Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Friday, February 15, 2019

“Ye Must Be Born Again”

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From the beginning, Jesus in his ministry to the people on the earth, took the very steps we must take when we accept his gospel and begin our own personal ministry as his disciples.  An understanding of these steps as well as following them in our daily lives, ensures that our feet will be set firmly on the "strait and narrow path."  

Our study of the New Testament this year is designed to teach us so that we will be strengthened and stay on that path; this week the Gospel of John 2–4  will help us in doing so thereby not only teaching us the doctrine we need to stay firmly on the path; but to also help change our very natures so that we become wholly converted, even born again.

Why John 2-4?   
The Gospel of John is one of the most popular text of the New Testament.  It begins the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ and contains the first recorded miracle.  The Old Testament provides the scriptural foundation upon which the New Testament is built, and the Gospel of John does not depart from the pattern.  The incidents were not simply recorded for narrative value, but John selected a few miracles and teachings that best illustrated the spiritual themes he wanted his readers to consider and understand. 

One of the literary characteristics of John most often observed by commentators is his use of opposites to emphasize key doctrines; as well the sacred ordinances of Christianity which are emphasized greatly in his chapters.  John and his testimony are of great value to us, as he teaches us in his own words:  ¶ And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

For more about the book of John click here:  John 1 Come and See

1.  Our Lives are Changed As We Follow Jesus Christ John 2:1–11
 Here we begin to see that the years of preparation for Jesus were now passed and his first public miracle was performed.  

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

A short time after Jesus was baptized he and the five disciples he had thus gathered attended a wedding feast in Cana, a village not far from Nazareth. Wine was a customary drink at a wedding feast and sometimes the celebration would last for days. To run out of wine would have been embarrassing for the hosts of the feast, which may have been related to Jesus, as Mary's position was different from that of one present by ordinary invitation.

Reading about this event can tell us many things about the Savior that bring him closer to us and help us to understand that he does know us. First attending the event show that He was not a social recluse; he participated in normal interactions of His day. His presence at the wedding shows that He approved of marriage and through his interaction with His mother we learn the proper respect children should have for their parents. But what do we learn from the miracle?

What problem arose during the wedding feast?  The fear of running out of wine happened. Mary seemed to feel some responsibility for the feast, so when the wine ran out she approached her Son and asked for His help in an effort to save the hosting family from embarrassment.

What did Jesus say in response to His mothers request?   Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

The Joseph Smith Translation also helps us understand that Jesus not only asked His mother what she wanted Him to do, but He also expressed willingness to do it: “Woman, what wilt thou have me to do for thee? that will I do” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 2:4) 

The question “What have I to do with thee?” essentially meant “What do you want me to do?” The Savior’s words to His mother can be seen as a subtle, tender way for Him to tell her that while His hour had “not yet come” (John 2:4), He was now making the transition from being the son of Mary to fulfilling His role as the Son of God.

Various ideas have been proposed concerning the nature of the Lord's seemingly harsh rebuke of his mother. Perhaps it can be viewed as a public declaration of commitment. With these words, Jesus aligned himself specifically with his Father's work. Although he continued to be solicitous of his mother's welfare and concerned for her care, a transition seems to have been taking place between the "Jesus of Nazareth" and "Jesus the Christ," who was finally embarking on his long anticipated service in behalf of his Father's children. He had put his hand to the plow and could not now pause or turn back (see Luke 9:62), but had to move on with the inexorable series of events leading to his destiny in Gethsemane and upon Golgotha.  (Studies in Scripture Vol 5 Kent P Jackson) 

The Savior’s response to His mother may seem abrupt as it reads in the King James Version, but both the Joseph Smith Translation and the Greek version indicate that He spoke with respect. Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “The noun of address, ‘Woman,’ as applied by a son to his mother may sound to our ears somewhat harsh, if not disrespectful; but its use was really an expression of opposite import. … When, in the last dread scenes of His mortal experience, Christ hung in dying agony upon the cross, He looked down upon the weeping Mary, His mother, and commended her to the care of the beloved apostle John, with the words: ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ [John 19:26]. Can it be thought that in this supreme moment, our Lord’s concern for the mother from whom He was about to be separated by death was associated with any emotion other than that of honor, tenderness and love?” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 144–45).

