By Pastor Glenn Pease
Can dead people have babies? If you think not, you have not kept up on modern technology in baby making. They can now freeze human embryos in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of 321 degrees below zero and keep them for up to 600 years, and then implant them in a woman, and she will have a baby. It might be difficult for this child to explain that his biological mother and father died over half a millennium ago, and how it could be that he was 600 years old the day he was born. This is not science fiction, for there are thousands of these frozen embryos waiting to be implanted.
In Paris a man knew he was dying of cancer and so he had some of his sperm frozen. He did die but failed to leave in his will what he wanted done with his sperm, and so his wife had to go to court. She did win the right to use his sperm to get pregnant, and she had his baby after he was dead. But what happens to frozen embryos when both parents die? This has happened and there are orphan embryos. In 1984 the Queen Victoria Medical Center in Melbourne, Australia learned of the death of both parents of two of the frozen embryos they had in storage. They left an estate of one million dollars. Right to life lawyers claimed that the embryos had rights to the estate. They had another son who had to go to court to pursue his rights. This just illustrates the complexities involved in trying to have babies after you are dead.
In the spiritual realm it has always been possible to have babies after you are dead. The Apostle Paul gave birth to many new babies for the kingdom of God in his lifetime, but he has given birth to millions more after his death. He put the Gospel he preached into writing and by means of the printed word the seed he sewed in life has been penetrated millions of minds after his death, and has led to the new birth all over the world, and all through history.
There is no question about it being possible to have babies for the kingdom of God after death, but there are complications in these births quite often. They are the same complications that Paul experienced in winning people to Christ when he was alive. Acts 17 reveals clearly some of the complications of spiritual childbirth. We want to focus on these so that we are not surprised if we experience the same complications in bringing new babies into the family of God. The first complication we see is-
I. JEALOUSY ON THE PART OF THOSE WHO DO NOT BELIEVE.
Fertility and virility not only lead to new life, but they lead to hostility which aims at bringing about sterility, and a ceasing of this production of new life. In other words, forced birth control is their goal. Verse 5 says that the Jews were jealous of Paul's success. It is one of the paradoxes of success that it will lead to opposition. It is almost impossible to lead someone to believe in Christ without offending those who do not believe.
You will note that verse 4 describes the converts of Paul. It says that some were Jews, and a large number of God fearing Greeks, and not a few were prominent women. These women had prominent husbands, and the implication is that they were not all that eager to give up their views, especially since they probably got where they were by holding those views. Paul's success with the Gospel was eroding a monopoly, and people who have a monopoly cannot stand anyone who threatens it, so it leads to conflict.
If you have a religious family with 7 children, all of whom are active in their church, and you persuade one of those children to follow another persuasion you will likely bring down the wrath of the whole family upon you because you have broken up the monopoly. This is true for any family, or any group of a common persuasion. This is one of the most common complexities in spiritual childbirth. You offend the physical family when you bring them into the spiritual family of God. Your success will lead to jealously, and jealously is a powerful negative motivation.
The Jews were so jealous that even though they were religious men they stooped to using the lowest characters in town to form a mob and start a riot in the city. In a mob spirit Jesus was crucified, and this has been the case every since. A mob can murder and nobody has to feel all that guilty because it was not him or me, but they who did the murder. Paul knew the dangers of religious anger for he had it himself before his conversion. He knew you cannot reason with kind of anger, and so he skipped town in the night.
The point is, there is not only the pains of childbirth that one has to endure to bring a new babe into the kingdom of God, there is the after pains of complications. Not only did Paul suffer as the mother-father of these new children of God, but they had to suffer as well. Jason and some other new Christians had to suffer. His house was searched without a warrant, and he was hauled off to court and had to post a bond to go free. We do not know what other legal complications he had to endure just for being hospitable to Paul, but he was not alone. When Paul wrote to them he made it clear that he knew they had to suffer.
Listen to how Paul writes to these people in I Thess. 1:6: "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering." In 2:2 he writes, "..We dare to tell you the Gospel in spite of strong opposition." Paul makes it clear in his first letter to these people that they were like his family of children, and because they were suffering so much trial in their faith they needed both the mother and father to help them. Paul was both and he says in 2:7, "..we were gentle among you like a mother caring for her little children." Four verse later he takes on the other parental role and says in 2:11, "..we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God.."
What we see here is that the complexities of the new birth calls for discipleship. You cannot just have babies for the kingdom of God, and then walk away and let them survive on their own. They come into a world of suffering with all kinds of trials and opposition. They need to be nurtured and helped along so they can survive. Many a baby has died without ever growing up, and this is true in the kingdom of God as well. They are born healthy, but they are not cared for. They are allowed to be taken into a terrible environment where they will be strangled for lack of nourishment.
