ArticleBible & Theology

Rebirth, Religion, and Reaching the Unreached

The gospel offers new life—but many hoping for rebirth through other religions have never heard this good news.
“Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:18 ESV)

Rebirth and religion.

All religions attempt to deal with the reality of evil. Most have a concept of salvation. Many have ideas about rebirth. But each religion proposes a different way to achieve this rebirth.

James affirmed that evil is internal (1:14; 3:16). Overcoming our sinful desires requires an understanding of God’s character, as he is good and the giver of good gifts (1:17). He does not lead people towards sin. But dealing with evil also requires a right relationship with God through rebirth—this is the starting point.

It is clear that God initiates this relationship. The phrase in James 1:18, “Of his own will,” is a translation of one word in the original Greek. It means to desire to have or experience something, with a reasoned plan or will to accomplish that goal. God acted according to his own will, purpose, and choice when “he brought us forth.” This phrase has the nuance of giving birth. It means to bring something into being as a new creation. According to James, this rebirth is accomplished “by the word of truth.”

The “word of truth” is synonymous with the gospel. Verse 18 stands in stark contrast to what James described in verse 15: whereas sin gives birth to death, God gives birth to life. We are born again through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

Other religions that teach about rebirth emphasize an external conformity to a code. In other words, do certain things and you will experience a rebirth, nirvana, or freedom.

In Islam, salvation is accomplished by someone’s own work as they observe the five pillars, rather than through a work of God.

Hinduism views salvation as an escape from the endless rounds of birth, death, and rebirth—but this may only be accomplished through multiple incarnations.

Buddhism sees ignorance, rather than sin, as man’s fundamental problem. Salvation in Buddhism comes through self-control and a series of meditative practices that progressively lead to knowing one’s true self.

Jesus said that no one can enter the kingdom of God without the new birth (John 3:3). This is a work of the Holy Spirit “by the washing of regeneration and renewal” (Titus 3:5). James explained that this new birth comes through “the word of truth.” But people cannot experience this new birth without first hearing the gospel of Jesus. This is why we do missions: to take the gospel to those who have never heard (Romans 10:13-17).

Prayer:

“Father in heaven, please remind me each day that people can only be saved by hearing the Word of God. Give me courage to open my mouth and boldly declare your gospel.”


Missions Prayer Focus: Muslims and Hindus

  1. Pray for more missionaries to go share God’s Word with Muslims in South Asia.
  2. Pray for more missionaries to share God’s Word with Hindus in the 10/40 window.
  3. Pray for God to use you to reach these people groups with the gospel.
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About the Author

Bobby Hile is ABWE’s director of long-term mobilization. Prior to that, he served for nine years as a senior pastor in Ohio and for almost 20 years with ABWE as a missionary in South Africa.

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