Bible Correspondence Course Lesson 8
What it Means to be Born Again
Many professing Christians sincerely believe they have been "BORN AGAIN"—but do not understand the REAL MEANING of the new birth. The truth about being "born again" is not only surprising—it is startling—the MOST AWESOME REVELATION of your Bible! NICODEMUS was a high-ranking Pharisee—one of the rulers of the Jews. He knew Jesus was a miracle-working prophet sent by God, and was deeply interested in His teachings.
But because Nicodemus did not want to be seen speaking with this man the other Pharisees called a "heretic" and a "deceiver of the people," he came to Jesus secretly at night.
Jesus told Nicodemus a profound truth—something that completely mystified the man.
"You Must Be Born Again!"
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," said Jesus (John 3:3).
Nicodemus was totally perplexed. He asked Jesus: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" (Verse 4.)
Jesus told him: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again" (verse 7). But Nicodemus simply did not comprehend what Jesus was talking about (verses 9-12). How like so many people today! They, too, are baffled by these simple words of Christ.
Most professing Christians think they were "BORN AGAIN" when they "accepted Christ" and were "baptized." From that time, supposedly, they received the Holy Spirit and have been living a NEW LIFE in Christ.
True, a real Christian has received the Spirit of God, and is indeed living a NEW LIFE in Christ (Eph.4:22-24). But is this what it means to be "born again"?
The new birth described in the Bible is FAR MORE than most professing Christians have assumed. When Jesus spoke of being "born again," He did not mean what most people think.
Two Literal Births
Nicodemus was familiar only with the process of physical birth. Therefore he understood when Jesus said to him, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" But then Jesus explained we must be born again—not again of the flesh—not again entering our mother’s womb, as Nicodemus thought He meant. He explained that we must be born of the spirit—born of God! God must be our Father this time! As we were born of the flesh through fleshly human parents, even so we must be born of the Spirit of our spiritual heavenly Father.
Here are two different kinds of birth—one physical, the other spiritual. When you were born of your fleshly parents you were composed of flesh. But "that which is born of the spirit is SPIRIT" (John 3:6)--no longer composed of flesh, but of spirit!
There will be no blood in the body of one "born of the Spirit." He will not have to breathe air to exist. He will be literally COMPOSED OF SPIRIT, declared Jesus.
That’s the plain teaching of your Bible! The new birth is not an emotional experience, but a literal birth!
So Nicodemus would not mistake the true meaning of being born of the Spirit, Jesus explained to him: "The wind bloweth where it listeth [where it wills], and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (verse 8).
Notice that carefully. When you are "born again," born of the Spirit of God, you will be invisible to mortal eyes like the wind (unless you choose to manifest yourself). The effects of the wind may be easily discernible, but the wind itself cannot be seen.
Clearly, Jesus compared the spiritual birth to the physical birth. The latter is a type of the former. Human parents pass on a physical nature at birth to their children; so when we are born of our heavenly Father, we will possess His Spiritual nature in its fullness!
Man the "Clay Model"
God formed the first man, Adam, not out of spirit, but "of the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2:7). God said to Adam: "DUST thou art" (Gen. 3:19). Not immortal spirit—just plain old earth! Man is mortal, physical, not yet immortal or spiritual.
Adam was a perfect physical specimen. What God created was a physical, fleshly man—a mortal flesh and blood human being. He was the perfect "clay model" which God intends to mold and reshape spiritually into a perfect SPIRITUAL Son of God!
Adam, in other words, was not created complete. He was created to need a second "birth"—a SPIRITUAL birth!
But how? When? Why? All these vital questions will be answered in this tremendously important lesson.
No SUBJECT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO YOUR LIFE! Unless YOU become "born again," you cannot enter the Kingdom of God! So be sure to open your Bible to every scripture reference cited in answer to the questions asked, and PROVE to yourself just what it means to be "born again."
To fully understand what it really means to be "born again," it is necessary to comprehend some very basic revelations concerning what God Himself is—and the very PURPOSE for your existence.
Turn to the very beginning of the Bible. The first words are: "In the beginning GOD created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The original Hebrew word for "God," here and throughout the account of creation, is Elohim, which actually means more than one. It is the plural form of Hebrew Eloah, which in English means "Mighty One." So Elohim means "Mighty Ones"— more than just one person.
Elohim is a uniplural or collective noun, such as "church," or "family," or "kingdom." In other words, Elohim stands for a SINGLE CLASS composed of TWO or MORE individuals. Elohim, then, is the "God KINGDOM" or "God FAMILY." (In actual usage the word was also applied to any single member of the God Family or, by analogy, even to a heathen idol.)
But who are the individuals presently composing "Elohim"? Let’s notice what the Bible reveals:
1. Who was with "God" when God created the universe? John 1:1. Is the "Word" also God? Verses 1-2. Was it the Word who actually created all things? Verse 3. What did the Word later become? Verse 14.
