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Radical Change
By C.H. Spurgeon, Baptist Minister


“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”—2 Corinthians 5:17.


My line of discourse will be as follows: according to our text and many other Scriptures, a great change is needed in any man who would be saved…and this change is recognizable by distinct signs.

In Order to Salvation a Radical Change Is Necessary. This change is a thorough and sweeping one and operates upon the nature, heart, and life of the convert. Human nature is the same to all time, and it will be idle to try to turn the edge of Scriptural quotations by saying that they refer to the Jews or to the heathen, for at that rate we shall have no Bible left us at all. The Bible is meant for mankind, and our text refers to any man, of any country, and any age: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

We prove this point by reminding you, first, that everywhere in Scripture men are divided into two classes, with a very sharp line of distinction between them. Read in the Gospels, and you shall find continual mention of sheep lost and sheep found, guests refusing the invitation and guests feasting at the table, the wise virgins and the foolish, the sheep and the goats. In the epistles we read of those who are “dead in trespasses and sin” (Eph 2:1), and of others to whom it is said, “And you hath he quickened” (Eph 2:1); so that some are alive to God and others are in their natural state of spiritual death. We find men spoken of as being either in darkness or in light, and the phrase is used of being brought “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1Pe 2:9). Some are spoken of as having been formerly aliens and strangers and having been made fellow-citizens and brethren.


We read of “children of God” in opposition to “children of wrath.” We read of believers who are not condemned, and of those who are condemned already because they have not believed. We read of those who have “gone astray,” and of those who have “returned to the shepherd and bishop of their souls” (1Pe 2:25). We read of those who are “in the flesh and cannot please God” (Rom 8:8), and of those who are chosen and called and justified, whom the whole universe is challenged to condemn.


The Apostle speaks of “us which are saved” (1Co 1:18), as if there were some saved while upon others “the wrath of God abideth” (Joh 3:36). “Enemies” are continually placed in contrast with those who are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:10). There are those that are “far off from God by wicked works” (Eph 2:12; Col 1:21), and those who are “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13). I could continue till I wearied you. The distinction between the two classes runs through the whole of the Scriptures, and never do we find a hint that there are some who are naturally good and do not need to be removed from the one class into the other, or that there are persons between the two who can afford to remain as they are. No, there must be a divine work, making us new creatures and causing all things to become new with us; or we shall die in our sins.

The Word of God, besides so continually describing two classes, very frequently and in forcible expressions speaks of an inward change by which men are brought from one state into the other. I hope I shall not weary you if I refer to a considerable number of Scriptures, but it is best to go to the fountain-head at once.

This change is often described as a birth. See the third chapter of the Gospel of John, which is wonderfully clear and to the point: “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This birth is not a birth by baptism, for it is spoken of as accompanied by an intelligent faith which receives the Lord Jesus. Turn to John 1:12, 13: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” So that believers are “born again” and receive Christ through faith: a regeneration imparted in infancy and lying dormant in unbelievers is a fiction unknown to Holy Scripture.


In the third of John our Lord associates faith and regeneration in the closest manner, declaring not only that we must be born again, but also that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. We must undergo a change quite as great as if we could return to our native nothingness and could then come forth fresh from the hand of the Great Creator. John tells us, in his first epistle, 5:4, that “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world,” and he adds, to show that the new birth and faith go together, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” To the same effect is 1 John 5:1, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Where there is true faith, there is the new birth; and that term implies a change beyond measure, complete and radical.

In other places this change is described as a quickening. “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). We are said to be raised from the dead together with Christ, and this is spoken of as being a very wonderful display of omnipotence. We read of “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:19, 20). Regeneration is a very prodigy[1] of divine strength, and by no means a mere figment fabled to accompany a religious ceremony.

We find this change frequently described as a creation, as for instance in our text, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” And this also is no mere formality or an attendant upon a rite, for we read in Galatians 6:15, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” No outward rites, though ordained of God Himself, effect any change upon the heart of man. There must be a creating over again of the entire nature by the divine hand; we must be “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph 2:10), and we must have in us “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24). What a wonderful change that must be which is first described as a birth, then as a resurrection from the dead, and then as an absolute creation!

