JOHN 3:1-21

As we look at the Church today, we might rightly wonder why christians are so divided among themselves and why so many different denominations all claiming that they are the true Church. Most christians do not believe that the bible is the Word of God for today or that it is even the guidelines to follow in establishing a church. When asked about these kinds of things, we hear a most popular answer (or excuse) and that is: “That is not for today”.

Perhaps they believe that the bible is outdated. This kind of christian would lead me to believe that perhaps christianity is not for today or just simply the fact that many do not take their walk with the Lord seriously. If you take your christianity seriously, you would live your life as though there really will be a judgment day for all mankind.

As with any problem we are attempting to solve, we should go to the root of the problem and begin studying with the goal of learning the truth, which will in turn literally and seriously set us free.

I will begin by looking at a biblical example of how Jesus answered this kind of question. To do that we should turn to John chapter 3 and read the whole chapter, then begin to look from verse to verse to rightly divide the Word of God. (2 Timothy 2:15)

See John 3:1-21 before proceeding.

One night, Jesus was approached by a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He approached Jesus at night so as not to be seen by his friends who knew him as a Pharisee (they didn’t believe Jesus was from God). The principles of the Pharisees and the peculiarities of their sect were directly contrary to the spirit of christianity, yet there were some in whom even those high thoughts were cast down and brought into obedience to Christ. The grace of Christ is able to subdue the greatest opposition.

Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, a member of the great sanhedrim, a senator, a counsellor, a man of authority in Jerusalem. Even though Nicodemus was a scholar, he did not want to discuss religious doctrine with Jesus. He was intrigued by the fact that Jesus was performing miracles and in His mind Jesus must be from God. Jesus immediately responded to him with a simple and very bold (for that day) statement about the only way to God: “UNLESS A MAN BE BORN AGAIN…”

The passage of scripture we see in John 3:1-21 is the very foundation of the christian life. All christians can quote Jesus here where He says, “unless a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. But do we have a thorough understanding of this simple foundational truth? I am not sure that we do. Even many learned bible scholars do not seem to have the ability to adequately explain this experience. If all of christianity understood this “born again” experience, the Church would be a totally different people than we see today.

Another translation of this phrase is “born from above”. Nicodemus still did not understand even with all his learning, as we see in verse 4. He was attempting to understand what Jesus said by using natural or fleshly understanding that he learned in all of his religious schooling. This is the root problem with religion today. Man attempts to understand and explain the deep things of God by using their brain instead of by their spirit. This whole conversation in this passage is spiritual and is not intended to be understood by religious scholarship.

Now let’s look at the rest of the conversation. Jesus tells him that unless he is born again, that he cannot “see” the kingdom of God. Nicodemus then answers Jesus with a question sparked by his natural, earthly understanding and Jesus then comes back to him with another statement to help his understanding. Jesus then says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”.
SERIOUSLY, this passage must take on the simple meaning that Jesus was attempting to get across to Nicodemus. For the past 40 years, the only explanation to this passage I have ever read or heard is: “Born of water is water baptism” and “born of the spirit is being baptized in the Holy Spirit”. When you read this in it’s entirety and in light of the rest of scripture, you will find that Jesus is speaking of being born from above…being born of the Spirit…becoming a spiritual person who uses spiritual understanding to explain spiritual things. Things of the Spirit are “birthed” in you. This is much more than merely speaking in tongues. Receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues does not in itself give you spiritual understanding.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. When you receive Christ, you don’t just receive something, YOU BECOME SOMETHING!

Nicodemus was curious because he had seen Jesus perform a miracle and there could certainly be no miracles apart from the God Nicodemus served. But he had a problem in the fact that Jesus could not be the Messiah because it was not yet time. He could not be the Messiah because He did not fit the description that was held by the religious spirit of his day.

This kind of thinking still abounds today. Many seem to be waiting around for a God who would fit their description of God. A God who would do things their way and even have a church that would fit their description of what a church should be. Many are even rewriting scripture in order to be able to tell folks that they believe in the bible.

Jesus had the only answer for Nicodemus and the answer would still be the same today. John 3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. This would be the answer today to the person who questions God’s ways or God’s Word. Just look at this simple answer, “unless”, “unless”, this is a word that implies that there is no other way to see the Kingdom. No amount of rewriting, or of reinterpreting, will allow someone to see the Kingdom of God. Your walk with God is all about having a SERIOUS experience with Jesus.