2. By whom was all the material universe created—including this earth and mankind? Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16-17. Who, then, is the "Word" of John 1:1? And who is the other divine member of the God Kingdom? I Cor. 8:6. COMMENT: John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 are two accounts of the same event— the original creation of the universe. They both reveal that these two Supreme Beings of the God Family created all things.
The Greek word translated into English as "Word" in John 1:1 is Logos.
It can also mean spokesman, or one who speaks. It was actually the Logos,
the "Spokesman"—the "Word" of the God Family—who said, "Let us make man
in OUR image" (Gen. 1:26), thus executing His awesome office as the executive
of the God Kingdom. And so everything was created and made by the divine
being who later became the human Jesus Christ!
The "LORD" of the Old Testament
Do you know which one of the two members of the God Kingdom took part in the affairs of this world in Old Testament times? Was it the "Father"? Could it possibly have been Christ? Very few have understood this important truth. But the Bible makes it plain.
1. Has any human being ever seen the Father? John 1:18. What did Christ say regarding the Father? John 5:37.
2. But did people ever look upon the God of the Old Testament? Gen. 17:1; 18:1, 22; 32:30; Ex. 24:9-11; 33:18, 20-23. (Notice in Exodus 33:18 that Moses had specifically requested to see the LORD in all His "glory," but could not view Him directly in His glorified state lest he DIE from seeing His brilliance!)
COMMENT: Clearly, then, the God of the Old Testament could not have been the "Father."
3. Who was called the "Rock" in Old Testament times? II Sam. 22:2-3. Did David call the LORD his "Rock" and his "God"? Psalms 18:1-2.
COMMENT: The King James Version of the Bible and some other translations use the word "LORD," usually in capital letters, to translate the Hebrew word YHWH. Most scholars believe YHWH to be some form of the verb "to be" or "to exist." Hence YHWH signifies "the self-existent One," One who "lives"—from eternity, and to eternity. Revelation 1:8 clarifies the meaning of this name, speaking of Christ, "the beginning and the ending ...which is, and which was, and which is to come...." Consequently both Moffatt’s "The Eternal" and Fenton’s "Ever-Living" are excellent translations.
In ancient Hebrew, the vowels were not written. They were supplied by the reader. Since the ancient Jews considered the name YHWH too holy to pronounce, they read instead Adonai or "Lord," or occasionally Elohim. When the Masoretes—Jewish textual scholars—wrote down the vowel points (about 600-800 AD) to preserve the proper pronunciation, they wrote the vowel points of Adonai or Elohim with each occurrence of YHWH. From this combination later came the hybrid form "Jehovah." Thus the precise pronunciation of YHWH is not definitely known today, nor is it necessary for us to know it today.
4. According to I Corinthians 10:4, who was (and still is) the "Rock"?
COMMENT: Thus the Bible identifies the "Rock" as Christ! How surprising to those who have assumed that the God of the Old Testament was the one the New Testament calls "the Father"!
And so the "LORD" who spoke and was seen of men was always the one who became Jesus Christ. For no mortal man has ever seen or heard the Father! (John 1:18; 5:37.)
5. Was it also the Word—the One who became Christ—who spoke the Ten Commandments? Ex. 20:1-2.
COMMENT: The Hebrew word for "Lord" in Exodus 20 is YHWH. So here again it was the Logos, the "Spokesman"—who later became Christ—who actually spoke the Ten Commandments!
But what difference does this revelation make? It makes all the difference.
Understanding the true identity of the God of the Old Testament is vital to becoming reborn with the spiritual nature of God. For the God of the Old Testament, commonly assumed to have been harsh and stern, was really our SAVIOR—loving, kind, merciful and just (Ex. 34:5-7).
The POWER of God
Most of professing Christianity today also assumes that God is a "trinity" composed of God the Father, God the Son and God the "Holy Spirit." Could this be true? Let’s learn what the Bible tells us about the Spirit of God.
1. Is God’s Spirit the POWER by which He creates? Jer. 32:17; Gen. 1:1-3; Psalm 104:30.
COMMENT: It was by the Spirit of God that the Eternal (YHWH)--the Logos (Christ)--created the entire vast universe. Invisible spirit energy was literally transformed into the material creation we see about us (Heb. 11:3). And by His Spirit, God reformed the surface of the earth (Ps. 104:30). No wonder the Bible calls it the "power" of God!
2. How did the Eternal God utilize His Spirit of power to bring His various creations into being? Psalm 148:1-5. Notice the word "commanded" in verse 5. Also read Psalm 33:8-9 and Genesis 1:2-3.
