You Must Be Born Again (John 3:1-21)
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Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). The new birth, or regeneration, is the work of God whereby divine life is imparted into the soul of the sinner. Apart from this work of God in the heart of man, man’s heart is left only with its innate propensity to sin and its inability to come to Christ for salvation.
I. The Necessity: Why? (verses 1-5)
When Jesus says “unless,” he is stating that this is the sole means by which a person can see the kingdom. There is no possibility of entrance into His kingdom or possession of eternal life with Him apart from this rebirth. The necessity of regeneration is rooted in the fact that man is by nature dead in trespasses and sin and incapable and unwilling to trust in Christ for salvation (Jn 5:40; 6:44; 10:26). According to his fallen, sinful nature, man is averse to all that is spiritually good and remains under God’s wrath (Ez 36:25; Titus 3:5).
II. The Divine Cause: How? (verses 6-8)
If the new birth is necessary for salvation—i.e. if fallen man will not and cannot come to Christ for salvation if left to himself—how is a person born again? The only solution, the only hope that we have, is that God, solely moved by His sovereign love, must bring us to life. He must grant new spiritual life in the souls of men, rescuing us out of our innate spiritual death and blindness. He must give us a new heart, enabling us to receive and rest in Christ alone for salvation (Jn 1:12; 2 Cor 4:3-6; 1 Pet 1:3).
III. The Human Response: What? (verses 9-21)
What effect does this new birth have in the life of the individual? First, the fact that a person has been born again will be evident in the reality of his belief (vv. 15, 16, 18). While there may have been an intellectual assent prior to the rebirth, and while a person may agree with certain truths about God even before he is given a new heart, there can only be real, saving faith in Christ Jesus alone for salvation when God has caused a person to be born again. Next, the evidence that a person has been born again will be seen in the fact that he “comes to the Light” and “practices truth” (v. 21). The effect of the new birth is ongoing repentance of sin and continual faith in Christ, evidenced in a life that seeks to obey the Lord (Jn 1:12; 6:37-40, 53).
- What does it mean that we are naturally “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1-3)? How does our natural condition relate to the need for the rebirth?
- What are the evidences of the rebirth in the life of an individual? Are there evidences in your life that God has done a work of renewal in giving you a new heart that loves Him, trusts in Christ, and desires to obey?
- How does the doctrine of the rebirth relate to God’s glory in salvation? What should be our response to this teaching of Jesus?