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2 The same came to Jesus byl 3 Jesus answered and said night, and said unto him, Rabbi, unto him, Verily, verily, I say we know that thou art a teacher unto thee, Except a man be born come from God : for no man can again, he cannot see the kingdo these miracles that thou doest, dom of God. except God be with him.
2. By night. The circumstance the privileges and blessings of the of his coming by night is sometimes Messiah's dispensation. See Matt. ascribed to a desire for concealment, 3: 2. The assertion, then, of the and to an unwillingness to be known Saviour was, that no man, whether as having conferred with Jesus. Jew or Gentile, can enjoy the blessOther reasons, also, can be supposed ings of the Messiah's administration for his selecting the night. Perba ps without having experienced a thorhe desired a long and uninterrupted ough change in character and state. conversation with Jesus, and his own The Messiah's administration is here employments might not have allowed regarded in all its extent, commenced him time during the day. He might and carried forward on earth, comalso have observed that Jesus was pleted in heaven. much occupied every day among the This remark of our Lord's appears people. Thus the night might have to be abrupt, and not to be properly been, for the best reasons, the most an answer to what Nicodemus had favorable time. On two other occasaid; but it is probable that only the sions, Nicodemus publicly showed chief topics of the conversation are himself well-disposed towards Jesus. preserved by the evangelist, and that See ?: 50–52. 19:39. Rabbi ; the we are here furnished with a speci. usual term of respectful address men of the mapner in which Jesus among the Jews, in our Lord's time, unfolded the great truths of his reto those who had gone through a ligion to a serious inquirer. John the course of literary and religious train- Baptist had already attracted much ing, and who were therefore consid- attention as the professed forerunner ered as learned, and able to teach, in of the Messiah. "Another person had religious matters. It was also ap- now arisen, and was exciting very plied, as in the present instance, by general regard by claiming actually courtesy, to any one who actually to be the Messiah, and by extensively proved himself capable of being a incalcating his own views as a teachteacher. See 1: 38.
Nicodemus wished to make in3. Verily, verily. See on 1: 51. quiries, particularly as things were | A mun; literally, any one, wbether proceeding in a manner so different Jew or Gentile. || Born again. This from the ordinary expectations of the expression was figuratively employed Jews. To Jesus, then, as being the in reference to any great changes that new leader, he repaired, in order to had taken place in a person's charac- ascertain what were his views reter or condition. It was equivalent specting the Messiah's dispensation, to the expression become a new man. and what was his object. He appears Thus, when a Gentile became a pros- to have gone in a serious and candid elyte to the Jewish religion, it was frame of mind, as though he was in customary to speak of him as having some perplexity, unable to account been born anero, that is, having be- for the new proceedings, and yet de. come a new man, and entered into a sirous, if he was in error, to be innew state of things || See. This structed. To questions which he word has sometimes the meaning to would, in this state of mind, propose, enjoy. Compare 1 Pet. 3: 10. || The the remark of Jesus in the third verse kingdom of God; the divine reign, I might be a very natural reply.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, second time into his mother's How can a man be born when womb, and be born? he is old ? can he enter the 5 Jesus answered, Verily,
4. How can a man, &c. A new Messiah's administration, both in time and surprising thought had been pre- and in eternity. If God is reigning sented to Nicodemus. He had not in a man's heart, that man is truly been in the habit of thinking that eve- pious, is actuated by the principles ry one, in order to enjoy the blessings which constitute the character of of the Messiah's reign, must become heaven; and he is therefore entitled a new man. He had regarded this to the spiritual and heavenly blessings reign as having special reference to which the Messiah bestows. || Born the Jewish nation, as intended to res- of water. This expression has been cue the Jews from their civil degra- regarded by numerous writers, both dation, to exalt them to the summit ancient and modern, as referring to of power, to reform the abuses which baptism. In very early times, the had crept into their religious state, opinion was defended, from this view and to spread their religion over the of the passage, that baptism is essenworld, and in this way to confer tial to salvation; and this erroneous blessings on those who were ot na- opinion had much to do with the estive Jews. The effect of the Mes. tablishing of infant baptism. Some siah's reign would be, as he supposed, have also supposed that our Lord to purify and extend the Jewish re- meant to represent baptism as a sign ligion, and make other nations.Jews. and seal - of regeneration, or as an However plain, then, it might be to outward token and confirmation of his mind that a Gentile must undergo inward grace. The opinion has also some great change in order to en- been extensively entertained that our joy the blessings of the Messiah’s Lord was speaking of his visible, as reign, it was utterly surprising to him well as of his invisible kingdom; and that Jews as well as Gentiles, that that, in respect to its outward form, every one, in short, must be born its visible constitution, he here taught anew in order to enjoy those bless that no one could be an acknowledged ings. So utterly distant was this subject of his government, or, in other thought from his usual way of view. words, a member of the visible church, ing the subject, that he might have without being baptized; and that in considered himself as not understand the subsequent expression - born of ing Jesus; and, in his surprise, he the Spirit - he also explicitly declared asked a question which was fitted to that a spiritual, inward change is draw forth an explanation of the kind necessary in order for a man to beof new birth which Jesus affirmed to long to the invisible kingdom of God; be necessary
that is, to be a true subject of that 5. Jesus answered. Jesus at once kingdom, and to become prepared for explained, that he meant no such birth the bliss of heaven. Our Lord has as would have reference to men's thus been understood as showing what earthly condition, or to their mode of is necessary in order to become, and existence in this world. He referred to be outwardly acknowledged, a subto a spiritual change, a change in the ject of the Messiah ; and as thus soul, - a change to be effected not by showing the entire requisition made man, but by the Spirit of God, and of men, and the completeness both as adapted throughout to the true nature to character and to outward condiof the Messiah's reign. This reign tion, which properly pertains to a was to be the reign of God in a man's subject of the heavenly reign. In heart, so that he would be a subject, sustaining this view, reference is had in heart, of the Messiah, prepared to to the Gospel of Mark, 16 : 16, He enjoy the spiritual blessings of the I that believeth and is baptized shall be
verily, I say unto thee, Except as the Spirit, he cannot enter into man be born of water, and of the kingdom of God.
