Underground Bible Study: Session 1

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Hello, and welcome to the first edition of the Underground Bible Study. In this feature I will, along with various guests at times, attempt to exposit, explain, or sometimes just post devotional thoughts on various passages of Scripture.  In this edition of the Underground Bible Study, my writing partner James has selected a series of verses within the chapter that contains what is without question the single most quoted verse in the entire Bible…  What chapter and what verse could I be referring to here? Read on to find out.

John 3:4-21 NIV Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”


Billy’s thoughts…

There has been so much written of this chapter and the 16th verse in particular that I am wary here of recycling old catch phrases in the exegesis thereof. Endless illustrations have been drawn out from here, and equally endless commentaries and books written thereof. (However, if I had to recommend just two, I’d recommend the book 3:16 Numbers of Hope by Max Lucado and The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Weirsbe) so I just want to be clear here that the majority of what I may write here following this isn’t “fresh inspiration” or a “word” I received from on high from the Father directly to me, but rather various bits and pieces I’ve picked up along the years in the reading of various materials dealing with these verses.

Nicodemus and Peter to me represent the same side of two very different coins. You couldn’t get two people of a more disagreeing background, Peter being an uneducated fisherman, and Nicodemus being an exalted Pharisee (and a person Jesus called the very teacher of all Israel), and yet, both of them, when in the presence of The Lord’s wisdom, can at times, come off looking like complete rubes, since each of them at various times made the mistake of trying to discern the things of God through their own natural understanding rather than in the spiritual light in which it was given to them to understand it. You can see this by Nicodemus asking Jesus in response to Christ’s telling him “You must be born again”, “How can a man be born when he is old?” “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” I can almost imagine Jesus letting out a hearty laugh at such a foolish statement, but since I have no evidence that he did, I’ll just leave it there in my imagination for now. Compare this with any one of a number of bone-headed comments made by our dear friend Peter at any time (pre Pentecost of course..)

Now there’s been lots of discussion through the ages as to what it means to be born of Water and of the Spirit. Some people say that this is in reference to the ritual of water Baptism, and I can see how they would make that point, and that may indeed be what is in view here, however, I happen to believe what is meant by Water here is an illusion to the Word of God (which is at times mentioned using water as a metaphor such as the washing of the mind by the water of the word etc…) And with that in mind, since our “parents” in this new birth are the water and the word, it does seem kind of important to figure out who they are and what they do.

The Bible teaches elsewhere that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, so there you have some support of this idea, that the Word of God does have a parental building block role in all of this. So the word of God and the spirit of God co-habitate within our “womb a.k.a heart” and from that experience a new creature emerges. Now a birth is a once and for all experience, which I believe was used here in this chapter to symbolize the once and for all nature of salvation. Once a person is born, it is impossible for him to become “unborn”… and we can take great comfort and assurance in that, while God does have high expectations of us, he’s not up in the clouds with a big fiery spear waiting to nail us the first time we slip up or backslide in any way.

There is the grey area of apostasy here, but, I still stand firm in the knowledge of knowing that Christ’s work on the cross paid my sin debt in full. I had nothing to do with that great miracle to begin with, other than accepting it for myself, so I find it hard to believe I could be able to undo its effects either, not that there won’t be a form of judgment in the loss of privileges and rewards to those who have in essence “taken the name of the Lord thy God in vain” meaning, those who are saved who have “taken the name of God” in being called Christ-ians, and then in their own conduct failed to represent him accurately. I think there is a vast difference in between entering the Kingdom and “inheriting” the Kingdom, in as much as there is a difference between staying at a five star hotel, and owning said hotel, but that’s getting slightly off-topic here.

Jesus speaks in this verse of “the wind blowing where it pleases” using the wind here as an analogy of something that people have faith in without being able to perceive it in a direct visual manner. So in like manner is the Spirit which is also invisible, but an essential component of our new beginning in Christ as we established earlier.

Our human (or natural flesh and blood) side fights against this because it goes against some of the most basic parameters of our most preciously held preconceptions , such as the notion that anything we are to accept, we must be able to see, and touch, and feel. The Spirit, quite to the contrary, is imperceptible to our natural selves, and only comes into focus when He (the Holy Spirit Himself) brings us under conviction which He does “as it (He) pleases”. This when coupled with our response of repentance that leads to spiritual faith, throws the entirety of our natural lives out of whack, and in essence, reverts us back to our most basic state of existence, a new infanthood where we must learn anew how to walk, talk, and live all over again.

Another thing covered in this chapter that helped me in my Walk, in an educational manner was the part that said “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Before this Jesus spent a paragraph talking about the difference between understanding earthly matters and spiritual matters (which from an earthly/fleshly perspective is an impossibility as Christ more or less stated..) which is very appropriate here for me. Let me backtrack a little bit. I’m one of those “crazies” who likes to read the Bible from cover to cover every now and then, which is fine, but as many have pointed out before, the first time around you normally bolt through Genesis and Exodus, which are the exciting action filled books, but then once you get to Leviticus you become bogged down in ceremonies and rituals, and normally this is where a lot of people quit reading altogether.

These OT books such as Leviticus when read in a natural narrative manner are about as exciting as fingernails on a chalkboard, however, when armed with Spirit of God, the STUDY of this book can be very rewarding. Note that I said the study, and not just the reading, since Leviticus is a book that is meant to be dissected bit by bit, rather than gulped up in large heapings, as reading it straight from beginning to end, is pretty much a fruitless endeavor from what I have experienced anyway. Now I say all of that to get to this. The example Jesus brought up there about “being lifted up” as the “snake in the desert” brought some much needed clarity to me about one of the most confusing and, on its own, seemingly “pointless” events in the book of Numbers. You read this sordid ordeal about Israelites being snake bitten at first and wonder “what in the world is going on here? Why is God using a snake on a poll to heal people, what message is he trying to convey here?”

