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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "The Two Covenants." To view all parts, click the link below.
The New Covenant’s “chosen people” are the sons that are begotten of God by the action of the Holy Spirit through the “seed” of the word (gospel). This is in direct contrast to the chosen people of the Old Covenant, who were begotten by men.
The Witness of Peter
Peter, Paul, and John understood this distinction well, but for some reason many Christians today do not seem to have much comprehension of it.
1 Peter 1:22 says,
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love [agape] one another from the heart,
Why? How do we obtain agape, the love of God?
23 for you have been born again [anagennao, “begotten again”], not of seed which is perishable [mortal], but imperishable [immortal], that is, through the living and abiding word of God.
Peter was not talking about birth but about begetting. “Seed” is not needed to give birth but is a necessary ingredient for conception, or begetting. The Greek word gennao can mean either, depending on the context. When applied to a man it means “to beget.” When applied to a woman, it means “to give birth.” Here Peter speaks of seed that begets.
The immortal seed is “the living and abiding word of God.” This is contrasted to the mortal seed by which we were begotten by our earthly fathers. Mortal seed, even if planted through love, can only beget children of the flesh that are as mortal as their father. On the other hand, Peter says that his readers were begotten a second time through immortal seed, which is the word of God.
The contrast between the two seeds is seen further in 1 Peter 1:24, 25,
24 For “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 But the word of the Lord abides forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
The children of the flesh, born of mortal seed, are like grass and flowers. Grass is good, but it withers. Flowers can be quite beautiful, but they endure only for a short time. Hence also, fleshly children, however beautiful they are, eventually die like flowers and grass. But spiritual children, those begotten by the living seed of the word, do not die.
We have all been begotten by mortal seed. This is the nature of our flesh, regardless of our genealogy or ethnicity. That flesh is mortal and cannot endure the test of time. It is only when the immortal word of God begets a New Creation Man within us that we may give birth to an immortal son of God.
The children of the flesh—that is, those bodies that were begotten by mortal seed and born through normal childbirth—were chosen by the Old Covenant to exercise their wills to the will of God. They were chosen to attain immortality by obedience. Their righteousness was based on their ability to keep the Old Covenant vow, that is, by their own will, their own good intention, and their own works. God always gives the flesh the first opportunity to succeed, but His real intent is to teach us that “all flesh is like grass,” and that the flesh will always fail in the end.
The children of God, those begotten by the immortal seed of the living and abiding word of God, were the chosen people of the New Covenant. These sons are a new identity, if indeed we identify ourselves with that new man. We must all ask ourselves the ancient question, “Who am I?” Am I the child of flesh that my father begot and my mother birthed? Or am I the new creation man, the child of the Spirit that was begotten of God?
The Witness of John
John said in John 1:12, 13,
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe [have faith] in His name, 13 who were born [gennao, “begotten”] not of blood(line), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
In other words, by faith in Christ we have the right to become children of God. Whereas fleshly children are begotten by the will of fleshly urges, or by the will of men who decide to impregnate their wives, the sons of God are begotten through the will of God. In other words, God is the father of His sons. The contrast is clear.
Later, in John 3:6, 7 we read what Jesus told Nicodemus, a prominent rabbi and member of the Sanhedrin,
6 That which is begotten (gennao) of flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten (gennao) of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be begotten [gennao] again.”
It is obvious that fleshly begetting can only produce fleshly offspring, and spiritual begetting can only produce spiritual offspring. Yet Nicodemus was ignorant of this, perhaps because he was unaware of the manner in which Jesus was begotten of God. He had no frame of reference, because Judaism did not teach such things, nor did the Old Covenant concern itself with such matters.
John’s first letter expounds further upon this theme of the sons of God. 1 John 3:1 says,
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are…
Every believer is a love-child of God, begotten of the heavenly Father. Faith in Jesus causes the seed of the Father to be received by the egg of the mother-soul. That union begins growth until the new man reaches full maturity at birth. The maturing process is spoken of as purification. 1 John 3:3-6 says,
3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; not one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
It is unfortunate that Bible translators are so often ignorant of the very Scriptures that they translate. Most do not know the message of Sonship, and their translations reflect their misconceptions.
