in John's Gospel -- Part 4
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Like a revolving door, phrases and ideas pass in and out
of favor with each generation. In the natural reaction
that follows a popular idea, the truth the idea contains
frequently becomes lost to sight. Those who wish to be
"in" take up the phrase and apply it every
chance they have. Those who prefer to avoid trends shun
its use, despite whatever its merits.
Such a situation has occurrred with the Biblical
expression "Born Again." The expression which
at one time was known and used only in evangelical
circles has become a household word today. It is used by
comedians and cartoonists, by politicians and pollsters.
It is used to describe every imaginable situation, from
political comeback to recovery from illness. The result
is that having become so "trendy" the truth
the expression contains has been obscured.
To what does the expression really refer? Does it have
any relevancy for us in the 1990's? Or is it just an
expression in vogue today?
Original sources are always useful in deciding on the
value of a phrase or saying. And that source, the third
chapter of John, is where we find this expression coming
from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ to an old man,
Nicodemus. As we examine the chapter we learn:
The Meaning of
Various versions translate the expresssion born again,
born anew, born from above. Gathering together the
thoughts that these uses of the word denote, we gain
valuable insight into its meaning. To be born again
implies the truth that something must have been lacking
in our first birth. The united testimony of the New
Testament writers is that our first birth was as a son
of Adam into a fallen family. It fit us neither for life
in heaven nor for pleasing God upon earth
3:23; 8:8; 5:12-20).
Another birth is needed.
To be born anew suggests a different kind of birth and a
different kind of life than our first birth gave us. To
be born from above places the final piece in the puzzle.
It tells us of a spiritual birth effected by the power
of God that fits us for heaven.
As Nicodemus the wise teacher of his religion listened,
his astonishment expressed itself "How can these
things be" (v. 9) Many who have tried self help
efforts to reform their natural life have reached a
similar crisis. But we further learn:
The Mandate for Being
In an age when the national symbol is the hedge, we seek
to avoid commitment to absolutes and nonexcluding
phrases, the words of the Lord Jesus to Nicodemus sound
almost bigoted "Ye must be born again" (v. 7)
No excuses, no exclusions, no exemptions are listed. It
is His heaven and He has sovereign right to dictate its
entrance requirements. No effort, religion, rite, or
human arrangement can cancel His mandate.
The Means for Being
To answer Nicodemus' astonishment and confessed
ignorance, Christ used an object lesson with which the
aged teacher was familiar. Just as an uplifted serpent
in the days of Moses became the means for dying
Israelites to have new life, so an uplifted Christ
becomes the means whereby men in need of life can look.
It is not baptism, communion, or church membership that
imparts life, but dependence upon the sin atoning
sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. Allow the
words of Scripture to speak for themselves:
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
and he that believeth not the Son; shall not see life
but the wrath of God abideth on him."