Unless a man be Born Again he cannot See the Kingdom of God by Martyn Lloyd Jones
All the passages below are taken from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “The Kingdom of God.” It was preached in 1963 and published in 1992 by Crossway Books.
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. Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5).
THE GREATEST NEED OF THE HUMAN RACE, as we have seen, is to come back to the kingdom of God, to the reign and rule of God and to the blessing of God. And yet, the whole time we have found this crass misunderstanding about the very beginnings, the elements, the fundamentals of the Christian faith and of the teaching concerning the kingdom of God. And so our Lord had to spend so much of His time in this world, the short, precious three years, in argumentation and disputation, answering questions and so on. Yet He did so very readily, because He had come to help people, he had come to enlighten them and to show them the way. And so with great patience He listened to their questions and He answered them.
Now here we come to another misunderstanding of the kingdom as it is depicted in this well-known story of our Lord’s interview with Nicodemus. It is one of the great stories of the whole of Scripture, it is such a dramatic story. This master of Israel, a Pharisee, a teacher, seeking an interview late at night with this—carpenter? Not an official teacher at all, but, nevertheless, a man who had been preaching and teaching and working miracles. What a wonderful encounter it was! If you are merely interested in drama, this story is worth considering.
But, even more, what wonderful truth comes out here! That is what we are concerned about, because I would suggest that our Lord puts the whole thing much more plainly here than He did perhaps anywhere else. In nearly all the other cases we have been dealing with, He was dealing with particular difficulties and answering questions. He does not do that here. In this story of Nicodemus, He puts it as clearly and as distinctly as He ever did.
We are coming to the end of this series; we have been following it in steps and stages, and we have seen people, as it were, coming nearer and nearer. The man in our last study was not far from the kingdom. And now, in these verses, and in Matthew 18:1—4, we find the two clearest statements on this matter in the whole of the New Testament. In Matthew we read, “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”—words which say exactly the same thing as these verses in John.
Now here we come to the very heart of the matter, to the real secret of this business of entering the kingdom of God. We have looked at our Lord’s words: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” But how can I do so? How can I enter? And here, out Lord really gives us a plain and final answer to this vital question, and He does so in a most interesting manner. He does so not only by what He says to Nicodemus, but also in the way in which He handles him.
Here we have a very remarkable thing; unlike the scribe in our last study, Nicodemus is not even allowed to ask his question. Notice this: “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. . .” Suddenly he is interrupted. “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.” Nicodemus has asked nothing, he has simply praised our Lord, and our Lord interrupts him. He is going on to put a question, but he is not allowed to do so.
And our Lord, by interrupting him immediately, as I want to show you, is teaching us a very great lesson, and bringing out the profound truth about the nature of His kingdom and about the only way whereby it can be entered. He interrupts him like that in order that He might suddenly pull him up, arrest him and apprehend him and show him the whole thing in a nutshell.
Let me first comment on this extraordinary behaviour of our Lord in two respects before I come to my analysis. The first thing, of course, that strikes one about this incident is our Lord’s own person. What knowledge He has, what understanding He possesses. John 2:23—25 tells us, let me remind you again, “Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” And here is a perfect illustration of that. Here comes this Pharisee, this “ruler of the Jews”, this “master of Israel”, this man who is in the privileged position of being an instructor of the common people in religion and in the Law of God, and our Lord interrupts him! He can read his mind, He knows him, He sees through him, because Nicodemus is there before Him as an open book.
This is one of the proofs of the fact that He is the Son of God. He knows what Nicodemus is going to say. He knows the type, He knows this particular man. He knows that Nicodemus, after this preliminary salutation, is going to say, “Master, what I want is this: I want to know what this good thing is that you have got. I am a master in Israel; I am a teacher; what is this something extra you have? I know all the other teachers and I have admired them, but, you know, you are in a class above us. What is it? I want it. What must I do?” But he is not allowed to say it.
Here, then, we have this wonderful manifestation of His Godhead, His unique divinity. Here He is as man amongst men, and apparently but a common man, a carpenter, but what insight! And when you come near to Him, if you read your Bible with open eyes and meet Him in the New Testament, He will examine you; He will search you, and tell you all about yourself, and you will know it. That is what we call “conviction of sin”. He reads us as open books. We cannot conceal anything from Him. He tears away all the camouflage and the sham, and all our intellectuality and sophistication become as tawdry nothing when it is face to face with this penetrating gaze of the only begotten Son of God.
