Insights into the Gospel of John: Chapter 3

By Lloyd Ellefson

This chapter contains many precious truths! Truth brings life, and delivers us from the error of our carnal thinking. It is important to remember that the Bible bears testimony to the stream of life which flows from the Spirit of God. When this life and testimony unite in us, they change us!

"Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him by night and said to Him, `Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'" (vv.1-2) The Pharisees were the watchdogs in Israel. They were not Levites, priests or rabbis; God had not commissioned them to set up their own laws and force them upon the people. They took this task upon themselves because they felt they were so righteous in their own merits and efforts that they were justified in doing this.

Jesus said that the harlots and the tax collectors were more eligible to enter the kingdom of God than the Pharisees. Those who know they are indulging in sin, know they are sinners. Those who are in bondage and know they need deliverance, are closer to the kingdom of God than the Pharisees who didn't know they needed deliverance. The Pharisees had elevated themselves into a place of lordship, and felt their righteousness gave them the authority to be watchdogs for the things of God. Because the teaching of Jesus did not agree with their ideas, they were always in conflict with Him and attacked Him at every opportunity. However, the common man saw His miracles and marvelled at His teaching. The church system has also developed a pharisaical hierarchy in which some are considered to be better than others.

It was very obvious that the religious hierarchy was antiChrist! The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, and the lawyers only understood the letter of the law, but not the spiritual things Jesus proclaimed. Because of their common opposition to Christ they joined forces with the Pharisees. They united because they considered Christ as their common enemy. Their lack of spiritual understanding kept them from comprehending the spiritual nature of Jesus Christ. So they could not relate to the things Jesus said; they were beyond their comprehension. It is the same today; those who do not understand spiritual realities become pharisaical and antiChrist.

Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was a teacher sent from God because of all the miracles He was performing. "Jesus answered and said to him, `Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" (v.3) In effect He was saying, "No, Mr. Pharisee, you cannot see these spiritual things by seeing miracles or signs. You have to be born anew, you have to be born of the Spirit before you can feel, understand, or participate in the kingdom of God; they are beyond natural comprehension."

What did Jesus mean by saying, "Unless one is born anew?" What does BORN mean? When we come into this world we are born into an ethnic culture of some kind - German, Italian, English, Chinese, etc. We are not beginning a new life that is separate from previous life; it is a continuation of the life which God put into Adam. This natural life is perpetuated from one generation to another, and has finally brought us into being.

In order to see the kingdom of God, we need to be born into a new dimension. This has nothing to do with the generation of the flesh. We need to be born anew; we need to be joined to the life of God! Our new birth differs from our natural birth. Natural life is generated from generation to generation; spiritual life always comes from God - we cannot pass it on to our children. They also have to receive it from God by being born again.

Before we were born we did not have any consciousness of who we were. Our birth brought us into a realization. A development of our consciousness and awareness of self and our environment followed. But this natural consciousness cannot bring us into a spiritual consciousness; it can never see the kingdom of God! It just isn't enough! Although we may see the miracles and signs, we won't know where they came from, nor why Jesus did them.

Jesus did nothing of Himself, so the miracles He performed were not done on His own initiative nor in His own power. The miracles were done by God through Jesus Christ, because Christ's will was in complete subjection to the Father. If we want to be like Christ, we must also be in complete subjection to the Father. If we do not want to submit to the will of God, but only want power to do miracles, we are desiring honor for ourselves - we are desiring the inherent power to heal people. This power is resident in God alone and it remains there. It has never been God's intention to give us this power, for then we would always do miracles in order to bring glory to ourselves.

Nicodemus could not understand the concept of being born again, so he asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (vv.4-5) Here Jesus added another dimension to this concept. Without a rebirth we cannot see the kingdom of God, nor can we enter it. We need to be born of water and the Spirit!

Notice the word UNLESS. Since natural birth precedes being born of water and of the Spirit, it clearly indicates that there are two births, the natural and the spiritual. Being born of water does not refer to our natural birth. Water symbolizes judgment, so it means a judgment has to take place. After we have passed from the judgment of the water, we receive new life and begin to live by the Spirit in the heavens.

