Many world religions believe we are born “good”. They do not believe that we are born with a sinful nature. They do not believe we are born in depravity, separated from God.
Most of my fellow believers say they believe along with me in the biblical doctrine of original sin, they say they believe that we are all born as sinners. Yet, our hearts unconsciously struggle with this belief. How do we know this? Just listen to what comes out of our mouths when we behold a newborn baby. We sometimes call them “innocent little angels”. Our hearts are drawn to view them as unstained (“There is a way that seems right unto a man…”). While it is true that they haven’t committed any overt evil actions, we inwardly have trouble viewing newborns as anything but precious and pure. I don’t hear many people saying to a newborn, “Goochie-goo you wretched little sinner”. LOL. Our hearts are revealed by the words coming out of our mouths “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”–Luke 6:45. Our words don’t always match what we believe in our minds.
Cults and other religions prey upon this weakness of ours. The cults, the skeptics, and other world religions will refer us to our own scriptures and point to the example of John the Baptist and say, “See, he was not separated from God, but was filled with divinity from birth.”
For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.–Luke 1:15
There it is. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. Since the Holy Spirit is divine, you could make the argument that John the Baptist was filled with Divinity from birth. Regardless, John was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
How many of my fellow believers were filled with the the Holy Spirit before knowing and calling on the name of the Lord?
How many of you were permanently filled with the Holy Spirit before repenting or asking Christ to forgive you of your sins?
How many of you sinners were “filled with the Spirit from birth”?
I suspect the answer is none. Why is this? Because the scriptures teach us that ALL mankind is sinful and we are born separated from God because of our iniquity. Because of our human weakness it is important that we continue to fellowship with one another and be reminded of these scriptures:
The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.–Psalms 14:2,3. Also Psalm 53:2,3 repeats this word-for-word
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God–Romans 3:23
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon ALL men, for that all have sinned: –Rom 5:12
The scriptures go further and stress that our sinfulness begins in the womb, before we are born:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. –Psalms 51:5
The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.–Psalm 58:3
Now carefully read this clear scripture to see what the direct result is for those who are born in iniquity:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God–Isaiah 59:2
So how do sinners, who are born in iniquity, separated from God, ever receive the Holy Spirit?
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.–Acts 2:38
SO HERE AGAIN IS THE CRUX. We are all born with a sinful nature, separated from God, yet John the Baptist was “filled with the Spirit from birth”.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.–Luke 1:15
…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.–NIV
How? In light of all the scriptures we have just read, how can this be? How can you be filled with the Spirit without having a “Repent and be born-again salvation” experience? As a fetus in the womb, John could never have the understanding to exercise faith, yet he gets filled with the Spirit. How is it possible for John to be “filled from birth”?
We will attempt to answer these questions broadly by looking at a different subject and asking another set of questions. Let’s look at death.
God told Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it YOU WILL CERTAINLY DIE”.–Genesis 2:17. God didn’t just say that you will die, He said that it is a certainty that you will die. The result of disobedience would be a sure death sentence.
But it wasn’t just a death sentence for Adam. It affected Eve and ALL of mankind. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to ALL people–Romans 5:12. How many is all?
For the living know that they will die–Ecclesiastes 9:5
Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,–Hebrews 9:27
The NAS describes it as an appointment for mankind. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
The scriptures are very clear that “death came to ALL people”. God declared death upon all mankind in the book of Genesis, and the book of Romans confirms without denial that it is death to ALL people. King Solomon confirmed this all-encompassing truth in his writings. The New Testament writer of Hebrews takes the spoken sentence of God upon man and declares it to be an appointment, a destiny for all men.
These scriptures and laws of God concerning death sound very absolute. The word absolute means to have no exceptions. We read Romans 5 and believe that the word ALL was written to mean absolutely ALL. We read Genesis and see the word SURELY or CERTAINLY. We read Hebrews and see words like APPOINTED or DESTINED in regards to death. But just because these scriptures sound absolute, does that mean there were no exceptions?
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death:–Hebrews 11:5
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.–2Kings 2:11
In spite of all the absolute-sounding language, God made exceptions to His word by allowing Enoch and Elijah to bypass death. The bible tells us that “scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), YET we clearly see that God is sovereign and can make exceptions to His word. God does not break His word, God does not lie. But, like a potter, He can shape things from their usual form to bend to His will.
Many believers struggle with the the truth that God is clearly sovereign and can make exceptions to perform His will. Yet, God has never hidden this truth from us. God does not hide from us the fact that He makes exceptions, even when His book says “all”. It’s in plain sight. So why does the scripture say things like “all” when there are actual exceptions? Because without the exception of God’s power, these laws are for all. This is why we need to read the whole volume, and we need the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read the scriptures! We need His wisdom as we study the scriptures! God demonstrates our desperate need for the Spirit’s wisdom by giving us this conundrum:
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. 5Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”–Proverbs 26:4-5
There is the Word of the Lord, for thus it is written! The problem is this: Which WRITTEN TRUTH do you obey? Both verses are commands! Do you obey the command of verse 4 or the command of verse 5? The old adage, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” doesn’t work in this passage. Skeptics look at these verses and say, “Aha! The scriptures contradict themselves by commanding you ‘not to answer a fool’ in one verse, and then commanding you in another verse to ‘answer a fool’. How can you follow it?” A faithful person will look at this verse and realize that the TRUTH is a person and that you need Him to guide you into which truth you should obey in your current circumstance.
God is Sovereign and has control over all laws and can make exceptions…He can walk on water.
Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.–Psalms 135:5
For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?–Romans 9:19-21
Does this make the Bible unreliable? Not at all! But this does show that you can’t always read the letters with human understanding alone, or it can kill your faith . You must pray and rely on the Spirit for discernment when reading scripture (“For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”–2Cor. 3:5). If anything this demonstrates that our God is a living, breathing, moving Spirit, and is not a dead formula or a bound set of static steps. He is a person and not a book. The book reveals Him, but the Bible is not God. God is God, and the Bible is His chosen special book that relates His story with us.
Concerning John the Baptist, our answer is that God is a sovereign Potter, and He formed John the Baptist to be “filled with the Holy Ghost from birth”. It doesn’t happen that way for other men. But in this instance, as in other ways, God made an exception from the standard. This doesn’t make God a liar; it simply shows that He is Sovereign. Understand this about the way John was made: God made John the Baptist to be a forerunner, a physical example, a physical type and shadow of what we can be spiritually. When we experience the “new birth” in Christ (1 Peter 1:3, John 3:6-7, John 1:13), we too can be “filled with the Spirit from birth”. Now do you understand?
These examples help us to understand the Sovereign nature of God and the nature of Truth. Truth in its most supreme form is a person. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me”. Jesus Christ is the Truth, and in this Truth, there is no exception. The written word is also truth. “Thy word is truth”–John 17:17. However, the written word contains both absolute truth and truth with exceptions, which in turn perfectly reflects the nature of a Sovereign God.
One more thing about John’s example to us: John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit from birth”. It was permanent and not temporary. This was a new thing! What was the initial evidence of this infilling? What expression does the New Testament choose to show as the prime sign that John had this infilling? Did the baby “speak in tongues”??? Nope. The prime sign was JOY. “The baby in my womb leaped for joy”. The first evidence in the NT for a permanent infilling of the Holy Spirit was joy.