[Photograph above from Mr & Mrs Mc Cormick.]
Our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus has in all ages been noted for its deep importance. It has its difficulties, some of which are due to inaccurate renderings. The reader will therefore find a few differences between this and the usual version.*.
* Instead of “again,” the margin in the Old and the Revised Version reads “from above.” The latter is the true translation: it is so given in this same chapter: ver. 31. The translators, old and new, sometimes render [the Greek word …] by ‘beget,’ sometimes ‘bear.’ The former is the true rendering: Matt. 1: 2. Sometimes both renderings are given in the same verse: John 5: 1, 18, corrected in the Revised Version. The Greek [word …] in this passage is sometimes rendered ‘spirit,’ sometimes ‘wind:’ ver. 8. I suppose it should be rendered ‘wind’ all through. It cannot be ‘the Spirit,’ for there is no article, any more than before ‘water.’
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night, and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that Thou art come (as) a teacher from God; for none can do these signs that Thou doest, except God with him!’
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Verily, verily, I
say unto thee: Except a man be begotten from above, he cannot see the
The Saviour here is in conversation with a Pharisee. Who were the Pharisees? (1) Men who added to the word of God the traditions of the elders. (2) They trusted in themselves that they were righteous; and hence refused Jesus, the Son of God; for they need no Saviour who are able to save themselves. The Pharisee was the ‘Ceremonialist’ of his day: the strictest of the sects of Moses. He was aged, and respectable, an elder of the Sanhedrim. Are you, my reader, like him, a Pharisee?
He came to Jesus; - conscience urged him. ‘You ought to do honour to this great Teacher.’ He came by night. The fear of man restrained him from coming by
day. He would lose his reputation with
his friends and associates, if he countenanced the strange instructor from
Nicodemus was a candid man. He gave Jesus the honourable title of ‘Rabbi,’ though the Saviour had not been brought up in the schools of the Pharisees. He owns Him to be a teacher from God. He admits the reality of the miracles wrought by Him, and the proof of His mission thence arising.
This was all true, but it was not enough to save. It was only to give to our Lord a place
already occupied by others. Moses was a
teacher sent from God, and accredited to
Our Lord’s reply seems far astray from the ruler’s opening speech.
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee,
except a man be begotten from above, he cannot see the
This appears to be a word addressed to the Pharisee’s heart. He, it would seem, came desirous to learn from the Saviour, how the ‘kingdom of God,’ of which John the Baptist and Himself spoke so much, was to be entered. And the whole conversation is given, as I believe, to illustrate the Holy Spirit’s testimony at the close of the previous chapter, that our Lord was aware of the thoughts of men; and needed none to tell Him on what business, and in what state of heart those came, who sought His company.
The Saviour then, in solemn words, resting upon His own authority, declares the necessity of spiritual regeneration. Each must be begotten from above.*
* [See the Greek word …] This is its sense throughout John’s Gospel: 3: 31; 19:11, 23. It is an adverb of place. To make it an adverb of time – ‘from the beginning’ - will not suit the sense here. It supposes ‘again,’ but it reaches beyond ‘again’ in sense.
It is equivalent to “from heaven.” Thus John Baptist says of Jesus: “He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh out of the heaven is above all:” 3: 31.
Are all men God’s sons?
Many are teaching that doctrine.
The Saviour denies it of all that love not Himself. “Ye are o your father
the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and
abode not in the truth:” John 8: 44.
That is the reason for the necessity in all men of the change here
named. Our Lord is confirming the
opening words of this Gospel. “He (Jesus) came to His own (
This saying overturned the foundation of Moses’ law. Jesus was not as some imagine, merely clearing away the rubbish with which the Scribes and Pharisees had encumbered the law. He here announces another foundation altogether. Moses’ legislation was addressed to the flesh. It attached to those begotten of Abraham’s family, born of the flesh. Its seal was set on the flesh. It laboured to cleanse the flesh. It addressed itself to the power of the flesh to obey God.
Man needs not new instruction, in order to mend by his efforts the old nature. He requires the impartation of a new life. When God condemns anything, He takes the best specimen; and in the condemnation of that, all others of the same kind find their sentence. And our Lord here is confirming John the Baptist’s testimony. ‘Think not’ - said the stern instructor – ‘that you will enjoy the day of the glory announced, because Abraham
is your father. God will raise up a new set of sons to Abraham; sons of his faith, though not of his flesh:’ Matt. 3.
“He cannot see
The proof that it is not the kingdom of grace that is in
question, is that the kingdom of grace and the Church can be entered, without
either regeneration of the Spirit or immersion in water.* The present is “the word of the kingdom.”
But its coming is in power.
Hence, in the Acts, Paul says to those who were already [regenerate]
believers and united with the Church, that the kingdom has a something yet
future. Paul was “confirming
the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and
many troubles we must enter into the
[* That is, in the sense of Christ ruling in the hearts of His redeemed people: and ‘grace’ guarantees entrance (to all who are regenerate) - into His eternal kingdom in “a new heaven and a new earth”; but only after His Millennial Kingdom upon this earth has ended, (2 Pet. 3: 13; Rev. 21: 1).]
** There is an interpretation of Phil. 3: 11, which suggests that all the dead in Hades who are saved by ‘grace,’ will be resurrected when our Lord returns: not so! It is not a standing up out from amongst the resurrected dead, which is being taught by Paul, but a resurrection “out from the dead” in Hades! The ‘out-resurrection’ itself is the subject matter, which the inspired apostle sought to “attain”. Only those, from amongst the eternally saved dead in the underworld, who “attain” unto that select resurrection of reward, will ‘enter’ the coming millennial ‘glory’: the remainder will not (by Christ) have been “considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection [out] from the dead:” (Luke 20: 35, N.I.V.).]
So understood - the stern statements ‘None can enter - except,’ take all their fulness of meaning. God will see to it, that no word of His Son shall fall the ground, and that no defaulter in the points named shall enter the millennial kingdom. Thus also the disciples between ‘seeing the kingdom’ as the result of regeneration of the Spirit; but the not ‘entering’ it, unless, beside the inward regeneration of the Spirit, there be also the birth out of water,* stands on the same footing of God’s oversight.
[* I have been told recently - by two professing Christians - that ‘water baptism is pagan’! Such is the deplorable state of mind and confusion amongst some members of Christ’s Church today! We only need to read in the Book of ‘Acts’ to discover the truth concerning that baptism. See, Acts 1: 5a; 2:38, 42; 8: 12, 13, 16, 36, 37, 38 9: 18; 10: 47, 48; 16: 33,: the baptism of the Spirit is another matter entirely different! See Acts 1: 5; 11: 16; cf. 5: 32 with 8: 17.]
4. “Nicodemus saith unto him – ‘How can a man be begotten when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be begotten?’”
Nicodemus was startled. ‘The thing is impossible! How can this be true of an adult, or one aged like myself, or one whose mother perhaps is even dead?’
answered – ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be begotten out of
water and wind, he cannot enter into the
The Saviour will not retract modify His words, because of their blunt refusal by Nicodemus. He affirms anew the obnoxious sentiment. This regeneration is not only possible, but necessary to an entrance into the kingdom of the risen from the dead. But He expands His words, to meet the objection of impossibility urged by Nicodemus.
A man “must be begotten out of WATER and WIND.”*
* There is no article here before ‘wind,’ as there is in other occurrences of [the Greek word …] in this passage: v. 6, 8. If the translation ‘out of water’ is correct, because there is no article; neither ought there to be inserted one before ‘wind.’
To most, no doubt, the present rendering will seem strange almost to absurdity. But it is the true translation. And Jesus is purposely speaking mysteriously, in order to abate, probably, the high-mindedness of his visitant.
Our Lord then is tracing for us the resemblances between men’s generation by nature, and their regeneration by grace.
As to our first birth there were two parents so to the regeneration from on high there are two. “Water and wind.”
‘Why is ‘water’ put first? Does it not show, that baptism is to precede spiritual regeneration? and to produce it?’
By no means! ‘Water’ is not first mentioned. Verse 3 has preceded, and that speaks of the Holy Spirit’s begetting from on high.
The reason why ‘water’ on the present occasion appears first arises, I believe, out of Nicodemus’ objection. He had insisted on the mother’s part, as proving our Lord’s words impossible. Now ‘water’ answers to the mother’s side; as ‘wind’ answers to the father’s part in regeneration. By pointing to the water as the second element, our Lord shows the weakness of His visitant’s objection. It was the saying in effect – ‘Nicodemus, you are a Pharisee; and in common with your sect, you have refused John’s immersion (Luke 7: 29, 30). Had you but observed God’s command in this matter, you would have perceived that the Most High has provided a new birth, of which the most aged, the tallest and stoutest of men may partake, aye, even though the mother of his flesh have been long dead. You would have been born out of the womb of the water already, had you listened to God’s message by John the Baptist.’
My reader, have you been born ‘out of water’?* In the sprinkling of an infant, or the pouring water on the face, there is no birth “out of water.”
* Ek is ‘out of.’ The preposition in the Greek is used of both parents: Phil. 3: 5.
