Calvary Road Baptist Church

Please turn in your Bible to the Gospel according to John, chapter 3. When you find that portion of the Bible, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word. This morning we will read John 3.1-10, an extremely familiar portion of Scripture to most people who attend Church:

 

1       There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2       The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3       Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4       Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5       Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6       That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7       Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8       The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

9       Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10     Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

 

Let me briefly outline these ten verses and bring to your attention some salient points before this morning’s very simple and very straightforward message:

 

First, ON THE NEED OF THE NEW BIRTH (John 3.1-3)

 

1       There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2       The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3       Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

 

First, there is the position of Nicodemus, verse 1. Two things: Nicodemus was both a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. Those two descriptions show that this man was one of the ruling elite in Jerusalem among the Jewish people of our Lord Jesus’ day.

Next, there is the problem of Nicodemus, verse 2:

 

“Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”

 

What does this statement by Nicodemus reveal to us? It reveals that he does not know Who the Lord Jesus Christ really is. Had he known just Who the Lord Jesus really is he would not have addressed Him by the mildly honorific title of Rabbi. If he had known Who our Lord was, he would have immediately fallen before Him in a humble posture of submission.

Third, the pronouncement of the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 3:

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

This is a universal principle. What was said to Nicodemus has application to every human being who has ever lived. No one can so much as see the kingdom of God unless he has been born again.

 

Second, ON THE NATURE OF THE NEW BIRTH (John 3.4-8)

 

4       Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5       Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6       That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7       Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8       The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

 

In verse 4 we observe the concern of Nicodemus:

 

“Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”

 

The absurdity of his statement is astonishing, but it serves to show that this man, as religious and as apparently pious as he was, was completely thrown off by the Savior’s pronouncement. He has no idea what it means to be born again, as is evidenced by his remarks. He is without a clue.

Next, the condition of Christ is restated, in verse 5:

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

 

And, no, this is not christening and first communion, and I can prove it to you if you want me to. I will briefly state that it is an allusion to Ezekiel 36.25-27 and several other Old Testament prophetic passages. Those prophetic passages are commonly identified as referring to the New Covenant, which is God’s unconditional promise to cleanse human hearts with water and to transform their hearts by His Spirit.[1]

In verses 6 and seven a contrast of births is drawn:

 

6       That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7       Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

 

Flesh gives birth to flesh. Flesh can only give birth to flesh. Therefore, to be spiritual, you must be born of the Spirit. No wonder, then, that our Lord Jesus demanded of Nicodemus and demands of the rest of us that

 

“Ye must be born again.”

 

The characteristics of the new birth are given in verse 8:

 

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

 

Several comments could be made that would consume precious time. But suffice it to say that the primary thrust of the Lord Jesus Christ’s comment here has to do with the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit of God, Who is the Author of the new birth. And just what does sovereignty mean in connection with the new birth? It means that the new birth, being born again, is a miracle wrought by the Spirit of God. Unless the Spirit of God works the miracle of the new birth you are not born again. But sovereignty means that control of when and where and on whom this great miracle is wrought by the Spirit of God is not up to you or me, but is up to Him. No one tells the Holy Spirit of God when or on whom to work the miracle of the new birth, just as no one presumes to tell the wind when or where to blow. To solidify this concept in your thinking let me ask you a question. What role did you play in your conception and birth when you were born? Did you have anything to do with it or were you merely the beneficiary of it?

 

Finally, THE NECESSITY OF THE NEW BIRTH

 

In John 3.9-21, we see first Christ’s and then the Apostle John’s explanation of the necessity of the new birth. But a thorough explanation of this lengthy passage will have to wait for a more convenient time. I need to point out two important truths revealed in verses 9 and 10 to wrap up my introductory remarks:

Verse 9:

 

“Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?”

 

Our Lord Jesus has just described to Nicodemus the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit of God; the One Who Alone gives life to the spiritually dead sinner who comes to Christ for salvation. But Nicodemus is incredulous. He’s overwhelmed. He seems to be shocked with the realization that the Lord Jesus is speaking to him of things he has no comprehension of.

