Image: Crepe Myrtle, Charlottesville, Virginia, August 2017
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 3:1-10.
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 (John 3:3).
Jesus begins, “Verily, verily” or Amen, Amen (Truly, truly). The double amen has Biblical precedent (cf. Psalm 41:13) and was a favorite expression of Christ in his earthly ministry.
“I say unto thee.” This is an expression of and claim to personal authority. It is like the OT prophets saying, Thus says the LORD. Jesus speaks as one who has authority.
“Except a man be born again.” Here we have this great inspired metaphor of the new birth or the birth from above to describe what happens when one become a believer.
What is it like? It is like the birth experience. If you have ever witnessed a live birth you know that there is little else as traumatic, sometimes chaotic, painful, and yet as thrilling and beautiful as seeing the birth of a human being.
And Jesus says that if you want to see and experience the kingdom of God, if you want to become aware of the reality of the rule and reign of God on earth which has commenced with his first advent, which is slowly growing and expanding, and which will be fully revealed at his second advent, then you have to experience a radical transformation. You have to experience a new birth, a birth from above.
Calvin notes that the expression to see the kingdom of God here “means the spiritual life, which is begun by faith in this world, and gradually increases every day according to the continued progress of faith.”
At the heart of the metaphor of new birth is the experience of regeneration or conversion. The new birth metaphor is like the death to life metaphor (cf. Luke 15:32; Eph 2:2; 1 john 3:14). God takes what did not exist, brings it to conception (brings it to life), and brings it to birth. The apostle Peter uses this same metaphor, no doubt drawing on the words of Christ himself, when he describes the saints as “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23).
Calvin makes much of what this metaphor says about the human condition. What does it take to save a sinner? A new birth.
Thus in the whole of our nature there remains not a drop of uprightness. Hence it is evident that we must be formed by the second birth, that we may be fitted for the kingdom of God; and the meaning of Christ’s words is, that as a man is born only carnal from the womb of his mother, he must be formed anew by the Spirit, that he may begin to be spiritual.
Think of a renovation project. Sometimes the structure is so dilapidated that it cannot merely be renovated. There are no bones to work with. The whole must be torn down and something completely new put it in its place.
So it is with the saving of sinners. Ye must be born again!
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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