Salvation – The New Birth
Salvation – The New Birth
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Col 2:12)
A problem that exists in Christianity today, is that so many people, even so many Christians, do not have a Biblical and Scriptural understanding of what Salvation is. Our text speaks of how that we who are saved “…are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof of God’s Power over death and the grave, and is the hope of all of those who are saved, that we, too, have overcome death and the grave. However, this Resurrection and demonstration of the power of God is also a picture and proof of that which our God accomplishes in the salvation of the sons of God. We are spiritually dead in our natural condition. And yet, God will make us alive, and will raise us up in the spirit, to commune with Him; to follow Him; to live in Him; to reap the benefits and blessings of God in salvation!
Salvation is a miracle. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines “miracle” this way: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. Another definition is as follows: 1. an extraordinary occurrence that surpasses all known human powers or natural forces and is ascribed to a divine or supernatural cause, esp. to God.
2. a superb or surpassing example of something; wonder; marvel.
I believe that The New Birth, as a Miracle, exists as the greatest of miracles that God has performed. This miracle of Salvation exists on a level with the Ancient Creation of the Universe and all that is. This miracle of Salvation is something new, amazing, and fantastic – a cause for wonder and marvel – that exceeds any aspect of the natural Creation that we behold in our mortal existence. Our first birth, when we are brought into God’s Creation through our natural birth, is indeed a miracle. This is something that man cannot duplicate, and it is the miracle that prolongs and perpetuates human existence, but the existence of much of the rest of the living aspects of Creation.
However, Salvation – The New Birth, is a miracle that happens at the Will of God, and as a result of the Power of God, that has an effect in the physical realm but more especially has an effect in the spiritual realm. This is the type of event or happening that goes beyond the powers of men or natural Creation. This is the type of miraculous occurrence that defies any mere human, mortal, or physical explanation. What a wonder our salvation is! That a dead spirit can be brought to life! That a rebellious souls can be turned to God! That a living – but dying – flesh can be utilized in a positive fashion, in the Service and Exaltation of the God and Creator of all that is – and that mere human beings can be servants and warriors in the affairs of the spiritual realm!
And yet, even as Christians we seem to treat Salvation as something – not quite common – but as something a bit less than miraculous. Certainly, it seems that salvation in the lives of other, and even in our own lives, is viewed with less “wonder” and “marvel” than it deserves. Let us consider this New Birth today, and attribute to this miracle – and to our God – the glory and wonder that has sometimes forsaken our consideration. Today I want to speak about Salvation as a Spiritual Birth that takes place inside someone; about Salvation as the Saving of the Soul; and about the on-going process of being a Christian.
The Spirit is Born
Salvation is something that takes place at a very basic level within someone. There is a brokenness within every man that is born naturally into this world. There is something that we lack, that was once present. That something is a living spirit. Adam was made a living soul. Adam was made in the image of God. From the time that he was first formed, until the time that he sinned against God, Adam possessed a living inner spirit that was tied to God, and that was of God. But when he sinned – just as God had warned him would happen – he most surely died. Since he didn’t immediately drop dead physically, it is apparent that the death Adam suffered was a spiritual one. (Though mortal death began, and ultimate and inescapable physical death became the imminent fate of Adam and each of his descendants.) As the descendants of Adam, we have inherited his broken and dead spiritual existence. However, just as Adam and Eve were saved by God’s grace, we too – those who are the chosen of God – will receive a spiritual New Birth unto Salvation. The New Birth is necessary if there is to be spiritual life, and communion with God. This New Birth is the product of the working and power of the Holy Spirit of God – to raise and give life to that dead spirit that is within us. That which is dead, must be given life. This is something that we cannot hope to accomplish on our own, or through any means available to any natural member of the human race. Thus, the status of “miracle” must be assigned to such a salvation as the New Birth.
In the New Testament, Jesus told Nicodemus, “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 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 thee, Ye must be born again.” (Jn. 3:3, 5-7.) In this passage, the Lord Jesus speaks to Nicodemus concerning something which Nicodemus does not understand. It is very difficult to describe the Spiritual Birth to one that has not yet partaken of it. It is very difficult (if not impossible) to put into words that can be understood by the flesh, these Spiritual Blessings that we have received at the Hands of our God and Saviour. However, our God does just that in the passage that we have just read.
