Testing the Spirits-Part Two

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Revelation 1:8 records Jesus saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  J. Preston Eby has a teaching series on the Book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ called “From the Candlestick to the Throne” and Part Ten is entitled “Who Is and Was and Is to Come”.  In Part Ten, Mr. Eby shares a different interpretation of 1 John 4:1-4.  Mr. Eby begins in 1 John 2:22-23: “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”  Mr. Eby states 1 John 4 is an elaboration of these verses and says:

“These verses have a deeper meaning!  They are not speaking of the fact of Jesus Christ having lived on earth as a man.  Almost anyone will admit that!  But the profound truth which all of popular religion has missed, is the fact of the Christ actually coming into this flesh, my flesh, your flesh, and becoming an eternal and inseparable part of us!  Millions confess Him who was, but very few in this dark age confess Him who is!…“…ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the antichrists): because GREATER IS HE THAT I-S IN YOU (your flesh), THAN HE THAT I-S IN THE WORLD” (I Jn. 4:3-4).”1

I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction when I read this.  The spirit of Antichrist?  In churches?  In me?  Is such a thing possible?  Years ago I read studies on the book of Revelation which taught the Rapture and The Antichrist.  Further study had me looking at how John used the word “antichrist” in his letter and I learned it had to mean more than an Antichrist rising in the last days because there were already “many antichrists” when John wrote his letter (1 John 2:18).  There was nothing I could find that suggests John was writing about a period of time thousands of years in the future.  Therefore, he was aware of many antichrists at work while he was alive and writing and his letter makes clear how to recognize these spirits. 

I haven’t looked at, or really thought about these passages in 1 John in years; not until they surfaced in my mind after listening to the video.  This along with Mr. Eby’s interpretation made me think I need to take another look at what the spirit of antichrist really means and what John meant when he said to “test the spirits”.

The Dictionary of New Testament Theology says, “the prep. anti originally meant “in the place of” and then “against”.2   Another source stated: “Antichristos can mean either against Christ or instead of Christ, or perhaps, combining the two, “one who, assuming the guise of Christ, opposes Christ’ (Westcott)” Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament has, “Antichrist: it may mean one who stands against Christ or one who stands instead of Christ…John never uses the word pseudochristos false Christ. While the false Christ is merely a pretender to the Messianic office, the Antichrist “assails Christ by proposing to do or to preserve what He did while denying Him.”4

I looked up anti in my Webster’s and found: “Anti: a person opposed to some policy, proposal, action etc.,…opposed; against facing, opposite, near, against, hostile to 2. That counteracts, that operates against, 3. That prevents, cures, or neutralizes”. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “The Greek preposition ‘anti, in composition, sometimes denotes substitution, taking the place of another; hence, “false Christ.”  The connection in which the word is used appears to import opposition, covert rather than avowed, with a professed friendliness.”6

Mr. Eby also writes, “Would God that Christians could be awakened to the glory of Him who is!…Truly, Christ in us is our only hope of glory!  HE IS the glory!  But antichrist will hear of no such hope of glory.  His hope does not rest wholly in the Christ within, but in his own ability and works, his own faithfulness or endurance.  He is cluttered about with laws, regulations, creeds, ordinances, observances, rituals, ceremonies, programs, traditions, and religious exercises of this order and that, all of which are designed to assure his right standing with God.  He is thus denying the Father and the Son, for the living Christ alone is not his life!”7

I think I understand what Mr. Eby is saying and I cannot disagree.  I’ve experienced a neutralized Christian life inside religious systems.  I have been in places where I was offered “in the place of”: program involvement, more Bible reading, more prayer, etc.  I knew Jesus lived in me: He’d come into my heart when I first believed and said the sinner’s prayer.  I could rest assured I would escape judgement and hell and would go to heaven when I died.  Until then, I was to attend a church and, if my life was a barren, dusty, thirsty place…there wasn’t an answer for that.  Where were the fountains of living waters the Spirit was supposed to be to me?

I cannot remember attending a church where the message was Jesus is my life NOW!  Christ, in me, my hope of Glory!  I think the reason for that is I rarely heard about the Holy Spirit.  I’d been baptized in the Holy Spirit but now I was on my own.  Nobody taught me exactly why I’d been baptized in the Spirit except now I could pray in tongues and that’s how I was supposed to pray when I couldn’t think of my own words.  There had to be something more.  How I thank God for the discontent that drove me to keep searching for the life the writers of the New Testament insisted I could have, the life Jesus promised I could have!  No rules and regulations: relationship with the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit.  Eternal life.  (See John 17:3) 

Is this sidelining of the Holy Spirit the spirit of antichrist?  I don’t know.  I’ve always believed the spirit of antichrist was a deliberate denial of Jesus Christ and I never experienced that.  On the contrary; I knew earnest, seeking people who loved Jesus.  Only, no one seemed to expect anything in Christ beyond what we had.  It’s a subject I’ll have to study more but it does bring me to my third litmus test: what is being said about the Holy Spirit?  More specifically, what is being said about His work in the lives of believers NOW!  It is a sad fact but this third test is where I find I cannot follow a teacher.  In Galatians 5:25, Paul says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  To which I add a resounding Amen.

