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Bible verses about Born of Water and the Spirit
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 11:12

True Christianity is not a popular way of life today, and it was no different during the first century. After three and a half years of preaching, Jesus Himself had only about 120 disciples (Acts 1:15), which does not support the idea that "everyone" was trying to enter the Kingdom upon hearing the gospel. God was not calling everyone then (or now), and so everyone was not "pressing" to get into His Kingdom.

In addition, the way that one enters the Kingdom is not simply through a confession or profession of faith. Rather, Jesus says in John 3:5 that one must be "born of water and Spirit" to enter the Kingdom of God, a reference to the Father's cleansing and engendering of a person that makes him a new, spiritual creation within a physical body. It is something that only the Father does—no amount of human effort forces Him to open the door. However, once that regeneration has taken place, then we are "conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love," as it says in Colossians 1:13. We are already a part of that Kingdom! But the bottom line is that this is an operation that happens according to the Father's will, not any human's.

Therefore, "everyone is pressing into it" not only misrepresents the underlying Greek, but it is also out of sync with what the scriptures reveal concerning God's calling and election. A rendering that is faithful to the rest of Scripture and fits with the Greek would be something like "everyone uses violence towards it" or "everyone is behaving violently against it." This may raise other questions—to be examined shortly—but it is at least not contradictory.

Similar misconceptions need to be dealt with in Matthew 11:12. A common explanation is that believers with holy zeal and earnestness are laying hold of the Kingdom with absolute determination. Barnes' Notes is typical: "Since 'the kingdom of heaven' or 'the gospel' has been preached, there has been a 'rush' to it. People have been 'earnest' about it; they have come 'pressing' to obtain the blessing, as if they would take it by violence."

Zeal and earnestness are absolutely needed for the sanctification process. In one context, this can even include the implication of metaphorical violence: Paul speaks of disciplining his body to bring it into subjection, so that he is not disqualified (I Corinthians 9:27). Thus energy, determination, and self-discipline are wonderful traits—but they do not match with what Jesus describes in Matthew 11:12.

One problem with this interpretation is that it puts men in the position of "taking" or "seizing" the Kingdom, another false concept. Whether we are considering our being conveyed into the Kingdom after our regeneration or inheriting it when Christ returns, in neither case is it fitting to say that we seize it or take it by force. Instead, Jesus says, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Any reward, prize, gift, or instance of grace that comes to us from God—including the Kingdom—can be received but not seized by force.

Perhaps the clearest statement of this is Luke 18:17, where Jesus says, "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." The kind of child He means does not violently seize anything, especially not the Kingdom. The child receives rather than takes it.

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force


 

John 3:5

Because this is said as an explanation of Jesus' initial statement, being "born of water and the Spirit" is the same as being "born again" or "born from above." In that sense, as used here by Jesus, both "water" and "spirit" are spiritual entities.

It is easy to jump to the conclusion that Jesus' mention of water refers to baptism. However, as a figure, the part water plays is more complex than is commonly assigned in this context. Consider this: From righteous Abel on, all have been and are being saved by the same process encompassed by the grace of God. All must be called by God, all must repent and receive forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, and all must be given God's Spirit. Note, however, that there is no mention in Scripture of any of the saints who lived before John the Baptist being baptized. This includes those who were under the Old Covenant. If all are to receive salvation by the same means, why does the Bible fail to show any of them being baptized?

It is more likely that the "water" and "spirit" Jesus refers to are those mentioned in Ezekiel 36:25-27:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

In this prophecy, Ezekiel indicates a cleansing from spiritual filth and a change of heart, from which spring obedience to God's commands. As the prophecy clearly says, both the water and the Spirit are from God above and precipitate the cleansing and birth that Jesus teaches in John 3. God says He will "sprinkle clean water," but as we know, that does not indicate the waters of baptism, since true Christian baptism is an immersion. Notice what John the Baptist says in John 1:33: "I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'" This suggests that a baptism of the Holy Spirit is also needed, which Acts 19:1-6 confirms.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Two)


 

 




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