THE NEW BIRTH
THE NEW CREATION
SUBJECTS which have been under consideration over a long period of
time, acquire their own well-known terms. Often the mere discussion of a question conveys
the idea that all is clear and plain, and further inquiry superfluous. Should the subject
have been misunderstood, it is difficult to correct matters, for the familiar terms and
their surroundings are not readily driven from the mind.
If the misunderstanding of the
question arises from an erroneous background, then we have confusion, and correction
becomes a real problem. Such a difficulty hangs around the new birth, that any suggestion
which calls for inquiry is deemed to be the mark of apostasy. Inquiry is furthermore
hampered, because figures which ought to be distinguished may have some features of
similarity, and so two subjects remain mixed, leaving us without clear knowledge of
NEW BIRTH NOT UNDERSTOOD BEFORE
not the only teacher who is ignorant on this topic. Unfortunately, the ignorance of the
present day arises from a different cause than did that of Nicodemus. Today great emphasis
is placed on the necessity for regeneration, whereas Nicodemus did not understand it to be
a requirement for entry into the kingdom of God at all.
Nicodemus thought that physical
relation with Israel was sufficient for the kingdom; he did not recognize the necessity
for a spiritual renewal, and yet the Scriptures, of which he was a teacher, plainly stated
such to be the case.
The present position is almost
worse, for we do not realize that the teaching presented to Nicodemus and Israel is
radically different and distinct from that given to the nations through the apostle Paul.
We suppose the new birth to be the truth of the evangel of God, and so we continue to be
modulated by this figure and lose the greatness of the revelation through Paul, which
greatness is characterized by comparing it with the future new creation.
THE LORD JESUS AND PAUL DISTINGUISHED
At the outset of our inquiry, let us then discriminate that which the
Lord Jesus proclaimed to Israel: the kingdom of God. What He said of it, we must retain in
the context in which He gave it. Paul preached to the nations the evangel of Gods
grace, gathering the saints who are the ecclesia which is the body of Christ. All that the
Lord Jesus said, His words as well as His figures, accords with the object of His mission
to Israel and finds its correspondences in the Hebrew prophecies, which relate to
Israels establishment as Gods holy nation on earth. But what Paul says has a
more extensive horizon and deals first with blessings among the celestials for the saints,
yet also develops matters related to the universe outside the earth.
Israels blessings then,
are upon the earth; they focus Messiahs glory on this terrestrial scene. The
blessings of the ecclesia are celestial and focus Christs greater glories, related
to His allotment of the universe. Birth is the figure which conveys to us what makes
Israels sons fit for the earthly, millennial sphere. But creation is the figure
necessary to indicate the new and radical features of the ways of God which are not
centred in Israel.
With these distinctions made
plain, we are ready to consider the difference between the figures and, at the same time,
to develop their respective connections and the revelations which range along with them.
DETAILS OF THE NEW BIRTH
The new birth is crystallized in the familiar words: you
must be born anew (John 3:7). Our elaboration of it must be sought either in the
words of the Lord Jesus, of those who heard Him, or in the Hebrew revelation. It was a
matter which Nicodemus ought to have known and taught in Israel, for the prophets had much
to say regarding it. Actually, it is the new covenant stated in a few words. What the new
covenant brings to Israel is the measure of the significance of the new birth.
A detail of the words you
must be born anew, which is usually ignored, is that the word you is
plural. This is not the only case where the plural pronoun is of importance in guiding
understanding. The plural speaks of the nation of Israel and not of individuals. An
example is seen in Matthew 5:14, You are the light of the world. So also the
words of John 3:7 indicate that it is Israels sons as a whole, as a nation, which
must be born anew. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a nation born at one time (Isa.66:8).
THE KINGDOM OF MESSIAH, A RENASCENCE
The establishing of Israel in the kingdom of God was the basis of the
Messiahs ministry to them. He refers to the time when He, the Son of Mankind, will
sit on His glorious throne, as the regeneration, or more suitably as the renascence
(Matt. 19:28). The import of such a feature indicates that birth illustrates matters
regarding the kingdom on the earth, of which Israel is the chosen center.
Entrance into the kingdom is by
the new birth. This is the truth insisted upon to Nicodemus, one of Israels
teachers. It is the truth which applies to Israel only, within the scope of the promises
confined to them alone. It is not truth for the present administration.
SIGNIFICANCE OF TEACHING THE NEW BIRTH
The particular significance of the new birth is its intimation that
physical relationship with Israel is insufficient: there must be spiritual regeneration,
for the children of the flesh are not the children of God. Israels sons require a
new spirit; the stony heart must be taken away and replaced by a new one. So will Israel
walk in Yahwehs statutes and keep His judgments. This earthly glory is pledged and
promised to Israel, and they enter it by the new birth.
Gods eonian covenant
brings them all these blessings. It is the new covenant which God makes with His earthly
people. The blood of Christ is its basis. This is the particular aspect of Christs
death as it refers to Israels position, outlined in the prophets and the so-called
gospels. We should not import into the teachings of the Lord, or of the Twelve, the
significance which the apostle Paul reveals as attached to the cross. Such things
are not in the evangel of the kingdom; the new birth is not related to justification or
conciliation, which subjects are exclusive to the ministry of Paul to the nations.
