Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Where God’s witness of His Son is absent, people are left with nothing but their own spirits with which to serve God, and where such a Spirit-less religion is practiced, sincere people will grow discontent, and they often find themselves praying, “God, there has to be more to serving you than this!” But with a thousand conflicting sects claiming to represent Christ, how are those who hunger for the truth to find it? Fortunately for those hungry souls, God included a sign when He gives His witness, a sign to unbelievers of the right way to God (1Cor. 14:22).
Receiving God’s kind of life is what makes us a member of His family. Receiving God’s kind of life is even what made the Son a member of God’s family. The Father gave life to His Son (Jn. 5:26), and obviously, when the Father gave him life, the Son became the Son. The same is true of us. When God shares His life with us, we become His children. Those with God’s life belong to God’s family, and those without it do not (Rom. 8:9b). So then, if we want to come to God, we must receive the Spirit that gets us there, for it is by the Spirit that we have access to the Father (Eph. 2:18).
Of the many blessings that everyone on earth receives from God, the blessing of receiving God’s life, or being “born again”, is the most important one because that is the blessing that makes us a part of God’s family. But how is one to know that he has received that blessing? We must find the answer to that question because whatever being “born again” is, Jesus said we absolutely must experience it (Mt. 18:3). Jesus coined the phrase “born again” in a conversation with Nicodemus, and he used for an analogy the ever-shifting wind, to teach him that the Spirit’s “sound” is the one constant feature of every new birth experience:
7. “Do not marvel that I told you, ‘You must be born again.’
8. The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
So, according to Jesus, even though we cannot see the life of God or know where it has been or where it is going, we can tell when it breathes life into a soul because we hear a sound. The only time the disciples received such an experience was Pentecost morning, when “suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a violent, rushing wind” and “they were all filled with holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit moved them to speak” (Acts 2:1—4). The sound of the Spirit which was heard on the day of Pentecost (“speaking in tongues”) was not just for those disciples; Jesus told Nicodemus that hearing that sound was “how it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus’ point was that although we cannot know where the Spirit has last been or where it is going, we do know where it is because whenever it breathes the life of God into a soul, it produces a cry, like a baby at its birth. This is not far-fetched. As the time for their spiritual birth drew near, Jesus compared the disciples’ spiritual condition to a woman approaching the hour of childbirth (Jn. 16:20—22). Later, Paul would also teach that a cry is heard when the Spirit brings God’s life into a soul:
15. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery, leading you back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry out, “Abba!” (that is, “Father!”)
16. The Spirit itself bears witness, together with our spirit, that we are children of God.
When John explained to the saints how to recognize the real Spirit of God, his doctrine matched perfectly that of Jesus and Paul. Apparently, false teachers had come up with the bizarre doctrine which taught that people could receive God’s life without the sound of the Spirit! John told his readers that they could always tell when someone had really received Christ because whenever it happens, he said, one could hear the sound of the Spirit confessing that Christ was entering that fleshly temple:
2. By this, the Spirit of God is recognized: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ when he has come into flesh is of God,
3. and every spirit that does not confess Jesus Christ when he has come into flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now already, it is in the world.
This testimony of God’s Spirit is what John was talking about when he wrote, “it is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1Jn. 5:6b). He went on from there to say,
9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, for this [the Spirit] is the witness of God that He has given concerning His Son.