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4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
When Christ said to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again," Nicodemus recognised the literal impossibility of such an event, saying, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time his mother's womb and be born?" Christ rejoins by defining the sense in which he had affirmed the necessity for being born again: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." Here the new birth is a process in which a man comes under the operation of water and Spirit in some way: in what way we learn plainly elsewhere. The necessity for it he points out in immediately adding, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
There is much in the nature of a right clue to the subject in these words. We know experimentally what it is to be born of the flesh; and we know it is true that that which is born of the flesh is flesh: but why is this a reason requiring that a man should be born again in order to enter the kingdom? Because flesh is a corruptible and a mortal thing, and the Kingdom of God an institution that will last for ever. This is the reason given by Paul in 1 Cor. xv. 50, "This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God: neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." Therefore, "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (53).
Why should Christ press this fact on Nicodemus? Because Nicodemus was approaching Christ (by night) on the hypothesis common to the Jews: that the Kingdom of God was to be a kingdom that mortal men would enter. He hoped, no doubt, to obtain a place therein if Jesus were the Messiah (as Nicodemus was inclined to think), and if Jesus favourably received his advances, which Nicodemus thought probable. It was, therefore, natural that Jesus should call his attention to the fundamental flaw in his advances. It was needful to tell him that a man must be changed from a mortal and corruptible man into an immortal and incorruptible man before he could enter into the kingdom as a ruler and co-heir with the Messiah.
This is a totally different thing from the supposed metaphysical change of Plymouth brotherism, which leaves mortal men as much mortal men after the change as they are before it. Men immortalised at the resurrection are fully developed "children of God," as Jesus says:
"They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke xx. 36). It was, therefore, natural that Christ should speak to Nicodemus of the process conducting a man from the one state to the other as a birth and a birth "again." Men are born once in being born of the flesh at the beginning of their existence: but if they are the subject of no other birth than this, they have nothing but what the flesh can give them - which is vanity now, and death at last. It is no artificial sentimentalism to affirm that a man "must be born again" to enter into the Kingdom of God. If he is not born again, he remains "but flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again" (Psa. lxxvii. 39).
But how is the process brought about? When looked into, in its Scriptural completeness, there is no mystery in it beyond the mystery that lies at the root of every work of God, whether in "nature" or "grace." Jesus indicates the modus operandi in his further quoted words to Nicodemus: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Here are two elements and two stages in the process. Had we no other light on the subject than is contained in these words, we might marvel what Christ could mean by being "born of water: the difficulty vanishes when we take into view the work of the apostles.
We find they used water in the doing of the work. "Can any man forbid water?" (Acts x. 47). "See here is water" (Acts viii. 36). This was the water of baptism, as the context shows in any case: baptism by immersion, of course: for there was no other water baptism known to apostolic practice than that "burial" with Christ in baptism spoken of in the epistles (Col ii. 12; Rom. vi. 4). Was this water baptism the birth of water spoken of by Christ? We can see it could be no other when we consider what baptism did for its subjects. It put them into Christ (Gal. iii. 27). Before then they were strangers and foreigners (Eph. ii. 12-19). But now they were "children, and if children, then heirs" (Rom viii. 17). That which produces children is birth: and if water baptism produces children of God, then is water baptism a "birth of water," and men, in being baptised, are "born of water."
But this does not complete their fitness for the Kingdom of God. They are still mortal men-still flesh and blood, and therefore cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, as Paul alleges in the passage quoted. What is necessary to complete their fitness? "This mortal must put on immortality." How is this change to be effected? "He that raised up Christ shall also quicken your mortal body by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. viii. 11). Here is the birth of the Spirit which, superadded to the birth of water, completes the qualification of the happy subject for that inheritance of the Kingdom of God, which was the subject of Christ's conversation with Nicodemus.
There is neither water nor Spirit in the so-called "new birth" of orthodox religion, and there is no birth at all in the true sense, but a mere excitement of the sentimental organs of the brain flesh, which effects no change towards God. A man is changed in his relation to God only if God recognise the change. He has revealed the conditions upon which He will recognise a change in the position of a son of Adam from being a child of death to his being a son of God, and a child of hope.
These conditions are exhibited in the Gospel. They do not consist of a paroxysmal transformation by the stroke of the clock, enabling a man to say in the language of fanaticism, "I was saved-at such a moment, on such a day." They consist of the affectionate and enlightened reception of the truth revealed in the Gospel and submission to its requirements, which is a work of time, involving "begettal" as well as "birth" (James. i. 18; 1 Pet i. 23), and ending in the development of a new race of men in the earth, among whom there will be no more pain, and no more death (Rev. xxi. 4).
The Christadelphian, March 1896. p92-93.
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.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Now, Jesus Anointed is Power, or Spirit, manifested in flesh, and justified in Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16): or, "Made of the seed of David according to flesh; and constituted Son of God in power, according to spirit of holiness, out of a resurrection of dead ones" (Rom. 1:3, 4): and therefore styled "the Lord the Spirit," or "a life-imparting Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18). Here are Spirit and Flesh. The Spirit is Theos, or Deity; the Flesh was the Son of Mary, and named Jesus; and when anointed with Spirit again at his resurrection, became Jesus Christ, or the Anointed Jesus. This anointing was his begettal of spirit
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
"The evidence of the truth of all revelation is so constructed as to be quite sufficient for the humble and sincere who are ready to believe; while it is such as may be cavilled at by any who wish to disbelieve."
Preface to THE TEMPLE OF EZEKIEL'S PROPHECY - Bro Sulley
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
The only way immortal soulists can evade it is to say that the soul is not the man, and in that, they concede one of their vital contentions.
This affirms the ascent and descent of the Son of Man, who is now in heaven; not the descent of the word to become flesh, and the subsequent ascent of that flesh, when resurrected. The following literal translation appears to me more plain than the above:-
"No one hath ascended into the heaven, except he having descended from the heaven, the Son of Man, he being in the heaven."
The heaven indicated here is called elsewhere
"the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heaven."
The scriptures declare that Enoch, Elijah, and Moses ascended to heaven; but these words of Jesus, show that they did not ascend to "the heaven" where he is.
Again, "he having descended," the translation of ̓ καταβας ho katabas, is the second aorist participle, which affirms the action as passed at some time or other. If it had been the perfect, it would have affirmed the descent as passed at the time Jesus spoke; but being aorist, or indefinite, it affirms a past action, but without fixing the time.
But Jesus gave his hearers a datum by which they might know that it was to be a future past action. This datum is expressed in the phrase "He being in the heaven." When he spoke these words he was in Palestine-not in heaven. They would, therefore, understand him to mean, that he was first to ascend to the heaven, and being there, where no man had been before him, he was to descend to earth again; so that his descent would be a past action at some time future to his "being in heaven."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Feb 1856
The impregnation of a human ovum by the Spirit must have resulted in a very different child from that which is born of the will of the flesh.
The argument set against this, by those who contend for Jesus being "a mere man," ignores an important aspect of divine operation. The argument is this: that as the Spirit has created flesh and blood-men and animals-without infusing into them a divine element, so may the Spirit have begot Jesus, without imparting anything beyond the qualities appertaining to men in general.
If the Spirit were a mere mechanical agent, like the elements of chemistry, there would be force in this argument; but the Spirit is the Eternal Essence-God-the First Cause, and, consequently, the vehicle of the Eternal Wisdom and purpose. The results of its operation are, consequently, according to the divine purpose.
By the same Spirit, endless diversity of result is developed. Thus, in the apostolic ecclesias, there were "diversities of gifts, but the same spirit."-(Cor. 12:4.) In creation, there is infinite variety of life and nature, but all existing in and produced by the same spirit, which determines the constitution of anything by its own will.
Now, applying this principle to the matter in hand, the question is, What was the result, divinely contemplated, in the conception of Jesus? Was it not the bringing about of the thing imported by the name bestowed upon the child-Emmanuel? (God with us)- the manifestation of God in our nature, resulting in a man, who, though a man, was "the arm of the Lord" (Isaiah 53:1), stretched out in love for our salvation from death?
If this is admitted-and it cannot be otherwise-then it follows that the interposition of the Spirit, in the way announced by Gabriel, produced a higher result than when it merely operates for the creation of an animal. It introduced "the Word made flesh" the God of Israel in flesh-manifestation, through the Spirit: a man, therefore, in such sympathetic relation to Deity as to be, in his mental relations, a very different man from us, who are merely of the earth, earthy.
This difference is put forward by John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare his way: "He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthy, and speaketh of the earth; he that cometh from heaven is above all."-(John 3:30, 31.)
The difference is manifest in all his history. Angels celebrated his birth on the plains of Bethlehem; a star guided the wise men of the east to his cradle; the Spirit detained Simeon till he put his eyes upon the babe which was declared to him to be "the Lord's Christ;" at twelve, the child confounded the doctors of the law in the temple, and was even then bent upon "his Father's business."
The difference becomes more and more apparent at every step. Did there ever live another man, who could say to those who knew him, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?"-(John 8:46.)
People may quarrel as to what the difference consisted in; but that there was a difference cannot be denied; and if there was any difference at all, there may have been great difference, so far as the principle is concerned. This was a man who spake as never man spake. Where did the difference lie? In his parentage, for he was a child of the Spirit, on his Father's side, and of the flesh on his mother's side. See the statement of the angel to Joseph when he was about to put Mary away, being found with child: "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."
Shall it be said that he was the child of the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit was not with him in his childhood? Why even John, the forerunner of Jesus, was "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." This is the testimony of Luke 1:15. If this was the case with John, who said he was not worthy to stoop down and loose the shoe latchet of him whose way he was sent to prepare, on what principle shall we deny it was the case with him who
was greater than John?
If it is denied, the manifestation of God is denied; and there is then a want of explanation as to the sort of man Jesus grew into; for, let this fact be noticed, that the human brain, however well organised, brings no wisdom into the world. It is like a clean sheet of paper:
there is nothing written upon it. Wisdom is only acquired by experience, and does not always
come then. When it does come, it comes late. It is never first. As Solomon says, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child." Many blunders pave the way to what little wisdom we may ever attain to.
The Operations of the Deity, The Christadelphian May 1870
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
SIN CONDEMNED: YAHWEH HONORED
And the people became "much discouraged because of the way"; and they "spake against God and against Moses.". . . "And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee; pray unto the Lord that He take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses:
Make thee. a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the
serpent of brass, he lived" (Num. 21:4-8).
This, the closing scene of this record of the Name in the wilderness, presents a symbol of the cross; a symbol of the condemnation of sin in the flesh.
Sis Lasius - Yahweh Elohim
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The eternal life of the Scriptures is imperishable, intellectual, moral, and corporeal faculties in active exercise.
Life and Works of Dr. Ch 16
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
There is no doubt as to this meaning a "simple belief on Christ," as the appointed condition of salvation, but then it does not tell us all. It does not inform us what it is that we are simply to believe. We should not know from the mere terms of the verse that it meant anything more than believing in Christ's appearance in the world 1850 years ago.
We should not know that it embraced his death, his resurrection, his coming again, and his kingdom, as we learn it does from many other testimonies (1 Cor. xv: 1-3; Rom. x: 9; Heb. ix: 28; Acts viii: 12).
Neither should we know that baptism and obedience of the other commandments were necessary in addition to "simple belief." We must not found our faith on any brief statement of the matter, but must open our minds to the discernment and reception of all that is testified about it.
The Christadelphian, March 1898
Furthermore - the statement 'God so loved the world...' doesn't admit approval of the status quo...
An understanding of the principle of self-sacrifice behind agape love anticipates the giving of the only begotten of the Father.
Bro Paul Hart