To clarify what water judgment is, let's look at other scripture portions where water is mentioned. In Noah's time, the flood (water) brought judgment on all unbelievers; it brought a separation between believers and unbelievers, and brought the believers into a new dimension. In Moses' time, the water of the Red Sea brought judgment on Pharaoh and his army; it separated the Israelites from the Egyptians permanently, and brought the Israelites into a new dimension. In our time, the water of baptism brings judgment on the old Adamic man and buries him; it separates us from the old man and brings into a new dimension. So this judgment portrays a separation and a birthing - a coming forth into a new dimension.

John's baptism with water signified repentance. We cannot be birthed out of water unless we have repented. So being birthed out of water signifies that we have repented. The scriptures proclaim that our old man remains in the judgment that comes with water; he is buried in that judgment, just as Pharaoh and his army were buried in the water judgment. This judgment must take place before we can come into newness of life! This new life brings us a new concept and a new awareness of spiritual realities. They were there all the time but we were not aware of them!

Our natural birth brought us into the system of this world. This system was present before we were born, but we were not aware of it. It was there ever since Adam sinned and brought it into our world. Our spiritual birth brings us into the kingdom of God. This is an eternal kingdom; it has always been present, but we were not aware of it.

Before we were born out of water we did not know God nor did we want Him; we did not have any concept of who He is, and were unable to perform the things of God. Our old man is only fit for judgment, for he will never improve. Being born out of water means we are regenerated. We come into this new consciousness and enjoy a new dimension of life.

The progression of creation in Genesis 1 begins with the earth being formless and void as it lay hidden under the waters of judgment. Then God brought the earth out of the water. In this process a separation took place. This separation brought a new identification. It symbolizes what takes place in us spiritually! The earthy life comes forth by the power of the heavens, and is the first to appear!

Eventually we will be birthed out of the earth. The water judgment brings us out of the earthy concepts of our carnal thinking. Gradually we see our need of being born of the Spirit. Jesus was referring to this when He said, "Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." We cannot enter the kingdom of God physically; it has to be entered spiritually - by being born again.

God does many things in threes - three being the number of divine completeness. Man is formed, then birthed out of the judgment that water symbolizes. By his new spiritual birth he enters the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is simply the rule of God. This rule is not like the rule of present-day governments. It does not rule by external laws. His kingdom is not of this world, for it is in our hearts. Jesus Christ will reign until He has put all things under His feet, then He will hand it over to the Father.

In Romans 8:15 and Gal. 4:6 we read that God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. Together with the Spirit we cry, "Abba! Father!" In that day we will ask the Father in the name of Jesus. (John 16:26) This means asking according to what His name represents. It has nothing to do with closing a selfish prayer with, "I ask this in the name of Jesus." When we have come into the union and oneness Jesus Christ has prepared for us, He has become our life. In this realization we cry, "Abba! Father!". This is the result of the Spirit's coming into us and manifesting Himself in us as our life!

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (v.6) The concepts which are birthed in our natural earthy mind are of the flesh. These earthy ideas are natural conceptions of Jesus, of heaven, of God, of a great white throne, of the temple, etc. All these concepts need to be put to death because they are of the flesh. They need to be resurrected into life; they need to ascend into spiritual understanding.

"Do not be amazed that I said to you, `You must be born again.'" (v.7) Notice, there are no options! Unless we have been birthed into a new dimension of understanding given by the Spirit, we cannot enter the kingdom of God! This is not a birthing into the law of trying to be good and trying not to sin. Christianity has been plagued with trying to redeem the old man. Christians often do not understand that they are birthed out of their old understanding into a new realization. The presence of the new understanding displaces the old. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega; He is the beginning and the end and everything in between! He has to become everything to us!

"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is every one who is born of the Spirit." (v.8) The things of the Spirit are in the unseen realm, but the results are evident in the natural realm.