Notice that He uses those things that we experience in the flesh to describe those things that we experience in the Spirit. The comparison that He makes is that of the Natural Birth as compared to the Spiritual Birth. Just as a Natural Life is born, so the Spiritual Life is born. When a person is saved, something becomes life, where before there was not life. This is the same as the Natural Life, where Life is given, where before there was none. When we understand (or at least attempt to understand) these things, then we begin to see just how much Salvation is of the Lord, and not at all of man.
The Spirit is Quickened and Made Alive. How can one that is dead, play a part in procuring Life? How can one that is dead, even assist or cooperate in the procurement of Life? We read in the Book of Ephesians, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Eph. 2:1, 4-6.) When we ponder these things, then we begin to exalt the Giver of Life, and to acknowledge the Helplessness of those that are dead in trespasses and sins. A dead man cannot sit up in the casket and take another breath. A dead man cannot impose his will on any one or any thing. Therefore, how can we expect that Wicked and Defiled mankind could ever even begin to save himself, or make himself alive? He is Dead, and he is Helpless! When the father greeted his son that returned unto him, he described the occasion this way: “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:32) Surely, we who are saved recognize that we were – when we were without God – lost, undone, and even dead in trespasses and sins. But, since we have been brought unto God, we have been found, and we have been made alive in the Spirit of God. All that we had before was only misery, loss, and death. Now we have joy, blessings, and life.
The Saved Individual is Made a New Creature. And then we read also in 2Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Think about this new creature. If man had anything to do with the Birth of this new creature, than you can be sure that this new creature would be flawed. Man cannot do or make anything that is Holy, because he is a flawed and fallen creature. This New Creature is something that is completely different from the Old Creature. This New Creature cannot come as a result of any action on the part of the Old Creature, or else it would retain some vestige of the Old Creature, and would not be pure.
So, since man cannot make or be anything that is Holy, it must be that if a New Creature is to be born, a Creature that is Holy and without sin, then it must be created by God. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1John 3:8-9) Whatever good we are or have, it must be attributed unto the Power and Working of God – a miracle, as we defined it at the beginning of this sermon. Indeed, if God desires to behold any man or woman as a Just and Upright Creature, then it is up to Him to Give that Creature Life a New Life that is better than what we were, and better than what we can conceive, and certainly better than what we can do or become on our own. We are told in Rom. 6:4, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Adam plunged us all into sin, and we are not capable of creating a new life or “borning” ourselves again in a way that is acceptable in the Sight of God. But Jesus Christ did make a way for us, and He it is that gives unto His people Eternal Life.
The Soul is Saved
The Salvation that we have, affects not only the Spirit of man, but it affects also the Soul of man. The Spirit, when it is made alive, affects the Soul also. Before we were quickened and made alive, our Soul was totally affected (led) by the flesh. Now that the Spirit is made alive, and we Live in the Spirit, the Soul is now Saved from the certain damnation to which the flesh would lead it.
This soul is now not inclined solely unto the flesh and human things, but is rather empowered to be inclined unto the spiritual realm that is revealed unto the human soul. Now, the human soul is no longer limited to mortality, but is exposed to, and governed by, the things of the Spirit.
The Soul is Converted. We read in Ps. 19:7, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LRD is sure, making wise the simple.” You see, the Soul was not dead – unless you would say that it was inclined to death and headed for eternal death. But the Spirit was dead, and was in need of the Gift of Life. When the Spirit is made alive, then the Soul is now converted to those things that tend to Life. The Soul is turned from the things of Flesh and Sin, and turned unto the things of Spirit and Righteousness.
To me, in many ways, this Converting of the Soul is closely linked with the Repentance that is necessary in the case of every Child of God when they are quickened and made alive. As the spirit is made alive, the Child of God realizes the miserable state of his own life. The soul of that man, will immediately Repent of his sins, and Turn from them. This is essentially what Conversion is.
So many times people in Christianity believe that Conversion is simply a turning from sin. But this is not the case. Conversion does involve Repentance and a turning away from sin, but just as importantly Conversion involves a turning unto God and the things of God. We read in Ezek. 18:21, “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” Those that are truly Saved; those that have truly Repented of their sins; those that have truly been Forgiven, will surely not just simply Turn from their sins, but they will truly Turn unto God and unto His statutes, and do that which is lawful and right. Paul told the Corinthians, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2Cor. 7:10.) A truly Converted soul, will turn from Satan and the evils of this world, and will turn unto Christ and the Righteousness that is found only in Him. If a person claims to have been saved and professes that their soul has been saved but they do not consistently follow the things of the Lord, then there can be serious doubt as to whether that soul has ever been truly Converted. The Lord told Solomon, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2Chron. 7:14.) True Repentance requires that a soul will turn from his wicked ways and seek the face of God. Modern day evangelism, for the most part, leaves out the aspect of Conversion which requires men to Turn unto God.
The Soul is Rescued. I have read where some people, when they speak of the Salvation of the Soul, speak of the fact that the Soul is Rescued. I like this terminology; it fits well with the picture that I am trying to present today. It is true that the Soul, before the Spirit is made alive, is following after the things of the flesh. And it is true that the Soul, before the Spirit is quickened, is eager to run after the ways of sin. And it is true that the Soul, before the Spirit is given life within us, is headed for certain (as far as man is concerned) damnation. Surely the Soul is in need of a Rescue! The Bible says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die…” (Ezek. 18:4, 20.) There must be some Aid that would come to the cause of the Soul, or there is only utter destruction awaiting the Soul!
David speaks of this when he says, “LORD, how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.” (Ps. 35:17.) I know that David is speaking of the Salvation that the Lord will provide for him in regards to the Attacks of his enemies. But it is also true that our Soul was in just such a desperate situation. We had attackers on all sides, and there was no hope for our Souls. We had Accusers all around us, and even our very lives accused us of Guilt. But there was One that came to the Rescue, and He Rescued those Souls that He had designed to Save – and He did this through the Miracle of the New Birth and the Conversion of the Soul.
The Flesh is Put Under Subjection
Now let’s move on to talk about the life of the individual that has been saved. We see that there is now a New Creature within him – and that Creature is spirit and cannot sin. We see that the soul of that individual has been converted and turned from sin and turned unto God. But what about the Flesh? Surely it is not made holy at the time of the New Birth of the spirit and the Conversion of the soul! (This is manifest by the fact that there aren’t any Christians who have achieved perfection, but we all continue to sin from time to time.) Now we come to the important aspect of Salvation which lays upon men the responsibility of Persevering in the things of God, and of putting the Flesh under Subjection. This is what Paul is talking about when he told the Philippians, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12.)
The spirit is Born, the soul is Converted, but the Flesh is still an obstacle that we must deal with. God leaves us here in this Flesh because He has a Purpose for us. But He does not leave us without power and without strength in Him! He is with us in the Spirit, and He is always ready to succor and aid us. But He leaves us here in this mortal realm, and we are His people and His servants in the midst of a wicked world of lost and desperate mankind. That means that there is something yet for us to do here on this earth. We cannot do what He has for us to do, if we are not still living on this earth. Therefore, we must contend with the Lusts and the Desires and the Weaknesses and the Frailties of the Flesh in order to serve the Lord. This is common with every saved individual until such time as we are taken out of this world.
The Spirit is at War with the Flesh. Amongst the New Testament writers, Paul is a champion of Salvation by Grace and the Sovereignty of God. But Paul is also a teacher of the Warfare that we have with the Flesh. Paul tells us, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1Cor. 9:27.) And then we read also, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Rom. 7:14-17.)
There is no Good Thing in the Flesh, even the Flesh of a Saved Individual. Paul also tells us, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Rom. 7:18.) If the Apostle Paul could say these things about himself, how much more should you and I acknowledge that there is no good thing in our flesh?
In final consideration of the condition of the Saved individual and the sinful flesh, Paul says, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Rom. 7:24-25.)
Salvation is spoken of, today, as something that is gained, or something that we procure unto ourselves. I hope that this sermon today has shown us, and reminded us, that Salvation is not that at all. Salvation is something that comes from above, and something that is a miraculous happening within us – just as the birth of a baby is a miraculous happening – this New Birth, being born again, is even more miraculous. And Salvation is not something that affects only one part of our existence, but it affects the Soul as well as the Spirit. And, in the process of salvation and mortal life, we find that even our Flesh is made obedient unto the desires of the Soul, and the powers of the Spirit.