Misconceptions About the New Birth
by Dick Blackford
Guardian of Truth Volume XXIX: 5, pp. 144-149, March 7, 1985
I receive the Sword Of The Lord, a Baptist publication which
claims to be the largest religious weekly in America. In a recent
article on the new birth, the above caption was highlighted in the
middle of the article. It jumped out at me. Never have I seen so
much false doctrine taught in such a small space. That is the
nature of error, especially since one need not (cannot) list
Scriptures which teach the views expressed.
Some of my best friends and favorite relatives are Baptists. By examining the five short statements made, it is certainly not my intention to hurt them. This is not an attack on people but an investigation of a view that affects our eternal salvation. We should not fear investigation and we cannot afford to be wrong on this issue.
1. The New Birth Is A Miracle
A miracle is a supernatural, instantaneous occurrence that
supersedes the normal. It is an open, obvious thing for which there
is no earthly explanation. In the vegetable kingdom God created the
first plants. He then set in order the law of reproduction, whereby
God does not need to keep creating plants full-grown. By merely
sowing the seed a plant is reproduced. God's law of reproduction is
a marvelous thing, but it is not a miracle.
In the animal kingdom and the human kingdom, it works similarly. God created the first animals and the first humans. But when we want additional animals or desire children in the family, we do not expect God to miraculously make another dog or cat, nor do we expect Him to create another baby from the dust or from a woman's rib. Instead, God's law of reproduction is that when the male seed is sown in the womb of a female, offspring is produced. It is a marvelous thing, but it happens according to law.
In the spiritual kingdom, miracles were involved in the beginning of the age (Acts 2; I Corinthians 12:28). Some had miraculous knowledge and ability in the infancy of the church. But God set up a law of reproduction which involves the sowing of the seed (the word of God, Luke 8:11) into good soil (the mind of man, Luke 8:8,15). The good seed in the good soil germinates, producing faith, repentance, confession and baptism. Through the teaching of the Spirit, a man is led to obey. "Except a man be born of water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom...." Just as we cannot see what causes the seed to germinate in the plant, animal, and human kingdoms, neither can we see this in the spiritual realm. But it happens according to God's spiritual law rather than miraculously.
2. The Mind Cannot Comprehend It
This is partially true, if one means we cannot comprehend the
knowledge and the power of God which brought about the new birth.
But by "being rooted and grounded in love," we may be "strong to
apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and
height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth all
knowledge..." (Ephesians 3:17,18). There was a time when it was needful
for Jesus to speak in figurative language about the new birth (John
3), since some wanted to take Him by force and make Him a king and
others wanted to take Him by force and crucify Him. However, Jesus
later taught that being "born into the kingdom" meant the same as
being "converted" (Mt. 18:3) and "doing the will" of His Father
(Matthew 7:21). His apostles taught that being in Christ made one a "new creature" (born again, II Corinthians 5:17). One is said to be "baptized into Christ" (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). They also taught that
one is raised from baptism to walk in "newness of life" (born
again, Romans 6:4).
If this cannot be comprehended, why did Christ and the Apostles explain it? Why are we admonished to study it (II Tim. 2:15)? Such would be an exercise in futility and reduce the biblical exhortations to absurdity.
3. The Tongue Cannot Tell It
Jesus told it, as we have previously shown. The apostles also told it. If we tell the same thing they told, then we are telling it.
4. One's Vocabulary Cannot Express It
Certainly the tongue cannot tell what the vocabulary cannot express. And there are some things that fit in that category. For example, the "peace of God passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). But if the tongue cannot tell it and the vocabulary cannot express it, then how can we preach it? Men are not preaching the new birth when they say these things about it. Jesus and the apostles had the vocabulary to express it. If we study what they taught and say what they said, then we can express it. But how many denominational preachers are willing to say what Peter said in Acts 2:38 or I Peter 3:21?
5. But The Heart Can Feel It
The Bible never says this. Very little emphasis is put on
feelings in connection with conversion. From the Scriptures and
from experience, we should be overwhelmed with the knowledge that
feelings often mislead. Saul of Tarsus felt saved. He thought
Christ was an imposter and Christianity was a hoax. The followers
of Jim Jones felt right about what they were doing. We are
impressed with the devotion of Paul and others for wrong causes.
The way we can know we have been born again is not by a "good
feeling" but by whether we have taken all (not part) Christ and the
apostles taught about salvation and obeyed it. If you have taken
faith but have neglected obedience to the Lord in baptism (Acts
22:16; Romans 6:3-5), regardless of how you feel, you have not been
born again ("new creature," "newness of life," etc., II Corinthians 5:17;
Rejoicing (good feelings) were mentioned in some cases of conversion, after baptism (Acts 8:39; 16:34). This is not evidence, but a byproduct of salvation. Measure your actions by the word, not your feelings.