Revised 05/2006
A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

Of the Children of God From the World
(Making it Real -- No. 2 of a Series)
 By Edgar Jones
If you have read Part No. 1 of this series, you have seen how all the associations of life in the world are broken by this detachment and then are replaced with other comparable associations.  Parents, extended family, race, nation, citizenship and even life as we know it are all replaced by new associations.  This is what Jesus means when he says, of his disciples, in prayer to the Father:


[16] They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
So it is that we who are his disciples have the same detachment from the world as that of Jesus; there is no difference. And it all begins with being begotten from above, as stated in the prior paper.

On Being Begotten From Above

The process that brings us into the world also makes us of the world.  Every association of the world immediately claims us and makes us its own.  The world does this without any consideration of our wishes and desires.  It, with all its bonds, immediately brands us with brands that we are likely to wear until death.  The brands are sometimes physical, as with circumcision and infant baptism, but most are psychological and spiritual.  We almost universally conform to this set of associations.  It is as though we were poured into a mold as infants and, by the time we are of mature years, we have hardened into the shape of the world and thoroughly accommodated to being of it.  We know nothing else.

Some associations can be changed superficially.  Adoptive parents may replace birth parents.  Another nation may replace our birth nation.  But all of these secondary associations are also of the world, partake of the same character as do the original ones, and provide no liberation.  The  essential transformation of the children of God is supernatural and not superficial.

This bondage to the world universally arises with natural birth, and only another birth -- a supernatural one -- can produce freedom.  This latter birth brings its own complete set of comparable yet liberating associations.  It is of this birth that Jesus spoke when he said to Nicodemus,


[3] Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is begotten from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
The anew is literally "from above," which is surely what Jesus is saying. This birth contrasts with the natural birth that Jesus characterizes as of the flesh which is from below, because it is of the Spirit, which is from above. Jesus applies this contrast in origins to the Pharisees in this utterance:


[23] He said to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
You see, do you not, how being from above or from below corresponds, in the mind of Jesus, with being either of this world or not of this world? The distinction arises solely from the differing births. This birth "from above' is the subject of the balance of this paper.  

I. Jesus Asserts the Mystery of Birth From Above

The primary assertion from Jesus comes in this dialogue with Nicodemus, who was rather puzzled when he heard that he must be begotten from above. He has already been begotten from below and so he assumes that the birth from above is somehow a repetition. So he asks the Lord the obvious, stupid questions: "Can a man be begotten when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be begotten?" (John 3:4)  Then Jesus responded:
[5] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is begotten of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6] That which is begotten of the flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten of the Spirit is spirit.
7] Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be begotten anew (from above).'
8] The wind (spirit) blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is begotten of the Spirit.

The Greek New Testament utilizes the very same word, pneuma, to indicate both the wind and the Spirit. Also, it does not capitalize the Spirit, therefore we are presented with precisely the same word.  The only way we know to distinguish them is that in the case of the wind, one hears the sound of it.  What Jesus said to Nicodemus about his lack of knowledge is not true today because we now know from whence the wind comes and whither it goes. Nicodemus did not know this, so the statement holds true for him as stated by Jesus.  We must therefore place ourselves in the same state of ignorance as Nicodemus if we are to appreciate this metaphor.  It should not be too difficult, because some of us can remember a time in early childhood when we, like Nicodemus, literally did not know the source or destination of the wind.

The focus of this metaphor is not on the hearing, for one need not hear the action of the Spirit when being begotten from above.  The sole focus of this saying is found in the expression, you do not know.  Nevertheless,  we are able to understand.  Otherwise Jesus would not have rebuked Nicodemus for his lack of understanding of these heavenly things.


[10] Jesus answered him, Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?
We should note that Jesus utilized a word for understand in this verse that is different from the one for know  in verse 8.  I take it to mean that, in verse 8, he is speaking of outer perception, whereas here he speaks of inwardly understanding.  The evidence of the birth from above is not outwardly perceptible, but we understand it inwardly, and there are radical inward changes -- a dying to the flesh and a quickening of the Spirit. Outwardly, it was and remains a mystery.

