Faith in the Last Days - J. Thomas
17 - CHRIST'S DISCOURSE WITH NICODEMUS

IN John 3:3, Jesus states a truth in relation to God's kingdom over which he is to preside with the saints, which is unalterable and indispensable, and which the lapse of eighteen centuries has rendered no less imperative than at the moment he enunciated it: Except a man be begotten from above, he is unable to see the Kingdom of God. This is a great truth; and to those who understand the nature of the kingdom, an obvious one. It is a truth of similar construction to this, that except a man be begotten from beneath, he is not able to possess the things of Satan's kingdom . And why? Because he would have no existence at all; but would be as his father Adam, before the Lord of the Elohim formed him from the ground, by the Spirit of the Invisible God. A man must be begotten of sinful flesh, or he cannot see the things of the flesh; and this begettal is the being begotten "from beneath" to which Jesus refers, in saying, "Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world". (John 8:23) The Jews sprung ek ton kato , "out of things below" -- that is, of blood, of the impulse of the flesh, and of the will of man; while he originated ek ton ano , "from things above" -- that is, of the Spirit, and the will of God.

Jesus, then, who is "the Heir of All Things ", (Heb. 1:2) was "begotten from above". He was thus begotten to the days of his flesh for he was not the Son of Joseph, but of God. Nevertheless, the flesh profiteth nothing; it is the Spirit that makes alive". (John 6:63) Jesus was crowned with glory and honour, not because he had been begotten from above of God's spirit before he was born of Mary; but because he was obedient unto death, and made perfect through sufferings. Having attained to moral perfection (not that he was ever immoral for he was "without sin", (Heb. 4:15; 9:28) but until "the temptation" he was simply innocent, his virtue, or obedience to the Father, not having been tested by his sufferings), he was made alive by the Spirit, or from above, and so became "the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead". (Rom. 1:4)

The Lord Jesus was the subject of two spirit-begettals and two births -- the former were both of the Spirit; and the latter its consequents. His fleshly birth was of Mary, which we are not now considering. His first spiritual birth was on being "born of water", (John 3:5,6) and so fulfilling the righteousness of God; which multitudes think was quite necessary for the sinless Jesus, but not for them! After this birth his trials commenced; and his "patient continuance in well doing" (Rom. 2:7) prepared him, or rather became the premises upon which was predicated his second birth; that, namely, from the dark and gravid womb of the grave where all his brethren lie. Thus he was "born of the Spirit" (John 3:5,6) and became "the Lord, the Spirit"; or as Paul has it, eis pneuma zoopoioun , "the last Adam was made into a spirit which shall make alive," (1 Cor. 15:45) for zoopoioun is the second future participle whose sign is going to make alive . Thus, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh", like all the sons of the, first Adam; "and that which is born of the spirit is spirit", (John 3:6) like the second Adam, the Elder Brother and captain of the saints.

"Flesh and blood", says Paul, "cannot inherit", or possess "the kingdom of God." And why? Because, as he says, "corruption cannot inherit incorruption". (1 Cor. 15:50) The kingdom of God is the incorruptible, undefiled and unfading inheritance of the saints -- the kingdom preparing for the blessed of their Father. It is "that which shall never be destroyed", and which "shall not be left to other people". That is, when it is given to the Father's blessed ones, it shall henceforth be possessed by them, and by them only: "it shall not be left to other people"; but "the saints shall possess it for ever, even for ever and ever". (Dan. 2:44; 7:14,18,27) Now, that which is born of the flesh is flesh and blood, and "dead" or mortal and corruptible. How true this must be of mankind in general, in view of what Paul says to saints in the present life -- "Ye are dead", (Col. 3:3) apethanete , says he: a word which signifies to become putrescent, or dry as a withered tree. This was the new law of their being relatively to "earthly things", (John 3:12; Phil. 3:19) on which they were forbidden to set their affections. Their bodies were "dead because of sin"; ((Rom. 8:10) and their affections were dead to earthly things; so that as far as flesh and blood and world were concerned, they were mortal and corruptible, and only so. But they had a hidden life. It was not a physical principle within them. All that was there was the word of life, assuredly believed; in which sense Christ the word, was there, dwelling in their hearts by faith. By holding on to this word, they held on to eternal life - on to the Lord the spirit who is to give them life in his day. They were dead; but "your life", continued the apostle, "is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ, your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory". (Col. 3:1-4) This being the condition of saints, unresurrected and unchanged, it is clear that they are physically incapacitated for possessing the kingdom of God. However worthy and acceptable before him, they cannot, being mortal, "enter the kingdom of God", (Matt. 19:24; Mark 9:47; 10:23,24,25; Luke 18:24,25; John 3:5; Acts 14:22) and possess it for ever, until born of the spirit, for till then they are not spirit, but flesh only.

