A Commitment or New Birth?

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My Dear friend,

Here is a New Testament news flash: being saved is not a "commitment." Yes, you read that correctly.

Not once in the inspired, inerrant New Testament record is the salvation of any soul described as a commitment. It is simply not there. The problem is, this invitational language is used everywhere by well-meaning, zealous pastors and evangelists. Why? They have heard other pastors and evangelists use it. For decades! So, assuming it is correct, they have never examined the Scriptures to see if it is indeed biblical.

If they had done so, they would have discovered that the Bible describes salvation as, not a commitment, but a capitulation - a complete, unconditional surrender of our souls to Jesus, in fear (awe) of Him and faith in His gospel, accompanied by a sincere abandonment of our proud, selfish sins. In this saving submission, the candidate for Christian salvation (a) repents of all sinfulness as he (or she) understands it, and (b) receives God's only Son and our only Savior, Jesus, in his heart: "But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).

So, biblically speaking, if there is no fear (awe) of God, there is no salvation. If there is no repentance, there is no salvation. And if there is no receiving of Christ, there is no salvation. This is an accurate description of biblical salvation. But not a complete one.

Salvation is further described as a new birth. John's text continues, "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but [born] of God" (John 1:13). In John's Gospel Jesus personally confirmed this when He said not once but twice that we "must" be "born again" – supernaturally, spiritually regenerated (our dead human spirits suddenly made alive) by a divine miracle of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). Realizing this experience is very mystical, and thus difficult for our limited minds to grasp, God gave us an example, a parable, a parallel experience, to instruct us.

In the new birth experience, the amazing divine conception that occurred in Mary's womb amazingly reoccurs in the penitent believer's soul: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Mary did not receive this wondrous new life because she made a firm human commitment. She just surrendered with childlike abandon to God's will as expressed in His Word: "[So] Be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38).

Then, suddenly, something heavenly entered her earthly being. Her "dust" received an impartation of God's divinity. The Immortal One moved into her mortal being. The eternal life of the Most High God spontaneously infiltrated the human life of a most lowly Jewish teenager. We can't explain it fully, yet there it is, undeniable, unmistakable, an unequalled wonder! To this day, the new birth remains the greatest miracle.

After salvation, the new Christian's situation changes. Now it is time for commitment, time to become a "disciple" (Greek, mathētēs), an exceptionally devoted follower of Christ. A disciple is a deeply serious, irrevocably committed, self-disciplined, student-follower of the Son of God. What does this look like?

  • "Deeply serious" - He does not take his new personal relationship with Christ lightly, but instead puts it "first," as top priority, the most important, most valuable possession he will ever have the rest of his life (Matthew 6:33).
  • "Irrevocably committed" - He puts his foot to Christ's footpath and determines to ever follow Him and never turn back. He sets his heart to press forward daily, getting up again anytime he falls, but never, no never, giving up!
  • "Self-disciplined" - He establishes a biblical spiritual routine, a New Testament Christian lifestyle, a spiritual regimen. Like a good soldier of Christ, he trains his whole mind and body, rearranges his interests and friends, and organizes his time and activities to achieve one goal: accomplish his great life mission. Banishing overindulgence and laziness, he cuts off whatever hinders his spiritual growth and adds whatever accelerates it.
  • "Student-follower" - He not only studies Christ's Word and ways thoroughly but also examines himself daily to see that he obeys them, that he is becoming a "doer of the Word," and not a “hearer only” (James 1:22), that he is "working out his own salvation" with a humble sense of awe (Philippians 2:12).

How does this life of discipleship begin? What does it look like, practically speaking? For this, let’s consider the following points. The newly born-again Christian commits to:

  • Seek Christ every morning, to "be with him" in the "secret place" of private prayer, worship, and prayerful feeding on His Word (Psalm 91:1; Mark 3:14)
  • Study God's Word diligently and thoroughly, to know Him and His will (John 8:31-32; 2 Timothy 2:15)
  • Obey God's Word in every situation, to grow in spirit, become spiritually minded, and receive Christ's approval for ministry (Romans 8:6)
  • Avoid going back, by ever moving forward, always seeking more of Jesus, His life, His presence, His truth, His fellowship, ever hungering to discover more wonders of life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16)
  • Endure testing faithfully, to have his faith purified, his faithfulness proven, his experiential knowledge of God increased, his Christlike character formed, and his qualification for the rapture secured (Romans 8:29; Revelation 3:10)
  • Let the Holy Spirit guide, obeying His prompts, heeding His checks, discerning His voice, so he may live as "sons of God" - or the Son of God, who always let the Spirit lead Him (Romans 8:14)
  • Serve Christ faithfully, in the calling Christ appoints, in the place He chooses, with the gifts He gives, and the methods He teaches, until He gives further orders
  • Be a faithful witness, letting Christ's light shine in his daily living and labors, and telling others of Christ's redeeming love every chance he gets
  • Eagerly await Christ's appearing, while faithfully occupying himself in all these ways and works

Why does the saved one utterly give himself (or herself) to these spiritual disciplines?

He does so, not to be saved, but because he is saved, and knows it. He does so, not to win a pardon for his past wrongs, but because he is pardoned, and knows it. Now he wants only to please his Savior and win His loving approval to receive greater intimacy with Him and greater spiritual power with which to glorify Him and build His kingdom. He is not trying vainly to pay off his old sin-bill; he knows Jesus paid that in full. He longs only to in some way express his inexpressible gratitude to Christ for what He did for him on the Cross, and for the sweet, personal love and unfailingly faithful care He gives him. Every day. Every hour. Every minute.

That, my friend, is commitment. It comes after salvation. It is hugely important. Spiritual growth does not occur without it. Christian maturity is impossible without it. We cannot become Christlike in our thinking, speech, and actions without it. We cannot have full biblical insight without it. We cannot know God without it. We cannot have "rapture assurance" without it - the absolute confidence that, whenever Jesus appears, we will be taken. We cannot help reap the coming vast harvest without it.

Sadly, this commitment is rare in the American church today. But this will soon change. Post-conversion, biblical commitment will become well known and widely practiced in the coming, final awakening of the church (Matthew 25:6-7).

So, let us never again confuse our commitments, which rely largely on our human will and faithfulness, with God's salvation, which relies wholly on Christ's cross, is a work of the Holy Spirit, and is an unfathomable miracle of God's amazing grace.

Saved, and committed,


Dr. Greg Hinnant


Last modified on Monday, 17 June 2024 11:48

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