What is Regeneration?

Regeneration:

1. What is regeneration?
Regeneration is an immediate re-creation of the sinful nature by God the Holy Spirit and an implanting into the body of Christ.

2. Is it a judicial or a re-creating act?
The latter. In regeneration the condition and not the state of man is changed.

3. Does regeneration occur in the consciousness or below the consciousness?
Below the consciousness. It is totally independent from what occurs in the consciousness. It can therefore be effected where the consciousness slumbers.

4. Is regeneration a slow process or an instantaneous action?
It is an instantaneous action that is the basis for a long development in grace.

5. Is regeneration concerned with the removal of the old or the enlivening of the new?
Regeneration includes both. However, one can rightly maintain that the latter has prominence.

6. Is regeneration a mediate or an immediate act of God?
It is immediate in the strict sense. No instrument is employed for it.

– Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics)

“Regeneration is an act by God to awaken spiritual life within us – bringing us from spiritual death to spiritual life. On this definition, it is natural to understand that regeneration comes before saving faith. It is in fact this work of God that gives us the spiritual ability to respond to God in faith. However, when we say that it comes “before” saving faith, it is important to remember that they usually come so close together that it will ordinarily seem to us that they are happening at the same time. As God addresses the effective call of the gospel to us, he regenerates us and we respond in faith and repentance to this call. So from our perspective it is hard to tell any difference in time, especially because regeneration is a spiritual work that we cannot perceive with our eyes or even understand with our minds.

Yet there are several passages that tell us that this secret, hidden work of God in our spirits does in fact come before we respond to God in saving faith (though often it may be only seconds before we respond). When talking about regeneration with Nicodemus, Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Now we enter the kingdom of God when we become Christians at conversion. But Jesus says that we have to be born “of the Spirit” before we can do that. Our inability to come to Christ on our own, without an initial work of God within us, is also emphasized when Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” p 703 (John 6:44), and “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65). This inward act of regeneration is described beautifully when Luke says of Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). First the Lord opened her heart, then she was able to give heed to Paul’s preaching and to respond in faith.

By contrast, Paul tells us, “The man without the Spirit (literally, the “natural man”) does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14 NIV). He also says of people apart from Christ, “no one understands, No one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11).

The solution to this spiritual deadness and inability to respond only comes when God gives us new life within. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4–5). Paul also says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ” (Col. 2:13 NIV).”

– Grudem, W.A., 2004. Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine, Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Regeneration Is Monergistic

This excerpt is adapted from Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (original source here).

There may be no truth in the Bible more deeply loved and greatly cherished than the subject of the new birth. Here is the grace-centered message of a new beginning for those whose lives have been ruined by sin. Here is the life-changing truth that sinful men can be made new. When the new birth is caused by God, old things pass away—old practices, old cravings, old habits, old addictions, and old associations. Behold, new things come—new desires, new pursuits, and new passions. An entirely new life begins. Nothing could be more positive than this. It is no wonder that the truth of the new birth is so beloved.

Yet despite its great appeal, the new birth may be the most misunderstood doctrine in Scripture. Most people naively imagine that there is something they can do to cause themselves to be born again. They hear a well-meaning person say, “Believe and be born again,” and suppose that they can. So they try to effect their own regeneration. But this they cannot do. In attempting it, they are like someone who imagines he caused himself to be born physically. Did he meet with his parents and ask to be born? Did he initiate his own birth? Of course not. The truth is, the initiative in birth lies outside of the one being born. He is merely part of a process that started long before he came into being. His parents acted, then God acted. And as a result, that individual was brought into the world. He did not cause his own birth to happen.

The same is true regarding spiritual birth. If you have experienced the new birth, it is not because you initiated it. Rather, it was an event that God brought about in you. More specifically, you were not born again because you exercised faith. In truth, the new birth preceded your faith and produced it. Saving faith is the fruit of regeneration, not the root of it. The biblically correct order of salvation—known in theological language as the ordo salutis—is not “Believe and be born again,” but the very opposite: “Be born again and believe.” The living God must act upon the spiritually dead soul and cause it to be born again. The new birth is by divine choice and sovereign initiative. God’s will affects the human will, not vice versa. Scripture intentionally uses the imagery of birth to underscore this essential truth of the sovereignty of God in regeneration.

John Murray, one of the foremost theologians of the twentieth century, affirmed the divine initiative in the new birth when he wrote:

“For entrance into the kingdom of God we are wholly dependent upon the action of the Holy Spirit, an action … which is compared to that on the part of our parents by which we were born into the world. We are as dependent upon the Holy Spirit as we are upon the action of our parents in connection with our natural birth. We were not begotten by our father because we decided to be. And we were not born of our mother because we decided to be. We were simply begotten and we were born. We did not decide to be born…. If this privilege is ours it is because the Holy Spirit willed it and here all rests upon the Holy Spirit’s decision and action. He begets or bears when and where He pleases.”

