Today, in the American professing church we have a wide variety of denominations and beliefs. There is broad mix includes four major groups, which are as follows:Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox,Protestants, and cults. Within these groups it only gets more complex. There are some key questions a person needs to ask oneself. How does one discern which church holds to what was intended by the Messiah? In addition to this, what are the issues over which one needs to separate?And which doctrines are okay to acknowledge within “true Christianity”? After one has established these answers, where does the individual take a firm stance upon what he seeks to see within the church he intends on attending. The doctrine that is being dealt with in this paper concerns the last question being raised. Some of the most major problems that have arisen within the church of America in the last fifty to sixty years are a result of a lack of understanding of Biblical regeneration. This is why this is such a crucial doctrine to understand today.
In this paper it will be my goal to briefly explain what a Biblical understanding of regeneration is. I hope to be able to more clearly display when regeneration takes place in the life of an individual. The latter is the thesis of this paper.
Regeneration, as I see it, is the work of God (alone) raising a spiritually dead person to life, the changing of the heart, the washing of sin, and ultimately the equipping of the person to repent and believe in the gospel.In the following pages I will hope to expound on this statement.
A summary of the major views on the order of salvation concerning “regeneration”.
Before we go into the two views, I would like to clarify that, when speaking of anything concerning the order of salvation, I am not denying that salvation takes place in a moment.But rather, the order of what precedes the other aspects of salvation for the logical working of salvation in the sinner. Dr. Geisler states:
But before we look at the text, a clarification must be made in the question. The word “prior” is not used in a chronological sense, but in a logical sense. For salvation and faith are simultaneous, since one cannot be saved without faith, and faith cannot be present without our being saved. The question is: Which one is logically prior to the other? That is, which one is the logical condition for receiving the other?
Now with this in mind, let us go into the topic at hand. The doctrine of regeneration has two major differing views concerning the order of where it takes place in the Christian. One camp would argue that regeneration takes place as a response of the individual’s repentance and faith in the gospel. Norman Geisler, one the proponents of this view, speaks about this topic in his book, Chosen but Free. In this book, he writes a whole chapter explaining how the view of regeneration prior to faith should be rejected. He states:
Contrary to the claims of extreme Calvinists, there are no verses properly understood that teach regeneration is prior to faith. Instead, it is the uniform pattern of Scripture to place faith logically prior to salvation as a condition for receiving it.Consider the following selection of numerous text on the topic.
He goes on to list passages such as: Romans 3:24-25, 5:1; Luke 13:3; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:6-7,16; Acts 16:31; Titus 3:5-7. He is clear on this, by adding a brief commentary on the passages listed above, that in every case, salvation is through faith and judgment does not come upon those who believe. Because of these passages, Dr. Geisler believes strongly that logically speaking, faith is the first act on man’s part that then initiates the working of God on man to be regenerated.
The other camp sees regeneration as a work of God upon man that enables him/her to then believe in the gospel message given. This camp is often called “Calvinist”. Those who are reformed hold this as a crucial doctrine to understanding “grace” and the good news of the “gospel”. One of the proponents for this views, R.C. Sproul, says:
In regeneration, God changes our hearts. He gives us a new disposition, a new inclination. He plants a desire for Christ in our hearts. We can never trust Christ for our salvation unless we first desire him. This is why we said earlier that regeneration precedes faith.
Contrary to Dr. Geisler, those who hold this view believe that they have the Scriptures weighing in their favor. John Murray argues by stating:
If we think in scriptural terms it is not difficult to insert another step. It is that of regeneration. It, in turn, must be prior to faith. Much controversy turns on this question and into all the angles of that controversy we now enter. Still further, it will not be possible in this chapter to give all the evidences establishing the priority of regeneration.
There seems to be from both camps a confidence that Scripture is backing them strongly on their understanding of the order of salvation. Therefore, the next topic will be to dive into the Scriptures to see which view is truly founded on the Rock.
