17. One baptism: The washing of rebirth.(Part 6 of the born again series.)

‘There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM; one God and Father of all …’ (Ephesians 4:4) Yet the author of Hebrews, refers to ‘BAPTISMS’ in plural, while listing the ‘elementary teachings about Christ.’ For he wrote: ‘Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of :-
1. Repentance
2. Faith in God
3. Instructions about BAPTISMS
4. Laying on of hands
5. Resurrection of the dead
6. Eternal judgement
And God permitting, we will do so.’ (Hebrews 6:1–3) What is seemingly a contradiction, is in fact not, because though there are many baptisms, there is only ONE BAPTISM that can save and it is the ‘washing of rebirth’. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit …’ (Titus 3:5) It is easy to understand baptisms, if we consider ‘who’ baptizes ‘whom’ in ‘what’. The one who baptizes is being called the ‘Agent’ and the person who is baptized is being called the ‘Recipient’ and what they are baptized into is being called the ‘Element’ in the chart below:-

Agent > Recipient > Element

Holy Spirit > Believer > in Blood

Disciple > Believer > in Water

Jesus > Believer > in Spirit

Jesus > Believer > in Fire

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful … He will baptise you in HOLY SPIRIT and with FIRE.” (Matthew 3:11) Jesus himself was baptized in water and thereafter in the Holy Spirit and Power. ‘When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too!’ (Luke 3:21) ‘Jesus full of the HOLY SPIRIT returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert … Jesus returned to Galilee in the POWER of the Spirit.’ (Luke 4:1,14) ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the HOLY SPIRIT and POWER and he went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.’ (Acts 10:38) Hence the author of Hebrews (presumably Paul) was right in addressing baptisms in plural because there are in fact three baptisms ie., in WATER, HOLY SPIRIT and POWER / FIRE (They are essentially the same because on the day of Pentecost, the disciples received power after ‘tongues of fire’ came upon them.) But which of the three was Paul referring to as the ‘One baptism‘ in Ephesians or was he referring to the most important and essential for salvation, the ‘washing of rebirth’ in the blood of the lamb? It’s relevance can be understood if we realise that Christ wouldn’t baptise a person in the Holy Spirit and Power unless the person first experience the ‘washing of rebirth’, though men might not hesitate to baptise them in water! That is the reason why many who have been baptized only in water, haven’t received the baptism in the Spirit because they haven’t been sprinkled by the blood of the lamb. ‘We have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.’ (1 Peter 1:2)

Can we then call the ‘washing of rebirth’ as the ‘baptism in the blood of the lamb’? Jesus, who was baptized in Water, Holy Spirit and Power said: “But I have another baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Luke 12:50) He was obviously referring to his death as a baptism that he had to undergo. As a matter of fact, those who stood at the foot of the cross were sprinkled with the blood and water from Jesus’ side as he was pierced. ‘One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.’ (John 19:34) It was following this sprinkling by the blood at the cross that they received the Holy Spirit, post resurrection. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said,” Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22) The water is symbolic of the Spirit since Jesus himself said : “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”. By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive.’ (John 7:38-39) Wherever the blood of Christ is sprinkled, only there the Holy Spirit is poured out!

Why is the ‘washing of rebirth’ being referred to as the ‘one baptism’? Because, none of the other baptisms are essential for salvation! If it were, the thief on the cross wouldn’t be in Paradise! I suppose he could have said this better than Paul : ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20) Here is a man who physically experienced the symbolism of baptism, which is the death, burial and resurrection in Christ. ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may life a new life.’ (Romans 6:4) Therefore, baptism in water cannot be more relevant than the washing of rebirth. Moreover, those who have experienced the ‘washing of rebirth’ and received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not experience the baptism in Holy Spirit and Power because that is meant for service and not an essential for salvation. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the world.” (Acts 1:8) Amen.