Paul, in Colossians 1:13, further speaks of God the Father and says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” John calls it a “passing from death unto life” (1Jo 3:14), no doubt having in his mind that glorious declaration of his Lord and Master: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (Joh 5:24).

Once more, as if to go to the extremity of forcible expression, Peter speaks of our conversion and regeneration as our being “begotten again.” Hear the passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3)…

My dear friends, can you conceive of any language more plainly descriptive of a most solemn change? If it be possible with the human tongue to describe a change which is total, thorough, complete, and divine, these words do describe it; and if such a change be not intended by the language here used by the Holy Spirit, then I am unable to find any meaning in the Bible, and its words are rather meant to bewilder than to instruct, which God forbid we should think. My appeal is to you who try to be contented without regeneration and conversion. I beseech you, do not be satisfied; for you never can be in Christ unless old things are passed away with you, and all things become new.

Further, the Scriptures speak of this great inner work as producing a very wonderful change in the subject of it. Regeneration and conversion, the one the secret cause and the other the first overt effect,[2] produce a great change in the character. Read Romans 6:17: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” Again at verse 22, “Now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Mark well the description the Apostle gives in Colossians 3:9, 10, when, having described the old nature and its sins, he says, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man.” The Book swarms with proof texts. The change of character in the converted man is so great that “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:24).

And as there is a change in character, so there is a change in feeling. The man had been an enemy to God before; but when this change takes place, he begins to love God. Read Colossians 1:21, 22: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable[3] in his sight.”

This change from enmity to friendship with God arises very much from a change of man’s judicial state before God. Before a man is converted he is condemned, but when he receives spiritual life we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom 8:1). This altogether changes his condition as to inward happiness. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 5:1), which peace we never had before. “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom 5:11).

O brethren, conversion makes a difference in us most mighty indeed, or else what did Christ mean when He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28)? Does He after all give us no rest? Is the man who comes to Jesus just as restless and as devoid of peace as before? God forbid! Does not Jesus say that when we drink of the water which He gives to us we shall never thirst again? What! And are we to be told that there is never a time when we leave off thirsting, never a time when that living water becomes in us a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life? Our own experience refutes the suggestion. Does not Paul say in Hebrews 4:3, “We which have believed do enter into rest”? Our condition before God, our moral tone, our nature, our state of mind are made by conversion totally different from what they were before: “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Co 5:17).

Why, beloved, instead of supposing that we can do without conversion, the Scriptures represent this as being the grand blessing of the covenant of grace. What said the Lord by His servant Jeremiah? “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33). This passage Paul quotes in Hebrews 10:16, not as obsolete, but as fulfilled in believers. And what has the Lord said by Ezekiel? Listen to the gracious passage, and see what a grand blessing conversion is: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Eze 36:26, 27). Is not this the blessing of the Gospel by which we realize all the rest? Is not this the great work of the Holy Ghost by which we know the Father and the Son?...

Do you know anything about this? I trust that a great number of you have experienced it and are showing it in your lives, but I fear some are ignorant of it. Let those who are unconverted never rest till they have believed in Christ and have a new heart created and a right spirit bestowed. Lay it well to heart, that a change must come over you which you cannot work in yourselves, but which must be wrought by divine power. There is this for your comfort: Jesus Christ has promised this blessing to all who receive Him, for He gives them power to become the sons of God.

This Change Is Recognizable by Certain Signs. It has been supposed by some that the moment a man is converted he thinks himself perfect. It is not so among us, for we rather question the conversion of any man who thinks himself perfect. It is thought by others that a converted man must be henceforth free from all doubts. I wish it were so. Unhappily, although there is faith in us, unbelief is there also. Some dream that the converted man has nothing more to seek for, but we teach not so; a man who is alive unto God has greater needs than ever. Conversion is the beginning of a life-long conflict; it is the first blow in a warfare which will never end till we are in glory.

In every case of conversion there are these signs following: there is always a sense of sin. No man, rest assured, ever found peace with God without first repenting of sin and knowing it to be an evil thing. The horrors which some have felt are not essential, but a full confession of sin before God and an acknowledgment of our guilt is absolutely required. “They that are whole,” says Christ, “have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mar 2:17). Christ does not heal those who are not sick. He never clothes those who are not naked nor enriches those who are not poor. True conversion always has in it a humbling sense of the need of divine grace.

It is also always attended with simple, true, and real faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, that is the King’s own mark: without it, nothing is of any worth. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Joh 3:14, 15); and that passage is put side by side with “ye must be born again,” in the same address, by the same Savior, to the same inquirer. Therefore, we gather that faith is the mark of the new birth; and where it is, there the Spirit has changed the heart of man; but where it is not, men are still “dead in trespasses and sin.”

Conversion may be known, next, by this fact, that it changes the whole man. It changes the principle upon which he lives; he lived for self, now he lives for God. He did right because he was afraid of punishment if he did wrong, but now he shuns evil because he hates it. He did right because he hoped to merit heaven, but now no such selfish motive sways him: he knows that he is saved, and he does right out of gratitude to God. His objects in life are changed: he lived for gain or worldly honor; now he lives for the glory of God. His comforts are changed: the pleasures of the world and sin are nothing to him; he finds comfort in the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost. His desires are changed: that which he once panted and pined for he is now content to do without; and that which he once despised he now longs after as the hart panteth after the water brooks. His fears are different; he fears man no more, but fears his God. His hopes are also altered; his expectations fly beyond the stars.

The man has begun a new life. A convert once said, “Either the world is altered or else I am.” Everything seems new. The very faces of our children look different to us, for we regard them under a new aspect, viewing them as heirs of immortality. We view our friends from a different stand-point. Our very business seems altered. Even taking down the shutters of a morning is done by the husband in a different spirit, and the children are put to bed by the mother in another mood. We learn to sanctify the hammer and the plough by serving the Lord with them. We feel that the things which are seen are shadows and the things which we hear are but voices out of dreamland, but the unseen is substantial, and that which mortal ear hears not is truth. Faith has become to us “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).

I may go on to talk about this, but none will understand me except those who have experienced it; and let not those who have not experienced it say it is not true. How do they know? How can a man bear witness to what he has not seen? What is the value of testimony from a man who begins by saying, “I know nothing about it”? If a credible witness declares that he knows such a thing to have happened, it would be easy to find fifty persons who can say that they did not see it; but their evidence goes for nothing…I pray that we may know what this change is; and if we do know it, I again pray that we may so live that others may see the result of it upon our characters and inquire what it means.

The phenomena of conversion are the standing miracles of the church. “And greater works than these shall he do,” said Christ, “because I go to my Father” (John 14:12); and these are some of the greater things which the power of the Holy Ghost still performs. This day the dead are raised, blind eyes are opened, and the lame are made to walk. The spiritual miracle is greater than the physical one. These spiritual miracles show that Jesus lives and puts life and power into the Gospel. Tell me of a ministry which never reclaims the drunkard, never calls back the thief to honesty, never pulls down the self-righteous and makes him confess his sin; that, in a word, never transforms its hearers; and I am sure that such a ministry is not worth the time which men spend in listening to it. Woe unto the man who at the last shall confess to a ministry fruitless in conversions. If the Gospel does not convert men, do not believe in it; but if it does, it is its own evidence and must be believed. It may be to some of you a stumbling-block and to others foolishness; but unto those who believe, it is the power of God unto salvation, saving them from sin.

From a sermon delivered on Lord’s-Day morning, July 19th, 1874,
by C. H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

_______________________

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892): Influential English Baptist minister. The collected sermons of Spurgeon during his ministry fill 63 volumes. The sermons’ 20–25 million words are equivalent to the 27 volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and stand as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity. Born at Kelvedon, Essex, England.
 

 

 

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