  1. Eby, Preston J., Kingdom Bible Studies, From the Candlestick to the Throne, Who Is and Was and Is to Come, Part 10
  2. Brown, Colin, Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 1., Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1975, Antichrist, Page 124
  3. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, Pages 53-54
  4. Vincent, Marvin R., D.D., Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1 John, Page 337
  5. Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, William Collins + The World Publishing company, 1976, Page 59 
  6. Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1982, Page 68
  7. Eby, Preston J., Kingdom Bible Studies, From the Candlestick to the Throne, Who Is and Was and Is to Come, Part 10

Testing the Spirits-Part One

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I listen to my favorite teachers and podcasts while I’m at work and, early last week, I listened to a YouTube video where another video was being discussed.  The other video was of a gentleman who was stating there was nowhere in the Bible where Jesus was called God.  I wasn’t paying much attention because I couldn’t fathom which version of the Bible this gentleman was reading in order to state a thing with such confidence.  Every version of the Bible I have available to me consists of the Old Testament which points to Jesus and the New Testament which reveals Jesus and tells me who I am in Him as well as who He is in me.  There is Jesus’ name: Yeshua in the Hebrew which means “He will save”.  There was Jesus’ not so subtle declaration in John 8: 58 where He says, “Before Abraham was I AM” using the Name God used when He revealed Himself to Moses.  There’s John 1:1-14 which is such a beautiful passage: I read and re-read and re-read it.  There are so many other specific scriptures I could list but the purpose of this post is not to convince anyone Jesus is God. (Except do read 1 Timothy 3:16!) I’m going to assume that, if you are reading this, you already declare Jesus is God from God, God manifest in the flesh, or are at the very least open to the possibility and I am going to get to my material point.

Which is: my ears perked up when I heard this same gentleman say he had the holy spirit which had shown him these things.  That arrested me and I mulled on it for days.  I, of course, do not agree the spirit teaching this man comes from God at all but there is no discounting his sincerity.  It took me quite a chunk of time to digest the irony of someone saying they have the holy spirit who has revealed Jesus is not God when 1, if Jesus is not God there is no possibility of the Holy Spirit and for this I point you to John Chapter 16.  The entire chapter is worth reading but for the sake of this post I am referencing verses 7-16.  And 2: if Jesus is not God made flesh, and assuming God still had a reason to pour His Spirit out on us humans, what would He say?  John 15:26: But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”

And so, while I don’t believe this gentleman and I are hearing from the same spirit, how can I be certain?  Well, the Bible gives me guidelines.  There is 1 Corinthians 12:3 which states, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”  There is Romans 8:15-16 which state, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  There is 1 John 4 which popped into my head while I was listening to the video and verses 1-5 state; “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.  And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

The Amplified has, “…prove (test) the spirits…By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source]; And every spirit which does not acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ has come in in the flesh [but would annul, destroy, sever, disunite Him] is not of God [does not proceed from Him].”

Francois du Toit expounds on disuniting Jesus in the Mirror Study Bible and it’s so great I have to share it.  Verse 3 and his commentary state: “No so-called “spiritual revelation” that fails to communicate the revelation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, is of God.  This is the anti-Christ spirit that you have heard of and even now witness in the world.  Any idea that Jesus Christ is not the incarnate word of God does not originate in God but is the typical pseudo mindset of the spirit of this fallen cosmic system. (The Latin rendering from the 2nd century reads, “No spirit that would separate the human Jesus from the divine Christ, is of God.”)1

My Archeological Study Bible tells me John wrote this passage to refute Gnostic heresy and I found an interesting blurb on Gnosticism which I’ll quote parts of:

1 John 4.  Gnosticism was one of the earliest Christian heresies.  Gnostic writings are many and varied, frequently drawing upon Platonic concepts, imagery from the New Testament and pagan myth…Certain broad observations can be made of Gnostic literature.

  • From the Greek word gnosis meaning “knowledge”, Gnosticism was a movement that claimed to provide secret knowledge about God.  Its adherents considered the Biblical God, the Creator of the world, to be an inferior god.  In Gnostic teaching the material world was innately evil and thus its Creator a lesser deity.
  • The Gnostic Savior, rather than providing atonement for sin, brought the knowledge of humanity’s “true” divine origins, thus freeing people from their ignorance and enslavement to the material world.
  • Some Gnostics believed that “the Christ” (a kind of spiritual anointing or presence) came upon the man Jesus at his baptism and departed before his crucifixion—thus, that there was no lasting union of divine and human natures in Jesus.  In their view, the true Christ had no physical body. 
  • One particular brand of Gnostics, called “Docetists”, believed that Jesus was actually a divine spirit who only appeared to be physical: His body, they argued, was not truly flesh but was only an illusion.  First John 4:2 (“Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God) refutes this teaching.  Possibly those whom John countered were forerunners of the groups that later wrote Gnostic texts.

John’s warnings indicate that heresy can come in many forms, often in the guise of apostolic teaching.  Those who deny the humanity of Jesus are equally as heretical as those who deny his deity.  In addition, any doctrine that understands the created, material world to be intrinsically evil is dangerous and misguided.2

I find this so fascinating, especially in light of the idea of “Christ Consciousness” I see gaining momentum today.  I do not know if it’s “now more than ever” but certainly the necessity of testing, proving, and discerning the spirits if they be of God is just as important as it was when John wrote his letter.  Here are two of my three litmus tests:

  1.  Who is this person saying The Father is?
  2. Who is this person saying Jesus is?

My third litmus test is in regard to the Holy Spirit and, for that, I want to look at another interpretation of 1 John 4 I found.  I plan to share that next week.