How does His response show respect for His mother?  Jesus not only asked His mother what she wanted Him to do, but He also expressed willingness to do it.

What was Jesus referring to when he said "Mine hour is not yet come?"   Here we find no disclaimer of the ability to do what she apparently wanted Him to do, but the plain implication that He would act only when the time was right for the purpose, and that He, not she, must decide when that time had come. She understood His meaning, in part at least, and contented herself by instructing the servants to do whatsoever He directed. Here again is evidence of her position of responsibility and domestic authority at the social gathering.  (Jesus The Christ Chapter 11) 

What do Mary's instructions to the servants teach us about her faith in Jesus? She never questioned but had complete faith in His ability, His timing, and His holy nature.

 What did Jesus instruct the servants to do? Waterpots at this time were made from stone and considered ritually pure for use in religious ceremonies. It was the practice of the Jews to ceremonially purify themselves prior to eating a meal by washing their hands using the water from these waterpots. At this time in history a firkin was about nine gallons, so the six pots probably held between 100 and 160 gallons of water. The servants were told by Jesus to fill the pots with water and then present a cup of it to the governor of the feast.

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.  
8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

If you were one of the servants, what might you have thought or felt as you took a cup to the governor of the feast?  

What had Jesus done to the water? He had turned it into wine.  

“Good Wine”:  There are many references in the Bible to the evils of drunkenness and strong drink (for example, see Proverbs 23:20–21; Isaiah 5:11–12; Ephesians 5:18). These verses do not specifically forbid the use of alcohol, but they do condemn overindulgence and drunkenness. In our day, the Lord has revealed the Word of Wisdom, which does forbid consumption of alcoholic beverages (see D&C 89:4–7). We should avoid judging the people of earlier dispensations by the commandments the Lord has given us in our day.  (New Testament Student Manual) 

What did the governor of the feast say bout the new wine? The best wine was often used at the beginning of the fesast and the lesser quality used later, but the goernor stated that they had saved the best for last.  

What significant truths can we learn from the account of Jesus's first recorded miracle?  Jesus Christ has power over physical elements. The Savior knew he had a divine mission to fulfill. The Messiah manifested His divine power through miracles, and the Son of God loved and respected His mother.

How are our attitudes toward miracles sometimes like those of the people at the wedding feast—for example, like Mary, who knew a miracle could take place, or the ruler, who was unaware that a miracle had occurred?

The Master’s first recorded miracle manifested His power to change the elements from one state to another, thus attesting to His role as the Creator (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary).

This manifestation of His power to effect change can help us understand how the Savior can change us from our carnal, fallen state to a state of righteousness ( Mosiah 3:19.  We can also see how miraculous signs can confirm and increase the faith of those who are willing to believe in Jesus Christ D&C 63:9–11. The Joseph Smith Translation makes this clear by changing “his disciples believed on him” to “the faith of his disciples was strengthened in him” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 2:11).  

2. We can defend sacred places and things  John 2:13–22

Arriving in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of the Passover, Jesus and his friends found their way to the Holy Temple, as all who came up to the Holy City to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, at that season must needs do. He and his disciples came to his Father's House, to the House of the Most High God, to the house where all Israel had been commanded to worship the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Ghost. He and they came to join in worship of the Supreme Being, to place themselves in tune with the Infinite, to renew their covenants, and (in the case of all save the Sinless One who led the group) to receive a remission of their sins through the sacrificial ordinances that would be performed by those legal administrators who sat in Aaron's seat.

His Father's House! Outwardly a house of glory and honor, with solid gold covering the great marble stones of the inner temple building; the great altar of unhewn stones in daily use; the holy place, containing the table for the Bread of the Presence, the golden candlestick, and the altar of incense, in constant use; the veil and the Holy of Holies, into which the high priest went each year to make an atonement for the sins of the people, as it should be—outwardly, in architecture and form and magnificence, his Father's House was, for that day and time, as it should have been.

But inwardly it was full of ravening wolves, as it were, of greedy souls who made merchandise of sacred things, and whose hearts were sealed against the true meanings and purpose of the sacred ceremonies designed for that holy place. It is no wonder that the Shekinah no longer rested in the Holy of Holies, nor would it have done so even if the ark of the covenant—with the tables from Sinai, the Urim and Thummim (as we suppose), the mercy seat of pure gold, and the Cherubim—had been present as of old. It was to this spiritual wickedness that a righteously indignant Son of God now addressed himself.

