1 Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council, 2 came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
A NEW BIRTH
John 3:1-8 NET
We have been studying what the Bible says about the new birth for some weeks now. Another word for the new birth is regeneration. We also call it being born again. Some translations (like the one we are using this morning) call it being born from above (3,7). The same Greek word (ἄνωθεν) can mean “from above” or “again.” It appears that in John 3, Jesus is talking about being born from above, but Nicodemus is misunderstanding him, and thinks he is talking about another natural birth.
When we Christians talk about our own experience of regeneration, it is okay for us to say that we have been born again. But we need to make it clear that we have done more than just change our habits, or turn over a new leaf. We need to make it clear in our testimony that something has happened in us that cannot be explained by our own choices. God has given us a new birth from above.
What is the evidence that someone has experienced this new birth? Today’s passage reveals some of that evidence.
Someone born from above recognizes who Jesus Christ is (2).
In today’s text, Nicodemus claims to recognize who Jesus is. He says to Jesus “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.” He bases that assertion on the fact that “no one could perform the miraculous signs that (Jesus does) unless God is with him.” What Nicodemus is saying is what most of the world is comfortable asserting about Jesus. He was a “Rabbi” – a great man. He performed miracles, and he performed those miracles because God was with him. He was a great teacher, and he came from God.
None of those things that Nicodemus said about Jesus were bad things. But Nicodemus is grossly misrepresenting Jesus by his words here. He’s not going far enough. Someone born from above recognizes who Jesus is. He a Son of man, yes, but he’s also the Son of God. He’s the Christ, the Lord, the Master, The Word, The Son of David, The Lamb of God, The Second Adam, The king of the Jews, but also The Light of the world, The Chosen One, The I Am, The Bread of Life, The Way, The Truth and the Life, The Resurrection & the Life.
When the Jewish leaders came to John the Baptist, John admitted that he himself was not the Christ. But he also told them that there was someone greater than him who was present among them, but they failed to recognize him (1:26). That was what Nicodemus was doing.
Even John the Baptist did not recognize him at first. He said…
“I did not recognize him, but I came baptizing with water so that he could be revealed to Israel.” Then John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. And I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining – this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” (1:31-33).
The woman at the well in Samaria did not recognize him at first either. Jesus told her “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (4:10).
She later said “”I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” That’s when Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he”” (4:25-26).
She went into her village and told people about when she met the Christ. They went out to see for themselves. After meeting him personally, they said “”No longer do we believe because of your words, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world”” (4:42).
Someone born from above recognizes who Jesus Christ is. They meet him for themselves and they form a personal relationship with him. They listen to his teaching, and learn to obey him.
Someone born from above is committed to an invisible kingdom (3).
The kingdom I am talking about is not a visible nation with a flag, and visible territory. It is God’s kingdom, and the Bible says that “no one has seen God.” He is invisible and so is his kingdom. The only way we can know about that kingdom is that Jesus – who is “in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known” (1:18). Someone born from above is committed to both God and his invisible kingdom.
Sin keeps people out of that kingdom. But Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29). John had been told by God – who had sent him to baptize – to look for a sign. God told him that the Holy Spirit would visibly descend and remain on the Messiah. That was how John recognized Christ (1:33-34). Christ himself was the only visible sign of his kingdom while he walked this earth. You and I can can be part of that kingdom, but it must be by faith.
Someone born from above will inherit a glorious destiny (5).
Jesus said that in order to enter the kingdom, a person had to be born of water and the Spirit. He’s talking about being given birth to from above. The emphasis is not on a person getting himself remade. The emphasis is on the action of another causing a person to be reborn, and that person who acts is identified: the Holy Spirit (verses 5, 6, 8).
Unless the new life begins outside of us, in the miraculous grace of God, it is not genuine. This was what Nicodemus was struggling with. His religion – up to this point – was man-made. He did not yet know how to let God transform him into someone new.
Jesus also made a clear distinction between his kingdom and the kingdoms and nations of this world. I am proud to be an American, but I also freely admit that being an American does not make me a Christian. You cannot enter God’s kingdom by citizenship in another kingdom.
When he was on trial before Pilate, Jesus said…
“My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (18:36).
He was talking about the reality that his kingdom is not going to emerge like other kingdoms do. In history, kingdoms emerge by conquering other kingdoms. To conquer other kingdoms you have to fight and destroy other kings and their armies. You also have to fight to protect your chosen king. But Jesus told Pilate that his disciples would not be fighting, because his kingdom was not from here,
I think he was referring to the prophecy in Daniel about a king who would come down from the sky.
“I was watching in the night visions, “And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
Someone born from above will inherit that glorious destiny with Jesus. When our king returns, he will set up his permanent kingdom on this earth, and we will reign with him. The kingdom comes from above, and only those who have been born from above will live in it.
In the meantime, you and I will have a dual citizenship. We will be born into a citizenship of the flesh by natural birth, and born into a citizenship in a kingdom coming from the sky by supernatural birth.