You can read the entire Old Testament a thousand times and not find the answer, but here in one sentence, it is perfectly summed up for us by Christ himself. The serpent is Christ. Now that seems almost like blasphemy until you realize that Christ *became* sin for us (something that is quite impossible for my mind to even begin to fully grasp) in order to take the judgment we had coming to us. A serpent has been the symbol of sin since the very beginning when a Serpent (Satan) introduced it to humanity. Brass/Bronze which is what the serpent on the pole was made out of represents judgement, so there in that illustration you have sin judged, and the hope of salvation and healing by the mere act of looking up on the one (the serpent or Jesus in our case) who is being lifted up.

Finally, everything comes to its rightful culmination in John 3:16, the most famous verse in the entire Bible, and for good reason. With this one verse, you have the gospel laid out in its purest form. If you take this verse out of The Word, then we have nothing, no hope, no future, no nothing, nadda, zilch… Which makes it one of those verses, which like a favorite song or Psalm, or Roman’s Chapter 8, or 1 Corinthians 13, that you can just go into with complete simplicity of mind and simply savor it as God’s personal love note to us. It will humble you, grow you up, and give you a light to look upon in some of the darkest moments imaginable. It is truly the “hope diamond” verse of the entire Bible for believers.

When I read the final part of this chapter that was posted here, I find it most helpful to replace the word “light” with Christ, as Christ is “the way, the truth, and the light”… In which case this verse reads as a full on expose of why most men refuse to come to saving faith, and most solemnly, a serious and stern warning to those who would reject the righteous ransom that was paid for their sake…

Jimmy’s thoughts…


All too often people confuse being “born of water and of the Spirit” as being baptized. They interpret this verse as such and jump to the conclusion that a baptism is required to get into heaven. However it is important to note that nowhere in the context of this verse is baptism even mentioned. Jesus says in the very next verse “flesh gives birth to flesh but spirit gives birth to Spirit,” which means that Jesus is describing natural birth. Perhaps the “water” that He is referring to here is the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb.

I say “perhaps” because Bill brought up another interpretation that Jesus isn’t referring to literal water but using it as a metaphor. This also makes sense as Jesus promises a Samaritan woman “living water” in the upcoming chapter. What I’m trying to get at though is that baptism is not required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.Jesus goes on to use Numbers 21:4-9 to illustrate a parallel with His death and resurrection. Moses’ men who were wandering in the desert cursed God and Moses because they were miserable and grew very impatient. Basically, to shut them up (and punish them,) God sent venomous snakes among the men.

The men confessed their sin to Moses and asked him to pray for them. God told Moses to make a bronze snake to put on a pole and told him that anyone who looks at it will live even though they were bitten. In the same way, we curse God with our actions and sin. God sends down punishment and like Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin in death…” but Jesus was risen up (also became sin like Bill said) and anybody who looks to Him will be healed even though they have sinned.

God forgave our sins and spared us from death because of our repentance just like he did with the men in Numbers 21. Our God is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. The Gospel can be found throughout the Bible and the reference from Numbers is one of many instances. The all too often forgotten John 3:15 also contains the Gospel message in a neat little package, however much like Jesus usually does with His statements, he explains it in terms we can understand (which is a good idea because in those days, that reference would fly right over the Gentiles’ heads.) This is what the next verse is about. John 3:16 is the Gospel explained in layman’s terms so that anybody can understand it. Anybody. A kid, a grown man, a Gentile, a Jew, a Chinese man, tall people, short people, fat, skinny, etc. It’s universal. God loved us, he sacrificed His Son to pay for our sins, and whosoever gives their lives to him will be saved. It’s a message so simple yet says so much and it was summarized in one line by Jesus. Truly, what takes a thousand lifetimes for a man to say, it takes only one quick statement in a teaching for Jesus to say.

The final statements here reflect the contrast between dark and light, good and evil. A really funny thing that Jesus tells Nicodemus is that “men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” If you take a look at John 3:2 it says that Nicodemus actually approached Jesus during the night time. It’s very interesting that Jesus closes with “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” He’s basically telling Nicodemus that if he were living by the truth, he would’ve approached Jesus in the daytime. It also in a way looks like an open invitation to start coming into the light and following Jesus.

Closing Words.

Amen to that James.  Well, that concludes our study tonight. I do hope you enjoyed what you read here, so for James and myself, I say good day (or night), God bless, and thanks for reading.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

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3 Responses to Underground Bible Study: Session 1

  1. jimmy4v1l35 says:

    Well, judging from the first few comments that Billy made here, it looks like there will be more guests on the UBS when made available. It was a pleasure to be on the UBS Billy and hopefully our thoughts here have helped build up, encourage, and edify other believers.

    In Christ,
    Jimmy

    • Billy says:

      Thanks for the feedback Stinger, and yes Jimbo, you are correct.

      I will write again with a partner when the oppurtunity presents itself, but this will not always be a dual person effort as it were.

      God bless.

  2. G.L.Smith says:

    Excellent read gentlemen, very good way to kick off the UBS. I hope to see many more of these sessions. Will the two of you be working on more of these, or was the collaboration in this field a special/one-time thing?

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