Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.…
I. WHAT WERE THESE WORDS MEANT TO EXPRESS TO THE HEBREW INQUIRER.
1. The Jews were expecting the revelation of the Messiah and of His kingdom. A few like the venerable Simeon looked forward to one who should save them from their sins. They believed as a few do now — when the tendency is to seek for the golden age in legislative enactments and reformed institutions — that what we want is, not something done for us in ameliorated outward conditions, but in individual education in grace and righteousness. The multitude, however, are always trusting in some political measure or social change to bring about the millenium of national well-being. So did the Jews, who, abiding in their sins, counted on a revolution of circumstances and a conquering Messiah who should exalt the land. The constant indulgence of this dream operated to make them more and more vulgar and coarse in soul, and in Christ's time they had sunk to be very mean and low. And now here at length stood the veritable Messiah in their midst, and of course they could not comprehend Him. Having by prolonged communion with their carnal idea deadened their spiritual susceptibility, they were blind to the royalty of Divine character and Divine truth.
2. When Nicodemus, therefore, came to Christ for information about the Messianic reign, it was in reference to the incapacity of his and his countrymen's worldliness that our Lord said, "In your present moral state you are unable to take in the idea of it, and you never will be unless you become inwardly another creature. You must begin to be and live afresh." The phraseology was not new to Nicodemus. The Gentile who gave up his heathen creed and embraced Judaism was said to undergo a new birth. The ruler's impression, therefore, would be that he must submit to a revolution in his Messianic ideas as a condition of instruction. How, he asked, could an old man like himself, whose opinions were too fixed for surrender, do that? Christ replies in terms which he could not fail to understand, that what was wanted was not a change of mental view, but of moral heart — an inward cleansing and an inward experience of Divine influence, without which it was impossible for him to perceive the reality or touch the circle of the Messianic kingdom.
III. WHAT TEACHING IS THERE HERE FOR US?
1. The kingdom of God is simply the reign of God; and to enter it is to become subject to Him. But since this reign is everlasting ann universal, and since all must be subject to it, the kingdom of God established by Christ, and within which we may or may not be found, must have a deeper, inwarder significance — even the reign of the righteous and merciful God over the individual affections and will. They, then, are in this kingdom who have come to be thus governed.
2. To enter that kingdom there must be a new birth; not a mere modification of original ground, but a fresh foundation — not an alteration of form, but a change of spirit. Look at those who are manifestly not in this kingdom: is it not obvious that to become so would not only constitute a great change, but would necessitate an antecedent great change in order to bring it about?
3. Christ is the Divine organ for the production of this inward change.
(S. A. Tipple.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.