An exegetical significant overview
In the past section we saw the two major views concerning the order of salvation when dealing with regeneration. Dr. Geisler set out for us a large list of passages that he saw clearly teaching faith prior to regeneration. It is, therefore, important to note that the list given by Geisler is not pertinent to the question at hand.The question at hand was, “is regeneration prior to faith?” But in the list given by Geisler, he is arguing for salvation through faith. This argument is known as a straw man, because the Calvinist camp holds this truth as well. Therefore, the argument that Geisler is arguing is pointless.This is because both views would emphatically agree that salvation is always solely “through faith”. To use passages that teach that God saves “through faith” and state that they clearly mean faith precedes regeneration does not answer our question. This mistake is made, seemingly, by all of the proponents of this camp. Dave Hunt also argues against the doctrine of regeneration preceding faith by saying,
But doesn’t Scripture say that the new birth comes as a result of faith?Paul reminded the Galatians that they were “all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”(Galatians 3:26, emphasis added).Yet White insists that “regeneration must take place first”.
Notice how Hunt uses a passage that is not even talking about regeneration, but rather adoption (“all children of God”). This seems to be the major misunderstanding of Scripture that causes the camp to come to the conclusions they do. Again, both camps would cheerfully agree that adoption proceeds faith. What is needed to prove, from Scripture, the point of view held by Geisler and many others would be passages speaking directly on the topic. That is, that a person believes the gospel and then is “regenerated” not “saved”. The mistake being made by Geisler and many in this camp is lumping aspects of salvation into one big mess. That is to say, justification is not regeneration, nor is sanctification the same as adoption. For, in the quote on page two of this paper, he does use the words “regeneration” and “salvation” interchangeably (the words were italicized to show this). These terms are important to keep distinct, because each term has a unique meaning to understanding the fullness of the gospel and salvation. The purpose in this paper is not defining all of these terms of one being saved.It is rather to explain specifically what regeneration is and when it takes place in the list of: The gospel call, effectual call, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. Therefore, in this section we will look at passages that deal specifically with faith and regeneration, rather than, general passages dealing with salvation through faith.
In the Old Testament, the people of God were promised a New Covenant because of the failure of the people to fulfill the requirements of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant would succeed where the Old never could. The New Covenant is the Covenant by which everyone to whom it is made will truly be saved. One ofthe New Covenant passages that is pertinent to the topic of regeneration being a complete and solo work of God is Ezekiel 36: 24-27 which says:
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you.And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Here, God had just condemned the house of Israel for profaning His name among all the nations. They had failed Him and, because of this, had made a mockery of His name among the whole world. This is because, in this culture, a god of a people would destroy a people like this. But in this case, the God of Israel would be accused of being either toosoft-hearted, or unable to cause His people to honor Him. So in response to all this, God declares that He will do a great work to save His name from being shamed in the nations. He will do such a mighty deed that all the nations will honor His name.So what is this mighty act that God is going to do to “save face”? In this passage God declares that He will make a people who will be set apart for Him alone. They will know and love Him, honor Him as God, and joyfully obey all that He commands. One’s first impression of this passage is usually that God uses the phrase “I will” a lot. This is important because it indicates the list given in the passage is a work of God alone! He is not going to be dependent on the individual for this to take place. For He emphatically says thirteen times that He “will” do this! We know that God does not lie! What He says, He “will” do, He “will” do! He is, indeed, the Great “I AM”. It is also important to note that in the passage there are five times He states that His people “shall” or “will” do certain acts. We as Christians must understand we can be absolutely sure that whatever God says He will do. However for our part we must realize that whatever He says we ‘shall’ and ‘will’ do, we ‘shall’ and ‘will’ do. None of the things listed in this passage are dependent on anyone but God. This is relevant because in this passage one of the things God is talking about is regeneration. From this passage then, we can deduct that regeneration is solely a work of God in which nothing of its work is dependent on anything that man does.
