New Testament Lesson 05 (John 3–4)
THE SAVIOR AND NICODEMUS
Being Born Again
● Nicodemus was a leader in the Jewish community.
● He came to Jesus knowing that Jesus was “a teacher come from God” (John 3:1–2).
● Jesus taught that we must be “born again” (John 3:3–8). What does this mean?
● President Harold B. Lee said, “Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death and burial of the man of sin and the coming forth out of the water, the resurrection to a newness of spiritual life. After baptism, hands are laid upon the head of the baptized believer, and he is blessed to receive the Holy Ghost. Thus does the one baptized receive the promise or gift of the Holy Ghost or the privilege of being brought back into the presence of one of the Godhead, by obedience to whom and through his faithfulness one so blessed might receive the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in his daily walks and talks, even as Adam walked and talked in the Garden of Eden with God, his Heavenly Father. To receive such guidance and such direction from the Holy Ghost is to be spiritually reborn.”1
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, [Being born again] “doesn’t happen in an instant. [It] is a process.”2 “Those who go through the form of baptism in water and by the Spirit, under the hands of legal administrators, thus becoming members of the Church, by such course have power given them to be born again in the full sense that is required for salvation. Church members are not born again by the mere fact of baptism alone; rather, after baptism they must so live as to experience a ‘mighty change’” in their hearts.”3
● Elder McConkie also taught:
“The first birth takes place when spirits pass from their pre-existent first estate into mortality; the second birth, or birth ‘into the kingdom of heaven’ takes place when mortal men are born again and become alive to the things of the Spirit and of righteousness. The elements of water, blood, and Spirit are present in both births. (Moses 6:59–60) [This] birth begins when men are baptized in water by a legal administrator; it is completed when they actually receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost, becoming new creatures by the cleansing power of that member of the Godhead.
“Mere compliance with the formality of the ordinance of baptism does not mean that a person has been born again. No one can be born again without baptism, but the immersion in water and the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Ghost do not of themselves guarantee that a person has been or will be born again. The new birth takes place only for those who actually enjoy the gift or companionship of the Holy Ghost, only for those who are fully converted, who have given themselves without restraint to the Lord. . . .”4
● Except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
● Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5).
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “It is one thing to see the kingdom of God, and another thing to enter into it. We must have a change of heart to see the kingdom of God, and subscribe the articles of adoption to enter therein.”5
● The Prophet Joseph Smith also said: “There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him.”6
● Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The Lord will reveal the truth once; then when this testimony has been given, the person should accept the truth and receive the gospel by baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy’ Ghost . . . The Spirit of The Lord will not argue with men, nor abide in them, except they yield obedience to the Lord’s commandments.”7
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “We believe that the Holy Ghost is imparted by the laying on of hands of those in authority, and that the gift of the tongues, and also the gift of prophecy, are gifts of the spirit, and are obtained through that medium; but then to say that men always prophesied and spoke in tongues when they had the imposition of hands, would be to state that which is untrue, contrary to the practice of the Apostles, and at variance with holy writ . . . Frequently there is no manifestation at all that is visible to the surrounding multitude.”8
● Jesus explained why he spoke symbolically to Nicodemus (John 3:9–14).
— He testified of his forthcoming resurrection (v. 13).
— He testified of his forthcoming crucifixion (v. 14).
● Jesus explained the purpose for which He came into the world, and the importance of believing in Him and His atonement (John 3:15–18).
● Nicodemus respected Jesus and remained loyal to him:
— Nicodemus defended Jesus when the rulers sought to arrest him (John 7:50–53).
— Nicodemus helped prepare the Lord’s body for burial (John 19:38–42).
● Jesus also used the concepts of light and darkness to teach Nicodemus (John 3:18–21).
Jesus and His Disciples Baptized Converts
● The JST clarifies that the Lord “himself baptized not so many as his disciples” (JST John 4:1–3). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Contrary to the false teachings and traditions of sectarianism, Jesus personally performed water baptisms so that in all things he might be the great Exemplar. Without question he also performed all other ordinances essential to salvation and exaltation.”9
THE MASTER IN SAMARIA
Animosity Toward Samaritans
● Elder James E. Talmage said, “The direct route from Judea to Galilee lay through Samaria; but many Jews, particularly Galileans, chose to follow an indirect though longer way rather than traverse the country of a people so despised by them as were the Samaritans. The ill-feeling between Jews and Samaritans had been growing for centuries, and at the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry had developed into most intense hatred . . . To the orthodox Jew of [that] time a Samaritan was more unclean than a Gentile of any other nationality.”10
● The Savior deliberately traveled through Samaria on the way to Galilee
The Woman at the Well
● Sychar, located between two mountains, had springs of water of religious significance to its inhabitants.
● Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at this well (John 4:7–26).
● He told her that He (Christ) had the words of eternal life (living water) (v. 10). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “His solemn invitation, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink,’ was a plain and open claim of Messiahship. In making it he identified himself as the very Jehovah who had promised drink to the thirsty through an out pouring of the Spirit.”11
— He showed seership in saying that the woman had no husband (vv. 17–28).
— He declared Himself to be the Messiah (v. 26).
● The Samaritan woman told others about her experience and they came to hear Him (John 4:28–30).
● Jesus spoke about missionary work—that the field was white and ready to harvest (John 4:35–38).
● As a result of Christ’s disregard for the animosity toward the Samaritans, he was able to bring living water to many of them (John 4:39–42).
JESUS IS REJECTED AT NAZARETH
● In Nazareth, in the synagogue of his boyhood, Jesus read a prophecy from Isaiah (61:1–3), with which his hearers were familiar (Luke 4:14–21).
— “Anointed” is from the Hebrew mashach, meaning “Messiah: or “Anointed One.”
— The Greek equivalent is Christos, from which the title “Christ” comes.
● The people were disbelieving, saying, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22–27).
● They were filled with wrath and tried to take him and kill him (Luke 4:28–32).
● Jesus performed very few miracles in Nazareth because of their disbelief (Matt. 13:53–58).
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“Then, by way of climax, having taught the doctrine with gracious words that could not be refuted, Jesus attests: ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’ That is to say: ‘I have read from Isaiah; I have set forth the meaning of his words; I have taught the doctrine. Now I testify that these words—and therefore all Messianic prophecies—are fulfilled in me; they apply to me; I am the one of whom the prophets spoke; I am he; I am the Messiah.’
“Where such a witness is borne, there are only two possible responses. One is complete acceptance, the other complete rejection. No one can argue with a testimony; it is not a debatable issue. It is there to be accepted or to be rejected. Jesus taught and testified, and as the full meaning of his gracious words sank into their hearts, his Nazarene friends made their choice. This Jesus they knew and had known from his infancy and youth. How can he be the Son of God? How can he be the Messiah? Their voice—to their eternal sorrow—was one of rejection, which they summarized in these words: “Is not this Joseph’s son? How then can he be the Messiah? We know him; he is one of us.’
“The word fell on stony ground and found no soil in which to grow, and the seeds died without sprouting. It was a sad, dark day for Nazareth.”12
1. In Conference Report, Oct. 1947, 64.
2. “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year, 399.
3. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:142.
4. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 101.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 328.
6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 199.
7. Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 3:29.
8. Times and Seasons, 3:823–824 [15 June 1842].
9. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:148.
10. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 172–173.
11. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:445–446.
12. The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–81], 2:23–24.