It is amazing how many born again people don’t realize the import of their momentous transformation. What does it mean to be born again? One of the most poignant answers is 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.”
The word “new” in that passage is the Greek word kainos. It means novel, qualitatively new. It’s not “Neos” which essentially means “latest” in modern terms. Therefore the man who is recreated in Christ is an entirely different SPECIES from the sinner who gave his life to Jesus. He can’t be re-engineered, can never be the same man again! He’s remade in the image of the last Adam from the first Adam.
The Message translation of that passage gives us further insight into the biology of recreation: ”Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life beckons!” In other words, being born again is not some moral correction or attitudinal change. It’s modern biology. You become a PART of Christ, a member of his mystical body – mystici corporis Christi. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. You CAN’T be separated from Christ! The Christ can’t be divided, not even into wholesale factions!
1 Corinthians 1:13.
This is why Paul eminently boasted in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. “I am persuaded beyond doubt that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Sprit as the GUARANTEE of our inheritance. Ephesians 1:13, 14.
It is a lack of understanding that makes us imagine scriptures say we “maintain” our salvation like insurance contract. This expression, “Maintain your salvation with fear and trembling” is from 17th century English King James Bible. To understand King James Bible one must have an appreciation of classical English. It’s Shakespearean English!
Besides, we must never take scriptures out of CONTEXT. It always leads to mischief. The phrase came from one of Paul’s letters. You can’t just take a phrase out of a letter and bandy it anyhow. The scripture in question is Philippians 2:12: “Wherefore my beloved, work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Verse 12 of Philippians 2 does not exist on its own. What was Paul talking about in his letter?
Let’s read Philippians 2:12, 13 from the Message translation. It’s modern English: “What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive to God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.” Isn’t that so clear?
If you want to understand grace look at the Living Bible translation of Philippians 2:13: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” God helps us please him.
Can we contribute to our salvation? Let’s look at Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG: ”Saving was all his (God’s) idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.” How more emphatic can the Bible be that salvation is by grace and grace alone.
But is salvation eternal? Look at Hebrews 7:25 AMP: “He (Jesus) is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, AND FOR ALL TIME AND ETERNITY) those that come to God through him.” It is unimaginable that people think they can “complete” the work of salvation, moreso through morality. Obeying the Ten Commandments to fulfil the terms of salvation is irreconcilable with scriptural truth. That was what the people of Galatia were trying to do and Paul had some rather harsh words for them: “You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy had happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough. Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provide you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourself, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?”
Paul goes on in Galatians 3 to talk about “the obvious impossibility” of carrying out “such a moral programme”. Says no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. He says “rule-keeping” only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping. He calls such a “cursed life.” How ironic therefore that the letters of Paul are quoted as the basis of salvation by good works and morality! Is grace a license to do whatever we like and to sin? Of course not! What happens when a Christian does crazy? Simple. As a child of God he will come under the disciplinary regime of God his Father. He will be “chastised” in love. Proverbs 3:12 speaks of the loving correction of God and his discipline. “It’s the child he loves he corrects”, the Bible says. And Hebrews 12:6 (MSG) says, God is not an irresponsible parent. And there’s still God’s reward scheme for all our acts on earth. Paul wrote about that.
The more you understand the grace of God, the humbler you’ll be and the more you’ll seek to please him. Belief in salvation by morality promotes pride in man. Self-righteousness is a sin of pride. The work of redemption was FINISHED before you were born. You didn’t go to the cross with Jesus, did you?
If you’ll like to give your life to Christ, please pray this prayer: Father forgive me. I am a sinner. I know that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. I accept him today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen!
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org