Book: Why Were You Born?

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On the night of Jesus’ last Passover, He told His apostles, “I have yet many things to tell you, but you are not able to bear them now. However, when that one has come, even the Spirit of the truth, it will lead you into all truth because it shall not speak from itself, but whatever it shall hear, it shall speak. And it shall disclose to you the things to come” (John 16:12-13). Why were the apostles not able to receive or understand certain truths at that time? What was Jesus going to reveal to them later through the power of the Holy Spirit?

In order to answer these questions, we need to go back and look at something Jesus told the disciples on His last trip to Jerusalem. Luke writes that He warned them what was about to happen: “And after taking the twelve aside to Himself, He said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written about the Son of man by the prophets shall be fulfilled. For He shall be delivered up to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and insulted and spit upon. And after scourging Him, they shall kill Him; but on the third day, He shall rise again.’ But they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend what was said” (Luke 18:31-34).

Later, when everything happened to Jesus exactly as He had said it would, the apostles were completely devastated and traumatized. They did not understand why Jesus had to die—let alone die such a cruel, gruesome death. Since they knew Jesus was the Messiah, it is likely that they had looked for Him to raise up an army and deliver Judea from Roman occupation—as well as set up the Kingdom of God at that time. But now that Jesus was dead, they were afraid of the Jewish authorities—fearing that they would likewise be arrested and killed.

After Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He suddenly appeared to the disciples. John writes: “Afterwards [after Jesus was in the tomb for three days and three nights and was raised from the dead], as evening was drawing near that day, the first day of the weeks, and the doors were shut where the disciples had assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be to you.’ And after saying this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples rejoiced because they had seen the Lord” (John 20:19-20).

That Jesus had been raised from the dead and was living again was absolutely startling—unbelievable! It was beyond their wildest expectations!

Luke provides additional details about Jesus’ dramatic appearance to the disciples, who were hiding behind closed doors. As if coming out of nowhere, Jesus suddenly appeared. In His resurrected state, He must have walked through the door, or one of the walls, without even causing the slightest sound: “Now as they [two disciples with whom Jesus walked to Emmaus] were telling these things [that they had seen Jesus and even ate with Him], then Jesus Himself [suddenly] stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be to you.’ But they were terrified and filled with fear, thinking that they beheld a [demonic] spirit apparition.

“Then He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts come up in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I. Touch Me and see for yourselves; for a [demon] spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see Me having.’ And after saying this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they were still disbelieving and wondering for joy, He said to them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ Then they gave Him part of a broiled fish and a piece of honeycomb. And He took these and ate in their presence.

“And He said to them, ‘These are the words that I spoke to you when I was yet with you, that all the things which were written concerning Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘According as it is written, it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. And in His name, repentance and remission of sins should be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:36-47). 

In the Book of Acts, Luke writes that after Jesus’ resurrection He continued with them for an additional 40 days: “The first account I indeed have written, O Theophilus, concerning all things that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after giving command by the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen; to whom also, by many infallible proofs, He presented Himself alive after He had suffered, being seen by them for forty days, and speaking [and teaching] the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3). After the 40 days, Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).

Apparently, what Jesus revealed to the apostles during this 40-day period was not what He had promised to ultimately reveal to them through the Holy Spirit. But, what knowledge was so profound that Jesus could not reveal it to His apostles even during those 40 days? Why were they not able to bear such knowledge at that time? As we will see, what Jesus would later reveal would be some of the deepest mysteries of God!

Twenty-six years after Jesus had ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God, Paul gives us some insight on how to understand the “deep things” of God: “Now we speak wisdom among the spiritually mature; however, it is not the wisdom of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nothing. Rather, we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom that God foreordained before the ages unto our glory, which not one of the rulers of this world has known (for if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory).

“But according as it is written, ‘The eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things—even the deep things of God. For who among men understands the things of man except by the spirit of man which is in him? In the same way also, the things of God no one understands except by the Spirit of God.

“Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is of God, so that we might know the things graciously given to us by God; which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Holy Spirit in order to communicate spiritual things by spiritual means. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:6-14).

