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Jesus – Pioneer of the New Birth

We must be born again, but where do we get such new birth from? As with everything else in salvation, we get it through Christ. Let me put it this way...

On Easter Sunday, the Bible speaks of a significant newness regarding Jesus.

Romans 1:4 says “through the Spirit of holiness [Jesus] was declared with power to be the Son of God.”

Jesus was already the Son of God, but Easter “declared” Him to be so with power.

Colossians 1:18 says Jesus is “Firstborn from the dead.”

Jesus was already Firstborn (Colossians 1:15) but He was not Firstborn from among the dead until Easter morning.  This was very much a new birth for Jesus.

1 Timothy 3:15 says Jesus was “justified in the Spirit” (referring almost certainly to His resurrection).

Again, He was always righteous – indeed He is the Righteous One.  Yet He is vindicated to be so when He rises from the dead.

1 Peter 3:18 says Jesus was “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit.”

Once more, Jesus is the Living One – indeed He is the Author of life.  But His resurrection marks a movement from flesh-life to Spirit-life.  In other words, there is a movement from the life He took on in incarnation to the glorified humanity He receives in resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15 is a sustained meditation on this resurrection reality.  First comes the natural body then the spiritual (v44).  The fact that we pass from natural to spiritual is because Jesus is the Firstfruits (v20-23).  He is the Pioneer of this movement from flesh-life to Spirit-life.

In this sense I would say that Jesus pioneers the new birth.  He passes through death and judgement (a death and judgement which He did not deserve).  He comes out the other side in glorified, resurrection life.  And the new life He offers to us is a participation in His new life. Where do we get our new birth from? We get it from Jesus.

Now this can sound really odd to people. Jesus gets a new birth? What?

I think part of the misunderstanding on this issue involves a misconception about salvation.  At a popular level we understand salvation fairly Christlessly.  We imagine that getting saved means "getting zapped" by God.  It's something that lands on sinners by the power of the Spirit and brings them to God.  And Jesus is not really a part of the equation. Therefore since Jesus isn't a sinner in need of 'getting saved' (and He's not!) we see no role for Jesus.  This Spirit-centric view of salvation leaves Jesus out of regeneration.

But salvation centres on Jesus.  He works it.  Through His doing and dying we are saved.  And the Spirit seals us into Him.  Thus salvation is located in Christ.  If we have eternal life, it's a participation in His eternal life.  If we have righteousness, it's a participation in His righteousness.  If we have a new birth, it's a participation in His new birth.

Another problem in our understanding is conceiving of the "new birth" much more narrowly than the Bible.  Remember that heaven and earth will be made new (e.g. Isaiah 65:17).  In Jesus’ words, there will be a “regeneration” of all things (Matthew 19:28).  It is not simply sinners who need the new birth.  New birth is required for the whole old order.  And only Jesus can bring it to us.

Here's how He does it.  Jesus enters into the world and takes on our flesh.  He takes responsibility for this old world by standing at its Head.  He takes the old world and the old man down into death.  But God raises Him by the Spirit to newness of life.  As Firstborn from among the dead He offers us a share in His Firstborn-ness (if I can put it like that).  As Firstfruits He offers to graft us in to His fruitful new life.  As Risen One, He offers us new birth into His living hope (1 Peter 1:3).

That’s the sense in which Jesus pioneered the new birth.

22 thoughts on “Jesus – Pioneer of the New Birth

  1. John B

    Yes and Yes.

    The resurrection can be likened metaphorically to new birth, as a way of thinking about the consummation of the new creation. But is this the same sense that Jesus meant by his phrase "born again" during the conversation with Nicodemus? There Jesus spoke in a very "Spirit-centric" way! The effect of the Spirit's illumination through faith is the regeneration of the human nature. This occurs on this side of resurrection, when one believes in the Son who the Spirit is illuminating to us, as we now die with Christ, in hope of living with him. Jesus is the grace of God, and the Spirit is the means by which we receive him.

    "Born again" in the sense that Jesus memorialized the phrase as meaning regeneration, doesn't apply to Jesus himself, and is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is truly the pioneer of the new creation.

  2. theoldadam

    He is All in All.

    Alpha and Omega.

    Before the world was, He was.

    And to think that He loves us so much He declares us righteous for His sake.

    What an awesome God we have!

  3. woldeyesus

    For wholly abandoning the original PRESCRIPTION, such a needless and monstrous reinvention is expected.

    Otherwise, the SOURCE of the "New Birth" lies in the power of Christ's Spirit-active death on the cross which opened for mankind a second chance of "being born spiritually of the Spirit" (John 3: 1-21; 14: 18-21; 19: 30-37).

    That is why the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn into two from top to bottom, Jesus rose from death leading many of God's people who had died and 3,000 people believed the message and were baptized on the day of Pentecost (Matt. 27: 50-56).

  4. Rich Owen

    woldeyesus,

    It's great the you are here and posting stuff, you are most welcome.... but I must admit, I find your comments, somewhat confusing.

    I hope you don't mind my being direct with you, but your comments don't really comment... if you see what I mean. You don't really interact with the original piece and comment on them. You tend to leave quite disconnected, impersonal and (perhaps it is just me) esoteric comments, full of capitalised words. I don't get them... and consequently, I don't get you.

