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Lowell Brueckner

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You Must Be Born Again! Part IV


In the last section we studied about the new creation and then about being partakers of the divine nature. We continue now by considering how the individual is a partaker and then how the church as a body demonstrates the divine nature. 

Once again, we look to some men of God to help us get a better understanding of the new birth. I have added my thoughts concerning it. You may copy this article unto your computer and add your own. Please study carefully this extremely important subject and let it motivate you to call upon God for a fresh demonstration of His power in granting new birth to people in our generation. They must be born again!

A. On a personal level. Gal.2:20 (KJV)… “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul is talking here again of the new birth, the resurrected life in Christ. First, however, he speaks of a crucifixion, which he experienced and he is referring to his old self. Christ not only took sin to the cross, but also the old man, the fallen nature of Adam. “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with” (Ro.6:6). This gives further proof that a person, who is born-again, does not continue to walk in sin. And now, according to God’s desire, the characteristics of His Son shine through, because actually He lives within. I hold to the King James translation here, that the faith is not in, but of the Son of God. We will look at this more thoroughly later.  

Barnes: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Co.5:17). “The phrase to “be in Christ,” evidently means to be united to Christ by faith; or to be in him as the branch is in the vine - that is, so united to the vine, or so in it, as to derive all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it.” (Jn.15:2) 

Ro.8:8-9… Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” To be “in the flesh” means to be governed by the flesh, as to be “in the Spirit” means to be governed by the Spirit. Here we see the need for the new birth. Two things were necessary to bring us to reconciliation with God. First of all the sin barrier had to be brought down and therefore Christ died for our sins to bring us to God, according to 1 Peter 3:18. There could be no compatibility with God for someone, who is “in the flesh”. The fleshly nature is totally contrary to the nature of God, “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God” (Ro.6:7) and, as Paul states here, those in that condition cannot please God. But now, we are in need of the positive power to make it possible for us to commune with God. The Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ comes into the life that is washed by the blood of Christ and in whom the body of sin has been destroyed and that person is no longer in the flesh. The holiness principle lives within him, without which no one will see the Lord. He is born again and everyone who belongs to God has the Spirit dwelling in him.  

Henry: The Spirit dwelling in us is the best evidence of our being in the Spirit, for the indwelling is mutual (1Jo_4:16): Dwelleth in God, and God in him. The Spirit visits many that are unregenerate with his motions, which they resist and quench; but in all that are sanctified he dwells; there he resides and rules. He is there as a man at his own house, where he is constant and welcome, and has the dominion. Shall we put this question to our own hearts, Who dwells, who rules, who keeps house, here?”  

1 Jn. 5:11-12… “The testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” Salvation is not some thing, some nice gift that God has given to us and expects us to take care of. Salvation is Someone; God has given to us His Son to take care of us, because we never could take care of ourselves. “He who was born of God keeps him,” said John just a few verses later (v.18). Christ living in us is our only hope, but not in the sense that we often use the word hope. We use it as a synonym for wish, but that is not hope in the Bible sense. Hope in the Bible is a sure future. It is not a goal, but a destiny that lies before us, because of the finished work of the cross and because Christ takes personal care for each of His own.  

Col.1:26-27… “The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is our life and His life, shining through us, is our testimony. To be a good testimony, doesn’t mean only that we testify or witness. It doesn’t only mean that we are nice people with a moral lifestyle. If we do not bear witness to the Christ living within us and his attributes coming from us, then we are failures as witnesses. There is something supernatural about every true Christian. Paul said that he was crucified and than now the life that he lived was that of the Christ, who lived within him. “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” It was not Paul’s faith. The disciples asked Jesus for more faith, but Jesus spoke of the faith of a grain of mustard seed… not more faith, but a different kind of faith that can move mountains. A very good literal translation of Mark 11:22 is “Have the faith of God.”  

