The Pentecostal Community (2): Born from Above (John 3)
The Pentecostal Community (2): Born From Above - John 3:1-17
John 3:1–17 NRSV - Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews . . . 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. . . . Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit . . . “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
The Pentecostal Community is Renewed Israel. The background to John 3 is found in the post-exillic prophets’ promise that God would bring Israel back to the Land and provide spiritual renewal. Jesus is speaking to “Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (v1) regarding Christ’s Messianic ministry (v2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv 3, 5). Being “born again” is relates to the prophetic coming of the kingdom of God in the Messianic age to all nations. The Messianic age is called the “regeneration” (new birth), as well as the kingdom of God to all nations is taught in the Old Testament. Nicodemus should have known this (v10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33) E.g., “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light” (Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff). This Spiritual Cleansing of Israel is what the Prophets spoke of in the times associated with the coming of Messiah (Ez. 36-7). This means that Christ fulfills the promises to Israel via multi-ethnic Family of Abraham (Gen. 12:3), not to a mono-ethnic group of Israelis. Israeli’s and “All Israel” shall be saved (Rom. 11).
The Pentecostal Community is Renewed Individuals. Even though this language and all of the renewal language of the NT (2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2, Rom. 8) is corporate regarding a “New Creation” and a Renewed Israel - it has individual implications (v 5, “no one”). Jesus is speaking about a new creation re-birth from “above” (Gr. anothen) by the Spirit that will come from heaven, just as Jesus Himself came from heaven. The Kingdom that Nicodemus (and all the Pharisees) were looking for would be a Kingdom that individuals must enter through the water of Baptism and the Baptism of the Spirit. Thus every person must be responsible to live a new life on the basis of Christ. God gave His Son for the world, not in condemnation, but that the world would be saved through believing in Him.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more