saved; and to the Epistle to the Ro- ment mentioned, as an originating mans, 10 : 9, 10, If thou shalt confess cause. Now, in the expression with thy month the Lord Jesus, and born of water, a different element shalt believe in thine heart, that God is brought to view, as the originating hath raised him from the dead, thou cause of a new birth to a spiritual, shalt be saved. For with the heart holy existence. This element, water, man believeth unto righteousness; was the usual emblein and means of and with the mouth confession is made purity. While, then, to be born of unto salvation. In these passages, blood to be born a human both the outward profession of taith being, with all the corrupt propensities and the inward possession are insisted of human nature, to be born of wouter on. And it is doubtless true, that means to commence a holy existence, outward profession, and therefore originated from a pure and holy source baptism, by means of which the pro- This view presents a suitable reply fession was made in primitive times, to the question of Nicodemus in may in some circumstances be a sat the preceding verse. For to be born isfactory test of love to Christ; and from the womb (v. 6), in the ortherefore, if, in those circumstances, a dinary course of nature, is another person be unwilling to be baptized mode of saying, to be born of blood and to profess subjection to the Lord and of the will of the flesh (1 : 13). Jesus, he gives decided indication Now, in order to convey to Nicodethat his heart is not thoroughly right mus a just view of this new birth, in the sight of God. Such a view is our Lord, in replying to the question not a positive declaration that baptism whether a second natural birth, a beis essential to salvation; yet it gives ing born of blood and of the flesh, was to baptism and outward profession a meant, declared, A man, in order to prominence, which does not well enter into the kingdom of God, must agree with the fact that, throughout be born again, not of blood and of the this conversation with Nicodemus, our flesh, but of water and of the Spirit ; Lord does not, in any other phrase, that is, he must experience, not a natconvey the most distant allusion to ural birth, but a spiritual one; a birth, the necessity of taking a decided originating not from an element of stand as an avowed subject of his impurity, but from a pure source. reign. On other occasions, he dis- Water appears to have been here tinctly showed the necessity of pub- mentioned by our Saviour as indicalicly avowing attachment to him, ting a pure source of a new spiritual and of submitting to whatever sell life in man. He immediately adds denial might be the consequence. an expression of similar import, menSee Matt. 10 : 32, 33. But here, bis tioning, in plain language, the author instructions are preëminently spirit of this new birth. | And of the Spirit. ual, exhibiting the essential traits of | The whole phrase born of water his dispensation.
and of the Spirit may signify, a This much-controverted phrase — spiritual birth effected by a divine born of water -- admits of a simple agent, just as the phrase born of and easy explanation, when brought blood and of the flesh signifies natinto comparison with a similar phrase ural birth effected by a human used by this evangelist in 1 : 13, agent. The change in the heart namely, born of blood. By this latter towards God is effected by the Holy phrase, naturał birth is meant. The Spirit. Being born of the Spirit existence of man in this world by is the same as is called, in 1 : 13, benatural birth, with all bis sinful pro- ing born of God. It is a becoming pensities, is here traced to the ele possessed of a new spiritual life by
6 That which is born of the 7 Marvel not that I said unto Aesli, is flesh; and that which is thee, Ye must be born again. born of the Spirit, is spirit. 8 The wind bloweth where
the influences of the Holy Spirit on twofold signification of it. Being the the soul ;
a change of the inner contrast of flesh, it here signifies the man, or the soul, in regard to spir- divine nature, or Him who possesses itual matters, so that the person be- the divine nature God. It also excomes a child of God, similar to him presses that holiness which is essential in_disposition and holy principles. to the divine nature. The noun spirit || Enter into the kingdom of God; is, in the second place of its being be admitted among the subjects of used, employed instead of the adjecthis reign, so as to enjoy its bless. tive spiritual; that is, like God, holy. ings.
