The teaching of Christ and the Apostles is filled with figures of speech. That does not mean that the things found in the figures are not real and cannot be complied with things separate from the figure. On the contrary many if not all of them have a physical and a spiritual connection to be followed. Such is our subject presently. To enter the Kingdom, church or body of Christ, to be saved from past sins, enjoy the remission of sins and have a relationship with God one has imposed upon him the necessity of the NEW BIRTH.
THE NEW BIRTH ESSENTIAL
There are many theories of what constitutes the new birth. While we may regard or disregard these theories one platform of agreement can be found in the necessity of the new birth. The Lord declared “Ye must be born again.” (Jn. 3:7). It is therefore imperative that we plunge into a study of it to ascertain the meaning so that we may take the necessary steps to be born again.
FALSE DOCTRINES ARE ABOUT US
While speaking to the religious leaders of His day Jesus made a statement that is equally true concerning us. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” (Mt. 15:8-9). The very fact that there are various doctrines proclaimed about the new birth some of which are exactly opposite to others is indicative that someone is teaching for their doctrine a commandment of men. Equipping ourselves with the word of truth we will not fall victim to the doctrines of men. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph. 4:14).
CONSIDER THE MAN TO WHOM JESUS SPOKE THESE WORDS
His name was Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee; we are told that so we would know that he believed in the resurrection in angels and in spirits. He was a ruler of the Jews indicating that he was a member of the Sanhedrin Court, a man respected for his knowledge and regard for the people and what was right for them (Is. 28:14), He was a man born among the children of Abraham entitling him to all the blessing promised that nation. He recognized Jesus as teaching God’s will which he ascertained by the miracles Jesus performed. He sought a private interview with Jesus to receive more light on some subject of concern to him. What question did he wish to prose to the Lord? We are not informed. Jesus took the matter in hand.
THE NEW BIRTH PLACES ONE INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (V 5:3). Standing between a man and the Kingdom of God is the new birth. Remember Nicodemus like all the people serving God anxiously looked forward to the Messiah who would establish the Kingdom and rule the world. It was imperative that he ready himself when it became a reality. As intelligent as was Nicodemus he knew if Jesus was correct the time of the Kingdom was near as Jesus emphasized this in His preaching beginning with Matthew 4:17. Read carefully the Sermon On The Mount, Matthew 5, 6, and 7 noting the references Jesus made to the Kingdom. It is also probable that Nicodemus had heard John preach about the Kingdom’s soon arrival as John and Jesus spoke of it being “at hand,” meaning it was near as to frequency of time. With that in mind it is difficult to understand why there are some teaching and looking forward to the Kingdom’s coming now. Say what you will, there is no way that “at hand” extends over two thousand years. When Jesus announced this it must have touched a cord in the heart of Nicodemus. A New Birth indeed!!! How could there be a birth new: or otherwise that would repudiate or elevate one more than that experienced by Nicodemus? Was he not born of Abraham’s seed? Was he not circumcised the eightieth day? How then could another birth supercede that? Could his doing this at his age make him any better? And if that were to be done how could he enter his mother’s womb and restart the process of being born over? Jesus declares that the New Birth was entirely different for the Old Testament system and a physical connection with the family of Abraham. He explains, “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” (V 5-6).
THE SYSTEM OF THE OLD TESTAMENT WAS A SYSTEM OF THE FLESH
Born under this system there was a mark of distinction that separated the children of God from every other nation of people, a mark that was in the flesh, a mark called circumcision. When circumcision was performed on one born in a Jewish household that meant that one was a child of God and that his birth was proper and right. In every way the system applied was fleshly. That birth was legal in Nicodemus but did not allow entrance into the New Kingdom Jesus was preparing him and others for membership. Jesus therefore said, “That which is born of flesh is flesh.” (V 6). The Apostles after the Kingdom became a reality continually had a problem with the Jews because they tried to attach fleshly circumcision to new converts of Christianity.
