METAPHYSICAL INTERPRETATION OF JOHN CHAPTER 3
3:1Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 3:2the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.
THIS 3d chapter of John opens with a narrative of Nicodemus, "a ruler of the Jews," his visit to Jesus "by night" (meaning the darkness of intellectual understanding), and his confession: "Thou art a teacher from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him."
Jesus told him that he must be "born anew," "of water and the Spirit." Here is a recognition by the Master of the operation of the divine law of evolution.
All "inheritance" of ideas and beliefs has a mental basis. We "inherit" some states of mind from our ancestors. An "inherited" or transmitted religion is a dark state, if there is no real understanding in it. This is the Nicodemus mentality. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. He represents the Pharisaical side of our mentality that observes the external forms of religion without understanding their real meaning. We accept our parents' religious affiliations without giving any thought to their origin. There was a time when it was considered unfilial and an evidence of disobedience for the children to join any other church than that to which their parents belonged. The Jews
were especially rigid in their adherence to their traditional religion, and they proudly referred to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were taught of God.
This conservative religious thought preserves the church as an institution and restrains the individual from becoming religiously erratic. Nicodemus was a friend of Jesus', but his defense of the Master was put in the form of a question, reminding the Sanhedrin of the Jewish law that every man must be heard or given a chance to defend himself before being condemned. The "ruler of the Jews" did not press his championship of his friend before the Sanhedrin, and the assistance that he gave at the tomb of Jesus was safe enough, once the prosecutors and executioners had finished their work and turned their attention elsewhere.
Nicodemus was not acquainted with the power of Spirit and really had no understanding of regeneration, although he was a "teacher of Israel" (Israel representing thoughts that pertain to the religious department of the mind).
3:3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 3:4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 3:5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! 3:6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 3:7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. 3:8The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
The Pharisees refused to be baptized by John. They did not consider that they needed the repentance that he demanded. They thought they were good enough to take the high places in the kingdom of God because of their popularly accepted religious supremacy. Many people refuse to deny their shortcomings. They hold that they are perfect in Divine Mind and that it is superfluous to deny that which has no existence. But they are still subject to the appetites and passions of mortality, and will continue to be until they are "born anew."
The new birth is an uncertainty to the intellectual Christian, hence there has gradually evolved a popular belief that after death the souls of those who have accepted the church creed and have been counted Christians will undergo a change. But in His instructions to Nicodemus Jesus makes no mention of a resurrection after death as having any part in the new birth. He cites the ever present though unseen wind as an illustration of those who are born of Spirit. The new birth is a change that comes here and now. It has to do with the present man, that he may be conscious of the "Son of man," who is the real I AM in each individual. "And no one hath ascended into heaven, but that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven."
This chapter of John contains some of the vital truths taught in Christianity: the evolution of man from natural to spiritual consciousness, and the incarnation
of Jesus Christ as the divine pattern for all men who are seeking the way of life. Christianity teaches the complete law of evolution as compared with the partial exposition of the law made by Darwin and associates. Christianity describes God as Spirit creating by a process comparable to the mental processes with which we are all familiar. "God said," and thus God created that which was to appear, God planned man and the universe, and through His word projected them into creation as ideal principles and immanent energies acting behind and within all visibility. But we should remember that Spirit could not emerge from the formless into the formed without creating relations, which necessitated laws operating through man and all things as essential factors in an orderly universe. Thus even God becomes subject to His laws or commandments. God the universal Spirit first appears as spiritual man. The next step in evolution is the appearance of the idea of spiritual man in the natural or Adam man. This man was primitively identified with an infinite capacity for expansion. When he recognizes his identity as being that of his source, Spirit, he expands in divine order and brings forth only good. When he deserts his spiritual anchorage and gives attention to external experiences and sensations, he falls into a world in which a diversity of results obtain that he calls good and evil. Thus man eats "of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." In these few words is summed up the fall of man from an Edenic state, where he had the constant inspiration of creative Mind, to a consciousness
of matter and the desperate struggle of personality for existence.
The natural man must evolve into the spiritual. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up."
We are told here that "the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light." World chaos results from the lack of spiritual light. We may plan peace and achieve it, but if this peace is not based on divine law, evolving love, and that law incorporated into the pact of peace as well as into the minds of those who sign that pact, we shall have no permanent peace.
There is but one real man, the ideal or spiritual man that God created. Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus the evolution of this spiritual man from his ideal to his manifest state. Man is fundamentally spiritual and so remains throughout his various manifestations. He comes out of heaven, manifests himself as a personality in the earth, and returns to heaven. The first Adam was in Paradise, and after his fall enough of his spiritual nature remained to keep him alive. Without this animating Spirit the whole human family would have perished with the fall of Adam. Faith in Spirit and the ultimate dominance of the good in man will finally restore him to the heaven from which he descended.