COMMENT: God, the ultimate source of all power, willed that spirit energy emanating from Himself be TRANSFORMED into physical energy and matter. Christ—the Logos, or "Word" (John (1:1)--"spake and it was done." He is the One who said, "Let there be light." And the Spirit of God, moving over the face of the waters performed the command, and "there was light" (Gen. 1:3).
3. Does God also use His Spirit of power to sustain, preserve and rule His vast creation? Neh. 9:6; Heb. 1:2-3; Psalm 66:7.
COMMENT: God sits at the controls of the entire universe—He rules and sustains everything by the POWER of His Spirit!
4. Does God’s Spirit fill the entire universe? Psalm 139:7-10; Jer. 23:24. But do the Father and Christ have definite form and shape? Gen. 1:26; John 14:9.
COMMENT: God’s Spirit is not a "third person’ in the God Family. It is His divine POWER that emanates from Him and permeates the universe!
5. But what about I John 5:7 which many suppose proves God is composed of three persons?
COMMENT: This verse is left out of most modern translations of the Bible—for a very good reason! It is spurious—afraid! Most any Bible commentary reveals that this verse is not found in any old Greek manuscript and was not found even in the Latin Vulgate until as late as the eighth century. Admits Adam Clarke: It is lacking in "all the ancient versions but the Vulgate; and even of this version many of the most ancient and correct MSS. [Manuscripts] have it not."
Those who believe in a "trinity" grasp at this verse to support their belief because they have NO Bible proof for their conviction! Rather, history reveals the trinity concept is a pagan invention and belief found in many ancient countries. The Egyptian trinity consisted of Isis, Osiris and Horus; the worship of the trinity traces back to the worship of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz soon after the Flood!
6. Is the Holy Spirit referred to in the Bible simply as "it"—not a person? John 1:32; Rom. 8:16, 26; I Peter 1:11.
COMMENT: In Greek, as in English, the word "spirit" is neuter. It naturally requires a neuter pronoun which is rightly translated into English as "it," and is usually so translated. However, in some cases the translators have used a masculine pronoun where the original Greek uses "it." John 14:17 is such a case. The pronouns "he" and "him" should have been rendered "it." No doubt the translators erred because they themselves assumed the Holy Spirit to be a person.
In John 14:26; 16:7-8, 13-14 the Holy Spirit is personified as the "Comforter" (Greek parakletos, which is grammatically masculine), hence the pronoun "he" (ekeinos) was used in the original Greek to agree with "Comforter," but should also be translated "it" in an English version.
The plain fact of the whole matter, which few have ever realized, is
that the commonly accepted "trinity" doctrine attempts to limit for all
time the size of the Family of God. It denies the very PURPOSE for which
Elohim created mankind! You will grasp this astonishing truth more fully
as you continue studying.
The Nature of God
1. What is the composition of God? John 4:24. But of what is man composed? I Cor. 15:47.
COMMENT: One of the great differences between the God Kingdom and the human kingdom is that God is composed of invisible spirit, while man is mortal flesh and blood—made from the dust of the earth.
2. Just before He was taken to be crucified, to what state did Christ ask His Father to restore Him? John 17:5. Was Christ again to share His Father’s glory in the God Family? Same verse.
3. How do Christ’s and the Father’s powerful, glorified spirit bodies appear? Rev. 1:13-16. The "Son of Man" mentioned here is the glorified Christ!
COMMENT: TO be glorified means to have GREAT POWER and BRIGHTNESS! The power of the Father and Christ is so great that it makes their spirit bodies shine as BRIGHT AS THE SUN IN FULL STRENGTH!
4. What is another great difference between God and man—what is God’s characteristic attitude and general mental makeup? Psalm 99:9. Is there anyone as "holy" as God? I Sam. 2:2. Would you consider man of himself as being "holy"? Rom. 3:10-18, 23; 8:7; Jer. 17:9.
COMMENT: The word "holy" means pure of heart or free from sin. The two Persons presently composing the God Family possess a sinless, "holy," spiritual attitude and mind. But what does all this have to do with your being "born again"?
EVERYTHING! When born again you will possess the same power, glory and
holiness of God! But more about this later.
A "Father Son" Relationship
Have you ever wondered how the "Father-Son" relationship of the God Family developed? This is vital to know in order to understand the purpose and Plan of God, and being "born again."
1. What did Jesus say of Himself and His "Father"? John 10:30; 17:11. Yet who is greater in authority? John 14:28. Notice also I Corinthians 11:3.
COMMENT: The Father and Son are one in purpose and attitude. But the Father is greater in authority since Christ—the "Word," or Logos—made all things by His authority. The Father has always been in supreme command in the Family or Kingdom of God—long before the Word became a human being.
