John 3:7
Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again.
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(7) Ye must be born again.—The laws of natural and spiritual generation have been stated as general truths, holding good for all mankind, “that which is born.” But there is a special application to the present case, “Marvel not that I said unto thee (teacher as thou art) that ye (children of Abraham as ye are) must be born again.” In so far as they were children of Abraham according to the flesh, they were children of Abraham’s physical and sinful nature. The law of that, as of all human nature, was that flesh ruled animal life, and animal life ruled spirit, and the whole man became carnal, bringing forth the fruits of the flesh. The law of the regenerate nature was that the spirit, born by the influence of the Divine Spirit, rose to a new life of communion with God, controlled the lower life, with its affections, feelings, and desires, and that these thus controlled became the motive power of the body; the whole man thus became spiritual, bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit. (Comp. Note on 1Thessalonians 5:23.) For them, then, as for all, it was no matter of wonder, it was an absolute necessity of their true life, that they should be born anew.

3:1-8 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 iniquity?Marvel not - Wonder not. It is possible that Nicodemus in some way still expressed a doubt of the doctrine, and Jesus took occasion in a very striking manner to illustrate it. 7. Marvel not, &c.—If a spiritual nature only can see and enter the kingdom of God; if all we bring into the world with us be the reverse of spiritual; and if this spirituality be solely of the Holy Ghost, no wonder a new birth is indispensable.

Ye must—"Ye, says Jesus, not we" [Bengel]. After those universal propositions, about what "a man" must be, to "enter the kingdom of God" (Joh 3:5)—this is remarkable, showing that our Lord meant to hold Himself forth as "separate from sinners."

There is a twofold admiration, that which is joined with infidelity, and that which is the effect of faith. Our Saviour forbids Nicodemus to marvel at the doctrine of regeneration, as strange and incredible, upon an imaginary impossibility supposed by him of the thing itself. But he that believes will judge that supernatural work of the Spirit, whereby a sinful man is made a partaker of the Divine nature, worthy of the highest admiration. And what our Saviour had said in the general before, that a man must be born again, he now particularly applies to Nicodemus, with those of his order,

Ye must be born again. For Nicodemus would easily consent that the pagans, and possibly the vulgar Jews, had need of regeneration, to partake of the kingdom of God; but that the doctors of the law, (of which number himself was), esteemed the lights of the world, should be under the same necessity, was astonishing to him. Therefore our Saviour, to undeceive and humble him, saith,

Ye must be born again, for that all are defiled with the corruption that is universal to mankind. Marvel not that I said unto thee,...., For Nicodemus was quite astonished, at this doctrine of the new birth; it was altogether new to him, and unheard of by him; nor could he understand, nor conceive in what manner it could be:

ye must be born again; in "four" of Beza's copies, it is read "we"; but as Christ was not begotten in a carnal way, or descended not from Adam in the ordinary way of generation, he was not carnal and corrupt, nor in the least tainted with sin; and so stood in no need of regeneration; wherefore such a reading must be rejected. There is a necessity of the regeneration of those, who are the chosen of God, and the redeemed of the Lamb; and of them only can the words be understood; for as for others, they neither can, nor will, nor must be born again: but the people of God "must"; partly because it is the will of God; it is his purpose and resolution, that they shall be regenerated; he has chosen them, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto salvation by Christ: this is the way and method of saving sinners he has fixed upon, namely, not to save them by works of righteousness, but by grace, and according to abundant mercy, through the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost: and partly, because of the case and condition of men, which requires it; for whereas the chosen people of God, are predestinated to the adoption of children, and are taken into the family of God, and are heirs to an inheritance, it is necessary they should have a nature, temper, and disposition of mind, suitable to the inheritance they are to enjoy; which they have not in their natural estate, and which is conveyed to them in regeneration: besides, their carnal minds are enmity to God, and it is necessary that they should be friendly to him, which cannot be without regeneration; nor can they, till they are born again, please God, or do those things which are pleasing to him: to which may be added, which Christ has before suggested, and which shows the necessity of it, that without it, no man can either see, or enter into the kingdom of God. To take off the surprise of Nicodemus, our Lord instances in a common natural case, and to which this affair of regeneration may be compared, and by it illustrated.

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
John 3:7-8. To allay still more the astonishment of Nicodemus (John 3:4) at the requirement of John 3:3, Jesus subjoins an analogy drawn from nature, illustrating the operation of the Holy Spirit of which He is speaking. The man is seized by the humanly indefinable Spirit, but knows not whence He cometh to him, and whither He leadeth him.

ὑμᾶς] individualizing the general statement: “te et eos, quorum nomine locutus es,” Bengel. Jesus could not have expressed Himself in the first person.

