John 3:3
Jesus replied, "Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Sermons
Christianity the Kingdom of GodJ.R. Thomson John 3:3
RegenerationCharles Haddon Spurgeon John 3:3
The Necessity of Regeneration, Argued from the Immutable Constitution of GodPhilip Doddridge John 3:3
Jesus Humbling Vaunted KnowledgeD. Young John 3:2, 3
Conversion a Change of NatureJohn 3:3-5
RegenerationW. Anderson, D. D.John 3:3-5
RegenerationJ. Dyke.John 3:3-5
RegenerationH. Bushnell, D. D.John 3:3-5
RegenerationR. Kemp.John 3:3-5
RegenerationW. Deering.John 3:3-5
Regeneration a Great ChangeJohn 3:3-5
Regeneration DefinedJ. Wesley.John 3:3-5
Regeneration More than ReformationJ. Beith, D. D.John 3:3-5
Regeneration Necessary to a Capacity for HeavenB. W. Noel, M. A.John 3:3-5
Regeneration Necessary to Admission into HeavenB. W. Noel, M. A.John 3:3-5
Regeneration Preceded by ConvictionC. H. Spurgeon.John 3:3-5
Regeneration, or the Second BirthC. P. Masden, D. D.John 3:3-5
Repentance Before TheologyH. W. Beecher.John 3:3-5
The Birth of the New ManAndrew Jukes.John 3:3-5
The Great ChangeJ. Buchanan, D. D.John 3:3-5
The Heart Must be ChangedJohn Owen.John 3:3-5
The Heart Must be ChangedRyland.John 3:3-5
The Lesson by NightA. Raleigh, D. D.John 3:3-5
The Means of Becoming RegenerateB. W. Noel, M. A.John 3:3-5
The Necessity of RegenerationMark Guy Pearse.John 3:3-5
The Need of RegenerationDr. Cumming.John 3:3-5
The Need of Sinners is to be Born AgainC. H. Spurgeon.John 3:3-5
The Needful Change Implied in RegenerationB. W. Noel, M. A.John 3:3-5
The New BirthS. A. Tipple.John 3:3-5
The New BirthH. W. Beecher.John 3:3-5
The Physical Effects of RegenerationW. Anderson, D. D.John 3:3-5
The Regenerate Endowed with a Meetness for Heaven and a TB. W. Noel, M. A.John 3:3-5
The Terms of RegenerationJ. Buchanan, D. D.John 3:3-5
From this language of the Lord Jesus, employed thus early in his ministry, we learn what was his own conception of the religion he came to found amongst men. It is reasonable to believe that the Jewish theocracy suggested the form and type of the new and perfect religion. The Divine wisdom had instituted a State which was intended to serve, and which had served, the purpose of introducing into the world ideas of the eternal righteousness. But the Jewish nation was only a shadow of the Christian Church. We are accustomed usually to speak of Jesus as the Saviour, and to picture Christianity under its gentler aspect as a fellowship and a family. But Christ claimed to be a King, and represented his Church as a kingdom. Not that this aspect is exclusive of others. But our Lord stated the plain truth, and his statements should be taken as a rebuke to all merely sentimental and selfish views of religion.

I. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS RULED BY A DIVINE SOVEREIGN. Absolute monarchy is among men distrusted on account of the imperfections and weaknesses of human nature. The autocrat is usually a tyrant. But Christ, being the Son of God, and the incarnation of Divine wisdom, justice, and clemency, is fitted to rule; and his sway is acknowledged as deserving of implicit submission on the part of all mankind.

II. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS COMPOSED OF CONSECRATED HUMAN NATURES. The empire of the Creator over the inanimate and the brute creation is perfect, The Lord Jesus came to reassert and re-establish the Divine dominion over intelligent and spiritual beings. That these are in a sense subject to Divine authority is not disputed. But Christ desires a voluntary and cheerful obedience. Unwilling subjects afford him no satisfaction. To rule over the bodily and outward life of men is an object of human ambition. But the kingdoms of this world, and their glory, have no charm for Christ. It is in human hearts that he desires and loves to reign. He has undoubtedly an external empire; but this he possesses in virtue of his spiritual sway.

III. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS GOVERNED BY RIGHTEOUS LAWS. The ordinances of earthly governments aim at justice, and in varying degrees they secure their aim. Yet they partake of human imperfection. But of the laws of Christ, and of his apostles, who spoke with his authority, we may say that they are the expressions of the Eternal Mind. It is no grievance to obey them. They realize our moral ideals, i.e. in their intention and requirements. Their observance tends to the highest human good and well being. Their practical and universal prevalence would make earth heaven.

IV. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS ENTERED BY COMPLIANCE WITH CONDITIONS PERSONAL AND SPIRITUAL. Men are born subjects of the Queen of England; but they must be born anew of water and of the Spirit, in order that they may become subjects of the Lord Christ. Both the Catholic and the Puritan ideas of regeneration convey this truth. The one lays more stress upon the baptism, which symbolizes a heavenly influence; the other upon the individual experience, which emphasizes the spiritual personality. Both alike agree with the scriptural assertion that Christianity, in its Divine completeness, involves men's participation in newness of convictions, newness of feeling, newness of principle, newness of life. The new birth begins the new life. The birth, no doubt, directs our thoughts to a Divine agency; the new life leads us to think of the human cooperation. And the kingdom of the just and holy Christ is characterized both by the Divine provision and by the human acceptance, both by the Divine authority and the human submission.

V. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS DISTINGUISHED BY MANY AND VALUABLE PRIVILEGES. The citizenship of a great nation, of a powerful city, is prized among men for the sake of its accruing honours and advantages. Civis Romanus sum was no empty boast. Far greater are the immunities and honours and joys connected with citizenship in the kingdom of Christ. The safety which is experienced beneath Divine protection, the happiness which flows from Divine favour, the spiritual profit which accompanies submission to Divine requirements, - these are some of the privileges accorded to such as are within, unknown to such as are without, the heavenly kingdom of the Son of God.

VI. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM HAS BEFORE IT A DESTINY BRIGHT AND GLORIOUS. All earthly kingdoms bear within them the seeds of corruption and decay. From these the spiritual state is free. It is subject to no "decline and fall." Because Divine, it is incorruptible; and because incorruptible, imperishable - "an everlasting kingdom, a dominion enduring unto all generations." - T.







Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Man is confronted with two facts.

1. The existence of evil.

2. The hope of deliverance. Christ here shows how this hope may be realized, viz., by a new birth, and by that alone.

I. WHY MUST THIS BE? Simply because to live in heaven we must have the life of heaven. Man can enter no world but by a birth, and to enter heaven, therefore, he must be born into it. To the heavenly world man is dead (Ephesians 2:1). This is not his proper condition, nor was he created in or for it (Genesis 1:26, 27). But very soon his life went out. Adam fell, and begat sons and daughters in his own image; and we, the children of this fallen head, like the descendants of some king who has been dethroned, by generations of bondage have well-nigh forgotten the traditions of their father's glory, and become utterly unfit to fill his place. All do not feel this death. The fact is hidden by present cares, pleasures, or occupations. For this reason men love the world. It keeps them from coming to the painful fact. But God in mercy sometimes removes these things that the salutary pain may be felt, and the necessity of regeneration seen.

II. HOW CAN THIS BE? Regeneration, the re-quickening of God's life in man, can only be effected by Him who has that life — the Son of God.

1. Regeneration has been wrought for us in Christ. In Him man again received God's life by the coming of the eternal life to dwell in the flesh. This was the beginning, but it could not be perfected until death, by which man in Christ reentered heaven.

2. To come where Christ is the self-same thing must be wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. God's nature must be first re-quickened by our receiving the Word (2 Peter 1:4; John 1:4), and then there must be a delivery from the fallen old man by the Cross, i.e, through death, to our present nature.

3. Of this new man, Christ formed in us, Christ Himself is the prelude and figure in the progress of His humanity from the humiliation at Bethlehem to the glory of heaven.

(Andrew Jukes.)

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.)

I. IS THERE SUCH A THING AS AN ENTIRE TRANSFORMATION OF CHARACTER? Certainly. Take a child of five, when it has a nascent character. At the beginning he is selfish, sharp, and irritable; but after the judicious training of a kind mother, by the time he is ten he has learned to restrain his temper and is becoming generous, and living on a different plane from that in which he started. But take a child who has had no such training, but has been brought up gross and violent and selfish, is it possible that there shall come a time when, by a sweeping influence from above, all the past may be effaced and all the future changed? Is it true that a life of forty years can be revolutionized in a moment? No; but a change can be begun in a moment. Here is a train rushing on a track which a few miles beyond will lead to a collision; but the brakesman turns it on to another line, and the danger is averted. The pressure measured an inch, and the train passed instantaneously, but its travel on the new track will be longer or shorter according to circumstances. A man has lived an indolent life up to five-and-twenty. Then his father breaks, and he finds himself without bread,or habits of industry. He knows, however, that he is ingenious, and goes to a cabinetmaker and agrees to stay for two years for board and clothes. The moment he is indentured he is changed. He was a do-nothing before; he is a do-something now. He was a man without purpose before, but now he is a man whose life is re-fashioned on the theory of industry. But did he know his trade? No. Still the change had taken place. A man is changed the moment his purpose is changed, if it be really radical and permanent.

II. LET US INQUIRE WHAT CONVERSION IS. Any change that takes a man away from that which is bad and carries him forward to that which is good, and gives him a purpose of making this new course a continuous thing, is conversion.

1. Conversion is sometimes simply Christian culture. "When a child is urged by a mother's teaching and affection to love goodness, purity, spiritual excellence, and takes to it with all its little heart, that is conversion; i.e, it is character building on the right foundation. The world will never become Christian until the cradle is the sanctuary and the mother the minister, and day in and day out the child is brought up to manhood in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Is not the child as susceptible to training in spiritual as in social things? There is just as much reason in training for virtue and holiness as in training for any secular end. And it is far better that a child should never know where the point of transition is. This is the truest conversion and the best; but it does not follow that it is the only conversion.

2. A man is thrown out upon the world and gone into vice and crime, or into a lower form of selfish, proud, unsympathizing life. Oh, it is a blessed thing for him to know that he need not continue in the downward course for ever, and that there is provision made whereby when a man has gone wrong he may stop and grow right. Not that he can be transformed in the twinkling of an eye, but the change may begin when he resolves to turn from sin to God.

