Born Again Now?

History of Early Christianity


Was the idea that Christians are begotten by the Holy Spirit upon baptism and born-again at the resurrection, simply a phase that the church went through or was it a teaching that was embraced in the second, third, and fourth century, that God led Hebert W. Armstrong to restore to the true Philadelphia portion of the true Church of God?

A couple of days ago, I reported that in an interview with Dixon Cartwright, CG7’s former president Robert Coulter stated (see also CG7 Admits Change, But Sardis A Joke?):

…there was a point in time when some ministers in the Church of God (Seventh Day) taught that we were begotten but not born again, and that was primary, a big thing, with Herbert Armstrong at one point . . .

But that was a temporary thing [in the CG7]. It was like going through a phase. The church finally said, no, our conversion is a completed work. When Jesus said you must be born again, He facilitates the spiritual rebirth of the convert, and it’s a completed work. We continued then to strive for sanctification, a lifelong process.

Anyway, we abandoned that position years and years ago, but Herbert Armstrong froze that position at the time of his departure from the church, because essentially in the early and mid-’30s that was being taught in some quarters in the Church of God (Seventh Day)…

(Cartwright D. Former CG7 president gives his understanding of history of Church of God and Mr. Armstrong. The Journal: News of the Churches of God. Sep-Dec 2008)

Does he, CG7’s probably best known historian, not understand early church history? (See also CG7 Admits Change, But Sardis A Joke?)

Perhaps this would be a good time to provide some direct proof of that.

Notice what Theophilus of Antioch wrote in the second century,

But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection” (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

In the third century, Hippolytus (the greatest of the early theologians according to Roman Catholic scholars) understood that we are begotten by the Holy Spirit at baptism. Notice what he wrote:

This is the Spirit that was given to the apostles in the form of fiery tongues. This is the Spirit that David sought when he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Of this Spirit Gabriel also spoke to the Virgin, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” By this Spirit Peter spake that blessed word, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” By this Spirit the rock of the Church was stablished. This is the Spirit, the Comforter, that is sent because of thee, that He may show thee to be the Son of God.

Come then, be begotten again, O man, into the adoption of God…For he who comes down in faith to the layer of regeneration, and renounces the devil, and joins himself to Christ; who denies the enemy, and makes the confession that Christ is God; who puts off the bondage, and puts on the adoption,–he comes up from the baptism brilliant as the sun, flashing forth the beams of righteousness, and, which is indeed the chief thing, he returns a son of God and joint-heir with Christ (Hippolytus. The Discourse on the Holy Theophany, Chapters 9,10. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Also, even in the fourth century, it was understood that Christians are first begotten, that Jesus was the first born of the dead, and that we become born again later. For even though he had other heretical ideas, Athanasius apparently understood this as he wrote,

For God not only created them to be men, but called them to be sons, as having begotten them. For the term ‘begat’ is here as elsewhere expressive of a Son, as He says by the Prophet, ‘I begat sons and exalted them;’ and generally, when Scripture wishes to signify a son, it does so, not by the term ‘created,’ but undoubtedly by that of ‘begat.’ And this John seems to say, ‘He gave to them power to become children of God, even to them that believe on His Name; which were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ And here too the cautious distinction is well kept up, for first he says ‘become,’ because they are not called sons by nature but by adoption; then he says ‘were begotten,’ because they too had received at any rate the name of son…He became man, that, as the Apostle has said, He who is the ‘Beginning’ and ‘First-born from the dead, in all things might have the preeminence…He said to be ‘First-born from the dead,’ not that He died before us, for we had died first; but because having undergone death for us and abolished it, He was the first to rise, as man, for our sakes raising His own Body. Henceforth He having risen, we too from Him and because of Him rise in due course from the dead…He is called ‘First-born among many brethren’ because of the relationship of the flesh, and ‘First-born from the dead,’ because the resurrection of the dead is from Him and after Him…And as He is First-born among brethren and rose from the dead ‘the first fruits of them that slept;’ so, since it became Him ‘in all things to have the preeminence (Athanasius. Discourse II Against the Arians, Chapters 59,60,61,63,64. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 4. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus the idea of being begotten when converted and being born again at the resurrection is not a relatively new one among professing Christians.

It should be clear that early church history does document that early professors of Christ did in fact hold to the same doctrines that CG7’s Robert Coulter admits his church changed.

Perhaps I should add that the United Church of God’s position on this, like CG7’s, has changed.  Though UCG is much less bold about what it actually teaches on this than Living Church of God does(details on UCG’s position are shown in the article Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God).

We in the Living Church of God clearly still teach that Christians are begotten by the Holy Spirit upon baptism and born-again at the resurrection.  We have continued to, “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Shouldn’t you?

Several articles on related matters would include:

Born Again: A Question of Semantics? Many Protestants use the term born-again. Do they know where the concept came from or does it matter? Are you born or begotten upon proper baptism?
Are You Saved? Do You Love Jesus? What is a True Christian? What is the Gospel? Evangelist Richard Ames answers those important questions.
Church of God, Seventh Day: History and Teachings Nearly all COG’s I am aware of trace their history through this group. Whaid Rose is the president of the largest CG7 group (Denver). Do you know much about them?
Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God This article provides quotes information from the two largest groups which had their origins in WCG as well as commentary.
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to more easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

Get news like the above sent to you on a daily basis

Your email will not be shared. You may unsubscribe at anytime.