What is meant by the being begotten “of wind”? That the word refers to the Holy Spirit, who descended in wind and fire at Pentecost there is no doubt. He came from above, Almighty to bestow spiritual life.* His work is a sovereign and secret one on the soul of man. Justly does our Lord give prominence to the part enacted by the Holy Ghost. ‘Water’ is but once named. The Spirit’s begetting to God’s named five times. Twice it is - “the begetting from above.” Thrice ‘the regeneration of the wind’ (or Spirit).
* Thus again we are brought into correspondence with the sentiments of John the Baptist concerning the kingdom. Only there the Holy Spirit is regarded as the author of gift: Matt. 3: 11, 16.
That ‘water’ here is to be taken literally, is clear from the corresponding teaching of the other Gospels concerning this coming kingdom. And our Evangelist speaks of ‘immersion’ and of ‘water’ literally, both before and after this passage: 1: 26, 33; 2: 7, 9; 3: 22, 23.
“I am come,” says John “immersing in water:” 1: 31. “He that sent me to immerse in water:” 33; 1 John. 5: 7.
But man is one-sided: and generally refuses one of two testimonies. Hence there have always been attempts to crush the two spiritual parents into one.
I. There are those who affirmed, there are those who still affirm, that the Spirit’s agency alone is required. ‘Those baptized by the Spirit of God need no baptism of water.* The water here means only the Word of God.’ But that needs proof. It is not true.** This is to affirm, that of the two parents only one is needed. ‘If a man has but a father, that is all that is necessary!’ And some would render the passage – ‘Except a man, be born (out) of water, even the Spirit.’ Now Scripture speaks ‘the Spirit’ as being one of God’s three witnesses, distinct therefore from ‘water.’ “There are three that bear witness, ‘the Spirit, and the water*** and the blood:” 1 John 5: 8. Make ‘the Spirit’ and ‘the water’ to be one, and the witnesses of God’s providing are but two. Render the Saviour’s words to Nicodemus thus, and manifest absurdity is the result. “Begotten out of water, even wind.” Is water the same thing as wind?
* See the author’s tract on this subject. **See the tract - “The Bride’s Bath.” *** Here we have the articles before ‘Spirit’ and ‘water.’
Jesus testifies solemnly the need of both ‘water’ and ‘wind,’ in order to enter ‘the kingdom.’ ‘There can be no entry into the kingdom, He says, without the being begotten both of wind and water.’ Let my reader look to it! This assuredly testifies to exclusion from something of deep importance, if he refuse one of the two elements here proposed. That the words do not mean, that none can be saved without immersion in water, is cheerfully granted. But may they not shut out the disobedient disciple from entry into the kingdom of the thousand years? Luke 12: 47, 48. Even where the baptism of the Spirit (or the communication of the miraculous gifts) had preceded, Peter in the name of the Lord commands the believers to be immersed, on the authority of Christ: Acts 10: 44-48.
II. But there is an opposite party, who affirm the all-sufficiency of
the WATER. ‘None, without the baptism of water, is
regenerate. All duly sprinkled with
water are Christians.’ This is the doctrine of the High Churchman and the Ritualist,
While then there are two opposite schemes, ‘Water is useless’ – ‘Water saves’ - we, instructed by our Lord, affirm the necessity of the two new parents.
The wind of heaven, or the Holy Spirit from above, begins the work of renewal on the spirits of God’s chosen. But that is something invisible. And to the religion of the Most High there belong both the secret, and the open portion. The regenerate of the Spirit are to confess Christ. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession is made to salvation:” Rom. 10. And Christ calls for confession of Himself by baptism: Acts 2. Man has both an invisible spirit, and a visible body. The work begun in the spirit of man, is to be manifested in his body. The visible birth, out of water follows on the secret regeneration of the spirit. Birth is not the commencement of life, but its manifestation. Thus the birth out of water of God’s design follows on the being regenerate of the Spirit.
Thus, then, our Lord has supplied an answer to the objection of Nicodemus.
1. How can a man be begotten when he is old?
He can be begotten out of water and wind, however old he may be.
2. Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be begotten?
Yes, into the womb of the water - his second mother - he can enter - and thence be born.
Hence the baptism of infants is condemned by our Lord. In their case, ‘water’ precedes ‘the Spirit.’ They are born out of water* (suppose), they are not begotten of God, but as yet only begotten of the flesh, and from below. The two parents of the Christian dispensation being new, all argument derived from ‘the Abrahamic covenant,’ or the old generation, is vain.
*Sprinkling or pouring are not ‘birth out of water.’ But that defect of form is here overlooked.
Reader, give to each of the two parents a place in your scheme, and the place and the order that God gives to each; or, when the kingdom of reward and of glory comes, you will learn too late your mistake.
6. “That which is begotten (out) of the flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten (out) of the wind (spirit) is wind (spirit).”
This is a lesson to Nicodemus, that even if his idea could be literally carried out, it would be in vain. The father and the mother of the flesh and the earth* can only impart their own fallen nature. A higher and divine nature is required for the heavenly kingdom of glory. Sons of Adam or of Abraham are not sons of God: Rom. 9: 8. “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth. no good thing.” “The flesh profiteth nothing.”
* The one word “the flesh” includes the two.
There must be the being begotten by the Spirit.
At the Spirit’s descent three thousand were in one day regenerated to God. And the same day they were born out of water also: Acts 2: 41. The apostles were not to begin their Gospel proclamation till the Holy Ghost had descended. From Him was to come the “new creation.” The begotten of God resemble their Spiritual Father. Those who by nature were fleshly become spiritual. The earthly become heavenly. The things of the flesh fall off. Evil tempers and habits of earth are replaced by holy ones. The born to God are educating to live with God, and so are being made like Him.
For which place is my reader fit? For heaven or hell? Judge by your words, deeds, companions! Are you different from what you were by nature? Has a great change passed upon you? Have you new hopes, desires, fears? Have you, who were once dead to God, new life toward Him? Have you the new spirit of prayer and praise?
7. “Marvel not that I said to thee; Ye must be begotten above.”
Startled Nicodemus must not stand hesitating in wonder at the Lord’s strange sayings. Were they true? For the third time the necessity of regeneration by the Spirit of God, in order to entry on God’s kingdom, is pressed. Jesus returns to His testimony delivered in verse 3, after having set aside the objections of Nicodemus as idle.
This word applies to each son of man. It applied to Nicodemus. “The Scripture cannot be broken.” “To thee.” “Repent and be immersed every one of you, unto the forgiveness of sins.”
Why does Jesus say, “Ye must be begotten from above”? Apostles would have said ‘We:’ Eph. 2.; Tit. 3. Christian ministers now say ‘We.’
Aye, but the Son of God needed no such renewal. He was from all eternity the Well-beloved of the Father.
“Ye must.” It is God’s decree, and He will see to its execution. You “must.” (1) For God is holy. And the partakers of the kingdom of the whether the millennial or the eternal, must be holy too. You “must,” (2) for your nature is unholy. It is an evil tree producing only evil fruit. Abraham’s circumcised sons are not good enough for God and His abodes of life. Moses’ law was only the trial of the old tree of the flesh. And it ended, as was foreseen, in failure. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
“Ye must be begotten from above.” The water, and the administrators of it are from below. They do not regenerate from on high. The element from above is the wind. The application of the water will not change flesh into spirit. And therefore, neither can it change the destiny or the eternal lot of the man. He who would enjoy a part in God’s kingdom must possess somewhat of the divine nature. The end of unregenerate flesh is “in the Second Death, the lake of fire.”
8. “The wind blow where it pleases, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is begotten by the wind (spirit).”
The wind is the element ‘from above;’ the water, the element from below. There is now a tacit comparison between the two parents, water and wind. The wind is the mysterious, invisible element of heaven; the water, the visible element of earth, committed to the power of man, or the flesh: Matt. 3.
Jesus, then, is expounding for us the regeneration of which He is speaking. It is due to an invisible Almighty Agent from heaven, who has a will of His own, a will beyond man’s calculation and control. The Holy Spirit, the great Agent of regeneration, is Sovereign, and free as air. His movements are as little capable of being foretold or controlled, as those of the wind. He has power to give life to the dead in spirit, and He uses that power at His own will. He acts out God’s counsel of election, and gives spiritual life to those written in the Lamb’s book of life.
“Thou hearest the voice thereof.”
The natural wind has seemingly both a will and a voice. Why it should blow to day from the north-east, and to-morrow from the south-west, we cannot tell.
The wind of nature is now gentle as the dove, then fierce and stern; at another time its voice is a wail. It is heard, not seen. So the Holy Ghost is unseen, but has a spiritual voice, concerning the Son of God come from above, like Himself. His voice is heard in the Gospel. Have you, reader, heard the Spirit’s voice? Has it spoken in your soul in the written and spoken ‘Word of God’? “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
“But canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth.”
If the movements of the wind cannot be predicted, how much less the movements of the Holy Spirit? When the Holy Ghost descended at Pentecost, the flesh knew not whence it came, or whither it was moving. It produced astonishment, but ridicule also.
Where is the Spirit f God now at work? How long will He operate there? Whither will He move when He leaves that spot? Why is this soul converted by a sermon, while all the others that heard it remain untouched and hard as flint? Why is this land, or that parish, left to its spiritual death? We do not know. The will, the voice, the movements, are from above, beyond the control and calculations of sons of earth and flesh.
