"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3.
Here, again, our main reason for writing on the New Birth at this time is because we feel it has an important bearing upon the subject of the "resurrection of the dead." There are two words in this quotation which we desire to emphasize and enlarge upon. These words are MAN and BORN. Since it is man that must be born again, we will do well to inquire (1) Who or what is man? And where better than the Scriptures of eternal truth shall we seek enlightenment? We could go to the Dictionary and get the definition there that he is "an adult male of the human species," but that would not be altogether satisfying to us, as our text undoubtedly embraces the female of the specie as well as the male. The first Scriptural reference to man is found in Genesis 1:26, where it is recorded that God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." God was not a being composed of flesh, blood and bone and, therefore, it was not in that sense that man was made in the image of God. Neither was Adam spirit, so it could not have been in that sense that man was made in the image or likeness of God. Paul distinctly declares "the first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven." I Cor. 15:47. Paul says nothing that would indicate that the entire man is anything but of the earth, earthy. The breath which God breathed into Adam's nostrils was declared to be the "breath of life," and there is nothing said about its being spirit. Adam became a living soul, or a human creature with the breath of life in him, and he was nothing but a natural man as he was created in the Garden of Eden. Paul tells us in Ephesians (1:4) that the children of God were chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and we understand from this every member of the mystical body of Christ had his life or standing, spiritually, in Christ, who was declared to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body. The Psalmist wrote on behalf of Christ (Psalm 139:15-16) as follows: "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." It was well said in that connection, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." Since the bride of Christ was created in him before the world was, and every member of his mystical body had their standing in him, God held his only begotten Son accountable for the acts of his bride, or the sins of his people, and all power, both in heaven and in earth, was given into his hands, so that he was absolutely able and qualified in every respect to pay her debt and redeem her from under the curse which she fell in Adam. When God was ready to make man he made him according to the same pattern. His bride, Eve, was created in him, and all of his posterity, which embraces every member of the human race, had their life or standing in Adam. He was held accountable for Eve's actions and God gave him power over all the earth and every creeping thing that creepeth upon it. While no figure can present the perfect type, we get from this a glimpse of the sense in which man was made in the image of God. It was according to the eternal purpose of Almighty God that his children should partake of the Adamic nature and be brought under the condemnation and death of the law. It was the body of Christ, his church, which was to be "sown in corruption" and "raised in incorruption:" "sown in dishonor" and "raised in glory:" "sown in weakness" and "raised in power," and it all was for the glorifying of God and the lifting of the name of Jesus on high. Therefore, says Paul, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." Heb. 2:14. There was an entity, individuality, personality or being of some kind or form which was identified as a member of the body of Christ before Adam was created, otherwise how could the children be said to partake of flesh and blood. Job said (10:11) "Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews." He was a man before he was born, or manifested in the flesh. Paul speaks of abiding in the flesh which he likened to an "earthly house of this tabernacle," which he said was to be dissolved. Peter spoke of living in a tabernacle, which would have to be put off. They were both men and children of God who had partaken of flesh. The method of coming into this world is to be BORN into it, and that which is natural is first, and then that which is spiritual. The same man that is born into or manifested in this world must be born again, or of the Spirit, if he is ever to see the kingdom of God. There has to be a child before it can be born. The birth simply makes manifests that which already existed. We have to be born of the flesh and enter into this natural world before we can have any perception of the things of this world. Likewise, if we are to have any understanding or comprehension of spiritual things, we must be born of the Spirit. Jesus said distinctly, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit:" They are fitted for two entirely different worlds: one for this natural world, which is the flesh, and that must ever remain flesh; the other is for the kingdom of God and, the "natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." We know by observation that the actual flesh, blood and bone is not born again. They develop, grow old and fade away with the passing of time. We also know too well that the lusts and passions of the flesh are not changed when a man is born again. Peter tells us that baptism does not put away the filth of the flesh. In 1st John, Chapter 3:9-10 we read: "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. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." Only the new creature availeth anything; there must of necessity be the two births. Not until we are born again can we say with Paul, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
It takes more than flesh, blood and bone to constitute a man. It is the personality, or character, or being, that inhabits this earthly tabernacle that can be said of a truth to be the real man. He stands for something; he has principles and a purpose in life. When a man of outstanding character and principles goes wrong, we say of him, he is not the man we have known for many years; or when we see a man who has had a mean reputation all his life turn his back upon evil and seek after righteousness, he is spoken of as being a new man, a changed man, or different from what he once was. They that are born of the flesh will love the things of the flesh, while those who are born of the Spirit will love and seek after the things of God. We are persuaded that each and every one who is born of the Spirit will be perfect in Christ. In heaven there will be no old men and young boys, no grandmothers and little girls, no giants and midgets, no feeble-minded, idiots, cripples or deformities of any kind whatsoever.
