In continuation of Quit griping about your church and A Bible Falling Apart Belongs to Someone who isn't
Continuing our thoughts about the belonging to a Church we are looking after what comes really in the first place. Should we stick to standard ways of thinking and hold to the "commonplace of Christian thought"? Can we just get baptized in every community and then be reconciled with God? Whether is it important that we first make some choices and then we submit to a baptism in full compliance with the autonomy of God?
Some assume that the rebirth lies in the membership of a church, a denomination or community, an ecclesia. Jesus had a different idea about the rebirth.
SOMETHING TO CHEW ON
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again (“from above”), he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:1-3.
The new birth is the only way to salvation: “Except a man be born again,” he cannot see, much less enter, the kingdom of God. Everyone should be interested in this question, because there is normally in man a desire to be saved, at least from physical death; and this should be manifested in a desire to be saved from eternal death.
Now Nicodemus wanted to discuss the Messiahship with Jesus. He acknowledged that he believed Jesus to be a teacher sent from God; for, he said, “no man can do these miracles that you do, unless God is with him.” But Jesus waved this all aside, and directed his attention to the greatest of miracles, the new birth. “You must be born again,” Jesus said.
The new birth is indeed a miracle, greater than the miracles of healing, cleansing lepers, opening blind eyes, and opening deaf ears. The new birth is a new creation: “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
The Bible teaches that the agencies that work to accomplish the new birth are the same that worked in the creation of the world. In the original creation there were the Spirit (Genesis 1:2), the water (verse 2), and the word (verse 3; Psalm 33:6, 9: Hebrews 11:3). In the new birth there are the Spirit (John 3:5), the water (verse 5), and the word 1 Peter 1:23).
Since the new birth is the only way to salvation, it is man’s greatest need. Though Nicodemus wanted to discuss the theories and doctrines regarding the coming Messiah, he actually laid bare his greatest need. Jesus emphasized that theories, doctrines, and ritualism were not his need. He needed a change of heart. “You must be born again.”
Nicodemus was startled to think that he was not already saved. I am a Pharisee, he probably said in his heart. I am a member of the true church of God. I pay tithe, and keep all of God’s commandments. I am not an idolater. I am a moralist, and am in no need of regeneration. These words might be appropriate if spoken to a Herod, a Magdalene, a Judas, or a Zacchaeus; but not to me a Pharisee. But Jesus pressed the truth upon him, “You must be born again.”
No, church membership is not the new birth; for no one will dispute the fact that there are many members of churches who give no evidence of changed lives, many who have no hope of eternal life. Judas was a church member, but he betrayed his Lord. To the church has been committed the proclamation of the gospel of salvation; still no church can save anyone. To be saved, one must be born again. It is rather sad that some churches do not teach the new birth for salvation; it is no part of their creed. They teach that men are saved by being initiated into the church through the church’s ritualism.
Some seem to believe that they have been born again because they have been baptized. But while baptism is important for salvation, it is plain that many have been baptized in water, but have not experienced the new birth and have not renewed their minds and hearts to live and think for the Lord as a new creation. It is for this reason that there are always two classes to be found in the church - the wheat and the tares.
The new birth does not consist in mere outward conformity to the law of God; it does not consist in merely making good resolutions; it does not consist in being merely a good moral person. A moralist needs the new birth for salvation as much as the worst sinner.
What is it then? It is a new life from above. It is a transformation of heart and life by the direct work of the Word inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is a new creation. It is a new being created spiritually in the image of God. It is the impartation of the nature of God by the regenerating power of the Spirit. Jesus said further in explaining the new birth: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, you must be born again.” John 3:5-7. The new birth is the essence of the kingdom of God implanted in the heart. It is not an improvement on the old sinful nature through education or refinement, but the implanting of a new nature in man, the divine nature.
What are the results in a man’s life when the new birth is experienced? He leaves the life of sin for the life of righteousness. Romans 6:2, 12, 13. He passes from death to life (1 John 3:14), from the reign of the flesh to the reign of the Spirit (John 3:6; Romans 8:8, 9). He leaves behind the domination of the carnal mind which “is enmity against God” and “is not subject to the law of God,” and takes up the rulership of the spiritual mind, the mind of Christ. Verses 5-7; 1 Corinthians 2:16. He passes from the rule of the flesh in which one “cannot please God” (Romans 8:8) to living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
The Corinthians, to whom the Apostle Paul preached the gospel, were guilty of the grossest sins - adultery, fornication, drunkenness, and sodomy; but when they were born again, they were delivered from these sins. Paul, writing to them and naming these hideous sins, says: “And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:17.
The results of the new birth are the same today as they were in the days of Paul. Through his first birth a man inherits a nature wholly incompatible with the nature of God. To enter the kingdom of God, one must be born again.
- John Aldersley
Dutch translation / Nederlandse vertaling > Wedergeboorte en lidmaatschap tot een kerk