Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why is "Born Again" mentioned only three times in the Bible?

Isn't it odd that if the Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their "born again experience" is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term "born again" is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible?  If "making a decision for Christ" is the only means of salvation, why doesn't God mention it more often in his Word?  Why only THREE times?  Isn't that REALLY, REALLY odd?

Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term?  Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions?  Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?

If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear?  You will hear this:  "You must be born again:  you must make a decision for Christ.  You must ask Jesus into your heart.  You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your  Lord and Savior (the Sinner's Prayer).  You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart."

It is very strange, however, that other than "you must be born again" none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible!  Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?

Let's look at the two passages of Scripture where we find the term "born again".  Let's look at I Peter chapter one first (I'm going to use the ESV):

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
 
So how does this passage say that we are "born again"?  Does it say that we are born again when we make a "decision for Christ"?  Does it say that we are born again when we "accept Christ into our hearts"?  Does it say that we are born again by praying the Sinner's Prayer?  Does it say that we are born again when we, by our mature decision-making capabilities, "decide" to believe??
 
No.  It does not. 
 
The Bible states in this passage that we are born again through the Word of God!  Isn't that more consistent with the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification;  that sinners are born again by the power of God's spoken/written Word, and not by any action the sinner may choose to take, such as making a "decision" or saying a prayer to be saved?  Lutherans believe that the Word/Words of God have such supernatural power that they ALONE save the sinner.   The sinner's "decision" has NOTHING to do with his salvation!

Now let's look at the other passage of Scripture that mentions the term "born again", the Gospel of John, chapter 3:

John 3

English Standard Version (ESV)

You Must Be Born Again

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
 
Let's go through exactly what is said in this passage regarding being born again:
 
1.  Nicodemus acknowledges that Christ's message comes from God.  However, he does not state that he believes that Jesus IS the Christ, the Jewish messiah.
2.   Jesus doesn't waste anytime in telling this educated, teacher of the Jewish Faith that there is only one way into the Kingdom of God:  HIM!
3.  Christ tells this very well educated man, this student of the Scriptures, that the Law will NOT get him into God's Kingdom...he must be born again!
4.  Nicodemus is puzzled.  "What??  I have to go back into my mother's womb and be re-born??"
5.  Christ responds:  "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.   That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[ Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again."
 
Baptists and evangelicals will tell you that the "water" mentioned here refers to our natural birth from our mothers, the water is that of the vaginal birth canal.   But would Jesus really tell an educated teacher of the Jews that one of the requirements for salvation is being physically born??  Isn't that restating the obvious?  When Baptists and evangelicals are sharing the Gospel with lost sinners do they tell these sinners that one of the criteria for salvation is that they actually had to have been physically born??
 
And if Christ were really emphasizing our natural birth in the water of the vaginal birth canal, why doesn't he say this in the second sentence above:  "That which is born of water is flesh, but that which is born of Spirit is spirit"?
 
Isn't it much more likely that the (paraphrased) conversation of Nicodemus and Christ that night went like this:
 
Nicodemus:  I know that you are from God, but I don't understand your message or purpose.
Jesus:  I am from God.  I'm here to tell you that salvation does not come by keeping the Law.  The Law will not get you into heaven.
Nicodemus:  So how does one get into the Kingdom of God?  How is one saved?
Jesus:  A sinner is saved in Baptism.  The sinner is reborn by the Spirit of God working in and through the water.  Being born the first time is simply a physical act.  Being born the second time, in the waters of Baptism, is a spiritual act.  So, don't be "freaked out" when I tell you that you must be born again.
 
If you look at all the other many passages in the NT that discuss baptism, "washing", "washing of regeneration", "cleansing", "being clean", doesn't it make much more sense to understand this verse as speaking of Baptism...rather than the water of the vaginal birth canal??
 
"Born again" is only mentioned three times in the Bible!  "Baptism" or one of its variants (eg. "to baptize") is mentioned more than ONE HUNDRED times! 
 
So, here are some points for Baptists and evangelicals to consider:
 
1.  There is no mention in the OT of the children of believers needing to make a "decision for God" after they reached a certain age of maturity.  They only had to have faith, and for males, receive the "sign".
2.  The NT is completely silent on the issue of the safety/salvation of the infants of believers in the New Covenant.
3.  Baptism is mentioned over 100 times in the NT.  "Born again" is only mentioned three times.  When God talks about "water" and "washing" in a spiritual context, isn't it much more likely that he is talking about baptism rather than a Baptist born again experience?
4.  There is no mention in the writings of the early Christians to suggest the  occurrence of any major debate over the issue of baptizing infants except for Tertullian...who also encouraged widows and single persons not to be baptized.  Tertullian did NOT believe that God does not save infants in baptism.  He believed that sins committed after baptism could not be forgiven, therefore Christians should wait to the last minute to be baptized.
5.  There is no evidence that ANY Christian in the first 800-1,000 years of Christianity believed that baptism is simply and only our act of obedience/our public profession of faith.
 
God saves in Baptism.  God saves by the power of his Word pronounced at baptism:  "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."  The Bible, if read in its plain, simple interpretation states that God saves and forgives sins in Baptism, not by the sinner making a "decision".  There is no need for the linguistic gymnastics that Baptists and evangelicals go through to try and re-explain what God, to them, really was trying to say in his Holy Word.
 
