A Matter of Faith: You must be born again ...


From: Bob Williams

... is a favorite appeal of many evangelicals. I wonder how many understand where the verse is in the Bible, the context in which it is found or if it is possible or even necessary to be “born again” today as used in the Scriptures. This thought was triggered by Mr. Bill Steidtmann’s interesting post on June 24. While we differ on interpretation of some Bible passages, I appreciate Mr. Steidtmann’s use of Bible verses to support his conclusions. I definitely agree that many who think they are saved may in fact not be. For this I blame inadequate Bible teaching from the pulpit and the lack of Bible knowledge and study by individuals. However, the gist of this post relates to being “born again” and John 1:13.

According to theologians, one of the first rules in hermeneutics (methodology of Bible interpretation) is that a “text without a context is a pretext.” The near context for John 1:13 is verses 1 through 14. Verses 10-13 say: “He [Christ] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Jesus came to the Jews (His own) to get them fit for their intended purpose according to prophecy. Some Jews “believed” Christ while the majority did not. They became the “remnant,” or “little flock” of Jewish believers formed by God to continue His purposes for Israel in the earth, something man could not do.

The “born again” context continues in John 3:1-21. In a meeting with Nicodemus, Christ tells him in verse 3: “ ... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus adds in verses 5 and 6: “ ... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of 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.” Verse 7 is key: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” This is where the KJV clarifies by using the singular “thee” and the plural “ye” pronouns. Jesus is saying in verse 7 to “thee” (Nicodemus) that “ye” (the Nation Israel) “must be born again.” Israel had long been in apostasy and was of no value to God’s purpose, so He took matters into His own hand and “born” Israel again as He did originally in the Red Sea. (See 1 Corinthians 10:1,2) In its context, being born again does not apply to individuals nor to anyone other than Israel. While a verse often has many applications, it only has one true interpretation.

There is another very important doctrinal issue in this passage, for verse 8 goes on to say, “ ... so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” While Christ says in verse 7 that Israel must be “born again” as a nation, the Jews as individuals must have a new birth and be spiritually regenerated otherwise they will not be able to enter the Kingdom of God. This new birth is a source of confusion for most Christians.

More to come.


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