The saints must become "spiritual bodies", (1 Cor. 15:44) or spirits, before they can "see" so as to possess the kingdom. Now, as a begettal of blood, or of the flesh, or of the will of man, cannot produce spirit-body, there is no ground for marvel that a second birth should be a necessary preliminary to the inheriting the kingdom of God. Hence the Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born from above". He then went on to say, "The Spirit breathes where he pleases, and thou hearest his voice, but thou knowest not whence he comes, and whither he leads in like manner is every one being begotten of the Spirit". (John 3:7-8) Thus are men begotten from above -- by the voice of the Spirit breathing forth the truth, when, where, and how, He pleases. In some places, He will not breathe it at all; and on occasion positively forbids its utterance (Acts 16:7).

But the inability of man to possess, or to enter, the kingdom of God, is twofold; for while corruptible flesh and blood cannot inherit it, neither can the unrighteous. "Be not deceived", says Paul; "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9) The unrighteous are as putrescent of heart as they are of flesh. The saints cannot inherit the kingdom until they cease to be flesh and blood; and sinners cannot inherit it, until they cease to be unrighteous as well: thus, there is but one hindrance to saints, but two obstacles in the way of sinners -- for, "sinners shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous". (Ps. 1:5) The being begotten from above, therefore, has relation to the begettal of a sinner to God's righteousness, that, like Jesus, the great exemplar of the faith, he may fulfil that righteousness in being born of water. "Of his own will the Father of lights begat us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." (James 1:17,18) In these words, James teaches us that God is the begetter; and "the word of truth" the means by which He begets the first-fruits of His creatures -- the first-fruits who are to attain to eternal life and glory, before the general harvest of the sons of Adam. This word of truth is "the word of the kingdom", (Matt. 13:19) which, as good seed, is sown into honest and good hearts. Referring to this, Peter says, "begotten again of incorruptible seed through the word of the living God, abiding even unto the age, and preached as gospel unto you". (1 Pet. 1:23,25) Now, every one that believes this gospel with full assurance of faith, is begotten of the Father of lights; that is, "from above": and in proof of it, they "purify their souls in the obedience of the truth through the Spirit". (1 Pet. 1:22) The words I speak unto you are spirit and are life"; (John 6:63) says Jesus; and it is such words that bring honest hearts to "the obedience of the faith", (Rom. 16:26) for which purpose the gospel was ordered to be preached. A man found in the obedience of the truth is one who believes the gospel of the kingdom, and has been baptized, according to the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus. The apostle addressed such a one as washed, sanctified, and justified. Thus, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, idolators, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God". (1 Cor. 6:9-11) This is equivalent to saying they had been born of water and of spirit; for in the days of the apostles, believers in the kingdom were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, and so found in him and in his name; and I find no place in God's book where this old-fashioned custom has been abolished.

This being begotten from above, then, leads to a twofold birth from below -first, from water; and secondly, from the grave: and the one is as necessary as the other to the entering of the kingdom of God. "He that believes the gospel and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) He that spake these words also said, "Except a man be born out of water and spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5) -- and he that enters not into that kingdom is a lost man. A man not begotten from above is "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him"; (Eph. 4:18) he is "dead in trespasses and in sins"; (Eph. 2:1) he is not in Christ: he is (even though an immersed man) unwashed, unsanctified, and unjustified. The first thing is to believe the gospel of the kingdom; and then to put on Christ by being introduced into his name. This is the first effectual move towards glory, honour, incorruptibility, and life in the kingdom of God. What remains is, "Be faithful unto death, and Christ will give thee a crown of life", (Rev. 2:10) when he unlocks the gates ofthe unseen, and wakes his sleeping brethren from the dust. Their regeneration then will be complete, but not before. Awake, they once more stand upon the earth; no longer, however, flesh and blood, but flesh, bones and spirit, as the Lord the spirit, and "equal to the angels", (Luke 20:36) and therefore deathless, and fit for the kingdom of God.

"Consider Christ Jesus", says Paul, "the Apostle and High Priest of our confession." (Heb. 3:1) He is the heir of all things terrestrial; and the saints are joint-heirs with him of all God has covenanted to him. He is the way and the truth, as well as the resurrection and the life. Would we know the true way to the kingdom? Consider the narrow way in which Jesus walked, and follow in his foot-steps; for he left us an example that we should follow in them. The members of Christ's house are with him the children of a common father, even God. They have all therefore since the proclamation of "the mystery" (Rom. 16:25) to follow him through the water and the grave. I speak not of those who remain at his appearing. These saints, washed and justified, will not pass through the grave; but will become spiritual bodies, or spirits, being begotten to this from above in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Cor. 15:50-54) All else follow Jesus through the water and the grave; and, after his example, rising from the dead, "are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36) so that it can be said to them in the prophetic words addressed to the Lord's Anointed: "Ye are my sons, this day (of your resurrection) have I begotten you". (See Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; 1 John 4:9)

