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THE NEW BIRTH

(A reply to Elder John R. Martin)

Elder Martin will, we trust, pardon our delay in replying to his inquiries. His letter had been filed with others, and overlooked until the present time. We will try to make our views more clear and intelligible to him, and to others who have failed to understand us on the vitally important subject of the new birth.

Our esteemed brother repeats the words which we used in our reply to sister Phillips in the Signs for Sept. 15th, 1876, namely, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit; it never did belong to any other family, for it is born of God, and never was defiled with sin; it is born of incorruptible seed – and was never corrupted – being born of God; it was not purchased, redeemed nor adopted.” Having quoted these words of ours, brother Martin asks, if the soul or spirit were never defiled with sin, were never corrupted, what necessity there was of being born again? Answer. The soul and body and spirit that were and are born of the flesh, were in that birth born of corruptible seed; they were not only corruptible, but actually became corrupted, defiled, sinful and depraved, and necessitated to be redeemed, washed, cleansed, purified and born again, in order to see the kingdom of God. But what we contend for is, that the spiritual life which is given to us in the new birth, is not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but is born of God. And the scriptures testify that “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” – 1 John iii. 9.

We were trying to show that all in us which is born of the flesh is flesh, and all flesh is born of corruptible seed, has become corrupt, depraved and sinful. But all that is born of God is born of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. – 1 Peter i. 23. Our first or natural birth, which was of corruptible seed, developed or brought forth that life, in soul, body and spirit, which God gave us in common with all mankind in the earthly Adam. In him we all die: death has passed upon us all, for that all have sinned. If our natural birth constituted us children of God, it would also constitute all mankind children of God, and then we could see no need of a second birth to make us manifest as the children of God. But Jesus our Lord says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Our fleshly nature was not produced by being born of the Spirit, nor was our spiritual life produced by a fleshly birth; for all men are born of the flesh, but all men have not the Spirit of God.

We presume that brother Martin believes as we do, that God gave us our natural life in common with all the human race in the earthly Adam, and that except we were born of the flesh we could not see this natural world or be manifested in it. And that he gave us spiritual, incorruptible, eternal life in Jesus Christ, who is the second Adam, and the Lord from heaven, and that a spiritual birth was indispensable to bring us forth in that spiritual life. None of our brethren, it is presumed, will contend that our spiritual, incorruptible and eternal life is born of the flesh, or descended to us by generation from the earthly Adam; or that our natural, mortal life or earthly body is the production of the new and spiritual birth. Now we hold that this natural man that is born of the flesh is a sinner, conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity. It is this earthly nature that is under the law, and that has transgressed the law and fallen under the curse, and which must be redeemed, washed from pollution and guilt by the blood of Christ, and then be born again, not of a corruptible seed, but of incorrupible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.

This Adamic man, born of corruptible seed, who has sinned, must be redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and born again of a pure and incorruptible seed, or he cannot see the kingdom of God; for that life which la born of corruptive seed is corrupt and sinful. But we hold that eternal life which is given us in the new birth, being of incorruptible seed, is not susceptible of corruption or pollution; therefore it was not redeemed, for it was never defiled with guilt, and it cannot sin, because it is born of God, and his incorruptible seed remains in him, and he, or it, cannot sin, because it is born of God, and therefore of a seed that cannot be corrupted. This life is Christ in us, the hope of glory. “For, for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “When he who is our life shall appear, then shall we appear with him in glory.” “This life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” – 1 John i. 2. “Which God bath given us in his Son.” – 1 John v. 11, 12. And which is hid with Christ in God. – Col. iii. 3.

This life, we have said, was never bought nor sold, was never condemned by the law, never needed redemption; but those of Adam’s race who are by grace the recipients of it, were by nature children of wrath, even as others. This life in us is born of the Spirit, and is spirit; but it is not the spirit of the flesh, which is vile, but it is the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, and which shall also quicken our mortal bodies in the final resurrection, when these mortal bodies shall put on immortality, and these corruptibles shall put on incorruption, and the saying shall be brought to pass, that death is swallowed up of life. We who have received this spirit still do groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies. – Rom. viii. 23.

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” – 1 Cor. xv. 50. Why? Because it is born of incorruptible seed, and this earthly relationship which we now bear in our flesh, and in all our mortal powers and elements, must be dissolved by death; and when quickened in the resurrection by the Spirit which now dwells in all who are born again, they will bear the image of the heavenly Adam, as in our fleshly nature we now bear the image of the earthly Adam. Then when these vile bodies are changed, they shall be presented in glory as the children, not of the earthy Adam, but as the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. – Luke xx. 36.

