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Billy Graham and the New Birth


Mr. Graham was written a book, HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN, which was copyrighted in 1979. There is nothing remarkable about that as Mr. Graham has written several books over his long and celebrated career.  What is remarkable is that Mr. Graham never cites nor discusses the definitive passage about the new birth in the Scriptures, John 3: 5, in 182 pages.  This is truly remarkable!

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless on is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (John 3: 5)

We ask ourselves, “Why”?  Why would a man write a book and omit the primary scriptural information about the subject?  We will never know, and can only surmise.

Admittedly the subject is controversial.  The Evangelicals believe that one is born again when one comes to faith.  The Reformed churches believe that one is born again when the elect are unconditionally given the Spirit, which irresistibly works to produce faith and ultimately salvation.  The Catholic Church believes in baptismal regeneration.  And so the explanations go.  Yes, the new birth is a controversial subject, but as far as I know, it was his choosing to write the book.  If the subject was too controversial, he could have declined,

John 3:5 states that the new birth is a birth of water and the Spirit. Mr. Graham makes no mention of these elements in his book but other Evangelicals are not shy in putting their peculiar interpretations upon these elements.  The same path was open to Mr. Graham.  He choose not to do so.

To suggest that Mr. Graham did not see the importance of this verse in reference to the new birth is to suggest that he was ignorant.  Whatever we might say about Mr. Graham, he certainly is not ignorant.  He is a highly educated man, well versed in the Scriptures as the references in this and other works demonstrate.  Entrance into the kingdom of heaven is in the balance.

I personally do not entertain the notion that Mr. Graham deliberately intended to deceive.  He appears to be a sincere man with high moral values.  I believe his intentions were good.  I don’t believe that Mr. Graham is faultless, but what man is.  I am certainly not worthy to throw stones.

This brings us to the last supposition.  Perhaps he was and is deceived about the new birth.  When a person thinks that something is other than it is, he is deceived.  We have all been deceived about some things.  Usually we are more easily deceived about those things that we have little knowledge.

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, went to Jesus by night.  Jesus anticipated the  question in his mind about entrance into the kingdom of God.  Jesus told Nicodemus that except one is born again one cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus, not understanding, asked if a man could enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born again.  Jesus told him, No. No, No.  To be born again means to be born of water and the Spirit.  (John 3: 1-5)

Men have advanced many ingenious ideas about the meaning of these two elements. I suggest the novel idea that “water” means :”water” and “Spirit” means “Spirit”.  Now if that is not too risky, we can proceed.  What does “born of water and the Spirit” mean?  We know that in the natural realm “to be born” means to come forth from the womb into a new life.  Similarly in the spiritual realm, “to be born of water and the Spirit” simply means to come forth from water and the Spirit into a new life in Christ.  But when does this happen?  Obviously you cannot come forth from water unless you have been immersed in water  and you cannot come forth from the Spirit unless you have been immersed in the Spirit.

The Scriptures tell us that when one is baptized into Christ, he is immersed in water.  At that time Christ pours out the Holy Spirit richly and abundantly so that he is also immersed in the Spirit.  The meaning of being “born of water and the Spirit” is that one is born again when he arises from the baptism in water and the Spirit.  There is only one baptism but two elements.  There is only one spiritual birth but two elements.

If this is the correct assessment of the new birth it stands in contrast to Mr. Graham’s presuppositions.  Mr., Graham is an Evangelical Christian who  believes, “Salvation is by Christ alone through faith alone, and for the glory of God alone.”  How TO BE BORN AGAIN, pg. 116.  We have no quarrel with the concept that salvation is by Christ, through faith, and for the glory of God alone but we strongly disagree that the faith, which saves, is alone.

Dear reader, you and Mr. Graham can verify these statements:

Apparently Mr. Graham, having accepted the concept that salvation is by faith alone, is blinded to the truth as revealed in the Scriptures.  He is convinced that He is correct and this conviction is supported, in his mind, by the many anecdotal examples of new birth he cites in his book.  He apparently has not faced the challenge that Jesus puts before us all.  “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”  (Matthew 16: 24

But how can it be that some one such as Mr. Graham, who is considered to be a dedicated servant of Christ is in such a situation.  It is not for me to judge Mr. Graham or any other person, our Lord is in charge of that business.  But I am sadly reminded of the words of our Lord, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”  (Matthew 7: 21- 23)

The Apostle Paul characterized the purpose of his apostleship as to bring about the “obedience of faith” among all the Gentiles.  Apparently, Mr. Graham does not share this goal as his ministry promotes “faith alone.”  (Romans 1: 5; 16: 26)


 God bless, 

Arland Pafford



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Last Update   09/26/12