“YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN”
1. Calvary Road Baptist Church is a Baptist Church. We stand right in the middle of that historic river of Baptist thought, belief, and practice that has cut a swath through western civilization over the last two thousand years, cutting an especially deep trough over the last 400 years.
2. Of course, more important than standing in the middle of the historic and orthodox stream of Baptist thought, belief, and practice is our commitment to standing in the middle of historical and orthodox Bible thought, belief, and practice.
3. There are distinctives which make a congregation identifiable, even though there is a move afoot these days to so disguise and camouflage a congregation’s beliefs and stance by adopting bland and generic names. But we are a full disclosure congregation. Not like some Church that’s named Christ’s Church of the Highlands, (Which is supposed to mean what?), Calvary Road Baptist Church is a Church, is a Baptist Church, and thinks much of Calvary, where Jesus died. And we don’t mind people knowing who and what we are.
4. “Oh, but pastor, people don’t like Baptists. And they certainly don’t much appreciate people who are dogmatic and assertive.” I guess that’s just too bad, isn’t it? There is a need for dogmatism in our culture. And when you are a custodian of the Gospel, which is the sinner’s only hope for salvation, then it’s needful to be assertive and to let people know just exactly where you are coming from. Amen?
5. This morning I want to address a particularly Baptist distinctive. More importantly, it is a particularly Christian distinctive. But it’s a Christian distinctive that most non-Baptist denominations have not insisted upon in order to be in compliance with Scriptural demands for a congregation.
6. Understand that we are not a perfectly obedient congregation. There are glaring flaws that present themselves from time to time as we examine ourselves. But as a Christian congregation, as a Baptist congregation, few priorities are more important than the one I will speak on this morning.
7. Turn in your Bible to our text, John chapter 3. When you find that portion of Scripture, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
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?
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.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
8. How are Baptist Churches different than congregations of other denominations? I suppose the question ought to be, How are Baptist Churches supposed to be different than congregations of other denominations? How do Baptist Churches claim to be different than congregations of other denominations? How did Baptist Churches used to be different than congregations of other denominations?
9. It used to be, until the coming of Charles Finney’s decisionism swamped most Baptist Churches and all but destroyed the other denominations, that to become a member of a Baptist Church, to qualify for baptism by a Baptist pastor in a Baptist Church, you had to be born again. You also had to give evidence of the new birth.
10. It is still claimed by most Baptist Churches that only born again people are qualified for believer’s baptism and Church membership, though their practices betray their claim. Most Baptist Churches baptize and receive into membership anyone they can get into the water or anyone who wants to join. But historically, and Scripturally, the requirement has been, and should to this day be, that you must be born again.
11. Our text is John 3.7, where Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” Don’t be astonished, don’t be surprised, Jesus is saying. “Don’t be astounded that I told you that you must be born again.”
12. Let’s consider this thing Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus, this born again phenomenon, this new birth.
1A. First, THE NEED FOR THE NEW BIRTH
1B. Please recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ does not, in our text, recommend the new birth. He does not, in our text, suggest the new birth. Neither does He, in our text, urge upon Nicodemus the new birth. If words have meaning and if Jesus, the master teacher, was capable of communicating His thoughts by means of words to human beings, then we can see that the new birth is not an option. It is not an elective. It is a requirement.
2B. And this statement of requirement, “Ye must be born again,” does not come from someone who is a lowly carpenter’s son, only. This demand was not uttered by some fellow who was just a poor itinerant. Now, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ certainly was the adopted son of a lowly carpenter. And He certainly was a poor itinerant. But He was also so much more than those things, wasn’t He?
3B. It was obvious even to the spiritually dull Nicodemus that the Lord Jesus was more than He appeared by observation to be, though I am certain that the man had no real clue who he had gone that night to see. Who was Nicodemus speaking to? Who actually uttered the words “Ye must be born again?”
