Gospel Message & Recording
When we think of Jesus Christ, we imagine a man, who within human history was born miraculously to a Virgin. But have we ever thought about the time before the Incarnation? How was Christ before his birth (with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit)? Let me explain. The Holy Trinity always existed. There is no time or place of beginning. God was always there. He is limitless and boundless. God the Son and God the Holy Spirit were “eternally begotten” of the Father. In other words, it was the “first birth” of God the Son. In due time, in order to bring glory to God’s name, God sent His Son into the world to become a man—the Man, Jesus Christ—who is fully God and fully human. This was the “second birth.” So for God the Son there are “two births.”
In the Gospel reading today, we hear of a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus, finding Jesus in a secluded region, and he starts a conversation that will forever be etched in Christian history. He starts by making a statement, “We know that you are from God, for no one can do the signs that you do unless God was with him.” (John 3:2) In a peculiar fashion, Jesus, in reply, says, “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Why did Jesus give this reply? Here, Nicodemus is speaking about how Jesus is “God-like” or rather has God in him. But Jesus replies by talking about being born again. On the outset, the passage may look disjointed, but upon a closer look, we will find that they are linked.
In order for God to save humanity from sin and provide the gift of salvation, God the Son had to take on complete humanity by becoming a man. So when Nicodemus says, “unless God was with him.” he is exactly correct. Not only was God with Jesus. Jesus was God. And if we want to be like Christ, then like Christ, we must also have a “second birth.” The first birth is of the flesh, that is, born from a woman. Jesus calls this being “born of water.” (John 3:6) The idea is that you, as a baby, is born out of a “water sack” which is the womb. Then Jesus says, “born of…spirit.” The Spirit is the second birth, the baptism by the Holy Spirit, given at the time of the Holy Baptism. Here, a child receives the Holy Spirit but is required to live it out in his or her life.
Being “born again” is not a one-time occurrence. It is a continuous process. The Bible says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. (Luke 2:52) So also we must grow. There must be evidence in our life that we are continuously being sanctified in the Spirit. The evidence of our child baptism then is that we are continuing to live it out now. Simply saying that we were baptized has no meaning if we aren't growing in a love for Christ, praying more, repenting, confessing, sinning less, subduing our passions, resisting our temptations, fasting more, going to Church more, loving people more, gossiping less, getting angry less, etc. Are you really born of the Spirit or is your faith resting on your child baptism? It’s time to be “really” born again in Christ!
- “But have we ever thought about the time before the Incarnation? How was Christ before his birth with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit?” Discuss.
- Is it wrong for someone to ask us: “Are you born again?” What is your response?
- How do we as Orthodox Christians define “being born again?” What are the difference between our view and the Pentecostals?
- How can we determine if we are “continuously being baptized?” What evidence is there in our life that demonstrates this fact?