III. IS A MAN CONVERTED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OR BY HIS OWN WILL? By both. The Divine Spirit is atmospheric, and becomes personal when any one appropriates it. The sunlight has in it all harvests, but we do not reap until that sunlight is appropriated by some root, leaf, blossom. Some say we must wait for the Spirit; as reasonable as to say we must wait for the sun when it is a cloudless afternoon; and what time any man accepts the influence of the Divine Spirit and co-operates with it, that moment the work is done by the stimulus of God acting with the practical energy and will of the human soul.

IV. WHAT ARE THE EVIDENCES OF CONVERSION?

1. The consciousness of a new and heavenly life, whether we can trace the time of its origin or not, or whether it came to us through agonies of remorse or the sweet, quiet influences of Christian nurture.

2. The fruits of the regenerating Spirit — love, joy, peace, etc.

3. Advancement, growth, development in the things that please God.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. ITS NATURE.

1. It is something that is not merely done for a man, but is done upon him. The former is justification, which is a change of state in the reckoning of law, whereas regeneration changes the man himself and gives him a new character. This being the case, regeneration is conscious, whereas justification is not. Is there then in each of us such a character of holiness as no natural temperament, civilization, learning, maxims of prudence or courtesy could have formed, and without such as is not dishonouring to God to ascribe to the agency of the Spirit?

2. Regeneration being something which is done on a man's person, it is his mind, not his body, which undergoes the change, although the regenerated mind may have a beneficent effect upon the body.

3. Regeneration being mental, it is effected, not on the faculties of the understanding, but on the passions and affections of the will. These faculties do often, as a matter of fact, undergo considerable improvement, but it is in consequence of the incitement with which regeneration has supplied them. It will not make a bad memory good, but it frequently stirs up a sluggish memory.

4. Regeneration is not an organic change, in respect of the extinction or addition of any passion or power; but entirely a functional change, in respect of the direction of the powers, so that their emotions are expended on different objects from those to which they were formerly directed. Take, for example, the change produced on the passions of love and anger.(1) When a man is regenerated, he will continue to love objects which he loved before, but with a change of reasons for loving them. Unregenerate he loved gold for its ministry to his luxury and pride; regenerate he loves it because it helps him to honour his Master.(2) A regenerated mind will in some cases entirely forsake former objects of affection, and expend itself on others about which he was careless. He may withdraw from former worldly companions, not because he despises them, for they may be decent and amiable, but because there is more attraction for him in the fellowship of the saints.(3) The regenerated mind will in many cases regard objects with feelings the opposite to those with which it regarded them in its state of nature, loving what it once hated, and hating what it once loved.

II. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.

1. It is a change of heart from a state of carelessness about God, or slavish fear of Him, or enmity against Him, into a state of filial reverence, confidence and obedience; of admiration of Him, gratitude towards Him, dependence on Him, loyalty towards Him.

2. It is a change of mind in which the name of Jesus was wearied of, or resented, or despised, or maligned, into a state in which, in union with that of the Eternal Father, it receives a place "above every name," as most honoured for its excellence, most endeared for its love, and most loyally reverenced for the legitimacy of its claims.

3. It is a change from a state of mind in which the Name of the Holy Spirit obtained no acknowledgment, into a state in which it is cherished, in union with the names of Father and Son, as the Comforter, Counsellor, and Advocate of the soul.

4. It is a change from a state in which the gratification of the flesh, or the avoidance of its pains, or the culture of the intellect, were matters of supreme importance, to a state in which holiness of heart is the principal concern.

5. It is a change from a state in which this world is the object of greatest interest, into one where eternity is a name of the greatest fear and the greatest hope.

6. It is a change from a state of enmity against to one of love for man.

7. It is a change of feeling with reference to the Church, the Bible, and the means of grace.

(W. Anderson, D. D.)

I. THE SUBJECT WHEREOF CHRIST ENTREATETH. A second birth.

1. The contents of it. It contains the seeds and habits of all graces; as original sin, to which it is opposed, contains the seeds of all sin (James 1:17, 18): not only those natural graces we lost in Adam, but whatsoever belongs to our spiritual being in grace and glory.

2. The extent of it. The whole man, every part, answering to the infection of original sin. Hence described us leaven (Matthew 13.). Sometimes in natural generation a part of the body may be wanting, but there is no such defect in regeneration.

3. The notes and signs of it.(1) Spiritual life. As generation produces natural life, so regeneration spiritual life; and every generator the life he bears — a man human life, an animal animal life, God divine life (Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:10; Galatians 2:20). This life may be discerned by its properties.(a) Every life seeks its own preservation, so does this life that which is fit for itself (1 Peter 2:2; Colossians 3:1). Beasts seek after grass or prey: worldly men after worldly things; the regenerate after food for the soul and heavenly honours.(b) Life feels that which is an enemy to it, as sickness. A dead man feels nothing. It is an evident sign of spiritual life to feel our corruptions.(c) Life resists her enemy. So in the regenerate the spirit lusts against the flesh (Galatians 5:17), and rises in opposition to temptation.(d) Life, if it be stronger than the enemy, is victorious. So the life of God being stronger than sin, the regenerate overcome the evil one.(e) Life is active and stirring. We know that a motionless image, although it has the features of the human body, has no life in it.So professors, without the powerful practice of godliness, have not the life of God in them.(1) Life, when grown to strength, is generative. So the regenerate labour to breathe their life into others.(2) Likeness to God. The begetter begets in his own likeness: so does God (ver. 6; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15, 16; Luke 6:36; Matthew 5:48).(3) Change. In every generation there is a great change; existence from non-existence, order from chaos. So with the Christian (Ephesians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:17.).(4) Love of God and His children (1 John 5:1; 6:7; 3:17).

