Vol.II No.X Pg.3
November 1965

Defining The "New Birth"

Robert F. Turner

Can you understand how making followers of Christ (Christians) is like planting seed in the ground; and the seed which reach "good ground" ("in honest and good heart") produce fruit unto God? (LUK.8:4-15). If so, you can understand those processes of the New Birth (being "born again") which pertain to your duties and privileges.

Both the production of the grain crop and genuine children of God are figurative ways of describing the making of Christians. One likens the process to agriculture, and the other to animal or human reproduction; and neither involve (in so far as our responsibilities are concerned) any mysterious visions or "still small voices".

First, there must be a planter, or a father -- one who begets. God is the originator of the "seed" which produces Christians. "Of His own will begat he us -- " (JAM.1:18). And the "seed" is "the word of truth" "the word of God" (LUK.8:11). In a secondary sense the one who teaches truth is called the "planter" or "father". Paul reminded the Corinthians, "I planted" and "yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1CO.4:14-15).

Second, the "seed" is, as we have seen, the "word of God". Peter says we are "born again -- -by the word of God, -- (1PE.1:23). The popular conception of the new birth would have people "born again" who have little or no knowledge of God's word. This is like expecting a crop, or a child, without a seed. Quibbles on "born of the Spirit" do not alter this basic truth. God's truth has been revealed by the Holy Spirit (2PE.1:21; EPH.3:2-5) and to reject God's truth is to "resist the Holy Spirit" (ACT.7:51). God's word is the instrument of the Spirit, its modus operandi (EPH.6:17). Third, there must be the reception of the seed into a clime or condition suitable for reproduction. There must be "good soil" or "an honest and good heart" (LUK.8:15). James says, "Lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (JAM.1:21). The seed can not grow in rocks and thorns, nor in an impenitent heart.

And, fourth, grow it must if it is to produce fruit. James says, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" Jesus said, "having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (LUK.8:15). Since the Lord commands baptism, as well as faith and repentance, (MAR.16:16; ACT.2:38) these become a part of the fruiting process, with baptism bringing us into Christ (GAL.3:26-27). Baptism is not the whole of the process, but it certainly can not be left out of the "new birth" defined in scriptures.

Finally, the "heart" receives the seed, and character proceeds from the heart (PRO.4:23). The "new creature" is not changed physically. Even his weaknesses remain -- but a change of motive and desire controls them. The fruits of God's word are good, and to the extent we allow His truth to move us "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new". The "new birth" produces a child of God.