Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?…
I. WHAT WE WERE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE KINGDOM OF GOD. This expression seems to have been borrowed from the Book of Daniel (Daniel 2:44; 7:13,14), and hence it was in common use amongst the Jews (Luke 17:20; Luke 19:11), and they justly supposed it to mean, the kingdom of the Messiah; only imagining, in the pride and carnality of their hearts, and in direct opposition to many passages of their own Scriptures, that it would be of a temporal nature, established by human policy and power. The kingdom of the Messiah is termed the kingdom of God; because by Him the kingdom of Satan is overthrown, men are rescued from his power (Acts 26:18), and made the subjects of God, the kingdom of God is set up on earth, and displayed in power and glory. This kingdom is to be considered in two parts; in a state of infancy, imperfection, and warfare, on earth, in which it is continually receiving fresh subjects, making fresh conquests, and is enlarged more and more; and in a state of triumph and full perfection in heaven.
II. IN WHAT SENSE MUST WE BE BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT THAT WE MAY ENTER THIS KINGDOM.
1. Birth by water implies baptism (Mark 16:16). When administered by the apostles to adults, it was only to such as repented and believed (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36-37), and hence was considered an outward and visible sign of cleansing from past sin and pardon (Acts 22:16; Acts 13:8). This is a relative change, a change of state. But —
2. Birth of the Spirit is a real change; a change of nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:22-23).
(1) It is not only an external but an internal change; not mere reformation of manners, but change of principles and dispositions (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26).
(2) It is not a partial but a universal change: "Old things have passed," etc.
(3) It is a progressive change (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:15).
3. It is termed a birth because it may be illustrated by the natural birth.
III. THE GRAND NECESSITY, REASONABLENESS, AND HAPPY CONSEQUENCES OF THIS BIRTH.
1. Flesh means not so much our animal and mortal as our depraved nature (Genesis 6:3; Genesis 8:21; Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:16). Man has sunk under the dominion of his senses, appetites and passions. Men are therefore naturally unfit for the kingdom (Romans 8:5, 9; Ephesians 5:5). Hence arises the necessity of being born again.
2. The Spirit having begotten us again, and inwardly changed us, we become spiritual. Endued with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9); with the life, light, power, purity, and comfort, which he imparts. Free from the dominion of the flesh, we become heavenly, overcoming the world (1 John 5:4, 5). Holy, not committing sin (1 John 3:9), having power over it, and over "the law in the members" (Romans 7:23); walking "not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1), "crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts," and "led by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16-25); divine, resembling God in love and in all its fruits (1 John 4:7, 8-16). We thus are made fit subjects for the kingdom of Christ on earth and in heaven.
IV. HOW WE MAY EXPERIENCE THIS NEW BIRTH. The Author of it is the Spirit of God; the means by which it is effected are the Word of God (John 17:17).
Parallel VersesKJV: Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?