To be continued…

  1.  du Toit, Francois, Mirror Study Bible, Francois du Toit, 2012, Page 473. “Scripture taken from THE MIRROR. Copyright © 2012.  Used by permission of The Author.” 
  2. Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005, “The Reliability of the Bible: The Gnostics and their Scriptures”, Page 2029

Being Nonconformist

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My Mom and I were talking about bargains.  I love a bargain. In fact, I rarely make a purchase unless it is a bargain. I was re-thinking a purchase I didn’t make because it was an excellent deal but it was something I did not need. Just because something is a bargain doesn’t mean the money needs to be spent. 

My Mom agreed and told a story about her father receiving several pairs of silk socks one Christmas: a bargain his mother could not pass up.  My grandfather hated these socks.  Mom said he thought they were uncomfortable and his feet sweat in them something terrible.  Whatever his mother paid for them was too much.  Which got me thinking…

Does anyone remember the silk shirt fashion trend?  This had to be late 80s early 90s.  Everyone was wearing them and I wanted one so badly.  I don’t remember if I saved my allowance or talked my mother into purchasing one for me but there came the day I found myself the possessor of a dark teal silk shirt.  How proud I was of it!  What a beautiful color!  How wonderful I would now fit in with all the IT people who had their own silk shirts!  How I hated this shirt every time I wore it! 

There was not enough antiperspirant in the world to keep my armpits from sweating in this shirt.  I was anxious every time I wore my coveted silk shirt, certain that I was going to end up with large wet spots under my arms.  I don’t remember if I ever did raise my arms in that shirt.  I do know I didn’t wear it more than a handful of times.

What a waste of money that was.  What an awful fashion trend.  Remembering got me wondering…was everyone else having the same experience?  Did silk shirts become a fashion trend because everyone was looking at everyone else wearing them and, too embarrassed to admit to excessive sweating, endured?  Perhaps everyone else loved their shirts and it was only me who experienced the sweating.  If so, it begs the question: why did I ever wear that shirt more than once?  Was my desire to fit in so overwhelming I was willing to endure discomfort?  The sad truth is yes, it was. 

The way of fitting in has always escaped me.  I tried fixing my hair like the popular girls, wearing the same clothes, trying to understand what they liked and talked about and it never worked.  I think I’ve managed to misplace most of the photos from that era!  I still can’t think of the words “spiral perm” without wincing.  I never got the fashions quite right.  It is a truth I must still acknowledge that what looks adorable on another woman will not look the same on me.  I am always ever too something and it doesn’t fit right.  I also acknowledge my personal taste never quite conforms.  I can’t count how many times I left my house thinking I’d finally nailed it only to arrive at school and learn no, I had not.  

I am now a mature woman who has found my identity in Christ.  I am comfortable in my skin and my clothes and I thank Jesus for that.  I also thank Him that I can look back on what were painful experiences at the time and see that there is a lesson to be learned from them. 

Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  It might surprise you to know that the Greek word translated “world” here is not kosmos (Strong’s G2889) which means “orderly arrangement or decoration” and is the word translated “world” most often in the New Testament.  Nor is it oikoumene (Strong’s G3625) which means “land, the terrene part of the globe, earth”.  No, the word translated “world” in this passage is aion (Strong’s G165) and means “an age”.  What’s the difference?

Vine’s Expository Dictionary says kosmos is “primarily order, arrangement, ornament, adornment and is used to denote the earth…the universe owing to the order observable in it…the human race…the sum of temporal possessions.”  Oikomene “is used of the whole inhabited world” and aion is “an age, a period of time, marked in the N.T. usage by spiritual or moral characteristics…details concerning the world in this respect; its cares…its sons…its rulers…its wisdom…its fashion…its character”The entry also states “Aion is always to be distinguished from kosmos, even where the two seem to the express the same idea” and gives the example of Ephesians 2:2: …where you once walked after the course (aion) of this world (kosmos).2

What defines the age Paul admonishes me not to be conformed to in his letter to the Romans?  I do not think I am mistaken to say it is a way of thought because after telling me to “be not conformed” Paul says “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  In other letters, Paul tells us to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23)”. 

I have found that the rules of school followed me into adult hood.  Not that the clothes I wear are of utmost importance-though that is still a thing-but; if I want to fit in, if I want to belong, I must conform to an acceptable way of thought.  Perhaps I’m straining a metaphor but the thoughts of this age fit me like that silk shirt.  Maybe everyone else is comfortable in it but I am not and I am not the same person willing to suffer anxiety and endure discomfort so that I can fit in with everyone else.  My desire is no longer focused on fitting in.  I want to know Jesus.  I want to explore the vastness of my inheritance in Him, I want to live His life, and I want to think His thoughts.  All of this is possible for me because He has placed His Spirit within me.

The renewing of my mind In Christ is not always comfortable but He is always safe.  I imagine the word-picture painted in the story of the Husbandman in the 15th chapter of John.  There are necessary prunings and they can be painful but He does not seek to destroy me because I don’t conform to His way of thinking.  Rather, every work in my life makes me more the Me I was always intended to be and thus I am transformed into his way of thinking.  So, I live.  Yet, not I.  It is Christ who lives in me.  It’s a wondrous, glorious, awesome mystery.

And, if Isaiah 61:10 and Colossians 3:12 are any indication, I’ll be wearing some pretty cool garments.