The new birth is simply the realization by man of
his spiritual identity, with the fullness of power and glory that follows.
3:10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things? 3:11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 3:12If I told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things? 3:13And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven. 3:14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; 3:15that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life.
3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. 3:17For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him [His own divine self] should not perish, but have eternal life." Not only are we to believe in our own divinity, but we are to accept the example of that divinity expressed through Jesus Christ.
To believe in Jesus is to believe that in the regenerate state we are to be, like Him, "joint-heirs with Christ." This belief must then lead us to a desire and an effort to attain our inheritance, because then we know that there is no other thing in the universe worth striving for. Every person in his real, true self desires to be just as great and just as good as it is possible for him to be. The open door to the
attainment of this objective is to believe in one's own divinity and then to raise oneself to its level by following the example of Jesus.1
This text reveals the heart of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ to mankind. In love God gave His only-begotten Son, the fullness of the perfect-man idea in Divine Mind, the Christ, to be the true, spiritual self of every individual. By following Jesus' example of recognizing and acknowledging the Christ in our every thought, word, and deed, thus unifying ourselves with His completeness, the outer will become as the inner; we shall be like Christ; we shall know Him as He is. He who truly believes "cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life."
3:18He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. 3:19And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. 3:20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. 3:21But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God.
Salvation from the results of error thought begins at once when we have faith in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from the judgment. He comes to us in Spirit to do away with the effects of transgression of the law. When we perceive the way of righteousness and Truth and follow it, there comes
to us a new light, an understanding of the law, and we enter the kingdom of God here and now. "Even the Son of man, who is in heaven."
3:22After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 3:23And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 3:24For John was not yet cast into prison.
3:25There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purifying. 3:26And they came unto John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 3:27John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. 3:28Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but, that I am sent before him. 3:29He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is made full. 3:30He must increase, but I must decrease.
3:31He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh: he that cometh from heaven is above all. 3:32What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness; and no man receiveth his witness. 3:33He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to this, that God is true. 3:34For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure. 3:35The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 3:36He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Jesus represents the Christ. Judea represents praise. John the Baptist and Jesus represent co-operation between the intellect and the Spirit.
Metaphysically interpreted, John the Baptist represents the intellectual concept of Truth and his baptizing means a mental cleansing. The name Salim means "peace." "Near Salim" signifies the illumined consciousness of spiritual life and peace in the individual. The water refers to a natural rising in consciousness of the cleansing power of the thought and word of purification and life. The Jew symbolizes an inquiring thought. John candidly explained that he had said before that Jesus was the Christ, the Saviour, and that he, John, must decrease while the Christ must increase. However John declared that he truly believed Jesus to be the Saviour and that all who believed should receive eternal life. But John must decrease, and yet by his own admission those who believe are to have everlasting life.
Metaphysically interpreted, John the Baptist (representing the illumined intellect) decreases on the sense plane in proportion as the intellect is lifted up in Spirit and is in truth swallowed up in spiritual consciousness. The faculty decreases on one plane only to be reborn on a higher one. The illumined intellect wholly co-operates with Spirit, so there is a merging and blending of these powers until the mere intellect ceases to be mere intellect and is swallowed up in Spirit. This is the ideal unfoldment. There are those who are so bound in their own beliefs, who are so set on the letter of the law, that they think intellectuality is the highest unfoldment. They
have not yet attained the ability to perceive or receive the things of Spirit. Those in the John the Baptist process of unfoldment willingly cooperate with the Christ every step of the way. The truth is that we are all under the law of infinite expansion, and the development of the race must go forward. Therefore, it is said that "the Son of man must be lifted up."
An example of how the intellect serves may be readily illustrated by the use of the x in algebra. The x stands for the unknown quantity. When the problem is worked out the x is erased. Thus the intellect is the tool of Spirit just as the x is a tool used in the mathematical operation. In the John the Baptist consciousness we obey and conform our thinking to the requirements of the spiritual instead of the natural. Spirit life is something that has enduring qualities. It is superior to the life that goes and comes through death and rebirth.
When the redeemed intellect is fully merged with the Christ light, then the indwelling Spirit of truth is free to perform many so-called miracles. It bridges over difficulties and cements the forces of the soul into one perfect instrument of God for achieving the glory of God. When one reaches this plane spiritual unfoldment goes forward by leaps and bounds.
In order to fulfill the divine law of his being man must realize that he is the Son of God in manifestation, that he came from above and is above all; also that in his evolution he leaves the earthly consciousness and ascends into the spiritual under a law of mind. "He that cometh from above is above all: he
that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh." For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand."
- The original edition says "following the example of Jesus Christ."