4. The reason and ends of the name of it, viz., second birth.(1) To show our passiveness in conversion.(2) That as in generation, so in regeneration there is proceeding from little beginnings to great perfection.(3) That as the first birth is not without pains, neither is the second.(4) To show us the hopelessness of our nature. Mending will not do, we must be new born.

II. WHAT HE AFFIRMS OF IT, that it is necessary to salvation (Revelation 21:27; Hebrews 12:14). This necessity is set forth —

1. The certainty. Verily (Amen) is doubled for greater certainty (Genesis 41:32).

2. The universality.

(J. Dyke.)

The expression "born again" was political. Gentiles were unclean, and to become Jewish citizens had to be baptized, and so cleansed became sons of Abraham by a new birth. "Naturalization "means the same thing. Finding the ceremony on foot, Christ takes advantage of it to represent the naturalization of a soul in the Kingdom of Heaven; taking water as the symbol, and the Spirit as the real cleansing power.

I. CHRIST REQUIRES OF ALL SOME GREAT AND IMPORTANT CHANGE AS THE NECESSARY CONDITION OF THEIR SALVATION.

1. Not, of course, of those who are already subjects of it, and many are so from their earliest infancy, having grown up into Christ by the preventing grace of their nurture in the Lord. But this is no real exception. Intelligence is not more necessary to our humanity than is second birth to salvation.

2. Many cannot admit this. It savours of hardness, and does not correspond with what they see of natural character. How can moral and lovely persons need to be radically changed? That depends upon whether the one thing is lacking or not. If it be Christ's love will not modify His requirement.

3. Christianity is based upon the fact of this necessity. It is not any doctrine of development or self-culture, but a salvation. The very name Jesus is a false pretence, unless He has something to do for the race which the race cannot do for itself.

4. But how can we imagine that God will stand on any such rigid terms? He is very good and very great; may we not risk the consequences?(1) It is sufficient to answer that Christ understood what was necessary, and there is no harshness in Him.(2) Such arguments are a plea for looseness, which is not the manner of God. He is the exactest of beings. Is character a matter that God will treat more loosely than the facts and forces of nature? If He undertakes to construct a beatific state, will He gather in a jumble of good and bad and call it heaven?(3) We can ourselves see that a very large class of men are not in a condition to enter into the Kingdom of God. They have no purity or sympathy with it. Who can think of these as melting into a celestial society? And if not, there must be a line drawn somewhere, and those who are on one side will not be on the other: which is the same as saying that there must be exact terms of salvation.(4) We feel in our own consciousness, while living a mere life of nature, that we are not fit to enjoy the felicities of a perfectly spotless world. Our heart is not there.(5) When we give ourselves to some new purpose of amendment, we do it by constraint. What we want is inclination to duty, and this is the being born of God.

II. THE NATURE OF THE CHANGE.

1. Let some things which confuse the mind be excluded.(1) There is a great deal of debate over its supposed instantaneousness. But a change from bad in kind to good in kind implies a beginning, and therefore instantaneous, but not necessarily conscious.(2) Some people regard it as gradual. But this is to make it a matter of degrees.,(3) Much is said of previous states of conviction and distress, then of light and peace bursting suddenly on the soul. Something of this may be among the causes and consequences, but has nothing to do with the radical idea.

2. Observe how the Scriptures speak of it. Never as a change of degrees, an amendment of life, but a being born again, a spiritual reproduction, passing from death unto life, putting off the old man, transformation, all of which imply a change of kind. Had redemption been a mere making of us better, it would have been easy to say so. The gospel says the contrary. Growth comes, but there can be no growth without birth.

3. Try and accurately conceive the interior nature of the change.(1) Every man is conscious that when he sins there is something besides the mere words or acts — viz., the reason for them.(2) Sometimes the difficulty back of the wrong action is conceived to be the man himself, constitutionally evil who needs to have the evil taken out of him and something new inserted. But this would destroy personal identity, and be the generation of another man.(3) Sometimes the change is regarded only as the change of the governing purpose. But it is not this that we find to be the seat of the disorder, but a false, weary, downward, selfish love. We have only to will to change our purpose, but to change our love is a different matter.(4) Every man's life is shaped by his love. If it be downward, all his life will be downward. Hence, so much is said about change of heart.(5) Still, this cannot be effected without another change of which it is only an incident. In his unregenerate state man is separated from God and centred in himself. He was not made for this, but to, live in and be governed by God. When, then, he is restored to the living connection with God he is born again. His soul now enters into rest, rest in love, rest in God.

III. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE CHANGE IS EFFECTED.

1. Negatively:

(1)To maintain that it can be manipulated by a priest in baptism is solemn trifling.

(2)Equally plain is it that this is not to be effected by waiting for some new creative act. The change passes only by free concurrence with God.

(3)Nor is it accomplished by mere willing apart from God. A man can as little drag himself up into a reigning love as drag a Judas into Paradise.

2. Positively:

(1)You must give up every purpose, etc., which takes you away from God.

(2)There must be reaching after God, an offering up of the soul to Him, which is faith.

(3)Let Christ be your help in this acting of faith to receive God (see vers. 14-16).

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

I. ITS NATURE.

1. Negatively:

(1)Not baptism, as witness Simon Magus.

