The concept of being reborn or regenerated in Christ Jesus is a fundamental part of our faith. It's clearly and frequently emphasized in the Bible, so much so that anyone who takes the time to read can understand it. In fact, our salvation hinges on this concept, and it's something that all genuine Christians, regardless of their denomination, agree on. However, it's rarely given much thought or truly understood by most people who identify as Christians. If we were to judge its validity based on the experiences of most self-proclaimed Christians, we might think they've never even heard of the concept of being reborn.

Sure, most people generally agree with the basic tenets of their faith. They believe in one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Jesus Christ. They understand that there's no other name under heaven by which they can be saved. But when you tell them they need to be reborn, that they need to experience a spiritual renewal deep within their minds before they can genuinely call Christ their Lord or have any assurance that they share in the benefits of his sacrifice, they're often confused. They might react like Nicodemus did, asking, "How can this be?"

Or they might respond like the Athenians did when they heard new teachings, "What is this person trying to say? They seem to be promoting some strange ideas." This is because we're preaching about Christ and the concept of being reborn.

So, in an effort to correct the serious misunderstanding of those who believe they can separate what God has permanently joined together, and mistakenly think they're justified by Christ, that their sins are forgiven, and that Christ's perfect obedience is attributed to them, even when they're not sanctified, when their natures haven't changed, and they haven't become holy, I'm going to take the liberty to expand on the text's words in the following way:

First, I'm going to try and explain what it means to be 'in Christ': "If any man be in Christ."

Secondly, let's discuss what it means to be a 'new creature': "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature."

Thirdly, I'm going to present some arguments to support the apostle's claim.

Fourthly, I'm going to make some conclusions based on what's been said, and then I'll wrap up with a couple of encouraging words.

First, let's try to understand what this phrase from the text means: "If any man be in Christ."

There are two ways you could say a person is "in Christ".

Firstly, being in Christ can be understood simply as an outward declaration. In this context, anyone who identifies as a Christian or is baptized into Christ's church can be said to be in Christ. However, it's clear that this isn't the only interpretation of the phrase in question, because if it were, then anyone who claims to be a Christian or is baptized into his visible church would be a transformed individual. This is clearly not the case, as it's blatantly obvious that only a small proportion of those who are "born of water" are also "born of the Spirit". To put it another way, many people are baptized with water, but not all of them are baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Being a true follower of Christ, in the deepest sense of the term, must mean more than just claiming to be one or simply being named after him. As the same apostle points out, "All are not Israelites that are of Israel," so in the context of Christianity, not everyone who claims to be a Christian genuinely is one. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Our beloved Lord himself has warned us that many who have preached or performed miracles in his name will still be turned away on the final day, with the words, "depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity."

Therefore, it stands to reason that the phrase, "if any man is in Christ," should be interpreted in a more specific way, meaning to be in Christ in such a way as to share in the benefits of his sufferings. It's not just about publicly declaring our faith, but also about experiencing an internal transformation, purifying our hearts, and inviting his Holy Spirit to dwell within us. It's about being so deeply connected with him that we form a mystical bond, fueled by genuine and vibrant faith, which allows us to draw spiritual strength from him, just like the body's parts draw from the head, or branches from the vine. It's about being in him in the way the apostle, speaking about himself, recognized someone else was, "I knew a man in Christ," a true Christian; or, as he himself aspires to be in Christ, when he expresses in his letter to the Philippians, his desire to be found in him.

Without a doubt, the apostle's words in the text are correctly interpreted. What he wrote to the Romans about circumcision can easily be related to our current topic. He suggests that a person isn't genuinely Christian if they only show it outwardly. Similarly, baptism isn't authentic if it's only a physical act. A real Christian is someone who embodies it internally, whose baptism is a spiritual transformation of the heart, not just a physical immersion in water. Their validation comes from God, not from people's praises. Or, as he puts it elsewhere, "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth any thing (of itself) but a new creature." This means, as he states in the verse we're discussing, if someone is truly and authentically connected to Christ, they become a new creature. This leads me to show,

Secondly, let's discuss what we mean when we say someone is a "new creature."

