Author: Kevin Airrington
October 30, 2018
John 3:7, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
Does Jesus tell Nicodemus he must be born again or is he telling Nicodemus that ALL of us need to be born again? Does it matter?
In John Chapter 3, Jesus is having a conversation with a man named Nicodemus. This is a private conversation between these two men. However, we get to look in on that conversation and learn much from it. Ultimately, while the conversation is between them, from examining the Scripture in the King James Bible we will see clearly that this is meant for all of us and not just Nicodemus.
John 3:7, “Marvel not that I said unto THEE, YE must be born again.”
When we study the Bible, some of the words used can make it difficult if not impossible to discern who is being spoken too. Thee and Ye matter.
Remember, anything that begins with a T is singular (thee, thou, thine, thy), if it begins in Y it is plural (ye, you, your).
In other readings simply using the word You as with the ESV, NIV, NKJV, et al. “You must be born again.” Here You can mean one person (Nicodemus) or many persons (all of us). With the King James Bible, there is not a question. Ye means everyone.
Who was Nicodemus?
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin and is mentioned Three times in the book of John:
He first visits Jesus one night to discuss Jesus’ teachings (John 3:1–21). Immediately, we see the importance of the meeting and Jesus is direct with Nicodemus and confronts him with the truth that we “must be born again”
We need to pause here and ask, “Why is Nicodemus meeting with Jesus, alone, in the middle of the night?” My suspicion is that Nicodemus was part of a secret band of believers who believed that Jesus was who He said he was. Nicodemus pretty much tells us this in verse two.
We also know from John 3:1 that Nicodemus was a Pharisee and part of the Sanhedrin. At the time of Jesus, two religio-political parties consisted of two parties, The Majority (Sadducees) and the Minority (Pharisees). The two parties made of the Sanhedrin or the Council. (see below for more)
Back to Jesus and Nicodemus… In their conversation, Jesus immediately confronts Nicodemus with the truth that he “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).
Nicodemus comes across incredulous, so Jesus very gently, perhaps reprimands him, telling him that since he is the leader of the Jews he should already know this. (John 3:10) Jesus goes on to give a further explanation of the new birth, and it is in this context that we find (John 3:16), which is one of the most well-known and beloved verses in the Bible.
The next time we encounter Nicodemus in the Bible, he is functioning in his official capacity as a member of the Sanhedrin as they consider what to do about Jesus. (John 7)
The final mention of Nicodemus in the Bible is in John 19 after Jesus’ crucifixion. We find Nicodemus assisting Joseph of Arimathea in Jesus’ burial. Joseph is described in John as a rich man and in Mark 15:43 as a member of the Council. He is also described in John 19:38 as a disciple of Jesus. Here we have two members of the Council, Nicodemus, and Joseph, who are disciples of Jesus, albeit in secret because they were afraid of the Jews. Do you think there may have been others?
At this we have discussed, who was at this secret meeting in John chapter 3. We have determined whom Jesus was speaking about when He told Nicodemus that , “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We also learned that Nicodemus was a secret follower, among perhaps many followers of Jesus. Nicodemus was part of one of two religio-political parties, he was Pharisee, the minority party within the Council or the Sanhedrin.
We should also state that the Sanhedrin was the supreme theocratic court of the Jews. The Sanhedrin’s authority was broad and far-reaching, involving legislation, administration, and justice. There was religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction.
The History of the “Born Again” Doctrine
There exists extra-Biblical literature of the Born-Again Doctrine. The earliest references or inferences to a new birth at the resurrection may be found in literature in the first few centuries after Christ. Many “Church Fathers” and 1st Century writers referred to the Doctrineof being Born again.
“Born again Christians base their faith on receiving the Lord through the Holy Spirit for a deeper acceptance of Jesus Christ.”
