THE FIRST KIND OF PEOPLE—
Society considers a moral person to be a person with high standing. Consequently, the Gospel of John considers people with high moral standing as the first kind of people.
- consider 认为
- standing 地位
- consequently 【副】结果
In John 3 a man called Nicodemus is a representative of the first kind of people. Such people have at least five characteristics. Nicodemus was a Pharisee (v. 1). In Jewish society the Pharisees, like the Confucians during former times in China, preached morality and ethics. Nicodemus paid attention to morality because he was a Pharisee. Thus, he had the characteristic of noble morality.
- representative /ˌreprɪˈzentətɪv/ 【名】代表
- characteristic /,kærəktə’rɪstɪk/ 特征
- Pharisee /ˈfærɪsiː/ 法利赛人
- Jewish /ˈdʒuːɪʃ/ 犹太人的
- Confucians /kənˈfjuːʃən z/ 儒家学者
- former times 旧时代
- ethics /ˈeθɪks/ 伦理
- noble /ˈnoʊbl/ 高尚的
Nicodemus was also a ruler of the Jews (v. 1). He was not a common or obscure civilian; he was a noble ruler. Thus, he had the characteristic of being in a high position with a high reputation.
- ruler 统治者
- common /ˈkɑːmən/ 普通的
- obscure /əbˈskjʊr/ 无名的
- civilian /səˈvɪliən/ 平民
- reputation /ˌrepjuˈteɪʃn/ 声望
Furthermore, Nicodemus was a teacher of the children of Israel (v. 10). He was an educator. Therefore, he had the characteristic of being learned and knowledgeable.
- educator 教育家
- learned 有学问的
- knowledgeable /ˈnɑːlɪdʒəbl/ 有知识的
Nicodemus was also an elderly man (v. 4). He was advanced in age, not young and inexperienced. Therefore, he had the characteristic of being skilled in the ways of the world, having seen a great deal and having gained much experience.
- elderly /ˈeldərli/ 【形】上了年纪的
- advanced in age /ədˈvænst/ 上了年纪的
- inexperienced /ˌɪnɪkˈspɪriənst/ 【形】无经验的
- skilled 【形】熟练的
Finally, Nicodemus was religious (vv. 1-2). He was not an atheist. He believed in God, and he came to see the Lord Jesus in order to inquire about matters concerning God. Therefore, he had the characteristic of being filled with religious thoughts.
- religious /rɪˈlɪdʒəs/ 【形】宗教的
- atheist /ˈeɪθiɪst/ 【名】无神论者
- inquire /ɪnˈkwaɪər/ 【动】询问
Some people are moral, but they do not necessarily have a high position. Others have a position, but they are not necessarily educated. There are those who are educated but not experienced. There are also those who are moral, have a position, are educated, and have experience, but they do not have religious thoughts. However, Nicodemus was a moral man in a high position. He was educated and experienced, and he possessed religious thoughts. Undoubtedly, he was a rare and noble person. Therefore, it is fitting for him to represent the first kind of people.
- necessarily /ˌnesəˈserəli/ 【副】必要地
- experienced 【形】老练的
- fitting 【形】恰当的
- represent /ˌreprɪˈzent/ 【动】代表
Nicodemus represents people whose morality, position, education, experience, and religious inclinations cause them to be of high standing in society. His condition portrays their condition, and his lack speaks of their need.
- inclination /ˌɪnklɪˈneɪʃn/ 【名】倾向
- portray /pɔːrˈtreɪ/ 描绘
Some people are cultivated and moral; they have a position and a reputation in society. They are also educated and knowledgeable. They may also be advanced in age and have religious thoughts. They may be similar to Nicodemus in their manner and heart. If they are not the same as Nicodemus in all aspects, at least they are like him in one aspect. Therefore, he represents them. His needs are their needs. His coming to see the Lord Jesus represents their coming to see the Lord Jesus. The words the Lord Jesus spoke to Nicodemus are also His words to this kind of people.
- cultivated /ˈkʌltɪveɪtɪd/ 【形】有教养的
- be similar to /ˈsɪmələr/ 与…相似
- aspect /ˈæspekt/ 方面
THE HUMAN CONCEPT
When Nicodemus came to the Lord Jesus, he said, “Rabbi,…You have come from God as a teacher” (v. 2). These words show his concept and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He called the Lord Jesus, Rabbi. The Jews calling someone Rabbi can be compared to the Chinese calling Confucius a teacher. Nicodemus considered the Lord Jesus to be a teacher. Therefore, he said that the Lord Jesus had “come from God as a teacher.” Nicodemus had the concept that man needed to be taught and that man could be taught how to be good. He believed that man was bad because man had not been taught. Nicodemus’s concern was that man needed to be taught by a good teacher. He thought that the Lord Jesus was a teacher sent from God to teach man how to be good and how to do good. Nicodemus believed that man’s problem was related to teaching, that man only needed a good teacher.