Before Jesus could reveal certain “deep things” of God to the apostles, they would need more time and experience preaching the Gospel and a better understanding of the Word of God (Acts 6:4, 7). Moreover, they would need more experience using the power of the Holy Spirit. Only when the time was right would Jesus reveal the ultimate secret or mystery of God. As we will see, this revelation answers the question, Why were you born?

 

The Sonship of God

Jesus’ revelation of the “deep things” of God centers on what the apostle Paul calls the “sonship” of God. What is the sonship of God? As we will see, it is actually part of the original promise God made to Abraham concerning the spiritual seed: “And if you are Christ’s [called and chosen], then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise…. But when the time for the fulfillment came, God sent forth His own Son, born of a woman … so that we might receive the gift of sonship from God. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Gal. 3:29; 4:4-6).

Instead of using the word sonship, the King James Version translates the Greek uiothesia as “adoption.” Unfortunately, this is an inadequate translation and clouds the meaning of what Paul is trying to convey. Indeed, uiothesia means sonship—referring to our relationship to God the Father— with no distinction between male or female. This is why we are to call God our Father, and even use the endearing term Abba, which in English means daddy. Such terminology clearly demonstrates the family nature of God.

This sonship of God begins when you are chosen and receive the Holy Spirit at baptism. Jesus revealed to His apostles that the power of the Holy Spirit would be within them. He explicitly said that He and the Father would jointly send the Holy Spirit. Through the “earnest” of the Holy Spirit, both Jesus and the Father would dwell within each person who is called and chosen (John 14:15-17; 14:26; 15:26).

In writing to the Romans, Paul states that those who do not have the Holy Spirit within them are counted by God as being “in the flesh.” However, those who do have the Holy Spirit within them are reckoned as being “in the Spirit.” Paul also emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is from both the Father and the Son. Both aspects of the Holy Spirit are necessary in order to belong to God, receive the sonship of God, and have eternal life: “For those who walk according to the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but those who walk according to the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace, because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can it be. But those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

“However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God is indeed dwelling within you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. But if Christ be within you, the body is indeed dead because of sin; however, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Now if the Spirit of Him [God the Father] Who raised Jesus from the dead is dwelling within you, He Who raised Christ from the dead will also quicken your mortal bodies because of His Spirit that dwells within you.

“So then, brethren, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; because if you are living according to the flesh, you shall die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you shall live.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. Now you have not received a spirit of bondage again unto fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit itself bears witness conjointly with our own spirit, testifying that we are the children of God. Now if we are children, we are also heirs—truly, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer together with Him, so that we may also be glorified together with Him” (Rom. 8:5-17).

Notice that there are eight conditional IF clauses. Four pertain to God and His Spirit, and four pertain to each person who has the Holy Spirit. These show just how much your life and your choices are involved in your relationship with the Father and Christ. Moreover, your very sonship of God is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit!

It is revealing to note that there are no passages in the Gospels that directly relate to the sonship of God for those who are called and chosen. Only Jesus’ begettal by God the Father via the Holy Spirit conveyed that such a relationship was possible. Thus, this special knowledge had to be divinely revealed. It was the reality of this father-son relationship—the sonship of God—that Jesus was waiting to reveal to the apostles—when they were able to bear it.

 

The Sonship of God Begins

When You Receive the Holy Spirit

Your human life began with begettal, the impregnation of one of your mother’s ova by a sperm cell from your father. At that instant, the genes and chromosomes from your father and mother united, as God simultaneously gave you life by giving you the “spirit of man.” This was your beginning as a person—an almost invisible speck of life in your mother’s womb. Through the power of God, you were physically formed in the image and likeness of God. Finally, following your development in the womb, you were born into the human family!

An almost exact parallel exists between the begettal of new human life and the beginning of your spiritual life through the Holy Spirit. When you are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, you are spiritually begotten by God. This is the beginning of your sonship—with God as your Father!

