ON THE MEANING AND IMPACT OF JOHN 3:3-6.
(1) JOHN 3:3 SAYS REBIRTH IS NECESSARY. Jesus answered and said to him (to Nicodemus), “Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born (γεννηθῇ, GENNETHE, begotten) again (ἄνωθεν, ANOTHEN, “from above,” “again,”“anew”), he cannot see the kingdom of God.
“Unless,” or “except,” is Christ’s blunt and curt reply that is meant to shake Nicodemus’ belief as a Jew. What makes one see the kingdom is not the physical rebirth as a Jew into a physical nation, but “rebirth from above.”
(2) THIS REBIRTH IS NOT PHYSICAL IN NATURE. The heavenly birth is not the same as being born the second time from the womb of one’s mother (3:4). “He that is born of (EK, out of, from) the flesh is flesh” (3:6).
(3) “UNLESS A MAN BE BORN AGAIN” IS A CONDITIONAL CLAUSE. The first aorist passive subjunctive verb γεννηθῇ, GENNETHE, “be born or begotten,” with ἐὰν μή, EAN ME, “unless, except,” is used as a conditional clause, where the condition is said to be possible (Rogers & Rogers, p. 184). “A conditional clause makes a statement that IF something happens, something else will happen” (Corey Keating at http://www.ntgreek.org/). If one is born “again” (first action), he can see the kingdom of God (second action) (3:3).
The kingdom mentioned here refers to God’s rule over the hearts of men, made possible only by their becoming members of the church (MATTHEW 16:18; ACTS 2:47) or citizens of the kingdom of God’s dear Son (COLOSSIANS 1:13).
The new birth is necessary because the natural man cannot enter the kingdom of heaven by any other means. The physical means of entry makes you a member of the human family. The heavenly means of entry makes you a member of the kingdom of heaven.
(4) “BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT” DOES NOT MEAN “BAPTIZED IN WATER AND IN THE SPIRIT.” The phrase γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος, GENNETHE EX HUDATOS does not mean “baptized in water.”
Firstly, Rebirth in water, or becoming a new creature, does not happen AT the very point when the person goes INTO the water.
Secondly, Rebirth in water does not happen AT the very point when the body is IMMERSED IN water.
In ROMANS 6, Paul compares baptism to a burial (“We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death,” v. 4; “we have become united with him in the likeness of his death,” v. 5.
In death Christ was buried, literally, and in baptism we picture our union with his death and burial in the figurative sense, “we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death,” v. 3).
The creature that remains in the grave is still the old creature, not a new creature. He is corruptible and dead, waiting to be raised to life.
The creature that is plunged into the water is not the new creature yet, until he is raised from the water.
Thirdly, Rebirth happens AFTER one rises out of the watery grave of baptism. Christ was raised from the dead a new person, possessing an incorruptible body that death could never control again. We picture that figuratively in our rising up out of the watery grave. Paul says, “like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (v. 4).
AFTER baptism, not DURING BAPTISM, but RISING FROM THE WATER AFTER BAPTISM we become a new person!
AFTER baptism, not during baptism, comes the newness of life!
If one argues that IN baptism we become a new person, the Bible does not teach that doctrine. We are not “buried in newness of life,” rather we “walk in newness of life,” and that happens AFTER we rise from the watery grave of baptism!
Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus uses the phrase γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος, GENNETHE EX HUDATOS, which literally means “born from, or out of the water” (JOHN 3:5).
Taking an earthly analogy, birth does not happen when the husband and the wife sleep together. Neither does it happen when the seed of the man is planted in the womb and the foetus is formed. Rather birth happens when the baby is delivered out of the womb.
No one I suppose has been BORN IN his mother’s womb, but OUT OF IT!
So being “born of water” does not mean baptism in water; it refers to the rebirth that happens after one rises up out of the water.
“Born of the Spirit” does not mean “baptized in the Spirit” in the same way that “born of water” does not mean “baptized in water.”
(5) JOHN 3:5 TEACHES THAT THE REBIRTH IS IN TWO ASPECTS. Jesus answered (Nicodemus), “Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born of water (γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος, GENNETHE EX HUDATOS, literally “born from, or out of water,” Strong’s Hebrew & Greek Dictionaries )
and Spirit (καὶ Πνεύματος, KAI PNEUMATOS “and of the Spirit”),
he cannot (οὐ δύναται, OU DUNATAI, could not be able to, may not be able to, may not be possible for him to) enter into the kingdom of God.”
“Except one be born of water and the Spirit,” ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος. There is no determiner (“the”) between the conjunction KAI and the noun object PNEUMATOS, “Spirit.” The determiner “the” before PNEUMATOS, “Spirit,” is supplied by the translators.
However it shares the same preposition with HUDATOS, the preposition ἐξ, EX, so “of water” and “of Spirit.” Πνεύματος, PNEUMATOS, is genitive (like ὕδατος, HUDATOS) and is translated “of Spirit.”
This speaks of one rebirth, not two. “Born of water AND [of the] Spirit.” It is a rebirth that involves both water and Spirit.
Jamieson, Fawcett and Brown says it means to “begin life anew in relation to God; his manner of thinking, feeling, and acting, with reference to spiritual things, undergoing a fundamental and permanent revolution.”
When the Lord says, “Ye must be born again (γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, GENNETHE ANOTHEN, “born from above”),” he does not mean you must be born with two kinds of births, or you must be born twice.
It is only one kind of rebirth, of both water and Spirit. Note the Greek phrase, γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος, “born of water AND Spirit.” After one rises from the watery grave of baptism, he becomes a new creature, possessing a rebirth in two dimensions, two aspects, two qualities, two levels of reality.
When a man hears the word of the gospel and obeys it by being baptized in water, changes happen to the soul.
Firstly, there is a relationship change between him and his God; he becomes His adopted son. “And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (GAL 4:6; cf ACTS 5:32). ἐξαπέστειλεν, EXAPESTEILEN, sent forth, sent out, is aorist indicative active. God sent forth the Spirit of His only begotten Son into your hearts to claim you as His own adopted sons.
Secondly, there is a relationship change between the Christian and sin; he is dead to it. “God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?” (ROM 6:2; cf. 8:10).
Thirdly, there is a relationship change between the Christian and his Lord; he is a new creature in Jesus. “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new” (2COR 5:17; Cf. ROM 8:10).
Fourthly, These changes set the stage for him to be fruit-bearing. “And those are they that were sown upon the good ground; such as hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold” (MAR 4:20).
You don’t know how the Spirit works in the man who has just been “born again of water and Spirit,” γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ Πνεύματος . You don’t know whence the wind comes or where it goes; you don’t know what the Spirit does to that person. You only hear the sound of the wind; you only see the action done by the man who is trying to conform himself to the image of the Son of God, in other words, as he tries to live according to the dictates of the Spirit (cf. ROMANS 8:4, 14).
The perfect participial clause καὶ τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος πνεῦμά ἐστι, “and the one having been born of the Spirit is spirit,” being in the perfect tense, shows that the effect of having been born in the Spirit goes on continually.
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