16. Relevance of rebirth.(Part 5 of the born again series.)

‘Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:17) The relevance of rebirth cannot be understated because it ushers in the most profound change within a person, to the extent that the Bible calls them a ‘new creation’. So what is new in us who are born again? Definitely our bodies are still the same even after the rebirth experience. However, the Bible assures us that a day is coming, when these bodies of ours will be transformed – ‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye …’ because  ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God …’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:50-52) ‘Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.’ (Philippians 3:20-21) The deposit of the Holy Spirit in those who are born again is the guarantee that this would happen to them. ‘Having believed you have been marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.’ (Ephesians 1:13-14)

If not our bodies, then what is new in us who are born again? Definitely, our spirits are still the same but the Holy Spirit has begun within us a process of renewal which has eternal significance, because it not only transforms our minds now and will transform our bodies later, at his coming. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth ( by the blood) and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he has poured on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5-6) Since the process of renewal is ongoing, the Bible exhorts us to continually ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.’ (Colossians 3:10) Paul testified to this daily process of renewal in his life when he wrote :‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’  ( 2 Corinthians 4:16) 

So, to the question, what is new in us who are born again, the relevant answer would be that we received the ‘mind of Christ’. Definitely, our souls (the seat of our mind, will and emotions) are the same but it has experienced a dramatic change (Greek: metanoia means ‘change of mind’, repentance, the state of changing any or all the elements composing one’s life: attitudes, thoughts and behaviour concerning the demands of God for right living.) ‘Man without the Spirit cannot accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we have the mind of Christ.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14,16) The reason for this assertion is the fact that our minds are now controlled by the Holy Spirit and therefore we have an attitude of mind that was also found in Christ. ‘The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so … you however are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9  The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ (Romans 12:2) Therefore we are admonished ‘to be made new in the attitude of our minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’ ( Ephesians 4:23) Another reason for the assertion that those who are born again have received the ‘mind of Christ’ is because they are able to discern everything and make right judgements. ‘We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us … The spiritual man makes judgement about all things but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:12,15)

As a disciple of Christ, Paul had this attitude towards his fellow men : ‘For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a wordly point of view. Though we once  regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’. ( 2 Corinthians 5:14-17) Do we lack the mind to forgive others inspite of us believing in Christ or do we rake up other’s past,  inspite of them believing in Christ? If so, we haven’t received the ‘mind of Christ’ and our ‘Rebirth’ is questionable! The evidence of rebirth is in our reconciliation with God and men. Many would reconcile with God but will not reconcile with men, though it is expected of them. ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ ( Colossians 3:13) This has become the ‘gold standard’ by which a believer will be measured and if found lacking, this would be what God has to say, on that day : “You wicked servant … Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured … ) “This is how the heavenly Father will treat each one of you unless you forgive from your heart!” (Matthew 18:33-35) We risk being left behind at Rapture, if we are alive at his return or risk being left behind in Hades at the first resurrection, if we die before his return. So it is not optional to forgive but mandatory that we forgive others just as he has forgiven us. 

Not only were we renewed  in attitude towards others but also in our attitude towards God and even concerning our bodies. It is impossible to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ towards God if we persist in unbelief. So the Bible requires that ‘we live by faith and not by sight.’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:7) ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ (Hebrews 10:38 / Habakkuk 2:4) Moreover, our attitude towards our bodies is revealed in our refusal to defile ourselves. ‘Daniel resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine’ ( Daniel 1:8) because it was offered to the Babylonian gods as sacrifices. Our rights over our bodies should not end up denying God’s rights over our bodies. The slogan : ‘My body, my choice’ goes against the tenets of Christianity because the word of God says: ‘The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body … Therefore honor God with your body.’ ( 1 Corinthians 6:13-20)

Attitudes of our renewed minds match up quite well with what was said early in the article titled ‘Three evidences of rebirth’ – (Part 2 of this series). A ‘fervent heart’ is matched by an ‘attitude of gratitude’, an ‘opened mind’ is matched by an ‘attitude of forgiveness’ and a ‘sanctified body’ is matched by an ‘attitude of consecration’. We live in an age when spiritual words and concepts have come to mean different things, a far cry from what it was meant to be! A ‘watered down’ version of rebirth, which unduly emphasizes water baptism over the inner experience, has shifted the focus away from the true meaning of rebirth. All who are born again have essentially had a Pentecostal experience but not all Pentecostals are born again. As for those who are born again, let ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus …‘ (Philippians 2:5) for you have the ‘mind of Christ’. Amen.