Right off the bat, it's clear that this phrase isn't suggesting that we need to physically change ourselves, or that we need to revert back to our original state and then be recreated. If we were to, as Nicodemus naively thought, go back into our mother's womb and be born again, what good would that do in making us spiritually new beings? If we were "born of the flesh," we'd still be flesh; we'd still be the same worldly people, born from worldly parents, and therefore inheriting all kinds of sin and corruption from them.

No, what this really means is that we need to change our attitudes and mindsets so much that we completely forget who we used to be. It's like a piece of gold that was once in the ore - after it's been cleaned, purified, and polished, you could say it's a new piece of gold. Or like a clear glass that's been covered in dirt - once it's cleaned and becomes transparent again, you could say it's a new glass. Or like Naaman, when he was cured of his leprosy and his skin became like that of a young child, you could say he was a new man. In the same way, our souls, while still the same in essence, are so thoroughly cleansed from their natural impurities and sins by the blessed influence of the Holy Spirit, that they can truly be said to be made anew.

Understanding how this amazing transformation happens within a person's soul isn't easy to explain. Only the Spirit of God truly knows the workings of the Spirit. However, this shouldn't be a reason to doubt this belief. As Jesus told Nicodemus when discussing this very topic, "The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it's going." If we struggle to understand natural phenomena, it's not surprising that we find it even harder to comprehend the unseen workings of the Holy Spirit. The truth is, the concept of being reborn or regenerated in Christ is difficult for the average person to grasp. But the reality is that this spiritual rebirth is a real thing, and it's something each of us needs to experience. I'll try to explain this in my next point.

The third main point I need to discuss involves presenting some arguments to support the apostle's claim.

You'd think it would be enough to simply state,

First off, we know this because God himself has said so in his holy scripture. There are plenty of passages in the Old Testament that confirm this, and it's surprising that Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel who was supposed to guide people in understanding the spiritual meaning of the law, didn't grasp this crucial point. His confusion is evident when he asked Jesus, "How can these things be?" when Jesus was discussing this very topic. Nicodemus surely couldn't have forgotten how often the Psalmist had pleaded with God to give him "a new heart" and "to renew a right spirit within him." Similarly, the prophets had frequently urged people to create "new hearts" and new minds, and to turn to the Lord their God. But let's not just focus on these and similar passages from the Old Testament. This teaching is reiterated so often and clearly in the New Testament that anyone can understand it. Take, for example, what Jesus, the great Prophet and Teacher of the world, said: "Except a man (every one that is naturally the offspring of Adam) be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And just in case we're tempted to dismiss this statement, or reject the teaching because we can't immediately understand "How this thing can be," Jesus emphasizes it further, almost like taking an oath, "Verily, verily, I say unto you," or, as it can be interpreted, I the Amen; I who am truth itself, tell you, it's the unchangeable decree of my heavenly Father, that "unless a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

In line with this, we find many sections in the letters of the Bible where we're told to be "renewed in the Spirit," or, as previously explained, in the deepest parts of our minds. We're instructed to "put off the Old Man, which is corrupt; and to put on the New Man, which is created after God, in righteousness and true holiness;" that "old things must pass away, and that all things must become new;" that we're to be "saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." Even if there were no other quotes to bring up other than the text's words, it would be enough, since the apostle clearly states that "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature."

There are countless other texts that could be used to reinforce this truth. However, the ones already mentioned are so clear and persuasive that you'd think no one could dispute them. But we've been told there are some people who, despite having eyes, don't see, and despite having ears, don't hear. They refuse to understand with their hearts or listen with their ears, for fear they might change their ways and be healed by Christ.

Alright, let's move on to a second point; this will be based on the absolute purity of God, and the current flawed and tainted condition of humanity.

The Bible describes God (and I'm talking to those who claim to know the Bible) as a Spirit; as a being of such immense purity, that He is said to have "purer eyes than to behold iniquity;" He's so incredibly pure, that it's said "the very heavens are not clean in his sight; and the angels themselves he chargeth with folly."