How then does this work of God come about? In Ezekiel 37 we see another passage dealing with regeneration.In this passage, the prophet, Ezekiel, is commanded to preach to “dry bones”. The dryness of the bones is to point the contribution that these bones can do. That is, nothing!You may ask, “what is the point in preaching something to someone who is unable to hear what you are saying?” Not to mention that these bones would be unable to even respond if they could somehow hear the message. Yet, God promises the prophet that He will bring “breath” into these “dry bones” through his preaching and “cause” these “dry bones” to “live”. Here, the raising of the dead and giving of life is not the work of anyone but God!He promises to use the preaching of the prophet to give life to death. An important question should be asked here, “did these dry bones do anything prior to being regenerated? ”The obvious answer to this question is “NO!” Ezekiel 36 and 37 go together to speak of the great work of salvation and, more specifically, regeneration. In both these passages we see how regeneration is completely a solo work of God. In addition to this, we find in Ezekiel 37 thatnothing is done on the recipients side to be regenerated. In other words we have now looked at two passages where faith is nowhere seen to logically cause or precede regeneration. But something else should be pointed out from Ezekiel 37. Take note how the scriptures define man’s condition prior to regeneration. Could the “dry bones” desire to exercise faith in the preaching of the message prior to being made alive?Not only could the “dry bones” not desire to exercise faith, but they couldn’t exercise faith, period. However, because of the work of regeneration these “dry bones” can be commanded and fulfill the commands given to them through the preaching of the word. Because of regeneration taking place these “dry bones” are able to do the impossible. We then find from Ezekiel 37 the necessity of regeneration to precede faith.For if regeneration does not precede faith, faith will be impossible. The Prince of Preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon had this to say on the need for regeneration :
…if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been!I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should have I stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me.I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so…I did not commence my spiritual life-no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit:when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him:there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good…It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him.
Notice the strong language Spurgeon uses to describe the affections of his heart and desires. Spurgeon recognized the great need of regeneration before he could place his faith in Jesus. R.C Sproul uses the historical event of the raising of Lazarus from the dead to equate our deadness prior to the regenerating work of God. He says:
Lazarus was dead, not critically ill or at the point of dying. He was already a corpse and was decomposing. The stench from his rotting body was repugnant to his sister Martha. The miracle of his resurrection was accomplished without means, that is, without balms, medicines, CPR, and so forth. The only power Christ used was the power of His voice. He uttered a command, not a request or an invitation. He made no attempt to woo Lazarus from the tomb. This resurrection was strictly monergistic. Lazarus rendered absolutely no assistance. He was incapable of assisting in any way because he was completely dead.
Sproul is using the language that is found to referring to sinners (spiritually dead) and taking a physical situation to give us understanding in the necessity of regeneration or being born-again for the spiritually dead person to believe. Is this an adequate equivalent? Let’s look at some more passages to discern whether this is an accurate understanding of man prior to regeneration.
In the gospel of John, which is where we see the phrase “born-again” first being used, we come to a passage dealing with spiritual birth. This will give us more light on this topic. John 1:11-13 says:
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name.He gave the right to become children of God.Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
This passage is often used by those who advocate a regeneration proceeding faith, because it says that all who “receive” Him, that is, to “believe” in His name, He gave the right to “become children of God.” Indeed, the passage clearly teaches that one first “believes” and then God gives them the right to become children of God! But then the question, again, must be asked, “is becoming children of God the same as being regenerated?” The answer is, indeed, no. Here the passage is teaching that one places their faith in Jesus Christ, and then God adopts those who believe to be His children. Notice, however, the next verse speaks of being born. Why does John see this as being significant? I believer the obvious answer is, one cannot be adopted as a child unless one is first born. But how does John explain the means to one being born, and what kind of birth is John talking about? The first phrase “not of blood” removes the concept that John is talking about a physical birth. John is speaking about one being “born-again” or born from above.John makes it clear that no one becomes a child of God because he is born of blood. He also makes it clear that it is not because of the “will” of the “flesh” or the “will” of “man”. John is very specific with his words in limiting any possibility of anyone thinking that their being born from above had anything to do with what they did. For someone may have said, “of course I am not a child of God because of my ancestry nor because of the will of my flesh, for that is very wicked, but in my spirit or soul or heart or somewhere in me I desired to be saved and placed my faith in God and so I was born again”. But John says not of “blood” nor of the “will” of the “flesh” nor any part of the “will” of“man”. John clearly states the being born is “of God”.There is nothing else that contributes to this work of one being born-again. So here, John states that though one is a child of God after they have placed their faith in Jesus, they only believe because God has made them alive first. God takes “dry bones” and causes them to be born-again, so that, the bones can believe in the name of Jesus!
