“The human mind is prone to mystery and superstition. Unwilling to be satisfied with things that are simple and easily discerned, it aims at the discovery of the ultimate principles and relations, and trusting to the feeble bark of reason, with conjecture at the helm, and pride and interest, ambition and folly at the oars, is lost amidst the boundless ocean of absurdity.”
I didn’t produce the above statement. It came from Alexander Campbell, the founder of Bethany College, and dates to 1830. I do think that he got it right about the excesses of human thought, though. We won’t spend much time on a plain explanation, preferring convoluted examinations and high handed hypotheses. We often have too much time on our hands. We will spin and manipulate elements and thoughts, sometimes defying both meaning and logic.
Brent, I and the other occasional contributors and writers here have written about regeneration or have been quoted on the subject many times. When we have mentioned the words baptism, immersion, or the phrase the washing of regeneration, and the like, it typically prompts an immediate response. Most of the time we only quoted scriptures or posted a comment or two; but you might think we had invented something completely different, or were teaching something we made up on the spot. When considering Christianity, nothing stands higher on the list of things that have been turned over by excess than the topic of regeneration. It seems that few people have a clear scriptural view these days.
Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians: I am jealous for you with a great jealousy, because I have betrothed you to one husband, to present you a chaste virgin to Christ. But, I am afraid lest somehow, as the serpent beguiled Eve by his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
And this to the Galatians: I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel; which is not another, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
We should wonder about those same things. The shadow cast by the twin towers of modernism and worldliness can block our vision so that we lose sight of the truth.
Mr. Campbell suggested that where the scriptures draw from known figures in the natural world, we ought to note the application. When Christ stated that he …is the vine and that you are the branches, he was not speaking of future collective assemblies but rather to individuals. The branches derive sustenance from the vine and its roots. While some folks expand the interpretation beyond what is given, linguistically speaking the direction is clear: you are the branches. Where he said, if the tree does not bear fruit it should be cut down and cast into the fire. There is work to be done to serve God. And Jesus was issuing a warning to individuals that they were to be careful not to lean on any preconceived notions about what might please God, but were to lend themselves to the given duties which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
When Nicodemus questioned the figure employed by Jesus concerning regeneration, he did not get the point. Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. The phrase born again, also correctly rendered born from above, is found only in John chapter four and First Peter one. It relates to origin and species. Further, in another blinding glimpse of the obvious, the first is not equivalent to the second. It is a conjunctive clause.
The following consideration is also inescapable. Born of water means just exactly what it says, as does born of the Spirit. Mr. Campbell noted, “Let us consider the figure: In the natural world, a man is born of that from which he proceeds, and of that by which he is begotten.” “So,” he concluded, “we, as Christians, must be the same, proceeding from water and begotten by the Spirit — born of water and the Spirit.”
If you have been reading any of my posts, you know that I don’t see any direct action of the Holy Spirit of God in any of this. His duty was concluded while he was here. Our duty is to pay attention.
We are the fruit of the Spirit of God, and his work here, which was completed in the publication of the Word. The Lord of Hosts conceived the plan of salvation, Jesus Christ executed it, and the Holy Spirit finalized and published it. Christ had said it is the Spirit that is alive. The words that I speak to you, they are the Spirit, they are the life. However, all of this I might note, can be understood irrespective of any view as to the inclusion of uppercase or lowercase letters or any arguments that may impose.
Mr. Campbell concluded his exercise noting that “…in the natural world a child cannot be said to be born of his father, until he is first born of his mother; so in the spiritual world, no one can be said to be born of the Spirit until he has first been born of water It seems one should naturally beget the other.
“What shall we say of those who profess to believe, and actually persuade their hearers, that a child must be born before it is begotten? That it should be born of water before it is capable of being born of the Spirit?
“Or, what shall we say of those who would teach that we must be born of the Spirit, while being born of water is completely unnecessary?”
Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. While we may understand the second, we turn and twist against the first. But the lesson is that one cannot exist while excluding the other.
Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.
(1 Corinthians 18: 8)