    Who are you? What are you?

    I love the fact that Jesus comes to us in person, relates to us - engages with our time, our circumstances, heals our wounds and so on. He doesn't just fly by and impersonally dump stuff on us and leave us to sort out what he means.

    Do you know this Jesus? This personal Jesus, this Jesus who engages with us?

    Rich

  5. woldeyesus

    Rich,

    Thank you for the welcome.

    I personally stand by Christ's Spirit-active, perfect and transfigurative death on the cross as the seal of the "new covenant" and as sole basis for full-term "New Birth", firsthand knowledge of Christ and secure growth in his grace according to the Scriptures.

    The alternative is the common and disappointing stillbirth by natural means of personal will and decision.

  6. Glen

    Hi John,

    I think John 3:3-7 is a lot more linked to the before and after than is usually taught. When Jesus says "flesh gives birth to flesh", I hear a definite echo of "the Word became flesh." Jesus Himself addresses the flesh problem from within it.

    And He Himself is the answer to the problem. When He says "no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" it's not a switch of gears but a reiteration of the flesh problem. But now there's a solution - another Man who doesn't work His way up but comes down from heaven. He then is lifted up in order that we may have life.

    And this "life" harkens back to the birth language of v3-8. What is this eternal life that comes from Jesus if it isn't the life birthed by the Spirit? To be born again *is* to have eternal life - it is the birth into that life. But that eternal life is a sharing in the life of the Son. And that Son, who once became flesh, then became a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45). This movement from flesh-life to Spirit-life is the original new birth. Our new birth is a sharing in His new birth.

    I'm rambling.

  7. woldeyesus

    Perhaps the following 5-point outline of PRESCRIPTION will be helpful for testing and refinement (John 3: 1-21).

    1. The PURPOSE is to know Jesus Christ, as presumed by Nicodemus, or "see the Kingdom of God" in altruistic figure of speech used by Jesus. (vs. 1-3)

    2. The REQUIREMENT is the need to be "born of the water and the Spirit."
    (vs. 5-6, 8 with clear parallel to the making of the first man in Gen. 2: 6-7)

    3. The WAY is the crucifixion of the Son of Man. (vs. 14-15 again with clear parallels between the "tree of life" in Gen. 2:9 and the "bronze snake on a pole in the desert" in Num. 21: 4-9)

    4. The END is personal knowledge of Jesus Christ or eternal life (vs. 16-17 repeated in Ibid, 17:3 and "finished" for our follow-up and "looking at him whom they pierced" in Christ's Spirit-active death on the cross Ibid, 19: 30-37)

    5. The IMAGE is "source of life," i.e., self-sufficient life and "light" to come to or refuse to come to (vs. 18-21 as fulfillment of God's promise in the burning but unconsummed bush Ex. 3: 1-15 and contrasting God's life-giving Spirit and redundant power of man John 6: 62-64).

  8. student ministry yorba linda

    Just a great post...I read many posts on this confusion about the Jesus rebirth but this one is beyond all of those.You beautifully explains all the things.He is such a power that already exists before the world and will also exists after the world...We are truly blessed by this lovely God...Thank you for sharing...

    Lots of love...

  9. woldeyesus

    Rather than "the pioneer", therefore, Jesus in the power of his death is the benefactor of the New Birth, a.k.a., "God of the living, not of the dead" including but not limited to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, etc. (as developed in Matt. 16: 13-28; 17: 1-13; 22: 29-32; 26:64; 27: 50-56)

  10. John B

    Thanks, Glen. Those are good insights on the flesh problem. I'll ponder on them. Do you see John 3:5 as a reference to Ezekiel 36:25-27? This would accord with Jesus' admonishment of Nicodemus for his lack of understanding in v. 10. V.6 seems to be contrasting the natural birth from a woman, with the new birth from the Spirit. To enter the kingdom of God, one must be cleansed and receive a new heart and spirit in the new birth. So the new birth, as Jesus speaks of it here, is the gift of the Spirit, whom Jesus gives without measure. So I can't say that the new birth, in its best known, John 3-sense of regeneration can ever be applied to Jesus himself. I know that this isn't what you're saying here. But for me, the "born again", "new birth" language is so evocative of John 3 that it's difficult to see its meaning in another sense.

    The Spirit's ministry to believers is to glorify Christ by mediating his presence. We have communion with Jesus now through the Spirit, and live in the hope of an imperishable inheritance and salvation to be revealed in the age to come. That which you're calling "new birth", for us, is yet to come, but the "born again" of regeneration is a reality of this age and the fountainhead of salvation.

  11. woldeyesus

    I am afraid that the assumed difference (by John B.) between the "new birth" and being "born again" will prove spurious when the terms of the "new covenant", including the promise of intimate knowledge of God, sealed in Christ's characteristically Spirit-active death on the cross are introduced (Jer. 31: 31-34; John 3: 14-15; Matt. 26: 26-29; 27: 50-56).

    All the Apostolic ministries in the Acts, the Epistles and even in the Book of Revelation invariably bear witness to Christ's death on the cross as the source of their inspiration.

  12. John B

    Hi woldeyesus,

    I think that we agree to the extent that it may be confusing to think of "new birth" in another sense than Jesus uses the phrase "born again" in John 3. Peter, in the first chapter of his first epistle, distinguishes between being "born again to a living hope", and "being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time". That's why the use of the expression "new birth" to refer to the fulfillment of salvation is confusing to me. So I can't embrace this language myself, but am very glad that it's helpful to others.

  13. woldeyesus

    Apart from the GOOD NEWS in terms of God's direct and personal self-revelation and instruction, according to the terms in the new covenant and the seal in Christ's death on the cross, there is no other source of sound doctrine (Jer. 31: 31-34; Matt. 26: 26-29).

  14. Chris W

    The parallels between John 3:5 and Ezekiel 36:24-26 go pretty deep. Notice the progression of thought in the Ezekiel passage: in order to enter the kingdom/land (v24), you must be cleansed with water (v25) and be given a new heart/spirit (v26).

    The new birth must be about Christ though, since He alone is the true Israel, the obedient people of God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit at Baptism (John 1:29-34) like Old Covenant Israel (1 Cor 10:1-4) and we are the new Israel, since we are in Him. That's more or less my take on it.

  15. John B

    Hi Chris W,

    The connection of the Baptism of the Spirit to the Baptism of Jesus seems like a critical one, to me as well. Do you see these two to be the same? It seems to me that in the OT we see the promise that the Messiah will be anointed in the power of the Spirit, and this promise is fulfilled at Jesus' baptism, where he becomes the representative of his people by assuming their burden of life in the flesh. But in the Ezekiel 36 passage the baptism of the Spirit is promised to all of God's people. In John 3 Jesus speaks about this clear OT promise. Jesus is not just "a teacher come from God" as Nicodemus acknowledges him to be; he's the anointed Messiah who doesn't teach about a new birth, but declares emphatically, in the second person, the world's need to be "born again". John 3 concludes with the testimony of John the Baptist that Jesus "gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life." It is the only begotten eternal Son of God who baptizes his people in the Spirit, first having "made himself nothing" in the Baptist's baptism of repentance.

  16. woldeyesus

    Absolutely not without follow-up!

    "As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3: 14-15) by "looking at him (and at the blood and the water) in whom they pierced" (Ibid, 19: 34-37).

  17. Chris W

    Hey John B,

    I think "born of water and the Spirit" in John 3:5 certainly does link to Jesus' water/Spirit baptism and suggests that baptism is the water birth that Jesus has in mind (the context makes this pretty clear too, see vs. 22-24). I'm not denying the link with Ezek 36 of course, I think John is almost certainly referring to both things at once. The Ezekiel passage is referring to the people of Israel during the restoration era though and so Jesus must be using typology to link this passage to the water/Spirit baptism that new believers must experience. In other words, I don't think the link between John 3:5 and Ezek 36:24-26 is direct.

    On the Christocentricity of the passage, Jesus must first become the one born of water and the Spirit and then we become the same in Him. I don't think John had left 1:29-34 behind when he wrote 3:5.

    But to get back on track, Glen was talking about Christ's death and resurrection, the central reality in which we share through baptism (Col 2:8-15) and regeneration (Eph 2:1-10), birth of water and Spirit. I think Glen got it right, most people's conception of "born again" is very narrow, the bible uses regeneration imagery to describe the restoration of all things inaugurated by the resurrection of Christ. And that's BIG.

  18. Chris W

    Correction: "Jesus must be using typology to link this passage to the water/Spirit *birth* that new believers must experience". I was not intending to equate spirit-baptism with spirit-birth, they are not the same thing. The Apostles were obviously born of the Spirit before Pentecost happened!

  19. John B

    Hi Chris W,

    Thanks for your very convincing comments and persuasive reasoning from Scripture. My only reluctance is in speaking of Jesus as "born again". I agree that this is true in the sense that you've explained so well. But it seems to me that Jesus' primary and clearest use of the phrase "born again" is to explain that which is required if one is to "enter the kingdom of God".

    I suppose it depends on who we're speaking with. Yes, there are some who seem to speak of regeneration as a kind of Christ-less zapping by God. So it's necessary to draw out Christ as the first fruits; that all are made alive in Him. But for me, rather than this narrow view of regeneration, I'm far more often encountering an Adoptionist Christology, which sees Jesus as a man who became the Son of God at his baptism, or his resurrection, or at the crucifixion. To use the language of Jesus being "born again" and of his "new birth" is readily acceptable to those who hold the Adoptionist view, which seems to be on the rise and making inroads even in conservative evangelical churches. I know that this isn't what you're saying here. But many who are zealous for Adoptionism will mistakenly find some support for their views in this language.

    (I'm quite comfortable with your distinction between spirit-baptism and spirit-birth, but I don't think that the two are ever separable after Pentecost, which is why it's so BIG!) ;)

  20. woldeyesus

    More importantly, being "born again" is what it takes "to know who Jesus is" temporarily expressed in figure of speech: "to see the Kingdom of God." (John 3: 2-3; 16: 25-26)

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