At your physical begettal you received the spirit of man from God. It was united with your brain, giving you the capacity to think, create, and have self-awareness. It also gave you life. It is precisely the same when the Father puts His Holy Spirit within you at baptism. At that instant, the Holy Spirit from God unites with your “spirit of man.” This is the beginning of your spiritual life and your conversion. Paul describes it this way: “Now you have not received a spirit of bondage again unto fear [the spirit of this world], but you have received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit itself bears witness conjointly [that is, united] with our own spirit, testifying that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:15-16).

Similar to human begettal, the receiving of the Holy Spirit is a begettal by God the Father—as He engenders new spiritual life in the spirit of your mind. In fact, Peter states that at this point you are “begotten again.” He writes: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect strangers scattered in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; who have been chosen according to the predetermined knowledge of God the Father, by sanctification through the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for us” (I Pet. 1:1-4). When you receive the Holy Spirit, you are spiritually begotten. Peter says “again” because you had already been begotten in your mother’s womb.

The apostle John confirms what Peter has written: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ [and has been baptized] has been begotten by God; and everyone who loves Him [God the Father] Who begat, also loves him who has been begotten by Him [that is, other begotten Christians]” (I John 5:1).

John further describes this spiritual begettal by drawing a parallel between the physical begettal of human life and the spiritual begettal of one’s mind: “Everyone who has been begotten by God does not practice [live in] sin, because His [God the Father’s] seed of begettal [the Holy Spirit] is dwelling within him, and he is [thus] not able to practice sin because he has been begotten by God” (I John 3:9). The Greek phrase “seed of begettal” comes from the Greek sperma—the root for the English word sperm. This fact reinforces the amazing parallel between human begettal and the spiritual begettal from God the Father via the Holy Spirit placed within each newly baptized believer!

 

Salvation Is a New Spiritual Creation

Newly begotten believers are to walk in newness of life as led by the Holy Spirit of God. This is the beginning of a life-long process of growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ (II Pet. 3:18). Just as a newly begotten baby in its mother’s womb is not instantaneously ready for birth, newly begotten Christians are likewise not immediately ready to be born again.1 Rather, the new believer must grow and develop spiritually before he or she is ready for the resurrection and eternal life at Jesus’ return. This process requires life-long faithfulness.

As you begin your new walk in righteousness, you must learn to develop the spiritual obedience, love, and character that God requires in order for Him to complete His sonship within you. Paul shows that your sonship is a new creation in Christ: “Therefore, if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things [the old way of living in sin] have passed away [buried through baptism]; behold, all things have become new [your new way of life]” (II Cor. 5:17). This “new creation” is the process of salvation. As Paul taught the Corinthians, “Now I am declaring to you, brethren, the same gospel that I proclaimed to you, which you also received, and in which you are now standing; by which you are also being saved, if you are holding fast the words that I proclaimed to you…” (I Cor. 15:1-2; also see 1:18).

The phrase “you are being saved” demonstrates that becoming a new creation in Christ is a life-long spiritual process. God the Father is saving you through Jesus, by His spiritual work within you. Paul writes: “For by grace2 you have been saved through faith, and this especially is not of your own selves; it is the gift of God, not of [your own] works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, being created in Christ Jesus unto the good works that God ordained beforehand in order that we might walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

 

As we analyze these all-important verses, we learn:

1. Those who have the Holy Spirit within them are “being saved”— because salvation is a process, the inner spiritual work of God the Father.

2. Works originating from one’s own self, apart from God, cannot save.

3. The good works we are to have are those foreordained by God, as found in the Bible.

4. We are the workmanship of God—as He creates in us the character of Jesus.

5. We are to walk in the way of life found in the Scriptures, being faithful for the rest of our lives.

In this process of salvation, we are being “created in Christ Jesus.” This ongoing spiritual creation taking place within us requires our active, fulltime participation. The Holy Spirit empowers us to grow in grace and knowledge as we overcome the old self and our old way of living in sin. “If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, according to the truth in Jesus that concerning your former conduct, you put off the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that you put on the new man, which according to God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:21-24).

