The Begetting To Divine Life
We use the term begetting, for the implantation of natural life in Adam’s offspring, and quickening for the implantation of spiritual life of Christ in an elect by the Holy Spirit. The term birth is limited to one being delivered from his mother’s womb, and the term new birth for conversion or deliverance to the light of the Gospel. As you will see, these terms cover a period of time in natural darkness in one’s mother’s womb, and a time-lapse between the begetting or conception and the birth (of about nine months); and the quickening and the new birth.
Is that clear? If not, we will restate it this way:
For a natural birth to take place, one must have a seed planted in begetting it to life; a period of physical, mental, and physiological development to term, and finally the birth. The same we use for the child of God. There must be an implanting of an “incorruptible Seed,” (which Paul said was Christ) for the begetting or quickening of the child of God; a period of spiritual growth and experimental development of life and immortality in darkness, and at term, deliverance by the Spirit of Christ when this life and immortality is “brought to light by the Gospel.”
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
(I John 3:9)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”
(I Peter 1:23)
Upon this deliverance, faith and repentance are in evidence (but not the cause), and the individual is declared converted, by theologians. [We add: conversion is a continuing experience throughout one’s mature life.] It is rather obvious, then, that spiritual development and the new birth are far more than merely walking down an aisle and committing one’s self to a religious cause. It entails all that the words “being born again,” carry in its definition.
The “begetting to spiritual life” is presented in the Scriptures as the exclusive work of the Holy Spirit. This is logical and reasonable as well. God is a Triune God. The Father “chose us in Him” (Christ) and “gave us to Him” as Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thine they were, and Thou hast given them Me” (John 17:6).
Being chosen in Him and given to Him, He laid down His life only for them. Thus He saved them by His sacrifice for their sins. As the Triune God is the author of eternal life, it is the role of the Holy Spirit to “take the things of Mine (Christ’s) and show them to thee.”
It is imperative that one has a spiritual ability to discern spiritual things. This spiritual ability is not native to the natural man. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” . . . “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they (spiritual things of God) are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:11, 14).
Now this inability is quite serious. Until one is born spiritually, he cannot discern anything at all to his best interest. No wonder he is said to be “lost”!
He cannot hear the Gospel (John 8:43).
He cannot understand the Gospel (Matthew 13:13-14 and John 8:43).
He cannot believe the Gospel (John 3:12; John 10:26).
He can believe a great deal of religious things, but he cannot believe the Gospel of the grace of God.
What is there lacking in man that disables him from comprehending spiritual things?
Obviously, it is because he is not spiritual!
To become spiritual he must be born spiritually; just as it was necessary to be natural, he had to have been born naturally! This is both reasonable and true.
When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again,” He was speaking to a man that knew something about the process of “being born” from his mother’s womb. Jesus did not give him a primary lesson in genetics. He spoke only of the end result of divine quickening and development.
Today, we may find hundreds of books on the subject of conception; or hundreds more on prenatal development; and many more on the birth process for young mothers, etc. It is not necessary to explain everything in the process if we wish to speak of one’s birth. The antecedent processes are rightly assumed. So too, we often speak of “being born again.” In fact, in evangelical Christianity, there is little to no discussion of antecedent processes. This void leads to tragic results as the evangelicals attempt to develop plans of salvation, or means to produce divine life in sinners. Yet, the Bible is not silent on the subject. The marginal reference in the KJV on John 3:3 is worded, “Ye must be born from above.”
In John 1:13, John speaks clearly of this early implantation of divine life, saying, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.”
Again, to Nicodemus, Jesus made it sufficiently plain, saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
That should not be hard to understand!
On the subject of divine quickening, or the implantation of spiritual life, Jesus made it clear that God was the source of divine quickening. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 3:21).
And, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
We naturally assume that God gives life. Often, however, we find ourselves putting man between the begetting to life and the birth itself. It is well, then, to notice that man, the law, nor the Gospel are introduced into this subject at this stage.
Those that are “born of God,” are born not by family inheritance (“not of blood”); nor by the human will or willingness (“not of the will of the flesh”); nor by the will of family, religious counselors, or preachers (“nor of the will of man.”) Rather, they are “born of God.”
If they are “born of God,” then it is self-evident they are “begotten of God.” This, too, is taught clearly in the Bible. Peter writes to those he says Christ “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:4).
John particularly states that those that are “begotten of God loveth him that is begotten of Him” (I John 5:1). Thus we conclude that if one is begotten of God and born of God, that person is a “child of God.” And we need not labor this point: the Bible clearly refers to the believer as a “child of God.”
The most controversial statement we will make is this: the begetting to divine life and the Christian’s early development to birth is antecedent, or prior, to the presentation of the Gospel and the hearing of the Gospel. Thus, the new birth is necessary to faith and conversion, and not the other way around.
In the initial begetting to spiritual life, the individual is first taught effectually that he is a sinner. He sees his transgressions as “exceedingly sinful.” It is by that operation that the commandments of God, as it were, come to life. Paul in describing his own experience, said: “For I was alive without the law once,” meaning, we believe, that he was not in any soul trouble, although at that time a strict legalist; “but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Romans 7:9).
One cannot imagine Paul having ever been without knowledge of the law.
He was reared a strict Pharisee!
What else, therefore, can he mean?
We believe he experienced what all the saints experience. The law came alive to him. He was exercised by it. He had previously thought that the law of commandments “was ordained to life,” but was dreadfully surprised when he “found it to be unto death.” He explained that sin used the commandment to deceive him, and the commandment killed him (Romans 7:9-11). This surely was his state when he was struck down on the road to Damascus.
He had spiritual ears to hear the words of Christ!
Christ was the Gospel preacher that day!
And he was struck down before he ever heard the Gospel, and before he obeyed it in baptism.
The Ethiopian eunuch was a living child of God, and God heard his supplications and prayers before Peter ever preached the Gospel to him and his household.
Lydia was meeting where “prayer was want to be heard” before she heard Paul preaching the Gospel.
The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas “What must I do to be saved?” before Paul or Silas ever presented the Gospel to him!
The point we make is simply this: Life precedes faith.
The begetting to divine life introduces the child of God into the spiritual kingdom and family of God. This is God’s work, and not that of preachers.
“I thank Thee, Father, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so Father, for it seemeth good in Thy sight.”
The preaching of the Gospel, considered foolishness by many, is the ordinary way that God has ordained to bring faith to His spiritual children. (I did not say “life.”) When Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch, the Holy Scripture records: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The word ordained is a strong word indeed! God’s children are ordained to good works, which they could not do without faith; and this “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17).
Stanley C. Phillips