Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Defining the New Birth

James 1:17-18 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

Defining The New Birth in Christian Salvation
I figured since we are entering into a new year, it is only fitting that we explore a fundamental truth of Christian salvation that has the word "new" in it.  The above text deals with the beginning of one's salvation - what the Bible calls "The New Birth" or "Regeneration". The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (the doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention) defines the "New Birth" accordingly:  "Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace."

The source, the effects and the activities involved in the New Birth
The New Testament speaks of the beginning of Christian salvation as being that of a "New Birth".  Jesus for example in John 3:1-8 discusses with Nicodemas what it means to be "born-again".  Peter too talks about being "begotten" or "born again" by God in 1 Peter 1:3 and 23.  This language of "birthing" and "regeneration" to describe saving faith is used in Titus 3:5 - "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." 

James 1:17-21 is the text I want us to specifically focus upon in understanding the New Birth, since James was the first New Testament Book.  As you go down through James'  treatment, you discover the following about the New Birth or as it is sometimes termed "regeneration":

1. The New Birth Comes from God. James 1:17
This is clearly the origin of the New Birth.  This tells us that salvation by its very nature is a genuine miracle.  We could call this first thought the "source" of regeneration or the New Birth.

2. The New Birth Brings a change of heart.  James 1:18
The New Birth, being a work of God, brings with it the grace that accompanies salvation.  As we will see in later blogs, whenever you and I have been born again - there must needs had been a change of heart.  We could term this the "effects" of the New Birth or regeneration.

3. The New Birth Involves faith and repentance. James 1:19-21
Any definition of the New Birth must include "faith and repentance".  Apart from faith and repentance, the New Birth simply will not occur.  James speaks about both repentance (James 1:19-21a) and faith (1:21b) in this authoritative definition of "The New Birth".   We could call this last point the "activities involved" in the New Birth. 

I would encourage the reader to study over James 1:17-21 and the other texts mentioned in today's blog to gain a better understanding of this essential truth of Christian salvation - The New Birth.  More tomorrow..........

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