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Lowell Brueckner

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You Must Be Born Again! Part II


  I'm sorry that I have waited so long to put in the second installation to the study on the new birth. I hope you will join me and my outline and add your own thoughts to this subject. I'll help as much as I can and we are looking to some outstanding Bible teachers to give us their observations, as well. Please enjoy and may God give us all light to view one of the greatest themes in the Bible.

 III. The doctrine of the Apostle John.

A. In the introduction to his Gospel:  John 1:12-13: “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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.”  In contrast to those, who did not know or receive Him in v. 10 and 11, this birth comes in conjunction to those who do receive Him (accept, rather than reject) and believe in Him. They believe that it is true, but also they believe it to the degree that they place all their trust in Him. Here, it means, that they trust His person. Then, there is a very strong statement made insisting that God must bring about this birth, which has absolutely no human element involved. There is a triple denial of anything that man might do to participate in this work.

(Wesley) “They became sons of God” not according to bloodlines (blood), pedigrees, such as being sons of Abraham, by natural generation (desire) or by will of man (choice or adoption). “It takes place in ‘the heart’, understanding it to be the center of the personality, which will control the whole being. It is not only a change in relationship or truth, but we are changed because the principle of life is placed within us. .”  (Lloyd-Jones).  Old Testament saints also were born again. … one great covenant in grace… they were born again “Anyone who receives Christ will be born again and enter the family of God” (Wiersbe).

Of course, birth involves life; and spiritual birth from above involves God’s life. John uses the word life thirty-six times in his Gospel. The opposite of life is death, and the person who has not believed on Jesus Christ does not have God’s life, eternal life, abundant life. You do not manufacture Christians any more than you manufacture babies! The only way to enter God’s family is through the new birth.

B. In the teaching of Jesus to Nicodemus: John 3:3,7: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”… “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” This occurrence opens the understanding to the Kingdom of God. It gives entrance into that Kingdom. It must happen, because nothing else is of any value, if this doesn’t take place. We cannot please God without it. Along with the principal of forgiveness, must come a change in nature, or we will continue to be an agitation to God, continually inciting His wrath, still in a state of enmity. Nicodemus is a prime example. He needed everything that Jeremiah and Ezekiel wrote about.

We have to go back into chapter two to see what was happening in the religious society: 2:23-25…. “When He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” Now, Nicodemus comes. He is a man who has attained much and is considered to be a distinguished leader among his people. He is a moral man, a serious advocate of righteousness. But alas! He is not born again. An additional teaching, attached to the vast knowledge which he has already attained will not help. He is mistaken in this, but he has come in sincerity and he has come with a certain recognition of need. In vs. 7 the you is plural. It is a message to all, to the whole body of people.

1. Wind. We can say three things about the “Wind” in verse 8: “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 1) It blows where it wishes, confirming that this is a work of a Sovereign God alone. 2) Its effects are noticeable; you can’t miss the sound thereof. 3) It does not leave a pattern to be followed and understood. It is unique in each case… like the snowflake, like the fingerprint, the works of God are infinitely diverse one from another. You cannot tell how or when it began and you don’t know how it will end.

2. Water. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v.5). We need to mention the water, here and again in Titus 3:5. “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” We might also refer to Ephesians 5:26, “washing of water with the word”. The word of God, the Scripture, is an essential part of evangelism, leading to the New Birth. The word must be proclaimed. You have it in James 1:18: “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” You have it in 1 Peter. 1:23: “Being born again… through the living and enduring word of God.” We can and should immediately rule out physical water or baptism in water. Baptism?  1) Baptism is connected with death, in biblical symbolism, not birth. 2) Physical water can never do a spiritual work. Temporal water cannot do an eternal work. Earthly water cannot do a heavenly work. You are born from above. 3) True people of God have never seen that baptism can produce a new birth. Watch out for those, and there are many, who teach such things. They are under a delusion that leads away from salvation by grace.

A more modern interpretation is that the water Jesus refers to is the first or natural birth, but this doctrine has not stood the test of time and we must be extremely suspicious of “new teaching”. It is the Word of Scripture, alive and powerful under the unction of the Holy Spirit that leads people in the direction of the new birth. It is preached to you. That’s Peter’s teaching on the new birth.“The Word brings to the birth. The medium is the word. It is not, however, in the act of generating. First, the heart must be opened”(Lloyd-Jones). The water of which Jesus speaks to Nicodemos, is the same water of which he spoke to the Samaritan woman. Water cleanses and quenches. Always a cleansing action takes place and then it pours life into the being.

