by Mike Ratliff
3 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. (John 3:3 NA28)
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen I say to you, unless one is born again, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The more I deal with those who are adamantly against the fact that God’s Word is absolute truth as they claim the correct way to understand the gospel is as if it is some sort of smorgasbord or rotating buffet in which the sound doctrines taught to us from the Bible are simply one of untold numbers of various ways to God, the more amazed I become at the abject spiritual blindness exhibited by them. These same people want an understanding of the Bible that is loose and easy to hedge. Why? It is so they can include every person on planet earth as on “a” path to God regardless of status as a Christian or not. This multi-path concept to God is a perfect seedbed for the apostate authors such as Brian McLaren who wrote A Generous Orthodoxy. McLaren and those like him are rethinking “Christianity” so that it becomes the all-inclusive container for all religions. The end-product of this rethinking of Christianity is not Christianity at all. It is an open-ended, man-made false religion that has as its foundation the philosophies of men, not the Word of God.
Fortunately, we do have God’s Word and in it we have sound doctrine that teaches us what the real gospel is and what it does.
1 Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, (Ephesians 2:1 NA28)
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
All humans since the fall of Adam (Genesis 3) except one were born dead (νεκροὺς) in trespasses (παραπτώμασιν) and sins (ἁμαρτίαις). That one was the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us were from that moment we were conceived in our mother’s wombs dead (νεκροὺς) in trespasses (παραπτώμασιν and sins (ἁμαρτίαις. What does this mean? This is tied very closely to John 3:3 which I placed at the top of this post. The term “Born Again” in Greek is γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν which should be translated as “born from above” in the context of what our Lord was speaking about. The “from above” part (ἄνωθεν) can also mean “again,” as I said, the context of the rest of our Lord’s dialogue in John 3 shows us that the correct emphasis here is on being born from above, that is, born according to heavenly things rather than earthly things. This is, of course, regeneration. So actually our Lord was saying in John 3:3, “…unless one is ‘regenerated’ he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We see this clearly in the following passage.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 ESV)
All truly in Christ being, therefore, on the ONLY path to God as Christians, are those who according to God’s goodness and loving kindness, our Saviour appeared and He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. God poured out the Holy Spirit on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour so that being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. How much more clear can it be said my brethren? No works of righteousness by us preceded the washing of regeneration. The prerequisite for this washing of regeneration is God’s own mercy. This regeneration is the only way for anyone to become saved because all humans since the fall of Adam (Genesis 3) except one were born dead (νεκροὺς) in trespasses (παραπτώμασιν) and sins (ἁμαρτίαις). The word νεκροὺς is used to describe the nature of a corpse. This death is due to our living in trespasses (παραπτώμασιν) and sins (ἁμαρτίαις). This is a sobering reminder to us all of our total sinfulness and lostness from which we have been redeemed. The word “in” in this phrase is very important for it shows us that we were not dead because of our sinful acts, but because of our sinful nature (cf Matthew 12:35; 15:18, 19). We see this clearly in in vv2-3.
2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:2-3 ESV)
From this passage we see that it is the living this life in the power of our sin nature that makes us by nature children of wrath because in this we are following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. This is, of course, Satan, our enemy.
4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, 5 καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ, — χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι — 6 καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 7 ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NA28)
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV)
Paul’s presentation of the gospel here is masterful. He gives us the bleak portrait of the human situation then gives us ὁ δὲ θεὸς (But the God!). This is because our salvation is totally in His hands. We cannot do one thing to save ourselves. But God is rich in mercy and through His great love, which He loved us, and we being dead in our transgressions, are made alive together in the Christ (by favor we are being delivered) and raised up together, and seated together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that He should demonstrate in the coming ages the exceeding riches of His favor, in graciousness upon us in Christ Jesus. The ground of our salvation is God’s love and mercy, and its goal is the promotion of His grace and kindness.
8 Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NA28)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
These two verses are a great parallel to Titus 3:4-7 (above). It is by what that all truly in Christ have been saved? It is by grace (χάριτί) through (διὰ) faith (πίστεως). We are saved by God’s underserved favor through faith. This is important. The word διὰ translated here as ‘through’ refers to a channel or conduit, which in this case is faith, which is a reliance on Christ alone for salvation. This reliance is the conduit through which God’s grace saves us. The next phrase, ‘And this is not your own doing; it is the gift (δῶρον) of God’ refers to the entire previous statement of salvation, not only the grace but also the faith. Although people are required to believe for salvation, even that faith is part of the gift (δῶρον) of God which saves and cannot be exercised by one’s own power. God’s grace is preeminent in every aspect of salvation (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16).
Soli Deo Gloria!