World Wide Study Bible


a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’

Select a resource above

7. Wonder not. This passage has been tortured by commentators in various ways. Some think that Christ reproves the gross ignorance of Nicodemus and other persons of the same class, by saying that it is not wonderful, if they do not comprehend that heavenly mystery of regeneration, since even in the order of nature they do not perceive the reason of those things which fall under the cognizance of the senses. Others contrive a meaning which, though ingenious, is too much forced: that, “as the wind blows freely, so by the regeneration of the Spirit we are set at liberty, and, having been freed from the yoke of sin, run voluntarily to God. Equally removed from Christ’s meaning is the exposition given by Augustine, that the Spirit of God exerts his power according to his own pleasure. A better view is given by Chrysostom and Cyril, who say that the comparison is taken from the wind, and apply it thus to the present passage: though its power be felt, we know not its source and cause.” While I do not differ greatly from their opinion, I shall endeavor to explain the meaning of Christ with greater clearness and certainty.

I hold by this principle, that Christ borrows a comparison from the order of nature. Nicodemus reckoned that what he had heard about regeneration and a new life was incredible, because the manner of this regeneration exceeded his capacity. To prevent him from entertaining any scruple of this sort, Christ shows that even in the bodily life there is displayed an amazing power of God, the reason of which is concealed. For all draw from the air their vital breath; we perceive the agitation of the air, but know not whence it comes to us or whither it departs. If in this frail and transitory life God acts so powerfully that we are constrained to admire his power, what folly is it to attempt to measure by the perception of our own mind his secret work in the heavenly and supernatural life, so as to believe no more than what we see? Thus Paul, when he breaks out into indignation against those who reject the doctrine of the resurrection, on the ground of its being impossible that the body which is now subject to putrefaction, after having been reduced to dust and to nothing, should be clothed with a blessed immortality, reproaches them for stupidity in not considering that a similar display of the power of God may be seen in a grain of wheat; for the seed does not spring until it; has been putrefied, (1 Corinthians 15:36, 37.) This is the astonishing wisdom of which David exclaims,

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all,
(Psalm 104:24)

They are therefore excessively stupid who, having been warned by the common order of nature, do not rise higher, so as to acknowledge that the hand of God is far more powerful in the spiritual kingdom of Christ. When Christ says to Nicodemus that he ought not to wonder, we must not understand it in such a manner as if he intended that we should despise a work of God, which is so illustrious, and which is worthy of the highest admiration; but he means that we ought not to wonder with that kind of admiration which hinders our faith. For many reject as fabulous what they think too lofty and difficult. In a word, let us not doubt that by the Spirit of God we are formed again and made new men, though his manner of doing this be concealed from us.