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Question and Answer

The Substance of Deity


The Bible teaches that Christians are born of the Spirit. How is this regeneration different from the birth of the only-begotten Son of God? It seems to suggest that Christians have the substance of deity because of this birth. Please help.


Dear sir:

Jesus said something about himself that no other person ever has said, or will be able to say truthfully. He said “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” In saying this Jesus claimed for himself the very name of God (see Ex. 3:13–14). It is therefore quite wrong to think that we can ever claim “the substance of deity” because of our new birth (John 3:1–7). In other words, we need to learn the difference between Christ’s sonship, as the only begotten Son of God who is therefore of the same nature (deity) with his father, and our sonship, which is by adoption. An adopted son may be granted as great an inheritance as a begotten son, but he will never be of his father’s flesh and blood.

Another doctrine we need to consider is the doctrine of the incarnation. Jesus Christ is eternal (having no beginning) as respects his divine nature. But in historical time he took to himself true human nature from his mother. He is therefore both God and man, while we are only human. Our new birth is indeed by the power of the Holy Spirit, but that new birth does not make us God, it simply restores us as people made in God’s image. But far from detracting from the wonder, that only makes the wonder greater. How truly amazing it is that we can be called the children of God! But that is what we are by our adoption.

Finally, we can never forget that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer (2 Tim. 1:14) does not make us divine. There is a large difference in that indwelling and the (erroneous) concept that our spirit somehow merges with his Spirit. He is distinct from us, so that we are warned against grieving him (Eph. 4:30), quenching him (1 Thess. 5:19), etc.

Let me suggest that you read both the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Westminster Larger Catechism (available here) for further clarification.

I do hope this at least gives you a glimpse of this awesome wonder.

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