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?…
If any doctrines are fundamental they are those of justification and regeneration. The former is what God does for us in forgiving our sins, the latter what He does in us in renewing our fallen nature. They are concurrent, but in the order of thought we first conceive His wrath to be turned away and then His Spirit to enter our heart.
I. WHY MUST WE BE BORN AGAIN?
1. The foundation of this doctrine lies nearly as deep as the foundation of the world. God created man in His image.
(1) Not barely in His natural image — immortal, spiritual, intelligent, freed etc.
(2) Nor merely in His political image, as having dominion.
(3) But chiefly in His moral image, in love, justice, mercy, truth, purity, and so very good.
2. But man was not made immutable, but placed in a state of trial, able to stand, liable to fall. God apprized him of the penalty of falling — death. Man fell and died — died to God. The body dies when separated from the soul; the soul when separated from God.
3. In Adam all died; so every one that is descended from him comes into the world spiritually dead. Hence the necessity of regeneration.
II. HOW MUST A MAN BE BORN AGAIN?
1. We are not to expect any minute, philosophical account of the manner (ver. 8).
2. The phrase was well known to Nicodemus as signifying the transformation of a Gentile proselyte into a son of Abraham.
3. Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; senses which are not exercised; has no knowledge. To that manner of existence we do not give the name of life. Only when a man is born do we say he lives. Then his organs of sense are exercised on proper objects. The parallel holds good. Man's spiritual senses by nature are locked up. He has no knowledge of or intercourse with God. Only when born by the Spirit of God does he spiritually live. Then his spiritual senses find exercise. He knows God and enjoys Him.
4. From hence appears the nature of the new birth. It is the great change which God works in the soul when He brings it to life; when He raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.
III. TO WHAT END IS IT NECESSARY TO BE BORN AGAIN?
1. In order to holiness, which is —
(1) Not an external religion, a round of outward duties.
(2) But the image of God stamped on the heart, which can have no existence till we are renewed in the image of our mind.
2. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
3. Without holiness no happiness.
1. That baptism is not the new birth, but only the sign of it.
2. That it does not always accompany baptism.
3. That it is not sanctification, which is progressive, whereas regeneration, like generation, is instantaneous.
4. That it is a greater charity to tell a man he needs to be born again than to suppress it.
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?