Having passed through the vendor-crowded streets where hawkers of wares sought to profit from the traveling worshippers; having been enticed to buy salt and oil and wine and all else for sacrifices; having been offered clay dishes and ovens for the Passover lamb; having faced the higher prices made possible by the tourist trade, Jesus and his group came into the outer court, the Court of the Gentiles. There they looked upon a scene of unholy merchandising that desecrated the temple and testified against those who were engaged in its money-grubbing practices. There they saw the moneychangers, those who examined sacrificial animals for a fee, the sellers of sheep, and the hawkers of oxen and doves. The noise and the haggling destroyed every vestige of reverence; the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep drowned out the priestly performances nearby; and the filth and stench of the barnyard so overpowered the senses that arriving pilgrims soon lost the desire to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth. It was a scene of desecration, of physical filth, and of spiritual degeneracy.

Moneychangers in the temple of the Lord! Greed and avarice and sharp dealing replacing the spirit of true worship! True it was that each year all Israel, both Jews and proselytes—women, slaves, and minors excepted—had to pay the atonement money to ransom their souls. This temple-tribute of half a shekel, payable only in the shekel of the Sanctuary, gave rise to a thriving and profitable exchange business. Palestinian, Roman, Grecian, Egyptian, Tyrian, and Persian coins, among others, were in common circulation in the Holy Land. Money-changing involved weighing the coins, taking deductions for loss of weight, arguing, debating, disputing, bargaining, oftentimes using scales of questionable accuracy. Tables piled high with coins of all denominations and nations were the stock in trade of those who charged a fixed fee, and more, in the lucrative enterprise.

For a fee those who brought their own sacrificial animals had them examined at the temple for Levitical fitness. All that was needed for meat offerings and drink offerings was for sale within the sacred walls. Oxen, sheep, and doves could be purchased outright. There is a record of Baba ben Buta bringing in three thousand sheep at one time for sale in the Court of the Gentiles. Great herds of cattle and tiers of wickers filled with flocks of doves were more the rule than the exception. A courtyard paved with marble, that could accommodate two hundred and ten thousand people had ample room for the needed sacrificial animals, for those who bought and sold, and for those who weighed and haggled as coins exchanged hands.

Profits earned or extorted through all this sacrifice-related merchandising went both to individuals and to the temple officials. Sums paid for the items needed for meat and drink offerings went directly to the temple; others paid rent for the use of temple space. Even a temple market, referred to as the bazaars of the sons of Annas, occupied part of the space in the court. Annas was, of course, the high priest before whom Jesus would stand in three years during another Passover season. There was considerable popular resentment against the sons of Annas and their temple merchandising. "From the unrighteousness of the traffic carried on in these Bazaars, and the greed of their owners," Edersheim says, "the 'Temple-market' was at the time most unpopular." Because of the prevalent abuses, he says, it is "no wonder that, in the figurative language of the Talmud, the Temple is represented as crying out against them: 'Go hence, ye sons of Eli, ye defile the Temple of Jehovah!' " (Edersheim 1:371-72.) 2

This popular feeling relative to the merchandising practices that desecrated the temple enables us to see why there was no popular outcry when Jesus drove out the cattle and the money-changers. Aside from the fact that the targets of his indignation had their mouths closed by their own guilty consciences, the cleansing act performed by our Lord seems to have met with popular appeal among the people.

We have no doubt that the eyes of many were upon Jesus when he entered the Temple Court. It was as though the Lord whom they sought had "suddenly come to his temple." He was there in person, the Incarnate Jehovah, not to "purify the sons of Levi" (Mal. 3:1-3), as he would do at his Second Coming, but to drive out both the men and beasts whose filth and dung desecrated the Holy Place.

We are confident that word of his coming had preceded him. John's testimony that Jesus was the Lamb of God had not been borne in a corner. All Jerusalem had heard the word. The testimonies of his own disciples had surely been noised about, and the Galilean pilgrims who came to the Passover would not have hesitated to speak of the water that became wine.

