Jesus answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." John 3:5-7

The above quotation may very well contain the three most important verses in the whole Bible. At any rate, it is certain that no other doctrine of Christ was stated with such definiteness and no other statement of Christ so directly effects our eternal future. For this reason I believe that this doctrine that is so much spoken about in these days warrants special study and consideration.

Before we talk about what it means to be born again, let us examine some of the details of the above quotation. First, it appears that whenever Jesus is going to state one of His universal laws of the kingdom of heaven He begins by saying verily, verily. Thus, whenever He begins with this expression, we need to take special notice because these words seem to be a signal to us that He is about to reveal some very important idea or doctrine.

The next thing that I would like for us to notice is that what He was about to say was to be said to one of the leaders of the Jewish Church, which was the church of God at that time. This was not being spoken to some drunkard or whore-master, nor was it being spoken to a pagan or an infidel. It was being spoken to a very religious man, a pillar of the church of God. And I think that we can safely say that what Jesus was telling him was something that he did not already know, although it most certainly was something that was necessary for him to know if he were to go to heaven. We can draw this conclusion because Jesus said, I say unto thee.

Next, we can see that Jesus laid down a condition that must be met in order to enter into the kingdom of God. When Jesus said except, He established the absolute necessity for the fulfillment of the condition that He was about to declare. Clearly, then, if this condition is absolutely necessary, it is of paramount importance that we understand it so that we can fulfill it without fail, since to fail here is to exclude ourselves from the kingdom of God.

What was this condition that must be met if any man is to enter into the kingdom of God? It is that one must be born twice. Jesus said that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit. And lest one should mistake Him to mean water baptism when He says water, He rephrases this by saying, That which is born of the flesh, that is, the water surrounding him in his mother's womb, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Men who wish to believe that Jesus is here teaching the necessity of water baptism say that this interpretation makes Jesus guilty of a tautology, that is, a needless repetition. But in this case it is not a needless repetition. Jesus is talking to a man that believes that to be born a Jew is a sufficient qualification for entrance into the kingdom of God. Thus, in order to effectively clarify this point to Nicodemus, Jesus is emphasizing that in no case is the fleshly birth, even a Jewish birth, able to give a man entrance into God's kingdom. He must have a second birth, a spiritual birth.

However, even if we are to reject this argument as too weak, we must still recognize that there is not a drop of outward, physical water in the new birth. Let us call to mind that John the Baptist said that Christ would come after him and that He would baptize His followers with the Holy Ghost and fire. Now if this fire spoken of here is not real, physical fire, and I know of no one that would claim that it is, then the water spoken of in connection with the new birth cannot be real, physical water. Since water is used to outwardly wash and cleanse physical objects, the water spoken of in relation to the new birth would be symbolic of the cleansing of our outward lives by that work of God in the repentant sinner. Similarly, since fire is that substance used to purify an object throughout, the fire spoken of in relation to Christ's baptism is symbolic of the inwardly purifying effect of that work of God in the heart and mind of the saint. There is absolutely no way that one can logically show that Jesus is here teaching the necessity of water baptism.

Why is this second birth so necessary? It is because, as the apostle Paul says, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. I Corinthians 15:50. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, and only spiritual beings can enter into it. Since man in his fleshly birth is spiritually dead because of the fall of Adam and is alive only to the physical world, he can never enter into the spiritual kingdom of God unless he is made spiritually alive. Thus, Jesus can declare the absolute necessity of the second or spiritual birth. A man must be made a living spirit, and this is accomplished by the new birth which is wrought by the Spirit of God.

The fact that Jesus said, Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again, shows that He was aware that most people would have trouble believing this doctrine. We can see that Nicodemus stumbled at it because in obvious surprise he said, How can these things be? Indeed, this is a doctrine that has caused almost everyone that calls himself a Christian to stumble in unbelief. It is for this reason that the denominations that control nearly 80% of all professors of Christianity in the world either do not believe in the new birth or they think that it is water baptism. It is more than they can or want to believe that this new birth entails a real and dramatic change in the individual whereby he passes from death unto life, from a natural man to a spiritual man, by means of a powerful, traumatic experience with God.

