Monday, March 21, 2011

Regeneration and the New Creation

{By my friends Rick Martinez]

One of the most oft-quoted verses in Scripture is found in John 3:3 when Jesus

speaking to Nicodemus says, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom

of God.” In this one statement of fact we find a substantive part of what the Old

Testament anticipated and what the New Covenant realized.

The simple truth Jesus so clearly spoke to Nicodemus that night was the need for

what is Biblically known as regeneration…or to understand it another way, a re-

genesis, a second beginning. Without this regeneration, Jesus said the unseen

realities of God’s kingdom would forever remain hidden to a man. But because of

this rebirth, when a man comes into living union with Jesus Christ by the Holy

Spirit’s work of regeneration, the man stands as a new spiritual creation. The

reason for this new beginning is, as John says in his first letter, because he “has

been born of God.” God’s intent was not to simply fix the old nature of Adam, by

patching us up and then adding some religious talk, activities and duties. No, as

Paul says, a Christian is now a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), born of the very seed

and life of God. (You cannot put a new patch on an old garment!) To understand

this, is to understand the import of what Jesus said to Nicodemus that fateful night

and it is nothing less than the very heart of the gospel itself.

The revelation Paul had gained as he penned his second letter to the Corinthian

church was that regeneration is creative in its nature. It results in a fundamental

change in the individual, a change that is so profound that it must be understood to

be more than just a “fresh start”, and nothing less than a new beginning for that

man, with a new nature, a new future, with new capacities, and a new

understanding of life itself. Regarding the old creation, Paul says, “All things were

made by Him and for Him,” but in regards to the new creation Paul says the new

life is now to be understood to be “in Him”. And so we see that through faith in

Jesus Christ, the regenerate man is given the remarkable privilege of participating

in the new beginning for mankind, Jesus himself being the prototypical man. This

is why Paul calls Jesus, “the last Adam” and “the second man.” (1 Cor. 15:45-47)

It’s clear from Scripture that the apostles believed and looked for a time of

eschatological fulfillment, when at the close of history there would be a literal,

cosmic, physical restoration of heaven and earth. It is also clear they believed that

restoration had already begun. The age to come and the realization of the eternal

purposes of God for His creation (which is His kingdom) invaded and overcame

this present evil age by the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of

Jesus Christ. Though the full and final restoration won’t be complete until His

second coming, Jesus became the first fruit of the new creation by being the first

born from among the dead, having overcome sin and death as a man, and the first

fruit of many more who would follow. (Romans 8:29)

This great truth shapes the larger narrative of Scripture, a truth which is prophesied

as early as Genesis 3:15. This was the hope of the prophets of old, traced by the

scarlet thread of redemption recorded throughout the Old Testament, and finally

finding its fulfillment at the cross of Golgotha and the glorious resurrection three

days later. This truth is the goal of the gospel, and the revelation of the One who

calls Himself “the beginning of God’s (new) creation”. (Rev. 3:14, ESV)

The whole of the New Testament is then the record of this new life in Christ, the

life of new creation, and the new man (humanity) of God of which every believer

is a part. This indwelling Life is the mystery of godliness. Paul says, “Christ in you

is the hope of the final fulfillment and its future glory.”

And so we have become, as the writer of the Hebrews so aptly and beautifully

describes you and I, “the church of the firstborn.” (Hebrews 12:23)

1 comment:

  1. Well written and holy received. Transformational is the spirit of God and each individual must understand the limitations of humanity before the "realization of eternal purposes" can sometimes be fully actualized. Each individual on earth is in the process~ the journey is not always the same for all, but the destination is the same.