And so, as the center of attraction, with many waiting and wondering what this new Rabbi would do, he who eighteen years before had said, within these same walls, that he must be about his Father's business, now engaged in that business with vigor and vengeance.

Sickened by the stench and the filth, repulsed by the jangling and haggling as paltry coins were exchanged, saddened by the complete absence of spirituality with which the chosen people should have been so richly endowed, the Son of Him whose house these evil miscreants then desecrated "made a scourge of small cords." Then, filled with indignant justice, his righteous anger blazing forth in physical strength, he of whom Moses had said, "The Lord is a man of war" (Ex. 15:3), this Galilean from Nazareth, drove out the sheep and the oxen and those in whose custody they lowed and bleated.

To the keepers of the doves he commanded: "Take these things hence." With force and violence he overturned the tables of the moneychangers, scattering their ill-gotten coins amid the dirt and dung on the marble floor. To those who bought and sold, who haggled in the temple bazaars, and whose hearts were set on laying up treasures on earth rather than in heaven, with a voice of authority he decreed: "Make not my Father's house an house of merchandise."

Truly, as Peter and John and Andrew and Philip and Nathanael and all his disciples saw this open and bold ushering in of our Lord's Messianic ministry, they rejoiced in what he did and remembered the Messianic words of Israel's greatest king: "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."

"My Father's house!" "Thine house," O God, 'for thou art my Father.' When but a lad of twelve, when a mature man of thirty—during all the years of his life and ministry—Jesus, freely openly, publicly, to all men, be they devoted disciples or sinning scribes, was bold to announce that God was his Father. Even the cleansing and purifying of the house Herod had built for the Hebrews became an occasion for such a solemn declaration. Jesus was God's Son. He knew it, and he wanted all men to gain the same sure knowledge. 
(Mortal Messiah from Bethleham to Calvary Vol 1 Bruce R McConnkie) 

13 ¶ And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
18 ¶ Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
21 But he spake of the temple of his body.
22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said

President Howard W. Hunter discussed the Savior’s resolute actions to cleanse the irreverence and worldliness surrounding the temple:

“Love of money had warped the hearts of many of Jesus’ countrymen. They cared more for gain than they did for God. Caring nothing for God, why should they care for his temple? They converted the temple courts into a marketplace and drowned out the prayers and psalms of the faithful with their greedy exchange of money and the bleating of innocent sheep. Never did Jesus show a greater tempest of emotion than in the cleansing of the temple. …

“The reason for the tempest lies in just three words: ‘My Father’s house.’ It was not an ordinary house; it was the house of God. It was erected for God’s worship. It was a home for the reverent heart. It was intended to be a place of solace for men’s woes and troubles, the very gate of heaven. ‘Take these things hence;’ he said, ‘make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.’ (John 2:16
.) His devotion to the Most High kindled a fire in his soul and gave his words the force that pierced the offenders like a dagger” (“Hallowed Be Thy Name,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 52–53).

One way we can emulate the Savior’s attitude toward the sanctity of the temple is by keeping ourselves worthy to enter the house of the Lord, as Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Before entering the temple, you will be interviewed by your bishop and stake president for your temple recommend. Be honest and candid with them. That interview is not a test to be passed but an important step to confirm that you have the maturity and spirituality to receive the supernal ordinances and make and keep the edifying covenants offered in the house of the Lord. Personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple. Anyone foolish enough to enter the temple unworthily will receive condemnation” (“Receive the Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 1999, 25)

What truth about the temple can we learn from Jesus's description of the temple? The temple is the house of God. 

In what ways are temples the house of God? Temples are places where God may come, where His presence or Spirit may be felt, and where ordinances pertaining to His work of salvation are performed. Temples are the most holy place of worship on the earth. 

How can we defend sacred places and things such as homes, churches, temples, and scriptures? This statement from President David O. McKay might help: “‘Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.’ (John 2:16.) Making and spending money, … faultfinding, and particularly gossiping about neighbors in a house of worship, are essentially violations of this command given nearly two thousand years ago” (Conference Report, Oct. 1956, 7). 

If then our sacred places are not only the temple and the church but also our homes, it is vitally important that we observe this counsel there and in all our places through out our days.  We should stand always in holy places, meaning we should make where we stand holy.  

