What is the New Birth (being born again) and When and How did it happen?
What is the New Birth (being born again) and When and How did it happen?
"OF HIS OWN WILL BEGAT HE US with the word of truth". James 1:18
“Chosen in Christ”
In no uncertain terms God tells us in his book that “HE HATH CHOSEN US IN HIM (in Christ) BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; HAVING PREDESTINATED US unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, ACCORDING TO THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILL, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6
And when exactly were God’s chosen people actually redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb? This same book of Ephesians goes on to explain in chapter 2:4-10 -
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, HATH QUICKENED US TOGETHER WITH CHRIST, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 AND HATH RAISED US UP TOGETHER, AND MADE US SIT TOGETHER IN HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST JESUS:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 FOR WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The plain truth of Scripture is that God chose his people before the foundation of the world IN CHRIST, and that we were IN CHRIST when he died and we were raised up TOGETHER WITH HIM when he was raised, and we are now seated in the heavenly places IN CHRIST JESUS and that we are GOD’S workmanship CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS.
No where in these passages of holy Scripture do we read a single word about the vaunted “free will of man” or his “decision to follow Christ” or even of him “placing his faith in Christ.” It is ALL of God.
The same truth is taught in Colossians 2:13-14. Here we read: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, HATH HE QUICKENED TOGETHER WITH HIM, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and TOOK IT OUT OF THE WAY, NAILING IT TO HIS CROSS."
It all happened at the cross in the substitutionary death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He finished the work the Father gave him to do. He came to redeem HIS PEOPLE from our sins and to reconcile us to God, and that is what he did.
Galatians 3:13 "Christ HATH REDEEMED us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."
Notice it does not say Christ offers us redemption, nor does it say that Christ has provided a way to be redeemed, or He made it possible for you to be redeemed. No. It says Christ HATH REDEEMED US. And when did this take place? At the cross, when he was made a curse for us. THAT is when all of God's elect were in fact redeemed.
When and How were we born again?
1 Peter 1:3-4 tells us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy HATH BEGOTTEN US AGAIN UNTO A LIVELY HOPE BY THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you”
When and How did God beget us again? It tells us right here in verse three.
God “hath begotten us again BY THE RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ from the dead.” That is when and how it happened.
We died together with Christ. As Paul says “I am crucified with Christ.” Paul does not say “I am being crucified with Christ”, as though this were an ongoing process.
No. He is describing a present STATE that is the result of a PAST action.
It’s like saying “I am married.” or “He is employed.” or “They are dead.” A past action has resulted in a present state.
Ephesians 2:4-6 and Colossians 2:13-14 tell us that God “HATH QUICKENED US TOGETHER WITH CHRIST” and God “HATH RAISED US UP TOGETHER, and made us sit TOGETHER in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus”
This is NOT something, as many “free willers” teach us, that happens “when you decide to put your faith in Christ.” That is NOT what the Bible says. Your faith doesn’t make these things so. God gives you the faith so that YOU WILL KNOW what he already did for you.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN.”
This reality of having been quickened together with Christ and raised up together in him happened some 2000 years ago, long before we were even born into this world.
ALL of God’s elect were IN Christ, as our Federal Head and Representative when he died and when he rose from the dead.
And as 1 Peter 1:3 affirms, God hath begotten us BY the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Notice carefully what is says in the gospel of John 1:12-13.
The apostle is writing these things AFTER Christ had finished his redemptive work here on this earth and had already ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
The apostle writes: “But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God (in their experience), even to them that believe on his name (God gives us the gift of faith)
WHICH WERE BORN, not of blood (we don’t inherit it), nor of the will of the flesh (not one’s own “free will”), nor of the will of man (no one else can do it for you) BUT OF GOD.
They already WERE BORN OF GOD, and that is why in time and in their personal experience, once they heard the gospel, they received him and believed on his name.
It’s not by receiving Christ and believing in him that we GET BORN of God, but it is precisely because we WERE BORN OF GOD that we receive him and believe on him in our experience.
“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life TO AS MANY AS THOU HAST GIVEN HIM.” John 17:2
“Problem Verses” the free will Arminians will sometimes bring up.
The “free willers” do not WANT to believe what the Book actually teaches about God’s election of grace and how the new birth is TOTALLY of God and not of man’s vaunted “free will”.
He hates these doctrines that are so repulsive to “the natural man”. So, he will desperately look for any way he can think of to explain away and try to nullify these truths.
And if he thinks he actually has some Scripture to back up his point of view, or at least cast a wrench into the doctrine of God’s election of a certain and fixed number of his elect people unto salvation, so much the better.
There are only two verses I am aware of where we see the outworking in time and in experience where it can appear that man has something to do with the new birth.
But keep in mind, that the new birth is “not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man.” The Bible, when rightly understood, cannot contradict itself.
In 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul writes, saying: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for IN Christ Jesus I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU THROUGH THE GOSPEL.”
And in the book of Philemon the apostle writes, saying: “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, WHOM I HAVE BEGOTTEN in my bonds”
Paul is here describing the outworking in time and experience of what Christ DID for his elect when we were crucified with him, and quickened together with him and raised up together and are now seated in the heavenly places IN Christ Jesus.
