Chapter 5: “Ye Must Be Born Again”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 37–41


Map Chp. 5

Early Judean Ministry

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Jerusalem, Judea (Nisan)

The First Passover of Jesus’ Ministry

   

2:13–25

Nicodemus Visits Jesus

   

3:1–21

Jesus Goes into Wilderness of Judea

   

3:22

Aenon, Samaria

John Teaches Belief in the Son

   

3:23–36

Machaerus, Perea

John Is Imprisoned

14:3–5

6:17–20

3:19, 20

 

Jesus Leaves Judea for Galilee

4:12

1:14

4:14

4:1–3

Sychar, Samaria

Woman of Samaria

   

4:4–42

Jesus Goes into Galilee

   

4:43, 44

Interpretive Commentary

(5-1) John 2:13, 14. What Was the Passover?

“Ancient Israel, in the day of Moses, was freed from temporal bondage in Egypt by the Lord Jehovah. To commemorate this deliverance, they were commanded to keep the Feast of the Passover. This feast was designed to bring two things to their remembrance: (1) That the angel of death passed over the houses and flocks of Israel, while slaying the firstborn among the men and beasts of the Egyptians; and (2) That Jehovah was their Deliverer, the same holy being who in due course would come into the world as King-Messiah to work out the infinite and eternal atonement.

“All of the symbolisms of the feast centered around these two events. The feast (more so in the days of its inception than in the time of Jesus) was eaten in haste as though preparatory to flight; the sacrificial lamb was one without blemish, whose blood was shed, but whose bones were not broken; blood was sprinkled on the houses to be spared—all of which provided types and symbols for Messiah’s coming mortal sacrifice. (Ex. 12.)

“And now nearly a millennium and a half after Jehovah gave the Passover to Israel, he himself, tabernacled among men, was preparing to celebrate the feast, to fulfil the law given to Moses. …” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:704.)

(5-2) John 2:13–22. Jesus Defended the Sanctity of His Father’s House

“When Jesus cleansed the temple, he was filled with reverent indignation because men were desecrating his Father’s house, selling doves and lambs to be offered as sacrifice. Money changers were there for the convenience of those who came from other countries, so they could give in local currency their temple contributions. Seemingly, in their own eyes, they were justified, but they were doing these things in the House of God. We are told that he overturned the money changer’s tables, and said to the sellers of doves, ‘Take these things hence. Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ [John 2:16.]

“‘Reverence,’ wrote Ruskin, ‘is the noblest state in which a man can live in the world. Reverence is one of the signs of strength; irreverence one of the surest indications of weakness. No man will rise high who jeers at sacred things. The fine loyalties of life must be reverenced or they will be foresworn in the day of trial.’” (David O. McKay in CR, Oct. 1950, pp. 163–64.)

(5-3) John 3:5. What Is the “Kingdom of God” That Jesus Referred To?

“The kingdom of God mentioned by the Savior in his conversation with Nicodemus points clearly to the fact that it is the celestial kingdom that is meant. This is also implied in the instructions given by our Savior to his apostles when he left them. They were to go into all the world and preach the gospel, all who accepted and were baptized should enter the celestial kingdom, but all others would be damned, or be assigned to one of the other kingdoms.” (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:147–48.)

(5-4) John 4:1–3. Jesus Himself Performed Water Baptisms

“They sought more diligently some means that they might put him to death; for many received John as a prophet, but they believed not on Jesus.

“Now the Lord knew this, though he himself baptized not so many as his disciples;

“For he suffered them for an example, preferring one another.” (John 4:2–4, Inspired Version.)

“Contrary to the false teachings and traditions of sectarianism, Jesus personally performed water baptisms so that in all things he might be the great Exemplar. Without question he also performed all other ordinances essential to salvation and exaltation.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:148.)

(5-5) John 4:9. Why Did the Jews Feel So Much Antipathy towards the Samaritans?

“The direct route from Judea to Galilee lay through Samaria; but many Jews, particularly Galilaeans, chose to follow an indirect though longer way rather than traverse the country of a people so despised by them as were the Samaritans. The ill-feeling between Jews and Samaritans had been growing for centuries, and at the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry had developed into most intense hatred. The inhabitants of Samaria were a mixed people, in whom the blood of Israel was mingled with that of the Assyrians and other nations; and one cause of the animosity existing between them and their neighbors both on the north and the south was the Samaritans’ claim for recognition as Israelites; it was their boast that Jacob was their father; but this the Jews denied. The Samaritans had a version of the Pentateuch, which they revered as the law, but they rejected all the prophetical writings of what is now the Old Testament, because they considered themselves treated with insufficient respect therein.

“To the orthodox Jew of the time a Samaritan was more unclean than a Gentile of any other nationality.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 172.)

(5-6) John 4:10. Of What Significance Was the Term “Living Water”?

Israel’s prophets had repeatedly declared that the Lord was as a fountain of living water that Israel had rejected. (See Jeremiah 2:13; Isaiah 8:6.)

