WHAT SPIRIT-BEGETTAL MEANS
That the Gospel-Age new creatures have been begotten of God through the Word of Truth means that they received the first impulse in the Divine life from God through His Word. After having truly accepted Jesus as their personal Savior and having thereby been in God's sight justified freely—not by works, but by faith in the Ransom-sacrifice of Jesus Christ—they heard the call, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy [ransomed and justified through faith in Christ—and therefore], acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1); and when, in obedience to that call, they in gratitude and love fully consecrated their justified humanity to God, living sacrifices, side by side with that of Jesus, their consecration was accepted by God for the heavenly calling; and in that very act the new, spiritual life was begun, that is, they were begotten of the Spirit.
Such found themselves at once thinking and acting as prompted by the new mind, even to the crucifixion of the human desires. From consecration on, these were reckoned as new creatures. This act, correctly called the Spirit-begettal, is often mistakenly referred to by the term "born again," because of the KJV and other mistranslations. As noted at the beginning of this treatise, many Fundamentalists and others even use the term "born again" to refer only to the initial step of justification—the step of recognizing Jesus as their personal Savior, with consequent endeavor to practice righteousness—which, according to the Scriptures, must during the Gospel-Age call precede full consecration and Spirit-begettal. The Bible shows that consecration is a clearer, more intelligent and advanced decision of a believer (Rom. 5:2; 12:1) than is usually entered into by those claiming to be "born again."
To the embryo new creatures old things—selfish and worldly desires, hopes, plans, etc.—have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17). The embryo new creatures continued to grow and develop, as the old human nature, with its desires, hopes, plans, etc., was crucified. These two processes progressed simultaneously, from the time of consecration and Spirit-begettal, and end with the death of the human and the subsequent birth of the Spirit in the resurrection.
As the Spirit of God through His Word continued to reveal more and more of His plans, He thus quickened the saints' mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11), enabling these to render Him good service.
SPIRIT-BIRTH IS IN THE RESURRECTION
The birth of the new creature and the true Spirit-born condition is in the resurrection (Col. 1:18) and not before. The resurrection of Christ's Body members is designated the First Resurrection because it is the chief or choice resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6). It should be remembered that one does not become an actual spirit being, is not "born of the Spirit," until the resurrection, though from the time the spirit of sonship is received God deals with the saints as embryo sons (Rom. 8:23-25; 6:10, 11; Eph. 1:13, 14). When one becomes a spirit being actually, that is, when born of the Spirit, he no longer is a fleshly being; for "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
The birth to the spirit nature in the resurrection must be preceded by the begetting of the Spirit after consecration, just as surely as the birth of the flesh is preceded by begetting of the flesh. All that are born of the flesh in the likeness of the first Adam, the earthly, were begotten of the flesh; and some during the Gospel Age have been begotten from above, by the Spirit of God through the Word of Truth, to later be born of the Spirit into the heavenly likeness, in the resurrection: "As we have borne the image of the earthly, we [the Gospel-Age Church] shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Cor. 15:49)—unless there be a falling away (Heb. 6:6). For an examination of the Scriptures in relation to the "Eternal Security" teaching, "Once in Grace, Always in Grace," see BS 440—a copy free on request.
Though the acceptance of the heavenly call and one's consecration in obedience to it be decided at one particular moment, the bringing of every thought into harmony with the mind of God is a gradual work (2 Cor. 10:5); it is a gradual bending heavenward of that which naturally bends earthward. The Apostle terms this process a transforming work, saying, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed [more and more, to the heavenly nature] by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2).
Note that the Apostle's words are not addressed to the unbelieving world, but to those whom he recognizes as brethren, as shown by the preceding verse—"I beseech you therefore, brethren … that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God."
It is commonly believed that when a man is converted, or turned from sin to righteousness, and from unbelief and opposition to God to reliance upon Him, that is the transforming which Paul meant. Truly that is a great change — a transformation, but not the transformation to which Paul here refers. Had not such a transformation of character from sin to righteousness already taken place in those whom he addressed, he could not have termed them brethren—brethren, too, who had something "holy and acceptable unto God" to offer in sacrifice; for only those who are justified by faith in Christ and His Ransom-sacrifice are reckoned by God as holy and acceptable. Transformation of nature has resulted, then, to those only who, during the Gospel Age, have presented and laid down their justified humanity a living sacrifice, as Jesus presented His perfect humanity a sacrifice, laying down His right and claim to future human existence, as well as ignoring present human gratification, privileges, rights, etc.
The first thing sacrificed is the human will; and thereafter such may not be guided either by their own will or by anyone else's will, but only by the Divine will. The Divine will becomes their will, and they reckon the human will as not theirs, but as the will of another, to be disregarded. They then begin to think, to reason and to judge from the Divine standpoint: God's plan becomes their plan, and God's ways become their ways (Isa. 55:8, 9). None can fully comprehend this transformation who have not in true faith presented themselves as sacrifices, and in consequence come to experience it.
Previously a believer might enjoy anything that was not actually sinful; for the world and all its good things were made for man's enjoyment, the only difficulty being to subdue the sinful propensities. But the consecrated, the transformed, in addition to the effort to subdue sin, are to sacrifice earthly good things and desires, whenever their use conflicts with doing God's will, and devote all their energies to the service of God. And those faithful in service and sacrifice will indeed realize daily that this present world is not their resting place, that here they have no continuing city. But their hearts and hopes will be turned to the rest that remains for the people of God (Heb. 4:9). And that blessed hope in turn will quicken and inspire them to continued sacrifice.