To give a personal example of what I mean by this, I find, after years of discipleship, that many anxieties that once troubled me now trouble me no more. 
Once the though of dying to this world was depressing and the prospect of growing old was a gloomy one. But now that I am old, I find myself rejoicing!  Such is the glorious hope Jesus has given me through this long exposure to his Word.

2. Jesus Explains the Mystery

At various times Jesus gave, not outright explanations, but markers and clues that he left for us to hear and by which to obtain the understanding that Nicodemus lacked. Perhaps the most clearly perceived of these markers comes from the Parable of the Sower, one of the few that Jesus specifically explains.  Let us read it together:


    [11] Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
    12] The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved.
    13] And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.
    14] And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.
    15] And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.
    Seed  in v. 11 is from the Greek, speiro.  The seed is the Word of God (Matthew, Word of the Kingdom).  

    Are you seeing it already?  

    The birth from above follows the seed from above, which takes up residence in the heart of a human being.  The outcome depends altogether on the condition of that heart, and it is only the ones who possess what Jesus characterizes as an honest and good heart that survive and bear fruit. Thus the honest and good hear becomes enlivened by the seed of God.  

    Jesus does not make the following comparison but I understand that the other categories of the parable, except for the ones along the path, are like stillborn infants that never really take the breath of life. Their life is eternal life, that being the only life that the Word produces, but it is provisional -- that is, provided they endure temptations and overcome the cares of life. Some fall away due to temptation; some due to the cares and riches and pleasures of life. Those on the path just hear the Word and pass it off. They produce no enduring life.  There is never a defect in the seed -- only in the soil.

    It follows that to be begotten from above, one must receive the seed from above and that seed is the Word of God as delivered by Jesus.  It is not our purpose to expand on this here, but this Word of God consists exclusively of those words uttered in the world by Jesus -- words that he heard from the Father and broadcast in the world.  When one receives the Word, believes the Word and holds to the Word, the result is as Jesus tersely expressed it:


[24] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.


[51] Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.
Even while we abide in this world, the Lord considers that our begetting from above involves an honest and good heart that grants an assured life eternal. It follows also that the remainder of our time in the world must be spent as not of the world because we are God's children now.  We lived beforehand a life from below, knowing only the begetting from below.  Now it is our great privilege to live, even in this time, the life from above, having experienced the begetting from above.

An emotional experience at the point of receiving the Word is no grounds for confidence that we have, indeed, received the gift of eternal life.  Perhaps you have noticed, in the parable, that the only ones who got emotional about it, who receive it with joy, are those on the rock who have no root in themselves and who soon fall away.  And the ones who are genuine, of them he has said only that they hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.

We human beings tend to be resistant to the idea that the begetting from above is a quiet, outwardly unremarkable experience.  We are inclined to insist that so radical a transformation of life must be accompanied by lots of fireworks and thrilling emotions. It is not so.  Rather, these outward things are but powerful deceptions that have no essential relevance to the begetting from above. Everyone who has such an experience, who marks the day of the begetting from above with emotional outpourings and looks back to that day as "the day I was saved," will do well to reconsider.  

I grew up attending a Baptist church that encouraged this sort of thing and I vividly recall, as a young teenager, seeing my emotional friends accept the altar call and "get saved" while I remained in the pew, waiting for an emotion to move me forward -- an emotion that, thankfully, never came. The utter failure of such "getting saved" experiences becomes evident when, years later, we see those who depend on it, for their eternal hope, to be as fully attached to the world as anyone else who makes no profession of religion.  There is no freedom in it.

Jesus gives markers to identify the experience of the begetting from above. It occurs when anyone, after careful and rational evaluation of the facts of life in this world and its limited prospects, together with careful investigation of the Word of Truth, decides to receive and believe and hold to the Word.  It is a simple either/or decision, but it is the individual's first experience of eternal life.  Thereafter the Word, quietly working from within, enlivens and strengthens and motivates every honest and good heart so that one becomes more confident as the days and years pass and discovers, to one's great satisfaction, that the bonds of attached to the world are broken.


We are free!  It is the Word of Jesus that achieves the detachment of the children of the Father; He makes it real!  it is precisely as he stated:


[31] If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
[32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
By this means we implement the detachment from the world of the children of God.
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