Born of Flesh / Born of Spirit

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

It is of vital importance for us to know truth, for if we do not know truth, we won't recognize the lie, nor will we know the difference between flesh and Spirit, and that the two are in opposition to each other. Instead of differentiating between the two, we will try to improve the flesh, zealously trying to make it look spiritual and alive. We will be like the undertakers who work painstakingly in their effort to make a dead body look alive.

In John 3 Jesus was teaching Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler in Israel, on this subject. The Pharisees were self-appointed watchdogs in Israel. God had not commissioned them to set up their own laws and to force them on Israel. They took this task upon themselves because they considered that through their self-effort and works they had become so righteous that they were justified in doing this.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (Jn. 3:6) This is a simple statement, yet rich in meaning. When we think of flesh, we think of our physical body. But in biblical language "flesh" refers to our natural mind, and it has been passed on to us through Adam's disobedience; it is the mind we are born with. It is always opposed to the Spirit, and under its rule we cannot do the things that we please. This is the mind of the flesh, and it explains why our New Year's resolutions are always broken.

All of man's philosophies are birthed in the natural mind, so they are not spiritual, for that mind is unable to birth spiritual thoughts. In 1 John 2:16 John refers to this mind when he talks about "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life." This lusting originates in our natural mind - the mind that is influenced by our emotions, circumstances and will. This mind is ever present to tempt us to oppose God. Its thoughts are categorized as being either good or evil, but they CANNOT become spiritual because they come from the wrong tree - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is important to realize that the good of that tree is also rooted in disobedience, for Adam and Eve were clearly forbidden to eat of that tree.

Spiritual thoughts have to come from the mind of Christ, for it only has spiritual thoughts; it CANNNOT birth fleshly thoughts. There is no crossover from one mind to the other. The source of our thoughts determines whether they are of the flesh or of the Spirit.

In Romans 7:18 Paul said, "nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." In other words, nothing good dwells in our natural mind. This mind remains with us even after we become Christians and we receive the mind of Christ. However, it does not belong to the new creation man that we are in Christ. Paul referred to this when he said, "For the good that I want (the spiritual man that he is in Christ), I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want...But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in meā€¦but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members." (Rom. 7:19,20,23)

These verses tell us that we cannot overcome our sin nature by self-effort! We remain prisoners of the law of sin regardless of all the effort we expend in trying to overcome the pride and lusting of the flesh, because we are not letting the "Christ in us" do the overcoming. But we are not left in a pit of despair; there is hope! "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (v.25) And in 1 Cor. 15:57 he says, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Praise God, the spiritual is greater and stronger than the natural, for Christ in us can overcome every adversary!

All our earthy ideas of spiritual realities now have to be replaced by Christ and His understanding. This includes all our earthy ideas of Jesus. They also have to be raised out of our earthy realization into a spiritual realization. In 2 Cor. 5:16 it says, "Even if we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer." We need to be able to discern between the visible, physical body of Jesus that died on the cross and disappeared because it was temporal, and the spiritual body of Christ.

Notice that Paul never spoke of a spiritual body of Jesus. Christ (meaning Anointing or Messiah) is the head, and we are members of Christ's spiritual body. Only those who have been born of the Spirit can be members of His spiritual body. We cannot become members by self-effort and good works, for we have to be baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Since Christ's body is a spiritual body, it has to feed on spiritual food and drink (truth and revelation), and function in Christ's spiritual understanding.

When Christ is lifted up from being a human individual to a many-membered corporate spiritual man, He is lifted up from the earth. Christ repeatedly referred to Himself as the Son of Man. He is the corporate spiritual man, the new humanity, and we are members of His body. He mediates the things of God to us and we mediate the things of God to the world.

It is important to know who we are after we are born again. Our new birth brings us into a spiritual dimension, for we are born of the Spirit! Our new being is a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) It has nothing to do with our past, and it is invisible to the natural eye. This new creation dwells within us. We receive this by faith, for we cannot see it. Since we have been born of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit now dwells in us, just as He dwelt in Jesus, but not in the same measure - Jesus Christ had the Spirit without measure, but we only have the down payment of the fullness that is yet to come. (Eph. 1:13-14)

Our body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit. The temple or tabernacle of Moses consisted of three parts: the outer court, the first holy place, and the holiest place where God dwelt. In like manner we are body (outer court), soul (first holy place), and spirit (our innermost part), so the Holy Spirit dwells in the innermost part of our being.

When Jesus said that He wanted His disciples to be in the same place He was (John 14:3), He was still living on earth. Jesus did not say that He wanted His disciples to be where He would be in the future. He wanted them to be living in the same relationship of unity with the Father in the Spirit as He lived. This was to occur while they were living on planet earth. At that time this was impossible, for this place of relationship in the Spirit had not yet been prepared, but in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, He prepared a place where we too can live in the same relationship of unity and intimacy with the Father. This abiding place is NOT a beautiful mansion up in heaven somewhere; it is in Christ! This is where He wants us to live NOW - at this present time!