“So is every one that is begotten by the wind (spirit).”
The Holy Spirit gives to the begotten of God (1) a new will that overcomes the old will of the flesh, and sees heavenly things, and mounts above the things below. He who chose the public-house and the theatre, now forsakes it for the assemblies of God’s people. (2) He has a new voice. Before his regeneration he used his voice for cursing, lewdness, swearing, lying, blasphemy. He is learning now the accents of prayer and praise. His voice rises in the melody of the hymn to Christ. (3) He has new movements – mysterious to the men of the world and the flesh.
‘What has, come to
The Spirit, the Almighty wind of heaven, has come to him. There is the secret of the change you see. He resembles now his spiritual Father. He has a new life, which looks onward to his eternal dwelling with God on high.
And now what is the doctrine of this passage concerning BAPTISMAL REGENERATION? That system teaches, that the Spirit is always given in baptism. That all children sprinkled, with the use of the proper words, become thereby sons of God, whatever the character of the administrator, and whatever the mode in which, water is applied to the infant.
Our Lord in these words is purposely refuting and condemning beforehand such a doctrine. In Baptismal Regeneration (1) there is the will of man. The time, and the place of meeting for parents, children, ministers, sponsors, and priests, are appointed by man.
(2) The voice is that of man, pronouncing the words of a settled form.
(3) The water is the visible element placed under man’s power, traceable by him both in its source and its outflow. Do all so treated become sons of God?
The Regeneration of which our Lord speaks is quite the contrary. It is effected by the Holy Spirit, the Free, Sovereign, untraceable Agent of heaven, carrying out the secret will of God. The Holy Spirit is not tied to the water, or the will of man; but “blows where it wills,” beyond all control of men. Hence the idea of a constant orderly regeneration of all by the operation of powers in man’s hand is entirely opposed to this passage. It is also a begetting from below instead of from above. It is to suppose, that the wind always blows in one direction, whenever man pleases. Scripture says, that the power and the will which are entirely independent of the will of man and the water below. “Which were begotten, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
What says the Church Catechism?
What is your name?
Answer, N. or M.
Who gave you this name?
Answer. My godfathers and my godmothers in my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God: and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.
Which will you believe? The Church Catechism, or Christ? Itself is inconsistent. For the Articles acknowledge God’s election of those whom He has pleased, to eternal life. How then can all be regenerated, yet most come short of eternal life?
In the excellent book “Grace and Truth,” there is one chapter in which these words of our Lord are commented on; but their comment is wholly astray, both from Scripture and our Lord’s meaning.
The fundamental error is (1) the not distinguishing between being begotten secretly by the Spirit, and being born openly of water.
(2) Then ‘water’ is made to signify the “incorruptible seed” of the word of God, and it is spoken of as ‘morally cleansing.’ But Jesus speaks not of the power of water as an element to cleanse those already born; but speaks of water as the womb out of which the newly begotten son of God is to be born.
Hence, the proof which the author gives against the “water” being literal, is valueless. ‘The application of water outwardly to the man would only wash his body, not cleanse the inner man.’ Very true; but Jesus is not speaking of the power of water to cleanse one born already; much less of any power in water to give life, but of the manifestation in birth of one who already is possessed of life.
(3) The ‘
(4) The Spirit’s regeneration is a sovereign thing according to God’s election.
Let a word be uttered by way of summing up.
“Except a man be begotten out of (ek) WATER AND WIND.”
Let us now take a glance at two opposing systems which deny the twofeldness of the regeneration appointed of God; the one, saying in effect, that the father is all: the other, that the mother alone is required.
1. LET US TAKE BAPTISMAL REGENERATION.
The doctrine of this system is, that the Spirit is so tied to the water, the administrator, and the form of words, that the water is virtually one with, the wind, and that water applied in the usual way changes constantly the flesh into a son of God, and makes it heir of the future [millennial] kingdom of glory.
This is contrary to our Lord’s words: (1) He has declared that the second generation of man is ‘from above.’ This makes it, both as it regards the element and the administrator, ‘from below.’
(2) Regeneration is not of man’s will, but of God’s (John 1: 11-13); not of man’s agency, but the [Holy] Spirit’s.
(3) The earthly element of water is the contrast to that of wind. The false system makes the will of the heavenly free wind to be subordinate to the earthly and inferior element of water, which is put in man’s control, and whose movements man can calculate and use beforehand.
(4) Had this been true, all that Nicodemus needed, and all that Jesus should have enforced was his immersion by John or by the disciples of Jesus. Now Our Lord only names water once, as an answer to Nicodemus’ objection. That which He presses upon him is the necessity of the [Holy] Spirit’s sovereign agency on his soul. He says not – ‘He that is born out of water is spirit,’ - but five times He insists on the [Holy] Spirit’s regeneration.
(5) The water is the mother, not the father. Hence it in Scripture always comes after the regeneration of the soul, which produces faith in the saved. The wind is the invisible father, the water the visible mother.
(6) No change in nature, nor, therefore, in destiny, - takes place in infants born of water. Were there such a change, millions of homes would be witnesses of it.
2. BUT THERE LS ANOTHER SYSTEM WHICH WE MAY CALL SPIRITUALISM.
That teaches, that WATER here is figurative. It means the Word of God.
(1) This then destroys the TWOFOLDNESS of the new parents; and on that ground may at once be set aside. For on this view the ‘water’ being God’s word, is only the voice of the wind, the father. Or if we take Peter’s affirmation concerning it, it is “the incorruptible seed” of the Spirit of God: 1 Pet. 1: 23-25.
(2) It is a first principle of interpretation, that words are to be first taken literally by the interpreter. He is only justified in setting aside literality, if a literal sense would produce absurdity. Here it makes a simple and excellent sense, borne out historically in the Acts.
(3) If water be not literal, there is no answer to Nicodemus’ objection. There is no new mother, and no new birth. And our Lord’s replies must have taken a new form.
(4) The Presbyterian and other national systems use water-baptism* in practice, and that at the infant’s supposed admission to Christ and ‘the Church’. ‘Repent and be baptized.’ The glad receivers of the word could not be deprived rightly of ‘the water:’ Acts 10: 47; 2: 41. Here then the doctrine of this theory and its practice are in disaccord. The water is not literal, yet is literally used to admit to the Church.
* The sprinkling, etc., are called ‘baptism’ for argument’s sake.
(5) The Saviour distinguishes between ‘seeing’ the future [millennial] kingdom and ‘entering’ it. The kingdom may be seen [by the eye of faith], if there be the [Holy] Spirit’s regeneration alone. But entering the kingdom [at the time of its manifestation] depends on the birth out of water. And to enter the kingdom is a matter of reward: Matt. 5: 20; 7: 2l; 18: 3, &c.
(6) Regeneration is something in which man is passive in the hand of God. It is due to the sovereign, free, independent agency of the [Holy] Spirit. Regeneration is therefore never put to any man as a matter of his choice. It is God’s will that is in question, not man’s: John 1: 1-13. Where then do choice and the responsibility of man enter? When the open work of Christ and the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed. “Ye WILL not come to ME, that ye might have life:” John 5: 40. “How often would I have gathered thy children, and ye would not:” - Matt. 23: 37. But the visible birth out of water is a matter of choice, and it follows properly upon the new will and movements communicated to the regenerate soul by the Holy Ghost.
3. IMMERSION OF BELIEVERS.
Here the two parents of the new man are both owned. The invisible wind of heaven is the spiritual father; the water is the visible mother. Immersion presents the death of the flesh, and emersion the birth of the spirit. Nicodemus’ objection is set aside. Both parents are not only possible, but necessary. The Gospel is the voice of the [Holy] Spirit. “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel:” 1 Cor. 4: 15. The new birth [out of the water of baptism] comes after and is a witness of the new life imparted [by the Holy Spirit], and looks onward to a heavenly kingdom the sphere of the renewed after the spiritual education of the child of God is completed. Without the [Holy] Spirit’s breath is no new life. Without the water there no new birth. The regularity of the earthly element comes in to attest the obedience of the new son of God to His Father’s command. The water was given of God in closest connection with the proclamation of the heavenly kingdom. “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven hath drawn near.” “I indeed immerse you in water.” “And Jesus, when He was immersed, went up straightway from the water:” Matt. 3: 2-11, 16.
So Mark. “I indeed have immersed you in
water:”* “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was immersed
by John into the
A word now to those sovereignly “begotten of God.” You have new life. God calls you to a new birth, as the visible testimony to the existence of that new life. But if baptism be, a birth out of our second mother, that supposes the water to be literal water, out of which the child of God is born. The [Holy] Spirit of God has regenerated you. Come, confess Christ’s work for you, and the [Holy] Spirit’s work in you.
A WORD TO MEN OF THE WORLD.
How is this solemn testimony of Christ to the necessity of being begotten from above thrust away?
“Tis an Eastern figure! that means little or nothing!”
Nay! - God declares it to be a “new creation,” passing from death to life: 2 Cor. 5: 17; Gal. 6: 15 John 5: 24.
