What does it mean that you have been born again? Does it mean that you have been saved? If you have been saved are you “once saved, always saved” or can you lose your salvation? Is salvation about not going to Hell but going to Heaven after you die?
There are so many questions concerning salvation and what it means to the believer. I want to address some of these questions but from a different approach than many may take. Instead of approaching each question individually, I want to define very clearly what Jesus, Paul, Peter and John referred to as “born again”. What did they mean and what were the implications?
This is Soteriology. It’s the doctrine of salvation. Unfortunately, we in the western church don’t have many thorough explanations of soteriology. And it’s sad because our salvation is about much more than how our life and afterlife are affected. Salvation is first and foremost about Jesus because He is Salvation. Jesus is the embodiment or personification of our Salvation. One of the first things said about him in the New Testament was “He shall be called Jesus (literally means: The Lord is salvation) because he shall save his people from their sins. (Matt.1:21)
Please understand this is much more than “being forgiven” of our sins. It’s truly important to receive said forgiveness from Our Father God, but that’s only the beginning. That’s a very real and important foundation, just like a baby needs to learn to crawl. But we also need to stand up and walk. Merely being forgiven is like crawling around and continuing to get dirt all over ourselves. Knowing we are saved from sin *and it’s controlling power* is akin to us standing up and beginning to walk in victory by faith.
Does God forgive me only if I confess my sin? Will God refuse to forgive me If I don’t confess all sin? What if I forget a sin and die without ever confessing it? What about all the sin I am not even aware of in my past? Or the current sin I don’t realize I do on a regular basis? How can I ever have confidence that I have confessed all sin and am forgiven? Will one unconfessed mistake negate all my hours of confession and “repentance”? Oh what a wretched man that I am!
STOP! Just stop.
Why are we so self and sin focused? Have you ever thought like this? I have. It’s religious bondage and works that contradicts the entire point of the Gospel. Forgiveness of sins is not about our confession of sins. It’s about His confession of forgiveness!
Even at the Cross as humanity conspired to murder the perfect One, Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus perfectly spoke Our Father’s will when he declared forgiveness **because** we did not know our own sin. God doesn’t expect or even desire us to completely be aware of all sin. He desires us to be aware of His righteous forgiveness. The point of the Gospel is that we have been forgiven all sin by God and therefore we can actually obey him and forgive others. We cannot give away what we have not first received. (John 3:27)
I realize that everyone in the Christian world is completely familiar with 1 John 1:9 and this verse seems to contradict Jesus’ words on the Cross. It said ~ “9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ”
But we should consider a few things about the context of that passage. I have heard it said that when you take the text out of context, all you are left with is a con.
1. 1 John 1 was not specifically addressed to believers. Unlike 1 John 2-5, which was clearly spoken to believers. 1 John 1 seems to be an introduction to the message (given for the sake of converting unbelievers) and it’s not until 1 John 2:1 that John began addressing the believing brethren in Christ. I did not invent this insight. Others before me have pointed it out and it’s worth mentioning.
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12) This word “forgiven” is not just a “happened once” when you confessed all sin and now you have to keep confessing every single mistake. The Greek tense is the Perfect Indicative Middle tense. I’m not a Greek scholar but I have studied enough to know that the “Perfect tense” means it is something that has been completed once and for all. It is something that has been done and the result of it continues forever. Hence the term “perfect”. So you have been forever forgiven because of Jesus’ Name sake.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to confess our sins to God, because I still do it and it helps me get things off my chest. But God knows our hearts. He knows even when we think evil and he’s not holding it against us. He’s actually constantly releasing his love and mercy to us because it’s his “goodness that leads us to repentance.” The point is that God doesn’t need our confession of sin. He sees and knows if our hearts are sincere and a simple repentant heart is good enough for God to recognize we own up to our mistakes.
Our Father does desire us to confess our righteousness! Not by our works or actions, but based on Jesus who is our righteousness. This is how the righteous live by faith. Romans 10:6-13 is all about confessing with faith our righteousness because of Jesus. Hebrews 7-10 is all about how Jesus has dealt with all our sin once and for all because of his life laid down in humble love. In these chapters, Hebrews speaks of how Jesus makes intercession and speaks on our behalf. The King of Righteousness speaks righteousness on our behalf because He has gone to Our Father and we are in him. (John 14:7,14:20 and 16:8-10.)
“1My little children, I write these things unto you, that ye sin not; and if anyone has sinned, we have an Advocate before the Father, Jesus, the righteous Christ; 2and he is the reconciliation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
That is actually consistent with the Gospel that Paul preached concerning Salvation. It’s consistent with all of Paul’s declarations that God reconciled the entire world (cosmos) to himself because of Jesus’ death and God was not holding our sins against us but releasing righteousness. Even his righteousness. (2 Cor. 5:18-21) The Reconciliation of the world happened completely independent of our belief. God reconciled the world despite our unbelief. It’s not our faith that causes God to be reconciled to us. The fact that God reconciled the world to himself causes us to believe. This is how we freely receive Jesus “The abundance of grace and gift of righteousness…” (Rom.5:17)…even the very righteousness of God.
But more on that later….much more! This Gospel is not about us having to deal with our sin, but Jesus having dealt with our sin and even more than that! God giving us his own righteousness in Jesus. God putting his stamp of approval on us and granting us free and unhindered access to knowing His Presence within us at all times because of the Righteous One’s death given to us for the sake of Him living in us! Jesus’ death wasn’t to convince God to overlook our sins but to demonstrate God’s ever-present mercy and non-judgement towards us so that we could accept the ever-forgiving embrace of his love in this life!
Part 2 will be more about the event of “born again” and ways that the the NT authors conveyed it. I will draw a lot on the reality that they speak of Jesus, The Word as a Living Seed that God planted within us via the Gospel and how He (The Seed) has recreated us in his image from the inside out.
Yeah. It’s going to be pretty mystical and parabolic. But isn’t that exactly the way the Lord loves to convey deep spiritual Truths?