Last Wednesday(14th) Jubilee Church did worship with the theme “Becoming New Men” based on [John 3:3-5]. Below is the summary of the sermon.
In reply, Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “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!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
The first few verses of John 3 have been showing that no man can please God either by his own achievements or by his intellect. However, at this point, Nicodemus asks the question that anyone might quite properly ask, “All right, you say that a man must be born again. Then, how is it possible? How can a man be born again?” To this question, the third chapter of John gives two answers.
“No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again”(v.3) The answer involved in this statement lies in the meaning of the Greek word translated “again.” It is one of two Greek words that are often translated “again” in our Bibles. One is “Palin”, which refers quite simply to the repetition of an act. The other word, the one used here, is “anothen”, which also refers to the repetition of an act but which implies more. In the first place, “anothen” can also be translated “from above.” So when the Bible uses “anothen” instead of Palin in the first part of the chapter, it is suggesting that the new birth is supernatural and has its origin in God. Thus, when Jesus said, “Unless he is born again,” he was suggesting that the new birth would have to have the same source as the original birth. That is Nicodemus would have to be brought to life spiritually by God. This distinction takes us back to the early chapters of Genesis, before the fall, where we are told that “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen2:7). When Adam sinned he lost God’s life, first spiritually and then physically. Thus, Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again as Adam was born. God was the source. Therefore, Nicodemus needed to have a fresh impartation of spiritual life; there had to be a new creation. The second answer to Nicodemus’s question “How can a man be born again?” is the answer given in verse 5. Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (RSV) Jesus now begins to explain in a more technical way how the new birth takes place.
At this point, we must acknowledge that several interpretations of the phrase “of water and of the Spirit” have been given. One of the great students of the Greek New Testament, Kenneth S, Wuest, he points out that “water” often is used in Scripture to refer to the Holy Spirit. He thinks that this is the case in John 4, for instance, where Jesus tells the woman of Samaria that he will give her “a spring of water welling up to eternal language is used. After this statement, John himself adds, as if in parentheses, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (v.39). Wuest also refers to Isaiah 44:3 and 55:1, both of which should have been known to Nicodemus. If this is the correct interpretation of the phrase “of water and of the Spirit,” then we have a repetition of ideas, and the word “and” should be taken in its emphatic sense. We would normally indicate this by translating the word as “even.” Thus, Jesus would be saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water, even the Spirit.” Wuest begins by pointing out that the word “water” is often a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. This is true, but it is not the only spiritual reality that is suggested by that metaphor. Water is also a metaphor for the written Word of God, the Bible. Thus, Ephesians 5:26 says that Christ gave himself for the church “to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water through the word.” In 1 John the same author who composed the fourth Gospel distinguishes between the witnesses to Christ on earth of “the Spirit, the water and the blood” (1John 5:8). Since he then goes on to speak of God’s written witness to the fact that salvation is in Christ, in this context the Spirit must refer to God’s witness within the individual, the blood to the historical witness of Christ’s death, and the water to the Scriptures. Psalm 119:9 declares, “how can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). A related text is James 1:18, which actually cites the Scriptures as the channel through which the new birth takes place, although without using water as the metaphor. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” When we see Christ’s words in this light, we see that God is here pictured as the Divine Begetter, the Father of his spiritual children, and we learn that the written Word of God together with the working of his Holy Spirit is the means by which the new birth is accomplished. That is why the Bible tells us that it pleased God to save people by the foolishness of preaching, for people are reborn through the efforts of others who proclaim God’s Word (Rom.10:14-15; 1Cor.1:21).
In the first chapter of 1 Peter, Peter has been talking about the means by which a person enters the family of God. First, he has discussed his theme objectively in terms of Christ’s death, writing that “it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (vv. 18,19). Second, he has discussed the basis of the new birth subjectively, pointing out that it occurs through faith: “Through him, you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (v.21). Finally, having mentioned these truths, peter goes on to discuss the new birth in term of God’s sovereign grace in election. however this time, he emphasizes that God is the Father of his children and that we are born again spiritually by means of the Word of God. When we take these passages together and then add to them all that the Bible has to say about faith and about the work of Holy Spirit in salvation, we find that we are able to grasp the essential nature of the new birth in terms of human conception. what happens when a man or a woman is born again? The answer is that God first of all plants within the heart of the person what we might call the ovum of saving faith m for we are told that even faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph.2:8). Second, God sends forth the seed of his Word so that the seed of the Word, which contains the divine life within it, pierces the ovum of the faith that God has already placed within our heart. The results are conception. By this means, a new spiritual life comes into being, a life that its origin in God and that therefore has no connection whatever with the sinful life that surrounds it. God did not use anything of Abram when he made Abraham. He did not use anything of Simon when he created the new Peter. He did not use anything of Saul when he made Paul. He does not use anything of your old sinful and Adamic nature when he produces the new life of Christ within you. That is why we can now say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Thus did Jesus speak to Nicodemus.