This is the difference between what are called Position (who we are IN Christ) and Practice (our experience in life once we are born on this earth). Some prefer the terms Standing (in Christ) and State (our experience)
Paul obviously was NOT their Father in the same sense that God is. And the new birth is NOT of the will of man, but of God. No matter how much Paul may have wanted others to be "saved", he could do nothing unless God did the work.
"So then it is NOT of him that willeth, NOR of him that runneth, BUT OF GOD that sheweth mercy."
See Romans chapter 9.
But Paul is speaking of the practical outworking of what God had already done for his elect in Christ through the substitutionary death and resurrection.
So when Paul or any other man preaches the gospel to living men and women, it is God who quickens them, awakens faith and repentance and makes us believe the gospel.
It is in this sense that Paul can say “I have begotten you though the gospel.” He was the human instrument God used to bring the good news to men, but it was God who gave them the faith to believe it.
The gospel is NOT about something God WANTS to do, or HOPES to do, or TRIES to do, but about what he DID in Christ at the cross through his death and resurrection.
“For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; AND AS MANY AS WERE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.” Acts 13:47-48.
“But OF HIM ARE YE IN Christ Jesus, who OF GOD is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written, HE THAT GLORIETH, LET HIM GLORY IN THE LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.
If you are a “born again” believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is ALL by the sovereign, electing grace of God who accomplished a real redemption of a particular people (his own elect) at the cross through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is our Kinsman Redeemer, and we were QUICKENED (born again) TOGETHER WITH HIM and raised up TOGETHER in Christ Jesus some 2000 years ago, and our “free will choice” had NOTHING AT ALL to do with it.
ALL praise to our Redeemer God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
Objections Raised. Notes from the Internet.
Hi Charlie. Thank you for your thoughts. You say:
"The verses you used, when taken in isolation, make a very compelling argument for your theory. The only problem is that we can't take verses by themselves, but must consider the word as a whole.
When we do this, we come across this statement by Jesus:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. - John 5:25
This statement describes HOW regeneration happens. It is by the life giving voice of Jesus.
It also describes the WHEN of regeneration. Notice what Jesus said:
"The hour is coming..."
This indicates something that will happen in the future. So far, this fits well within your argument, as when Jesus spoke these words, He had not yet been to the cross. But then He says:
"....and now is.."
This indicates something that is happening in the present moment. This poses quite a problem for your theory."
The Bible, when properly understood, cannot contradict itself. The verses I pointed out in both Ephesian and Colossians tell us that when Christ died, we died and and he was quickened from the dead and raised up, we too were in him when this happened.
This is what is known as Positional truth. It IS the truth, but it describes what Christ actually did for his people and when it happened.
The other truth is called Practical or Experiential truth. This is our experience in time.
Practical truth is the outworking and experience of Positional truth in time.
The only way I can put Scriptures together like these, is to recognize that some are Positional and others are Practical and describe our experience in time as God reveals to us what he has already done for us.
Does that make sense? Otherwise, you end up having the Bible contradict itself.
You go on to say -
"Additionally, your view leaves us with the problem of figuring out how the Old Testament saints were born of the Spirit. Now, if what you propose is true, then we have to come to one of two conclusions:
1. The OT saints were not born of the Spirit.
2. The OT saints were born of the Spirit in a completely different way than we are today.
Let's look at the first option. Is it possible that the OT saints were not born of the Spirit as we are today? To get the answer, look at what Paul said in Galatians 4:28-29:
"Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."
This tells us that Isaac was born of the Spirit. He also said "so it is now". So, whatever being born of the Spirit is, it's the same then as it is now. This eliminates the possibility of option 1."
Good point about Galatians 4:28-29. I agree. O.T. saints were born after the Spirit.
As O.T. saints had their sins forgiven on the basis of what God would do for them in the future at the cross of Calvary,(See Romans 3:25-26 and Hebrews 9:15) so too I think they were born of the Spirit in the same PRACTICAL way that we in New Testament times are.
It is because of our POSITION in Christ - all of God's elect were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and Revelation 13:8 mentions "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world".
In God's mind and plan, ALL of his elect people were in Christ when he died on the cross, and rose again from the dead. Once again, it is Practical (Experiential) truth that flows out of and is the result of Positional truth - who we are in Christ.
And this happened and was applied retroactively to the past O.T. saints, as well as now and in the future to the rest of God's elect.
You further state:
"Let's move on to option 2.
Is it possible that the OT saints were born of the Spirit in a completely different way than we are today?
Not according to to what Jesus said in John 3:8:
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
This tells us that we are all born of the Spirit the same way. Jesus said "so is every one that is born of the Spirit". However one is born, we all are born. This eliminates option 2.
So, we see that OT saints were born of the Spirit just as we are today, which eliminates any possibility of your theory being correct."
I agree with you on this point. Not that it eliminates my "theory", but that it confirms it. Practical and experiential truth is the result of the Positional truth of what God did for His elect when we died when Christ died, and we were quickened (made alive) together with Him and raised from the dead in Him.
Thank you for your thoughts. It helps me to think through things and hopefully be able to put the whole Bible together in such a way that it does not end up contradicting itself.
Some related articles you may like to look at -
The Free Willer’s god [OF THE WHITE SPACES]
There are several linked articles here dealing with the most common verses that those who teach “I chose of my own free will to believe” bring up.