2. Why did the Logos (Christ) become a flesh and blood human being? Heb. 2:9, 14.
COMMENT: All mankind has sinned (Rom. 3:23). And "the wages of sin is [eternal] death" (Rom. 6:23). The Logos became a mortal man so He could die to pay the death penalty for the sins of ALL mankind. Christ was able to do this because His human life was far more valuable than the lives of all human beings put together—He was God incarnate—GOD made flesh (John 1:14.)
3. But exactly how did the Logos become composed of flesh and blood? Matt. 1:18-21. ("Ghost" in this passage, as elsewhere, is an unfortunate translation in the King James Version. It should rather be rendered "Spirit" as it is in most other translations of the Bible.) What title did the other member of the God Kingdom acquire as a result of this miraculous begettal? Matt. 18:35; John 1:14.
COMMENT: Before Christ (the Logos) was conceived in Mary, He was not the "Son of God." He was one of the two original members of the God Kingdom. He, like the one who became the "Father," had existed eternally. But He is nowhere in God’s Word referred to as a SON of God prior to His conception in Mary. His human birth was His first birth. He gave up the glory He had shared with the other divine being, who became His "Father," in order to be born into the world as a human being, live a perfect life, and then give His life to pay the penalty of all the sins of mankind.
And so Jesus was begotten within His human mother Mary. But unlike all other men, He was miraculously begotten by the One who became the Father, through the agency and power of the Spirit of God (Matt. 1:20; John 1:14-- here is further proof the Spirit of God is not another person). Christ thus became the "Son" of God, and He called the other person of the God Kingdom His "Father." And so began the "Father-Son" relationship, which is a FAMILY relationship!
Now let’s begin to understand exactly what all this has to do with our
being "born again."
Man Created in God’s Image
Man is not just another "animal" as evolutionists claim. God’s purpose for creating man surpasses anything ever conceived by the mind of man. Let’s turn to the first chapter of Genesis and begin to understand the most astounding revelation of your Bible!
1. After what "kind" were the animals created? Gen. 1:20-25.
COMMENT: These verses plainly say, without any interpretation, that God created fish to reproduce after their own particular kind, birds after their particular kind, and cattle after the cattle kind. Each kind may have many varieties within it, but all creatures reproduce only after their own "kind. " That is why dogs reproduce dogs, monkeys reproduce monkeys, sheep reproduce sheep, etc.
2. But what about man? After whose "image" and "likeness" was man created? Gen. 1:26-27.
COMMENT: In God’s pattern for all life, like reproduces like. And just as each created form of plant or animal reproduces after its own kind, so man reproduces man. But UNLIKE any of the animals created by God, man was created in God’s likeness.
These scriptures refute the theory that man is merely the "highest" of the animals, having "evolved" from lower mammals. They clearly state that God created man after His own "image" and "likeness"! God made man LIKE Himself—same form and shape. And He is now creating men after HIS KIND!
Only a very few have really grasped the tremendous significance of this astounding truth. But this is what salvation is all about. This revelation affirms that God is REPRODUCING HIMSELF. Our destiny is to become the literal "children" of God—Members of His own divine Family!
3. Even though man is made in the likeness of God, are both now composed of the same type of "material"? John 4:24; Gen. 2:7.
COMMENT: There is a vast difference between spirit and dust. Although man was created in the very shape and likeness of God, he was NOT created out of the same material. He was made of the dust of the earth, subject to decay. But God’s purpose is to eventually create him out of spirit!
In I Corinthians 15:46 we read: "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and AFTERWARD that which is spiritual. The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man [Christ] is the Lord from heaven.... And as we [speaking of converted Christians] have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (verses 46-49).
Clearly, man is much more than any animal. Man has the potential to
become divine spirit—just as GOD is spirit!
Our Awesome Destiny!
Astonishing as it may seem, God is now in the process of creating His greatest creation of all—His supreme masterpiece! God’s Plan is to create perfect spiritual characters out of mortal mankind. Notice the overwhelming evidence:
1. Is God still in the process of forming and molding man as a potter works with clay? Isa. 64:8.
COMMENT: Man’s creation in the Garden of Eden was complete only in the physical sense. Adam was created a perfect physical specimen—but not a perfect SPIRITUAL creation. He was created of the dust—not of divine SPIRIT. He was created corruptible—not incorruptible. He was created subject to death—not immortal. But God did not intend man should remain that way!
2. Did Job realize God was forming a special creation in his life? Job 14:14-15.
COMMENT: Notice especially the latter part of verse 15: "...thou wilt have a desire to the WORK of shine hands. " The "work" was Job. Job knew he was merely a piece of divine workmanship in the hands of the Master Potter.
3. Are true Christians being fashioned by God for a specific purpose? Isa. 43:7; Eph. 2:10.
COMMENT: The word "we" in New Testament language usually refers to Christians, as Paul intended in verse 10. We, then—if we are Christians— are God’s "workmanship." We today are being "created"—Why?--"unto good works." God, with the Holy Spirit He has put within us, is forming in us perfect spiritual character! He is creating us in His own character-image! He is creating us to be the supreme masterpiece of all His works of creation—individuals who will ultimately be capable of exercising awesome powers in the universe!
