If we would take the basics of the Christian faith seriously, then we must begin with what Jesus actually said.
Of Being Born Again

Jesus said: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

By this word Jesus teaches us that we cannot even see the kingdom of God, we cannot believe except we are first born again. To this He adds, "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:6). Being born again is strictly a work of grace, by the washing away of our sins and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Without it we can neither see and believe nor enter God's kingdom by faith

By His words Jesus teaches us two vital principles. First, we are born again by God's Spirit and therefore believe, and not the reverse. Secondly, being born again is not an experience but a divine work of grace in the soul, out of which we are saved through faith. Faith therefore is not my decision, but the fruit of grace, of being born again.

This same truth is taught in John 1:12, 13: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Those who believed on His name were saved. They believed because they were given Christ by the grace of God and therefore received Him and the gift of faith to believe and be sons of God. If we would ask how did they receive Him, the answer is not by their natural birth, nor that they chose Him, but that they were born "of God." It was solely "of God." No man cooperates with his own conception and birth, either physically or spiritually. By that grace of being born of God we are given to hear God's Word with spiritual understanding and to believe that Word. Salvation is therefore also compared to a spiritual resurrection from the dead, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live," (John 5:25).

Thus Jesus says to the unbelieving wicked, "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God" (John 8:47). Except a man be born "of God" he cannot hear and believe. One who hears is "of God," that is, he is born of God's grace, given eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to believe. To be sure the sound of the gospel reaches the natural ear of all who physically hear the preaching, and they are responsible for what they do with it in unbelief. For God made man good, able to know spiritual things in the beginning, but man fell into sin becoming spiritually deaf to the Word of God. Salvation is by grace alone by which God gives spiritually deaf ears to hear spiritual things.

Jesus Himself speaks of this when He teaches in parables. He says, 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," (Mark 4:9). When the disciples struggle with this and with why Jesus taught the people in parables, He explains it to them. "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them," (Mark 4:11, 12; Isaiah 6:10) Salvation through faith is a gift of grace. As the Savior's words clearly indicate, God does not give that gift to all nor is it the purpose of the preaching of the gospel to save all who hear. For many the Word of the gospel works judgment. Faith is God's work of grace in us. You cannot write a manual on how to be born again.

It is Jesus Who saves and that sovereignly. It is He that quickens us (makes us alive), when we are spiritually dead in sin. He does this by the power of His grace, His cross, and the Holy Spirit, that being born again we should believe and be saved. Thus He says, "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will (John 5:21). Just as surely as Jesus will raise His people from bodily death and the grave, so does He raise us from spiritual death. Does a man decide to be born? Do the dead decide to rise from the dead by their free will? Jesus truly saves! It is in that context that He says,"Verily, Verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life," (John 5:24). Are man's hearing and believing to be understood as the cause of eternal life? Not at all. Note what Jesus is really saying: hearing and believing is eternal life. He that has the one (faith) has the other (eternal life), and the reason is that he "is passed from death to life." He has been spiritually raised from the dead. Therefore he hears, believes, and necessarily "hath everlasting life" as his possession. He has this possession because Jesus quickened him, as He says, "even so the Son quickeneth whom he will," (John 5:21). This is Jesus' own explanation as is plain from the context. It is His will that saves us and not our own will.

This raises a serious question. Do you believe in this Christ, or in a false christ of man's imagination who can only save the dead if they let him? Do you believe in the almighty power of this Savior Who "quickeneth whom he will," or in one who quickens and makes men alive spiritually when they will? We may even put the issue more directly. Do you believe that Jesus is truly "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25) of the soul, as well as of the body? That is Jesus' own testimony. Is it yours?.

By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor

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