Murray goes on to write, “Regeneration is the act of God and of God alone.” In other words, regeneration is monergistic, meaning that “the grace of God is the only efficient cause in beginning and effecting conversion.” The key word here is only. God is the only cause behind the new birth. The opposite of monergism is synergism.

This latter word is derived from the Greek word synergos, meaning “working together.” According to the theory of synergistic regeneration, both the divine and human wills are active, and each must cooperate with the other. But what does the Scripture teach?

According to James 1:18, “Of his own will he brought us forth”—an unmistakably monergistic statement. John 1:12–13 reads, “All who did receive him, who believed in his name … were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This view of the new birth could not be more monergistic. John 3:8 says, “‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’” Man does not effect the movement of the Spirit—God does. First Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Clearly, regeneration is monergistic, the activity of only one will—namely, the divine will.

In the latter epistles of the New Testament, this truth of regeneration appears with intentional regularity (James 1:18; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18). This is a fundamental teaching within the doctrines of grace. It reveals that God must implant new life within your soul. God must effect a spiritual conception within you. God must impregnate your heart. In short, God must cause you to be born again.

Effectual Calling and Regeneration

lloyd-jonesFrom Great Doctrines of the Bible: God the Father, I would remind you that I am not insisting that the order which I shall follow is of necessity the right one, and certainly not of necessity the chronological one.

‘So how do you arrive at your order?’ asks someone. My answer is that I mainly try to conceive of this work going on within us from the standpoint of God in eternity looking down upon men and women in sin. That is the way that appeals to me most of all; it is the way that I find most helpful. That is not to detract in any way from experience or the experiential standpoint. Some would emphasise that and would have their order according to experience, but I happen to be one of those people who is not content merely with experience. I want to know something about that experience; I want to know what I am experiencing and I want to know why I am experiencing it and how it has come about. It is the child who is content merely with enjoying the experience. If we are to grow in grace and to go forward and exercise our senses, as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews puts it (Heb. 5:14), then we must of necessity ask certain questions and be anxious to know how the things that have happened to us really have come to take place.

My approach therefore is this: there is the truth of the gospel, and we have seen already that it is a part of the work of the Holy Spirit to see that that truth is proclaimed to all and sundry. That is what we called the general call — a kind of universal offer of the gospel. Then we saw that though the external or general call comes to all, to those who will remain unsaved as well as to those who are saved, obviously some new distinction comes in, because some are saved by it. So the question we must now consider is: What is it that establishes the difference between the two groups?

And the way to answer that question, it seems to me, is to say that the call of the gospel, which has been given to all, is effectual only in some. Now there is a portion of Scripture which is a perfect illustration of this. The followers of Christ who were even described as ‘disciples’ were divided up into two groups. One group decided that they would never listen to Him again. They left Him and went home. And when He turned to the others and said, ‘Will ye also go away?’ Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the word of eternal life’ ( John 6:67–68 ). The one group disbelieved and went home, the others, who had heard exactly the same things, stayed with Him, wanted to hear more, and rejoiced in it. What makes the difference? It is that the word was effectual in the case of the saved in a way that it was not effectual in the case of the unsaved who refused it.

This, then, is something that is quite obvious. We can say that in addition to the external call there is this effectual call, and that what makes anybody a saved person and a true Christian is that the call of the gospel has come effectually. Let me give you some scriptures that establish that. The first, Romans 8:28–39 , is a great statement of this very thing. ‘We know,’ says Paul, ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God … ’ Not to everybody but ‘ to them that love God ’. Who are they? ‘To them who are called according to his purpose,’ and Paul goes on: ‘For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’ The saved are described as those who are called . And they have been called in a way that the others have not. That is, therefore, a scriptural statement of this effectual call. Continue reading

Seeking

sproul2_0R. C. Sproul:

We have all heard evangelists quote from Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). Usually the evangelist applies this text as an appeal to the unconverted, saying: “Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. If you open the door, then He will come in.” In the original saying, however, Jesus directed His remarks to the church. It was not an evangelistic appeal.

So what? The point is that seeking is something that unbelievers do not do on their own. The unbeliever will not seek. The unbeliever will not knock. Seeking is the business of believers. Jonathan Edwards said, “The seeking of the Kingdom of God is the chief business of the Christian life.” Seeking is the result of faith, not the cause of it.