(2)Not reformation, as witness the case of many an unspiritual but truly moral man. Regeneration is the cause, reformation the effect. Nicodemus did not need reformation.

2. Positively: An entire change of nature.

(1)a renovation of all the powers of the mind;

(2)a new direction to the faculties of the soul;

(3)a restoration to the image of God.

II. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.

1. It is instantaneous. There can be no medium between life and death. It differs from sanctification, which is progressive.

2. It is mysterious. We cannot tell how it takes place, or when or where it will take place.

3. It is universal. It affects the whole man, and governs all his character, powers, and conduct.

III. ITS EVIDENCES.

1. The condition of the regenerate is altered — the dead are made alive (Ephesians 2:1); the blind see (Ephesians 5:8); the servants of Satan become Christ's free men; His enemies His friends; the proud humble.

2. Their views are changed

(1)concerning themselves;

(2)Christ;

(3)sin;

(4)heaven.

3. Their pursuits are different.

4. Their enjoyments arise from a different source.

5. Their motives.

IV. ITS NECESSITY.

1. Without a change of heart we shall' not be identified with the Church militant;

2. With the Church triumphant hereafter.Reflections:

1. To the unregenerate, "Ye must be born again."

2. To those who are resting in good works, etc., "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision," etc.

3. To the regenerate. "Show forth the praises of Him who hath called you."

(R. Kemp.)

I. WHEREIN DOES REGENERATION CONSIST? In a radical supernatural change, the seat of which is the heart.

1. A just perception of spiritual objects, of the character and perfections of God, the Person and work of Christ, the gospel plan of salvation, the excellency of holiness, and the evil of sin. On all these the conceptions of the human mind are defective and erroneous, even with the light of reason and the aid of philosophy.

2. A taste for, and delight in, spiritual objects. This is given, not acquired. It may and must be cultivated, but regeneration is its beginning.

II. WHENCE DOES THE IMPORTANCE AND NECESSITY OF THIS CHANGE APPEAR?

1. From the uniform teaching of Scripture.(1) When the object of the ministry is described, it is "to turn them from darkness to light," etc.(2) When the power of the Word is spoken of, it is thus — "Being born again... by the Word of God."(3) When the character of the saints is described, they are "created anew," etc.

2. From the nature and employments of the heavenly kingdom.

3. From the utter unsuitableness of the unregenerate for the society, employment and pleasures of the kingdom.

4. From the value and preciousness of the soul.

(W. Deering.)

The expression to be born again implies —

I. A VAST MORAL CHANGE, the impartation of a principle of spiritual life and godliness to a heart entirely destitute of it, through which new affections, views, and state of the will are produced. The characteristics of the change are —

1. The self-righteous man learns to trust in the Redeemer.

2. The enemy of God now loves Him.

3. The obdurate becomes penitent.

4. The disobedient becomes obedient.

5. The earthly-minded now seeks things above.

II. THE AGENCY.

1. Not by baptism, thought, reading, the following of good examples, fear, the intrinsic efficacy of prayer, or the merit of any reforms and confessions.

2. But by the Holy Ghost. Various means may concur, but He is the solitary agent.

III. THE NECESSITY OF THE CHANGE is seen in —

1. The opposition which it meets with from the world.

2. The agent. If it be wrought by the Spirit it must be necessary; for "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ," etc.

3. Natural disqualification for the kingdom of God.Conclusion.

1. Make this a practical question.

2. Never forget that the new birth is accomplished only by God.

3. Think of the great blessings it brings.

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)

Consider what heaven is.

I. SOCIETY WITH CHRIST. Christ prayed that those whom the Father gave Him might be with Him. Paul tells us that we shall be for ever with the Lord, and John that the glorified see Christ's face. Should you like to be with Christ at this moment? With that Prophet to whom you will not listen! That High Priest whose atonement you despise! That King on whose laws you trample!

II. THE ABODE OF THOSE WHO LOVE CHRIST. "Eye hath not seen," etc. Do you imagine that it will give you joy to be with those whose every pulse beats in admiration of Christ? Try it now. Would you choose their society as that which would give you pleasure? Do you not shun it, because your heart is alienated from Christ.

III. WHERE THE PURE IN HEART ARE, and the spirits of just men made perfect; where there is no fault. Are you ready for that company? Why there is not one of the habits and sentiments of heaven that does not thwart and contradict and condemn your own. Conclusion.

1. Do you venture to think that death will effect a change? The Word of God forbids the expectation.

2. If by any means you could enter heaven as you are, it would be your hell.

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)

The reasons which illustrate the statement of our text are most plain.

I. THE CHARACTER OF GOD WOULD BE DEGRADED by the admission of the unregenerate into heaven. God placed man here for His glory, endowed him with many faculties, lavished His love, revealed His will, and for this purpose, a purpose which man has frustrated wholesale by doing the abominable thing that He hates.

II. IT WOULD PUT THE GREATEST DISHONOUR ON THE NAME OF CHRIST, who has come into the world to die for sinners, and offers them peace here and glory hereafter. Notwithstanding all this, He is actually or virtually rejected. To bring the unregenerate to heaven, therefore, would be on some other ground than that Christ has died. Can God the Father do it? Nay, it is His will that all should honour the Son as they honour Him.

III. IT WOULD DISHONOUR THE HOLY SPIRIT, whose work is to convince of sin, sanctify, and prepare men for heaven. All this is set before the unregenerate; and instead of receiving His grace, they do despite unto it; and those who do this, the apostle tells us, will die without mercy.

