"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Matthew 11:7-11 -- Being Born Again

I'm back in Matthew again! As I mentioned yesterday, John the Baptist's disciples came to speak with Jesus.

7As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. 9Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written:
" 'I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.'
11I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11)

Being called the greatest man among those born of women (and that covers just about every man ever born) is quite a compliment! Especially when it's coming from an impressive someone like Jesus! Can you imagine Jesus saying this about your father? husband? brother? you? (If we said greatest woman, that is.)

I wonder why Jesus thought so highly of John. Why did he think this? Was it because John came as the forerunner of the Christ? Jesus quoted from Malachi 3:1

'I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.'

and said John fulfilled this prophecy.

Also notice that although John was the greatest of those born from women, Jesus said the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John!

Does this "kingdom of heaven" thing perhaps require some sort of spiritual birth? As in "you must be born again" as Jesus told Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to visit Jesus one night? (see John 3)

So among those who were physically born, John is the greatest man according to Jesus.

Yet for those who have been born again, the least is greater than John. So spiritual birth trumps physical birth in a sense.

Why is this?

Because when we are born physically, we are born for life on earth. Yet when we are spiritually born, we are born for life with God. Jesus called it being born of the Spirit. Our parents are not pure. But God is. Therefore, when we are born physically, we aren't holy. But God gives us a new birth and cleans and purifies us so we can be part of His family!

Good news? YES!

Remember from yesterday's post the kingdom of God has to do with the rule of God in individuals and societies. When we are born of the Spirit, God enables us to live in ways that honor Him.

Then we are greater than those merely born physically and living for self. And I don't think it's "greater" in the sense that we can now visit the holy places while the rest of the defiled humans cannot. We are greater simply because God is greater (allahu akbar, anyone?) and His working through us is, well, GREAT!

As Jesus said, you must be born again.


Nikki said...

I'm interested in what you think being "born again" means in practicality. The church I grew up in thought you had to be baptized by immersion (completely dunked) in order to be "born again" "saved" etc. They truly teach that you can't get to heaven without this kind of baptism. (a baptism by choice, not as a baby, and by immersion, not sprinkling)

What are your personal beliefs on the matter? Also, what is the significance of the actual baptism? Shouldn't it be based on belief? Christianity, at least to me, seemed to be built more on faith than action, so it would seem a declaration of faith would be "good enough," but in my experience as a Christian it wasn't. Without the actual act of baptism, you were not believed to me saved.

To you see being "born again" as essentially the same thing as "being saved"? Or are they separate in your understanding?

My declaration of faith and baptism took place when I was 13 years old. I stood in front of the church and said "I believe that Jesus is the Christ and I take him as my personal Lord and Savior."

I still believe that Jesus is the Christ, but I believe God/Allah is my personal Lord and savior, and that to continue to believe otherwise would be shirk.

Suroor said...

Great post and reminder!

Susanne said...

Nikki, nice to see you. Welcome! I have a friend whose church also believes the act of baptism is necessary for salvation, but I disagree. While I believe baptism is important as an outward sign that you've chosen to follow Jesus, I don't believe it saves you or washes away your sin and you are set for life. There are many who have been baptized by choice, yet their lives never changed (which is necessary for those who have been saved -- Jesus said "by their fruits [not their baptisms] you will know them." )

The thief on the cross wasn't baptized, yet Jesus told him he would that day be with Jesus in paradise. So I disagree that it is necessary for salvation.

As for being born again...I think it happens when you put your faith in God for your salvation. You realize you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and you throw yourself at the mercy of God who is the only Savior. And, yes, I believe Jesus is God as I'm sure you know already. :-)

You may also believe that God is the Savior and I am really happy for that. However, having just finished reading the Quran, I cannot help but notice the strong reliance on human works - good deeds - for earning favor in God's eyes. In a sense it seems many Muslims may say God is the Savior, however, they live as if their good works are what is going to save them .. or at the very least, give them special acknowledgment to God -- as in, "Hey, look at me, God, I know you are the Savior, but look what all I did -- I prayed, I fasted, I gave." This is important, yes! However, I believe good works are a RESULT OF salvation and not a way to earn it.

