Tag Archives: Judaism

Jesus’ “Born Again” Chat with Nicodemus

In the John 3 conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus emphatically told the Pharisee leader that he must be born again (verses 3, 7) and “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (verse 5) The idea of the kingdom of God was very important to the Pharisees so this was a critical matter. It is also a critical matter for Christian believers.

Some preachers and writers take “born of water” to mean water baptism, thereby making baptism absolutely necessary for one to be a follower of Jesus, to be in the Kingdom. This is wrong. Many have taught error because they have not examined the context. Bear with me.

Many bible versions indicate in the margin that the phrase “born again” can just as readily be translated “born from above”. The context deals with spiritual birth, a birth from God and not from man just as we read at the beginning of the Gospel of John that those who receive Jesus, who believe in His name were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (1:12).

Look at Nicodemus’ question “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” The context doesn’t allow us to read baptism into Jesus’ words. No. The Pharisee understood Jesus to say that a second birth was necessary, but to him this seemed absurd, especially for someone elderly. Judaism actually taught eight different steps one could take, each seen as being “born again”.

Nicodemus had already been “born again” many times. A Jew could be “born again” by being baptised, by immersing himself and then he was ritually clean. Pharisees immersed themselves very frequently.

Nicodemus could also be “born again” when going through bar mitzvah, or when getting married, becoming ordained as a rabbi, or being the head of a rabbinic academy (yeshiva)—if he lived long enough. That’s why he asked Jesus “How can a man be born when he is old?” Time was running out for him.

Three times Jesus underlined the importance of this question. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  “Born again” means just that—again, born a second time, born from above. “Born of water” is the physical birth, immersion in watery fluid in the womb and the experience of the waters breaking at birth which we all experience.  And this element must come first!

Jesus is contrasting two elements in these verses: first the water and second, the Spirit: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Birth by water means born of flesh, physical birth, out of the womb of his mother.

Again he repeats, Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You (it’s plural in Greek here—‘you all’) must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The contrast continues—you can name the origin of physical birth, but you cannot tell the origin of spiritual birth.

Jesus then in the following passage also emphasises believing and believing alone: whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  There is no baptism mentioned in these words—salvation is not through any human act such as baptism or even obedience to the call for baptism. It is through faith in the grace of God, in the son of God, in Christ crucified, not of works, lest any should boast.

The passage continues He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Condemnation comes by disbelief cf Acts 4:12.

If baptismal regeneration were true then condemnation is coming for millions upon millions of believers who have failed to be baptised no matter how godly and how full of the love of Jesus (verse 17).

To be continued!

A New Covenant—Ignored?

God’s first agreement (covenant) with His people, Israel, was defective, wrote the author of the New Testament book The Letter to the Hebrews (8:7-8) so a better was needed. This author shows how much more serious is our attitude and response to the New Covenant (how shall we escape if we ignore its implications, Hebrews 2:1-4).

The new must not be ignored. God’s design practices for corporate worship revealed in the New Covenant/New Testament must be followed. We must not lose His words or replace them by worldly or pagan ideas and practices like clergy—laity, pastor—people.

In this better covenant Jesus is not prevented by death and we are ALL called into the experience of the Lord Jesus in the power of his endless, indestructible life in which he works in us who draw near. He promises to energise within us, in our own life, breathing his life in us, so that it becomes our new nature to love him, delight to do his will—his own life in us.

Have believers gone backwards since Judaism with corporate matters?  In many ways our practices in churches as Christ’s people today are often more bound and institutional and domineering to that of many devout Jews in Jesus’ own day. Jews did not have a pastor or priest ruling over them. Nor did they meet in ‘house-of-the-Lord’ type buildings. Nor was the sharing of the word of God jealously guarded by one (or two) leaders.  The synagogue was a place of discussion and sharing of scriptures by the several.  Common meals were frequently shared together. Plus each synagogue was independently managed. They did not have to toe the line of any outside superintendent, C.E.O., denomination, statement of faith, or any head office!

These churchy practices plainly ignore the New Covenant.

How far we have drifted from the apostles’ teaching and practice! They were liberated from the practices of Judaism, yes, of religion and the Holy Spirit was living in each one! Yet today Christendom is weak, divided up into competing denominations, living “in the flesh” and generally not experiencing the New Covenant. It seems we have a similar situation today to that which our Hebrews author was addressing  (Heb 8:7-8) . . . .

 If the first covenant with God had been all right, there would not have been any need for another one. But the Lord found fault with them and said . . . . . .  (quoting Jer 31:31-34)

I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’

Can we just go on and on ignoring the New Covenant made at the most tremendous cost to the Father by Jesus?

“If you love me you will keep my commands”  John 14:15

To be continued