In concluding this article we wish to make some quotations from Elder Gilbert Beebe's article on this same subject, which was republished in the October, 1942, Signs of the Times. On the first page of that issue he said: "Adam, both before and after his transgression, was a natural man." In column one, page 219, we quote: "For we are expressly informed that the first Adam was not spiritual, but natural; but the second Adam is spiritual." Beginning with the second column on the same page we read: "That man who was chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and consequently before he was manifestly the subject of any birth, before he was born either of the flesh or of the Spirit. We think it will not be disputed by any intelligent christian that all the children of God were personally elected or chosen of God in Christ Jesus be-fore the foundation of the world, according to Ephesians i. 4. If this be admitted, it must follow that they all had a personal identity and existence as members of the mystical body of Christ before Adam's dust was fashioned to a man, and therefore prior to their first or second birth. The developments of time have demonstrated to us that it was the purpose of God that every one of his elect should, in the fullness of the dispensation of time, be born first of the flesh, and then be born again of the Spirit. Both of these births were ordained and provided for by the wisdom and decree of God, not to give them being or identity, for these they had in Christ before the world began. By the first birth they were to be developed in their earthly and fleshly nature in common with the whole natural posterity of the earthly Adam. This first birth was necessary, that they might see and know the things of nature, for except they were born of the flesh they could never have known the things of the flesh. 'What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?' In the stupendous mystery of the hidden counsel and purpose of God this fleshly birth and identification of God's elect with the family of mankind was in-dispensable to the development of the great eternal purpose which God had purposed in himself before the world began, that in the first Adam they should all die, and in Christ they should all be made alive. If we admit that God has saved us and called us according to his purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, then we cannot consistently deny that the purpose and grace provided for our being born of the flesh, and identified with all the rest of Adam's posterity, and with them sink into death by the transgression of Adam, and be quickened from the dead, and raised up from condemnation and wrath, be washed, cleansed and purified, and freely justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Whether brethren can agree with us, that the absolute purpose and immutable decree of God embraced our fallen state and condition, as well as our salvation from sin, death and hell, through his dear Son, or whether they regard our fallen condition as an afterthought, occasioned by some unavoidable failure of his purpose, if it be admitted that our redemption from sin and death was predestinated, we must also and unavoidably (we think) admit the indispensable necessity for the fleshly birth of all the children of God which were from everlasting identified and personally chosen unto salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. By our natural birth then we enter into and become a part of this world, are capacitated to see it and to sojourn in it until like an hireling we shall have fulfilled our allotted number of days; but our first, or fleshly birth, while it capacitates us for a knowledge of the things of nature, can supply us with no capacity for anything beyond bounds of this world, and hence the necessity that we should be born again in order that we may see the kingdom of God and know the things of the Spirit of God. In being born again, then, this man, who was chosen of God in Christ before the foundation of the world, and born of the flesh since the foundation of the world, must, at some period still later than his fleshly birth, be born again, or he cannot see the kingdom of God; must be born of water and of the Spirit, or he cannot inherit the kingdom of God. As our first or natural birth belongs to and results from natural generation, so our being born again belongs to and results from regeneration. The seminal life of all the posterity of Adam was created in him, in the day when they were created. So the spiritual eternal life of the generation of our Lord Jesus Christ was given and secured to all the children of God in Christ when he was given to be the head over all things to his church. The words of our Lord which we have placed at the head of this article (John 3:7) were addressed to one who was already born of the flesh, and they are applicable to such only as are born of the flesh. A birth can only develop, or bring forth into manifestation, the same nature of which it is generated and born. 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' The first birth brings forth that life, flesh and nature in which we were created in the earthly Adam, but the second birth brings forth into manifestation that life, spirit and immortality which was given to us in Christ Jesus, as the second Adam, and the Lord from heaven."
R. Lester Dodson
The Resurrection of the Dead
Pages 42 - 47