Now, I must deal with a common phrase that most seem to know but can’t seem to grasp. I will deal for some length on the subject of being “born again” before we can go on with this writing just as we can go on with our christian life. The common rebuttal to my statement is “I understand being born again because it only means that I have accepted Christ as my savior”. This is a misunderstanding which becomes obvious when we look at the condition of the Church today.

John 3:4: Just like Nicodemus, if we cannot seriously grasp the meaning of “born again”, we will continue to have questions unanswered throughout our life.

Now in verse 5, we see Jesus upping the standard for christianity. (you are aware that there are standards for the privilege of calling yourself “christian”?) Let me spell this out very clearly and very seriously because they are the words of Jesus…“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” That seems extremely plain and simple to me, so I don’t know what the problem is within the Church and why we are so divided.

Jesus is speaking here of the kingdom of God, which is simply “where God reigns supreme”.

Now verse 6 is a very bold statement and is so simple that I have a problem understanding why it is so misunderstood or perhaps ignored.

Born of water is speaking of our natural birth and born of the Spirit (notice this is capitalized) is being “born from above”…it is a spiritual experience that changes us into a spiritual being.

Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus, “first the natural, then the spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:46) In simple terms, you are born in the natural and then when you seriously accept Christ you are born “again” in a spiritual birth. You are born and then you are born again. This passage of scripture is not speaking of baptisms, it is speaking of births that produce life. When we have experienced a true spiritual birth we enter into a new realm, we actually “become” (2 Corinthians 5:17) a new creature.

Becoming a true “Spirit filled” believer opens many new doors and clarifies many things…

1. We have guaranteed access to the kingdom of God.
2. We receive all seven spirits of God to become truly Spirit filled.
3. We can then combine spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (1 Corinthians 2:13)
4. We can now understand the things of the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
5. Our understanding of scripture is opened to understand the depths of God because the Word of God is spiritual, the parables of Christ are spiritual and it is the intention of all christianity to live and walk by the Spirit.
6. The Church would finally be in true unity if we were in spiritual unity, for there is one body and one Spirit just as we were called. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesans 4:3-6)
7. And finally, we will know what it means to truly worship in the Spirit. God is spirit and those who worship Him MUST worship Him in spirit and truth. This means you must first be born from above…born of the Spirit…become a spiritual christian. (John 4:24)

This only works if we are all living and moving in the Spirit because we are truly spiritual people, otherwise we are only religious people doing the works of religious man.

Are you having difficulty understanding scripture?
Are you having a problem entering into deep spiritual worship?
Do you have difficulty believing at certain times?
Do you have difficulty entering into spiritual discussions?
Do you have difficulty hearing from the Spirit of God?

It could mean that you need to get back into your prayer closet and talk to Jesus about your born again experience. Was it a radically serious experience and if not, it Is time to ask Him again to be your absolute Lord and Master. It is time to ask Him to hold a spiritual mirror in front of you so that you may see the areas in your life that need to change so that you can receive all He has for you.

Quite often, when we are leading someone to the Lord, we forget the part about the necessity of repenting from our sin. Without true repentance, there can be no true born again experience.

When we attempt to bring our old habits with us into our new life, we do nothing but degrade our born from above experience and produce a compromising church, a worldly, divided church.

The Church must preach an uncompromised gospel…a message of repentance and denouncing of our past connections with sin and false religions…we must first get the sin purged from our lives in order to become a true spiritual believer.

WE MUST SEE “BORN AGAIN” AS BEING “BORN FROM ABOVE”! We must realize the seriousness of our foundation in Christ, that it be as He teaches and ONLY as He teaches still today.

Picture this: A church where everyone is serving and worshipping in the Spirit…A church where flesh is dead and all self-centeredness is absent…A church where there is no gossip and everyone comes together full of Holy Spirit and love of Christ for one another.

Ideally, if all were truly born of the Spirit, there would be no divisions, no denominations and that would mean that there is only one Church. This Church would change the world because we would all work together, powered by the Spirit of God and patterned after the pattern Jesus set for His Church after He made the statement in Matthew 16, “I will build My Church”. Spiritual unity would mean that for once, all christians follow the word of God as their Church doctrine.

This is available to all mankind. All can be truly born again, born from above, understanding spiritual things, understanding the Word of God and understanding each other…diligently seek the Lord for this true born-again experience even though you have been “saved” for many years. Keep on seeking, keep on knocking, keep on asking until we are all truly one in the Spirit.

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism”. Ephesians 4:1-5