He illustrates it (1) by – Noah’s passage through the floods
of death and judgment to the new world of safety. (2) By
He has also appointed a ceremony, which testifies to men’s eyes the solemnity, reality, necessity of this great truth. Baptism (or immersion) shows, that men are by nature children of the Wicked One, to whom, if they would be saved,* they must die and be buried; while there is also the communication of new life from God. Man may say, that ‘a little water applied by a certain ecclesiastical officer, with the regular baptismal words uttered in a holy place made with hands, made you a Christian and child of God years on years ago; and that now you are moving on safely and surely to the kingdom of God’s glory.’ But can you not see, that all that ceremony was a begetting from below, which leaves the flesh in its sins, and under God’s eternal wrath, while what Christ declares to be necessary is, the being begotten by the [Holy] Spirit from above, and then the open testimony to the reality of that secret work, by the being born out of water? [Regenerate] son of God, obey Christ!
[ * Note. The salvation mentioned in this context, must refer to a future salvation, after eternal salvation has been received through faith in Jesus Christ as one’s Personal Saviour.
* * *
THE NEW LIFE AND BIRTH
Having obtained some new light, confirmatory of the views put forth in the tract above named, it seemed to me well, while I have the opportunity, to write at once.
This new light takes two lines of proof (1) The Conversation with Nicodemus is regarded as the outcome of that portion of John’s Gospel, which has preceded. Then the connexion will be clearly seen to confirm the doctrine already stated; at least to the candid believer. (2) The points of correspondence between the openings of the three Gospels, and that of John, corroborate the views maintained.
Let us then regard the Gospel of John. The first five verses contain the declarations that Jesus Christ is the Word and is God, the Creator, Life, and Light. Around Him is the world in its darkness, which refuses to accept the Light
In the next paragraph (ver. 6-14), we have John the Baptist, a man
sent by God to bear witness to the Lord Jesus, as the Light; that all (not
Those who received Christ “were begotten, not out of blood (plural), nor out of the will of the flesh, nor out of the will of man, but of God.”
These words assert, concerning believers on the Son of God, that, as it regards their substance, it was not of the living principle of the flesh, as found in male and female. In regard of the origin of their being, it was not the joint will of their parents, or the will of the father.* As to their substance and origin, both wore “from God.” It was by a believing reception of the incorruptible Word of God, due to God’s predestination and election; that this communication of spiritual life took place (1 Pet. 1: 23-25). Here is the refutation of those who imagine, that all that man needs for salvation is a clear statement of the truth, and a strong application of it to the conscience; and that the Holy Spirit can do no more with sons of men, than to persuade them.
* This is illustrated for us by the genealogy of our Lord. “Abraham begat Isaac.” Here is the wil1 of the man. “Judas begat Pharez and Zarah (out) of Tamar.” Here we have the two parents, and the preposition ek applying to both (Matt. l.).
We have next (ver. 14) the Son’s taking on Him human nature, and becoming a man; even as sons of men, by the agency of the Spirit, are made sons of God. However, the Lord Jesus is “the Only-begotten Son” (ver. 14-18).
We have, then, John the Baptist’s general testimony to Christ. Though John was born before Christ, yet Christ in His divine nature existed before John. He was the Lord of Life and Light. He introduced the new dispensation of grace, as Moses introduced that of Law.
In verses 19-22 we have John’s replies to a deputation of Priests and Levites, sent from
They ask who John is? And his answer is, first, negative; he was not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet promised to Moses (Dent. 18.).
He answers next, positively; he is the voice of one in the wilderness sent to prepare the way of JEHOVAH their God (Isa. 40.). So had Isaiah described the, Coming One. He was the Creator (as John the Apostle had testified) (Isa. 40: 12), and the Shepherd, Who was one day coming to recompense with strong hand (ver. 9-11).
The observation which the evangelist makes concerning, the deputation is important. “And they which were
sent were of the Pharisees.”* The Sadducees, probably, did not believe
in any new revelation. The Pharisees
believed in the Prophets, and the hopes of
* Some copies omit the oi. This is, I believe, a corruption of the text. But even with the omission, the main sentiment holds good.
We learn, toward the close of the Gospels, that the Pharisees refused both John’s immersion, and the doctrine of which it was the sign. We read indeed of some of them, and of the Sadducees, “coming” to John’s baptism (Matt. 3: 7).* But his rough words of rebuke seem to have deterred them. They thought themselves righteous, and John calls them “broods of vipers.” They thought themselves sure of the kingdom, and he demanded of the receivers of his immersion to confess sins; while he denies their right of entry into the glory, by virtue of their being possessed of Abraham’s flesh. They wished to have part in the millennial day; but it must be on the around of law, and their obedience thereto. They cry out against the Saviour, as eating with publicans and sinners. They blaspheme the Holy Spirit. They tempt Jesus, and seek to ensnare Him with their words. In conjunction with the Chief Priests, they send the troops who arrest our Lord. Hence they say with boastfulness: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?”
The deputation next inquires of John, ‘Why he, immersed, if he were not the Messiah?’ John replies in effect, that there were two
baptisms, of which the inferior - immersion in water - fell to his lot. But a better immersion, even the baptism of
the Spirit, was to be administered by his successor, Whom
they knew not. Thus we are brought side by side with John Baptist’s testimony
in the three other Gospels. We are told
that this scene occurred at
* That is probably the true reading.
John’s baptism, then, had several aspects. (1) By means of it ‘the Light,’
the Son of God, was
manifested to John, and (2) through him to
After this our Lord begins to call out His apostles. They behold in Him the One foretold in Moses
and the Prophets; and He endorses their millennial hopes (chap.1: 52). He begins His career of miracle by turning
water into wine, at the marriage of
During His sojourn at
Having thus the thread of connexion in our hand, we have much light thrown for us, on our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus was his name, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that Thou hast come from God (as) a teacher for none can do these signs which thou doest, except God be with him.”
Nicodemus comes to the Lord.
Why is he called “A man of the Pharisees”? Why not simply ‘a Pharisee’?
In order to connect this scene with the previous testimony, that Jesus
was aware of what was in man. Nicodemus
was the fairest specimen of an unconverted man; a member apparently of the
Sanhedrim. He was conscientious, and
avows the effect that the evidences which the Lord Jesus had exhibited at
answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto
thee, Except a man be begotten from above, he cannot see the
The Saviour knew what was passing in Nicodemus’ heart. It would seem, by our Lord’s words, that Nicodemus wished to learn concerning the kingdom. Was his thought,- ‘How shall I enter it?’ It was a most important question, lying at the very root of the matter. Yet he probably believed that he should certainly enter it, either in virtue of his (1) descent from Abraham; or (2) because of his strict observance of the law as a Pharisee. The Redeemer then overthrows all such hopes at once. Something that he had not yet, was the necessary condition of his having part in the day of Millennial Glory.
In order to that, “A man (must be) (1) BEGOTTEN (2) FROM ABOVE.” Here is the turning-point of the whole matter. The translation “(1) born (2) again’ is doubly wrong, and imports new difficulties into a subject already in itself mysterious. (1) Any new light I have on this point founds itself on the distinction between ‘generation’ and ‘birth;’ a distinction in Scripture never confounds. ‘Generation’ is never the same thing as ‘birth.’ Neither is the second generation, or the (regeneration) the game as the second birth. ‘Birth’ never precedes, but always follows after, ‘generation.’ (2) The agents set before us here are two. The Holy Spirit is the agent of the soul’s renewal, or regeneration. Man is the agent in immersion, or birth. (3) A man has two parents. Here the Spirit is the Almighty Father of the regenerate; the water is the mother. ‘Born’ brings forward the mother’s part. Jesus makes the [Holy] Spirit prominent.
(4) Supernatural generation by the Holy Ghost is entirely independent of the new birth. Multitudes are ‘begotten by God’ the Spirit, who have never been ‘born out of water.’ Some, as Judas and Simon Magus, were new-born, for they were baptized; but their souls had no new life from God. To speak of being ‘born of God,’ or ‘born of the Spirit,’ is unscriptural. This may sound strange to many ears, but it is true. In our translation, indeed, the expression ‘born of God’ occurs not unfrequently in the Epistles of John. But it is the translation of a Greek word, which really signifies ‘begotten,’* and is sometimes so rendered, and sometimes rendered ‘born.’ This is the source of much confusion, for the two things are wide apart; and unless our words are rightly divided, our ideas and reasonings must fall into confusion. ‘Generation’ is the impartation of life; birth is not. ‘Birth’ is the manifestation of life already imparted. The [Holy] Spirit’s impartation of spiritual life is a thing secret, mysterious, invisible. But the new birth to which God calls, after the spiritual renewal, takes place below and visibly, by arrangement between the baptizer and the baptized; and the element is water, which God has put under our control.
* In the First Epistle of John, the Revised Version gives the true rendering throughout – “begotten;” while it is the wrong one all through our Lord’s converse with Nicodemus.
Let a word be added, in reiteration of the necessity of God’s renewal of every soul of the fallen sons of men, The echo to our Lord’s words comes from (1) Peter, (2) James, and (3) John; and lastly, from the great Apostle Paul.
(1) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, according to His abundant mercy, hath begotten us again to a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” “Being begotten again not out of a corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1: 3-23).
(2) “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures” (James 1: 18).