15. The travail of Rebirth.(Part 4 of the born again series.)

The word ‘travail’ means painful or laborious effort and that is why the term is also used to describe the labor pain that a woman experiences while giving birth. Understanding this parallel between newbirth and rebirth, Paul wrote: ‘My little children, for whom I am again in  the pain of childbirth ( KJV travail ) until Christ is  formed in you … I am perplexed about you.’ ( Galatians 4:19-20) Just as human gestation (the process or period of growth of the fetus inside the womb from the time of conception till birth) takes nine months, so also the process or period of Rebirth takes time, until Christ is formed in us. The period of travail starts from the moment we hear the gospel and ends with our rebirth.

Nature itself gives us insights into the process of rebirth. Just as a single cell zygote (means  ‘yoked’) is formed as a result of the union of the male and female gametes, so also the ‘seed of the Word of God’ sown into the ‘womb of our spirit’, be yoked  with ‘faith’ to become one entity. ‘The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.’ (Hebrews 4:2) Just as the embryo implants itself firmly on the uterine wall with the help of the placenta, so also the embryonic ‘word and faith’ in us be implanted firmly in the ‘womb of our spirit’. ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth … humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ (James 1:18-21) Just as the embryo (It is called a  fetus, only from the end of the second month of pregnancy) is nourished  through the umbilical cord, so also the embryonic faith formed in us be nourished through the lifeline of word and prayer. (For this reason Parents need to share the word with their children and pray for their salvation.) ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also … continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ ( 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15) Just as a prominent blood vessel in the embryo begins to take form of a rudimentary heart, so also a  ‘heart for God’, begins to take form within us. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) And just as the rudimentary heart within  the  embryo begins to pulsate miraculously by the third week, so also the impartation of the ‘Spirit of  Christ’ causes our hearts to come alive. ‘If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

Have you ever wondered what causes the rudimentary heart within the embryo to pulsate all of a sudden? Modern Science has not been able to explain how the rudimentary heart begins to pulsate by the third week. It will remain a mystery for the world but the Bible gives us some insight into the mystery. Since the heart stops when the spirit leaves the body, the opposite holds true as well  i.e, it begins to beat when a spirit (in the context of humans) and a soul (the seat of mind, will and emotions) is given to the  embryo – (That is why abortion  even at an earlier stage of pregnancy is foeticide and they will be held accountable to God.)

Being born again is a profound mystery and the greatest miracle. Don’t assume it happened because you were born  a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You have to be born again!'” ( John 3:6-7) The travail of rebirth that I experienced, started in 1986 and lasted seven years until I was born again in 1993. ( To access my testimony, please visit my website http://teachingofchrist.in and read the article titled: ‘My testimony: A case study’, under the main Menu.)  It might not be the same timeframe for everyone but invariably there is a process of rebirth that everyone will go through and a period of time associated with it, from their first encounter with God till the time they are born again. Though the disciples had met Jesus, three and a half years back, it was only after his resurrection, that their lives were transformed, when they received the Holy Spirit. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22)  The parable of the sower doesn’t say that irrespective of where the seed fell, it was fruitful. “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word, understands it and produce a crop …” ( Matthew 13 : 23 ) Since the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence in us, he cannot come into hearts where the Gospel has fallen by the wayside or on rocky ground or among thorns. He waits for the heart to be ready to receive him once for all.

This message might not seem relevant to you now but in the light of what is to come, it is imperative because your Rebirth will decide whether you will be Raptured or left behind! “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) Over the years I have often asked people, “Did you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, having heard the gospel?” Almost all hands go up! I should have rather asked, “How many times have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?” But my next question makes them uneasy! “Did you experience rebirth, having accepted Christ?” Many hands that were lifted up, go down because they are not sure of their Rebirth. And if I asked those who claim to be born again : “Did you receive the baptism of the Spirit, having been born again?” Even the rest of the hands that were lifted up, go down. It is a fallacy to think that everyone invariably receives the Holy Spirit by default, immediately after they are baptized in water. There are many in the Church, like Simon the Sorcerer, who believed and was baptized. But when he came before the Apostle Peter, to receive the gift of the Spirit, he was told : “You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent … for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:21- 23)
So here is a believer who did everything but repent ! And there are plenty of them like him in the Church, who have been baptized in water, without having gone through the process of rebirth, because they were hurried through the process by those who were eager baptize them in water so that they could boast of the numbers. They were told that water baptism would solve all their problems and therefore they were glad to receive it, as if it were their ticket to heaven! If you have read my write ups in the born again series, you might have noted that I have put water baptism in its right context, stating that salvation is only by faith and not by works. Works include even water baptism, taken either as a child or as an adult because without having believed, it is a meaningless ritual that cannot save. It is essentially an outward expression of an inward experience and therefore should be rightly called Believer’s baptism! No matter whatever it is called or however it is done, the bottom line will remain the same: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” ( Acts 16:31) Amen.

