. The New Birth - Part 3 The meaning A




John 3:1-7 (ESV) 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”



We have spent a few weeks now on this subject looking at the subject of the New Birth. We have come to a few conclusions so far. Nicodemus was a representative man of all men. Although he was a religious man, a gifted man, an honest man with lots of integrity, and even a man who made some truthful claims about Christ he was still a man with a dilemma as he was in spite of all of this unable to save himself and he was in need of a new birth. Jesus was emphatically clear with Nicodemus in John 3:3 (ESV) that 3”…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ is not even talking about entering yet. He will not even see the Kingdom of God as his spiritual eyes are blinded and being religious, and gifted and honest and of great integrity will not give sight. You can have all of that in your favour and it will not give you spiritual sight. Like all of us, Nicodemus at this stage in his life was a natural man.


Now, many people of this kind came after Jesus according to John 2 and wanted to join Jesus, but Jesus would not enjoin himself to them as he knew what was really in their hearts. We see in other sections of the gospel multitudes following Jesus, but as soon as Jesus tells them what the cost of being in the Kingdom is really about, they depart.


And so even in our day, there are three kinds of people in the church. There are those who are born into the church. They believe they are Christians because their parents are, and because their grandparents were. They are there not because they necessarily want to be there but because it is in their blood based on culture and tradition, and they are happy with that. Then there are what I like to call manufactured Christians. These are people who joined the church because they have friends there, or they need the ministry of the church to take care of some of their needs. They need a place to be hatched (birth), matched (marriage) and dispatched (funeral).  They might have prayed a sinner’s prayer, walked and isle, or invited Jesus into their hearts, but there is no fruit of salvation and they easily fall away from the church. Then you have born-again members in the church. These are people with a real intimate relationship with God, they know God and God knows them. Now both the born into the church and the manufactured members need to be born again. Now this will become clearer as we look at our next point which is the meaning of the new birth.


So, we’ve seen the man in need of a New Birth and we have seen the necessity of the New Birth. So, let’s look together now at the meaning of the New Birth. We will do that over 2 sermons, otherwise I will keep you here beyond concentration point.


1. The meaning of new birth.


Nicodemus was bewildered by the answer that Jesus gave him. He was astonished, he was amazed and wondering. Again, Jesus knowing his heart because Jesus knows what is in the heart of man says to him in John 3:7 (ESV) 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ Nicodemus is wondering he is astonished; in fact, he makes plain that he has no clue what Jesus is talking about. John 3:9-10 (ESV) 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” So, we need to listen carefully what Jesus tells us here and what He told Nicodemus about the New Birth.


So, what is the New Birth?


1.1 The nature of the New Birth.

The first thing that Jesus makes plain to Nicodemus is that He is not talking about a physical birth. The nature of this birth is spiritual and not physical. John 3:6 (ESV) 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:8 (ESV) 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This is a birth that comes from the Spirit of God. When we were born into this world we came with the necessary equipment to experience to understand this world and to interact with this world. But to experience spiritual communion with God and to understand spiritual things, to interact with God and to interact with others based on spiritual truth in the realm of the Holy Spirit, there must be a spiritual birth.


Why could Nicodemus in his natural state not understand or accept what Christ is teaching? Paul tells you why in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV) 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (He does not have the necessary spiritual equipment.) 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. It is not that the man cannot process the information correctly and give you the right answers. He does not value what the gospel sets a value on. Man, in his nature is actually in enmity towards God. So, it takes a spiritual birth to act in the spiritual realm.


Not only does Jesus tell us about the nature of this birth. He tells us of the source of this birth.


2.2 The source of this birth.


Jesus makes the source of the birth plain by the very term that He uses. He says in John 3:3 (ESV) 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Now ‘born’ means ‘born’ even in the Greek language which uses  gennao {ghen-nah'-o}. The word again however we need to look at. It comes from the Greek word  anothen {an'-o-then} which means from above, from a higher place, of things which come from heaven or God. So, this birth is a heavenly birth. Now this word can simply mean ‘again’ but the question then begs, again from where. The Greeks had another word for ‘again’ as a repeat of action.


The word ‘anothen’ however is the very same word used in John 3:31 (ESV) 31 He who comes from above (anothen) is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.” So, Jesus is making it very plain that the spiritual birth that a man needs comes from above and not from what a man does. Nicodemus could have handled a few more laws, or he could have added a few more lines to his confession of Christ, Rabbi, from God etc., but Jesus is implying something greater. Nicodemus, you need something that is not out of you, but it comes from heaven. The word ‘anothen’ also speaks of something coming again from the same source.