4B. Turn back a page or two in your Bible to John chapter 1. In the first 14 verses of John 1 the Lord Jesus Christ is described by the apostle John as “the Word” and as “the Light.” But if you will look carefully at those 14 verses you will see that the Lord Jesus Christ is also shown by John to be the Word with God and to be God, verse 1, co-eternal with God, verse 2, the Creator, verse 3, the Source of life, verse 4, incomprehensible, verse 5, the proper Object of a believer’s faith, verse 7, the true Light, verse 9, in the world that He had created though unknown by His creatures, verse 10, rejected by His Own people, verse 11, able to make God’s children of those who believe in Him, verses 12-13, and Who as a man dwelt in our midst with His glory occasionally on display, verse 14.
5B. So, this Lord Jesus Christ is no ordinary man. He is God manifest in the flesh. He is God become man. Fully God, He is also fully man, yet without sin. And this One, Who cannot lie, Who is in no way deceitful, Who is capable only of stating the truth without sinful exaggeration, said “Ye must be born again.”
6B. So, the new birth is needful because Jesus said it was needful. Needful to comply with His wishes. Needful to be right with God. Needful to possess life. Needful to be fit for heaven. Needful to be forgiven your sins. Needful to be cleansed instead of defiled. Needful to have a fresh new beginning. Needful to be God’s Own child. But most of all, needful because Jesus, the One to Whom is given all authority in heaven and on earth, said “Ye must be born again.”
2A. Second, THE NATURE OF THE NEW BIRTH
1B. Nicodemus was a Bible scholar, the master of Israel. Yet he did not understand what the new birth was when Jesus sought to explain it to him. And this is not because the Lord Jesus Christ is not the most capable of teachers. It’s because man, even so well trained a man as Nicodemus, so immersed in God’s Word as Nicodemus no doubt was, simply cannot understand. So, if a scholar like Nicodemus could not understand the new birth, when personally taught by the Savior Himself, how is it to be explained to you so you will understand?
2B. Listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in First Corinthians 2.14. He states why you do not understand the new birth, and why you never will understand the new birth: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
3B. The new birth is a spiritual reality. Being spiritual, it is quite outside the capacity of any human to understand. Yet we can know this about the new birth; that it’s a miracle that can only be worked by God. John 1.12-13, if you remember, reads: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born [and this speaks of the new birth], not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
3A. Finally, THE MARVEL OF THE NEW BIRTH
1B. It should be no marvel to an informed man that the new birth is necessary. Why else would Jesus say, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again?” So, it should have been no surprise to Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. And it should be no surprise to you, either.
2B. After all, you have no connection with God. You are sinful, while He is holy. You are dead, while He is alive. You are wrong, while He is right. You are fleshly, while He is spiritual. There is no basis for a relationship with God, no bridge connecting you, a frail human being, with Him, an infinite and awesome God. Therefore, for something to happen between you and God, for there to be any hope or expectation, there has to be a new birth. So, that should be no marvel to you.
3B. What should be a marvel to you is that you don’t have to understand the new birth to be born again. I think there is good evidence that Nicodemus eventually was born again. But there is no reason to suspect that he understood anything about the new birth before he was born again. And the same could be said of Peter and James and John and Paul and anyone else who has been born again.
4B. The Bible declares that you will not understand spiritual things. Yet the new birth, which Jesus says is absolutely necessary for you, is profoundly spiritual. So, it must be recognized that when a sinner is born again it is not because he understands the new birth, and it is not by understanding the new birth that he is born again.
1. To restate: You must be born again. Jesus said so. But the nature of this event called the new birth is such that you will not understand it. It’s a miracle. It’s performed by God. It results in you being a child of God. And the great thing is, you don’t have to understand the new birth to be born again.
2. The tragic thing, of course, is that if you are not born again you are already condemned, with Hell awaiting you when you die.
3. Let’s stand, shall we, as brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we sing hymn # 253 before my sermon.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ stated that “Ye must be born again.” And the fact that there are genuinely converted people in the world is a testament to the fact that some people are, from time to time, getting born again.
