Commentary by Walter Albritton

February 20, 2005


Overcome Uncertainty by Accepting

The Necessity of the New Birth


John 3:1-17

Key Verse: No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. – John 3:5-6


George Barna is a respected researcher of American opinions, especially those that relate to the Christian faith. In 2002 a Barna survey revealed that 37 percent of American adults consider themselves Christians even though they declare they have not been born again.

If Jesus is right about the necessity of being born again, then the sad reality is that thousands of American Christians are wrong. At best these persons are sympathizers of the faith but not genuine Christians. Jesus leaves no gray area in the matter. One must be born again to become a Christian.

The point may be argued Jesus does not use the words, “become a Christian.” That is true. He says that “no one can enter the kingdom of God” unless he is born again. So we must ask what it means to “enter the kingdom of God.”

The kingdom of God is the realm of God. A kingdom has a king. In the kingdom of God, Christ is the King. To “enter” that kingdom is to agree to live under the reign of Christ the King, to commit one’s whole life to the service of the King. Sinful pride makes it impossible for us to enter the kingdom on our own terms. Grace alone can overcome our pride and change our hearts. Grace alone can save us, only His marvelous grace!

The new birth, then, is the entrance to the kingdom. Entrance is not gained by a cognitive decision to do so. The heart must be changed and that is something that only God can do. So the new birth is a matter of grace. One confesses a need for a new heart and humbly submits to God in faith trusting Him to transform a wicked heart into a redeemed heart. God does that work of grace without any help from us. Our only part is our willingness to surrender to his life-changing power.

Nicodemus was like us in that he wanted to handle things himself. He simply wanted Jesus to explain the process to him, and then he could do whatever was necessary. He came to Jesus “at night” because he did not want faith matters to interfere with his “day job.” He was interested in the kingdom but he did not want everyone to know about his interest. We can all identify with his attitude.

Jesus jolted the brilliant man by explaining that he could only enter the kingdom by becoming a new man, and only God can make new men. One enters the world through physical birth as a baby. One enters the kingdom through spiritual birth when the Spirit makes one a child of God. One birth is of the flesh; the other is of the Spirit.

We do well to examine again that magnificent verse, John 3:16. God realized that we could not save ourselves. We are powerless to make ourselves new people. But God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die as a sacrifice for our sins and make it possible for us, by believing in Jesus, to receive the gift of eternal life.

Why? Because He did not want us to perish. The options are clear: we either perish or we have eternal life. We cannot earn our salvation and we can never do sufficient good works to deserve it. Eternal life is a gift. Our only choice is to accept it or reject it.

Our best response to the sheer wonder of being born again can only be profound gratitude. As long as we live, we can never cease thanking God for loving us so much that, despite our sins, He accepted us and made us new people.

Perhaps we were stubborn like Nicodemus, or ignorant or misinformed. Yet we kept puzzling through our faith questions until, at last, His Prevenient grace brought us to the decision to surrender. We gave up our foolish efforts to save ourselves and trusted Christ, and Christ alone, for salvation. The came the miracle of grace – we were changed, made new, born again!

A song comes to mind: “How can I say thanks for all the things You have done for me?” When I ask God that question, I hear Him reply, “Tell others, my child, tell others! So many of my children live in darkness. They need someone to tell them that they must be born again to live eternally in my kingdom. So tell them, please, before it is too late!”

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