What is our Spiritual Birth?

Lent 2 Thursday

John 3:6

“That which is born of flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.”

Flesh and Spirit are separated in such a way that we may expect no middle. There is nothing between the flesh and the Spirit, because man is either flesh or Spirit…But St. John here does not speak of the flesh that is butchered and sold at the butcher. Rather, he speaks of such fleshly birth where man when he is born must have a living flesh and have a life in the body. Christ now says that the bodily birth remains, and is nothing more than a bodily life, and that man is nothing but flesh, as far as he is concerned. All this he comprehends in one word and calls it flesh, saying: Everything born of the flesh is flesh, that is, the people that are born only in a bodily fashion are nothing but flesh. Thereby he condemns everything that is high and precious in the world, no matter how it is called, noble or ignoble, powerful, smart, understanding, rich, wise, reasonable, and also all learned people. For that which is born bodily is something bodily, and unless it is born again, it does not become anything but a something bodily, and remains something bodily that perishes. By saying this, much indeed is taken from us. In fact, we are here condemned completely. Note here what we call bodily, the Hebrews call flesh or fleshly. Now, this verse is a powerful judgment over the entire world, as St. Paul also pronounces it in Romans 11:32, where he says that God consigned all to sin in order to have mercy on all…Now, if we
believed that this is true, we would be sufficiently humbled…Thus, Nicodemus is here taught a harsh lesson and he is brutally checked. For it is not to help him that he has Moses and the entire law in his favor–he will remain flesh unless he is born anew…As has been said at the beginning, there is no middle ground between the two: That which is bodily remains flesh; that which is born of the Spirit also is Spirit. But what is the spiritual birth? When I am born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit into a new existence and believe in Christ, I do not expect from him wealth, power, glory–as there are those who seek these things only in this world–for God has already given all this to me in creation. Instead, I hope and wait for an eternal life, eternal joy and blessedness, that I am to be blessed for ever, when this bodily birth comes to an end and I must die–whether it be by fire or water, or by being buried in the earth–although I may not have this life, money and possessions, wealth or power after which the entire world chases…For when all these worldly things must pass, when you lie in your tomb and your good friend, father and mother, authorities and princes cannot follow you, but let you lie, unable to help you; when all that is mighty and powerful leaves you; when all your favor, honor, money and possessions, and everything else you owned on this earth fails, for none of it follows you into the tomb–then you must have a new birth and look to a different existence to which you have been called by the gospel and baptism, namely, where the Holy Spirit gives birth to me again, begetting, feeding, and clothing me anew…Thus, the spiritual birth happens by means of the Word of God, baptism, and faith, and we already are in this birth while we still live on earth when we believe. But, as I have said earlier, this new birth or the spiritual life is not perceived by our five senses…This birth is not seen or grasped; it is only believed that that which is born out of the spiritual existence that is spiritual. And the treasure in which it chiefly consists is the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life.

St. Louis ed., 7:1863-1866.

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