(3) ‘The begotten of God does righteousness, loves, believes, and thereby overcomes the world’ (1 John 2: 29; 3: 9; 4: 7; 5: 1-4).
(4) “Not by works of righteousness, which we did, but according to His own mercy He saved us, by the washing of the regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Tit. 3: 5).
He uses also a new figure.
“So then if any be in Christ, he is a new creature;” or rather, “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5: 17).
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2: 10).
“For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature,” - “a new creation” (Gal. 6: 15).
The second of the two words in “born again” is also wrongly rendered. The margin confesses this, by giving – “Or from above.”* It may in itself be, (1) a particle of time – “from the beginning” (Acts 26: 5; Luke 1: 3). But ‘from the beginning’ is not the same as ‘again;’ nor will “from the beginning” make sense in this connexion. ‘Except a man be begotten from the beginning, he cannot see the kingdom.’ (2) It must then be taken as a particle signifying place – ‘from above.’ And of the two parents, ‘water’ and ‘wind’ we know at a glance which is the one ‘above’ the other.
* It is rendered ‘from above,’ in this very chapter (ver. 31); and so James 1: 17; 3: 15-17.
Without this divine generation* none “can see the KINGDOM OF GOD.”
* I am arguing with those who believe in the renewal of man’s spirit by an inward operation of the Holy Ghost. This is the only sense of ‘being begotten of God,’ or ‘regeneration,’ in Scripture (1 Pet. 1: 3-23; James 1: 18).
What is “THE KINGDOM OF GOD”?
There are two main views. Some regard it as, (1) the present
Our Lord manifestly supposes ‘the
We are ‘in the wilderness’ now, as
4. “Nicodemus saith unto him, ‘How can a man be begotten when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be begotten?’”
Thus Nicodemus stumbles at the threshold. ‘Generation a second time is impossible to an adult.’
answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a
man be begotten out
of water and wind (Spirit), he cannot enter into the
The Saviour’s first speech declared the necessity of a second GENERATION, and that from above. This saying advances to demand a second BERTH. And here we have not the addition ‘from above.’ For indeed the birth takes place from below. ‘Birth’ is the completed result of ‘generation.’ Birth does not impart life; it is, as has been said, only the manifestation of life already imparted.
Here now are the two parents. (1) Wind (or Spirit), the father; and (2) water, the mother.
But we shall be asked for proof, that these words import birth.
Proof is found
in the words here used, ‘A man begotten out of water
and wind.’ Where
like expressions occur, birth is supposed. “Abraham had two sons; one
(out) of the slave‑woman, and one (out) of the free‑woman. Now the one (out) of the slave-woman, was begotten according to
the flesh; but the one (out) of the free-woman, was by the means of the promise”
(Gal. 4: 22, 23). “
In what sense are we to take the preposition here used (…)? It may have two meanings.
(1) Sometimes it indicates the material of which anything is composed. “They platted a crown of thorns.” “He made a scourge of small cords.”
But that is not the sense of the proposition here, though it is in John 1: 12. Why not? Because ‘water,’ as far as we can see, while it takes the mother’s place, and visibly manifests the new child of God, contributes nothing to his substance. Moreover the Saviour drops all notice of it in what follows. We have not, ‘That which is begotten out of the water, is water.’ Nor, that which is “begotten out of water and spirit, is spirit.” Nor again, in verse eight have we, “So is every one that is begotten out of water and wind” (spirit). Moreover, water is not named in John 1: 12.
(2) The sense then of the preposition here employed, is that of Origin. As, says the Lexicographer: it is “spoken of such objects as were in another, but are now separated from it; either in respect of place, time, source or origin.” (Robinson).*
* Compare Heb. 7: 5, 10, and Gal. 4: 4.
How are we to understand “WATER”?
Literally; as the first principle of interpretation
requires. It is perfectly suitable here;
indeed, is the only signification which will truly suit the passage. (1) It is said, and I believe truly, that up
to Calvin’s day, none doubted that our Lord was speaking of baptism. In
That water is a fresh term, is proved by the addition on the other side of the sentence.
(1) “Except a man be begotten from above, he cannot see the
(2) “Except a man be begotten out
of water and wind, he cannot enter into
As entering into the kingdom is something more and better than only seeing it at a distance, the difference is due to the insertion of ‘water’ as the new factor. Moses saw the land at a distance, but might not enter. Joshua not only saw, but entered.
“And wind” (Spirit).
Here is the other parent, the Holy Spirit from on high. ‘Water’ is the inferior, passive, visible element of earth, which is
in man’s power. ‘Wind’ is the superior, active, heavenly
element, which is beyond man’s control. The Spirit of God first imparts life
invisibly. But life once bestowed is to
be manifested, and the new creature is to seek the new birth commanded of God,
and to join himself openly to the
Both ‘water’ and ‘spirit’ are necessary, Jesus says, to enter into the kingdom. Some indeed deny the Spirit’s regenerating agency; some, the need of baptism. But the truth of the Saviour’s words will one day be seen. And the denial arises generally out of wrong views concerning the kingdom of which our Lord is speaking.
Without regeneration of the Spirit, the soul must remain among
the dead in sins. Without obedience to baptism after renewal, great loss is justly
entailed. The offending son shall
net enter “the
There are those, I know, who will refuse such testimony, on
the ground that this doctrine supposes that ‘Christ
will have a mutilated Bride: an idea not for a moment to be entertained!’ And the answer is clear. The Bride of Christ, of Paul’s epistles, is
not to be manifested during the thousand years.
It cannot be; for the thousand years is the time during which each is to
to his work’ (Rev. 22: 2;
* Many confuse themselves and others, by citing passages which relate to the kingdom in mystery taken either from Matt. 13.: or from Luke 17: 21, where Jesus is speaking to perverse and blinded enemies.
Millennial glory was an object of desire to
What is decisive in this case is, that if “the
Nicodemus had halted at the impossibility of entrance into his
mother’s womb. He drops all notice of
Without birth there is no entry on the kingdoms of earth. Solomon, until he was born, could not rule over
6. “That which is begotten out of the flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten of the Spirit is Spirit.”*
* Here it may be objected, you drop the ‘out’ before “of the Spirit.” This arises because the child is differently related to his father and his mother; while yet the Greek ek is used of both parents.
Here is a further setting aside of Nicodemus’ objection. It is as if our Lord had said – ‘Even if it were possible a second time to be born of your mother, Nicodemus, it would not profit you. The child partakes only the nature of its parents; and flesh can only produce flesh. You speak of a generation from below: I of a generation from above.’
The neuter is used, as including offspring both male and female. The perfect participle is used as denoting the continuance of the nature of flesh, the visible result of birth.
The two parents are here united, as possessors and progenitors of the same nature – “the flesh.” The Spirit alone, - without any mention of ‘water,’ - stands opposed to them, as communicating the new nature, “the spirit.” Generation is the act of God, the Spirit ‘from above’ changing the soul’s dispositions. The renewed one, begotten of God, comes to light by the rite of immersion in water, ‘from below;’ and so witnesses his death to Adam and his life to Christ.
The regeneration by the Spirit is no destruction of man’s freedom, because there is no conflict of his will with God’s. The Holy Spirit effects His work higher up, on the nature of the man. And the nature once changed, the choice changes of itself. Change into a dove the sow wallowing in the mire, and would the new creature continue there? Would it not leave the earth and its defilement, for the heaven?
Of the two parents – ‘wind’ and ‘water’ - which is above? which below? Which is the active? which the passive? Which rules? The wind rules the water, not the water the wind. The wind is the Sovereign Spirit’s emblem, and is wholly independent of the water. He is the bestower of new life toward God.
The means of regeneration employed by the Holy Spirit is the Gospel. “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you,” says Paul. How ? By baptism? No! “Through the Gospel.” He baptized only some four or five (1 Cor. 4: 15; 1: 14, 16; Phil. 10). How does Peter say that regeneration takes place? “Being begotten again (Greek) not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God” (1 Pet. 1: 3, 23). What says James? “Of His own will begat He us by the word of truth” (James 1: 18).
Did our Lord or His apostles ever make disciples first by baptism, and afterwards by teaching? Never! “Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.” The person baptized is one previously made a disciple.
The Holy Spirit alone is the agent of regeneration. He alone imparts the abiding new nature. “That which is begotten of the Spirit is Spirit.” If entry into the water is the scene and time of regeneration, how was it omitted here by our Lord? In the third verse there is no mention of ‘water,’ because the Saviour is speaking of regeneration from above. In the fifth verse, there is no “from above” because ‘water’ is introduced, and water, and birth out of it are from below. Here the Saviour, having broken the ruler’s objection, returns to His first statement given in the third verse.
Nicodemus was not convinced, but wonder at these startling announcements possesses his soul.
7. “Wonder not, that I said unto thee, Ye must be begotten from above.”
What the generation ‘from above’ is, is made manifest in the eighth verse. Of the two elements, wind is the upper and active one; water is the lower and passive one. Decisively to confirm this view it is only necessary to turn back to the preface to John’s Gospel (1: 12, 13) The great truth which the evangelist states in his preface, he confirms by the history which follows, and generally by the words of our Lord.