When we are born again/saved...we are saved to do good works. God saves us and enables us to do works that are pleasing to Him. It's not the other way around where we say the shahadah (or our "sinners prayer" if you are Baptist...lol), do our good works and HOPE that on Judgment Day that God notices all the good things we have done and we've done enough good things that it cancels out the bad and THEN He, by his great mercy, saves us.

It's by GRACE we are saved through faith. It's not due to our works. If we can work for it, we can boast. It's a GIFT of God. A loving gift that none of us deserve.

Thanks for your wonderful questions. I also enjoyed reading how things were in your church. (BTW, my church was similar....baptism by immersion only after someone believes...no infant baptizing.) Best wishes with the inlaws in town. :) I appreciate your dropping by! Let me know if I can clarify anything I've said.

Suroor, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. :)

Amber said...


But people can believe that baptism is necessary for salvation and not subscribe to the 'baptised and set for life' aka Once Saved Always Saved theory.

Mark 16:16 - "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."

I think it's not one or the other, but both that are necessary, or they wouldn't be linked together. Now, we'll disagree on which has to come first, of course. :) Anyway. It's a mark of the new covenant, just as circumcision was a mark of the old. Could you be a Jew and *not* be circumcised?

It's the belief that either condemns or commends, but some form of baptism appears to also be called for. Now, I don't know about Baptists (or most Protestants for that matter), but there are considered to be three 'methods' of baptism in Catholicism (and I believe Orthodoxy too, though I could be mistaken in that respect). There's the water baptism, which is the most common form. Three times immersion (or, in Catholic circles, pouring) in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, one may also be baptised by blood, such as in the case of a martyr who believes, but due to persecution, etc. was never baptised in water, and yet died for their faith. And baptism of desire, where one believes and intends to be properly baptised, but dies before the actual even may take place.

Susanne said...

Amber, see why I wanted you to comment? :) I didn't realize about the three baptisms...how interesting! I'm glad you shared that. I do see where baptism is closely linked to salvation in the Bible and maybe I am wrong. I just see baptism as part of works if you have to have it for salvation. If salvation is through Jesus' work on the cross then salvation is through faith in Jesus...not on the act of being dunked or sprinkled.

True, Jews were circumcised, but didn't some later Jews abandon the Law and not bother? Seems I read that somewhere. Did they cease to be Jews because of this? I just don't know if baptism is necessary for salvation. I always think of it as a sign to other/symbolic that you are putting your faith in Jesus and following Him.

But I could be wrong....that's just my thoughts.

So so glad you shared yours. Thanks much!

Amber said...

Hmm...and I'm not saying that the act of being baptised is what saves you. As you say, faith in Christ is what saves. It's more...

Right. So, we're under thew new covenant, yes? And a covenant is similar to a contract. Each party has responsibilities that they take on. Party A will do this, provided that Party B does that. Right? In this case, Party A being God, will save us, provided that we (Party B), have faith in Him, *and* follow His laws (not the OT laws, of course). That's the essence of the 'contract'. And how does one signify agreement with the terms of a contract? By signing their name to it. Well, in our case, the baptism is our 'signature'. God's would be Christ and the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.

So, when we are baptised, we're entered into the contract, with all the rights and responsibilities attendant. Is it possible to be signed to a contract and not uphold your end? Of course. It's not the signature that fulfills the contract, but your actions. In this 'contract', it's not the baptism that saves, but our faith in Christ. (Which, technically, it's not even our faith, but God's mercy, but you get my point, I hope.)

Susanne said...

Aha! Lovely way to look at it, Amber. I really appreciate your taking time to share that. I enjoyed it a lot!! :D Great contract/signature analogy! Makes sense!