Born Again: Justifying Grace

John 3:1-16, Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

“How?”

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This is really the question, isn’t it?  At least, it’s the first thing out of Nicodemus’s mouth when Jesus tells him that “no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  And it’s fair enough — most of us would ask the same, I’ll bet.

And it also points to Nicodemus’s world view that in order to see the Kingdom of God, there must be some way for him to do it.  Some thing for him to accomplish.  Some sacred rule or ritual that would qualify him for it.  This is why Jesus’ image of birth is so important.  For who among us accomplished anything that gave us the right to be born in the first place?  To be born once is a gift of grace.  And thus to be born again of the Spirit is also a gift of God’s grace.

We call this “justifying” grace insofar as being “justified” means to be “set right” before God.  It’s by God’s prevenient grace that we are led to God in the first place.  It is by God’s justifying grace on the Christ’s cross that we are set right in relationship to God, even while we are yet sinners.

For reflection:

  1. The image of birth is one of grace, but it does not come easily.  In what ways might being “born again” of God’s Spirit be difficult, painful, or arduous?
  2. Being “born again” is surely an image for the first time one comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  But there are times when even our faith in Jesus can feel dormant, even comatose.  What might we need in those times to enliven our faith?
  3. Despite all of our studies and theology, the Spirit of God remains unpredictable and out of our control.  How does Jesus’ image of the “wind” in verse 8 make you feel?
  4. Consider the word “whoever” in verse 16.  In what ways does this openness comfort you?  Do you think it ever challenges those who hear this famous summary of the gospel message?  How so?

Many blessings in the journey,

MM

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