The New Birth By: John Nelson Darby


I desire to meditate a little on John 3, and its connection with some other parts of scripture; more particularly in reference to the new birth. I desire to do so for the profitable understanding of what the new man is; and the place in which we are set as made partakers of it, as we now are in Christ. I shall necessarily go over some ground with which Christians are familiar, in speaking of such a subject; but this is necessary, in order to connect with it the further developments and distinctions which lead me to treat of the subject.

Many believed in Christ when they saw the miracles which He did, but Jesus did not commit Himself to them… He knew what was in man. (Chap. 2:23-25.) Their conclusion about Him was a just one, but it was a conclusion drawn by what was in man. It was perfectly worthless; it left man in his own nature, and under the motives, influences, and passions to which he was subject before; nor did it take him out of the domain of Satan, who had power over the flesh and the world. The conclusion was right; but it was only a conclusion: the man remained what he was—unchanged. Jesus, who knew what flesh was, had— could have—no confidence in it.

But Nicodemus (chap. 3), under God’s leading, for our instruction, goes a step farther. The others believed it, and left it there. But where the Spirit of God is at work, it always produces wants in the soul, craving and desire after that which is of God and godly; and so the sense of defect in ourselves. There is at once, instinctively too, the consciousness that the world will be against us; consciousness too of its opposition and scorn. Nicodemus comes by night. There was a want of something better in his soul; but his being a ruler and especially an ecclesiastical ruler, made it more difficult for him to go to Christ. The dignity of one set to teach is not a facility for going to learn. However, conscience urges him to go, and he goes; the fear of man makes him afraid, and he goes by night. How poor is that dignity which tends to hinder one learning of Christ! Nicodemus, though spiritual craving had led him to Christ, goes on the same ground in his enquiry as those who had no such want at all. “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (Ver. 2.) It was a conclusion drawn from proofs, perfectly just, but that was all. Still he wanted something from Him who shewed them; but he took for granted that he was, as a Jew, a child of the kingdom, and would have teaching. The Lord meets him (for he was sincere and known of Him) at once, by declaring that the whole ground he was on was wrong. He did not teach flesh, nor had He come to do so. God was setting up a kingdom of His own. To see this, a man must be born again, completely anew. The kingdom was not yet come visibly, not with observation; it was there among them; but to see it a man must have a wholly newnature. Nicodemus, arrested by the language, does not understand how this could be, stops as a human reasoner, though sincere, at the present difficulty, and in truth does not see the kingdom.