IV. IT WOULD INFLICT A WOUND ON THE HAPPINESS OF EVERY GLORIFIED SAINT. It would be like the introduction of a pestilence into that pure climate. The story of Eden would be renewed, and heaven ultimately become like earth.

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)

itle to it: — As certainly as the unregenerate are excluded from heaven shall the regenerate find admission there.

I. WHAT IS THE TITLE? The merit of Christ applied to the soul of the sinner. The first characteristic of a regenerate soul is that he believes. So he who is regenerate, being a believer in Christ, has the one title to everlasting life.

II. WHAT IS THE PREPARATION.

1. Love to the Saviour, "Whom having not seen ye love." How can they do otherwise? And they prove their love by the application of every test that is available — zeal, delight in communion with Him, friendship with His people, obedience to His will.

2. As the glorified are also made perfect in holiness, the regenerate are being sanctified, and their hearts are being purified to see God.

3. As in heaven God's "servants serve Him," so the regenerate are prepared to join them by holy, ungrudging, joyful activity.

4. If it be a characteristic of heaven that its inhabitants are lifted above all that is low in the inferior world and are occupied with spiritual pleasures and employments, so the regenerate, led by the Spirit, set their affections on things above.

III. THIS IS TRUE OF THE WHOLE MULTITUDE OF THOSE WHO ARE REGENERATE BY GRACE. The promise is not made to vigorous faith and experienced piety, and unusual attainments, but to faith in its least beginnings, to holiness in its simplest elements, to the very first and feeblest work of Divine grace. In conclusion. The danger of the unregenerate serves to fasten on our minds the importance of this great change, and the blessedness attached to it should animate us to seek it.

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)

I. THE AGENT is God alone, by His Spirit. If therefore any man denies this work of the Spirit, he has every reason to believe he will be lost.

II. THE INSTRUMENTALITY which the Spirit uses.

1. The Word of God, principally as a revelation of the grace of Christ. The Spirit takes of the things of Christ, and manifests them to the soul. "Of His own will begat He us by the word of truth."

2. But while we are called to use this instrumentality, there are many habits of the ungodly man which incapacitate him from using the Scriptures well, and which must be removed. Levity, worldliness, pride; every habit of known sin must be broken off.

3. The Scripture next directs —(1) To a course of duty and the formation of such habits which becomes a man who hopes to become a child of God.(2) The abandonment of ensnaring society, and the use of the various ordinances of religion.

III. THE ACTUAL PROCESS. In the use of the various means the Spirit meets the unconverted and —

1. Humbles him with a revelation of Christ, and convicts him of the sin of unbelief, and leads him to a realization of his ruined condition.

2. Creates the desire for salvation, and helps him to wrestle with God for it.

3. Instructs and assists the penitent to embrace the offer of salvation. He believes in Christ, and commits himself to Christ.

4. Believing in the Son of God, he is admitted into the Divine family. And then —

5. Leads the now renewed person to gratitude and delight in the commands of God; and never leaves him till that regeneration is completed in entire renovation, when he re.attains to the lost image of God, and is conducted through grace to glory.

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)

The way to begin a Christian life is not to study theology. Piety before theology. Right living will produce right thinking. Yet many men, when their consciences are aroused, run for catechisms, and commentaries, and systems. They do not mean to be shallow Christians. They intend to be thorough, if they enter upon the Christian life at all. Now, theologies are well in their place; but repentance and love must come before all other experiences. First a cure for your sin-sick soul, and then theologies. Suppose a man were taken with the cholera, and, instead of sending for a physician, he should send to a book-store, and buy all the books which have been written on the human system, and, while the disease was working in his vitals, he should say, "I'll not put myself in the hands of any of these doctors. I shall probe this thing to the bottom." Would it not be better for him first to be cured of the cholera?

(H. W. Beecher.)

Suppose they could be born again. Suppose they could be made to love the things which they now hate, and hate the things which they now love. New hearts and right spirits are the need of London outcasts. How can these be produced? In the hand of God the Holy Ghost, this is exactly what faith works in the heart. Here is a watch. "It wants cleaning." Yes, clean it. "It does not go now. it wants a new glass." Well, put in a new glass. "It does not go any the more. It wants new hands." Get new hands by all means. Still it does not go. What is the matter with it? The maker says that it needs a mainspring. There's the seat of the evil: nothing can be right till that is rectified.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A man may beat down the bitter fruit from an evil tree until he is weary; whilst the root abides in strength and vigour, the beating down of the present fruit will not hinder it from bringing forth more. This is the folly of some men; they set themselves with all earnestness and diligence against the appearing eruption of lust, but leaving the principle and root untouched, perhaps unsearched out, they make but little or no progress in this work of mortification.

(John Owen.)

If you had an old house, and any friend of yours were to say, "John, I will build you a new house. When shall I begin?" "Oh!" you might say, "begin next week to build the new house." At the end of the week he has pulled half your old house down. "Oh," say you, "this is what you call building me a new house, is it? You are causing me great loss: I wish I had never consented to your proposal." He replies, "You are most unreasonable: how am I to build you a new house on this spot without taking the old one down?" And so it often happens that the grace of God does seem in its first work to make a man even worse than he was before, because it discovers to him sins which he did not know to be there, evils which had been concealed, dangers never dreamed of.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is that great change which God works in the soul, when He brings it into life; when He raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the Almighty Spirit of God, when it is "created anew in Christ Jesus," when it is "renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness"; when the love of the world is changed into the love of God, pride into humility, passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the "mind which was in Christ Jesus." This is the nature of the new birth. "So is every one that is born of the Spirit."