This gives us insight into the New Birth. Because if you go all the way back to Genesis 2 you will find that God gave man life. Genesis 2:7 (ESV) 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” God originally gave man his life. Then man died through his sin. Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV) 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Does God tell the truth? We will all agree that God does. Did man die on the day that he sinned? He did, he died spiritually, and physical death made its entrance into the world, and later he died physically because he sinned.


This is what the New Birth means. It means that the same one who gave man his life originally before sin must now give man life after sin because man is dead. Another birth must happen from the same source, from heaven.  This is what it means to be born again. The God, who breathed life into the nostrils of man, breathes life into the soul of man and restores to him fellowship with God which means he is made alive. This God does together with His Son. There is no life apart from Christ. We know that this required the cross; it required the forgiveness of our sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account. That’s not what Jesus is stressing here. He has not yet spoken about the cross at this point. We will get to that in verse 14.


What He is stressing here is the source of this new life. You need a birth from God. You need another birth; you need a birth from heaven. This does get to the nature of it in terms of how we come to have it, because we might ask what Adam did to make himself alive the first time. Not only did Adam not make himself alive. He was not in a position to convince God to do anything. It was God’s free choice that determined Adam’s physical life and it is God’s free choice that determines man’s spiritual life. A man does not make himself alive spiritually and a man does not do anything to convince God. It is God’s free choice that makes a man alive spiritually, and without God making a man alive he does not live.


So, the nature of this birth is that it is spiritual and the source of this birth is God. But there is a third thing here.


2.3 The means of the New Birth.


How does God do this, how does God give this second birth? Jesus says in verse John 3:5 (ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" Now the ‘Spirit’ part is clear. Who is that about? The Holy Spirit of God. This is a birth brought about by the Holy Spirit of God. This is also what He says in John 3:8 (ESV) 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” So, if you are not born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God, and if you are not born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God and without the Holy Spirit you will not be born again. Now, we will deal with the born from the Spirit in greater detail later. For now, it is clear, but what does born from water mean?



I am going to give you five options, simply because you will hear them.

1.3.1 Some say that it refers to physical birth.


When a baby is born into this world there is that amniotic fluid found in a mother’s womb. Some say this is a reference to water, so what Jesus would be saying is that there must be a physical birth and a spiritual birth if one is to enter the kingdom of heaven. You must be born twice. That’s by the way is why one of my favourite bumper stickers always has been. ‘Born once twice dead, born twice, once dead.’ Just the structure of the text tells us this is not what is in mind as it speaks of one birth by water and Spirit and not two births.


1.3.2 Some say that it refers to baptism.


That’s an easy one to dismiss, isn’t it? We know clearly from Scripture that baptism is not required for salvation. People are not given spiritual life in the baptismal water.


1.3.3 Some say that both references are symbolic..

Jesus is saying there must be cleansing that is pictured by water, and that this would refer to repentance in conversion, and then there must be power which is a reference to the power of the Holy Spirit. So, you must be forgiven and changed. I don’t believe that this is what He is talking about in this section either.


The next two options I believe are the only plausible options. I will give you the one today, and then we will continue next week as we get to some critical information in understanding the New Birth.


1.3.4 Some say that the water refers to spiritual renewal and cleansing


Water and the Spirit used in conjunction often referred to spiritual renewal and cleansing in the Old Testament. One of the most glorious chapters in the Old Testament that explains Israel’s restoration to the Lord by the New Covenant is in Ezekiel 36:24-27 (ESV) 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” It is quite probable that Jesus had this very section in mind when He made this statement. Nicodemus as ‘the teacher of Israel’ would have been familiar with it especially as it relates to the careful obedience to the laws.


Next week we will look at the other plausible possibility, and we will be introduced to absolute critical information on the New Birth and obtaining it.


But in the meantime, we must realise, that the New Birth can only come from God. It is a work of God from beginning to end. It is not something you achieve by praying a sinner’s prayer, by walking an aisle, by filling out a card, or quoting a prayer after somebody else, or inviting Jesus into your heart. I love the way CH Spurgeon put it: “While some other Christians are congratulating themselves for their salvation, I have to lie humbly at the foot of the cross, and marvel that I am saved at all.”



Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: - 3 September 2017