But where does John get this idea? Is he original in thinking this?Or had he learned it from His teacher, Jesus? I would argue that John learned this from Jesus’ teachings. We find Jesus speaking to a man about being born-again in John 3. The passage speaks of a Pharisee named Nicodemus coming to Jesus and claiming that he knew that Jesus was a teacher from God because of the signs that Jesus did. Jesus, seemingly, misunderstands what Nicodemus says by responding, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ”What in the world does this have to do with Nicodemus’ statement? I have wondered this many times when reading this passage until I understood what Nicodemus was claiming by his statement. He was claiming to know God and who came from Him and to Him. Jesus responds lovingly that Nicodemus cannot know this, let alone “see” the kingdom of God unless he be born-again. Nicodemus asks an important question, “how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus responds by explaining with what kind of birth He is speaking of by stating:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit.Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’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.
Jesus repeats Himself by saying that someone must be born-again, but he changes it this time to state that one must be born-again to “enter the Kingdom of God”. He says that it must be a birth not of flesh but rather of Spirit. Well, how do I get born of the Spirit? Jesus says that the Spirit goes wherever it wants and it cannot be known where it is going or where it came from. No one can control it for the Spirit “goes wherever it wishes”. Jesus explains that we can know when it has come for we hear its sound, but we cannot manipulate the Spirit to go where we want, nor can we know its plans.No amount of faith can make the Spirit come to you. No amount of prayer can push the Spirit to go somewhere. The Spirit will do whatever it “wishes”. In other words, we have faith because the Spirit has come and not the other way around. We pray not to move the Spirit, but because the Spirit moved in us. The Spirit is the mover, and we are the moved. We do not influence the Spirit, but rather, He influences us! Jesus is telling Nicodemus, if you want to see or enter the Kingdom of God you must be born from above, and the only way that is going to happen is if the Spirit blows your way. This places Nicodemus’ dependence on God completely for salvation. We see here that Jesus is teaching, again, the same concept of being “born-again” or being “regenerated” as we had been seeing the previous passages. Charles Leiter when speaking on this passage says:
Why is it that I am a Christian and my neighbor is not? There are only two possibilities: either the explanation lies in man (“I was more responsive; I was not so hard-hearted; I sought God of my own initiative.”) or the explanation lies in God (“He chose to ‘blow’ by His Spirit, softening my hardened heart and making me responsive to His call.”). The Bible makes it clear that the latter alternative is the correct one: “It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.” In our natural state, “there none who seeks for God. ”But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.”
Over and over again we are seeing a pattern that when dealing with regeneration it has nothing to do with man’s contribution. Like it was stated earlier in the paper, regeneration is “the work of God (alone) . . .” But do any of these passages outright say that regeneration or being born-again precedes faith? In the next passage we will look at a passage dealing specifically with this area.
