There are a number of different words or phrases that are used in the Bible to denote a great change that God requires of us if we are to have an eternal home in heaven. Jesus once taught, using little children as object lessons and stating, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).
That word “converted” serves to denote a great change and is used other times in the same manner (Matt. 13:15; Acts 3:19). When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he was told, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). Being born again would certainly be a great change, would it not? The apostle Paul, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told the Roman brethren, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).
A great change is seen to be commanded in that verse. Also to the Romans Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). There can be no doubt whatsoever that God demands a great change in one who would have eternal life in heaven.
However, it is important that we take note of the fact that though an outward, visible change should certainly result from this great change and is commanded as well, this first great change is one that is inward, one that cannot be seen by the naked eye of man. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he would have to be born again, he misunderstood, thinking Jesus was talking of another physical birth.
Thus he questioned, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4). Jesus then clarifies by explaining that the change He proposed and commanded was not fleshly, but spiritual in nature. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-6, 8).
This great and invisible to the naked eye of man change is the changing from being one of the lost to being one of the saved. It is the cleansing from the impurities of sin. Isaiah said, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18). These impurities are washed away by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 1:5) when one is baptized into Christ for the remission of those sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
This is a change from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive. Jesus said, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). To the Ephesians, Paul wrote, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) and, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ…” (Eph. 2:5).
Notice the transformation from the lost to the saved state as Paul taught the Corinthians saying, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).
Now that we have certainly come to understand that a great spiritual change must take place within us, which will certainly begin in our hearts (Rom. 12:2; Proverbs 23:7; Proverbs 4:23), we need to at least mention that this is just the beginning. Remember it is likened to a new birth (John 3:3). If we will return to the passage in Romans chapter six, note that Paul said, “Know ye not, that so man of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). The concept of being raised to walk in newness of life indicates that we will have a whole life that has to be changed to God’s way as well. (Send any questions or comments to: email@example.com)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.