In the book of John, chapter 3, Nicodemus meets with Jesus. Nicodemus was a man of the Pharisees and a preeminent voice of religious teaching of Israel.
Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Jesus gets to the point by using new terminology. This is the first usage of the phrase “born again.” This was not a concept the Hebrew scriptures were familiar with. The phrase “born again” means to be born from above.
Jesus made this different kind of birth a requirement for citizenship in His Kingdom. Nicodemus thought the Messiah was coming to restore Israel physically in that moment. Nicodemus joins the conversation.
“How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus is trying to process what Jesus is saying, so his question focuses on what Jesus is saying.
“Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Jesus is showing Nicodemus the difference between religion and regeneration. The new paradigm that Jesus is establishing in this passage is that unless someone is born again, they cannot enter God’s Kingdom.
“How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus. “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven —the Son of Man.”
Nicodemus wants to understand what Jesus is trying to say. Jesus was teaching that regeneration only occurs through belief.
Five Components of Being Born Again
- For God so loved the world in this way
Religion likes to pretend its God is good and loving, but all religious devotion is fueled by a secret dread that God is looking for an excuse to condemn those who do not please Him. While a holy God must punish sin in accordance with justice, He does not delight in destroying what is created and crafted with such care.
- He gave His one and only Son
This is an idiom based on ancient custom. The first born was entitled to the greatest share of inheritance. If he was the only son, the only born, he would have got everything. The Father sent His Son to die on the cross, the perfect sacrificial lamb.
- So that everyone who believes in Him
The word “believe” in John 3:16 means to believe as true, to trust, to place confidence in. When one trusts Jesus’ gift rather than his or her own merit, eternal life flows like water.
- Will not perish
The word perish means to be destroyed, utterly lost. Trusting in Jesus to save the believer from the penalty of sin. This is a promise. Good works cannot make the promise more secure, and moral failure cannot nullify it.
- But have eternal life
God’s grace will not allow death to have the final victory. Evil will not have the final word. Eternal. incorruptible, abundant life is offered to all who will receive Jesus through faith.
Salvation requires a second birth from above because we are powerless to save ourselves. Moral perfection is the standard and we all have fallen short. Salvation cannot be earned; it can only be received as a gift of grace.
Pastor Chris Williams
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