Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE MIRACLE OF THE NEW BIRTH”

John 3.7

 

Please turn in your Bible to John chapter 3. Before this morning’s sermon, I want to spend a few minutes explaining a portion of what you likely already know is the most famous chapter in God’s Word, and may very well be one of the most misunderstood portions of Scripture in God’s Word. We are in the same portion of John’s Gospel we were in last Sunday morning, John chapter 3.

 

Verse 1:

 

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.”

 

From this verse we see that Nicodemus was both influential, he was “a ruler of the Jews,” and extremely religious, being of the sect of the Pharisees, who the Apostle Paul claimed was “the straitest sect of our religion,” in Acts 26.5. So we have here a man who is both successful and who would be expected to be very conscientious about his religious duties and obligations.

 

Verse 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.”

 

Did Nicodemus come to the Lord Jesus by night because he worked during the day, or did he come by stealth for fear of the other Jewish men of influence? We can’t be sure since only the high priest’s family in Judaism was liberated from the need to pursue a secular occupation to support their families. But Nicodemus does use the honorific title of Rabbi to address the Lord, does acknowledge that our Lord comes from God, and does admit that my Lord demonstrated the miracle-working power that only God could be responsible for. But the Lord Jesus Christ seems to have ignored Nicodemus’ display of respect. He seems to have ignored Nicodemus’ recognition of Him as a teacher come from God. He seems to have ignored Nicodemus’ acknowledgment of miracle-working power. And He seems to have ignored the admission that God was with Him. Instead, He responded with a sweeping statement that had to stun and amaze Nicodemus.

 

Verse 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.”

 

“Verily, verily” translates “Amen, amen,” which could also be translated “Truly, truly.” So He is strongly emphasizing to this man, “Verily, verily I say unto thee,” that “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unless a person is born again (whatever that means), he will not be able to see the kingdom of God, which could only have been understood by Nicodemus to refer to the kingdom promised by God, which we know from Bible prophecy to be the millennial kingdom that will be established at Christ’s Second Coming. No one can even see that kingdom, Nicodemus until he is first born again. Quite a shocking statement to make to a man who, because of his position and his religious practice, would certainly have thought himself assured of the kingdom. But the Savior has just informed him that no man can even see the kingdom unless he is born again. His shock and amazement are implied by his response.

 

Verse 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 0 born?”

 

How carnal this man is. How fleshly he proves himself to be. The Lord Jesus speaks of spiritual truths, and this religious leader can only imagine some preposterous physical contortion. The Lord Jesus made a statement in verse 5 that was uttered to elevate Nicodemus’ thinking to a more spiritual plane, but which is almost universally misinterpreted by contemporary Christians, pastors, and Bible teachers. Their error frightens me into thinking that they may presently have the same problem Nicodemus had.

 

Verse 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.”

 

If a man is not born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Our Lord Jesus said that in verse 3. Here He declares that unless a man is

 

“born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

 

Centuries ago, at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church formally interpreted this as referring to the waters of baptism, which Roman Catholic priests administer by sprinkling newborn infants.[1] Others interpret this as the amniotic fluid, the “water sack” an unborn infant lives in up until the time of his birth. I have two objections to these views: First, do we see a single example of an infant being born again, experiencing the new birth, anywhere in the Bible? No. Second, how can this water the Lord Jesus speaks of be associated with the first birth, the physical birth, when He said it was related to the second birth, with being born again? I suggest you hold your opinion regarding the meaning of this verse for a few moments longer.

 

Verse 6:

 

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

 

Whatever being born again is it’s associated with the kingdom of God, with seeing the kingdom, and with entering the kingdom. With this verse, the Master is telling Nicodemus that the kingdom is spiritual and that someone who is only physically born cannot gain access to God’s kingdom. To gain access to God’s kingdom a person has to be born spiritually, which is to say a person has to be born again, a person has to be born a second time. So, born again refers to a birth of some type that occurs after physical birth. It refers to a spiritual birth. To this point the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken to Nicodemus in general terms, speaking in general terms about what must happen to every person to gain access to the kingdom of God. Now notice, if you will, how very pointed the Lord Jesus Christ’s statement of verse 7 is:

 

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

 

Here we see an important difference between the Lord Jesus Christ’s proclamation of truth and the anemic teaching of the Bible that is so common in our day. The Lord Jesus Christ took a general truth He had declared in verse 3 and strongly applied it to everyone when He said it to Nicodemus personally by saying “ye,” the plural form of the word. And I can imagine the Lord’s index finger pointing in his direction as He says

 

“Ye must be born again.”