And the second comment is that Nicodemus proves that our Lord’s knowledge of him is absolutely right. He does that, as we shall see, by the stupid things he says and by the foolish questions that he asks. Our Lord has not got time to waste on this occasion. He has been preaching, he has worked His miracles, and He is tired. Not only that, He wants to bring this man to a right position, so He stops him, indeed, He is almost violent with him. Why? Well, here is a great man and he must be handled as such, and our Lord shows him exactly where he goes wrong. That is the purpose of this sudden and unusual interruption. It is almost unique in the stories that we are told of our Lord in the New Testament.
So by doing that, and then by saying what He does, our
Lord gives us here this plain, clear, unequivocal teaching about
the kingdom of God and about the only way to enter into it. It is a great crucial statement which none can afford to ignore. Here is the real answer to the modern confusion, because the modern attitude is this, is it not? If we are to get the Gospel over to modern, scientific men and women, then, as we have seen, we are told that we must abandon all this terminology of the Bible, and we must sit with them and drink with them and curse with them and do many other things with them. We meet them on their own level and then they will begin to get it.
But here is the answer to all that. You see, modern men and women need to be interrupted. They are clever, they think they are clever, they think they know yet they obviously do not know how to live, do they; but they think they do; they think they know everything. Yet what they need is not to be wheedled or flattered, but to be interrupted, to be silenced. And I believe that that is what God is doing. This is the greatest need of the world today. It needs to be interrupted, in all its clever folly, by the Word of the living God.
Now our Lord makes three propositions here. The first is simply a repetition of His own words: “Ye must be born again.” He throws down the gauntlet. He says, in effect, “It is all right; I know what you are going to say, but you need not say it, it is all wrong, you must be born again. ‘Verily, verily’—truly, truly.”—And whenever He uses that formula He is always saying something of unusual seriousness and of deep import. He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except [unless] a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
This is the crucial phrase, the key phrase of Christianity:
“Born again”! Some people say it should be translated “born from above”. Others say it should be translated “born anew”. I think that they are probably nearest to the truth who say that undoubtedly our Lord was speaking to Nicodemus in Aramaic, that the Greek is a translation from the Aramaic, and that then our English is a translation from the Greek. But the original was probably Aramaic, and there it means “except a man has another birth, he will never see the kingdom of God.” It is the same thing. “Born again”, “another birth”, “born from above.”, “born of the Spirit”—take any of the terms you like.
This is the great New Testament doctrine and what it means, negatively, is that Christianity is not just an addition to something you have already got. It means that when people become Christians, it is not a little bit of improvement on what they were before; that what men and women need is not some new ideas to supplement the ideas that they already hold; they do not need a little extra added on to their thinking. Christianity, in other words, is not something that you and I, as we are, can take up; all that is contradicted here.
That is why our Lord interrupts Nicodemus. He is in that position; he says, “Look here, I am a ruler of the Jews, a master of Israel, I want this extra; I want everything I can get. I am a student and I am a teacher and thus everything new I see I want …““Silence!” says our Lord. “You cannot add anything; you must be ‘born again’, you have nothing at all; you need a new foundation; you are not living, you are dead, you need to be born.” That is His teaching negatively and it is all implicit here.
Then, here it is positively. Before we can become Christians we need an entirely new start. We do not start from where we are, we have to go down first. We can illustrate this from our modern cities. We see these new buildings going up; yes but before these went up, something else was pulled down. Demolition! Erection! And what is emphasised here is demolition. All we have is no good, it has got to be done away with, and pulled down, and then you begin to build. It is a new building. What we need is not a new coat of paint and a few window panes, and a new roof here and there. No, start afresh! “You have nothing to build on,” says our Lord; “you have nothing to add to; what you need is comparable rather to being born again, a starting absolutely de novo, as if there had never been anything there before. It is like a birth.”
And this is the New Testament teaching; sometimes it is called “a new creation”, “regeneration”—you are generated anew and afresh. And, of course, by that He means that what you are by nature is useless and hopeless, that you need to be “a new man”. So you need life, a new nature. God does not renovate us; He does not improve us or make us a little bit better. No, He puts new life into us. He works an operation on the soul and He infuses a principle of life, a new disposition—we are made “partakers of the divine nature.”