The analysis of the preface up to the present point is as follows:-
1. Who Jesus Christ is - God the Creator, Light of the world.
2. John the Baptist came to bear witness, not to himself, but to the Son of God.
3. The coming of the Son had been foretold. But when He came, the world, and even
4. Then follows the passage which bears so fully, and so directly on this interview. It exhibits the exceptions to this Jewish refusal of the Lord.
Chap. 1: 12. 11 “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power (the right) to become children of God, (even) to those who believe on His name: who were begotten, not out of blood (plural), nor out of the will of the flesh, nor out of the will of man, but of God.”
This passage has indeed been noticed before, but it is worth while to bring it again before the reader with some further light. It gives us two aspects of the nature and origin of the children of God; first negatively, and then, positively.
1. We have first man’s responsibility.
God has sent
forth a testimony concerning His Son, which He calls on men to accept. This, the world in general
refuses, making God a liar. But
some received Christ, that is, believed on the witness
of God concerning Him. These “became”
the children of God.* By nature they were “of their
father the devil.” To them, as regenerate, was granted
the privilege of adoption. The supposed
right arising out of their being children of
* John applies the term ‘Son’ almost entirely to the Saviour. The saved are ‘children’.
2. We have next God’s gift.
And here we
have first the negative aspect. (1). They were “not begotten out of blood.”
The preposition notices the material out of which the sons of men are
ordinarily formed. Paul at
* “Ex sanguinibus enim homines nascuntur maris et foeminae.”- Augustine.
This last statement overthrows the doctrine of those who deny, that any inward operation of the Holy Ghost on the soul itself, is necessary. Finney allows to the Holy Spirit only the power of persuasion, the result of the vivid presentation of truth, and its motives, from without. He may not change the inward tempers and disposition of the man’s spirit. No physical operation on the human spirit will he allow. Now most carefully is the contrary affirmed here, both negatively and positively. Man, un-renewed, never savingly believes on Christ. No human exhorter, though gifted with the highest intellect, and the most winning power of persuasion, ever renewed any soul of man. How diligently this great truth, which so stumbles the wise of the world, is here taught! The truth is asserted; the contrary errors are denied!
We are indeed to use all lawful means to turn the sinner from his evil way. The Word of God, and its motives, are to be brought to bear on conscience and heart. “Faith cometh by hearing; and hearing by the Word of God.” “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4: 15). But whether Paul preached, or Apollos, the saved were only “as the Lord gave to each” (1 Cor. 3: 5). And after the Holy Spirit had supernaturally begotten them, they were to be born out of water, as the next step to faith begun (Acts 2: 38, 41; 8: 12; 18: 8).
4. Not begotten of men, “BUT OF GOD.”
That is then positively to affirm, that both the (1) nature of the regenerate, and their (2) origin arise directly from a supernatural operation of God. They are “made partakers of a divine nature” (2 Pet. 1: 4).
The two points denied of man are, in these closing words, asserted of God. The receivers* of Christ as the Son, did not become children of God, from the nature, power, or will of their earthly parents, but by the will of God, of whose nature the Almighty Spirit of God gave them to partake. “Of His own will begat He us” (James 1: 18). “Flesh and blood revealed it not to thee; but My Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16: 17).
* Unbelievers refuse the Son of God, remain in the flesh, and perish in their sins. But the Word of God is the “incorruptible seed” of the regenerate. And the reception of that Word, comes by hearing.
Let a word be added on a passage greatly resembling this.
“Not by works of righteousness which we did, but according to His mercy, He saved us by the washing of the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost” (Tit. 3: 5).
This is a stronghold of High-churchism: but it is easily stormed. It derives all its seeming force from baptism* being put out of its place in Scripture, and administered to those dead in sins. The passage itself bears witness against the error. The persons named here were “saved.” Are all those canonically sprinkled in infancy, “saved”?
* Sprinkling or pouring being supposed to be so, for argument’s sake.
What is to be understood by “the washing (bathing) of regeneration”?
‘Regeneration’ is the impartation of new life, by the Holy Ghost, to the dead in sins. Nothing short of this will suffice for fallen man. But this once communicated, the person is ‘saved.’
To the expression – “the washing of regeneration” - two senses may be given.
1. ‘The washing which produces regeneration.’ That is
2. But there is another sense. ‘The washing (bathing) which belongs to those already regenerate.’
That this is the true sense can easily be proved. In the order of nature, life precedes birth: or else birth is birth of the dead. So a new life imparted, must precede a new birth, according to the order of the New Testament. Faith is to precede baptism.* Life spiritual first, then the birth and bath of the divinely begotten. Such living ones alone are saved.
* Mark 16: 16; Acts 2: 38; 8: 12, etc.
It is a sad passage for the High-Churchman. For if baptism saves (and baptism is immersion), they are condemned in sprinkling or pouring: they have not done what is required for salvation.
To return to the seventh verse.
“Marvel not, that I said to thee, Ye must be begotten from above.”
‘Regeneration from above’ is the stone at which, Nicodemus is stumbling. He halts at the Lord’s first word, regeneration, as if repetition were all that was needed. Jesus insists on both. For Nicodemus’ objection asserted the impossibility of a second generation only; and our Lord would have him notice, that any second generation from below would not avail, since a change of nature alone would suffice.
The Saviour has dropped now the word concerning “the
The want of this divine work within was the cause of the failure of all God’s previous calls to men.
Some rest on Nicodemus’ speech in the fourth verse as proving that we should render it “begotten again,” instead of “from above.” But while our Lord’s words imply generation ‘a second time;’ generation a second time does not necessitate its being ‘from above.’ Moreover, both before and after the seventh verse we have ‘the Spirit,’ Who comes from heaven. “That which is begotten of the Spirit is spirit.” “Marvel not that I said, Ye must be begotten from above.” “The wind (spirit) blows where he wills.” “So is every one begotten of the Spirit.”
“I said to thee, Ye must be.” Here is a word for Nicodemus to carry to his friends.
8. “The wind (Spirit) blows where it wills, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; so is every one that is begotten of the wind (Spirit).”
The same word in the Greek signifies both ‘wind’ and ‘spirit.’ It is generally agreed, that the Saviour is speaking of the wind of nature, as typical of the Spirit from above. He is the Agent of the regeneration of the saved. Generation from below brings into being a son of man. Regeneration from above brings into being a son of God.
The wind and the water of nature differ remarkably. The water is visible, and has no will of its own, but is led by man where he pleases (Deut. 11: 10).
But the invisible wind has, apparently, a will of its own. It is not controlled by water, but moves the waters. Our Lord, then, is corroborating the statement of John’s preface, that the regeneration of the fallen is due, not to the will of man, but to the will of God the Holy Spirit. This will of the wind man does not know, and cannot control. So is it with the sovereign will of God’s Spirit.
“Thou hearest its voice.” The wind of nature has a voice; sometimes soft, sometimes terrible. The Divine Spirit has also a voice. He is unseen, as it was said at Sinai. “The Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice” (Deut. 4: 12, 15). It is in this way instrumentally that the Spirit regenerates. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you, through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4: 15). “Being begotten again, not out of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the word of God, who liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1: 23).
Jesus’ words then uttered were the voice of the Spirit to Nicodemus. So when our Lord addresses John in the Apocalypse, He adds at the close of each epistle to the seven churches: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
But while the voice of the wind of nature may be heard, mystery still attaches to it. Man knows not its point of origin, or of rest. So God’s election and His effectual call are mysterious. Also the Spirit’s return again to heaven, whence He came clown, is wrapped in mystery.
“So is every one that is begotten of the Spirit.”
Two meanings may be given to this. (1) We may regard it as spoken concerning the Holy Spirit as the Agent. ‘Thus is it with the Holy Ghost each time He regenerates any.’ The Holy Ghost is Himself invisible, and free as the wind; He is beyond, not only our control, but our knowledge. But He has a will, and a power to convert whom He pleases. He has also a voice of mercy and of wrath, to convict of sin, and judgment, and to lead to Christ. Mysterious are His movements, both in regard of individuals, and of places.
(2) Or we may regard the words as spoken of the effect produced on God’s elect. The Holy Spirit gives the regenerated one a new will, to turn from the flesh to God; from Satan to Christ. He bestows also a new voice. The converted man begins to speak of things quite different from those which once employed his tongue. He speaks of himself as forgiven; as a child of God, and heir of eternal life. The beginning of this inward change is invisible and mysterious. There is also a new destiny; and he who was the man of earth, is now moving on, beyond the things seen, to his Father’s house above. The new will and new voice are proofs of the great change.
The present resemblance between the regenerate and the Spirit of God, the Regenerator, is due to this, that the children of God are made to partake the nature of the Spirit, their second Father. No further notice is taken of the ‘water.’
The gist, then, of the Saviour’s words is, - ‘Many natural things, while invisible, are yet real, and of great power. If that be true of the wind of nature, how much more of the invisible and Almighty Spirit of God!’
23. “After these things came Jesus and
His disciples into the
At the close of the conversation, our Lord gently rebuked Nicodemus for not openly confessing Him, and for his coming by night. If he were working with God, he should come to the light, and openly acknowledge the divine mission of John the Baptizer, and of the Son. “Ye receive not our testimony,” was a blow aimed at Nicodemus and the Pharisees his comrades. The proof was, that they accepted not the immersion commanded through John. At the back of this refusal lay moral reasons; - the fear of man, and the rejection of the distinctive doctrines of John and our Lord.
