Born of the Spirit: What is Wrong with My First Birth?
By Wayne McCray
Like many of you, I have spent most of my Christian life telling people how they too can become a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. It has been a privilege to represent our Lord and show folks from the Bible how they can know the forgiveness of sins, become acceptable to God, receive God’s very own nature, and anticipate a home in Heaven. Some have been astonished to learn that all of this is free to us sinners when we repent placing our faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Like the Lord Jesus in John chapter three, I am sometimes surprised to discover what people are relying on to establish a relationship with God. Far too often it is something they have done or are doing that they believe secures their salvation. Nicodemus was a religious man, a Pharisee, and even a religious ruler of the Jews, God’s chosen people. He was well trained in theology and biblical studies; people looked to him for spiritual wisdom and insight. He, however, still did not hold the key that would unlock the kingdom of God to him. I find there are many like Nicodemus in the world.
During evangelistic efforts, I will ask people, “Have you ever been born again?” Some have responded, “Yes I have.” Then they usually share with me a story about a ‘life changing experience.’ Many times it entails a great sickness, a tragic accident, surviving a recent war, or an awful emotional trauma. Through their experience, they began to view God differently, and looked to Him regularly. While it is good they turned to God for help in their time of need, this in itself does not establish a saving-relationship with God. This is not a new birth by the Spirit; it is only a life changing experience! Such behavior will not result in new life, forgiveness of sins, the reception of a new nature, or going to Heaven. This is not the glorious imparting of divine life and awakening of the human spirit salvation experience. A life altering experience is simply just that; any one can get the same results from a car accident that left them paralyzed!
Then there have been occasions when I asked that same question, “Have you been born again or born of the Spirit?” And the answer was an honest, ‘No’. These individuals never heard of such a thing even though they were familiar with Bible stories and had great respect for God and Christianity in general. Yet this topic is of the utmost importance because Jesus insisted it was absolutely necessary for everyone to be born again! He made it unmistakably clear that it was impossible to truly know God without experiencing the spiritual birth! Note His distinct words,
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (John 3:5-7).
Each and every one of us are unfit for a relationship with the holy God of heaven because our first birth was of a human and earthly source—sinful flesh! However, we can be prepared by God for an eternity with Him through a divine birth (a rebirth) from the heavenly Source—The Spirit! We must be born of the Spirit of God, to have eternal life in a saving-relationship with God, forgiveness of our sins, and the hope of God’s heavenly home. There is absolutely NO hope of salvation without the spiritual new birth experience. Let us examine this further by considering a few pertinent questions. The first one is:
What Is Wrong With Our First Physical Birth?
Before we can realize the need for a second-spiritual birth, we must first realize what is wrong with our first-physical birth. Unless we understand exactly how sick we are, we will be unwilling to see a doctor for his healing help!
Now clearly we all have been born physically or “born of the flesh” and if we are required to be “born again” then it implies that we were born wrong the first time. Something about our original birth rendered us unfit and unqualified for an eternal relationship with a holy God. So, what was wrong with our first natural birth?
WE HAVE THE WRONG SPIRITUAL FATHER
You see we all, as human beings, share the guilt of the first sin of Adam back in the Garden of Eden. The imputing of Adam’s sin to all his children is taught in Romans 5:12-19. The Apostle Paul declares that God credits the guilt of Adam’s sin to all other members of the human race, “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” Is there any evidence of this being the case?
First, death is proof of mankind’s universal guilt of sin. Through Adam’s offense judgment came to all humanity, resulting in utter rejection and total condemnation of the entire human race. All were tainted by this propensity to resist, refuse God, and rebel against Him. Because of that one man’s offense, death reigned like a tyrannical king and was forced upon everyone ever born (Gen. 5). This affords undeniable evidence that sin had invaded the world—people are still dying today. Consider what God’s Word says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Rom 5:12). Again it says, “Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation… (Rom 5:18).
Secondly, the fall of Adam resulted in the fall of the entire human race. “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners… (Rom 5:19). Sin, like an aggressive contagion, spread through every human generation naturally. Since Adam is the father of the human race all of his children are tragically infested with sinful motives, desires, behaviors, and eagerly rage to rebel against a holy God.
You see, Adam’s relationship to the human race is that of the federal head; he was the leader-representative of all mankind. When he sinned, we all sinned. In effect, we all received credit for his sin and are guilty. Therefore we were born spiritual dead and are destined to die physically. Death is the evidence that we all are guilty of the sin of Adam. When our Federal head sinned God justly condemned him and every one he represented; we all received credit on our spiritual accounts for Adam’s sin. “For as in Adam all die…” (1 Cor. 15:22).
This representative role of Adam can be likened unto the role of our presidents. Whenever the federal head (president) of the U.S.A. make a statement, a claim, or a commitment to the UN or another country, he automatically obligates each of us tax paying Americans regardless of our individual opinions or views. The entire country will be charged with that commitment or that responsibility in the eyes of the UN or that country. So it is with Adam’s sin, we stand obligated for his actions and we all will reap the consequences of His gross failure.
Thus, we are unprepared to enter an eternal-relationship with God because our first birth (physical and natural) is from a sinful source. It is rooted in Adam, an earthly source, who SINNED! In such condition, we our sentenced to death in Hell forever because we remain unfit for an eternal relationship with God in Heaven! Sin is the culprit.
WE HAVE THE WRONG SPIRITUAL NATURE
Also everyone born physically has Adam’s natural inclination to sin. Consider the following biblical statements. In Genesis 5:3, Moses says, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth”. Adam’s children possess his likeness and image. This involves the propensity to sin and rebel against God’s authority. David informs us in Psalm 51:5, that our sinfulness is inherent and inborn, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Even from our very conception, we receive a natural inclination to rebel against God. Again the Psalmist of Israel said in Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” This is so true, and we all can identify with the reality it conveys. None of us had to be taught how to lie, we all did it naturally. In fact, lies still define us all! This is plain evidence of our sinfulness. The Apostle Paul clearly explained how our sinful behaviors are rooted in the core of our beings, our very nature. Consider what he said in Ephesians 2:3, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Wrath is pronounced upon fallen sinful humanity because of our sinful nature. The Lord Jesus also distinguished the first birth from the second birth to impress us all with the absolute need for the second birth. In John 3:6, Christ said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Sinfulness is a part of our natural makeup and it requires a supernatural change to fix the problem.
Again have you ever noticed that you don’t have to teach a child to sin (lie, steal, be selfishness, disobey, and rebel)? It comes very naturally to them because they, like us, have inherited Adam’s inclination to rebel against God, His order, and His Word. Have you noticed how difficult it is to teach children right things—how to love God, and to read their Bibles faithfully, to attend Church regularly, and to pray to enjoy communion with God? All of this is undeniable evidence of our SIN NATURE!
As such, we are disqualified to enter an eternal relationship with God because our first birth, physical, is from the wrong source, Adam. We have a sin nature that is anti-God. It is not so much the individual sins that we commit, (though these are awful!) but the fact that we have a sinful orientation that drives us to indulge in the wrongs that so violently offends a holy God!
In short we cannot embrace an eternal relationship with a righteous God in our natural state because we have the wrong father and the wrong nature. Unless God undertakes to change us, we are condemned forever to the Lake of Fire without any other recourse or hope for all eternity. This is why the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ is so vital to our spiritual welfare. Again, the Lord Jesus insisted that we must be born again.