A proper understanding of the new birth is crucial to the Christian faith. If our view of the new birth is unbiblical, it will affect and compromise our understanding of other important doctrines such as the doctrines of God, original sin, human ability, predestination, etc. Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, the famous London Baptist preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon underscored the absolute and vital importance of the doctrine of regeneration. “It is the hinge of the gospel,” he stated. “It is a subject which lies at the very basis of salvation. It is the very groundwork of our hopes for heaven; and as we ought to be very careful of the basement of our structure, so should we be very diligent to take heed that we are really born again, and that we have made sure work of it for eternity” (C.H. Spurgeon, Regeneration, sermon delivered on May 3, 1857 at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens). It is sad that there are many professing Christians today who are twice as ignorant as Nicodemus was on this important doctrine. Sadder still is the fact that the teaching afloat on the new birth is far from being biblical.

                This is not in the least surprising to keen students of church history. There has been no time period when the Church has been entirely free from error and heresy. Today, as it has been in the past, we are confronted with the many errors concerning the new birth. Perverted versions of this truth abound among many evangelicals and liberal Christians. One such persistent teaching which departs from Scripture is attributing to man the ability to regenerate himself. Such a belief does not only give birth to false concepts of man and salvation, but also corrupts the church with false practices. For example, the modern church has unquestionably embraced the teaching of “Decisional Regeneration.” The new birth is seen as the result of a mechanical process that can be performed by man. Thousands of supposed converts have been counselled into a false hope and directed to walk aisles or lift their hands when they should be pointed to Christ alone.

                There is a strong and growing wave of shallow Christianity, militant proselytism, and unintelligent evangelicalism which is imposing itself as the only apparent and popular form of Christian expression today. It is the kind of “easy-believism” salvation which would be entirely foreign to the apostles and all serious adherents to the faith of the Bible. Some churches easily succumb to the subtle pressure toward quantitative or numerical gains and are quick to admit into membership anyone, even those who have had no experience of the new birth.

The Bible describes regeneration as a spiritual birth, a spiritual re-creation, and a spiritual resurrection. Talking to a number of people, most of whom attend some kind of church every Sunday, they state with boldness that they are Christians, but you hear nothing of the work of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word in pointing them to Christ. It is obvious that there is great confusion and a superficial understanding of the meaning of regeneration. In this twenty first century, the Pelagian heresy on regeneration is still alive and well. Sin is perceived as a matter only of volitions, and that man has both the liberty and responsibility to cease from it as to continue in it. Regeneration is therefore reduced to a mere reformation of life and habit. How tragic that hell will have many individuals who have lived on earth with integrity and moral uprightness in all the relations of domestic, social, and commercial life. Although they stand head and shoulders above their peers as far as outward forms of piety are concerned, there is no hope for them as long as they remain in their state of spiritual unregeneracy.

It is for this reason that we are compelled to take a closer biblical look at this important subject in this issue of Reformation Zambia. We live in a country where more than 70% of the population profess to be “born again.” However, the term “born again” has been so weakened and diluted of its biblical meaning that people without any concrete evidence of lasting spiritual change are routinely regarded as “born again Christians.” Our contributors will, therefore, help us understand the necessity and nature of regeneration, explain the divinely appointed means by which regeneration is wrought in the life of a depraved sinner, highlight the consequent results of regeneration, and finally give us the distinguishing marks of a regenerate heart. What we believe about the new birth ought to regulate the way we evangelise. So one of our writers will touch on some of the common practices of modern-day evangelism, e.g. altar calls, sinner’s prayer, etc, and give us an evaluation of them.

                It is said that George Whitefield preached over two thousand times on John 3:3, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” When asked why he preached so often on the new birth, he replied, “Because you must be born again.” May we, with the help of the Spirit, examine ourselves and search our hearts in the light of Scripture, and be certain that we stand on Christ the solid Rock, with the hope of heaven firm and secure, because Christ has “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).