14. Three agents of rebirth. (Part 3 of the born again series.)

Why is rebirth a miracle? Firstly, because the miracle of rebirth is beyond our human will! ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’ (John 1:12-13) We might have been born in a christian household but that doesn’t make us a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying,’You must be born again.’ (John 3:6-7) Yet it is not in our efforts but in His Sovereign choice! ‘I will have mercy on whom I want to have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It therefore does not depend on man’s desire or effort but on God’s mercy.’ ( Romans 9:15-16) Secondly, rebirth is a miracle because it is a mystery! “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Though it seems to be mysterious, yet the Bible sheds light on the three agents of rebirth and it is the coming together of these three that results in the greatest miracle! ‘ ‘For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.’ (1 John 5:7-8) What is said of Christ, the first born of God, is true of us who have been born of God as well.

The three agents of rebirth are as follows:-

1. The Spirit – The Holy Spirit is the central agent of transformation responsible for the rebirth because it is he who reveals the  Saviour to us and convicts us of the need for salvation. “When the counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15:26) “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement.” (John 16:8) The Holy Spirit ministers the word of God and the blood of Christ, which are the other two agents of rebirth he works with. Though it is men who minister the word of God, it is the Holy Spirit who opens the heart of the listeners to believe in the person of  Christ. ‘One of those listening was a woman named Lydia … The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.’ ( Acts 16:14) Therefore, Paul said: ‘ Our Gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5) On the day of Pentecost, the three thousand who heard Peter speak were cut to heart because the Holy Spirit convicted them. ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation …’ ( 2 Corinthians 7:10)

2.  The water“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” ( John 3:5) Many assume that the water means baptism but it doesn’t cleanse a man inwardly! Instead, Paul called it the ‘washing of rebirth through the word’.  ‘ … Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the WASHING WITH WATER THROUGH THE WORD and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish but holy and blameless’. ( Ephesians 5:25-27) ‘He saved us through the WASHING OF REBIRTH and RENEWAL BY THE  HOLY SPIRIT  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5) The Word of God is rightly called the ‘sword of the Spirit’ because it is the word of God which the Holy Spirit uses to cut our hearts. ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12) Hence, Peter affirmatively wrote: ‘ For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’ (1 Peter 1:23) ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth …’ (James 1:18) Without experiencing this ‘washing of rebirth by the word of God’ and ‘renewal by the Holy Spirit’, baptism in water is meaningless because ‘it is not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.’ ( 1Peter 3:21) It is the outward expression of an inward experience without which it becomes a ritual that will never save you, whether you were baptized as a child or as an adult, because salvation is by faith and not by works.

3. The Blood – Following the washing with water through the word of God, the Holy Spirit washes us in the blood of Christ, all who have believed in Him and have confessed their sins. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9) Once the foundation of sin is done away with, then curses begin to break and bodies begin to heal in the name of Jesus because that is the order in which it happened during the fall of man and therefore, it will be the order in which it is undone by the Holy Spirit. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.’ ( Romans 8:1-2) The Holy Spirit then takes permanent residence within our hearts, at which point we are most assuredly born again and are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When the Spirit left Adam, he felt naked but now when the Spirit returns, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, just as the prodigal son was clothed with the best robe. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet … Let’s have a feast and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. ( Luke 15:22-24) “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner who repents .” (Luke 15:10) We too are given a ring for our finger, meaning the authority ( Matthew 28:18) and sandals for our feet meaning our assignment on earth.

