STUDY THE BIBLE COURSE
LESSON 16B: YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
Published 2019 by the Continuing Church of God
Preface: This course is highly based upon the personal correspondence course developed in 1954 that began under the direction of the late C. Paul Meredith in the old Radio Church of God. Various portions have been updated for the 21st century (though much of the original writing has been retained). It also has more scriptural references, as well as information and questions not in the original course. Unless otherwise noted, scriptural references are to the NKJV, copyright Thomas Nelson Publishing, used by permission. The KJV, sometimes referred to as the Authorized Version is also often used. Additionally, Catholic-approved translations such as the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) are sometimes used as are other translations.
How to Receive the Holy Spirit
Since Jesus makes the physical birth a TYPE of the spiritual, let’s compare the similarities of these two DIFFERENT births which each one must experience in order to be saved.
Physically speaking, you became a child of your parents at the very instant of conception when a new physical life was begun. At that time you were conceived, or begotten, but not yet born. But you were parents’ child just as much as Jacob and Esau were their parents’ children BEFORE birth: “for the CHILDREN NOT YET BEING BORN …” (Romans 9:11)
IN THE SAME MANNER, if you are a real Christian, you are now a BEGOTTEN child or son of God. Upon conversion, God the Father placed within you His Spirit, THE GERM or SPERM, so to speak, of eternal life. HE BEGOT YOU WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT JUST AS THE SPERM FROM A HUMAN FATHER IMPREGNATES THE EGG OF THE MOTHER. Your mind is like an egg. You needed to be impregnated with the germ of eternal life to BEGIN the process of spiritual growth. But you are NOT YET BORN of God – NOT YET COMPOSED OF SPIRIT – NOT YET IMMORTAL.
As the unborn son or daughter is nourished and protected by its MOTHER for a period of time, at the end of which period it is born, if it has grown properly, so it is the FUNCTION OF THE TRUE CHURCH – the “MOTHER of us all” – to feed true Christians with the pure Word of God. Thus you must be NOURISHED as God’s child on spiritual food – the words of Scripture – you must LIVE by every word of God 0 you must GROW spiritually (2 Peter 3:18) – until you are mature enough in righteous character to be BORN of God.
But how is it all possible? How do we receive the Holy Spirit which makes us the children of God and makes possible the beginning of eternal life within us? Understand.
1. IS REPENTANCE one of the requirements for receiving the Holy Spirit? Acts 2:38. What is repentance? notice 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 for the answer.
COMMENT: In Acts 2:38, baptism is mentioned as part of the prior condition to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit from God. The entire subject of water baptism will be presented in two future lessons.
2. Is the Holy Spirit a GIFT from God – or is it something we were born with by nature? compare Luke 11:13 with Acts 10:45.
3. Then the Holy Spirit is NOT something we already have – NOT something we were born with, is it? Acts 11:16-17.
4. Are we to ASK GOD TO GRANT us the Holy Spirit? Luke 11:13 again.
5. How can we know that God HEARS US when we ask Him for His Holy Spirit? 1 John 3:22. Doesn’t keeping the commandments and doing the things that please God satisfy His requirements? Same verse.
COMMENT: We must have REPENTED of having lived by our OWN ways – our own standards or laws – and now have made a complete change of direction. Now we must be so desirous of pleasing God that we are keeping HIS COMMANDMENTS as much as we are HUMANLY able to do with our weak, carnal, fleshly minds. THEN, when we ask God to be begotten of Him (as our spiritual Heavenly Father) by the Spirit of POWER which will enable us to truly keep His commands in their highest SPIRITUAL sense, He will HEAR US and impregnate us – the egg – with His very Spirit which will help to gradually change our carnal natures until we are finally BORN of God at the resurrection!
6. Does Acts 5:32 also verify the fact that OBEDIENCE is one of the conditions to receiving the Holy Spirit – one of the conditions to receiving the gift of eternal life?
COMMENT: The Holy Spirit is a freely offered GIFT from God. It is NOT ANYTHING WE CAN EARN. There is nothing you can do which will force God to give you the Holy Spirit. Rather, God offers to give you freely of His Spirit if you will believe in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, for your sings and become willing to DO what He commands you. These are prior conditions, but they DO NOT EARN YOU eternal life.
A Counterfeit Spirit Preached
Most people are totally unaware of Paul’s WARNING that there would be many false churches preaching DIFFERENT doctrines about the Holy Spirit – DECEIVING THE MANY into accepting a DIFFERENT spirit from the one, true Holy Spirit revealed in Scripture, which ALONE can beget eternal life within us!
