Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 1, 1963
NUMBER 13, PAGE 5,13b

This Newness Is Conditional

Herschel E. Patton

Our text declares, "IF any man be in Christ, he is a new creature...." To experience "all things new," one must be in Christ. This is accomplished through a "New Birth." Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again (anew), he cannot see the kingdom of God."

HOW one is "born anew" or becomes a "New Creature" is a matter of controversy among religious people. The difficulty is not in a lack of clearness as to what is revealed In the New Testament, but in the efforts of men to sustain certain cherished theories. Because some believe in "Inherent Total Depravity"; that men inherit a sinful condition from Adam, they say one cannot be "born anew" or become a "New Creature" without a miraculous enabling power of the Holy Spirit. This idea ignores the free moral agency of man and indicates that man is not himself responsible for not complying with the precepts of the law of God. Romans 8:7-8 is thought by some to teach this. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God...." This verse does not teach that a person who lives a worldly life cannot turn from it and himself become subject to the law of God; but it does teach that a person cannot live for the things of this life and at the same time be subject to God. While one is minding the things of the flesh, he Is not subject to the will of God; and in that state he cannot be subject to God, for such a life Is in direct conflict with his will. The phrase "in the flesh" simply means to live a worldly life — a life devoted to the flesh. Paul, in this same context, shows that man can live a worldly life and, therefore, has the responsibility to control the flesh, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.... but to mortify the deeds of the body." (verses 12-13)

Hereditary Total Depravity At Variance With Other Scriptures

Paul declares that man is "the offspring of God. (Acts 17:29) Certainly it is not the body — the flesh — that is the "offspring of God." Shall we insist then that the spirit comes from God depraved? Does God give a depraved spirit?

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." If the child is born totally depraved, then we must become like it — totally depraved, or it will not be possible to enter the Kingdom.

"They are all GONE OUT OF THE WAY, they are together BECOME UNPROFITABLE." (Romans 3:12) Notice Paul does not say they were born this way. Sin is a principle that exists only as the result of unlawful, unrighteous acts performed by one who has the power to discern between right and wrong. Before one can be a sinner, either in the sight of God or man, he must have the power of reason. Deprive one of the power of reason and he cannot have the slightest conception of right or wrong. He is not held amenable to the law of God or man. Since sin is the VOLUNTARY DEPARTURE from the law, how can infants and idiots, who have no power to reason or will, be sinners? Saying one is a sinner by inheritance — since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4) — would be to declare that one transgresses the law of God before he is born.

If the doctrine of hereditary total depravity is true, then it would be impossible for man to do anything at all about his salvation — about being "born anew" or becoming a "new creature"; as it is contended by those who believe this theory, the sinner is so depraved, corrupt, and wicked that the Gospel cannot reach him. The only way the sinner could be "made new" would be for God to work a miracle, saving him separate and apart from any action on his part. Now, if man is so depraved and wicked that nothing but a miracle on the part of God can make him new, then who Is responsible for one not being "made anew"? This would make God responsible for every soul in hell.

Things Involved In "Regeneration" Or Being "Made Anew"

Article No. 7 of Baptist Articles of Faith (Standard Manual for Baptist churches by Hiscox) says, "regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the Holy connection with divine truth...." The giving of a holy disposition to the mind is not regarded as a responsibility of man, for the next statement informs us that it is effected by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration, as here defined, would simply be God's giving to a man a holy disposition of mind. This is believed to be the way "newness" comes about because of the belief in "hereditary depravity."

Webster defines "regeneration" thus: "To cause to be reborn spiritually; convert. To reform completely. To generate anew; reproduce; re-create; revive." Regeneration, therefore, certainly involves a changed, purified mind. Without the mind being cleansed, there could not be a "new creature." It is a mistake to think, however, of regeneration as consisting only of a holy disposition of mind, or heart.

The heart, so frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, is a composition of the mind or intellect, the affections or emotions, and the will of man. It includes the mind or intellect, for the Bible teaches one thinks, reasons, understands with the heart. (Prov. 23:7; Matt. 13:15) It includes the emotions or affections, for the Bible teaches that one loves with the heart. (Matt. 22:37) It includes the will of man, for we are said to "obey from the heart." (Rom. 8:17) Through the preaching of the gospel, men come to believe in Christ (Rom 10:17), which Is an exercise of the mind. This faith produces love for Christ, an exercise of the emotions. When one thus believes in and loves the Christ, he will then "obey from the heart" the commandments of the Lord, which Is an exercise of the will. In this way the heart — all of the heart — is changed and purified. To have the mind changed while the emotions and will remain unchanged is only a partial change — partial regeneration or newness.

The Manner Of Effecting Regeneration

We are told in the Baptist article of faith afore mentioned that "It (regeneration) is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth." Two things are here affirmed, first, regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit in connection with divine truth, and second, it is effected in a manner above our comprehension.

John 3:8 is thought to teach that the new birth is a mystery — something above our comprehension. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit"

The Lord's conclusion, as here stated, was "so is every one that is born of the Spirit," not "so is the birth of the Spirit" You cannot see the wind, but you can hear it and can see the effects of it; in like manner you cannot see the Spirit, but you can hear the words of the Spirit and can see its effect by observing the lives of these born again. So, instead of Jesus describing the birth of the Spirit here, he was talking about "the one" born of the Spirit; therefore the passage does not teach that the new birth is a mystery — above our comprehension.

Jesus was talking about HOW to be born anew when he said, "except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) The new birth is a birth (one birth) of two elements — water and Spirit. The Spirit plays the part of the begettal. Paul said to the Corinthians "I have begotten you through the gospel." (1 Cor. 4:15) Peter said, "Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth." (1 Peter 1:23, ASV) The gospel or word of God preached by the apostles — that by which people were begotten — was revealed by the Holy Spirit (John 14:25; 15:13 and 1 Peter 1:12) Hence, through the gospel, the Holy Spirit begets. Now, what part does the water play in the new birth? Most people completely ignore the water element in the new birth, but it is just as emphatically mentioned as Spirit. Paul declares in Romans 6:3-4 that we are raised from the waters of baptism "to walk in newness of life." If there is a newness of life, there must have been a birth. This is what Paul was talking about when he said in Titus 3:5 "according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit." The only washing In connection with the whole Christian system is baptism. Ananias told Saul, "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins." (Acts 22:16) In regeneration a "renewing" is taking place, and it is being done through the agency of the Holy Spirit. By Jesus' expression, "except a man be born of water and the Spirit" is meant, except a man be begotten or made a believer by the teaching of the Spirit and is baptized he shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God. This is essentially what Jesus said in giving the commission, "GO ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 18:15-10) That regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, is readily admitted; but I emphatically deny that this is effected in a manner above our comprehension.

Not only are "all things new" conditioned upon entering Christ, but also upon remaining — abiding in Him. Read again the vine and branch illustration. (John 15:1-8) In being raised in baptism one is to WALK in newness of life. (Rom. 5:5) Walking is not standing still. The crown of life is conditioned upon "be thou faithful unto death." (Rev. 2:10)

Do you not see the inadequacy and destroying power of the "old man"? Behold the glory of having "all things new"! Why not begin enjoying the "new" today?