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A Promised Birth

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
January 24, 2023 12:01 am

A Promised Birth

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 24, 2023 12:01 am

The new birth is not only a New Testament doctrine. From ancient times, God promised to give His people new hearts and make them into new creatures. Today, Steven Lawson examines the teaching of the Old Testament on regeneration.

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In John chapter 3, we read about a Jewish teacher named Nicodemus, who approached Jesus and asked Him what He meant when He said that you must be born again.

He was the number one teacher of Israel. That's what verse 10 indicates with the definite article V. Are you the teacher of Israel, and you do not understand these things? You have totally missed the message of the Old Testament.

Nicodemus didn't get it. Jesus' teaching about the new birth was an absolute mystery to him. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Tuesday and another message from Stephen Lawson's series, which is titled The New Birth. Jesus' response to Nicodemus implied that any person who had read the Old Testament should have understood what Jesus meant.

Let's discover more as we join Dr. Lawson. Well, we come to our next session on the new birth, and in this session I want to draw our attention to this fact that the new birth is a promised birth. I want you to look in John chapter 3 with me one more time, and I want us to look at verses 9 and 10 and give special attention to verse 10. Jesus has just said to Nicodemus, you must be born again.

You must be born of the Spirit. And notice Nicodemus' response in verse 9. He said, how can these things be? He is dumbfounded. He is flabbergasted.

He is totally caught off guard. He says, how can these things possibly be? Now, notice Jesus' response to Nicodemus.

This is very telling. In verse 10, Jesus answered and said to him, are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? It is very clear that Jesus expected Nicodemus to have already known this truth about the new birth. And the reason why Nicodemus should have known these truths is because he is the teacher of Israel. Now, we would ask the question, so what has Nicodemus been teaching that he should know what Jesus has just taught?

And the answer is self-apparent. Nicodemus has been teaching the Bible. Nicodemus has been teaching the Word of God. And at this point, the only part of the Word of God that has been written for Nicodemus to have been teaching is the Old Testament. So clearly implied in verse 10 by what Jesus says, you should have been reading your Bible all along. You should have been understanding the Old Testament as you have been the teacher of Israel.

You have seen the trees, but you've missed the forest. You have missed the big picture of what the Old Testament has been teaching. Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee, one of the strictest, most law-abiding people in Israel, there were only 6,000 Pharisees, they had relied upon their external religion for their entrance into the kingdom of heaven. They had relied upon their heritage and their lineage and their family tree, their citizenship in the nation Israel to give them admission into the kingdom of heaven.

He was relying completely on the external religion to commend him to God. In addition to being a Pharisee, he was a ruler of the Jews, we learned in verse 1, which means out of the 6,000 Pharisees, he was one of but a handful who had been elevated yet higher to be in the Sanhedrin, those 71 men who were a part of governing and overseeing the affairs of the nation. He was singled out as one of these spiritual elite, one of these spiritual aristocrats, out of the Pharisees. But even more than that, he was the number one teacher of Israel. That's what verse 10 indicates with the definite article, the.

Are you the teacher of Israel, the premier, the leading, the most acknowledged, the most acclaimed teacher of Israel? And you do not understand these things, you have totally missed the message of the Old Testament, that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and the coming Christ alone. That's what I want us to focus in this session, that the new birth is a promised birth, that it was promised long ago in pages of Old Testament Scripture, and I want us to survey some of these verses. Where is the teaching of regeneration in the new birth in the Old Testament?

Because this is nothing new. This is not a new entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This is like Jeremiah 6, verse 16, going back to old paths, getting back on the old path that was already laid out in Scripture all along. Now before we go to look into the Old Testament, let me just make one obvious point here, and it is this, that if Nicodemus needed to be born again, how much do every one of us need to be born again?

I mean, this is an argument from the greater to the lesser. If Nicodemus, who is a Pharisee, who is a member of the Sanhedrin, who is the teacher of the nation, needs to be born again, and he's not there yet, how much more do you and I need a new heart? Do you remember what Jesus said? Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. You're going to have to advance beyond Nicodemus if you have any thought of entering the kingdom of heaven apart from the new birth.

You say, well, I'll take a shot at that. I mean, how much better do I need to be than Nicodemus? And Jesus answers that. In Matthew 5, verse 48, He says, you are to be as perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We can all just gulp and swallow hard at that one, because none of us are as perfect as God is perfect. The only way we are ever going to see or enter the kingdom of heaven is not by external religion, is not by religious activity, is not by anything that we do or that man can do to us. It is not by being in church. It is not by simply having head knowledge of the Bible.

