Sunday, June 1, 2008

You Must Be Born Again

As it is written, “there is none righteous, not even one;”
(Romans 3:10 NASU)

As the Apostle Paul quotes the psalmist (Psalm 14:2) God Himself is represented as looking down from heaven to see if there were anyone who feared and sought after Him; and yet He, who cannot be deceived, could find none! Therefore we may safely conclude there was none to be found who were in right standing before God.

This is true of every soul of man, past and present, in his degenerate state. He is not in right standing with God, there is no righteous principle in him, and, consequently, no righteous act can be expected from him.

“There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;.”
(Romans 3:11 NASU)

All are born and live in the “kingdom of darkness” and are ignorant and fail to understand the things of God. Furthermore, there are none who seek to know God---none that endeavors to know and do His will, and to be acquainted with His character. A man can indulge in wickedness only by not being concerned about a relationship with his Creator. Hence, a disposition “NOT” to seek God is full proof of depravity.

A righteous man counts it his highest privilege and honor to know God, and to understand His will.

“All have turned aside, together they have become useless: there is none who does good, there is not even one.”
(Romans 3:12 NASU)

Depraved men are useless, good for nothing; that is to say, they are spiritually decomposed and a stench in God’s nostrils: God viewed the whole mass of mankind as slain, dead, and heaped together to putrefy because of their sin nature. This is what is termed the total corruption of the human nature; they are not only infected but they are also infectious. Every child born of man is infected with his sin nature.

We have read above, “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10); here we read, “There is none who does good:” the first may refer to the lack of a righteous principle; the second, to the necessary consequence of the absence of such a principle. If there is no righteousness within, then certainly there will be no acts of goodness without.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
(Romans 3:23 NASU)

All have sinned therefore all are equally helpless and guilty; and, as God is no respecter of persons, all human creatures being equally His offspring, and there being no reason why one should be preferred before another, His endless love and mercy has embraced ALL.

Man was created in the image of God to glorify and bring honor to God. But when men sin the image of God is dishonored among men. Thus all have fallen short of the glory of God or have not been able to bring glory to God.

Man does God no favor by claiming to be a child of His while continuing to willfully sin. God loathes sin!!

The world was in a ruinous, condemned state, about to perish everlastingly; and was utterly without power to rescue itself from destruction. Oh, what a need for the love and mercy of God to save man from such a state of degeneracy!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:8 NASU)

God has exhibited or showed His love in this unusual and remarkable manner; His kindness; His grace; His willingness to submit to sacrifice to save the souls of men who of course were His enemies. In this, His love surpasses all that has ever been manifested among people. Christ died in men’s stead to save them from death. He took his place; and by dying Himself on the cross, saved those who would believe and place their trust in Him from dying eternally in hell.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 6:23 NASU)

The death here mentioned is the “second death,” eternal damnation--hell. Every sinner earns his wages by long, severe, and painful service to a relentless taskmaster. Enslaved to sin from early in life until late they toil; divine justice would be in their debt if God did not pay them their due wages.

A man may merit hell, but he cannot earn eternal life; that is the gracious gift of God that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus first introduced the doctrine of the new birth for the salvation of the soul of man while speaking to Nicodemus.

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

“Unless one” is a universal form of expression designed to include all mankind. Of “each and every man” it is certain that unless he is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. It includes, therefore, men of every character and rank, and nation, moral and immoral, rich and poor, in office and out of office, old and young, bond and free, the slave and his master, Jew and Gentile. It is clear that our Savior intended to convey to Nicodemus the idea, also, that “he” must be born again. It was not sufficient to be a Jew, or to acknowledge Him to be a teacher sent by God that is, the Messiah; it was necessary, in addition to this, to experience in his own soul that great change called the “new birth” or regeneration.

The Greek adverb translated “again” can also mean “from the beginning,” suggesting a new creation; and also “from above” (that is, from the Holy Spirit of God). Only as a person has a spiritual generation--a birth from above--will he be able to see the kingdom of God.

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’”
(John 3:4 NAS)

We may learn from this that things, which are at first incomprehensible or apparently absurd, may, when explained, become clear. The doctrine of regeneration, so difficult to Nicodemus, is plain to a “child” that is born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus was trying to reason these things that Jesus spoke by way of his intellect. Jesus answered him saying, I tell you the truth,

“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’”
(John 3:5 NAS)

When man is born the first time, he is born of the flesh; or rather he is born into the sinful nature of Adam and knows not the love of God. When man is born a second time he is born of the word and Spirit of God into Christ Jesus; he becomes a “new creature” and is baptized in water as a sign of his new covenant in Christ for salvation.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
(John 3:6 NAS)

Once man is born of the Spirit he is now a “new creature,” and a spirit being as it was in the beginning. He now has experienced the love of God and he knows love for God is love (1st John 4:7-8).

