Before I begin, let me give credit to the authors I have used to develop a Biblical understanding of this topic: the book by David Jeremiah “God in You” and the lecture by William Lane Craig in the Defenders Series 3, section 6, lesson 5.
The Truth About Second Birthdays John 3:1-6 ESV
“1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
A second birth is necessary before a believer truly begins to live spiritually. Everyone needs to have two birthdays. When we read the Scripture carefully, we discover that the second birthday—called the “new birth”—is a miraculous work that takes place within the heart of a person when entering into a relationship with God. The Bible calls it being “born again.” The term itself is a very strong Biblical term which describes the spiritual concept of regeneration. It means to be born anew, to be born a second time, to be regenerated.
Jesus said we cannot get into the kingdom of God unless we are born of the Spirit. Nothing short of a miracle can cause regeneration in any person’s heart. It is the Spirit of God who causes the Word of God to take effect in the hearts of people to make them children of God.
When people do become children of God—when they experience their second birth—two distinct realities become evident.
We Are in the Family of God
When we are born into the world, we are not, by our first birth, born into God’s family; but rather, we are born into the family of the world, as described by Jesus in John 8:44, because of original sin inherited from Adam. We have to have a second birth to get into the family of God. Jesus makes this very clear in John 3:6, when He says:
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
In Romans 8:8, Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. If we are in the flesh, if we have not been born in the Spirit, all we can ever do is what the flesh can do. The flesh can make itself look good. It can posture. It can do all kinds of outward things in order to be recognized, but it cannot do anything to get into the family of God.
A number of wonderful things happen when getting into the family of God, we get everything that goes with being a part of it. When we receive the new birth, we receive a new nature; and that nature is from God.
Second Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ (born again), he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Ephesians 1 contains the following noteworthy list: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, … 5 [God] predestined us for adoption … 7 [we are] redeemed through His blood, … 11 [we] have obtained an inheritance, … 13 [we are] sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it …
We Are Free from Condemnation
Without the new birth, we are lost, and we are condemned. And the opposite is also true: With the new birth, we are no longer condemned.
Consider John 3:18:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Until we believe in Jesus Christ, we are condemned. And the only way we can get out of that is through belief in Jesus Christ.
The first verse of Romans 8 states:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The new birth is essential for us to become what God wants us to be. We cannot be in the family of God and we cannot avoid condemnation unless we are born of the Spirit.
Experience of the New Birth
How does one become born again? Not through our own effort. Titus 3:5 says
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, …”
Listen to Ephesians 2:4-6:
“But God … even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
God has to initiate the new birth in us; we cannot do it of ourselves. In fact, in the first epistle of John, we find the phrase “born of God” six times in that one letter. That is what the second birth is: to be born of God (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18).
John (1:11-13) put it this way:
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him, but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The new birth is God-birth. It is our being born of God as His Spirit fills the vacuum that was created in us when we were created in the first place. In Ecclesiastes 3:11
“… he has put eternity into man’s heart, …” ESV
God never intended for His creatures to be one dimensional; He never intended us to be just flesh. God wants His prize creation, humankind, to be fully dimensional, and that includes the spiritual dimension. Scripture says:
“He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” (James 4:5, ESV)
The new birth is something that can only take place through the agency of Almighty God. We cannot, of our own volition, of our own strength, of our own effort bring about the new birth. It matters not what church denomination we embrace. Until the Holy Spirit comes to live within us as a result of inviting Christ into our lives, we have not been born again.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20 NKJV
If we have only been born once, we have to die twice. Every person is born dead spiritually. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born from above.” If anyone dies physically without being born again, he will face the second death. Spiritual death is reversible only by the new birth. So while we are living, we must receive Christ as our personal Savior to reverse that spiritual death. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God to spend eternity in hell.
The new birth is the result of two agents acting together. Listen to what Jesus said:
“Unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
What does “water” signify in this verse?
Psalm 119:9 says:
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word.”
In Ephesians 5:25-26, Paul states that
“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word.”
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” ESV
Hebrews 11 ESV
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
What Jesus said to Nicodemus was, “Nicodemus, you cannot be born again except you are born of the Spirit and of the Word.” The Word of God is preached or read or heard, and then the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and strikes fire in the heart of a person. This is the convicting and convincing ministry of the Spirit. When you open the door of your heart—your mind, emotions, and will–and invite Jesus in, the Holy Spirit enters your heart and begins your conversion and transformation to become more like Jesus. You are a Christian.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience to expect, but a reality to recognize. It means you are a Christian, part of the Body of Christ, and equipped to experience an abundant spiritual life.