THE ELEMENTS OF THE NEW BIRTH
Contrary to the old system the New Birth is accomplished by applying two elements. Man is not physical only but has a spiritual component in his nature, This spiritual is referred to in scripture as mind, spirit, conscience or heart. When it comes to salvation or entering the Kingdom man’s component physical and spiritual must be used. Scriptures speak of these often an example of which is Romans 12:1-2. “I BESEECH you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies (the physical,) a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (the mind,) service. And be not conformed to this world (outwardly or physically,) but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (spirit or heart,); that ye mat prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Refusing or rejecting either of these leaves one void of being Born Again.
The first element is water. Water means just that—water. Men have tried to apply this to natural birth (one type of fleshly birth). Nicodemus would have thought such contention silly. Others have thought that water was to be applied for redemption making it the only element necessary to obtain the New Birth. Thus the practice of Infant Baptism was born. Thinking that a baby is born with original sin, water is applied to remove the crusty thing called sin. Nicodemus knew that such application was silly as he would have known the words of the prophet, “The soul that sinneth. It shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezek. 18:20).
Applying the element of water is a direct reference to baptism. All Jerusalem and the regions round about knew of John’s baptism (and later of Christ and His disciples), therefore Nicodemus would not have applied water in any other way. The doctrine of men has done every conceivable thing in the world attempting to make water something else. Holding his hand on his breast one man declared “I wouldn’t trade this feeling right here for all the water in the world.” People are called to altars to be saved before and without baptism. The cry goes out to “receive the Lord in your heart, etc. etc. All of these and like things are preached in an attempt to remove water from God’s plan to be BORN AGAIN. The Gospel of Christ cannot be obeyed without water baptism. Jesus commanded, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mk. 16:16). On the day of Pentecost Peter demanded of his hearers “”Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38). Jesus sent Ananias to Saul of Tarsus commanding him to, “arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16). Many other passages can be added easily to these but this should suffice presently. The New Testament regards baptism as an act that precedes entering the Kingdom, being added to the church, being placed in the body of Christ and so forth. Without water baptism one lingers in the word outside of Christ and without the blessing of salvation,
Paul yoked the heart (spirit) and the body (physical immersion,) together in writing to the Roman church chapter six, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized (water), into Jesus Christ were baptized (water,) into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism (water,) into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life (born again). That affirms that water is involved as Jesus said in the New Birth or turning to God in obedience. He goes on to write, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but have obeyed form the heart (the spirit, the mind,) that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (V 3-4 and 17). Peter also shows that water and spirit must be joined to be saved or Born Again. After reminding his readers about Noah and his family being saved by water, he says, “The like figure whereunto even baptism (water,) doth also now save us (not putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience (spirit, heart,) toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 3:21). There is no disputing the matter, there are two sides to every human being and both of these are employed in the New Birth. When a person believes in his spirit or heart that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and submits to the Lord’s will by allowing himself to be baptized for the remission he is born all over—born again. All the sermons that are preached across the land and all the speeches that are written to gainsay the matter, the words of Jesus Christ and His Apostles are too plain for us to reject either of the elements necessary to accomplish the New Birth.
RESULTS OF THE NEW BIRTH
The necessity of the New Birth is not only seen in the commandment and action of the Birth itself but it needs to be viewed from the standpoint of what it causes or produces in those who are Born Again. We are told, “For as many of you as have been baptized (water,) into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27). In connection, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, al things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:17).
One enters, becomes part of the body of Christ, the church of Christ, or the Kingdom of Christ by being baptized into Him. In this manner one puts on Christ. Therefore one who is not baptized into Christ is outside of Christ, outside of the body of Christ, outside of the church of Christ, outside of the Kingdom of Christ. One who has been baptized (in water) has the passing away of old things and all things have become new to him. One who has not been baptized (in water,) remains under the dominion of old things and does not have all things to become anew. Being a new creature begins with the NEW BIRTH. The NEW BIRTH must connect with water—baptism. Denying or failing to be baptized (in water.) leaves one an OLD CREATURE.
Barney Owens 1807
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