Thus through Spirit-begettal the mind is renewed, or transformed, and the desires, hopes and aims begin to rise toward the spiritual, unseen things promised, while the human hopes, aims, ambitions, etc., die. Those thus transformed, or in process of change, are embryo new creatures, begotten of God. Mark well the difference between these new creatures and those believers, "brethren," who are only justified, who still have the earthly mind, and, aside from sinful desires, whose hopes, aims and ambitions are such as will be fully gratified in the promised restitution of all things (Acts 3:19-21).
But the consecrated spiritual elect ones are not of this world, even as Christ was not of this world, and their hopes center in the things unseen, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. The prospect of earthly glory, so enchanting to the natural man, no longer is a satisfying portion to those begotten of the heavenly hope, who see the glories of the heavenly promises and who appreciate the part assigned to them in the Divine plan. This new, Spirit-begotten mind is the earnest of their inheritance of the new nature—mind and body.
CHANGED FROM HUMAN TO SPIRIT BODIES
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is now the express image of His Father's person (Heb. 1:3), and promised that His Body members would "be like him" and "see him as he is [in His glorious spirit body; not as He was, when in the flesh—2 Cor. 5:16; Heb. 5:7; 1 Pet. 3:18]" (1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:4). "There is a natural [human] body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44). We could not imagine either our Divine Father or our Lord Jesus as merely great minds without bodies. Theirs are glorious spirit bodies (John 5:37), though invisible to men's physical eyes (John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16). While the transforming of the mind from human to spiritual is a gradual work, the change from a human to a spirit body is not gradual, but instantaneous (1 Cor. 15:51, 52).
God created man in an earthly mental and moral image of Himself. The human is a likeness of the spiritual (Gen. 5:1). For instance, God has a will, so have angels and men; God has reason and memory, so have angels and men. The character of the mental operations of each is the same. Given the same data for reasoning and under similar conditions, these different natures within their own spheres are able to arrive at the same conclusions.
Though the mental faculties of the Divine, the angelic and the human natures are similar, yet we know that the spirit natures have powers beyond and above the human—powers which result, we think, not from different faculties, but from the wider range of the same faculties and the different circumstances under which they operate. Perfect human nature is a perfect earthly image of the spirit nature, having the same faculties, but confined to the earthly sphere, and with the ability and disposition to discern only so much beyond it as God sees fit to reveal for man's benefit and happiness.
The Divine is the highest order of the spirit nature; and how immeasurable is the distance between God and His creatures! We are able to catch only glimpses of the glory of the Divine wisdom, power and goodness as in panoramic view He causes some of His mighty works to pass before us. But we may measure and comprehend the glory of perfect humanity.
With these thoughts clearly in mind we can appreciate how the change from the human nature to the spirit nature is effected, namely, by carrying the same mental powers over to a higher nature and higher conditions. When clothed with heavenly bodies, the Gospel-Age Church receives the heavenly powers which belong to those glorious bodies, and thus shall have the range of thought and scope of power which belong to them. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." Indeed this is as clear a picture of the spirit beings' capabilities and power as the human mind is able to imagine (Rom. 11:33).
We have examined in considerable detail this subject of "born again," to emphasize the real meaning behind the expression and to draw a definite, broad and clear distinction between (1) Spirit-begettal and the Spirit-begotten condition, which is the condition of God's spiritual elect in their earthly lifetime, and (2) Spirit-birth and the Spirit-born condition, which is their condition in their resurrection inheritance. The two are not the same. This understanding will prove to be a valuable key in comprehending many other truths of God's Word and in enabling the Truth-seeker to "rightly divide"—to make proper distinctions, not only between Truth and error, but between the scope, operations and time application of Scriptures in relation to one another (2 Tim. 2:15). Only by so doing will the Bible really become to its earnest student a living, harmonious, unified whole. We thank God for the Truth given in His Word despite incorrect translations.
We realize that Christian brethren who have studied this treatise carefully and in a proper spirit of meekness may be somewhat disappointed to realize that their blessed Christian experiences in this life have not included the new birth. We sympathize with such in Christian love and encourage them not to feel deprived, but to rejoice in the wonderful enlightenment, heart-warming and energizing of the holy Spirit which is provided for all of Jesus' footstep followers today. Let us all pray for more of it (Luke 11:11-13), seek to be filled more and more with it (Eph. 5:18) and let it have free course in our hearts and lives (Gal. 5:22, 23), that thus we may be fitted more and more for God's Kingdom and our resurrection inheritance (2 Pet. 1:5-12). (A free copy of this issue will gladly be sent to anyone on request; also, for any who desire it, we have a free issue on "tongues-speaking.")
Born of the Spirit? oh no, not yet,
Begettal comes first, in God's routine;
In the resurrection the Spirit-born
Can come and go as the wind, unseen.
Christ tasted death, the wages of sin,
And thus provided a ransom for all,
Both for the Church and for all mankind,
To give them salvation from the fall.
Those who are His as Abraham's seed,
Will bless all the families of the earth;
The Second Adam and Second Eve
Will give to mankind a second birth.
The wicked will be forever destroyed,
With all sin, error, envy and strife;
The new earth will sing Jehovah's praise,
The righteous will be given eternal life.
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