It is commonly thought that this new birth was not experienced by men and women in the old dispensations before the Holy Spirit was poured forth on the day of Pentecost. Was this true? Was it impossible and unnecessary for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and all of the other wonderful saints in the Old Testament to experience this being born again by the Spirit of God? Was this experience reserved for the New Testament saints only? I think that it is obvious from the words of Jesus in reply to Nicodemus that all saints have always had to experience this birth in order to enter into the kingdom of God. He said in verse 10, Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

In this verse the word master was translated from the Greek word didaskalov which means a teacher. In other words, Jesus was asking Nicodemus how it was possible that he could be a teacher in the Jewish Church and not know that a man must be born again in order to enter into the kingdom of God. Clearly, Jesus felt that this was not a new doctrine to the Jewish people, but a doctrine that should have been known and understood always by them. That this is the case is verified by Paul in the 4th chapter of Romans where he makes it abundantly clear that Abraham was saved in the same way that we are to be saved, i.e., by faith, and that no one ever was saved in any other way. Thus, Nicodemus, a teacher of the Jews, should have known this doctrine.

What is the new birth and why is it so necessary? I think that these questions can best be answered by looking to the Jews in their relationship to God because everything about their religion was symbolic of that religion which was to come by Jesus Christ. One of the most striking things about the religion and covenant delivered to the Jews by Moses was that it says not one thing about heaven or an after-life. It is an earthly religion which is composed of outward rites and ceremonies and which regulates the outward lives of the Israelites by promises and threats to be rewarded in this life. If we will recognize that everything about the Jews in their religion and in their relationship to God has a spiritual counterpart in the religion of Jesus Christ, we will be able to understand what the new birth is and why one must experience it.

To be a Jew one must be born of a Jew. To be more specific, to be a Jew one must be of the blood line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is totally impossible to become a Jew by adopting Jewish beliefs and obeying the precepts of the Jewish religion. One may become a member of the Jewish religion by coming to believe it to be the true religion, by being catechized, and by being baptized and circumcised, and thereby become Jewish, but he can never be a Jew unless his paternal genealogy goes back to Jacob. God made a covenant with Abraham and He renewed that covenant with Isaac and Jacob. The children of Israel (let us remember that Israel is another name for Jacob) are born into the covenant that God made with Abraham and they are confirmed in that covenant by the rite of circumcision.

In like manner, it is impossible for the natural man to believe in Christianity and thereby to become a Christian. In so doing he would be merely trying to act like Christ. But if we remember that the word Christian means to be like Christ, not to act like Christ, we can easily see that the natural man may convert to the ethics and religious structure of Christianity and become Christianish, that is, he may adopt many of the modes of behavior and thought of a Christian, but he can never be a Christian. He may, by much study of the Scriptures, even become expert in all of the doctrines of Christ and live in close agreement with their outward demands. But just as the Gentile that converts to Judaism can never change his blood line by observing the precepts of Moses, this man will still be an unregenerated, natural man without the inward life of God no matter how much he reads the Bible and observes its commands and attends church.

The old covenant was a physical covenant made by God with Abraham and only children of the physical seed of Israel can be partakers of that covenant. Since the new covenant is a spiritual covenant made by God with Abraham, only spiritual children of the spiritual Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, can be partakers of that covenant. One must be spiritually born in order to become a partaker of the spiritual blessings and promises which are alone found in Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham. Church membership, rites and ceremonies, and doctrinal beliefs mean nothing. They cannot regenerate the dead soul; they cannot create life.

Let me repeat what was said above. One becomes a Jew because he is generated or procreated by a Jewish man, a man who is of the physical seed of Abraham. In a completely analogous manner, one becomes a Christian by being regenerated or created anew in Christ, the spiritual Seed of Abraham, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is totally impossible to pass from death unto life without this glorious work of the Holy Spirit of Christ in the soul.