Notice: “But I fear” – Paul was sorrowed, he knew what was coming in our day – “lest somehow, as the SERPENT beguiled Eve in his craftiness, YOUR thoughts should be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY and the purity that is toward the Christ: (2 Corinthians 11:3, “Panin” Translation.). Christ’s doctrine is SIMPLE when we understand it – it is not a theological mystery!
Continuing with verse 4 (Panin Translation): “For if he who cometh” – any false minister coming in the name of Christ, “preacheth ANOTHER Jesus” – the world is filled with the preaching of a DIFFERENT Jesus who was born, who died and rose at a different time than the true Messiah; a different Jesus who rejected the Father’s immutable laws – “whom we did not preach” – says Paul – “or ye receive a different spirit, which ye did not receive” – from the preaching of the apostles – “ye bear well with him –” or accept or are DECEIVED by him.
That is what has happened today. Paul warned about receiving a “different spirit” and “a different gospel.”
This prophetic warning from Paul has, sadly, already been fulfilled! The world has accepted a DIFFERENT spirit – THE SPIRIT OF ERROR, not the spirit of truth.
The Apostle Paul further warned that Satan’s ministers would deceptively appear to transform themselves into “ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Ecclesiastical history, in and our of the Bible, shows that those who did so had success in deceiving many.
Most churches has some truth, but it is the true “Church of God” that is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Satan, the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), appears, not as the devil, but as an angel of light to many (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Jesus said many would come in His name, proclaiming that He was the Christ – and yet, without realizing it, deceiving the whole world (Matthew 24:4-5).
In a misguided attempt towards peace, many religious and political leaders in the 21st century are promoting the “spirit of error” in many aspects of ecumenical movement tries to consider that all professed Christian faiths are equal before God, yet the Bible warns about false ministers (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) and a false “Mystery Babylonian” faith that involves the world’s political leaders (Revelation 17:1-9). Jesus did not come to bring international unity in this age, but division (Luke 12:51). Christians are to flee from the prophesied Babylon (Zechariah 2:6-7) Revelation 18:4) and be unspotted by the world (James 1:27).
1. How can we know that we have received the true spirit of God and not some counterfeit spirit from the devil? Notice the principal recorded in Matthew 7:20. We can KNOW which ministers are preaching about the Spirit of God BY THE FRUITS of the Spirit in their lives, can’t we?
2. What is the FRUIT of the TRUE Spirit of God? Galatians 5:22-23.
3. What is the first one of the fruits listed – the most important fruit? Is it love? Same verse and 1 Corinthians 13:13.
4. Is the love of God one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit? Romans 5:5. Isn’t it clear that a person does not have the love of God if he does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in him?
5. What is the love of God? Romans 13:10. Is not this the same teaching we discovered in 1 John 3:22-23? This has been God’s message from the beginning, hasn’t it? 1 John 3:11-12.
COMMENT: Before one can receive the Holy Spirit, one must have the attitude of obedience. One must become willing to do God’s will – obey God’s commandments. BUT IT IS NOT UNTIL SOMEONE HAS RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT HE/SHE OBTAINS THE POWER TO PERFORM GOD’S LAW. The Holy Spirit is the POWER of God manifest in our lives (Romans 15:13).
The other fruits of the Spirit, mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:22, amplify the attitude of love. Obedience to God is not harsh and cruel and unyielding – it is a joy, it is peaceable and gentle, it expresses itself in SELF-CONTROL. Self-control is the key to real spiritual power. Most people cannot be filled with spiritual power because they have not been willing to exercise self-control. Uncontrolled power is worse than no power at all.
You have probably been taught that you cannot receive the Holy Spirit until you work up your emotions or until you reject God’s law. That deceptive teaching results from hearing a PERVERTED gospel – a DIFFERENT gospel than Jesus preached.
Begotten Now – Not Yet Born of God
The Holy Spirit, which a person may receive if he asks God for it, in conformity to His will, MAY BE COMPARED TO the GERM or SPERM of physical life. IT TRANSMITS GOD’S MENTAL POWERS AND SPIRITUAL ATTRIBUTES TO US. It is His LOVE. It is His divine NATURE. It is His immortal life.
First, notice that the Holy Spirit – the germ by which we are begotten – comes from the Father. God has masculine characteristics. That is why we call Him “Father.” We are called the BEGOTTEN children of God (1 John 3:1). God, the, has the power to BEGET US as His children. HE BEGETS US “BY HIS SPIRIT.” The Spirit by which we are begotten is termed in the Bible a GERM or “seed.” Peter tells us we are “begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through God’s Word, which liveth and abideth” (1 Peter 1:23 “Ivan Panin” trans.). Jesus completes this by saying we must FINALLY BE BORN AGAIN – at the resurrection p when we shall be spirit. Now we are ONLY FLESH with the spiritual germ of eternal life EMPOWERING US.
