01 Holy Spirit: Agent of Change | WednesdayintheWord.com

This series examins what Scripture teaches about the Holy Spirit with the goal of understanding who he is and why receiving the Spirit is so important.

In John 3:1-8, we learn two themes that we will see repeatedly in this series:

  1. The Holy Spirit is God’s agent of change, and
  2. One of his most crucial works is the inner transformation of believers.

Passage

3:1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” – John 3:1-2

  • The Pharisees were an organized group of Jews intent on keeping the Mosaic law. They believed if every living Jew would keep the law for one day the Messiah would come.
  • As a “ruler of the Jews,” Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was a kind of “supreme court” for religious affairs and disputes.
  • Nicodemus came to Jesus in secret so that the other Pharisees would not know he was interested in what Jesus has to say.

3:3Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  – John 3:3-6

  • I want to concentrate on this phrase “born again” or “born from above” in John 3:3. Jesus restates the same idea 3 ways: “born again” (3:3; 3:7); “born of water and spirit” (3:5); “born of the Spirit” (3:6; 3:8).
  • I understand “born of water and Spirit” to be one idea, like we use the phrase “good and ready” to mean one idea (hendiadys).
  • Jesus tells Nicodemus, unless you have the “birthright” of being born from above you have no place in the kingdom of God. 
  • In our initial birth, we are given birth by flesh.  We inherit the same kind of existence our parents have: sinful, corrupt and destined for wrath.
  • Metaphorically, we gain a new birthright from the Spirit which reflects the spiritual nature of our spiritual Parent. 
  • This new birthright – this transformation by the Spirit — is essential to entering the kingdom of heaven. 

3:7“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  – John 3:7-8

  • As in Hebrew, the Greek word for “wind” and the Greek word for “spirit/Spirit” are the same word (πνεῦμα Strong’s G4151). 
  • We can’t see or control the wind. We don’t know when or where the next gust is coming from, but we experience the changes that result.
  • Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is invisible and out of our control, but we see the changes he makes.
  • Nicodemus is confused and frightened by Jesus’ words, because if being a descendant of Abraham and making a good faith effort to keep the law isn’t enough, then how can anyone be saved? 
  • Jesus answers, this spiritual rebirth is not something you can physically see or do.  It’s like the wind.  You don’t see or control the wind but you know it is there by the changes that take place. 

Summary

Here are the first two themes we’ll see repeatedly in this series:

  1. The Holy Spirit is God’s invisible agent of change. He intervenes in God’s creation to accomplish God’s purposes.
  2. Perhaps the most crucial change the Holy Spirit brings is the inner transformation of believers. Without this inner transformation, we cannot be saved.

For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.

Next: 02 Holy Spirit: Universal vs Individual

Series: Who is the Holy Spirit?

For help learning to study, see Bible Study 101.

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