One of the main sects of the Jews was the Pharisees. They were strict in their beliefs, but their traditions meant more to them than did obeying the Scriptures. The Pharisees believed that the soul was immortal and would be rewarded or punished in the future life.
Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews was a prominent Pharisee. Since Jesus had become controversial, Nicodemus came to Him at night so perhaps no one would see him. He understood that Jesus had come from God because of the things He had done.
Jesus recognized a need that Nicodemus had and taught him an important lesson about the new birth. Nicodemus could not understand how an old man could be born again. He was thinking about a physical birth, but Jesus was referring to a spiritual birth. Based on the teachings of Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-14; Titus 3:4-7, we know that we experience the new birth through baptism, which adds us to the family of God, the church.
As Jesus explained to Nicodemus His purpose for coming to earth, He reminded him of the story of the fiery serpents in Numbers 21:4-9. Even He must be lifted up to save mankind. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Verse 16 should be considered within its context in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. He tells Nicodemus AND us how we may qualify for the promise of eternal life.
God loves us enough to send His Son to die for us, but salvation is not automatic. Also, believing cannot save us without a new birth. Some use the term “born again Christians” as if there are other kinds of Christians. If one is a Christian, he is by definition, born again.
As we continue our study, we shall learn how the Old Testament prepares us for the New Testament to teach us how one may be born again to become a true child of God.