will bring comfort to the most advanced and best instructed of the saints. How I love continually to begin with Christ over again as I began at the first! They say, when a man is sick, that it is a good thing to take him to his native place, and when a true believer’s soul gets faint and unbelieving, let him breathe the air of Calvary over again. The learned Grotius, who had spent the most of his life in theological disputations, —not always or yet often on the right side, — when he was dying said, “Read me something;” and they read him the story of the publican and the Pharisee. He said, “And that poor publican I am; thank God, that publican I am. ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’” That was the word with which the great scholar entered into heaven, and that is the way in which you and I must come to God. May the Holy Spirit help us to come to him thus!

Amen.

This exposition consisted of readings from Job 7, and John 3:14-17.


Verses 22-36

John 3:22-29 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea, and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bare me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am Sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bride groom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

“I have introduced the Bridegroom; and, henceforth, it will be my part gradually to disappear from the scene.”

John 3:30. He must increase, but I must decrease.

As fades the morning star when the sun himself arises, so was it the joy of the herald of Christ to lose himself in the supreme radiance of his Lord’s appearing.

John 3:31-34. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth His testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit it by measure unto him.

Did not the Holy Spirit descend, and remain upon him, and that without measure or limit?

John 3:35-36. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:

He has it now; and he can never lose it, or else it would not be everlasting. He has a life that must exist for ever and ever.

John 3:36. And he that believeth not the Son shall not see life;

He shall not even know what spiritual life is, he shall not be able to understand it, or to form any idea of it. While he is an unbeliever, he is blind to spiritual things. What a dreadful sentence that is I “He shall not see life;” —

John 3:36. But the wrath of God abideth on him.

God is ever angry with him because he has rejected his own GOD, and refused the great salvation.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 3:1-12; John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 3:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/john-3.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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