Torrey - Man -6.1- What is the New Birth?

I. WHAT IS THE NEW BIRTH? 2 Corinthians 5:17 — "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Galatians 6:15 — "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."

First Proposition: The new birth is a new creation. 1 John 3:14 RV — "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death." Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 RV — "And you did he quicken, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins .... But God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved)."

Second Proposition: The new birth is a passing out of death into life, the impartation of life to men dead through trespasses and sins.

It is evident that baptism is not the same as the new birth. The language used above does not fit baptism. One of the passages given ( Galatians 6:15) expressly contrasts the new birth with an outward ceremonial.

The same thing is evident from 1 Corinthians 4:15 — "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." Here Paul tells the saints in Corinth that he had begotten them again. If baptism were the new birth, this must mean that Paul had baptized them. But in 1 Corinthians 1:14,17 ("I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius: . . . For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect"), Paul says he had not baptized them. Clearly the new birth is not baptism.

That baptism is not the same as the new birth is clear also from Acts 8:13, 20-23 — "Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done .... But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."

In this passage we are told that Simon was "baptized," but that he was "in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity," and bound for perdition.

Compare also Luke 23:43 — "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise" with John 3:3, — "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God .... Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

QUESTION: If baptism is not the same as the new birth, to what does the word "water" in John 3:5 refer?

ANSWER: Let us look elsewhere and see what are the agents and instruments by which the work of regeneration is wrought: 1 Peter 1:23 — "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." James 1:18 — "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." 1 Corinthians 4:15 — "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." Titus 3:5 — "Not by works of righteousness which ye have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

In these passages we see that regeneration is wrought by the word and Spirit of God. In . John 3:5 (cited above), we have the Spirit. Can the "water" be taken to mean "the word" without forcing the language?

Compare to Ephesians 5:25-26 — "Husband, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." It has been said that the Greek word translated "word" here in Ephesians, is a different word from the word translated "word" when the Word of God is spoken of. But see 1 Peter 1:25. Here the same Greek word that is translated "word" in Ephesians 5:26 is used twice of "the Word of God," and that, too, in direct connection with regeneration by the word. See also John 15:3 — "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." See also John 17:17 — "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."

But some may ask, Why didn't Jesus say plainly, "Except a man be born of the word and the Spirit"? The answer to this is simple. The whole passage is highly figurative. The word translated "the Spirit" is itself figurative, meaning literally "wind" and is without the definite article. Literally translated, the passage would read, "Except any one be begotten out of water and wind." In this the wind symbolizes the vivifying element, the Holy Spirit. (Compare to Ezekiel 37:9-10.) Naturally, therefore, "the water" symbolizes the cleansing element, the "word." (Compare to John 15:3.) The passage thus reduced to unfigurative language would read, "Except any man be born of the word of God and the Spirit of God." Thus, we would have Jesus teaching the doctrine afterwards taught by Paul and James and Peter ( 1 Corinthians 4:15; Titus 3:5 James 1:18; Peter 1:23).

Another interpretation suggested takes both water and wind as symbols of the Spirit, the one setting forth his cleansing work and the other His quickening work. It matters very little, as far as Bible doctrine is concerned, which interpretation we accept: for whether or not the doctrine that men are begotten again by the Word is found here, it certainly is found elsewhere ( James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 Corinthians 4:15). And if the cleansing work of the Spirit is not found here, it is found elsewhere.

Indeed, whatever work you find attributed to the Holy Spirit in the Bible, you will also find attributed to the Word. This is because the Spirit works through the word. The word is the sword of the Spirit ( Ephesians 6:17).

If it is still insisted that the water here refers to baptism, it is evident that mere water baptism is not regeneration, for the passage says, "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit." It is clear that baptism is not the same as new birth.

It is also evident that the new birth is not a mere outward change of conduct. The language used above does not fit this. Romans 12:2 — "and be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Titus 3:5 — "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

Third Proposition: The new birth brings about a renewal of the mind.

The word for mind here includes thoughts, feelings, and purposes. 2 Peter 1:4 RV — "Whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust."

Fourth Proposition: The new birth imparts a new nature, even God's own nature, to the one who is begotten again.

The natural or unregenerate man is intellectually blind to the truth, "the things of the Spirit" ( 1 Corinthians 2:14), corrupt in his affections ( Galatians 5:19-21), and perverse in his will ( Romans 8:7). This is the condition of every unregenerate man, no matter how cultured, refined, or outwardly moral he may be. In the new birth, God imparts to us His own wise and holy nature, a nature that thinks as God thinks ( Colossians 3:10), feels as God feels, and wills as God wills ( 1 John 3:14, 4:7-8). "Old things are passed away, behold they are become new" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 RV). Compare to Ezekiel 36:26-27: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."

The new birth is a most desirable and glorious experience. Just to think that the all-holy God comes to men sunken in sin, dead through trespasses, the vilest of sinners — blind, corrupt, perverse — and imparts to them His own wise, holy, and glorious nature! The doctrine of the new birth is one of the most precious and inspiring in the word of God.