The Early Church: Acts1-12
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
Conquering Lamb of Revelation
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Early Church: Acts1-12
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-135)
Emma Butler-Cole Aiken, "Living Water" (2008), stained glass, 315 x 90 cm., Carlops Parish Church, Carlops, Scotland,
We've considered Jesus' teaching on the Spirit in the Paraclete passages (John 14-16) in Lesson 3. There we saw one of Jesus most remarkable teachings: that God's Spirit comes within a believer to take up residence forever!
"He lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:17)
Now we'll explore this further from two additional places where Jesus teaches about the Spirit.
- John 7:37-39 -- Jesus declares that the Spirit will become like a river flowing out of a person.
- John 3:1-8 -- Jesus teaches Nicodemus about the new birth.
This concept of "God within you" has been perverted by the New Age movement concept that one should search for the God within oneself. It is pushed to the degree that individuals themselves become a sort of god. Lost is the idea of the great Sovereign God who dwells in a blaze of glorious light and creates the universes. Instead this god within the self is a kind of personal tap into the energy that infuses the universe.
I say this to emphasize that this isn't Jesus' teaching or the teaching of his apostles. We'll be examining a number of key passages, so get ready. In this lesson we'll see what Jesus himself says. Then in Lesson 5 we'll explore what God reveals to the Apostle Paul about the indwelling of the Spirit.
We'll start with Jesus' teaching about the Holy Spirit when he appears at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (Leviticus 23:42-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-14).
One of the features of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jesus' era is a libation (a pouring out of water or wine in worship) each day of the feast. A priest draws water from the Pool of Siloam into a golden pitcher. Then wine along with the water from the golden pitcher are poured simultaneously upon the altar as a libation sacrifice to the Lord.
"With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:3)
Indeed, the outpouring of the water in the Feast of Tabernacles was understood by the rabbis and the people as symbolic of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stands up in the temple and "cries out" in a loud voice, making a major public proclamation.
"'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit... " (John 7:37-39a)
Jesus' words constitute both an invitation and a promise.
1. Invitation. "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (John 7:37). Jesus is talking about coming to him for deep fellowship, typified in John 6 by partaking of him, the Bread of Life (John 6:43-58). This turns my mind to several similar invitations in the Bible:
"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters...." (Isaiah 55:1a)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and
and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'
And let him who hears say, 'Come!'
Whoever is thirsty, let him come;
and whoever wishes,
let him take the free gift of the water of life." (Revelation 22:17)
On a personal note, you may find that at times something keeps you away from Christ so that you don't eagerly drink of his refreshing, life-giving presence. Sometimes you fail to feed on him continually. The reason, of course, is our preoccupation with ourselves and our own concerns. Perhaps our creeping secular mindset has something to do with it. Perhaps our pride in doing it ourselves keeps us from asking for help. Our spiritual dullness plays a role. Perhaps sin. Dear friend, how thirsty are you for Christ? He invites you to come and drink!
2. Promise. The second part of Jesus' proclamation is a promise to those who accept his invitation to drink of him, those who believe him and follow him:
The promise is made to "whoever believes in me," literally, "the one believing in me." The river flows "from within him" (NIV), "out of his heart" (ESV), "out of his belly" (KJV), phrases that translate the noun koilia, which refers to the organs of the abdomen. The ancients thought these organs to be "the seat of inward life, of feelings and desires," what we express in English as the functional equivalent of "heart."
The promise is that from within the believer, will flow "rivers/streams of living water." This might seem strange, since we might think of Jesus himself as the source of the water, the life, not the believer. But we see a similar phrase in Jesus' words to the woman at the well:
"Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
The river begins as a spring bubbling up and becomes a river flowing out. "Living water," means running water as opposed to still water. In John 7:38, Jesus uses "living water" in the sense of water that brings life. Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will be within us bringing forth eternal life -- bubbling up like an eternal spring forever and ever!