"Jesus answered and said to Him, `Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?'" (v.10) In Matthew 21 Jesus related a parable of a landowner who planted a vineyard. Later he sent messengers (prophets) to the vinegrowers; these mistreated and killed the messengers. Finally he sent his son, and they did the same to him. Then Jesus told the chief priests and the elders of the people that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them. They were trying to express the kingdom of God through the flesh, and that is unacceptable to God. It will be given to a nation over which Christ is King; to a nation that comes into being through the Spirit of Christ; a nation bearing the fruit of the kingdom - love, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit.

Here was a master in Israel who had no understanding of spiritual realities - and neither does natural man. This includes everyone who has not received revelation knowledge from God. People think they know God because they are Christians. They have seen God do so many wonderful things in the past! They have received a deliverance from Egypt (the world), yet they don't know God. They reject the true spiritual image of God as well as spiritual things, even as Israel did when the true unadulterated image of God came to them in Jesus Christ. The natural always rejects and crucifies the Lord of glory!

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony." (v.11) They rejected it instead of receiving it in their hearts. They rebuked Jesus, turned Him over to be crucified, and said, "His blood be on our hands." There was a remnant in Israel which did not do this. This is always the case in regard to the gospel of God. He calls His sheep and gathers them out of various sheepfolds of the world.

"No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man." (v.13) This man is Jesus Christ! Since He came down from heaven, He must have been there before He was born on this earth, for how could He come down from a place where He was not? This man, who was birthed through Mary, took on the form of Jesus; He received the anointing of the Spirit, which is the Christ.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. So there is a big difference between the body of Jesus and the body of Christ. The body of Jesus was His physical form, His fleshly humanity, His natural visible body. It was the means by which God mediated to the natural man. The body of Jesus died and disappeared because it was temporal.

The body of Christ is not one of flesh. How could Christ be in us in physical form? That would be an impossibility! That idea must be replaced with truth. Our wrong ideas of Christ must be raised out of the old consciousness where we saw Him as a physical man. The body of Christ is His spiritual body, and we are members of that body. (1 Cor. 12:12ff) We are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Christ's spiritual body feeds on spiritual food, receives spiritual understanding, and dwells within this temple of flesh - just as it did with Jesus. Christ Jesus is truly spirit! When we see Him spiritually, we become like Him spiritually.

Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us. The purpose: "That where He I am, there you may be also." (Jn. 14:3) We are to be in the place where He was at that time! Where was He? He was in a fleshly body, but in a relationship of unity with the Father! This is where He wants us to be also! This unity has been made possible through Christ's life, death and resurrection! He was Jesus, the Christ, because the anointed Word was dwelling in Him. We become partakers of Christ or members of the body of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The old is put away and we are birthed into a new consciousness and a new relationship. Now that Christ Jesus is spirit, He is not limited by an earthly body. He is now omnipresent, fills all things, and ministers to each of us personally at all times. That is why it is to our advantage that He went away physically, and came again in the Holy Spirit!

The spiritual man who came down from heaven, also remained in heaven, for He is omnipresent. He has never joined Himself to the natural man, because the flesh is unable to understand spiritually and therefore unable to understand Christ. The people heard the words of Jesus and saw Him do signs. They looked at Him, they felt Him, and they touched Him! They could see His physical body, but they could not see the anointing - the Christ within Him! We have now come to Mt. Zion - a spiritual mountain that cannot be touched! Spiritual realities cannot be touched physically. We have gotten away from Mt. Sinai, the mountain that can be touched and which is full of lightning, thunder and judgment!

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." (v.14) In the Greek, the words "to be lifted up" mean "to be exalted". Jesus has to be raised out of an earthy realization into a spiritual realization. Only the Spirit can do this. In the birthing of the Spirit in us, Christ is lifted up from being a human individual to being a many-membered corporate spiritual man! He is the Christ, the anointing that dwells in us!

