The New Birth—What Does It Accomplish?
WHY did Jesus use the expression “born . . . from spirit” when speaking about the baptism with holy spirit? (John 3:5) When used as a figure of speech, the word “birth” means “beginning,” such as in the expression “the birth of a nation.” Hence, the term “new birth” indicates a “new beginning.” Therefore, the figures of speech “born” and “new birth” highlight that there will be a new beginning in the relationship between God and those who are baptized with holy spirit. How does that complete change in relationship occur?
In explaining how God prepares humans for rulership in heaven, the apostle Paul used an illustration taken from family life. He wrote to Christians in his day that they would experience an “adoption as sons” and that God, therefore, could deal with them “as with sons.” (Galatians 4:5; Hebrews 12:7) To see how the example of adoption helps one to understand what sort of change takes place when an individual is baptized with holy spirit, consider once more the illustration of the young man who wants to enroll in a school for students who belong to a native population.
A Change Caused by Adoption
In the illustration, the young man is unable to enroll in the school because he is not a member of the indigenous population. Now, imagine that one day, a big change occurs. He is legally adopted by a father of an indigenous family. How does that affect the young man? Well, because of being adopted as a son, he may now have the same rights as other indigenous youths—including the right to enroll in the school. The adoption has completely changed his prospects.
This illustrates what happens in a much more significant manner to those who experience the new birth. Consider some similarities. The young man in the illustration will be given a place in school but only if he meets the requirement for admission—that of belonging to the native population. Yet, on his own he cannot meet that requirement. Similarly, some humans will be given a place in God’s Kingdom, or heavenly government, but only if they meet the requirement for admission—that of being “born again.” Yet, on their own they cannot meet that requirement because the new birth depends on God.
What changed the condition of the young man? The legal process of adoption. Of course, that process did not change the young man’s nature. After his adoption, he was still the same person. Even so, after the legal requirements for adoption had been met, the young man received a new status. Indeed, he experienced a new beginning—a new birth, so to speak. He became a son, which gave him the right to attend the school and to be part of his adoptive father’s family.
Similarly, Jehovah changed the condition of a group of imperfect humans by initiating a legal procedure to adopt them as his children. The apostle Paul, who belonged to that group, wrote to fellow believers: “You received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15, 16) Yes, through the process of adoption, those Christians had become part of God’s family, or “children of God.”—1 John 3:1; 2 Corinthians 6:18.
Of course, that adoption by God did not change the nature of the adoptees, for they remained imperfect. (1 John 1:8) Nevertheless, as Paul further explained, after the legal requirements for adoption had been met, they received a new status. At the same time, God’s spirit implanted in those adopted sons the conviction that they would live with Christ in heaven. (1 John 3:2) That unmistakable conviction caused by holy spirit gave them a whole new outlook on life. (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22) Yes, they experienced a new beginning—a new birth, as it were.
Speaking about God’s adopted sons, the Bible states: “They will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6) With Christ, God’s adopted sons will receive a place as kings in God’s Kingdom, or heavenly government. The apostle Peter told fellow believers that they would receive “an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance” that is “reserved in the heavens” for them. (1 Peter 1:3, 4) A precious inheritance indeed!
However, this matter of rulership also raises a question. If those who are born again will rule as kings in heaven, over whom will they be ruling? That question will be considered in the following article.
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What did Paul say about adoption?