devotional

30MAY
2012

Thank God for Regeneration

 

           Regeneration is another word for the new birth. I believe that regeneration is best described in John 3:8 when Jesus says that it’s like the wind. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

           There are three analogies drawn for us in Scripture that encapsulate the origin of all that we commonly call salvation. A new birth (John 3:3) a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and a resurrection (Ephesians 2:6). Think out these analogies for a moment. In each instance it is simple childlike logic that informs us of our complete passivity. We are not active in our regeneration; we are un-born, un-created, or dead people. What can un-born babies do? What can un-created things do? What can dead people do? We contribute in no way. Regeneration is monergistic. It is the work of God alone. It is the gracious work of a loving God poured out upon all those that He fully intends to one day glorify, Romans 8:29-30. Once given, the new birth will, without exception, produce godly living that endures to the end. The fact that God alone saves is the only levelheaded explanation for the existence of the faithful, Romans 9:29. Men are so wicked. Why did anyone ever believe? Answer: God. The Council of Orange (A.D. 529) wrote the following in canon 6:

 

If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). 

          They wrote these canons on a firm Biblical conviction regarding the extent of the fall of man in Adam. Salvation is not possible by the will of man! No one wants righteousness, Romans 3:9-18. The majority of people in the visible church today, however, do not believe as the writers of Orange did. Orange condemned as heresy what most Evangelicals believe today.

          Regeneration is a secret work of God wrought in the heart. It alone is what makes us willing and able to believe the gospel when it’s preached. Hence: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3. What it often appears as is that we 1) hear the gospel, 2) believe, and then 3) are born again. Sound Biblical counsel, however, does not teach this. Rather, it informs us that 1) we are born again, 2) we hear the gospel, and then 3) because we’re alive, we believe. This is often imperceptible to us, but it is a Biblical surety. This is why we confess that salvation is totally a gift of un-merited grace. God chose His elect as no respecter of persons, or without regard to their future works, Romans 9:11. It is not of our will, John 1:13.

          Here’s where I think people get confused: They think that because we affirm these things that we’re saying that people do not “willingly” believe. That’s not correct. What we’re affirming is that men are dead in sin and so, before they can believe, they must be given life. What we confess when we affirm that the new birth is a monergistic gift to the elect is that they are made willing by it. They believe willingly because they’re regenerated. It is not that their belief then “makes perfect” their salvation or completes it, but God does not enact one without bringing the other to pass in and by us. Our profession and subsequent fruits are our assurance of justification. Here is a perfect articulation of this all-wonderful truth (see Philippians 2:13) as articulated in the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, section 10.1:

 

Those whom God has predestinated to life, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time to effectually call by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death which they are in by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. He enlightens their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God. He takes away their heart of stone and gives to them a heart of flesh. He renews their wills, and by His almighty power, causes them to desire and pursue that which is good. He effectually draws them to Jesus Christ, yet in such a way that they come absolutely freely, being made willing by His grace. 

          Christians are raised to life like Lazarus. They’re most willing. They want to repent and to seek after Jesus. No one will ever enter heaven who did not want to. They will to repent, to believe and to seek after Christ. The fact that they are found, however, they dare not arrogate to any decisions made within themselves, John 6:65. Their trust and striving for holiness is based on an emphatic hope from the promise, “…of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.

 

Sola gratia!

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