“If any man be in Christ,” says the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “he is a new creature [a new creation]; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). He has a new outlook and understanding; new desires lie within him; he does not know himself. He is a new creation. He is like a man who is suddenly born and who says, “I was not there before, what has happened?”
But, secondly, our Lord says that this must happen to “all” men. This is most important. Remember, He is speaking to Nicodemus. John is careful to give us an introduction: “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” Now that tells us a great deal about him; that it is to this man of all men that our Lord says, “You must be born again.” We would not be surprised if He had said that to the Publicans, would we? They were the refuse of society. We would not have been surprised if He had said that to that poor prostitute who came and washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. We would understand it if He had said to her, “Woman, you need a new nature, you need a new start, a new life.” But He said it to Nicodemus!
And there is only one thing to deduce from that. No one can enter the kingdom of God as they are; everybody must be “born again”—even a Nicodemus! There he is, a Pharisee, a teacher, a highly religious man, an instructor in the way of righteousness. Not only that, the Pharisees believed in these things. They believed in the divine decrees of God, in man’s moral accountability and immortality; they believed in the resurrection of the body, in the existence of spirits, and in rewards and punishments in the future life. They believed all that. They were highly religious, and they were orthodox on all those matters.
Not only that, I can tell you more about this man Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night; and that is a very good point about him. If people want to come to Christ, then there is something good about them. Nicodemus was in the crowd in Jerusalem and he had been listening. His opening words show that. He says, in effect, “You know I have watched you, I have never seen or heard anything like it…” All this is greatly in his favour. He is attracted by Christ, he admires Him; he recognises the excellency of His teaching and that He is working miracles. And they are such remarkable miracles that it is clearly the finger of God! He says, “This is not a man, this man is a special instrument of God!” He has all that insight.
Now there were fools who looked at Christ and spat in His face, as there are people today who only use His name as an oath or a curse. There are people who know nothing about Him. But here is a man who is drawn to Him, and who even humbles himself to come to seek some help from Him. All this is in his favour, as well as that which is already true of him as a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews and an instructor of the people.
But—and this is the point—even he must be born again; even he must go back and become a little child and start afresh; even he cannot see the kingdom of God, leave alone enter it. This is why our Lord interrupts Nicodemus; it is because he is so good and so excellent; it is because he is so self-confident in his powers and in what he can do. He comes, not exactly as an equal, but as a man who only just needs a little extra, he is not much below; and Christ has to demolish him, He has to put him on his back as it were, and convince him that he is nothing and nobody. So He does it in this dramatic manner.
There, then, is the first great fundamental principle–we must be born again. But let me come to the second. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Why? Why must we be born again? Well it is all put before us here with very great clarity. The first answer is, because we are what we are by nature. It is obvious, is it not? If I need a new life it is because there is something wrong with the one I have got.
Look at this as it is portrayed in Nicodemus. You see, we show what we are by the fact that all our ideas and all our thinking about these things are wrong. That was the essential trouble with Nicodemus. Look at his thought, look at his statement. His whole approach to the kingdom of God is entirely wrong. He comes with his presuppositions and he says, “I am glad to have heard you, I am glad to have seen those miracles. You know, this is the help I wanted, I think now I am going to get it from you.” “Wrong!” says our Lord. “Stop! Keep silent! Listen, you have got nothing.”
And we, too, have a curious notion that to be a Christian, is just to be a little bit better than we are now. We think that if we stop doing one or two things, and take up two or three others, then we are Christians. Is not that it? Knock off one bit, add on another! Put on a new suit, brighten up a bit, clean yourself a little bit . . . ah, and then you are all right. But that is not Christianity; that is morality if you like; ethical behaviour or philosophy. It is all right but it is not Christianity. It is as far removed from it as it can possibly be. No, all our thinking about this is wrong!
And we have seen that. That is why we often see so many monstrous statements in the Press and in other places, telling us that the people who are really practising the Christian life and advocating its cause today are some of the well-known infidels. That is simply because they object to atomic bombs perhaps, and that, people say, makes a man a Christian. How can we be further away in our thinking about the kingdom of God than that!
But let me show you something else. We need to be born again, because, as we are, we are quite incapable of spiritual thinking. That is always to me the striking thing in this particular incident. Nicodemus proves that to the very hilt. Do not forget, here is a Pharisee, a very great man, and an able one; obviously well taught and well instructed and an expert on the Jewish religion. And yet—let me put it quite simply—what an utter fool he makes of himself! How dull and stupid he is! What ridiculous things he says to our Lord! He is incapable of spiritual thinking.