In the Epistle, I John, John is writing to his “children” in the faith, how they may know they have been born-again. In the letter he lays out some test, so that, they may know whether God has done such a work in them. This is because many false teacher had arisen within the church and caused much confusion and problems and eventually left the church. John says that they (false teachers) left them because they were never of the family of God. How then can they know that they have been born-again? How then can they know if they are God’s children? This is the context into which John is writing this book. One of the first test in knowing whether one has been born of God is in I John 2:29b which says, “you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.” Notice the order and structure of the sentence. John says if someone practices “righteousness” he “has been” (past tense) “born” of God. In this test, both camps would agree that one is first born-again and then he/she practices “righteousness”. No one in the evangelical camp is going to argue that one first must practice righteousness and then he is “born” of God. So in this test, John says if you do righteousness you “have been” past tense” born of Him.The second test is in I John 3:9 which says, “ No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”(Italics added). Again the same order and structure in the sentence. How can I know if I have been born of God? Well, John says that if you don’t make a practice out of sinning then you can know that you have been (past tense) “born” of God. Again, both camps would agree that it is teaching that one is first born of God and then he is no longer able to practice sinning. No one within the Evangelical group is going to argue that by ceasing from a practice of sinning one is “born of God”. The third passage with this type of test is in I John 4:7 which states, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Again, the exact same structure and order in tense where one is first born f God and then is able to love God and know God. No one is going to argue that one first must loves God and knows him before he can be born of God. The order and tense is clear, “has been”. It is because one “has been” born of God that he/she is capable of loving and knowing God. John gives the reader another test in 5:1b where he writes, “and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him.”You may ask, “what is the point Stephen?” or say. “you are beating a dead horse”. But the point is this, in everyone of these test, being “born of God” always precedes the deed or thing being done by the one being “born of God”. This is important when we look at the next text which is from the same book and context in which he writes, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,” (Italics added for emphasis in 5:1a). Did you catch it? The structure of the sentence and order is the exact same. Not only this but also the tense for being born of God is the same. John in writing the saints tells them; you want to know if you “have been” been of God, well if you believe that Jesus is the Christ you have. Just like in every other case, the deed is following being “born of God” so also in this case believing is following the work of God alone, that is, being “born of God”. If one is honest with the text, there can be no other conclusion to come to. John is teaching that belief is a gift from God that comes the one who “has been” born of Him. This being born-again is a much needed work of God, because just like in every other case, the work of God in causing one to be “born of Him” enables the person to be able to “practice righteousness”, cease from “practicing sinning”,“loving” and to “know God”, to “love those born of Him” and to “believe” that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. This is because prior to this work of God no man will ever desire to seek to be saved. The affections of a man’s heart prior to regeneration will do nothing but reject and hate the truth apart from God’s common grace or saving grace. One theologian put it like this:
In Deuteronomy 30:6 we find our spiritual renewal figuratively described as a circumcision of the heart: “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live”Since the heart is the inner core of the person, the passage teaches that God must cleanse us within before we can truly love him.What we would call regeneration is described by Jeremiah in these words:“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”(31:33).
The point is, every man is in utter need of God to show mercy and be gracious, from start to finish, in order that one may be born of God. In the following section of the paper I will go in what I personally believe and why.
A statement of my position and why.
In the past section we dove into some of the primary passages dealing with when and how regeneration works. In this section, I will seek to explain what and why I believe what I do on this topic. I will do so in two ways, first negatively. That is, I will explain why the other view fails or falls short. And I will do so positively, that is, why my view is right.
