2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NKJV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
In our last number of posts, I have been talking about the most radical thing that can happen to an individual in the human experience. There is no other religion that claims what Christianity claims in the New Birth. Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus that he could not see the Kingdom of Heaven unless he was born again. If a person is not born again, he is not a Christian in the biblical sense.
There are billions of people who are part of Christian denominations and religious groups. They follow the teachings of their denomination’s doctrine and ritual. They may or may not follow the bible. Culturally and religiously, they are called Christians but biblically they are not. Jesus’ words are clear. He did not say it would be good for a person to be born again. He did not say being born again is one of many ways to see, and therefore enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He said you cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven unless you are born again.
What Jesus calls being born again, Paul calls being a New Creation. This experience is commonly referred to as “The New Birth.” What is the new birth? The new birth is the reversal of what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The part of them that was connected to God and God’s world died when they sinned. For them to fulfill their purpose in creation God had to restore that connection. What died had to be made alive again.
He could not simply resurrect in the spirit what was dead. The death that happens in the spirit is not like the death that happens in the natural. Spiritual death is not the cessation of spiritual life. It is the corruption of spiritual life by sin. Look at today’s verse in the Amplified Bible.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (AMP) 17 Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!
In this translation it says that if anyone is in Christ they are a “new creature altogether.” The Greek work implies something that never existed before. When a person is in Christ, he becomes a person that never existed before. The old things, or person, pass away and all things become new. This does not happen in the flesh. The body does not change. The mind changes very little initially. However, in the deepest part of the human being the person that was corrupted by sin dies. He is “born again” of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)
The new birth is not a change of philosophy. It is not a gradual change of a person’s thinking or behavior. It is an instantaneous miracle that changes the person in his nature. Ephesians 2:1-3 says that all that are not in Christ are by nature children of “wrath.” Verses four through eight of the same chapter tell the other side of the story.
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NKJV) 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Paul is speaking to a group of people who are no longer children of wrath by nature. Something has happened to them. They were dead in their trespasses but now they have been “made alive.” Their nature was wrath, so what is their nature now? They have been made alive with Christ so their nature is now be the nature of Christ.
This is the claim made by biblical Christianity. If you are born again, a miraculous change has occurred. You are not changing through your own work and discipline as many other religious and philosophical disciplines teach. The person who is born again and in Christ is a new creature. Everything inside him changes immediately.
He becomes a new baby, a new person, in his nature. He was inherently evil because of the fall. He is now inherently good. He used to have a dark side to his nature. Now he does not. He used to have to control the innermost part of himself. Now he must learn to release it. That part of him no longer contains death and darkness. He is now filled with the light and life of God. He is a new creation. He is born again.
We see this graphically described in Genesis chapter 3 only in the other direction. Man was created a child of God in God’s image and likeness. He had God’s own nature in his spirit. He was by nature love, faithfulness and righteousness. When he sinned, something changed.
Read this amazing chapter. You will see that the man God created for fellowship suddenly hides from God. He has become aware of his nakedness. This is not just physical nakedness. He has lost something that covered him. He has lost the glory of God in his life. He was aware of evil in his innermost being. Righteousness became unrighteousness.
He loved the woman so much that he chose to follow her into rebellion. After the rebellion, he blames her for their predicament. Love has turned to selfishness. He was given dominion over the earth. All authority includes accountability. However, when he is asked what happened he says the woman deceived him. He also reminds God that He gave the woman to him. He does not accept responsibility for his actions. He was the “keeper” of the Garden of Eden. Now he must be cast out of the Garden because of his irresponsibility.
As we read this chapter along with chapter 2 of Genesis, we see the nature of Adam change before our eyes. This was an instantaneous and supernatural thing. The New Birth is just as instantaneous and just as supernatural.
The New Testament teaches us that there is a process called “renewing the mind” that we must follow in order to see this inward change manifested in our outward living. The bible also teaches that we must learn to walk in the spirit and not in the flesh. Our spirit was full of death and we had to control it. We learned to walk by our intellect. We were controlled by the flesh. Now that must all change. However, the inward change happens the instant we are born again.
The next question we must answer is, “How can I be born again?”