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What we Believe







"Regeneration: The Spirit's Work"

"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:8).

The world of religion which calls itself Christian staggers under the influence of a depraved and God dishonoring system which rejects God's sovereign right to operate according to His own pleasure. God in the person of Father, Son, and Spirit act by sovereign right in the salvation of sinners. The operation of the Spirit of God in regeneration is no less a sovereign act than was the Father's election and the Son's redemption of a people.

There are three major heresies taught in our day concerning the subject of regeneration, and I will just mention them rather than dealing with each at length. There is the teaching of baptismal regeneration, regeneration by faith, and gospel regeneration. All three of these ideas use the word "water" of John 3:5 in accord with their own particular brand of doctrine. One of them says it is the substance made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Both of the others refer to it as the preached word of God using Ephesians 5:26 as a proof text. Ephesians 5:26 deals with the continual, ongoing process of the word of God in the lives of believers, but regeneration is a one time only act not a continual process. This is so because our Lord illustrates regeneration as a birth, a one time act, and because "that which is born (is born -- aorist subjunctive mood signifying simple action, not, is being born -- present subjunctive signifying continous or repeated action) of the Spirit is spirit" (Jn. 3:6). Moreover, the apostle Paul's word about regeneration clearly defines regeneration itself as a cleansing or washing act not a result of a cleansing or washing act of the preached word (Titus 3:5).

Our Lord's use of the word "water" refers to the cleansing which takes place when the Spirit Himself breathes spiritual life into the elect of God. This is seen in three ways in the text, and is born out in scriptural accounts of regeneration. First, our KJV Bibles states verse five as though there are two seperate causes in regeneration by the use of the definite article "the" between water and Spirit. This word "the" does not exist in any of the greek texts, even the beloved Textus Receptus so supported by many. It is to be born of water and Spirit, with the first refering to the act or the cleansing itself and the second refering to the one who acts or He who does the cleansing. Second, in regeneration the sinner is passive. It is the Spirit of God who regenerates or cleanses, and the greek form of the verb "is born" is always in the passive voice concerning the one on whom the Spirit acts. Moreover, the sinner on whom the Spirit acts is not only passive but he cannot spiritually see the kingdom (vs. 3) nor can he enter positionally or physically (vs. 5) apart from the new birth happening first. This teaches the total depravity of man. God's Spirit must give spiritual life first before spiritual sight (seeing) or action (entering) is a reality for any sinner. Third, our Lord's own explanation of verse five, given in verse six, reveals that this new birth is wholly of the Spirit. No human agency is used for that which is born of the flesh is flesh. The only means used is the Spirit Himself, who acts sovereignly as illustrated by the wind (vs. 8). The fourth, scriptural accounts of regeneration, I will deal with later.

To say that this text includes water baptism, whether interpreted as the sprinkling of infants or the immersion of believers is exegetical stupidity. Baptism is only for those who already have a good conscience, and it has no spiritual cleansing power (I Pet. 3:21). To say that regeneration must be preceded by faith, simply because Christ spoke of believing in vv. 14-18, or that He explained the way to be regenerated was by believing according to vv. 14-18, is to pass by verse 12 where Christ clearly told Nicodemus he "could not believe" even by being told the truth! To say the gospel regenerates is to deny the clear truth stated that the Spirit regenerates, and man is totally depraved and cannot see being born of the flesh no matter how true and spiritual the message (again note vs. 12). A blind man cannot see no matter how bright the light is before him. A seeing man has sight no matter how dark a room you may put him in, but having sight he begins to see at the first dawning of light, and God always brings the light of the gospel of Christ to the regenerated (seeing) sinner. The seeing sinner will then enter the kingdom positionally in Christ the King, and he will also enter the kingdom physically when Christ returns to this earth.

There is one other opinion to be mentioned before I go to scriptural examples of regeneration. Some teach a Spirit wrought regeneration, but they qualify the time at which He always does this as being when the gospel is being preached. Not only will scriptural examples bear this out as false but our Lord's own words in John three shoots this opinion in the head. Our Lord said the wind blows "where" it listeth or pleaseth. Using this illustration let us note that it is not merely the Spirit blows on "whom" He pleases but even "where" He pleases. That person on whom He has blown will hear the sound thereof or be made to feel its effects, but he cannot tell where it started and where it ends. If the "where" is only under the sound of the gospel, then it could only have begun where the gospel was preached, and being an immediate, one time act of the Spirit it had to there end. Moreover, then all scripture must agree with this! Do the accounts of scripture bear testimony that someone must be preaching when the Spirit regenerates?

When was Rahab the harlot regenerated? Did the spies come into Jericho preaching the glory of God and His promises? No they did not! Did she recieve them into her home hoping to have some "paying customers" only but then they gave testimony to God's glory and she was regenerated and believed? God forbid any suggest such! She recieved them in peace by faith, not in the degredation of hoping to provide them a place to stay and a sexual service (Heb. 11:31). Rahab had already heard about the majesty of God before the spies came to Jericho (Jos. 2:8-11).

Who do you think told her of this? It came by way of the news of the day which had evidently filtered into the city as people came and went. But why did she recieve this news (and even the spies into her home) so differently than the king and others? Everyone's heart melted at the news but her's melted in a way that lead her to seek the grace and mercy of God. Regeneration is the only answer, and it did not take place under someone preaching the word of God.

