By Lewis Willis
Jesus taught the Jewish ruler Nicodemus “except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). As a result of this teaching, there can be no doubt about the necessity of a new birth if a man has any desire to go to Heaven. The apostle Peter expanded upon this teaching, affirming, “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23). From this, we discover that the birth envisioned is a spiritual birth. Nicodemas, at first, could not understand “born again” because he was thinking of a physical birth. He knew such to be impossible. But not so, spiritually speaking.
The new birth is the process by which we pass from spiritual death to spiritual life. The apostle Paul declares that Christ has “quickened” or made alive those who were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2: 1). As a consequence of the new birth those who were dead in sin (thus, separated from God) are now said to be “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:2). Being, then, dead to sin, such do not live any longer therein. The life they live is declared to be new. The watery burial of baptism is the transition point. Hear the apostle Paul: “Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). The new life does not begin until the new birth has occurred – that is only reasonable. Thus, Paul calls this born again individual a 6 4 new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). This new creature is blessed with the opportunity of entering that wonderful realm, as the poet said, “of beginning again.” He is a Christian, a child of God, a citizen in the kingdom of Heaven and a member of the body of Christ. Such should be the pursuit of every responsible individual.
Simple enough, right? Wrong! Maybe it is a throwback to the Jimmy Carter days when everyone was talking about the “born again Christian,” as though there were some other kind of Christian. Or, perhaps some folks have just discovered the Bible teaching about the new birth and are trying to implement it. Whatever, the “boat of truth” has already sailed and they are still on the dock, or, they fell off of the gangplank.
To illustrate this fact, The Akron Beacon Journal (1/10/83) printed the following short article: “The Episcopal Church in Los Angeles is tackling religious competition head-on. In a television advertisement geared to Southern California Christians of all persuasions, the welcome mat could hardly be more expansive: ‘The Episcopal Church welcomes you – regardless of race, creed, color or the number of times you have been born.’
“Inspiration was hardly divine; the words were created by a group of Episcopalians at St. Luke’s Church in Minneapolis.”
Several things occurred to me when I read this article. The TV ads are said to be geared to “Christians of all persuasions.” This, of course, refers to the so-called Baptist Christians, Methodist Christians, Catholic Christians, etc. I wonder if they would welcome Jewish Christians, Hindu Christians or Atheist Christians? This Baskin-Robbins, 31-flavors of Christians is a concept that is foreign to the teaching of the Word of God and is as phony as a three dollar bill. As for me, I’ll just remain a plain ole vanilla, New Testament-type Christian.
Adventurism in advertising might sell products, but it obviously does great injury to the teaching of the Scriptures. The words for the ad are said to have been “created” by a group of Episcopalians. I would be willing to testify to the truthfulness of this declaration. I assure you, neither the words nor the idea came from the New Testament.
But the part that really gets me is the welcome regardless “of the number of times you have been born.” How many times can a person be born into the family of God? Obviously the same number of times you can be born into your father’s physical family. I would like to think that the words were selected by the St. Luke’s Church pre-school class. However, they probably came from the long-studied theology of her preachers. I was just thinkin’ – to say you are welcome no matter how many times you have been born is about as logical as saying you are welcome no matter how.many heads you’ve got. But let us be careful in making such suggestions, they may show up in a church. TV ad campaign.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 16, p. 488
August 18, 1983