Nicodemus Speaks with Jesus
At the end of the scriptures is a commentary for each verse
Joh 3:2He came to Jesus by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles which you do unless God is with him.
Joh 3:3Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:4Nicodemus said to 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?
Joh 3:5Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Joh 3:7Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
Joh 3:2The same came to Jesus by night,…. Through fear of the Jews, of being reproached or turned out of his place by them; or through shame, that such a doctor as he was, should be known to go to Jesus of Nazareth, to be instructed by him; or lest he should offend any of his brethren of the sanhedrim: though some things may be said in favour of this conduct of Nicodemus; for since Christ would not trust himself with those that believed in him upon seeing his miracles, Joh_2:23, among whom Nicodemus seems to be; or would not admit them into his company, and enter into a free conversation with him; it was necessary, that if he would have any discourse with him, that he should take this method; and if it was the same night, in which he had seen his miracles in the day, as is probable, he took the first opportunity he could, and which shows great readiness and respect; add to which, that it was very common with the Jewish doctors, to meet and converse together, and study the law in the night.
“R. Aba rose, בפלגות ליליא, “in the middle of the night”, and the rest of the companions, to study in the law (e).”
And it is often (f) said of R. Simeon ben Joehal, and Eleazar his son, that they sat in the night and laboured in the law; and it was reckoned very commendable so to do, and highly pleasing to God: it is said (g),
“whoever studies in the law in the night, the holy blessed God draws a thread of mercy upon him in the day:”
and likewise (h), that
“every one that studies in the law in the night, the Shekinah is over against him.”
But it seems, the Babylonian Jews did not study in the law in the night (i): it might seem a needless question to ask, whether Nicodemus came alone, or not, were it not that according to the Jewish canon (k) a scholar might not go out in the night alone, because of suspicion:
and said unto him, Rabbi; a title which now greatly obtained among the Jewish doctors, and of which they were very fond;See Gill on Mat_23:7. It comes from a word, which signifies great and large; and was used by them, to suggest the large compass, and great plenty of knowledge they would be thought to have had; and best becomes and suits with our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are: salutations among the Jews, were forbidden in the night (l);
“says R. Jochanan, it is forbidden a man to salute his neighbour in the night, lest it should be a demon:”
but here was no such danger; nor was this salutation made in the street, and in the dark, which the canon seems to respect:
we know that thou art a teacher come from God; the Jews expected the Messiah as a teacher, which they might learn from many prophecies, as from Isa_2:2. Upon the first of which, and on that passage in it, “he will teach us of his ways”, a noted commentator (m) of theirs has this remark;
המורה, “the teacher”, he is the King Messiah.”
And the Targum on Joe_2:23 paraphrases the words thus:
“O ye children of Zion, rejoice and be glad in the word of the Lord your God, for he will return ית מלפכון, “your teacher” to you.”
And Nicodemus acknowledges Jesus as such; and as one that did not come, or was sent by men, as their doctors were; nor did he come of himself, as false teachers did; but he came from God, and had his mission and commission from him: and this was a known case, a clear point, not only to himself, but to many of the Jews; and even to some of his brethren, the members of the sanhedrim; who upon hearing of, and seeing the miracles done by Christ, might meet and converse freely together about him; and give their sentiments of him; and might then agree pretty much in this at that time, that he was at least a prophet, and some extraordinary teacher, whom God had sent among them; and Nicodemus coming directly from them, repeats his own sense and theirs, supported by the following reason:
for no man can do these miracles that thou dost, except God be with him: referring to the miracles he had done at the passover in Jerusalem, very lately; see Joh_2:23. And which, though they are not particularly mentioned, may be concluded to be such, as the dispossessing of devils, the curing of all manner of diseases by a word, or touch, from what he at other times, and elsewhere did. Miracles were expected by the Jews, to be wrought by the Messiah, and many believed in Jesus on this account; see Joh_6:14; though the modern Jews deny it to be necessary, that miracles should be done by the Messiah (n); but Nicodemus, and other Jews, thought otherwise, and considered the miracles of Christ as such, as could never be done by man, nor without the presence and power of God; and concluded that he was with God, and God with him, and was the true Immanuel, who is God with us.
(e) Zohar in Exod. fol. 84. 1. (f) Ib. fol. 8S. 2. in Lev. fol. 5. 3, 4. & 10. 1. & passim. (g) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 12. 2. Avoda Zara, fol. 3. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Talmud Tora, c. 3. sect. 13. (h) T. Bab. Tamid. foi. 32. 2. (i) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 9. 2. (k) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 91. 1. Piske Tosephot Pesach, art. 12. & Maimon. Hilch, Deyot. c. 5. sect. 9. (l) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 44. 1. & Megilla, fol. 3. 1. & Piske Tosephot Megilla, art. 4. & in Yebamot, art. 238. (m) R David Kimchi in loc. (n) Maimon. Hilch. Melacim, c. 11. sect. 3.