There is only one way of entrance into the kingdom of heaven, and that is to be born again from above. Now, this was taught throughout the Old Testament, and I want us to lick our fingers and to look at some verses in the Old Testament. So, go back to the book that Jesus quoted from the most.

Go back to the book of Deuteronomy, the second giving of the law. It could be argued that this is Jesus' favorite book in that He quoted from it the most. And you remember when He was out in the wilderness, He didn't have a strong concordance out in the wilderness when the devil came and tempted Him and said, you know, cause these stones to be turned into bread. He didn't have the opportunity to pull out a laptop and do a word search and find just the right verse to answer. No, He had Deuteronomy memorized down cold, and immediately Deuteronomy 8 verse 3 just comes out of our Lord's mouth.

He said, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. So, Deuteronomy was such an important book in the theology of our Lord and in the theology of the Old Testament. Well, I haven't given you the chapter and verse yet. It's Deuteronomy 30 and verse 6, Deuteronomy 30 and verse 6.

I want you to see this text. It talks about circumcision, but it talks about a circumcision that is not a physical circumcision. It talks about the real circumcision, the true circumcision.

It talks about the circumcision of the heart. A physical circumcision is only a symbol and a sign. The circumcision of the heart is the real circumcision. And circumcision in the Old Testament was a cutting of the foreskin of the heart and a cutting into the heart that there would be something put into that heart, life and the Word of God and grace. So, Deuteronomy 30 and verse 6 we read, Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart. The only one who can circumcise one's heart is the Lord. The Lord will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, meaning there won't be another way of entering into the kingdom for your descendants and for your descendants' descendants and for those who will follow. There is one timeless way in every generation, in every place, in every age.

There is no other way to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It will always be and only be when God circumcises the heart. It's true for you. It's true for your descendants.

It's true for the descendants of your descendants. Now notice the result of this circumcision. And again, spiritual circumcision is a piercing of the heart. It is a cutting of the heart to have entrance into the heart that God may do a work within the heart. Now, notice the result of this and what is put into the heart. The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul in order that you may live. It is God putting life into the spiritually dead heart. It is God performing, if you will, that open heart surgery and that heart transplant and doing a work of grace within the heart.

The metaphor here, the analogy that God is using is that of spiritual circumcision. And wherever there's life in that heart, there is love. There's love for God. There's love for God's Word. There's love for God's Son. There's love for God's kingdom. There's love for God's people. There's love for God's will. There's love for God's purposes. There's love for God's work.

There's a new love that is the result of God cutting the foreskin of the heart and giving new life. This happens in the innermost being of one's soul. Again, it's not external. It's internal. It's deep down where only God can penetrate into the innermost recesses of the soul such that this love for God in this new life, it's a transformation from the inside out.

It doesn't just lay on the surface. It's life at the innermost being. Come with me to Jeremiah, Jeremiah 9 and verse 25. And I want us to see another verse that distinguishes the two kinds of circumcision. There is a physical circumcision and there is a spiritual circumcision. The physical circumcision is merely external. The spiritual circumcision is internal. The external circumcision is merely a sign, a symbol. The internal circumcision is the reality of what the sign is indicating. So Jeremiah 9 and verse 25, Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all who are – now watch these next four words – circumcised and yet uncircumcised.

What does that mean? How can you be circumcised and yet uncircumcised? Either you are or you aren't unless there are two kinds of circumcision.

You can have the one but not have the other, and that is what our Lord means. He is saying that there will be many who will have one kind of circumcision but not the other kind of circumcision. They will have the external circumcision, but they will not have the internal true spiritual circumcision of the heart. Paul would later say, well, not all Israel is Israel. There's a physical Israel, but inside of the physical Israel there is a true Jew.

There is a spiritual Israel, a remnant within the larger nation. That is what our Lord is saying here, that His judgment will fall upon all who are circumcised. So circumcision doesn't get you anywhere.

Just the physical, that will not provide escape from the coming punishment and judgment of God. No, He says it's not enough just to be circumcised. And we would say today it's not enough just to go to church. It's not enough just to be baptized. It's not enough just to sing in the choir. It's not enough just to know the Bible and to participate. It's not enough just to be externally religious and have all of the outward trappings if there's no inward internal reality in the depths of one's soul and only God can go there. Only God can circumcise that heart in the new birth and give life and give love and give grace and transform the life.

That is what He is saying. Circumcised and yet uncircumcised. We would say today religious but lost. Someone who professes Christ but does not possess Christ. Someone who is a member of the church but is not a member of Christ.

Someone whose name is written in the church role but their name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life. They are circumcised but yet uncircumcised. He goes on to say at the end of verse 26, the uncircumcised of heart.

