The most basic of Gospel statements are grossly misunderstood by all and sundry. In my continual discourses with ardent Roman Catholics in different parts of the world, this fundamental lack shows through in their vehement, strident opposition. I have to tell them that unless they can show me they are saved by grace alone, they are wasting their time in arguing with me, for it is worthless unless they are saved.
One of the Gospel statements ignored or rejected by men is ‘ye must be born again’. The concept can be difficult to explain, but let us try to see what this vital statement means, especially as it is found only three times in scripture. In my discussions with the unregenerate – and with many charismatics – it is obvious they will not equate ‘born again’ with being saved, so this link must also be shown.
John 3: 3,7
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.”
Note the elements here: (a) To enter heaven, we must be ‘born again’ and (b) We should not find this incredulous. The phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ does not just mean heaven. It refers to the whole process and condition of salvation, from the moment we are elected in eternity, to our experiencing salvation in our own lifetime, to the moment we pass from this earth and into God’s heavenly presence.
‘Kingdom of God’ is no different, in essence, from ‘kingdom of Christ’. It alludes to a state or condition, and NOT to an earthly, literal rule. It speaks of the authority to rule rather than the location of rule. That is why, when we are saved, we are told we already have the kingdom within. Yet, so many unsaved and even saved men and women are deluded into thinking the kingdom is only in the future.
In the above text, Jesus was explaining to a Jewish leader what salvation was. So, he used a typical Hebraic term, ‘born again’. To Nicodemus, this meant ‘to be converted to another’s way of life’. Jesus repeated Himself twice, so that the struggling Jew before him could understand.
That Nicodemus struggled can be found in his bewildered questions. He had come with a vague belief in Jesus’ obvious rabbinical ability to teach. He even admitted that no man could teach as He did unless God was with him. Jesus, however, passed over peripherals and went straight to the ’facts of life’... there is no point in debating theology with dead men!
Jesus said, ‘Look Nicodemus! You will never have peace with God and be accepted by him, unless you are reborn spiritually.’ Jesus had to spell it out for this Jewish leader: ‘Being born again is not to be reborn from your mother’s womb [e.g. ‘born of water’]. I’m talking about how you can be justified before God the Father! You must be converted from your sinful life to a life only I can give you. The only way is for you to be reborn spiritually [‘of the Spirit’]’.
Jesus was here only speaking of the mode of pre-salvation – spiritual regeneration. The Gospel message came later, in verse 15, “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” This is to be understood in terms of John 3:16, where ‘whosoever’ is interpreted as ‘those who have been predestinated’. Thus, ‘born again’ is linked with ‘whosoever believeth’. In verse 17 we again see a direct link between ‘born again’ and ‘saved’. It is clear that being ‘born again’ leads to being ‘saved’ (though it is often spoken of synonymously). And, to be saved, one has firstly to be predestined, or elected, or chosen, to salvation.
1 Peter 1:23
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God...”
Roman Catholics deny that the word of God is sufficient for salvation. Yet, here we are told explicitly that the word of God causes us to be born again. Our minds and bodies are as frail and passing as grass, but the word of God lasts eternally. Hence, anything born of water, or of humanity, is short-lived and corrupt, whereas anything born of God is forever, because it is pure.
And, just as Jesus was foreordained to die for us, so we who are His are foreordained to salvation, through being ‘born again’. That is, we have obtained our ‘inheritance’, ‘being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.’ Eternal life is given to ‘as many as the Lord our God shall call’ (Acts 2:39) and ‘to as many as thou hast given him (e.g. Jesus).’ (John 17:2).
Born Again = Saved = Predestinated
“God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation...’ (2 Thessalonians 2:13). This means God chose us before the world was made and so there is not even the remotest chance that we may choose Christ of our own volition. Bluntly, Arminian preachers are heretics and those who are ‘saved’ through their preaching are not saved at all. (Though some may be saved despite Aminianism). There is no other way to put it. Being ‘born again’ has been shown to be the same as being saved by election, because it always leads to salvation.
Now we see that being saved means to receive a gift given by God well before anything was made, bringing into focus the teaching dreaded and hated by all humanistic preachers and believers – predestination and election! Yet, we are told very clearly here that God chooses who will be saved.
In other words, though Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be ‘born again’ spiritually, He added in verses 16 and on, that to be born again, or saved, one had firstly to be elected to salvation by God. This removes all possibility of human intervention or choice, for such intervention would be corrupt. Thus, any salvation had to have a holy, pure, heavenly source. Those who think they are born again of their own choice are deluded, and they persecute and ignore those who are genuinely born again of the Spirit: “he that was born after the flesh persecuted him (that was born) after the Spirit...” (Galatians 4:29).
We must make tough decisions. Though millions are being taken down the road of Arminianism, including most charismatics, they are deluded and sinful. We are told clearly in scripture that to be born again is to be reborn spiritually, and to be saved, and that in order to be reborn spiritually we must firstly be chosen by God to receive salvation. To be a ‘born again’ Christian is, then, a truism! There is no other kind of Christian!
Therefore, it is reasonable, logical, and Biblical, to denounce Arminianism and its many offshoots, as heretical and ungodly. We can do this because it is a false Gospel. A false gospel is wicked, leading men and women astray and into hell. A false Gospel - and those who are ‘saved’ by it - are of their father, Satan. So, in which way can we commune with such folk, when we are warned that to do so is to commune with the works of darkness? These people are not my brethren and so I do not malign their name by refusing to accept them on an equal footing.
To Roman Catholics and to all who prefer their own version of the Gospel, I say this: you are unsaved and bound for hell. Jesus said you must be born again to receive salvation and, finally, to enter heaven. To be born again is to be saved in eternity by God’s own choice. You cannot choose to be born again any more than you could choose to be born from your mother’s womb!
© February 2001
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