Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          May 12, 2013                                                                                                                            NO. 15



 "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 'Except a man is born again, he 

cannot see the kingdom of God'" (Jn. 3:3).

Jesus taught this to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus would have been aware of John the Baptist's teaching that the "kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 3:2). He would have also been aware of Jesus' teaching that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17). Now Jesus is teaching him that a man must be born again, or he cannot see the kingdom. Nicodemus asks Jesus: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" (Jn. 3:4).

Jesus repeats the teaching adding some explanation. He said:  "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 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.'  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit'" (Jn. 3:5-8).

Jesus teaches that the rebirth is "of water and of the Spirit." This is not two separate births, but two elements of the same birth.  First one must be born of water, which would be baptism. Jesus would command the eleven in Matt. 28:19 saying: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing hem in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." He would also command them saying:"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mk. 16:16). And Peter would command those who believed at Pentecost, when the gospel was preached in Jerusalem,saying: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Peter also wrote that "eight souls were saved by water" in the days of Noah and the great flood, and he added: "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us..." (1 Pet. 3:20,21).  Born of water is one element of rebirth, and the believer is born again of water when he is baptized.

The other element of rebirth into the kingdom of God is the spiritual change that occurs when one believes, repents, is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and begins to "continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42). This commitment to "Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," as taught in Matt. 28:20, is the "newness of life" we are to walk in (Rom. 6:4).

Jesus promised to send the Comforter to the apostles. He told them: "the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit...will teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (Jn. 14:26). The Spirit inspired them to teach, and the Scripture we have was given by inspiration of the Spirit. Paul wrote to Timothy: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16,17).

The rebirth "of water and the Spirit" called for by Jesus is one new birth, with two elements: one is baptism and the other is the transition that takes place when on believes, obeys, and subjects himself to the teachings of Jesus. Paul explains it this way: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into HIs death? Therefore we are buried with HIm by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3,4).

The gospel is preached, and those who believe, will repent and seek forgiveness of their sins in Christ, Who accepted the punishment for our sins. Like those Jews who believed in Acts 2:37, the believer wants to know what Jesus would have him do. What would Jesus have the believer do? The answer is the same answer Peter gave those believing Jews in Acts 2:38. The believer repents of his sins, and he is baptized for the remission of those sins, and he rises to walk in the newness of life that comes with being born again. The old man of sin is "buried with Him (Christ) by baptism into death" (Rom. 6:4), so the believer comes out of the water forgiven and begins to walk in the "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).

"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). Born again of water of of the Spirit, the believer has now been forgiven of his sins; put on Christ, his old man has died with Christ and been buried with Him in baptism; and his is risen to walk in newness of life, a new creature in Christ. Paul commands: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2).

Believers are born again through the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23). The Word of God is the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul said the things the apostles spoke were not man's wisdom, but rather what the Holy Spirit taught (1 Cor. 2:13). Paul wasn't ashamed of the gospel, because it held the power of salvation (Rom. 1:16). The power of the gospel is that it produces faith (Rom. 10:17). And those who believe in Jesus receive Him, and these are given the right to become God's children (Jn. 1:12).

The Holy Spirit guided the apostles, giving them what they should say (Matt. 10:19,20). Since hearing the gospel produces faith that gives one the right to become children of God, the rebirth has begun by the power of the Spirit in the believing hearer. It is this transformation combined with baptism that constitutes the rebirth into the kingdom of God, added to the congregation of the saved; with one's sins washed away (Acts 22:16).

  "But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 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 Spirit" (Titus 3:4,5)

Won't you hear the good news that Jesus died for you; that He was buried and God raised Him from the dead on the third day; that He did this so that we might have forgiveness of our sins in HIm? Believe in Jesus, Repent, Confess your belief in word and in deed.  Rise to walk in newness of life guided by HIs Word.  Be born again.  

---Tony Hudson

in The Lighted Path,

Vol. 2, No. 6, Nov/Dec. 2012

---Donnie V. Rader

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