Wednesday, April 30, 2008Christians should know...
"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" (John 3:1-4)
If you have spent any time at all in an evangelical church, you are very familiar with the above passage of Scripture. If you are not born-again, you don't go to Heaven. Crystal clear. It's with the verses that come next that things get more complicated...
"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Nicodemus, to be born again, ye must repent of your sins and believe on me. If you believe on me and the work I will accomplish for you when I will be lifted up on a cross, then you will be born-again"
If you don't recognize the above verses in your versions of the Gospel of John, it's because the verses aren't there. I totally made it up. I fabricated those statements to fit how most Christians interpret the teachings found in John 3. You see, if my fabricated verses were verses 5 and 6 of John 3, then the 'Lifegate' website's article on how to be born-again would be 100% accurate; and I would be a heretic. Thing is, verses 5-8 don't say anything like my fabricated nonsense.
"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, 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." (John 3:5-8)
What in the world is being said here? I will grant you, this is heavy stuff, so I can definitely understand the temptation to ignore verses 5-12 and skip straight to the statements on the necessity for faith in Christ Jesus to have eternal life; which is EXACTLY what most believers, EVEN FUNDAMENTALIST, EVEN FUNDAMENTALIST PASTORS do! Absolutely shocking! That's how we get Christians who call the 'Second Birth' and the 'Profession of Faith' synonyms.
They are NOT synonyms.
To understand this, one has to come to understand what the Lord Jesus Christ was actually saying in John 3:5-12. So let's figure this out. First thing I want you to notice, dear readers, is right after making His "no Second Birth, no Heaven" statement in verse 3, the Lord does NOT tell Nicodemus that he has TO DO anything to receive the Second Birth. This is important. You would think that after Nicodemus' question in verse 4, 'how can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?', the Lord would have told him to do this or that, but He doesn't.
Instead, we get some strange statements about 'being born of water and the Spirit', about 'things born of the flesh being flesh, and things born of the spirit is spirit', and something about 'the wind which no one sees, but that all can see its effects'. All very confusing for us, and it was clearly very confusing for Nicodemus also; that's why he said: "How can these things be?"
"Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (John 3:10)
As hard as John 3:5-8 is to understand for the layman, the fact of the matter is, it shouldn't have been too difficult for a Pharisee like Nicodemus. That's what we clearly get from the Lord Jesus Christ's reply to Nicodemus' question. So what is it that Nicodemus should have known? (and by extension, what is it that we should know?)
Stay tuned for Part III...