We have a few more interviews from the contributors of Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Same Evangelical Faith for a New Day. Today we’ll hear from Ben Peays, Jay Harvey and Russell Moore.
Ben Peays is the Executive Director of The Gospel Coalition. Ben is married to Lynae and they have three children. His chapter is called “New Birth: ‘You Must Be Born Again.'”
What does Jesus mean when he says, “You must be born again”?
Jesus speaks these words to a Jewish rabbi, Nicodemus, in John chapter 3 in the context of explaining what must be done in order to enter the kingdom of God. Although each person is physically born, they are dead in their sin and need a second, spiritual birth in order to receive true, eternal life.
These were difficult words for Nicodemus to hear because it meant salvation could not be earned through obedience to the Law. Everyone desperately needed a spiritual birth, but God’s spirit was not something that could be summoned or brought upon oneself (John 3:6). It was available entirely as a gift of grace from God.
Becoming born again is a glorious moment when several things seem to take place in the same instant: God provides faith for belief in the atoning work of Christ, which serves as a payment for our sins and satisfies God’s wrath; God’s spirit indwells the individual regenerating them into a new creation with new affections, abilities to deal with sin, spiritual fruits, etc.; this union with Christ allows an inheritance of His righteousness and not-guilty status before God; God welcomes us into his kingdom and eternal life in heaven.
Jay Harvey, Senior Pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Newark, DE. He is married to Melody and they have four children. Jay writes the chapter titled, “Justification: Why the Lord Our Righteousness Is Better News Than the Lord Our Example.”
Some people may find debates over justification to be rather esoteric. What do you think are the practical implication of getting the doctrine of justification right (or wrong)?
I think that justification can seem esoteric because there has been a shift away from being concerned about the justice of God in the classic, orthodox sense of the term. The vast majority of the history of the church has been focused on the justice of God with regard to human sin.
The Scriptures are clear that God is Holy, that he can by no means clear the guilty, and that we cannot rush past his holiness and justice to bask in his blessings. When the holiness and majesty of God of God’s justice regarding sin are in the forefront of our minds, the doctrine of justification will likewise seem very relevant to us. We will have to deal with our condemnation. Which is why Romans 8–a chapter that is rich with the personal spiritual blessings that God has for us–begins with the statement that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Justification–that we are declared innocent and righteous before God–is the opposite of condemnation. So, if we get justificaion wrong then we remain in condemnation. I think that the last thing anyone who calls themselves a Christian wants to do is to live with a sense of condemnation.
The bible doesn’t say that I am going to be rid of this condemnation by looking past God’s holiness, or by loving God and others more. It certainly does not say that I can deal with my condemnation by comparing myself to others. The Bible says that condemnation is dealt with by justification by faith in Christ alone. Once I grasp this justification by faith, the rest of the blessings of the Christian life will follow in its wake. So, at the end of the day the doctrine has extremely practical implications for every Christian.
Russell Moore is Dean of the School of Theology, Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration, and Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at the Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is married to Maria and they have four sons. Russell pens the chapter titled “Kingdom: Heaven after Earth, Heaven on Earth, or Something Else Entirely?”
The kingdom is a huge theme in the Bible, and yet it can be difficult to define. How would you explain the kingdom of God to a 15-year-old?
Sometimes even those who’ve followed Jesus for a long time find the kingdom message a difficult one to grasp. We sometimes assume “kingdom” is just a metaphor for “getting saved” or for another denominational program or political crusade. We hear chatter all around us about the Prince of Wales or the local high school homecoming queen or the advertising slogans of the “King of Beers” or the “Dairy Queen.”
Against this kind of potential confusion, the mission of Christ starts and ends not just in the announcement of forgiveness of sins or in the removal of condemnation—although both of those things are certainly true. The mission of Christ starts and ends with an announcement that God has made Jesus emperor of the cosmos—and he plans to bend the cosmos to fit Jesus’ agenda, not the other way around.
The kingdom of God, then, is the good news that the right rule of God, and the right rule of man—a rule our ancestors Adam and Eve lost—have come together in the right rule of one right God-man: Jesus of Nazareth. In his sin-resisting life, his wisdom-saturated teaching, his demon-exorcising power, his substitutionary, conquering death, and his justifying, victorious resurrection, Christ is king.
That king, through his Spirit, invites all men to believe by faith what they’ll someday see by sight—what everyone will someday see by sight: Jesus is Lord. Jesus forgives. Jesus is king. And his reign will extend to the corner of every galaxy, forever.