When our Lord Jesus Christ was secretly approached by Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, He told him plainly that all who will have eternal life must first experience the New Birth. Despite our Lord’s explanation, Nicodemus was still greatly perplexed (John 3:1-9). The Savior’s reason for pressing this non-negotiable mandate, was and still is, because all men are born into this fallen world, spiritually dead on arrival (Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, … and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”).
This sad spiritual condition renders him totally unable to appraise or accept spiritual things apart from the Holy Spirit indwelling Him (1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:9). This means that the non-Christian cannot and will not seek Christ for salvation apart from the initiating work of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 1:6: Hebrews 12:2). Fallen man has no native desire to make the first move toward his salvation apart from God (Romans 3:11)! So, the greatest spiritaul obstacle the unbeliever must face is himself (Jeremiah 17:9), and thereby establishes the Scriptural and spiritual necessity for the doctrine of the New Birth (John 3:1-8).
This bleak picture of man’s spiritual inability has a tinge of good news about it. Specifically, because God has made man with a yearning for the eternal (John 3:1-2, “Nicodemus … came to Jesus by night); But, it’s also cloudy news, because God has purposefully cloaked the New Birth in mystery. So, Nicodemus, not surprisingly, said to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? … The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. Si it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:4,8).
Therefore, these verses reveal to us that the mere possession of religious knowledge will still leave an unsaved man or woman totally unable to understand the mystery of the New Birth (John 3:9). Whereas, the Christian may not be able to unlock the mystery of regeneration; but he, is at least enabled, to revel in its fruit (2 Corinthians 5:17)! Thus, having a capacity for eternal things and possessing religious knowledge gives no hope toward enabling a sinner to see his real need for Christ. Instead, what he needs is the New Birth or regeneration (John 3:6, “… that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”).
So then, the non-Christian’s greatest need is for God the Holy Spirit to regenerate his heart, in order that he may receive the gift of repentance (Acts 11:18) and the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8), so that He may believe (Acts 16:31)! This is the only way God will save his never-dying soul (John 3:16)!
Now, may the following words of the great theologian and professor John Murray, clarity these great truths for you:
“The application of redemption begins with the sovereign efficacious summons on the part of God … In order that this call may be answered, and the blessings of the high calling of God enjoyed, the inward supernatural regeneration and renewal of the Spirit is necessary.”
O God, be pleased to send the Holy Spirit and raise the dead (Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 1:9)!
In conclusion, let us draw near to God; first, by taking heed to our heart preparation today, for encountering the living God tomorrow; both through our praises and prayers offered to Him, with God’s people; and secondly, through our attending to the public reading and preaching of His Holy, inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word! Soli Deo Gloria!
Jerry Marcellino is pastor of Audubon Drive Bible Church in Laurel. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.