Summary: This is an exposition on John 3 showing the importance of the new birth in hopes that many will be saved


JOHN 3:1-16 W. Max Alderman

When Jimmy Carter was elected to the presidency of the United States of America, he publicized that he was born again. The use of this term became rather common then and also rather popular. On the surface one would have thought that a great revival was sweeping across the country. Yet with closer observation it was to become apparent that many who professed the new birth were not really saved at all.

During this time, it was not uncommon to hear Roman Catholics using this "new birth" terminology, when previously it was practically unheard of. Any religious phenomena could be referred to as a new birth. Even dieters when being encouraged with their dramatic weight loss would exclaim, "I’ve been born again!"

The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3). With the Lord requiring the new birth as the means of being saved, certainly a doctrinal and theological understanding of this truth is imperative. The concept of something being wrong with the natural first birth of man was taught even in the Old Testament when the law was given (Leviticus 12).

Though the birth of a child was a joyful, glad occasion, it was also a reminder that another sinner had entered into the world. Leviticus 12 required that the mother be banned from performing religious duties for forty days with the birth of a baby boy. With the birth of a baby girl she was banned for eighty days. The difference could be to emphasize the idea that when a baby girl is born she too would one day bring a sinner or sinners into the world. After the ban was over the mother would then offer a burnt offering and sin offering unto the Lord. Mary had to make such an offering at her purification to meet the requirements of the Law, but not because she had given birth to a sinner. Of all women, she was the only women to give birth to a child who was not a sinner!

Excluding the Christ child, every other person born has been born into the world as a sinner. Romans 5:12 says, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" Because we all have sinned, we must be born again. While considering the doctrine of the new birth, may we look at the "man," the "mystery," and the "miracle."

I. THE MAN – Nicodemus illustrates our great need. vv. 1-7

The gospel narrative that is renown for its treatment and teachings concerning the new birth, begins with the man Nicodemus seeking after Jesus. The Scripture narrative does not answer all the questions that we might have concerning his motives and reasons for coming to Jesus. Nicodemus was described by Jesus as "the teacher of Israel," implying his training and proficiency in Old Testament law and tradition. Nicodemus, who was respected by his people and a descendant of the patriarch Abraham, was also a wealthy, educated, and powerful man. Nicodemus is much like those today who are religious and known for their moral piety, but do not know Christ as their Savior. There are those who spent a lifetime in pursuit of varied religious themes, only wishing deep down inside that there was some convincing religious leader like Jesus that they could approach while no one was looking. There is in this kind of person a mixture of "pride" and "searching," knowing that their religious system does not really satisfy their deep spiritual longings. Yet they, because of their pride, are reluctant to deal with their need and many will die in their sins.

Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, began to commend Christ for those things that Christ had done saying, "no man can do miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (v. 2). But Christ did not entertain a discussion with him but immediately confronted Nicodemus with his great need.


Nicodemus was confronted with his greatest need by the one who knew all about him. Christ knows each of us and our total need. The Bible tells us that He knows when the sparrow falls from the sky and that our very hairs are numbered.

The God of omniscience was standing before a "religious pharisee" not in the least impressed with his credentials, or in his heritage, but saw the transparency of Nicodemus’ sinful heart. He was born wrong; Nicodemus needed to be born again. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

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