Born Of The Spirit, Where The Wind Blows, You See?

Jesus' meeting with the Jewish official Nicodemus has the first mention in the NT of the phrase "born again". Jesus has a conversation that perhaps left me more confused than it did Nicodemus himself. I was taught at church that being born again was one of those things you would just know "when you knew". Every person in the church I attended assured me that this moment was coincidental with the gift of the comforter, the Holy Spirit. I myself believe that though I was assured of God by the Holy Spirit, I still had doubts for months, even years.

To me, being born again is more the idea that there is no way you could imagine life without the presence of God. I can't remember the life before with any quality in God's absence, and like a newborn with eyes open upon a new world with God, I can't imagine this world without him. Anselm may have said that God is so great that he can not be reasonably conceived not to exist, but I would add once conceived, and a believer is born again, God can not be experientially understood as non-existent.

Here are the verses of Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus;

-- Click To Expand/Collapse Bible Verses -- John ch3:v1-21
Joh 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
Joh 3:2 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.
Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Joh 3:5 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.
Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Joh 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Joh 3:8 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.
Joh 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
Joh 3:10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
Joh 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
Joh 3:12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
Joh 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Joh 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
Joh 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Joh 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Joh 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Joh 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
Joh 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (KJV)

Based on my own thoughts above, we can move straight on to v5. Note that Jesus' emphasis here is "enter" (into the kingdom) rather than the previous "see" (the kingdom). Being born of water here, the word water is in comparison to rain, which any one should realise Jesus clarifies as "born of the flesh" - There is no preceding emphasis in the passage to suppose that the reference is made to baptism. (Though baptism, particularly as by John when whole towns would be baptised for the remission of sins, there would be no hiding for neighbours from each other when Christ comes talking forgiveness. - I think this should happen in faith schools myself - pupils should consider such an act as if in front of their whole year's classes, willing pupils in front of unwilling)

Verse 5 follows the information that being born again means you may have the Holy Spirit but you may not have necessarily entered into the kingdom. (rather than seeing it from outside - cf v3) Now, the verse that always made me scratch my head and wonder! Jesus' comparison to those born of the spirit being alike to an unpredictable wind. (v8) I believe Jesus 'is saying that though you may hear preachers speak and believers sit in prayer or even someone eating a sandwich on a bench in a park, you can not tell whether they are born again. Scholars of theology that teach those whose dream job is ministry - though experts in texts, often have no faith whatsoever. Likewise in Jesus' day by looking among all the guys in the market or synagogue, you could not pick out whom is saved and whom is not. Likewise you may understand hearing correct doctrine from someone's mouth but did they get it from someone else?

Jesus is right. following the rev joe bloggs because he is a good speaker or great with the kids is a poor substitute for your own spiritual state. Moving on to v11, easily explained by v12, Jesus talks to Nicodemus who must be so used to knowing who is a sinner and who keeps the laws and practices - he doesn't understand that appearances are only skin deep in the kingdom. Jesus explains that His (and his disciple's) own eyes and ears have seen and heard of 'these things' and yet they (Jesus' and his disciples) are not believed. Nicodemus opens the conversation with the reference to Jesus' miracles, and it is to these that Jesus is referencing.

Nicodemus has sneakily met Jesus at night, so must be a little image conscious - Jesus reputation from those that do look to outward appearances must have had an effect on him. Nicodemus is dipping his toes in the water by stating that miracles like Jesus' must come from God. Jesus talks to him of his spiritual choices. As far as Jesus is concerned, Nicodemus is either in or out. Because he is not born again, does not see the kingdom, this is why Jesus tells him he does not believe their testimony.

Nicodemus opened that God must 'be with' Jesus,. Jesus replies that no man has God with him, in the sense that Jesus' will is that of God's own from his heavenly throne (the meaning of ascended up to heaven). Except that he always had the authority (came down). God himself will not share his glory with another. Thus Jesus tells him straight out He is God, and the Son of God (v13).

Nicodemus had asked Jesus, "how can these things be?" - By what means may a man be saved without appearing to have kept the commandments? - in other words. Jesus then begins to talk of the purpose of his death. Jesus question, "Art thou a master (instructor) of Israel and knowest not these things?" Jesus knew Nicodemus once assured that Jesus is the Christ would understand what was going on, because it is clearly written in the prophets. Not so much a reply to an instructor to Israel as to instructing what Israel is in that case. Israel is a people firstly, not a commandment of the law.

The wind blows to where it is at rest, and being unable to tell where it comes from is part and parcel with Nicodemus' outlook. He could tell that the God of Israel was at work but was not able to rightly divide the subset of Israel to whom the Spirit was sent. Jesus came for His own lost sheep of the house of Israel, and Nicodemus is unable to realise that one has to be repentant and admit their own righteousness is as nothing if one is to become "born again" and be saved.

The serpent lifted up by Moses was a gathering point for those bitten by snakes to receive healing. Because the kingdom is seen and entered into by those with no concern for the "whited sepulchres of outward appearance" (The prostitutes and tax collectors go in ahead of them). Jesus declares he is the Christ, sent for the spiritual healing of Israel: and they do not know who will be and who will not be by sight. Jesus testifies of his own coming death, in which is salvation and condemnation, the condemnation is this rejection of their required open repentance and for those guys who build their reputations rather than openly declare their sin, because their deeds are evil. They would rather stay in darkness because they love it, or can't afford to admit it. (v19)

The image conscious Nicodemus has unexpectedly had his questions answered in a way that met his own troubles. John's account echoes that Jesus "searches the hearts and reins". The condemnation is not only for unbelievers, but for more importantly liars. That is why Jesus last verse in this selection refers to those who truthfully come to Christ in repentance - And find Him! Jesus is found by all those who seek him. Whether Nicodemus understood the earthly testimony of miraculous works, or Jesus' testimony of the spiritual reality of the time, as well as His identity as the Christ, the Son of God, is not recorded. But it was explained to his heart as much as his ears and is bountiful evidence of Jesus divinity.

I invite you to continue reading to the end of the chapter, wherein John the Baptist's disciples question him over Jesus Christ. John's testimony for his mission and Christ's confirms all the doctrine of Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus. Very well to reckon this place for the account, (by John the author) as truly inspired.

For your reference.

-- Click To Expand/Collapse Bible Verses -- John ch3:v22-36
Joh 3:22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
Joh 3:23 And John also was baptizing in AEnon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
Joh 3:24 For John was not yet cast into prison.
Joh 3:25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.
Joh 3:26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
Joh 3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
Joh 3:28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
Joh 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
Joh 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
Joh 3:31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
Joh 3:32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.
Joh 3:33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
Joh 3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
Joh 3:35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
Joh 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (KJV)

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