The Gospel Messenger - Butler, Ga., November 1883
By Elder Respess
We have never professed to know the deep things of God, or to be able to explain them; and to define precisely the change in the man by the new birth is doubtless far beyond our ability. We know but little more about it than the blind man when he said, One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. But that there is a change in the man by the new birth the scriptures clearly teach, and in what it consists is our present inquiry. The scriptures abound in figurative expressions that were never designed to be construed literally; and to so construe them would involve us in inextricable confusion. For example, the words of Jesus in John iv., saying: "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Now, we know that Jesus did not refer to natural water, or natural thirst, or natural wells, only so far as they represented spiritual thirst, and spiritual water and wells, which they can at best only partly represent. He did not mean that there would be an actual well of natural water in a man, but he meant to represent by natural thirst spiritual thirst for heavenly grace, and by natural water, that grace as given by him in the gift of eternal life, and by the well of living waters, the unfailing character of his grace, as unlike natural wells—going dry in summer, and failing in time of greatest need—but like the living water, his grace would be affected by no changes of times and seasons, but always—in summer as in winter, wet or dry—the same and sufficient.
The spiritual people of God are called Zion, and it is said when Zion travailed she brought children; and we know the church and Christians are meant by Zion, and that no church ever brought an actual child of flesh, blood and bones; but that she does conceive by the Lord we all believe. She sorrows in mind, deplores as Hannah her barrenness and deadness, and cries unto the Lord as a woman of sorrowful spirit, and that spiritual joys are born to her. And not to be too tedious, the Saviour, in John viii., said to the scribes and Pharisees who boasted to him of Abraham as their father that they were of their father the devil; but we know he did not mean that was not their fleshly father, or that the devil was their fleshly father for the devil never had a fleshly child; but that he meant that in their opposition to the truth taught by Him, and believed in and loved by Abraham, that they manifested the Satanic spirit of hatred to God and his truth that has ever characterized the devil, and were, in that sense, the devil's Children, and not Abraham's.
Old and New man are New Testament figurative expressions; such as Ye are the temple of God; a spiritual house; and lively by stones; the outward and inner man, etc. The words "old man" are used in the Old Testament, but only in their literal sense, and refer to the years of a man's natural life, as when Zacharias said to the angel: "I am an old man, etc. The old man there being the real old man of flesh and blood, and not the old man we are charged in the scriptures to "put off;" nor is the new man were told to "put on" a real man, a distinct person, but the works prompted by the new nature, and commanded in the word. But whilst the figurative old and new man are not used in the Old Testament, the Christian warfare was well known to the ancient saints; for Christians have been comforted and encouraged in all ages by the struggles and triumphs of faith recorded in the sacred pages for them. Could we find a man who had never sinned, but was as good as Adam before he fell, we would find a man with no old man or new man either, but simply a good creature of God. Our blessed Redeemer had our nature, but not its depravity, save by imputation; and whilst, as his children, he had two natures in one person—the nature of God and the nature of man—he had no old man in his own person to contend with, as we have. It is this depraved nature, that is conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity—not so much the man, but the nature, because conception and birth are not of themselves sinful, man having been commanded to increase and multiply, and it is not therefore sinful to marry wives and beget children; but, being depraved our offspring is conceived and brought forth sinful.
When a man is born again (we would not say born over) he, the man, becomes a new creature, but not a new creature in flesh and blood—for, so far as flesh and blood are concerned, he is the same creature—but as woman in pangs of travail is delivered by birth, so he is delivered by faith, and rejoices in the truth. He is born of the Spirit—for God is a Spirit. He is new in spirit, new in hope, faith and love, and the works of faith. He is new in his views of truth, of God and himself; old things have passed away, and he is one spirit with the Lord, and hates what God hates, and loves what God loves; and hates what he once loved, and loves what he once hated. The old man is still, however, left; but the Christian man—the man himself as a Christian—lives by faith. It is the same man who is thus changed, who has now in spirit partaken of the divine nature; that now has struggles and hates his own depravity who once had no such struggles. It was the same Paul who, after his change loved unto death the same truth that he before hated unto death. If it was not Paul himself, who was it? It was the same Gadarene who, one day was a fierce, wild and ungovernable savage, that sat the next day meekly at the feet of Jesus as a little child. He was the same man of flesh and blood—the same in size, features and stature—that he was the day before, but not the same in spirit; yet he had the depravity of nature to contend with until the struggle should end by death. He was a new creature; and what sort of a creature? Why, he was a "wonder" from the Lord of hosts; a man with two natures—the old man and the new man—such a being as no man Could be who had never sinned and been born again; both a creature and a child, both created and begotten, both of God and of man. The warfare is itself an evidence of new birth; that the new reign has begun in the man; that the change has taken place; that the very identical man in whom this conflict is going on is a child of God and an heir of heaven. He is the one, the lost sinner, who is interested in salvation; we know of no other man, or creature, or being, interested in salvation.