On the flip side, humans are portrayed (and anyone who's experienced a spiritual rebirth will agree) as beings entirely "conceived and born in sin;" as having "no good thing dwelling in him;" as being "carnal, sold under sin;" even as having "a mind which is at enmity with God," and so on.

Given this vast difference, can anyone imagine how a dirty, corrupted, tainted person can live with an infinitely pure and holy God, before they are transformed, and made, to some extent, like Him? Can He, who is too pure to even look at sin, live with it? Can He, in whose sight even the heavens are not clean, enjoy living with filth itself?

No, it would be just as likely for light to mix with darkness, or for Christ to be in harmony with evil. But let's move on to a third point, which is based on thinking about the kind of happiness God has in store for those who truly love him.

Going into a detailed description of heaven would be pointless and presumptuous, since we're told that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath in entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things that are there prepared" for those who sincerely follow Jesus, even in this life, let alone in the next. However, we can confidently say this much: since God is a Spirit, the joy He has prepared for His people is also spiritual. Therefore, unless our worldly minds are transformed and spiritualized, we'll never be ready to share in that heavenly inheritance with the saints.

No doubt, this is why the apostle firmly states that it's God's unchangeable rule that "without holiness, (without being purified through rebirth, and having God's image re-imprinted on the soul) no man will see the Lord." It's interesting to note that in the well-known passage we mentioned earlier about the absolute necessity of rebirth, our divine Master doesn't say, "Unless a man is born again, he shall not," but "unless a man is born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." It's a basic fact that unless we develop attitudes within us that match the things meant to entertain us, we won't find any pleasure or satisfaction in them.

For example, how much joy can the most beautiful music bring to someone who's deaf, or how much pleasure can the most stunning painting give to a blind person? Can someone with no sense of taste enjoy the most delicious delicacies, or can a dirty pig appreciate a garden full of beautiful flowers? No, they can't. And why is that? The simple answer is that they don't have the right mindset or attitude to enjoy what they're supposed to be entertained by.

The same goes for our souls after; death doesn't change the soul, it only enhances its abilities and makes it capable of experiencing deeper levels of joy or pain. If it enjoyed communicating with God here, it will be overjoyed to see His glorious Majesty in the afterlife. If it enjoyed the company of saints on earth, it will be even more delighted with the company of holy angels and the spirits of righteous people made perfect in heaven. But if the opposite is true, we can be sure that the soul wouldn't be happy, even if God Himself allowed it (which He never will) into the blessed regions. But now it's time for me to move on to the Fourth point, because Christ's redemption won't be fully realized in us, unless we become new beings.

If we really think about the main reason why our blessed Lord came, we'll realize it was to atone for our sins, to give his life as a ransom for many. But if the benefits of our dear Savior's sacrifice were only to get us forgiveness for our sins, we wouldn't have much reason to celebrate. It would be like a sick, condemned criminal getting a pardon from his judge - he's still going to die from his illness. Christians need to understand that there's not just a legal obstacle to our happiness because we've broken God's laws, but also a moral impurity in our nature. This impurity makes us unfit for heaven (as has already been proven) until a significant change happens within us. So, for Christ's redemption to be complete, we need to receive God's Holy Spirit to transform our nature. This prepares us to enjoy the happiness our Savior has bought for us with his precious blood.

So, the Bible tells us that those who Christ forgives, or those whose sins he wipes away, and to whom he attributes his perfect obedience, he also makes pure, clean, and completely transforms their flawed natures. As the Bible also says elsewhere, "Christ is to us justification, sanctification, and then redemption." But, Fourthly, let's move on to the next general topic we proposed, to draw some conclusions from what has been discussed.

Firstly, if someone is a follower of Christ and has truly transformed, this should serve as a wake-up call for those who just go through the motions of religious rituals, without experiencing any genuine change in their heart.