As we know from our text, the “born again” and rebirth of Christ in a person can be traced to John 3:3-7 in the Bible. Christ gave a very simple explanation of being born again, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
In the 19th Century, the Born-Again Doctrine really took root during the Charismatic Pentecostal moving. Although it existed in the 1st Century. The Born-Again Movement was accelerated with the “Jesus movement” in the early 1970s.
The Doctrine of Being Born Again
Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not speak directly of it at all, though without directly naming it, they supply supporting information. Also, the epistles of Paul, Peter, and especially John that main branches of this doctrine make appearances.
As we begin, it is helpful for us to perceive the wide treatment of figures John uses to prepare us for how he uses them to support the various elements of this important, foundational doctrine. John begins using symbolism immediately in John 1, identifying Jesus as the Word, the central Figure in God’s spiritual work in men’s behalf. He continues, speaking of light, darkness, baptism, the Lamb of God, and the Temple, among others, before the reader arrives at John 3.
Let’s look at the imagery in John 2:18-22. “…Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…” This is regarding the Temple and it is especially interesting because it immediately precedes Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus on being born again. You will remember that the Jews immediately reject the teaching, being it is a physical impossibility. And indeed, it is impossible. And this is the same reason Nicodemus rejected Jesus. It is just not possible…when we look with our physical eyes (there is a whole new lesson here). a2
Remember in John 4, the woman at the well (verses 7-15), immediately jumps to her own understanding, who own conclusion that Jesus is speaking of water, and again in John 4:31-38, even Jesus’ disciples fail to grasp that spiritual significance of food.
Jesus’ “eat my flesh, drink my blood.” What kind of sick cult do you guys belong to? John 6:32-63 Jesus’ Manna discourse brings about an image that is so offensive that even some of His followers left Him. We can see a constant failure through the entire book where others fail to grasp the meaning. Like Nicodemus, man have misunderstood being Born-Again.
As children of God we must recognize that must look at John 3 in a spiritual sense. This is very important for our spiritual lives and our growth. John 3:5 makes no mistake, UNLESS WE ARE BORN AGAIN WE WILL NOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD! Jesus is teaching that, besides being born a biological birth, begotten of our mother, we must also experience a supernatural, spiritual birth.
We must recognize that this spiritualizing continues in John 3. In fact, for the children of God, it not only continues, but it also increases exponentially in terms of its importance to their spiritual lives! It is an unvarnished truth that only those who are born again will see and enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5).
Jesus is teaching that, besides one’s biological birth, one must also experience a supernatural, spiritual birth. This is important, a Christian is not just biologically begotten, but born and likewise there is no such thing as a non-born-again Christian!
The Importance of being Born-Again
Jesus starts out by saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee”. This is a clear instruction that what I (Jesus) am about to say next is significantly important and you need to pay attention here. The weight of what Jesus was saying was paramount to believers entering into Heaven. Don’t misunderstand me, it is not important that we understand every last detail of this critical doctrine in order to be saved. Although a deeper understanding helps us to grasp all that God has for us.
God sees us as His children, already party of His Family and we are able to function as adults before Him in this world. It also shows Him that we are a new creation on a spiritual journey, by which we will grow in grace and knowledge of Christ and we will be transformed into His image! Hallelujah!!!
Being born-again also teaches us how we should look at ourselves once we become a Christian. We are not who we once were; spiritually dead to God and all He has for us…but now we are ALIVE in Christ and heirs of the throne, free from spiritual bondage, and we are left to be able to pursue the holy, righteous character of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus reveals how special we are to God, and that we are responsible for all that we have been given, unlike the rest of the world.
In Ephesians 2:1-6, the apostle Paul reveals a major detail of why a spiritual birth is necessary:
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”
Twice, Paul says in these six verses that we “were dead”—not physically dead but spiritually dead. An individual cannot conduct his life before he is born, nor can a dead person direct his steps and regulate his life. Clearly, God perceives a person as spiritually dead before he is born again. Being born again thus begins a convert’s progress toward his transformation into Christ’s image and living in the Kingdom of God for all eternity.