We have a very familiar story in John chapter 3 where Nicodemus, a leading Jewish authority approached Jesus at night to question him. Nicodemus acknowledged that Jesus was unique, but he was not a point to embrace him as Savior and God.
Jesus responds to his inquiry with an astonishing statement. Notice what it says in verses 3-5,
“Jesus answered 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? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”
There is much to discuss in this text, but let me hit a couple of highlights.
1) It was common in Jewish culture for all Jews to anticipate participating in the future Kingdom of God. Jesus through his ministry explicitly challenges this thought.
2) This teaching further clarifies Jesus’ teaching in John 1:12-13 where he said that only those who believe in him will be born of God. In this chapter, he further explains that truth.
3) Even though Nicodemus was a highly respected member of the Sanhedrin, he learns that entrance into the Kingdom is not for everyone, but only for those born again. His credentials will not gain him access to the Kingdom.
D.A. Carson makes some helpful comments on this concept of new birth when he says,
“The verb rendered ‘to be born’ (gennan) can refer to the action of the father (‘to beget’) or the mother (‘to give birth to’): the common ingredient is ‘generation’ or ‘regeneration’. The coming of the kingdom at the end can be described as the ‘regeneration’ of the world (Mt. 19:28, NIV ‘renewal’), but here what is required is the regeneration of the individual before the end of the world and in order to enter the kingdom.
Readers who have followed the Gospel to this point will instantly think (as Nicodemus couldn’t) of John 1:12–13: ‘to be born again’ or ‘to be born from above’ must mean the same thing as ‘to become children of God’, to be ‘born of God’, by believing in the name of the incarnate Word.”
Only those who are “born from above,” or “born of God” can see the Kingdom. The fact that Nicodemus, as an influential Jewish leader, could not automatically enter the Kingdom means no one can see the Kingdom based on their efforts.
Father, thank you for the reminder that entrance into your Kingdom requires being born of God. Access is only allowed when a person “believes” (“reliantly trusts”) in Jesus as their Savior and God. As a “born from above” disciple of Jesus, I look forward to experiencing the reign of your Kingdom.
Following Jesus with you,