Is The New Birth Optional?
By D. G. Odle
It is Passover time in Jerusalem. The streets are thronged with people. Crowds push and shove, making their way to the temple area or to find a place to spend the night. The inns are filled. Relatives have arrived in Jerusalem to spend time with their family. Some people just mill around. Darkness begins to settle upon the hills of the city.
Jesus is in Jerusalem, and several miracles have been witnessed by the crowds that follow him. We don’t know exactly where Jesus planned to spend the night, but all records we have indicate Jesus never spent a night inside the walls of the city. Perhaps he was headed for his “favorite” spot, Gethsemane. Jesus is stopped by a man who has witnessed some of His miracles.
The man immediately acknowledges that what he has seen could not have been done .except” God be with him. His first statement conveys that Jesus is a teacher sent by God.
It is interesting to note the words used by Nicodemus translated “except.” They are the Greek words ean me, which are used in the scripture a total of 32 times. Each time they are translated “except.” In reply to this statement of Nicodemus’ acknowledging it an impossibility for a normal human being by his own power to do what he had witnessed, Jesus used the same Greek term ean me. This was a negative conditional clause.
While the term “new birth” is not used in scripture, it is taken from this passage in John 3. Jesus replied by saying “Verily, verily I say to thee unless (except) anyone be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus used the same term to let this man know that if it is impossible for a man to do what he had seen except God be with him, it is likewise impossible for a man to see the kingdom without being “born
again” or born anew.
The phrase “born again” has become almost a household word. Some think that it is possible to be born again by various means. Some suppose they are born again by just believing, and others by signing documents. But the Bible teaches there are-conditions to this new birth.
Jesus indicated that the new birth is from above. The Greek anothen, an adverb of place, means “from above.” This new birth involves water and spirit.
Jesus used the words translated “except” in other teachings. He said “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). “Except you first bind the strong man…” (Matthew 12:29). Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
There was no way around the death of Christ for salvation. He had to “drink it.” Calvary was a must for humanity, and Jesus knew there was no alternative.
There is no alternative for repentance. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
The “new birth” is not an optional matter. Everyone must be “born again” or they will not see or enter the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus was right, no man could do those miracles unless God was with him, but neither can a man enter the kingdom unless be is born by the water and spirit.
Dannie G. Odle is Director of Student Recruitment and instructor at Christian Life College. In June, 1993, he will graduate from Western Seminary with the Master of Arts in Exegetical Theology.
The Above Material Was Copyrighted In 1993, And May Be Used For Study & Research Purposes Only.