We have to be lifted out of our earthy idea that Christ has gone to prepare "mansions in the sky" for us. The word "mansions" is a mistranslation, and it is rightly translated an "abode" in verse 23. Through Christ's death, resurrection, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, Christ has prepared an abiding place for us in Himself. When we understand that the anointing (Christ) is in us, we can grow in this anointing. To illustrate this, He said that He is the vine and we are the branches. When a branch is cut off, it cannot receive the life of the vine. By abiding in the vine, growth and fruit bearing takes place. We can only receive our life and sustenance from Him by abiding in Him!

Religiosity (the fig leaves, symbolizing self-effort) has taken the spiritual meaning out of the scriptures, and has put everything into the natural realm. Jesus said that His words are spirit and life. Spiritual words have to be understood spiritually! By lowering them into the natural realm we put them into the death realm. Natural concepts keep Christ wrapped in a veil of flesh, and they prevent us from seeing Him spiritually. Our natural ideas of spiritual things corrupt the scriptures.

The scriptures declare that there are only two men: Adam and Christ. If there are only two men, there cannot be anyone between Adam and Christ. "The first man (Adam) is from the earth, earthy; the second man (Christ) is from heaven." (1 Cor 15:47) In Adam all die, and in Christ all are made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22) We are either in Adam or in Christ. The Adam man is earthy, so all his thoughts of spiritual things are in the earthy natural realm. Natural thoughts about Christ Jesus make Him a king in the future, ruling over this world from the present Jerusalem, and it keeps its people in slavery (Gal 4: 25). The natural mind has polluted the scriptures with its natural thoughts of heaven and hell, the Bible, the rapture, the millenium, etc., because it cannot receive the things of the Spirit. Spiritual concepts are foolishness to the natural mind, and therefore spiritual realities are rejected.

The Adam man wants earthly prosperity, and has no idea of the riches that are ours in Christ. The Adam man lives from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so he is constantly choosing between what he considers to be good and what he considers to be evil. He is oblivious to the fact that both the good and the evil of that tree are in the death realm of disobedience.

The Christ man, on the other hand, wants spiritual prosperity! His nourishment comes from the tree of life, and there is nothing evil in that tree. So he lives in obedience to the voice of the Spirit - not by choices. Man's choices are born in the desires of the flesh; obedience is born in the desire of the Spirit. The spiritual man dwells in heaven (the government of God) even while he lives on planet earth.

In John 11:25 Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life." Since He is the resurrection, He has to bring life and understanding to us. He takes us out of our natural understanding of spiritual realities and gives us true spiritual understanding. He resurrects us out of the death realm and brings us into life!

Jesus came to release us from the prison of our natural mind - from the natural conception of spiritual realities. This is the good news of the gospel! Christ brings us into truth and life. He transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son! The kingdom of this world has its roots in carnal thinking, and that thinking opposes the spiritual realm. Since Christ's kingdom is not of this world, we have to enter His kingdom in order for Him to become our King! Christ takes us out of our Adamic consciousness and gives us His consciousness. He takes us out of our false ideas of future physical grandeur, and reveals that the power and glory of the overcoming Christ is in us, and it is ours for today! If we are ignorant of the self-existent life that Christ is within us, we will be like an unwalled city, open to all the attacks of the enemy.

As long as we only know Jesus Christ as a physical man, and only understand the things He taught in the natural realm, we will not see that His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom of spiritual people, under God's spiritual government. Everything that is born of the flesh is unable to enter God's kingdom! Everything in His kingdom is spiritual!

Those who are born of the Spirit, and are seated with Christ in heavenly places will grow in their perception of seeing things spiritually. They realize that Christ is the truth and that all truth is born of Him. He is always right. They don't function in choice but in obedience! They realize that Christ is their land of milk and honey, and that spiritual riches are beyond comparison, and that these riches already belong to them at this present time. They understand that heaven is God's throne - His government! They see that the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem are the overcomers, the bride of Christ, and that the riches of this city symbolizes the divine nature that is theirs in Christ. They realize that Christ (not doctrine) is the truth. They are not waiting to be raptured out of difficulties; they know that Christ is their strength to overcome all trials and difficulties.

In summing up we see that flesh does not inherit the kingdom of God. All natural thinking of spiritual truth is fleshly thinking. It may be dressed in sheep's clothing in order to deceive us, but it is not of God. In order to be freed from it we must have a love for truth. This love for truth causes us to be willing to give up the traditions that are not rooted in Christ. It causes us to be willing to endure persecution from those Christians who are still living in their natural concept of heaven and hell, loving their fleshly desires, and being satisfied with their religious zealousness and the good deeds that bring honor to them.

We thank God for the victory that is ours in Christ! He is the source of all our needs! He conquered all the desires of the flesh; in Him there is no fleshly thinking, no natural desire, and no soulish emotion. Christ alone can give us spiritual understanding and satisfy our deepest needs! He is our righteousness, our salvation, our wisdom, our redemption, our sanctification, our joy, our peace and our love! He is our present, and He is our future! He is everything we are and everything we need!

Return to the Insights into Living Articles Index