Paul says that he played both mother and father to these Thessalonians to make sure they survived the complications of living in a very unhealthy environment where they were made to suffer at the hands of jealous Jews and hired hoodlums. Paul had no illusions about the battle to give birth and then to keep these new babies alive so they could become mature Christians. He knew it was just like being parents back in the days of the great smallpox epidemics. It was an endless struggle to try and keep your babies alive.
Paul never promised his converts a rose garden. He promised a fight for survival. He writes in I Thess. 3:4-5, "..when we were with you, we kept telling you that you would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the temper might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless."
Mothers and fathers who worry about their children do not need to worry that their worry is wrong. It is biblical to worry about the state of, and the fate of, your children. Paul was a nervous wreck until he knew if his babies were surviving their persecution. Not to care about your babies is to be an unfit parent. Paul could not stand it until he knew his new babies were okay. When Timothy brought the good news that they were firm in their faith and love, Paul was in a state of great joy and thanksgiving. The point of all this is, there is a price to pay to have a baby, and there is a price to pay to have a baby for the kingdom of God. It is not all fun and games. Mary and Joseph had the perfect child, but their lives became extremely complex because of it, and they had much anxiety. A child that brings no complexities into life is in a non-existent category.
I looked at a book on the complexities that can happen in childbirth and I was amazed at how many things can go wrong. It was a book of over 1500 pages on the defects and disorders than an infant can have. When we go to the New Testament and check out the new birth we see there are many parallels. New babes in Christ can have all kinds of developmental problems. The Corinthians were especially immature. The Thessalonians were in need of special instructions, for they were different. Each of the babies of Paul were unique and needed individual instruction. That is why each of his letters deals with different needs. They had many common problems, but each had their unique problems that he had to deal with. Each church was just like each child in a family. They may be alike in many ways, but each will also be very different. It was the same Gospel seed he sowed everywhere, but it led to varied results, just as mothers and fathers can have any number of children, and yet they will be radically different.
Paul had to take three weeks of persuasion with the Thessalonians to see results, but in Berea they were eager to search the Scripture to see if what he said was true, and they became Christians in a short time. Some babies come easy and other call for hard labor. People come to Christ in a variety of ways and this can lead to complications in the church. George Morris in his book The Mystery And Meaning Of Christian Conversion tells of being at a conference where a friend was leading a discussion on Christian experience. A lady was getting restless and was questioning the man's own conversion because he was not using the magic words of her church background. Finally she stood and asked, "I want to know one thing-are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?"
This was not the terminology used in his background, and so he responded like this: "I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I know he has forgiven me. I love him with all my heart and I have pledged to follow him always." The lady was not satisfied and repeated her question, "Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?" The leader kindly repeated his answer. With that the sister stormed out of the room and refused to attend any more sessions, and she tried to get others to boycott his sessions. Here was a Christian in arrested development. She had been taught that there is only one way to describe the experience of being born into the kingdom of God. If you could not repeat the magic formula you were not an authentic Christian.
This was a complexity that Paul had to deal with as the Judaisers followed him and tried to get his converts to swallow a formula which was legalistic and narrow, and included the necessity for circumcision to be considered an authentic Christian. They were Christians in arrested development, and could not escape from their legalistic background. It is important that we see that the new birth has various ways of happening just as physical birth does. A hippy type person was asked if he was a drop out and he said, "No, I was born caesarian." People come into the world in different ways and also into the kingdom in different ways, even though all come through Christ who is the only way.
Great minds recognize the validity of variety in the new birth. Jonathan Edwards is considered by many to be the greatest mind America ever produced. He stressed the variety of ways that God works in leading people to Himself. This was the conviction of Finney, Moody, Spurgeon, and the great soul winners of history. Moody went so far as to say that God never repeats Himself, but approaches all people in a unique way. We need to eliminate the complexities within the body of Christ by recognizing that if people claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we need not be concerned about the ways they came to that commitment to enter the kingdom.
Evangelism can be complicated, for some babies are stillborn, and some of them never grow up. Some develop spiritual colic and all they do is cry about one thing and another. Some grow so slow that they remain mostly worldly and immature, and are an embarrassment to the parents. This leads to discouragement and so many Christians decide they would rather remain childless and not have to deal with all the complexities of have babies for Jesus. The result is they never try to share the Gospel with anyone.
This is living in disobedience to the command of Christ to go into all the world and make disciples. We all have an obligation to take on the complexities involved in bringing new babies into the family of God. It can be costly, time consuming, and painful, but it is the only way we can be obedient to our Lord. The cost of neglecting evangelism will be far greater than the cost of obedience to Jesus. So let us be about the business we have looked at in these three messages. Let us
And seek to have babies for Jesus.