Something has been happening to me recently. I hear a pastor preach using a part of scripture I’ve read before, but as I listen to him or her, I feel like I’m reading it for the very first time. I think it’s because it’s so easy to flip through scriptures, reading word after word, getting the main ideas out as quickly as possible, and going on to the next chapter without really focusing on what the Holy Spirit is saying.
This one happened to me recently. My friend, Femi, invited me to a class his church had organized, mainly for new believers to help them grow in their new faith. At first I thought it was insulting that he would even ask me to come since he knows that I’ve been a Christian for over 10 years now. I went though, so as not to seem proud or anything like that. As I sat there listening, the teacher said:
“Good evening class. My name is Mr. Olaloye Adedeji, and today, we’ll be discussing on the topic, ‘What it means to be born again.’ We’ll be taking our text from John chapter 3.”
I looked at my friend and pursed my mouth in a smirk, thinking “Yeah, yeah, John 3:16, who doesn’t know that.” I was very sure coming to a ‘new life’ class would be a total waste of my time, but hey, I’m already here, and refresher won’t do any harm right? So I relaxed confidently in my chair listening with absolutely no intention of learning anything new.
As the class went on, the teacher asked who would like to read, I was very happy to hear that. You see, I like to hear myself talk, so I thought this would a good opportunity to show off my nice voice. I flipped to John as fast as possible, got up, and started reading. When I got to the fifth verse, the teacher asked me to stop. I did, and was about to take my seat, when I heard:
“Thank you Miss?”
“Nkiru,” I replied smiling. I went for my seat again.
“Can you explain what you understand from what Jesus said in verse 5?”
I looked up, and Mr. Ola was looking straight at me. I mean there was no doubt that it was me he was asking.
“You don’t have to get up again, just sit and answer,” he continued.
I smiled at him thinking, “This is my chance to show Femi the stuff I’m made of.” I picked up my Bible again and stood up, completely ignoring what he said about not having to stand up. I started speaking, confidently.
“Okay sir. In verse 5 Jesus said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of Water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.’ This simply means that it is impossible for one to enter into heaven without first being baptized in water by immersion, which signifies the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; baptism is a symbol of our identification with Christ, which gives us complete access to the benefits of His finished work. Next is the baptism of the Spirit which signifies the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without these two requirements, it is impossible for a person to enter into heaven.”
I turned to look at Femi, 100% sure that he’d be proud to be know me right now, but surprisingly, he was giggling. I wondered why, but the rest of the class didn’t seem to get the joke either, so I was sure that I was with the sane group.
“Hmm, Interesting answer…” Mr. Ola replied.
“Than…” I started to say.
“… But are you trying to say that if one is not baptized, they will not be allowed into heaven. I mean, if baptism is just a symbol as you rightly said, would Jesus really allow someone who believes in Him to perish because they did not perform a symbol?” he interrupted.
What? I was shocked by his response. Did I say that? Wait, I think I did. But, if John 3:16 says, whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but have eternal life, then that can’t be right. Jesus won’t let me go to hell for not performing a symbol. Okay, but if he wasn’t talking about baptism then what was he talking about? I don’t understand, I thought to myself as I stood staring at the teacher, completely dumbstruck.
I turned to look at Femi again, and now he was really laughing; I was so embarrassed. I mean, I’ve read John chapter 3 countless times before, so I couldn’t understand why I never thought about it that way. I felt completely confused to say the least. Why did I even stand up, I should have just sat down and answered like he asked me to. “Chai! Oversabi has killed me today,” I thought to myself. I was about to sit down, when I heard his voice again. Jesus!!! What have I done?
“Hey! Don’t feel bad. I’m sure everyone thought the same thing, but let me help you out. Can you turn to Ephesians 5:26? And please read for us again. I really like the way you speak.” He said smiling.
Oh Lord! I turned around, and picked up my Bible from my chair, and read humbly this time.
“Ephesians 5:26, ‘to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,’” I read.
“Very good. You see class, many times when we see the word ‘water’ in the Bible; it refers to something deeper, not necessarily the water that you know. In the chapter she just read, you could see that ‘water’ is used to describe the word of God. Also Jesus, speaking in John 6:63 said ‘these words that I speak, they are spirit and life,’ so when you read the Bible, don’t just read it like any other book. Okay?”
I nodded gratefully, and Mr. Olaloye smiled back. I wanted to take my seat again when I heard:
“Just one more thing before you sit down Nkiru”
“Not again.” I muttered under my breath, or so I thought. The whole class thundered with laughter, I couldn’t help but laugh along. I looked at Femi, he nodded in affirmation, and I smiled.
“Can you help us read one more verse please? It’s in first Peter 1:23” He continued.
“Okay.” I replied, as the rest of the class started flipping through their Bibles as well.
“1 Peter 1:23, ‘For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’”
“Thank you. You can sit down now. Don’t worry I won’t disturb you again.” The teacher said all smiles.
I heard giggles around the room, as a reached for my seat blushing uncontrollably.
“Now, after reading 1 Peter 1:23, I have reasons to believe that when Jesus spoke about being born of Water and the Spirit in the first place we read, He was talking about the word of God and the Holy Spirit. Do you agree?” said Mr. Ola.
Honestly, I wasn’t about to raise up my hand again. I had had enough attention for one day, but deep down in my heart I agreed with Mr. Ola. I had never seen it like that before, and I felt like scales fell off my eyes, but I had learned my lesson that day. There’s no graduating from Bible school; in this Christian walk, there’s always something new to learn.
I’d like to hear from you now. Do you agree with Mr. Ola?
– SARAH OKOYE, FEBRUARY 08, 2017