John 3:8-15

Henry Mahan

(Vs. 8) A comparison is drawn here between the wind and the Spirit of God in the new birth.

(Vs. 9-10) "How can these things be?" This question reveals the spiritual ignorance even of the RELIGIOUS natural man. It is true that Nicodemus was educated, religious, and doubtless of high moral character; but something more than education, morality, and sincerity are needed to understand the things of God. Even though God became incarnate and spoke in human language, men understood Him not (Prov. 4:19; Eph. 4:18). Our Lord said unto him, "Are you a teacher of Israel and yet untaught?" Even a religious teacher may be ignorant of Divine truth. The fact that a preacher has graduated with honors from some theological center is no proof that he is a man taught of God (John 6:44-45).

(Vs. 11) Our Lord did not deal in speculation nor theory, but spoke Divine truth because He IS the truth! In the preceding verse Christ chided Nicodemus for his IGNORANCE of Divine truth; here He reveals the CAUSE of such ignorance. The reason a man does not KNOW the things of God is because he RECEIVES NOT God's witness concerning them (John 5:40-44). If we believe not His Word, we shall continue in darkness and ignorance. None are so blind as those who WILL NOT see! As we believe God's Word, He honors that faith by giving us understanding of what we believe. Walk in the light revealed and receive more light.

(Vs. 12) "Earthly things" are, in a sense, evident and in a measure comprehensible; but "heavenly things" are invisible and altogether beyond our grasp until Divinely revealed to us. By "earthly things," which Christ had told him, we mean the new birth, which takes place on earth, and the Lord's reference to the "wind" as an illustration of the Spirit's operation in bringing about the new birth through the Word. These things Nicodemus ought to have known about from Ezek. 36:24-27. If, then, he believed not God's Word about these earthly things, of what avail would it be for Christ to speak to him about "heavenly things" or things pertaining to the counsels of God, the mysteries of grace, and the things God has prepared for them that love Him (I Cor. 2:9-10)?

(Vs. 13) The "heavenly things" to which the Lord had referred had not until then been clearly revealed to men. To ascend to heaven and penetrate the hidden counsels of God was an utter impossibility to fallen man. ONLY the Son, Whose native residence is heaven, is qualified to reveal heavenly things. Our Lord did not say, "No man hath ENTERED heaven," but "No man hath ASCENDED UP to heaven." This is an entirely different thing. Only He that came down FROM heaven, even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN (even while here speaking to Nicodemus), knows the secrets and mysteries of His throne. No man ever has or ever will occupy this position but Christ.

(Vs. 14-15) Christ had been speaking to Nicodemus about the new birth. The new birth is the impartation of Divine or eternal life; but for eternal life to be bestowed upon men, the Saviour must be LIFTED UP. Eternal life must come out of His substitutionary death. The sacrificial work of Christ is the basis of the Spirit's operations and the ground of God's gift of life (Isa. 53:4-6). It is the Son of MAN Who must be crucified, for atonement could be made only by one in the nature of him who sinned. Only as MAN was Christ capable of taking upon Himself our guilt and penalty. The JEWS expected the Messiah to be lifted up or elevated to the throne of David; but before this, He must be lifted up on the cross of share, enduring the judgment of God upon our sins.

To illustrate the character, meaning, and purpose of His death, He refers to the well-known incident in Num. 21:6-9. The people were bitten by fiery serpents, dying and without hope. Moses made a serpent in the likeness of the cause and lifted it up. Those who looked in faith lived. Christ is made in the likeness of sinful flesh and crucified, and those who look to Him in faith shall live.

Henry Mahan
Ashland, Ky.


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