First, let us look at this verse as it gives us a general description and definition of the christian life. It is here for us on the surface. It tells us immediately that to be a Christian means that we have an entirely new life. The Apostle speaks in terms of being ‘dead’ and ‘alive.’ To be Christian is nothing less than that. It involves a death and a rising. The difference, therefore, between the Christian and the non-Christian is obviously a radical one, and not merely something superficial. To become a Christian does not mean that you just modify your former life a little, or adjust it slightly, or make it look a little better, or ‘brush it up’ as it were. There are many who conceive of Christianity in those terms. To become a Christian, they think, means in the main that you stop doing certain things, and begin to do others. There is a slight adjustment in your life, a slight modification, some things are dropped, others added; there is some improvement, you live a better life than you lived before. All of that, of course, is quite true, but that alone is not Christianity. Whatever our definition of Christianity is, it must include this idea of a death and a new life–nothing less than that. In other words, to be a Christian means to undergo the profoundest change that one can ever know. That is why the New Testament, in speaking of the way in which a person becomes a Christian, uses such terms as ‘Ye must be born again’, ‘a new creation’, a ‘new creature’. It is nothing less than regeneration. Naturally, generation is fundamental; it is the giving of life and bringing into being. Becoming a Christian involves regeneration, and the spiritual far surpasses the natural. So here at once, and on the very surface, we are made to realize that to be a Christian is no small matter, and that the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is not a slight one. It is the greatest difference possible between two human beings. It is no other than the difference between life and death. That is why I say that the main trouble with most of us in the Church today is that our whole concept of the christian life is much too small. We seem to have lost this idea, though we may pay lip-service to it, that it involves as radical a process and as deep-seated a change as is conceivable. That is the first truth.
The second truth is that the man who has become a Christian is an entirely new relationship. That is what the Apostle is emphasizing here in particular. To be a Christian means that you are now in an entirely new relationship to God. Before, your relationship to God was one through the Law; it is now through the Lord Jesus Christ. What a change that is! My whole standing is different; my position, my status as I stand before God, is altogether different from what it was before. Here again is something which emphasizes the profound character of the Christian life. So as we talk about it we must always include this thought, that there has been an entire change in our relationship to God. We were ‘under law,’ we are now ‘under grace.’
The third truth is that as Christians we have an entirely new purpose in life, namely, ‘to bring forth fruit unto God’. The man who is not a Christian knows nothing of that purpose; he lives for himself, he brings forth fruit unto himself. He lives to satisfy himself; he is self-centered, entirely egocentric. It matters not how good a man he appears to be; if he is not a Christian, he is always egocentric. He is proud of his morality, he is proud that he is not like other people, he looks at them with disdain. All along he is pleasing himself, coming up to this own standard, trusting his own efforts and endeavours. He revolves around himself. But the man who has become a Christian has an entirely new purpose, to ‘bring forth fruit unto God’. These are basic definitions of what it means to be a Christian.
The foruth general truth which here lies on the surface is that the Christian is a man who has been provided with an entirely new ability, a new power and strength. Certain things have happened to him in order that he should ‘bring forth fruit unto God’. He could not do that before; he can do so now. A new ability, a new power has entered into the life of this man.
There, I say, are four things which lie here on the very surface of this verse, and which are always true of the Christian.