Lecture Series on Jesus Truth: How the Lord Jesus taught the disciples the truth of rebirth for salvation. (Those who believe in Jesus must accept one of the seven commands)
Today, many preachers and missionaries and churches often let believers hear some abstract teachings, one of which is about how people are saved. Many believers are very confused about the relationship between the salvation and rebirth of the believers and even think that rebirth is just a spiritual deepening or sublimation of life after salvation. They believe that they received salvation when they decide to believe Jesus and at that time they were born again. There are also some believers do not care what is born again and they just rely on their pastors’ declaration of their salvation as a pillow for sleeping and dreaming at church.
Thus, the shallow teachings of preachers and the indissoluble words for believers cannot understand and grasp the main points of Jesus Truth about the rebirth for salvation; because they did not comprehensively study the teachings and model witness of the Lord Jesus according to God’s will. Here, by going through the Seven Commands of the Lord (the command of rebirth for salvation, the command of taking the cross, the command of following the Lord Jesus style, the command of loving each other in the Lord, the command of fully dedication to God as His servants, the command of bearing fruits in the Lord and the command of the Great Commission), I may systematically explain how the Lord Jesus taught the disciples about the truth of rebirth for salvation, and knock the alarming bell for all ignorant preachers and confused believers, so that those who truly pursue the truth of the Bible can understand the truth and obey the control of the Holy Spirit for getting a new life of rebirth.
Before entering the subject, I must firstly explain two points: First, the rebirth and salvation that the Lord Jesus taught is one thing; this is that born again means to be saved, and the saved are reborn. It is just as the relationship between the palm of the hand and the back of the hand, which is one part to work together. Second, there are many ways and feelings for people decide to believe in the Lord, and they also receive the guidance and influence from their leader. Only those who truly believe in Jesus and truly confess their sins and repent, while at the same time experiencing the renewal of life from the heart and having a synchronous expression in their behavior, are the rebirth for salvation in the real sense. On the contrary, if the decision-makers only accept a personal guidance to make a response to religious beliefs and do not show the style and fruit of the new life that the Lord Jesus requires in their lives, they are only a group of religious believers. Whether they wear a hat of Christians or Catholics or certain denominations, in the eyes of the Lord Jesus: they are the crowds of calling “Lord”, but not obey the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21-23). Therefore, we can’t just believe what believers or their pastor said about, but use the teachings of the Lord Jesus to compare with their actual life, to distinguish between true and false Christians to a certain extent; and only the Lord our God can completely distinguish between true and false believers.
Now, let me first explain the truth of rebirth and salvation with the first command of the Lord Jesus to disciples and seekers: only those who believe in the Lord and get rebirth can be saved (see the kingdom of God and enter the kingdom of God).
John 3:1-15, Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 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.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “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!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
As we study this passage, we have roughly four points to grasp. First, in the New Testament times, Jews who believed in Jehovah must be born again. Those who believe in the true God among the Gentiles must also be born again. The man named Nicodemus was a devout Jew, and there was no doubt that he believed in Jehovah and kept the Mosaic Law seriously. But he did not understand the truth of Jesus and had no new life in the Lord. Many believers today say that they believe Jesus is the Savior, but what they believe is only religious ideas. They not only have no manifestation of new life in their behavior, they also do not behave as religiously as the Pharisees and scribes that Jesus warned. So, in the church we meet many people who confess Jesus in their mouths, but they do not have the kind of sincere belief that takes root and leaves. To treat such religious believers, we must teach them the truth of the Lord Jesus on rebirth and salvation: Don’t believe in religion, but pursue the way, truth, and life of the Lord Jesus.
However, many believers do not care whether they truly believe, but rather satisfy religious ceremonies and the affirmation by their ministers upon their beliefs. These people said they believed in Jesus but did not renew their lives according to Jesus’ teachings and orders. Instead, they only completed the religious process of becoming a Christian by praying to the Lord and receiving baptism in accordance with the religious doctrines and rituals of the church. Therefore, the majority of believers in all Christian denominations are likely to be religious believers who have not been born again. To this argument, we must not misrepresent that they are believers who have been saved but have not yet been born again. Here again, I reiterate that only those born again in accordance with the teachings of the Lord Jesus can be truly saved. Because in the above verses, we can see Jesus’ declaration: Those who are not born again can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. This is what the Lord Jesus said. Those who have not been born again do not see the kingdom of God, they simply do not understand what the kingdom of God is like; at the same time, they cannot enter the kingdom of God. The Jews at that time and today’s believers may think that the kingdom of God is the kingdom that Jesus will bring when He returns. See Luke 17: 20-21, Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” This situation is the same as the situation of rebirth and salvation described in John 3: 8, which is invisible to the flesh eye for seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Therefore, those who are born again have the kingdom of God in their hearts; or in other words, the Holy Spirit lives in them.
