Were People Born-Again Before The Cross?
“For God so loved the world (presents the God kind of love), that He gave His Only Begotten Son (gave Him up to the Cross, for that’s what it took to redeem humanity), that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life” (Jn. 3:16).
Yes! People were Born-Again before the Cross, but they did not have nearly the privileges that we presently have since the Cross.
We must remember that while Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ, still, He operated under the Old Covenant. In other words, the happenings of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, took place under the auspices of the Old Covenant. Admittedly, those times were the doorway to the New Covenant but still were under the Old.
The New Covenant did not come about until the Lord gave its meaning to the Apostle Paul, which, in essence, is the meaning of the Cross. Even though the date is not certain, it is probable that, regarding Paul, this Revelation took place about the year A.D. 44 or 45.
JESUS AND NICODEMUS
Jesus plainly told Nicodemus that for one to enter the Kingdom of God he had to be “Born-Again,” and remember, all of this was still functioning under the Old Covenant. The following is the account of this particular meeting between our Lord and Nicodemus:
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus (said to have been one of the three richest men in Jerusalem), a Ruler of the Jews (a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel):
“The same came to Jesus by night (it is not known exactly as to why he came by night), and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that You are a Teacher come from God (the pronoun ‘we’ could indicate that Nicodemus represented several members of the Sanhedrin; Nicodemus addresses Christ here as a man, and not as God; the Cross would change him): for no man can do these miracles that You do, except God be with Him (in this, he is correct!).”
YOU MUST BE BORN-AGAIN
“Jesus answered and said unto him (presents an answer totally different from that which he expected), Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again (the term, ‘Born-Again,’ means that man has already had a natural birth, but now must have a Spiritual Birth, which comes by Faith in Christ, and what He has done for us at the Cross, and is available to all), he cannot see the Kingdom of God (actually means that without the New Birth, one cannot understand or comprehend the ‘Kingdom of God’).”
THE CONFUSED MIND OF NICODEMUS
“Nicodemus said unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? (This proclaims this spiritual leader of Israel as having no knowledge at all of what Jesus is saying. Had he truly been ‘Born-Again,’ he would have understood these terms.) can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (It seems he did not know the language of the Prophets concerning circumcision of the heart [Deut 30:6; Jer. 4:4], and concerning a hard heart and right spirit [Ps. 51:10; Ezek. 36:26-27].)
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit (the phrase, ‘born of water,’ speaks of the natural birth, which Jesus says in the next Verse, and pertains to a baby being born; being ‘Born of the Spirit’ speaks of a Spiritual Birth, which is brought about by God Alone; and neither does it speak of Water Baptism), he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”
BORN OF THE SPIRIT
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh (has to do with the natural birth, and is illustrated, as stated, by the phrase, ‘born of water’); and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (has to do with that which is solely of God; the one [flesh] has no relationship to the other [Spirit] and cannot be joined).
“Marvel not that I said unto you, You must be born again (evidently addresses itself to the surprise, which must have been registered on the countenance of Nicodemus).
“The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell from where it comes, and whither it goes (presents the way in which Jesus explains the ‘Born-Again’ experience; He likens it to the wind which comes and goes, but is impossible to tell exactly how): so is everyone who is born of the Spirit (it is a Spiritual Birth, so it cannot be explained intellectually).”
HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE?
“Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? (Not being ‘Born-Again’ at this particular time, and despite his vast intelligence in other areas, he has no understanding of this great Truth; he is religious but lost!)
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Are you a Master of Israel (was held in very high regard as one of the spiritual leaders of Israel), and knowest not these things? (As a spiritual leader, he should have known the way of Salvation, but the sad fact was he didn’t)” (Jn. 3:1-10).