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:7-8 NAS)

Jesus explains that being born of the Holy Spirit is a matter of hearing and believing the word of truth and not a matter of sight or a feeling; it is by faith (Romans 10:17).

“Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?’”
“Again Jesus says to him, I tell you the truth,”
“We speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.”

(John 3:9-13 NAS)

First Jesus told Nicodemus that to see the kingdom of heaven he must be born again. Then He introduced Nicodemus to faith. Now He tells him no one else has ascended into heaven to bear witness of the truth, but He Himself, who was in heaven, has bore witness of the truth and has descended from heaven to bring that truth to man.

To better understand the “new birth” we look again at the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. When God’s messenger came and spoke the word of God to Mary---she believed. The moment she believed the Holy Spirit caused her to conceive in compliance to the word of God. Thus Jesus was conceived and born of the word and the Spirit.

As the word of God is spoken through His chosen or anointed messenger concerning salvation through Jesus Christ, and a person hears and believes, much in the same way as Mary heard and believed, a new spirit born of the word of God is conceived in the inner most being or “womb” of the believer’s soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus the believer is “born again” of the word and the Spirit. The soul is now restored to a “living soul.” The spirit born of the word of God is then nourished by the Tree of Life in the person of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the believer’s soul until the person’s whole being (soul and body) is swallowed up by the spirit born of God; and so he is a son of God.

Meanwhile the old sin nature undergoes the circumcision of the cross, through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus and the unclean flesh is crucified and buried with Christ; the likeness of the serpent is dead. In this new birth the soul is set free from the prison of death.

The Apostle Paul writes,
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(Titus 3:4-7)
Regeneration and renewing or being born again by the Holy Spirit is a change brought about in a person’s being that restores him to a living soul and fellowship with God through the spirit. This may be viewed in three parts; the first part is man must believe. Jesus speaks of and explains the “law of the Spirit of life” while speaking with Nicodemus and concludes it with the words of this beautiful covenant of faith through God’s message of love for man.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NAS)
The Apostle Paul writes of the same law in this way:
“But what does it say? ‘The word in near you, in your mouth and in your heart; --that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.’”
(Romans 10:8-10)

Regeneration begins the moment that God, through His word, reveals sin and convicts the sinner of his sinfulness, this is a gift of faith; when a person believes it is obedience to faith; by the grace of justification through the gift of faith God grants repentance.

Thus the second part of regeneration is repentance. Repentance is the empting of one’s soul of sin and preparing the heart for the sowing of the good seed, the word of God. This is accomplished only through convictions brought about by the Holy Spirit; resulting in a deep sorrow and remorsefulness for the extreme evilness and savage cruelty of crimes committed against God and all His creation. Just as the farmer tills the soil and prepares it for the sowing of the seed, like so is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man.

The word of God requires a heart that is empty. A heart filled with earthly projects, carnal interests, ambition, thoughts of becoming rich in worldly goods, and with the love of the luxuries and pleasures of life in the world is not fit to receive the seed of the kingdom of God (John 8:37).

True repentance results in love toward God and a change in ones attitude and behavior that conforms to the word of God. Therefore, repentance is the act of obedience to God’s word in turning away from a life of sin.

The third part is faith in God. Faith in God results in a person turning toward God for life in Christ Jesus (Matthew 18:3). All three parts are gifts from God by revelation and take place in unison. So we see the three-part conversion is to believe in Christ Jesus, repentance from sin, and turning to God in faith. Such a threefold conversion is absolutely necessary for one to be restored to agreement and oneness with God that he might “see the kingdom of heaven.”

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
(2nd Corinthians 5:17 NASU)

The phrase to “be in Christ,” means to be united to Christ by faith---to be in Him so as to derive all nourishment and support from Him, and to be sustained entirely by Him (John 15:1-8). The term denotes a more tender and close union; and implies that all support is from him. All strength is derived from Him; and denotes further that those of faith shall partake of His fullness, and share in His glory in order that man may once again be in God’s image and glorify Him. “He is a new creature: the old things passed away: behold, new things have come.” Selah.

James C Sanford

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