The New Birth: 1. What Is It?

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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The Word of God in the third chapter of the gospel of John, is deeply solemn to every poor sinner in this world; “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”! (John 3:33Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)). It cuts at the very root of all the pretensions, and religion, and self-righteousness of man.
Reader, if ever you would see God, except as a righteous Judge — if ever you would spend an eternity in His presence where is fullness of joy, and would be saved from an eternity of woe with the lost, and with the devil and his angels; you “must be born again.” Pause, then, I beseech you, and think of this. It is the root of the matter of your precious soul’s eternal history. It meets you in whatever state you may be to-day, amid the varied characters and states of sinners around you, and embraces all, as on one footing before God — moral and immoral — honest man and knave — sober man and drunkard — religious and profane — young and old — teacher and taught — noble and ignoble — high, low, rich, and poor, there is not one particle of difference in the sight of God! If you would ever see God in light, and dwell with Him forever, “ye must be born again!”
The grace of God in the gospel brings salvation now to man as LOST! (Titus 2:1111For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (Titus 2:11)). It treats him thus. This is the grand distinction between it and all God’s previous dealings — previous dealings did not treat man on this ground. The law, for instance, addressed man as if he were able to help himself. God knew all the while he was not able to do so, but gave it to demonstrate the fact to man’s heart and conscience.
The gospel comes in at the “end of the world,” that is, the end of all God’s dealings with man, before judgment takes its course, and it proclaims him “LOST!” How many deceive themselves by thinking, that he is still in a state of probation or trial, as before the proclamation of the gospel. But it is not so. His history in probation closed with the cross of Christ.
It had lasted for over 4000 years. When God drove out Adam from the garden of Eden, He knew what he was; but it pleased Him to try out, under every dealing of His hand, the fallen race, so as to leave every man without excuse, and to demonstrate distinctly the ruin in which he lay; so that every man’s conscience ought to bow, and must bow to the fact that he has been weighed in the balances, re-weighed, and found wanting.
Poor perishing sinner, if you would but bow to God’s sentence on you, and accept His remedy; instead of trying the means which your fellow sinner suggests to your acceptance; which flatters your pride of heart by setting you to work, to pray, (?) or to be religious, or ascetic, or what he has so multifariously devised. Perhaps giving you Christ to make up for your failures, or to be a make-weight with what you propose to help you in your salvation. Perhaps telling you, and your poor vanity believes it too, that you can of your own will, become a child of God; can be born of God of your own free will. Poor spinnings of human brains which never have measured what sin is in the presence of God; or known what man is before Him.
It is a blessing from God to be clear, simple, decided in our acceptance, without qualification, that man is utterly and hopelessly lost; unable to put forth one effort of his own. “Dead in trespasses and sins,” — “without strength,” “none that seeketh after God” — without “holiness,” apart from which “no man shall see the Lord.” May the Lord grant to the reader to learn it now, as from Him, who, that you may learn His remedy, declares it.
We read of those who “believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man (John 2:23-2523Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:23‑25)).” The very same nature that is in your bosom this moment, beheld Jesus doing the mighty works of God, and believed what they could not deny, and yet such belief never brought one soul from amongst them to heaven. You say, perhaps, as thousands do, “I believe in Jesus Christ; I know He was more than man, nay, that He was God Himself; I know He died for sinners, and rose again, and ascended into heaven.” And it may be after all this you are one to whom, up to this moment, Jesus has not committed Himself — one who has no part or lot in the matter.
I write not to discourage, to dishearten souls; especially the souls of those who have the weakest real faith in Jesus. God forbid. But with the desire in my heart of bringing the formalist, if this should meet his eyes; the careless; the professor of religion without vitality; to judge their state in view of these solemn truths.
If we see the necessity of this new birth, that man may see God and His kingdom; we then can go on to see how God in loving, living grace, not only reveals his ruin and his fallen condition, but also reveals how He has met this condition, and unfolds His rich mercy to all through His Son.
You will say then, “How am I to be born again? I desire most heartily to have this new birth.” Now, the Lord gives us to understand how this new birth takes place, in answer to Nicodemus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” He tells us that this new birth is “of water, and of the Spirit.” This simply means that the word of God, which is the water, by reaching the conscience of the sinner, by the power of the Spirit of God — and received by faith into the soul, produces a nature which man never had before. It may be by preaching — reading — or a thousand other ways, or means used of God: the first principle of this new nature is faith, and “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:1717So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)).
But some may say, “Is it not literal water, or the water of baptism, which is here meant — not the word, as has been stated?” (John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)). The answer is simply, No! For if so, none of the saints of old (OT saints) could have had this new nature, and none therefore could ever “enter into the kingdom of God.”1 The water of baptism was not even spoken of before John Baptist’s time, and the Lord declares it (that is, the new birth) as a positive necessity for all; and, moreover, that Nicodemus ought to have known this (necessity) from the prophets which he taught, who did not dream of water baptism. Ezekiel had spoken of Jehovah’s promise to Israel, to gather them out of the nations, and bring them into the land of Israel, and there He would sprinkle clean water upon them, and put His Spirit within them, cleansing them from all their filthiness, &e., (read carefully Ezek. 36:24-2724For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:24‑27)).
The word of God is likened unto water, that is, that which cleanses morally, in Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26), where it is said that Christ sanctifies the Church, cleansing it with the “washing of water by the word.” James (ch. 1:18) writes, “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.” Again 1 Peter (ch. 1:23) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” The Lord Himself (John 15:33Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3)), “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” These passages show the word and the water as identical.
But, is not the wicked nature which the sinner possesses, and all the sins he has brought forth, to be set aside, and put away, if a new nature is to be bestowed? Surely. The nature which offended God, and the fruits of that nature must be put away out of God’s sight — His righteous requirements against it must be met — His justice must be satisfied. All must be swept out of God’s sight forever; that He may be set free, as it were, to bestow this new nature on every poor sinner who believes.
Now, sinners are represented of God as perishing under the effects of sin — under the sentence of death, wielded of Satan by the judgment of God. How then is the curse to be removed? For God does not undo the sentence of death which He has pronounced, as if it were a mistake. Like the Israelites of old who were dying under the bites of the fiery serpents (Num. 21), who cried unto the Lord, and the Lord did not remove the serpents, but provided a remedy which answered His own demands, and the bitten Israelite who looked upon it lived. So now we read that for this end, that is, to remove the curse under which poor sinners are perishing, the Son of man must be lifted up — must be made sin — and, dying under the judgment of God for sin, be the object of faith for the perishing sinner, in order that whosoever he be of the fallen race, who believes on Him, might not perish, and be lost forever, but (not merely be born again), have everlasting life.
What a grand sight then for a poor perishing soul! The Son of Man bearing in His own spotless person, the curse of a broken law, the judgment of God on ruined man — the sins — the nature from which the sins had come, and which had offended God. All these, for every poor perishing sinner who now gazes with a needy look of faith upon Jesus on the cross, effectually bearing all away that stood between his soul and the righteousness of God, forever!
This is God’s remedy, fellow sinner; look then, and live! Are you conscious you need a Savior? God has provided one. Was it for you He was provided? Certainly. Why? Because you needed one. Blessed thought, to be able to know by one, simple, needy look of faith, that all that separated you from God, is put away — and that your sins, nay, yourself, root and branch have been atoned for, and put away forever, and that you have got what you never had before, eternal life! Not merely that you are born again, but that believing in the lifted up and crucified Son of man, you have eternal life!
You see, beloved, that Jesus did not merely die to put your sins and sinful nature away by His death on the cross, but died that you might live — that you might have eternal life as your present possession. The double effect of His work is stated in 1 John 4:9-109In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9‑10), “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” Here we receive life through and in Him. But more, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
May you know this priceless portion as yours, for His name’s sake.
1. Baptism is the sign of death ——born of water and the Spirit, (means} the reception of life.