John 3:1-6
John 3:1 (KJB)
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
John now introduces a man named Nicodemus and his name means “Innocent blood or victory over the people.” Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin which was the ruling body in Israel at that time. The answers and understanding Nicodemus had, had shown the tremendous dearth of biblical understanding which pervaded the rulers in Israel. This is a case in which the common people probably had more spiritual insight than the leaders which should excel. Since their understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures had waned drastically, it was for this reason that they could not recognize Jesus.
John 3:2 (KJB)
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 had come to Jesus by night perhaps for two reasons. First, Jesus was thronged by people wherever He went and He would be unapproachable by reason of the crowds and nighttime would have been an excellent time to have a lengthy conversation. Secondly, if it was found out that Nicodemus went to Jesus, he could be suspected of being a disciple which could cause him to be removed from the Sanhedrin. Now the second part of this verse tells us that Nicodemus stated that “they knew” that Jesus was a teacher who came from God. They are only seeing Him as a teacher and not the Son of God as John the Baptist saw Him. They claimed to believe that they knew He came from God, yet they did not believe Him nor the claims He made. Jesus must have done some kind of miracle to confirm His Messiahship because it was like the prophets of old that did miracles and that is why they stated they knew He was from God. Yet, if they believed He was from God, their response to Jesus showed just the opposite.
John 3:3 (KJB)
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 had probably thought that there was no need for any change in him and since he was under the Mosaic law, then everything would be fine. There had to be some type of discourse at this point between Jesus and Nicodemus since Jesus now tells him how a person can be saved and readied for Heaven. The Jews thought that since they received the law of God, they were already on their way to Heaven. Now Jesus introduces the only way that a person can become right with God. For the last 1500 years, the way a person became right with God was through animal sacrifices under the Mosaic system. Now Jesus is telling Nicodemus that no longer will an animal sacrifice suffice to make you right with God. A person must be born again. The words “born again” in the Greek may also be understood as “born from above.”
Jesus is now pointing to the fact that a person must be changed from above. Israel, in obedience to Moses, for 1500 years was sacrificing animals but now the way to God is from God. The animal sacrifices represented the ceremonies which were tied to the earth. (Gal 4:25-26 KJV) For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. {26} But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. The apostle Paul had written that there are two Jerusalems. The earthly Jerusalem is tied to the law and is in bondage to that law, which means under its system no one could ever be eternally saved. Then Paul points to the heavenly Jerusalem whereby if a person is part of that, it means, they have become born again or born from above from Heaven.
So Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless he becomes born again, he can never see the Kingdom of God. He would have been under the impression that he was already part of the kingdom of God having the law of God but now a change was about to take place. No longer would God deal with only one country or people, He was about to begin to evangelize the entire world. To be born from above is to be indwelled with the Holy Spirit who comes from above. There is nothing on earth which contributes to a person’s salvation, it is all done from above and sent to the person becoming saved. Once the Holy Spirit indwells a person, they are given spiritual eyes and ears so they can see the Kingdom of God and hear and understand the true teachings of the Kingdom of God.
John 3:4 (KJB)
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?
The answer of Nicodemus shows how much his thoughts are tied to this world. Jesus was speaking about being born from above and Nicodemus was still thinking about birth in the natural realm. Let us not condemn him for his misunderstanding because he has been under a system all his life which is works oriented and earth based with all its sacrifices coming from the world. So when Jesus speaks about being born again, Nicodemus wants to know how a grown man can enter a second time into his mother’s womb. He is also confused about how a man can be born when he is old, since he is already alive, then what type of birth can he experience? These questions were perplexing to him.
John 3:5 (KJB)
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.
In verse 3, Jesus had spoken about seeing the Kingdom of God but here He is giving Nicodemus the way a person can enter the Kingdom of God. In the natural birth, there is water associated with it. Nicodemus would have known this but the earthly water is not what Jesus is speaking about.
(John 4:14 KJV) But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
The water in view which the true believer will experience is the water of grace. Once a person has become truly saved by grace, they will never thirst for anything else because they will have everything they need for salvation and to keep them eternally. Grace is the way into the Kingdom of God which springs up into eternal life. Grace is not only something which happens for a temporary time here on earth, such as the animal sacrifices or the High Priest who had to go into the Holy of Holies each year, but it is for eternity. Once you are in the Kingdom of God, it is forever. Not only is the believer given the water of grace but at the time of salvation they are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and with these two, a person enters into the Kingdom of God. Jesus is now saying that no works of any kind nor any animal sacrifice will ever allow a person to enter into the Kingdom of God. This is why Jesus, in John 4, Jesus made a great distinction between the natural water of earth and the spiritual water of grace. It was to show the difference between religion and the true way to God. Religion will never get anyone into the Kingdom of God. So to summarize, once a person is born of grace and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, they are born again into the Kingdom of God. Earthly water can only clean the body but the heavenly water of grace cleans the soul totally.
John 3:6 (KJB)
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Here Jesus is making a straight distinction that flesh and spirit are two different things and they represent two different things. When a person is born naturally, they are a product of their earthly parents which means they are flesh and blood like their parents are. Those who are born of the Spirit, are born from above and their souls have been cleansed of all sin. The spiritual cleansing comes from above and has nothing whatsoever to do with the natural man. Flesh is tied to this world which Jesus is teaching that religions of the world cannot save. If one is born the second time, experiencing the second birth from above, then they will be saved. The physical bodies are not saved from above but only the soul of man is saved, it goes from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive unto God by means of the water of grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which are all acts of God. Salvation is all of the Lord and man is passive in it, that is, he receives it as a an eternal gift of God. (Jonah 2:9 KJV) But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. Even Jonah knew that salvation was of the Lord.