Verse 10:

 

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”

 

The word “master” translates the Greek word for “teacher.” But what has been left untranslated by the King James translators is the Greek definite article that is normally translated by our word “the.”[2] In other words, the Savior identifies Nicodemus, who John had earlier described as “a ruler of the Jews” and as a Pharisee, as a man of incredible stature in the Jewish community. This man is “the teacher” of the Jews in Jerusalem. He is the one to whom all other teachers look for guidance and instruction. He is the teacher of the teachers. That understood, understand as well that even so Nicodemus is not born again. Think about it: The man who arguably knew God’s Word better than any man in Jerusalem was not himself born again. And because he was not born again he could not see, and he could not himself enter the kingdom of God.

 

Amazing, isn’t it? The most knowledgeable man among the most knowledgeable people on earth, when it came to the things of God, was not himself born again. Not only was he not born again, but he also didn't know what it was to be born again, and hadn’t the slightest idea how to be born again. What does the experience of Nicodemus show to us, this morning? It shows us three things: First, it shows to us that the most religious and most apparently pious religious leader in the world isn’t necessarily born again. If Nicodemus was not born again, don’t you dare presume the prominent religious leaders in our own time might themselves not be born again. Second, it shows us that no amount of Bible knowledge, no willingness to accept the Bible as true, substitutes for being born again. Nicodemus, like all Pharisees of his day, accepted God’s Word as true. He and those who believed like he believed were not born again, despite the fact that they believed the Bible. You can believe right and not be born again. Finally, it’s possible to be convinced that things are right with you and God and not be born again all the while. Nicodemus was, no doubt, convinced that he was right with God. He sought out the Lord Jesus to learn from Him, not to be saved by Him. But Jesus Christ very quickly showed Nicodemus that what he needed was not more information about God and the things of God. What he needed was to be born again. And if Nicodemus needed to be born again, you need to be born again.

 

SERMON:

 

Are you born again? This matter of the new birth is one of the most important questions you shall ever in your lifetime face. The Lord Jesus Christ once told the most prominent Bible teacher among the Jews of His day,

 

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,”

 

John 3.3. So, I ask you again. Are you born again? It is not enough to reply, “I belong to the Church, so I guess I am.” Thousands of nominal professing Christians have none of the characteristic marks and signs of being born again which the Scriptures have given us to identify true believers.

Would you like to know the marks and signs of being born again? Give me your attention, and I will show them to you from the first epistle of John. I will bring to you from First John the marks and signs of being born again. But so that I might have your undivided attention, please close your Bible and put it away:

 

First Of All, JOHN WRITES,

 

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin;”

 

- First John 3.9,and again,

 

“Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.”

 

- First John 5.18.

A person who is born again, or regenerate, does not commit sin as a habit. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination, as an unregenerate person does. There was probably a time when he did not consider whether his actions were sinful or not, and never felt grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin. As a matter of fact, they were quite good friends once his conscience had been seared and silenced. But now he hates the sin, flees from it, fights against it, counts it his greatest plague, groans under the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence and longs to be delivered from it once and for all.

In one word, sin no longer pleases him, nor is even a matter of indifference. It has become the abominable thing in his life which he hates. He cannot prevent its dwelling within him. If he said he had no sin, there would be no truth in him, First John 1.8. But he can say that he abhors it, and the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all anymore. He cannot completely prevent bad thoughts arising within him, and shortcomings, omissions, and defects appearing, both in his words and in his actions. He knows as James wrote, that “In many things we offend all,” James 3.2. But he can say truly; and as in sight of God, that his shortcomings, omissions, and defects are a daily grief and sorrow to him, and that with his whole nature he does not consent to do sin.

I place this mark and sign of being born again before you. What would the Apostle John say about you? Are you born again?

