Born Again Through Jesus: The Power of Resurrection

Born Again Through Jesus: The Power of Resurrection April 17, 2024

Sunrise over a lake
Sunrise over a lake by Adrian Warnock

If you are a Christian, then you were once were dead to God but are now alive to God thanks to being united with Jesus in his resurrection, often referred to as being born again. He was raised so we could be raised with him. The resurrection of Jesus has life-giving power. Salvation is a miracle caused by the same creative power that conquered the grave.

 

If we have died with him, we will also live with him. 2 TIMOTHY 2:11

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. EPHESIANS 2:4–6

Lex Loizides, an evangelist who preaches all over the world, describes what happens when we become Christians:

Conversion is coming to faith in Christ, trusting him for forgiveness through his death and resurrection, repenting of your sinfulness and sins, and humbly asking for forgiveness, while believing that He hears you, and receives you. This trusting in Christ leads to a change of inclination towards following Jesus, and a teachability in the person’s posture. You become like a child in that sense, and desire to learn how God wants you to live and seek to follow that, albeit imperfectly.

This is all precipitated by an inward change of desire that causes you to want to be forgiven. So the new birth, as Jesus describes it, is the impartation of a new life—the dynamic, ultimately irrepressible seed of spiritual life—and this continually draws the believer to Christ, in pursuit of holiness, and ever on to fulfill Christ’s commission on the earth. This dynamic new life will finally bring the believer home to Christ in eternity.[1]

We feel that we are choosing to respond to Christ’s call, and yet it is God himself who is at work in us, changing us on the inside and causing us to be born again. As Jesus himself said:

Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:7–8)

This act of God occurs through the resurrection of Jesus, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

The same event is described in Ephesians 2 as a spiritual resurrection. This is consistent also with Jesus’ description of someone who doesn’t follow him as “dead” (see Luke 9:60). He also tells us that “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

If you are a Christian, then you were once were dead to God but are now alive to God thanks to being united with Jesus in his resurrection. This spiritual resurrection is often referred to as being born again. A whole new life starts because of what Jesus does in us. he was resurrected so we could be raised with him. The resurrection of Jesus has life-giving power. Salvation is a miracle caused by the same creative power that conquered the grave.

WHY MUST WE BE BORN AGAIN?

In what I believe to be his most important book, Finally Alive, John Piper is eager to warn us that not everyone who goes to church is a true Christian. He says:

[When anyone] uses the term born again to describe American church-goers whose lives are indistinguishable from the world, and who sin as much as the world, and sacrifice for others as little as the world, and embrace injustice as readily as the world, and covet things as greedily as the world, and enjoy God-ignoring entertainment as enthusiastically as the world—when the term born again is used to describe these professing Christians, [people are] making a profound mistake. It is using the biblical term born again in a way that would make it unrecognizable by Jesus and the biblical writers. . . .

Instead of moving from a profession of faith, to the label born again, to the worldliness of these so-called born again people, to the conclusion that the new birth does not radically change people, the New Testament moves in the other direction. It moves from the absolute certainty that the new birth radically changes people, to the observation that many professing Christians are indeed . . . not radically changed, to the conclusion that they are not born again. The New Testament . . . does not defile the new birth with the worldliness of unregenerate, professing Christians.[2]

The frightening prospect that Piper describes is that many churches are full of people who have not actually been born again. To the Bible, the idea that Christians could remain the same as the world is totally alien.

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

A divine impulse is implanted in us that works to transform our lives. Without it we are not true Christians. Could anything be worse than a preacher discovering on Judgment Day that many in his congregation were never connected with the resurrection life of Jesus? As Tope Koleoso, who was my pastor for 25 years, replied without a moment’s hesitation, “Yes, getting there and discovering that he himself was not truly saved either.” Every preacher must begin by ensuring that he himself is saved, and then focus on his hearers.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16, niv)

We must consider this subject extremely carefully. Piper lists ten reasons why we need to experience a spiritual resurrection. Without this new birth:

 1. We are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1–2).

 2. We are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

 3. We love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19–20).

 4. Our hearts are hard like stone (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:18).

 5. We are unable to submit to God or please God (Romans 8:7–8).

 6. We are unable to accept the gospel (Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

 7. We are unable to come to Christ or embrace him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Corinthians 12:3).

 8. We are slaves to sin (Romans 6:17).

 9. We are slaves of Satan (Ephesians 2:1–2; 2 Timothy 2:24–26).

  1. No good thing dwells in us (Romans 7:18).[3]

Regeneration is God’s solution to all these problems. It is God’s work to bring about a spiritual resurrection in us—bringing those who are dead to him to life:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4–6)

