The New Birth
IN THE GOSPEL of St. John we have a record of the conversation which Jesus Christ had with Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and a teacher in Israel. In this account we are told that Jesus spoke the following words: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Ye must be born again.” John 3:3,7.
Jesus used three authoritative, emphatic and categorical expressions to present the only imperative condition to become a child of God, namely: “Except a man,’’ “he cannot,” “ye must.” The Lord Jesus began His declaration as follows: “Verily, verily,” words which He used only when He wanted to make an important statement. Three times He said, “I say unto thee.” The King appointed by God to reign over His kingdom is the one who told Nicodemus that the only imperative condition to enter the kingdom of heaven is to be “born again.” A declaration by such a person demands our conscientious consideration.
It would not have surprised us if Christ had made this statement to Mary Magdalene, or the woman at the well who had six husbands, or the one taken in adultery. But He made it to Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel, and a very religious man. Jesus not only intended to say that fornicators, adulterers, drunkards, liars and thieves would not inherit the kingdom of God, but neither would the religious people who might refuse to be “born again.”
There are thousands of people who think they are Christians because they belong to some church, or have been brought up in a Christian home, or live a moral upright life. But the Bible says: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. The Bible says: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5:12. So then every man is dead in his trespasses and sins and alienated from the life of God. By Adam’s disobedience all men become sinners before God. Therefore, Jesus said that before we can have a new social order the individual must have a new birth. Furthermore, Jesus said that before a man can have eternal life, he must be born again.
I want to ask you a direct question: Have you been born again? Perhaps you will say to me: “Mr. Graham, I don’t know what you are talking about. I have never heard such an expression. What do you mean?” To be born again means to be born from above. The new birth has within it the idea of the instilling of the divine life in the human soul, by which we become children of God. We receive the breath of God. We are united to God for all eternity. That means that if you are born again, while God lives, you will live; because you will be a partaker of His very life.
Religion cannot take the place of regeneration. Nicodemus was an ardent religious man. He admitted that Jesus was a prophet, but he did not believe that He was his Saviour. He was so fervently religious that he was willing to give his life to win others to his religion, but he was not a Christian. Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is Christ. Therefore, on the upper doorpost of the Kingdom of God, Christ has written these solemn and irrevocable words: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3.
There are only two conditions for the new birth: repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. You should confess that you are a sinner; you must experience sorrow for your sins and for your transgressions of the law of God; you must forsake your sin, and then receive Christ as your Saviour and Lord. To receive Christ means much more than to believe in him. It means that you must follow Christ, and make Him the Master over your body, mind and soul.
Today, this moment, right where you are, can be your moment of decision.