Ones who are truly born from above (John 3:3, 7) live in two dimensions, physical and spiritual. The unsaved (natural) man only lives physically and is dead spiritually. (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13) It is from the failure to understand this truth that much misunderstanding and error arises. Consider the following propositions.
- 1. The spiritual realm (where God lives) is just as real as the physical realm (where humans live).
- 2. Spiritual reality is in some way even more real because it is eternal and things physical are only temporary.
If we don’t accept these as truth then the pursuit of God is futile because God is Spirit. (John 4:24) The very life of a Christian is spiritual life given by the Holy Spirit who indwells. (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16)
When Jesus said to Nicodemus “You must be born again” He explained that He was not speaking of another physical birth but a spiritual birth. The physical birth only produces more sinners, more corruption, more breaking of God’s law. Only those who are born of the Spirit are able to rise above the limitations of the natural man’s aptitude and abilities. John 1:13 says it this way,
“who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
And Paul wrote about those who had thus been born again, or from above, in this way.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)
When a sinner is born again by God it is a real birth, admittedly spiritual but no less real than a physical birth. And, as stated before, that which is spiritual in a very real way is even more real than the physical, because the physical is temporary and the spiritual is eternal.
Can a birth be reversed? Physically birth cannot be reversed. You can abort a baby before it is actually born or you can kill the baby after it is born but birth cannon be undone. A child, who dies, dies a son or daughter of its father. I think every sane person will agree that birth is irreversible, it cannot be undone.
Why then would anyone suppose spiritual birth can be reversed? It is clear spiritual birth by God is a real birth and produces a “new creation“. No person who has read the New Testament very much can deny this “new birth” is a reality.
The question raised would be difficult enough to answer if all that was said by Jesus was “You must be born again“. But that is not all he said. He also said these words.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
Should I believe these words from the mouth of the Son of God? Or should I believe those who imply at least that they are not true?
Jesus said “should not perish“, “eternal life“, “I will raise him up on the last day“, and “they will never perish“. I am not competent in biblical languages but my research says that these declarative statements made by Jesus mean the same in the original languages as they do in English.
Here is my great dilemma. Should I embrace teaching about salvation (new birth) that in effect makes these verses untrue? I can’t bring myself to do it. I know this makes me the odd man out in coC circles. I have struggled with this question earnestly and with an open heart but I cannot accept that not only these promises, but dozens more, are untrue and unreliable if what my dear brothers in Christ teach is true.
Perhaps I have missed something in my 40 plus years of studying the Bible. I am very flawed and far less than perfect in my understanding of God and His Holy Word. But I do want to know His truth and search for it relentlessly. I love everyone who loves Jesus whether or not we agree on every point of doctrine.
“…He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead”
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
When darkness seems to hide His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”
Trusting Christ alone,
Royce, I speak often of my church-upbringing; I’m not unique in that my c of c influence (that’s ‘church of childhood’) is powerful. In one of my goofy moments, some years ago I started a list of ‘lose your salvation’ issues I’d compiled as far back as I could recall. Oh, my!
I mentioned this in a class in a neighboring state. I thought I was being funny; apparently, they saw no humor in my statement, “We tell folks it is easy to become a Christian; then we show them it’s virtually impossible to remain a Christian.” I think I understand how the town sheriff felt looking at a lynch mob!
Royce, when you have one of those goofy moments (oh, yeah, YOU have them!), sing this little song:
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
And ……(Insert the list. I’ll get you started)
And, working hard and Wednesday nights,
single cups and not dimming the lights;
On who you help and how it’s done,
And making sure orphan homes get none;
Never a clap or raising a hand,
Express your joy by being bland.
Ok, you’re on your one now. I love you.
You are a dear friend with a wicked sense of humor which I love. Perhaps those things folks tell about you are true after all!
God’s best to you and yours,
Provocative thoughts. Being c of C, I understand what you are saying. What I heard growing up was “once saved, many times lost.” I know that the “in-and-out” theology of our denomination is wrong and deadly. But I’m plagued by the verses like Galatians 5:4 that says anyone seeking to return to law as justification will “fall” from grace. Plus, what Paul said in vs 19-21 about the works of the flesh… “those who live like this will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.” Now if you want to say (as most modern Baptists say) that anyone who returns to the works of the flesh was never saved to begin with, okay. I can agree with that. In that case, it’s just symantics.
In any case, you are my good brother even if I think you’re wrong on this one. Keep on preaching the word.
In Galatians Paul was not writing to just few people, and not even to only one church. His letter was addressed to “To the churches of Galatia”. I think it would be a wild leap to address the congregations of several churches in a large geographical area and assume every person in all those churches were saved. In large groups of church folks there are always “make believers” among the “believers”. And so it seems to be the case in Paul’s letter to the Galations.