  1. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, 1997, Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers, World, Pages 1245-1246
  2. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, 1997, Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers, World, Page 1246

Sonnet

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I live in Love: He is my All in All

My Sabbath Rest, My Everlasting Hymn

He strengthens me so that I cannot fall

But rather I can walk on waves with Him.

We are so One, He is my very breath

My Guiding Light, the Wisdom that I need

As I am in the One who conquered death

I boldly go wherever He will lead.

The darkness seems so thick in this late hour

Yet He has shown me what will come to pass

I fear no defeated enemy’s power

Because we stand upon the sea of glass.

The One I love is called Faithful and True.

Behold He comes! He maketh all things new.

The Letter of the Word

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As I have progressed in my relationship with Jesus, I have found my study habits changing.  I suppose such a thing ought to be obvious but I noticed the change and have wondered at it.  For example, I no longer do those “Read the Bible in a Year” plans.  I do not say there is anything wrong with them.  I have enjoyed making my way through different plans-sometimes historical, sometimes chronological, and seeing different patterns emerge.  And yet, there were times when I would read a particular scripture and it would spark something in me.  I would think about taking time to study it but I could not as I had my plan to adhere to.  I would promise myself to come back to it but another year meant another plan and I didn’t have a great deal of time to devote to one scripture.

I don’t do that anymore.  Now, if I see something I sink down into that passage until the Holy Spirit directs my attention to another.  This happened during my study of John 3:5.  I wrote in a previous post how scripture references and commentaries in my different Bible translations and study materials drew my attention to Ezekiel 36: 25-27.  I commenced a word study on those verses and such vistas opened it was difficult not to travel down some of these new paths and to stay focused on what I was attempting to learn about John 3:5.  While I do not think I am finished with John 3:5 either, I’m ready to take a look at some of these trails I’ve never been down and see what I find.

I was curious about the Hebrew word used for “give” as in “I will give you a new heart”.  The word translated “put” in some of my translations (like the NKJV) as in “I will put a new spirit within you” is the same Hebrew word translated “give” only a few words before.  I wondered if it might not contain the idea of birthing but it does not.  The word is nathan: number 5414 in my copy of The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  There is a rather long entry for nathan and it’s worth reading through.  In sum, translating nathan as “give” is an accurate translation. 

Now, I find my Strong’s an invaluable resource but there are times merely looking up the Greek and Hebrew and getting a definition is a bit of a let down.  I have other dictionaries and commentaries which can be helpful and I have a Hebrew lexicon coded with Strong’s numbers and arranged so the word and its root are listed together along with every scripture the word is found.  Reading the word in other passages and seeing how it’s used is helpful but I can’t help wondering whether that is all I can learn.

Fortunately, I have a book called The Inner Meaning of the Hebrew Letters by Robert M. Haralick and I have Google.  With these two resources, I am introduced to a world where the Hebrew letters themselves have forms and final forms and meanings that help to show me who God is.

Take nathan: it is written nun, tav, and nun in its final form.  Before I make it passed the Table of Contents in Mr. Haralick’s book, I see that Nun means Emergence and Tav means True Law.  I find that fascinating.  Ezekiel 36:27 says “I will put (nathan) my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”  In looking at the first two letters of nathan I see God at work.  Emergence = He puts or gives and True Law = we walk in his statutes, keep His judgments, and do them.  It’s with a sense of excitement and anticipation that I read the entries for these letters.

Mr. Haralick begins his entry for nun by stating “The fourteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is nun spelled nun-vav-nun.” (I’ve used English spelling-Mr. Haralick uses the Hebrew letters)  He goes on to say that in Aramaic, the word nun means fish while in Hebrew the word is the root to sprout, spread, propagate, or shine.  I am not unfamiliar with the word nun as I’ve read many times “Joshua, the son of Nun” and Mr. Haralick goes on to say, “Every instance of the word nun (spelled nun-vav-nun) in the Pentateuch is in the phrase “son of Nun”.  He includes the scripture references in his footnotes but reviews Deuteronomy 31:23, 1:38, and 34:9 concluding, “That which is in emergence does not immediately accomplish what is to be accomplished for what is to be accomplished takes place later in time.  It is the son of Nun, Joshua, the offspring of Nun, who goes into the land and causes us to inherit it.  The father, Nun, emergence, does not go into the Promised Land.  Therefore, when we are engaging in emergence we are charged to be strong and of good courage for it will take time for our emergence to produce something seeable.  And in emerging, we shall be full of the spirit of wisdom.”  

There are pages more information on nun, its cognates, how its meaning affects other words it is part of, and what its numerical value means.  I also found an online resource (lightedway.org) which has a study on nun so, once again, I find looking into the meaning of anything, even a letter, is no small undertaking.

For now though, I have to pause and reflect on the bit I’ve shared.  I see a picture of Jesus in Mr. Haralick’s words.  Our inheritance, our Promised Land if you will, is in Him.  He is the one that brings us to the Father and restores the relationship.  He is Yeshua, He who saves; the one who brings us into the Holy of Holies through Himself.  He is the one who puts in His life in us yet we do not immediately experience His fullness but rather, are transformed into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).  We can be strong and of good courage because we know that He who began a good work in us will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

To Him be the glory unto the Age of the Ages.  Amen.

