God created life. Satan killed it. Jesus gives new life to those who want it. I want it!
Everything was going along beautifully. God created a wonderful world for the enjoyment of His creatures. He created man and woman and introduced them to each other and the amazing world around them. Then Satan got involved. He hated God and everything God had created. That included the world and the people in it. Satan lied about God to the woman and deceived her into disobeying God. The woman asked the man to disobey and he did. The man and woman began to die physically, just as God had warned. They died spiritually at the instant they disobeyed God. They were ashamed and hid from God. Every human being born into life on earth is born spiritually dead and dies physically in a short period of time. That, my friends, is the sad story of humanity. We are born dead — then die.
However, I am very glad to say that is not the end to this sad story. The God who created man and woman gave them one chance to life. He said it would come through a Man He would send to deliver them. We know that Man is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Bible is filled with stories about the birth of boys and girls, but the birth spoken of in John 1 is different than physical birth: “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man.” This is a supernatural birth: “but of God.” This birth is directly related to the coming of the Word of God in the flesh. John the Apostle said that he beheld the glory of this Word, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John doesn’t leave us hanging about the identity of the Word:
“John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The word John used for born (“who were born”) is the Greek word gennao. It was used most often for men “begetting” children. In this context, we see that the begetting is not of blood, will of the flesh, or will of man. It’s of God. It’s the same word Jesus used when he spoke with Nicodemus.
“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You 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.”
Jesus anticipated the real question and need of Nicodemus and addressed it. “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus didn’t get what Jesus was saying at first. He thought the Lord was talking about being born physically a second time, a physical impossibility. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus explained to Nicodemus that what He was talking about was spiritual birth, not physical. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You 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 first key is the words “born again.” The Greek is gennethe anothen, “is born from above.” It was used for a place, usually on top of something or above something. Jesus said that unless a person is born from the top/above, they cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus misunderstood, so Jesus added more information to help him get to the truth. This is the second key: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” He repeats the same phrase, gennethenai anothen (born from above), and makes it clear that what He’s talking about is being born of the Spirit.
Why do we need to be born of the Spirit? Because the Spirit of God left Adam and Eve when they sinned against God. They received God’s Spirit when God created them. Remember that Adam was created in the “image” of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God breathed into Adam the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7) that included the Spirit of God. When Adam sinned against God, the Holy Spirit left Adam and Eve. They lost their spiritual connection with God. Being “born again” reconnects people with God and the Holy Spirit once again lives in them.
Jesus introduced Nicodemus to the most amazing fact of life: we can be born of the Spirit! It was a truth that so captured Nicodemus that he eventually became a follower of Christ (John 19:39). I can imagine that the Lord’s promise of spiritual life coming through a new birth from above is something that never left Nicodemus’ mind.
The Apostle Peter also got the message. He knew what it meant to be spiritually “born from above” and taught that truth to others. Here’s what he wrote in his first letter: “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:23) The Greek word for “having been born again” is anagegennemenoi and translates into English as “having been regenerated.” He used a similar word a few sentences later when he wrote: “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) The Greek for “newborn babes” is aptigenneta brephe and means someone who is a newborn child or infant. Even though Peter was writing primarily to adults, he called them “newborn babes.” That was based on their having recently been “regenerated.”
Regeneration is a phenomenal reality in the spiritual world. God takes someone who was born into physical and spiritual death and begets them anew spiritually! Paul explained it this way:
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
“And you He made alive, who were dead.” This is stunning information, breaking news to the highest degree! God raises people from the dead every day; people who were dead in trespasses and sins. Even when we were dead in trespasses, God “made us alive together with Christ.” We were “dead” (nekros – dead body), but God made us “alive” (sunzoopoieo – bring to life, make alive with) together with Christ.
The “new birth” is the pathway to “new life” in Christ and humanity’s only hope to defeat the death everyone of us is born into. It is truly a “regeneration”, a spiritual renewal.
Another Greek word translated “regeneration” is palingenesia, from palin (again) and genesis (birth). Paul used it in his letter to Titus.
“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Notice how this happens from God’s perspective:
- kindness and love of God our Savior toward man
- not by works of righteousness which we have done
- saved us according to His mercy
- through the washing of regeneration
- and renewing of the Holy Spirit
- whom God poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior
- having been justified by His grace
- we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life
Wow! God did all this for us. Paul’s teaching and writing are consistent on the fact that we have spiritual life because of the mercy of God, and not because of our righteousness or anything we’ve done. We are spiritually alive through the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
Very cool! But how does it happen? How do we go from “death” to “life”? How long does it take? How long does it last? What does it feel like? What does it do to us?
Tomorrow. We’ll look into that amazing adventure tomorrow.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,