The Expository Files

 Being Born Again
What Does It Mean?
 

John 3:1-8
 

 
 
If you have ever made a mistake; if you entertain any guilt or remorse over the way you have lived your life, the message of the gospel should have this great appeal and powerful attraction: YOU CAN CHANGE!

Have you hated someone? Have you failed to give God the honor He deserves? Have you allowed the world to lead you into destructive behaviors you are ashamed of? The message of the gospel is, you can change. You can be forgiven, and you can have a new and better life. Here is one of many passages teaching that.

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, 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? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Jno. 3:1-8

What is this, "Kingdom of God?"

This kingdom is referred to in Colossians 1:13 where Paul said to the Christians at Colossae: "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His Love."

The kingdom is that which we are translated into when - by obeying the gospel - we are delivered from the power of darkness (sin). The kingdom is the church of the Lord and we become a part of this body when we respond to Christ and our trust in Him becomes active.

To “see” the kingdom of God is to become a citizen of it, and to enjoy the blessings of that new and eternally promising relationship. One way this entrance into the kingdom is expressed is, “being born into” this realm where Christ reigns. Look at the Lord's statement again: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

As this is written in the New King James, I see two words that make the necessity of the new birth exceedingly plain: "unless" and "cannot." What if I said, “unless you come into myself, you cannot eat the dinner we have prepared.” That makes what comes after “unless” absolutely necessary. Otherwise, no dinner.

If you want to be delivered from the power of darkness (the hold of sin you have allowed in your life), and enter into the realm where Christ reigns instead of sin – there is something you must do! You must be born again.

Nicodemus Didn’t Understand

He came to Jesus by night; he addressed Jesus with respect; he acknowledged some of the truth about Jesus, but he had a question.

“Nicodemus said to 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?'”

Here is something that happened all the time when Jesus was trying to teach His Jewish brethren. Using some figure of speech from the natural world, He would teach some spiritual truth. But, they would miss the spiritual truth altogether --- and find a “speed bump” in the fleshly illustration or figure.

This is what happened to Nicodemus. Jesus spoke of a second birth, and all he could think about was a literal, physical birth. And I suspect his thought went something like, “What do you mean, Lord? I've already been born!”

So Nicodemus, thinking of a literal birth, said: “How can this be ... how can a man be born when he is old? Can be enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

The Lord Answered

Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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.'8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Isn’t it great how verse 5 explains verse 3 (and this from Jesus)! “Unless one is born again” means being born “of water and the Spirit.” Then go back and observe that verse 5 also explains the later part of verse 3. To “see the kingdom of God” (v.3) means to “enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus always explains Himself, if we will just keep listening/reading! (Remember that.)

Verse 6 also helps. This verse distinguishes between the spiritual and the fleshly. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

There is a law that goes all the way back to Genesis 1, sometimes called, “the law of reproduction.” Things reproduce after their kind. Cows give birth to cows; horses give birth to horses. Corn seed produces corn. And, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh!” You cannot have a fleshly birth with a spiritual product; nor can you have a spiritual birth, with a merely fleshly product.

Nicodemus was all mixed up, and Jesus wanted to emphasize that He was talking in spiritual terms, about coming out of sin and into relationship with God, living under the authority of Christ in His kingdom. The Lord is making this vital distinction, between physical and spiritual: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Verse 6 functions to distinguish between the spiritual and the fleshly.

Then, having made that distinction, Jesus repeats His main point, that is - the necessity of the new birth. Verse 7: “Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again'.” You can change; you must change, to have the blessings of citizenship in His Kingdom, now and later.

Have you sinned? Do you want your sins forgiven? Do you want to be a child of God, delivered from the power of darkness - and translated into the kingdom? You Must Be Born Again!

Can You See It?

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The common view you might have heard about this is: the new birth is something so mysterious, so unexplained ... IT JUST HAPPENS, AND ONCE THE SPIRIT GETS HOLD OF YOU, YOU GO WHICHEVER WAY THE SPIRIT TAKES YOU! The text is commonly interpreted to mean, you give up your will and some involuntary subjection occurs.