(J. Wesley.)

If I enter a place where there is a musical performance, my ticket entitles me to cross the threshold; but if I have no musical ear, I can have no enjoyment. In the same manner, if you have a right in something done for you that will warrant and enable you to cross the threshold of heaven, yet if you have no heart prepared for the exercises and the joys of heaven it can be no happiness to you.

(Dr. Cumming.)

A man may be reformed in his habits and yet not be transformed in his heart. When the icicles are hanging in winter from the eaves of a cottage, will it suffice that the inhabitant should take his axe and hew them down one by one till the fragments are scattered in powdery ruin upon the pavement beneath? Will the work so done be done effectually? Surely a few hours' warm shining of the sun would do it in a far better and much shorter way?

(Ryland.)

How foolish and ignorant we should deem an artificer who, having taken a piece of iron, should melt and mould, file and polish it, and then imagine that it has become gold. It shines, it is true, but is its brilliancy a proof that it is no longer iron? And does not God require pure and refined gold, that is to say, a perfect righteousness and a perfect holiness! Say, ye sages of this world, shall any metal but that of the sanctuary find currency in heaven? Or shall God mistake what is false for what is genuine, and shall He confound the hypocritical outward show of human morality with that everlasting life which partakes of His own nature, and which the Holy Spirit alone implants within the soul which He has new created?

It is not mere reformation; not the renovation of that which was dilapidated — the repairing of the old house, and making it as good as new; bat it is a reconstruction of the house upon a new foundation — the house itself being built anew from that foundation to the copestone. The meaning of this, however, is not that the renewed man is then a different being as to his identity. The house in which the leprosy had become a fretting plague, when taken down every stone of it, and built again in due time, was not a different house from that which it had previously been. The materials were still the same — the design and form were the same even to the most minute details; and, in the case of the new birth, the "spirit, and soul, and body," are the same in personal identity, but they are "made new."

(J. Beith, D. D.)

Dr. Lelfchild tells us that he once met a lad twelve years old at a tollgate, who had a Testament in his hand. "Can you read it?" inquired the doctor. "To be sure I can. I can read to you this, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" "What does that mean, my boy?" The lad quickly replied. "It means a great change. To be born again means something here" (laying his hand upon his breast), "and the kingdom of God means something up yonder." That boy had got hold of the very core of Bible theology. But what was so clearly revealed to that lad in his Bible was yet a mystery and a puzzle to the Jewish ruler.

In the case of the drunkard there are two diseases in him: one of the mind, the other of the body; the one a depravation of his affections, the other a vitiation of his nerves. Now when such a person comes to be regenerated, the process does not cure the disease; the craving continues for some time; and when at last the nerves may be restored to a healthful tone, and the regenerated man is no longer tormented with the woeful thirst, this is not the result of any healing power put forth by the regenerating Spirit on his bodily organization, but the natural physiological effect of his regenerated mind having resolutely adopted habits of sobriety. So it is with all other habits and appetites. It is the mind alone on which regeneration acts, and the mind when changed reduces the rebellious flesh to order.

(W. Anderson, D. D.)

It is called a renovation of the soul, or its being made new; a transformation of the soul on its being changed into another likeness; a translating of the soul, or its being brought from one position and placed in another; a quickening of the soul, or its receiving new life; a resurrection of the soul, or its being raised from the dead; a new creation of the soul, or its being created anew by Him who made it; the washing of the soul, or its purification from defilement; the healing of the soul, or its deliverance from disease; the liberation of the soul, or its emancipation from bondage; the awakening of the soul, or its being aroused out of sleep; and it is compared to the change wrought in the blind when they receive their sight; on the deaf when their hearing is restored; on the lepers when they are cleansed; on the dead when they are raised to life.

(J. Buchanan, D. D.)

If birth and religious advantages could do anything to put a man into the kingdom of God, Nicodemus could surely claim to be there. His descent went back without a break to Abraham, to whom is was pledged that in his seed should the whole earth be blessed; he belonged to a nation marked off as God's peculiar people by deliverances and promises such as belonged to no others. If ever a man could claim to belong to God by religious observance and association this man could. Upon him was the sign and seal of his belonging to God, the mark of that initial sacrament with all its significance; he was constant in prayer, in the study of the Scriptures, and in the observance of the law. If external ceremonies could set a man in the kingdom of God, none could stand more securely than Nicodemus, who through every day and every hour of his life was subject to all kind of religious exercises, and ceremonies carried out with a scrupulous jealousy. If religion is in notions, scriptural and orthodox notions, in reverent feelings, in devout prayers, in generous sentiments, here then is a man in need of nothing. Yet this is the man to whom it is spoken, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." What then, was all this a cumbersome folly? This Jewish arrangement of training and worship; circumcision, altars, priests, sacrifices, prophecies — was it all no good, even though God Himself had arranged and commanded it? Even so; it was all useless, unless there is something more, and greater than it all. No good, precisely as food and light and air, as education and commerce and civilization, are no good to a dead man. Put life into him — then all these things shall wait upon him and minister to him and bless him. But he must live first. Sacraments, services, sermons, Scriptures, creeds, may minister to life — but there must be life first of all.

