“Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Justification by faith and the New Birth are two fundamental doctrines of Biblical Christianity. Justification refers to God’s work of forgiveness of sins, whilst the New Birth is the actual renewal of our fallen nature. Both works happen simultaneously. The moment we receive “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24) we are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8.) It is important that we do not separate these two doctrines. Without the New Birth justification is valueless; and without Justification the New Birth is impossible.
The Foundation of the New Birth
Why must we be Born Again? To answer this question we must briefly study the fall of Adam. God made man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27.) He was created to be the portrait of God’s immortality, to rule over creation, and to walk before Him in holiness. Man was created in spotless purity and free from every sinful stain. If his were not so, then God could not have declared His works to be “Very good” (Genesis 1:31.)
Man was not created unchangeable since God gave Adam and Eve the power of choice (Genesis 2:16-17.) He showed them the possibility of falling from purity and holiness. They fell from their exalted position because they disobeyed the only commandment He gave them. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17), and they surely died the worst kind of death – they died to God! Now they were disunited from their Creator and became “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18.) They “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God” because sin entered their lives (Genesis 3:8.) God’s image no longer existed in them, instead they became unholy, full of pride, self-willed, that is, they took on the image of the one who deceived them; they now had the nature of Satan.
In 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul tells us that “in Adam all die,” and according to Ephesians 2:1 we are all “dead in sin.” Our human nature is totally corrupt because we have inherited original sin from Adam. Without the New Birth we would remain with the characteristics of the Devil throughout eternity. Because we are born in sin (Psalm 51:5) we must be Born Again.
The Nature of the New Birth
How can we be born again? How a person is Born Again is not fully explained in Scripture, for it is a work that only God can do. Just as how God brought Creation into being is not fully explained, though by faith we know that He did, so the New Birth is nothing less than a miracle … “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” (John 3:8.) We know the means God uses to impart New Life to the repentant sinner, but the method is within His own power. By faith we accept that what He has promised He will do.
The Lord Jesus Christ brought Nicodemus to understand that only God can transform a child of the devil into a son of God. Everyone who is born in the flesh must be born of the Spirit if they are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven … “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3.) All are lost and in a state of spiritual darkness until they accept Christ by faith. Until then they do not and cannot know God. They cannot understand what authentic Christianity is.
As soon as the miracle of the New Birth takes place there is a total transformation in the sinner’s life, that is, “The eyes of [their] understanding being enlightened” they are able to “know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18.) From that moment God commands light to shine in his heart … “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6.
The peace of God suddenly fills the new believer’s heart because he know that God truly loves him (Romans 5:1; John 3:16.) Now his spiritual senses will be trained to know how to walk in holiness and purity. Daily he will increase in knowledge of Christ and all things pertaining to His Kingdom. Only God can transform the earthly, unspiritual and sinful into the likeness of Christ.
How does a person get Born Again? Through repentance and faith alone.
The Purpose of the New Birth
The New Birth is necessary for holiness. Religious conversion cannot produce such a radical transformation of nature, for it only regulates man’s actions. The New Birth is God’s image stamped on the believer’s heart. The evidence of such a transformation is holiness and godliness. This nature is only found in those who have the same mind which was in the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5.) It involves being lovingly obedient to God’s will, and continually thankful for the great salvation God has given to us.
Holiness enables us to present ourselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1), but if we do not have it then we will never see God (Hebrews 12:14.) Therefore the New Birth is absolutely essential for eternal salvation. Without the New Birth there is no possible way to be made right with God.
There are many varieties of religious experience of which people claim to have had a life-changing effect on them, even using the term “Born Again” to describe them. But the New Birth can only be experienced the way Jesus and His apostles taught it. It cannot come through baptism, sacraments, pilgrimages or out-of-the-body experiences, instead it is freely given by God the moment the sinner repents and exercises faith in Jesus Christ.
God’s Holy Spirit, through the atoning work of Christ, transforms all such people. Unless a man is Born Again through the Blood of Christ he remains a child of Satan, eternally lost, and doomed to Hell.