John 3:1-15 - The New Birth

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“The New Birth”

John 3:1-15

Introduction: (1) Remember, no chapter breaks in the Greek, therefore, man in the last chapter moves right into chapter three to Nicodemus.           (2)  Luke 15:3-10 talk about Brittany being born and the joy there was.

I.                   The Man Who Came By Night

A.  Nicodemus (3:1-2)

1.       He was a ruler (archon) of the Jews.

a.       He was a Pharisee (separated ones)

Several things should be noted.

1)       They were the accepted of their day—a sect or school of religious thought.

They were organized solely for preserving the law and the Jewish religion. Thereby, they were to save the Jewish nation.

2)       They were strict literalists.

The Jewish law was expanded into thousands and thousands of little rules and regulations by the Scribes. These rules and regulations were known as the Scribal or Oral Law. More than fifty volumes or books were eventually needed to hold the regulations (Luke 6:2).

3)       The Pharisees were a body of the most zealous religionists.

4)       There were never many Pharisees—never more than 6,000.

The strictness and demands of the sect were too hard for the common people.

5)       They were in dead earnest—dedicated and zealous, self-denying, and moral.

No man could give his life to so desperate and restrictive a task unless he was totally genuine.

6)       They were self-righteous, heartless, and hypocritical (Luke 18:9).

They lacked any sense of need or sin (Luke 7:39).

7)       They were bitterly opposed to the Sadducees, hating and despising them, feeling that the Sadducees were traitors to the nation.

However, the Pharisees were forced to quietly cooperate with the Sadducees because the Sadducees were the primary ruling party of the nation.

8)       They were the main opponents of Jesus Christ and were unsparing in their accusation of Him. Their savage attacks were primarily for two reasons. (1), He was not a graduate of any of their rabbinical schools, nor a member of any of their religious sects. (2), He attacked their rules and regulations which had been added to God’s law ( Matthew 23:1-36;   Luke 11:37-54 ).

b.       He was a teacher of Israel (John 3:10) he held some official position of the highest rank.

c.        He apparently was wealthy—He spent a great deal of money at the burial of Jesus (John 19:39).

d.       He was silent at the trial of Jesus, saying nothing to defend Jesus, but he boldly stepped forth after the Lord’s death and publicly helped in the burial of Jesus (John 19:39-42).

Note: In spite of his achievements, prominence in education, politics, culture, religion, & wealth, he still had a great need.  He needed to know God

2.       He came to Jesus by night.

                                Some view this as:

a.       Figuratively as spiritual darkness of his heart (cf. 1:5; 9:4; 11:10; 13:30)

b.       He could not take time with Jesus during the day because of his busy schedule

c.        He wanted to have a secret meeting with Jesus rather than to risk having disfavor with his fellow Pharisees.

3.       He came in behalf of the religionists.  He said, “We know.” (v.1-2a)

a.       You are a teacher come from God (v.2b): No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him (v.2c): But Jesus was not just a teacher sent from God, He was God in human flesh.

II.          Becoming a New Man (v.3-8)                       Matthew 5:20 “unless your righteousness exceeds the Pharisees”

A.  The New Birth is a Necessity (v.3)

1.       The Importance of the words, "cannot see the kingdom of God."

a.       One must be "born again" or else he will never "see" (John 3:3) nor "enter" (John 3:5) the Kingdom of God.

b.       It is an absolute imperative that a person be born again (John 3:7).

2.       Strong Assertion, “Unless one is born again.” The word “again” (anothen) has three different meanings in Greek. It means...

a.       From the first: from the beginning or completely and fully (cp. Luke 1:3).

        When the Bible uses anothen instead of palin in the first part of the chapter, it is suggesting that the new birth is supernatural and has it origin in God.

b.       Again: a second time, a repeated act (John 3:4) (cp. Galatians 4:9).

c.        From above: from the top, which means from God (cp. John 19:11).

Illustration of me playing a song on the guitar & someone wanted to hear it again (palin), that would mean that someone else could pick up my guitar and try to play the same song again.  It would only mean they wanted to hear the song repeated.

However, if they should say, “Play it again (anothen) it would mean the repetition of the music would have to have the same source as the first playing.  In other words they would want me to play the song again.

Thus when Jesus said, “Unless one is born again,” he was suggesting that the new birth would have to have the same source as the original birth, this is by God.

                The point is this. A man must be "born again." He must be...

·         born completely and fully, a complete and full change (2Cor.5:17, 21).

·         born all over again, in the sense of a second time.

·         born from above, from God.

B.  The New Birth is Spiritual (v.4-8)

1.       The new birth is a spiritual birth, the birth of a new power and spirit in life.

a.       It is not reformation [or improvement] of the old nature (Romans 6:6):

“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  

Illustration of one turning over a new leaf, but still has a debt to pay from the old leaf.

b.       It is the actual creation of a new birth within—spiritually (John 3:5-6; cp. John 1:12-13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Ephes. 2:10; Ephes. 4:24).