The kingdom of God is a spiritual institution. I do not mean by this that it is a mere aura, or gaseous afflation, like Plato's "immortal soul"; but spiritual in the sense of its being incorruptible and indestructible; and founded by the power of God, who is spirit; and governed by a king who is spirit; and everything relating to it divinely appointed. Such an institution as this is pre eminently spiritual; and because it is so every son of Adam who would inherit it must be spiritualized in heart and substance; or, as the phrase is, "in body, soul, and spirit, the whole person". The principle laid down by the royal teacher in John 3:5 may be termed the law of spiritualization, unsubject to which no man can possibly in the nature of things enter upon the possession of the glory, honour, life, power, and emoluments of "the kingdom of Christ and of God". (Eph. 5:5) This law is to the kingdom what naturalization is to the kingdoms and republics of the world. The governments of these, "the rulers of the darkness of this age", (Eph. 6:12) will not permit the natives of foreign states to inherit or possess the honours and emoluments of their institutions, unless they first abjure to all princes and potentates but themselves. They say, "Except ye be naturalized ye can in no wise enter any department of our State". It would be very remarkable if all the kingdoms of the world had an alien law, and the kingdom of God none. All the sons and daughters of Adam are by nature aliens to the kingdom of heaven; hence they have no more natural right to it than the Portuguese have to the privileges, immunities, and emoluments, of the throne, hierarchy, and aristocracy, of the British Empire. "The flesh profiteth nothing." (John 6:63) Even a natural Israelite, to whose nation the kingdom belongs, has no right to the glory, honour, incorruptibility, life, power and wealth of it; how much less right, or rather none at all, has he who is not even a descendant from Jacob according to the flesh. Even a natural born Israelite must "be born from above", or he cannot inherit the kingdom when restored again to Israel. The character defined in the scriptures as "the Jew" -- " an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile" (John 1:47) -- is the pattern to which they must conform who would "inherit all things". (John 21:7) Jesus is this Jew in manifestation. He claimed nothing promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because he was born of their daughter Mary, because "the flesh profiteth nothing": (John 6:63) but because he pleased God. Truth, and not sight, begets "the Jew " -- faith in the word of the kingdom, the promised kingdom. Hence, it is "the children of the promise who are counted for the seed" ((Rom. 9:8) that shall inherit all things. The whole Jewish nation will be grafted into its own olive tree when God shall have overcome their unbelief. They shall possess, their native land no more to be expelled by the horns of the Gentiles, above whom they will be exalted as a nation very high. But it is only those Jews and Gentiles, who, by spiritualization, answer to "the Jew" walking in the steps of that faith of Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised, who will inherit the kingdom with eternal glory. For, "he is not the Jew in the appearance but he is the Jew who is such in the inner man". (See Rom. 2:28,29)

The king says that no alien shall inherit his kingdom unless he be spiritualized in mind and body. He has a perfect right to say so, and no alien has any right to complain; for citizenization is a principle of their legislation. If you would inherit the good things promised to Israel, become citizens of Israel's commonwealth, and of its royal household, styled "the household of God". (Eph. 2:19) Now, as there is but one alien law to a state, so there is but one for the adoption of aliens into the kingdom of God. The first step is the declaration of the intention; or confession with the mouth, as the result of believing the things of the kingdom and name with the heart; "for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation". (Rom. 10:10) Next comes obedience to "the Law of Faith", (Rom. 3:27) which commands the confessor to "be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus". (Acts 8:16; 19:5) He. is now in mind, body and estate, "the purchased possession" (Eph. 1:14) of the King of Israel. He is in mind and heart "begotten from above", and in body "washed with pure water". (Heb. 10:22,23) Thus he is intellectually and morally begotten of the spirit-truth; and corporeally washed with water, made "pure" by the special use to which it is appropriated, in connection with the subject's faith in the things of the kingdom and name. Thus being begotten of the word and born of water, he is scripturally responsive to the exhortation of the apostle, who says to all such, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (by the blood of sprinkling in the obedience), and our bodies washed with pure water: let us hold fast the confession of the hope unwaveringly". (Heb. 10:22,23) And now, what waits he for? For the Son of God from heaven, to change the body of his humiliation into a like form with the body of his exaltation and glory, through that spirit-energy by which he is able, and at that time prepared, to subdue all things to himself. This accomplished, and he is corporeally begotten of the spirit, and an actual inheritor of the then established, glorious, and all conquering kingdom of God.