Now consider the full scriptural PROOF that we are only the BEGOTTEN children of God, not yet born of Him.
1. Are we already called the “sons of God”? Compare Romans 8:14 with 1 John 3:1.
2. Does being a son of God mean that we are already BORN of God, OR are we ONLY BEGOTTEN of Him now? 1 Peter 1:23.
COMMENT: ONE Greek word means BOTH “BEGOTTEN” AND “BORN.” The translators unfortunately, at times, selected the wrong one of these two words when translating a Bible sentence, so that the English word “born” may appear where “begotten” is intended, and vise versa.
anagennaō. The KJV translates Strong’s G313 in the following manner: begat again (1x), be born again (1x).
But What About 1 Peter 1:23?
Some have wondered about the following passage and suggest this is proof that Christians are already born again:
23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, (1 Peter 1:23, NKJV)
But the above does not properly convey the intent of the writing. The translation of that is misleading.
It should state that we have been BEGOTTEN again, as we have not yet been born into the kingdom.
Notice three translations that get this right:
23 having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abedith. (1 Peter 1:23 American Standard Version)
23 For you have been begotten again, not from corruptible seed, but from incorruptible seed, by the living Word of God, which remains forever. (1 Peter 1:23, A Faithful Version)
23 being begotten again, not out of seed corruptible, but incorruptible, through a word of God — living and remaining — to the age; (1 Peter 1:23 Young’s Literal Translation).
In this age Christians are begotten by the Holy Spirit to be born again in the resurrection.
3. If we are the children of God, are we inheritors of the Kingdom of God, or only HEIRS to it? Romans 8:17.
COMMENT: Notice that although we are now the sons of God, we are only HEIRS. Why? BECAUSE WE ARE ONLY BEGOTTEN children. We shall be INHERITORS WHEN BORN of God at the resurrection, when we shall be composed of spirit. WHATEVER IS BORN OF SPIRIT, said Jesus. We are not yet born of spirit. We are STILL FLESH AND BLOOD! We are therefor only HEIRS to the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50).
4. When do we become incorruptible spirit and no longer flesh? 1 Corinthians 15:42. Has the resurrection of the dead occurred yet? Then we are NOT YET born into the Kingdom of God as inheritors, are we?
We are only the begotten Children of God!
5. Are we ALREADY like Christ in appearance and in composition? 1 John 3:1-2, KJV. When WILL we be like Him? – when He appears to raise the dead? Verse 2, KJV. We are only BEGOTTEN sons now.
COMMENT: We are begotten of God, impregnated by the Holy Spirit from the Father, which is the beginning of eternal life. But we are not yet born of Him, for it has not yet appeared what we shall be like. We do NOT look like Christ now. Note the point that John emphasizes. We shall be like Him, COMPOSED of Spirit – “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” – “when He shall appear” – at the resurrection when Christ returns to raise the dead.
Then we shall see Jesus as He really is. Christ told Nicodemus that in order to see the Kingdom or Family of God, in which He – Christ – now is, we must be born again. How consistent the teaching of the Bible is!
We Receive “Spirit of Sonship”
1. Is God called the “FATHER of spirits”? Hebrews 12:9. Then does this not clearly prove that we can be finally literally be BORN of God? – be born as His SPIRIT-COMPOSED CHILDREN?
2. Is Chris called the “FIRSTBORN among MANY BRETHREN”? Romans 8:29. Since He is the first Son BORN into the God-Kingdom, then there must be OTHER SONS also TO BE BORN into it.
Does not this same verse clearly explain that we are to be like Chris – “conformed to the image of His Son” – that we are to be His brethren?
COMMENT: PRIOR to THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIS, He was the ONLY begotten Son of the Father, BUT SINCE THAT TIME WE ALSO MAY BE BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER.
3. IS JESUS CHRIST declared to be the firstborn from the dead? Colossians 1:18. Since He is the FIRSTborn from the dead, then are the OTHERS who are to be raised from the dead also to be born into the Kingdom of God as Jesus has been? How else could He be the firstborn?
4. Are Christians called the CHILDREN of God? Galatians 3:26, KJV.
5. Now compare Galatians 3:26 with Romans 8:14-17 and Ephesians 1:5. Do these verses reveal the SAME truth – that we are to be born again in order to inherit eternal life?