Jesus refers his hearers to the Scripture: "as the Scripture has said...." Most likely, Jesus is recalling these passages from Isaiah:
"For I will pour water on the thirsty
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants." (Isaiah 44:3)
"The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail." (Isaiah 58:11)
John explains concerning our text,
"By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:39)
Jesus is referring to a time when the Spirit will be given. It comes after his "glorification," which refers to Jesus' crucifixion for sins, resurrection from the dead, and return to his place of glory with the Father. As we will see in Lesson 6, this giving of the Spirit is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
But perhaps we've been looking at the coming Spirit selfishly -- what He can do for us, for our salvation. But there is a sense that the continuous stream flowing from within us has to flow somewhere beyond us to those who are dry and thirsty. Ezekiel has a vision of water flowing from the entrance of the temple, becoming deeper and deeper, and nourishing fruit-bearing trees, healing the briny waters of the Dead Sea, making them fresh water, where everything will live (Ezekiel 47:1-12).
This figure appears again in the last book and the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation.
"1 Then the angel showed me the
river of the water of life,
as clear as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 down the middle of the great street of the city.
On each side of the river stood the tree of life,
bearing twelve crops of fruit,
yielding its fruit every month.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2)
There's a joyful, upbeat praise chorus from the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s that applies these texts to our lives:
"There's a river of life flowing out of
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see,
Opens prison doors, sets the captive free.
There's a river of life flowing out of me.
Spring up a well within my soul,
Spring up a well that makes me whole...."
Isaiah prophesies concerning the time of the Messiah when:
"Each man will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land." (Isaiah 32:2)
Lord, let your Spirit pour out of us to help provide shade and quench the thirst of many people around us who dwell in a dry place!
Q1. (John 7:37-39) In Jesus' teaching on streams of
living water from within, whom does he invite to drink? What does he promise to
believers? To what degree has a spring of living water been fulfilled in your
James J. Tissot, detail of 'The Interview between Jesus and Nicodemus' (1886-94), gouache on paper, 9-1/8 x 7", Brooklyn Museum, New York.
Now we turn to another of Jesus' teachings concerning the indwelling Spirit who brings eternal life.
Early in his ministry, Jesus is in Jerusalem during Passover when he receives a nocturnal visit from a very important man..
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council." (John 3:1)
"Nicodemus" is a Greek name, indicating that he may have been a member of the Greek-speaking synagogue that met in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9; 9:29). He is a minor celebrity since he is one of the 70 Jewish rulers who serves on Jerusalem's Great Sanhedrin, the body that made decisions for the country -- under Roman rule, of course.
Nicodemus is also a Pharisee, that is, a strict observer of the law (John 7:50-51). What's more, he is an expert in Jewish law, a scribe, as evidenced by Jesus calling him "Israel's teacher" (John 3:10). He is also probably wealthy, both to be considered for membership in the Sanhedrin and because we know he assisted Joseph of Arimathea physically and financially in Jesus' burial (John 19:39).
Nicodemus the Seeker (John 3:2)
But there is something different about Nicodemus from the other members of the Sanhedrin: he is spiritually hungry..
"He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'" (John 3:2)
Why he comes at night isn't clear. We know he fears the Jewish leaders (John 19:38), but this caution is appropriate: he doesn't want to be seen endorsing Jesus' views until he understands them better. But perhaps the best reason to meet Jesus at night is accessibility -- time to engage in a longer conversation and ask earnest questions without interruption.
Nicodemus shows real respect for Jesus. He calls him "Rabbi," a term of respect usually reserved for learned scholars, and he refers to him as "a teacher come from God," a phrase Nicodemus wouldn't have thrown out as mere flattery. He means it! Jesus' miracles make Nicodemus curious. Nicodemus isn't a full believer yet, but he is a serious inquirer.
Immediately, Jesus begins to teach about the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God..
"3 In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'
4 'How can a man be born when he is old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!'
5 Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.'" John (3:3-5)
We're often so eager to understand what it means to be "born again" that we miss what Jesus is saying about the Kingdom. The prevailing Jewish expectation in Jesus' day was that the Messiah would arise as a military leader to deliver them from Roman oppression, perhaps in the way that Judas Maccabeus and his family had led a rebellion to deliver Israel from the control of the pagan Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes less than two centuries before.
Jesus tells us two things here about the Kingdom::
- The Kingdom is spiritually discerned, that is, you can't see it or grasp it spiritually unless you are "born from above," unless God enables you to see it.
- The Kingdom is spiritually entered, that is, you can't enter into the Kingdom, which is a synonym for inheriting eternal life, unless you are changed spiritually.
Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:33). Entrance to this kingdom is by invitation only.
"No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matthew 11:27)
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44)
The Kingdom of God is hidden from unbelievers.
Unbelievers can see that such a Kingdom might be present from the signs or miracles that result. This may cause them, like Nicodemus, to search further. But unaided, they can't see or discern the Kingdom itself, much less enter it. It is God's prerogative to reveal.
At one level, this may not seem quite fair. After all, seeing spiritual things is a right, isn't it? No! We are blind, unless God graciously rescues us, saves us (2 Corinthians 4:4). There is a spiritual war going on. Salvation is costly. More costly than we can ever afford. So costly that it can only be received as a gift.
Does this sound like the sovereignty of God and predestination? Yes, that is what it is. But as we'll see shortly, there is something that man can and must do to prepare himself to receive the gift.
Q2. (John 3:1-8) When Nicodemus came to Jesus, do you
think he was already born of the Spirit? What is the difference between people
who have experienced the second birth, and those who have only experienced the
Now let's explore this heavenly birth that Jesus teaches:
"3 In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell
you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'
4 'How can a man be born when he is old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!'
5 Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.'" (John 3:3-5)
The word "born" is gennaō, "become the parent of, beget" by procreation. Look at places where this concept of being born/begotten is used elsewhere in the New Testament.
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13)
"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed (sperma) remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:9)
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well." (1 John 5:1)
The adverb modifying "born/beget" in John 3:3, 5 is anōthen. The Greek word can have both the meaning "from above" (which is used most commonly) as well as "again, anew," though "born anew" seems to be Jesus' meaning here. We clearly see the idea of being "born anew" elsewhere in the New Testament:
"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth (palingenesia) and renewal (anakainōsis) by the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5)
"In his great mercy he has given us new birth
(anagennaō) into a
(1 Peter 1:3)
"For you have been born again (anagennaō), not of perishable seed (spora), but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." (1 Peter 1:23)
For these reasons, I think that the translation "born anew" reflects Jesus' meaning here. The NIV and ESV translations use "born anew/again." Jesus intends this to be understood as not a repetition of a previous birth, but clearly a "new" kind of birth brought about by the Spirit.
Jesus continues to instruct earnest Nicodemus.
5 "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'" (John 3:5-7)
Jesus is clearly differentiating a spiritual birth from a physical birth. What isn't so clear is what he means by "born of water and the Spirit." We understand the idea of being born of the Spirit in the sense of Jesus' conception (Matthew 1:20). But here, the reference to the water is confusing to us. There are several possibilities:
- Christian baptism, though this would have made no sense to Nicodemus.
- Procreation. Some see the water as a reference to either semen or the bag of waters in the womb. I see water as referring to procreation as a possibility.
- Baptism of repentance and purification. The most natural interpretation is to take "water and Spirit" to refer to the ministry of John the Baptist who preached "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Mark 1:4). His baptism with water is also contrasted with Jesus' baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8; John 1:33).
I believe Jesus is saying to Nicodemus: You must be born anew by your own repentance and humbling yourself before God and the Holy Spirit's divine regenerative work within you. You can't enter the Kingdom of God by your own effort. You must surrender yourself to God! Only God can bring about this new creation in you.
Q3. (John 3:5-7) What does it mean to be "born of water
and the Spirit"? What do you think "water" refers to? Why have you come to this
conclusion? How, then, would you paraphrase "born of water and the Spirit" to
best bring out the full meaning?
Jesus reinforces this by emphasizing that the Holy Spirit cannot be manipulated by humans. He is out of man's control and entirely directed by God:
"The wind (pneuma) blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (pneuma)." (John 3:8)
"Wind" is pneuma, the breath of God, the same word that is translated "Spirit" at the end of the verse. People who have been born of the Spirit, Jesus is saying, are motivated and moved by an unseen but powerful force beyond themselves. The life of the Spirit is a new level of spiritual existence, a different plane entirely. Only people who have been born of the Spirit can perceive and enter the Kingdom of God.
Q4. (John 3:8) What does Jesus' reference to "the wind"
teach us about people who have been born of the Spirit?
