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Bible verses about Begettal of the Holy Spirit
(From Forerunner Commentary)

John 3:3-4

Nicodemus grasps that Jesus is speaking of a birth. The Greek word following "born," anothen—translated in our Bibles as "again," "anew," or "from above"—magnifies his puzzlement. It is this word that he questions when he asks, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4).

As an adult man, he is perplexed by the second occasion of being born. His reply indicates, not that he is contemplating being conceived again and entering his mother's womb, but that he is thinking of the end of the pregnancy, departing the womb in birth. He obviously does not understand that, in God's view, despite being physically alive, he is a spiritually dead man who needs God to resurrect him and give him the spiritual life that he lacks.

He immediately relates Jesus' words to a literal, physical, fleshly birth, thus his thoughts take him in the wrong direction. Jesus' spiritual intent has nothing to do with a second physical birth of a human being. Commentator Albert Barnes suggests that Nicodemus' spiritual prejudices turn Jesus' words into an absurdity, illustrating how disconnected he is from Jesus' spiritual intent.

The Greek term gennao (Strong's Concordance #1080) underlying "born" can be confusing because it broadly means "to procreate" or "to father," and figuratively, to regenerate." It can also be used as "to bear," "to beget," "to be born," "to bring forth," "to conceive," "to be delivered of," "to engender," and "to make." The Greeks used the term for both conception and birth, for the entire gestation process. Therefore other parts of Jesus' and the apostle's instruction must be sought to reveal more clearly which Jesus means.

In his The Complete Word Study New Testament, p. 313, Spiros Zodhiates reveals that gennao in this verse is aorist subjunctive and in the passive voice. Word Pictures in the New Testament, "John," p. 44, confirms that gennao is "aorist passive subjunctive" here. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 104, relates that, in the passive voice, gennao means "to be born." In addition, the Interpreter's Bible, vol. 8, p. 505, states, "Birth can be considered either from the father's side, in which the verb is to 'beget,' or from the mother's side, in which the verb is to 'bear.' The Johannine metaphor uses the former verb, with the meaning 'beget' (verses 3, 5, 6, 8)." Thus, it is translated grammatically correct in English Bibles as "born," not "begotten."

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines the English word born as "brought into life; brought into existence; created and resulting or arising." In brief, it indicates a beginning, whether that beginning is an actual birth of a human, animal, concept, circumstance, process, or organization.

When anothen (Strong's #509) is combined with gennao, the phrase most strongly indicates a second birth, not a conception. This is why Nicodemus responds by saying in verse 4, "How . . . can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born [also in the passive voice]?" He does not say, "How can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be begotten?"

Another term that needs further thought is "regeneration," Greek paliggenesia (Strong's #3824). As seen above, it is a synonym for gennao anothen. The prefix palin means "again," while the root is genesis, meaning "beginning" or "start." In this context, it means "spiritual rebirth" or "spiritual renovation." It is used twice in the New Testament, once by Jesus in Matthew 19:28 and once by Paul in Titus 3:5. Regeneration stresses the inception of a new state of things in contrast with the old.

When Jesus uses it, the setting is when He "sits on the throne of His glory." In Paul's usage, the occasion is the beginning of a person's salvation. Both settings indicate new beginnings. The American Heritage College Dictionary states the English meaning of regeneration as "to reform spiritually or morally; to form, construct, or create anew, especially in an improved state; to give new life or energy to; revitalize"—which is almost perfectly synonymous with paliggenesia. It describes a new beginning, a new birth.

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


 

John 3:6-8

When "spirit" is used in this sense, "air" is the closest physical thing Jesus could use to illustrate His instruction. Air is material, but it is invisible to our eyes, and its invisibility is what He wants us to focus on. Spirit is invisible—but immaterial—and in this specific sense, it has no form or substance. It is non-physical, but it can affect the around and the about, the environment, including a person begotten by means of it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 15:42-49

The image Paul speaks of is not merely that we will be composed of spirit even as Christ is, but that our very nature and character be like His. If God desired that we merely be spirit, He could have made us like angels. Angels, however, are not God; they are angels. God is doing a work in us through which we will become like Him, not like angels.

His purpose requires that we cooperate. Though our part is very small by comparison to what He is doing, it is nonetheless vital. Notice how Paul draws this beautiful section of I Corinthians to a conclusion by drawing our attention to what it will take on our part to make God's purpose work: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:57-58).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

2 Corinthians 4:17

One source, God, produces the commonality that makes us a spiritual Family. He engineered and created it. He is the personality who guides, directs, and accomplishes this unity through His Holy Spirit. All of His teaching, His truth, is being funneled from the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ, and out to the church by means of the Holy Spirit.

We hold a critical position in all of this because we have the power to accept or reject His truth, and the acceptance or rejection of the truth of God determines if we will have greater and better fellowship. We will either become a more unified part of His Family or less. Our choice is the critical factor.

God is faithful. He has done what He has done. He has initiated the contact, making the bridging of the gap possible through Jesus Christ. He has given us the mechanism by which a relationship can be accomplished, and now the critical part is in our hands: yielding to the truth that He gives to us. If we yield, then God's creative efforts in us are not going to be frustrated.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

Galatians 3:26

This statement would have been a bombshell - and high heresy - to the average Jew of Paul's time, who would have had it in his mind that the people of Israel were the only children of God. Paul here is beginning to explain that physical lineage is not relevant where God's calling is concerned, because under the New Covenant only God can give the summons (John 6:44), and if He summons a Gentile, it is just as valid as if He gave it to an Israelite.

The faith of Jesus Christ is the important factor rather than heredity. This faith is also a part of what God gives (Ephesians 2:8) - again, only to those whom He chooses. But if God has given this living faith (James 2:20) to a man, that man is then a begotten - but not yet born - child of God. God is the real father, rather than Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 1:3-4

He did not necessarily choose us as individuals before the foundation of the world, but He did decide that He would have a church, a group of people impregnated by His Spirit, a unique Family of His who would be in the image of His Son. The word "choose" suggests taking a smaller number out of a larger. In this case, the larger is the population of the earth, and the smaller number is that tiny remnant God has been working with - His church, His group, His family. The word "holy" implies the choosing had a moral aim in view. In other words, God was choosing a small number out of a large number, and the reason He was choosing this smaller number is to make this small number holy - holy as He is. He had a moral purpose in mind.

The apostle is saying we have been called, elected, become a part of this small group with a definite purpose in mind - that we should become holy. In order for us to become holy, God had to reveal some things to us, which Paul discusses in verses 5-12.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

1 Peter 1:16-17

The spiritual reproductive process is not solely God's work in us, but we also play a major role in what is happening. The work of God in this world is the implantation of His Spirit in us which gives to us the barest elements of the Divine nature, and then He works on the growth and perfection of holiness in His people. We are part of a work of transformation, of conversion, to holiness.

It is here that prayer fits into the picture because Peter writes in verse 17, "and if you call on the Father." That is prayer. Prayer is an integral part of the obtaining, the achieving, the process of transformation—from the glory of man to the glory of God. Prayer fits right into the scheme of things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

 




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