Let me take this analogy a step farther. We can even say that, just as with the physical birth, a man has no say in the matter as to when he may experience this spiritual birth. We are told by John that,

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13

Thus, it is obvious that because a man wills to experience this birth that makes us sons of God it can in no wise produce it. God visits a man when and how He will. As a matter of fact, it is just this willing in the flesh that causes men and women to become involved in false religions. They think that by merely accepting Christ as their Savior they will by definition be born again. However, all that results is that they become religious, but they remain strangers to the true life and power of the Holy Spirit.

It is no accident that Jesus chose the birth process to symbolize the experience wherein a man is converted from a sinner to a saint. The natural birth process possesses all of the elements found in conversion. There is the time of conception when the seed is planted in the womb. If the womb is receptive, there is the gestation period during which the seed is forming and many inward changes are occurring, although the living creature has not yet been brought forth. Finally, there comes the trauma of birth. And trauma it is! No one who has ever given birth and no one who has ever witnessed a birth could ever give a casual description of this awesome event. When the birth pains begin, they are not very intense, they are of brief duration, and they are infrequent. As time passes, they become more frequent, of longer duration, and of greater intensity. Finally, as the new creature comes forth, the pains are almost continuous and almost unbearable.

This is the trauma of birth. This is the physical experience that Jesus chose to use to describe the process of spiritual conversion. And as I said above, it is no accident that Jesus chose the birth process to symbolize conversion. The process of conversion is very similar. The Holy Spirit comes to the individual and plants the seed of the kingdom in his heart. If the ground of his heart is receptive, the seed will begin to grow and cause great discontent with the world and life in general. Although God is working in his heart to produce great upheavals, the individual is unaware that it is God. This discontentment will grow until God sees that the person is able to repent and turn from his former life. Then God will appear to the soul and bring him forth to the birth. If he is willing, he will be transformed by the power of God into a child of the kingdom of God. If he is not willing, he will be a still birth and decay into nothing.

As in the natural birth, there is danger of an abortion during the gestation period. Many people cannot bear the great and powerful upheavals going on in their breasts and they will seek relief by turning to religion. In so doing they find some relief by healing the wound slightly, but all that they become is religious. It is at this time that many people accept Christ as their Savior and join some evangelical and fundamentalist church and believe themselves to be saved. Many become preachers and theologians. Some throw themselves into their religion with great ardor and lead very sacrificial lives for the cause of souls. But, alas, they are deceived and unconverted, strangers to God and the living leadership of the Holy Spirit. They are like Nicodemus.

The new birth does not make one religious (the carnal mind will do that), but it does make one spiritual. It makes one alive to the voice of the Spirit of God. It gives one communion with God by opening the spiritual eye so that it can see the light of Christ and by opening the spiritual ear so that it can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. The light of God begins to enlighten his mind and the Spirit of Christ begins to lead him through the wilderness of the new life which is hid with Christ in God.

The scriptures of the Old Testament are not only an accurate report of historical events but they also generally teach us valuable spiritual lessons either directly or by allegory. The true and accurate historical account of the deliverance of the Israelites out of the land of Egypt by the hand of Moses is one of the most powerful examples of God's use of His dealings with man in the Old Testament to teach us by spiritual allegory how He deals with man in the New Testament times. Let us examine this familiar story to see what God has for us. In order to recognize the allegory we must understand that the Israelites represent the individual that God is going to save, Pharaoh is Satan, Egypt is the world, Moses is Christ, the Passover lamb is also Christ as the Lamb of God, the blood of the lamb is the Blood of Christ, etc.

Initially, the Israelites were quite happy and content in the land of Egypt and under the dominion of Pharaoh. Everything seemed to go well for them and Pharaoh gave them almost everything that they wanted. They had the best of the land and they grew rich and powerful. They enjoyed all of the pleasures of Egypt and felt great liberty. Egypt was not barbaric, but rather it boasted of an advanced culture, especially in the arts, religion, and sciences. The Israelites were able to enjoy the Egyptian religion which was one of the most sophisticated and humane religions in the world at that time with a highly developed sense of an after-life. As a matter of fact, like most people in the world, Egypt was a very religious nation.