How can we preserve the sanctity of the temple and other holy places?  

3. We must be born again to enter the kingdom of God John 3:1–21
In these verses Jesus teaches Nicodemus that all must be born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus teaches that he is the Only Begotten Son of God, sent to save mankind.

Who was Nicodemus?  As a member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus occupied a position of political, social, and religious influence and power.  From other scriptures we learn that Nicodemus appears to have been sincere in the questions He asked Jesus  John 3:1–9. For example, Nicodemus spoke in defense of the Savior to the chief priests and Pharisees, for which he was ridiculed John 7:45–52. After the Savior’s Crucifixion, Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in burying the Lord’s body, contributing expensive burial ointments and spices  John 19:38–42.

What was the Sanhedrin?  The Jewish senate and the highest native court in both civil and ecclesiastical matters.  Under the high priest it regulated the internal affairs of the Jewish nation.

At the time of Jesus the extent of its legal jurisdiction was restricted to Judea but the decisions made were considered morally binding over all the Jewish world. 

Because of his position in the Sanhedrin it is likely that Nicodemus, having a softened heart toward Jesus, and wanting to know more and understand his teachings, visited him during the night for protection rather than visible daytime.  

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14 ¶ And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 ¶ He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 

22 ¶ After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

How did Nicodemus acknowledge Jesus?  He acknowledged Him as a teacher come from God.  

What did Jesus teach Nicodemus that he must do to enter the kingdom of God? John 3:5
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 

A Video of Jesus as He teaches Nicodemus:  

What does it mean to be “born of water”? To be baptized.  

How is baptism a symbol of rebirth?  Being immersed in water symbolizes the death or burial of our past sins; when we rise out of the water, we start a new life.

What does it mean to be “born … of the Spirit”? John 3:5; to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that “Church members are not born again by the mere fact of baptism alone” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary)

Besides being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, what else is necessary in becoming born again?  John 3:16, 18; Mosiah 5:1–7; 27:25–26; Alma 5:14–35; 22:15–18

Believing in Jesus Christ John 3:16, 18

Experiencing “a mighty change in … our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:12–14, 26

Being “changed from a carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness” Mosiah 27:25

Becoming “God’s sons and daughters” Mosiah 5:7; 27:25

Becoming “new creatures” Mosiah 27:26

Having “the image of God engraven upon our countenances” Alma 5:19; verse 14

Repenting so our “garments are purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of Christ” Alma 5:21; Alma 5:19, 33–34; 22:18.

Elder McConkie also taught that being born again “doesn’t happen in an instant. [It] is a process” (“Jesus Christ and Him Crucified,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year, 399). 

What can we do to continue this process throughout our lives?  2 Nephi 31:19–20.

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught: “We were born again when we entered into a covenant relationship with our Savior by being born of water and of the Spirit and by taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We can renew that rebirth each Sabbath when we partake of the sacrament.

“Latter-day Saints affirm that those who have been born again in this way are spiritually begotten sons and daughters of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 5:7; 15:9–13; 27:25). Nevertheless, in order to realize the intended blessings of this born-again status, we must still keep our covenants and endure to the end. In the meantime, through the grace of God, we have been born again as new creatures with new spiritual parentage and the prospects of a glorious inheritance” (“Have You Been Saved?” Ensign, May 1998, 56).

How can we overcome discouragement or setbacks in our spiritual progress? Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught: “You may ask, Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me? You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality” (“Born Again,” Ensign May 2008, 78).

What changes have you observed in yourself or someone else during the process of becoming born again?

Some people believe that a person can’t really change; Nicodemus, however, is an example of someone who did change as a result of following the gospel of Jesus Christ. What do we learn from these passages about Nicodemus’s attitudes and beliefs? How did he change over time? John 3:1–2; John 7:40–52; and John 19:39–40.

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come 

40 ¶ Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
43 So there was a division among the people because of him.
44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
45 ¶ Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

What examples can we share about people we know who have changed because of the gospel?

How would you explain to someone of another faith what it means to be born again? How would you include repentance, baptism, and confirmation in this conversation? The following hypothetical interview found in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles helps us with this:  

QUESTION Jesus explained to Nicodemus that a man must be “born again.” In this world our first birth is when we enter the world as infants. But the word again in Jesus’ phrase implies another, or second birth, doesn’t it? 