Jesus himself, as Jehovah, had pled with ancient Israel to repent and return to him so that he could nourish and sustain them. And in his pleading, Jehovah had used the word water as a figure of speech. (See Isaiah 58:11.)

Points to Ponder

(5-7) Those Who Come unto Christ Need Never Thirst Again

“His solemn invitation, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink,’ was a plain and open claim of Messiahship. In making it he identified himself as the very Jehovah who had promised drink to the thirsty through an outpouring of the Spirit. After such a pronouncement his hearers were faced with two choices: Either he was a blasphemer worthy of death, or he was in fact the God of Israel.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:445–46.)

How did Jesus’ discussion with the Samaritan woman influence her? Perhaps you could trace her conversion through a review of her interview with Jesus. In John, chapter 4, we see her addressing Jesus using three different titles. What do verses 9, 11, 14, 15, 19, and 29 indicate has happened to her understanding of the man to whom she is speaking?

Being Born to “See” the Kingdom of God Is a Step in Being Born to “Enter” the Kingdom

The following hypothetical interview should aid you in understanding what happened to the Samaritan woman and what must happen to you if you would enter the celestial kingdom of God.

Question

Jesus explained to Nicodemus that a man must be “born again.” In this world our first birth is when we enter the world as infants. But the word again in Jesus’ phrase implies another, or second birth, doesn’t it?

Answer

Yes, there is another, or second birth.

“The first birth takes place when spirits pass from their pre-existent first estate into mortality; the second birth or birth ‘into the kingdom of heaven’ takes place when mortal men are born again and become alive to the things of the Spirit and of righteousness. The elements of water, blood, and Spirit are present in both births. (Moses 6:59–60.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.)

Question

In John 3:3, Jesus said, “Except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and in John 3:5, Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It is one thing to see the kingdom, and it is a different thing entirely to enter the kingdom. Does this mean that the second birth, or spiritual rebirth, has two parts?

Answer

Yes, this second birth or spiritual rebirth has two general parts. In order to understand what it means to see the kingdom of God, it is necessary to perceive what the Holy Ghost will do for a man before that man is baptized into the Church, The Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

“There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him.” (Teachings, p. 199.)

When a nonmember sees the kingdom of God, it means that the power of the Holy Ghost is poured out upon him to teach him that the Church is true. He then has a testimony. He knows.

“The Lord will reveal the truth once; then when this testimony has been given, the person should accept the truth and receive the gospel by baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. … Cornelius received a manifestation in strict conformity to the instruction given by Moroni, and had he turned away there would have been no further light or direction for him. The Spirit of the Lord will not argue with men, nor abide in them, except they yield obedience to the Lord’s commandments. (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:29.)

At the time a person sees the kingdom, he does not necessarily receive a remission of his sins. The Holy Ghost has merely taught him what he must do to receive a remission of sins. Of this the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“It is one thing to see the kingdom of God, and another thing to enter into it. We must have a change of heart to see the kingdom of God, and subscribe the articles of adoption to enter therein.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 328.)

Question

Does a person always see the kingdom before baptism?

Answer

No, this experience may occur in the life of a baptized member of the Church as well. Sometimes people are members of the Church even for many years before they “see” or gain a testimony that the Church is true.

Question

It seems clear that seeing involves witness and testimony and conviction about the truthfulness of the Church. But what has to occur so that a person has the true change of heart so that he can enter the kingdom of God?

Answer

“Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death and burial of the man of sin; and the coming forth out of the water, the resurrection to a newness of spiritual life. After baptism, hands are laid upon the head of the baptized believer, and he is blessed to receive the Holy Ghost. Thus does the one baptized receive the promise or gift of the Holy Ghost or the privilege of being brought back into the presence of one of the Godhead, by obedience to whom and through his faithfulness one so blessed might receive the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in his daily walks and talks, even as Adam walked and talked in the Garden of Eden with God, his Heavenly Father. To receive such guidance and such direction from the Holy Ghost is to be spiritually reborn.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1947, p. 64.)

Question

Does a person always receive this spiritual rebirth at the time of baptism?

Answer

“Mere compliance with the formality of the ordinance of baptism does not mean that a person has been born again. No one can be born again without baptism, but the immersion in water and the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Ghost do not of themselves guarantee that a person has been or will be born again. The new birth takes place only for those who actually enjoy the gift or companionship of the Holy Ghost, only for those who are fully converted, who have given themselves without restraint to the Lord. Thus Alma addressed himself to his ‘brethren of the church,’ and pointedly asked them if they had ‘spiritually been born of God,’ received the Lord’s image in their countenances, and had the ‘mighty change’ in their hearts which always attends the birth of the Spirit. (Alma 5:14–31.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.)

Question

What blessings are available to someone who is born again?

