This is part 2 of a lengthy blog-series on the new birth.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church
As has already been seen, the new birth speaks of the birth from above, that is, a heavenly birth. This heavenly birth comes from God, given by grace, to the sinner in desperate need of supernatural intervention lest he perish in his sins. But the question then arises, just how important is this new birth. Is it really that important for a person to be born again? What if they merely know about God or have an intellectual assent to Jesus Christ? Will this save them? What if they’ve been baptized? Or what if they’ve gone to church and have remained faithful in a local congregation all their lives? What if a person prayed a prayer and was real sincere in uttering those words to accept Jesus into his heart? Don’t these help? Contribute? Work? Save?
In the passage in John 3 when Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, Jesus unequivocally and most lucidly reveals the necessity of this new — heavenly, divine, God-given — birth. In other words, anything else will not save; indeed, anything else cannot save.
In John 3:7, Jesus says to the learned Jewish Nicodemus not to marvel that Jesus said: “it is necessary for you to be born again” [or, born from above]. The specific phrase that this essay hones in upon is: “it is necessary” [δεῖ; dei]. This underscores the absolute necessity of the new birth. The word δεῖ that is translated: “it is necessary” occurs elsewhere in the New Testament translated as “must”. For instance, Jesus began to tell His disciples that he must [δεῖ] go to Jerusalem and suffer many things (Matt 16:21). In this very same context as Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, He says that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so must [δεῖ] the Son of Man be lifted up (John 3:14). Later in this same chapter, John the Baptist declared: “He must [δεῖ] increase” (John 3:30). Later in John’s Gospel, he wrote that the disciples did not understand the Scripture that Jesus must [δεῖ] rise again from the dead (John 20:9). All off this emphasizes the absolute necessity of something happening. In the context of John 3 and Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus, He unswervingly, unashamedly, and unambiguously affirmed that Nicodemus (and all people, especially Jews in this context; as signified by the plural ‘you’ ὑμᾶς in John 3:7).
The words that come from Christ’s own lips demand that a person be born again to enter heaven. He must be birthed from above. It is absolutely necessary for someone to receive God’s gift of the re-birth to see the kingdom of God. If not, no one will enter. Unless God does the work, no one will make it to heaven. Unless God acts, and initiates, and imparts life, and grants the heavenly birth, no person can make it to heaven. It’s not a matter of a person’s will; it reveals the inability of a person to make it to heaven unless God, and God alone, acts. If a person has not been born again to a new and living hope by the supernatural working of God, then he shall never be saved. Salvation rests on God alone.
The redemption work is a monergistic work — that is, the working of one. It is God who must impart spiritual life to spiritually dead sinners so that they may live, be forgiven, be renewed, and able to follow Him as a way of life.It’s not optional, it’s essential. It’s not up to a person’s will, it’s up to God’s sovereign prerogative and decree. Truly, it is necessary [δεῖ] for you to be born again!