A COMPLETE SECTION
We have seen that 3:16 begins with “for” and that this indicates that here we have an explanation of the foregoing word. Therefore, we need to consider what verse 15 says. Here we are told “that every one who believes in Him may have eternal life.” The word “that” at the beginning of verse 15 indicates that this verse also is a continuation of the preceding word. Both verse 15 and verse 16 end with the words “eternal life.” This is a further indication that verse 16 is an explanation of verse 15. However, the fact that verse 15 begins with “that” indicates that this verse also is a continuation. Therefore, in order to understand verse 15, we must read verse 14.
John 3:14 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Notice that this verse begins with “and.” This is an indication that verse 14 does not stand by itself. If we read verses 14 and 15 together, we shall see that the Son of Man was lifted up so that every one who believes in Him may have eternal life. This proves that the lifting up of the Son of Man issues in eternal life. If the Son of Man had not been lifted up in the form of a brass serpent, it would not be possible for eternal life to be given to anyone. But because Christ has been lifted up as the brass serpent, we may now receive eternal life by believing in Him.
We have pointed out that because verse 14 begins with “and,” this verse does not stand alone. It is the continuation of verse 13. But verse 13 also begins with “and,” and verse 12 begins with “if.” This makes it necessary for us to go back to verse 11: “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and testify of that which we have seen, and you do not receive our testimony.” Here the Lord Jesus does not say “I speak”; He says “we speak.” Who is this “we”? This refers to John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. If we read chapters one and three of John, we shall see that John the Baptist came before the Lord Jesus came. According to Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance; but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.” According to John 1:33, John the Baptist said, “He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, this is He who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, John made it clear that He had come to baptize in water, but the One who was coming would baptize His believers in the Spirit. John seemed to be saying, “The One who is greater than I, He who is coming after me, will baptize you in the Spirit. Because you are sinful, I baptize you in water unto repentance. The purpose of my baptism is to bury you. You are good only for burying. I call upon you to repent. Do you really mean business to repent? Do you know what it means to repent? To repent is to realize that you are sinful and good for nothing except death and burial. If you truly desire to repent, then let me bury you in water. The only thing I can do is terminate you by burying you. I cannot give you life. But death brings in resurrection. After I bury you in water, the One who is coming after me will raise you up and put you into the Spirit. Then you will become a new creation, a new race.” Do you know what this is? This is regeneration.
Verses 1 through 16 of John 3 are a complete section. This means that verse 16 is the conclusion of this section. However, for centuries Christians have paid attention to this conclusion as if it were something separate from the foregoing verses. Of course, many have paid attention to the matter of regeneration. Nevertheless, there is still the need for us to see the whole picture presented in these sixteen verses.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)