The fruit of the Spirit is not human life perfected and brought to a high level, it is the result of the Holy Spirit living in a human being and manifesting Himself through him. Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn.14:27). Then He said,“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you…” (Jn.15:11, see also 17:3). It was not going to be their peace and joy, but His. He also gave them His love: “Abide in My love” (Jn.15:9). This was His prayer to the Father: “That the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn.17:26). In the last chapter of John’s Gospel, He tests Peter concerning His love (Jn.21:15-17) (a good translation will distinguish between the two Greek words that are used for love in this portion…agapao and phileo.) Peter, as well as every one of us will fail in feeding Christ’s flock, if we are not motivated by agapao. Phileo will never do. The only thing that may bring the world to faith is Christ living in human vessels: “As You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me… I in them and You in Me… so that the world may know that You sent Me…” (Jn.17:21,23)             

Clarke: He that hath the Son hath life - As the eternal life is given in the Son of God, it follows that it cannot be enjoyed without him. No man can have it without having Christ; therefore he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life. It is in vain to expect eternal glory, if we have not Christ in our heart. The indwelling Christ gives both a title to it, and a meetness for it. This is God’s record. Let no man deceive himself here. An indwelling Christ and Glory; no indwelling Christ, No glory. God’s record must stand. 

JFB: It is in the second Adam, the Son of God, that this life is secured to us, which, if left to depend on us, we should lose, like the first Adam. 

Wiersbe:  “The Greek verbs translated put off and put on (Col_3:9-10) indicate a once-for-all action. When we trust Christ, we put off the old life and put on the new. The old man has been buried, and the new man is now in control. But the verb translated “renewed” is a present participle — “who is constantly being renewed.” The crisis of salvation leads to the process of sanctification, becoming more like Jesus Christ… How does this renewal come about? Through knowledge. The word knowledge was one of the key terms in the vocabulary of the gnostics. But their so-called spiritual knowledge could never change a person’s life to make him like Christ. The better he gets to know Christ, the more he becomes like Him (Phi_3:10)… God’s purpose for us is that we be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom_8:29). This refers to character, the spiritual quality of the inner man. When we see Jesus Christ, we shall be like Him and have glorified bodies (1Jo_3:1-3); but while we are waiting for Him to return, we can become like Him and share His holy image. This is a process of constant renewing as the Spirit of God uses the Word of God. ” 

Col.1:27… “To whom (to His saints) God willed to make know what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It was a mystery in past ages and it remains a mystery to the unconverted. The natural man without the Spirit cannot know the mysteries of God, (they are mysteries to him) because they come only with supernatural help. For that reason they are only known and understood by “the saints”… the believers, who have been cleansed and set apart for God, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. It was the purpose and pleasure of God to have this knowledge effectively experienced in Gentiles and diffused among the Gentiles throughout the world as a testimony to all nations.  

It is defined by these words… the riches of the glory. Start by considering the glory of it. Glory means quality, something that not only exists, but is a high form of existence. Peter speaks of man and his glory as the grass and the flower… the glory is the flower. Glory is something that shines, that glows from a matter, so that the rays reach beyond the body itself. Glory is a benefit, such as light and warmth, by which man lives and enjoys life. Light illuminates the life and makes it see and walk in that which is worthwhile. Warmth brings comfort and feeling to the soul, burning within him.

Then think of the richness of this glory… the worth and the abundance of it. The worth is beyond compare. There is no earthly glory that is anything like this and it is given without measure. There are no limits to it; there is always more. Now, what is he talking about? He is talking about the life of Christ within the saint and he proclaims this as the hope of glory. He that has the Son has life; we have studied that lesson, but here we learn that he that has the Son has hope. It is the only hope.  

