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What the Bible says about Birth of a Spiritual Mind
(From Forerunner Commentary)

John 3:6

Some have mistakenly used this verse as proof that an individual is not born again until he is composed of spirit. However, Jesus is not considering a person's bodily composition at all. A Bible student can be misled by abruptly abandoning Jesus' use of spiritual imagery and returning to a literal interpretation. Like the rest of the context, verse 6 must be understood spiritually and figuratively.

The verse states why the new birth is necessary. Flesh can continue to give birth only to what it has always produced: flesh. Yet, Jesus states clearly in John 6:63, "The flesh profits nothing." In John 8:15, He accuses the Jews of judging Him according to the flesh rather than using God's Word—which is Spirit—as their evidence. In both of these cases, Jesus is also speaking figuratively.

In Greek, "flesh" is sarx (Strong's #4561). Jesus and Paul commonly use the term as a metaphor for sinful man's nature, sometimes also described as "carnal." Used in this way, sarx is morally negative, even though by creation a person's flesh is not intrinsically negative. Figuratively, it symbolizes the unregenerate moral and spiritual state of man that almost continuously generates sinful acts. "Flesh," then, represents the inward, carnal inclination rather than muscle, skin, and bones—disposition rather than composition.

Paul writes in Romans 7:18, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells," meaning nothing good spiritually. Later, in verse 25, he admits that his "flesh [serves] the law of sin." In Galatians 5:15-17, he positions the Holy Spirit as the opposite of the flesh, declaring that these two are at war:

But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Biblically, the term "born" or "birth" is used, not only to indicate coming from the womb as in mammalian birth, but also to describe the source or beginning of a thing, an event, or series of events. For example, we speak of the birth of a nation, an institution, or a concept. The "womb" of those births was an event or series of events that triggered the inception of a new direction, manner of life, activity, or thought.

This is how Jesus is using "born" or "birth" in John 3. He is not speaking of the birth of a human child but the birth of a new nature. The events triggering this birth are the calling of God, repentance from sin, justification through faith in Christ's death, and the receipt of God's Holy Spirit. All of these are effects of the acts of the spiritual God.

Conversely, human nature gives birth to more human nature and thus more of human nature's sinful works. It cannot do otherwise. As Job 14:4 says, "Who can bring a clean thing out of any unclean? No one!" Paul makes the same point theologically:

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)

The flesh expresses itself, produces, and gives birth to the works of the flesh and thus to immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, and other evils, as Galatians 5:19-21 details. Though the flesh is capable of doing some good things (Matthew 7:11), in relation to God and His way, the evil will always dominate. The natural, fleshly condition of man will always exhibit the same propensities. In contrast, the Holy Spirit gives birth to and is expressed by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore, a change must take place from a life dominated by the natural human heart to one motivated by God's Spirit—or a person will never be prepared for the Kingdom of God.

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

John 3:6

In the context of His instruction, Jesus gives not one indication that, when He refers to being "born of the Spirit," He intends us to think of a post-resurrection event. The context is strictly one of birth and its products. In addition, He is not even speaking of being composed of spirit. He is describing the present and near future of the born-again person while he is still flesh and blood as well as what he produces or gives birth to in his life—especially his new spiritual life. Thus, the so-called "hatpin test" does not apply here at all. It entirely misses the point Jesus is making!

Barnes' Notes ("John," p. 203) comments regarding John 3:6: "Is Spirit. Is spiritual, like the spirit, that is, holy, pure." It is the birth of the spiritual heart and mind that enables a person to be spiritual in his attitudes, conduct, and perspective. Barnes goes on to say, "Here we learn, first, that all men are by nature sinful. Second, that none are renewed but by the Spirit of God. . . . Third, that the effect of the new birth is to make men holy."

Being "born of the Spirit" is not a "pregnancy" produced by God's gracious act of imparting His Spirit, but the birth—beginning—of a holy, spiritual mind, the mind of Christ. That the person is "seeing" the Kingdom of God, has "entered" into it, and is producing the fruits of the Spirit are evidence that he is already born of the Spirit.

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

John 6:63

It is God's Holy Spirit by which we are made alive and birthed from our spiritual deadness in sin. God the Father opens a person's mind by His Spirit, giving the newly called individual insight into and understanding of His Word and an awareness and appreciation of God and His purpose, the importance of Jesus Christ, and a sense of guilt regarding sin to a degree he never had before. God's Holy Spirit cleanses us from the effects of our dreadful past.

Paul writes of the unconverted in Ephesians 4:18, "Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." That ignorance and blindness begins to be lifted by means of the new birth through God's miraculous infusion of His Holy Spirit, not by the waters of baptism.

This new creation follows the same pattern as shown in Genesis 1:2-3: "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light.'" In the new creation, the spiritual creation, the sinner is perceived by God as dead and in spiritual darkness, then God sends forth His Spirit to draw the sinner to Christ and into spiritual life and light (John 1:4; 6:44; 8:12), making the sinner His child. It is God, by means of His Holy Spirit, who produces the new birth.

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


 




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