(Mark Guy Pearse.)

I. ITS NATURE: entirely spiritual.

1. In its subject — the soul. It is not an external reform merely, but an internal renovation — a change of mind and heart taking effect —

(1)On the understanding, when it is enlightened.

(2)On the conscience, when it is convinced.

(3)On the will, when it is subdued.

(4)On the affections, when they are refined and purified.

(5)On the whole man, when he is transformed by the renewing of his mind and created anew.

2. In its Author — the Spirit of God. It belongs to Him —

(1)To enlighten the darkened understanding by shining into it.

(2)To awaken the slumbering conscience by convincing it of sin.

(3)To subdue our rebellious wills, by making us willing in the day of His power.

(4)To take away the stony heart and give us hearts of flesh.

3. In its means — the Word of God.

II. ITS CONCOMITANTS.

1. Precedent instruction, con. viction, repentance, faith.

2. Consequent progressive sanctification.

III. ITS NECESSITY.

1. From the fallen nature of man. An unconverted man is out of the kingdom of God, and is incapable of entering it until born again.

2. From the character of God. No unregenerate man can enter the kingdom of God, because —(1) It is impossible for God to do what implies a manifest contradiction, such as is involved in the idea that a fleshly mind can, without a radical change, become the subject of a spiritual kingdom.(2) Because it is impossible for God to lie, and He has expressly said that we must be converted or condemned. God is said to repent, but only when man himself repents.(3) Because it is impossible for God to deny Himself or act in opposition to His infinite perfections. The supposition that a sinful man may enter His kingdom implies that He must —

(a)Rescind the law of His moral government.

(b)Depart from His declared design in the scheme of redemption.

(c)Reverse the moral constitution of man.

(d)Alter the whole character of His kingdom.

(J. Buchanan, D. D.)

I. The clear deliverance, by implication at least, on the doctrine of THE COMPLETE DEPRAVITY OF HUMAN NATURE. It is to this man with his morality and unblemished life, a teacher of the only true religion, and not to some sin-defiled creature, that the Saviour speaks. Christ knew what was in man, and this is in man.

II. THE RADICAL CHARACTER OF THE RELIGION OF CHRIST. In order to meet this great need religion goes to the root of everything within us, transforming all and "creates us anew in Christ Jesus."

III. THE INEXORABLE CHARACTER OF THIS REQUIREMENT. It is a law of the kingdom of Christ never to be annulled.

1. One man comes strong in life's integrities.

2. Another radiant in social charities.

3. Another religious according to his own ideas.They see the gates open, but the law shines above it, "Except," etc. These virtues do not go far enough, and leave untouched life's centre and essence. At the root of all virtues is the claim which God has on the love of His creatures. A just man who "robs God"! A tender-hearted man who has no love for Jesus Christi A religious man who expects to get into the kingdom by outward ordinances! What contradictions!

IV. Although this law is radical and inexorable, THERE IS NOTHING UNIFORM AS TO TIMES AND MODES. There is endless variety. It may be by love or fear, with difficulty or ease, etc. It follows the lines of our individuality, and is suitable to our circumstances.

V. THIS GREAT CHANGE IS VERY BLESSED. Why should it be regarded as a stern necessity? It is a glorious privilege. It is described as seeing or entering a kingdom of which God is King; as being born again into the family of which God is Father. Philosophy tells me to think again and be wiser, and I think till my brain is giddy. Morality tells me I must act again and be better, and I whip my conscience, but make little way. Philanthrophy tells me to feel again with quicker sympathy. But in that I fail. Priesthood and priestcraft tell me that I must pray, etc., again. Yes! but the burden of it. Jesus tells me I must be born again. That is gospel for me.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS REGENERATION?

1. Not a ritual or ceremonial change. Outward washing cannot confer inward grace. The spirit birth is necessary for admission into the spiritual kingdom.

2. Not morality. Good citizenship, honesty, integrity, natural affection, may elevate and bless this human life; but more is necessary to qualify for saintly and Divine fellowship in the upper world.

3. Not self-culture.

4. Regeneration is coming into the Divine realm, into the spiritual kingdom, into right relations with God and heaven, through Jesus Christ. It is a new life, above the senses, above the earthly, above the material. It is the faith faculty. No more aliens, but children.

II. HOW MAY I KNOW THAT I HAVE BEEN BORN AGAIN, THAT I AM A CHILD OF GOD?

1. The direct witness of the Holy Ghost.

2. The conjoint testimony of our own spirit. My consciousness affirms the fact.

3. The predominance of grace. The new government is supreme. The renewed soul stands ready for orders.

4. There will be difficulty in sinning. The new nature shrinks from sin as a tender and sensitive plant shrinks ,from the north wind's blast.

5. There will be affinity for God. Fellowship with Father and Son.

6. There will be Christian joy and comfort. The rapture of a soul rescued from sin and hell, and adopted into God's family.

III. THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION. Spiritual life is an essential condition for the spiritual kingdom. Without it you can have no vital union with God, and no knowledge of the spiritual life. What would you do in heaven with an unregenerated nature? A stranger in a strange land; a beggar amid bounty; blind amid beauty; deaf amid waves of song; hungry, yet with no taste for heavenly joys — you would be out of place there.

(C. P. Masden, D. D.)

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