The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 6


(John 3:1-21)


1.      My favorite chapter in the Bible is the third chapter of the Gospel of John.

2.      It begins with Nicomedus coming to talk to Jesus by night (3:1, 2).

3.      Nicodemus was a religious leader of the Jews, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin.  Our Lord called him “a (the) master of Israel” (3:10; see margin).

4.      People have speculated as to why Nicodemus came by night.  Many people feel it is because he was afraid of being seen with Jesus.  This could be true.  There are certain people who are afraid to take a stand for Christ. Perhaps he just wanted to talk privately to our Lord when no one else was around.

5.      He addressed our Lord as “Rabbi” and said, “We know that Thou art a teacher come from God…” (3:2). Here was his problem.  He did not understand Jesus is God.

6.      Donald Grey Barnhouse put it this way: “Jesus was not a ‘teacher come from God,’ but God come to teach…Many men today are teachers come from God.  But only once did God come to teach” (cf. John 1:6).

7.      Our Lord responded to Nicodemus by saying: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

8.      It is important to note that it was to Nicodemus, the religious leader, that Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (3:7).  There is this misconception people have that only drunkards and dopeheads and thieves and prostitutes need to be born again. But it was to a moral, religious leader that Jesus said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye (plural) must be born again” (3:7).



1.      Our Lord told Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3).

2.      Nicodemus was a religious man.  He was an intelligent man.  There is no question but that he was a sincere man.  But he was not born again. Therefore, he could not even “see the kingdom of God” (3:3).

3.      Nicodemus, like so many religious people today, was spiritually blind.  Religious but lost. Nicodemus needed to be born again.

4.      I Cor.2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

5.      “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (3:6). Man by nature is a fallen creature, a hopeless sinner, totally unsuitable for heaven, suitable only for hell.  Unregenerate man is controlled by his fleshly appetites and desires. He must be born again.

6.      Some times we will meet some dirty old sinner.  He has ruined his life through immorality, drunkenness, and other worldly sins of the flesh.  And this poor wretch looks up to heaven and says, “If only I could live my life over!  Things would be much different!”

7.      But being born again physically would not help this wicked sinner!  Oh, he might avoid some of the sins he committed.  He might be more careful to avoid some of Satan’s pitfalls.  But unless he is born again spiritually, unless he is born from above he will still be a lost sinner on his way to hell!

8.      Now I realize that there is much confusion today about what it means to be born again.  Worldly Hollywood movie stars go on religious television shows like the 700 Club and testify that they are now “born again.”  But there is no change in their lives.  And if there is no change, there was no genuine conversion (cf. II Cor.5:17; John 3:8).

9.      By the way, I believe quite a few of our young people are NOT born again.  There is no evidence of salvation (II Cor. 5:17).

10. Some people say they’re born again because they speak in tongues.  But the Mormons speak in tongues.  Does this make them Christian?  People involved in witchcraft speak in tongues. Certainly these people are not born again.  In fact, I have yet to meet a tongues person that gave any evidence of being truly saved. 

11. Jimmy Swaggart used to brag about how he spoke in tongues.  Then we all found out he was spending his huge salary on prostitutes.  Jim and Tammy Bakker spoke in tongues, and they were eventually exposed as crooks and adulterers. They got divorced.  Tammy remarried and became a RC!  Jim went to jail and said he read the Bible for the first time!  He is now remarried and still preaching a false gospel.  Benny Hinn speaks in tongues.

12. Here is another error: Some churches teach you’re born again when you get baptized.  They say the “water” in John 3:5 refers to water baptism.  This makes the new birth sound pretty easy for some people – just get baptized and you’re on your way to heaven!  The only problem is it’s not true. Baptism cannot save anyone.

13. Many lost sinners have gotten baptized but they’re still just as lost as ever.  That’s because they’ve never truly been born again (cf. 3:16-18, 36).  In fact, they are now in worse shape! 

14. There are millions of baptized people in hell right now. Baptism is not essential for salvation (e.g., the thief on the cross); but salvation is essential for baptism (cf. I Cor. 1:17).

15. Then what is the “water” in John 3:5? 

        Water is often used symbolically in the Bible.  We see this especially in the Gospel of John (cf. John 4:6-14; 7:37, 38).

        Bible often represents the Word of God (cf. Ps. 119:9; John 15:3; Eph. 5:25, 26; Titus 3:5).

        The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and this produces a child of God (cf. I Peter 1:23; John 1:12, 13).