ANSWER Yes, there is another, or second birth. “The first birth takes place when spirits pass from their pre-existent first estate into mortality; the second birth or birth ‘into the kingdom of heaven’ takes place when mortal men are born again and become alive to the things of the Spirit and of righteousness. The elements of water, blood, and Spirit are present in both births. (Moses 6:59– 60.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.)

 QUESTION In John 3:3, Jesus said, “Except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and in John 3:5, Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It is one thing to see the kingdom, and it is a different thing entirely to enter the kingdom. Does this mean that the second birth, or spiritual rebirth, has two parts? 

ANSWER Yes, this second birth or spiritual rebirth has two general parts. In order to understand what it means to see the kingdom of God, it is necessary to perceive what the Holy Ghost will do for a man before that man is baptized into the Church, The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him.” (Teachings, p. 199.) 

When a nonmember sees the kingdom of God, it means that the power of the Holy Ghost is poured out upon him to teach him that the Church is true. He then has a testimony. He knows. “The Lord will reveal the truth once; then when this testimony has been given, the person should accept the truth and receive the gospel by baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. . . . Cornelius received a manifestation in strict conformity to the instruction given by Moroni, and had he turned away there would have been no further light or direction for him. The Spirit of the Lord will not argue with men, nor abide in them, except they yield obedience to the Lord’s commandments. (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:29.) 

At the time a person sees the kingdom, he does not necessarily receive a remission of his sins. The Holy Ghost has merely taught him what he must do to receive a remission of sins. Of this the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “It is one thing to see the kingdom of God, and another thing to enter into it. We must have a change of heart to see the kingdom of God, and subscribe the articles of adoption to enter therein.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 328.)

QUESTION Does a person always see the kingdom before baptism? 

ANSWER No, this experience may occur in the life of a baptized member of the Church as well. Sometimes people are members of the Church even for many years before they “see” or gain a testimony that the Church is true. 

QUESTION It seems clear that seeing involves witness and testimony and conviction about the truthfulness of the Church. But what has to occur so that a person has the true change of heart so that he can enter the kingdom of God? 

ANSWER “Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death and burial of the man of sin; and the coming forth out of the water, the resurrection to a newness of spiritual life. After baptism, hands are laid upon the head of the baptized believer, and he is blessed to receive the Holy Ghost. Thus does the one baptized receive the promise or gift of the Holy Ghost or the privilege of being brought back into the presence of one of the Godhead, by obedience to whom and through his faithfulness one so blessed might receive the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in his daily walks and talks, even as Adam walked and talked in the Garden of Eden with God, his Heavenly Father. To receive such guidance and such direction from the Holy Ghost is to be spiritually reborn.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1947, p. 64.) 

QUESTION Does a person always receive this spiritual rebirth at the time of baptism? 

ANSWER “Mere compliance with the formality of the ordinance of baptism does not mean that a person has been born again. No one can be born again without baptism, but the immersion in water and the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Ghost do not of themselves guarantee that a person has been or will be born again. The new birth takes place only for those who actually enjoy the gift or companionship of the Holy Ghost, only for those who are fully converted, who have given themselves without restraint to the Lord. Thus Alma addressed himself to his ‘brethren of the church,’ and pointedly asked them if they had ‘spiritually been born of God,’ received the Lord’s image in their countenances, and had the ‘mighty change’ in their hearts which always attends the birth of the Spirit. (Alma 5:14–31.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.) 

QUESTION What blessings are available to someone who is born again? 

ANSWER “Those members of the Church who have actually been born again are in a blessed and favored state. They have attained their position, not merely by joining the Church, but through faith (1 John 5:1), righteousness (1 John 2:29), love (1 John 4:7), and overcoming the world. (1 John 5:4.) ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy Spirit of promise.’ (Inspired Version, 1 John 3:9.) (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.) 

