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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, May 30, 2004
at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

A study by the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest denomination, reveals that more than sixty percent of adults baptized have been baptized before (reported in The California Southern Baptist, May 4, 1995, p. 8). This means only 4 out of every 10 baptisms were from those making first-time professions. The other six out of ten were baptized for "rededicating their lives," or "for some other reason." The article ended by saying, "The survey indicates the need for more [pastoral] counselling of those seeking baptism" (ibid.). Thomas Wright, a leader of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, said, "We are not carefully counselling those who indicate an interest in becoming Christians" (ibid.).

From personal observation, I do not see a lot of difference in other Baptist groups, or among other evangelicals. People are simply baptized when they "come forward" or go through a "new members" class. All of this is done very mechanically, without pastors counselling and listening to the people they are baptizing.

It seems to me that the very idea of the new birth as a life-changing spiritual experience has been lost almost completely in our churches, even in very conservative churches. I believe that we have lost the Biblical doctrine of the new birth in our time. No wonder our churches are loaded down with unsaved members! No wonder these unconverted members cause church split after church split, and often make life nearly unbearable for pastors and other church leaders.

In our church we decided to go back to the "old paths," the methods used in the churches before Charles G. Finney and his followers ruined evangelism. We take great care to make certain that each person seeking salvation truly experiences the new birth. This is critical, because Jesus said,

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

Now, what does it mean to be born again? The Bible gives two characteristics of the new birth.

I. First, you must be born again.

"Except a man be born again…palin anōthen"

in the original Greek. "The puzzle of Nicodemus shows…that he took it as 'again'…" (Dr. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1932, volume V, p. 44.). Indeed, it is "again" that you need to be born.

When you are born the first time it is the beginning of your life. I will never forget seeing the birth of my twin sons. I can see the room. I can see the doctors. I can see the faces of both boys as they emerged into the world. That was when they were born. But just as surely as they were born, they must be born again. They must be born a second time, and so must you!

Birth is the beginning of life in the world. To be born again is to begin life in this world anew. And you must be born again or you cannot enter into a new life with Christ.

To be born again means to begin living a new life. It will not be a perfect life, because no Christian in this world is perfect. But it will be a new life. The Bible says,

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new"
    (II Corinthians 5:17).

There will be a new enjoyment of God. Before you had to be prodded and exhorted to sing out during the hymns. But when you are born again, you will sing them with gusto, and enjoy doing it! Note three boys who stand up to sing a trio each Sunday in our church. They are college boys. They are busy. They don't have much time to practice. Sometimes they are slightly off key. But they sing out good and strong to the Lord, with no thought whatever of whether they will be criticized. As a result, they are a blessing. The blessing does not come so much from the sound of their voices as it does from the sincerity of their faces! Snickering, unconverted "church kids" would back out, afraid of what their friends would say. But converted boys sing out boldly for God, and enjoy doing it - because they are born again!

Oh, think of the church musicians and the multitude of pianists and beautiful music we will have when piano-trained, but unconverted church kids are finally born again! The church will be so full of music that we will cry "Holy, Holy, Holy - for the whole house of God is filled with the bold and joyful music of those who are born again!"

I must stay with the music for a moment. For it is very often in the music that the new birth - or absence of it - is seen.

One fellow said, "I like to play the piano, but I don't want to do it in church. I want to play for my own enjoyment only." Ah, what could be a clearer mark that he has not been born again?

Here you have three born again boys singing out at the top of their lungs every Sunday - but the boy who is not born again hides it away for himself - alone. Like Achan he hides his shekels of silver and wedge of gold in the earth in the midst of his tent! He hides his talents in his tent. And so will you until you are born again! But when you are born again, "all things are become new." You will throw open the door of your tent and the talents you have hidden there will pour forth for the blessing and praise of God!

I say that nowhere is the new birth (or lack of it) more clearly seen than in the music and singing of a church. The ugliness of much of the music in our churches comes from the fact that it is a counterfeit. The songs come from people who are often unconverted.

