Text: John 3:4-6 3/1/09 a.m.
Thesis: Eternal life depends on God’s cleansing and begetting.
Intro: As we begin I want to clear up some confusion regarding the conclusion of last week’s sermon.
I asked you to imagine you are Nicodemus, you go to Jesus with your questions, in response Jesus pushes all of them aside, and instead tells you that you must be born again.
Now Jesus did not push our questions aside because he is cold, uncaring, and thinks we are fools for our questions.
No, Jesus is full of love and Jesus knows our hearts. Jesus knows that if we are not born again then we will never be able to ask the right questions, hear his right answers, and live according to his joy.
Without the new birth we are incapable of experiencing the riches of Christ. It is one thing to understand concepts such as incarnation, righteousness, atonement, and glorification.
But it is a glorious thing when the Holy Spirit awakens your soul and by faith you are joined to Christ.
It is when we are joined to Christ that questions can be answered and life can be lived with joy.
So this morning I do not want to sweep away your questions. Instead I want to show you another aspect of what it means to be born again.
I want you to hear God’s word and according to 2 Corinthians 13:5 I want you to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.
Here is our two fold examination- have I been born of water and have I been born of spirit?
Read John 3:1-8
I) Confusion or shock is the normal response when a person hears that he must be born again.
a) Nicodemus is confused about this new life (v.4a)
i) So he asked in verse 4, “How can a man be born when he is old?”
ii) Nicodemus thinks of himself as yerwv (geron); he is an adult male relatively advanced in age (GELNT).
iii) We get our word geriatrics, the medical science dealing with the difficulties and diseases specific to old people from this root word geron.
iv) You don’t beget, bring forth, or birth old men. Old men are old men; stuck in their ways.
v) Nicodemus is obviously following the thoughts of a natural man. To him being born again is about physical birth because he doesn’t think he has a spiritual problem.
vi) Confusion in relation to what it means to be born again can express itself in strictly natural terms.
b) And sometimes there is shock or disbelief involved
i) Nicodemus then follows up his first question with this question in verse 4:
ii) “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
iii) Now one thing Nicodemus has going for him is that he at least grasps the fact that being born again is something that is done to the individual.
iv) Being born again is not something the individual does.
v) Both times when Nicodemus refers to being born he uses the passive tense; it is an action done to the individual not an action done by the individual.
vi) But the problem is that Nicodemus is equating being born again with physically starting over.
vii) His question could be put this way, “In order to see the kingdom of God am I supposed to somehow get back into my mother’s womb and be born a second time?”
viii) This is truly unbelievable for many obvious reasons.
ix) The physical problem of how men who are on average bigger than women is clear.
x) But there is also the theological problem. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a teacher of Israel (v.10).
xi) For the Jews, entering the kingdom of God at the end of time was a natural thing for every child of Abraham.
xii) Jesus confronts this error in John 8 where the Jews simply assume that because they are offspring of Abraham they need nothing else.
xiii) They are not enslaved to anyone! (8:33).
xiv) They do not need to be set free by the truth of Jesus Christ. They do not need to be born again.
xv) The problem is not with being Jewish. The problem is that Nicodemus, like all the Jews, like all humans is a natural man.
xvi) Verse 10 tells us that Nicodemus does not understand.
xvii) Verse 11 tells us that Nicodemus does not receive Jesus’ testimony.
xviii) Verse 12 tells us that Nicodemus does not believe.
xix) But they are Jews and they have it all together. Would Jesus have them become more Jewish?
xx) Would Jesus have them enter again into their mother’s womb and be born?
xxi) Confusion and shock.
xxii) Possibly you are confused. I hope the Spirit uses the next verse to remove that confusion.
xxiii) Possibly you are shocked by your need for new life to be radically imparted into your dead, sinful, guilty self.
xxiv) I hope the Spirit uses the next verse to show you the great mercy and love of God the Father.