τὸ πνεῦμα] This, as is evident from πνεῖ, means the wind (Genesis 8:1; Job 30:15; Wis 13:2; Hebrews 1:7; often in the classics), not the Spirit (Steinfass). It is the double sense of the word (comp. רוּחַ) which gave rise to this very analogy from nature. For a similar comparison, but between the human soul, so far as it participates in the divine nature, and the well-known but inexplicable agency of wind, see, e.g., Xen. Mem. 4. 3. 14. Comp. also Ecclesiastes 11:5; Psalm 135:7. On the expression τὸ πνεῦμα πνεῖ, see Lobeck, Paral. 503.

ὅπου θέλει] The wind blowing now here, now there, is personified as a free agent, in keeping with the comparison of the personal Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:2).[156]

ποῦ] with a verb of motion. Comp. Hom. Il. 13. 219; Soph. Trach. 40: κεῖνος δʼ ὅπου βέβηκεν, οὐδεὶς οἶδε; and see Lobeck ad Phryn. 45; Mätzn. ad Antiph. 169, § 8. Expressing by anticipation the state of rest following upon the movement. Often in the N. T. as in John (John 7:35, John 8:14, John 12:35) and Hebrews 11:8.

οὕτως ἐστὶ πᾶς, κ.τ.λ.] A popular and concrete mode of expression (Matthew 13:19, etc.): so is it, i.e. with reference experimentally to the course of his higher birth, with every one who has been born (perfect) of the Spirit. The points of resemblance summed up in the οὕτως are: (1) the free self-determining action of the Holy Spirit (ὅπου θέλει, comp. 1 Corinthians 12:11; John 5:21), not merely the greatness of this power, Tholuck; (2) the felt experience of His operations by the subject of them (τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ἀκ.); and (3) yet their incomprehensibleness as to their origin and their end (ἀλλʼ οὐκ οἶδας, κ.τ.λ.), the latter pertaining to the moral sphere and reaching unto eternal life, the former proceeding from God, and requiring, in order to understand it, the previously experienced workings of divine grace, and faith ensuing thereupon. The man feels the working of grace within, coming to him as a birth from above, but he knows not whence it comes; he feels its attraction, but he knows not whither it leads. These several elements in the delineation are so distinctly indicated by Jesus, that we cannot be satisfied with the mere general point of incomprehensibleness in the comparison (Hengstenberg), upon the basis of Ecclesiastes 11:5.

[156] Concerning the personality of the Holy Spirit as taught in John, see especially 14–16.John 3:7. Therefore it was no cause for wonder that a new birth was required for entrance into the spiritual kingdom. The argument implies that natural birth produces only σάρξ, not spirit. By his natural birth man is an animal, with a nature fitting him to live in the material world in which he finds himself and with capacities for spiritual life in a spiritual world. These capacities may or may not be developed. If they are developed, the Spirit of God is the Agent, and the change wrought by their development may fitly be called a new birth, because it gives a man entrance into a new world and imparts new life to live in it. (Cf. the second birth and second life of many insects.)7. Ye must] The declaration is brought more closely home. In John 3:3; John 3:5 Christ had made a very general statement, ‘except a man.’ He now shews that none are exempt from it. ‘Ye, the chosen people, ye, the Pharisees, ye, the rulers, must all be born from above.’John 3:7. Ὑμᾶς, ye) Thee, and those in whose name thou hast spoken (John 3:2, “We know,” etc.): Ye, Jesus says; not, we.Verse 7. - Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. Nicodemus had revealed, by his expressions of countenance or unrecorded words, his surprise. This further explanation deepened the solemnity of the first assertion by a bold antithesis between the birth of flesh producing nothing but flesh, however high its culture, and the birth of spirit from the Spirit himself, the heavenly and Divine Originator of all genuine repentance, and the sole Cause of the new life. Nicodemus was clinging more and more eagerly to the old ideas of national privilege, of sacramental purification, of soundly taught principles and habits. He marvelled at such representation which took the heart out of all his previous training. The Messianic kingdom for which he had been looking and longing seemed to fade away in the clouds of an utter mysticism, and to vanish out of his power of recognition. Our Lord gently reproved the expression of his surprise, and reminded him of the previous utterance, "I said to thee, Ye," etc. Nicodemus had come in the name of others. Jesus replies, and reasserts the principles for the entire group of persons which Nicodemus might be supposed to represent. We must not fail to notice that, whereas in other parts of the discourse our Lord speaks in the plural first person, yet be discriminates himself from. others in this statement. He does not say, "We must," etc., but "Ye must," etc. He had no consciousness of personal need of regeneration, nor was he in the first case born as flesh from flesh. His flesh was itself the work of the Spirit. Unto thee - ye must

Note the change from the singular to the plural pronoun. In his address to Nicodemus (thee) the Lord had spoken also to those whom Nicodemus represented, and whom he had included when he said "we know" (John 3:2). His error was the error of his class.

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