Our Lord, interrupting him, says to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is one of the greatest spiritual announcements ever made, if not the greatest. Then, notice the response: “Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Oh, he would even be a disgrace at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, it is so monstrously ridiculous. What a foolish interruption! Our Lord makes this great spiritual pronouncement—and Nicodemus does not understand.
And then look at him as he goes on. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Then: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?”—he is completely at sea, he still does not understand.
And yet he is but a typical man in all that. The Apostle Paul puts it in a very pregnant phrase. He says, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). And modern men and women when they are confronted by this spiritual truth in the New Testament, say, “What on earth is all that about?” They do not understand it, they cannot follow it. They are utterly ignorant. It does not matter how clever they are. I do not care if they are the greatest philosophers in the land; if you put these two things before them, they fumble as obviously as Nicodemus did.
Why is this? The full explanation is given here. “Nicodemus,” says our Lord, “you cannot follow me. You think I am talking about a man being born physically the second time. But I am not talking about physical things but about spiritual things: ‘That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ That is what I am talking about. ‘Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.’”
“But,” our Lord continues, “you know why you cannot follow? It is because you are in the flesh, and ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh’, it cannot rise above itself, it cannot do anything but reproduce its own nature; that is why I say that you must be born again. You see, Nicodemus, you cannot even think in my categories; you are living in a different realm altogether. You are like a man who is born deaf trying to understand music, or like a blind man trying to be a critic of art. You are incapable, because your nature is wrong.”
The Apostle Paul, having learned, of course, from the Master, puts it like this: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). This is why people are not Christian. Poor blind people, they cannot help it; they have a carnal fleshly nature, and it is something that is against God. The carnal mind is not only dull and blind and stupid, it is “enmity against God”. It hates God, it reviles Him. The Apostle says in another place, “In me, (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Or indeed our Lord puts it still more plainly in verse 19 of this chapter, “This is the condemnation, that light is come [or has come] into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
And that is where these modern teachers go so wrong, with all their ideas and statements as to how present day men and women should be approached with the Gospel. As we have seen, they speak as if the problem were an intellectual one. But it is not. “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world…” Why do people not turn to it? Why do they not believe it and accept it? Oh, our Lord says, “men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” I will tell you why they do not believe in Christ: it is because they love fornication and adultery; because they love evil; their hearts are rotten, they are haters of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”—and it will never rise above its own level and its own nature. That is why we need to be born again; our natures are opposed to the truth of God, and therefore we need new ones.
But let me give you a second reason, which is much more important. We need to be born again not only because we are what we are, but also because the kingdom of God is what it is. It is “the kingdom of God”! Not the kingdom of Socrates, or Plato or Aristotle. Not the kingdom of music, of Mozart, or of Beethoven… No, it is the kingdom of God! It is not something external, it is something spiritual. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). It is not a morality or a correct code of behaviour. No, it is entering into the spiritual realm, into fellowship with the almighty and the everlasting God. It means being a citizen of God’s kingdom, it means walking with Him.
And, remember, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The Psalmist understood this: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” he says, “or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” (Psalms 24:3—4). This is a realm of personal relationship, not one of views and of ideas, and of opposition. No, it means that you enjoy spiritual communion with God; you speak to Him and He speaks to you. The old relationship that obtained between God and Adam and Eve is restored and you become a companion of God; you are an heir of God, and you live in the realm of the spiritual.
But this is the problem. How can one dwell with such a God and have communion with Him? The Apostle says to the Corinthians, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”—Why? For this reason: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall
be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:14—16). That is what it means to be in the kingdom of God!
There is a city bright;
Closed are its gates to sin;
Nought that defileth,
Nought that defileth
Can ever enter in.
Mary Ann Sanderson Deck
It is the realm of light and of glory; and before I can enter it I must have something in me that corresponds to that.
But it is not only the nature of the kingdom, it is the whole question of God’s purpose and God’s thought and plan. This is why we need to be born again. God has put this very plainly through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah in chapter 55. He says, “My thought are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8—9). Look at this fool, Nicodemus—what else can I call him—pitting his little puny, physical, carnal mind, his mind of flesh, against such a truth, the mind of God and the purpose of God.