In like manner, a man goes through a certain number of years of his life being quite content with the world and enjoying all of the pleasures that it has to offer him. He thinks little of his spiritual state and has no fear of Satan because he has never felt himself oppressed by him. Generally, the individual will be religious to some degree or other. He may even be a minister or a theologian in one or other of the worlds many churches. But whatever his station may be, he will be enjoying the fruits and the advantages of the world system.

It is clear from the Scriptures that God moved on Pharaoh so that he brought the Israelites into great bondage and slavery to himself. Their state of liberty and freedom and riches was changed into a state of servitude under harsh taskmasters. Slowly their servitude was increased and the harshness of the taskmasters increased correspondingly. The land that had been so sweet was now become very burdensome. The Israelites began to feel their bondage more and more and they began to groan for deliverance. They did not groan to God; they just groaned. Life lost its savor and with each passing day the burden of their slavery grew more and more cruel.

In like manner, God moves on Satan to bring the man into slavery and bondage to sin. What used to be great fun is now a harsh taskmaster. Life begins to lose its luster and the pleasures that the world has to offer become more and more burdensome. With each passing day the man becomes increasingly aware that he is a slave to his lusts and to the world. The soul begins to be filled with great discontent, but the individual finds himself unable to deliver himself from his bondage. He sees the world as a hopeless mess and can see no point in living. A groan is born in his soul, not a groan to God, just a groan.

When God talked to Moses out of the burning bush, He told Moses that He had heard the cries of the people Israel and that He was sending Moses to Egypt to deliver them out of the hands and power of Pharaoh. He was not doing this for their sakes but for the sake of His promise to Abraham. It was not because they were worthy of deliverance but because Abraham was worthy that God should fulfill His promise to him.

When God hears the groan of the soul that has begun to feel its bondage to Satan and sin, He sends the great Deliverer, Jesus Christ, to his rescue to save him from the power and dominion of the oppressor. God does not do this because that soul is worthy, because in reality the soul deserves nothing better than to suffer for its many sins. He does it for Christ's sake and for Christ's sake only.

When Moses arrived in Egypt, he visited the people and they agreed to leave if Pharaoh would allow them to do so. Then Moses went to Pharaoh and the king refused to let the people go and increased their burdens. It was then apparent that neither the people nor Pharaoh believed that Moses had the power and authority to deliver them. The Israelites even wanted Moses to leave because their bondage increased after his arrival. When the Lord first visits the groaning soul, the man will not believe that the heavenly Moses has the power to deliver him and he will not be at all happy that He has come to him. The Israelites did not greet Moses with brass bands and parades and no man ever rejoices when the Lord comes to save him.

Moses began to display his power and authority both to Pharaoh and to the people Israel. Pharaoh hardened his heart and commanded his taskmasters to increase the Israelites' burdens and bondage. The people harangued Moses and wanted him to leave them alone. They were not ready to be delivered. But Moses continued to display his power in even more convincing ways. When the Lord visits the lost soul in order to save him, Satan will increase the power of sin over him so that he will not want to be delivered. Thus, the soul will draw back from the delivering power and will desire to remain in bondage. But then the Holy Spirit will increase that person's sense of guilt.

Finally, the Israelites were fully convinced by the display of his power that he could deliver them. Moses told them that God was going to destroy the firstborn of Egypt and that they could avoid the same destruction if they would demonstrate their faith by eliminating all leaven from their homes, killing a lamb, sprinkling the blood on the door posts of their home, eating the flesh of the lamb, and preparing themselves to depart from Egypt. The Israelites did as commanded, the power of Pharaoh was broken, and at the command of Moses they began to march.

After feeling greater and greater displays of the convicting power of God for sin, the soul realizes that Christ is sufficient to save. He settles the Christ question by repenting, that is, by removing the spiritual leaven (sin) from his heart, applying by faith the blood of the Lamb to the door posts of his heart, partaking of the life of Christ into himself, and preparing to depart from the world. This is a great decision and is done in great turmoil of soul.

The Israelites began to march toward the border of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. It is at this time that there appeared a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide them out of the domain of Pharaoh. Likewise, the sinner begins to leave the world under the leadership of Christ. Then, because he doesn't know how to leave the world, there appears a light, the light of the Holy Spirit, to guide him out of Satan's domain. As with the cloud that led the Israelites toward the border, this light of the Holy Spirit leads the sinner in his flight from the world, which is Satan's domain.

The Israelites could not escape the wrath of God on Egypt unless they offered the paschal lamb and applied the blood, and they would not be out from under the dominion of Pharaoh until they were out of his territory. Correspondingly, the sinner cannot escape the wrath of God determined against the whole world until he offers up the Lamb of God and by faith applies the precious blood to his own heart, and he will not be free from Satan until he fully repents and separates from the world of which Satan is the prince.

This is a great lesson and clearly refutes the idea that all one must do to be saved is accept Christ as his Savior. There are thousands of ministers teaching and preaching that repentance is not necessary for salvation, only faith in Christ. But not only do the Scriptures refute that idea but also the typology here. The Israelites were not saved from Pharaoh until they left Egypt. Leaving Egypt represents leaving the world and Satan's system. As long as the Israelites remained in Egypt, they were still slaves of Pharaoh. Although the death angel passed over the Hebrews, they were still not delivered. And they would never experience deliverance unless they left Egypt. Correspondingly, it is not enough to have faith in Christ for salvation. The sinner must leave the world system. He must repent and turn from all of his sins. Unless he does, he will remain Satan's slave and perish with his owner in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. In other words, when Jesus saves, He saves from sin and not in sin.

After the death of Egypt's firstborn Pharaoh told the Israelites to get out of his land. However, when the Israelites formed up in marching order and headed for the border, Pharaoh changed his mind. He called together his army and sent his chariots and soldiers after them to force them to remain under his power. The cloud led the Israelites to the Red Sea so that they were bound in on two sides by mountains and the sea in front. At this point the army of Pharaoh came up behind them. It was impossible for the Israelites to escape and they were too weak to fight. They began to cry to Moses in their fear. It was all that they could do.

Oh, what a rich lesson God is teaching us here! The Holy Spirit begins to show the individual that he must give up everything if he is to serve the Lord. He must leave everything behind---father, mother, wife or husband, children, lands, jobs, religion, everything. He decides to do so and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit he begins to separate. But the sinner is soon penned in on all sides. Then, Satan sends his army to keep him in subjection. Parents get up in arms. Friends ridicule. Children whine. He is offered a promotion at work. It is more than the sinner can cope with. He cries to the Lord to deliver him but it looks impossible.

At this point, God intervenes on behalf of the Israelites. The cloud that has been leading them suddenly moves around behind them, between them and the army of Pharaoh, so that the people can no longer see the threatening hordes and so that that terrifying army could not reach them. The cloud continues to give light to the Israelites but leaves the pursuing army in utter darkness and confusion. Moses tells the people to stand back and watch the salvation of Jehovah. He raises his rod over the water of the sea and the sea miraculously parts and the ground dries up so that the people may cross dry shod.

God comes to the rescue of the helpless sinner. The great army of Satan that is trying to hinder goes into confusion and is hidden from the sinner. All that he can see is the light of the Lord that powerfully convicts him of his sinfulness. Then the Lord gloriously opens the way for him to pass from death unto life. God's power opens the way for him to convert, even where there was no way.

What were the Israelites to do? They did not want to go back into Egyptian slavery. But did they dare go forward? Could they trust that the sea would not close upon them and drown them? Did God really open the sea, or was it just a coincidence? If they begin to walk between the two great walls of water, will they suddenly cover them and kill them? And even if they get to the other side, what will keep the army from following them? And will Jehovah take care of them after they get on the other side? What will they eat? Where will they get water in that awful Wilderness? Oh, what faith was demanded of them if they were to escape their slavery!

The sinner stands at the edge of his spiritual Red Sea. By now he does not want to go back into his slavery to sin. But will the Lord really deliver him from the power of Satan? Will he really be free from all of those sins that so captivated him all his life? If he yields himself totally to the Lord, will He be able to deliver him out of their power. Is it true or is it only a dream? If he steps out of the world and casts himself on the Lord, will the walls of water cover him and drown him? Will he find that he was a fool? Will he find that after he has given up everything and risked everything it was only a foolish hope after all? Oh, what amazing faith is demanded of him and how few there are that will do it!

Although God opened the sea and made a way for them to cross and to escape the pursuing army, the Israelites had to make the choice. Jehovah and Moses did not force them to cross. They could have submitted to the army of Pharaoh and returned to their slavery. The choice was theirs and theirs alone. And by a magnificent faith in Moses and the great Jehovah they began to march out of Egypt by the outstretched arm of the LORD. After the Israelites crossed over to the other side, the army of Pharaoh tried to follow them. But Jehovah caused the waters to return to their proper place and every horse and every rider was slain. They were never seen again by the people of God.

Although God opens the way and makes it plain to the sinner, he and he alone can make the choice. God never saves us against our will. We must choose to leave the world and all of our sins and to serve the Lord forever. We must place our whole future into God's hands and commit ourselves unreservedly into the path that He has shown us. At this point the sinner may, and he usually does, decide to return to his slavery to sin. But if he chooses to serve the Lord, it is by a magnificent faith and by that faith alone that he marches out of spiritual Egypt unhindered. When his old sins try to follow him, God destroys their power over him and gives him a marvelous deliverance from them all. He will never be bothered by them again.

The vast majority of so-called Christians today contend very strongly that one can never be free from sin in this life. They say that although we must reckon ourselves free from sin, it is the height of folly to believe that it is possible to be actually free from sin before we die. We are to trust in Christ's righteousness to cover us, but we can never expect to share in His righteousness and to be righteous. This is the belief of almost all so-called Christians.

But is it true? Well, not if we are to believe the allegory that God has given to us. Let us note that the Israelites were actually out of Egypt and out from under the dominion and power of Pharaoh. After they crossed the Red Sea, they were not just pretending to be out when in fact they were still in Egypt. They did not just claim to be free while in fact they were still under the dominion of Pharaoh. They were free. They were free, indeed. And the cloud was with them by day and it was a pillar of fire by night to give them light so that they would never have to walk in darkness. This cloud led them in the way that they were to go—to the promised land.

My friends, the salvation that comes by Jesus Christ is salvation out of the world and out of sin. All who profess to be born again while they are still involved in the vain spirit and conversation of the world and in sin are deceived and liars. They do not have the Holy Spirit to be as a cloud by day and as a fire by night so that they never walk in darkness. They have never experienced that salvation taught to us by this wonderful allegory. No matter how zealous they may be, they have a head religion and nothing more. They are not new creatures. They are merely the old creature become religious. They have never been born again. And as Jesus said, Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

From this wonderful allegory we can see that the new birth is not just some mental assent to the Christian religion. It is not even a very emotional mental assent to the Christian religion. This is a traumatic and earth-shaking experience with the power of God that totally changes ones life. It is very much like emigrating to another country. Just as God did not try to change Egypt so that his people could stay there and enjoy its benefits, but rather He took them out of it, God does not try to change this world so that the Christian can live in it and enjoy its benefits. God hates this world and is going to destroy it. He has no intention of reforming it. It belongs to Satan and the stench of hell is in it. It must be destroyed.

No true Christian will be involved in the politics and affairs of this world. A Christian is a new creature. He has become a citizen of heaven and is now just a pilgrim and stranger passing through this sin cursed land. He is an ambassador of Christ and a harbinger of the coming wrath of God against the world system. He will have nothing to do with the world's fads, fashions, pleasures, sports, entertainments, politics, wars, religions, good works, etc. He is no longer in the world because he is a heavenly and spiritual creation. He is not a man who has become a nice, religious person and who is interested in bettering this world. He is not interested in bettering this world because this world belongs to God's bitter enemy. He is interested in taking people out of this world and not in making them better and happier in it.

This certainly doesn't sound like the usual idea of a Christian. But the reason is very simple. A true Christian is something totally different from the usual idea. He has been transformed by the mighty power of that God that said, Be ye holy, for I am holy.