What does that mean?
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:1-8)
These days almost everyone talks about being born again; but virtually no one knows what the Word of God teaches about the new birth. Let me address the subject in simple, clear, unmistakable terms. I want you to understand what the new birth is and how it is accomplished. More importantly, I want you to be born again. May God be pleased to make it so for Christ’s sake. Look at those five words, and ask God to give you wisdom and grace to understand what they mean. — “Ye must be born again!”
A Personal Word
Here is a personal word — “Ye.” This message is for you. I know you are moral. I know you are religious. I know that you are well instructed in doctrinal truth. So was Nicodemus. He was a well respected religious leader, a Pharisee and a ruler among the Jews. Nicodemus was a teacher who taught the teachers. He was a preacher, but more. Nicodemus was a preacher who taught preachers. He was a theologian. This was a man of highest rank in the Jewish church. But he was dead. He was without life before God. He was totally ignorant of all things spiritual. He was a lost man. — If you are yet without life toward God, my message is to you. I have this word from God for you. — “You must be born again.”
A Pressing Word
Here is a pressing word — “Must.” — “Time is short.” — “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” This is not a good recommendation. This is not wholesome advice. This is imperative. This is vital. This is a necessity. “You must be born again!” Otherwise, you will perish in your sins. You will die under the wrath of God! Hell will be your portion forever!
A Passive Word
Here is a passive word — “Be.” The new birth is not something you do. It is something done to you, something God does for you and in you. A man has no more to do with his spiritual birth than he does with his natural birth. In this matter of regeneration man is passive. He has nothing to do with it (John 1:12-13). You cannot save yourself. You cannot give yourself life. You cannot be born again by something you do (Titus 3:4-6).
The new birth is not accomplished by moral reformation, baptism, religious fervor, zealous works and devotion, or even by faith in Christ.
Faith in Christ is not the cause of the new birth. Faith is the result of the new birth. We believe according to the working of God’s mighty power, by the operation of his grace (Ephesians 1:19; 2:8; Colossians 2:11-12). The new birth is something done to you, for you, and in you by God’s sovereign, irresistible grace. It is not something you do. “You must BE born again!”
Martin Luther correctly asserted, “If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.”
A Powerful Word
Here is a powerful word — “Born.” Salvation is the gift of life, eternal life. When our Lord declares, “Ye must be born again,” he is saying you must be the object and recipient of Divine power. Just as God created the world, God must create life in your soul. Just as God breathed into Adam and made him a living soul, so God must breathe into you the breath of life by his Spirit, or you will perish in your sins. This is what I am saying: you are spiritually dead, helplessly lost by nature. Your only hope is that God the Holy Spirit will give you life. — “You must be born again!”
A Profound Word
Here is a profound word — “Again.” The new birth is a mystery of grace. It cannot be explained; neither can it be fully understood. It is a work of God beyond our comprehension. When our Lord says, “Ye must be born again,” his meaning is twofold. The word again has two meanings.
First, it means, “You must be born from above.” James tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Then he tells us what he is teaching in the next verse. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (James 1:17-18).
Second, it means, “You must be born a second time.” Your first birth was of sinful parents, and you were born in their image. The second birth is of God, and we are born in his image. — The first birth was of corruptible seed. The second birth is of incorruptible seed. — Our first birth is in sin. Our second birth is in righteousness. — By our first birth we were polluted and unclean. By our second birth we become holy. — Our first birth was fleshly and carnal. Our second birth is spiritual and makes us spiritual. — By the first birth all men are foolish and ignorant. By our second birth we become wise unto salvation. — By our first birth we were slaves to sin and the lusts of the flesh. By our second birth we are made free from the dominion of sin. — By our first birth we are all children of wrath. By our second birth we are children of promise. Our Lord says, “Ye must be born again,” because we were all born wrong the first time.
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