Are you a “born-again Christian”? Many in today’s world, claim now to be so (1). That, because we are “saved by faith“, and since we now have faith, that we are saved now and “born again now“. But, is this a tenable teaching? When, really, can one be “born again and when are we saved”?
A Must, to see the Kingdom of God
The critical significance of being “born again”cannot be overemphasized. Jesus himself alluded to this principle when Nicodemus approached him “at night”. Notice the narrative in John 3:1-8 (NIV):
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
Jesus affirmatively without equivocation and emphatically, that the only way to see the kingdom of God, and by common parlance be saved, is to be “born again“. For anyone who was already born, it can be puzzling to be born again. And Nicodemus, a learned and member of the Jewish ruling Council, carried the same doubt. Continuing on:
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
From the above narrative, one sees that Jesus acknowledged the difference between the 2 births as far as the original makeup and end-product, i.e., “flesh gives birth to flesh” but the “Spirit gives birth to spirit“. It originates with flesh/matter and the finished product is flesh; and so does the spirit starts it and finished with spirit-product. There is a physical birth that manifests as flesh-composed and a spiritual birth that manifests as spirit-composed. Also, a flesh-composed birth is visible, whereas, “everyone born of the Spirit” …”you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going“. Spirit-composed person is “invisible” as Jesus is , although with the capacity and power to be seen, as in the narrative between Him and Thomas post-resurrection(John 20:24-29).
Birthing is a Process
As a common knowledge, being born of water in a physical birth is a process. Biologically, it takes a process of fertilization of the ovum by the sperm (both matter) to develop into a zygote, then development into maturity for about 9 months in the womb of a mother before delivery as a full-term newborn flesh-baby, i.e., “flesh gives birth to flesh“. Similarly, and by extension, being born of the Spirit is a process that follows the same stages, spirit to spirit, i.e., the “spirit of man” (psyche/mind, the spirit-component of man) has to be “fertilized” by the spirit of God(baptized by), goes through the process of mind-development in the “womb of the church” through sanctification and guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, develop wisdom, bear fruits shown in action, be an overcomer before delivery into “full-term” immortal glorious-spirit body at resurrection; i.e., “spirit gives birth to spirit”. This spirit-birth is yet future as in:
” For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God”(Rom. 8:19). (at the resurrection of the firstfruits.” ( Notice that they “manifest” as spirit-composed sons of God at resurrection as flesh-composed humans “manifest” themselves at birth).
As physical development in the womb may not come to maturity and can “abort“, so can spiritual development in the church may not come to fruition (by not being overcomers) and although “written in the book of life” (Rev. 3:5; 17:8; 20:15; 22:19; Phil. 4:3) may not “bear fruits of the Holy Spirit” and miss out.
Why the need for the Holy Spirit in us?
Man is “weak” as far as the “flesh” is concerned because this “flesh-body” is ephemeral and will die and decay as it was formed from matter, dust, ground, earthy and will go back thereto, as in:
Eccl. 12:7″ and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
It did not come directly from God, unlike the “breath of life” (spirit of man) that made the body a “living being” (compare Gen. 2:7, Jer 18:1-6 and Rom.9:21). But this “spirit of man” gets all its influences from the physical senses and stores them in memory; it becomes a composite of all the flesh experiences.This “spirit of man” (psyche/mind) needs conversion, re-education through the guidance, direction and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, to be strong, be “one” with God, before a “glorious body” will be formed. Jesus alluded to the weakness of man’s flesh in:
Matthew 26:40-45 “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? . See also Mk. 14:38-40
It took Jesus 3 times to see the weakness and limits of flesh-composed humans to be convinced that he had to die for mankind and and be resurrected to receive the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father. Our flesh-composed bodies have limits, not only about “sleep-deprivation“, but also on “pull of the flesh” and “appointed towards natural death”.
How will man be strengthened ?
Prophesy has been made to achieve this event of empowering man. Consider the following:
Jer. 18: 1-4 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. (Man sinned and became marred so God remade the clay to be better)
Isa. 29:16 “You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding “?” (we were made clay but marred and incomplete and God has planned for this).
Isa. 64:8 “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (God is still working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit).
Isa. 45:9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?”
Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary” (Whether young and vigorous, strength was future, but now is developing, as the Holy Spirit has been given)
Jeremiah 31:25 “For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes”
Rom. 9:20 “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” ( we were made flesh + “breath of life” and God planned to empower him in time).
The preceding verses proved that while man was made as such, God will re-visit him to be transformed and “be made again”.
Why make man weak in the flesh and the Ultimate End?
The answer lies in Heb 2:6-18:
“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him.
But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.For in that he himself hath suffered “.
While the above verses refer directly to man-Jesus, being the precursor for humans(author/finisher not only of faith, Heb 12:2), the indirect reference was to humans in general. Essentially, man (same as man-Jesus) was created lower than angels, flesh-composed (weak) but with the “spirit of man” in him. Yet, humans (as man-Jesus) is the best of creation and destined to “reign or have dominion over all” (Gen. 1:26). Even so, he is vulnerable to sickness and natural first death. As Heb. 9:27 states:
“it is appointed for man to die once and after that the resurrection“.
Being matter/flesh-composed, Adam would die a natural death, “as appointed“, which is the 1st death. In general, all flesh deteriorates, ages and dies, a natural death. The consequence of sin of Adam in Genesis is death, eternal death or 2nd death, not natural death. Since Adam sinned and his sin in the garden of Eden was “counted” or imputed to humanity, this resurrection referred to for all is towards “damnation” or “eternal or second death” in “Gehenna fire” (John 5:29) unless this eternal/second death has been paid for, and Jesus did.