It is all put before us here so plainly. “Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (vv 9—12). “Man,” He says in effect, “listen; you must be born again, because I am talking about heavenly things. I am not talking about the stuff you can read in the newspapers, nor about mathematics that you can study and master with your mind. I am not even giving you poetry—man at the highest flight of his imagination. No, I am giving you heavenly things! The things of God! You cannot rise to them. Do not try to; you must be born again.”
And what are these heavenly things, these thoughts of God? “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (v 13). Do you know what that means? Nicodemus does not—and there he is trying to understand. He thinks that he does understand this man of whom he is seeking an interview; a wonderful teacher, he says the greatest of us all!
Yes but he thinks He is only a man, and our Lord points out to him here that He is not. He says, “Nicodemus, I am talking to you on earth but I am still in heaven! I am the Son of Man! Can you follow that sort of thing? Is your mind adequate? Of course it is not, that is why you need to be born again.” This is the word being made flesh! This is the miracle of God becoming man! This is the Virgin Birth! This is all the glory of the incarnation! Where is the mind that can understand it?
But our Lord goes on: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (vv 14—16). “Now then,” says our Lord, “Do you understand it?” How do men and women become Christians? How are they saved? How do they enter into the kingdom of God? They put in an effort, they live a better life, they attend a place of worship? No! There is only one way. The Son of Man must come down and must be lifted up as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness.
And this is the thing that the natural man, the man who is in the flesh, can never accept and never understand. “There is only one way whereby anybody can be saved,” says Christ, “and that is that I die for him. As that brazen serpent was lifted up of old in the wilderness, and everybody who had been bitten by a snake had but to look at him and he was healed, so I have got to be lifted up. I have got to bear the punishment of sin, and anybody who looks to me and believes in me is saved.” That is the message! But “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 1:18). It still is, it always has been. “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:22—23). And it still is! Man cannot understand it; he says, “It is immoral that one should die for all. It is impossible! I cannot get it. I must save myself.” But no, this is the way and the natural man hates it and rejects it.
Then add to that this whole matter of regeneration—men and women being born again, having a new nature, though they may be old, perhaps tottering at the side of the grave; they can start anew, and receive a new life. That is the nature of the kingdom and its teaching, and the natural man cannot receive it; he needs, therefore, to be born again.
And that brings me to my last principle which is this: how can a man be born again? How does it ever become possible? And that, too, is all here. It is obviously, patently, nothing that you and I can do. You cannot give birth to yourself; you cannot change your nature. You cannot become as a little child, you cannot start anew, you would if you could; but you cannot. It is impossible. No, we must be born again; we must be born from above, we must be born of the Spirit.
It is the great act of God. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). It is a great mystery because it is a miracle. Indeed it has all been stated already at the beginning of John’s Gospel: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12—13). The new nature can only be made by God. It is His gift. It is the God who made us making us again.
Oh, I do not understand it; it is like the wind! You see the effects, you hear it when it strikes you, but you do not understand, there is a mystery. It is there, it comes, it goes, it does things, but you cannot fathom it—“So is every one that is born of the Spirit.” A man finds himself a new man. People say, “Something has happened to me, I see things I never saw; I feel, I know: What is this?” They do not know, but they know it has happened. It is the recreating act of God. They have been smashed, they have been restored, they have been re-made. They know they are new men and women in Christ Jesus.
“Can we do nothing?” you say. Well, you can. I will tell you what you can do. You can recognise your need of it. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v 5). “Born of water” is baptism, if you like, repentance. It is a man or woman saying, “I see now that I am blind; I am vile and foul; I need to be cleansed, I cannot stand before God, I need to be washed, I need to be renewed.” That is repentance!
You must further acknowledge that you can do nothing about it. You must cast yourself upon the mercy of God as a suppliant, as a helpless, hopeless pauper. You must cast yourself upon His mercy and ask Him to have forgiveness upon you and to receive you and to give you life anew. You must cease to try to understand. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” Recognise that it is the heavenly truth and the heavenly things of God. Recognise your smallness, your finite capacity, your ignorance. Give up, give in. Confess it, though you are a great man in Israel. Repent, believe, and leave yourselves in the Almighty and loving hands of God.
Believe on the name of the Son of God; believe this one who confronted Nicodemus and who interrupted him and said, “Stop! You have nothing and I have got everything to give you. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (189-204)