Who was preaching when the Ethiopian eunuch became interested in the person spoken of in what we now know as the fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah? His interest was genuinely of the Spirit of God because he responded to the message of Philip, but his spiritual desire to know this person came before Philip ever met him. Some may answer that many show an interest in scripture but never believe. While this is true, such an answer manifests a desire to skirt the truth revealed in this account. Who was preaching when Cornelius was regenerated? He was touched by the Spirit with spiritual life (cleansed is the way God put it to Peter in the vision of the lowered sheet, and remember, Christ spoke of being born of water -- that cleansing work of the Spirit) before Peter ever came to see Cornelius. Though he knew some things about God he was yet an uncircumcised Gentile. He was not, as some have suggested, a Jewish prosylite; and even if he were, though not fully initiated by circumcision, who was preaching the gospel to him? some Jewish teacher of the law? Cornelius was so ignorant of the truth of God that he first started to worship Peter when he first came to him!

There are several passages men use to try and support a means used in regeneration other than the Spirit alone, mainly those mentioning the preached word of God or those who are preaching the word of God (cf. I Cor. 4:15; Js. 1:18 etc.). These passages deal with conversion and not regeneration. Moreover, regeneration is not an end in itself, but it happens so that conversion may take place through the truth of the gospel of Christ. One of the major passages which shows this clearly is I Corinthians 2:9-16. There Paul stresses the absolute need of the Spirit of God giving spiritual ability before anyone can know spiritual things which are spoken by men, but even that which men speak concerning spiritual things is taught by the Spirit Himself and not the minister himself. Our Lord Himself also taught the absolute necessity of regeneration in the parable of the seed and the sower found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke's letters. The seed sown does not make good ground. There is no tilling of the soil to make it good ground. It is either good ground or it is not, and the seed merely falls on the good ground and the combination of good seed (the gospel of Christ) and good soil (a regenerated heart) brings lasting fruit (conversion) every time.

Why is it that so many preachers despise this truth? Is it because some make regeneration the end in itself with no need for conversion to follow in every case? No. Is it because they simply do not understand the distinction between regeneration and conversion? In some maybe, but not in all. The reason most despise it is because they want some part in a man's spiritual resurrection from the grave of total depravity. Those who are so bent on trying to have some part will always find some passage they can distort to their own end. Where is the cry of the apostle Paul from preachers in our day? "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase" (I Cor. 3:6,7). Good seed and good water are needful, and they are as much a part of the purpose of God as any other, but neither make the ground good. It is a privelege to plant or water, and God rewards those who do; but God also enables those who do plant or water so there is no boast. Not only must God make good ground but it is He who actually brings the parts together to fulfill His will in the increase.

Many speak about the hatred of men for sovereign grace. Well, speak this truth and you will soon see that men do hate sovereign grace, even many of those who claim to love it and preach it! When God is given ALL THE CREDIT, not in theory only but in reality, in regeneration and conversion then the rebellion of man will rear its ugly head. They will erect a straw man and beat the daylights out of him to make themselves look strong and authoritative. They begen to utter terms intended to harm and discredit the true message of God, hoping to cause fear in their hearers -- terms like "hardshell" or "hyper-calvinist." These terms I will gladly bear from any who reject the sovereign work of the Spirit in regeneration. As some men cry the doctrine of election stifles evangelism even so others, who claim to hold to election, cry that the doctrine of sovereign regeneration stifles evangelism. It is amazing to see one enemy of the gospel use the ways of their own enemies when their own way is layed open as false.

There is nothing more encouraging for the true believer in Christ than to know that there are others out there whom God will give life and they shall hear and believe what we say; but there is also nothing more miserable than to know there are those out there who will hear and believe but then think they must be given life by what we say. As God in the beginning created life by a sovereign act of power, so does God do the same spiritually; and as that life in the beginning was manifested and nourished by means, so does God do the same spiritually, and He is the one by whom all these things consist.

Another thought should be added in closing. If regeneration and conversion always happen at the same time, that is, regeneration first but then conversion immediately follows, then where is the striving to enter in spoken of by our Lord? Where is the counting of the cost spoken of by our Lord? Where is the battle within the soul to lay hold of Christ by faith, throwing off the countless trappings of religion? If both must happen together then there is no "time" for any consideration of truth, for a person is regenerated, he hears, and immediately believes or is converted. While we may not have known it then, for all who are believers now, a battle once ensued within us started by the sovereign Spirit of God. There came a time when the preaching of the gospel of Christ affected us far differently than it ever had before. This was because regeneration had taken place, but we did not immediately bow down to the Lordship of Christ or hope in Him as Saviour. A battle ensued in which we struggled against the opinions of our minds, the self-righteousness of our souls, and the unbelief of our wicked hearts by nature in contrast to the reality of the message which began to grip something within us which was not there before -- a new heart by the Spirit's regeneration. Finally, because of the sovereign power of the Spirit, bringing the message to us in the gospel in much more than word only, we waved the white flag and surrendered to the Lordship of Christ and began to hope in Christ as Saviour. Let all beware of any who "immediately" believe when hearing the gospel preached, for our Lord spoke of these as well in the parable of the seed and the sower, and their believing does not last.

Dear reader, think on these things, and may it be that even if you do not presently receive these truths with gladness concerning regeneration, may it be that the very thing you now reject be the key to your bowing to the truth of God as it is in Christ the Lord. If you are not regenerated (born again) you cannot see it, no matter what arguments I make; but if you are you will not only see it but you will enter into them believing and confessing with Jonah the prophet, "Salvation is of the LORD."

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