The three agents of rebirth ie the Spirit of God, the word of God (water) and the blood of Christ, have to come together for the miracle of rebirth to happen and it is not in our own making. However, it is God’s will for everyone of us but the Holy Spirit waits for the perfect time to indwell within our hearts because once he resides, he is never supposed to leave. The day this happens will be the greatest day of your life because that is the best thing that could ever happen to you. What prepares you for that day is the Word of God and prayer. ‘As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of … how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.’ ( 2Timothy 3:14-15) We see the three agents come together even in the life of Jesus, to testify to his Sonship, Christship and Lordship. ‘He did not come by WATER only, but by WATER and BLOOD. And it is the SPIRIT who testifies because the SPIRIT is the truth.’ ( 1 John 5:6) Amen. (To know more about this topic, read the article titled: ‘The gospel about Jesus and the three fold testimony of God’, under the header ‘Bible study’. Thank you.)

13. Three evidences of rebirth.(Part 2 of the born again series.)

After Jesus rose from dead, on the morning of the first day of the week, he appeared to the women and to Peter. Then towards evening, he appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:1,13,29) They returned at once to Jerusalem to report it to the Apostles. ‘While they were taking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” …  ‘Then he opened their minds’ so they could understand the Scriptures.(Luke 24:36-45) Speaking of the same incident, John wrote, ‘On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together … Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” … And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. (John 20:19-22) How did Jesus open their minds to understand Scriptures? We can infer from the above Scriptures that their minds were opened when they received the Holy Spirit.

The three evidences of rebirth are as follows:– 

1. Opened mind – The first evidence of rebirth is therefore an ‘opened mind’.  But why should our minds be opened?  ‘The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14) Therefore the Holy Spirit will have to bypass our minds and come into our hearts to take control of our minds.  ‘The mind of the sinful man is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so … You, however are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9)  All the doubts that cloud our minds suddenly disappears and a new understanding dawns. It is said that we don’t surprise God with our questions but He surprises us with his answers and it is true! ‘As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.’ ( 1 John 2:27)

2. Prayerful heart – The second evidence of rebirth is a fervent heart.  Soon after the Apostles experienced an opened mind, ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer …’ (Acts 1:14) ‘And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.’ ( Luke 24:53) Although the Apostles had been with Jesus for three and a half years, they were never seen praying but were found sleeping, when he instructed them to pray. “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” … When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them.”Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  The reason they couldn’t pray as Jesus did was because they had not received the Holy Spirit yet. But the moment they received the Holy Spirit, they began to pray earnestly as Jesus did. Suffice to say that  anyone who doesn’t have a secret prayer life is not born again. Jesus was often found praying in a solitary place and this was his instruction to his disciples as well: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then you Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ( Matthew 6:6) ‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’ ( Ephesians 6:18)

3. Sanctified Body – The third evidence of rebirth is Holiness. ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God ‘ ( 1 John 3:9) This might seem  unrealistic and unattainable to us in this generation but the Apostle Paul taught otherwise and exhorted Titus to teach the same. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and wordly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ … These, then are the things you should teach.’ (Titus 2:11-13) The apostle John taught that those who love God will inevitably overcome the world. ‘This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. ( 1 John 5:3-4) The reason why his commands are not burdensome is because we have the means to overcome, which is the Holy Spirit. ‘And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’ (Romans 8:9) but ‘those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.’ (Galatians 5:24) ‘Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your reasonable act of worship’ (Romans 12:1) and ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord.’ (Hebrews 12:14)

These three evidences are for us to know whether we are born again but others around us might never get to see these evidences. Instead, they get to see the fruit of the Spirit in us as a result of our rebirth. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and it’s fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8) If you haven’t experienced an ‘opened mind’, a fervent heart and a sanctified body, then you are probably not born again because immediately after our justification by faith, the process of sanctification begins, when our hearts are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, our minds were cleansed by the word of God and our bodies were cleansed by the Spirit of God. This is an ongoing process until glorification happens at the coming of the Lord. ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctity you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) If you are not sure of your rebirth, then “Repent and believe the good news” today! ( Mark 1:15) The primary requirement is to believe or else, how can you repent? Ofcourse, there might be those who need not repent but they still have to believe. Nathanael probably had nothing to repent about but he had to believe. ( John 1:47,50) That is why the sacrament is rightly called ‘Believer’s Baptism’ and it doesn’t matter whether a person is an adult or a child, as long as they personally believe for themselves. Therefore, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (Acts 2:38-39) Amen.