T.W. Brents commented on this one time and he said: “The mist and fog that men have thrown around this verse envelope it in darkness thick as that with which God cursed the land of Egypt.”

Here are some very simple things to consider, regarding verse 8. If verse 8 is saying that the new birth cannot be explained; it is a mysterious hidden from the view of men, why did the Lord bother to tell Nicodemus about it in the first place? Furthermore, a careful reading of verse 8 will show, the Lord isn't talking about the new birth itself. He is talking about THE ONE “who is born of the Spirit!” Look at the last phrase in verse 8 - "So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Verse 8 just offers further clarification as to the spiritual nature of the this new birth. You cannot see the wind, but you know it is there by the visible evidence. In like manner you cannot see the spirit of a man, to determine that he has been born again. But in one’s outward conduct, it is manifest. This is like what Jesus said in Matthew seven – “...by their fruits you will know them,” (Matt. 7:20).

What's Involved In Being Born Again?


So, reading this, suppose I discover my personal need to be born into the kingdom, to be born of water and the Spirit. How do I find out specifically what that involves?

Remember how verse 5 explains verse 3, and that Jesus explains Himself if we just keep reading? If we will just keep reading through John chapter three, through the book of John and into the book of Acts, we will know all that is involved in being born again and entering the kingdom.

We will discover (in Jno. 16:13) that the apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit. Further, we will learn in Acts 1:8, that these men waited in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit, and that the event came in Acts 2. Men filled by the Holy Spirit preached the gospel and called upon penitent sinners to be baptized in water (Acts 2:38, 8:38, 10:48, 16:33, 19:5, etc.). My conclusion is: Water baptism is the means appointed by the Spirit for entrance into the kingdom.

When a sinner hears and responds to that which has been revealed by the Spirit, he submits to baptism in water - and in that obedience of trust in Christ, he is born of water and the Spirit, entering the Kingdom of God. Christians affirm, we are saved “through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).”

Entrance Into The Kingdom

We're talking about the kingdom spoken of in Col. 1:13. Remember, the saints at Colossae had been translated from the power of darkness into this kingdom. That's what we are talking about, entering this kingdom where Christ reigns.

In hearing, believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized (as directed by God in the New Testament) you are obeying the gospel. And this response on our part, to Christ - delivers us out of darkness, and into the kingdom. But this response - that puts us into the kingdom, is not only called "obeying the gospel," IT IS ALSO CALLED, "being born again." We are talking about one process; one response --- you can call it, "obeying the gospel," or "being "born again," but both expressions refer to one’s initial response to the gospel.

You see - we describe this response by using a number of phrases, but we are talking about ONE RESPONSE: Being born again, obeying the gospel, becoming a child of God, entering the kingdom. The new birth in John 3 is another way for us to understand our response to the gospel of grace, that delivers us from darkness and puts us into the Kingdom of Christ.

It begins with HEARING; for in Acts 2:22, this is the first thing Peter told those people to do. This hearing must lead to BELIEF; the gospel is God's power to save those who believe (Rom. 1:16). There must be REPENTANCE; God now commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30,31). The Holy Spirit has also revealed the necessity of obedience in the act of baptism in water (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

You can call this, "obeying the gospel," or "becoming a Christian," or – being born again, delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of God's Son.

Jesus Said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The new birth is more than an initial reformation of life. It is the long term commitment after baptism. It is the maintenance of life with God through Christ. It is to “continue with the Lord,” (Acts 11:23). The new birth is the start. After being born of water and the Spirit, there is an ongoing future life of righteousness to be maintained and grown.

The Day of Pentecost

This is what happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). On that day the Spirit spoke through the apostles producing faith in the hearts of some 3,000 people. “Then, they that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about 3,000 souls.”

They were born "of water and the Spirit." Or -- as it says in Jno. 1:13 -- "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD."

Have you been "born of God?" By His abundant grace and mercy – though you have sinned against Him - you can enter into the Kingdom of God's Son ... Being baptized for the remission of sins, in the name of Christ -- to arise to walk in newness of life...               T.W. Brents, THE GOSPEL PLAN OF SALVATION, p.#189.
 

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 19.1; January 2012

 

 

 

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