This is why the Creator YHVH(Jesus) became human to suffer death by crucifixion, (a natural first death being flesh-composed but also to be delivered as promised by the Father from second/eternal death for sins of mankind) so that through his natural death and on his faith, he can “deliver humanity from the fear of (second/eternal) death“. And this, by having his imputed “eternal/second death”, as a promised substitute (Passover-lamb) for mankind’s consequence of sin. Accepting this promise on faith(evidence-based, from which trust and hope emanate) then reconciles humanity to the Father. With the resurrection of Jesus, he was then given the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (by the righteousness of faith of Jesus) to be subsequently given to us. The Holy Spirit in us then “sanctifies” those who follow instead of rejecting his will.
This prophecy that God will re-shape and strengthen man found the start of its general fulfillment for mankind on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of God was sent. Read this event in Acts Chapters 1 & 2 when this power was given. The same power that dwells in the “spirit of man”, in the holiest segment of the temple (the holy of holies) which is in us, has been guiding, teaching, nurturing the “spiritual zygote” being developed in us during this “period of sanctification“. Remember that God does not dwell in a “temple made by hands” (Acts 7:48). The Holy Spirit is the power that is writing the Ten Commandments, “not in tables of stones but in the fleshly tables of our heart”(2 Cor. 3:3); yes, while still in these flea have-composed bodies. Paul continued to affirm that this is the power that helps our weakness and strengthens us, as in:
Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;”
How and to whom this Holy Spirit was given?
For us to answer the question, one has to be clear about the effect of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Specifically, Jesus’ imputed “second/eternal death” is substitutionary for our “second/eternal death” that came about because of Adam’s sin at the garden of Eden. The consequence of being flesh-composed is “natural first death“ that all humans are appointed to, including man-Jesus. Whereas, the consequence of sin is “second/eternal death“. Jesus died a “natural first death” by crucifixion, having an ephemeral flesh-composed body. But, because of Jesus’ faith in the Father’s promise that he trusted and hoped for, he did not stayed dead in the tomb or die a “second/eternal death” which is a consequence of sin; instead he was resurrected to eternal life as promised. All mankind’s sin was imputed to one man Adam (and all died)so that being delivered (as promised) from “second/eternal death” of one man-Jesus would be imputed to all. The “natural first death” was not the one imputed as we are all appointed to die , being flesh-composed that has “expiration date“, so to speak. Jesus’ trust and hope that is faith-based to be delivered from”second/eternal death” reconciles us to the Father. Again, “faith of Jesus” (not his natural death) was reckoned and imputed by the Father as payment for the consequence of Adam’s sin (representing mankind’s sin) so that we will be reconciled to the Father. As necessary as that natural death is, his natural death did not finally save us. Rather, we are saved by “his life” (has to be resurrected from natural death to life) as in Rom. 5:10 ,
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Notice that we were reconciled to the Father through ( not by) the natural first death of his Son, but by the “faith of Jesus”. He needed to die a natural first death, be resurrected to life to go get this Holy Spirit from the Father, as in John 16:7:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you”
From the beginning, we were originally composed “flesh” out of clay/ground/earthy, on hope of future change. As such, “the flesh is weak but the spirit is willing“. The “spirit of man” is the “breath of life“(psyche) that did not come from clay but came directly THROUGH “breathing in his nostrils” from a spirit-composed God/YHVH, therefore “heavenly, not earthy“. The flesh is “weak” being mortal and needed change to an “immortal spirit-composed body“. But, before this change, the “spirit of man” needs to be fertilized/baptized/immersed by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the “holy of holies” (our mind), the temple not made by hands but by “breathing through” directly. And this event, like in Pentecost,to be guided on choosing “good from evil” through a process of sanctification that takes time, writing in the fleshly(not stony) tables of our heart, like being nurtured/developed in the “womb of the church”.
To be “born again” is to manifest as a “glorious spirit-composed body” which can only happen at resurrection, not before and not now; it is still future. Much like flesh-birth that the zygote has to develop before actual birth, spirit-birth is also a process that takes time to develop before it actually happens in a”twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:52). Jesus’ faith on imputed “second/eternal death, reckoned by the Father, paid for the sin of humanity as a consequence of Adam’s sin that reconciled us to the Father. On the faith of Jesus, he was then resurrected as promised by the Father to go to heaven and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit of power. Jesus then subsequently has been giving this power to those who believe,i.e., “the faithful”. Through a process of “sanctification” by the Holy Spirit of God, we then become “one” with the Father. Any “good works, decision or righteousness” that come from us, our “flesh“, without the guidance of the Holy Spirit are as “filthy rags” and as “dung” to God (Isa. 64:6;Rom. 3:10; Phil. 3:8-9). Good works as “fruits of the Holy Spirit“, not “fruit of our own flesh” , are still “our works” but a product of the “gift of God” which is the power of the Holy Spirit. Even Job has to be “lectured” by God that while “perfect” on his own, he was still dirty in the eyes of God. (Read the whole book of Job).
Our righteousness is the “righteousness of our faith” that started with faith “of” Jesus for which he received from the Father, reconciliation and the promise of the Holy Spirit then given to the faithful to bear “fruits of the Holy Spirit”, not fruits of our flesh. It has to be God’s fruits in us and not our fruits that come from flesh. One can deny or reject the guidance of the Holy Spirit, (be aborted) because freedom of choice is key to the development of wisdom and to be “one” with the Father. Even Jesus with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has to correctly choose between “his” will and that of the Father’s (Matt. 26:39; Lu.22:42) to be “one” with Him.
May God continually bless us all.
1. History of born again:
Original post:March 12, 2017