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Born Again (John 3:1-6)

(There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “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.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water, and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” ~John 3:1-6).

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, which tells us that he was a respected man held in high esteem in the land of Judea among the Jewish people, and probably a member of the council, the ruling religious authority in Jerusalem. The Pharisees, as a group of people were very strict in their adherence of the Jewish law. As bad a rap as they get they did get many things right, one of which was the resurrection of the dead, which the other ruling group at the time of Jesus, the Sadducees denied. To become a Pharisee you have to dedicate your entire life to studying “The Law and the Prophets” (The Old Testament) and strictly adhere to the law, but where the Pharisees fell short is that they thought a bunch of religious acts of self denial would earn favor with God. While on the outside they may not physically steal but would covet the things belonging to someone else. They may not physically go have sex with a woman that was not their wife but would look upon a woman with lustful desire. They had as Paul wrote to Timothy “a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). Jesus said of them “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” ~Matthew 23:27. What the Pharisee had going for him was that he wanted to be in God’s kingdom (at least a lot of them did, many of them just liked the power), but what he had against him is that they thought a man could be good enough to please God, so they made up an unbearable amount of rules on top of God’s laws to try and make sure that everyone didn’t break God’s laws and in doing that they broke God’s law.

As we study “The Gospel According to John” you will see that every time Jesus interacts with a Pharisee there is always some conflict, and in the case with Nicodemus as well. The difference between this conversation with Jesus and Nicodemus, and all the other conversations that Jesus has with the Pharisees is that Nicodemus really wanted to hear what Jesus had to say, he really came seeking answers. Nicodemus said he was old, and being a ruler of the Jews he probably was and for an older man to come and pay respect to a younger man calling Him Rabbi, that older man would have to humble himself to do so. So here comes Nicodemus saying to Jesus, “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). Then Jesus blows Nicodemus out of the water saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Basically He just told Nicodemus, you don’t even know what you’re talking about Nicodemus, your blind, you can’t even see the kingdom of God, and you’re going to have to start all over again. Jesus said of the Pharisees “They are blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14). Nicodemus, I have to hand it to him, being an older, respected Middle Eastern man, for this young man to tell him he is blind, he held great restraint, because he really wanted to hear what Jesus had to say, the prompting of the Holy Spirit was upon him. Also Jesus answered the question that Nicodemus wanted an answer to without him even asking. Nicodemus wasn’t a Pharisee just for the sake of it, he wanted to be in the Kingdom of God, so the question, (How do I get in the kingdom of God?), was on his mind and Jesus answered it without him even asking, which I am sure startled Nicodemus and peaked his curiosity.

So Nicodemus said to Jesus, “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). I don’t think that Nicodemus really thought Jesus was speaking of a physical birth; I think he knew Jesus was speaking spiritually, but what Nicodemus was saying is that it is futile. I can’t start over, I’m an old man, I have invested my whole life in following the law and study, I can’t start over again. Jesus’ next statement shows that He agreed with Nicodemus, that he can’t start over, that there is nothing that Nicodemus can do, it is God who must do it. (Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water, and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” ~John 3:5-6). This verse many take out of context and try and use it to say that a person has to be physically baptized with water to be saved. Ceremonial baptism is not what Jesus was talking about here. There was the baptism that John did after someone came to repentance and later the baptism that Christians do as a public profession of faith saying that they died to self and are raised to life in Christ. But it is still a Ceremony, baptism doesn’t save anyone, Faith alone in the blood of Jesus Christ saves!

So what was Jesus talking about? You’ve got to remember that Nicodemus is a Pharisee who has studied the Old Testament; there was no New Testament at that time. Jesus was referring to a passage in Ezekiel 36, which Nicodemus would have been well aware of. (Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. ~Ezekiel 36 25-27). What was being described by the Prophet Ezekiel and what Jesus was referring to here is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A true transformation of a person where they truly do become a new creature by God, this isn’t something that a man can do on his own, God must do this, the Holy Spirit must do this.

You may have heard believers in Jesus Christ say before, “I hate religion.” On the surface, this may confuse you because isn’t Christianity a religion? My answer to that is yes and no; yes Christians worship God, so in the sense that we worship the God of the universe it is religion, but in the sense of ritual worship, following a bunch of rules to appease a deity and doing a bunch of good works to please that deity it is not. A man cannot please God we are law breakers before God. One of the funniest statements I hear all the time is “He or she is a good Christian.” The first step in becoming a Christian is realizing that you are not good, so the cliché’ “I’m a good Christian” is false. Saying you’re a good Christian is denying the words of Jesus Himself; He said, “No one is good but One, that is God.” (Matthew 19:17). So Jesus in His final statement in these first 6 verses of John 3 says, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). Anything that a man does is of flesh; trying to follow the law, doing good deeds to earn favor with God; that is of the flesh and is of man. Being born again is of the Spirit of God and comes from outside of us. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).


Next week John 3:7-12, thank you, and God Bless you,
Mike Peek