Bible Truths

Lesson 1 - What Being Born Again Means

Jesus said "...except a man be born again he cannot seethe kingdom of God." (Jn 3:1-7). Being born again expresses the changewrought in the life of a repentant sinner by the Holy Spirit after beingconverted to Christ. It means the sinner has died unto sin and has been bornanew unto righteousness. How this happens is that when the gospel is preachedthe Holy Spirit works through the word exposing sin to awaken in the hearts ofthose open to receiving the gospel, a consciousness of guilt and the need forforgiveness. This leads them to repentance and to acknowledge their need of a saviour( 2 Cor 7:9-10). Repentance is that divinely wrought conviction of sin in theheart that the soul is guilty before God, and a resolute turning away from sin.It involves both a change of mind about sin and a change of heart-attitudetoward sin. It is at the time a renunciation of sin and an acceptance of theHoly Spirit's enabling power for holy living. Repentance is both God's gift,and man's responsibility ( Ac 5:31 with Lu 15:11-24). The parable of theprodigal son emphasises the character of true repentance: a completeturn-around and return to our heavenly Father is required. Truly repentantsinners have a deep conviction of their lost state, and earnestly seek to bereconciled to God. They determine to be partakers of the kingdom of God and allthe salvation benefits Christ purchased for us with His blood on the cross ofCalvary ( Mt 11:12).

That is what Jesus means in Jn 3:3 when He says"...except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."Seeing the kingdom of God is actually perceiving it and its realities throughthe salvation that can only be obtained through abiding in Christ and havingHis word abiding in us ( Ac 4:10-12). As they hear the gospel, repentantsinners are made aware by the Holy Spirit of God's standard of righteousness inChrist and they turn to Christ for salvation ( Jn 16:7-11; Rom 1:16-17; 2Cor4:6). Being born again means literally being born anew, begotten from above,from God ( Jn 1:12-13; 2Pe 1:1-4; 1Jn 2:29). This is one of the fundamentaldoctrines of the Christian faith: the doctrine of regeneration, or the newbirth. It is not limited to the initial act of renewal when we are first convertedto Christ, but is a continuous work of the Holy Spirit renewing andtransforming our lives as we surrender ourselves to the Lordship of Christ andthe authority of His word throughout the entirety of our Christian walk (Ro12:2). Once we have committed our way to God we are no longer to be conformedto a world system that is without God, but be transformed by a renewed mindcommitted to the ideals of the kingdom of God. "Prove" means to test,to prove by practice in everyday life that God's will for us is good andacceptable and perfect. Our minds must be conformed to God's way of thinking.Our plans, goals and ambitions must be determined by heavenly and eternaltruths, not by this evil, temporal and transient age (Eph 4:20-32). There is ateaching within the teaching here. Note in V28 that the first motive for abeliever to earn money is that he may have something to give to someone else.The occupational enterprise of Christians is not simply to make a living forthemselves but to also be a channel of blessing for others in need.

We learn from scriptures that man sets himself apart untoGod to be holy and God accepts him, forgives him and cleanses him, making himholy by the truth and by faith ( Lev 20:7-8; Eze 18:30-31; Jn 17:17-19; Ac26:18; Tit 3:3-6; 1Pe 1:15-16). The word conversation in 1Pe 1:15 meansbehaviour - it is our behaviour that sets us apart unto holiness before God.But we can only maintain that state of holiness by the empowering of the HolySpirit, and for that empowering to be effective in our lives we must always beyielded to the Holy Spirit's leading ( Ro 8:5-17; Ga 5:16-25; 6:7-9). Grievingthe Holy Spirit leads to resisting Him ( Ac 7:51); this in turn leads toquenching the Spirit ( 1Th 5:19), and finally to despising Him ( He 10:26-31),which will damn us for eternity. "Renewing of the Holy Ghost" in Tit3:5 refers to the constant impartation of divine life to believers by the HolySpirit after we surrender our lives to God (2Pe 1:3-4). We must always continuewilling to follow Christ in strict obedience to His word unto the end of ourearthly life. Salvation is only assured to those sowing to the Spirit at theend of their life on earth. Whatever we are in life when we die is what we willbe throughout eternity ( Jude 21; Rev 22:11-12). Regeneration involves acomplete transformation of our moral nature - a complete change of heart whichexpresses the change from the person we were to the person we become in ChristEph 2:1-8; Col 3:1-10). If we have made the way of Christ our way of life itwill very plainly show (2Cor 5:17; Ga 6:15). A great many Christianserroneously believe that we can never attain to righteousness and true holinessin this life but if it were not possible God would not have commanded it. Itcan only be done though through the blood Jesus shed for us at Calvary. None ofus could ever stand before God in our own righteousness but all in Christ are madethe righteousness of God ( Ro 5:8-21; 2Cor 5:21).