12. Am I ‘born again’? (Part 1 of the born again series.)

Wait! Don’t shy away from asking yourself this important question in this last hour, to know whether you will be Raptured to heaven, before the Tribulation. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” ( John 3:3) It is a term that has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted by many. The Episcopals have misunderstood it to be doctrine of the Pentecostals, not realising that these are the words of Jesus himself, while the Pentecostals have misinterpreted it as baptism in water. Not even Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council and Israel’s teacher, understood what Jesus meant. Hence Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3: 5-7) The most common reply to the above question is that they were baptized in water as a child or as an adult but that is not the response that was asked for, rather their experience before taking the water baptism! The question, in Paul’s own words would be : “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” ( Acts 19:2) Receiving once again the presence of the Holy Spirit which left Adam and Eve, when they sinned and spiritually died, is the sum and substance of being born again. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Re (means once again) -ceive ( means get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) That became the standard by which the Apostles assessed a believer and not by the claims of healing and prosperity one might have received after turning to Christ.

The three moments in time when the disciples of Jesus were baptized, as documented in Scriptures are:-

1. Some, after they literally met with the Messiah. ‘The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. ( John 1:41-42) ‘Jesus and his disciples went into the countryside where he spent some time with them and baptized ( John 3:22) ‘Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although infact it was not Jesus who baptized but his disciples.’ (John 4:1-2)

2. Some, after they heard the gospel on the day of Pentecost and were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Those that accepted the message was baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day.( Acts 2:37-41)

3. Some, after they heard the gospel and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. ‘While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message … Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized in the water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Acts 10:44-48)

Which of these three was the premise for your baptism? A physical encounter with Christ ? Or were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Or received the baptism in the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Of course, no one has had a physical encounter with Christ, since his days on earth but there might be those who have had a vision of Christ, like Paul on the road to Damascus, but even then, he was baptized only after having received the Holy Spirit, when Ananias placed his hands on him. ‘Placing his hands on Saul, he said,” Brother Saul, the Lord … has sent me so that you may … be filled with the Holy Spirit … He got up and was baptized..’ (Acts 9:17-18) If you haven’t experienced any of these, then you probably are not born again and had no premise for taking the water baptism, as a child or as an adult and it won’t save you because we are saved by faith alone and not by works.

What must I do to be born again? First of all we need to realise that rebirth is a mystery and nothing short of a miracle, which happens in His time. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ( John 3:8) On the day of Pentecost, the wind blew and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and the wind has been blowing ever since throughout the Church age. ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting ... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …’ ( Acts 2:2-4) ‘Then Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and addressed the crowd … “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter replied, “REPENT and be BAPTIZED …” (Acts 2:14-38) There is yet another term that comes before these two which Peter didn’t say because it was understood without being said. “Repent and BELIEVE the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Therefore the three key words, in their right order should be :-

1. Believe

2. Repent

3. Be Baptized.

How can you repent unless you believe and why should you be baptized unless you repent? Nevertheless, it happens all the time when people miss out on the first two and hurry up to get baptized because they were told that it would solve all their problems. Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12) but did not repent. Therefore Peter had to tell him, “Repent … For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” ( Acts 8:22-23) Baptism alone will not save anyone whereas those who believe and repent will be saved, though not baptized! The salvation of the thief on the cross, is an eloquent testimony of this timeless truth that salvation is by faith alone and not by works. ( He would have received the baptism, had he been alive. However, his death on the cross with Christ was more meaningful than the ritual that baptism symbolises.) Moreover, it is in agreement with what Paul and Silas told the jailer in Philippi, in reply to his question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your household.” … then immediately he and all his family were baptized.’ (Acts 16:31-33)

What hinders us from being born again? The Holy Spirit comes to impart the righteousness of Jesus but our self- righteousness is what hinders him. Speaking of the Israelites, Paul said: ‘Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.’ ( Romans 10:3) But speaking of himself, Paul said : “Whatever was to my profit, I count it a loss for the sake of Christ … I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ ( Philippians 3:7-9) Speaking of this righteousness, Jesus said: ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:20) Just as the filthy rags of prodigal son was stripped and he was clothed with the best robe ( Luke 15:22), so let’s be stripped of our self-righteousness and be clothed with the robe of Jesus ‘for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ ( Galatians 3:27) Amen.