I drew my last paragraph from the following scriptures:  Hebrews 10:20, Colossians 1:27, John 14:6, Ephesians 1:11-17, Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 5:19, and James 1:17

Quotes taken from:

Haralick, Robert M., The Inner Meaning of Hebrew Letters, Jason Aronson Inc. Northvale, New Jersey, 1995, pages 207-208

Rhema

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The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. John 10:10, New American Standard (NAS)

The Christian life is not automatic. The joy of the Lord, the Peace that surpasses all human understanding, the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7, NKJV): all of these things are ours in Jesus through the Holy Spirit but we grow into them. Paul writes, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit”. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NAS). It is the Holy Spirit, living within me who teaches me how to live with joy and peace and stability of spirit but I do not sit passive. I believe with all I am that everything my life in Jesus is, is meant to be, is becoming, comes from Him. I do not earn it. Rather, I live in partnership with what His Spirit is doing in me and that sometimes involves giving myself a good talking to.

I wrapped up a study on John 3:5 where I agreed with the conclusion that being born of water and the Spirit is being born of the word and the Spirit. Which word? The logos (G3056) or the rhema (G4487)? Is there a difference? I found Vines Expository Dictionary a help in distinguishing between the two: “Logos denotes the expression of thought-not the mere name of an object-as embodying a conception or idea…the revealed will of God…Rhema denotes that which is spoken, what is uttered in speech or writing”1

I enjoy doing word studies. A study is never over. As I was looking into John 3:5 I saw many different subjects I want to pursue. I found it difficult not to get sidetracked and looking at “the word” in the New Testament was one such temptation. There is far too much to say for this post so I will limit myself to saying I believe there is and is not a difference. There is no rhema without the Logos-Jesus Himself-and yet the logos is not expressed without the rhema. The Spirit reveals Jesus to me but then I find I need to hear words spoken. I listen to teachers, I read, and I often have to speak to myself. Ephesians 5:18-19 says, “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs”. While not explicit in this passage, I believe talking to myself is just as important as sharing with others. I hear so many other voices, even when I step away from social media outlets, and few of them are saying edifying things. My thoughts begin to whirl and I must talk to myself, remind myself who Jesus is, and remind myself who I am in Him.

This is one such poem I wrote to remind myself of reality in Christ.

Rhema

What is the source of my joy?

How can I know joy exists

When I see so much adversity?

Because I know the One who is Joy.

What is the source of my peace?

How can I believe in peace

When I see so much tragedy?

Because I know the One who is Peace.

What is the source of knowledge?

How can I see Him

When I see so much death and pain?

Because I know the One who Speaks.

His Spirit is knowing

His Spirit is certain

He is the Source

In the depths of me

Knitted to me

Opening the heart’s eyes

The welling spring

The River of living water

The Fountain of my life

The All in All

The Fear Not

The Living and Enduring Word.

  1. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, 1997, Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1241-1242

Birth or Baptism

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What have I been saying over the last seven weeks?  Am I saying that since I don’t believe John 3:5 is speaking of water baptism that I don’t think water baptism is important?  Not at all.  As I read through the Book of Acts, I find that water baptism was a vital part of the life of a Christian.  I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Vincent that baptism “is a truthful sign only as the sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”1 The reason for this study was my quibble with the statement made on social media that water baptism was a law laid down by Jesus.  A church in my area came across my Facebook feed and, when I checked out their statement of faith, I saw that they said practically the same thing.  The statement of faith used “ordinance” rather than law but that’s merely a fancier way of saying the same thing. 

What’s the big deal?  If people are getting saved and baptized anyway, what does it matter if water baptism and born of water are or are not the same thing? It matters to me.  It matters because I am concerned when leaders start using the word “law” when it comes to the life of Jesus in us.  I am also concerned when the keeping of the law of being baptized in water is put forward as the interpretation of John 3:5 when Jesus goes on to say, “no man can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”  This is serious.  Jesus was serious when he said it.  The true meaning of His words is vital.

That being born of water has to mean something other than water baptism, something that must take place on the inside of a person, is made clear by Luke 17 verses 20 and 21: “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say ‘Here it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’” The King James Version has it “the kingdom of God is within you.”  If it is within, then John 3:5 has to be talking about an inward change-the new heart and new spirit God promises in Ezekiel 36-because, on its own, water baptism has no ability to birth anyone into anything other than a denomination. 

I follow a Facebook page called A.W. Tozer-A man of God and this page recently shared an excerpt from his sermon “Spiritual Readiness”.  It struck me when I read “The evangelical church has come through a period when nearly everyone has believed that there is just one prerequisite to readiness: being born again.  We have made being born again almost like receiving a pass to a special event-when Jesus returns we whip out the pass to prove our readiness.”  I feel this way about keeping laws: no one will ever convince me that ticking my Christian box next to water baptism in any way prepares me to “let this same mind be in me that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5, paraphrased), or “to be molded into the image of His Son (and share inwardly of His likeness)” (Romans 8:29).

But then, what about Mark 16: 16; “He who believes and is baptized will be saved: but he who does not believe will be condemned”?  Is this passage talking of water baptism?  Romans 5:9 says “Therefore, since we are now justified (acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more (certain is it that) we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God?” Ephesians 1:7 says “In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses) in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor”.  No mention of water baptism.  Perhaps Jesus meant water baptism after believing in Him but, again, there is something that must happen inside us before the water baptism means anything.