The Lord Jesus preached the gospel for more than three years, and He repeatedly explained what the kingdom of God is. He also used some parables to explain how to enter the kingdom of God, what kind of people can enter the kingdom of God, or who can’t enter the kingdom of God. And Jesus did repeatedly emphasize that God wants to distinguish between true and false believers. Those who only believe in faith and be born again will not only have the kingdom of God in their hearts, but will also be with the Lord Jesus in the new heaven and the new earth forever (we can See these lessons in the Gospel of Matthew). It is worth noting that the Lord Jesus is the only Judge for the last judgement of mankind, not the pastors and co-workers of our church, nor ourselves; therefore no one or theological doctrine can be used as a defense in the face of God’s judgment. When we have the assurance of a rebirth life, we stand with faith and hope before the final judgment table of the Lord Jesus. For the assurance of rebirth and salvation, please read related articles on the website of livinginjesus.org.
Second, the phrase “you must be born again” from the mouth of the Lord Jesus is not an option God give to people, but a command that believers must accept. In the above passage, Jesus used “I tell you the truth,” twice to emphasize to the Pharisee the necessity of rebirth. Later, the Lord used the double emphasized sentence pattern of “I said” and “You must be born again” to tell all the people presented that God’s requirements for the rebirth of believers are not vague, but is the Kingdom of God’s command from heaven. However, from the Catholic Church after the Early Church to the many denominations after the Reformation, the theology professors and preachers gave very light descriptions of the word rebirth, and replaced the command of rebirth with abstract “belief and salvation”; Believers are not aware of the truth of the Lord Jesus’ rebirth and salvation, and problems have arisen in the church. I must point out here that the incarnation of God did not merely issue a rebirth order. He also interpreted in detail and systematically the lessons of the rebirth with salvation and the new life in the Lord according to all His teachings and model. If you want to understand this in more detail, please pay attention to the other six commands that will be explained later, so that you can see clearly and understand the truth of rebirth and salvation.
Before God became incarnate, that is, in the age of the Law of Moses, God’s requirements for salvation were: they must fear God, obey the law that He passed on to Israel through Moses, do justice, have mercy, and help the poor. The core meaning is: love God and love others as yourself. But God did not deliver Jesus Truth to the Israelites for assisting them to be free from hypocrisy from their hearts. Therefore, as long as they obeyed the law in their behavior, they should be okay; and some Pharisees who piously obeyed the law were eligible for salvation. But in the New Testament era, God’s requirements for people increased, because the Lord Jesus accused the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes, and asked His disciples: ” For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:20). In the Old Testament, Jews did not receive the truth of Jesus, and of course they did not have the Holy Spirit to help them be born again. And in the New Testament era, God gave truth and the Holy Spirit through the Lord Jesus; of course, Jesus Truth transcended the laws of the Old Testament to work on the human soul. In this way, God’s requirements for believers have also increased; they no longer rely on behavior to keep the law to be saved, but to experience a rich new life by renewing their lives from the depths of their hearts. Therefore, those who have this new life are sanctified in spirit and will naturally not sin against the law in their behavior; this is also the true meaning of Jesus’ fulfillment of the law in the life of His disciples. Looking at Nicodemus from the Gospel of John, he knew that he was a devout Pharisee who not only obeyed the law but also performed justice. But Jesus still demanded that he must be born again. So, all those who want to believe in the Lord Jesus today must accept the truth of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit, confess and repent to God from the heart, and then get a new life with born again.
Third, the rebirth of believers is the work of God. In this process, people have no ability or behavior to boast of, except to completely confess and repent to God. The preceding verses tell us that Nicodemus never understood the true meaning of rebirth in his dialogue with Jesus, nor did he understand the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit. Today we understand from Jesus’ teachings that the rebirth of believers is to get help through the guidance of the truth and the Holy Spirit. If we look at John the Baptist’s introduction to Jesus, we know that the Lord Christ has to do a sacred and important work of baptism with the Holy Spirit for those who trust in Him. However, in his religious life, Nicodemus relied on the observance of the laws of Moses and Judaism to achieve religious satisfaction and fulfillment. In other words, like many believers in the Christian Church today, he only obtains and confirms his religious identity by observing religious rituals and teachings, and by water baptism that his body can feel. They may think that the rebirth is abstract, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is even more abstract. However, Jesus did not just give the believers an abstract slogan, but used many metaphors and explanations to outline the image of the truth of rebirth and salvation. We must combine all the teachings and commands Jesus gave to believers to summarize and spell out this image so that all who have eyes can see clearly, and those who have ears can understand the truth of Jesus on rebirth and salvation.
In addition, the vast majority of believers’ failure to understand the truth of rebirth and salvation is also related to arguments and misunderstandings concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As the Pentecostal churches in Christianity linked the baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues, it made believers in those churches deliberately pursue man-made dialects. At the same time, the fundamental church did not want to involve the teaching of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Truly speaking, linking the baptism of the Holy Spirit to speaking in tongues is a wrong teaching and is totally inconsistent with Jesus Truth. Here, I am not going to explain in details on the contents of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but to highlight the importance of Jesus’ rebirth command. In order to help those who want to think about the baptism of the Holy Spirit to study the Bible, I have listed eight points for your reference.
The first point is the difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is going to perform and the baptism of water by human hands. The former is to regenerate and renew human life, and has nothing to do with speaking in tongues; the latter is only a testimony of faith and has nothing to do with salvation. The second point: after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit was given to cooperate with the work of Jesus Truth. The core is to let believers understand and obey Jesus Truth so that they can experience a rich new life. The third point is, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit are invisible and need not be explained through external appearances such as dialect. We can see the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives from the renewal of believers’ life characters and the testimony of their new lives. The fourth point is the relationship between the baptism of Holy Spirit baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit: Holy baptism is the first time that a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit and is born again, and then he is constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. The fifth one is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Word of God: The Word of God is the Holy Spirit; being filled with the Word of God in the heart is filled with the Holy Spirit (John 6:63). The sixth, the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost, and the disciples were born again at that time (Acts 2: 1-4). The seventh point, the disciples speaking in tongues is one of the special manifestations of God in unique circumstances. It also includes the sound of strong winds and tongue-like flames appearing on the disciples’ heads. These phenomena are intended to attract the hearer (Acts 2: 5-14); they should not be repeated again after that event. The eighth point, the disciples speaking in tongues has nothing to do with rebirth and salvation; for those who listened to Peter’s sermons that day felt cut to their hearts. This was the work of the Holy Spirit to collaborate with the Word of God. Thus, three thousand people repented and believed in the Lord (Acts 2: 37-41); they did not speak in tongues, but it is believable that many of them who truly believed in the Lord Jesus were born again and were saved.
Fourth, one must truly believe that Jesus is God, and receive the teachings and testimonies of God in the Bible concerning rebirth and salvation. In chapter 3 of John, from verses 10 to 15, seeing Nicodemus’ misunderstanding, Jesus gave him and other audience and including all believers today two key points in the pursuit of rebirth: one is to believe in Jesus who is God, and the second is to understand the truth of God’s rebirth and salvation. However, at that time neither did Nicodemus believe that Jesus was God, nor did the disciples believe that Jesus was God; so, they saw Jesus as a teacher (rabbi) or a powerful prophet. But their unbelief at that time was reasonable, because Jesus had not been crucified yet, and he could not show those people the power of His resurrection and control of life. In addition, the whole Bible was not available at that time, and they could not of course associate the prophecy of the Old Testament prophets with Jesus with the incarnation of God’s Word on earth. Today, when we study the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John, we can understand the deity of Jesus. But many believers see Jesus as a loving helper or one who can give blessings, and they do not believe in Jesus with the fear of God. Then they did not focus their faith on Jesus’ deity and His teachings and testimonies, so they would not fear His teachings.
After speaking with Nicodemus, Jesus was still preaching the gospel. He might use parables and many lessons to explain the truth of rebirth and salvation; this is also the truth of Jesus that Nicodemus and his disciples did not understand at that time. The expectations of the Jews who followed Jesus at the time were to overthrow Roman rule and restore David’s kingdom; this was also their misunderstanding of the prophet’s prophecy about the coming of Messiah. Because they do not understand the purpose of God’s incarnation, they were not interested in the rebirth command issued by Jesus, and would not be willing to think and understand any further. In addition, the area of heavenly things and earthly things that Jesus mentioned in that conversation is the great difference between God’s will and human preferences. Today, many people come to the Christian Church and believe in Jesus only with personal prayers and desires; they may fall into the quagmire of religious belief. If believers are only pursuing the spiritual sustenance of religion, they will not care about all the teachings of Jesus, let alone think about the truth of rebirth and salvation.
In short, if we do not understand, or are unwilling to understand, or misunderstand, or are unwilling to accept Jesus’ command of being born again that is for all those who want to believe in Him, it is impossible for them to pursue the works of Jesus Truth and the Holy Spirit, and we will not be born and saved, and not have the new life. My friend, please think carefully about the command of rebirth, and also pay attention to the other six commands issued by Jesus; because these commands are the cornerstone of Jesus Truth, the foothold of our faith, and the driving force for our pursuit of a rich life in Jesus.
H. Moses Sun wrote this article. The second edition in Chinese was published on March 30, 2020. The edition of translation was published on March 30, 2020.
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