That's the qualifier for the end of verse 25. When He says circumcised and yet uncircumcised, we say, well, who are these uncircumcised? They are uncircumcised of heart.

They are circumcised in their flesh but uncircumcised in their heart. That is to say, they have never been regenerated by the Spirit of God. God has never cut into their hardened, thick heart and given life. Now, the New Testament echoes this and the New Testament supports this and I know we've been in the Old Testament and we're going to come back to the Old Testament but I want to show you two verses in the New Testament that will be good cross-references to support this. Romans 2, verse 28. Romans 2, verse 28, as Paul is teaching again on what it is to be right with God. And the whole book of Romans is that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. And he begins by making his case that the whole human race needs justification. The whole human race is under the wrath of God and as he builds this case in Romans 2, verse 28, while still in this section of the necessity of justification.

And in our study we would say in the necessity of the new birth. Notice verse 28. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly. And circumcision is that which is of the heart by the spirit, not by the letter.

This could not be any more crystal clear. He's saying you can be a Jew and not be a Jew. The true Israel is one who has not merely external religion, external observance of the law that would have included external circumcision.

That doesn't get you anywhere into eternity with God. No, you must have the true circumcision. You must have a circumcision, verse 28, not one that is merely outward, but verse 29 says one that is inward, referring to the soul, referring to the human spirit, referring to the heart. And then he clarifies, and circumcision is that which is of the heart.

You can be circumcised from now until the cows come home outwardly. But true circumcision is the circumcision of the heart. And he says by the spirit, that is what Jesus is saying to Nicodemus, that you must be born of the spirit. Now, one other text in the New Testament, Colossians 2, verse 11. Colossians 2, verse 11, in which Paul is talking about the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have Christ, you have everything. If you don't have Christ, you don't have anything. And he is saying if you put your faith in Christ, you have the entirety of salvation. You have all forgiveness. You have all redemption.

You don't need to be out looking for a second this or a second that. You got it all the first time when you received Christ. Now, Colossians 2, verse 11, and in Him, capital H, Christ, and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands. There you have the new birth. That's what it is. It is a circumcision without human hands.

And the reason is because it's not an external circumcision. That's just a sign. It's like one young man came to his pastor and said, Pastor, I want to be advertised. He says, you mean baptized. Baptism is just an advertisement.

It's a sign. It's a symbol of what must take place in the heart, the inner circumcision of the heart. And he says when that happens, verse 11, there is the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Oh, when Christ circumcises a heart, that heart is made alive. That heart is made new. There is a new creature in Christ. Well, this is the promised birth. It was taught all along in the Old Testament.

And time doesn't permit, but you can just jot it down. It's in Jeremiah 31, 33 and 34, Ezekiel 11, verse 19, Ezekiel 36, verses 25 to 28. There are all of these verses that teach in the Old Testament that the heart must be circumcised.

The heart must be old heart taken out, the new heart put in. God must put His Spirit inside of us in this heart. God must write His Word upon our heart. God must give us life and give us love for Him. This is the truth that we must be born again. God planned our salvation, He accomplished our salvation, and God applies our salvation to us. Incredible truths that we've heard today from Dr. Stephen Lawson's series, The New Birth. I'm Lee Webb, and I'm glad you could join us today on this Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Dr. Lawson's series helps us distinguish between a cultural, man-centered version of the new birth and a biblical view.

Jesus was clear about what happens when someone is born again. You'll learn about it when you request this 12-part series on two DVDs. Call us today with a donation of any amount, and we'll also provide you with a digital copy of the study guide for the series. Our number is 800-435-4343. You can also find us online at The call to be born again is a foundational message in Scripture.

It is a truth that we must proclaim to the culture around us, even when we're told to remain silent. When you support Ligonier Ministries, you propel our efforts to defend the truth through teaching series like this one. We do hope you'll request it, either for yourself or a family member or a friend or for your church. We'll add a copy of the study guide to your online learning library. You can make your request and give your donation at, or you can call us at 800-435-4343. And let me remind you that you can take advantage of the technology provided on our free Ligonier app. Once you've made your request, the entire series will be available for you to view in your online learning library.

You'll be able to watch the series while you wait for the DVDs to arrive. Well tomorrow Dr. Lawson's lesson will show us that the new birth is a saving birth. To be outside the kingdom is to be an avowed warrior against this kingdom and against the kingdom of God. There is no state of neutrality. You're either in the kingdom or you're out of the kingdom. You're either at peace with God or you're at war with God. I hope you'll join us Wednesday for Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-25 06:38:38 / 2023-01-25 06:46:48 / 8

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