 

Secondly, JOHN WRITES,

 

“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God”

 

- First John 5.1.

A person born again, or regenerate, then, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior by whom his soul can be pardoned. He believes that Jesus Christ is the divine person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose and that beside Him there is no Savior at all. It is a common error among our people to believe that Jesus is the Christ and to stop with that. Understand, it is required that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, as a prerequisite to being born again. But to stop there is to base your salvation not on Christ but doctrinal belief, while the one who is born again moves beyond doctrinal belief to faith in the person of Jesus Christ.

In himself a born again person sees nothing but unworthiness, but in Christ, he sees reasons for the fullest confidence, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that for the sake of Christ’s finished work and death upon the cross, he is reckoned righteous in God’s sight and may look forward to death and judgment without alarm. He may have his fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you he feels as if he has no faith at all. But ask him whether he will rest his hopes of eternal life on his goodness, his reformation, his prayers, his pastor, or his Church, and see what he will reply.

Ask him whether he will give up Christ, and place his confidence in any other way of salvation. Depend on upon it; he would say that though he does feel weak and bad, he would not give up Christ for all the world. Depend on upon it; he would say he found preciousness in Christ, a suitableness to his soul in Christ, that he found nowhere else, and that he must cling to Him.

I place this mark and sign of being born again before you. What would the Apostle John say about you? Are you born again?

 

Thirdly, JOHN WRITES,

 

“Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him”

 

- First John 2.29.

The person born again, or regenerate, then, is a holy person. He endeavors to live according to God’s will, to do the things that please God, to avoid the things that God hates. His life is characterized by what he does that’s righteous, as well as what he no longer does that’s unrighteous. His aim and desire are to love God with all of his heart and soul and mind and strength and to love his neighbor as himself. And love God and his neighbors he does, with his actions as well as his attitudes. His wish is to be continually looking to Christ as his example as well as his Savior, and to show himself Christ’s friend by doing whatsoever Christ commands.

No doubt he is not perfect. No one will tell you that sooner than he will himself. He groans under the burden of indwelling corruption that clings to him. He finds an evil principle within him constantly warring against God’s grace, and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence. And in spite of all his shortcomings, the average bent, and bias of his way is holy - his doings are holy, his tastes are holy, and his habits are holy.

In spite of all this swerving and turning aside, like a ship beating up against a terrible storm’s wind, the general course of his life is in one direction - toward God and for God. And though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether he is a Christian at all, he will be able to say with old John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world, but still, I am not what I once used to be, and by the Grace of God I am what I am.”

I also place this mark and sign of being born again before you. What would the Apostle John say about you? Are you born again?

 

Fourthly, JOHN WRITES,

 

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren”

 

- First John 3.14.

A person born again, or regenerate, has a special love for all true disciples of Christ, especially those in his Church. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who are of one mind with himself. Like his Lord and Savior, he loves the worst of sinners and could weep over them, but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers and who labor with him in the Lord’s vineyard. He is never so much at home as when he is in the company of his Church members and other genuine Christians he may encounter. He is never so happy as when he is among the saints and the excellent of the earth. Others may value learning, or cleverness, or agreeableness, or riches or rank, in the company they choose to keep. The regenerate man values grace.

Those who have most grace, and are most like Christ, are those he most loves. He feels that they are members of the same family with himself. He feels that His fellow Church members are his fellow-soldiers, warring against the same enemy. He feels that they are his fellow-travelers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. He and they may be very different in many ways - in age, in education, in a career. What does it matter? They are Jesus Christ’s people. They are his Father’s sons and daughters. Because of this, he cannot help loving them.

As well, I place this mark and sign of being born again before you. What would John the Beloved say about you? Are you born again?

 

Fifthly, JOHN WRITES,

 

“Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world”

 

- First John 5.4.

