Its funny but that often new believers think they really have nothing to offer the church because they are not mature enough yet, they don’t know all the lingo yet, they don’t have all the theology down yet etc. However, I’m convinced new believers have several valuable things to teach us. The reference in 1 Tim. 1.7 that an elder should not be a recent convert has stigmatized the new believer in a far too general of a way. The calling to be an elder is one thing; the calling to be an integral part of the body is something else. As a part of the body, we cannot function properly without our young brethren in the Lord (1 Cor. 12.14ff.).
I have heard countless testimonies and no two are exactly alike. However, usually people either have an overnight, Damascus Road experience or God has grabbed a hold of them in a more subtle way over time . But when authentic regeneration has taken place; joy spills over. They rejoice in their salvation, they rejoice in the fact that they have been forgiven, they rejoice in the freedom from the dominion from sin, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The love of God has gripped their heart and their worship is emotionally rich with grace.
In the passing of times, if religion is not kept up (as the Puritans would say), our hearts can lose sight of these seasons of grace and cold winter chill of complacency can set in. The fresh zeal of the new believer should remind us to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21). It’s a reminder that God does not delight in fake joy (Mt. 15.8), dead religion (Jam. 1.27), or cold hearts (Dt. 28.47). The fresh joy in a new believer can be the kindling for new joy in seasoned believers.
The complexities of theology can and should deepen our faith, yet, if we do not stay vigilant over our hearts, those complexities can cause us to complicate our ability to trust God. New believers may not be exegetically skilled or theologically grounded, but they often remind us of God-glorifying childlike faith. The word says it, they believe it, and that settles it. Textual criticism did not give them this faith, historical theology did not give them this faith, presuppositional apologetics did not give them this faith; the Spirit’s saving work in their heart alone can grant this childlike infallible faith (1 John 2.27). All of the aforementioned studies can be helpful to us in our faith, but nothing can be the final ground of our faith aside from the supernatural presence of God’s Spirit in the heart of any believer (Rom. 8.15-17). As Edwards put it, ‘it is a divine and supernatural light immediately imparted to the soul of man’ (paraphrased).
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love books. My library is filled with volumes of them. Of course those books serve only one central and ultimate purpose— the study of one book. As we grow in grace, we want to increase in our knowledge as well (2 Pet. 3.18). Still, we can stray from the purity of our devotion from our reading, memorizing, and immersion in Scripture by keeping up with all the latest theological works. A new believer is not often even aware that all those works exist; they have the Bible. That is not really a bad thing. Of course, the Bible nowhere teaches a ‘Bible-only’ approach to the Christian life. Still, we would do well not to allow other wonderful books meant to encourage us in our faith to take us away from the book, God’s Word. Not everything in Scripture that refers to spiritual infancy has a negative connotation. Peter tells us, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2.2).
New believers know they don’t know it all. As we grow theologically so can our ego. That is real danger and something that young believers can teach us a lot about. We should always remain teachable. Possibly we will get to the point where we really understand the doctrine of Justification or the ordo salutis (the order of salvation); but failure to remain teachable can have a real erosive effect on our walk with God. Not only is it that other who are simply more astute than we are can come along side of us and teach us something new, but also Scripture itself has a way of granting us fresh insight into God’s word. Connections that we have never seen before, a symmetry in Scripture we have never seen; I believe new found depth, wisdom and truth remains to be discovered by all believers, new and old alike, if we remain teachable and humble (cf. 1 Thess. 2.13).
Finally, new believers can also teach us the principle of divine dependence and our need to be completely dependent on God for all things. A common mistake we make in walking with God is that we develop a prideful self-reliance that fails to recognized just how desperately needy we really are for God’s grace. Young believers know and feel that they are needy. They are needy for fellowship, needy for prayer and needy for time in the word, needy for accountability, needy for encouragement, and needy for the Church. Unfortunately when we progress in our Christian walk we often don’t see our need even for basic spiritual nourishment because we have heard it all so many times. This blind spot tends to cost us and when we have gotten away from dependence, it is to the rudimentary things that we must return since. Just as the Jesus directed the church of Ephesus to return to its first love, independence produces a loveless heart (Rev. 2.4). When we find ourselves in this independent loveless condition, it is to the basic dependence of our original love-faith that we must go.
Remarkably, when we stop and look at things from these 5 perspectives, we come to realize that we stand to gain from our young brothers and sisters as much as they do from us— invaluable lessons for Christian living. When we have eyes to see, God’s wisdom is readily found all around us.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.