Jesus Challenges Nicodemus: New Birth

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’” (John 3:3–4).


Jesus’ shocking statement was far more than Nicodemus had expected. Incredulous, Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Nicodemus did not misinterpret Jesus’ words; he replied in the context of the Lord’s analogy. How could he start all over, go back to the beginning? Jesus was telling him that entrance to God’s salvation was not a matter of adding something to all his efforts but rather cancelling everything and starting all over again.

At the same time, Nicodemus clearly could not grasp the full meaning of what this meant. Jesus was making entrance into the kingdom contingent on something that could not be obtained through human effort. If spiritual rebirth, like physical rebirth, was impossible from human effort, then where did that leave this self-righteous Pharisee, since the system in which he had placed his hope was powerless to save?

Far from minimizing the demands of the gospel, Jesus challenged this most religious Jew to admit his spiritual bankruptcy and abandon everything he was trusting in for salvation.

Be sure as you proclaim the gospel that you challenge your listeners to give up what they think will get them to heaven.

Ask Yourself
On one hand, adherence to the law (as Nicodemus saw it) seems like a long-forgotten pursuit. But there are plenty of folks down the street or within the sound of your voice who are clinging to the hopes of their good works. How does this show itself? How can you counteract it as you witness to them?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610

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