John 3:12
Parallel Verses
New International Version
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

New Living Translation
But if you don't believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

English Standard Version
If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

New American Standard Bible
"If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

King James Bible
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
If I have told you about things that happen on earth and you don't believe, how will you believe if I tell you about things of heaven?

International Standard Version
If I have told you people about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

NET Bible
If I have told you people about earthly things and you don't believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
If I have told all of you that which is in the earth and you are not believing, how shall you believe me if I tell you that which is in Heaven?

GOD'S WORD® Translation
If you don't believe me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about things in heaven?

Jubilee Bible 2000
If I have told you earthly things and ye do not believe, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?

King James 2000 Bible
If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

American King James Version
If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

American Standard Version
If I told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Douay-Rheims Bible
If I have spoken to you earthly things, and you believe not; how will you believe, if I shall speak to you heavenly things?

Darby Bible Translation
If I have said the earthly things to you, and ye believe not, how, if I say the heavenly things to you, will ye believe?

English Revised Version
If I told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things?

Webster's Bible Translation
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how will ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Weymouth New Testament
If I have told you earthly things and none of you believe me, how will you believe me if I tell you of things in Heaven?

World English Bible
If I told you earthly things and you don't believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Young's Literal Translation
if the earthly things I said to you, and ye do not believe, how, if I shall say to you the heavenly things, will ye believe?
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 12. - If I told you earthly things and ye believe not, how will ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? Our Lord here drops the plural form of address, and returns to the singular. He is about to refer to matters in which the testimony of disciples was not available. It has sometimes been said that the "earthly" and "heavenly" things refer to the wind parable and its interpretation. But, on the supposition that there is a parable or metaphor in ver. 8, which we have seen reason to doubt, there would be no perplexity about the reception of the earthly illustration; none could in that day have made a moment's question touching the invisibility and incomprehensibility of the motion of the wind. The birth from water has been supposed by others to be the (ἐπίγειον) "earthly" thing of which he had spoken, as contrasted with the heavenly thing, the birth anew from the Spirit. But this also is improbable, for of all the things of which Jesus spoke, that was the least likely to have been rejected by the Pharisaic party. The "earthly things" are the subject matter of the discourse as a whole, in apprehending which Nicodemus manifested such obtuseness. The change, renovation of human nature, the new beginning "from the Spirit" of each human life, was indeed operated on the ground of an earthly experience, and came fairly within the compass of common appreciation. Though produced by the Spirit, these things were enacted on earth. When Nicodemus asks the question "how?" he launches the inquiry into another region. There is wide difference between the question "what?" and the question "how?" The one in physical science refers to the whole range of phenomena, and the answer states the facts as they present themselves to the senses; the other question inquires into what Bacon called the latens processus - into verae causae, into the movements and method of the creative hand. So the answer to the question "what?" may be an "earthly thing," the answer to the question "how?" a "heavenly thing." If Christ answer the "how" of his listener, he raises his mind to the "heavenly" and transcendental realities which Nicodemus and we too will have to receive on an authority which entirely outsoars that of daily experience or temporal phenomena. Truly he does proceed to do so, but the difficulty of acceptance is indefinitely augmented. The answer of Christ to the matters of personal experience, verifiable by conscience and affirmed by Scripture, was difficult to the master of Israel. The answer of Jesus to the question "how?" may prove far more formidable. It involves the revelation of "the Son of man," and the redemption by the cross, and the ascension of the Son of man into heaven, and the love of God to the world, and the gift of eternal life to faith.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

If I have told you earthly things,.... Not that the doctrines he delivered were earthly ones; for he was not of the earth, but from heaven, and above all, and so spake not of the earth, but of heaven, John 3:31; and this doctrine of regeneration was an heavenly doctrine; and the thing itself required supernatural power, and grace from above: but either they were the more easy doctrines of the Gospel; or were delivered in a plain and easy style, and illustrated by similes taken from earthly things, as from human birth, from the water, and from the wind:

and ye believe not; i.e. those things; ye do not receive them, nor give credit to them; or "me", as the Ethiopic Version adds, who relate them on the best evidence, having fully known, and clearly seen them:

how shall ye believe; give credit to me, or receive my testimony:

if I tell you of heavenly things? of the more sublime doctrines of the Gospel, such as the descent of the Messiah from heaven; the union of the two natures, human and divine, in him; his being the only begotten Son of God; his crucifixion and death, signified by the lifting up of the serpent on a pole in the wilderness; and the wonderful love of God to the Gentile world in giving Christ to, and for them; and the salvation, and eternal happiness of all that believe in him, whether they be Jews or Gentiles; and these delivered in language suitable to them, without figures, or natural similes, which help the understanding, and convey ideas of things more easily to it.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

12. earthly things—such as regeneration, the gate of entrance to the kingdom of God on earth, and which Nicodemus should have understood better, as a truth even of that more earthly economy to which he belonged.

heavenly things—the things of the new and more heavenly evangelical economy, only to be fully understood after the effusion of the Spirit from heaven through the exalted Saviour.

John 3:12 Additional Commentaries
Context
Jesus and Nicodemus
11"Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12"If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13"No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.…
Cross References
John 3:11
Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

John 3:13
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.
Treasury of Scripture

If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

earthly.

John 3:3,5,8 Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except …

1 Corinthians 3:1,2 And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to …

Hebrews 5:11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing …

1 Peter 2:1-3 Why laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and …

heavenly.

John 3:13-17,31-36 And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from …

John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the …

1 Corinthians 2:7-9 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, …

1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was …

1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and …

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