He is speaking to “all” of those in the churches so the warnings about accepting circumcison were to “all” of them. I am saved but if I start on a path of legalism, trying to become right with God based on what I do, rather than what Christ has done, I have in effect “fallen from grace”. I am not lost, but perhaps in immaturity or in response to false teaching I set out to establish my own righteousness. There isn’t one gospel plan to the churches of Galatia and another for the Corinthian believes and the passage I just quoted in the comment after this one seems pretty clear that God is more patient than I would be with sinful, immature, believers.
Love you bro’,
Thanks for your thoughts. This might be a little off topic, but I’d be interested in hearing you out some more on proposition two that you listed. The reason being is that you said the pursuit of God is futile without accepting those propositions, and I find myself not wanting to accept number 2. I don’t hold to the strong dualism suggested between physical and spiritual; what I mean is that physicality is not to be done away with in God’s future, in fact it is to be affirmed and revitilized fully by the Spirit (1 Co. 15). Just seeking clarification. Also, it is interesting to hear your take on the “once saved always saved” issue. Being on the other side of the aisle on this one I’d be curious to hear your take on certain passages (Galatians was already mentioned); the one that jumps out the most to me is the fella in 1 Co. 5 who had his father’s wife.
Thanks for your comment.
The second point was “Spiritual reality is in some way even more real because it is eternal and things physical are only temporary.”
The earth you and I live on is temporary and is will pass away.
(Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33, 1 Corinthians 7:31, 2 Peter 3:10,1 John 2:17, Revelation 21:1-4) Those who are God’s own will live in a new earth, one without any of the curse of sin. God’s purpose in reconciliation is not only to reconcile man to God but to reconcile the heavens and the earth back to God’s eternal ideal.(Colossians 1:20)
Paul referred to the human body as temporary; he called it a “tent”. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4) Our glorified bodies will be like Christ’s own glorified body, perfectly suited to live on earth or in the heavens. (1 Corinthians 15) The Hebrew writer follows this same idea of our present existence being temporary and our future life being eternal. (Hebrews 11)
Please don’t miss my point. When the Bible speaks of a spiritual truth it is in fact just as true as when something is said of a physical truth. To be more precise, a spiritual birth is no less true than a physical birth. That was my point.
Now for your second question about the man who was living in sin with his step mother.
Paul addressed 1 Corinthians, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours”. In spite of their immaturity and that they were committing all sorts of sins, Paul considered them to be saved. That is the place we start. Paul did not say they were lost because of their “errors” on doctrine, or sins, but said they were behaving as people in the flesh and that they were as “infants in Christ”. (1 Corinthians 4:1-4) They were not behaving like saints but like normal people, unsaved people. Then in chapter 5 here is a guy, a believer, who is sexually involved with his father’s wife. I am glad you suggested this passage because it is clear Paul did not think the man had “lost his soul”.
Here is what Paul did say. 1 Corinthians 5…
1.The sin was evident and instead of mourning the church was arrogant. Vs 1,2a
2.The offender should be removed from among them. Vs2
3. In his apostolic authority Paul announced he had passed judgment on this offender. Vs3
4. In the power (authority) of Jesus they should take the drastic measure of delivering his body to Satan to be destroyed, so that his spirit may be saved when Jesus returns. Vs5
5. He then admonishes and warns them to not associate with people in open sin who “bear the name of Christ”. And that they are to judge those in the church and let God judge those who are outside. Vs9-13
Paul never says this man who had committed this awful sin was lost. In fact he said the opposite. And, in chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians he teaches along the same theme. 1 Corinthians 3
9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
All of God’s promises are YES in Jesus. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 says this, “20For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”Jesus is God’s yes to our problems of sin and death and in Christ we are safe. God’s promises are to be trusted even when it doesn’t make sense to we mortals. His guarantee is good. God cannot lie.
I hope this helps you to better understand my position.
Royce, what happened to your promise to John Dobbs to shorten your posts? LOL
But seriously, thanks for sharing. I have been on both sides of the fence, and something doesn’t sit right with either of them for me. That doesn’t mean I’m straddling the fence, it means I want to tear down the fence.
I completely and unequivocably agree with you concerning ‘everyday’ sins which we all commit. But what if someone (admittedly I’m setting up a straw man here; don’t personally know anyone who fits this description, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible) turns their back on their faith to the point that they renounce Christ and/or God and willingly and unapologetically live in a very sinful manner?
I guess what I’m getting at is do you believe there is a point at which someone can become ‘apostate?’ I’d also like to hear your thoughts on Hebrews 10:26-31. Thanks again.
It was short compared to a novel! I really wanted to be more brief and when I violated my own stated desire (hopefully not a damning sin) I knew for sure someone would point out my inconsistancy. I only hope Dobbs doesn’t get wind of this! lol
The short answer re: the Hebrews passage is that I don’t believe your “strawman” was ever saved. When I read 1 John, (and I do often) it is clear to me that a person who lives in habitual sin is not a Chrstian. We all sin but we don’t all do it as a lifestyle in open rebellion to God’s law.
My next post will be another about Jesus (my favorite topic) and then I will write a “not so brief” post on the texts in Hebrews that are “problem texts” for some of us and “proof texts” for others.
Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.