Man, the material creation, is only the first phase. Now the clay model
has to be fashioned and molded by experience, and with the aid of God’s
Holy Spirit, into the finished spiritual masterpiece. An analogy of this
process would be a caterpillar going through a metamorphosis and emerging
a beautiful butterfly. Man must undergo a spiritual "metamorphosis," or
CHANGE—to emerge as perfect SPIRITUALS Members in the divine GOD FAMILY!
What It Means to Be "Born Again"
The Gospel Jesus brought to mankind is simply the "good news" of the Kingdom of God—and that Kingdom is DUAL. It is not only the ruling government which Christ will establish on the earth when He returns, but it is also the FAMILY of God—the God Kingdom composed of the spirit members of the God Family.
And, incredible as it may sound, Jesus taught that humans can be "born" into the FAMILY, or KINGDOM, of God.
There are only two members in the God Family or Kingdom at the present time—God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. But God is increasing His Family! And YOU can be "born" into it!
1. Does God plainly show it is His purpose to increase His divine Family by bringing many sons into it? Heb. 2:10; Rev. 21:7. Isn’t Jesus Christ actually the "firstborn" of MANY sons of God? Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18.
COMMENT: To be "conformed to the IMAGE" of Christ means to become LIKE Him—to be glorified as He is glorified—to be of the divine FAMILY OF GOD as much as Christ now is.
2. But what must happen to flesh-and-blood Christians before they can enter God’s Family? I Cor. 15:49-51; John 3:3-8.
COMMENT: Jesus said we must be "born again"—CHANGED INTO SPIRIT! Yes, born again—this time born of the Spirit of God as divine Sons in the Family of God.
Begotten Sons Now—Not Yet Born Again
If we are true Christians, are we already—in this life—the children of God?
1. I John 3:1-2. Are we already inheritors of the Kingdom of God, or only heirs to it? Rom. 8:14-17.
COMMENT: Notice that although we are now the "sons" and "children of God," we are only heirs—ones who shall, in the future, inherit all that God has promised. Why? Because we are now only begotten children. It is only when we are born of God that we become inheritors of God’s Kingdom— divine members of the Family of God.
Before the second phase of man’s creation—our spiritual creation—can begin, God the Father must first beget each of us by placing His Holy Spirit within our minds. We are then impregnated, so to speak, by the "seed" or germ of eternal life. It is the begettal of the spiritual life of God within our minds. And much as a newly begotten physical embryo begins to grow in its mother’s womb, we begin to grow in SPIRITUAL CHARACTER after we are begotten by God’s Spirit. This growth comes through study, prayer, and walking with God.
2. Now compare Galatians 3:26 and Ephesians 1:5 with Romans 8:14-17. Do these verses reveal the same truth—that Christians are already the children—the SONS—of God, destined to inherit eternal life?
COMMENT: Some versions of the Bible use the expression "adoption of sons" or "adoption of children." Although linguistically possible, these do not give the real meaning. The original inspired Greek expression huiothesia does simply mean "sonship." But when we receive the "spirit of sonship," as an impregnating "seed" (I Pet. 1:23), that is not an "adoption." The Holy Spirit makes us the literal begotten sons of God, for we are going to be just like our Heavenly Father when finally born into His Kingdom.
And so all Spirit-begotten Christians have become the (as yet unborn) children of God the Father, in the same sense that an unborn human fetus is the child of its human parents!
3. Do we actually receive of the divine nature of God when begotten by His Holy Spirit? II Peter 1:3-4. What are some of the divine characteristics or "fruits" of God’s nature that are made manifest in the lives of obedient Christians after they are begotten by God’s Spirit? Gal. 5:22-23.
4. Is love ("charity") the greatest single attribute of God’s nature that is transmitted to us by His Holy Spirit? I John 4:16; Rom. 5:5; I Cor. 13:1-13 (notice especially verse 13). Is this the same love that enables us to "fulfill"—to OBEY God’s Law? Rom. 13:10.
COMMENT: The Holy Spirit that a person may receive from God can be compared to the sperm of a human father. God’s Spirit transmits His spiritual attributes to us, even as a physical sperm cell transmits a human father’s attributes to his newly conceived offspring. The Holy Spirit—the germ or "seed" (I Pet. 1:23) by which we are spiritually begotten—imparts to us the nature and very life of God our heavenly Father.
