In John 3:3 Jesus answers Nicodemus saying, “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This verse is usually interpreted by most Christians as Christ referring to being “born again” as we know it today as learned from the Epistles. Not so. He was actually speaking of the First Resurrection, which occurs at the start of his Millennial Kingdom.
The misunderstanding of the meaning of this passage stems from two primary issues:
1) Figures of Speech
2) The time in which it was written
Figures of Speech:
Most people believe this passage in John 3 refers to the same type of being "born again" as spoken of in the epistles. It is not.
While the greek text “gennethe anothen” can be accurately be translated as “begotten from above”, it was also a popular figure of speech", or expression, known as "born again" commonly used during the time that Jesus spoke it to Nicodemus.
It is evident that Nicodemus understood, it not as referring to a birth "from above," for if he had he would not have asked the question in John 3:4, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?”
It may seem remarkable that Nicodemus understood the Saviour literally, when the expression "to be born again" was in common use among the Jews to denote a change from "Genteelism" to "Judaism" by becoming a proselyte by baptism.
The word with them meant a change from the state of a pagan to that of a Jew. But they never used it as applicable to a Jew, because they supposed that by his birth every Jew was entitled to all the privileges of the people of God.
When, therefore, our Saviour used it concerning Nicodemus, who was a Jew, when he affirmed its necessity of every man, Nicodemus supposed that there was an absurdity in the doctrine, or something that surpassed his comprehension, and he therefore asked whether it was possible that Jesus could teach so absurd a doctrine - as he could conceive no other sense as applicable to a Jew - as that he should, when old, enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born.
Basically, the response from Nicodemus was one of flippant astonishment, not one of stupidity. He asked that question as if to make an absurd point. And from this we may learn:
- That prejudice leads men to misunderstand the plainest doctrines of religion.
- That things which are at first incomprehensible or apparently absurd, may, when explained, become clear. The doctrine of regeneration, so difficult to Nicodemus, is plain to a "child" that is born of the Spirit.
- Those in high rank in life, and who are learned, are often most ignorant about the plainest matters of religion. It is often wonderful that they exhibit so little acquaintance with the simplest subjects pertaining to the soul, and so much absurdity in their views.
- A doctrine is not to be rejected because the rich and the great do not believe or understand it. The doctrine of regeneration was not false just because Nicodemus did not comprehend it.
The figure of the new birth, if it had been meant only of Gentile proselytes to the Jewish religion, would have been intelligible enough to Nicodemus, in keeping with the language of that day; but that Jews themselves should need a new birth was to him incomprehensible.
Time in which it was written:
When Jesus and Nicodemus had their conversation, Jesus had not yet ascended. The gift of holy spirit AKA the "Sacred Secret" had not yet been revealed to all mankind. This happened later in Acts 2.
1 Corinthians 2:7 and 8
(7) No, we speak of God’s secret [musterion] wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
(8) None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
As we begin to study the particulars of this administration, we must keep in mind that what we have today in the Grace Administration was a secret not revealed to anyone until after the resurrection of Christ. Not understanding that, many Christians teach that the Old Testament or Gospels foretold the things that we have today, such as secure salvation. Not so. If God says that the things revealed to and for us did not even enter into the heart of man until after Jesus was crucified, then that must be the case, even if there are similarities between what we have today and what was foretold for Israel’s future and the Millennial Kingdom.
Throughout history, people knew there were future administrations coming that would have new rules and blessings, but they did not know about the Administration of the Sacred Secret, which God kept hidden. In spite of the verses that teach the Administration of the Sacred Secret was hidden in God and unknown until He revealed it after Pentecost, most Christians interpret certain verses in the Gospels as if it were already known at that time.
This biblical misunderstanding produces two unfortunate results:
- First, the wonderful uniqueness of the Christian Church is lost, and the things that God has done only for the Church become hazy and confused.
- Second, the true meaning of some verses in the Gospels is lost.
For example, if someone says that John 3:3 (NRSV), “Very, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” applies to the Christian New Birth, he totally misses the fact that Christ was actually speaking of the First Resurrection of the Jews.
The need to hide this administration from the Adversary can be seen by noting that no other administration besides the Administration of the Sacred Secret (AKA the Grace Administration) is said to be “secret.” In contrast to future administrations that were known or implied in the Old Testament and Gospels, the Administration of the Sacred Secret was kept secret because, as Corinthians tells us, had the Devil known about it, he would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
I hope this brief study has enlightened your heart. May God richly bless you in your search for the truth as you “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” - 2 Timothy 2:15
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About your Bible Study Teacher:
Daniel Sweet is and ordained minister and the founder, President, and Senior Pastor of God's Word First. He is widely recognized as one of the world's foremost leading experts on the gift manifestations of Holy Spirit. As a biblical scholar, humble follower and faithful Bible teacher teacher, he and his wife Debbra Sweet have been instrumental in helping many people come to the knowledge and truth of God’s Word. Affectionately known as the "Moto Minister" due to his recreation activities with off road motorcycles, he is beloved by many for his lively sense of humor, his fun loving attitude and openly candid opinions. Daniel Sweet is also a published author on the subject of Leadership, an investor and an entrepreneur owning several small businesses.