‘‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’ John 3:3
Additional reading: Joh. 3:3; Gal. 6:15; Tit. 3:5; Jas. 1:18; 1Pet. 1:23; 1Joh. 3:9
One cannot exhaust the character of the Godhead all in one study. However, I believe that what we have studied here so far will give us an insight into the attributes of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Having said this, we must go to the next step. But before this, a question must be asked, which is; how can one attain the attributes or character of the Godhead? You must realise that with the fall of man following sin, man lost the divine nature (God’s character), which he had at creation. This short encounter between Jesus Christ and Nicodemus will tell us more.
According to the Scriptures, Nicodemus described as a ruler of the Jews went to Jesus by night. If you are careful enough, you will notice that there is no relationship between verse 2 and 3. After his introduction in verse 1, Nicodemus simply began to sing praises unto Jesus in verse 2 and just at that point (verse 3), Jesus cut him short and made His very popular statement: ‘‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’
Just a reminder: It is recorded in John 2:23 that during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem many believed in Jesus when they saw the miracles He did. However, this did not move Jesus: ‘‘Jesus, however, was wary of these believers. He understood people and didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature. He knew what people were really like.’’ (John 2:24-25 GWT.) It is believed that Nicodemus was among these believes that Jesus was wary of—though they believed in Jesus because of the miracles, they doubted He was the Messiah. Therefore, do not be surprise that the Lord who knows what people are really like and so did not need anyone to tell Him about human nature interrupted Nicodemus the way He did. More so, Jesus is not the type to be swayed by empty praises from men. ‘‘I don’t accept praise from humans.’’ (John 5:41 GWT.)
Now, Nicodemus (Conqueror of the People), an influential and powerful member of the Sanhedrin Council made up of about 70 people, and of course, a Pharasee — well taught or trained in the Jewish law and theology, went to Jesus in the night to inquire of Him of the way to the Kingdom! This meant that though he was a teacher of the Jewish law and theology, he lacked true knowledge of God. Also, he lacked the character of God as a teacher— though well respected among his people.
Nicodemus said this: ‘‘…Rabbi, we know that God has sent you as a teacher. No one can perform the miracles you perform unless God is with him.’’ (GWT.) He seemed more interested in miracles! But Jesus answered: ‘‘…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’
What did Jesus mean? ‘‘…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born [gennao…to procreate (properly of the father, but by extension of the mother); figuratively to regenerate: – bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of, gender, make, spring] again [anothen…from above; by analogy from the first; by implication anew:- from above, again, from the beginning (very first), the to ], he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’
In essence, Jesus said that for anyone to enter the Kingdom of God, such a person must experience a regeneration that comes from God—from above. This regeneration that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit has the divine ability to transform one to his original estate—at creation—the state man was before he fell short of God’s glory because of sin. That was the time God’s character was truly manifest in man. Therefore, for anyone to manifest God’s character, which is the key to inheriting the Kingdom of God, that person must be sinless as he was at the beginning.
Now read this: ‘‘Jesus replied to Nicodemus, ‘‘I can guarantee this truth: No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.’’ (GWT.) Jesus replied, ‘‘I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God’s Kingdom.’’ (CEV.) This regeneration is made possible through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit as we shall see.
If we can understand Jesus next statement, we will no doubt understand God’s New Testament message of salvation. Though a well trained teacher of Jewish law, Nicodemus still did not understand Jesus Christ, so he asked? ‘‘Nicodemus said to him, How is it possible for a man to be given birth when he is old? Is he possible to go into his mother’s body a second time and come to birth again? (V4 BBE.) Now hear what Jesus replied him: ‘‘Jesus answered, Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’’ (Vv 5-6.)
What does it mean to be born of water and of the Spirit? Water here simply means the physical birth, i.e. natural birth that comes as a result of intercourse between man and woman. While birth through the Spirit is spiritual regeneration experienced at the point of conversion made possible only through the Holy Spirit. In order words, for one to enter the Kingdom of God, there must be a spiritual regeneration experience through the Holy Spirit of God. This means that the nature of man (flesh) must give way to the Spirit. ‘‘Jesus answered: I tell you for certain that before you can get into God’s Kingdom, you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit. Humans give life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God.’’ (CEV.) ‘‘The only life people get from their human parents is physical. But the new life that the Spirit gives a person is spiritual.’’ (ERV.) ‘‘A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit.’’ (GNB.) ‘‘Flesh and blood give birth to flesh and blood, but the Spirit gives birth to things that are spiritual.’’ (GWT.)
Humans give birth to their children who manifest their character. Unfortunately, the character of humans — flesh cannot usher anyone into God’s Kingdom. Only God’s Spirit can do this—‘‘…Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God.’’ Every child born of the flesh must of necessity manifest the character of the flesh. And everyone born of God (the Spirit) must manifest the character of God. To manifest God’s character (nature), Jesus declared: ‘‘Don’t be surprised when I tell you that all of you must be born from above.’’ (V 7 GWT.)
Meditation: Except I am born again I cannot exhibit God’s character!
Prayer: Now that I am born again, let my life reflect the fullness of Your nature.
Question: (1) What does it mean to be born again and why is it necessary? (2) Distinguish between birth of the flesh and that of the Spirit.