A person born again, or regenerate, does not make the world’s opinion his rule of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the stream of the world’s way, the world’s notions, and the world’s customs. “What will they think? What will they say?” is no longer a turning-point with him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which most around him call happiness. He cannot enjoy their enjoyments. They weary him. They appear to him vain, unprofitable, and unworthy of an immortal being. He overcomes the fear of the world. He is content to do many things which all around him think unnecessary, to say the least. They blame him. It does not move him. They ridicule him. He does not give way. He loves the praise of God more than the praise of men. He fears to offend God more than giving offense to man. He has counted the cost. It is a small thing with him whether or not he is blamed or praised. He is no longer the servant of fashion and custom. To please the world is quite a secondary consideration with him. His first aim is to please God.

I place this mark and sign also of being born again before you for your consideration. What would the Apostle say about you? Are you born again?

 

Finally, JOHN WRITES,

 

“He that is begotten of God keepeth himself”

 

- First John 5.18.

A person born again, or regenerate, is very careful about his soul. He endeavors not only to keep clear of sin but also to keep clear of everything which may lead to sin. He is careful about the company he keeps. He feels that evil communications corrupt the heart and that evil is far more contagious than is good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the employment and use of his time. His chief desire about his time is to spend it profitably, to redeem it, because the days are evil. He is careful about the friendships he forms. It is not enough for him that people are kind and amiable and good-natured. All this is very well. But will they do good to his soul? He is careful over his daily habits and behavior. He tries to remember that his own heart is deceitful, that the world is full of wickedness, and that the devil is always laboring to do him harm. For this reason, he feels compelled always to be on guard.

He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy’s country, to wear his armor continually, and to be prepared for temptations. You have heard the phrase situational awareness. Though the phrase was coined in recent years, the concept was introduced to Christians in God’s Word. He finds by experience that his soul is always among enemies, so he studies to be a watchful, humble, prayerful man.

So, now I place this last mark and sign of being born again before you. What would the Apostle John say about you? Are you born again?

 

These are the six great marks of being born again. Each of us here today needs to consider them again, with attention and lay them to heart. I know there is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these six marks and signs of being born again in different people. In some people they are faint and feeble marks, hardly to be discerned at all. In others, these marks and signs of being born again are bold, sharp, clear, plain, and unmistakable so that anyone can see them. Some of these marks and signs are more visible in some, and others are more visible in others. It seldom happens that all are equally visible in someone’s life. All this I am quite willing to allow. But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God. Here is an inspired apostle writing one of the last general epistles to the Churches of Jesus Christ, telling us that a man born of God, Does not commit sin, Believes that Jesus is the Christ, Does righteousness, Loves the brethren, Overcomes the world, and Keeps himself. I urge you to consider these six marks and signs.

What do you say to these things? What anyone can say, who believes that the destiny-altering miracle of regeneration comes about from merely praying a prayer or simply coming forward and even being baptized, and then living a life that is indistinguishable from the unsaved world around him, I am sure I do not know. For myself I say dogmatically, I can only come to one conclusion. That conclusion is, that only those persons are born again who have these six marks and signs about them and that all men and women who have not these marks and signs are not born again. And I firmly believe that this is the conclusion to which the apostle wished us to come.

My friend, have you these marks and signs? Are you born again? If you are not born again, you and I must spend some time together. As well, how about that loved one you alone secretly hope to be born again? Does it do him or her any good whatsoever to maintain that belief in the face of all evidence to the contrary? No matter the depth or intensity of your love, if that person does not give evidence of these marks of the new birth, then he or she is not born again.

Is it not about time you stood on the Lord’s side in this matter? Is it not the time to live in the real world where those born again are different from those who are not born again? After all, the Savior did say, “Ye must be born again,” and His beloved apostle told us the marks to distinguish those who have been born again. The most important take away from this message may be your admission to yourself that you are not truly born again. Or it may be your admission that someone you have hoped was born again is not born again.

__________

[1] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary On The New Testament Use Of The Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pages 434-435.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 224.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org