How was Nicodemus to come to the light? The next verses - which are those that immediately succeed this conversation - show. The history, and the Spirit’s grouping of it, throw light on the Saviour’s words, confirming the literality of the ‘water’ named by the Saviour, and showing it to be spoken of baptism. As Jesus taught in the conversation both regeneration of the Spirit and birth out of water, so He is here seen carrying out His words in practice.
Those unfriendly to this view object, that our Lord could not mean by ‘water’ Christian baptism, because it was not yet instituted.
Here, then, they stand refuted. John’s baptism was not John’s alone; it was jointly taught by Jesus and by John. “Ye receive not our testimony.”
I understand by – “(men) were coming forward and being immersed,” that the evangelist in these words notices the joint results of the united testimony of John and our Lord. This prepares the way also for the next paragraph, which tells us, that more came to the Redeemer than to John - a circumstance which drew out the jealousy of John’s disciples on behalf of their master, and gave occasion for the Baptist’s last and most explicit testimony to Jesus as the Son. The concourse to the immersion practised by our Lord’s disciples was so much greater than to John’s, that the news was maliciously borne to our Lord’s enemies the Pharisees, and it led Him, in His wisdom, to leave Judaea for Galilee.
The immersion practised both by John and our Lord (though He did not administer it with His own hand) had the same signification in both cases. It testified of faith in the coming [millennial] kingdom, and of a desire to enter its glory. It was a setting aside of salvation by law, and by flesh. It bore witness to the new supernatural generation, by its new birth.
Here is the manifest refutation of the doctrine of BAPTISMAL REGENERATION. That affirms – ‘that whenever baptism is rightly administered, the receiver - till then only a son of Adam - becomes, through the rite, a child of God.’
The Church of England teaches infant-sprinkling (let us call it baptism). The child, it confesses, is born in sin, and dead before God. What then is the use of baptizing the dead? Her answer is the natural one, under such circumstances - ‘To give them spiritual life!’ So, then, at the close of the service, after the water has been sprinkled, the minister pronounces the infant to be begotten to God, a son of the Most High. This deadly doctrine overturns the Gospel; makes void justification by faith, God’s election, and the perseverance of the regenerate.
Resistance to this awful error drew on the Gorham Controversy. The Bishop of Exeter pressed Mr. Gorham with the Prayer-book doctrine. Mr. Gorham stood partly on the Scripture, partly on the inconsistent statements of the Prayer-book. He taught, as Binney said:- “All that properly constitutes regeneration, takes place, in those that worthily receive baptism, before the rite is administered.”
“Nay, even when regeneration takes place in baptism, it can only do so, on Mr. Gorham’s principles, by an act which happens to occur at the moment preceding the rite, but which is not itself connected with the rite, nor a part of the rite, but yet is that, without which the rite itself could effect nothing. Mr. Gorham’s theory is, that children are by nature children of wrath, and therefore, unworthy subjects of baptism; they can only be made worthy by an act of prevenient grace,- which act of prevenient grace, he admits, amounts to regeneration itself: hence, that which is regeneration being actually necessary for baptism, baptism can never, in any case, confer it.” - The Great Gorham, Case (p. 227).
The worthy man was, however, grievously hampered by holding and practising infant-sprinkling. His opponents were therefore able to puzzle him greatly, by asking: What did baptism effect in the case of the dead in sins? The Church of England says it gives them spiritual life and forgiveness. What say you? After their baptism, are they dead still?
“Being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby [by baptism] made the children of grace.”
“My baptism - wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” - Church Catechism.
And right baptism is supposed to take place, where water is sprinkled or poured on the infant in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Ordinarily this is to be done by the ordained minister; but, if performed by a layman, it is valid still. Now this is manifestly contrary to the passage of Scripture here commented on, and to others. Its failures are many.
(1) In regard of the FORM. In sprinkling and pouring there is no entry into the water, nor consequently, birth out of it.
(2) In regard of the ORDER appointed. God’s plan is, that there should be first, hearing of the Word, and faith in it, then baptism. But in infant-sprinkling there is the administration of a rite, before hearing, and before faith. And it is out of this inversion of God’s order that the false doctrine, which makes baptism efficacious to produce faith, and to give life, has arisen.
(3) Regarded in the light of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus, it introduces an ABSURDITY. It is supposed that birth goes before generation, and imparts, life to the dead!
(4) It would be a regeneration from below, while our Lord testifies that supernatural generation is “from above.” And the word ‘from above,’ He rules to be, ‘by the Spirit of God.’
(5) It makes regeneration the result of THE WILL OF MAN. This idea John and our Lord have distinctly denied (John 1:12, 13). God alone, Who gives life to the dead, the God of this dispensation of election, can impart spiritual life.
(6) This doctrine asserts the constant SUBORDINATION OR THE WILL OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD TO THE WILL OF MAN. Whenever the parents and the officiating minister agree to perform the rite, the Spirit of God is bound to regenerate. Now this is contrary to our Lord’s words concerning the Holy Ghost’s breathing and communicating life where He wills - acting, like the wind, mysteriously, and beyond man’s will and control.
Let us now see if the main points here advocated are not corroborated by the statements concerning God’s way of salvation at the first preaching of the Gospel. We appeal to the Acts.
(1) The Saviour here testifies to the being “begotten from above,” as necessary. He afterwards implies, some four or five times in this conversation, that He meant regeneration by the Holy Spirit (wind).
When, therefore, the Gospel of God’s grace began to be proclaimed at Pentecost, what do we read? That there came down, “out of the heaven, the sound (voice) as of a rushing mighty wind.” This wind was a vertical one, descending perpendicularly, and not sweeping horizontally over the earth, as is usual. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Peter addresses, to the multitude assembled by the sound of the mighty wind, confined to the house where the disciples were,* the Word of God, convicting them of sin against Christ. They are found to be enemies of Messiah, Who is about to come to destroy His foes. Could they escape from their place of sin and danger? Here is the Holy Spirit’s work in regeneration begun on them. “They were pricked in their heart.”
* That is the force of [See the Greek words …] - the … previously named - a sound confined to the one house on which the Spirit descended in wind and fire.
(2) Then comes the human side.
“Repent, and be immersed every one of you in (on) the name (authority) of Jesus Christ for (unto the obtaining) the remission of sins” (ver. 38, 41).
Here is baptism, the birth out of water: the “saving
themselves from the crooked generation.” They died, and
in immersion were buried to their old position, as sons of the law and members of
the faithless generation, that they might rise to stand on the side of Christ,
and under His favour as forgiven. Then came to the regenerated by the Spirit, the
baptism of the Spirit. Peter
promised it to them upon their repentance, and baptism in water. After the promise of the forgiveness of sins,
he adds, “And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This was communicated ordinarily, after immersion in
the water, by the “laying on of apostles’ hands” (Acts 8: 15-21; 19: 6). Peter adds: “For the
promise [which the apostle had quoted from Joel, ver. 16-18] is to you [Jews] and to
your children, and to all that are afar off
[Gentiles], as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Hence every [regenerate] believer
[* See, ‘Earth’s Last Pentecost’ by D. M. Panton.]
(3) The same sense, as in John,
attaches also to “the
The risen Saviour instructs the Apostles in “the
* Mic. 4: 7, 8; Amos 9: 11, 12; Acts 15: 15-18.
The conclusions above stated, would be further confirmed, if we considered Paul’s own call from the heaven, his immersion, and enriching with miraculous gifts (Acts 9., 22., 26.). But this the reader can search out for himself.
The subject treated in this tract is one of considerable difficulty, and of immeasurable importance. But great additional difficulty has been imported into it by the wrong use of terms. It seemed therefore that it would be well to give some examples of the confusion found on this subject, with an observation or two by way of rectification.*
* In many cases I do not give the names of authors cited, as no stress is laid on that point. The italics generally are mine.
I. One constantly recurring confusion is found in the phrase – “REGENERATION OR NEW BIRTH,” as though one were equivalent to the other.
1. Baptism is a “sign of regeneration or new birth” (Art. xxvii.).
2. “That Divine Word, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, effected His spiritual regeneration and new birth.” - Hearn.
* * *
The word of God used by the Spirit regenerates, but it does not produce new birth. That is baptism.
* * *
3. “All who are baptised evidently do not receive or exhibit the graces of the new birth or regeneration.”
4. “The Divine Teacher gave him the most solemn assurance that every man must experience this new birth.” - Stier.
* * *
All the saved must be begotten to God by the Spirit, but multitudes refuse the succeeding baptism, which is the new birth, following on the new generation from on high.
* * *
5. “This change, or the beginning of the new life, is called the new birth or regeneration.” - Stier.
6. “It was necessary to be born of God by regeneration.” - Barnes.
* * *
There is no such phrase in the Greek, as “born of God.” It should always be, “begotten of God.” And “regeneration” is not distinct from it, but the same thing.
* * *
7. “This, doubtless, refers to the new birth, or to the great change in the sinner’s mind, called regeneration or conversion.” - Barnes.
Regeneration and conversion are internal and invisible; but birth is outward and visible.
