Except a Man Be Born Again
If there are a thousand people here tonight who want to know what love God has for them, let them read the 3rd chapter of John; and they will find it there, and find eternal life. They need not go out of this hall tonight to find eternal life. They will find it here in this chapter, and find eternal life before these services close. They hear tonight how the way for the salvation of their souls is open to them. Yes, I do not know anything more important than this subject of regeneration. I don’t know of anything in the Bible more important and more plain than that; and yet it is a question that neither the churches nor the world is sound upon. There is no question upon which the churches and the world are more confounded than upon this very question of regeneration. If a man is sound on every other subject, you may find that he is unsound on this plain subject of regeneration. It is the very foundation of our hope, and the very foundation of our religion. It is a great deal better, with God’s help, to understand this question perfectly first, than to go on further in the Word of God. It is a solemn question – “Am I born of the Spirit? Have I been born again?” For you know that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Now, let me say what regeneration is not. It is not going to church. Very often I see people and ask them if they are Christians. “Yes, of course I am; at least I think I am; I go to church every Sunday.” Why, I could say to them, the very devil goes to church every Sunday; and no one goes more regularly to church than he does. If you go down in the dark alleys and by-ways of the city, and do all the good you can, preach God’s word and show God’s love to those abandoned beings – I tell you that is not regeneration; No! No! It is a false idea that you get regenerated by scattering the seed of God by the wayside. But still there is another class of Christians, or who think they are Christians. They say: “I am trying to do what is right – am I not a Christian? Is not that a new birth?” No; I tell you, no. What has that to do with being born again? There is yet another class—those who have turned over a new leaf, and think they are regenerated. No; forming a new resolution is not being born again. That will not do you any good.
Nor will being baptized do you any good. Yet you hear people say: “Why, I have been baptized, and I was born again when I was baptized.” They believe that because they are baptized into the church, they are baptized into the kingdom of God. I tell you that is utterly impossible. You may be baptized into the visible church, and yet not be baptized into the Son of God. Baptism is all right in its place. God forbid that I should say anything against it. But if you put that in the place of regeneration – in the place of a new birth – it is a terrible mistake. You cannot be baptized into the kingdom of God. If I thought I could baptize men into the kingdom of God, it would be a good deal better for me to do that than to preach. I should get a bucket of water, and go up and down the streets, and save men that way. If they would not let me do it while they were awake, I would do it while they were asleep. I would do it anyhow. For, “except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” If any one here tonight rests his hopes on anything else – any other foundation – I pray to God that he may sweep it away from him. You may be baptized into the church and not be disciples of Jesus Christ. I say to you, do not rest your hopes on that foundation. Another class says: “I go to the Lord’s supper; I partake uniformly of the sacrament.” Blessed ordinance! Jesus hath said that as often as ye do it ye commemorate his death. Yet, that is not being born again; that is not passing from death into life. It says plainly – and so plainly that there need not be any mistake about it – “Except ye are born of the Spirit, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” What has a sacrament to do with that? What has baptism to do with being born again? What has going to church to do with being born again? But another man comes and says, “I say my prayers regular.” Still, I say, that that is not being born again. That is not being born of the Spirit.
~ This is from “The Second Birth” in The Gospel Awakening