I believe a doctrine that teaches that being born-again is something we do, when we believe, leads to a false assurance as well as removes the miracle of it. In all the passages we looked at, we saw how regeneration is a work of God. It is God raising the dead. It is God giving a man a new heart that loves Him and His commands. It is God causing the man to obey Him by placing a Spirit within the person, so that, he/she will do so. When one removes this monergistic work of God and places any necessity on man, to that degree they will fail.If God is unable to raise the dead without the man’s permission, then God is unable to raise the dead. If God is unable to change the affections of the man, apart from the cooperative work of man, God is unable to change the affections of man. If we teach that man is able to believe and repent, apart from the working of God prior, then God is no longer needed in what was once taught a miracle, that is, salvation. As a result of this understanding of regeneration being either a cooperative work of God and man or man alone, two things have resulted. One many have come to think wrongly of what faith is. When man has been called to believe on the LORD Jesus Christ,man has come to think that faith is some sort of intellectual ascent to a doctrine. That faith is an agreement to a truth. That faith is walking an aisle, or driving a stake in the ground, or raising the hand, or signing a card. Faith is no longer a reckless abandonment of all one has to chase after his/her one hope, that is, Jesus and His work accomplished on the cross. Faith is no longer letting go of all that one has to grab hold of Jesus. The second danger that flows from this understanding of regeneration is a lowering of the standard/ command of God for salvation. Some have come to see that it is impossible to command men to come follow Jesus and die to self, and have them do it. As a result of being dependant on the man’s cooperation, preachers no longer have the confidence to preach as Jesus did to the rich young ruler. That would certainly be a hard teaching, and too difficult for man to do. Instead, we will encourage men to do something that any man in the flesh can do. That is, say a prayer, or come forward, or stand–up, the list can go on. Any man can do this. It is no miracle nor is it ever the command given by our LORD Jesus when He proclaims the gospel to the lost and dead. Instead, Jesus tells men that, those who are not willing to forsake family, money and self are not worthy to be His disciples. The apostle Paul commands those in Rome to confess that Jesus is LORD in a time where doing so meant having your head chopped off. Because of a misunderstanding of the work of God alone in regeneration, many have lost the confidence that God will save. And so, many have lowered the standard by which one may be saved. This is also why much of the gospel being presented in America is man-centered, rather than Christ-centered. Walter Chantry says:
Much modern preaching is anemic, with the life-blood of God’s nature absent from the message.Evangelists centre their message upon man.Man has sinned and missed a great blessing.If man wants to retrieve his immense loss he must act thus and so.But the Gospel of Christ is very different.It begins with God and His glory.It tells men that they have offended a holy God, who will by no means pass by sin.It reminds sinners that the only hope of salvation is to be found in the grace and power of this same God.Christ’s Gospel sends men to beg pardon of the Holy One.
This type of Gospel is the result of a false teaching on the doctrine of regeneration. Oh the power in the God who saves! Many have forgotten that our God is “mighty to save”. That of all that He calls, none are left missing. But He calls His sheep and they know Him and they follow Him.
This altering of the truth about regeneration for another has been detrimental to the church in America, and it is why we have so many professing Christians. So soon have we forgotten the LORD’s teaching that many are those who are on the road to destruction, but few who those who find and walk on the path to life. Many have forgotten that with man salvation is “impossible” but with God all things are “possible”. Many have forgotten the strength of the LORD’s grace and efficacy, and so, they feel as though they need to prop God up with catchy music, or tear jerking stories, or charismatic speaking, and have ultimately abandoned the preaching of the World.
This is why I hold strong to this teaching concerning regeneration. For fear that I may become useless.
It is here that I will explain why I see my position as correct. First, it promotes a Christ-centered Gospel. In the quote given above we saw how denying regeneration as a monergistic work of God leads to a humanistic gospel, so also, to affirm it, is to promote a Christ-centered Gospel. This is not to say that one who holds to a monergistic regeneration view will preach a Christ-centered Gospel. But rather, an understanding on regeneration encourages and promotes a preaching of the true Gospel. Another reason I hold to this view is because it fits best with what scripture says of regeneration. I have found this view being consistently taught throughout the whole of Scriptures. Lastly, but most importantly, this view promotes a Christ exalting environment. When one see’s how completely dead he/she is, and how much in need they are of God, they will become solely dependant on one person, that is, Jesus Christ and His work, not there faith or anything else. There are more reasons for holding this view but the reader will be able to see most on their own. You will also find, that the blessings that flow from this doctrine are seemingly, endless. Also, because more will be listed off in the practical section of the paper.
Why this doctrine is important practically.
