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Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by charles_creech78, Jul 14, 2007.
What does it mean to you? What part of you is born again? How is it born again?
Let's look at this term as it appears in Scripture:
The phrase "born again" could be phrased "born from above," or "regenerated from above" or "re-gened." The implication is that it is
1. a birth--something that one cannot control and does not choose, but defines someone's makeup (genes)
2. from above--from heaven, from God. God is the source, not man.
Your spirit. Let's look further in this passage:
"Born of water and of the Spirit" is an reference to "above." The rain and Spirit come from above--from heaven.
"Born of the Spirit" is contrasted with "born of the flesh." Born again is not physical, it is spiritual; and its source is from above, not from the earth. God regenerates (regenes) one's spirit.
Jesus explains to Nicodemus that born again/born from above/born of the Spirit is not a physical birth, and it comes from above.
God does it. One does not choose to be born physically; in like manner, one does not choose to be born spiritually. It is from above, meaning God does it, not man.
As good an analysis of a difficult concept you are going to get. Encouraging stuff!:thumbs:
'Born once, die twice; born twice, die once.'
You must be born again.
John 3:1-7 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 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.
3 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.
4 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?
5 Jesus answered, 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.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Three times does Jesus say "you must be born again." In this passage he compares two kinds of births; two kinds of life. He says in verse 6:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
There is a fleshly or physical birth. That is how we all got into this world.
There is a spiritual birth. This is what Jesus refers to. You must be born again.
Further Jesus said in verse five: Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Here is a key (and confusing) verse.
What does the verse mean? What does the "water" mean?
The first thing that we rule out is baptism. Baptism is nowhere seen in the context, nor would Nicodemus even be thinking about baptism at this time. Many believe this to be a straight comparison between the physical birth and birth by the Spirit of God, the water here being the water in the uterus before the birth of the infant. It is a strictly literal interpretation. This is a plausible interpretation. But there is yet another choice which the Word of God supports.
Jesus said you must be born of water and the Spirit. No matter which way you read it, the water must represent something. We know that it doesn't represent baptism so what does it represent? As we consider this once again, keep in mind that there are only two agents by which one is born again: water and the Spirit. We agree that the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. Thus we need to find out what the water represents, that other agent involved in what is required to be born again. Compare Scripture with Scripture and we find the answer.
What is water used for? I believe that Jesus is using a common picture here.
Water is a cleansing agent.
John 15:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
--This was a common teaching of Jesus. It is also taught in the OT, in the Psalms (Psalms 119:9,11). Water cleans. The Word cleans. As water cleans physical objects so does the Word cleans us spiritually. The Word of God is imperative in being born again.
James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
--begat means to be born.
We are born by the word of truth. James is teaching that one needs to be born again by the Word of God. There are only two agents by which a man must be born again (water or the Word, and the Spirit of God).
Peter makes this truth very clear.
1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
--It can't get much clearer than that. One is born again by the Word of God. Over and over again we are told that the Word of God is necessary for salvation. We are saved by the preaching of the gospel.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
The message of salvation comes through the Word of God. One cannot be saved without the Word of God. One cannot be saved without the Spirit of God. Both work together. There are only two agents by which one is saved; water (the word), and the Spirit of God. This is what I believe this verse to mean.
What must one do:
John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
To be born again means to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice on the cross that he paid for your sins. It means to receive him as your Savior. Then as verse 12 says one becomes a child of God. He becomes born again; born into God's family. Once he was a part of Satan's family. Now he has been born into the family of God. Thus the necessity of the new birth. It is salvation. As marriage happens only once in a person's life (or should), so does the new birth. It is a one time act. There is no such thing as two new births in the life of a believer. One can only be born again once; just as one is only born into this world once. Hence Jesus uses the term: "You must be born again." And NOT "be born again and again and again."
You must be born again.
A brief essence of my 'master sermon' entitled "What it Means to be 'Born Again'" is this: For Jesus to do in us what God did in Him."
And what is that? The text is Philippians 2:5-11. Although he has/does/will exist in the form of God, he "emptied himself" being found in the likeness of men. He humbled himself to the point of the death on a cross and is now highly exalted. At the moment of our incarnation (in Jesus) God reckons us dead to the flesh and resurrected (not spelled out in Phil. 2, but go forward and it is in Phil. 3:10) and exalted to be forever the child of the living God.
We share his incarnation.
We share his crucifixion.
We share his resurrection.
We share his exaltion.
I agree with TC Greek as to Ares Man's analysis.
However, I think part of the importance of understanding the meaning "born again" is: when did it happen, how did it happen, why did it happen.
As we look at the text:
Joh 3:3 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.
Was Jesus telling Nicodemus that he needs to be born again to see the kingdom of God ?
Or was he saying he needs to be a born again individual in order to see the kingdom of God ?
Is "born again" a requirement, or a quality/characteristic of one who sees the kingdom of God.
I know I'm going to get hammered for this but I will jump in anyway because I am not hindered by a lifelong belief that baptism is merely an ordinance. The most logical and reasonable interpretation of being born again is that it refers to baptism. Several reasons:
1. Jesus equates being born of water and the spirit with being born again. John 3:3-5.
2. Baptizing was on Jesus' agenda at the time. The very next thing He did after the meeting with Nicodemus was to baptize in the land of Judea. John 3:22.