 

Sadly, how many times are folks subject to preaching, these days, which is not focused and which does not apply critical truths to those people being spoken to, but which is content in a cowardly fashion to speak in generalities. Thank God the Savior set an example which validated the prophets and that was followed by the apostles. The result? Nicodemus knew, at this point, that he (and everyone else, as well) needed to be born again.

 

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.”

 

The Greek word translating both “wind” and “Spirit” in this verse is the word “pneuma.” There is a correlation, then, between the unpredictable wind that blows where it seems to want to blow, and those who are born of the Spirit. In other words, you can’t tell in advance who will be born of the Spirit. And let us not overlook the obvious here, that the Spirit of God is the One Who gives birth to that person who is born again. We see this in the phrase

 

“born of the Spirit.”

 

Verse 9:

 

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

 

The well-known Bible scholar is clearly flabbergasted at this point. His mind must be reeling. He has just been told by this man he acknowledges to be a miracle-working teacher come from God that everyone needs to be born again to see God’s kingdom, that everyone needs to be born of the water and the Spirit to enter God’s kingdom, and that specifically, he needs to be born again! But he can’t be sure he will be born again. Why not? Because the Spirit of God Who is the agent of the new birth is as unpredictable as the wind. So he answers,

 

“How can these things be?”

 

Verse 10:

 

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

 

Two things stand out here: First, there is a definite article in the Greek New Testament identifying Nicodemus as “the master of Israel,” or “the teacher of Israel.” This indicates that Nicodemus was the most prominent teacher of God’s Word among the Jewish people of his day. And second, by questioning Nicodemus’ ignorance, we can be confident that the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking of a topic that Nicodemus ought to be familiar with, meaning He is speaking concerning a subject that is dealt with in those Hebrew Scriptures that Nicodemus is supposed to be expert in. What do you suppose the Lord Jesus Christ is talking about to Nicodemus that Nicodemus should have been familiar with? Is there something in the Hebrew Scriptures that mentions water and the Spirit of God that could be taken for being born again, that could qualify a person to see and to enter the kingdom of God?[2] Turn to Ezekiel 36, where we will read verses 25-27:

 

25    Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

26    A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

27    And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

 

This is what is called the New Covenant.[3] Some one thousand years before this passage was written by Ezekiel God made a promise to an as yet unconverted Abraham. That promise is usually referred to as the Abrahamic Covenant, and in that covenant, God obligated Himself to bless Abraham’s descendants through Isaac in a marvelous way. Later on that covenant was expanded upon by three other covenants; the Palestinian Covenant, whereby God promises to give Israel a land for a kingdom, the Davidic Covenant, whereby God promises to give Israel a ruler for a kingdom who will sit on the throne of His ancestor David, and this New Covenant that I have just read, whereby God promises to give a people who are fit to live in the kingdom, under the king, on the land, in fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. So you see, Nicodemus should have known, from his years of Bible study, that he had to be a recipient of the blessings of the New Covenant before he would ever be qualified to enter the promised and much-anticipated kingdom. But he didn’t know what he should have known. He was blind to the truth that, on that night 20 centuries ago, as he talked to the Lord Jesus Christ, he was not qualified to see, much less enter, the millennial kingdom he and the rest of the Jewish people longed for.

 

John 3.11-17:

 

11    Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12    If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13    And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

14    And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15    That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

16    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

 

To touch but briefly on this passage, John’s Gospel here shows that the connection to the New Covenant, the Person through whom the blessings of all God’s promises to the Jewish people are obtained, is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the One in Whom is found the forgiveness of sins. He is the One to Whom a sinner must come to receive a new heart and a new Spirit. Indeed, if the truth is summed up in few words, Jesus Christ is the One in Whom all the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and the Jewish people is found, even those to whom the promise was not directly made, Gentiles like you and like me.