The Application ( Ephes. 1:3;  1John 3:1;  Ephes. 4:17-24;)

2.       How Can a Man be born again when he is old (v.4)?

He reacted to Christ’s words in the natural not the spiritual

a.       We find this in John 2:18-22;

b.       John 4 the woman at the well

c.        John 4:27-33 & the disciples thought someone brought Jesus lunch

C.  The New Birth is of “water and the Spirit” (v.5-8)

1.       Several Interpretations:

a.       Natural birth

As the fetus is in that water sac being protected, and then there is the water bursting and the child is born.

b.       Water Baptism

You cannot be saved by taking a bath!  No one is saved by any external rite of religion including baptism (1Sam.16:7; Rom.2:28-29; Gal.2:15, 16; 5:1-6).

c.        Takes both parts “symbolically”

Water refers to cleansing: Spirit refers to power.

d.       Water is used as a metaphor to refer to the Holy Spirit

(John 4:14; 7:37-38; Isaiah 44:3 &55:1 Nicodemus should have known these verses).

e.        Water is used as a metaphor for the written Word of God

(Eph.5:26; Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; James 1:18)

Here we see the Father using the written Word of God together with the working of the Holy Spirit is the means by which the new birth is accomplished

2.       Jesus gave the source of the new birth (v.5)

Born of water & the Spirit – Symbolic of the Old Testament Purification.  

Nicodemus would have understood this reference to the O.T. water of purification, which was sprinkled on the altar and on sacrifices in most of the rituals.               

Jesus asked, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things”?

a.       Ezekiel 36:25-27—this is the O.T. promise of regeneration by water & the Spirit.

b.       The only baptism implied here is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”

1)       This happens at salvation (1Cor.12:13)

2)       & purifies the believer by the water of the Word (Eph.5:26; cf. John 15:3)

3)       Paul refers to this as “the washing of regeneration, and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

c.        Thus, Jesus was making reference to the spiritual washing or purification of the soul, accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God at the moment of salvation (Eph. 5:26 cf. John 15:3; Titus 3:5).

A person is spiritually born again:

1)       By water, even the Spirit (John 3:5).

2)       By the will of God (James 1:18).

3)       By incorruptible seed, even by the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

4)       By God from above (1 Peter 1:3). The word again (ana) in the phrase "born again" also means above. (Cp. John 1:12-13.)

5)       By Christ, who gives both the power and right to be born again (John 1:12-13).

3.       The Result of the New Birth

A new nature        divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); new self (Eph. 4:24); a capacity for righteous living

                                                A new Life            A new mind that you might now God (1 Cor. 2:16)

                                                                                A new heart that you may love God (Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:9)

                                                                                A new will that you may obey God (Romans 6:13)

Have you been “born again”?  Do you have the life of God within you?  Are you trying to turn over a new leaf?

4.       Jesus repeated the importance of being born again (v.5, 7)

·         Unless one is born of the water [the washing of regeneration] and the Spirit [and renewing by the Holy Spirit], he cannot enter the kingdom of God [gain entrance to the Kingdom of God].

·         Do not marvel “you must be born again.”  The word “must” (dei) means absolute necessity, an imperative.

Thus Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, “you need to be spiritually purified and spiritually reborn.”

5.       Jesus gave the nature of the new birth (v.6)

·         It is spiritual, not physical and material (Ephes. 1:3; Ephes. 4:17-19; 4:24).

·         A man cannot be saved by any human effort (John 1:12-13), because human efforts can only produce human results which are sinful.

·         Neither you or I are able to please God (Romans 3:12).

6.       Jesus illustrated the point by picturing the wind (v.8)

·         The Spirit of God works just like the wind. We may not know how the wind works, but we can see the effects.

·         It is the same with the Spirit of God: we may not know how He works, but we can see the effects of His working.

Genesis 2:7 cf. John 20:22; Eph.2:1-10 A person can be born again only as the result of God’s breathing new life into him.

D.  The New Birth is a True Experience (v.9-11)

1.       “How can these things be” (v.9)

a.       v.10 – “are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things”?

b.       The O.T. clearly taught the way of salvation (2Tim.3:15).

c.        Salvation in the O.T. was a gift to those who humbly and by faith sought redemption from their sin.

"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.   "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:16-18 NKJV)

2.       The new birth is a definite experience, a real experience. A person experiences the new birth:

a.       By believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (1 John 5:1; cp. John 3:14-15).

b.       By the gospel as it is shared by believers (1 Cor. 4:15; Philemon 10).

c.        By the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23); or by the Word of Truth (James 1:18).

3.       The new birth is a changed life, a totally new life. A person proves that he is born again:

a.       By doing righteous acts (1 John 2:29; cp. Ephes. 2:10; Ephes. 4:24).

b.       By not practicing sin (1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18).

c.        By loving other believers (1 John 4:7).

d.       By overcoming the world (1 John 5:4).

e.        By keeping himself (1 John 5:18).

f.        By possessing the divine seed or nature (1 John 3:9; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:4; cp. Col. 1:27).

Are you a Christian?  Can you see evidence in your life that God has breathed His Spirit in you?

