The Two Musts
by C.H. Mackintosh
In our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) He twice makes
use of the word "must" - a word of immense depth and moral power in
both cases. Let us ponder it for a few moments; for, though but a
word of one syllable, it contains a volume of most precious
evangelical truth in whichever light we view it.
1. And first, then, we read, "Marvel not that I said unto thee,
Ye must be born again." Here we have the total setting aside of
man in his very best estate. If I must be born again, if I must have
a new life, a new nature, then it matters not in the smallest degree
what I can or cannot boast of. Man, as born of a woman, enters this
world with the image of his fallen parent stamped upon him. Man, as
he came from the hand of his Creator, was made in the "image of
Man, as he issues from the womb of his mother, bears the image and
likeness of a fallen creature. Hence the force of our Lord's
expression, "Ye MUST be born again." It is not said, Ye must
mend, ye must try and be better, ye must alter your mode of living,
ye must turn over a new leaf. Had it been thus, Nicodemus would
never have asked, "How can these things be?" A man of the Pharisees
would have understood any or all of these things.
A change of conduct, a change of character, any moral reform, any
self-improvement, is perfectly intelligible to a Pharisee of every
age; but to be told "Ye MUST be BORN again"
can only be understood by one who has reached the end of himself and
his doings; who has been brought to see that in him, that is in his
flesh, dwelleth no good thing; who sees himself as a thorough
bankrupt without a certificate, who can never again set up on his
own account. He must get a new life to which the verdict of
bankruptcy cannot apply, and he must trade in the wealth of another,
on which creditors have no possible claim.
There is immense power in this little word "must." It bears
upon all alike. It speaks to the drunkard, and says, "You must be
born again." It addresses the most rigid teetotaler, and says, "You
must be born again." It speaks to every class, to every condition,
to every grade and shade of character, to man in every rank and
every clime, to every creed and every denomination, in its own
clear, emphatic, sweeping style, and says, "You must be born
again." It bears down with far more weight upon the conscience
than any appeal that could be made on the ground of moral conduct.
It does not interfere in the least with the question of moral
reform, in any one of its many phases. It allows as broad a margin
as any philanthropist or moral reformer may desire. It does not
disturb the various distinctions which society, public opinion, law
or equity has established. It leaves all these things perfectly
untouched, but it raises its clear and commanding voice above them
all, and says to the sinner - to man as born of a woman - to the
worst and to the best of men, "You must be born again." It
demands not reformation, but regeneration; not amendment, but a new
2. What then, it may be asked, are we to do? Whither are we to turn?
How are we to get this new life? Our Lord's second "must"
furnishes the reply. "As Moses
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man
be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but
have eternal life." This makes all
plain. A second Man has entered the scene. There are two men and two
musts. As to the first man, he must be born again, and as to the
second Man, He must be lifted up. In a word, the Cross is the grand
solution of the difficulty, the divine answer to the "How?"
Am I completely struck down by the first "must"? Am I overwhelmed by
the insuperable difficulty which it proposes to me? Am I on the very
verge of despair as I contemplate the apparent impossibility of
what, nevertheless, must be? Oh then, with what power does the
second "must" fall on my heart! "The Son of man must be lifted
up." Why must He? Because I must have new life, and this life is
in the Son, but it could only be mine through His death. The death
of the second Man is the only ground of life to the first - life to
me. One look at Christ, as lifted up for me, is life eternal.
The soul that simply believes on the Son of God, as dead and risen,
is "born of water and of the Spirit;" he hath everlasting life - he
is passed from death unto life, from the old creation into the new,
from the first man to the Second, from guilt to righteousness, from
condemnation to favor, from darkness to light, from Satan to God.
May God the Spirit unfold to the reader's heart the beauty and
power, the depth, the comprehensiveness, and moral glory of the two
"Not by works of righteousness which
we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing
of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us
abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by
His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal
life" (Titus 3:5-7)
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