What About Being Born Again?

Does belief that all humanity is included in Jesus, conflict with the idea of a personal new birth (regeneration)?  Let me answer by first quoting N.T. Wright's book, "Surprised by Hope." He speaks on pp. 270-272 of regeneration and the related topic of baptism:
One of the most striking mentions of the new birth is found in the great opening of 1Peter [v. 3]. God in his great mercy has given us a new birth to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus's resurrection is directly instrumental in bringing about this new birth and its consequences. It is all because of what happened at Easter: a new reality has opened up in the world, a new kind of life both inward and, importantly outward in holiness and in the hope of our own resurrection...
Baptism too... is closely allied with the resurrection of Jesus...best understood within the theology of creation and new creation, and of the overlapping of heaven and earth...The resurrection of Jesus has brought about a new state of affairs in cosmic history and reality. God's future has burst into the present, and...somehow the sacraments are not just signs of the reality of new creation but actually a part of it. Thus the event of baptism - the action, the water, the going down and the coming up again... - is not just a signpost to the reality of the new birth, the membership (as all birth gives membership) in the new family. It really is the gateway to that membership.... in the simple but powerful action of plunging someone into the water in the name of the triune God, there is a real dying to the old creation and a real rising into the new - with all the dangerous privileges and responsibilities that then accompany the new life as it sets out in the as-yet-unredeemed world. 
Baptism is not magic... But neither is it simply a visual aid. It is one of the points, established by Jesus himself, where heaven and earth interlock, where new creation, resurrection life, appears within the midst of the old....[baptism is] the foundational event for all serious Christian living, all dying to sin and coming alive with Christ.
There is much here to "unpack," and I recommend reading Wright's book to understand his full argument. But let me note here that Wright's views of the sacraments and of regeneration, are grounded in the central truth that under girds both, namely Jesus himself, and what has happened in him, with him and through him to all humanity, and, indeed all creation. 

Through the incarnation (which includes Jesus' birth, life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, burial, ascension and continuing intercession), all humanity is re-created (re-born). And now, through the Spirit, sharing in the faith of Jesus (Gal 2:20, KJV), we may participate in what Jesus, the unique union of God and humanity, *has done* for us in the past, *is now* doing for us in the present and *will yet do* for us in the future (including our future with him in a glorified body in a new heaven and new earth).  

This present, ongoing participation with Jesus is our subjective (personal) experience; and it is HUGE! I personally began to experience this rebirth in Jesus at age 14 during a time of intense repentance and awakening to faith. This profound, life-altering experience continues and grows. But note that this experience is personal and thus subjective. The objective reality of Jesus having united himself to all humanity through the Christ event 2,000 years ago, under-girds this personal experience, making it both true and therefore "real." In Jesus, humanity is re-created (read Colossians 1:15-23, where Paul seeks to put into words this almost unspeakable, yet stunning truth). In Jesus, God has reconciled himself to all humanity. In Jesus, heaven is joined with earth. And all this becomes *personally realized* as we, sharing in Christ's own faith, experience it through the Spirit who opens our eyes to see (know) what we had not seen/known before.

This personal experience occurs for us in the present; but what we are experiencing subjectively, for the first time, is the objective reality of Jesus united to humanity (and all creation) in the past, present and the future. It all comes together in the person of the God-man, Jesus, who through the Spirit, makes himself known (experienced) in our present time/speace/experience (John 1:14; 3:15-21).

Think of the sacraments (including baptism) in this context. Read Romans 6 and note how Paul speaks of baptism. For him, it is no mere "symbol"---rather it's our actual and personal participation in the reality of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God who dies for us and rises to new life for us and with us. Yes, I was born again personally at age 14. But the objective truth is that I was born again when Jesus rose from the grave. I was united with him in his death and resurrection--- my life was hidden with him then, and still is (see Col 2:20; 3:1-3). 

With and in Jesus, I am born again. Hallelujah!  

And, I might add, I now look forward to the future time when my humanity, glorified already in Jesus, is revealed fully in his appearing (parousia) and my bodily resurrection. In this grand finale, we will rise to see him as he truly is, and thus see ourselves as we truly are in him. In this resurrection, we will all stand *with* him (John 5:28-29); and those who  stand *in* him, sharing his faith, will be welcomed into a new heaven and new earth where they will dwell with him forever in unabated joy. Those who refuse to stand in that faith, though united to him in their being, will, by their own choosing, be shut out from his joy.

Jesus, in himself, is humanity reborn - for us, as one of us, in the midst of our history (which is, ultimately, his-story). He comes to us now in our personal experience through his Spirit, in faith - and he will come to us in the future when the cosmos of his creation and of his recreation is revealed in the fullness of its glory. 

Come Lord Jesus!

Comments

  1. Thank Ted,

    This is such profound information that it challenging to even absorb.

    May we all soak in this amazing truth and more effectively share it with those who have not yet subjectively personalized it yet!
    Glen

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