Monday, July 27, 2009

No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

These are the words of Jesus Himself when He was asked by Nicodemus, a Pharisee and also a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, about how to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus told him that one must be born again:

John 3:4-7
4"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'

Jesus said that we must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Being born again obviously did not mean re-entering the womb and coming out again. Jesus said that we must be born of water and the Spirit.

What does born of water mean?
Water is akin to washing, cleaning and cleansing, and the Word. In Biblical interpretation, we recognize “types” {as in say, a type of Christ, for example, the power of the brazen serpent (Num 21:6-9) is a type of power of the Cross.}, first (or earlier) mentions, and repeated associations. With these in mind, I like to refer you to Ezekiel 36:24-27 -

24 " 'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

I want to suggest to you that this is a “type” – “Entering the Kingdom of God” type. The Ezekiel verses talked about a gathering together of the Israelites after a scattering (also note that Ezekiel 36 itself is a prophesy – a foretelling (Eze 36:1)). Entering the Kingdom of God is about a gathering of the Christians to enter Christians’ eternal land, Heaven. With this in mind, now we will interpret the above verses in the Gospel of John.

I believe the key to the interpretation of born of water is found in verses 25 & 26 of Ezekiel 36. To be born of water is to be cleansed of all our unrighteousness resulted from sins. Although many Bible scholars referenced water to water baptism and said or implied that water baptism was what was referred to by “born of water”, I believe it is the underlying meaning of water baptism that was referred to by Jesus. Jesus was talking in a manner that was understandable to people at his time. Water baptism preached by John the Baptist was in essence, “repent and be cleansed”. We know that post John the Baptist and after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we first get cleansed by accepting Jesus into our lives. So to be born of water really means to accept Jesus, who is the Word personified, as the Lord and Saviour of your life – not water baptism. To enter the kingdom of God, you need to cleansed of your unrighteousness, resulted from sins, by the blood of Jesus, in other words, you need to be a Christian.

I believe a little bit more need to be said of this cleansing by the blood of Jesus. I felt led to elaborate. Firstly man comprises the body, soul and spirit (click this article on tripartite nature of man for more on this. You are advised to read this article in order to follow the argument in this para.). For eternal life after death, what matter are the soul and spirit. The body though needs to be sanctified as well, decays when we die. {added 05/08/2010: The resurrected body (imperishable) is important for eternal life, but here the reference is to the natural body (perishable body)} But the spirited soul lives on, in fact forever. I read verse 26 of Ezekiel as cleansing of the heart (perhaps the most important part of the soul) and the spirit. When we see the word “new”, it is logical to say that there was an old one. But the word “new” here, I submit to you that it is not new as in “throw away the old one and put in a new one”. What I believe is that the cleansing work of the blood of Jesus is so thorough that the heart and the spirit become as in their original intended condition (new). They are still the same heart or spirit, just changed. Why do I say that? This is because (as I pointed out in the article referenced in this same para. on the tripartite nature of man) the spirit cannot be simply chucked away and be substituted with a new one. A spirit created by God lives forever. A spirited soul (soul with his spirit) either ends up living forever in the Kingdom of God (in Heaven) or suffering in the lake of fire in Hell forever. So a new spirit really is an old spirit made new, and so, by like to like interpretation, a new heart of the soul is also really an old heart made new and is no longer hardened – both cleansed perfectly if the person in question is truly “converted”. I must also assert that it is my belief that upon cleansing, the heart or spirit maybe perfect but afterwards if you sin, it will not be. I believe (contrary to some others), in this life, perfection is momentary, but we are exhorted to be righteous and holy as God is holy.

If you want a New Testament verse to support the association of water, washing/cleansing and the Word (Jesus is the Word, personified – John 1:1-3), take a look at this:

….just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word (Eph 5:25b-26)

What about born of the Spirit?
Accordingly Ezekiel 36:27 give us the key to interpretation of what is meant by born of the Spirit.

Ezekiel 36:27 - And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

I believe the blood of Jesus cleanses all 3 parts of the man – body, soul and spirit. But this cleansing may not be sufficient for us, to be born of the Spirit is necessary. I believe a cleansed spirit still need to be quickened. If you have read my article on the tripartite man, you would have noticed that I have said the spirit of man not born again is in a very much “weakened” state. I believe the Apostle Paul understood this well and that was why he reiterated this saying in 1 Cor 15:45 –

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam[Jesus] was made a QUICKENING spirit. (1 Cor 15:45)

To be quickened is to come to life; to become alive; to become vivified or enlivened; hence, to exhibit signs of life; to move, as the fetus in the womb.

To quicken is to make alive; to vivify; to revive or resuscitate, as from death or an inanimate state; to make lively, active, or sprightly; to impart additional energy to; to excite, to stimulate; to hasten, to incite.

So, firstly, to be born of the Spirit is to have one’s spirit quickened by the Spirit of the Lord. So, Flesh gives birth to flesh, but "the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6) is referring to this quickening of the spirit of man by the Spirit of the Lord – Only a spirit (in this case, the Lord’s Spirit) can quicken a spirit. What happens is that God put the Spirit of the Lord in us (Eze 36:27a) and the Spirit of the Lord quickens us. Eze 36:27b said the Spirit will move us to follow God’s decrees and make us be careful to keep God’s laws. This is part of the quickening – to quicken include to hasten and to incite (to hasten and incite the following of God’s decrees and laws). Secondly, God’s putting of the Spirit of the Lord into us is God’s adoption of our spirits as sons. The Apostle Paul spelt it out very clearly to us in Rom 8:15 -

For you did not receive a Spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, "Abba, Father." (Rom 8:15) [Notice that I have capitalized the 1st appearance of the word “spirit” because of the capitalized second appearance of the word “spirit” as in the Spirit of sonship; for this reason, I also capitalized the word “him” in the verse.]

