Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Christian's Birth Certificate

Colossians 3:1-2 "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."

The other day I was looking through some documents and came upon my birth certificate and noticed some particular pieces of information. Like most birth certificates, there is information such as the date of the birth, the location, hospital name, birth parents, the attending physician and the Superintendent of the hospital. When it comes to the Christian life, the Bible uses the language of "new birth" to define the entry point into one's walk with Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said to Nicodemas in John 3:3 "Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Today's post is about exploring the Christian's birth certificate as spelled out in our primary text of Colossians 3:1-2. We can note the following pertinate details about the believer's birth certificate from Colossians 3:1-2 and other scriptures.

God the Father is the Father in the New Birth
Paul begins Colossians 3:1 with this statement: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ....". The way in which this "if" statement is constructed in the original language suggests Paul is stating: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ (and I assume you have)." In other words, providing that one has had this experience of the New birth, such an experience entails being: "raised up with Christ". 

What does it mean to be "raised up with Christ" in the New birth? Clearly the New Birth speaks of Someone acting upon the heart of the sinner, as seen in the phrase: "been raised up". In the parallel passage of Ephesians 2:4-6 we read: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." 

So by combining Ephesians 2:4-6 with Colossians 3:1 we see that God the Father is the Father responsible for the New Birth. The Baptist Faith and message 2000 explains the new birth under its discussion of what is called regeneration (which is another name for the "new birth"): "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."

As one goes further into the scriptures, it is very clear that God the Father is the Father in the New birth. 1 Peter 1:3 affirms this truth: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." So according to the believer's birth certificate, the Bible, God is the Father of the believer Who initiates the new Birth. But notice what else we learn....

The Word of God (the scriptures) are the believer's mother in the New birth
Being that Colossians 3:1-2 and other scriptures reveal God the Father to be the Father, the question is: who or what is the maternal component in the New birth? Being that Paul is writing scripture here in Colossians 3:1-2, and being that He is issuing commands to those who have been born again, then it follows that the scriptures themselves provide the life giving component in the New Birth. Again notice how other scriptures testify to this point. James 1:18 "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." Whose will is spoken of here in James? The Father's will. By what means did He ordain that sinners be brought forth from death to life, from spiritual death to new birth? The Word of God. By function the scriptures are literally the "motherly" component in the New birth. The will of the Father combined with the word of God in saving faith yields forth eternal life in salvation. 1 Peter 1:23 states - "for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God." Peter then writes in 1 Peter 2:2 - "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." 

Jesus Christ is the attending physician in the New Birth
Paul states again in Colossians 2:1 "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." The focus of Paul's statement here is Jesus Christ, the attending physician of the New Birth.  On my birth certificate I have the name of the attending physician. That particular doctor was present at my birth.  In the miracle of salvation, the New Birth, the Holy Spirit brings to me the Great Physician - Jesus Christ. Jesus describes Himself as such in Mark 2:17 "And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus Himself calls forth sinners by the work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart. (John 5:24-25) When His sheep here His voice, they follow Him. (John 10:27) All of this is made possible by the communication of the Gospel that brings with it the power of salvation. (Romans 1:16; 10:17) 

The call of Jesus resulting in salvation is an effective call, meaning that it was effective in getting the sinner's attention about the awefulness of their sin and the awesomeness of Jesus Christ. Just like the day of one's natural birth, the New Birth's timing, circumstances and situation is orchestrated by God and necessarily includes the Gospel. (1 Thess 1:5; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). The New birth includes faith and repentance, divinely given by God to become a decision of the human will. (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25-26) 

The Holy Spirit superintends over the New Birth
The phrase "raised up with Christ" means that in the saving experience of the New Birth, the Holy Spirit of God unites me to Christ in saving faith. On my birth certificate there is the name of the superintendant of the hospital. His job is to oversee what goes on at the hospital and making sure the proper care is applied to the patient. The Holy Spirit ensures that the accomplished work of the Great Physician is brought to bear upon my otherwise spiritually dead heart. He superintends every believer's salvation from beginning to end by applying what Jesus has achieved in saving faith. Thus whatever Jesus experienced, I now too experience.  As Paul states plainly in Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." 

New living ought to spring forth from the new birth
All of the scriptures mentioned thus far function together like a "birth certificate", telling you personal information about the Father (God), the mother (the scriptures), the Attending Physician (Jesus Christ) and the Superintendant, the Holy Spirit.  Whenever any baby is born, people will often dream and wonder what kind of life that little person is going to live. It is understood that as important as one's birth is, the life lived out by the person is what distinguishes them. The New Birth functions along the same principles - with obviously far richer meaning. There is obviously a life to live following the new birth - a life that we call "sanctification". (Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13) Why else does God command things in scripture? To show us that only He can supply the strength to carry them out and to show us that we are responsible for carrying them out.  

Is it no wonder then that we are told what is expected of someone who has been born again. Notice Colossians 3:2 "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." 
When you and I set our minds upon the One who saved us, called us and was responsible for our salvation, we are "living" the life. As you and I set our priorities where Christ is above, the things here below will find their proper order. Jesus himself states in Matthew 6:33  "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." 

The new birth is not about getting eternal life and then biding one's time until Jesus comes. The New Birth comes from God and involves faith and repentance from the heart that would be impossible apart from the Spirit's supernatural work. Only when someone has been born again can the instructions written out in Colossians 3:1-2 be carried out in willful obedience.

Closing thoughts:
We have looked today at what we called "the Christian's birth certificate" in Colossians 3:1-2. By noting what is written in Colossians 3:1-2 and other scriptures, we saw the following truths that correspond to spelling out the Christian's birth certificate, the Word of God:

1. God is the Father of the new birth
2. The scriptures are the mother of the new birth
3. Jesus Christ is the attending physcian of the new birth
4. The Holy Spirit superintends the new birth
5. New living ought to spring forth from the new birth

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