COMMENT: In some versions of the Bible the expression “adoption of sons” or “adoption of children” is used. This is not a proper translation. The original inspired Greek expression “huiothesia” means sonship. WE RECEIVE THE “SPIRIT OF SONSHIP,” not the “spirit of ADOPTION.” The Holy Spirit makes us LITERAL SONS OF GOD. WE ARE GOING TO BE LIKE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER. What is the NAME which all truly begotten children of God bear as a result of receiving the Holy Spirit from the Father? Ephesians 3:14-15.
COMMENT: The name which all converts bear as a result of being begotten by the Holy Spirit is “God.”
We are called the “sons of God” or “God’s sons” – just as human beings bear the names Johnson, Robertson, and Jackson, meaning originally the sons of John, Robert and of Jack. GOD is the FAMILY NAME of the divine Kingdom. It is the Father “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15).
Notice what the very first words of the Bible tell us about God?
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, NKJV throughout unless as otherwise noted)
The original Hebrew word translated God in verse 1 is Elohim. Elohim is a uniplural or collective noun, like the words church, family and kingdom.
In other words, the term Elohim stands for a group composed of two or more individuals. Elohim in Genesis 1:1 means the God family.
Both the Father and Son are God:
2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)
Jesus is called God in John 1:1 and in other verses. He is not angelic spirit, but divine or GOD spirit.
God is a GROWING Family or Kingdom into which we may enter. God is a Family, a Kingdom, NOT A TRINITY. The Father in Heaven wants you to become a member of His divine Family. You can be His son if you surrender your whole life to Him – believe all that is in the Bible – believe Christ is your Saviour and obey Him – and be filled with the power of the Spirit of God.
SPIRITUAL THINGS seem unreal to most people. And no wonder! Spiritual qualities are invisible, not discerned by the senses until revealed in writing in the Bible!
When we speak of the Holy Spirit, many cannot grasp its nature. Yet the Bible makes clear the nature of spirit.
Notice, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). The God-Family is composed of spirit, have definite SHAPE. From one end of the Bible to the other we are told about the SHAPE and the parts of each member in the God-Family. The Father and the Son each have a head, hair, eyes, nose, mouth, arms, fingers, a torso, legs, feet, (Daniel 7:9; Ezekiel 1:26-28; Revelation 1:13-16) plus inward parts (e.g. Genesis 6:5-6). So has man. Man is in the IMAGE of God (Genesis 1:26). But man is born only of flesh. Man is matter, but God is spirit. (Review the lesson titled “Are Humans Immortal?”, Lesson 14. You will now learn things you didn’t see in that lesson before!)
Even though the Father and the Son are spirit and are n definite locations with respect to each other, the Spirit proceeds from them into the entire universe much like air fills everything on earth! Note David’s words that God’s Spirit permeates EVERYTHING. (Psalm 139:7-11).
The divine Spirit that fills the entire universe is the channel by which the Father and the Son create. HUMANS HAVE NO SUCH DIVINE ATTRIBUTE OR POWER BORN INTO THEM. But humans may FORM TOOLS and electronic brains to make things.
Humans were put here on earth to LEARN to develop tools for limited creative work – to train for the eternal goal – becoming part of the GOD-FAMILY, which means SHARING control of the creative Spirit of God in order to help eternity be better.
That is what it means to become born again – to be fully imbued with God’s power when composed of Spirit.
To Become PERFECT When Born of God
Only when one is BORN of God by a resurrection does a person become PERFECT (1 John 3:9). Christ is the only human being thus far BORN of God. He is PERFECT.
Or course! If we are God’s children, we are to “GROW UP” to become like Him.
The Eternal God has created innumerable galaxies of stars and planets. The full extent of His entire finished creation is completely beyond the grasp of the human mind – completely beyond the telescope or the microscope.
But wonder of wonders! – GOD IS STILL CREATING BEFORE OUR VERY EYES HIS HIGHEST AND NOBLEST WORK – He is fashioning begotten sons to be BORN INTO HIS OWN FAMILY! YOU and I have the opportunity of becoming a son in the Family or Kingdom of God!
By a process completely hidden to the world, and revealed only to His own children by the Bible, God is now begetting, through the operations of the Holy Spirit, sons AFTER HIS OWN KIND – after His own character and likeness. The begettal, nourishment and actual birth of sons into the God Kingdom by a resurrection to divine and glorified immortality is THE SUPREME PINNACLE OF CREATION – GOD THE CREATOR’S SUPREME ACHIEVEMENT!