To tell you the truth, I can't stand contemporary Christian music. And it isn't only the music itself I dislike - it's the phoniness of the people singing it. About the only one I can stand to listen to is George Beverly Shea, nearly 96 years old. There's a simple sincerity in his voice that hushes the people and glorifies God. Mr. Shea is obviously born again. The rest? Forget it! I know that I will be called "judgmental" for saying that. But it is the only answer that satisfies my own mind regarding the hideous cacophony that passes for "Christian" music today.

And so it is in our church. You cannot sing for God out of a sincere and joyful heart until you are born again. The Bible speaks of this when it says,

"…be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:18-19).

A person who has not been born again is devoid of the Holy Spirit, and cannot sing in a way that pleases God. When you are born again you will have a new way of singing.

You will also have a new way of witnessing and a new way of praying. "All things are become new" when you are born again (II Corinthians 5:17).

II. Second, you must be born from above.

Matthew Henry said,

We must be born from above, so the word is used by the evangelist…and I take this to be especially intended here, not excluding the other [born again]; for to be born from above supposes being born again. But this new birth has its rise from heaven (chapter 1:13)…it is to partake of [the] divine nature and to bear the image of the heavenly (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1991 reprint, volume 5, p. 712).

The Apostle Peter spoke of being "partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). God gives you His own nature from above when you are born again, when you are born from above. Dr. A. T. Robertson said,

It is a second birth, to be sure, regeneration, but a birth from above by the Spirit (Robertson, ibid., p. 45).

C. H. Spurgeon said,

I am still a believer in the old-fashioned type of conversion, and I do not think there are many new births without pangs, or that many souls come to Christ without alarms of conscience, and much sorrow of heart on account of sin…I think I have seldom seen a conversion turn out well that had not the foundations of it laid in some measure of abhorrence of sin, and loathing of self, and utter despair of any salvation except by the sovereign grace of God…If I were in a state of anxiety about my soul, and I heard such a sermon as this, it would make me feel, "Oh, how dependent I am upon the Spirit of God!" It would compel me to…this prayer, "Oh, Lord, save me!" I think it would drive me, in despair of doing anything to save myself, to cast myself into the Saviour's arms, that he might give me that Spirit by which I should be born again. And remember, the moment a sinner does that, he is born again. As soon as he casts himself upon Christ, he has passed from death unto life, and the miracle of regeneration [the new birth] has been wrought [accomplished] in him (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Necessity of Regeneration," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1978 reprint, volume LIV, p. 586).

Spurgeon pointed out that those who are not truly born again are easily offended when their conversion is checked by a pastor.

…but it is not so with the true possessors of grace…[they] will endure all tests that may be applied to [them]. I know that, when I went to see the minister about making a profession of my faith in Christ, I hoped that he would test me, and try me, and probe me, for I wanted him to find me out if I was a hypocrite or self-deceived, and I think that every genuine convert feels very much as I did. We do not want to have any superficial work…we want it to be done thoroughly so that it will last throughout eternity. I do not want any peace except it be real peace through the precious blood of Jesus (ibid., page 587).

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

What does Jesus mean when He says you must be born again to "see the kingdom of God"? Seeing the kingdom of God means two things. First, it means seeing the reality of spiritual things now. When you are born again, from above, the things you read about in the Bible become real to you. Most importantly, Jesus Christ becomes a reality to you. You know Christ. You come to Christ, Himself. His Blood washes your sins away. You see all this by faith when you are born again.

Second, you are made fit to enter the kingdom of God in the world to come. Unless you are born again, you would be out of place in God's coming kingdom. If God allowed you into Heaven the way you are, you would not enjoy it at all. You must be born again if you wish to enter God's eternal Kingdom, and join the Heavenly choir, and sing with them a new song to Christ:

"Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Revelation 5:9).

May God grant you the new birth so you can join that great choir in Heaven, and sing the praises of Christ throughout all eternity! Amen.


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 3:1-7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Ye Must Be Born Again" (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

I.   You must be born again, II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:18-19.

II.  You must be born from above, II Peter 1:4; Revelation 5:9.

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