Whosoever Believes

INTRODUCTION: In the previous MPN chronologically, "Nicodemus, the Conqueror by Faith", the first ten verses of John 3 were examined, with strong emphasis on Nicodemus. Now we move on to consider verses 11 through 21, which may not always be associated with Nicodemus, but this section comprises the closing comments Jesus made to him, with no recorded response. John 3:16 is perhaps the most well known of these eleven consecutive verses, and that content does have strong significance. But, this study will look at the full series of interconnected thoughts from verses 11 through 21, which I have title "Whosoever Believes". The composite paraphrase was developed from ten translations available in the Online Bible.


A - John 3:11 in composite paraphrase

11 Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen; and you do not accept our testimony.

COMMENTS: Nicodemus is apparently puzzled, perhaps even a bit bewildered by things Jesus has said thus far, as indicated by the immediately preceding verses to the one above. John 3:9-10 "Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" From the time the Word became flesh, it has been necessary to understand and accept that Jesus is God who came down from heaven, and is the only source of eternal life, to those who place their trust in him by faith. Just a few verses later in this chapter 3, in a different setting, John the Baptist underscores the point Jesus made in verse 11, and affirms that he (John) believes that Jesus is who he claims to be. John 3:31-33 "He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true."

After the resurrection, Peter states why we must bear witness of Jesus, as he speaks of the authenticity of Jesus as the Christ, spoken of by the prophets. Acts 10:42-43 "And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." The gospel writer John gives further testimony in his letter, 1 John 4:14-15 "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God."


B - John 3:12 in composite paraphrase

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?

COMMENTS: Jesus continues to speak more about his own identity as God, having authority to speak the truth. Before proceeding, He cautions Nicodemus to think carefully about the spiritual implications of what Jesus will be saying, because Nicodemus has struggled with what has been revealed to this point. As Jesus continues, Nicodemus, and the reader today, will need to combine the perception of the physical realm gained by the senses, with a faith in the spiritual, imparted by God.


C - John 3:13 in composite paraphrase

13 And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven.

COMMENTS: Jesus now plainly states the fact that he has come from heaven, and this is an exclusive event he alone can claim. All created men have their origin on the earth; but Jesus has come from heaven to enter the created world among created mankind, as the only unique man who is also God in flesh. John provides baseline information of this fact in chapter one of this gospel. John 1:18 "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Later, Jesus declares to the Jews, which could have included Nicodemus in their company, John 6:33,35,41 "For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." "The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven." Paul adds, 1 Corinthians 15:47 "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven." If Nicodemus was confused by "born again", he must really start to exercise his faith to accept what Jesus has just told him in verse 12, and to try to grasp what is next to come.


D - John 3:14-15 in composite paraphrase

14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

COMMENTS: Jesus uses the figure of a God-directed earthly event from the history of Israel, and carries the discussion to a future event (future from the perspective of Nicodemus), himself to be lifted up. Those who look to him in faith will be saved from the sting of eternal death, brought by that old serpent Satan. Numbers 21:8-9 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." After many generations, the people of Israel confused the true spiritual significance of the brass serpent, and therefore Hezekiah rightfully destroyed it. 2 Kings 18:3-5 "And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. {Nehushtan: that is, a piece of brass}. Jesus later stated again that he would be "lifted up". John 8:28-30 "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. As he spake these words, many believed on him." This may have been the point at which Nicodemus believed, or perhaps others here joined the already converted Nicodemus.


E - John 3:16-17 in composite paraphrase

16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

COMMENTS: Jesus now provides the reason why these events must take place, but human reasoning can not make sense of this: only the Holy Spirit can open our understanding. God the Son must die in the place of sinful man, and sinful man must then by faith, trust that substitution to provide eternal life. The brass serpent was a symbol to allow the demonstration of faith in God's word regarding the poisonous serpents in the wilderness. When the people began to burn incense to it, Hezekiah destroyed it calling it just a brass thing, which it was indeed! Jesus was lifted up on the cross and died, that we might escape eternal death if we accept by faith that his word says his death makes possible our eternal life. We do not worship a body on the cross any more than we worship a brass serpent on a staff. Jesus is risen, and alive, and because he lives, we also have eternal life through faith in him!

The coming of Christ Jesus into the world as the object of our faith, and we have no fear of condemnation, but look to him with joy because he has come as a Savior! Psalms 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."


F - John 3:18-20 in composite paraphrase

18-20 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

COMMENTS: Christ Jesus, our Savior God, came to give us more light that we might come to that light and forsake the darkness which is within us, for he is light and life. This fact about our unchanging God was in the Old Testament, and did not change in the New Testament. Job 33:28 "He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light." Psalms 27:1 "<<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalms 36:9 "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light." John 1:4 "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." Our friend Nicodemus, on various occasions, may have heard additional words of Jesus such as these, which follow, before he came to saving faith in the Lord. John 8:12 "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 12:44-50 "Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak." Now we, who believe, have this gospel of light and life. 2 Timothy 1:7-10 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:"


G - John 3:21 in composite paraphrase

21 But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made known, that they are wrought in God.

COMMENTS: Those who believe God and accept the free gift of salvation from the eternal condemnation for sin, are taking action in truth (doing truth) because God speaks only truth. The pure light of Christ then purges all evil deeds from the one saved, leaving to be judged, only deeds, which were wrought in God for our benefit. Then we have no reason to fear, since God will judge us based on his own righteousness, imparted to us through faith in Christ Jesus. As we saw from the previous study, Nicodemus honored Christ Jesus by joining Joseph of Arimathaea to bury the Lord after his death on the cross. It seems that Nicodemus came to the light and responded with action by faith, not with empty words. Should we not do likewise? Peter and John spoke boldly when threatened by the Jewish leadership, Acts 4:18-20 "And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. If Christ is in us, we should share what we have seen in our own lifetime, and heard from the Word of God. This drive which Peter and John had, was the same "burning" which the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah experienced. Jeremiah 20:9 "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." None of these three could hold the truth inside.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Jesus, my Lord, I was once certainly among those who did not accept your testimony about yourself, or the words of those who spoke about you as the Son of God. I now believe that you came from heaven where you had been with the Father before the creation of the world. You speak only truth about all things of earth and heaven. The true record of the power of looking to the brass serpent, to escape death from the crawling serpent's poisonous bite, seems very strange, but you provided an earthly event to picture the heavenly transaction which you produced on the cross for eternal life to those who believe by faith. This demonstration of your love by laying down your life for ours is still beyond my full comprehension. I am so thankful Jesus, that you came for my salvation, not for my condemnation! And salvation to eternal life not for me alone, but for "WHOSOEVER" will believe. You are light and life, and as long as I stayed away from you, I was still condemned in my sin because of my unbelief. Not only did I have unbelief, but I also tried to justify my unbelief, and be critical, perhaps even hateful, of what appeared as the foolish faith of others. Only by coming to you in faith could I have the light of eternal life. I praise you Lord, because I have now come to you, and I want to continue to come to your light so that you will judge me only based upon those deeds, which you work in and through me. I offer you my praise and worship, that you so loved the world as to give your only begotten Son, and placed me among the "whosoever believes"! Amen.

Published 3 June 2004, first issued 20 January 2004