The New Birth
3 Now there was a certain man among the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler (member of the Sanhedrin) among the Jews, 2 who came to Jesus at night and said to Him, “Rabbi (Teacher), we know [without any doubt] that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs [these wonders, these attesting miracles] that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God.(A) 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh [the physical is merely physical], and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be surprised that I have told you, ‘You must be born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified].’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be possible?” 10 Jesus replied, “You are the [great and well-known] teacher of Israel, and yet you do not know nor understand these things [from Scripture]? 11 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, we speak only of what we [absolutely] know and testify about what we have [actually] seen [as eyewitnesses]; and [still] you [reject our evidence and] do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things [that is, things that happen right here on earth] and you do not believe, how will you believe and trust Me if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up into heaven, but there is One who came down from heaven, the Son of Man [Himself—whose home is in heaven]. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the [bronze] serpent in the desert [on a pole], so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross],(B) 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life [after physical death, and will actually live forever].
16 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]; but the one who does not believe [and has decided to reject Him as personal Savior and Lord] is judged already [that one has been convicted and sentenced], because [b]he has not believed and trusted in the name of the [One and] only begotten Son of God [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, the One who alone can save him]. 19 This is the judgment [that is, the cause for indictment, the test by which people are judged, the basis for the sentence]: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the [c]darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.(C) 20 For every wrongdoer hates the Light, and does not come to the Light [but shrinks from it] for fear that his [sinful, worthless] activities will be exposed and condemned. 21 But whoever practices truth [and does what is right—morally, ethically, spiritually] comes to the Light, so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—accomplished in God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence on Him].”
John’s Last Testimony
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples went into the land of Judea, and there He spent time with them and baptized.(D) 23 Now John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Therefore there arose a controversy between John’s disciples and a Jew in regard to [d]purification (ceremonial washing). 26 So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi (Teacher), the Man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan [at the Jordan River crossing]—and to whom you have testified—look, He is baptizing too, and everyone is going to Him!” 27 John replied, “A man can receive nothing [he can claim nothing at all] unless it has been granted to him from heaven [for there is no other source than the sovereign will of God]. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I stated, ‘I am not the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed),’ but, ‘I have [only] been sent ahead of Him [as His appointed forerunner and messenger to announce and proclaim His coming].’(E) 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands by and listens to him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this pleasure and joy of mine is now complete.(F) 30 He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.(G)
31 “He who comes from [heaven] above is above all others; he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks [about things] of the earth [his viewpoint and experience are earthly]. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has [actually] seen and heard, of that He testifies; and yet no one accepts His testimony [as true]. 33 Whoever receives His testimony has set his seal [of approval] to this: God is true [and he knows that God cannot lie]. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God [proclaiming the Father’s own message]; for God gives the [gift of the] Spirit without measure [generously and boundlessly]!(H) 35 The Father loves the Son and has given and entrusted all things into His hand.(I) 36 He who believes and trusts in the Son and accepts Him [as Savior] has eternal life [that is, already possesses it]; but he who does not believe the Son and chooses to reject Him, [disobeying Him and denying Him as Savior] will not see [eternal] life, but [instead] the wrath of God hangs over him continually.”(J)
- John 3:16 Jesus, God’s only Son, the One who is truly unique, the only one of His kind.
- John 3:18 The Greek refers to an unsaved person who has made the decision not to believe in the Son, Jesus Christ, that is, not to accept the salvation offered by the Son and commit to follow Him. Such a person stands condemned by God unless he changes his mind.
- John 3:19 See note 1:5.
- John 3:25 An immersion baptism was one of the requirements for a convert to Judaism, and John the Baptist had most likely taken over the ritual, giving it new meaning in his own ministry. Jewish tradition specified that there had to be enough water to completely cover a person, and that it had to be collected naturally.