I don't want to leave this lesson without a couple of verses from Paul that reiterate Jesus' teaching on being "born again" or "born of the Spirit." This new birth has a theological name: "regeneration" (from English "regenerate," to be "formed or created again"). The word occurs in Paul's letter to Titus:
"5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7 ESV)
Paul is describing what Jesus means when he talks about being "born by the Spirit." This is not just a freshening up what was there, but it is something new entirely:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation." (Galatians 6:15)
The passages we've just studied are only a few verses each, but they are meaty. So let's take time to chew and digest them. Here are the lessons for disciples that I find from these passages.
- The Holy Spirit will live within a person, welling up like an constant spring, flowing like a stream of water (John 4:14; 7:38).
- The Holy Spirit inside a person will provide eternal life (John 4:14).
- The Holy Spirit was not given while Jesus was with his disciples, but only after his crucifixion/resurrection/ascension, which John calls being "glorified" (John 4:39).
- The Holy Spirit in us can pour out from us to provide life for others (John 7:38; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Revelation 22:1-2; Isaiah 32:2).
- The Kingdom is spiritually discerned, that is, you can't see it or grasp it unless you are "born from above," through God enabling you to see it (John 3:3).
- The Kingdom is spiritually entered, that is, you can't enter into the Kingdom, an expression that means inheriting eternal life, unless you are changed spiritually (John 3:5).
- You must be born anew by your own repentance and humbling yourself before God ("born of water," that is, a baptism of repentance) and the Holy Spirit's divine regenerative work within you ("born of the Spirit"). You can't enter the Kingdom of God by your own effort. You must surrender yourself to God! Only God can bring about this new creation in you (John 3:5).
- Like the wind, an unseen causing great effect, people who are born of the Spirit are moved to act a powerful force beyond themselves (John 3:8).
- The Spirit creates new life in a person, an act of God termed "regeneration" (Titus 3:5-7) and a "new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).
Jesus clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit will be within the believer. And this Holy Spirit will be the indispensable source of eternal life and unseen power.
If you were raised in a Christian home, you might not have experienced the "before" and "after" as vividly as those who were converted from the world. Consider what Paul says about our state prior to the new birth.
"1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:1-5)
You've got some friends who are lost, who are "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). It may be difficult for you to understand why your friends can't see God. But Jesus told Nicodemus that the Kingdom of God is spiritually discerned. Without the new birth, without the Holy Spirit, our friends are blind.
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"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Your friends are blind, lost, and groping for what they cannot see. But in Lesson 3 we learned that the Holy Spirit convicts and convinces people so they can come to Christ.
Your assignment this week is to pick out two or three lost friends and pray for them that the Holy Spirit will open their blind eyes and help them see Christ. If the Holy Spirit prompts you to witness to them, do so. Record all this in your journal.
Father, so often I take for granted being born again. I hardly think about the alternative you have saved me from: eternal dryness away from your life-giving presence. And too seldom do I think about the living water that I can share with those around me through your powerful Spirit. Forgive me. Please change my thinking. Thank you for the gift of life you have implanted in my through your Spirit. Let your life pour out from me continually. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.
"37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:37-39, NIV)
"For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants." (Isaiah 44:3, NIV)
"3 I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.... 5 I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:3, 5-8, NIV)
"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5, NIV)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation." (Galatians 6:15, NIV)
 Alfred Edersheim (The Temple and Its Services as They Were at the Time of Christ (1874), chapter 14) cites Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkot Vol. 1, p. 55 a (5.1). Also, Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Eerdmans, reprinted 1969 from the 1883 third edition), book 4, chapter 7; Morris, John pp. 420-21.
 "Said in a loud voice" (NIV), "cried out" (NRSV), "cried" (KJV) is krazō, "to communicate something in a loud voice, call, call out, cry," indicating that Jesus is making an important public statement (BDAG 564, 2a). Also found in John 1:15; 7:28.
 "Streams" (NIV), "rivers" (NRSV, KJV) is potamos, "river, stream," from which we get our word "hippopotamus" ("horse of the river") (BDAG 856, b).
 "Flow" is rheō, "to flow with liquid," here in a transferred sense (BDAG 904, a).
 Koilia, BDAG 550, 3.
 "There's a River of Life," words: Louis Casebolt, music: Betty Carr Pulkingham, © 1971, 1975, Celebration.
