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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, February 6, 2011

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:6-7).

Last Wednesday I received an e-mail from a man in Hong Kong. I am giving you most of it, not to brag, but to point out a problem that lies heavily on my heart. This Chinese man wrote to me saying,

Dear Dr. Hymers,
      It is great that you can put your messages on [the] Internet. Every real Christian can get help from this website. “Reborn” is important to everyone, but most churches do not talk about [it]. You are one of [the] lamps from God in this world...I will pray for your work.

I am afraid he is right. Many of our preachers no longer speak on the new birth. I think there are several reasons for this. First, the new birth has been relegated to a mere act of man – such as saying the words of a prayer, “going forward,” raising the hand, learning the Bible and giving mental assent to it, or trying to learn how to be disciples of Christ without being born again. All of these are only the acts of men, and are not really the new birth. Second, many “churches” do not talk about the new birth because the preachers are afraid that emphasizing it might upset some of their unsaved members upon whom they are financially dependent. Third, the new birth is avoided because many preachers think they can gradually teach people to be Christians, even though the people they are teaching have never been born again! And a fourth reason is because many preachers have never experienced the new birth themselves. Therefore they do not see the importance of it. Jesus said,

“They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).

To the greatest Bible teacher in Jerusalem, Jesus said,

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:6-7).

Dr. Gill gave the following comments on those verses,

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh”...Man by his natural he is born according to the flesh of his natural carnal and corrupt, and cannot discern [see] spiritual things; nor can he, as such, enter into, and inherit the kingdom of God; see I Corinthians 2:14 [“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God...neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”]. And therefore [it is necessary for him to be] born again...and of his becoming a spiritual man...“And that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit”: A man that is regenerated [born again] by the Spirit of a spiritual man...and has a right to the world of spirits above (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, vol. I, pp. 768-769; note on John 3:6).

Then Jesus said in verse 7,

“Marvel not [don’t be surprised] that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:6-7).

It is a shame that so many modern churches say little or nothing about the new birth – for “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” and cannot “enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). That which is left out of many sermons today is the most important thing of all – because no matter what else people learn in church, if they are not born again they “cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). As an old song put it,

Ye children of men, attend to the word
   So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;
And let not this message to you be in vain,
   “Ye must be born again.”
“Ye must be born again, Ye must be born again;
   I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”
   (“Ye Must Be Born Again” by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

We believe that regeneration (the new birth) occurs logically before conversion, yet both occur simultaneously. The new birth happens when the Holy Spirit gives a spiritually dead person life, and that person is drawn to Jesus, and is converted. The new birth and conversion hardly ever occur unless the sinner is first made to feel how sinful he is in the sight of a holy God (click here to read pages 137 and 138 of our book, “Today’s Apostasy”).

In 2010 Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky said,

      “Jesus makes very clear that conversion is not an option. It is not a way one becomes a [true] believer...Jesus says the definitive, essential experience is that one must be born again...” [Dr. Mohler spoke of] “the centrality of conversion in Scripture.” [He said], “Conversion is so central to our theology that it must be in every sermon. It must be in every church. It must always be the confession of the church that we are [born again] by the...power of God and by the gospel of Jesus Christ” (

I wish preachers would listen to Dr. Mohler and preach on the “central” importance of the new birth. But I am afraid that, at best, many of them will only tack on a few words of the Gospel at the end of their sermons, and ask unconverted sinners to mouth the words of a prayer, as Joel Osteen usually does. Sadly, this is not evangelistic preaching! It is “motivational” or “expository,” but it is not evangelistic Gospel preaching. Today it is often difficult to find a church where lost people can hear an evangelistic sermon. God help us!

Another reason that “most churches don’t talk about” the new birth is that they think the entire work of evangelism can be done on someone’s doorstep. They think that you can read a few verses from Romans to an unconcerned lost person and then lead him to parrot back the words of a “sinner’s prayer” – and the work of evangelism is done! What a shame! Can’t they see that this method hardly ever produces real converts? Very few people truly experience the new birth through the use of this method!

Instead sinners need to be brought into the church to hear real evangelistic sermons like those of C. H. Spurgeon. Yes, church people should go out and invite the lost to church, ask for their names and phone numbers, and bring them to church to hear real evangelistic sermons aimed at sinners, for

“How shall they hear without a preacher”? (Romans 10:14).

Jesus said,

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

I believe in local church evangelism – evangelism that gets lost sinners into the local church to hear Gospel preaching! Then we will see some of them experience the new birth! Bring them in! Stand and sing the chorus!

Bring them in, bring them in, Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in, Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.
   (“Bring Them In” by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).

You may be seated.

