". . . Ye Must Be Born Again"
Jesus did not simply urge the new birth upon people, nor did he just advise and commend it, but he made it essential to entrance into the Kingdom of God. In this brief paper we intend to discuss some misconceptions about the new birth, the necessity of it, how and when one is born again, and the result of such a birth.
Many devout people today think that the new birth is "something that happens to them." Many think they have experienced this new birth simply because they have had some unusual and strange feeling. The feeling of remorse which most people have when they are convicted of sin, and the feeling of peace and joy that may come when one reforms his life and thus clears his conscience, is believed by some to be evidence of the new birth. But, under another heading in this article, we intend to show that the new birth is something we do, something we express in action, and that it is not at all mysterious and incomprehensible.
Some people say that "water" in Jn. 3:5 does not mean the liquid elemen of the earth, but that it means "spirit" or something else. But if it means spirit, it would make the passage read, " except a man be born of the spirit and of the spirit," which is quite senseless. Furthermore, if Jesus meant it spirit" or something else, why would he have confused us by saying "water." In Acts 8:36 we are told that "they came unto a certain water. . ." Suppose we would deny that this is actually water. Could we say, "They came unto a certain spirit . . ." Actually there is no more real reason to deny the common usage of the word water (hudor in Greek) in Jn. 3:5 than in the other passages where this word is used (See Acts 8:36,38; Mt. 3:11; Mt. 3:16, etc.)
It is sometimes suggested that the water of Jn. 3:5 refers to the physical birth. This is denied by the text itself. Jesus says, "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit..." Notice that he does not speak of the birth of a baby, but of a man. One who had long since been born physically now must be born again (Verse 3).
Modernists scoff at the idea of a new birth. Among multitudes who profess Christianity, perhaps comparatively few actually claim that they have been born again and still fewer would say it is essential. But when Jesus said, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God," he made the new birth essential to entrance into that spiritual relationship. When he said, "Ye must be born again," he closed the door to all who refuse or fail to experience this new birth. Just as surely as no human, since the creation of Adam and Eve, has ever lived who was not born physically, so Jesus says that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born the second time. Just as every baby, without exception, is born of a man and a woman, so every child of God is born of water and of the spirit.
By way of example we notice that in each conversion recorded in the New Testament, the persons were only said to be saved after they had experienced that which we shall show (in the follcwing paragraphs) to be the new birth.
Just as surely as modernists scoff at the necessity of a new birth, many fundamentalists deny the "how" of it. Actually we cannot expect the professed Bible believer to be excused for rejecting the "how" any more than we can expect mercy for the non-believer who rejects the necessity. Let us now use a few syllogisms to clarify the meaning of the new birth.
Since Eph. 1:3 tells us that we receive all spiritual blessings in Christ, and since the new birth is admittedly a spiritual blessing, then we can safely say that:
1. All who are born again are "in Christ."
2. But we are "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27).
3. Therefore we must be baptized to be born again.
Please notice that it is not said that baptism is the new birth. It is only being argued that baptism is a part of the new birth, and that one is not really born again until he has been baptized into Christ. This baptism, to in any sense be characteristic of a birth, is a burial in water (See Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Jesus "came up out of the water" (Mt. 3:16) and the Eunuch (Acts 8:38) went down into the water and came up out of the water. Sprinkling water upon a person does not characterize a birth, and to do so is to fail to observe the teaching of Christ and his Apostles. But when one is immersed into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, his birth into the Kingdom of God is concluded. The very same action which puts him "in Christ" puts him in the Kingdom.
- When Jesus said that except one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom, it was equal to saying that the one who is born again does enter the kingdom.
- But Jesus also said (in Mt. 7:21) that one enters the kingdom by "doing the will of the Father.'
- Therefore, doing the will of God is equal to the new birth. That is, if one would be born again, let him do God's will-obey God's word.
Again notice that:
1. Obeying the truth purifies the soul (I Peter 1:22).
2. The one who has been born again has certainly been purified.
- Therefore obeying the t r u t h equals the new birth, or in other words, to be born again, one must obey the truth.
- Paul had been taken out of the kingdom of darkness (guilt, sin) and was in the kingdom of God's dear Son. (Col. 1:13).
- But Paul (at first called Saul of Tarsus) had been baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16; Acts 9:18).
- Therefore, since those in the Kingdom have been born into it (Jn. 3:3), being baptized to wash away our sins in the blood of Jesus brings us into that kingdom and concludes our new birth.
In emphasizing the necessity of baptism we are not in any sense minimizing the work or action of the Holy Spirit. The Bible does not describe a birth of water, but a birth of water and of the spirit. Peter says, (1 Pet. 1:23) that we are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God . . ." The Holy Spirit, through the word, acts to bring up to faith, repentance, and baptism. Without the Spirit there is no possibility of a new birth, and without baptism in water for remission of sins that birth cannot be concluded. If the sinner believes and does what the Spirit, through the word, says, he will (1) Believe in Christ (Rom. 10:17; John 20:31); (2) Repent of sins (Acts 17:30); (3) and be baptized (immersed) in water for remission fo sins (Acts 2:38, 41). Thus we see that the new birth is brought on by the action of the Holy Spirit, through the word, upon the heart of the sinner, and is concluded when that sinner is immersed into Christ. It is not mysterious or incomprehensible. It is very wonderful and marvelous.
The new birth is not a miracle that happens to us, nor does some such miracle accompany our obedience to God's word and change our vile natures and evil conduct. On the other hand, when we are truly immersed into Christ, we come from that baptism to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). Notice the following characteristics of those who have been born again:
(1) They receive a new relationship, and become children of God. The old kinship with Satan is put off and a new and vital connection with God is achieved.
(2) In this new relationship forgiveness of sins is to be had. The very act that brings salvation from past sins, brings us into God's family where a continuing forgiveness may be always ours.
(3) Those thus born again are "added to the church." Thus the benefits of the blood shed to purchase that divine body (Eph. 5:25) are received. Without joining any human organization, and without subscribing to any human creed, but by surrender to God's will in obedience to the truth, one becomes a member of the church, a subject of the kingdom, a part of the family of God.
(4) A new character and new conduct will accompany the new birth, for those truly born again will reform their lives and change their conduct to make it harmonize with the will of Christ expressed by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. (See Eph. 4:22-32). Leaving the dark ways of sin, one is now enabled to "walk in the light" (Eph. 5:8). See also 2 Cor. 5:17 in which we are told that "if any man be in Christ he is a new creature." The one truly baptized into Christ is made into a new-born creature, and at that time "old things are passed away; behold all things are become new."
(5) Those born again have become believers in Jesus, for "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (Jn. 5:1). In modern language we would say that whoever is born of God has already believed.
(6) When John wrote, in I Jn. 3:9 that, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin," he was suggesting that those who have been born again have already repented of sins.
In conclusion, to every unbaptized person who reads this, please remember that the birth of the water and the Spirit is experienced only when one hears and obeys the word of Christ. Remember also that he has said, "Marvel not that I say unto you, ye must be born again." Actually, then, he is saying to you, "Hear and obey my word." This you can do today, and this you ought to do while you have opportunity, and this you must do if you would enter the kingdom of God!
Truth Magazine I:12, pp. 10-11, 25-26