Born Again - Let's Be Clear

Born Again - Let's Be Clear - By Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D.

There appears to be a rule at work here, and the devil makes sure it is widely exploited, that the most vital subjects attract the greatest confusion. And, as I said in my first article on this subject, there is so much popular confusion surrounding this subject that we do well to sort out as much as we can. So, where the greatest confusion exists there also is the greatest need to work hard to dispel the fog!
  • Gift of God's grace
Christians are called to grow in their grasp of the riches of God's revealed truth. There may be steady forward steps or surprising bursts of sudden growth. Here, I aim to clarify the confused idea of the human will being responsible for initiating the new birth. This is a vital subject and I will support what I say from Scripture, God's inerrant and infallible word, my final authority.
As a basic starter, consider how the apostle Paul encourages some of the early Christians: 'But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ' (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
  • Not self-induced
Did you notice how Paul says all these great realities already apply to them, but he wants them to grasp this more clearly? And so he gives a rich summary of how God loved them personally, chose them specifically and then definitely called them to himself to be saved through the gospel. As a group they were like the firstfruits - the beginning of a precious harvest, set apart by the Holy Spirit for the Lord himself. God's purpose has one goal - being with Christ in his eternal glory. There is no idea here of a self-induced new birth - that when you made a free-will decision to trust Christ as your personal Saviour, God responded by giving you new spiritual birth. This only fosters the idea that salvation is by God's grace for those who decide to make that grace effective by using their faith to bring about their own new birth.
  • You did it with a little bit of help
This suggests that the only difference between those who were given salvation and those who finally reject it is the response of the human will, where those who are saved had the savvy, or the good sense, to use their will in a way that other persons did not.Charles Grandison Finny (1792-1875) popularised some of this teaching in the USA, and it has been widespread ever since. At its root it has our fallen human nature as merely sick and where each person is able to exercise faith as a natural resource, if they so choose.
And therein lies some of the foggy confusion - that makes a person's free-will the final, sovereign arbiter and not God in this great matter of salvation. Salvation, in this scheme, rests finally with each individual's choice, where Christ's death has merely made salvation available or possible, but has not secured the salvation of anyone in particular at all. There is no graciously effective, divine purpose in this other than that God has done his bit, now you must do yours!
So those who think this way believe their salvation depends on God's undeserved favour PLUS their own decision. And that they are able both to praise God for his wonderful grace AND perhaps congratulate themselves (in all modesty) that they used their good sense and free-will to make the right choice! Oh, how confusing!
  • God-centred gospel
Now, the tide is turning and a biblical, God-centred gospel is being rediscovered, where people accept Christ's word: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live' (John 5:25). Those who hear are given 'ears to hear'. This is not a self-induced spiritual resurrection or new birth, but comes wholly undeserved, by the sovereign, life-giving work of God's Spirit, where I become a new creation in Christ, 'But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved' (Ephesians 2:4-5). Life from the dead!
Salvation flows from God's electing grace and mercy, definitely secured by Jesus' death - a sacrifice 'making purification for sins' (Hebrews 1:3), where it is literally, 'having made' - done, finished. And then graciously applied by the Holy Spirit. We see this in practice when Apollos 'greatly helped those who through grace had believed' (Acts 18:27). How had they believed? - 'through grace'.
  • No-one is dragged!
So, if you have been born again into God's family, it was God's doing 'according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace' (Eph. 1:5-6). First, it was God's will; then he gave you a willing heart, so you weren't dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom, while those who wanted to enter were left outside. Yes, you were responsible to repent and believe, but as for the early believers, for whom 'God has granted repentance that leads to life' (Acts 11:18) - so now also for you too. Paul sums this up by describing a wonderfully certain linked chain, 'those whom he foreknew' - that is intimately known and loved by God in an eternity past - those he 'predestined' - 'he called' - 'justified' and 'also glorified' (Romans 8:29-30).
Well, do you know the Lord? If you don't, just as Jesus said to Nicodemus, 'You must be born again' (John 3:7), so also must you.

Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D. has authored several books and many articles that offer answers for many of life's big questions - 'Is biblical Christianity finished, or does it still speak to the 21st century?' Take a look at my book, I saw Him die - viewing Jesus' death TODAY Use the following link: Or, Darwin's Puzzle - unravelling the riddle of reason Use my books and articles to help you find faith in Christ, or to strengthen your faith. Also find titles as paperbacks on many other websites - & buy TODAY - thank you! Article Source:,_Ph.D.  Article Source: