There are a number of questions asked by different individuals in varying circumstances in different times on a wide range of topics that begin with “How Can” phrase that is the title of our article this week. Most of these have a valuable lesson for us today in our desire to serve God acceptability. Let consider a few of those found and the lessons they hold for us.
The first of these pertains to the question of how can man obtain salvation. The question is asked by a man called Nicodemus in John 3:4 “Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Jesus had just told Nicodemus, “except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus’ answer in given in verse five, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” One must understand that Nicodemus is thinking about a physical birth and Jesus is speaking of a spiritual birth.” One cannot be born a second time physically, but one can be born again spiritually. Man because of his sins is dead in sin, separated from God, (Isa, 59:1-2, Rom. 6:13, Eph. 2:5).
How then is one born again spiritually to be able to be in the kingdom of God (the church) purchased by Christ with his own blood? It begins by the hearing of the gospel (Rom. 1:16, 1 Pet. 1:18-25). Faith comes by the hearing of the word (Rom. 10:17). It necessitates ones repenting of their sins Acts 3:19, 17:30-31). One having faith in Christ by the hearing of the gospel is to confess that faith (Acts 8:35-39). That brings us to the point of the new birth. Jesus said in John 3:5 that one must be born of water and the Spirit. We find in 1 Peter 1:23 that we are begotten of (by) incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. Romans 6:3-5 gives us the how, the time and the place of the new spiritual birth. When one is baptized into Jesus Christ one is at the same time baptized into Jesus’ death. Verse four tells us that being buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Several other scriptures attest to the fact that the forgiveness of sins and the birth (spiritual life) begin when one is baptized into Christ and puts on Christ and is added by the Lord to His church / kingdom (Acts 2:36-47, Col. 2:12, Gal. 3:26-27, Acts 8:35-39, 1 Pet. 3:21). How can one who is old be born again physically, he cannot but one can be born anew spiritually by hearing and obeying the gospel of Christ, being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Every example of conversion in the book of Acts gives evidence of this truth.
Another “how can” question was asked by Nicodemus in John 3:9, when he asked “How can these things be?” Nicodemus was not able at that moment to understand what Jesus was saying about the new birth. There are still many in the religious world that cannot or will not accept the plain teaching of the scriptures concerning the new birth. They purpose many unscriptural ways by which they say man obtains the new birth, to be born again spiritually and be a New Testament child of God, a member of the body of Christ, the church of which Christ is head and Savior.
Another “how can” question is found in Matthew 23:33 and it has a very serious warning to all who would be hypocritical in their attitude toward Jesus and His teaching. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?“ (Matt. 23:33) These to whom Jesus was speaking were not those who did not have access and knowledge of the scriptures. They could not claim ignorance as an excuse for their rejection of Jesus and His teaching. These were the Jewish religious leaders of the day, the scribes and the Pharisees!
The warning that Jesus gave was that they had deliberately corrupted the Old Testament scriptures and replaced them with the doctrines of the fathers. In the context of Matthew 23 this “how can” question is more of an indictment against these leaders of Israel than a true question. Jesus was saying they had become so calloused and rebellious against the truth revealed in the scriptures that it would be next to impossible for them to repent and be obedient to Jesus and the gospel. Jesus spoke of this sad condition among many of the Jews of that day (John 12:37-41). The warning for us is plain, we must take heed and obey God's word, lest we become hardened in heart. Paul speaks of those who would not love the truth and would believe a lie and be damned. (2 Thess. 2:8-12)