John 3

* Christ's discourse with Nicodemus. (1-21) The baptism of John

of Christ John's testimony. (22-36)

1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ,

therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion,

there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus

bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good

beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet

afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ

about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the

concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to

them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of

regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to

the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of

life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who

have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new

nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first

birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made

new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to

signify a great and most remarkable change of state and

character. We must be entirely different from what we were

before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and

cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is

from heaven, ch. #1:13|, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a

great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the

Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us,

which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby

such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise

expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness

here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood,

as if there had been no other way of regenerating and

new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But

he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better

informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He

shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by

any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed

Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that

our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when

we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature,

and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange

that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of

the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that

Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all

those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without

that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by

baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The

same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind

bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit

sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what

measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden,

the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for

sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the

doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made

it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of

God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot

be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of

gospel truths, ver. #11-13|, shows the folly of those who make

these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search

them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of

God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven.

We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one

person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven.

God is the "HE THAT IS," and heaven is the dwelling-place of his

holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be

received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing

us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were

cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, #Nu

21:6-9|. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of

sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will

tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may

be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy

against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in

the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of

applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either

their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to

receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own

heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up

the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have

grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded

with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ

came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the

sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is

God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the

world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great

God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great

gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to

be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to

be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great

gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not

perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ

reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not

be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other.

From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that

believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great

sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins

deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to

save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be

dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are

condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a

present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them;

and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation

grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all

their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the

gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs

from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in

some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know

Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world

keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should

be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had

not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly

in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid

this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all

he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do

it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his

whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is

shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the

commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues

under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than

slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he

sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he

rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love.

Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and

the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his

strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men.

Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world

is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison

with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it

signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of

raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few

mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal

pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow?

What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in

life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the

Supreme Judge, "Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of

22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned

him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that

Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his

government and peace there would be no end, while he himself

would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as

the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could

only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words

of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by

measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life

could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained;

whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot

partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon


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