When people write and submit that writing for others to read, it is likely that other thoughts will arise in the readers mind that do not pertain to what was originally written. This happened recently, and I know because of the comment (reply) that was given to what I wrote. Some of the thoughts shared by what I will call an “objector” had some association to what I wrote, but much did not.

The thrust of what I wrote pertained to a tract by a Baptist preacher and his explanation of John 3:3-5. In particular, I took note of how there was some discussion on the word “spirit”, but nothing on the word “water.”

I received a comment (reply) to my words on this tract. One such remark was: “To understand the New Birth you must “believe” all the scriptures that pretain to it” [he referenced John 1:13-14, but he meant 1:12-13]. “It is God that gives us the gift of the Holy Ghost! It’s not by anything that we do The only thing we can do is believe that Jesus is our Saviour and all that we can do is believe and repent!”

I spoke next to nothing along this line, but I did make an association with the message of John the Baptist and Peter’s invite in Acts 2:38.

Let me address the remarks of the one who made comment to what I wrote. To look at the above exact quote (minus the biblical citation) there are some apparent problems. First, he said there is nothing we can do, but he altered that by saying all that we can do is believe. Now, either, there is nothing a person can do or there is at least one thing a person can do. Second, he then added something else: repent. Third, the biblical citation that I excluded from his exact quote gives nothing in the way of support for his assertion – as will be determined when one look at it.

He then argues that one can receive the Holy Ghost (not Holy Spirit, but Holy Ghost) by belief; in support of this point he uses Hebrews 3 and 4 to make his case. Of course, Hebrews 3 and 4 touches nothing top, side or bottom, of the issue of the Holy Spirit’s reception. What we do read in these chapters is the Holy Spirit’s exhortation to Christians during the time of the first century (it also applies today) to not follow the example of those who lived in the past, in the wilderness of wandering – as the exhibited faithless actions. What Jesus was telling Nicodemus, we are told, is the sentiment (and principle) of Hebrews 3:12. The sentiment and principle of Hebrews 3:12 is fine, but look at John 3:1-5 and see if that is what Jesus was telling Nicodemus.

From the example of Hebrews 3 and 4, our objector then goes to Matthew 28:19-20 to say that John 3:3-5 is saying the same, but only differently. “The scripture in Matthew 28:19-20 is also a differant why of saying what Jesus told Nicodemus in John Chapter 3:3-5.”

No student of Scripture will take exception to this – because it is true. But his point is greater than only this. Notice: “There is a baptism in the Holy Ghost, There is a baptism into the Son, (The Word Of God) and there is a baptism into the Father (LOVE) where we do not sin!” 

To buttress this point he uses 1 John 3:8-9 and the KJV. It reads: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

The KJV does seem to convey an impossibility to committing sin once a person becomes a Christian. Is that what it is saying, however? Compare that with 1 John 2:1-2 and the recognition of its occurrence. With this the case, how should we understand the two phrases “doth not commit sin” and “he cannot sin”? two scholarly references address this:

  • The problem of the present tense of ποιε (poiei) here is exactly that of the present tense of μαρτάνει (hamartanei) in 1 John 3:6. (NET)
  • Doeth no sin (hamartian ou poiei). Linear present active indicative as in [v. 4] like hamartanei in [v.8]. The child of God does not have the habit of sin. His seed (sperma autou). God’s seed, “the divine principle of life” (Vincent). Cf. John 1. And he cannot sin (kai ou dunatai hamartanein). This is a wrong translation, for this English naturally means “and he cannot commit sin” as if it were kai ou dunatai hamartein or hamartēsai (second aorist or first aorist active infinitive). The present active infinitive hamartanein can only mean “and he cannot go on sinning,” as is true of hamartanei in [v. 8] and hamartanōn in [v.6]. (RWP)

When Nicodemus inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered a question in Nicodemus’ mind that was never asked. Since that time man has gone to great lengths to negate what the Lord said. “It is a pity when reaction against the notion of baptismal regeneration by an opus operatum leads to the complete overlooking of the baptismal allusion in these words of Jesus” (F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, pp. 84-85).

Though thoughts may be spawned when one reads another’s writing, it is prudent, when replying, that one’s reply stay with what was originally written and not descend into rambling (which is how I read the remarks). If there are some additional thoughts not germane to that which was originally written, then clarification would be helpful to those who read these replies.