“Ye Must Be Born Again.”
Our Lord’s admonition to Nicodemus still stands. It is as necessary and urgent today as it was when he first made it, more than two thousand years ago. — “Ye must be born again!” Look at those five words, and ask God to give you wisdom and grace to understand what they mean, by the blessed experience of his grace.
That is a very personal word — “Ye.” This message is for you. Perhaps you are moral. Perhaps you are very religious. Perhaps you are even well instructed in doctrinal truth. So was Nicodemus. He was a highly 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 in his condition, if you are yet without life toward God, this is a word from God for you - “You must be born again.”
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!
This is a passive word — “Be.” The new birth is not something you do. It is something God does for 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). No one has ever been born again by the exercise of his will, saying a prayer, doing good works, being baptized, making a decision for Jesus, 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 (Eph. 1:19; 2:8; Col. 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!” I fully agree with what Martin Luther had to say in this regard. "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."
Here is a powerful word - “Born.” The new birth is a gift; but it is not just any ordinary gift. This 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. We are all spiritually dead, helplessly lost by nature. Man’s only hope is that God the Holy Spirit will give life. “You must be born again!”
Here is a profound word - “Again.” The new birth is a mystery of grace. It cannot be explained. It simply cannot be fully understood. It is a work of God beyond our comprehension. Yet, this much is certain, 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.” Our first birth was of sinful parents, and we 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.
Our Lord said, “Ye must be born again,” because none shall ever enter into glory except those who are born again by the power and grace of God and made to live in and by the Lord Jesus Christ. In order for God to save a sinner two things must be done. God must do something for you. And God must do something in you. Redemption is the work of God for sinners. Regeneration is the work of God in sinners. Both are the works of God. Man has nothing more to do with regeneration than he has to do with redemption. “Salvation is of the Lord!”
“Not all the outward forms on earth, Nor rites that God has given,
Nor will of man, nor blood, nor birth, Can raise a soul to heaven.
The sovereign will of God alone Creates us heirs of grace;
Born in the image of His Son, A new peculiar race.”
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