“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. (I Peter 1:23-25)
Peter, has much to say about the New Birth. In the eighteenth verse he explains that salvation is not purchased with the wealth of this life – that all the riches you may obtain in this world are corruptible or decaying, and none of these things could ever redeem your soul or the soul of any of your loved ones. While this may seem like common sense, many are deceived on this point, even though the Scriptures plainly tell us that corruptible things like silver and gold (our money) do not redeem the soul. Many people not just Catholics, are busy putting their money in the offering plate, supporting great works, and giving great sums of their living to good causes (which are all commendable in and of itself), but if they think that these acts will help them get to heaven, they go amiss. Peter boldly states that only the shed blood of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, can redeem our souls. Praise God that the wage of sin was completely satisfied when Christ shed His blood for us.
We now see a re-iteration by Peter about what the New Birth is not. It is not of “corruptible seed” or, as we have already said in the previous chapter, not of human descent. Our New Birth is not at all like our first birth. Our first birth was corruptible, or decaying. Someone said that we begin to die as soon as we are born – how true that is. Our first birth was “in Adam” and Paul tells us that “in Adam all die” (I Cor. 15:22). Since Adam sinned, death entered into our race. The Bible tells us that death reigns over us. (Rom. 5:14) All have sinned in Adam (for we were all in Adam when he sinned), so we were all born into sin. Therefore, we were also born into death and corruption. The great lie of evolution tells us that everything is getting better and better, that men are evolving, and will one day reach greater heights. The fact is things are not getting better, they are getting worse. The great law of science says that “everything tends to corruption.” The very earth itself is corrupt because of our sin (Rom. 8:20,21). This is the seed by which we were born. We are reminded of this every time we feel an ache or pain. We are all headed to one place – the grave. We are going to live, get old, and then die. In Adam all die.
The New Birth is accomplished by a different seed. This seed Peter tells us is “incorruptible.” Our natural birth was accomplished by the planting of a seed in the womb. The New Birth is accomplished the very same way. The seed that is planted is the Word of God. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. . . .” (James 1:18) ” . . . The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11). The Bible is our very source of life without it we would never know salvation. There are fringe groups, called Hard-shells, that believe that if they are elect, they can be saved without ever hearing the gospel. This is false, and a damnable heresy. It has pleased God to save people by the gospel. The only way that men can be saved is for someone to take the gospel message to them. (I Cor. 1:18, 21, Mark 16:20) Paul told us that the gospel itself is only known “. . . according to the scriptures.” (I Cor. 15:3, 4) The seed of the New Birth, is God’s Word.
We are going to take a brief look at the Word, and how it works salvation in us. We will save the deeper doctrinal truths for a later, and try to zoom in on what the Bible says about how we are to be saved. Let us take a closer look at what the Bible says.
I. The Word of God:
As we look at God’s book we must state, first of all, what book we are talking about. We are talking about the King James Bible, the perfectly preserved Word of God in the English language. We are not talking about some lost manuscripts that no one can find. We see too many walking around today that do not even know if they have the Bible. We do not just have a good translation – we have God’s very Word. This is something that, like salvation, we must take by faith – based on the Word of God.
First, let us take a look at the anatomy of the Word. God’s Word has much to say about itself but we will try to confine ourselves to one text.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” (Ps. 19:7-11)
This text gives one of the best descriptions of the Word of God. Let us look at a few particulars in these verses.
Perfect: “The law of the Lord is perfect.” That is a great word to describe our Bible. Even the most liberal of biblical scholars will tell us that the original documents were inspired by God and written through the work of the Holy Spirit. (II Tim. 3:16, II Peter 1:20,21) But God has promised that he would preserve His Word. (Ps. 12:6,7) So if God’s Word was ever perfect then it is still perfect. If you can not believe the promise of God regarding preserving His Word, than you will also have a problem believing all the other promises. Your salvation is based upon a promise, heaven is based upon a promise, and God hearing our prayers is also based upon promises. Everything in our Christian life is based upon the promises of One who cannot lie. (Titus 1:2) The reason why men will not accept that we have a perfect Book is a lack of trust in God. Men would rather trust in their own knowledge than to trust God. Let us avoid the shifting sands of man’s understanding, and just believe that God inspired His perfect Word and that He perfectly preserved that inspired Word.
