Wednesday, November 25, 2015

SOLVING THE RIDDLE

Kingdom of God (pt 4)

How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (Jn. 3:4)


Jesus responded to Nicodemus’ dilemma by saying,
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (Jhn 3:5)
With this, Jesus makes it plain that there are two births necessary to enter the kingdom—natural and spiritual.

He then makes this audacious statement,
“You must be born again.” (Jn. 3:7)


The word translated “born” is the same throughout this passage, whether it is Jesus or Nicodemus doing the speaking. There is no play on words here, such as in that famous passage in John 21:15-17.

Born = come into being

Think back to the moment you were born. (I know many of you may not be able to remember that far back, but try anyway.)
QUESTION: What did you do to help your mother give birth?

I am fairly certain that most of you will respond with “nothing” and you would be correct. (The rest of you just aren’t remembering correctly.)

Nothing.
There was nothing for you to do.
Nothing you could do.
Nothing was expected of you.
You were at the effect of a process totally outside your control.

Do you think Jesus may have chosen the term “born again” for just that reason?
Think about it. He could have said
  • Unless you are converted
  • Unless you believe the truth
  • Unless you become a Christian (Well, not really. They weren’t invented yet.)
No. He said “You must be born again.”

Does the metaphor have significance?
Absolutely.
But, because of a single simple four-letter English word, we have gotten everything messed up almost beyond recognition.

Must. (all you winemakers rest easy. That’s not what we’re talking about.)

Must—as in something you must do.

Problem.

There is more than one possibility for the meaning of the word “must” in our English language.

Fortunately, there is NOT that problem with the Greek language. The Greeks have specific words for specific meanings.

The vast majority of the evangelical community has taken this word and made it a moral obligation for the person who would like to go to heaven. However, such is not the case.

There is no moral obligation on anyone to be born again.

If you shook your head and said, “Wha-aa-at?” let me try to unravel the twist in your neck.

You must breathe in order to stay alive. Agreed?
How much of that do you consciously perform each minute of each hour of each day of each wee…?
None. Right?
But, it is still an obligation, a “must.”

What about some of the rides at the carnival?
A sign will be posted that reads “You must be at least this tall in order to ride.”
Is there an obligation on your child’s part to stretch up to the prescribed height?
Of course not.
But, “must” is a perfectly acceptable word to use in this situation.

Consider this one.
You must not smoke within 50 feet.
Is there anything you can do about this one?
Of course there is.
It’s on you.
Don’t light up.

Hopefully you can see that there are two different possibilities for the word “must.”
One is that it is of necessity, and the other is that it is a requirement.

Such is the case before us.

It is an absolute necessity that one be born again in order to see the kingdom God, or to enter therein.

It is NOT a moral obligation which you must obey.
However, that is the way it has been taught.
We have been taught that it is up to us to “make the decision.”

We cannot, though. It is not possible until the Holy Spirit causes the regeneration necessary to enable one to “make the decision.” (1 Cor. 2:14)

Now, lest you think that I am just spouting a particular pet doctrine I’ve made up out of my head, let’s consider the Greek words that are used to translate “must.”

One is opheilo (ὀφείλω), which has the meaning of “debt”; and the other is dei (δεῖ), which has the meaning of “necessity.” (For the diligent students, here is a link to Vine’s, which shows them both together on one page.)

The second one (dei) is used in John 3:7.

Essentially, you cannot get yourself born again.

If that is true, then our evangelistic tactics are in need of change. The Four Spiritual Laws, as a first approach, will no longer get the job done (most of the time). We cannot persuade people by the use of the logical steps “necessary” to go from ‘sinner’ to ‘saved.’

There is nothing you can do until the Holy Spirit has begun His work, except proclaim the good news of the kingdom.


We will begin looking into this good news of the kingdom in our next installment.
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