You'll find a lot of people who are very consistent when it comes to praying regularly, both in public and private. They also regularly participate in holy communion and sometimes even observe fasting. But here's the problem - they believe that just going through these religious rituals is enough. They think they've done their part once they've followed these sacred practices. However, if they truly understood, they would realize that all these religious activities like prayer, fasting, listening to and reading the word of God, participating in the holy communion, and so on, are only beneficial to us if they actually make us better on the inside and promote spiritual growth within us.

Sure, they are methods, but just that - methods. They're a part of religion, but not the whole thing. If that was the case, wouldn't the Pharisee be the most religious? He fasted twice a week and gave a tenth of everything he owned, but still, he wasn't considered righteous in God's eyes, as Jesus himself told us.

You might be like the Pharisee, fasting often and praying for long periods; you might even enjoy listening to good sermons like Herod did. But if you're still superficial, immoral, or focused on worldly things, and the only difference between you and your neighbors is that you go to church or follow some religious rituals, are you really any better than them? Not at all; in fact, you're much worse. Because if you're participating in these religious practices but not living them out, you're leading others to believe that these practices are meaningless. As a result, you should expect to face even harsher consequences.

Secondly, if someone is a follower of Christ and is considered a new creation, then this idea can challenge the baseless confidence of another group of people who claim to be Christians. These individuals rely on their achievement of certain moral virtues and mistakenly believe they're good Christians just because they're fair in their transactions, moderate in their eating habits, and don't harm or violate anyone.

But if this was all it took to make us Christians, couldn't the ancient pagans, who were known for these virtues, be considered good Christians? Or what about St. Paul before his conversion, who claims that he lived with a clear conscience? Yet, we see that he rejects any reliance on such deeds, and only wishes to be found in Christ, and to experience the power of his resurrection, or to have a tangible proof of receiving the Holy Spirit, which was secured for him by Jesus Christ's death and guaranteed and given to him through Christ's resurrection.

So here's the gist of it: Christianity encompasses morality, just as grace includes reason. But if we're just going by the book, if we're not truly transformed by the profound influence of the Holy Spirit, and our moral actions don't stem from a renewed nature, we might call ourselves Christians, but we'll be left exposed on Judgment Day. We'll be among those who don't have Christ's righteousness attributed to them for their justification, nor enough holiness in their souls as a result of that, to make them fit to enjoy God's presence.

Thirdly, does this belief condemn those who are content with partially improving themselves, without truly experiencing a deep, genuine, internal transformation of the heart?

Getting to know the world a bit, you'll find plenty of people who used to be openly disrespectful or immoral. But when they saw the negative effects of their bad habits, and the many problems these habits caused in their lives, they suddenly started behaving better. They then convince themselves that they're very religious, just because they've changed a bit from their past selves and aren't as outrageously bad as they used to be. But even then, they might still have some secret favorite sin or other, some beloved vice that they won't let go of; some hidden desire that they won't suppress; some bad habit that they won't make an effort to eliminate.

But do you want to know, oh naive person, whoever you are, what God expects from you? You need to understand that nothing less than a complete, genuine change will prepare you for heaven. It's not enough to just switch from being disrespectful to being polite; you need to go from being polite to being godly. Not just some, but "all things must become new" in your soul. It won't benefit you much to do many things, if there's still one thing you're lacking. In short, you need to be not just almost, but completely a new person, or it's pointless for you to claim that you're a Christian.

Fourthly, if you're a new person in Christ, then this can be seen as a foolproof rule for anyone, regardless of their background, age, status or character, to evaluate themselves. This is the only reliable basis on which we can establish a strong confidence of forgiveness, peace, and happiness.

We might indeed rely on the fragile support of outwardly professing our faith; we might think we're good enough if we lead lives that are sober, honest, and moral, just like many non-believers do. We might believe we're safe if we participate in public religious activities and are consistent in our personal spiritual practices. But unless all these actions lead to a transformation in our lives and a change in our hearts, and are only used as conduits for divine grace; as I've said before, I'll say it again, Christianity won't benefit you at all.