When God declares the change in our status as righteous before him, he also works in us to change our behavior. We are immediately justified in status, and our righteous standing leads to our being changed over time to become righteous in our actions. An inward change does immediately occur that works within us, causing change that will lead to changed behavior. Jesus tells us that this is a work of the Spirit intimately connected to Jesus’ own words: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). John Piper explains:

The new birth is something that happens in us when the Holy Spirit takes our dead hearts and unites us to Christ by faith so that his life becomes our life. So it makes sense that Jesus must be raised from the dead if we are to have new life in union with him.[4]

Regeneration then is brought about by a spiritual connection to the life-giving power of the risen and ascended Christ. No wonder that Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). It is impossible for such an event to leave us unchanged. Two things happen to us. God promises:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25–27)

Piper explains this: “in other words, the ones who will ‘enter the kingdom’ are those who have a newness that involves a cleansing from the old and a creation of the new.”[5] He links this to Jesus’ requirement in John 3 that we be washed by water and renewed by the Spirit. This new creation or spiritual resurrection is designed to free us from the slave-like compulsion to continue in sin.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:5–6)

This freedom from sin is not an automatic thing, nor is it instantaneous. We have a part to play and will be fighting against sin all our earthly lives. That very determination to battle sin and our growing victory as we are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18) is one clear evidence that we have been born again.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:11–13)

All Christians have a new life within them. The Scripture tells us simply, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). A simple definition of a Christian then is someone who “has” Jesus. If we have Jesus then we have his life-changing resurrection power. Spurgeon takes up this point and explains the hope it gives us that others too can share in this wonderful news:

If you have Jesus Christ, you have the resurrection. Oh, that you might now realize what power lies in him who is the resurrection and the life! All the power there is in Christ is there for his people. . . . Christ has a life in himself, and he makes that life to flow into every part of his mystical body . . . you possess as a believer this day that same life which is inherent in the person of your glorious covenant Head. Moreover, our Lord has power to quicken whom he will. . . . If the salvation of souls depended upon the preacher, nobody would be saved; but when the preacher’s Master comes with him, however feeble his utterance, the life flashes forth, and the dead are raised. . . . Our risen Redeemer is the Lord and Giver of life. What joy to Christian workers is found in the life-giving power of the resurrection![6]

HOW CAN WE BE SURE WE ARE BORN AGAIN?

A number of different factors contribute to our assurance, and it is wise to examine ourselves to be sure that we are saved. The answer to this vital question is, in one sense, devastatingly simple. We can know that we are born again when we have true faith in Jesus. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

If we truly trust in Jesus to save us and give us eternal life, we can know that we are saved. We come to him, recognizing that salvation itself is his to grant, casting ourselves on his mercy and asking him to save us. We have nothing to offer him, but he will not turn away anyone who genuinely leans on him. The danger is complacency and an assumption that “of course” we have believed. The question, have I really been born again? should not be answered too hastily. Nonetheless, God wants us to experience the joy of being sure that we have been saved. We will return to the vital role of the Holy Spirit in this matter in a later chapter.

RAISED WITH CHRIST, SEATED IN HEAVEN

Raised with Christ is a frequent description of what it means to be a Christian. This phrase obviously implies a state of death from which we were rescued. We were “dead” in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). Since Christ died instead of us, these two concepts can be united to say that Jesus entered our state of spiritual death and invited us to share in his physical death, so that this unity with him would also lead to us entering his resurrection life.

Paul says God has already “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6; see also Colossians 3:1–2). Our salvation is eternally secure. We are, in some mysterious sense, already in heaven and share in Christ’s authority. Our spirits right now have access into the holy of holies.

It may seem a bit fanciful, but I sometimes like to think of our current life as being a bit like a form of virtual reality. The true reality is, we are already seated in heaven, no matter what is happening to us in this world. This is not to minimize the importance of our current life, just to emphasize that we are already secure in heaven.

When Christ died, we died, and when Christ rose, we rose. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Those events in the past happened to us without our being aware of them, before we even existed in this world. For this language to make any sense whatsoever we have to believe in a God who is outside of time. At some point we repent and become Christians, and at that point these events are applied to us. We are quite literally re-created or resurrected.

Christians already are spiritual beings. Our glorious new life is currently hidden from view since, as Paul says, “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3–4). The world has no idea that our true identity is veiled from it. It is profitable to meditate on this glorious truth of our being hidden with Christ in God. These words also lead us to grasp one of the most mysterious things in the whole Bible—our union with Jesus.

