(2 Corinthians 5:17)
“ 17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”
One of the most fundamental teachings of Christianity is that in Christ we are born again as a new creation in Him.
Christianity is about a journey. It’s about finding the way to God through Jesus Christ. And every journey starts with a beginning; a first step.
In Jesus Christ we start that journey through repenting and seeking Jesus Christ as our Saviour. As we then walk with Him we go through the processes that re-create us out of the image of mankind, bound under sin, and into the image of Jesus Christ who is the image of perfection; the image of God. It is in that process of re-creation that we are born again as a new creation. So let us look at this new creation and the process of being made a new creation in Jesus Christ.
As indicated above, when a person first comes to Christ one of the very first steps a person takes and MUST take is the step of repentance.
When John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples all began their ministries, the first thing each of them preached was repentance. Repentance is the beginning of our walks with Christ and it is the very beginning of the process of being born again a new creation.
Many people think that repentance is just about being sorry and asking forgiveness for our sins. And this is true, but it is only part of the story.
The Greek word that is translated as repentance (”metanoia”) is deeper than just being sorry. It translates more accurately meaning “to change your mind.”
To change your mind is to change your life. When you change the way you think you change the way you approach life and by extension you turn your life around. This is why repentance is such an important first step in the new creation process. You cannot become a new creation in Jesus Christ without changing the way you think and without turning your life around. The first focus is to turn away from the evil ways of this world and to turn away from sin. Repentance is the means by which we do this.
But repentance is only a first step in the journey.
If you look at the Great Commission you will see there are three key elements. The first step is to make disciples, and that includes the call to repent. The next step is baptism.
Jesus was quite adamant about people being baptised. He made th point of requiring water baptism as one of the three key elements of the Great Commission. He also ensured He was baptised Himself to provide us an example. Jesus did not need to be baptised for the remission of sin because He never sinned. But He did it for our purposes as an example and He made the statement to John the Baptist:
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. (Matthew 3:13-15)
One of the first things we see in this conversation between John the Baptist and Jesus, is that Jesus made a point that it was essential for Him to be baptised. Why was it so important? Because He said it was through water baptism that we shall fulfil ALL righteousness.
To meet the requirements of righteousness we must follow the example of Jesus and be baptised in water. The essence of water baptism is that in it, we first die with Jesus and we take on His death as our own, and then we are resurrected and reborn with Him as new creations in Christ. Consider these words that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus:
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicode’mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3-5)
Jesus says that the only way a person can see and enter the kingdom of God is to be born anew. Nicodemus asks the logical question…how? Jesus then explains that the process of being born anew as a new creation is to be born of water and the Holy Spirit.
Being born of water occurs at the point of baptism as discussed above. When a person is raised out of the baptismal waters they are being reborn, born anew, and made a new creation in Christ Jesus.
But as you see from the verses in John 3 above, it’s not just water baptism that is required to enter the kingdom of God. There are two parts to this rebirth. Jesus said, “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” This brings us to the third and final part of becoming a new creation…receiving the Holy Spirit.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
Being born again of the Holy Spirit is the third essential part of the rebirth, as stated by Jesus. We are reborn of the spirit when we receive the Holy Spirit, who was promised to be poured out on all the sons and daughters of God according to the words of the prophet Joel.
Jesus received the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove alighting on Him as He came up from the waters of baptism.
Now many people today believe that since Jesus received the Holy Spirit in this way, that is how people receive the spirit today. But this is untrue as we see in other scriptures.
The most often referred to way the early disciples received the Holy Spirit was when the first disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In their case the Holy Spirit came upon them as flames of fire and with the sound of rushing winds. What is more interesting is that as they received the Holy Spirit they all began to speak in tongues and prophesy and extol the wondrous works of God. This was how the earliest disciples first received the Holy Spirit, but still it was not the only way that people were born again of the spirit.
The most common method by which people received the Holy Spirit, and it is the way most people receive the Holy Spirit still today, is through the laying on of hands and prayer. There are several references to this in the New Testament, including how Paul himself received the Holy Spirit, but I will quote just one example here when the early disciples in Ephesus received the Holy Spirit through laying on if hands by the apostle Paul.
1 While Apol’los was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)
There are a few important points that come out of this small section of scripture.
First we see that these Ephesian disciples were believers and had been through the baptism of REPENTANCE as preached by John the Baptist. But then we see Paul explain that the baptism of John was not the “born again of water” baptism, but rather they needed to be baptised again in the name of Jesus Christ. It is by being baptised into Jesus Christ that we are born again of water.
Next we note that Paul asks the disciples whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They said they hadn’t, and explained they knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. So at that point they were believers and had been baptised, but still had not received the Holy Spirit. It is no different today. Just because a person believes and is baptised does not mean they have received the Holy Spirit. I know this may be contrary to what many people think and believe today, but this is what the Bible says.
So how did they receive the Holy Spirit? We see in verse 6 after Paul had baptised them in teh name of the Lord Jesus, Paul then laid hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit came on them. How did they know they had received the Holy Spirit? It was attested that they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
And so we see there is this three stage process, aptly described in the verses quoted above, where a person must repent, be baptised in water and then receive the Holy Spirit. This is the completing of how we become a new creation in Jesus Christ. All three steps must occur otherwise the process defined by Christ is not complete and we have not fulfilled all the requirements of righteousness to be born anew as a new creation.
So I ask you these questions:
Have you repented and changed your thinking to change your life?
Have you been baptised in water into the death of Jesus Christ and in the name of the Lord Jesus?
Have you received the Holy Spirit and are you certain you have received the Holy Spirit?
These are all important because if we are to live with Christ we have to come to Him according to His terms and His process. We cannot come to Him on our terms thinking we can fake it or only go half way. We need ALL of these things to take place because there is much, much more to follow.
This rebirth is exactly that; just a beginning. There is much more to follow because we are only beginning our walk with Christ and if we are to walk with Him we must come prepared according to what His word requires. There is much more to be said about the ongoing journey, and without all of these foundational things in place, the walk will be incredibly difficult.
You are a new creation and you must be re-created anew in accordance with the ways and the will of God. To be anything other or to follow any path other than that described above will cause you greater hardship as you walk.
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