We have learned that hope in the Bible is not a wish, but a sure future. It is hope because it is future, but it is a future that is absolutely sure. Here we see why it is sure and the reason is because Christ lives within us, which some have well-phrased “the Christ-life”. His life within us guarantees our destiny. All doubt is taken away and all questions are dismissed, when Christ comes to live and reign in a human being. Nothing could be surer and nothing could be more glorious. It is the epitome of human experience. Paul preached this among the Gentiles and called it the “unsearchable riches of Christ”… quantity and quality beyond comprehension.  This is the will of God, therefore come in. You are not trespassing, when you enter. You are there by invitation and the table is prepared for you. You only magnify His good benevolence and generosity when you respond.  

JFB: Now you have “Christ in you the hope of the glory” just mentioned. Alford translates, “Christ among you,” to answer to “this mystery among the Gentiles.” But the whole clause, “Christ IN you (Eph_3:17) the hope of glory,” answers to “this mystery,” and not to the whole sentence, “this mystery among the Gentiles.” What is made known “among you Gentiles” is, “Christ in you (now by faith as your hidden life, Col_3:3; Gal_2:20) the hope of glory” (your manifested life). The contrast (antithesis) between “CHRIST IN YOU” now as your hidden life, and “the hope of glory” hereafter to be manifested, requires this translation.” 

JFB’s point brings out, I believe, the correct translation of Jesus’ words, “The Kingdom of God is within you” and it should not be interpreted “among you”. 2Co_4:7…  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” 

Clarke: “In this and the following verse there are several remarkable particulars: - I. We find here the sum and substance of the apostle’s preaching.

1. He preached Christ, as the only Savior of sinners.

2. He proclaimed this Christ as being in them; for the design of the Gospel is to put men in possession of the Spirit and power of Christ, to make them partakers of the Divine nature, and thus prepare them for an eternal union with himself. Should it be said that the preposition εν should be translated among, it amounts to the same; for Christ was among them, to enlighten, quicken, purify, and refine them, and this he could not do without dwelling in them.

3. He preached this present and indwelling Christ as the hope of glory; for no man could rationally hope for glory who had not the pardon of his sins, and whose nature was not sanctified; and none could have pardon but through the blood of his cross; and none could have glorification but through the indwelling, sanctifying Spirit of Christ.” 

2 Corinthians 13:5… “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?” Paul is challenging the Corinthians to a test; it is the most important and vital test, which they would ever undertake. It determines whether or not Jesus Christ is in them, meaning whether or not they are born-again. The Holy Spirit, through this written word, brings the test into our times, where evangelism is so weak in substance, where many spurious conversions have resulted and there are so many reasons to doubt whether or not true salvation has occurred.  

The text seems to indicate that Paul felt that the examination of their lives would bring recognition that Christ did indeed live within them, but also saw that some would fail the test and find that they had experienced false hope. What in particular were the questions that they should ask themselves? Certainly, they would be the same ones that John placed before the people in his first epistle, a number of which we have already presented. John, as Paul, hoped that they would come to a positive conclusion and know that they had eternal life. However, should some fail the test, it was not with the purpose that they would despair and be condemned, but that they should awake to reality, truly come to Christ and obtain the new birth.  

Paul shows that if they do not pass the test, it would reflect on his own ministry. “I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test…” (v.6). But he goes on to show that he is not primarily concerned that his ministry has been effective, but his concern is for their welfare. “That you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved” (v.7). However, there is a connection between the effectiveness of conversion and the effectiveness of the evangelist. If people are not truly coming to Christ, there is something wrong with the presentation. That is why today, because of a faulty message and because there is a lack of the power of the anointing, a large percentage of those who respond are not truly born again. Therefore the minister also must examine the genuineness of his ministry. He must determine two things: 1) Is the content of his message on target? And 2) Is the power of the Holy Spirit upon the message? 

Henry: Hereby he intimates that, if they could prove their own Christianity, this would be a proof of his apostleship; for if they were in the faith, if Jesus Christ was in them, this was a proof that Christ spoke in him, because it was by his ministry that they did believe. He had been not only an instructor, but a father to them. He had begotten them again by the gospel of Christ. 