So, John chapter 3 is really a record of the Jewish Messiah’s interview with a Jewish man about the Jewish kingdom that was promised by God to the first Jewish patriarch, Abraham, and what must happen to that Jewish man as a prelude to experiencing the blessings of that promise God made to His chosen people. That said, understand that what Jesus Christ said must happen to Nicodemus so that he might be forgiven, cleansed, and made fit by God to be a citizen in the coming kingdom must happen to each and every sinner for the forgiveness of sins, whether he is Jewish or not. Nicodemus must be born again. So must you be born again.

Shall we stand at this time for the reading of this morning’s text? John 3.7:

 

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

 

I want to speak to those of you who have trusted Christ; only you weren’t saved. You sat under Bible preaching and came to the realization that you needed to be saved, so you prayed and perhaps asked Jesus Christ to save you. Only you weren’t saved. As well, I want to speak to you folks who have been convicted of your sins, have truly felt your need of the salvation which only Jesus Christ gives, but you don’t know how to be saved.

Oh, I know that some decisionist[4] would tell you that you just need to pray this prayer to be saved. But I didn’t pray at all when I was saved. The Apostle Paul didn’t pray when he was saved. The Philippian jailor wasn’t instructed by Paul to pray to be saved. And praying isn’t how a sinner gets saved. A sinner is saved when he comes to Jesus Christ by faith. A sinner is saved by trusting Christ. A sinner is saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. But how do you do that? Strangely, the Bible does not explain how to do that. You are taught in God’s Word that justification is by faith in Christ, but nowhere are you taught in the Bible how to lay hold of Jesus Christ by faith.

So, to you who have prayed, or to you who have come forward, or to you who have done this or that or the other thing without being truly saved, and also for those of you who are lost and have never gone through any motions such as praying or going forward, because you know that those things don’t necessarily involve saving faith . . . to you this sermon is dedicated. Here’s what you need. You don’t need to pray to be saved; you need to be born again. You don’t need instructions on how to come to Jesus Christ to be saved; you need to be born again. You don’t need an answer to your question of “Pastor, how do I come to Jesus Christ?” You need to be born again. How do I know you need to be born again? How do I know you need the birth that comes after physical birth, the birth which would make you born of the Spirit? Because Jesus Christ said,

 

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

 

The reason you are not saved is that you have not experienced the miracle of the new birth. The reason you ask me how to come to Jesus Christ instead of just coming to Jesus Christ is that you have not yet experienced the miracle of the new birth. The reason you prayed to receive Jesus Christ and were still not saved is that you did not experience the miracle of the new birth. The so-called Gospel ministry of modern day Christianity has for so long been primarily a manipulation game, whereby everyone who goes forward supposedly is saved, and everyone who prays for salvation supposedly is converted, that people have effectively forgotten that the new birth is a miracle! It takes a miracle from God for a person to be born again, people. And unless a miracle from God occurs that person is not going to be born again, no matter what he does. After all, John 1.13 does declare

 

“Which were born (meaning born again here), not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 

Amen?

In the time that we have left, I want to call to your attention to three things about the miracle of the new birth, without which no one can get right with God and be prepared for heaven.

 

First, THE MIRACLE OF THE NEW BIRTH IS SURPRISING

 

Could anyone have been more surprised than Nicodemus on that night so long ago? Here is a seasoned old Bible teacher whose curiosity has been aroused by this unconventional newcomer on the scene. So he decides to visit him one night after work. But after he pays this fellow a few compliments the conversation takes a completely surprising turn. He paid this young fellow from Nazareth a few compliments, and he expected the young man to be flattered, to be a bit awed by him (after all, he was the master of Israel). But instead of being flattered, instead of being awed by Nicodemus, the Lord Jesus Christ rocks him with a series of spiritual broadsides in the form of some concise statements.

To paraphrase what my Lord said:

 

“Unless a man is born again he will not see the kingdom. Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit he will not enter the kingdom. And don’t be surprised, you must be born again.”

 

My, how this self-righteous spiritual fraud named Nicodemus was shocked, was amazed. He was also surprised. And yet he was not born again.

