The following question is actually a much debated philosophical question in certain circles - when is a baby born? Is it when they emerge from the mother? Is it when the umbilical cord is cut? It is when the baby first cries out for breath? No one can really agree, but when can be agreed on is at the conclusion of ALL these things the baby is ALIVE.
The birth of a baby is of extreme importance. When there are complications with the birth there are temporary or permanent complications with the baby‘s life. Likewise, the birth of a person into the Kingdom of God is of extreme importance. We as soul-winners must know how to be good midwives - bringing people into the Kingdom of God minimizing complications. So where do we find how to bring people into the Kingdom?
You actually can’t find it in the Gospels. Why not? Because christians didn’t exist in the Gospels. Faith in the Gospels wasn’t faith as we understand it. They could have faith in Jesus works, His miracles, and His teachings, but they could not have faith in a resurrected King sitting at the right hand of the Father in Heaven who will one day return. Baptism in the Gospels is also not the same as Baptism after the Gospels. John the Baptist baptized people into repentance (I’ll write about what being baptized ’into something’ means later) while Christians were baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lastly, the Spirit had not yet been poured out because Jesus had not yet been glorified. So the Gospels don’t give clear direction in this area. What about the Epistles?
We actually will not find much help there either. If you remember, the epistles were written to people who already were christians. So where can we go to find examples of how to help someone be born into the Kingdom?
The book of Acts is where we can see the Apostles evangelize and then lead people in being born into the Kingdom of God. Throughout the whole book there are 4 characteristics of Christian birth that we can see often repeated, but only twice do we see all 4 clumped together so we can discern a natural order. The 4 parts of Christian Birth are as follows:
- Repent of your sins towards God
- Receive the Lord Jesus
- Be baptized in water
- Receive the Holy Spirit
In Acts 8:12-23 we will find two scenes if read carefully will reveal the order in which these 4 parts of Christian birth are carried out. First we see people following someone false but then ‘believing‘ the good news Phillip proclaimed and being ‘baptized’ (v 12). Then Peter and John went to these new believers to do what? Pray that they might ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ since they had only ‘been baptized’ (v 16). So far we have a progression from ’believe’ to ‘baptism’ to ‘receiving the ’Holy Spirit’. Lets move to the next scene in the text. Simon (the sorcerer) sees the baptism of the Holy Spirit and offers money for this gift. Peter rebukes him saying he is no longer right with God because of this action. So Simon being at square one again is told what by Peter? ’Repent of this wickedness’ (v. 22). So in progression from wrong standing before God we see someone must ‘Repent’, then ‘Believe’, then ‘Be Baptized’, and then ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. Let’s look at one last example.
In Acts 19:1-20 we have another two scenes that reveal this same order of Christian birth. First Paul visits the Ephesians christians asking if they had ‘received the Holy Spirit’ when they ‘believed’ (v 2) and then asked what kind of baptism they were baptized into. After hearing it was John’s baptism Paul RE-BAPTIZED (that’s a fun thought for some denominations) them (since they already believed) and then they ‘received the Holy Spirit’. Believe (faith), baptism, and receiving the Holy Spirit. Skip down to another scene, many Jews and Greeks (unsaved) began to fear the name of the Lord because of works done by the apostles and many ‘who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly’ (repentance).
In short, when helping someone be born into the Kingdom they MUST, as Jesus and John the Baptist said, ‘Repent’, ‘Believe’, ‘Be Baptized’, and ‘receive the Holy Spirit’. Another debate of ages/demonizations is at what stage is someone ‘born’? At repentance? At Faith? At Baptism? At receiving the Holy Spirit? At the moment, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we know when all four are complete, the Christian is ALIVE. That’s all that matters. We can save the debates for later. For now let’s just fight for the birthing process to be complete so the baby can LIVE.
In closing, all four are acts of men, but all four are also acts of God. At every stage God is doing something and I am doing something. Calvinism stresses God’s activities. Arminianism stresses man’s activites. The New Testament is both.
When I repent, God is giving me repentance
When I believe, God is giving me faith
When I get baptized God is going to wash me clean
When I receive the Spirit, God is pouring out his Spirit upon me
Remember RBBR - Repent, Believe, Be Baptized, and Receive the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit, may these truths not leave our minds as we fight to be better midwives. Help us to love newborn christians and all the difficulties and blessings that come with them.