The Witness of Jesus

“Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony” (v. 11).

- John 3:11–13

Human nature in its fallen state does not want to believe it is unfit for heaven. We do not like to think of ourselves as sinners who are fundamentally against doing the will of the Lord. Yet, as Dr. R.C. Sproul notes in his commentary John, Scripture clearly tells us that “a person must be changed by God; the disposition of his heart, which by nature does not want to do God’s bidding, must be altered by God the Holy Spirit.”

Given that our bent toward sin is taught in the Old Testament (see, for example, Gen. 8:21), no Jew who knows the Scriptures should miss our need for regeneration. Yet, we have seen Jesus expose Nicodemus’ failure to grasp the true state of the human heart and the need for all people to be born again by the Spirit of God if they are to be saved (John 3:1–10). His understanding of the Scriptures was clearly inadequate.

But Nicodemus’ misunderstanding is all the more incredible in light of what Jesus says in John 3:11–13. First we note Jesus’ claim of heavenly origins in verse 13. Basically, Jesus means that no one has ascended to heaven and then come back to testify of what he has seen. First-century Jews knew well the stories of Elijah and others who ascended to heaven (2 Kings 2:1–14), but these holy men did not come back to tell people what they saw. But, the second half of John 3:13 tells us, there is One who has descended from heaven to tell us of heavenly things. Jesus is speaking of Himself, in line with verse 11, wherein we read that the Savior speaks of what He has seen. Having come from heaven to earth, Jesus has seen heavenly things—He has been granted insight into the very mind of God. Nicodemus and the other Jews should therefore believe Him as the One who brings God’s words to God’s people. Their failure to accept Jesus’ teaching about the new birth coupled with their inability to see the need for this new birth in the Hebrew Scriptures calls into serious question their claim to be teachers of Israel.

Jesus came to earth to teach us what He has seen in heaven, but if people will not believe Him regarding earthly things, how can they believe Him about heavenly things (John 3:12)? The contrast in this verse is between the basic and the advanced. Our need for the new birth is a basic matter. It is a fundamental, bedrock truth that should not be too hard to grasp because it is a foundation upon which other things will be built. But if we cannot believe the basics, how will we believe the more difficult things Jesus has to say?

Coram Deo

Because Jesus has come from heaven, from the very presence of God Himself, we can believe what He says. His teaching should be received without question, and a failure to believe Him is a failure to submit to Him as Lord. We must trust what He says about matters both basic and advanced, so let us seek to receive Him at His Word always.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 19:20
John 3:31
1 Corinthians 2:6–16
Hebrews 5:11–6:3

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.