St. John's Gospel (06) - Born from Above
The Word Manifest in St. John’s Gospel (06) - Born From Above
John 3:1–21 - “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”. . . 12 “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. . . . even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
He Came to a Ruler of the Jews - “Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (v. 1) discusses Christ’s Messianic ministry (v. 2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv. 3, 5) with Jesus. A. T. Robertson, says of Nicodemus, “He knew only Jews as members of that kingdom, the political kingdom of Pharisaic hope which was to make all the world Jewish (Pharisaic) under the King Messiah.” Jesus confronts this bias.
He Came to Grant Birth from Above - St. John points out many the way many hearers are stuck in wooden and dumb literalisms (e.g., “destroy this temple,” ch. 2). Here Nicodemus misunderstands this “new birth” as a literal natural birth. Jesus is describing a spiritual renewal. The word “again” (v3) in “born again” in Greek is anothen. It often means “from above” rather than “again.” For example, “John 19:11 - “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (anothen, 19:11). Here we have reference to heaven and earth: “ascended into heaven” and “descended from heaven” (v. 13). We have new life from Spirit of heaven “above.”
He Came to Bring a New Age - Being “born again” relates to the Messianic kingdom of God. Elsewhere it is called the “regeneration,” or the new world (palingenesia, lit. “rebirth,” Matt. 19:28). Here the same idea is in “born again/from above.” Nicodemus should have known this (v. 10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33). In Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff, the essential terms and concepts of this dialogue are found: “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light.”
As Many as Received Him - Jesus calls for faith in Himself because He is the unique (only-begotten) Son of God (vv. 16-18). The purpose of the new kingdom age is explained in three verses: a) Jesus must go to the cross so that believers will have eternal life (v15) (atonement); b) God sent Jesus so that believers will not perish but have life (v16) (salvation); c) God sent Jesus that the world might be saved (v17) (kingdom).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more