In last week’s post, I made the following points:

  1. If Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus about the need to be born again was a totally new teaching that 144,000 people would receive spirit bodies when they die and go to heaven (which the Watchtower says he meant), he wouldn’t have expected Nicodemus to understand that already.
  2. Yet in John 3:10 Jesus chided Nicodemus because he didn’t understand was Jesus meant by the new birth or his need to have this experience.
  3. Therefore, Jesus must have meant something quite different what the Watchtower says.
  4. Jesus was indicating that all human beings need a spiritual rebirth, an inner transformation by the Holy Spirit, in order to meet Jehovah’s righteous standards.
  5. That’s something he would expect an Old Testament scholar like Nicodemus to understand.

If you make such a claim, most likely Jehovah’s Witnesses will ask you why you think an Old Testament scholar would understand such a thing. Take them to two Old Testament passages that teach this. (p. 131)

Have one of them read aloud Jeremiah 31:31-34:

‘Look! The days are coming,’ declares Jehovah, ‘when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day I took hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, although I was their true master,’ declares Jehovah. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I will write it. And I will become their God, and they will become my people. And they will no longer teach each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, “Know Jehovah!” for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them,’ declares Jehovah. ‘For I will forgive their error, and I will no longer remember their sin.’ (Watchtower’s translation)

Ask, “Wouldn’t Jesus have expected Nicodemus to understand from this passage that human beings had no way of meeting Jehovah’s righteous demands or proving worthy of everlasting life except by allowing God to put them into this new covenant that would give them an inner righteousness that they couldn’t otherwise attain as sinful descendants of Adam?” (p. 132)

In the same vein, ask one of them to read aloud Ezekiel 11:19-20:

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

Ask, “Based on this, do you see why I believe that the need for inner transformation by God is what Jesus meant by being born again? He expected Nicodemus to understand that sinful descendants of Adam need a new spirit and a new heart in order to make them able to live according to Jehovah’s righteous standards. In other words, being born again isn’t about designating a special group of people to go to heaven in spirit form. It’s an inner transformation we all need in order to experience salvation and eternal life.” (pp. 132-133)

After they have disagreed with you (and they will), ask one of them to read aloud Romans 8:8-9: “So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God. However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this person does not belong to him” (Watchtower’s translation).

 Ask, “According to this passage, can we please God and belong to Christ unless we have God’s spirit dwelling within us? How do we get God’s spirit dwelling within us except by the inner transformation of the new birth?” (p. 133)

Study Questions

When Jesus talked about the need for a new birth, Nicodemus misunderstood him. After the Lord told him that he was talking about a spiritual rebirth, this exchange took place in John 3:9-10: “How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things?’”

Why would Jesus expect an Old Testament scholar already to understand his need for an inner spiritual transformation (the Christian definition of the new birth? (pp. 131-133)