In Old Testament Times, which spans all the way back to Adam and Eve, when a person expressed Faith in what the sacrifices represented, they were at that time “Born-Again.” There has never been but one way of Salvation, and it is the same for all people, and it is by Faith. However, it must be Faith in Christ, and in Old Testament Times, Faith was to be placed in what the sacrifices represented. People were Saved before the Cross by looking forward to that event; people are Saved after the Cross by looking backward to that event. As stated, even though people before the Cross were Born-Again, still, they did not have nearly the privileges that Born-Again Believers had and have after the Cross. Concerning this New Covenant, Paul said:
A BETTER COVENANT
“But now (since the Cross) has He (the Lord Jesus) obtained a more excellent Ministry (the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood is superior, and takes the place of the Old Covenant in animal blood), by how much also He is the Mediator of a Better Covenant (proclaims the fact that Christ officiates between God and man according to the arrangements of the New Covenant), which was established upon better Promises. (This presents the New Covenant, explicitly based on the cleansing and forgiveness of all sin, which the Old Covenant could not do)” (Heb. 8:6).
UNDER THE OLD COVENANT
The following constitutes several things that Believers at that time did not have, which we presently have. They are:
• Under the Old Covenant the Holy Spirit could not come into the hearts and lives of Believers to dwell permanently. It was because the sin debt could not be eradicated by animal blood. It served as an Atonement, but only in a stopgap measure. Now, due to the Cross paying the sin debt, and in totality, the Holy Spirit can come into the heart and life of the Believer, which He does at conversion, and there abide permanently (Jn. 14:16).
• Due to the fact that the Holy Spirit did not function in one’s heart and life before the Cross, there was no help in the sanctification process. In other words, there could be no Victory at that time over the sin nature. Presently, due to what Christ has done at the Cross, the Holy Spirit constantly helps us, actually requiring only one thing on our part. The requirement is that our Faith be placed explicitly in the Cross of Christ and no place else. The Holy Spirit, Who works exclusively within the parameters of the Finished Work of Christ, will work mightily on our behalf, which Old Testament Believers did not have.
• Whenever Believers died under the Old Covenant, due to the fact that the sin debt remained, they were not taken to Heaven, but rather, went down into Paradise. They were there comforted, but still, they were captives of Satan. In other words, their being delivered from this place and actually made a captive of Christ, awaited the Cross. Now, since the Cross, when Believers pass away, they are instantly taken by Angels into the portals of Glory, there to be with the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:23).
• Before the Cross, Believers did not have the Holy Spirit to help them and to intercede on their behalf, which we now have (Rom. 8:26).
This is what Jesus was talking about when He said to His Disciples, “For He dwells with you, and shall be in you” (Jn. 14:17).
All of this, even as we’ve already stated, is why Jesus said that all who were in the New Covenant had greater privileges than John the Baptist, even though he was the greatest Prophet born of woman (Lk. 7:28).
In effect, Jesus will now tell Nicodemus as to how this great Plan of Redemption will be brought about, making the animal sacrifices unnecessary. He said:
THE WORD OF GOD
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, We speak that we do know (Jesus was speaking of the Triune Godhead, and as well of all the ‘Apostles and Prophets’; in essence, He is speaking of the Word of God, and is directing Nicodemus to that Source instead of tradition), and testify that we have seen (means that one can actually ‘see’ the fruit or benefits of this ‘Testimony,’ i.e., ‘The Word of God’); and you receive not our witness (has to do with the Jewish Sanhedrin).”
“If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not (refers to the earthly type and events in the Bible, such as the Sacrifices and Feast Days, etc., which Nicodemus no doubt read many times, but was so blind that he did not see nor believe their lessons), how shall you believe, if I tell you of Heavenly things? (In effect, this tells us that if we are to know Jesus as God [Heavenly things], we must first know Jesus and the Incarnation [earthly things]. Nicodemus had addressed Jesus as merely a ‘Teacher.’ So, until he understands God becoming flesh and dwelling among men, he will not understand Heavenly things.)
“And no man has ascended up to Heaven, but He Who came down from Heaven (He came down from Heaven and became Man, and approximately three and a half years later will ascend up to Heaven, when His Mission is complete), even the Son of Man which is in Heaven (better translated, ‘which is from Heaven’).”