2. For the next few minutes I want to talk to you about why you are not born again. And since “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God,” Deuteronomy 29.29, we’ll leave to God the things that are God’s things to deal with, and I will speak only of those matters that pertain directly to you.
3. But everything I will say has to do with the fact that Jesus said that you have to be born again. Yet you are not born again. Why not? Why are you not born again?
4. Could it be that you have never before heard Jesus’ words commanding you to be born again, therefore you did not know of your obligation and responsibility to be born again?
5. I think it likely, if you are here this morning and you are not born again, that there are other reasons why you are not born again. I will deal with three of these reasons:
1A. First, THERE IS YOUR INABILITY TO COMPREHEND
1B. You want to understand what it means to be born again before you are willing to consider the salvation of your own soul. You want to know what you are getting into. After all, you don’t buy a car without popping the hood, without kicking the tires, without taking it for a test drive. So, you think it’s quite reasonable that you should be able to understand the new birth before you consider being born again. This, despite the fact that you are now damned to Hell unless you get born again.
2B. Never mind the fact that Nicodemus, with all his formal academic training, could not understand the new birth. Never mind the fact that Nicodemus, after a lifetime of studying God’s Word, could not understand the new birth. Never mind the fact that God’s Word declares that you cannot understand spiritual things, meaning you will never be able to understand the new birth. You still want to understand the new birth before you will seriously consider the new birth, as you march toward Hell.
3B. Unable to understand because you are dead in trespasses and sins, you think it only reasonable that you understand. Unable to understand because of your sin darkened mind and heart, you think it only reasonable that you understand. Unable to understand because of the new birth’s connection with the infinite and incomprehensible God of heaven and His glorious Son, you still think the new birth can be understood by you.
4B. Thus, despite the fact that the Bible shows that it is absolutely impossible for you to understand this thing called the new birth, and despite the fact that only with God are impossible things possible (meaning you have no chance whatsoever of understanding the new birth), you still hold out hope in the back of your mind that if you will dawdle long enough, if you will listen to sermons long enough, if you will pick at this doctrine and that doctrine long enough, you may someday understand the new birth. You imagine it just dawning on you someday. But it will not be.
5B. My friend, forget understanding the new birth. Forget picking through the various doctrines taught in God’s Word trying to understand the new birth. Quit holding out and holding out and holding out in the hopes that someday you will suddenly get it, that you will amazingly understand what God’s Word declares you will never understand. It’s not going to happen.
6B. So, the first reason you are not born again is your failure to comprehend. But you’d better get over it, because not a single person who has ever experienced the new birth has comprehended what was happening at the time of his new birth. Not Nicodemus. Not Peter. Not Paul. Not John. Not me. So, certainly, not you.
2A. Next, THERE IS YOUR UNWILLINGNESS TO CONDESCEND
1B. I refer, of course, to your refusal to dismount your lofty perch, your stubborn reluctance to humble yourself. The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2.8-9. The Bible also teaches that God gives grace to the humble, while resisting those who are proud, James 4.6 and First Peter 5.5. Yet you will not abandon your insistence on dictating terms to God when it comes to the salvation of your own soul.
2B. Let me explain: The terms of the new birth are God’s prerogative. That is, it’s God right to determine what is required to be born again, not yours and not mine. So, God is perfectly within His rights to establish the ground rules for those who are born again. And one of His ground rules is that no one who is not born again will understand what it is to be born again, or what actually happens when a sinner is born again. But that’s not good enough for you.
3B. There you are, knowing that you need to be born again. But you won’t make a move toward God, you will not seek the Lord while He can be found, you hesitate when directed by Jesus to come to Him. Why? You don’t understand. Yet you insist on understanding. Though you cannot understand. But until you understand you will not budge.
4B. Don’t you see what’s happening? Though you may not recognize it, though the words may not have formed in your mind, you’re just being stubborn. You are refusing to humble yourself before God and His Son, Jesus, and admit that there are things you don’t understand, there are things you can’t understand, and that’s okay since such things you don’t need to understand.