The Old Testament Prophecies and Promise of the Holy Spirit for New Covenant Believers
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27
Jeremiah 31 announces The New Covenant ushered in by the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ!
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, … 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 “… For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist makes this proclamation:
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you …
And while staying with them He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5
Acts 2 describes the Day of Pentecost: the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of Peter, and the repentance and baptism of thousands of Jews into the Body of Christ!
The house where they were gathered was filled with a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and people were able to speak in languages they had not learned so that everyone who came to that meeting heard the Gospel in his own language. Peter explained what was happening in Acts 2 by quoting Joel 2:28-32:
16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.’
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy …
21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’ NKJV
On Pentecost the Spirit of God came down, and the Church was baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ. That was the birthday of the Church, and the birthday gift from God was the Spirit of God Himself who came at that moment to live within the heart of every single person who was in the Church.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit Defined
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the imperceptible work of God whereby the believing sinner is placed by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ at the very moment of his conversion.
When we are saved, when we opened the door of our heart and invited Jesus to come in and dine with us (Rev. 3:20, NKJV)
We allowed the Holy Spirit to enter and take up residence, making us the temple of God.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16, ESV)
By this volitional act we received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism is what happens at the moment of our conversion when the Holy Spirit places us in the Body of Christ. This is an unemotional, positional truth, not anything more, not anything less. And if we do not understand that, we will be looking for something we already have.
A Universal Work of God
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a universal work of God. If one is a believer in Jesus Christ, he has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit”(1 Corinthians 12:13).
Some people believe that not everyone is baptized by the Holy Spirit, that you have to be really spiritual to receive it. Note where our key verse, 1 Corinthians 12:13, comes from: the book of 1 Corinthians. It is not a book about superspiritual people. The book of 1 Corinthians is all about factions, about fleshly carnality, about fighting in court with one another, about falling down before idols, about forgetting the purpose of the Lord’s table, about failing to comprehend the purpose of the Resurrection. The book of 1 Corinthians is about carnal Christianity, about people who are not living the way they are supposed to.
Yet Paul said we are all baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ, every single one of us—and every single one of the carnal Corinthians. It is not about how spiritual we are, but about how wonderful God is. He has included all of us in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
“Certain Pentecostal and charismatic Christians claim that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace in the life of the believer which brings one into a fuller and deeper experience of the Holy Spirit. They believe that when a person becomes a Christian he is indwelt by the Spirit but he is not baptized in the Holy Spirit. In order to come into this deeper walk with God you need to have a second work of grace — a second experience of the Holy Spirit — called the baptism of the Holy Spirit often accompanied by speaking in tongues which will initiate you into this deeper walk in the Spirit.” …
Charismatics will usually appeal to the stories in the book of Acts (2, 8, 10, 11, 19) to show that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an initiatory act but is a second work of grace. But, in fact, a close examination of those stories in the book of Acts reveals that in every single case it is clearly an initial experience of the Holy Spirit that is being described and not a second experience. …
Although the baptism of the Holy Spirit in these instances is differently related to water baptism (sometimes preceding it; sometimes actually coming after water baptism), nevertheless it is clear that in every case the persons who experience a baptism of the Holy Spirit are experiencing an initial act of the Holy Spirit and not some sort of secondary act of grace which puts them into a deeper walk with Christ” (William Lane Craig, Defenders Series 3, section 6, lesson 5).
Speaking in Tongues
Some say there is a relationship between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. It is very clear that the baptism of the Holy Spirit does not produce speaking in tongues for every believer. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 Paul indicates that there are gifts of the Spirit distributed to certain individual believers:
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:5
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the Church may be built up.
Not everyone spoke in tongues; Paul recognized speaking in tongues as a valid form of worship: 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.
Speaking in tongues is not a necessary sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
It is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we are placed into the Body of Christ, regenerated, born again to new life, and indwelt with the Holy Spirit. The only thing that matters is this: Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ? If you have, then you have been baptized into the family of God. You can make this your second birthday party, the day when you say, “I am going to put my faith in Christ.” And according to Luke 15 there will be a party in heaven! 10 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
15 “. You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, …”
Romans 8:13, 15-17 NKJV