- be compared to 被比作
- Confucius /kənˈfjuːʃəs/ 孔夫子
- concern 关心的事
- be related to 与……有关
Many people today have this concept. They believe that in order to be good, a person must receive a good education. They believe that man can be taught how to be good and that a well educated person will surely be good.
Many moral and thoughtful people are just like Nicodemus. They think that as long as people can be taught how to properly conduct and cultivate themselves, people will be good. The human concept is always focused on man’s self-cultivation in order to do good.
- thoughtful 有思想的
- conduct oneself 举止
- self-cultivation 修养
THE LORD’S VIEW
People do not realize that this human concept is wrong. Man cannot be good. Man’s need is not teaching. The Lord Jesus did not come to be a teacher. When Nicodemus called the Lord Jesus Rabbi, teacher, the Lord interrupted him and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). Nicodemus had the concept that man needs teaching in order to be good. But the Lord Jesus said that man does not need teaching; rather, man needs to be “born anew.” Teaching is a matter of behavior, but to be born anew is a matter of life. Nicodemus thought that man does not have proper conduct because man has not been taught. His concept was focused on how to change one’s conduct. He did not see that man’s fundamental problem is not with conduct but with the lack of life.
- interrupt /ˌɪntəˈrʌpt/ 中断
- rather 反而
- behavior /bɪˈheɪvjər/ 行为
- conduct 【名】行为举止
- fundamental /ˌfʌndəˈmentl/ 【形】根本的
For example, let us consider a tree that bears sour fruit. Such a tree may be trimmed and fertilized, but it will still not bear good fruit. Trimming and fertilizing will not make the tree bear good fruit. On the contrary, the more the tree is trimmed and fertilized, the more bad fruit it will bear. Hence, it is not a matter of outward trimming and fertilizing but of changing the life within the tree. This does not mean that trimming and fertilizing are not needed but that trimming and fertilizing are secondary matters. The primary matter is that the tree needs a new life. The original life within the tree bears sour fruit. Trimming and fertilizing the tree do not change the nature of the tree’s life. Trimming and fertilizing improve the outward appearance of the fruit, but they do not change the taste of the fruit. The outward appearance will change but not the inward taste.
- sour /ˈsaʊər/ 【形】酸的
- trim /trɪm/ 【动】修剪
- fertilize /ˈfɜːrtəlaɪz/ 【动】施肥
- on the contrary 相反地
- secondary /ˈsekənderi/ 【形】次要的
- primary /ˈpraɪmeri/【形】最重要的
- original /əˈrɪdʒənl/ 【形】原来的
- improve 【动】改善
- appearance /əˈpɪrəns/ 外表
- taste 味道
Similarly, education and self-cultivation can at best change someone’s outward conduct and living but not his inward life. Teaching and self-cultivation are not primary matters. The primary matter is that he needs a new life. Therefore, the Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born anew” (v. 7). This means that Nicodemus needed to be regenerated.
- similarly /ˈsɪmələrli/ 类似地
- at best 最多
THE NEED FOR REGENERATION
The phrase born anew is very interesting. Born is related to childbearing, and anew means “again.” Therefore, to be born anew is to be born again.
- phrase /freɪz/ 短语
- childbearing 生孩子
What should we do if we want a tree to bear sweet rather than sour fruit? Tree cultivators know that they should first cut off the branches of the sour fruit tree. Then they cut off a branch from a sweet fruit tree and graft it into the trunk of the sour fruit tree. After some time, the tree will blossom and bear sweet fruit. Trimming and fertilizing will not cause a sour fruit tree to bear sweet fruit. This can be achieved only by changing the life within the tree.
- cultivator /ˈkʌltɪveɪtər/ 种植者
- graft /ɡræft/ 【动】接枝；嫁接
- trunk /trʌŋk/ 树干
- blossom /ˈblɑːsəm/ 【动】开花
- achieve /əˈtʃiːv/ 达到
Nicodemus was a man of self-cultivation, but he believed that he could be a better person. Hence, Nicodemus came to ask the Lord Jesus to teach him how to cultivate himself to become a better person. However, the Lord Jesus showed Nicodemus that what he needed was not outward teachings but an inward change in life. Nicodemus needed to be born again.