As the Savior continued to teach Nicodemus, He expressed important truths about His redeeming mission, particularly as recorded in John 3:14–17. He used the symbol of the serpent that Moses had raised in the wilderness to teach about His Crucifixion and Atonement. As Israel had looked to the symbol of the serpent in order to be healed from the bites of poisonous serpents, so the Jewish people were encouraged to look to their Redeemer, who would be lifted up on the cross, and they would live because of Him  3 Nephi 27:13–14. The serpent was a symbol of Jesus Christ, who was Jehovah in premortality. 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that John 3:16 “summarizes the whole plan of salvation, tying together the Father, the Son, his atoning sacrifice, that belief in him which presupposes righteous works, and ultimate eternal exaltation for the faithful” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:144).

President Dallin H. Oaks quoted John 3:16 to affirm that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of Heavenly Father’s love for us: “There is no greater evidence of the infinite power and perfection of God’s love than is declared by the Apostle John: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). Another Apostle wrote that God ‘spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all’ (Romans 8:32). Think how it must have grieved our Heavenly Father to send His Son to endure incomprehensible suffering for our sins. That is the greatest evidence of His love for each of us!” (“Love and Law,” Ensign Nov. 2009, 26). 

What doctrine do we learn from John 3:1–21?  Being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost are necessary for being spiritually reborn and receiving exaltation in the celestial kingdom.  All mankind can obtain eternal life through the Atonement of Jesus Christ by believing, repenting and obeying His word.  This is a gift given to all because Heavenly Father loves His children so much that He sent His only Begotten Son to suffer for their sins.  

4. Jesus Christ offers us living water and the “meat” of doing God’s work  John 4:6–34
What is the most valuable natural resource on earth?  You might think of gold or oil or diamonds but in reality, our most valuable resource is clean water; for it is something we all need and cannot live without.  Jesus compared clean water to His teachings referring to living water.  By comparing His gospel to water, he teaches us that it is something we cannot live without and will sustain us forever, it is the most valuable resource we can have.  

Our bodies need food and water daily. Jesus referred to these universal needs when He taught both the Samaritan woman and His disciples.  While Jesus and his disciples were traveling from Judea to Galilee they stopped to rest at Jacob’s Well in Samaria. While Jesus sat by the well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water.

3 He left Judæa, and departed again into Galilee.
4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
27 ¶ And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
31 ¶ In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
39 ¶ And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his own word; 

42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

The Jews had “no dealings with the Samaritans” John 4:9 and usually avoided Samaria when traveling. Yet Jesus deliberately went through Samaria. What does this reveal about him?   Because of increased persecution in Jerusalem from the chief priests and Pharisees, Jesus left Judea for Galilee, traveling through Samaria to a city called Sychar. Being tired and thirsty, he sat down on Jacob’s well at “about the sixth hour” John 4:6, which was about noon. Women customarily gathered at the village well in the morning and late afternoon to get water and to socialize. The Samaritan woman who went to the well and spoke with Jesus may have come at this unusual time to avoid the women of the village, who may have shunned her as a sinner  John 4:16–18. Jesus conversed with the woman, teaching her that He was the Messiah, even though Jews customarily had no contact with Samaritans and rabbis did not ordinarily talk to single women. Even Jesus’s disciples “marvelled that he talked with the woman” John 4:27, but Jesus did not consider Samaritans to be outcasts. 

How did the Samaritan woman make it easier for Jesus to teach her? John 4:9, 11–12, 15, 19, 25. She was humble, she desired to know more, and she believed his words.

What can we do to become more receptive to the Savior’s teachings?   

How did the Samaritan woman change as Jesus spoke to her? The woman listened to the Savior’s words and gradually developed a testimony that she had found the Messiah. The progress of her testimony can be seen by the titles she used for Jesus: “a Jew” (verse 9), “sir” (verses 11, 15), “a prophet” (verse 19), and finally “the Christ” (verse 29). From her experience, we learn that Jesus’s presence had converting power for those who would humbly listen to Him. 

How did Jesus help bring about this change?  He taught her at her level of understanding, he testified of himself, he used the symbol of water powerfully, and he showed compassion.

How can we follow his example as we teach others?   

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that he could give her “living water” John 4:10.  What do you think “living water” means? 1 Nephi 11:25; D&C 63:23.  The doctrines of the gospel, the love of God, and the Atonement.

