New life in Jesus

New life in Jesus involves a death, a burial, and a resurrection.

James A. Zachary is an associate secretary of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Years ago a billboard with its pointed message captured my attention. The Ford Motor Company had a doctor pushing his stethoscope on the patient's chest. The caption read "All I can hear is, 'Ford, Ford, Ford.'"

If the heavenly Physician listened to our hearts, what would He hear? Would He hear the pangs of sin (see Gal. 5:19- 21) or the heartbeats of righteousness and joy (see verses 22, 23)?

By nature all of us are sinners. The psalmist says, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). The apostle Paul confirms the universal nature of sin: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).

We live in a world of sin. We are sinners. But we need not remain under the power of sin. I recently joined a group of friends on a whale-watching excursion in the North Atlantic Ocean. The sea was rough. We were thrilled to watch the huge creatures gracefully playing in the ocean by the side of our tiny boat. Then a large wave came over the prow of the boat. My friends on the lower deck got drenched. Fortunately, the water rushed over the deck and ran out the back of the ship.

Someone shouted, "It's all right to have the ship in the ocean, but it's not a good thing to have the ocean in the ship."

We do live in an evil world. But it is not God's will that evil continue to rule within our lives. God has made provision to give us victory over sin. He has given us the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). Without Jesus there is no hope, for "neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Jesus spoke of this salvation as a new-birth experience. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). In His interview with Nicodemus, Jesus repeated thrice this divine imperative of new birth. Paul also emphasized this necessity for new life. Humbled in the dust of the Damascus highway, he saw what the gospel of Jesus is all about. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).

This is the good news. In Jesus there is hope for every sinner. Through Him we have forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and peace. Through Him we be come sons and daughters of God. Through Him we have new life.

While walking through a coal-mining town I noticed that the coal dust covered everything. Everything in that town seemed darkened by the dust. In the midst of that depressive picture, what joy it was to find a rose, beautiful as ever, without a speck of dust on it. Likewise, even though we may live in the midst of sin, God's grace can enable us to be new persons and live godly lives.

How is this possible? We turn to Paul again. He gives us three simple steps to this new life, and they are found in Romans 6:1-4.

Death to old life

The new life in Christ begins with the death of the old life. Earlier in Romans, Paul describes the entire provision of God for the salvation of humanity through Jesus Christ. We are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). This justification has brought us "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). Not only that, but also "we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (verse 2). All these are made possible through the free grace of God manifested in Jesus. The end result is the new life: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (verse 21).

Back in Paul's time some misunderstood the free nature of God's grace. These felt that the more one sinned, the more one could spotlight on the power of God's grace. Paul vehemently op posed such misinterpretations of the gospel. "God forbid," he declared (Rom. 6:1, 2), warning, "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

Christian living begins by dying. There must be a death to the world and sin. We as sinners must believe and accept that Jesus died for our sins on the cross. We must be crucified with Jesus. We must give up the deeds of the flesh (see Gal. 5:19-21).

How do we die to sin? Ellen White answers it well. "You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him."1

It takes the same resurrection power that brought Lazarus out of his grave to bring righteousness out of the soul en slaved in sin. It takes the same power to give a sinner new life that it took to give life to that clay statue that became Adam. Adam lived because of God's power. The sinner can have new life only through that same power.

If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, He brings a conviction of our sins. He leads us to the forgiveness and empowering available in the cross of Jesus. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:14-16).

Burial of old life

Paul describes the second step to ward new life as a burial: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism unto death" (Rom. 6:4). Death must be followed by burial. Like the little girl who died in a village far away. When she died, the family could not afford the services of an undertaker. They prepared the body as best as they could, constructed a bamboo coffin, and dug the grave. In the hot tropical climate all of this had to be done within 24 hours of death. During the funeral service the father got up four times and placed his hand between the arm and rib cage of his daughter. He was feeling for any sign of life. When he was certain she was dead, the family buried the body. The grave was filled with earth.

The finality of death is followed by the finality of a burial. So is it in the Christian life. Death to sin must be followed by an act of burial. And Paul uses the symbol of baptism to signify this burial. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death" (Rom. 6:3, 4).

Rise to new life

Then comes the third step to new life. We are dead to sin, our sins are buried, and then we rise to live a new life. Paul states, "As Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (verse 4). When we rise out of the waters of baptism, in faith we grasp the power of the resurrection to live a new life.

Paul often uses the death-resurrection motif to illustrate how sinners are saved and how they are equipped to lead a righteous life. To Ephesians he writes: "Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:5, 6).

Participation in the power of Christ's resurrection means enjoying the fruits of victory over sin that Jesus offers. He lives, therefore we live. And we manifest the fruits of the Spirit in our lives: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-25).

One thing we can never forget. The victory is always Christ's. When we accept Him, He gives it to us. We don't struggle. We trust in Him. We obey Him. And He becomes the power of the new life for us and in us.

