What does John 3:3 mean?
ESV: Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
NIV: Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. "
NASB: Jesus responded and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'
CSB: Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
NLT: Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.'
KJV: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
NKJV: Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Verse Commentary:
Jesus explains that a person cannot be redeemed unless they are "born again." The Greek phrase can also mean "born from above." Nicodemus doesn't fully understand this. People frequently misinterpreted Jesus' spiritual teachings in overly physical ways. The question Nicodemus asks about re-entering a mother's womb (John 3:4) is rhetorical; he knows Jesus cannot mean physical birth. He is asking Jesus to further explain the idea.

This concept of rebirth is critical for understanding the gospel. Children inherit the attributes of their parents: to be a "child of God" is no small thing (John 1:12)! This also implies the associations of change, and pain, involved in childbirth. The change is mostly on the part of the child, but the pain is mostly on the part of the parent. In this case, the pain suffered by God, in the form of Jesus on a cross, produces rebirth and change in those who turn to Him for salvation.
Verse Context:
John 2:24—3:15 describes a meeting between Jesus and a Pharisee. The last two verses of chapter two highlight the fact that Jesus knew men better than they knew themselves. Nicodemus was the ancient equivalent of a politician, cleric, and professor all rolled into one. Jesus proves that this man doesn't understand religion as well as he'd like to think. In contrast to the loud, public spectacle of clearing the temple, this encounter is a private, nighttime meeting. Their actual conversation was probably longer than the summary recorded here.
Chapter Summary:
John chapter 3 is one of the most important passages in the entire gospel. Many crucial ideas are explained here, including the role of Jesus as Savior. After the loud, public commotion at the temple, John transitions to a quiet, nighttime discussion. The speakers are Jesus and a Pharisee, Nicodemus, who is sincerely interested in understanding Jesus' ministry. These verses make it clear that Christ—and Christ alone—is the means of salvation for the entire world. This text also states that those who reject Jesus are rejecting God.
Chapter Context:
The gospel of John intends to prove that Jesus is God. Chapter 3 contains some of the most direct, most important concepts in Christianity. The ideas of spiritual rebirth and the necessity of belief in Christ are reinforced by the rest of the information in this gospel. John continues to use contrast, moving from the loud and public temple cleansing to the quiet of this conversation. After Jesus injects humility into a powerful leader, chapter 4 will transition again, as Jesus gives dignity to an outcast stranger.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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