John the baptizer said Jesus was the one who would baptize with “the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 2:11).  I want to share two scriptures about fire.  Jeremiah 23:29 says “Isn’t my word like fire, asks Adonai, like a hammer shattering rocks?” The writer to the Hebrews states “our God is a consuming fire!” (Hebrews 12:29)  Perhaps I’m pushing the point too hard but, in doing this study, I am convinced that being born of water and the spirit does mean being born of the Word and the Spirit. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1) and “The Word of the Lord endures forever.  And this Word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:25)  There are so many more beautiful scriptures, some of which I’ve quoted in the previous installments of this study, so I close with this thought.

Maybe I have misunderstood and these leaders don’t really mean law law.  Perhaps all they mean is that baptism is important and I’ve said I don’t disagree.  Here’s my problem: a simple Google search shows people are reaching out and asking whether or not they are saved if they’ve never been baptized.  Is the sprinkling practiced by some denominations enough or do they have to be full on immersed?  What about the baptizing of infants?  I also recently heard that certain denominations recognize the baptism of certain other denominations but not all.  So, in order to be sure I’m saved, I have to be sure I’ve been baptized by the correct denomination?  This sounds like the “doctrines of baptism” spoken about by the writer to the Hebrews (Chapter 6 verse 2).

I wanted to do this study because, when I am looking online, I rarely see anyone pointing out that an inward change is what’s is of paramount importance.  What’s even more distressing to me, is that I rarely see anyone talking about the Holy Spirit.  He’s treated like He’s the icing on the Christian life-nice but not really necessary-or reserved for a certain few who have a deeper life or deeper conversion.

No.  “But you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit, if the Holy Spirit of God (really) dwells within you (directs and controls you).  But if anyone does not possess the (Holy) Spirit of Christ, he is none of His (he does not belong to Christ is not truly a child of God).”  This is Romans 8:9 and I would encourage you to read all of Chapter 8.  I’ll quote verses 14 and 15: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For (the Spirit which) you have now received (is) not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption (the Spirit producing sonship) in (the bliss of) which we cry, Abba! Father!  

If you have been baptized, wonderful.  If you have not, I hope you have the peace to know it doesn’t affect your salvation.  My prayer is that our eyes are opened to see “by (means of the personal agency of) one (Holy) Spirit we were all, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, baptized (and by baptism united together) into one body and all made to drink of one (Holy) Spirit.”  Christ in us, His life in us testified to us by His Spirit, is the water and Spirit that births us into His kingdom. 

Even so, Come Lord Jesus.

  1. Vincent, Marvin R., D.D., Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II, Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, Gospel of John, 5. Born of Water and the Spirit, Page 92.

From Whence I Came

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I had planned for this week’s post to close out on my study of John 3:5 but I find there is an interpretation of “born of water” I would be remiss if I didn’t address.  That interpretation is the one that states being born of water is in reference to our physical birth.  I had personally discounted this interpretation because I had no found no scripture using “born of water” to mean physical birth.  I had found “born of a woman” but never “born of water”.  I had looked at various blog posts that discounted this interpretation but was looking up my scripture reference in the Mirror Study Bible and saw that John 3:5 was translated as “unless someone is born out of water (the womb) and Spirit, there would be no possible connection with the realm of God!” 1 

When I first started this series and was talking it over with my mother, she said she’d always thought being born of water meant physical birth because of the rush of water that announces an imminent birth.  She had been taught so in her church.  While I personally have never heard this interpretation, I’ve also never heard a sermon on John 3:5 so don’t have any idea how prevalent this interpretation might be.  And so, in the interests of being thorough, I am going to take a look at the possibility that being born of water is referencing the physical birth.

At first glance, this interpretation appears obvious.  Nicodemus does ask how it’s possible for a grown man to return to the womb and Jesus does reply with “that which is born of flesh is flesh” (John 3:6).  The Mirror Study Bible translates John 3:6 as, “Whatever originates out of flesh is flesh; but what is sourced in Spirit is spirit” and then has the following commentary: “The Message says, when you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch.  But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit”.

Let us continue in the Mirror Study Bible for two more verses.  John 3:7; “Don’t be so surprised when I say to you [manity – plural!] You couldn’t get here in the flesh unless you got here from above! (See John 1:10 These are the ones who discover their genesis in God beyond their natural conception!  This is not about our blood lineage or whether we were a wanted or an unwanted child – this is about our God-begotteness; we are his dream come true!  We are not the invention of our parents! [You are the greatest idea God has ever had!]) John 3:8; We can observe the effect the wind has and hear its sound whenever it touches objects – yet those objects do not define the wind; it comes and goes of its own accord – if life was not born out of the spirit in the first place, it would not be possible to detect spirit influence at all!  We are spirit-compatible by design! (Spirit is our origin!  Not our mother’s womb!…) 

This confuses me a bit.  What is Mr. du Toit saying here?  Is he saying while the Spirit is our true origin, we must be born into a physical body in order to-he says have a possible connection but other translations say see, enter-the Kingdom of God?  If so, I have a massive question I must lay before my Heavenly Father.  What about all the children who don’t make it through the birth process?

While seeking an answer in scripture to that question, I found I had to ask another: when does life begin?  I’ve heard various people say life begins at birth and others say it begins at conception.  What does the Bible say?  The Bible appears to share a truth so massive my mind can hardly fathom it.  The Writer of the Book of Hebrews, in talking about the Priesthood of Melchizedek, says it is a higher priesthood than that of Levi because “even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him” (Hebrews 7:9-10) This scripture suggests Levi was alive in his great-grandfather decades before his physical birth.  And yet, there is a scripture that takes all of humanity’s origins back further than Abraham because “as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 13:22).  The first human made a choice that affected every one of his descendants.  It affected me so I had to be in Adam all those millennia before my actual birth.