If you are truly the kind of Christian described in the Bible, then
you are now a begotten child or son of God. God the Father placed within
your mind His Spirit, the sperm, so to speak, of eternal life. He begot
you with the Holy Spirit just as the sperm from a human father impregnates
the egg of the mother. Your mind can be compared to an "egg" or ovum. You
were impregnated with the spiritual germ or sperm of eternal life so you
could begin the process of spiritual growth. But you are not yet born of
God—not yet composed of spirit—not yet immortal. If you are not yet truly
converted—a genuine Christian—then you have not yet even begun this process!
Born Again at the Resurrection
1. Can flesh and blood inherit God’s Kingdom? I Cor. 15:50. What must happen before we can be born as divine sons in God’s Family? Verses 51-53.
COMMENT: Whatever is born of spirit Is spirit, said Jesus (John 3:6). But we have not yet been born of spirit. We are STILL FLESH AND BLOOD! If you think you have already been "born again," then take the "pin test." Stick a pin in your finger. Do you feel pain? Does your finger bleed? Then you are still flesh and blood—you haven’t been "born again."
When Christ was resurrected—"born again"—He was able to pass through solid walls (John 20:19, 26). Do you think those who claim to have been "born again" can match this feat?
Obviously, any human beings who claim to be already born again are terribly mistaken, for they are still flesh and blood. Jesus said you must be "born of spirit"—you must become composed of spirit—to ever see or enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). And so the new birth is something yet to occur at the resurrection! But exactly why aren’t all true Christians already born of God? Notice:
2. What are Christians exhorted to do in this life? II Peter 3:18; Eph. 4:15. How and by whom are they to be "fed" and nurtured so they may grow into the stature of Christ? I Peter 5:1-2; Eph. 4:11-13.
COMMENT: The Father begets. He does not "bring forth"; the mother does that, later. After the father’s part, which initiates the PROCESS, there is always a lapse of time leading to final birth. At the time of begettal, birth (parturition) has not yet occurred. In the case of human beings, it follows about nine months later.
During the intervening time, just as the mother nourishes and protects the unborn son or daughter in her womb during the gestation period, so the true Church is commissioned to nourish and protect true Christians in her spiritual womb—to "feed the flock." God’s spirit-begotten children must be nourished on the spiritual food supplied by God—the words of Scripture— and live by every word of God, in order to grow up spiritually.
If by the return of Jesus Christ we have grown and matured in spiritual character, we will become born "children of God," being "children of the resurrection" as Christ was at His resurrection. We will then no longer be subject to death (Luke 20:35-36). But if the spirit—begotten child of God does not grow spiritually, he can become a spiritual miscarriage—an abortion.
3. Speaking of the resurrection, when the second birth will occur, what did Paul say regarding the new body Christians will receive? I Cor. 15:42-44. Will they become as Jesus Christ is today? Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:2; Matt. 17:1-2; Rev. 1:13-16; Matt. 13:43; Dan. 12:3.
COMMENT: Because God is spirit, when one is "born" of his heavenly Father he will BE SPIRIT—he will be composed of the same substance of which God is composed. He will be given a spirit body just like Christ’s and will be GLORIFIED and given tremendous SPIRITUAL POWER. The spiritual power and glory "born-again" Christians shall receive at the resurrection will be so great that it will make their spirit bodies shine as the sun, and make their raiment dazzling white!
And all who are thus "born of God" will be able to see God because they
will be in the Kingdom—the divine Family—of God!
The Great Difference Between "Begotten" and "Born"
Most professing Christians assume they were "born again" when they first "accepted Christ." Then by misapplying the King James Version’s rendition of I John 3:9, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God," many also assume that they are no longer capable of sinning in this life. That assumption is false! Notice:
1. Did the Apostle John say that Christians do sometimes commit sins? I John 1:8-10. Did he use the present tense of the verb in verse 8? Then he meant they sin after becoming Christians, didn’t he? Notice that he includes himself by saying "we."
2. Was the Apostle Paul beset with recurring sin long after he repented and received—was begotten by—the Holy Spirit? Rom. 7:14-25. Is there a just man on earth who does not at some time commit sin? Eccl. 7:20. So isn’t it plain that Christians in this mortal flesh are not now perfect—not yet born of God?
3. Now notice I John 5:18. Does this verse further substantiate the fact that Christians are not yet born of God?
COMMENT: The person who has been finally "born of God" will not sin any longer. Once we are born of God at the resurrection we will be able to live without ever sinning again. How? Simply because we will then possess the fullness of God’s perfect character and divine nature. We will no longer possess a nature which can fall victim to sin and Satan’s influence.
But as long as we are only "begotten" of God we must "keep ourselves"— we must continue to resist the evil temptations of the flesh. Such a one can commit sin. When caught off guard or in a moment of weakness, we can and often do sin! But we cannot "practice [or continually live in] sin" and be the begotten sons of God (I John 3:5-6).
