Friday, August 07, 2009

The New Birth

Once God has opened up the heart of the individual to receive the truth of the gospel, the believer’s new birth takes place. It is at this point that regeneration has brought about new life in an individual.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3, ESV)

One must be “born from above” in order to get into the kingdom of God. The process is a monergistic work (regeneration carried out solely by the Holy Spirit) rather than a synergistic work (cooperation of the human will and the divine Spirit). Without the work of the Holy Spirit, sinners cannot respond to the gospel.

This in no way relieves us of the responsibility of evangelism. It is the means that God has chosen so that the truth of His word and the gospel message is made known.

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15, ESV)

“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, ESV)

Nor does it mean that man does not need to exercise faith. Scripture demands a response to the gospel, a response of repentance and belief in the gospel message. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit that causes the response to take place.

Our salvation is a gift from God that we did not deserve, and we could not even take part in it, had it not been for His sovereign work on our hard hearts. We were absolutely helpless.

All of this leads into the next crucial point in the discussion of the new birth. If the new life that we receive is all a gift of God, accomplished through His sovereign work, then it should be apparent that salvation is permanent and lasting. If there was nothing that we could do to merit eternal life, then there is nothing that we do to keep or maintain our salvation, nor is there anything we can do to nullify His work. We are forever secure in our salvation.

In John chapter 10, Jesus confirms the security of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30, ESV)

If you may be thinking that this is a license to sin and do as we please, nothing could be further from the truth. With Paul preaching so strongly the freeness of God’s grace, his critics had tried to accuse him of discounting the ethical requirements of the law thus leaning toward antinomianism. Paul addresses the false notion that grace is a license to sin in Romans 6.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4, ESV)

To live in sin would be antithetical to the new life we should experience through the new birth. If we were baptized into Christ’s death and raised again to walk in newness of life, then we should no longer be in bondage to sin to obey its lusts. If we died to sin, then how can we still engage in sin as a pattern of our life? To do so would be proof that we have not experienced the new birth.

“6 We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7, ESV)

We were once under condemnation, dead in our sins and following the world system and subject to the wrath of God. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

As a result of the New Birth, one is no longer an enemy of God. Our old self has been crucified with Christ and we are a new creation.

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

We are adopted into the family of God and can cry out to Him, “Abba, Father”. (Romans 8:15)

Now we are adopted as God’s children, and are given a new nature. We should now see traits in our lives that reflect divine life, much like the personality and physical traits of our earthly parents are evident in our lives. 1 John refers to the evidence of divine life in Christ that should be a general characteristic of a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Realizing what God has accomplished for us by changing our heart to change our disposition from indifference and hostility toward the gospel, enabling faith to be exercised when we had no inclination to do so, should inspire a deep gratitude for what He has done for us.

1 comment:

Tim A. said...

Eric,
Great post.
T.A.