When Nicodemus came to the Lord Jesus at night, Christ told him in John 3v3, Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God and Christ after his bodily resurrection told his disciples in Mark 16v15, Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel. So what is this New Birth and who accomplishes it? And what is this Gospel that is to be preached and by who?
The New Birth simply put is God makes alive those who are spiritually dead, Ephesians 2v1-5 says, and you (Christians) hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…. Verse 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by Grace are ye saved. Because of mankind’s fall into sin, men and women are spiritually dead. Therefore unregenerated man can no more choose Christ or see spiritual truth than someone who is physically dead. Unfortunately some today seem to think that man is spiritually sick or impaired, but Scripture is quite clear that mankind is spiritually dead. The New Birth is then something that God does and not man. We cry like Jonah from the belly of the great fish, that Salvation is of the LORD or like Paul writing to the Roman believers in ch.9v16, so then it is not of him that willeth, (desires) nor of him that runneth (works) but of God that showeth mercy, or again Paul writing in 2 Timothy 1v9, God hath saved us, and called us with a Holy calling, not according to our works but according to His purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
The Bible teaches that salvation is the work of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each working together and yet accomplishing different aspects of this one great Salvation, 1 Peter 1v2 says, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. God the Father ordained and planned our salvation, Ephesians 1v4 He (God) chose us in Him before the foundation of the world; John’s Gospel tells us, that no man can come to Christ except the Father draw him (John 6v44) and that no man can come to Christ, except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6v65) and Christ speaking about his people said My Father which gave them to me is greater than all: (John 10v29). Finally, one just needs to read John 17 to see the Father’s part in man’s salvation.
Secondly God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished this great salvation by dying on the cross at Calvary, bearing the sins of his people, appeasing the Wrath of God for those sins and reconciling those sinners back to God. Writing approximately 750 years before Calvary the prophet Isaiah in ch53 tells us of a suffering servant who was wounded for our transgressions, and was bruised for our iniquities (v5). He tells us that this servant is brought as a lamb to the slaughter (v7). That he was cut off (killed) out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken (v8). Verse 10 of the prophecy tells us, that it pleased the LORD (Jehovah) to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. The New Testament reveals that Christ is this Suffering Servant (Matthew 8v17; John 12v38; Hebrews 9v28; Revelation 5v6 and 12; and Revelation 13 v8. In fact Isaiah 53 is referred to 85 times in the New Testament and they are all interpreted to Christ and his work.
Thirdly, God the Holy Spirit applies this salvation that has been ordained of the Father and accomplished by the Son. Christ speaking to Nicodemus in John 3v5 says, except a man be born of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. We are renewed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3v5). We live by the Spirit (Galatians 5v25). The Spirit gives life (John 6v63). The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ (1 Corinthians 12v13). Both repentance and faith come by the Holy Spirit. One of the main offices of the Holy Spirit is to convict men and women of their sin. Christ speaking to the disciples in the upper room on the night of his betrayal, said in John 16 v8, and when He (the Holy Spirit) is come, He will reprove (or convince) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement.
We could continue to quote more Scripture but hopefully I have given enough to show that it is God and God alone that saves fallen man and for that we give Him all the praise, honour and glory.
The question that now needs to be asked is Does God need a hand from the vessels of clay that he has saved. God in His infinite wisdom has chosen the means by which this glorious message of salvation is to be delivered; it is by those who have been gloriously saved. Paul writing to the believers in Corinth says in 1Cor. 1v17 that Christ sent him to preach the Gospel and Christ told his disciples in Mark 16v15 that they were to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Paul writing to the Christians at Corinth in ch1 v21 says, For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Therefore if we are his disciples then we also must preach the gospel for the great commission applies to us just as it did the early disciples nearly 2000 years ago. The gospel that we preach is still the same that Paul preached to the Corinthians; For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (1 Cor.15 v3-4) and for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with the wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (1Cor.1v17-18). I have no doubts that just as God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Matthew 3v9) that he could raise stones up to preach His gospel but instead he has chosen us His children to participate in this great task.
Unfortunately that is not what is happening today in evangelical circles. What we have now is a promise of benefits to help us along life’s way to make the journey a bit smoother, instead of a turning to God and a turning away from self, what the Bible calls repentance. Man in his great wisdom has removed the cross from his message, he has removed the Wrath of God from his message, he has removed Romans 3v23 from his message, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and contrived a salvation by works in spite of the scriptures telling us in Isaiah 64v6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. But man is not only content in defying God by changing the message; he as also decided that God needs a hand in the New Birth. No longer are we content in preaching another gospel but we have also trespasses on the office of the Holy Spirit. Scripture is quite clear that it is the Holy Spirit that convicts men of sin (John 16v8) but man has created the 20-minute appeal with its endless repetition of the Charlotte Elliott song “ just as I am without one plea” or some other soothing music. We have introduced the raising of the hand to indicate that we are coming to Christ, which is somehow now become synonymous with salvation, or the signing of the card or repeating the “sinners prayer”. None of these things are scriptural and none of these things save and yet we continue to use them. Resulting in a vast majority of men and women being deluded into believing that they are saved only to find that they are no different than before and then returning to the life they had before disillusioned with God, with the things of God and with the church who promised much and delivered nothing but broken promises. We do not plead with men to be saved, we plead with God that he will save men.
We need to realise again that it is only the Triune God that can bring forth real life, which will result in a sanctified life showing forth the fruit of the Spirit in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance against such there is no law (Gal.5v22-23). To those who witness and preach remember we are responsible for proclaiming the Gospel we are not responsible for results.
Most American evangelicals are familiar with what Billy Graham does at the end of his preaching, calling people to walk to the front. Sometimes these are called “invitations.” Sometimes “altar calls.” When you look for something like this in the Bible there is no clear example… If you ask what the decisive, public way of taking a Christian stand was in the New Testament, the answer is, baptism. The message Peter gave in Acts 2 ended with the words, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Our renewed conviction is that we need to regularly offer baptism as the decisive public way for people to respond publicly to the gospel.
Sermon: I Baptize You With Water, Matthew 3, May 4, 1997, By Permission of www.DesiringGod.org.
Disciples are not made going forward to an altar, but by being baptized (Mt. 28:19)! This is the biblical way in which repentant sinners…publicly declare their faith in Jesus Christ (Ac. 2:41; 16:15, 31-33).
The Word and Sacrament in Worship, Tabletalk, Jan. 2005, p. 12. Used by Permission.
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