We have tried to males ourself understood by brother Martin, and by all who read our views. We do hold that our body, soul and spirit, as born of the flesh, of corruptible seed, was corrupted, depraved, and justly condemned by the righteous law of God, did and do belong to another family than that of God, by nature were afar off, but are made nigh by the blood of Christ, and that in their new and heavenly birth they receive an incorruptible life, which is and always was pure and holy; and although we are still in these vile bodies, in which there dwells no good thing, we have the blessed assurance that our God will change our vile bodies, and raise them up from the dead by his Spirit which now (by the new birth) dwells in us. This mortal must put on immortality; it has not yet put it on, although we have received the spirit of adoption, as the earnest of our immortal inheritance, and the full assurance that these bodies, with all the corruptible elements to them pertaining, shall be sown as natural bodies, in death; but they shall be raised from the dead as spiritual, immortal bodies, in the likeness of the risen and glorious body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We cannot claim that anything in or about us that is sinful, depraved or mortal is born of God, or is of an incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever; nor that anything in or about us that is pure, spiritual, incorruptible or immortal is born of the flesh in us, as our daily experience as well as the scriptures fully demonstrate, is flesh, and all that we receive in the new birth is spiritual, and that these two elements are contrary one to the other; in the flesh dwells no good thing, in the Spirit there dwells no evil thing. The flesh wars against the spirit, and the spirit wars against the flesh; and this warfare will continue until the earthly house of our tabernacle shall be dissolved, and we shall be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. – 2 Cor. v. 1-5.

In conclusion, suffer a few words on 2 Cor. v. 17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is (or as in the margin, let him be) a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. And all things are of God,” &c. In the context we are told, “That if one died for all, then were all dead.” And that he (Christ) died for all, (all his people, or members,) that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. That is, from the time of Christ’s resurrection and ascension to glory, we know him only as he is revealed to us by his Spirit. As he was put to death in the flesh, which was our flesh, which he took on him for the suffering of death, and he was quickened by the Spirit; all those for whom he died were baptized into his death, and raised with him from under the law, and unto and into newness of life. When he was known in the flesh, he was recognized as in our law place; but now being raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, he is no more known as the man of sorrow, nor under the law, nor subject to death, as death bath no more dominion over him. He destroyed death, and him that had the power of death, and brought life and immortality to light through -the gospel. To know him after the flesh would be to know him under the law, for in being made flesh he was made under the law; but he has suffered for us in the flesh, and now is known to us in the newness of resurrection life, by the power of an endless life, in all the glory which he had with the Father before the world began. Now if any man be in him, he also is known in the fellowship of the Spirit, as crucified with him, raised up from the condemnation of the law, and a partaker of his resurrection life. The recognition of the saints is not on the ground of any fleshly excellence. The body is dead because of sin; but the spirit of life because of righteousness. The unity of the saints is in a unity of the Spirit. If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; but as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Our flesh is still mortal, corruptible, and under the irrevocable sentence, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.” Hence it is said, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,” &c. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,” &c. “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience. – But now ye also put off all these, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communications out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free ;but Christ is all in all.” – Col. iii. 1-11. “For as the body is one, and bath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Cor. xii. 12,13.

From all these scriptures we see that it is not our perishable, corruptible bodies which are in Christ, but our life which is hid with him in God; and we see that our fleshly natures have not became new, but are dead because of sin. And all things which have become new to us are of God; none of them are of the earthy Adam, of the flesh, nor of the earth. To be in or present with Christ, is to be absent from the flesh, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. (For we walk by faith, not by sight.) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labor, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” 2 Cor. v. 6-9. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness.” – Romans viii. 1,8-10. So then to be in Christ is not that our carnal nature is in him, but all the gifts of the Spirit, by which we are recognized as the members of his spiritual body, and which things to us are new, and of God, and which we have received in the unspeakable gift of God’s dear Son. Old things, such as the law, with all its carnal ordinances, its cursings, and its thunderings, are passed away; and while abiding in him, we walk not after the flesh, as formerly, but after the Spirit. Not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit.

We submit these explanations of our views to the consideration of our beloved brother Martin, and to all who are of the household of faith. So far as they are sustained by the scriptures, and opened to our understanding by the Spirit, may they be received; and wherein they are not so sustained, may the Lord enable us all to detect all that is wrong, and to receive with joy all that is approved, and may his great name be magnified forevermore.

Elder Gilbert Beebe,
January 1, 1877

Republished – Signs of the Times
Volume 143, No. 6
June 1975