Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg
Bible study material on John 3:1-13
John 3 is one of the most important chapters in John’s Gospel because it deals with the subject of the new birth. In Jesus’ time, some religious groups such as Pharisees had become so confused with this subject. In this light, many people and for that matter, religious leaders like Nicodemus, had no idea about what it means to be born again. This lesson teaches us about the necessity and nature of the new birth.
1. The Need for the New Birth (3:1-5)
An examination of the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus identifies two main importance of the new birth.
a. The new birth is necessary to see (experience) the kingdom of God (verse 3)
Nicodemus was a moral, religious man, one of the chief teachers (rulers) of the Jews, yet he did not understand the truth about the new birth. Spiritual truths cannot be grasped by the carnal mind of sinful person (1 Corinthians 2:10-14). Nicodemus came “by night,” a symbol of the unsaved person. The unsaved person is “in the dark” spiritually (Ephesians 4:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:3-6). Being religious and moral does not make a person fit for the kingdom of heaven. One must be born again, that is, born from above.
Nicodemus confused the spiritual and the physical (see verse 4). He thought in terms of physical birth, while Jesus was talking about a spiritual birth. All of us are born in sin. Our “first birth” makes us children of Adam and this means we are children of wrath and of disobedience (Ephesians 2:1-3). No amount of education, religion or discipline can change the old nature. We must receive a new nature from God.
b. The new birth is necessary in order to enter the kingdom of God (verse 5)
By “the kingdom of God,” Jesus did not mean an earthly political kingdom. It is a heavenly kingdom. Paul described the kingdom of God in Romans 14:17. Entrance into the kingdom of God requires repentance and spiritual rebirth. When a sinner trusts Jesus, he or she enters God’s kingdom and family. Like most of his Jewish friends, Nicodemus thought that being born a Jew, and living according to the Law, would satisfy God (see Matthew 3:7-12 and John 8:33-39). Ever since Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, all humankind have been born outside paradise. Only by being born again can we enter the kingdom of God.
2. The Nature of the New Birth (3:6-13)
a. The new birth is a spiritual birth (verses 6-7)
That which is born of the old nature will always be of old nature and is under the wrath of God. That which is born of the Spirit (the new nature discussed in 2 Peter 1:4) is Spirit and is eternal. You cannot produce a spiritual birth with physical means. This is why “born of water” in verse 5 cannot mean baptism, for baptism would mean applying a physical substance (water) to the physical being. This action could never bring about a spiritual birth. (Read John 1:11-13 and 6:63.)
“Born of water” does not refer to water baptism, for in the Bible baptism speaks of death, not birth (Romans 6:1). If baptism is essential for salvation, then nobody in the Old Testament was ever saved, for there was no baptism under the Law. The great saints named in Hebrews 11 were all saved by faith. Salvation is not of works (Ephesians 2:8-10), and baptism is a human work. Jesus came to save, yet He did not baptize (John 4:2). If baptism is necessary for eternal life, why did Paul rejoice because he had not baptized more people (1 Corinthians 1:13-17)?
The new birth can only be produced by spiritual means through the Spirit of God (John 3:6 and 6:63) and the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18). The “water” in verse 5 refers to physical birth (every baby is “born of water”), the thing Nicodemus mentioned in verse 4. A person is born again when the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to produce faith and impart the new nature when the person believes. The Spirit usually uses a believer to give the Word to another person (see 1 Corinthians 4:15), but only the Spirit can impart life.
b. It is a mysterious birth (verses 8-10)
No one can explain the wind, and no one can explain the working of the Spirit. Both the Spirit and the believer are like the wind. Nicodemus, instructed in the Law, should have known the truth of the renewing work of the Spirit (Ezekiel 37).
c. It is a real birth (verses 11-13)
Many things are mysterious yet real. Jesus assured Nicodemus that the new birth is not a fantasy, but a reality. If a person will believe Jesus’ words and receive Him, he or she will discover how real and wonderful the new birth is.
This lesson has sought to explain the need and nature of the new birth in Jesus by studying Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 1:1-13. The passage shows that New Birth is necessary in order to see and enter the kingdom of God. Contrary to natural birth, the new birth in Jesus Christ is spiritual, mysterious and real.
1. What does it mean to be born again?
2. Explain the statement that “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
3. Why is it necessary to be born again?
4. The new birth in Christ is mysterious and real. How far do you agree?