Spiritual Birthline, Understanding How We Experience the New Birth

Here is a good book that you will want to read for personal edification, to help people understand the order of the salvation process, as well as how to help others understand the entire spiritual birthline sequence.

Stephen Smallman has given us a worthwhile book that is easy to read, full of life-oriented stories and testimonies and a clear exposition of salvation. You will find this to be a good resource tool to use in discipling both youth and adults. Because God gives us these truths in his Word, it is obvious that he wants us to understand the process and nature of the new birth and conversion. He uses the metaphor of a midwife to talk about our role in helping or assisting in the spiritual birth as midwife does in a physical birth.

In the forward, Charles W. Colson writes, “Unless we understand true conversion in terms of the work of the Spirit, we will continue this sin of presumption and nominal Christians will continue to fill our pews.” He continues, “My friend Steve Smallman has written an important book that explains the link between the work of the Spirit and the conversion experience.” I underscore his comments.

Not only is there much solid biblical and theological truth in this book, but he uses people that he has known whom the Holy Spirit has brought to spiritual birth to make those truths understandable. He says almost all the stories and testimonies deal with people he knows or has known in his ministry. Stories like Kathy, a professional in Washington DC who contracted AIDS and how God worked in her life between the time of her diagnosis and her going to heaven. Or Mr. U. born into a Punjabi/Hindu family and how God gave him a new birth in Christ.

I especially appreciate the inclusion of the stories of Steve’s family and their testimonies. When asked why he didn’t include himself, he responded that the entire book was his pilgrimage from being born again and coming to an understanding of his spiritual birthline. In chapter two, Smallman sets forth in narrative and graphics the spiritual birthline process, comparing the spiritual birth to the sequence of physical birth. While there are specific events to which we can point to in our spiritual development, it is clearly a process, as is physical pregnancy.

At one point Smallman writes, “the issue therefore is not the objective truth of Scripture or our experience. It is learning to understand the truth of Scripture in order to understand our experience and that of others.” That is the focus that we appreciate so much in this book. It places things in their proper order and focus on God, not so much on us, though we are very much a part of the process of salvation.

In faithfulness to God’s Word, Smallman makes it clear that just as the case with pregnancy, the moment at which we start the birthline is a mystery. It can begin very early in a person’s life, or as with Mr. U., later in life. While we do and must continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to work in our children’s lives early on, the timing is the Holy Spirit’s. The brief section, “Do our children need to be converted?” answers an often-asked question to those involved in family and children’s ministry. I also appreciate Smallman’s emphasis on the Kingdom of God and living for the King.

This is an easy read but full of great truth. You can read it, teach yours and other covenant children, and be comfortable passing it on to other adults.

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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