And don’t you be surprised, either. You’re not as good a man as Nicodemus was. He was a meticulous keeper of the Law. Are you? He had never violated the Sabbath, but you have missed Church services without a legitimate excuse. And using what lame excuse to justify yourself? Nicodemus had no doubt tithed his whole life faithfully. But you rob God shamelessly, keeping back His tithes, and also keeping back His offerings. You dishonor God by saying you can’t afford to tithe, and then you wonder why your children dishonor you. And you young people shouldn’t be surprised by the miracle of the new birth, either. You see, Nicodemus was a man who was hoodwinked. He was genuinely fooled into thinking that he was right with God and was ready to enter in. So, he had good reason to be surprised when the Lord Jesus told him he needed to be born again.

But what about you? You sit in Church week after week and indulge yourself, just biding your time until you get out of high school or college and get a job so you can be on your own, just waiting until the day when you won’t have to go to Church ever again. But even for you, though you may die in your sins and go to a Devil’s Hell without God’s intervention, the miracle of the new birth will make for some interesting surprises. Here’s how the miracle of the new birth may surprise you, in two different ways: First, there will come a day when someone who you honestly think is saved will show himself or herself to be undeniably lost. I remember some of the teens who went on our “Summer Servants” trips thirty years ago. Oh, what passion some of them exhibited when dealing with the lost and when praying. What tears they shed. But when the time came to commit sex sins there was little hesitation. When the time later came to commit adultery, there was no shame or embarrassment. When the time came to lie and to steal and to cheat, there was no remorse. Surprise? Oh, yes. With some, the surprise comes when you realize that there has been no miracle of the new birth. Then, there will come a day when someone you knew would never become a Christian . . . was born again, miraculously! What a shock! What a surprise! And partly because the reason you never listened to the sermons, the reason you never took Christianity seriously, was because he didn’t, or she didn’t, and you wanted to be like him or like her. But then you find out that he has been miraculously born again. You would never have thought it. What a surprise. Yes, the miracle of the new birth is surprising. Could there be yet a third surprise associated with the miracle of the new birth? Yes. It could be that you who are so sure that you will be born again after you’ve committed the sins you anticipate committing someday, will not be. You will in Hell be surprised by the fact that you were never saved. Or it could be that you who cannot imagine yourselves as Christians will be surprised by the miracle of the new birth happening to you. What a delightful surprise that would be, should it happen to you. I know I was certainly surprised. But, since most people are not ever born again, it’s not likely.

 

Second, THE MIRACLE OF THE NEW BIRTH IS SAVING

 

The word “save” is frequently used by people who never stop to think what the word means. Salvation and getting saved refers to being delivered from danger to being rescued from destruction to being preserved from spiritual harm. In John 3.14 a parallel is drawn between being born again and some serpents in the wilderness. Let me explain. In Numbers 21 we read of the children of Israel speaking against God and Moses. God responded by sending deadly poisonous serpents into their midst to bite them. The bites from the snakes were lethal. But God provided the remedy of a bronze serpent for the children of Israel to deliver them from certain death by poisoning. Important for you to understand is that being born again is much like the deliverance those Israelites received from certain death. Doom was certain. Personal destruction was imminent. But they were miraculously saved. Note that they were miraculously saved. Nothing but a miracle would have done them any good. Short of a miracle they would have died.

And does not the new birth resemble that deliverance in Moses’ day? Oh, I know that the people were poisoned by venomous snakes, but have you not been poisoned by the venom of sin that was introduced to the human blood stream in the Garden of Eden by the serpent? And I know that the Israelites were dying of snake venom, but are you not already dead from sin venom? Does not the Bible declare that you are dead in trespasses and sins? So, as the remedy in Moses’ day rescued the afflicted ones from physically dying, the miracle of the new birth rescues the afflicted ones from spiritual death.

This is why you need to be born again. You see, you are dead where you sit. There is no life in you. Look at you. You have no love for God. You harbor secret sins. You love the things of this world; the nasty movies, the games, the activities, the lifestyle, the values. “What’s wrong with what I do?” What’s wrong with it? You ask what’s wrong with it? You were created to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. But you love only yourself. And because of that, the wrath of God hangs over you. God’s judgment is about to fall on you. His pent up rage and fury increases in intensity with each passing moment. God has commanded men everywhere to repent, but you have not turned from your sins, and you will not turn from your sins. So, you are in the place of great danger, and you sit where you are in need of rescue, in need of deliverance, in need of salvation. You need to be born again. But that requires a miracle, the miracle of the new birth.

