The Gospel the New Birth and the Spirit!
By Miles McKee
“Jesus is never seen until the Holy Spirit opens the eye. The water from the well of life is never received until the Holy Spirit has drawn it from the depths.”
The first thing we need to note on this subject is The New Birth is not the Gospel.
We touched on this subject earlier but now we need to give it a little more attention. Much as we value the new birth, the new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit within us and not the work of the Son for us. Yes we all must be born again, but to preach being born again is not to preach the Gospel.
As already stated, Jesus coming into our heart is not the Gospel! In fact, the command to, “ask Jesus into your heart” is nowhere found in the Bible. Yet, there are many preachers who maintain that to neglect to tell people to ask Jesus into their hearts is to neglect to preach the Gospel.
However the Gospel is not about Christ coming into our hearts to change and transform us. In fact, the Gospel is not about our heart at all. Rather, it concerns God’s heart of amazing grace which was demonstrated to us, apart from us and outside of us in the Christ event in time and history. The Gospel is not about how God acts in the believer but rather about His saving acts outside the believer.
Because of the Gospel event, the Bible declares we are freely justified by grace (Rom. 3:24). We are not justified because he has come into our heart. No! He has justified us freely by grace. Freely is a wonderful word! Not only does it mean ‘without cost’ it also means ‘without cause’. There is no quality therefore in the human heart which causes God to save us. We are saved by grace and this grace was given to us, not when “Jesus came into our hearts” but given in Christ Jesus before we were ever formed (2 Tim 1:9)
Grace, you remember, means that God accepts those who are unacceptable. He does not accept us because He has come into our hearts and changed us into something satisfactory. That then would be no longer Grace. He doesn’t declare us ‘not guilty’ because he has found a new righteousness within us. The only perfect righteousness He has ever found is the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus alone. I love what John Bunyan says in his book, “Grace Abounding for the Chief of Sinners” At a particular time he was going through deep torment of his mind and he tells us,
"—this sentence fell upon my soul: Thy righteousness is in heaven. And I saw that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, today and forever."
The big issue before us is therefore not whether or not Christ is in us but rather whether or not we are we in Christ! The ground of our acceptance before God is found entirely outside of us and not in us. We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” — Rom. 3:24.
Christ's doing and dying are the sole grounds of God's being able to judge us and treat us as righteous. So far from the Gospel being about Christ saving us by coming into our hearts, the Gospel reveals that sinners are saved by the finished saving acts of God in history, in Christ Jesus. This is so far removed from the sinner’s heart that it was actually accomplished and completed 2000 years ago. This is Bible Christianity. All other religions teach that salvation is found in some process within the worshiper. The worshiper has to experience something or to do something. But Bible Christianity alone proclaims a salvation which is found in an event outside the believer. The Bible never once presents the Gospel as being about Christ coming into our hearts!
I once met a drunk who told me he was saved because he’d asked Jesus into his heart! That’s what the preacher had told him to do. Just ask Jesus into your heart and God will give you the gift of eternal life! Salvation had been reduced to a simple formula, “Just ask Jesus into your heart”. What a shock he will get on the judgment day and what shame will be there when the faithless pastor, who told him the lie, will have to give account!
What must I do to be saved? That’s what the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Paul got his answer wrong! Didn’t he? ‘Just ask Jesus into your heart’ that’s what Paul should have said. But no, Paul directed him away his experience to the Lord Jesus Christ. He directed the man away from himself and his fears to the person of Christ saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved”.
Yes, but what about the work of the Holy Spirit?
Don’t we need to have the Holy Spirit? Yes indeed every believer and indeed every church assembly ought to be filled with the Spirit. In fact, if we do not have the Holy Spirit we don’t even belong to Christ (Rom 8:9). The work of the Holy Spirit is a vital work. However, the Spirit’s work is the work God does ‘in us’ and it should never be confused with the work He has done “for us”.
The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration (The New Birth) is vital but it is not the Gospel. It is rather as a result of the Gospel that the Holy Spirit was sent. Indeed, Jesus promised the disciples the Holy Spirit would come. According to Him, “…….. when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.” John 16:13-14.
“He shall not speak of Himself, He shall glorify Me!” This must mean a church which is Spirit filled will not be pre-occupied with the Spirit. To make the Holy Spirit the center stage of the Church can not possibly be the work of the Spirit, it is the work of man. The real Holy Spirit brings a Christ centered life to us.
The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself neither does anyone who is filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has come to declare the Christ. Just as Christ came and expounded the Father so the Spirit expounds, explains and magnifies the Son.
None of us can understand the magnitude and significance of the Christ event without the Holy Spirit. The significance of the Christ event would be lost to us without the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Had there not been a Pentecost we would not have grasped what Christ had done and accomplished. It was at Pentecost we had the first Gospel sermon of the New Testament Church. It was as if the disciple’s eyes were at last fully opened and they realized they had walked and talked with the Lord of Glory. Consider how differently Peter behaved compared to some of today’s preachers. Here’s what he might have said had he lived in this day and age, “Brothers and sisters we have just had the most marvelous experience. God has visited us and we heard a rushing mighty wind and saw tongues of fire, It was an overpowering experience and I felt it from my head to the tips of my toes. I feel like I’ve been filled with a new power. I can sense the Spirit moving all through me.”
But, even if this is how Peter felt he said none of that! He opened his mouth and spoke boldly about Christ and Him crucified. He made no reference to himself or his feelings. The power of the Holy Spirit had made him into a gospel preacher.
Our human mind can not fully comprehend the awe and wonder of the Gospel. We need the Holy Spirit moving in us and drawing us to Christ and, as it were, explaining it all to us. God Himself made a visit to this planet in the Person of His Son. This is stunning but it only really stuns when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to it! It is stunning to think that he did not make a grand and glorious entrance witnessed by the millions. The only announcement given was by a heavenly choir singing to a less than sold out performance attended by a few lonely shepherds in the hills above an obscure village. But you know the story don’t you? We all know the facts but if the Spirit has caused us to be born again and is working in us we will know much more than the facts, we will know something of the awesome power and wonder of the event. We should let the Holy Spirit, as it were, help us grasp and hear the angelic message that Christ is born and the shepherds will find Him in a manger in Bethlehem. Notice how it is not enough for the shepherds merely to know the Savior is born, they must also find him. What a great lesson there is for us in this passage. If we never come to know Christ, if we never find him, what good is it to even believe he has been born? An unborn Christ is no better for us than an unknown Christ. But when the Holy Spirit leads us to Him we find him and what a difference that makes.
The ancient shepherds are given a sign; then a heavenly song explodes across the sky. And what a wonder of a song it is! It tells of God, Earth, Men, Glory, Peace and Goodwill. God is to have the glory, Earth is to have the peace and Men are to have the goodwill. But even though this prophetic song is sung to them, the shepherds still have to discover Christ. And so do we and that’s why we continually need the ministry of the Holy Spirit!
But how are they to find Christ? They need some help so they are given a sign. It’s a sign which points to Jesus; it’s a sign which shows the way to Christ. But what a strange sign it really is!
“You shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”