Clarke: Does Jesus Christ dwell in you? You have his Spirit, his power, his mind, if ye be Christians.

Wiersbe: No doubt many of the problems in the church at Corinth were caused by people who professed to be saved, but who had never repented and trusted Jesus Christ. Our churches are filled with such people today. Paul called such people reprobate, which means “counterfeit, discredited after a test.”  

In His people, the Church Romans 8:29:  “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined, to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brethren.” It is God’s purpose to bring forth a race of people, a holy nation, whose many citizens are like His Son, in whom He is well pleased (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Though there may be few, who find entrance at any locale or time, yet the overall number is great. The relationship of God to His people is the most influential relationship possible.  

Closely related to that statement, is Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians concerning salvation by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:10… “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” We are the result of His work; it is His creation, through a new birth. Within the “genes” of that new birth, there is a nature which delights to do “good works”. He wants to be clean, holy and just. The best way to understand these works, prepared by God, is to go to the two examples, Abraham and Rahab, given by James (2:21-25) to see how naturally these works were performed through faith. Their inbred faith gave physical evidence to its existence, bringing it to perfection… that is, fullness… completing it. It was seen first in Christ Jesus, the elder brother.   

The purpose of God, very clearly, is not simply to save a people from eternal damnation, but to transform them, instilling in them the new birth, with which their lifestyle can conform to the image of His Son. That is the holiness principle, without which no man may see the Lord.  

Ephesias 4:13-15… Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ… no longer to be children… we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” The Church grows up to become a mature man, bringing to pass the will of God in the new creation. It is singular, “perfect man”, but Paul is  speaking of the body of Christ, which is the church.  

James 1:18… “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”. In the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi stood in the place of the first born sons of Israel. Now James is teaching that under the New Covenant those that are born again are a specific possession of God among the entire human race. The same words are used in verse 15 and they speak of conception and birth. There lust conceives and in time delivers sin, or gives birth to sin. Then sin in its time, gives birth to death. Now in verse 18, God conceives a people in His sovereign will, as opposed to the will and lust of man, which God has no part in, and then brings them forth or gives birth to them. We see that the means used is the word of truth. “Being born again by the Word of God, which lives and abides for ever.” This is one of the good things and perfect gifts, which God gives. God only gives good things, although at times we cannot see the good in that which He gives (v.17). The means used to bring them to birth is the word of truth. The word of truth must always be preached in evangelism and it becomes the seed, the germ, to which God, working in conjunction with His word, gives life and brings it to birth. Paul told the Corinthians that by presenting the gospel to them, he became instrumental in their spiritual birth, although God, of course, was the only one who could impart life.  

These people become first fruits… we can call them, the Church. That term biblically means that they belong particularly to Him. In the Old Testament, the first fruits of harvest were offered to God and He claimed the first born of man and animal after the Egyptian Passover. All first born and first fruits were to be offered to God, plant, animal or person. The person who is not wholly consecrated to God, as a first fruit, has apparently not been brought to birth by God.  

Wiersbe: God says, “Look within and realize that you have been born from above and possess the divine nature.  Nicodemus thought he had to reenter his mother’s womb to be born again, but he was wrong. This birth is not of the flesh: it is from above (Joh_3:1-7). It is the work of God. Just as we did not generate our own human birth, we cannot generate our own spiritual birth. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it was God who performed the miracle… We are “a kind of first fruits of His creatures,” James wrote to Jewish believers, and the word first fruits would be meaningful to them. The Old Testament Jews brought the first fruits to the Lord as the expression of their devotion and obedience... Of all the creatures God has in this universe, Christians are the very highest and the finest! We share God’s nature.” 

JFB: 1 Peter 1:3…“Peter regards the historical act of Christ's resurrection as virtually effecting the regeneration. The latter sentiment would be Pauline, since Paul is wont to speak of Christians as dying and rising with Christ. Rom_7:4; Rom_6:8-11.”



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