So let's each of us really ask ourselves: Have we truly embraced the Holy Spirit since we started believing? Have we become new people through Christ, or not? At the very least, are we trying every day to become such people? Are we consistently and conscientiously using all the resources of grace available to us? Are we fasting, staying vigilant, and praying? Are we not just casually seeking, but actively striving to enter through the narrow gate? In a nutshell, are we giving up our own self-righteousness, taking up our crosses, and following Christ? If so, we're on the narrow path that leads to life; the good seed has been planted in our hearts, and if properly watered and nourished by a consistent, persevering use of all the resources of grace, it will grow into eternal life.

But on the flip side, if we've only heard about the Holy Spirit and don't know from personal experience if it's real; if we're unfamiliar with fasting, staying vigilant, praying, and all the other spiritual practices of devotion; if we're okay with going along with the crowd, just because most other people are doing it, without ever questioning if it's the right path; in short, if we're strangers, or even enemies, to the cross of Christ, living lives focused on worldly things and sensual pleasures, and thereby leading others to believe that Christianity is nothing more than an empty label or a superficial profession; if this is the case, I say, Christ's death is still meaningless to us; we're still guilty of our sins; and we don't really understand what a true and complete conversion is.

But my dear friends, I firmly believe better things about you, things that go hand in hand with salvation, even though I'm speaking like this. I sincerely hope that you understand, if you don't have the Spirit of Christ, you don't belong to him. And unless the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you now, your mortal bodies won't be brought to life by that same Spirit to live with him in the future.

So, as I suggested earlier, I strongly urge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in a way that aligns with your beliefs, and to live as Christians. As it's written in the Bible, we're told to "put off their former conversation concerning the Old Man, and to put on the New Man, which is created after God in righteousness and true holiness."

Indeed, we must acknowledge that this is a challenging and significant task. However, thank God, it's not impossible. Thousands of fortunate souls have been aided by divine power to achieve it, so why should we lose hope? Has God's ability to save diminished? If He was the God of our ancestors, isn't He also the God of their descendants? Yes, undoubtedly, He is their God too.

This task will undoubtedly require some effort from us. It will force us to abandon certain desires, sever ties with certain friends, and suppress cherished passions. These may be incredibly dear to us, and perhaps as difficult to let go of as cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye. But, is all this really a big deal? Won't becoming a true, living part of Christ, a child of God, and an heir to the kingdom of heaven more than compensate for all this trouble? Without a doubt, it will.

Embarking on this important and necessary journey may, no, definitely will, make us the subject of ridicule from those who don't think deeply about these things. They'll wonder why we're not indulging in the same reckless behavior as they are. Just because we're resisting our sinful desires and not conforming to the ways of this world - as we're instructed to do in the scriptures - and instead focusing our thoughts on heavenly matters, they might see our lives as foolish and our end as dishonorable. But won't being counted among the saints and shining like stars forever be more than enough to make up for any ridicule, slander, or reproach we might face here?

Honestly, if the only benefit of a deep spiritual transformation was the peace of God, which naturally comes with it and is so profound that it "passeth all understanding," even in this life, we'd have plenty of reason to celebrate. But when you think about it, that's just the tip of the iceberg of the blessings God has in store for those who embrace Christ and become new beings.

This peace is just the start of an endless series of joys. The day we die, which those who haven't experienced this transformation fear so much, will actually be like the first day of our new lives, ushering us into an eternal world of happiness and comfort.

In a nutshell, if we remember that those who are reborn have a legitimate claim to all the amazing promises of the gospel, and are guaranteed to be as happy as an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God can make them, both now and in the future, it seems to me that anyone who cares even a little about the salvation of their precious, eternal soul, with such promises, such hope, such an eternity of happiness laid out before them, should never stop being vigilant, praying, and striving.

They should keep going until they experience a genuine, deep, life-saving change in their hearts, and can confidently say that they live in Christ and Christ lives in them. That they are a new being, and therefore a child of God. That they're already in line to inherit, and will soon actually possess, the kingdom of heaven.

May God, in His infinite mercy, grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ.