Posted on October 10, 2019 by Erin Culleny in Freedom Fighters
“How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” ~ Nicodemus
Nicodemus was quite a bit older than Jesus when he came to question Him out of the sight of the other Jewish people. This being the case, Jesus’ statement about being born again was a bit disturbing to him. Nicodemus began with flattery, but Jesus cut him off and went right to the heart of the matter, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The ‘Kingdom of God’ was thought to be the right and destiny of the Jewish Nation based on the Davidic Covenant; even Jesus’ disciples thought this way. Luke tells us that after His resurrection, “they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (But) He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”” (Acts 1:6-8) It is interesting that Jesus gave them a similar answer concerning ‘the Spirit’ to that of his response to Nicodemus when He said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Because of his naturalistic bias, Nicodemus’ thoughts went right to ‘entering again into the mother’s womb’, but Jesus points out that birth in the flesh can only provide physical life that is corrupted by the sin nature. No, to enter into ‘God’s Realm that is Holy’ you need the cleansing of The Spirit that gives ‘new life’. Paul defines this for us as, “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).
Nicodemus as ‘the Jewish religious teacher’ would have understood this need for cleansing from the design of the Temple. The bronze laver was one of the furnishings required by God in the outer courts of the tabernacle and temple. It stood between the temple and the altar, and it held water for washing (Exodus 30:18). The priests were required to wash their hands and feet by having water from the Laver ‘poured over them’ before they entered the ‘the Realm of God’s presence, “so that they would not die” (Exodus 30:20). It is significant that the bronze laver was the last object to be encountered before entering the Temple (Exodus 40:6–7). Because God is Holy, before entering God’s presence (Kingdom), one must be cleansed or made ‘Holy as He is Holy’ (Leviticus 11:44-45;1 Peter 1:16).
The Levitical priests, in accordance with God’s Law, had to continually wash in the Laver to prepare themselves to enter the presence of the Holy God; but Jesus Christ, in His work of salvation, fulfilled all that the Law required (Matthew 5:17). Through Christ’s sacrifice, those who believe in Him as their Savior are cleansed once and for all time by His blood shed on the cross. The believer no longer needs a ritualistic washing with water to come before God, because Christ has “provided purification for sins” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus’ sacrifice made The Alter obsolete and the Washing of the Spirit permanently fulfilled the role of the Laver. Now we can ‘enter into the Kingdom of God with confidence, where He sits upon His throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), being assured we are acceptable to Him because we are ‘spiritually clean’; through the washing (Laver) of regeneration provided by His Spirit having been poured out upon those who believe.
The baptism or pouring of the water over us only physically signifies what is truly necessary to enter into God’s presence; William Barclay writes, “When we think of baptism in the earliest days of the Church, we must always remember that it was the baptism of grown men and women who were coming direct out of paganism into the Christian Church. It was the deliberate leaving of one way of life to enter upon another and a new way. When Paul writes to the people of Corinth, he says: ‘Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified’ (1 Cor. 6:11). In the letter to the Ephesians he says that Jesus Christ took the Church that “He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26).” In being baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, there comes to those who believe, the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Nicomedus’ naturalistic bias had trapped him into only being able to see from man’s finite perspective. Jesus pointed him to the Truth of His work of Salvation, pictured in the temple by both the Alter of sacrifice and Laver of cleansing. Jesus’ message was clear; He was the ‘Way’ by which everyone who enters into the Temple of God’s presence must pass.
Choose wisely the way you take…
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)
Praying 4 U
Written by David Brown: David Brown is a husband, father, and grandfather with a Masters of Religious Studies and a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Dave is a member of Pemberton’s First Baptist Church.
Think About This: To be born again is, as it were, to enter upon a new existence, to have a new mind, a new heart, new views, new principles, new tastes, new affections, new likings, new dislikings, new fears, new joys, new sorrows, new love to things once hated, new hatred to things once loved, new thoughts of God, and ourselves, and the world, and the life to come, and salvation. – J. C. Ryle
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. – Psalm 51:12
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the doctrinal and theological views held by America’s Keswick.