        And unless the Spirit of God and the Word of God have turned you into a child of God, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God (3:7).

16. Carnal, unregenerate sinners think they need sacraments and rituals and candles and fancy robes and outfits and statues in order to feel religious.  The unsaved are spiritually blind and therefore they cannot understand the simplicity of the Gospel (John 3:16).

17. Some have wondered what our Lord meant in John 3:10.  The new birth is taught in the OT, and Nicodemus, the master of Israel (see margin), should have known what our Lord was saying (cf. Ezek. 36:26, 27).



1.      Some people say, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not a born-again Christian.”  That is impossible.  Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

2.      Some people say, “There are all different types of Christians, and my church does not teach that you need to be born again.”  Then they’re in the wrong church because their church is not following the Bible.

3.      Some people say, “I’ve always been a Christian, therefore I do not think I need to be born again.”  I heard Mrs. Laura Bush say this to Cal Thomas on TV.  She spoke about growing up in church, etc.

4.      But no one is born a Christian.  All men are born sinners. No one can say that they have always been Christian. Perhaps your parents were Christian but that does not automatically make you a Christian. You may be a nominal Christian, but Jesus says, “Ye must be born again.”

5.      Some people think RC’s get to heaven their way, and Jews can get to heaven their way, and Mormons get to heaven their way, and Muslims their way, etc.  They say, “Being born again is OK for some people, but I do not need to be born again.”  Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.”  There is only ONE way to heaven.

6.      I remember a RC priest telling a friend of mine that is was alright for Baptists to be born again but that it was not necessary for Roman Catholics (cf. Matt. 23:13-15).

7.      It’s not just Baptists that need to be born again.  It’s not just evangelicals or fundamentalists that need to be born again.  “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23; cf. Eph. 2:1-9).

8.      Some men talk about how we are all God’s children and how we’re all going to the same place when we leave this world.  But they don’t get that kind of teaching from the Bible (cf. John 8:44).  Children of the devil cannot get into heaven.  They must first repent.  And they must be born again.

9.      In yesterday’s newspaper I read an article about the funeral of a fireman who died recently. One of his buddies gave his eulogy and said he could not wait to play poker with him up in heaven.  This is a delusion.  Once sinners repent and are born again they realize there are no poker games in heaven, no drinking parties in heaven, no rock music in heaven, etc.

10. Our Lord gives a beautiful picture of salvation here in John 3:14, 15 (cf. Num. 21:5-9).

11. It was by the fiery serpents that death entered the camp of Israel.  And it was by sin, through the serpent’s tempting, that death entered the human race. The brass (represents judgment) serpent speaks of judgment for sin.

12. It was set upon a pole that WHOSOEVER looked upon it would live.  This is a picture of Christ being lifted up to die for our sins.

13. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (II Cor.5:21; cf. John 3:14-16).



1.      I have been refuting some of the errors taught by the various denominations, and I think I should stop here for a moment and address another error that is spreading like a prairie fire in these days of confusion and apostasy.  It is the teaching that regeneration precedes salvation.

2.      No, it is faith that precedes salvation.  Paul said, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). 

3.      The key word in the Gospel of John is “believe” (99 times).  We will not look at all 99 references today but just a few (1:12; 3:15-18; 4:39; 5:24; 6:47; 7:37, 38; 11:25, 26; 20:30, 31).

4.      Some people say they just cannot believe.  That’s not true.  The problem is they will not believe (John 5:40).  After hardening their hearts for many years some sinners come to a point where they can no longer believe. But at first they will not believe.

5.      The problem is not intellectual.  The problem is SIN (cf. John 3:18-21).  Men love their sins too much to give them up.  They must repent of these sins or these sins will drag them down into hell (cf. John 3:36).



1.      John R. Rice told a story about capturing monkeys in Africa.  The hunters put nuts in a jug.  The monkey comes along and reaches down into the jug and grabs the nuts.  But he cannot get his hand out of the jug without letting go of the nuts.  So the monkey screams but will not let go.  As he screams the hunters come along and throw a net over him.  And so it is with sinners.  They will not let go of their sin.  They might even scream but they will not let go.  And the devil comes along with his big net and they are trapped.

2.      Most sinners do not see themselves as being trapped by the devil but according to the Bible they most certainly are.  Second Timothy 2:26 says they are in “the snare of the devil” and are “taken captive by him at his will.”

3.      Unsaved friend: Why don’t you get this settled with God right now?

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