by Clete Hux –
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).
The term born again has been greatly misinterpreted by various people throughout history. Biblically, however, it means “regeneration, or new birth, an inner recreating of fallen human nature by the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 440). It also involves receiving a new nature and eternal life.
This meaning is intrinsically connected and pertains the Christian who was “once blind but now sees” – who was “dead in sins and trespasses” but now has been brought to salvation in Christ. Of course, Christians may not fully understand all the implications of the term as it relates to their own salvation experience, but hopefully they will be alert to any misapplication of it or any deviation from the normal orthodox biblical position.
A complete theological understanding of the atonement is not necessary for salvation, but in order to distinguish truth from heresy, one must have a sufficient orientation of the work accomplished on the cross wrought by the true Jesus Christ.
Just any Jesus is not sufficient! It must be the right Jesus! As Michael Horton points out in The Agony of Deceit, “Any teaching that denies Christ is ‘the only begotten Son, the One and Only incarnation of God’ is heresy” (p. 269; cf. John 3:16, 1:14, 18, 1 John 4:1).
Concerning Christ, Philippians 2:6-7 says, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men.”
Exegetically, verse six means that Christ is of the same nature and essence of God. It could be paraphrased: who, thought of the same nature as God, did not think this something to be exploited to His own advantage. Verse seven says Christ emptied Himself. The Greek kenosis (emptying) of Christ during His incarnation does not mean that he relinquished any attributes of His deity, but that He received the limitations of humanity. It could be said that He remained what He ever was (God) and became what He never was (man).
Also, his preincarnate glory (John 17:5) was veiled as He waived some of his divine prerogatives during the time He was on earth (Matthew 24:36), without for one moment ceasing to be God in the flesh. The true Jesus is the eternal Son of God and God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, the theanthropos (the God-man of history), fully God and fully man having two natures (divine and human) within the distinct personality of the Son.
Jesus Born Again in Hell?
A Jesus who is anything less than what the Scriptures teach is indeed a different Jesus, and the warning ought to be sounded when it is taught that Jesus was regenerated in hell. Such is the case with the born again Jesus of Word-Faith theology.
Kenneth Copeland, a prominent Word Faith teacher, in his monthly publication Believer’s Voice of Victory, related what he claims he was told by Jesus: “Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you’re God. The more you get like Me, the more they’re going to think that way of you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn’t claim I was God, I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in Me” (August 1988, P. 8).
The early Gnostic heretic, Cerinthus taught that Jesus was just a man, becoming divine only at baptism. At the cross, the Holy Spirit left Him, leaving Jesus devoid of His divine nature – once again He was just a man (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, Cerinthians, p. 113). Copeland seems to advocate the same thing in the same August 1988 issue of Believer’s Voice of Victory when he says, “He voluntarily gave up that advantage, living His life here not as God but as a man. He had no innate supernatural powers. He had no ability to perform miracles until after He was anointed by the Holy Spirit as recorded in Luke 3:22.”
Frederick K. C. Price, another Word-Faith teacher, affirmed this recently from the Los Angeles Crenshaw Christian Center in his sermon tape, Free at Last: Redeemed From Poverty, Sickness, and Death, when he said that he believed in the same Jesus “as the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians or any other Christian denomination” (Tape No. RP-19). However, he went on to say that he was not a heretic, but that Jesus was on the earth “just as a man, not the Son of God” (May 1993).
Jesus Lost His Divinity?
On 23 October 1992, Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network had Benny Hinn on his program discussing the Word-Faith doctrines. As Hinn described Jesus’ atonement in hell and being born again in hell, Crouch said, “Oh, that’s when He (Jesus) regained His divinity” (Video on file at Watchman Fellowship).
It needs to be emphasized that a Jesus who is not fully God and fully man while He was on earth ministering as both God the Son and the Son of Man is not the Jesus of the Bible (1John 4:1-4). Such a Jesus cannot possibly atone for the sins of mankind.
To many teachers of the Word-Faith movement, the emphasis is not on the physical death of Jesus, which is what the Bible emphasizes, i.e., “without shedding of blood is no remission” (see Hebrews 9:12, 14, 15, 22), but on the spiritual death of Christ.
They also teach that Jesus took on the nature of Satan in His spiritual death and in hell completed the plan of redemption and was born again.
For instance, Kenneth Hagin in his book, The Name of Jesus, says,” Spiritual death means having Satan’s nature” (P. 31). Just prior to that, he said, “Physical death would not remove sins” (p. 29).
Frederick K. C. Price said, “Do you think that the punishment for our sins was to die on a cross? If that were the case the two thieves could have paid our price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God” (Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, June 1990, p. 7)
What Kenneth Hagin and Fred Price are alluding to is that it took not only the physical death of Jesus on the cross to pay for our sins, but it also took the spiritual death of Jesus in hell. Kenneth Copeland is very explicit about this. In his sermon tape What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, he says, “When Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne.”
Regarding Christ’s words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), the word in the Greek is tetelistai and is rendered “to bring to an end” or “paid for in full” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 101).
What Christ was saying was that the work of redemption (paying for sin and securing salvation) was completed on the cross. If Christ did anything else beyond “It is finished” in order to pay for man’s sins, something is added to His completed work. This is what the Word-Faith teachers have done when they teach that salvation was completed in hell, after Christ died on the cross!
A Word of Encouragement
A word of encouragement about one of the Word-Faith teachers is in order. Benny Hinn, at his Orlando Christian Center, on 14 June 1993, explained, “At one time I taught that Jesus died spiritually. I no longer believe it …It does not line up with the Word.”
Hinn went on to say, “Now, some teach that Jesus went into the underworld, and had to be born again in hell. That does not line up with the Word of God. Even though at once, I believed that too. And the reason that I did is because I was reading materials that really did not line up with this book (the Bible)”.
Published in the Watchman Expositor Vol. 10, No. 8, 1993