Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 20 Number 11 November 2018
Page 9


Thomas Baxley

Noah is an important figure to the Bible record for a few reasons. First of all, he demonstrated the fact that faith and obedience go hand-in-hand. God told Noah a flood was coming and what he needed to do to survive the flood; he did it and preserved his life. Second, Noah shows that what is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular. Noah preached for decades, but in the end, only his family heeded the message he preached. The rest of the world perished. Finally, Noah serves as a warning to all of God’s people to watch themselves. Nobody is immune to sin and temptation. Coming off the boat where his life was spared, he made an altar and sacrificed to God. Not long after this event, Noah planted a vineyard and got drunk. Noah, the man who was perfect in his generation and walked with God, still had faults.

The New Birth

Andy Robison

Andy RobisonThe Pharisees were a self-righteous party ascribing to themselves broad powers of enforcement of their traditions associated with God’s laws (Matthew 15:7-9; 23:1-37). There was, however, at least one who seemed to be intent on doing right.

Nicodemus, one ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night and began by acknowledging the import of Christ’s miracles. He said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a Teacher come from God…“ (John 3:1-2). Later, this same man would take up for Jesus’ right to speak for Himself before any possible condemnation (John 7:50-51), then would help Joseph of Arimathea with the burial of the Lord’s body (John 19:38-40).

Jesus’ answer seemed far removed from the statement of Nicodemus: “…Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus tried to clarify, knowing only the physical birth (3:4). Jesus assured that it was a spiritual birth, “of water and the Spirit” (3:5). What is the new birth? Ascertaining it requires honesty with Scripture.

Consider that the Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead responsible for inspiring the apostles and the prophets (John 14:26; 16:13; Ephesians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Without the Spirit’s work in writing the Divine record, people living subsequent to the first century would know nothing about those events, or they might know a jumbled version from oral history. Perhaps that is one reason Paul said, “…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Spirit revealed the Divine message to men in the first century, and they would record it for all time. I never would have heard of Jesus if it were not for the Bible—the Spirit-inspired Word. In that way, I cannot say “Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

Then, note the power of 1 Peter 1:22-23. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…” The new birth had taken place for Peter’s audience because they obeyed the truth of God’s Word “through the Spirit.” That does not and cannot mean the Spirit came suddenly upon them. They were the ones who acted; they chose to obey. Yet, they had learned from the Spirit what to do. From the Spirit, they learned the truth (John 16:13).

The “water” to which Jesus referred in John 3:5 has to be the waters of baptism. Immediately after Jesus’ discourse to Nicodemus, there is the record of John’s baptism and statements of John pointing to something greater in Christ (John 3:22-36). The arrangement of paragraphs is no accident.

Water baptism was commanded on the first day of the church (Acts 2:38). Water baptism was requested by an Ethiopian eunuch who learned of Jesus (Acts 8:35-39). Water baptism was the means of Saul being cleansed from sins (Acts 22:16). Yet, the Bible ascribes no magical power to the water. In “baptism,” it is not “the removal of the filth of the flesh” that saves, but “the answer of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). The water in baptism would have no power were that not the intent of God. We would not know it was the intent of God without the revelation of the Spirit.

Further, a new life begins at baptism. In reenacting the resurrection of Christ, the old man of sin is buried, and the new man arises to walk in a new life (Romans 6:3-6). That sounds like a new birth, like being born again.

Those who were baptized were added to the church (Acts 2:41-47). Those who were translated from the power of darkness to Christ’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14) were the ones who had been “buried with Him in baptism…and raised with Him through faith in the working of God” (Colossians 2:11-12).

For Nicodemus, this was vital. He could not take pride in a Jewish birth. Neither nationality nor physical family could make one right in God’s sight. Now, all must be born again (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 5:25-26).

Yet, baptism alone saves no one. It must be accompanied by genuine faith, repentance, confession, and followed by a faithful lifestyle (John 3:16; Acts 17:30-31; Matthew 10:32-33; 1 Corinthians 15:58).

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