5B. But although it’s quite okay with God and the Savior that you do not understand, it’s not okay with you. You are so proud that you feel you can understand. You are so arrogant that you feel you have a right to understand. And you are so stubborn that you insist on understanding.
6B. And don’t you dare conjure up in your mind some false argument supposing that I’m attempting to persuade you to embrace Christ without thinking, without reasoning, without knowing. That’s not true. Isaiah 1.18 clearly shows the need for right thinking in matters pertaining to sin and salvation: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
7B. You certainly need to realize that you are a sinner whose situation is hopeless, whose efforts are fruitless, and that your salvation must come from another. As well, you need to recognize in some way that Jesus, the Son of God, suffered and bled and died on Calvary’s cross to purchase a salvation that is full and free. But what you do not need to understand, and what you will not understand, is precisely what the new birth is. How does one explain a miracle performed by God so that dim creatures like you and me will understand?
8B. This is why you need to get off your high horse. This is why you need to dismount that intellectual perch you are on that satisfies your snobbery. This is why you need to humble yourself enough to trust God to be wise and good and gracious, and to trust Jesus to save you from your sins.
9B. Back in the days before doctors started tipping the backsides of laboring mothers skyward because of some crazy notion that gravity somehow was an unhealthy hindrance in the normal delivery of a child, women recognized God’s glorious design of their bodies and how the direction of the birth canal wonderfully cooperated with gravity in the birth of a child.
10B. In those days when women were more right side up than upside down when delivering their newborns, it was recognized that birth was a downward journey. And in like manner is the new birth, though a spiritual miracle worked by God when a sinner comes to Christ, it is still a downward journey to life. So, get off your high horse. Quit this unwillingness to condescend. Stop insisting on understanding that which is beyond human comprehension. Abandon the very idea that you can understand the new birth, and perhaps you will be born again.
3A. Finally, THERE IS YOUR INATTENTION TO COOPERATE
1B. Because of your wicked and rebellious sinfulness you completely misunderstand God’s plan, God’s motives, God’s desires. Because you oftentimes do not mean what you say you think God doesn’t mean what He says. And you question the motives that sent Jesus Christ to the cross so the work could be accomplished to make the new birth possible.
2B. Thus, when you are troubled by the Holy Spirit, Who seeks to prepare your heart for the new birth, you resist Him. When you are made to feel guilty you justify your wrongdoing. When you are told to strive you refuse and convince yourself that doing the things you are told to do is a waste of time.
3B. In short, the very same proud arrogance that insists on you trying to understand what the Bible says you cannot understand also moves you to resist the efforts of the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart so that you might be born again. Strive? Forget it. Pray? Not a chance. Attend every service? You’re busy. Total Church Evangelism? You’ve something else to do. In short, you refuse to recognize that God is the One Who is God and that you are the sinner who desperately needs to be saved.
4B. If your perception of reality was half of what you think it is, and if your capacity for understanding spiritual truths was only a small fraction of what you esteem yourself as having, then you would listen intently to every sermon, attend eagerly every service, study God’s Word in the hopes that some light would shine into the dark recesses of your heart and soul, and plead with God for mercy.
5B. Instead you resist. You resist the working of the Holy Spirit in your heart and on your mind. You resist the directions given in God’s Word. And you feel no need to seek insights into God’s dealings with sinners from God’s man.
1. The reality is that if you will, where you are right now, simply come to Christ by faith He will save you, you will experience the new birth.
2. For you see, you don’t have to understand the new birth in order to experience the new birth. To experience that which you cannot understand you simply need to come to Jesus.
3. If you will not come to Jesus Christ you will die in your sins and end up in the lake of fire. For, you see, only those who have experienced the new birth have been prepared for eternity in heaven with God.
4. So, I urge you this morning to come to Christ, because “Ye must be born again.”