Yet another reason the new birth and evangelistic preaching have largely disappeared is that a vast number of our churches have stopped having Sunday evening services. In the old days, when I was young, all of our churches had evening services. I can’t remember a single Baptist church of any denomination or fellowship that didn’t have an evening service in the 1950s and 60s here in the Los Angeles area. But today there are very few who hold meetings on Sunday night. One preacher thought it would be just as good to give his people lunch after the morning service, and then bring them back for another lesson. He said, “They get more Bible that way.” He completely forgot that this method gives no opportunity for his people to bring in lost relatives and others to hear the Gospel as we used to do when our Baptist churches were growing. So, I contend that closing the Sunday evening service is one of the main reasons for the death of evangelistic preaching. It may be the main reason that “most churches do not talk about” the new birth.

The pastor feels he must “feed” his people on Sunday morning. So he teaches them the Bible. Since he has closed his evening service, there is no opportunity to preach the new birth to lost sinners. Thus evangelistic preaching has largely become a thing of the past. To be quite frank, I wouldn’t pastor a church that didn’t have an evangelistic evening service.

What should real evangelistic preaching say to lost sinners? I think the points in George Whitefield’s (1714-1770) greatly used sermon “The Method of Grace” reveal what pastors need to emphasize when they preach.

1.  First, Whitefield said, “Ye must be made to see, made to feel, made to weep over, made to bewail your actual transgressions against the law of God…Was ever the remembrance of your sins grievous to you? Was the burden of your sins intolerable to your thoughts?...Were you ever in all your life sorry for your sins? Could you ever say, my sins are gone over my head as a burden too heavy for me to bear? Did you ever experience such a thing as this?...If not, for Jesus Christ’s sake do not call yourselves Christians… May the Lord awaken you, may the Lord convert you.”

2.  Second, Whitefield said, “Ye must not only be [convicted] of your actual transgressions against the law of God, but likewise of…original sin, that original corruption…which renders us liable to God’s wrath and damnation…Some people may deny this, yet when conviction comes, all carnal reasonings are battered down… When the sinner is first awakened, he begins to wonder how he became so wicked: the Spirit of God then strikes in, and shows that he has no good thing in him by nature; then he sees that…he is altogether become abominable…and to acknowledge that God would be just to damn him…Did ye ever feel and experience this, any of you, to justify God in your damnation; to [agree] that ye are by nature children of wrath…If ye were ever truly convicted…ye will be made to see and feel this. And if ye have never felt the weight of original sin, do not call yourselves Christians. I am [truly] persuaded [that] original sin is the greatest burden of a true convert.”

3.  Third, Whitefield said, “Ye must not only be troubled for the sins of your life, the sins of your nature, but likewise for the sins of your best duties and performances…Ye must be brought to see all your duties, all your righteousness…to be filthy rags…We can do no good thing by nature; ‘They that are in the flesh cannot please God’…Ye must not only be sick of your original and actual sins; but ye must be made sick of your righteousness, of all your duties and performances. There must be a deep conviction before ye can be brought out of your self-righteousness…But if ye never felt that ye had no righteousness of your own…ye can never come to Jesus Christ.”

4.  Fourth, Whitefield said, “I fear, upon examination, we should find that most of you have not [as] much faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the devil himself…Merely to believe that there was once such a person as Christ…will do you no good, more than to believe there was such a man as Caesar or Alexander the Great…Did you ever pray, Lord, give me faith? Lord, enable me to lay hold on thee. Did Jesus Christ ever convince you in this manner? Did [the Holy Spirit] ever…make you cry out to God to give you faith [in Christ]?...Ye must be enabled to lay hold upon...the Lord Jesus Christ.”

5.  Fifth, Whitefield said, “These things ye must experience. I am now talking of the invisible realities of another world, of inward religion, of the work of God upon a poor sinner’s heart…Your eternal salvation is concerned in it. And may ye have no rest in your soul till ye rest in Jesus Christ….Oh, that God would bring some of you to Him!”

These are excerpts from Whitefield’s famous sermon (George Whitefield, “The Method of Grace,” George Whitefield: Sermons, Pietan Publications, 1999 reprint, volume II, pp. 108-109).

Make no mistake here! Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). That usually happens when you are “made to feel, made to weep over, made to bewail” your sins against a holy God! The new birth is given by God when you stop playing games, when you stop asking questions, when you stop trying to “learn how to be saved,” when you feel the awful weight of your sin, when you feel that you can have “no rest in your soul till ye rest in Jesus Christ.” Sinner, come directly to the once crucified, now risen Christ. Your sins can never be cleansed by anything other than Christ’s precious Blood!

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or you may write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

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).