The word ‘travail’ means painful or laborious effort and that is why the term is also used to describe the labor pain that a woman experiences while giving birth. Understanding this parallel between newbirth and rebirth, Paul wrote: ‘My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth ( KJV travail ) until Christ is formed in you … I am perplexed about you.’ ( Galatians 4:19-20) Just as human gestation (the process or period of growth of the fetus inside the womb from the time of conception till birth) takes nine months, so also the process or period of Rebirth takes time, until Christ is formed in us. The period of travail starts from the moment we hear the gospel and ends with our rebirth.
Nature itself gives us insights into the process of rebirth. Just as a single cell zygote (means ‘yoked’) is formed as a result of the union of the male and female gametes, so also the ‘seed of the Word of God’ sown into the ‘womb of our spirit’, be yoked with ‘faith’ to become one entity. ‘The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.’ (Hebrews 4:2) Just as the embryo implants itself firmly on the uterine wall with the help of the placenta, so also the embryonic ‘word and faith’ in us be implanted firmly in the ‘womb of our spirit’. ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth … humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ (James 1:18-21) Just as the embryo (It is called a fetus, only from the end of the second month of pregnancy) is nourished through the umbilical cord, so also the embryonic faith formed in us be nourished through the lifeline of word and prayer. (For this reason Parents need to share the word with their children and pray for their salvation.) ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also … continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ ( 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15) Just as a prominent blood vessel in the embryo begins to take form of a rudimentary heart, so also a ‘heart for God’, begins to take form within us. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) And just as the rudimentary heart within the embryo begins to pulsate miraculously by the third week, so also the impartation of the ‘Spirit of Christ’ causes our hearts to come alive. ‘If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
Have you ever wondered what causes the rudimentary heart within the embryo to pulsate all of a sudden? Modern Science has not been able to explain how the rudimentary heart begins to pulsate by the third week. It will remain a mystery for the world but the Bible gives us some insight into the mystery. Since the heart stops when the spirit leaves the body, the opposite holds true as well i.e, it begins to beat when a spirit (in the context of humans) and a soul (the seat of mind, will and emotions) is given to the embryo – (That is why abortion even at an earlier stage of pregnancy is foeticide and they will be held accountable to God.)
Being born again is a profound mystery and the greatest miracle. Don’t assume it happened because you were born a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You have to be born again!'” ( John 3:6-7) The travail of rebirth that I experienced, started in 1986 and lasted seven years until I was born again in 1993. ( To access my testimony, please visit my website http://teachingofchrist.in and read the article titled: ‘My testimony: A case study’, under the main Menu.) It might not be the same timeframe for everyone but invariably there is a process of rebirth that everyone will go through and a period of time associated with it, from their first encounter with God till the time they are born again. Though the disciples had met Jesus, three and a half years back, it was only after his resurrection, that their lives were transformed, when they received the Holy Spirit. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22) The parable of the sower doesn’t say that irrespective of where the seed fell, it was fruitful. “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word, understands it and produce a crop …” ( Matthew 13 : 23 ) Since the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence in us, he cannot come into hearts where the Gospel has fallen by the wayside or on rocky ground or among thorns. He waits for the heart to be ready to receive him once for all.
This message might not seem relevant to you now but in the light of what is to come, it is imperative because your Rebirth will decide whether you will be Raptured or left behind! “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) Over the years I have often asked people, “Did you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, having heard the gospel?” Almost all hands go up! I should have rather asked, “How many times have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?” But my next question makes them uneasy! “Did you experience rebirth, having accepted Christ?” Many hands that were lifted up, go down because they are not sure of their Rebirth. And if I asked those who claim to be born again : “Did you receive the baptism of the Spirit, having been born again?” Even the rest of the hands that were lifted up, go down. It is a fallacy to think that everyone invariably receives the Holy Spirit by default, immediately after they are baptized in water. There are many in the Church, like Simon the Sorcerer, who believed and was baptized. But when he came before the Apostle Peter, to receive the gift of the Spirit, he was told : “You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent … for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:21- 23)
So here is a believer who did everything but repent ! And there are plenty of them like him in the Church, who have been baptized in water, without having gone through the process of rebirth, because they were hurried through the process by those who were eager baptize them in water so that they could boast of the numbers. They were told that water baptism would solve all their problems and therefore they were glad to receive it, as if it were their ticket to heaven! If you have read my write ups in the born again series, you might have noted that I have put water baptism in its right context, stating that salvation is only by faith and not by works. Works include even water baptism, taken either as a child or as an adult because without having believed, it is a meaningless ritual that cannot save. It is essentially an outward expression of an inward experience and therefore should be rightly called Believer’s baptism! No matter whatever it is called or however it is done, the bottom line will remain the same: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” ( Acts 16:31) Amen.