Today I was discussing γεννηθη ανωθεν with some folks on Facebook. Those Greek words mean either "born again" or "born from above" in John 3:3,5. In the midst of discussing this, I pointed out that Peter twice uses αναγεννησασ, which can only mean “born again,” not “born from above.”
This brings up a topic I think is very important to discuss.
Peter’s vocabulary is not Bible vocabulary. Peter’s vocabulary is Peter’s vocabulary. Just because Peter definitely said “born again” does not mean that John, who used a phrase that could mean “born again” or “born from above,” wanted to say the same thing. The Word is always mixed with flesh. God wanted the Word to be formed in the words of men, and those words are not always the same, even when discussing the same thing.
A couple of the worst heresies in churches today are based on the false idea of a Bible vocabulary.
The one I have in mind is eternal security. Part of its foundation is forcing John’s use of “eternal life” on Paul’s writings and Paul’s use of “eternal life” on John’s writings. They are not the same. “Eternal life” in the letters of Paul is always a future reward, never a present possession. “Eternal life” in John is always a present possession of the saints.
We can explain why both can be true later.
The fact is, it is true. Romans 2:5-8 can’t be read any other way. Galatians 6:7-9 can’t be read any other way. Titus 1:2 and 3:7 can’t be read any other way. Paul speaks of eternal life as a future reward consistently. So does Matthew (e.g., 25:46).
John, on the other hand, regularly speaks of eternal life as a present possession. John 6:47 is a great example: “He that believes has eternal life.”
So what does this effect?
How about John 3:16?
For God so loved (aorist tense) the world that he sent (aorist) his only-begotten Son so that whoever continues believing (present tense) in him will have eternal life as a present possession.
John 3:16 is not a promise that you will live forever. It is a promise that eternal life, which is in the Son of God, will be yours as long as the Son of God is living in you.
This is the testimony that God has given to us: eternal life; and this life in his Son. The one who has the Son has the life, and the one who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 Jn. 5:11-12)
This idea, like so many others, has ripple effects for how we approach the Scriptures. Those ripple effects are essential, though, if we are to gain the capacity to understand just how far we have departed from the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Oh, I better specify, since I have at least a few Catholic and Orthodox readers, that in this case I am referring only to evangelicals, the sort of Christian that I am usually in fellowship with. I like to hope that those with whom I experience family in Jesus and under our Father are above the separation of religious organizations. Many of my friends, however, know nothing but the evangelical denomination they have grown up in, and they have no idea the depths church life—as lived and taught by the apostles—could bring them to. They are so unaware of how far we evangelicals have departed from the apostles’ original teaching that many dare to call the apostles’ disciples teachers of error rather than question their own hundred to five-hundred-year-old traditions.
I would love to wake up as many as I can.