Joh 3:3Jesus answered and said unto him,…. Not to any express question put by Nicodemus; unless it can be thought, that a question of this kind might be asked, what is the kingdom of God, so much spoken of in thy ministry? and what is requisite to the seeing and enjoying of it? though not recorded by the evangelist; but rather to the words of Nicodemus, concluding from his miracles, that he was the Messiah; and that the kingdom of God was now approaching, or the world to come, the Jews so much speak of; and in which all Israel, according to their notion, were to have a part (o); and which notion, our Lord in the following words, seems to oppose:
verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God; Nicodemus, according to the general sense of the nation, thought that when the Messiah came, and his kingdom was set up, they should all share in it, without any more ado; they being the descendants of Abraham, and having him for their father: but Christ assures him, that he must be “born again”; in distinction from, and opposition to his first birth by nature; in which he was vile, polluted, carnal, and corrupt, being conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity, and was a transgressor from the womb, and by nature a child of wrath; and in opposition to, his descent from Abraham, or being born of him, and of his seed; for this would be of no avail to him in this case, nor give him any right to the privileges and ordinances of the kingdom of God, or the Gospel dispensation; see Mat_3:9; as also to birth by proselytism; for the Jews have a frequent saying (p), that
“one that is made a proselyte, כקטון שנולד דמי, “is like a child new born”.”
Which they understand, not in a spiritual, but in a civil sense; such being free from all natural and civil relations, and from all obligations to parents, masters (q), &c. And by this phrase our Lord signifies, that no man, either as a man, or as a son of Abraham, or as a proselyte to the Jewish religion, can have any true knowledge of, or right unto, the enjoyment of the kingdom of God, unless he is born again; or regenerated, and quickened by the Spirit of God; renewed in the spirit of his mind; has Christ formed in his heart; becomes a partaker of the divine nature; and in all respects a new creature; and an other in heart, in principle, in practice, and conversation; or unless he be “born from above”, as the word is rendered in Joh_3:31; that is, by a supernatural power, having the heavenly image stamped on him; and being called with an heavenly calling, even with the high calling of God in Christ Jesus: if this is not the case, a man can have no true knowledge of the kingdom of the Messiah, which is not a temporal and carnal one; it is not of this world, nor does it come with observation; nor can he have any right to the ordinances of it, which are of a spiritual nature; and much less can he be thought to have any true notions, or to be possessed of the kingdom of grace, which lies in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; or to have either a meetness for, or a right unto the kingdom of glory: though by the following words it seems, that the word is rightly rendered “again”, or a second time, as it is by Nounus.
(o) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1. (p) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 22. 1. 48. 2. 62. 1. & 97. 2. (q) Vid. Maimon. Issure Bia, c. 14. sect. 11. & Eduth, c. 13. sect. 2.
Joh 3:4Nicodemus saith unto him,…. Understanding him of a natural birth, to be repeated:
how can a man be born when he is old? as it seems by this, he himself now was:
can he enter the second time into his mothers womb, and be born? the Ethiopic version adds, “again”; and the Arabic version, “and then be born”; this he urges, as absurd, impracticable, and impossible; and which shows him to have been as yet a natural man, who could not receive nor discern spiritual things.
Joh 3:5Jesus answered, verily, verily, I say unto thee,…. Explaining somewhat more clearly, what he before said:
except a man be born of water and of the Spirit: these are, מלות שנות, “two words”, which express the same thing, as Kimchi observes in many places in his commentaries, and signify the grace of the Spirit of God. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, “the Holy Spirit”, and so Nonnus; and who doubtless is intended: by “water”, is not meant material water, or baptismal water; for water baptism is never expressed by water only, without some additional word, which shows, that the ordinance of water baptism is intended: nor has baptism any regenerating influence in it; a person may be baptized, as Simon Magus was, and yet not born again; and it is so far from having any such virtue, that a person ought to be born again, before he is admitted to that ordinance: and though submission to it is necessary, in order to a person’s entrance into a Gospel church state; yet it is not necessary to the kingdom of heaven, or to eternal life and salvation: such a mistaken sense of this text, seems to have given the first birth and rise to infant baptism in the African churches; who taking the words in this bad sense, concluded their children must be baptized, or they could not be saved; whereas by “water” is meant, in a figurative and metaphorical sense, the grace of God, as it is elsewhere; seeEze_36:25. Which is the moving cause of this new birth, and according to which God begets men again to, a lively hope, and that by which it is effected; for it is by the grace of God, and not by the power of man’s free will, that any are regenerated, or made new creatures: and if Nicodemus was an officer in the temple, that took care to provide water at the feasts, as Dr. Lightfoot thinks, and as it should seem Nicodemon ben Gorion was, by the story before related of him; See Gill on Joh_3:1; very pertinently does our Lord make mention of water, it being his own element: regeneration is sometimes ascribed to God the Father, as in 1Pe_1:3, and sometimes to the Son, 1Jo_2:29 and here to the Spirit, as in Tit_3:5, who convinces of sin, sanctifies, renews, works faith, and every other grace; begins and carries on the work of grace, unto perfection;
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; and unless a man has this work of his wrought on his soul, as he will never understand divine and spiritual things, so he can have no right to Gospel ordinances, or things appertaining to the kingdom of God; nor can he be thought to have passed from death to life, and to have entered into an open state of grace, and the kingdom of it; or that living and dying so, he shall ever enter into the kingdom of heaven; for unless a man is regenerated, he is not born heir apparent to it; and without internal holiness, shall not enter into it, enjoy it, or see God.