THE SON OF MAN LIFTED UP
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (refers to Num. 21:5-9; the ‘serpent’ represents Satan, who is the originator of sin, who must be defeated, and was defeated at Calvary’s Cross), even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (refers to Christ being lifted up on the Cross, which alone could defeat Satan and sin):
“That whosoever (destroys the erroneous hyper-Calvinistic explanation of predestination that some are predestined to be Saved, while all others are predestined to be lost; the word ‘whosoever’ means that none are excluded from being lost, and none are excluded from being Saved) believes in Him (believes in Christ and what He did at the Cross; otherwise, one would perish) should not perish, but have Eternal Life (the Life of God, the Ever-Living One, Who has life in Himself, and Alone has immortality).”
“For God so loved the world (presents the God kind of love), that He gave His Only Begotten Son (gave Him up to the Cross, for that’s what it took to redeem humanity), that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life.
“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world (means that the object of Christ’s Mission was to save, but the issue to those who reject Him must and can only be condemnation); but that the world through Him might be saved (Jesus Christ is the only Salvation for the world; there is no other! as well, He is Salvation only through the Cross; consequently, the Cross must ever be the Object of our Faith)” (Jn. 3:11-17).
THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT REGARDING THE DEATH OF CHRIST
As we have previously stated, the Holy Spirit functioned in Christ to such an extent that Jesus, while on the Cross, did not die until the Holy Spirit told Him to die. Concerning this, the Scripture says:
“How much more shall the Blood of Christ (while the sacrifice of animals could cleanse from ceremonial defilement, only the Blood of Christ could cleanse from actual sin; so that throws out every proposed solution other than the Cross), Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God (in this phrase, we learn Christ did not die until the Holy Spirit told Him to die; in fact, no man took His Life from Him; He laid it down freely [Jn. 10:17-18]; as well, the fact that Jesus ‘offered Himself without spot to God’ shoots down the unscriptural doctrine that ‘Jesus died Spiritually’ on the Cross; had He died Spiritually, meaning He became a sinner on the Cross, He could not have offered Himself without spot to God, as should be obvious; God could only accept a Perfect Sacrifice; when He died on the Cross, He took upon Himself the sin penalty of the human race, which was physical death; inasmuch as His Offering of Himself was Perfect, God accepted it as payment in full for all sin – past, present, and future, at least for those who will believe [Jn. 3:16]), purge your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God? (‘Dead works’ are anything other than simple Faith in the Cross of Christ, i.e., ‘the Blood of Christ’)” (Heb. 9:14).
When Jesus died on the Cross, He satisfied the demands of a thrice-Holy God, and did so by giving Himself as a perfect Sacrifice, thereby, taking upon Himself the sin penalty of the human race, at least for all who will believe. When He did this, He atoned for all sin, past, present and future, again, for all who will believe (Jn. 3:3, 16).
By atoning for all sin, this made it possible for the Holy Spirit to come into the heart and life of the Believer at conversion, which He definitely does, and there to abide forever (Jn. 14:16-17). In other words, it is the Cross of Christ that made it possible for the Holy Spirit to come to this world in a totally new dimension. That’s how important that the Cross of Christ was and is! That’s why the Cross of Christ is the Foundation of the Faith. That’s why the Cross of Christ must ever be the Object of our Faith, even on a daily basis
(Lk. 9:23; 14:27).
“Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound,
“That Saved a wretch like me!
“I once was lost, but now am found,
“Was blind, but now I see.”
“’Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
“And Grace, my fears relieved;
“How precious did that Grace appear,
“The Hour I first believed!”
“Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
“I have already come;
“‘Tis Grace hath bro’t me safe thus far,
“And Grace will lead me home.”
“The Lord has promised good to me,
“His Word my hope secures,
“He will my shield and portion be,
“As long as life endures.”
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
“Bright shining as the Sun,
“We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
“Than when we’ve first begun.”
(This message was derived from the book, “Brother Swaggart, Here Is My Question About The Holy Spirit”.)