When looking at this doctrine from a practical level, one can see many reasons for why this doctrine matters. Perhaps the most obvious practical outflow of this doctrine is this: Christians will show grace in the way they believe it has been given to them. When one teaches that a person needs to be repentant and place their faith in God prior to Him showing grace, then we will place the same requirement on those around us. Someone may hurt me, or may be in need of money (due to a lack of diligence). Do I require of them to first be repentant and do something to earn or forgiveness or generosity? Is this really how God works with us? Is it faith that prepares us for grace?Or grace that prepares us for faith? I believe that Scripture teaches the latter. Because God did not wait for me, but rather, poured out His unmerited favor, trusting that His grace would change my heart towards Him and my attitude towards sin. Because of this doctrine,I have been freed to give to many, with no reason, other that I have been shown such mercy and grace. And because I believe God will use my mercy and grace towards those to hurt or are in need of me to change them! This, I believe, is the practically out-flowing of a proper understanding of regeneration.
This teaching concerning the regenerating work of God does not sit alone by itself. Indeed, how one understands this doctrine, will effect one’s understanding of many other doctrines. It is here I will lay out a list, albeit, not an exhaustive one. Some of the major doctrines that will be affected are: Anthropology, Theology Proper, Christology, Pneumatology, Soteriology, and Ecclesiology. The list above is a vague one, however, it should be noted that because of the number of doctrines this one doctrine will effect I left the list more broad. For example, in Anthropology one could have a wrong view how lost man is, or what man is capable of and so on. For Theology Proper, one could get God’s aseity wrong, or sovereignty wrong, or omnipotence wrong. When dealing with Christology, one could misunderstand what Christ accomplished on the cross. For Pneumatology one could fail understand the applying work of the Spirit on the lost. There are many obvious reasons for why this would effect the doctrine of salvation. And for ecclesiology, it would affect how the Gospel is preached, and how church discipline should be applied etc. Again, this doctrine on regeneration does not stand alone. It is beautifully weaved with all the doctrines in the Holy Scriptures.
This view will affect my life, ministry, and worldview in so many ways! Some can be found in the section above on application. However, I must say, that studying and learning about this doctrine has change my whole outlook on how I share the Gospel. It has also given me such a new and fresh confidence that is unwavering! Learning about regeneration has changed my whole worldview of how lost man is! How much man is in great need of a compassionate, loving, gracious, patient, forgiving, merciful God. And this study has enabled me to see God as all those thing so much more fuller that I could have ever imagined.
This study has also changed the way I intend on doing ministry. Not only will it affect my style of preaching but how I prepare to preach. It has also affected how I pray. Understanding the more fully the great work of God in regeneration has changed the way I will minister to people with struggles and trials in the Christian walk. The list of how this study will effect and affect my ministry is growing as I continue to reflect on the richness of the grace shown to me!
The learning that had come in studying regeneration has affected spiritual life in a plethora of ways. Again, I learning more and more new things from this doctrine and how it applies to my life. It has greatly impacted my understanding of how God works with His people. And in following, how I should treat His people, as well as those I deal with every day. Grace is an amazing thing that changes the way we live our lives and understanding regeneration is just another way in more fully seeing grace for what it is.
In conclusion, I have presented the major points of views on the topic at hand, as well as, explain my conclusions from my studies. I hope and pray that this paper will be a blessing to those who read it, as much as it has been to me.
Norman L. Geisler, Chosen but Free, 2nd edition, ( Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Publishing House, 1999,2001) pg. 237-238
R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God, (Wheaton, IL.:Tyndale House Publishers, 1986) pg. 235
John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, ( Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955) pg. 85
Dave Hunt, Debating Calvinism, five points two views, ( Sisters, Oregon:Multnomah Publishers, 2004) pg. 282
C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography,(Edinburg: Banner of Truth, 1962) 1:164
R. C. Sproul, What is Reformed Theology?, ( Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Books, 1997) pg. 185
Charles Leiter, Justification and Regeneration, ( Muscle Shoals, AL:Heartcry Missionary Society, 2007) pg. 72
Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved By Grace, (Grand Rapids, MI:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989) pg. 95
Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel Authentic o Synthetic?, ( Carlisle, Pennsylvania:Banner of Truth Trust, 1970) pg. 25