|Topical Bible Study||June 1961|
The Holy Spirit Series—Lesson IV
Born of the Spirit
BEGINNING with Jesus, and continuing throughout the Gospel Age, one of the accomplishments of the Holy Spirit has been the producing of a new creation. (II Cor. 5:17) The Bible likens this to the begettal, development, and birth of a child.* This function of the holy power of God has been somewhat obscured by a failure of the translators to note the distinction between the thought of begetting and birth.
* “The New Creation,” page 76.
This has been due in part to the fact that, in the Greek language from which the New Testament is translated, there is only one word for both begetting and birth, and one has to determine from the association in which it is used, as to which is meant. The word is gennao.* It is this word that is used in the genealogy of Jesus and properly translated “begat.” (Matt. 1:1-16) Manifestly the word “born” would be quite improper in this instance.
* Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, word no. 1080.
It is this same Greek word gennao that is used in the account of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus when he told this ruler in Israel that he would need to be born again in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. (John 3:1-13) Here the word born is the proper translation.
In the natural realm, begettal must precede birth, but many students of the Bible have overlooked this in applying the illustration to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of consecrated believers. Failure properly to apply the illustration has led to that incongruous and much overworked statement, “born again Christians.”
Nicodemus failed to understand what Jesus meant by being born again, so Jesus gave another illustration, explaining that those who do attain this new birth are like the wind, in the sense that they can come and go unobserved, and are very powerful. Manifestly this is not true of those who now claim to be born again, yet are still fleshly beings.
Spirit birth takes place in the resurrection. When Jesus was raised from the dead he was able to move about invisibly, and he possessed great power. (John 20:26; Matt. 28:18) Birth of the Spirit in the resurrection is brought about by God’s power, his Spirit, as the Scriptures bring to our attention in connection with Jesus.—Eph. 1:19,20
When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again,” he was referring to the complete change of nature to which the followers of the Master are called, and to which they must attain in order to live and reign with him in his kingdom, through the agency of which human life will be restored to mankind in general. Obviously, before this birth to spirit nature can take place, there must be a begetting of the Spirit, through the Word of truth. (James 1:18; I Pet. 1:23—“begotten,” not “born” is the proper translation of Gennao in this latter text.) To be begotten by the Word of truth is the same as being begotten by the Holy Spirit, for the Word of truth is the product of the Holy Spirit.
After spirit begettal there must be spiritual growth, in order that the new creature be ready for spirit birth. (Eph. 4:23,24; I Pet. 2:2; II Pet. 3:18) It is thus that the “inward man” is renewed while, during the span of human life, the “outward man” perishes, or, R.V., “is decaying.”—II Cor. 4:16
Those who are faithful and finally experience Spirit birth will be like Jesus and see him as he is. (I John 3:1-3) They will experience the power of his resurrection.—Phil. 3:10,11
What has been one of the important functions of the Holy Spirit throughout the Gospel Age, and how has misunderstanding obscured the truth on this important subject?
The Greek word gennao is translated “beget” and “born” in the New Testament. How can we determine which of these words should be used?
Is the word “born” a proper translation in Jesus’ statement, “Ye must be born again”?
Is the expression, “born again Christians,” a scriptural one?
Name some of the characteristics of those who are born of the Spirit.
When does Spirit birth take place?
What work of the Spirit must take place before Spirit birth?
What intervenes between Spirit begettal and Spirit birth?
What is the great hope of those who will attain Spirit birth?
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
In order to experience a change of nature to be like the exalted Jesus, one must be begotten by the Spirit; then there must be spiritual growth; and finally, a birth of the Spirit in the resurrection.