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The Birth Process

by Tim O'Hearn

A woman could probably tell you more about this than I can, but birth is a process. It is a singular event, but without the process the event does not happen. After conception, there is a long series of events leading to “the event.” In humans, that takes about nine months. In rabbits it takes approximately one month, and twice that in dogs. For an elephant, being much larger, it takes about 22 months. If physical birth is such a process, then it makes sense that the spiritual new birth is not a singular event, either.

Jesus introduced the concept of new birth to Nicodemus. Nearly the first thing Jesus sprang on him was, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3) All Nicodemus could understand was physical birth, but Jesus had other ideas.

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. (verses 5, 6)

Peter compared the new birth to the growth of a plant. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Pet 1:23) The word of God, then, is the beginning of the process. Paul looks farther into the process and works backward.

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? … So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:14, 17)

Paul agrees with Peter that the process begins with the gospel. Then one hears the word of God, and that is conception. It is the beginning of the process. But it is only the beginning. There must be growth. After the hearing comes faith.

Faith is the beginning of growth in the process of being born again. It is trust that God is truth. One can watch videos of people bungee jumping. One can understand with the mind that the cord will not break. Faith is when one takes the leap off a bridge when attached to a bungee cord. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb 11:6)

Some would say that faith is the point of the new birth. This, however, is only part of the process. A baby grows for up to nine months (in humans), but legally, medically, and even morally, it has not yet been born. There is still more to come before it has been born. Faith is part of the process of new birth, but it the process is not complete. A baby who remains in the womb is not born.

For birth to occur, there must be movement from one place to another. Physically, this is, appropriately, known as labor. The baby moves from womb to world. Nor is this an immediate and singular act. Spiritually, this movement can be known as repentance. It is a conscious decision to change from a state of sinning to one of righteousness. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Cor 7:10) Again, this is not the point of birth because Paul says it is “unto” or toward salvation.

The end of the process is the act of birth. A child is born into the world. Spiritually, a child is born into a new life. If there is a single act in the process that can be called birth, this is it. The new birth into Christ occurs at the act of immersion/baptism.

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 6:4)

Without immersion there is no forgiveness of sin. Without it there is no birth into a new life. It is the end of the process. After birth, one must continue to live in the new world, and a Christian must continue to walk in righteousness. Nevertheless, the process of birth has been completed.