UNITED WITH CHRIST

Not only are we already spiritually seated in heaven, but we are also already in union with Christ. This is not the kind of union that means we are swallowed up in God. The route to true freedom and identity is by sharing in Christ’s riches. We remain distinct. Paul repeatedly tells us that the blessings of our salvation are found “in Christ Jesus.” For example, he said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jonathan Edwards explains to us that every benefit of salvation can only be ours because of this new relationship we have with Christ himself:

That justification that believers have at their conversion is as partaking of the justification that Christ had in his resurrection; and so all the benefits that believers [have], their comfort and hope and joy here, and their eternal life hereafter, is as partaking with a risen Savior.[7]

It is this union with Christ that helps us make sense of why God was not unjust in punishing our sins in the crucifixion of Jesus. We are so united with him that what belongs to us belongs to him, and conversely what belongs to him belongs to us. All the blessings and privileges of being a son of God are now ours. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The concept of this unity is hard for us to grasp. We don’t often think in terms of a federal identity. Perhaps the closest modern analogy is the union we have with the countries in which we live. If you are a citizen of a particular country that is at war, you might not feel enmity against the aggressor country, but that changes nothing in your experience. You are still under attack because you are a member of your country. If, on the other hand, you were able to escape and become an adopted member of another neutral country, your previous attackers would no longer see you as the enemy. Similarly, we are now blessed because we are in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).

Some things that should have happened to us, like death and punishment, happened instead to Jesus. God considers us as if we really had experienced what Jesus experienced on the cross. Conversely, there are things that happened to him that we did not deserve—like resurrection and receiving the approval of God. Thanks to our union with Christ we share in those benefits.

Jesus suffered the penalty due our sins so that we do not have to. He was raised to life so that we will also experience future resurrection. He is our substitute, and we participate in his blessings. He represents us, and yet we are also in union with him. We are reconciled to our Father. The very judge who is righteously angry with us provides the solution, and we are adopted by the one who is fully justified to hate us for our sin.

Salvation is not merely a case of believing in something that happened thousands of years ago. We are not saved by a belief. We are saved by union with a person. We cannot separate the propitiatory work of Christ from Christ himself. We are saved not only by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen, exalted Savior. Only through union with a living Savior who has in him the virtue of his atoning death do justification, forgiveness, and all the blessings of redemption become ours: “In him we have redemption through his blood” (Ephesians 1:7; cf. Colossians 1:14). We are accepted “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We are united to both his death and resurrection. As one scholar put it:

Justification is ours as we are “in Christ” in such living union with him that His life becomes identified with ours and ours with His. Because of this identification or incorporation, Christ’s acts are repeated in us so that in His death we die to sin, “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), and in His life we live to righteousness. But it is only by His risen life that Christ can come into such living union with men as thus to effect their redemption.[8]

All that he is, all his credit, all his life, are imputed to us, and although we may initially appear to be much the same as we were the moment before we were declared righteous, a change does happen within us. We begin a whole new type of life and become an entirely new kind of being. We spend the rest of our lives becoming what we now are. As Paul said:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. (2 Corinthians 13:4)

CONCLUSION

To fully appreciate the wonder of what has happened to us, we must turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Because of the resurrection, a radical change has happened inside us. We are made new already. Inside us we are already new creatures who were made for an eternity with God. The old sinful nature really has gone. It may not always feel that way, but the Christian truly has changed inwardly. We are already part of the new creation that is to come. The renewal of all things has begun in us. We are totally different from those around us. We form a community of the newly created, and the family of God’s people is incomprehensible to those who are not yet spiritually alive. We should not be surprised when people misunderstand us since we are like a different species. When Christians stop being different from the world and instead fall back into their old habits, it is as tragic as finding a royal prince sleeping out on the streets in a gutter, having forgotten he belongs in the palace.

REFERENCES ARE FOUND AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE

 


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READ MORE

Chapter One:

Chapter Two:

Chapter Three:

Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

Chapter Four:

Chapter Five:

Chapter Six:

Chapter Seven:

Resurrection in the Gospels

Chapter Eight:

What Did the Resurrection Do for Us? The Sermons of Acts

Chapter Nine: 

Raised For Our Justification: What does Romans 4:25 mean?

 

REFERENCES
[1] Lex Loizides, personal communication, 2009; see also http://lexloiz.wordpress.com.

 

[2]John Piper, Finally Alive (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2009), 14–15.

 

[3] Ibid., 48–58.

 

[4] Ibid., 83.

[5] Ibid., 40.

 

[6] C. H. Spurgeon, Sermon No. 2080, “The Power of His Resurrection,” delivered on April 21, 1889 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington; http://www.recoverthegospel.com/Old%20Recover%20the%20Gospel%20Site/Spurgeon/Spurgeon%202001-3000/2080.pdf.

 

[7] Jonathan Edwards, The Miscellanies, WJE Online, Vol. 18, 534;

 

[8]Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, electronic edition (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000), G1347.

 

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