Jesus Christ is the only man who ever lived who was without sin.Every other person has sinned and come short of God's glory ( Ro 3:10, 23;5:12; He 4:14-15). That is why Jesus is the only one who can save us, and whywe need to be born again to be saved. But we must always remember that whilstwe become born again believers on our way to heaven from the moment we firstbecome converted to Christ, that is only the first step in our life-longChristian walk. As we learned earlier regeneration, or the new birth, is anongoing work of the Holy Spirit within us that requires our complete surrenderto the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of His word ( Jn 3:5). ManyChristians believe that the water Jesus refers to here alludes to waterbaptism, but it does not. If it did Jesus would be teaching baptismalregeneration - that we can only be saved through water baptism - but He is notteaching that at all. Scriptures teach that we are saved by the word, not water( Psa 119:9). We are born again by God's word, and it is only by continuingobedient to the word and resisting all the immoral influences characterisingthe ungodly world system in which we live that we can cleanse our way ( Isa55:1-7).

This is an open invitation for whosoever will to partake ofthe salvation benefits God has provided for us, but an essential prerequisiteis a genuine spiritual hunger and thirst for forgiveness and a rightrelationship with God (1Cor 1:17-18, 21). Paul clearly teaches here that it isthe word of God - the gospel -that saves, not water baptism. Paul is notminimising Jesus' teaching concerning water baptism but rather is stressing thefact that he was ordained of God to preach the word for salvation, not tobaptise new converts ( Eph 5:25-26). We get a much clearer understanding hereof what being born of water means. Christ is sanctifying the Church, setting itapart and cleansing it, making it pure and holy unto Himself by the word - thegospel. So we can see that it is not being immersed in water that saves, butbeing immersed in the word ( 1Pe 1:23-25). This is virtually the same teachingas Eph 5:25-26. Men are saved by the word alone. Every human endeavour, and thecorrupt world system will be judged by God's word  Rev 21:5-6). This is Christ Himself speaking.He promises that whoever thirsts for knowledge of Him, He will give them todrink of the water of life. (This is a similar teaching to Isa 55:1-7. All whohunger and thirst for Christ will be saved (Jn 4:5-14).

The water given by Christ means spiritual life ( Isa 12:3).But to partake of the spiritual life in Christ we need to be continuallydrinking of the living water. The word drinketh is a present tense continuousaction verb (it is called a present imperative in the Greek). It means thatdrinking of the water is not a momentary single act but is a progressive orrepeated drinking. It is an action in progress, or repeated. It is veryimportant to know that because what it teaches us is that drinking of the waterof life requires regular communion with the source of the living water, JesusChrist Himself. No one can continue to drink of the water of life if he or shebecomes severed or separated from its source. That means we are not eligiblefor the salvation benefits in Christ if we are no longer abiding in Him, or Hisword is abiding in us. To sum up, our membership in God's family remainsconditional on our love for Christ demonstrated by a life of sincere obedienceto His word throughout our earthly existence ( Jn 14:15, 21-23 with 1Jn 2:3-6).Just as we can be born again unto everlasting life by the Spirit of God, we canalso extinguish that life by ungodly choices and unrighteous living ( Ro6:1-23; 8:12-14; 2Ti 2:11-12).


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