Published May 26, 2005
John 1:10-13; 3:5-8, 14-18, 36
Related Sunday School Lesson Family Bible Series, June 5
When does life begin? That question has been the subject of intense debate during the past thirty years. Most pro-life advocates, including this writer, firmly believe that physical life begins at conception.
When does spiritual life begin? Spiritual life begins at reception. When a person receives Jesus Christ that person is born again and spiritual life begins. The miracle of the new birth is how spiritual life becomes a reality in man.
This new birth is a miracle of God in man. Each member of the trinity has a very distinct role in the miracle of the new birth.
Source of the new birth, John 1:10-13
Jesus is clearly the source of new birth. John describes that tragic rejection of Jesus by his own people. He came into the world that he had created only to be unrecognized and rejected by the people.
Verse 11 could be translated, "He came into his own things and his own people did not receive him." His own things included the entire world he had created, but specifically refer to the nation of Israel. His own people who rejected him were the people of Israel.
While the majority rejected Jesus, some received him. Those who received him were given the right or privilege of becoming children of God. They became the children of God because they experienced a supernatural birth. The birth that made them children of God was not a birth of human descent, passions or plans. It was a birth that was produced by God.
Agent of the new birth, John 3:5-8
How can a person be born of God? This is a very reasonable question. When Jesus talked with Nicodemus about the necessity of the new birth for entering the kingdom of God, Nicodemus asked how one could be born again (John 3:3, 9).
Jesus explained to Nicodemus that the new birth was the work of the Holy Spirit. While Jesus is the source of the new birth, the Holy Spirit is the agent of the new birth.
He is the one who produces the new birth in the life of the person who receives Jesus. This creation of new life is sometimes referred to as regeneration (Titus 3:5).
Jesus told Nicodemus that in order for one to enter the kingdom of God he must be born of water and the Spirit (3:5). The concept of being born of water has been the subject of heated debate for centuries. Some see this as a reference to water baptism.
This view is to be rejected because baptism is a work that man does and salvation is through the grace of God apart from human works (Eph. 2:8, 9).
While being baptized is a step of obedience in the Christian life, it does not birth one into the family of God. It is best to understand being born of water as the physical birth.
Jesus contrasts the physical birth with the spiritual birth in verse 6. The water in this verse refers to the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby in its mother's womb. Jesus was saying that the physical birth alone was not enough to enable a person to enter the kingdom of God.
The physical birth must be followed by a spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit is the agent of that birth. He is unseen like the wind, but his work is mighty (John 3:8). He applies the death of Jesus to the repentant sinner and produces the miracle of the new birth in him.
Initiator of the new birth, John 3:14-17
While Jesus is the source of the new birth and the Holy Spirit is its agent, the Father is the initiator of this mighty miracle that produces salvation. As Jesus continued his explanation of the new birth to Nicodemus he explained that just as the serpent was lifted up on a pole to bring life to Israel in Numbers 21, Jesus was given by the Father to be the source of eternal life to those who believed in him.
Sometimes we lose sight of the role of the Father in salvation. He is seen as the initiator of our great salvation. John 3:16 tells us that God was motivated by his great love to give his son for our salvation. Giving his son includes giving him to die on the cross for our sins.
John 3:17 tells us that God sent his son into the world. The picture here is of God initiating our salvation. This same verse reminds us of the purpose for God sending his son into the world.
He did not send his son into the world to condemn the world. The world was already condemned because of its sin. God sent his son into the world that through him the world might be saved.
You must believe, John 3:18, 36
While the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work in perfect unison to bring the gift of eternal life to man, man has a responsibility. There is one thing he must do to be born again. He must place his trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
This theme is repeated throughout the passages in this study. Those who are born again are those who believe on his name (John 1:12). Those who believe on him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are already condemned (John 3:18).
Those who believe on Jesus have everlasting life, but those who do not believe have the wrath of God resting upon them (John 3:36). Each person must ask himself, "Have I truly come to personal faith in Jesus Christ?" Spiritual life begins at reception - the reception of Jesus Christ.
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