When we understand that the anointing is in us, we can grow in this anointing. We don't have this anointing in separation from Jesus Christ. The anointing that came on the Head, Jesus Christ, flows down onto His body! So we become partakers of that anointing! It emanates from Him. It is He who is the distributor. The various gifts of the Spirit come from the same anointing. The anointing is manifested differently in the various members of the body - thus corporately forming the body of Christ. We are all joined to Christ and to one another by this anointing!

The image of Christ, the anointed Word in us, is the Son of Man. The one mediator between God and man is the man Jesus Christ. He mediates the things of God to us, and the Christ in us mediates the things of God to the world. We become the sent ones even as Christ was sent. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." (v.14) When the serpent was lifted up, the plague lifted; even so when Christ is lifted up from the earth, the plague of rebellion against God is lifted.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (v.16) As we compare various scriptures that refer to the world, a superficial glance would make it seem as though God has one standard for Himself and one for us. God can love the world, but we are not to love the world. It says, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?...Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15) Jesus also said that His kingdom is not of this world! His kingdom belongs to another world! Which world do you think God loves? ├┐The verses in James and 1 John refer to the rule which is in the world - the rule that is against God.

For further clarification let's look at 2 Peter 3 where three worlds are mentioned. There is a difference between "creation" and "world". The first world was destroyed by water, but creation continued to exist. That is, the rule or government was destroyed, but creation was not destroyed! The second world is being destroyed by fire. The third world is the world in which righteousness dwells, and it is the world He loves! He loves it so much that He gave His Son, so that everyone can enter into His righteousness!

"...that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." The correct translation is life age- during, life eonian, or life of the ages. Most versions misrepresent life. You see, the life of God (and there is no other life) is self-existent and will always remain self-existent. But it is manifested in ages for us now. Ages have a beginning and an end, but eternity has no beginning and no end. We won't live forever in whatever age we are presently living in. In Hebrews 1 we see that Christ makes the ages. We can live in the age of the law (being under the law), or in the age where there is no law working in us. After we are born of the Spirit we become aware of the work the Spirit is doing in us. This becomes more and more real to us as we grow in the awareness of who we are in our unity with Christ! Once we are through with the ages we enter eternity.

"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil." (vv.17-19)

Here Jesus reveals what the natural mind loves! It loves darkness instead of light! This is our big problem! There would be no condemnation if no one resisted the light! Since this is hard for us to grasp, we urge people to quit sinning - men should quit beating their wives and stop scolding them for burning their toast. People shouldn't become impatient and lose their tempers; they shouldn't abuse others, cheat, lie, smoke, drink, etc. In order to get people to serve God better, we try to get them to change their attitudes and habits by scolding them. What does that do for people? Absolutely nothing, except to make Pharisees out of some and sinners out of others.

You see, Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, for the world was already condemned because it did not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. It was condemned by the law. The law brings the knowledge of sin and condemnation to the offender. It tells us who we are; it convicts us of being sinners, of being evil and unworthy. Will we make ourselves more pleasing or acceptable in the eyes of God by emphasizing our shame, and making ourselves more unworthy? Since the law has already condemned the offender, why not be satisfied with its condemnation?

Christianity does not consist of "condemnation thinking". There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for they are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. Christ is our life and He does not have any condemnation for those who are in Him. It is our responsibility to show the difference between light and darkness. This should be done scripturally. Humanity's darkness consists of unbelief, for it does not believe that Jesus Christ is the truth; it loves the delusions and darkness of the carnal mind. Adam is the man who brought sin into the world. The cure is to believe in Christ!

Our battle is against principalities and powers; against the deception and darkness that operate in the carnal mind. It was working in everyone before you and I came on the scene, and it is working in us as well. Some people give themselves to this evil more than others do. Others, in their zealousness to become good, try to cover up the evil that is working in them, and become proud of their good works.

"God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." (2 Cor. 5:19) God was not reconciling the world to Jesus, but to Himself. He was not counting their trespasses against them! So all our outward attempts at cleaning ourselves up for the coming of Christ and trying to be the perfect bride, are useless because they don't work. In Christ, God is not charging the people with their sins. He is taking sin away! This is the good news of the gospel! Amen.

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