by Brian C. Hoeck
"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, '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'. Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'. (John 3:1-3)
What was Jesus telling this man? How are we 'born again'? And when? Let's continue in John's Gospel account in chapter 3, verse 4,5: "Nicodemus saith unto Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily, (truly,truly) I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God'."
Nicodemus was confused as to what Jesus meant. He was thinking physically, instead of spiritually. Jesus clearly did not mean we are born from our mother's womb again - but, what did He mean? By saying,"Except a man be born of water and of the spirit . . ." did He mean that we are 'born again' through baptism? For it is through the act of baptism (immersion in water - the Greek word is "baptismo" which means "to immerse") that we receive the gift of the holy spirit with the laying on of hands (Acts 2:38). Is this how we're 'born of water' and 'the spirit'?
In Bullinger's Companion Bible, p.1518, concerning the 'water' and 'spirit' of John 3:5, it states: "Not two things, but one, by which the latter Noun (spirit) becomes a superlative and emphatic Adjective, determining the meaning and nature of the former Noun (water), showing that one to be spiritual water: i.e. not water but spirit. It is to be rendered "of water - yea, spiritual water." What is this 'spiritual water'? John 7:38,39 show us it is the holy spirit.
When we are born of a woman, we are born of 'water' (amniotic fluids) and we are flesh. Nicodemus understood this and Jesus used this simple truth to illustrate His point. He continued to explain this in John 3:6: "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 listest (wherever it pleases or wills), 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." Are people who've been baptized like the wind NOW? Of course not! By building on the knowledge of physical birth with its natural 'water', He explained what kind of birth He had in mind: "Except a man be born of water - yea, spiritual water - he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Natural 'water' brings natural birth - FLESH body. 'Spiritual water' brings spiritual birth - SPIRIT body. Flesh bears flesh, spirit bears spirit. Are you still flesh after baptism? Of course! Was Jesus still flesh after baptism? Yes! When did He become spirit (again)? Was is not at His resurrection that He was given a spirit body? Remember that He is "the beginning, the FIRSTBORN from the dead" (Col 1:18). He was BORN AGAIN - a second birth - this time from the DEAD. He was resurrected and CHANGED TO SPIRIT - the FIRST of the firstfruits. He had become flesh through Mary (Jn 1:14), and He then became spirit through the resurrection. So we see, Jesus spoke of two different types of birth: flesh and spirit. We need to experience both to enter the kingdom of God.
Now if we are not born again at baptism, when are we? And what happens at baptism?
When God created man, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen 2:7). This 'breath of life' is the spirit of man - our conscience. As we have seen, at baptism we receive the spirit of God called both the holy spirit and the spirit of truth (John 15:26). This spirit of truth works hand in hand with the word of truth (John 17:17). They are spoken of as a 'seed' (the Greek word being "sperma" hence 'sperm, seed'). God's seed (sperm) is sown in us and meets with our spirit (likened unto the ovum) and we are thence CONCEIVED. "The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Rom 8:16). Baptism is not then our second (spiritual) birth, but our BEGETTAL as God's children.
Allow me to explain this in another way. When my wife was pregnant with our son, he had only been begotten and was NOT YET born. At conception, when the sperm and ovum met (like God's spirit and our spirit), he became our child. That is when my wife became a mother and I a father. It is the same with baptism. Baptism is when we are CONCEIVED as children of God. He becomes our Father and we become His children, although, we are NOT YET born. It is the start of our development as a part of the Divine Family of God, into which we WILL BE born at the resurrection.
To enter this world and natural life, we pass through a very narrow birth canal. To enter into the kingdom of God and ETERNAL life, we again must pass through the narrow way. In Mt 7:13,14, Jesus stated, "Enter ye in at the strait gate . . . strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." It is this narrow passage which leads to our second birth.
We must strive to enter God's kingdom (Lk 13:24). We will NOT enter into our inheritence (His Kingdom) until we are born again. We are His children "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ [and "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor 15:50)]; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which SHALL BE revealed in us (at our birth). For the earnest expectation of the creature WAITETH for the manifestation of the sons of God . . . the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, WAITING for the adoption (this is a mistranslation and should be rendered "sonship" meaning our new birth), to wit, the redemption of our body." (Rom 8:17-23). Paul stated that even he and the church of his time were awaiting birth into the family of God.
"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." (I John 3:1,2)
While we are already begotten as His sons, we await our spiritual birth into His kingdom. This occurs at the resurrection, but we are more than just resurrected, we are changed - given a new body - one composed of spirit. Recall what Jesus said in John 3:6, flesh bears flesh & spirit bears spirit. Are we still flesh after our resurrection? Let's ask the apostle Paul, "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest (this is speaking of our flesh bodies) is not quickened (made alive), except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest NOT that body that SHALL BE (the spirit one), but bare grain (our natural physical body), it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain . . . So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: IT IS SOWN A NATURAL BODY, IT IS RAISED A SPIRITUAL BODY. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." (I Cor 15:36-44). Paul explained the resurrection here by comparing the planting of a seed and what it becomes, with the planting of a physical body and what it becomes. Now read I Cor 15:48-54, "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that FLESH AND BLOOD CANNOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), but WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMP: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory."
When we are born again, we will never die again (Rev 21:5,6). We will be raised as spirit beings. We will be like our Father and our Elder Brother Jesus the Christ as they have had planned since before the world came into being. God is reproducing Himself as He instructed man to do (Gen 1:28). This is His wondrous plan for His most beloved creation - mankind. It is the mystery of God (Rev 10:7). We will rule His Kingdom with Him. For we are created in the image of God and we are awaiting our birth. New creatures in Christ, awaiting our change. What manner of LOVE has our Father bestowed upon us and what wondrous glory He'll share with us - His Family.
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