8. “The new birth is the preparation for receiving and believing in His name.”
* * (
Nay! None are regenerate till they believe; and the new birth is baptism with its confession of Christ’s name, as appointed.
* * *
9. “The new birth must precede all the actions of the spiritual life.” - Scott.
* * *
Life must precede birth: but multitudes exhibit actions of new life, who have never received the new birth.
* * *
10. “All that man purposes of his own will, and performs by his own power, can but hinder and interrupt the new birth.” - Stier.
* * *
This is true of regeneration; up to which the man is dead in sins; but to baptism or the new birth the regenerate man is called, and this is in his power.
* * *
11. “I thought on what I heard of a second birth proposed by the Divine Goodness; but could not comprehend how a man could receive a new life from being immersed in water.” - Cyprian.
* * *
The new life does not arise from baptism; but after receiving the new life, he is to manifest life by the birth out of water.
* * *
12. “That spiritual regeneration or new birth which consists in being made a member of Christ’s body.” - The Record.
13. “Faith is consentaneous with regeneration or the birth of the Spirit. If, therefore, faith is before the ritual birth, so is regeneration or the spiritual birth, in every case.”
Generation is not birth; and regeneration, is not a second birth. Regeneration is the act of God the Spirit, and is spiritual; but the second birth is never said to be spiritual.
14. “The Holy Ghost inwardly worketh the regeneration and new birth of mankind.” - Homily for Whitsunday.
* * *
Regeneration is inward, but birth is outward.
* * *
15. “Water is one of the elements of regeneration or new birth, not standing alone, but associated with the Spirit.”
* * *
II. REGENERATION IS MYSTERIOUS, AND WROUGHT BY THE SPIRIT FROM ON HIGH; THE NEW BIRTH IS VISIBLE, A HUMAN WORK IN A MATERIAL ELEMENT, AND TAKES PLACE ON EARTH, BOTH IN REGARD OF THE BAPTIZER AND THE BAPTIZED.
Against this truth are found such passages as follow.
16. “The great mystery of a new birth of the Spirit.” - Stier.
17. “To this man, the Saviour vouchsafed to make known the first mystery of His kingdom, the new birth.” - Second Adam.
18. “It is strange, when all agree, that the birth here spoken of is spiritual and metaphorical [rather ‘emblematical’] that the ‘water’ here should be natural.”
* * *
Nay, the generation is spiritual; the birth is of the whole man, body and soul, out of natural water, and by human hands. Christ’s religion consists of two, parts - doctrine, and rite.
19. “Unless the supernatural nature of the new birth be admitted and felt, there can be nothing but a form of godliness.”
* * *
Regeneration is supernatural - the bestowal of new life by God. Natural birth occurs but once; and answerably thereto baptism, or the new birth, is to be effected but once. Life must precede birth, or the babe is still-born.
* * *
III. REGENERATION BY THE SPIRIT, IS CONFOUNDED WITH BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT.
20. “Ye must be born again in a baptism, which is not merely with water, external and typical, but through ‘the Spirit’ inwardly, and essentially renews; in a baptism of the Holy Ghost, which I, the greater than he [John] will soon introdtice.”- Stier.
* * *
Here is great confusion. The secret, internal generation by the Holy Spirit, is confounded with the visible external birth, out of water; and both are confounded with baptism of the Spirit, which followed on regeneration, and baptism in water. What the baptism of the Spirit is, and what it is not, I have shown from Scripture, in a tract entitled – ‘He that is baptized with the Spirit, needs no baptism of water.’
21. “This disjoining of the ‘water’ and the ‘Spirit,’ – this contrast between water and Spirit baptism is said in extreme ignorance, of some of the plainest declarations of Scripture, respecting the diversity of the operations of the Holy Ghost.” – Sadler’s Second Adam.
22. “The baptism, or birth of the Spirit, of which repentance and faith are the evidences, is supposed to precede the baptism or birth of the sacramental ordinance,” (water).
* * *
As a child must be born before it can be bathed, so the regenerate child of God must be begotten by ‘the Spirit’ before he is born out of water. And the (baptism) immersion in the Spirit came (in apostolic days) after the birth out of water. It is true indeed, that in the case of Cornelius, and his friends, the baptism of the Spirit followed instantly on the regeneration of the Spirit, and before the birth out of water. But it is the one exception (Acts 10: 44-48).
IV. WE HAVE NEXT A WRONG SENSE OF “THE
23. “To be born of water here means baptism, and in my view, it is as necessary to our admission into the visible church, as to be born of the Spirit, is to our admission into the invisible kingdom.” - Dwight.
24. “This birth of water, and the Spirit, was to be their initiation into the Christian state.” - Sadler.
25. “Will any one say, that no one can ‘see’ or ‘enter into’ ‘the kingdom of God’ - that is, no one can understand the nature of true religion, become Christ’s disciples, or inherit the happiness of heaven, without the baptism of water?” - Scott.
26. “Baptism, then, the writer says, is the initiatory ordinance of Christianity, the gateway to the heavenly kingdom, or Gospel dispensation.”
27. “Grace is first communicated to the soul of man in baptism, as an infused principle, superadded to his natural powers, as the seed of a new birth regenerating the soul.” - Hampden’s Bampton Lectures.
* * *
Can there be greater confusion than is found in this sentence? Nor is it confusion alone; it is awfully false doctrine.
V. LET US CONCLUDE THESE QUOTATIONS WITH SOME PASSAGE$, ASSERTING THAT BAPTISM IS SALVATION. THE DOCTRINE HAS TWO BRANCHES: (1) ONE PARTY DENIES THE REGENERATING BY THE HOLY SRIRIT; (2) THE OTHER CONNECTS THE HOLY SPIRIT’S RENEWAL INVARIABLY WITH BAPTISM.
28. “The Holy Spirit calls nothing personal regeneration,
except the act of immersion.” -
29. “I beg leave
to make a remark or two, on the propriety of considering the term ‘immersion,’ as equivalent to the
30. “Remission of sins, or coming into a state of acceptance, being one of the present immunities of the kingdom of heaven, cannot be enjoyed by any
* * *
Here follow some quotations, giving
31. “By nature, we are born from Adam, ‘children of wrath;’ but
by baptism, we are regenerated in Christ, ‘children of mercy.’” - Catechism
of Council of
“Baptism, which is the sacrament of
faith, without which, justification never befel any man.” - Canons of
32. The writer describes it as an universal, and eternal fact, “that the two sacraments have a vital efficacy. Baptism to regenerate us, and graft us into the body of Christ’s Church.” – Hampden’s Bampton Lectures.
33. “By baptism, children are delivered from original sin, and from hell.” - Thomas Aquinas.
* * *
It is no wonder, that out of these misapprehensions, and confusions of terms, destructive doctrine and deadly errors arise.
II. LET US, IN CONCLUSION, NOTICE THE SECOND LINE, OF ARGUMENT: THE POINTS OF CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE OPENINGS OF THE THREE FIRST GOSPELS AND THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, AS CONFIRMATORY OF THE VIEWS HERE TAUGHT.
I. The three first Evangelists begin the
proclamation of the Gospel with a notice of John the Baptist. His was mainly a two
fold ministry - (1) to
II. His message concerns ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ or ‘of God.’ It had been foretold by the prophets, and even its opening rite, by Isaiah. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isa. 1: 16, 17). Here we have, in substance, John’s cry, ‘Repent, and be immersed.’
John’s testimony in the three first Gospels (the Synoptics, as
they are called), is the sinfulness of
But the fourth evangelist discovers to us salvation as it comes from God, - His election, and renewal of the soul, by the sovereign act of the Holy Ghost. But the forgiven of God are also the regenerate by the Spirit. Christ’s work, and the Spirit’s correspond.
‘The Kingdom’ of God is the same object, as presented in all the four Gospels. It is not the kingdom of earth, or of man; but the future kingdom of heaven, and of God. Judgment is to precede it, and the day of wrath is to sweep earth clean of the wicked.
How was it to be entered?
But there were opposers and refusers, as narrated by the four
Gospels. They were in both mainly the Pharisees.
The doctrine of that sect was in strong conflict with John’s testimony. They believed not in their sinfulness, or
need of forgiveness. While they admitted
the truth of the future [millennial] kingdom, they believed that all
‘Birth out of water,’ then, as the way for the regenerate
to enter the kingdom of glory, means the same as immersion in the
1 ‘The Spirit,’ in the Synoptics, refers to the same ‘Spirit’ as in John. He came down out of the opened heavens, to abide on the Son of God, in the three first Gospels. This expounds for us ‘the being begotten from above’ in John. The Spirit that descended on Christ, came down at Pentecost, and then commands immersion in water, as the token of the reception of Christ, the raised Son of God.
It is clear, then, that there is
entire accord between the opening of the four Gospels; and the leading terms
are to be taken in the same sense in both.
And remarkable it is that the expression so common in the three first
Gospels - “the
Reader! does not this prove to a gainsaying generation, ready to thrust aside the immersion of [regenerate] believers, though willing to make such of the sprinkling of non-believers, how important is this rite in the sight of God, and how surely Christ will fulfil His word? For those not born out of water, ‘no entrance into His kingdom of millennial glory!’