Ye Must Be Born Again
Here we come to probably the most well-known passage in the New Testament: John 3. There is so much packed in these verses, and their message is the difference between life and death.
It begins with a man named Nicodemus, a ruler and teacher among the Jews. He rightly understood that the signs Jesus performed meant that God was with him. He comes at night, perhaps a reference that he feared others knowing that he would visit Jesus, or a reference to the darkness in his and everyone’s soul before coming into the light of Christ. Jesus does not mince words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is as authoritative a statement that Jesus ever makes. In theology, we call it, “the doctrine of regeneration.” It is the teaching from Scripture that salvation is not a matter of good works or even believing the right things. These things are necessary but only in their proper place. What must come to pass before anything else, indeed is the very basis and ground for everything else, is the saving work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of the one who comes by faith and in repentance of sin to Jesus Christ. There is no other way. John writes, “These [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
This is the whole reason that the Father sent the Son, and that the two sent the Holy Spirit upon the Son’s ascension into heaven: That God may have a people called out of darkness and into light. But men love darkness better that light, because the light exposes the wickedness of their hearts. So the man of flesh (man’s sinful nature) cannot come to God on his own: He is the Spirit who gives life. The world and all that is in it lies in darkness, and there will never be a mixture between light and darkness, between life and death. God offers light and life through His Son’s work on the cross which is the payment for man’s sin. The cross is the Father’s love writ large across the vault of heaven for all to see. But man cannot and will not see. He loves his sin too much. Hence, a man must be reborn from above, changed from the inside-out, which is a work only the Holy Spirit can do. And this is our great task as the Church of Jesus Christ: To pray for lost people, that the Holy Spirit would convict them of their sins, convince them of their need for Christ, and remind them of coming judgment (16:8-10). It is our task to watch for opportunities to speak a timely word and to always walk in a godly way. Remember, only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.