E.  The New Birth is Rejected (v.11-12)

1.       You [Nicodemus] do not receive our witness (v.11), you do not believe (v.12).

1Corinthians 2:14 cf. John 2:24—It is mans nature not to believe

2Corinthians 4:4—the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers: the blind do not respond to the stimulus of light.

John 16:8 cf. Acts 26:18—The Holy Spirit is the one who opens blinded eyes, restores spiritual vision, enabling sinners to see that the gospel is indeed God’s truth, & Scripture is God’s Word, & Christ is God’s Son.

2Corinthians 2:1-5 cf. 1Thess.1:5—We must not try to prove the truth of Christianity by our own arguments but only by the powerful demonstration of the truth by the Spirit of God

F.   The New Birth is Revealed by Jesus (v.13)

1.       Jesus came down from heaven.

2.       The Son of Man which is in heaven means His eternal existence

a.       No one has ascended into heaven to as to return and talk about heavenly things (2Cor. 12:1-4)

b.       John 6:33, 38; 8:42; 13:3; 17:5

III.          The Serpent in the Wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9 cf. v.14-15)

A.  The New Birth is Secured by Two Facts (v.14-15)

1.       The first act is Jesus' death.

Jesus illustrated His point by using the Old Testament story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9).

a.       The children of Israel had begun to murmur and grumble about the trials of the wilderness, wishing they had never left Egypt.

b.       God disciplined them by sending fiery serpents to plague them & many died from the deadly bites.

c.        The discipline worked; the people came & repented before Moses and begged for mercy.

d.       Moses in turn prayed to God to deliver them from the plague of the fiery serpents

e.        God met the people's need by telling Moses to make a bronze image of a serpent and to hold it up upon a pole in the midst of the people. The person who looked upon the lifted up serpent would live.

The Symbolism

Jesus said that He must be lifted up just as the serpent was lifted up. What did He mean?

There are several pictures here:

a.       Brass is a metal that in scripture is associated with judgment, and the serpent is a symbol of sin & of the evil one, Satan (Genesis 3:1f; Rev. 12:9; Rev. 20:2).

Jesus Christ destroyed the works of the devil by being lifted up (Hebrews 2:14-15); therefore the serpent hanging upon the pole symbolized the defeat of Satan. By looking upon the defeated evil (the serpent), Israel was healed. Today man is healed by looking upon the Son of Man who has been lifted up upon the cross.

The people of Israel had great need, for they were dying from the poison of the fiery serpents. Men today are dying from the poison of the serpent, the deadly poison of sin.

b.       The brass serpent lifted up on the pole is thus a symbol of our sins that were judged on the cross. There Jesus took upon Himself our sins, and there He died receiving the judgment of God for sin.

Thus if you dying by the deadly bite of sin will look in faith to Jesus as He is lifted up on the cross for you, you will have a spiritual birth or be born again. The sin that brought death of the spirit will be forgiven, and you can now have new spiritual life with the subsequent fellowship with God.

The natural man whose spirit is dead is living at best at only 2/3 rds. capacity, there is something missing and he is only aware of an emptiness, that he seeks to fill with things. We note in the world around us all the things man is doing to try to fill this inner void.

Man was created to worship and he will worship something, some of the things man worships are destroying him. Using the words of Jesus, man is perishing, but if he will believe that Jesus died for his sins, he will be born again and have eternal life.

That’s to Simple for me!

You may object saying, "That is so simple, I do not understand how that works, how can my just looking in faith to Jesus, bring the forgiveness of my sins and eternal life?"

a.       What if a person in Moses day was dying from the bite of the fiery serpent, and a friend would drag his dying body to a spot where he could look at the serpent on the pole.

As he was in convulsions, his friend was urging him to look at the serpent on the pole, but he objected that it was to simple, he did not understand how just looking was going to change anything.

His friend insisted that though he did not understand the process, yet when he was dying he looked and was healed, and all around him people who were dying were being healed as they looked, yet he refused to look and died.

b.       What would be your reaction? You would probably say, "Fool, you didn't need to understand the process, you only needed to look."

Jesus went on to explain, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

a.       How they misunderstood the love of God. The purpose of the fiery serpents was not to destroy them but to turn them back to God, so that God could help and bless them.

b.       Without the assistance of God they could not have survived two weeks in that wilderness, yet God preserved them for forty years.

c.        Many of you as they have turned your backs on God and are taking a dangerous path to destruction.

You cannot survive without the protecting hand of God, yet you are seeking to fault God for all your problems. In spite of your rebellion against Him, He still loves you more than you could ever know, and in love for you, He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins that are in the process of destroying you.

2.       The second act is man's belief in Jesus.

The man who believes in the Son of Man being lifted up...

a.       will not perish (John 3:16).

b.       but will have eternal life (John 10:10; John 17:2-3).

Note: if an Israelite believed God's message (the good news of healing), he looked upon the lifted up serpent, and he was healed.

If a man did not believe God's message, he did not look, and he died.

Thus it is with us today: every man must believe the message of Christ in order to be healed, that is, be born again.




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