Answer

“Those members of the Church who have actually been born again are in a blessed and favored state. They have attained their position, not merely by joining the Church, but through faith (1 John 5:1), righteousness (1 John 2:29), love (1 John 4:7), and overcoming the world. (1 John 5:4.) ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy Spirit of promise.’ (Inspired Version, 1 John 3:9.) (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.)

Being Born Again Is a Gradual Process That Is Accompanied by a Change of Heart

David’s father was president of the stake. David had never been to the stake president’s office; but last evening at dinner he had raised some questions about spiritual rebirth, and his father had invited him to come to the stake president’s office to discuss the matter. As he settled into a chair, David noticed a picture on his father’s desk. It was a picture of the stake presidency; there was his father, smiling and dignified. David was early for the appointment; and as he waited, the thought occurred to him that if ever anyone knew anything about spiritual rebirth, it must be his father.

David’s father had worked in the mines most of his adult life. Nothing had ever really mattered to him beyond food and sleep. Seldom had he been much of a father until the day the missionaries knocked at their door. After weeks of questions, some patience on the part of the missionaries, and many prayers by David’s mother (who herself had immediately accepted the gospel taught by the missionaries), David’s father had joined the Church. The rest of the family joined within weeks after their father led the way.

David hadn’t noticed it at first, but gradually his father had changed. There had been nothing spectacular—no visions, no outward manifestations—but just gradual change. First they had begun to attend church. Later David’s father had announced at the dinner table that they would never eat another meal in their home without having a blessing on the food. That had been twelve years ago. Then they had commenced holding a regular home evening. David still remembered the family journey to the Los Angeles Temple, where they had been sealed together as a family for time and eternity. Later, when David and his brothers had spoken harshly about one of the leaders of their ward, he remembered his father’s justified anger and instant rebuke, for although David’s father had controlled his temper, he made it very clear to his sons that they must never say such things about any of the Church officers again. While his father’s change had occurred quietly and gradually, it was nevertheless a powerful change. David had often wondered to himself what possibly could have taken a hard-headed man like his father and literally turned him around. And now that he was on the proper course, it seemed that his dedication and zeal in the cause of the Master increased every day.

David’s father had been called to serve in the ward MIA and later in the stake. Then just two years later he had been called as a counselor in the stake presidency. David noticed that his father was gone from home a great deal, but the time he did manage to spend at home with his wife and four sons was quality time. As a contrast to twelve years ago, their home was now truly a house of love, prayer, and order. David had listened to his father’s testimony in conferences and as he had shared it with his sons and with others who had been in their home. During one home evening, he had told his sons: “I am not the father you used to have; I have been changed. And I want you to know that for whatever else I may say or do, I know that Jesus lives and is my Redeemer, because I have tasted of his goodness and I know of his love for me.” David knew his father well enough to know that he testified of the reality of Jesus and of the truth of the gospel from the depths of his soul. And now his father was president of the stake.

As David sat there waiting, he suddenly realized that he lived in the very shadow of a man who had been born again! Hastily he scribbled a note to his father and then left. The note read: “Dad, I won’t need to talk to you after all. I have the answers to my question. See you at dinner. David.”

Why do you think David’s father was one who had been born again?

Was his father’s spiritual rebirth a sudden thing? Were sensational manifestations involved?

Elder Harold B. Lee said, “Knowing how this birth takes place is as impossible to explain as to explain where the wind comes from or where it goes.” (“Born of the Spirit,” Address to Seminary and Institute Faculty, BYU, 26 June 1962; compare John 3:7–8.)

Sometimes people get the idea that to be born of the Spirit, they have to experience something sudden and spectacular. From your reading about David’s father, do you think this is always necessary?

Consider the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith about the manifestations of the Spirit:

“We believe that the Holy Ghost is imparted by the laying on of hands of those in authority, and that the gift of the tongues, and also the gift of prophecy, are gifts of the spirit, and are obtained through that medium; but then to say that men always prophesied and spoke in tongues when they had the imposition of hands, would be to state that which is untrue, contrary to the practice of the apostles, and at variance with holy writ; for Paul says, ‘to one is given the gift of tongues, to another the gift of prophecy, and to another the gift of healing’—and again, ‘do all prophecy [sic]? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?’ evidently shewing that all did not possess these several gifts; but that one received one gift and another received another gift—all did not prophecy [sic]; all did not speak in tongues; all did not work miracles; but all did receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; sometimes they spake in tongues and prophesied in the Apostles’ days, and sometimes they did not.—The same in the case with us also in our administrations, while more frequently there is no manifestation at all that is visible to the surrounding multitude.” (Times and Seasons 3:823–24 [15 June 1842]. Emphasis added.)

At this point, review the account of the interview between Nicodemus and the Lord. Especially note verse 5 in light of what you have learned about that verse in this lesson.

John 3:1–12

What would spiritual rebirth have made available to Nicodemus if he had accepted the Lord’s sayings? What about the Samaritan woman? (See John 3:11, 12.) What is available to you if you accept the Lord’s sayings and constantly strive to obey the Lord’s commandments? (See John 3:13–15.)