Yet most churches do not realize this wonderful truth. They talk about being born of God, but they DON;T KNOW WHAT IT MEANS!
1. Are Christians to have the very MIND of God? Philippians 2:5. Did Jesus Christ have that mind in Him when He walked on earth? Same verse.
2. Are humans naturally born with the mind of God? Romans 8:6-7. Is the human mind naturally subject to the laws of God?
3. What is the natural mind of man like? Mark 7:21-22, Matthew 15:19 and Jeremiah 17:9.
4. Are we commanded to surrender our natural, carnal minds to God? Galatians 5:16-17. Are we to yield our minds to the influence of the Spirit of God? Same verses.
5. Are the laws of God to be ingrained in our minds if we are Christians? Hebrews 8:8-11. Isn’t it clear that one of the final characteristics of Christians who are now begotten and finally will be born of God is that they will have become like God in character – perfect – unable to sin? Note especially verse 10 and 1 John 3:9.
One Other Point
It has been the favorite teaching of some that Christians can’t sin anymore in this life because they are “born again”. This doctrine originated from misapplying 1 John 3:9: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” Notice what this means.
1. Can Christians commit sin? 1 John 1:8. Who is doing the speaking in this verse the apostle John? And is he using the present tense of the verb? Then the apostle plainly means that Christians now can, and sometimes do commit SIN, doesn’t he? Notice that he includes HIMSELF – “WE”.
2. Was the apostle Paul beset with recurring sin long AFTER he repented and received the Holy Spirit? Romans 7:14-25.
3. Does Jesus admonish us to overcome sin continually? Revelation 2:26.
4. Is there a just man on earth who does not at some time commit sin? Ecclesiastes 7:20. Therefore Christians are NOT now born of God in this mortal flesh, are they?
5. Now notice 1 John 5:18, KJV. What does this scripture reveal?
COMMENT: Notice the difference between the two conditions referred to in this verse. The one CAN’T sin because God’s “seed remaineth in him”. One is BORN of God and has God’s nature, NOT the human nature that once caused one to sin if that person didn’t have the strength to resist. The other, who is BEGOTTEN, must keep from being spotted – that one must continue to RESIST the deceptions and the pollutions of the world. Such a one CAN commit sin – YET WILL NOT WILLFULLY SIN – BUT WHEN CAUGHT OFF GUARD OR IN A MOMENT OF WEAKNESS – CAN SIN. Life is to the begotten child still a CONSTANT STRUGGLE against the wiles of the devil operating in the world and through his own human nature. Although the Christian has now received THE DIVINE NATURE (2 Peter 1:4), the Christian still has HUMAN NATURE, and the one wars against the other. Christians must keep their human nature “crucified” like Him (Romans 6:6) – and WILL to be LED BY the Spirit or nature of God. (Ephesians 3:20; Romans 8:14).
Much of the confusion about being born again has resulted from misinterpreting the original Greek.
In the English language we have two different verbs – TO BEGET and TO BE BORN – which are used to translate the ONE Greek word GENNAO. This Greek word means “to conceive”, or “to beget”, and also “to bear,” or “to be born.” In order to know which meaning is intended, we must let the Bible interpret the Bible. Since the Bible plainly reveals that Christians can sin now – in this flesh-and-blood mortal existence – we therefore KNOW that it is only when one is actually BORN OF GOD IN THE FUTURE, at the resurrection, that he CANNOT sin anymore.
In summary, the Holy Spirit of God is this: It is the very spirit – the very LIFE, the very ESSENCE of God the Creator! God, according to John 4:24, is Spirit. But man is mortal. Humans are flesh. God is composed of Spirit. Spirit is not like matter. Humans are composed of matter. Matter occupies a definite amount of physical space, and has weight. But God’s Spirit emanates from Him, like the air. It is force. It is POWER, it is LIFE, it is CHARACTER!
When God’s Spirit, emanating from the very person of God, enters into a human, it IMPREGNATES that human’s mind with the very LIFE OF GOD. It plants within that man or woman the divine nature of God, to develop the very character of God, until we, through His Spirit, BECOME LIKE GOD – until we THINK as God thinks – until we see things with the same attitude as God sees them, and we act as God acts – yes, until we BECOME GOD even as Christ is now VERY GOD – BORN MEMBERS OF THE GOD FAMILY which is THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
What WONDERFUL NEWS! What meaning there is to being “born again”!
Editor: Since that article came out, more and more studies have demonstrated that proper exercise improves longevity and reduces the risk for numerous diseases. Furthermore, exercise can help one feel younger and be able to be more productive in one’s later years.