 Nicodemus was an archōn, "one who has administrative authority, leader, official" (BDAG 140, 2a).
 The Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish governing body in Palestine, was "made up of priests (Sadducees), scribes (Pharisees) and lay elders of the aristocracy. Its seventy members were presided over by the high priest" (Brown, John 1:30).
 Beasley-Murray, John, p. 47.
 "See" is eidōn, an obsolete form of the present tense, of horaō, "to catch sight of." Here it is used figuratively in the sense of "to be mentally or spiritually perceptive, perceive" (BDAG 719, 4).
 Gennaō, BDAG 194, 1a. The passive can mean either, "born," as by a mother, or "begotten," as by a father. The same meanings are possible for the Hebrew root yld (Brown, John 1:130). Nicodemus takes the word in its feminine sense of being in one's mother's womb. But elsewhere, the idea seems to be "beget" in the masculine sense.
 Sperma, "'seed,' male seed or semen" (BDAG 937, 1b).
 Anōthen, "in extension from a source that is above, from above" ... "at a subsequent point of time involving repetition, again, anew" (BDAG 92, 1 and 4).
 "Rebirth" (NIV, NRSV), "regeneration" (KJV) is palingenesia, from palin, "again, once more, anew" + genesis, "birth," meaning "experience of a complete change of life, rebirth" of a redeemed person (BDAG 752, 2).
 Anakainōsis, "renewal" (BDAG 64) is found here and in Romans 12:2, "the renewal of your minds." It is a compound word from ana-, "repetition, renewal" (equivalent to denuo, 'anew, over again," Thayer p. 34) + kainos, "new, fresh."
 Anagennaō, "beget again, cause to be born again" (BDAG 59).
 Spora, "primarily 'the activity of sowing' and figuratively 'procreation,' then by metonymy, 'that which is sown, seed'" (BDAG 939). We get our word "spore" from this word.
 Alfred Edersheim (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Eerdmans, reprinted 1969 from the 1883 third edition] 1:384) explains that the term "new-born" was used in rabbinical literature to refer to both Gentile proselytes, as well as "the bridegroom on his marriage, the Chief of the academy on his promotion, the king on his enthronement.... The expression, therefore, was not only common, but, so to speak, fluid...." Indeed, a number of commentators support this view: Morris (John, p. 213, fn. 13) cites Edwin A Abbott, Johannine Grammar (London, 1906); Strack and Billerbeck 2:420f; and Brook Foss Westcott, The Gospel according to St. John (Grand Rapids, 1954) 1:136. Rudolf Bultmann (Das Evangelium des Johannes (Göttigen, 1956), p. 135) also favors this view (as cited by Beasley-Murray, John, p. 45).
 Though such ideas may seem offensive to modern ears, there are many references in Rabbinic, Mandaean, and Hermetic sources that use terms like "water," "rain," "dew," and "drop" in the sense of male semen. Moreover, Hellenistic mystery religions made use of the terminology of rebirth. H. Odeberg (The Fourth Gospel Interpreted in Its Relation to Contemporaneous Religious Currents in Palestine and the Hellenistic-Oriental World (Uppsala, 1929)) argues that the water stands for the celestial waters, viewed in mystical Judaism as corresponding to the semen of the fleshly being. Thus to be born of water and the Spirit means a rebirth by means of spiritual seed as in 1 John 3:9.
 Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Systematic theologian Wayne Grudem puts it this way: "Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us" (Systematic Theology, p. 699).
 "Regeneration" (ESV, KJV), "rebirth" (NIV, NRSV) in verse 5 is the Greek noun palingenesia, "the state of being renewed, renewal," here, "experience of a complete change of life, rebirth" of a redeemed person. (BDAG 75, 2) "Renewal" in verse 5 is the Greek noun anakainōsis, "renewal," from ana-, "again" and kainōsis, "renovation, renewal" (Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon).
 "Renewal" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "renewing" (KJV) is anakainōsis, a Greek word not found outside of Christian literature, "renewal," of a person's spiritual birth, in Titus 3:5 and Romans 12:2 (BDAG 64), "a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better" (Thayer 342). This is a compound verb from ana-, "anew," repetition, renewal + kainizō, "to make new."
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- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ
- Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-134)