Life, to the begotten Christian, is a constant struggle against Satan’s influence which is the cause of the evil side of man’s nature. (The origin of the evil characteristics of "human nature" will be covered in Lesson 9.) Although he has now received the begettal of God’s divine nature (II Pet. 1:4), he still manifests the traits of human nature as well, and the one wars against the other (Gal. 5:17).
But what about the Old Testament men of God? How can we prove whether any of them were either begotten or born of God? Let’s understand:
4. Did David have God’s Holy Spirit? Ps. 51:10-11. What about all the "holy men of old," including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? II Pet. 1:21; Rom. 8:14; Luke 13:28. And yet, was Jesus Christ the "Firstborn from the dead"? Col. 1:15, 18.
COMMENT: Now since those Old Testament personages had God’s Holy Spirit,
and yet Christ was first to be born of God by virtue of His resurrection,
then it follows that those men of old were merely "begotten" of God—not
yet "born" into His Family. And the same is TRUE OF EVERY CHRISTIAN SINCE
The Greek Word Gennao
Much of the confusion about being "born again" has resulted from misinterpreting the original Greek of the New Testament. With one exception (James 1:15-18) the Greek word used in reference to spiritual begettal and birth—spiritual salvation—is always gennao. This word means both "to conceive," or "to beget," and also "to bear," or "to be born"—all or any part of the whole process which produces a new individual human being; whereas in English we use two separate verbs—"begotten" and "born."
Since both begettal and birth are included in the meaning of gennao, we must often let the Bible interpret the Bible in order to know which meaning is intended in a particular passage.
Here are several examples where the Greek word should rightly have been rendered begotten, not born: John 1:12-13; I John 2:29; 4:7; 5:1 (three times); 5:4. The King James Version is correct by using "begotten" in I Corinthians 4:15; Hebrews 1:5 and I John 5:1.
Now what about the scriptures that call Christ the "ONLY-begotten"? (John 1:14, 18; 3:16; I John 4:9.) Do these, after all, disprove the truth that true Christians are only "begotten" of God’s Spirit, growing toward being born of God at the resurrection? Of course not!
The simple answer is that all these verses are referring to Christ’s
miraculous begettal in His mother Mary’s womb. Christ’s physical begettal
and birth (gennao) were unique. No other person—ever—has been begotten
by the Spirit of the Father in a human mother’s womb! In this sense He
is—and always shall be—"ONLY-begotten." But many have been "begotten again"
(I Pet. 1:3) to ultimately become—through the process of spiritual growth
and birth—the spirit-born sons of God.
You MUST Be Born Again!
What God created at the time described in the first chapter of Genesis was a physical creation. Man, made of the dust of the ground, was the MATERIAL being which God planned to mold, shape and form into a perfect SPIRITUAL creation. He pictures us as the clay, Himself as the Potter— forming us into the spiritual image of Himself!
God uses human reproduction to picture the process by which He is reproducing Himself. Each human since Adam and Eve started from a tiny ovum, the size of a pinpoint, produced in the body of the mother. But the egg is incomplete of itself. It lives only about 48 hours, according to some authorities. Unless fertilized by the life-giving sperm cell from the human father within the limited time, it dies. A human life can only begin when that sperm cell impregnates—enters—the ovum.
Spiritually speaking, each human mind is like an egg. Each of us was BORN INCOMPLETE—able to live only a relatively short span of years. We were made to need the impregnating spiritual life of God’s Holy Spirit so we could be created in God’s spiritual "image" and live forever!
The physical ovum, once it is fertilized, becomes a begotten human life called an embryo. The mother’s womb nourishes and protects it—carrying it in that part of her body where she may best protect it from physical injury or harm—until it has grown enough to be born. After a number of weeks, the embryo develops to what is called a fetus, and at birth it is called a human baby.
Likewise God’s CHURCH protects and spiritually feeds begotten Christians with the Word of God so they may GROW SPIRITUALLY (II Peter 3: 18) in the divine character of God until ready to be born into His Family. But there is one great difference in this analogy!
The physical fetus does not attain physical and mental maturity before birth. However, the spirit-begotten Christian must attain a reasonable measure of spiritual maturity before he is spirit-born. The newborn physical babe’s main growth occurs after birth, but this is a type of the spiritual growing which spiritually begotten Christians must do before their spiritual birth (I Pet. 1:23; 2:1-2). Christ did not grow into spiritual perfection after He was resurrected, but during His human lifetime, setting us the example, being made perfect (Heb. 2:10 and 5:8-9).
Surely nobody will be foolish enough to suggest that when Christ was BORN the very son of God by the resurrection (Rom. 1:4) He was resurrected as a tiny infant composed of spirit! He was resurrected full grown. How did the apostles know He was the same Jesus? Because they knew what Jesus looked like—and in His resurrected body He looked the same as He had before in the flesh, except He now was composed of spirit instead of flesh and blood!