BAPTISM AND NEW BIRTH
Repentance and Baptism are the leading features of the proclamation of
John the Baptist, of the Lord Jesus, and of the Twelve, and they are related to the new
birth. In fact, the elements of the new birth are water and spirit, and these are the
mediums of baptism. John announced that he baptized in water for repentance, but He Who is
coming after him will baptize in holy spirit. Here we have the cause of the new birth; the
water of baptism finds its counterpart in holy spirit which fits its subjects for entry
into the kingdom.
THE FIGURE EXPLAINED
The new birth fits for a life on earth during the millennium. It
rejuvenates the faculties during that time when Israel is established in the kingdom. It
is a renewal in kind, enabling the flesh to walk in the statutes, ordinances, and
judgments of God. Thus it is a provisional matter in His ways and produces children of God
whom He will edify and lead to the maturity of sons, in readiness for the new creation and
Gods ultimate uniting of the universe.
Humanity has much to learn and
discover, and Israels regeneration is one of the factors which will contribute to
the peoples of the earth coming to know and understand God.
THE IMPORT OF THE NEW CREATION
The new creation is quite a distinct matter from the
regeneration. The latter proceeds by the avenue of youth, whereas creation produces the
adult. It gives sons to God, sons of whom the norm is Christ. The significance of creation
is that which is new and, from the context in which we find this figure used, viz.
the ministry of the apostle Paul, we perceive that it fits for a different sphere to that
of the new birth. It brings about the radical change necessary for earth-born humans who
will have a celestial destiny, the subjects of which will require powers and capacities
far superior to those possessed at present, and they will receive them because they are
new creations in Christ.
NOT EXPLAINED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The new creation will eventually embrace heaven and earth. On rare
occasions new heavens and a new earth were mentioned by Israels prophets, but into
any details they did not go. Even in the Unveiling we have only the barest outline, though
it is made plain that the present heavens and earth pass away. Peter also tells of this
and shows such things to refer to the day of God, whereas Israels blessings through
the new birth are confined to the day of the Lord of the Hebrew Scriptures and the
AN INSTALLMENT OF THE NEW CREATION
The present economy and the evangel related thereto, produce the
ecclesia which is Christs body. It is the first instalment of the new humanity which
comes by the new creation. This portion of the new humanity is now being created in
righteousness and benignity of the truth. It requires that we put off the old humanity,
for the truth of the evangel shows that the saint, who is a new creation in Christ, really
no longer belongs to the race of which Adam is the head.
It will be perceived that the new creation is in Christ. It
is the present spiritual counterpart of the period which comes after the
regeneration of Israel in the day of the Lord. By the blessing of being a new creation we
skip the deviousness of the childhood of the new birth and receive the maturity of
adultness. These facts of the future new creation fit the figures of our faith as found in
the Ephesian epistle, and do indeed confirm the necessity that we correctly partition the
word of truth.
CONCILIATION AND THE NEW CREATION
Further examination of the subject of the new creation shows us that it
is the accompaniment of the conciliation, just as the new birth was associated with
repentance and baptism. And if we follow the conciliation closely, we shall learn much of
the deep things of God. Israels religious ascendancy passes with the coming of the
day of God. And we understand that conciliation will then be possible on earth as it has
been earlier in the heavens. It could not become a fact of earth while Israel intruded
between God and the remainder of humanity, as in the day of the Lord. And there is a valid
reason for this, for the greater and more radical truths around the death of Christ are
not in point in the day of the Lord. At that time the blood of Christ dispenses its virtue
in making possible the new covenant to Israel. This is the limit of blessings to the
present earth. But the new creation is possible because, in the death of His Son, God
achieved greater things than a covenant with His people Israel.
THE WORD OF THE CROSS
Justification is possible because of Christs death, but
justification, though a glorious and fundamental matter, and contributing to the new
creation, is not exclusive, being quite a necessary matter in every connection. But the
conciliation is especially for the new creation. To us in this economy it has precious
blessings for our delectation, but these treasures are not for Israel, for that nation
does not enter the blessings of the conciliation, resulting from the death of Gods
Son. Nor does it attain to the deeper meaning of the word of the cross; that divides
between the old and the new humanities.
The cross obliterates all the
features of the old humanity. Through the cross the old humanity was crucified with
Christ. The cross sets aside circumcision and removes the barrier with the uncircumcision.
Sins flesh and all its connections are gone, having been crucified at the cross. A
new humanity which accords with God is thus a possibility, and it finds its basis, not in
the death of Christ, nor in the blood of Christ, nor the death of Gods Son, but in
the word of the cross which applies the crucifixion to humanity. The old humanity and all
its features are no morethey were crucified and rendered inert.
The new birth is for Israel and the millennial blessings of the day of
the Lord. The new creation is for the present economy and finds its counterpart in the day
of God, when conciliation receives its fuller fruits in heaven and earth. The full
fruition is at the consummation, when the just award to Christ by God reaches out to its
E. H. Clayton
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