The focus of believing in Christ is not self-cultivation but regeneration. I have two friends who have told me that religion is good, that all religions exhort men to be good, and that all religions are the same. This thought may be applied to other religions, but it is incorrect when applied to Christianity. To believe in Christ is not a matter of being exhorted to be good. Rather, to believe in Christ is to acknowledge that man cannot be good. It is impossible for man to bear sweet fruit. Man has the desire to be good and the thought to be good, but the human life does not have the ability to be good.
- exhort /ɪɡˈzɔːrt/ 【动】规劝
- apply /əˈplaɪ/ 【动】应用
- be applied to 应用于
- acknowledge /əkˈnɑːlɪdʒ/ 【动】承认
- ability /əˈbɪləti/ 能力
It is right to be good. But man does not have the ability to be good. The human life is fallen; it is bad and cannot be good. In order to be good, man must have a change in life. He must be regenerated.
Many say that man needs to imitate Christ. But how can man imitate Christ without the life of Christ? In order to truly imitate Christ, man must first be regenerated; he must first have the life of Christ. Only those who have the life of Christ can truly imitate and follow Christ.
- imitate /ˈɪmɪteɪt/ 【动】模仿
Suppose a flock of chicks and ducklings are brought to a small river. The ducklings will jump into the water and paddle, but the chicks will be scared and stay far away from the river. The chicks have a life that fears water. Even if they are pushed toward the water, they will not go in. The ducklings, however, have a life that loves water. They will jump into the water even if we try to prevent them. They are not taught to love water, nor were they taught how to swim. This is a characteristic of the duck life. Swimming in water is an innate ability of this life.
- suppose /səˈpoʊz/ 【动】假设
- flock /flɑːk/ 群
- chick /tʃɪk/ 小鸡
- duckling /ˈdʌklɪŋ/ 小鸭子
- paddle /ˈpædl/ 【动】戏水
- scared /skerd/ 【形】害怕的
- fear /fɪr/ 【动】惧怕
- push 推
- prevent /prɪˈvent/ 【动】阻止
- innate /ɪˈneɪt/ 【形】天生的
Parents tell their children not to lie, and teachers also tell children not to lie. However, children still tell lies. Children are not taught to lie, but lying is a characteristic of the human life. It is an innate ability of the human life.
- lie 【动】说谎
- lying 【lie的现在分词】说谎
People are capable of committing many sins, but no one goes to “sin school.” Who learned how to sin only after attending “sin school”? Man does not need to attend “sin elementary school” in order to know how to sin, nor does he need to attend “sin college.” Sinning is a characteristic of the human life. Sinning is an innate ability of the human life.
- commit sins /kəˈmɪt/ 犯罪
- elementary school /ˌelɪˈmentri / 小学
When someone turns twenty, his parents may tell him to preserve his standing and not be reckless. But what is the outcome of such exhortation? After wasting his time, the young person may go to a dance hall and meet bad companions. Scandalous behavior is an indication of the type of human life we have. If human life were good, there would not be bad conduct. Man would not bear “sour fruit.”
- turn 【动】到达（某一年龄）
- preserve /prɪˈzɜːrv/ 维护
- reckless /ˈrekləs/ 【形】鲁莽的
- outcome /ˈaʊtkʌm/ 结果
- exhortation /ˌeɡzɔːrˈteɪʃn/ 【名】劝告
- a dance hall 舞厅
- scandalous /ˈskændələs/ 可耻的
- indication /ˌɪndɪˈkeɪʃn/ 迹象
Is your history good or bad? Every honest person will bow his head and say that his history is bad. If we consider our history and our living, we will agree that our human life is bad. Some may say that a schoolmate or colleague corrupted them, but we should not blame others. If our human life were good, no one would be able to corrupt us from the outside. The problem is not with the outward conduct but with the life within. Our need is not a change in outward conduct but a change in life. We need to be regenerated; we need to be born again.
- honest /ˈɑːnɪst/ 诚实的
- bow one’s head /baʊ/ 低头
- agree 同意
- schoolmate 同学
- colleague /ˈkɑːliːɡ/ 同事
- corrupt /kəˈrʌpt/ 【动】使腐化
- blame /bleɪm/ 【动】责怪