Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again.
Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish Church, and had participated in its rites. He had probably been a listener to John and possibly had been baptized by him. He came to Christ in the spirit of a man who should say, "What lack I yet?" In reply Christ puts no stress on baptism, because this was the ground on which Nicodemus stood, viz., that he was initiated and had observed the required ordinances of religion. So He said in effect, "Except a man baptized with water be likewise baptized with the Spirit," etc. The truth of the Divine influence enforced by Christ —
I. IS NOT UNSCIENTIFIC. Among modern discoveries nothing is more striking than the fact that there is a spiritual as well as a physical unity. Nothing is better attested than that upon the minds of men there are influences which spring from invisible sources. Nor is there anything which men more need, or aught so much to desire to be true and accept so willingly as this doctrine that there is a Divine power which wakes up the better part of man's nature. Then, again, we are conscious of its inspiring yearnings and longings which we know not how to locate or proportion.
II. IS UNIVERSAL. The fact that the universal tendency of the human mind has been away from the physical and toward the spiritual has to be accounted for. It is not to suffer doubt because fantastic notions have prevailed respecting it. Men sought chemistry through alchemy and astronomy through astrology. But the fact is that as far back as we have records there has been the conception of a free spirit. Where did it come from?
III. DOES NOT SUPERSEDE THE NATURAL FACULTIES. It is not an attempt of the Divine mind to put its action in the place of our action; but lifts our mind into a sphere of activity it has not known before, so changing its feelings and experiences that it is called a new birth. Society ministers to our social wants — but only the Spirit can lift our spirits toward the great realm of truth in which it is to develop and live. The physical globe makes provision for the body, but to rise to the invisible and infinite, we need the Spirit who gives vitality and force to all those elements which go with the moral sentiment.
IV. REQUIRES PREPARATION AND CO-OPERATION. Man may prepare himself for friendship and society according to the nature of the relations into which he is going. So may a man prepare his soul to be acted on by the Divine Spirit. There would be summer if there were no farmer; but the farmer knows how to make summer work to advantage for him as otherwise it would not have done. So there would be the universal influence of the Spirit of God if every human being were swept from the earth; but by meeting the Divine Spirit, by opening the soul to and co-operating with Him, men have made themselves the recipients of blessings they would not otherwise have known.
V. MAY BE RESISTED as well as co-operated with. It is not irresistible; where men set their wills against it, put themselves under antagonistic feelings, resist the tendencies it would have developed, they certainly can set it aside. The strivings of God's Spirit have proved futile in thousands of instances. How many have yearnings for something better, and sweep them away by social jollity!
VI. IS INSCRUTABLE. Every man is more or less the subject of it, but may not recognize it, and cannot analyse it. If you ask the flower, "How can you tell that which the sun does in you?" the flower cannot tell. The sun wakes it up, that is all.
VII. IS THE GREATEST BOON, AND ITS LOSS THE GREATEST MISFORTUNE.
VIII. WORKS CHIEFLY THROUGH GOD'S WORD.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.