31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:31-36 ESV
These closing verses of chapter 3 act as a kind of closing statement that summarizes all that has taken place since the initial encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. It appears that the apostle John is the one providing this summary, in an attempt to reinforce his overarching theme of Jesus’ divine nature. John takes various aspects of the chapter 3 chronology and uses them to support his premise that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of Israel.
John the Baptist had clearly stated, “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him” (John 3:28 ESV). He knew his role as the precursor to the coming Messiah. And with the Messiah’s arrival, John the Baptist knew that his role would naturally diminish.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30 ESV
He would be little more than a friend of the bridegroom, a spectator watching as his friend took center stage. And John the Baptist found great joy in accepting his diminished importance because the one for whom the nation had long waited had finally appeared.
And John points out that the appearance of the Messiah was not an everyday occurrence. He had come “from above.” The Greek word John used is anōthen, and it is the very same word Jesus used when speaking to Nicodemus about the new birth.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 ESV
Jesus had been trying to let Nicodemus know that entrance into the kingdom of God would require something other than physical birth into the family of Israel. It would require a spiritual birth – from above. That’s why Jesus informed Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6 ESV). Entrance into God’s eternal kingdom was going to require that all men be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 ESV), and Jesus had come to make that possible.
John goes on to emphasize Jesus’ divine nature by dispelling the long-held belief among the Jews that the Messiah would simply be a man, after the likeness of King David. Their expectation was like that of their ancient ancestors, who had demanded of the prophet Samuel, “Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5 NLT).
Even after centuries of lousy leadership under a long line of human kings, the Israelites were still hoping for someone to show up who would follow in the footsteps of David. But John is emphasizing that Jesus, the Messiah, was from above and not of the earth. He had not only been sent by God, but He was actually God in human flesh. This further supports the opening statement of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 ESV).
Two times in verse 31, John asserts that “He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31 ESV). In other words, Jesus, because of His divinity, is superior to anything and everyone that is of this earth. He is the Word of God. He speaks on behalf of God and as God, and “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard” (John 3:32 ESV). Jesus was revealing divine truth, received directly from the throne room of God in heaven. He was not a mere mortal speaking man-made words, but He was the Son of God speaking the words of God. He would later claim: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:10 ESV). And Jesus would later expand on His divine authority to speak His Father’s words.
“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” – John 12:49-50 ESV
And yet, John sadly notes that “no one receives his testimony” (John 3:32 ESV). Jesus was the incarnate Word of God, speaking on behalf of His Heavenly Father. And the gist of His message was the gracious offer of eternal life that would be made available through His death and resurrection. But the people did not believe His testimony. They refused to accept that He spoke for God.
But John counted himself among the few who had chosen to believe the testimony of Jesus. And, writing long after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and having experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, John’s early belief in Jesus had been fully justified and proven well-founded. That is why he was able to say, “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true” (John 3:33 ESV).
Verse 34 seems to be John’s personal testimony that his belief in Jesus had resulted in his anointing by the Holy Spirit.
For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. – John 3:34 ESV
The indwelling presence of the Spirit was all the proof John needed to believe that Jesus had been sent by God and had spoken on His behalf. John remembered the promise that Jesus had made to His disciples.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” – John 14:12 NLT
Jesus rather obliquely refers to His ascension, indicating that His departure would be necessary in order for the Spirit of God to come. And just a few verses later, John records the further promise of Jesus that would be the key to accomplishing greater works than He had done.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” – John 14:16 NLT
For John, this was all about authority. Jesus had been sent by God. He spoke on behalf of God. And all that He said was the truth of God. John is trying to get his readers to understand that Jesus was divine, which is why he states, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35 ESV). Jesus possessed divine authority over the wind, waves, disease, and demons. His word was greater than that of kings, religious councils, or political parties. God loved Jesus so much that He imbued Him with all His divine authority. And Jesus would later tell His followers that they would experience that same love of God and have access to the full authority of God.
“When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” – John 14:20-21 NLT
Having received the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, John was fully convinced that Jesus was exactly who He had claimed to be. John knew the full extent of God’s love because He had been filled with God’s Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. God the Father and God the Son had taken up permanent residence in John’s life in the form of indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:23). And it had all begun when John had believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God sent from above. So, he reminds his readers that it all begins with belief.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36 ESV
His emphasis is on eternal life, which will be experienced within the coming kingdom of God. Jesus had not come to set up an earthly kingdom. He had not come to sit on a throne but to die on a cross. He had come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT). And John had witnessed that selfless, sacrificial act with his own eyes. He had seen Jesus crucified and buried. But he had also seen Him in His resurrected state and had stood by as Jesus ascended back into heaven where He was restored to His rightful place at His Father’s side.
John wants his readers to believe. He wants them to have the same remarkable experience he has had. And he warns them that, if they refuse to believe, they will remain under the righteous wrath of God. There was only one way to escape God’s pending judgment and that was through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 ESV
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New Living Translation (NLT)
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