"Living water referred to in this episode is a presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. And as water is necessary to sustain physical life, so the Savior and His doctrines, principles and ordinances are essential for eternal life. You and I need His living water daily and in ample supply to sustain our ongoing spiritual growth and development."  (Conference Report David A Bednar A reservoir of Living Water)

How can we obtain living water? If we come unto Jesus Christ and earnestly partake of His gospel, then we will receive eternal life.  

Did the Savior's word help the woman realize her need for the living water He offered? Jesus Christ knows our sins and offers us His gospel to help us overcome them.  

The Samaritan woman had come to the well for water John 4:7.  However, after she spoke with Jesus, she left her pitcher at the well and went to tell others about the experience John 4:28–29.  She knew He was the Messiah.  

How have you come to know He is the Messiah?

What can we learn from her example of telling others?  As a result of the woman’s testimony, “many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him” John 4:39. Then, as these people saw the Savior and heard His words, their testimonies of Him deepened John 3:41–42.  Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained that we should also strive to help those around us find the living water of the gospel: 

“When the crowd of curious Samaritans arrived to see and hear the man who had proclaimed himself to be the Messiah, … their initial curiosity matured into testimony. They declared, ‘We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world’ [John 4:42].

“These latter days are a time of great spiritual thirst. Many in the world are searching, often intensely, for a source of refreshment that will quench their yearning for meaning and direction in their lives. They crave a cool, satisfying drink of insight and knowledge that will soothe their parched souls. Their spirits cry out for life-sustaining experiences of peace and calm to nourish and enliven their withering hearts.

“… Let us work with all our heart, might, mind, and strength to show our thirsty brothers and sisters where they may find the living water of the gospel, that they may come to drink of the water that springs ‘up unto everlasting life’ [D&C 63:23]. …

“As at Jacob’s well, so today the Lord Jesus Christ is the only source of living water. It will quench the thirst of those suffering from the drought of divine truth that so afflicts the world”
(“Living Water to Quench Spiritual Thirst,” Ensign, May 1995, 18–19).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation.  In New Testament times, individuals felt the Savior’s transforming power when they heard His words or saw the miracles He performed. He turned water into wine  John 2:1–11. He cleansed the temple so that it would be revered as His “Father’s house” John 2:16.  He healed a nobleman’s son who was on “the point of death” by uttering these simple words, “Thy son liveth” John 4:47, 50.  He invited Nicodemus to experience spiritual rebirth  John 3:1–21.  He helped the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well grow in her understanding until she recognized Him as the Christ  John 4:5–29.  These miracles were specifically chosen and recorded by John so that we in our day could also feel that transforming power. 

As you reflect on these miracles recorded in John 2–4, both physical and spiritual, think about how you have seen the power of God manifest in your life. When have you felt that you have partaken of the “living water” offered by the Savior?   Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin quoted the Savior’s words in John 4:14 and then taught that:

  “drinking deeply of living waters” will bring us great happiness.  “The abundant life is a spiritual life. Too many sit at the banquet table of the gospel of Jesus Christ and merely nibble at the feast placed before them. They go through the motions—attending their meetings perhaps, glancing at scriptures, repeating familiar prayers—but their hearts are far away. If they are honest, they would admit to being more interested in the latest neighborhood rumors, stock market trends, and their favorite TV show than they are in the supernal wonders and sweet ministerings of the Holy Spirit.  “Do you wish to partake of this living water and experience that divine well springing up within you to everlasting life? 

“Then be not afraid. Believe with all your hearts. Develop an unshakable faith in the Son of God. Let your hearts reach out in earnest prayer. Fill your minds with knowledge of Him. Forsake your weaknesses. Walk in holiness and harmony with the commandments”
(“The Abundant Life,” Ensign May 2006, 100). 

Next Week:  Matthew 5 and Luke 6, “the greatest [sermon] that was ever preached, so far as we know” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith) [2013]
New Testament Student Manual
New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Studies in Scripture Vol 5 Kent P Jackson
The Life and Teachings of the Savior and His Apostles Manual
Jesus the Christ James E Talmage
Mormon Doctrine Bruce R McConkie
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary Bruce R McConkie
Mortal Messiah from Bethleham to Calvary Vol 1 Bruce R McConnkie
Conference Reports
Joseph Smith Translation
Book of Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants

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