When we are converted to Christ, we use language of discovery to express our conversion. We speak of finding Christ. We may have bumper stickers that read, “I Found It.” These statements are indeed true. The irony is this: Once we have found Christ it is not the end of our seeking but the beginning. Usually, when we find what we are looking for, it signals the end of our searching. But when we “find” Christ, it is the beginning of our search.

The Christian life begins at conversion; it does not end where it begins. It grows; it moves from faith to faith, from grace to grace, from life to life. This movement of growth is prodded by continual seeking after God.

In your spiritual walk, are you moving from faith to faith, from grace to grace, from life to life? Are you continually seeking after God?

Justification & Regeneration

Justification and Regeneration by Charles Leiter

In that a book well worth reading is now available to listen to on youtube (in various “bite sized” sections), how about we go through it together, one video at a time?

I think its a good idea.

Why?

Because it is an excellent book and very much worthy of our time.

Here’s the introduction, foreword (written by Paul Washer) and preface, narrated by Mike Lykins:

Come back on Monday for the next section in the series.

Regeneration and Faith

Gordon%20H%20ClarkGordon H. Clark, “God’s Hammer: The Bible and its Critics” pg.20-23:

When Adam fell, the human race became, not stupid so that the truth was hard to understand, but inimical, to the acceptance of the truth. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge and changed the truth of God into a lie, for the carnal mind is enmity against God. Hence the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, for the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned. In order to accept the Gospel, therefore, it is necessary to be born again. The abnormal, depraved intellect must be remade by the Holy Spirit; the enemy must be made a friend. This is the work of regeneration, and the heart of stone can be taken away and a heart of flesh can be given only by God himself. Resurrecting the man who is dead in sin and giving him a new life, far from being a human achievement, requires nothing less then almighty power.

It is therefore impossible by argument or preaching alone to cause anyone to believe the Bible. Only God can cause such belief. At the same time, this does not mean that argument is useless. Peter tells us, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” This was the constant practice of the apostles. Stephen disputed with the Libertines; the Jerusalem council disputed; in Ephesus Paul disputed three months in the synagogue and then continued disputing in the school of Tyrannus. (Acts 6:9; 15:7; 19:8,9: compare Acts 17:2; 18:4, 19; 24:25). Anyone who is unwilling to argue, dispute, and reason is disloyal to his Christian duty. Continue reading

Physical Birth – Spiritual Birth

your situation, your sex or your country?

No, you did not. Your parents (by their activity alone) made the choice to cause your birth.

Spiritual birth: What was it that triggered the new birth?

The Apostle John lists three things that were non factors:

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

1. It was NOT because of blood (not because of human ancestry).
2. It was NOT because of the will of the flesh.
3. It was NOT because of human will.

Question: So what caused the new birth?

Answer: GOD!

God did it! The new birth is the work of God alone, all of grace.

Man’s Natural Inability

no-abilityJohn 3:

Nicodemus:2 ‘We know that you are a teacher having come from God. For no one is able [dunatai] to do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’

Jesus:3 ‘Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot [dunatai] see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus:4 ‘How can [dunatai] a man be born when he is old old? Can [dunatai] he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’

Jesus:5 ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot [dunatai] enter the kingdom of God. . . . The wind blows where it wishes…’

Nicodemus:9 ‘How can [dunatai] these things be?’

* * * * *

John 6:44
Jesus: No one can [dunatai] come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

65 Jesus: And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can [dunatai] come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

* * * * *

Romans 8:
Paul: 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot [dunatai]. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot [dunatai] please God.

* * * * *

1 Cor 2:
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able [dunatai] to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

* * * * *

In contrast:

1 John 5:1: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.”

Comment: In the original Greek, the verb tenses in this verse are very revealing. A literal translation reads as follows: “All the ones going on believing (pisteuon, a present tense, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect tense – an action already complete with abiding effects) of God.”

The fact that someone is presently going on believing in Christ shows that they have first been born again. Faith is the evidence of regeneration, not the cause of it. Since both repentance and faith are possible only because of the work of God (regeneration), both are called the gift of God in Scripture (Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim 2:24-26).

God’s Role in Regeneration

The new birth is necessary and in fact vital before a sinner can enter God’s kingdom. Unless he is first born again he can in no way enter the kingdom of God. However, in making this very clear, Jesus does not then provide a “hot to” list for Nicodemus to become born again. This new birth is impossible to achieve, humanly speaking, and requires an act of God without any human merit, will or cooperation. Yet most of the Church in our day, though very familar with the John chapter 3 passage, has missed this essential point completely, and even devise entire evangelistic strategies and outreaches instructing people to “pray a prayer” so that they might be “born again.”

Dr. John Macarthur, in a teaching series on the Gospel of John, exposes popular falsehoods and informs us as to the true teaching of Jesus in John chapter 3, verses 1-10: