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A Theology of New Birth

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. To believe in Jesus means we trust and follow him as both Savior and Lord. When we commit to trust and follow Jesus, we express this faith by repenting from sin, confessing his name, and receiving baptism by immersion in water. Baptism, as an expression of faith, is for the remission of sins. We uphold baptism as the normative means of entry into the life of discipleship. It marks our commitment to regularly die to ourselves and rise to live for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe God sovereignly saves as he sees fit, but we are bound by Scripture to uphold this teaching about surrendering to Jesus in faith through repentance, confession, and baptism." - Renew Network Faith Statement


Support Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 3:1–9; 3:16–18; 3:19–21; Luke 13:3–5; 24:46–47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:36–38; 16:31–33; 17:30; 20:21; 22:16; 26:20; Galatians 3:26–27; Romans 6:1–4; 10:9–10; 1 Peter 3:21; Romans 2:25–29; 2 Chronicles 30:17–19; Matthew 28:19–20; Galatians 2:20; Acts 18:24–26.


We fight to believe that Jesus' death and resurrection signify our own spiritual rebirth, emphasizing that faith goes beyond mental assent to active participation in the gospel. The gospel, as articulated in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, confirms the atonement and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Reconciliation, as discussed in Romans 5:9-11, extends beyond forgiveness, involving faith, repentance, obedience, and the transformative act of baptism. Baptism symbolizes our unity with Christ's death and resurrection, marking a new life of allegiance to Him. This journey of faith and the resurrected life is not a one-time event but a continuous transformation empowered by resurrection power.


Why Is the New Birth Necessary? 

Sin separates us from God, and the decision to trust and follow Jesus is a necessary part of restoring that relationship. 

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  — Romans 3:23

We are saved by the gospel: what God has done for us through Jesus. Biblical baptism was given to us by God to express our faith in Jesus Christ and his gospel. The saving power, according to the Bible, is Jesus himself. Our faith relies on Jesus alone (and his saving power). Baptism is only effective because it is God's method of expressing our faith.

In Chrysostom's Baptismal Instructions and Martin Luther's teachings, we uncover the richness of baptism's gifts, emphasizing that the new birth is not a one-time event but a lifelong journey filled with spiritual abundance. It extends far beyond the remission of sins, encompassing sanctification, righteousness, adoption, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To live as disciples of Jesus means continually recognizing the dramatic and ongoing consequences of our new birth in Christ.

In Romans 2, we encounter common misconceptions regarding the necessity of the new birth. When faced with sinners, we often judge them and feel morally superior, failing to realize our own need for humility before God. Similarly, a blessed life should lead us to repentance, not self-righteousness. Our understanding of morality and Scripture should not breed arrogance but should humble us before God. Ultimately, the message is clear: we must exchange self-congratulation for humility and accept Jesus' offer of a new birth, acknowledging our constant need for His grace.


Discussion Questions:

  1. How does sin separate us from God? 

  2. Read Romans 8:3. Why is the law alone unable to reconcile us to God? 

  3. Why was it important for Jesus to be baptized? 

  4. If you are a baptized believer, how has your understanding of Jesus and Scripture changed since you were baptized? Give some examples. 

  5. What does the statement, “We are bound by baptism, but God is not,” mean to you? 

  6. How do we know when someone is ready to be baptized?


What Does It Mean to Place One’s Faith in Jesus? 

Believing in Jesus means that we trust and follow him as Savior, Lord, and King in all things. 

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”  — John 3:36

To believe in Jesus means we trust and follow him as both Savior and Lord. We commit to trust and follow Jesus at baptism, which is for the remission of sins. It is the normative means of entry into the life of discipleship. God is sovereign, but We are bound by scripture to uphold this teaching, that surrendering to Jesus in faith through repentance, confession, and baptism.

In our previous dive into Romans 2, we explored the necessity of the new birth and concluded that it's a divine command for all, regardless of morality, biblical knowledge, or life's blessings. Today, our focus shifts to Jesus' crucifixion, a topic entwined with Easter and the vital concept of faith in His redemptive work, as detailed in Hebrews 2.

The crux of our faith lies in Jesus, who bore the weight of suffering, pain, separation, and shame on the cross, rendering these fears powerless. While His crucifixion might initially perplex us, it was Jesus' unconventional strategy to save humanity while preserving our existence. He became one of us, embracing our experiences, suffering, and even death, all to make us like Him. Through His crucifixion, Jesus outsmarted the devil on his own turf and secured our victory. This profound act invites us to place our faith in Him, overcoming fear and finding solace in His arms. By committing our spirits into His hands, we embrace the new birth He offers, making Jesus the focal point of our trust and allegiance.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Faith in the Bible involves far more than mental assent; it involves action. What are some unfortunate consequences of having a faith that is nothing more than holding correct beliefs (and not taking action based on those beliefs)?  

  2. Describe a time when you knew you needed to take action, but you didn’t take it. 

  3. What is the difference between believing stories about Jesus versus accepting and trusting your life to Jesus as his disciple?  

  4. How has it been challenging for you to accept the gift of grace and forgiveness from God? 

  5. Read Matthew 12:34–35. How has submitting your heart to Jesus and his ways changed your daily actions?

  6. Describe a time in your life when you were tempted to do something that was not permitted by God. Did you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to make the right decision?


What Does It Mean to Repent? 

Repentance means a change in heart and behavior, turning from living for oneself to living like Jesus. 

“First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”  — Acts 26:20

Repentance, a profound shift in heart, mind, and behavior, is our path to spiritual renewal and reconnection with God. It begins with the awakening acknowledgment that God exists and calls us to return to Him. Luke 18's rich young ruler reminds us how we can get caught up in self-reliance, turning faith into a burden. True repentance calls for a shift from self-sufficiency to complete surrender to God, recognizing His grace and compassion.

In contrast, Luke 15's parable of the prodigal son paints a poignant picture of repentance, marked by a moment of clarity—an awareness of the Father's love and a deep longing to return home. Repentance, at its core, is about recognizing our need for God and the mess we've made of our lives. It's an "Oh yeah!" moment when we embrace God's love and forgiveness, experiencing His open arms. As we explore the "new birth" series, repentance stands as a crucial step, a transformational shift in our relationship with God. It's not a mere checklist but a profound journey of renewal. God's patient desire is for us to come to repentance, find forgiveness, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 3:9). Are you ready to change your mindset, return to your loving Father, and embark on the path of repentance leading to spiritual renewal?


Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the connection between confession and repentance? 

  2. Why is repentance important to Jesus? 

  3. When has God convicted you of a specific sin? How did you turn from it? 

  4. Describe what new life looked like for Paul in Philippians 3:7–9. What are some specific ways he changed? 

  5. How we live our lives is the best example of our repentant hearts. What do people see in your life that demonstrates a repentant heart?

  6.  How can you develop a life of regular confession and repentance?


What Does It Mean to Confess Jesus as Lord? 

Confession of Jesus as Lord is a declaration of allegiance to Jesus as king and a rejection of all other claims of lordship. 

“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” — Acts 22:16

In our ongoing series, we've explored the profound concept of the "new birth." Now, we focus on confessing Jesus as Lord, a pivotal step in this transformation. Just as we calculate net income after taxes, confessing Jesus as Lord represents God's salvation minus those who reject Him. It's the recognition that Jesus is our King and the public declaration that sets us apart as part of the faithful remnant.

John 1 reveals that not everyone recognizes or receives Jesus, even though He offers the ultimate solution to sin, guilt, and death. The remnant, however, worships Him as Lord, seeing Him as the Son of God and the Messiah. Confessing Jesus as Lord is a call to be part of this remnant and acknowledge His authority over every aspect of our lives. Are you ready to make your good confession and embrace His reign in your life?


Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the components of the salvation process that are used in the book of Acts to represent the entire process (what this chapter refers to as metonymy)?  

  2. Why is it important to confess Jesus as Lord before people and not just privately? 

  3. Give specific reasons to declare that Jesus is both Christ and Lord. 

  4. What are some practical examples of how you have submitted your life to Jesus’ care and control? 

  5. Why is it important to confess Jesus as Lord regularly in a Christian community? 

  6. As you’ve matured in your Christian faith, how has the significance of declaring your allegiance to Jesus changed?


What Does It Mean to be Baptized for the Forgiveness of Our Sins?


Baptism is the normative place where our faith connects with God’s grace and we become new, with a clean slate and a restored relationship with God. 

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  — Acts 2:38

In bustling Capernaum, a paralyzed man and his friends orchestrated a daring act to reach Jesus. When Jesus forgave the man's sins before healing him, it perplexed and angered onlookers. Jesus proclaimed the authority to forgive sins, emphasizing the profound importance of spiritual transformation over physical healing. Baptism, as an act of faith and forgiveness, mirrors this spiritual renewal and should be embraced for the forgiveness it offers.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to strive for holiness? 

  2. Paraphrase Romans 6:3–6 in your own words. 

  3. How do we know God’s standards for our lives? 

  4. How does baptism restore our relationship with God? 

  5. Describe how the Holy Spirit helps you live a God-centered life. 

  6. What are some examples of the sanctification process in your own life?

Resources

In this discussion, Zach Fazio argues that baptism is necessary for salvation, while his interlocutor, Jack, disagrees. They establish common ground, including the importance of the Bible, the need for something for salvation, and defining what it means to be saved. Zach contends that accepting Jesus as a personal savior is sufficient for salvation, with baptism as a symbolic act afterward. Jack, however, believes that baptism is the moment of salvation and cites five key scriptures to support his stance. The discussion delves into the meaning of baptism in Acts 2:38, the case of the thief on the cross, the Philippian jailer, and Romans 10:9. Zach counters with the importance of baptism in the new covenant and argues that belief, repentance, and baptism work together in salvation. The conversation concludes with a call for humility and adherence to the Bible's teachings.

This four part brief history of baptism Youtube series covers the Jewish context, what the early church fathers thought, how baptism shifted in the reformation, and what the restoration movement restored about baptism. It covers perspectives on infant baptism, rebaptism, and pouring controversies.


What does it mean to participate in the resurrected life?



Book Recommendations for Further Study:

  • John Mark Hicks and Greg Taylor, "Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God’s Transforming Work" (Siloam Springs, AR: Leafwood Publishers, 2004). 

  • Tony Twist, Bobby Harrington, and David Young, "Baptism: What the Bible Teaches" (Renew.org, 2019).

  • Tom A. Jones, "The Baptized Life" (DPI, 2013)

  • Michael Strickland, Anessa Westbrook, "New Birth: Conversion and Baptism" (Renew.org, 2021)



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