 

Salvation Requires Active Faith and Works

The apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, declares that godly works coupled with faith brings perfection: “[F]aith, if it does not have works, is dead, by itself. But someone is going to say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ My answer is: You prove your faith to me through your works, and I will prove my faith to you through my works. Do you believe that God is one? You do well to believe this. Even the demons believe—and tremble in fear” (James 2:17-19). Another way of stressing the faith-works connection is this: You always act on what you believe. Indeed, everyone has some kind of faith or belief system—as reflected by their works: what they think, what they say, what they do, and how they live.

James continues: “But are you willing to understand, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father [those who are Christ’s are Abraham’s spiritual seed] justified by works when he offered up Isaac, his own son, upon the altar? Do you not see that faith was working together with his works, and by works his faith was perfected? And the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Now Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness; and he was called a friend of God.’

“You see, then, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only…. For as the body without the spirit is dead, in the same way also, faith without works is dead” (James 2:20-24, 26).

The key is this: When we love God and keep His commandments, we are not doing our own works; rather, we are doing the works God has given to us to do. Therefore, they are His works, not our own works. Furthermore, by doing works foreordained by God, we are not attempting to “save ourselves.” We are not attempting to earn salvation through our own works, or through religious traditions and rituals.  

In Jesus’ personal messages to the seven churches of Revelation, He dogmatically states 12 times: “I know your works” (Rev. 2-3). Moreover, Jesus declares that He judges them for their works—by what they do. If their works are the works of God based on love and obedience, He commends them. But if their works are their own (or are inspired by Satan), He warns and corrects them, calling on them to repent of such works or lose salvation!
Finally, Jesus admonishes the churches to keep His works to the end: “But hold fast what you have until I come. And to the one who overcomes, and keeps My works unto the end, I will give authority over the nations; and he shall shepherd them with an iron rod, as vessels of pottery are broken in pieces; as I have also received from My Father…. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:25-27, 29).

In the same way, Paul warned the Corinthians that they were not to go back and embrace a sinful lifestyle. They were not to think that since they had been “saved” such behavior was acceptable to God. The reality is this: Since God has given us His Holy Spirit and dwells in us, He will not condone compromises with sin under any circumstances! We are not to mix sin with godliness!

Notice how strongly Paul exhorts the Corinthian to cease compromising with sin: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and lawlessness have in common? And what fellowship does light have with darkness? And what union does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever?

“And what agreement is there between a temple of God and idols? For you are a temple of the living God [because of the Spirit of God in them], exactly as God said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from the midst of them and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you; and I shall be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty. Now then, beloved, since we have these promises, we should purge ourselves from every defilement of the flesh and the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 6:14-18; 7:1).

Paul likewise admonished the Galatians, who, instead of walking by the Spirit, growing in grace and knowledge, loving God, and keeping His commandments, were reverting back to carnal works of the flesh. In so doing they were wavering in their faithfulness: “Now this I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these things are opposed to each other, so that you cannot do those things you wish to do” (Gal. 5:1617).

Paul then strongly warns that those who practice carnal, fleshly ways will not inherit the Kingdom of God nor receive eternal life: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, strifes, jealousies, indignations, contentions, divisions, sects, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such things as these; concerning which I am telling you beforehand, even as I have also said in the past, that those who do [practice] such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 1921).

In contrast, the apostle encourages the Galatians to use the Spirit of God to produce the fruits of godliness—the good works God had foreordained: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law. But those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live by the Spirit, we should also be walking by the Spirit” (verses 22-25).

Keeping the commandments of God is not easy, because doing so is contrary to human nature and the way of the world. However, by being led by the Spirit of God—instead of being led by personal lust—you can endure and develop godly character, even in difficult times. Paul writes: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we ourselves boast in the hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also boast in tribulations, realizing that tribulation brings forth endurance, and endurance brings forth character, and character brings forth hope. And the hope of God never makes us ashamed because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:1-5). As Jesus promised, “the one who endures to the end, that one shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13). Thus, faithfulness is a life-long process.

 

Repentance and Forgiveness

Though you may stumble and fall spiritually (because of lust, weakness of the flesh, or negligence), God will forgive you through His grace and the blood of Christ—if you truly repent. You will be restored and reconciled to the Father. John explains: “However, if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His own Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we do not have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  

“If we confess our own sins, He is faithful and righteous, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And yet, if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father; Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 1:7-10; 2:1-2).

John emphasizes that keeping the commandments of God is a vital part of the spiritual works that God requires of every true believer. As we have seen, if you are keeping the commandments of God as led by the Holy Spirit, then you are not doing your own personal works; rather, these are the “good works” that God has ordained for you to walk in. Since God is not creating robots, He requires the full, active participation of those graciously granted sonship status. Your active love and obedience to God facilitates His spiritual workmanship of creating within you the love and righteousness of God for eternal life.

John writes: “And by this standard we know that we know Him: if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. On the other hand, if anyone is keeping His Word, truly in this one the love of God is being perfected. By this means we know that we are in Him. Anyone who claims to dwell in Him is obligating himself also to walk even as He Himself walked” (I John 2:3-6).

Clearly, John is demonstrating that true Christian behavior is based on loving God, keeping His commandments, and walking as Jesus Himself walked. This is how every converted believer is being perfected in spiritual character—via the personal workmanship of the Father!

It takes faith to keep the commandments of God. In Revelation, we find this description of true Christians in the end time: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are the ones who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). When you think about it, it takes no faith at all to disobey God and reject His commandments. Thus, faith and keeping the commandments go hand in hand.

As you grow in grace and knowledge, developing the character of God through the Holy Spirit, God is creating in you the sonship of God: “My little children, we should not love in word, nor with our tongues; rather, we should love in deed and in truth. And in this way we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him, that if our hearts condemn us [because we have sinned], God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us [because we repent of our sins], then we have confidence toward God.

“And whatever we may ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and practice those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and that we love one another, exactly as He gave commandment to us. And the one who keeps His commandments is dwelling in Him, and He in him; and by this we know that He is dwelling in us: by the Spirit which He has given to us” (I John 3:18-24).

In the next chapter, we will examine God’s final revelation to the apostles. This fantastic revelation unveils the magnitude of the ultimate destiny of those who have received the Father’s sonship.

 

Chapter 11 Notes:

1. What does it mean to be “born again”? Being “born again” is perhaps one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the New Testament. The foremost reason is the erroneous insertion of words into the Latin translation of John 3, which completely distorts the original meaning as to when believers are “born again.” The translation of key verses in John 3 from the 1380 Latin Vulgate by Wycliffe and the 1582 translation of the Rheims reads:

Wycliffe: “born again” (verses 3, 7); “born” (verses 4, 6 and 7); “born again of water” (verse 5)

Rheims: “born again” (verses 3, 7); “born” (verses 4, 6 and 7); “born again of water” (verse 5)

When compared to the original Greek, the word “again” has been inserted between “born” and “of water.” The word “again” before “of water” is not in the original Greek text and should not have been added to the Latin text, which was carried over into these early English translations. This insertion was based on the assumption that a person is “born again” through water baptism.

However, that is not the case, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man who is old be born? Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless anyone has been born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which has been born of the flesh is flesh; and that which has been born of the Spirit is spirit’ ” (John 3:3-6).

Jesus makes the direct parallel between being “born of water” and being “born of Spirit,” which is this: When a physical baby is born of his/her mother, that is the birth of water, because the amniotic water of the birth sack combined with the mother’s contractions causes the birth of a fleshly infant. Therefore, being “born of water” is being “born of the flesh”— wherein one is composed of “flesh.” This is one’s first birth.

Paul further makes it clear that “flesh and blood cannot see the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50). Thus, it is impossible that baptism is a “born again” experience, because after baptism one is still a fleshly being. As a human being composed of flesh, no one can inherit the Kingdom of God. Moreover, Jesus clearly states that it is impossible for a person to see the Kingdom of God unless one has been “born again.”