"Baptism now saves you!" 

Believe God's Word!

(A note of interest:  the term "born again" is mentioned FOUR times in the ESV.  Peter uses the term TWICE in I Peter chapter one.  I used the King James for the reason that some Baptists believe that the King James Version is the only true Word of God on planet earth.  To them, God wrote the KJV by hand himself, and the completed copy descended from heaven right into the hands of King James I of England.

That story is too "Mormon" for me! 

And, besides, why would God give the "true Bible" to a baby-baptizing Anglican??  Strange theology!)
 
 
 
 

5 comments:

  1. Gary,
    What you write is not what the Bible is teaching. Interestingly, you came close with your opening verses of 1 Peter 1:23. That verse is defining "born again." It is not water that makes a person spiritually alive or quickened in spirit. As you did say, it is God's word as confirmed in this verse. John 3:5 is used by the Lutheran church to support baptism, but at the time Jesus talked to Nicodemus baptism was not yet instituted, so Nicodemus who was the "a ruler of the Jews," (V1) and an expert in the law would not have known about baptism. What Nicodemus would have known about is Ezekiel 36:
    24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."

    So Jesus was again in John 3:5 is talking about the power in his word and the Holy Spirit that teaches it and this is confirmed in 1 Peter 1:23 like I referenced above.

    If you want to use 1 Peter 3:21 to prove baptism is what saves a person, the Lutheran church is wrong again. The verse says, it is "the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" In other words, it is not the water of baptism in verse 21 that is saving, but the fact the person who is saved has the power of God's spirit through his word as it states in Ezekiel 36.

    I have the highest regard for Martin Luther and I agree that baptism is a command of God, but it does not save infants or anyone without faith and faith comes from hearing, Romans 10:17 and by God revealing himself to the hearer or reader of scripture or God's word. Infants can be believers as the Bible does show this to be true with many like Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc. Those people were all elect or chosen by God for a given purpose, but generally speaking infants are not believers, but they are sinners through inherited sin, Psalm 51:5.

    I consider baptism a command of God, but it is part of his process of bringing the elect into his kingdom and as the world has proven, most infants never come to savng faith. It is up to the godparents to make sure they are taught in case the parents are unable to make it clear to their offspring that only through the Bible can one find salvation, but God has to enable them to believe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You sound like you are a Calvinist, which will make our discussion much easier than if you were Arminian.

      It is never any decision or act of man that saves, it is ALWAYS the power of God's Word/God's declaration of righteousness that saves. Just as the act of circumcision in the OT saved no one, so too, the act of baptism itself saves no one. Salvation is always God's act, acting through the power of his Word, through the Holy Spirit, upon those sinners whom God has predestined to be his Elect, quickening their spiritually dead souls to believe, giving them the gift of faith, so that they believe and repent. Salvation is ALL God.

      THAT is how salvation ALWAYS works!

      You misunderstand the Lutheran doctrine of Baptism. Baptism is not the "how" of salvation, it is one of several possible "when"s of salvation. Another "when" of salvation is when a sinner hears the Word in a church service and believes. Another "when" of salvation is when a sinner reads the Bible or a Gospel tract, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, believes.

      God says he saves and forgives sins in Baptism in I Peter and many other passages, but he doesn't say that baptism is the "how" of salvation. That is your misunderstanding. Baptism is one of several possible "when"s of salvation.

      I hope you will look at the last ten or so short posts that I have written. They will explain this Lutheran doctrine in more detail.

      Delete
    2. One more point. Lutherans do NOT believe that all persons who are infant baptized have an automatic ticket into heaven. Only the Elect will get into heaven. And the Elect will persevere in the faith. Those who initially believe, whether baptized as an infant, or a professing adult, but fall from grace by willful rejection or ongoing neglect of Christ and their faith, will perish in hell in eternal damnation and torment.

      There will be many infant baptized, former believers, in hell.

      Delete
    3. Gary,
      Here are your words - Nicodemus:  So how does one get into the Kingdom of God?  How is one saved?
      Jesus:  A sinner is saved in Baptism.  The sinner is reborn by the Spirit of God working in and through the water.  Being born the first time is simply a physical act.  Being born the second time, in the waters of Baptism, is a spiritual act. 

      You clearly state that "the sinner is saved in Baptism," and that is what I disagree with. If that was true millions would be saved and all baptized Roman Catholics.
      You almost have the teaching right but put too much emphasis on the power of the water, which is a sign only. In 1 Peter 3:21 it is Noah's arc that saved him, which represents God as an anti-type. It is not the water. Baptism saves no one on its own. Again, it is as stated in 1 Peter 1:23 and Ezekiel 36.

      Delete
    4. Please read my last comment above.

      Baptism is one of several "when"s of salvation, it is not the "how".

      Lutherans baptize their infants because of the promise given in Acts chapter 2. However, only the Elect will be saved. Therefore, not all those infant baptized will be saved, only those who are the Elect. The Elect will persevere in the faith. The "tares" will willfully abandon their faith, or neglect it and let it die. These baptized "tares" will NOT be in heaven, but in hell.

      The water of baptism has never saved anyone, but in the water of Baptism God has promised to save and forgive sins. However, only the Elect will attain eternal life.

      Delete

I welcome all constructive comments, praise and criticism.

Has this blog changed your views on the Christian faith?