A man once said to us "that if you get to heaven it will not be John Respess," to which we replied that "if it is not John Respess, it had as well be Bill Smith, as far as we are concerned," and it had; for it is this very person, John Respess, who longs for eternal life; this very sinner who hungers for holiness, and this very one who hopes to realize it and praise God for redeeming grace—for saving a poor sinner. With all due deference to others, we cannot construe the scriptural expressions in reference to the old and new man literally, and make of them two distinct men, when in fact they are (the old and new man) more properly two natures or Spirits in one man or person. It has been said (Elder T. P. Dudley's famous Circular): "'Whence these various distinctions between the old and new man, if indeed there are not two men?" And "Two distinct births of two distinct elements necessarily produce two distinct beings." Now to argue from such a premise as this, will confuse the minds of God's feeble children and cause estrangement and contention. But we would say that two distinct births in God's children no more necessarily produce two distinct persons in them than the birth of Christ of the seed of Abraham necessarily produced two distinct beings in Him. But no one believes that he, the adorable Redeemer, had two persons, but that he, like his children, had two natures in one person—the nature of God and of man. Therefore, we do not understand that God begets in sinners, even his chosen people, any actual children, or that there are any actual fleshly children of the devil; but that the old man is the corrupt nature of fallen man, and the new man, the new nature begotten in him of God; so that instead of being two distinct persons, he is one person with two natures. And though there are two distinct births, they are altogether different in character, as much as the natural water and natural well differ from the spiritual water and well; and it would be as sound reasoning to make the spiritual well alike in shape and form to the natural well, as to make the spiritual birth like the natural birth. The Spiritual birth is designed to represent the change in spirit and character, and no being is brought forth by it any more than a being or person is brought forth by the travail of Zion.
But the meaning of the old and new man is clearly defined by the apostle in his letter to the church at Ephesus, 4th chapter, and also in his letter to the church at Colosse, 3d chapter. He writes to the church: That ye put off concerning the former conversation (or conduct) the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God (or of God and like God) is created in righteousness and true holiness. In this sentence Paul speaks of both the old and new man—the one to be put off, the other to be put on—as if we were putting off one coat and putting on another in its place; and it is not, therefore, a person to be put off and put on, but a life to live. The church was composed then of Gentiles by nature, and hence he said to them: "I testify in the Lord that ye walk not as other Gentiles;" that is, as Gentiles who had not been made Christians, and "who walked in the vanity of their mind; whose understanding was darkened, and who were alienated from the life of God through ignorance that was in them, because of the blindness of their hearts; who being past feeling, had given themselves over unto lasciviousness with greediness,'' meaning that they, as Christians, were not to live as others, or as they had formerly lived themselves, but to live now as Christians, or children of God, those of another spirit; and in that way put off the old man, and put on the new man. Because they had been taught better; they had learned Christ, "if so they had heard him, and been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus." "Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor; let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you," [this is the old man,] "with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake forgave you." [This is the new man.] "Be ye, therefore, followers of God as dear children; and walk in the love as Christ hath loved us and hath given himself for us; but fornication, covetousness and all uncleanliness, let them not be once named amongst you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness nor foolish talking nor jesting," etc. To live this way is to put off the old man, and to put on the new man. And what a warfare it is! And to accomplish it how necessary that we should every man be in his place in the camp, with the whole armor of God on! because that which the Spirit prompts, and the word requires will find more or less opposition in our corrupt nature—the one being contrary to the other—so that we cannot, of ourselves do what we would. Therefore, the idea that the "old" and the "new" man are two distinct beings, is not scriptural.
It has also been said by gifted brethren that, as living souls were created in and simultaneously with the first man, Adam, and being born of him necessarily partakes of his nature, so were all quickened Spirits created in and simultaneously with the last Adam (Christ), and that they (quickened spirits) all being born of him, as necessarily partake of his nature, etc. If we get the idea the language conveys, it means that Christ was created as Adam was, and that these quickened spirits—whatever they are—were created in him, and that in the new birth they are born again and not the man. But the scriptures say, "the man must be born again," not quickened spirits. And if Christ is a creature of God, and not God the Son, it would be idolatry to worship him as God. We know it is said that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, but that refers altogether to the work of Christ in our hearts. And the elect of God, those redeemed and saved sinners, will have something to praise God for in heaven that no unfallen and unsaved being could possibly have. But we are not yet perfected, but wait for the final change; we see now through a glass darkly, and know only in part; but the time is fast coming when we shall see him face to face and know as we are known, and shall attain to the full stature of men.
Now we press forward to the future, and shall at last be crowned with fullness of joy at his right hand. So our new nature is not a distinct being, but it is our God given nature as our faith, hope and love, and is evidence that we have eternal life and shall come off more than conquerors through Him that loved us and gave Himself for us. Bless His holy name! Like the leaven hid in the meal until the whole shall be leavened, so shall His people be saved. Nothing of them will be lost but their sins and corruption. "If the spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."--Rom, viii. What is written is written in the interests of the truth of God and the peace of his regenerated people, and may the blessings of God rest upon it.--R.
Submitted by Elder David Montgomery | Print This Page
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The Old Man and the New Man | Elder Respess