It is clear that Jesus was not talking about a conversion or baptismal experience in this dialogue. Rather, he was comparing one’s physical birth—a fleshly existence—to that of being born anew or born again—to an actual spiritual existence. Jesus describes two births, one of water and one of the spirit—“unless anyone has been born of water and of Spirit” (John 3:5). Jesus then contrasts a birth of the flesh with a birth of the Spirit: “That which has been born of the flesh is flesh; and that which has been born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

 

Physical Birth: When a human being is born, he or she is born of flesh—a physical being. Further, every human being has been “born of water” from the womb. The one who has been born of water has been born of the flesh, and is flesh (John 3:5-6). 

Spiritual Birth: Nicodemus missed the point when Jesus referred to a new or second birth of the Spirit: “unless anyone has been born … of Spirit.” What kind of existence does one have who has been born of the Spirit? Jesus answered that question when He said “that which has been born of the Spirit is spirit.” Jesus clearly meant that anyone who has been born of the Spirit is, in fact, a spirit being. The new, spiritual birth means that one who has been born again is a spirit being, no longer composed of human flesh. Since one who has been “born of the flesh is flesh,” it follows, as Jesus said, that one who has been “born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

Every human is limited by fleshly existence and the physical environment. However, as a spirit being, one is not bound by the flesh or limited by the physical realm. Jesus stated that one who has been “born of the Spirit” cannot necessarily be seen, just as the wind cannot be seen. He said: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear its sound, but you do not know the place from which it comes and the place to which it goes; so also is everyone who has been born of the Spirit” (verse 8). Therefore, one who has been “born again”—“born of the Spirit”—must be invisible to the human eye, having the ability to come and go as the wind. That is hardly the case of one who has been baptized and converted; he or she is still in the flesh and is limited by the flesh—subject to death. Jesus said that a fleshly human being “cannot see” or “enter into” the Kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5; I Cor. 15:50).
When Is One Actually Born Again? Since one is not “born again” at baptism or conversion, when is one literally born again or born anew? It is through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the New Testament reveals when a person is “born again.” Matthew wrote that Jesus was the “firstborn” of the Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:25). Jesus’ human birth was by water. He was flesh (I John 4:1-2), as any other human being, but He was “God manifested in the flesh” (I Tim. 3:16). 

When Jesus was resurrected from the dead as a spirit Being, He was the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:4). Therefore, Jesus was “born again”—“born of the Spirit”—at the time He was resurrected. It was exactly as He had told Nicodemus, “That which has been born of the Spirit is spirit.”

For a full discussion, please see Appendix 6, What Does It Mean to Be “Born Again” or “Born of God”?

2. Grace is the free and undeserved gift of God the Father through Jesus Christ. The grace of God is the greatest expression of the Father’s love and all-encompassing mercy.

But grace is more than the forgiveness of sins. To be “under grace” means to be continually receiving God’s divine love, favor, blessing, gracious care, help, goodwill, benefits, gifts, and goodness. God the Father is the source from which grace comes to the believer. The only means by which grace is granted to the believer is through the birth, life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the perfect sacrifice of God. The believer enters the grace of God through faith in the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of his or her sins. God the Father grants His grace to each believer upon repentance of sins and baptism by immersion, which is the outward manifestation of repentance. Through grace, the believer’s sins are forgiven and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him or her.

Grace establishes a new spiritual relationship between the believer and God the Father and Jesus Christ. Through the unearned and unmerited gift of grace, the believer is not only chosen, called, forgiven, and accepted by the Father through His Beloved, but is also begotten with the Holy Spirit, making him or her a child of God and an heir of eternal life. From this point, the spiritually begotten believer begins a new life under grace.

Importantly, grace does not grant a license to practice sin by ignoring or rejecting the commandments of God. Only those who keep God’s commandments can abide in His love and remain under His grace. Every believer who receives the grace of God has a personal obligation to forsake his or her old, sinful thoughts and practices and to live a new life, growing daily in the grace and knowledge of Christ. For every believer who lives under grace, Jesus acts as Redeemer, High Priest, and Advocate. If the believer commits a sin, Jesus intercedes to propitiate the Father and to obtain His mercy and grace. The grace of God, which comes through Jesus Christ, keeps the repentant believer in a continual state of blamelessness. 

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