John 3:16 (ESV) … “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Our Lord brought Nicodemus, the teacher of the Pharisees, face to face with the necessity of being born again, then confronted him with the nonnegotiables of the faith.
This encounter with Nicodemus is relevant for us today. The term born again has been pirated, emptied of its meaning, dragged through the gutter, and given back to us minus its power. Today when a person says he is born again we cannot be sure what he or she means. The mere use of the word tells us almost nothing. The truth, however, is that when one is really born again, there is a radical repentance, a radical work of the Spirit in the life, and a radical change so that the whole being is brought into new life. The results are discernible—they can be seen.
We see Nicodemus’ final question in verse 9: “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “Lord, I see your analogies, but how does this new birth happen? What is the force that lies behind being born again? Where does it spring from? What are its dynamics?” We might add for our own edification, “What does it mean in our lives?” As our Lord began to answer Nicodemus, he skillfully led up to the main thrust. Notice verse 10, where Jesus gently chides Nicodemus: “ ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things?’ ” In other words, “You have all of this learning and yet you do not understand?”
“I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” (v. 11)
Then Jesus added, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (vv. 12–13). Jesus was saying, “My authority comes from the fact that I came from heaven.”
With that our Lord elected to give what is possibly the greatest illustration from the Old Testament of what the new birth means—the dynamics behind spiritual life.