A Popular Sermon Subject with Preachers

John W. Hedge
Longview, Texas

Perhaps there has been more preaching on the subject of "the new birth" than any other subject found in the New Testament. This might suggest to some that the preachers know all that is to be known on this subject, and that the people who have heard them preach are well informed on the subject. But quite to the contrary, this is not so, and for the following reason: Many of the preachers who have preached much on this subject declare that "the new birth" is a mystery and no man can explain how it is that he has been "born again." Naturally, this would leave their hearers in the dark concerning what the new birth is and how it is brought about. If the new birth is a mystery -- if we cannot fully comprehend what it is--and no explanation of it is to be found in the bible, I wonder why this would be such a popular subject with the preachers. Is it popular because they think it is a mystery and that their hearers like to hear them preach on things which they know nothing about? How could such preaching be informative, hence edifying? I leave the reader to draw his own conclusions about such preaching.

Our Lord introduced the doctrine of "the new birth" first to the Jewish ruler, Nicodemus, as reported in - Jno. 3:1-8. Nicodemus marveled at such teaching and ask, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Our Lord clarified this matter by stating that it was a birth of "water and the Spirit" and not a fleshly birth to which he referred. But he did not offer any explanation as to what he meant by being "born of water and the Spirit." The question is here raised, why didn't Christ explain this matter to Nicodemus? There is good reason why he did not do so, as follows:

First, it was prophesied of Christ that he would open his mouth "in parables and dark sayings." (See Psa. 78:1-2. Matt. 13: 34-35.) Had he explained what he meant fully by being "born again" to Nicodemus, this prophecy would have failed to be fulfilled. Our Lord's teachings in "parables and sayings" during his personal ministry were not intended to be fully understood at that time. The full meaning of such was to be brought to light through the revelations of the Holy Spirit and through the agency of the apostles and prophets of The New Testament age.

Second, when Jesus talked to Nicodemus about the new birth, the kingdom of God had not been established upon the earth. Hence to explain at that time to him how one is born of the water and the Spirit would have been premature. Jesus introduced the subject of the new birth to Nicodemus, but explained only its nature and necessity to him.

Third, it is significant that after the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, as reported in Acts Second chapter, not once in all their preaching and teaching did they instruct people to "be born again." Does this mean that they ignored our Lord's teaching on this subject? Certainly not. But it does mean that they, in instructing the unsaved ones how to be saved from their sins or become God's children, did not speak "in parables and dark sayings." They used great plainness of speech in instructing people in this matter.

Fourth, when people ask Peter and the rest of the apostles on the day of Pentecost what to do to be saved, Peter made reply saying, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit".(Acts 2:38.) Verse 41 of this chapter tells us that the people "gladly heard his word and were baptized." Now were these people "born again"? I do not think that any one would deny it, for later when Peter wrote to the Christian people of his day he said, "Having been born again, not of corruptible seed, hut of incorruptible by the word of God." (1 Pet. 1:23.) The New Testament recognizes in many places the existence of God's children--those who had been "born again"--in the days of the apostles.

Fifth, there is the old saying that "things which equal the same thing, are therefore, equal to each other." One cannot be a child Of God without being saved from his sins, and one cannot be a child of Cod without being "born again." It must follow, therefore that for one to be saved from his sins is the same thing as to be "born again." If one may be saved without being "born again," then the new birth would be a non-essential, and yet Jesus said without it one can neither "see": nor "enter the kingdom of God." The preacher who cannot tell you what to do to be "born again" cannot for the same reason tell you what to do to be saved. A birth always carries with it the idea of a deliverance from one state or condition to another and that is exactly what salvation means. It is just that simple. Acts 2:38 is an explanation of Jno. 3:3-5. It is the best commentary I know of on the subject of the new birth.

TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 43, pp. 10-11