 

Finally, THE MIRACLE OF THE NEW BIRTH IS SOVEREIGN

 

Sovereignty has to do with God’s absolute, independent right of disposing of his creatures according to His purpose. Sovereignty is unconstrained as God acts according to His good pleasure. And His sovereignty is without obligation because God has independent rights toward every one of His creatures.  The implication of these rights is that God may bestow or withhold salvation without prejudice to any of His attributes. If anything binds God, He is only bound by those covenants and promises that He has sovereignly chosen to make. Therefore, God’s sovereignty may be exercised without in any way compromising His justice, His mercy, His majesty, or His truth, in saving or in not saving anyone He chooses.

But what does this have to do with the miracle of the new birth? The new birth is sovereign. Consider: If the new birth is somewhat like the physical birth, and it must be, or Jesus Christ would not have told Nicodemus he needed to be born again, let me ask you a question: What did you have to do with being born the first time? Nothing? Ah, then what do you think you have to do with being born . . . again? Look at John 3.8:

 

“The wind bloweth where it listeth . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

 

What control do you have over the blowing of the wind? None whatsoever. And what control do you have over being born of the Spirit? None whatsoever.

Nicodemus was shocked and horrified to find out that he needed to be born again because being born again was completely beyond his control. And being born again is something that’s also entirely beyond your ability to control or influence. In a word, it’s sovereign. The miracle of the new birth. Aren’t all miracles sovereign? Isn’t it entirely up to God whether or not He will work a miracle? Can anyone make God work a miracle? No. So is the miracle of the new birth.

 

One night, long ago, my Lord Jesus Christ said to a man who represented all men, “Ye must be born again.” Meaning you, too, must be born again. For without the new birth your sins will remain unforgiven, your soul will remain damned, your destiny will remain the lake of fire, and your enemy will still be God, Who is a consuming fire. However, if you are born again you will become a child of God, your sins will be cleansed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and you will be brought to spiritual life by the Spirit of God.

But wait! The new birth is a miracle, and no one makes God perform miracles. It takes a miracle to be born again, and no one can coerce God into working a miracle. So, unless and until God works a miracle for you, unless and until God works a miracle on you, you can pray as many sinner’s prayers as you want, you can place your faith in Jesus Christ as sincerely as you want to, but it will result in the same believing in vain Paul talked about in First Corinthians 15.2. So, here you sit, a sinner condemned in the sight of God and in desperate need of something only God can provide . . . a miracle, a miracle called the new birth.

What is there to do? There is only one thing to do. God cannot be coerced into performing this miracle. God cannot be bribed into performing this miracle. But God can be pleaded with to perform this miracle. He can be prayed to and humbly asked to perform this miracle. And that’s what we are going to do right this moment. We’re going to stand in a bit, and when I ask the Christians here will begin to silently pray to God for a miracle. I will ask that their prayers be restricted to asking God to work the miracle of the new birth in your life. I want you to be born again, and I will ask God to work that miracle, as will others here today. When these Christians begin to pray and ask God to save sinners here, when they begin to humbly ask God to birth sinners by His Spirit, I will ask that you who are lost, please consider trusting Christ where you stand, and then speaking to me after the service this morning or calling the Church to arrange for me to visit you sometime this week. What do I wish to talk to you about? About you trusting Jesus Christ. Oh, yes. You see, no one is born again who does not come to faith in Christ. He is the only Savior of sinful men’s souls. So, as people begin to pray, and they will pray for just a few moments before quietly leaving the auditorium to go next door for finger food fellowship, please give my request serious consideration.

We will not sing to close out the service this morning. We will stand now and pray. When you finish praying, I invite you to join us next door for finger food fellowship. If you would like to speak to me straightway about trusting Christ and being born again, please remain here in the auditorium. If you would like to speak to be during the week, feel free to leave the auditorium and call the Church office later in the week. Let us pray at this time.

__________

[1] http://www.thecounciloftrent.com/ch7.htm

[2] 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.

[3] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), pages 116-128.

[4] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

 

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