When we are "born again"—born of God, changed into spirit bodies at the resurrection—we, too, shall look essentially as we do now, as far as physical features are concerned. But the resurrected body will be a different body—composed of SPIRIT instead of flesh and blood (I Cor. 15:35-44). Now what, exactly, is spiritual growth? It is CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!
Such character is the ability, as a free moral agent, to discern right from wrong—the true values from the false—truth from error—and then to make the right choice or decision, even against self-desire, impulse or temptation; plus the will and self-discipline to resist the wrong and to DO the right.
But as mentioned before, we must BEGIN developing spiritual character and grow toward spiritual adulthood during this life—NOT AFTER we are born of God at the resurrection! Our vile, carnal nature (Rom. 8:7; Jer. 17:9) must be gradually changed Now! This spiritual growth comes by feeding on the Word of God, through prayer and wholehearted participation in the Work of God.
Then, when the glorified Christ returns to earth the second time, we shall be resurrected, or instantaneously changed, into bodies that will be like His (I John 3:1-2)--full grown—adult! At that instant, our present physical bodies will be made like His glorified body—"BORN AGAIN" AS MEMBERS OF GOD’S OWN FAMILY—as God’s own glorious offspring with eternal life inherent within ourselves—as His immortal SONS to reign along with Jesus Christ our elder BROTHER!
That, according to your Bible, is what it means to be "born again."
God help you to comprehend this glorious truth, and become one of His spiritually
TEST YOUR MEMORY
This quiz is designed to help you remember the important facts you learned in the lesson. You simply circle or underline each correct answer. After you’ve finished the test, check your choices with the correct answers at the end of this lesson, and then rate yourself.
1. "God" A. is one person. B. is a family presently composed of only two persons. C. is a "trinity" of three persons—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. D. has no plans for expanding His Family-Kingdom.
2. The divine Person who became Jesus Christ. A. was the "Spokesman" of the God Family in Old Testament times. B. was never the Logos or "Word" of God. C. was never seen by man in Old Testament times. D. did not exist until the Father begot Him.
3. The Spirit of God A. is a divine being. B. Is the very power of the God Family. C. may be touched and felt. D. Is not everywhere.
4. The Father and Son A. are both included in the original uniplural Hebrew word for God—Elohim. B. have always had that relationship to one another C. are of equal authority D. both dealt with mankind Old Testament times.
5. God originally created A. animals that evolved into their own kinds. B. man after the God kind. C. physical man in God’s "likeness" and "image." D. man of spirit.
6. Man was created A. as the ultimate, completed, finished product. B. as only the clay model which God would shape and develop in His own spiritual character. C. with perfect spiritual character. D. as a glorified being.
7. When Jesus spoke of being "born again," Nicodemus A. understood exactly what He meant. B. thought He meant "be baptized and live a Christian life." C. knew He was talking about a literal birth, but did not understand that it was a spiritual birth. D. did not realize Jesus was talking about the subject of birth.
8. To be "born again" A. Is to be changed into higher level of human being. B. is merely a sentimental experience. C. means to be changed. into a literal immortal member of the God Family! D. is just a metaphorical expression Jesus used in talking to Nicodemus.
9. One who is born of God’s spirit A. is a nebulous ghost. B. will have no great power. C. will be like the angels, but not like God. D. is spirit.
10. True Christians now A. are already born of God and are not able
to sin. B. are only begotten of God’s Spirit. C. are already inheritors
of God’s Kingdom D. are in no need of growing in God’s spiritual character
before being "born again" at the resurrection
True or False
11. The Logos—the "Word" or "Spokesman"—was a member of the God Kingdom before being miraculously begotten in Mary’s womb. T F
12. The Spiritual begettal of a Christian by the Spirit of God is analogous to the physical begettal of an ovum by the sperm of a human father. T F
13. True Christians call the Father of Jesus Christ" Our Father in heaven" because tradition says they should, not because the Father is now begetting many sons to become "born again" brothers of Jesus Christ. T F
14. The Greek word gennao describes a process which includes both begettal and birth. T F
15. It is impossible for us to sin once we have been begotten by God’s
Spirit. T F
|16. LORD, YHWH, Rock||A. The Holy Spirit|
|B. At the resurrection|
|17. Gennao||C. Character development|
|D. Never been seen|
|18. True Christians||E. The Father|
|F. Spirit begotten|
|19. Spiritual growth||G. Begettal only|
|H. Birth only|
|20. "Born again"||I Begettal and birth|
|J. Jesus Christ|
ANSWERS TO QUIZ Rate Yourself
l-B 5-C 9-D 13-F 17-I 19-20 correct excellent
2-A 6-B 10-B 14-T 18-F 16-18 correct good
3-B 7-C 11-T 15-F 19-C 13-15 correct fair
4-A 8-C 12-T 16-J 20-B