Just to support further my lines of argument, let us take a look at another passage on the same subject. Paul wrote in the Book of Titus as follows:

5he[Jesus] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

There is no inconsistency. Notice in the second part of verse 5, Paul used the words, “washing of rebirth” and “renewal by the Holy Spirit”. To me, the former could be taken to mean “cleansing unto(until it is like) new” and the latter, “of the spirit, being made new, into condition as of from the start”. Notice that the (spirit) renewal is by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. Paul, in verse 7 is referring to the same sonship that we looked at, in the earlier passage (Rom 8:15) which was also Paul’s writing. Here Paul is saying being sons, we are heirs in the Kingdom of God.

I also want to point out that the putting of the Holy Spirit by God into a person, at born again for the purpose of adopting the person's spirit as son is the first indwelling of Holy Spirit for the person as a Christian and is the first quickening of the spirit of a person as a Christian. This indwelling I called it, Adoption Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

[added 15 July 2010]You should also notice from the above exposition that the primary objective of Jesus giving of Himself as The Sacrificial Lamb is to restore or reestablish the righteousness state of ours to that before The Fall of Man (by Adam & Eve) in the Garden of Eden. In their righteous state, Adam and Eve still sinned, similarly, in our restored state we are capable of sinning, except that you and I cannot blame Adam or Eve anymore, and are answerable to God as to how we exercise our free-will.]

So what does born again mean? It means to be born of water and the Spirit. What does born of water mean? It means to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour and be cleansed by His blood. What does born of the Spirit mean? It means to be adopted by God as a son and be quickened by the Spirit of the LORD {Jehovah} (which is the Holy Spirit – Isaiah 11:2).

There are still a couple of things to be said before we end this discussion.
1. To be born of water is the work of Jesus. Jesus died and resurrected, and you need to believe in Him and accept Him as the Lord and Saviour; He forgives you and cleanses you.

2. To be born of the Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is not so clear cut. Let me explain:

Let us look again at 1 Cor 15:45 -

… The first man Adam was made a LIVING soul; the last Adam[Jesus] was made a QUICKENING spirit.

To start with, Adam is a soul and he became a LIVING soul when God gave him a spirit [a spirit lives forever], and so we say the first Adam was made a LIVING soul. Now to start with, Jesus is spirit [being one of the Triune God] and He became a QUICKENING spirit when GOD gave Him the Holy Spirit [the Holy Spirit was put into Jesus when He was “cleansed” by water by John the Baptist (to fulfill all righteousness)], and so we say the last Adam [Jesus] was made a QUICKENING spirit.

Jesus is the first-fruit, our fore-runner; as man, to fulfill all righteousness, He went through the whole process. We are followers after his footsteps. What I am sharing here could only have come from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not of my own.

3. So, following from the above, the Spirit that quickens is the Holy Spirit. There is no inconsistency, the sevenfold spirits [seven Spirits] of the Holy Spirit include the Spirit of the LORD {Jehovah} (Isaiah 11:2) – to understand more of the sevenfold spirits of God, look out for a separate article to come.

4. Why the need to be born of the Spirit? To appreciate the need to be born of water is not so difficult – the tripartite man needs to be forgiven and cleansed. Although I have mentioned the weakened state of the fallen spirit as the reason for the need of quickening, there is still the question of why the need for us to have the Holy Spirit in us. If you read my article on the tripartite man, you will find that I have said that the Holy Spirit was NOT put into man when God created man. Why was there not a need then to put the Holy Spirit into man, and subsequently a need? To fully explain this would entail a fuller and longer article touching on a number of controversial ideas, of which I believe I have some revelations. It suffices to say here that man’s having knowledge of good and evil was not part of the original plan of God. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not necessary in the original plan. Man was created in the image of God, not as god (there are differences between originals and images). I believe by acquiring the knowledge of good and evil in the Fall, man is no longer able to cope with all that he needs to face in life without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and still hopes to come through victorious, the way God intended it. The indwelling and aid of Holy Spirit are needed. Despite the many speculations put forth to explain what is the "new creation" is all about, I believe this is the base perspective, and we should expound from this base.

5. On-going need to be cleansed and quickened. The reason I threw in point 4 above is so that we can appreciate what I am going to say for this point – we need to be cleansed and quickened on an on-going basis. These things when pushed to their conclusions would touch on touchy subjects such as “one saved is always saved” or “is it that we need to work on our salvation with fear and trembling?” If and when I feel led, perhaps some days, I would write on these issues, including those I avoided to elaborate in point 4 above. I have to, at least, mention here that although you need only to accept Jesus once, you need, on an on-going basis, to repent of your subsequent sins and be forgiven and cleansed by (the blood of ) Jesus (1 John 1:9)[added 11/07/2010: Those doubting if 1 John 1:9 is for believers, should read my separate article - "1 John 1:9 is for believers"]. Similarly, although you need only to be adopted once as son of God, you need to be quickened on an on-going basis. Be honest, how near are you to God? If you are far from the life source, you will weaken; and in case you are not aware, we “leak”! or if you want a more scientific analogy, in this fallen world, we are entropic. This will also lead us to other topics such as the needs for baptism of the Holy Spirit and subsequent infillings of the Holy Spirit – subject of other articles to come.

Anthony Chia - To be born again includes to be born of the Spirit

Comments are welcome here. Alternatively, email them to me @:
Or just email me your email address so that I can put you on my blog (new entry) notification list. To go back to blog main page, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome comments.