March 1, 1991 Issue
by Joe Hisle

In John 3:3-7 we find recorded the words of Jesus concerning the new birth. This is important teaching dealing with the very salvation of man's soul. As is often the case, with important verses, there is much misunderstanding and confusion about the requirements of the new birth. Many today profess to be "born again" Christians yet they have never complied with the requirements of the new birth. Others, I am afraid, do not fully appreciate what is involved in this process called the new birth. As we begin the study of these passages, may I impress upon you the importance of this study. Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he CANNOT enter into the kingdom of God."

To lay the foundation for our study, let us note the basic facts revealed in verse five. John 3:5 "Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' "

From this verse we learn:

1. There is One New Birth.

2. There are Two Elements required, a) Water b) Spirit

3. This birth of water and Spirit occurs at the same time.

It is necessary to keep these facts in mind as we study the various ideas concerning the new birth. There is only ONE new birth required, this new birth requires the TWO elements of water and Spirit. Note also, as I think this is significant, the order of these elements, Jesus said, "water and of the Spirit". The birth of water and Spirit happens SIMULTANEOUSLY. One is not half born at one time and then completes the other half at a later time. With these facts in mind let us notice various ideas about being born again.

John Calvin was one of the first to corrupt the teaching of the new birth. Calvin tried to eliminate the need for baptism in water by saying "the water represented the Holy Spirit in a spiritual sense." He would read verse five "except a man be born of the water which is the Spirit." Of course this was just one of many errors that John Calvin made with the scriptures. Mr. Calvin forgot there are TWO ELEMENTS in the new birth, equally important and equally essential, WATER AND SPIRIT.

A second idea comes from those who believe in receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This persuasion believes that one "gets religion" at the altar. He is baptized by the Spirit, at some later date he is baptized in water. Thus he is born of Spirit and water.

It is obvious that there are several scriptural problems with this understanding of John chapter 3. First, this forces two births where there is only one. We are born of water and Spirit not born of Spirit and later born of water. The Bible says born again, not again and again, not once at the altar and once at the creek.

Please notice that the order of the command has been reversed. Jesus said, "water and of the Spirit", Jesus did not say, "Spirit and water."

There is a third theory about the new birth that seems to be the most ridiculous of all but before you laugh let me tell you that this is one of the most commonly held of all unscriptural theories. The new birth consists of the natural birth, literally being born in a bag of water, then being born of the Spirit when one "gets religion." Here again there are several practices that violate the basic requirements of the new birth.

This teaching requires two births, born naturally and born religiously. The new birth of the Bible is ONE NEW BIRTH.

This theory also violates the scriptures in that it does not allow for the birth of water and of the Spirit to take place at THE SAME TIME. There would be years between the natural birth (in a bag of water) and the birth of Spirit (getting religion).

The real problem with those who hold this view is that they have missed the entire point of the scriptures. Nicodemus did not inquire, how is a child born into the world, but "how can a MAN be born when he is old?" The subject of the new birth is ALREADY A MAN. Jesus explains for a MAN to enter into a kingdom of God that MAN must be BORN AGAIN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT.

Perhaps the most common way that I have heard these passages taught is, we are BEGOTTEN OF THE SPIRIT and then BORN OF THE WATER. The alien sinner is begotten of the Spirit thru the word of God. He is then born of the water when he is baptized. I would like for you to notice that there are several scriptural problems with this way of teaching.

Again the required order is reversed, begotten of the Spirit and born of the water. This is not the arrangement given by Jesus. If the Lord had intended this arrangement why did he not say: A man must be begotten of the Spirit and born of the water. The conclusion is obvious, this is not what the Lord intended.

Some tell me that the order in this place is not important. How do we know when the order is not important? Is the order important in Acts 2:38, Mk 16:16, Matt 26:26,27? I conclude if the order is important in these verses, and I believe it is, the order is important in John 3:5.

This teaching breaks up the order of the Lord's arrangement and places the Spirit as far before water as faith proceeds baptism.

A more compelling problem with this way of teaching the new birth has to do with the Greek word (gennao) here rendered BORN. I understand the word could have been rendered either BORN or BEGOTTEN but the word cannot mean BOTH born and begotten in the same place at the same time. A word can have only one meaning in one place. This is a rule of language. Ernesti in his Philosophy of Language gave two such rules.

1. The sense of a word cannot be diverse or multiform at the same time and in the same place.

2. In no language can a word have more than one literal meaning in the same place.

Here is our dilemma, we must decide which word we want to use. Do we want to render the word BEGOTTEN? If so BEGOTTEN must apply to the water as well as to the Spirit. BEGOTTEN OF THE WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT. If this is the case the process is ALL BEGETTING there is NO BIRTH AT ALL!

The conclusion is that the Greek word cannot be rendered both born and begotten. Since Nicodemus asked, "can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born", the subject under consideration is BEING BORN not BEING BEGOTTEN.

There are two elements in the new birth, they are WATER and the Spirit. A man must be born of both to be born again. He is not begotten of the Spirit and born of the water. HE MUST BE BORN OF BOTH WATER AND THE SPIRIT TO BE BORN AT ALL.

Let us look at the process of being begotten and then being born into the kingdom of God. The alien sinner may be be-gotten by the word of God. When the gospel is preached to a sinner, the seed, which is the word of God (Lk 8:11) has been sown. If that word lodges in a good heart, that person has been begotten by the word. The sinner has been begotten but HE HAS NOT BEEN BORN, HE HAS NOT BEEN HALF BORN, the birth may be minutes or hours away, even days or years away or sadly HE MAY NEVER BE BORN.

Birth is actually a TRANSITION from one form of life to another. A baby is literally delivered in a bag of water, when he takes his first breath of air he has made the transition from one form of life to another.

A spiritual TRANSITION is made by an alien sinner when he is begotten by the gospel to be born again. In the new birth he is born of WATER when baptized in water and born of the SPIRIT when he is quickened or made spiritually alive thru God's Holy Spirit. His sins are washed away in baptism, he is brought to spiritual life thru the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Rom 8:11 - But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

John 3:6 - Jesus said... that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

By this birth of water and of the Spirit the sinner has made the transition from the life as a sinner to the NEW LIFE as a child of God.

I Corinthians 6:11 - And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Will this explanation satisfy the basic requirement of the new birth? The answer is yes, there is ONE NEW BIRTH, it involves TWO ELEMENTS, water and the Spirit in the proper order and it all happens at the same time.

Following are some parallel verses for your consideration.

Titus 3:5 - Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Acts 2:38 - Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.




I hope that we can fully appreciate the opportunity that we have thru the grace of God to be born again. To rise above the condemnation that is to reign upon this earth as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. If you are to have any hope YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN!

Other OPA Article Links:

Born Again

Joe Hisle
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