The Bible does make clear the fact that God knew us before our physical birth.  God says to Jeremiah, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you: Before you were born I sanctified you” (Jeremiah 1:5).  One of my favorite Psalms contains a passage that echoes God’s words to Jeremiah: “You formed my inward parts: You covered me in my mother’s womb…my frame was not hidden from you…you saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13-16) The Gospel of John says “All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  Consider Colossians 1:16: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.”  Ephesians 1:4-5 says “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the pleasure of His will”.   

When I meditate on these scriptures, especially Colossians and Ephesians, I think I have not yet begun to fathom my origin.  Regarding John 3:5, I do not agree that “born of water” means a physical birth and then being born of the Spirit is the being born again.  In fact, the Greek word that has been translated again is anothen (G509) and would have been translated more accurately as from above, or anew.  (I’ve addressed this here) I believe born of water and the spirit were meant to explain being born anew and conducting this study has convinced me that the being born from above has nothing to do with water baptism.  Do I think a human has to be born physically and live some time on this earth in order to be then born into the Kingdom of God?

I do think this human existence is of immense value.  I think every life matters to God in a way we humans don’t understand unless His Spirit opens our eyes.  I know death is an enemy but one that is defeated by Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 1:18) therefore I do not believe the death of this body in some way thwarts God.  I do know that “in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him.” The Amplified Bible puts it beautifully: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. (For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.) To Him be glory forever!  Amen (so be it). (Romans 11:36)

Amen.

To be continued…

  1. “Scripture taken from THE MIRROR. Copyright © 2012. Used by permission of The Author.”

The Cleansing Word

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In The Grammar of Complexity, I shared the idea that “born of water and the spirit” from John 3:5 means being born of the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  I believe this interpretation because of my personal experience, a baptism story I find in the Book of Acts, and various scriptures throughout the New Testament. First things First.  I have been the recipient of an immersion baptism and it happened like this:

It was only a few years after my devastating car accident.  I’d moved here to Colorado and was feeling somewhat adrift.  What was I supposed to do when the planned on college degree was no longer an option and I still had yet to figure out what being differently-abled really meant?  One of my mother’s old friends came into town to attend a conference given by an evangelist she liked and invited me to go along.  I did so and ended up receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  I attended the church that had hosted the evangelist and was a regular attendee for close to two years before I was baptized.  I did it all backwards if water baptism is supposed to be part of the new birth.  The word in seed form had been planted in me throughout my childhood by various teachers at various times and was sinking roots and growing even though it often times didn’t feel like it, then I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and finally was baptized in water.  That water baptism was my declaring a change that had already taken place and my commitment to the new life that had been birthed in me.

I imagine you saying, “I’m not concerned with the experience of some random person.  Experience does not theology make.”  I agree which is why I turn your attention to Acts Chapter 10.  There is a fascinating story here about a centurion named Cornelius.  No one among the apostles was looking to baptize Cornelius.  The entire chapter shows God at work bringing about what He wanted.  I encourage you to read it: it’s a wonderful chapter.

In brief, Cornelius was fasting when an angel of God appeared to him and told him to send for Peter.  The angel told Cornelius what city Peter was in and who he was lodging with before departing.  Cornelius sends two from his household in the company of one of his soldiers who, it appears, was also a believer.  They go to Joppa to get Peter and bring him to Cornelius.  While they are traveling, Peter has the great vision of the sheet bound at the four corners descending from heaven filled with all sorts of animals and creatures he’d been forbidden to eat.  The command came from God to kill and eat to which Peter strenuously objected and then came the reply; “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”  This happens three times and then the sheet is taken up to heaven.

While Peter is wondering what his vision means, the Spirit tells him there are some men seeking him.  He goes down to Cornelius’ men, hears why they have come, and the next day he and some of the brethren return with them.  Meanwhile, Cornelius has called together his relatives and close friends in anticipation of Peter’s arrival.  Peter arrives and explains why he came and Cornelius shares his vision.  Peter begins preaching the word that is Jesus coming, crucified, and resurrected and something amazing happens.  The Holy Spirit falls on everyone who heard the word.  The brethren that came with Peter were amazed because the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Gentiles and I imagine a great part of their amazement was because most of these Gentiles were Romans.  It is after this, the word preached and the Holy Spirit poured out, that Cornelius and his household are baptized. 

The lack of water baptism was no hindrance to God.  A metanoia had already happened in Cornelius and how I wish it was described in scripture!  Imagine a man growing up in the Ancient Roman world with its myriad gods coming to know the true God of Jacob.  How did that happen?  I can only imagine.  God Himself had Cornelius send for someone to preach the word to him and his household, then came the outpouring in the Holy Spirit, and then baptism.  It’s all backwards, if indeed water baptism has anything to do with being born again.

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul addressed some contentions that seem to have arisen due to who had baptized whom. Paul says, “for Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (verse 17).  I am convinced that if “born of water” meant water baptism, and that NOT being baptized in water was serious enough that a person could not enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5), Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles would have looked very different.