3. In Romans 6:4, baptism is shown as how we die to the old life and and are raised from the dead to walk in newness of life, i.e., being born again.
4. For the most part, the early church fathers who wrote about baptism dealt with it in the context of John 3:5, being born of water and the spirit. It would seem that they were in a better position than we are to understand what these ancient writings mean.
If you allow that baptism may be sacramental, this explanation makes perfect sense. It is only when you reject this notion that people start looking for various meanings of what it means to be born again, as we have already seen by the postings on this thread.
"Born of water and of the Spirit" is neither a reference to physical birth nor baptism. Only once does Jesus mention "water" and He does not elaborate. He continues referring only to "born of the Spirit." When you understand that, in the Greek, "born again" means "born from above," then "water and the Spirit" merely illustrates "from above." "Water" and "the Spirit" are not different things; they are merely two terms to explain "from above." The point is that it is not physical at all. "Born again" is "born of the Spirit" (as opposed to "born of the flesh") and it is "from above" not "from the earth."
"Born again" literally means "regeneration" in the Greek. It is something only God can do. Man cannot do this.
Salvation by grace alone through faith alone is so important that personally I wouldn't care if every Church Father starting with Papias believed in baptismal regeneration. Scripture is our final authority.
I suppose "sacramental" is an OK term but we need to be very careful as to what we mean. The RCC defines a sacrament as a channel of sanctifying grace which as Baptists we should totally reject. An act of obedience plesases the Father, if that is what one means by "sacramental" then I suppose it is OK, however, and again, why confuse dead theology with the living.
There is only one fountain of grace and that is the effect of the indwelling Spirit. There is no confusion as to what it means to be born again.
1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
Jesus Himself defined what the "water" of John 3 means...
John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Thank you, HankD. Therefore at this point in his life, Nicodemus was not yet born again. He was still an unregenerate.
Being born of water is physical birth. We were each enclosed in an sac filled with amnionic fluid before birth. Born of the spirit gives us a new nature, one that no longer wants to sin, even though we do.
To be 'born again' is to finally be able to start to become the person I always wanted to be but couldn't. It is something God did for me and God is still doing for me in maturing me spiritually.
I think that "water" and "the Spirit" both refer to "from above."
Rather it is to start to become the person that you never realized that you should be and couldn't. No one seeks God on His terms until he is regenerated (born again/from above).
I strongly disagree with you, AresMan. First of all, water was the substance of the original creation. When we are born of water, the meaning is double: it is the birth of the originally created matter and it is also the birth from our physical mother's womb.
Secondly, I can guarantee to you that I deeply wanted to be different long before I was born again in Christ. But I was totally incapable of becoming the person I so badly wanted to be. The idea that someone cannot want to change until the Holy Spirit is already in him or her is hogwash. Look at all the people in the world in other religions who are trying to achieve something via works. They are desperately trying to change to become better people.
I had a sort of idea in my mind of the characteristics I wanted to have inside of me, and I was simply not able to achieve that goal without Christ. I did not know I needed Christ, but I sure knew I needed to change. It is only the WICKED who do not seek God, according to David in the Psalms, which Paul quotes in Romans 3. Many, many other people do. In order to say they do not, you have to ignore not only so much in the Bible, but ignore as well every other religion in the world. I'm not up for that kind of blindness.
Yes this is evident because even though he was a "master" in Israel, he did not understand what Jesus was telling him.
He does seem to be sincere as he "came by night" (could also be symbolic) and not someone who was sent to spy Him out. He was IMO being "drawn by the Father" to Jesus.
Helen says: "When we are born of water, the meaning is double: it is the birth of the originally created matter and it is also the birth from our physical mother's womb."
I have heard this all my life and used to believe it but nowhere else in scripture is water used a a reference to amniotic fluid. Also, this construction implies two births--physical and spritual--and the syntax here suggests only one birth. I doubt if you could find anyone well versed in Greek to agree with you.
Once again, we find people speculating and disagreeing on the meaning of being "born again." If we could accept that Jesus is talking about baptism, everything else falls into place and no further speculation would be necessary.
I believe the water is referring to the Jewish ritual of cleansing. We must be born of the Spirit, but we must also be washed clean of sin, which is accomplished by faith in the work of Christ.
HankD said: "I wouldn't care if every Church Father starting with Papias believed in baptismal regeneration. Scripture is our final authority."
HankD, I agree completely that scripture is our final authority but if scripture is susceptible to two interpretations (and in this instance it certainly is), wouldn't you be interested in what others who enjoy great esteem say about it? All of us are better at interpreting 20th Century literature than we at at interpreting Elizabethan literature. Likewise, church fathers who are only one or two hundred years removed from the events of the Bible should have a better perspective than we do 2000 years later.
Here is a sampling of what the church fathers said:
Justin Martyr: As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, and instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, "Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (First Apology 61 [A.D. 151]).
Irenaeus: It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: "Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Fragment 34 [A.D. 190]).
In that case, why don't we start grabbing people off the street, taking them to the nearest pond and dunking them? Better to infringe on their worldly freedom than to see them go to perdition--right? Surely they'll thank us for it some day.