‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
Nicodemus said to Him,
‘How can a man be born when he is old?
He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb
and be born, can he?’
‘Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you,
‘You must be born again.’
The wind blows where it wishes
and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going,
so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus has come under the cloak of darkness to talk to Jesus. He is confident that Christ has come from God. That confidence is seen in his words to our Lord - “no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus responds to this statement by abruptly pointing Nicodemus to the necessity of being born again. He doesn’t reply at all to Nic’s declaration. There is no "Hey, thanks for noticing my works and their message. You're right God is with me and as a matter of fact I am God." There's no chit chat that ensues from Nicodemus' statement, instead Jesus begins to preach to the fearful Pharisee regarding the urgency of regeneration. And this sermon that Christ preaches is one of the most powerful messages ever proclaimed. How many multitudes have come to saving faith because of the words spoken to Nicodemus as they are recorded in John chapter 3?!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Hear Christ clearly – you CAN NOT see, know, understand, or behold the kingdom of God apart from being born again. A mighty, magnificent, and miraculous change is needful for salvation. A supernatural work of God must occur!
“The change which our Lord here declares needful to salvation is evidently no slight or superficial one. It is not merely reformation, or amendment, or moral change, or outward alteration of life. It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character. It is a resurrection. It is a new creation. It is a passing from death to life. It is the implanting in our dead hearts of a new principle from above. It is the calling into existence of a new creature, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new appetites, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes, and new fears. All this, and nothing less is implied, when our Lord declares that we all need a ‘new birth.’” (J.C. Ryle)
Why is new birth necessary? Verse 6 answers the question clearly. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are born of the flesh and of the flesh of Adam at that! We have to be born again because we are naturally born dead in sin (Eph 2:1-5, Col 2:13.) We come into this world as children of wrath (Eph 2:3) and as hostile enemies of God (Rom 5:10, 8:7-8). There is NOTHING in us that seeks after God, longs for God, wants to get to God, or takes pleasure in living for God (Rom 3:9-18). We naturally won’t seek Him out anymore than a bank robber goes looking for the nearest police station after his latest heist. We are born guilty rebels and left to ourselves will never turn to God. Hence the need for a new birth. We must be born again. We must have a new nature given which will replace the old one. We must have new life breathed into us to replace the spiritual death and decay that totally encompasses us. We must have it done to us for we will not and cannot do it for ourselves!
“The very name which our Lord gives to it is a convincing proof of this. He calls it “a birth.” No man is the author of his own existence, and no man can quicken his own soul. We might as well expect a dead man to give himself life, as expect a natural man to make himself spiritual. A power from above must be put in exercise, even that same power which created the world (2 Cor 4:6). Man can do many things, but he cannot give life either to himself or to others. To give life is the peculiar prerogative of God” (Ryle).
Well may we remember that God is sovereign in giving us this new birth just as He was sovereign in giving us our first birth: “For Thou didst form my inward parts, Thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13). “Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who made us and not we ourselves” (Ps 100:3).
Make no mistake, Christ minces no words but plainly declares to Nicodemus and to us “You must be born again.” There are many things that will NOT keep us out of heaven. We DON'T have to be rich or educated or beautiful but we MUST be born again. Without the new birth heaven will never be our home and God will never be our Father.
Oh, it is a grand mystery as mysterious as the wind. I can’t see the wind. I know not where it comes from. I can’t explain it with perfect knowledge. But I am well aware of its effects. I see them each time a leaf blows by. I feel them with each gentle breeze and with each stormy gale. So it is with the new birth. It is a mystery but the life changing effects of this mysterious Spirit can be clearly seen in a life that has been regenerated.
That man, woman, or child becomes one who loves Christ, hates sin, pursues righteousness, loves his fellow believers, loves the Word. Just look through the book of 1st John to see some of these life changing marks of new birth.
So the pressing question is have I, have you been born again? Has this mighty change been wrought in our lives? Are the marks of the new birth seen in us? Ryle closes his comments on this section with this piercing thought:
“Happy is the man who can give satisfactory answers to these questions! A day will come when those who are not born again will wish that they had never been born at all.” Oh beloved, flee to Christ the Author and Perfector of the new birth!
Born of water and of Spirit,