The verses above are not talking specifically about people in general, but about the contrast between the old man and the new man within us. The way these verses are translated can easily give the impression that all true Christians are sinless. “No one who abides in Him sins.” Indeed, some denominations actually teach this, putting great pressure upon their members to prove their salvation by being perfect.
I have seen how such members are enslaved to such teaching, for they are in bondage to the Old Covenant as much as the Israelites were in times past. I have seen firsthand the detrimental effect that such teaching has had upon their children. (I went to high school with the preacher’s children.)
John was not speaking about believers in general, but about the new creation man within each believer. That is the entity that does not sin. And it is only by identifying ourselves with that new man that we can say that “we” do not sin. Unfortunately, our flesh continues to sin, even though we restrain it by means of the Old Covenant.
So 1 John 3:6 should be understood to mean: No one, meaning the New Creation Man, who abides in Him sins; conversely, no one, meaning the old man of flesh, who sins has seen Him or knows Him. To “know,” of course, has a secondary connotation to it in the Hebrew language, indicating a sexual act. For instance, Genesis 4:1 KJV says, “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…”
John uses this same terminology to suggest a spiritual conception by knowing God.
In 1 John 3:9 the thought continues,
9 No one who is begotten [gennao] of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin because he is begotten [gennao] of God.
In other words, the New Creation Man within all who have faith in Christ is incapable of sin, because the seed of God abides in him. For the same reason, Jesus, the Pattern Son, was sinless. Being born of a virgin, not having a fleshly father, means that the seed of God was abiding in Him. He was the pattern of the second begetting and the second birth.
Some Christians misunderstand this, and so they teach that no one is a true Christian unless they are sinless. They miss the whole point of John’s discussion. It is the New Creation Man that is sinless—not the fleshly man that was begotten of earthly fathers.
The Witness of Paul
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:15 (The Emphatic Diaglott),
15 For though you may have myriads of leaders in Christ, yet not many fathers; for in Christ I begot you through the glad tidings.
Paul understood that he was acting on behalf of Christ when he delivered the gospel to the Corinthians. By that gospel, or “glad tidings,” he begot Christ in them. The result of this begetting is seen in Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Here he calls that New Creation Man “Christ in you.” That is the holy seed of which John testified. It is the immortal seed of the living word of which Peter testified.
Paul expounds at great length upon the difference between the fleshly man and the New Creation Man in Romans 7. There he shows how he had identified himself with the spiritual man, but also how he still had to deal with the fleshly man. Romans 7:15-17 introduces this passage, saying,
15 For that which I [i.e., my flesh] am doing, I [my real self, the spiritual man] do not understand; for I [flesh] am not practicing what I [spirit] would like to do, but I [flesh] am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I [flesh] do the very thing I [spirit] do not wish to do, I [spirit] agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. 17 So now, no longer am I [spirit] the one doing it, but sin which indwells me.
Paul describes the conflict between his two “I’s.” Earlier in Romans 6:6 he calls the fleshly “I” by the term “the old man” (KJV), or, as the NASB renders it, “the old self.” Paul clearly identified himself not as the old man but as the new man that has been begotten by God. He says that if he sins, it is not the new man who is sinning, but rather the old man.
As the new man, Paul said “I agree with the law” (Romans 7:16), refusing to excuse the flesh of its sinful ways. In Romans 7:22 he says further, “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” The problem, he says, is that the old man of flesh had waged war against his inner spiritual man. He had been taken prisoner of war by his fleshly man, but then he rejoices in knowing that Christ has set him free from the prison camp. Paul concludes his discussion in Romans 7:25,
25 … So then, on the one hand I myself with my [spiritual] mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [mind] the law of sin.
Paul makes it clear that the law of God is not the problem, for it only reflects the nature of God. It defines what we are to become when the old man is fully dead and our new man is fully set free from its prison camp. The problem is not the law but the Old Covenant, because the old man cannot keep his vow of obedience.
One can become a son of God only through the New Covenant, which is by the promise of God. That promise begins to work in us when we are begotten of our heavenly Father through faith in His living word. After we are begotten, our new spiritual man is led by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the law that expresses the nature of God. The spiritual man is already righteous. He cannot sin because the seed of God abides in him.
If we identify with that New Creation Man, then we can know we are saved in spite of what the old man does. We no longer wait for the old man to be perfected before having assurance of salvation. John wrote these things “in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "The Two Covenants." To view all parts, click the link below.