xxv) Read verse 5
II) One thing must occur: you must be born again
a) Jesus again, wants it to be clear that regeneration is a necessity for inheriting eternal life
i) Truly, truly, I say to you
ii) Don’t miss this. Don’t deceive yourself. Test yourself. Are you in the faith? Have you been born again?
iii) Have you been born of water and spirit? The answer to that question defines you who are right now and it defines your eternal location at the end of time.
b) Jesus’ statement, “unless one is born of water and spirit” can be a perplexing statement.
i) I know this is true due to the enormous amount of material out their attempting to explain what it means to be born of water and spirit.
ii) But I also know that the meaning of this statement is very important because if you are not born of water and spirit you will not enter the kingdom of God.
c) If you remember from last week, the kingdom of God is anywhere that the sovereign reign of God is experienced through Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit.
i) The complete experience of the kingdom of God is still a future event that will come at the end of time.
ii) What Jesus has to say about the kingdom of God in Matthew 19:28 really helps us understand what it means to actually enter or take part in the kingdom.
iii) Read Matthew 19:28-30
iv) What happens today, what you do today, effects how you will experience the kingdom of God in eternity.
v) One thing that is certain is that all those who are born again will enter the kingdom of God. They will inherit eternal life (Mt 19:29).
vi) But to what extent will you follow Christ and sacrifice for the advance of the gospel and the good of others?
vii) Will you put others first? Will you humble yourself?
viii) Our understanding and appreciation of what it means to be born of water and spirit has a direct effect on eternity and how we live today.
d) If you are not born of water and spirit you go to hell.
i) Let me try and string together the different aspects of this passage so you can see the whole.
ii) If you are not born again (3:3), if you are not born of water and spirit (3:5), if you do not believe in Jesus (3:15,16,18), and if you do not obey the Son (3:36)
iii) Then you will not see the kingdom of God (3:3), you will not enter the kingdom of God (3:5), you will be condemned (3:18), you will not see life (3:36), and the wrath of God will remain on you (3:36) throughout eternity.
iv) This is how important it is that we understand and actually are born of water and spirit
e) Now, being born of water and spirit is the equivalent of being born again.
i) Being born of water and spirit is the equivalent of being born of the Spirit but with the emphasis on water and spirit Jesus is bringing out specific important elements.
ii) I say being born of water and spirit is the same as being born again and being born of the Spirit because Jesus goes back and forth between these phrases in verse 3-7 without any additional explanation.
iii) Read 3-7.
iv) To enter the kingdom, to experience eternal life, you must be born of water and spirit.
v) Grammatically water and spirit refer to the single event of being born again because they are governed by one preposition.
vi) You are not born at two separate times or two separate ways. You are not born of water and then born of spirit.
vii) You are born of water and spirit; a single event with two specific aspects.
viii) A coin has two sides. Being born again has two aspects. There is heads and tails. There is born of water and spirit. It’s still one coin.
ix) So we rule out the idea of being born physically and being born spiritually; that would be two separate coins.
x) In addition, Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”
xi) When it comes to spiritual life the flesh is no help at all. So when it comes to being born again the flesh is no help at all.
xii) Though Nicodemus may have ideas of coming out of the womb or even coming out of the womb again this is not what Jesus is talking about.
xiii) So, what is Jesus talking about?
xiv) Let’s talk heads first and then tails
f) To be born of water refers to the work of God as he cleanses those he adopts
i) In John 3:10 we see Jesus pointing out the fact that this idea of being born again, born of water and spirit, and being born of Spirit is something Nicodemus should have understood from the Old Testament.
ii) A teacher of Israel should understand these things.
iii) So, what in the Old Testament has Nicodemus missed, forgotten, or overlooked?
iv) There are two places specifically that I want to take us and both of them are in Ezekiel.
v) First, Ezekiel 16 which finds its first fulfillment in the return of the Israelites after the Babylonian captivity but finds its ultimate fulfillment in the establishment of the everlasting covenant with through Jesus Christ.
vi) I want to read Ezekiel 16:1-9
vii) Ezekiel 16:4 says no one washed you with water to cleanse you.
viii) Ezekiel 16:6 tells us that it is God who comes and gives life.
ix) Ezekiel 16:9 tells us that God bathed them with water and washed off their blood.
x) Is God here giving his people a bath? No, he is forgiving his people, cleansing them, so that their relationship with him can be restored.
xi) Let’s look now at Ezekiel 36 and make some more connections.
xii) Again a passage that finds its first fulfillment in the return of the people from the Babylonian exile but finds its ultimate fulfillment in the New Covenant.
xiii) Lets read Ezekiel 36:24-27
xiv) God promises to restore his people. He will sprinkle clean water on them and they will be clean.
xv) Again, this isn’t a bath this is forgiveness.
xvi) And God will give them new hearts and put a new spirit within them.
xvii) Clearly, God imparts new spiritual life into his people by cleansing them and putting his Spirit within them.
xviii) Nicodemus should have brought Ezekiel 16 and 36 to mind when Jesus talked about being born again, being born of water, and being born of Spirit.
xix) When God adopts you as his child, when you are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God then two wonderfully miraculous things occur:
xx) One, you are cleansed from all your uncleannesses; you are born of water. God washes you.
xxi) God says in Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
xxii) If God doesn’t clean you from all your uncleannesses, if you are not born of water, then you will not enter the kingdom of God.
xxiii) Two, when God adopts you your deadness is reversed. You are born of spirit. You are born again by the power of the Spirit.
xxiv) John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”
xxv) If God calls you from the grave through the work of Jesus Christ just like God called Lazarus from the grave through the work of Jesus Christ then you will enter the kingdom of God.
xxvi) You must be born of the Spirit.
III) I want to close by showing you specifically how this cleansing occurs and what we do in response to being born again.
a) Cleanliness is purchased by the blood of Christ—Hebrews 9:13&14
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
i) The waters of baptism do not purify us. The perfect sin atoning blood of Christ is the only thing by which God purifies us.
ii) To be born of water is to have the atoning power of the blood of Christ applied to your life. The blood of Christ washes away your sin just like bath water washes away dirt.
iii) Cleanliness is purchased by the blood of Christ.
b) Cleanliness is delivered by the gospel—1 Peter 1:23
i) We are not born of water or cleansed by the blood of Christ until we hear the gospel
ii) We are born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…and this word is the good news that was preached to you.
iii) Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth.”
iv) Ephesians 5:25&26 say, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
v) We are born again when the Holy Spirit awakens us to the truth of the gospel.
vi) People get saved when the gospel is preached and the Holy Spirit brings new life.
vii) Being born of water and spirit does not happen in a vacuum. Christ secures our forgivness and new life through his righteousness and atoning death.
viii) The Spirit awakens us to the truth of what Christ has done through the powerful preaching of the gospel.
ix) And a new creation is formed.
c) And this cleanliness is displayed in baptism—Hebrews 10:22 and 1 Peter 3:21
i) Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
ii) 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
iii) Because a person has been born of water and the Spirit, because that person has been born again, she enters into the baptismal waters.
iv) Those waters don’t save you. Those waters demonstrate the fact that God has cleansed you by the blood of Jesus Christ through the power of his word.
v) The outward washing, the visible purity, is an illustration of the inward washed, the invisible purity that is true of everyone who is born again.
IV) So I ask you, have you been born again?
a) Have you felt your need of forgiveness? Have you seen that your only hope is in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
b) Have you trusted him to remove all your uncleannesses?
c) Have you believed in him for the salvation of your soul?
d) Do you know what it is to be cleansed and made new?
e) If right now you hear God confirming the truth of his word and calling you to place your faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins then believe on him and you will be saved.
f) If right now according to God’s great mercy he is causing you to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead then call out to your father through faith in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.