In closing this week’s post, I wish to share a few scriptures:

Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. James 1:18

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.  1 John 5:1

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. 1 Peter 1:22-23

Husbands, love your wives as 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. Ephesians 5:25-26

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “’This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,’ says the Lord: ‘I will put My laws into their hearts and in their minds I will write them’ (Jeremiah 31:33), then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:43). Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Hebrews 10:14-22

To be continued…

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version

Baptize to Repentance

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In this week’s post, I continue looking at John 3:5 and the question; does “born of water” refer to water baptism?  I have yet to be convinced it does because I cannot find anything that suggests water baptism being performed by John would have occurred to Nicodemus in answer to Jesus’ words.  I had hoped I would find an easy answer in the Old Testament thinking that the phrase “born of water” might have been used somewhere and so I looked through my lexicons looking for said phrase.

I couldn’t find it.  I do admit I might have missed it: to be thorough I looked up “born” and, since James 1:18 in the King James Version uses “begat” rather than “birthed” or “born”, I looked up “begat” as well.  There was a great deal of begetting in the Old Testament.  Knowing I may not have read the scripture lists with as detailed an eye as I ought, I went to Google.  The search engine was not able to return a single instance of the phrase “born of water” in the Old Testament.  Just for fun, I looked up “water” and encountered many phrases I’d like to take a look at another time (what does it mean to drink the water of iniquity?) but found nothing that suggested someone intimate with the Old Testament scriptures like Nicodemus would associate the water baptism of John with being born anew/born of water and spirit. 

What was the baptism of John?  Mark 1:4 tells me it was a baptism to the repentance of sins.  I want to take a look at the word repentance because it doesn’t mean in this passage what general usage says it means.  My New World Dictionary defines repentance as “a repenting or being penitent; feeling of sorrow, etc., esp. for wrongdoing; compunction; contrition, remorse.”  Repent is further defined as “to feel sorry or self-reproachful for what one has done or failed to do, be conscious-stricken or contrite, to feel such regret…as to change one’s mind about…”  Repentance is made up of the Latin “re-again” and “poenitere-penitent.”1

There is a word for this in the New Testament: metamellomai (G3338).  It is the word used in Matthew 27:3 where Judas “repented” and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  It is a word that expresses “a desire that an action might be undone, express regrets, or even remorse, but does not imply an effective change of heart”2.

I am careful whenever I find someone using the word repentance.  It’s critical to understand what is being said.  Is repentance being used to mean “to be afflicted in mind”, “to be troubled for our former folly”…”a being displeased for what we have done”?Is repentance being used to mean performing penance over and over again?  If so, then it is not the same repentance used in accordance with the baptism of John.  The Greek word used there is metanoia (G3341) and “where there was a difference made (in meaning), metanoia was the better word, which does not properly signify the sorrow for having done amiss, but something that is nobler than it…metanoia and its verb refer to a true change of heart toward god.”4

I found an article online that said that baptism was used for ritual cleansing of Gentile proselytes and that John applied it to the Jews themselves: all needed to have a true heart change toward God.  No wonder that the Pharisees refused to step into the water! (See Mathew 3:5-9).  And, this is why I am convinced that Jesus never meant baptism when he spoke to Nicodemus about being born of water and spirit.  I doubt that it ever would have occurred to Nicodemus-religious leader and teacher of Israel-that he needed to have a change of heart toward God.  

I must also take into consideration the fact that Jesus could not have meant water baptism because John’s baptism was a forerunner to what did not yet exist.  Christian baptism is the physical demonstration of the identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and has a much deeper significance than the baptism of John (See Acts 18:24-26, 19:1-5).  I cannot agree with Dr. Vincent when he says “Jesus’ words included a prophetic reference to the complete ideal of Christian baptism”5.

Yet I do agree Jesus clearly expected Nicodemus to know what He meant.  Nicodemus’ place among the upper echelons of the Pharisees meant he could not be in ignorance of all that had happened in recent years.  Consider first the coming of the wise men as related in Chapter 2 of Matthew’s gospel.  Their appearance troubled Herod the king and all Jerusalem (verse 3) and Herod had to call the chief priests and scribes to him to inquire where the Christ was to be born (verse 4).  Here’s a thing that blows my mind: the priests and scribes are called into the presence of the king to answer the wise men, they quote the prophet Micah, and then what…go their way?  No one seemed the least bit curious.  Selah!  (pause, and calmly think of that!)  Then comes the devastating slaughter of the children in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18, Jeremiah 31: 15).  Then there is John the baptizer.  He quotes Isaiah and declares he is “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23, Isaiah 40:3). 

I wonder if Jesus expected one so familiar with the prophets and not ignorant of what had been happening in the region, to recognize who he was meeting at night.  I wonder if that is what Jesus meant when he asked, “are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?”  I wonder if when Jesus said “you must be born of water” he wasn’t thinking of His own words to Jeremiah when He called Himself the “fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13, 17: 13) and of his words to Ezekiel when He promised a new heart and His own Spirit. 

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become 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” (John 1:12-13)

To be continued…

1.  Guralnik, David B. Editor in Chief, Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Cleveland * New York, William Collins + World Publishing Co., Inc., 1976

2. New Koine Greek Textbook Series Supplements, 2nd Edition, Richard Chenevix Trench’s Synonyms, Repent, 2018, 145-146

3. New Koine Greek Textbook Series Supplements, 2nd Edition, Richard Chenevix Trench’s Synonyms, Repent, 2018, 145-146

4. New Koine Greek Textbook Series Supplements, 2nd Edition, Richard Chenevix Trench’s Synonyms, Repent, 2018, 145-146

5.  Vincent, Marvin R., D.D., Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II, Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, Gospel of John Chapter 3:5. Born of Water and the Spirit, Page 92