Powerful: The Psalmist goes on telling us that God’s Word has power to convert the soul. This is what the writer of Hebrews speaks about when he says, “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) We must realize that the Bible which we hold is not a dead letter but is quick, (alive). As Peter said, it “liveth and abideth forever.” (1 Pet. 1:23) People do not like the Bible because it knows them – the very thoughts of their heart – so people will not listen to it. The Bible tells men what they are sinners deserving hell. So people run and hide when the Word comes. (John 3:20) The Word is alive!
And it is this Word that has the power to change lives, and convert souls – ‘A drunkard into a preacher, a drug addict into a useful servant of God, a harlot into a beautiful maid, and the vilest of sinners into the greatest of saints’. Men need only to read the stories of men like John Bunyan, Martin Luther, and George Mueller, to see how God changes lives. Men need only go to the Word itself and read about Paul, who persecuted and killed Christians, and how the Word of God changed Him into the greatest of all missionaries. The Word of God still changes lives today. If you are saved, look back at what you were before somebody opened up the Bible and showed you the way of salvation. God’s Word is powerful!
We must realize that nothing we can say or do has the power to change people, no matter how fancy our words, how persuasive our arguments, or how philosophical we sound. It is the Word of God that saves. What a relief to know that when we witness to others we do not have to do anything other than tell them what God’s Word says. When we preach, we do not have to do anything else than to tell them what God says. Anything that we have to say is useless and vain but God’s Word promises that it will not return void but will accomplish its purpose. (Is. 55:11) That is why we are simply commanded to say, “Thus saith the LORD God.” (Eze. 2:4)
Plain: Next the Psalmist tells us that the Word is sure, and can make the simple wise. Peter tells us about how he plainly saw Christ in his glory and how he heard the voice of the Father in heaven. (II Peter 1:16:21) He then tells us that we have “a more sure word of prophecy” than he had seen and heard. This sure word is the Bible that the Holy Spirit gave to man. I can not see Jesus, or the Father, or the glories of heaven with my own eyes but I am sure they are there because I can see them through God’s perfect Word. You may say that we cannot see things which are invisible, but we can. If we have the right instrument we can. If I take a microscope and look at a drop of water I am sure we would see a lot of things I did not know were there. The Bible is the instrument through which we can see eternal things. (II Cor. 4:18) The Bible is plain enough that even the simplest of men can read and understand, though it is deep enough to confound the wisest.
If one will come to this book in humility of heart and mind, he will find that it is plain to understand. It will plainly tell him of his sinful state, it will plainly tell them of the judgment that is to come, but it will also plainly tell him about what Christ did so that he may have eternal life. And this book is able to make him wise. Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures were “able to make you wise unto salvation.” (II Tim. 3:15) Oh, the sum of all wisdom is found in this book. It has baffled men for centuries, and if the Lord tarries, it will, for centuries to come. But it can make the simple wise. Praise God for his plain Word.
Pleasing: The Psalmist then tells us that this right Word can rejoice our hearts. There is nothing more joyous than when we read God’s Word, and He gives us something out of His Word which we carry all the day long. There is no greater time then when some of my dear friends and fellowshiped around the Word. The greatest joy for any home would be for the family to gather around, and read from the Bible. The Word of God is the source in which we find all joy, peace, and love. All things that can bring us true pleasure are found there. May we say with the Psalmist, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” (Ps.119:97) Praise God His Word is pleasing.
Pure: The Psalmist says that this Word is also pure and enlightening to our eyes. As we look upon the words of this book we can be assured that these are God’s very words. People must consider this – God did not just give us His thoughts but His words. The same is true in the original inspiration as it is in the preservation. God inspired the words that the men of God wrote, and those very words He has preserved for us in the English language. The very passage that promises the preservation of the Scriptures begins by saying what the Scriptures consist of. “The words of the Lord are pure words . . . ” (Ps. 12:6, 7) Jesus Christ told us that we could not live simply on the substance of this life, but “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) Man is so proud that he believes that he can improve on purity. Some will ask what would be wrong with changing a few words so that we can understand it better. Can man make the pure snow any whiter? Neither can man make God’s pure Word any better. That is why the book closes with the solemn warning that we can not add to it nor can we take away from it. (Rev. 22:18, 19) It is complete, it is pure, and we should not dare to mess with it. Let us praise the Lord and rest in the full assurance of faith that we have the pure Word of God.
Permanent: The Psalmist tells us that because the words are free form all uncleanness they will endure for ever. Man, and everything else that man has affected will one day come to an end, but God’s Word will endure forever. Peter told us that the Word, “liveth and abideth for ever.” The Psalmist tells us in another place, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven . . . Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” (Ps. 119:89, 160) If it has been settled in heaven I do not understand why men want to mess with it down here. Many have tried to destroy the book but it has endured. It has been the most hated book through the ages and yet it lives on. Time and space would not permit me here to list all those that have sought to destroy it. It is sufficient to say that those that sought its destruction are all dead, and gone but the Bible still stands. The sad part is that the very words that they hated, and wanted to destroy, contain that which could save them, and will one day judge them. (Jn. 5:39, 12:48) When heaven and earth are destroyed by fire and all things are made new, the Word of God will still stand. Praise the Lord that the book we hold is permanent.
Precious: The Psalmist tells us next that the Word is more desired than gold, and sweeter than honey. God’s Word is truly precious. While the Bible has been the most hated of all books it has also been the most loved of all books. Many have given their very lives for this book. One may only read from the Book of Martyrs to see how many thousands died for the Word of God. The Bible was not free, it cost them their lives. We owe a debt of gratitude to those that died for this book. Not only is it precious for the fact that many martyrs gave themselves for it but also because of its intrinsic value. It is only within the pages of the Bible that one can find all he needs to know about this life, and the life to come. What a great value is to be found. Truly the Word of God is to be desired more than gold and is sweeter than honey. It was precious to our Psalmist, he wrote the longest chapter in the Word of God. Its subject, the Word, is one hundred seventy-six verses of a love letter written to God’s Word. The Word is precious.
Preventive: Finally the Psalmist informs us of the preventive quality of God’s Word. It is there that the servant of God is warned, and taught to keep the Word for great reward. The saying goes, This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book. How true that is. Every Christian that ever fell into sin first forsook God’s Word. It is the Bible that “is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105) If we continually put God’s Word first it will show us where we should go, and also show us all the dangers of the path. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Ps. 119:9) The word is that which cleanses us when we take heed to it. O, that we would learn, as the Psalmist, to esteem all His precepts concerning all things to be right. (Ps. 119:128, Eph. 5:26) So many fall because they heed not the word, they pick and choose which commandment they think apply to them, and forsake the rest. These things ought not to be. May we be able to say, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Ps. 119:11) We would find that if we read, meditate on, and apply, God’s Word – is preventive.
Now, before we go on to what God’s Word has to say about salvation and the New Birth, let us consider our absolute need of the Word of God. Peter continues, after our text, in the second chapter, explaining the need of the Word to those that have been born again – “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.” If you have been saved – (born again), the command now for you is to grow. (II Pet. 3:18) The only way for us to grow is to eat, and God has given us the spiritual food that we need, the bread from heaven. (Matt. 4:4) Peter tells us where to start. We should start by desiring the milk of the Word. No one is born and immediately begins to eat solid food. God desires that all His children learn to eat the meat of the Word, the doctrinal substance, but we must start with the milk. (Heb. 5:12-14) This is only learned as we daily come to the Word for our nourishment. Oh, that God’s children would develop such a hunger for the Word of God. (Matt. 5:6; Ps. 81:10) Let us look at the practical things we need to do.
We ought to determine to read through the Bible. It is amazing to hear the staggering statistics that 98% of professing Christians have never read the Bible through, not even one time. In my own life I have known many that have read nothing more than a few select passages. How do we expect to grow in the knowledge of our Savior if we do not make a determination to read His Word? For many, the Bible has just become a decoration for the coffee table or book shelf. How sad to know that the blessed Book does little more than collect dust. Once a week the average Christian might wipe off the dust when they carry it to church. Do not look around wondering what is wrong with our society, it has gone the way of all who have forsaken the Book. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus Christ Himself asked the question “have ye never read” – eleven times. Christian, have you ever read? “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures. . . .” (II Pet.3:15-18; Matt. 22:29)
True Success: Everyone desires to be a success in his individual field. If you want to be a success in your Christian life there is only one way, God’s Word. The word “success” itself only appears one time in the Bible. ” This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is writen therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Josh. 1:8) This is not talking about the “prosperity gospel” that is preached by the ungodly television evangelists. They are nothing more than rip-off artists that want to rob your money for themselves while promising you that if you give to them, God will richly bless your finances. Nowhere in the Bible does it promise you that you will be rich and have everything you want. The Bible does say that, if you seek Christ, that He will supply all your needs, that you will not have to worry about food, shelter, or clothing – for God will take care of you. (Matt. 6:33) But this text does promise, that if you stay in His book you will be a success in God’s eyes and not man’s. Wouldn’t you rather that every man on earth deem you a failure, and you be a success in the eyes of God; than to have great riches for all men to see, and God deem you a failure? (Luke 12:15-21)
In this text we see that God’s Word should affect all aspects of our being. It should be in our mouth. We should speak about it as often as opportunity allows. How often is our conversation filled with the things of the world? Let not the Word depart out of our mouth. We should meditate on it day and night. This involves the intellect. We are to think about God’s Word. Our minds would not be filled with sinful thoughts if we could meditate on the Scripture. We should observe the Word. This involves our eyes in reading. The Word of God was not meant to be set on a shelf but to be set in front of our eyes, and read, and committed to memory. We are not to stop at speaking, reading, and meditating on the Scriptures but to apply them to our lives, letting them shape our actions. This involves man’s will. All these steps to success, in the eyes of God, can only be realized if we come to a point that we determine to know the Word by reading through it.
Neglect of God’s Word: Let us consider the Old Testament character, Samuel. He was a man that was born in faith. We consider his mother, Hannah, broken hearted as she prayed for a son. God heard her prayer and granted her request. She, according to her promise, gave her son back to the Lord, to be raised in the Temple by Eli the priest. This is where we find him when God calls him. “And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision . . . And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh; for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” (I Sam. 3:1,19-21) We see here three things: First, how rare the Word of God was in those days. Then, we see the relationship that Samuel had with the Word. Lastly, we see the fact that God revealed Himself through the Word.
In the days of Samuel the Word of God had become a very rare thing. The word precious denotes value. Something is valuable according to its rarity. There are many reasons why in those days the Word of God was rare. The priesthood had become corrupt, the people had forsaken the house of God, there was open gross sin, and a breakdown of the family, (see I Sam. 2:22-36) – to name a few things. This is not far off from todays culture is today. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. . . .” (Amos 8:11) How true that has become in our days, just as it was in the days of Samuel. God’s Word can not be found in our schools, our society as a whole, and as we have seen most professing Christians are ignorant of the Word. The average Christian has been so busy stuffing himself with the junk food of our society: television, music, and the Internet, that he does not even realize that he is starving, and dying, because of a famine for God’s Word. The Bible has been collecting dust in our “Christian nation.” The Word is not counted as precious in our days. First, Samuel goes on to say there was “no open vision”. Their vision had become closed. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Prov. 29:18) Do you see how our vision is connected to the law (God’s Word)? When we forsake God’s Word we have already lost our vision. (Jn. 4:35)
We then see, out of this great famine of the word of God that God called one man, Samuel. It tells us in the nineteenth and twentieth verse of Samuel’s relation to God’s Word. First, it tells us that he grew. Peter also has said that the only way we can grow is though the Word. How could we grow in the knowledge of Christ without the Word of God? Our Christian life is measured by our relationship to the Bible. The phrase that catches our eye in the nineteenth verse is that he let none of his words fall to the ground. This tells us three things about Samuel’s relation. First, it shows that he had a hunger for the Word. Just like the story of Lazarus and the Canaanite woman, they were willing in their day of famine to feed on the meager crumbs of God’s Word. (Luke 16:21, Mark 7:28) Jesus told us, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Samuel had a hunger and God filled it. “. . . Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Ps. 81:10)
Next, it shows us Samuel’s absolute obedience to God’s Word. He did not let God’s word fall to the ground. “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” (Ps. 119:128) Too many are hearers but not doers of the Word. People do not believe that certain commands apply to them. For instance people forsake God’s house despite his command not to forsake it, showing that they do not care that all parts of Scripture apply to them. They will read about specific sins in their life, and ignore it, saying in their heart, “that’s not for me.” We sit under a hard preaching and think to ourselves, “He sure is preaching hard to so and so.” Samuel’s attitude was not such. He did not let any word fall to the ground. Lastly, it shows his use of the Word. He faithfully proclaimed everything that God said. This is seen by the fact that all Israel recognized him as a prophet. “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” (Matt. 10:27) His relationship with the Word was not passive but rather it demanded of him an open forum. Truly, it developed in him a vision. (Mark 16:16)
Finally, we see in verse twenty-one that through the Word Samuel found a revelation of God. And it is this that will lead us into a relation to the New Birth. It is only through the Word of God that Christ is revealed. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom.10:17) Christ is not revealed in any other way. (II Thess. 2:14) But before we move on, for our edification, let us notice here, in Samuel the word “again.” The number one thing we see by this word is that by one man, who honored God’s Word, the Lord once again made his presence known in that land of famine. What a great revival verse this becomes. All God needs is one. As Christ told us, as he stood outside the church doors, “. . . if any man will hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in . . . .” (Rev. 3:20) See again the relationship this has with the Word when it is said, “if any man will hear my voice. . . .” God may be waiting on you to hear Him before He will once again make His presence known. “O God, let it not be me who holds back your revival!” Let us build our relationship with God’s Word.
Also, we see by the word “again” that God does not stop revealing Himself at our salvation experience but, as He did with Samuel after He called him, continually revealed Himself through the Word of God. This is where we should ee our great need of the Word. Jesus Christ is in every page of the Bible, from “in the beginning God” in Genesis to the “Amen” in Revelation is of Christ. “. . . In the volume of the book it is written of me.” (Ps. 40:7) The message of the entire Book is Christ. In our text, back in Peter, we see what the message of the Word is, “. . . And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (I Pet. 1:25) The theme of the Bible is Christ and His gospel. This He reveals to us in salvation and, if we get into His Word, we will find that He will continually reveal Himself to us. It is in this way that we come to know Him.
II. What the Bible says:
Now that we have looked at the Bible itself, let us look at what the Bible has to say about what is necessary for our salvation. To recount what we have learned in the first chapter, salvation has nothing to do with what we can do. It is not of works, it is all of God. And so far, in this second chapter, we have seen that it is only through the Word that God will reveal Himself. Thus we are said to be “born of the Word of God.”
We know that we are called by the gospel, but what are we called to do? What is it that the Word demands of us? In the Scriptures, we find two elements that are absolutely necessary for the New Birth, repentance and faith. “. . . Testifying both to the Jews and to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21, Heb. 6:1) When the Word is preached, it calls men to turn from sin, and to turn to Jesus Christ. Without faith there can be no true repentance. Whenever we come to a scripture passages that speak only of one of the two, we must understand that the other element is implied. Also we shall see that both are not works, but rather they are graces. We do not muster our own faith and bring ourselves to repentance, but it is God that works these things in us through the Word. So, let us take a look at these two elements.
Repentance: No one can be saved without first confronting sin. We have already seen that the very first ministry of the Holy Spirit is to convince men of their sins, God’s righteousness, and the judgment that is to come upon their sin. (John 16:8) This may not be popular for the “new evangelicals” who only talk of the love of God, but, that is where the Spirit begins. We cannot be found of Christ unless we are first lost in our sins. Whatever soul winning classes you may take, if they do not first deal with man’s problem, then they are not of the Word. Man must realize that he has sinned against a righteous and holy God, and that sin deserves to be judged. Man must realize how sinful he is. If a man does not believe that he deserves hell, he cannot be saved.
One day I was speaking to an elderly lady about salvation, and she said that she was raised in church for forty years. She told me she was saved. In the process of the conversation I asked her if she deserved hell? She said, NO! She readily admitted that she was a sinner but she refused to believe that she was bad enough to go to hell. The question then is, “what are you saved from?” I wish that I could tell you that she got saved but she did not. She, like many others, did not understand her condition. Another lady, who visited our church, left saying that we are too negative. She said that we just need to preach that everybody is a sinner, and not make sin so personal. It is not enough for us to realize that all have sinned; we must go further, and realize, that we have personally sinned against God. It is I who sinned, I deserve to burn in hell; for the wages of my sin is death. (Rom. 6:23) Man must know, first, his exceeding sinfulness. If I sin against a finite man I can pay for that sin here and now, for the law says, “an eye for an eye.” But if I sin against an infinite, eternal God, all eternity could not pay for my crime.
This is where repentance comes in. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of direction. Repentance is turning from sin. “. . . (God) now commandeth all men every where to repent.” (Acts 17:30) Jesus Christ gave us the directive, “. . .except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3, 5) As Christ was in the midst of the people that day telling them of their sin, He also let them know that repentance was necessary in order to be saved. Now I know the objections are rising up at this point and the cry is made, “legalist.” This act though is no more a work than faith, but it is actually an intricate part. One cannot turn to Christ in faith without turning away from their sin. Sin is what keeps people from coming to Christ. Salvation is not a choice between Heaven and Hell, for any fool would choose Heaven and shun Hell. Salvation is rather a choice between your sin, and the Savior. When a man realizes his exceeding sinfulness, and what Jesus Christ suffered because of that sin, how could he retain his love for that sin? The question then is, “Will you forsake your sins, and live, or keep your sins and perish.”
Another objection, “man does not have to turn from all the various sins in his life to be born again.” The idea is not remembering every sin ever committed, even those unwittingly committing, or even choosing which sins you would be willing to give up. True repentance, requires that our understanding, and view of sin, should incorporate the holiness of God, and the cost to Christ. Just as the woman at the well, in John chapter four, had to deal first with her sin, there is no doubt that she understood that her life of sins was completely open to God, and that she must be willing to leave her sin for Christ! Our view of sin can be further clarified by: An analogy of a mother with a valuable knife that a friend had given her. One day she was using the knife to open her mail and set it down upon the table. While she was not looking her young child picked up the knife and falling upon it, died. Later on that mother looked upon that knife to which her young child’s blood was shed and despised it. Despite the great value she had once placed upon that knife she was unwilling to bear the sight of it. So too, our sin caused Jesus Christ to shed his blood. How could we ever come to Christ and be willing to hold onto our sin? There must be a willingness to turn from our sin. That is repentance!
The misunderstanding concerning repentance is understandable. Many false prophets of our day preach it as if it was a work that we must do. Repentance is not a work but the attitude or posture of a sinner coming to Christ. The Scripture is very clear that repentance is not a work that we do but it is a work that God does in us at the new birth. (Acts 11:18) “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.” (II Cor. 7:10, 11) Paul, says that repentance ends in an outward change. But we see here that repentance is worked in us by something that comes from without, godly sorrow. This sorrow is wrought by God. When the Holy Sprit convicts of sin it results in sorrow for our sin. (John 16:8)
Not sorrow for any of the consequences of sin (like many who are sorry that they were caught), for this is the worldly sorrow that works death, a selfish sorrow. But a sorrow that mourns for its very condition. This sorrow is wrought by God, and is directed toward God. It works in us the response of David, “Against thee, (the Lord) thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight. . . .” (Ps. 51:4) This sorrow is over our great offense toward a loving God. And it is this sorrow that creates in us the willingness to turn from our sins, and to God, for forgiveness. Without this it is impossible to come to God in sincerity for salvation. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Ps. 34:18) The Word of God commands men to repent.
Faith: Now let us look at the second element. While repentance works in us, turning us from sin, faith works in us, turning us to Christ. A command of the Bible is summed up in one word, “believe.” Men once approached Christ and asked Him what they could do to see that they would do the works of God. Jesus Christ replied, ” This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29) Another man came trembling, fell before Paul and Silas, and cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas gave the simple answer,”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. . . .” (Acts 16:31) The gospel is no simpler than that. God gave the promise that “believing” is all that is necessary. That is faith, and without faith there is no salvation. (Rom. 5:1, Heb. 11:6)
Now let us quickly deal with some objections. First, one will say that, if faith is all that is necessary then repentance is not part of the new birth. But, as we have already seen, one cannot turn to Christ unless he has first turned from sin. The words, “faith” and “belief”, imply repentance, just as repentance implies faith. You will never see one where the other is not evident. The word “believe” means to place all your trust upon something. That would not be possible if repentance did not work first.
Another objection is that we have made faith a work, and we are not saved by works. (Eph. 2:8,9) We must realize first of all that we have no faith of our own. All the faith we have was given to us through the Spirit, just as repentance was wrought by God. (Rom. 12:3, Eph. 2:8) No one at any point of time could ever merit salvation by something that they do or exercise. Repentance and faith are not works that we do. The New Birth is not achieved by our full hands giving something to God, but rather it is achieved by our empty hands receiving from Him. (Gal. 2:16, Rom. 3:20)
For the last objection, one might turn to James that says, “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) We will deal with this objection at length in the fourth chapter. But it will suffice to say here that works do not obtain salvation but they are the evidence of salvation. One may only study the eleventh chapter of Hebrews to see that true faith will produce works. If the fruit does not follow, there was no real faith, therefore, there was no salvation. Martin Luther summed it up when he said, “I believe in salvation by faith alone, but I do not believe in salvation by faith that is alone.” Jesus told us that we will know them by their fruit. (Matt. 7:20)
III. The Receiving of the Word:
Back in the first chapter of John, the twelfth verse, we are told that we are born again by receiving Christ. The question then is how do we receive Him? The answer is simple, we receive Him by receiving His Word. (I Thess. 2:13) That, in a nutshell, is why we are said to be born of the Word. The Word of God is called the sword of the Spirit not only because the Spirit is the author of it, but because the Holy Spirit empowers the Word when it is preached. Whenever the Word of God is preached, the Spirit is working on men’s hearts to receive it. Therefore the Word will never return void. (Is. 55:11) The Spirit draws men to Christ. Men are saved when they heed to what the Word of God says. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17) Oh, that men would hear God’s Word, see their sinful state, and turn to Christ for salvation! It is through receiving the Word that repentance and faith will be granted, and one can become a child of God. Nevertheless, many will not hear His words because they do not like to hear that they are sinful and deserving of Hell. They do not want to come to Christ because they love their sin, therefore they hate the Light of God’s Word. (John 3:19-21) Receive His Word today, and be born of the Word. (Heb. 4:7)
“But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 7:11-13, see also Prov.1: 21-33)