I recall a young Buddhist convert. She was part of a small group study that met in our home. One day she asked for special prayer. "I try and try," she said, "to live a new life, but all I seem to know is failure." Many Christians are like her. They seem to live in the perpetual frustration of defeat when victory is offered by the Lord. In human power we cannot live a new life. Power comes when we make the decision to place our weak hands in the almighty hand of Jesus. He is able to change us. Ellen White states, "By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith." 2

How do we publicly confess that we have accepted Jesus? How do we tell the world that we have made a decision to follow Jesus? The Bible provides us with just such a symbol in baptism.

Baptism and the new life

The ceremony of baptism itself does not bring about any miracle. It is only an outward symbol of an inward change. However, it is an important and essential symbol. It is a living testimony of the believer's spiritual death, burial, and resurrection. In baptism, the converted sinner is saying, "I was once a sinner. My old way of living has ended through my being crucified with Christ. As I come out of the water, I know that the Holy Spirit has begun a new life in my heart."

The coming out of the water emphasizes the mode of baptism. Sprinkling cannot be that mode. Pouring cannot be. Only baptism by immersion remains true to the biblical model. John the Baptist baptized by immersion. Philip baptized the Ethiopian official by immersion (Acts 8:38). Paul in Romans 6 speaks of the same mode. In fact the Greek word baptizo means "to dip in or under."

If we are to be baptized, we need to bury our sinful past. That is an act of our will. Only those who have reached the age of accountability can choose to believe in Jesus, accept His provisions, confess their sins, and then be willing to be baptized. So babies cannot be baptized.

There is more to the meaning of baptism. The baptized ones now be come "living stones" in the church of God (1 Peter 2:5, NIV). They have fellowship with their new family of believers. They begin a new life of service through the power of the Holy Spirit. They get involved in the mission of Jesus to save sinners.

This new life needs to be renewed each day. Every morning we must begin our day at the cross and the empty tomb. There must be a daily death to sin and a resurrection with Jesus to a new life of victory. Praise God, Jesus is able to save. He can bring victory out of defeat, life out of death, joy out of sadness.

During an evangelistic meeting in Papua New Guinea, a pastor gave his testimony to the large audience. "You all know me. You know the village in the highlands where I was born. You have heard the stories of my people. I was an evil man. I drank, I smoked, I chewed betel nut, I fought in tribal wars. Then someone told me about Jesus. Look at me now. I am a new man. No more evil habits. Look at my body. It is clean. Jesus has changed my life."

In Papua New Guinea Adventists are called the "stout people." Not be cause of body weight, but because they have a strong heart. They are a people who leave old ways and live a new life through Jesus Christ.

Yes, through Jesus you can have a new life today.

New life in Jesus


   A. We are all under sin
   B. We all can have new life

I. Death to old life
   A. New life begins with the death of the old
   B. Grace does not mean freedom to sin
   C. How do we die to sin?

II. Burial of old life
   A. Burial in baptism

III. Rise to new life
   A. Walking in newness
   B. Victory over sin
   C. Victory is Christ's to give, ours to receive

IV. Baptism and the new life
   A. Meaning of baptism
   B. Mode of baptism
   C. Entry into the church


Summary: Baptism

By baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ, and testify of our death to sin and of our
purpose to walk in newness of life. Thus we acknowledge
Christ as Lord and Saviour, become His people, and are
received as members by His church. Baptism is a symbol of
our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and our
reception of the Holy Spirit. It is by immersion in water and
is contingent on an affirmation of faith in Jesus and evidence
of repentance of sin. It follows instruction in the Holy
Scriptures and acceptance of their teachings. (Rom. 6:1-6;
Col. 2:12, 13; Acts 16:30-33; 22:16; 2:38; Matt. 28:19, 20.)


Summary: The Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper is a participation in the emblems of the
body and blood of Jesus as an expression of faith in Him, our
Lord and Saviour. In this experience of communion Christ is
present to meet and strengthen His people. As we partake,
we joyfully proclaim the Lord's death until He comes again.
Preparation for the Supper includes self-examination, re
pentance, and confession. The Master ordained the service
of foot washing to signify renewed cleansing, to express a
willingness to serve one another in Christlike humility, and
to unite our hearts in love. The Communion service is open
to all believing Christians. (1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:23-30;
Matt. 26:17-30; Rev. 3:20; John 6:48-63; 13:1-17.)



Article Notes:

1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain
View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p.

2 Ibid., p. 48.


Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
James A. Zachary is an associate secretary of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.

July/August 1995

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

When Jesus comes

Jesus our Saviour and Friend is coming soon to take us home.

God's Word for our time

How trustworthy is the Bible and its promise to transform us?

The Truth as it is in Jesus: Painting by Elfred Lee, commissioned by Ministry

A special commission from a well-known Adventist artist.

First Glance

An overview of this special issue of Ministry

God organized for our salvation

The cross explains the Trinity, and the Trinity explains the cross.

O God, how great are Your works!

The psalmist's poetic tribute to God's creative power and His Sabbath

Death, a defeated foe

The crucified and risen Saviour is God's answer to the ultimate enemy of human life.

Joy in the Judgment

In God's judgment what matters is whether or not we have Jesus. He is our assurance.

The most important question in the world

Solving the world's most important question lays the foundation for solving all life's problems.

The church: its nature and design

It's a family. It's a body. It's a building. It's a bride. It's us.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - SermonView - Medium Rect (300x250)

Recent issues

See All