C. In John’s epistle. 1 Jn.2:29 (begotten of God): “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” Those who are born of God are like the one by Whom they are begotten. Principally, John teaches that those who are born of God practice righteousness. They are righteous, made so, according to the righteousness of Christ. The pure Lamb took sin upon Himself, and then took it away, through His sin sacrifice, by which we are declared not guilty. Now, their lifestyle follows in agreement with their birth in Christ.
1. Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him and everyone who is born of Him practices righteousness. ALL His children are like Him” (Wesley). There is no doubt that God is righteous and we can be sure that His children practice righteousness. It is impossible to do righteousness without the new birth.  1 Jn.3:9: No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The one, who does not practice righteousness is an impostor, not truly born of God. He is of the devil (v.8) The true Christian cannot continue in sin, according to the divine seed within. His seed = God’s seed. This is very similar to Hebrews 12:14 “Santification (or holiness) without which no one will see the Lord.” The holiness principle is implanted through the new birth. Peter quotes Leviticus 11:44, when he teaches, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pe.1:16). It is the divine seed within, which obligates us, by nature, to pursue holiness.  

2. Divine love (agape) is imparted through the new birth. 1 Jn. 4:7-10: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” It is the motivating force of the new nature. If agape is not evident in a life, it is proof that that person has never come to know God. He may love, according to human, natural love, but not by agape love. If he only walks in natural love, he has not known God, for God is agape… true love. The love of God is made known to us, because we live and love through Christ. True love does not originate in the human heart, but is manifested to us through the work of the cross and is manifested through us because of the new birth. This is unique love that only comes from God and is proof that we have been born again.

Warren Wiersbe: God is love. This does not mean that “love is God.” And the fact that two people “love each other” does not mean that their love is necessarily holy. It has accurately been said that “love does not define God, but God defines love.” God is love and God is light; therefore, His love is a holy love, and His holiness is expressed in love. All that God does expresses all that God is. Even His judgments are measured out in love and mercy (Lam_3:22-23).
Much that is called “love” in modern society bears no resemblance or relationship to the holy, spiritual love of God. Yet we see banners saying “God is love!” displayed at many festivals, particularly where young people are “doing their own thing” — as if one could dignify immorality by calling it “love.”
Christian love is a special kind of love. 1Jo_4:10 may be translated: “In this way is seen the true love.” There is a false love, and this kind of love God must reject. Love that is born out of the very essence of God must be spiritual and holy, because “God is spirit” and “God is light.” This true love is “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom_5:5,nasb).
Love, therefore, is a valid test of true Christian faith. Since God is love, and we have claimed a personal relationship with God, we must of necessity reveal His love in how we live. A child of God has been “born of God,” and therefore he shares God’s divine nature. Since “God is love,” Christians ought to love one another. The logic is unanswerable!
Not only have we been “born of God,” but we also “know God.” In the Bible, the word know has a much deeper meaning than simply intellectual acquaintance or understanding. For example, the verb know is used to describe the intimate union of husband and wife (Gen_4:1). To know God means to be in a deep relationship to Him — to share His life and enjoy His love. This knowing is not simply a matter of understanding facts; it is a matter of perceiving truth (cf. 1Jo_2:3-5). “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.”
We must understand “he that loveth not knoweth not God” (1Jo_4:8) in this light. Certainly many unsaved people love their families and even sacrifice for them. And no doubt many of these same people have some kind of intellectual understanding of God. What, then, do they lack? They lack a personal experience of God. To paraphrase 1Jo_4:8, “The person who does not have this divine kind of love has never entered into a personal, experiential knowledge of God. What he knows is in his head, but it has never gotten into his heart.”
What God is determines what we ought to be. “As He is, so are we in this world” (1Jo_4:17). The fact that Christians love one another is evidence of their fellowship with God and their sonship from God, and it is also evidence that they know God. Their experience with God is not simply a once-for-all crisis; it is a daily experience of getting to know Him better and better. True theology (the study of God) is not a dry, impractical course in doctrine — it is an exciting day-by-day experience that makes us Christlike!

3. God has done the work of regeneration in us. We see it again in 1 Jn.5:1… “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.” Through faith we have trusted Jesus. We believe He is the Christ and we have thrown ourselves upon him, and answering to that faith, the new birth within us recognizes all other children of God as brothers, whom we love with the love of God. It is the love of like natures. They are loved, because their life and nature proceeds from the Father.

4. In verse 4, John teaches that “whatever is born of God overcomes the world”, particularly through the faith given to us by God. It is in the tense of already being accomplished. John has already said (2:15-17) that “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…” he is not born of God, because agape is not in him. James confirms it, “The friendship of the world is hostility toward God… whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4). Because the child of God has the love and the faith of God in him, he is not overcome by the world. The one who is overcome by the world, is not born of God. Faith does not fail the believer, even though the believer fails (as Peter), faith will bring him back. Faith in God and His Word aims the believer towards heaven and above the world’s temptation.

5. Now, John gives us tremendous assurance, as he ends his epistle, 5:18: “We know that no one who is born of God sins (continues to walk in habitual sin); but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him”. Through the new birth, we have One living within us to keep us. Peter, of course, concurs, inspired by the same Holy Spirit as John. 1 Peter 1:3,5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who… has caused us to be born again… who are protected by the power of God through faith…” That was the Psalmist’s confidence, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber nor sleep… The Lord is your keeper… The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever” (121:2,3,5,7). Jesus gives us His word, as our faithful Shepherd (Jn. 10:28): “No on will snatch them out of My hand”.


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