You Must Be Born Again

Bible Reading: John 3:1-14

Nicodemus was a Pharisee (John 3:1).  He “came to Jesus by night,” suggesting he was fearful of what his peers might think of his rendezvous with Jesus (John 3:2).  As a Pharisee, he lived an extremely regimented life, according to the countless Pharisaic rules which governed nearly every aspect of his daily experience.  He was a man who would have fasted, prayed, gave alms, read the Scriptures, attended synagogue, etc.  As a “ruler of the Jews” he was a leader amongst the Pharisees, making decisions and overseeing various aspects of the Pharisaic cult which governed religious life in those days (John 3:1).  He was “the teacher of Israel,” well-schooled in the Scriptures and various Pharisaic laws (John 3:10).  He was “the teacher,” suggesting a preeminent role in the instruction of the Pharisaic community.

He seemingly had it all—religious pedigree, religious position, and religious practice.  Others would have supposed him to be spiritually secure.  He likely thought the same.  John 1:13 gives three means by which a person cannot gain the right to become a child of God.  It cannot happen by being born “of blood”—religious pedigree or association is not enough.  It cannot happen through “the will of the flesh”—good works done in human self-effort, no matter how impressive, cannot work to cause a person to be born again.  “The will of man,” i.e. human decision, likewise cannot bring about a person’s salvation.  Nicodemus had all these things, yet he was not saved.

Something compelled him to go to Jesus.  He came to Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).  Jesus responded to him in a surprising way.  “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3).  Nicodemus was surprised by Jesus’ message; it was not what he expected to hear.  He didn’t understand, asking, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born” (John 3:4)?  And even after Jesus’ explanation, Nicodemus again asked “How, can these things be” (John 3:9)?

The birth of a child is a fitting analogy to what happens in the spiritual rebirth of a person.  A newborn child is a passive participant in the process whereby he enters this world.  He can take no credit for it.  Likewise, to be born again, a person must “be born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s family divine.”  He or she must receive Jesus to be given “the right to become” a child of God (John 1:12).  It is a work only the Spirit can do (John 3:5-8). It happens as the result of believing in Jesus (John 1:12).

We cannot know for sure, but it seems likely that Nicodemus was, at some point, born again.  Later, when the officers of the chief priests were sent out to bring Jesus to them, Nicodemus defended Jesus, advising his colleagues to hear and investigate Jesus’ claims before making a final judgment (John 7:45-52).  At Jesus’ burial, Nicodemus brought a costly mixture of myrrh and aloes for the embalming of His body (John 19:39).  According to church tradition, Nicodemus became a believer and was ultimately martyred for his faith.

George Whitefield, that great evangelist who played a preeminent role in the Great Awakening of the mid-1700s, was a student at Oxford and a member of the “Holy Club” before he was saved.  He was very religious, but also very lost.  Despairing of his condition, he became increasingly dissatisfied with his life and quit school and lay bed-ridden for some weeks. The Spirit worked in his heart with such power, he was led to abandon all his religious self-efforts, to trust exclusively in Christ.  He prayed, “I thirst, I thirst for faith in pardoning love.  Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  His prayer was heard.  He was born again and “filled with peace and joy in believing.”  Not only was he born again, but God also made him to be one of the greatest evangelists in the church’s history.  “You must be born again” was the message that he loved to share.  Religion, no matter how impressive, is not enough—you must be born again! 

“You must be born again!”


O what a wonderful, wonderful day
Day I will never forget
After I’d wandered in darkness away
Jesus my Saviour I met
O what a tender, compassionate friend
He met the need of my heart
Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling
He made all the darkness depart

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul (filled my soul)
When at the cross my Saviour made me whole (made me whole)
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Born of the Spirit with life from above
Into God’s fam’ly divine
Justified fully thru Calvary’s love
O what a standing is mine
And the transaction so quickly was made
When as a sinner I came
Took of the offer of grace He did proffer
He saved me, O praise His dear name

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul (filled my soul)
When at the cross my Saviour made me whole (made me whole)
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

© 1961, renewed 1989 by John W. Peterson Music Company.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: