Belief & Being Born of GodVolume 3, Number 77
Created Date: January 20, 2014
Posted Date: January 20, 2014
Believe in the Gospel of John; Part 3:
We are studying the word “believe” in the Gospel of John where it’s found 99 times, more often than in any other New Testament (NT) book. Our last study brought us to its second appearance where John writes, “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.”. Last time we observed this passage teaches “belief” in Jesus Christ consists of two elements; “receiving” and being “born of God.” In that study we examined what it means to receive Him, that is, to take Him to one’s self and the fact that “His own” refers to the Nation of Israel, by whom God chose to bless this earth.
Today we examine the other element of true belief in Jesus Christ introduced in this passage, that being “born of God.” I set about to understand what Scripture says about being “born of God” by examining the Greek word translated “born” in every passage its found in the NT. The word translated “born” inis the Greek word “genna’o” found 97 times in 13 books in the NT. In the King James Version it’s translated “beget” 49 times; “be born” 39, as well as once or twice as “bear,” “gender,” “bring forth,” “be delivered of” and with 3 other various words. Its basic meaning is provided in the Gospel of Matthew were we read Abraham “begat” Isaac and Isaac “begat” Jacob, etc; and Jesus was “conceived” in Mary, He was “born” in Bethlehem; He was “born” King of the Jews, etc. So, it is generally used to describe either the procreation by man or the act of bearing by woman, of offspring.
The Gospel of John is the only Gospel of the four referencing “born of God” or “born again” and in only two passages; our present one,, and most prominently in the dialog recorded between Jesus and Nicodemus in where the word is found 8 times. Jesus tells Nicodemus “except a man be born again he shall not see the Kingdom of God;” Nicodemus asks how a man can be “born” when he is old; can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be “born?” To which Jesus replies: “except a man must be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” and “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” .
Today, many who claim Jesus Christ as their savior refer to themselves as “born again Christians” as their way of expressing their faith; this being the way they understand it. However I found it interesting thatare the only two verses in the King James Version of the NT where the term “born again” is used. And, interestingly, the word “again” in the phrase “born again,” is translated from the Greek word “an’othen,” (G509) found 13 times in the NT and are the only two verses in which it’s translated “again.” Elsewhere “an’othen” is translated “from above” five times; “top” three times; “from the very first” once; “from the beginning” once and in one verse its not translated. It’s obvious that if the translators had translated it “from above” it would have been consistent with what Jesus was telling Nicodemus in the context, that is, the phrase in John 3:3 which reads “... Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” could have been translated “... Except a man be born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God” and the phrase in John 3:7 which reads “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” would read “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born from above.”
Let’s look back at what Nicodemus first asked Jesus in order to better understand this passage. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”. Nicodemus did not ask Jesus about entering the Kingdom of God, but he recognized Jesus was a teacher from God because no one could do the miracles Jesus did unless God was with him. In other words, he recognized Jesus’ standing with God but he wondered how Jesus attained that standing. Jesus answered: “... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again (from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3b. We know that Jesus was born from above (not again), He was born “from above” because the Holy Spirit had caused the Virgin Mary to conceive Him; He was from above and He had existed from eternity past (John 1:1, 2 & 14).
So He was answering Nicodemus’ question about how He performed such miracles; He was God in the flesh. He was telling Nicodemus that even to be able to see (know, understand) the Kingdom of God, which was manifested by the miracles He performed, he (Nicodemus) had to be born from above or of God. If I ask someone, “don’t you see what I’m talking about,” what I’m really asking them is “don’t you understand what I’m talking about?” So, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he could not see/understand things about the Kingdom of God, such as how Jesus was able to perform such miracles, unless he was born from above or of God.
Nicodemus, because he didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about, read into what Jesus said his own interpretation and asked: “... How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?”b. And, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of 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 (from above). The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” .
The Apostle John is the only NT writer who uses the Greek word “genna’o,” translated “born” to convey the concept of being born from above, of God or of the Spirit of God; here in John where we have been reading and in 1 John where “genna’o” is found 10 times, as follows: “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.”; “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 3:9: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” 4:7; “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” 5:1; “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 5:4; “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” 5:18.
These statements in 1 John are indeed some heavy promises and appear on the surface to conflict with what the Apostle Paul tells us in such passages as. There is an explanation for the apparent conflict but we don’t have space to go into it here; I hope to do so in a subsequent study/s.
However, this present study cannot be better summarized than to quote the context where we began: “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. (Emphasis mine.)
To be continued.