The idea is, That which results frona 6. Jesus next proceeded to show God's influence is holy. That is, why, in order to enjoy the privileges Man is holy only in consequence of of the divine reign, it was necessary God's influence on his soul. Hence to become a new man. The reign of he can be fit for the services and privthe Messiah was to be a spiritual ileges appropriate to the Messiah's reign, establishing, holiness in the reign only by the Holy Spirit's renewhearts of men, and preparing them ing his moral nature, making him new for the holy services and enjoyments in respect to his disposition towards of heaven. Hence, if men are, by God. Man, by his natural birth, has their natural birth, not holy, it is not those moral qualities which are necessary that by another, a spiritual necessary to a subject of the Messiah birth, they should receive a principle both here and hereafter; in order to of holy love to God. If their natural possess those qualities, he needs a birth has not secured to them spiritual spiritual birth, resulting from the inlife, this spiritual life must be be- fluence of the Holy Spirit. stowed by some spiritual agent. What a startling truth must this They must be born of God, as well have been to Nicodemus; to any Jew, as of men. That which is born of the indeed, who had been relying on deflesh, is flesh. The word flesh is used scent from Abraham, on circumcision, in Scripture with various senses. and other external ceremonies, as the Our Lord here availed himself of the QUALIFICATION for a subject of the twofold signification of the word by Messiah ! which it is used to express humun na- 7. Maroel not; wonder not. Nicoture or a human being, and the sinful- demus had, in v. 4, expressed surprise ness which human beings exhibit, at the Saviour's declaration, as bring. and which is so congenial to them. ing to view something which he could The noun flesh, here repeated, is also not comprehend, and which was quite used instead of the adjective fleshly, unexpected. Jesus proceeded to show as being a more vivid manner of him, that however surprising the decspeaking: The meaning may be thus laration, yet its truth ought not, on expressed: That which is born of that account, to be doubted; for there mere human nature is destitute of are operations in divine providence holiness, is sinful. That is, Man, which cannot be explained by man, viewed solely as the offspring of his but the reality of which is obvious to earthly parents, is a sinner. Hence the senses ; for instance, the blowhe is not prepared for the spiritual ing of the wind. services and blessings of the Messi- 8. Where it listeth ; where it pleases; ah's reign. || That which is born of that is, so far as man is concerned. the Spirit, is spirit. The word spirit The wind obeys not man's dictates, is also used in a variety of senses; and we cannot fully explain its opand our Lord ayailed himself of á eration. Yet it blows; we hear its
it listeth, and thou hearest the unto him, Art thou a master of sound thereof, but canst not tell Israel, and knowest not these whence it cometh, and whither things? it goeth: so is every one that is 11 Verily, verily, I say unto born of the Spirit.
thee, We speak that we do 9 Nicodemus answered and know, and testify that we have said unto him, How can these seen; and ye receive not our things be?
witness. 10 Jesus answered and said 12 If I have told you earthly sound, we see its effects. Certainly, external probity, might be destitute then, other things, things having re- of true holiness. His religious views, spact to our souls, may occur above like those of his countrymen, were our ability to comprehend and ex. gross. Such was the influence of the plain ; and the reality of an influence views to which he was accustomed, on the soul may be discerned by its that he had not discerned the right effects on a man's character. An bearing of such passages. He had illustration from the blowing of the read them, but had not perceived wind was a very natural one, as the their import. His mind had been same word, in the original language, preoccupied with other views of remeans both wind and spirit. i So is ligion; just as, at the present day, every one that is born of the Spirit. many a person who has habitually That is, He is really renewed in read the Scriptures, begins to see, his soul by the Holy Spirit, and this when some new light has darted into renewal will be manifested by its his mind, that he has often read as effects, though you are unable to though he read not; that he has perceive the manner in which the entirely misapprehended the proper new spiritual creation has been ef- and the full force of some of the most fected.
familiar portions of the Scriptures. 10. A master of Israel; properly, And are there not ministers and a teacher of Israel. Our Lord may priests, nominally Christian, who, if a be regarded as saying, Every Jew, teacher from heaven should fasten in from the information in his Scriptures, their minds the truth that they need ought to know that men must be to be born again, would be as much born of the Spirit in order to enjoy overtaken by surprise as was Nicode. the blessings of the divine reign; mus, and make almost as strange in. and certainly a teacher of Jews ought quiries as he did ? to know this truth. There are fre- 11. That we do know — that we quent expressions in the Old Testa- have seen. The word that is here ment, and those relating to Jews, equivalent to what, that which. The very similar to the great truth which idea of the verse is, I declare to you Jesus was enforcing; and Nicodemus what I see and know to be true. ought to have been acquainted with 12. Earthly things.
Such things the sentiment contained in such lan- are those which belong to this earth, guage. See Ezek. 11: 19, 20. 36 : and are therefore subject to every 26, 27. Compare, too, Ps. 51: 6, 10, one's observation. Hence the term 17. We can scarcely suppose that is used in reference to things that Nicodemus was ignorant of such pas- are plain and easy to be undersages. He had, however, failed right- stood. The Saviour had been insistly to understand them; and having ing on the necessity of a spiritual been educated in the belief that the change in men in order that they Jews, as such, were a holy people, the might become his followers, and par. children of God, he never before, ticipate in the blessings of his adminprobably, had thought that a Jew, of istration. The truth that such a