Ordo Salutis The Order of Salvation Part III

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July 17, 2014 by directorfsm

Regeneration

“…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). (Council of Orange(529 AD): Canon 6)

If you all remember the credit for this series goes to a man asking me what I thought about salvation. He was asking what I thought was the principle “thing” one must have to obtain it and his being completely taken back when I responded Grace and not faith.

Well tonight we explore the third part in our series on the Order of Salvation and we still are not to the point where Faith enters into the equation. Regeneration is still all about God’s great Grace. We will look at three main areas of the subject, what it is (define it), what others have said about it (defend it) and finally we will look at what we should do with this information (declare it).

Regeneration is a theological term used to describe rebirth. When Christ was speaking to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 saying he must be born again. He was referring to regeneration. Christ was explaining that Nicodemus and actually all mankind that it is in dire need of a new beginning a Genesis make over if you will.

Other passages affirm this teaching. Ephesians 2:1-2 notes that unbelievers are “dead in the trespasses and sins” prior to knowing Christ. God’s salvation brings them from death to life Ephesians 2:5-6. Then we come to verse 7 and behold we find: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

It is right there in plain print. We have redemption (rebirth) through His blood according to how well we pray a sinner’s prayer, no that’s not it. According to how well we declare our faith in Christ, no not that either. No it reads according to the riches of his grace. You see it is all about God and nothing about me and you. Then Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” To me at least it cannot get much clearer than that.

But of course there will be some naysayer out there that will yell “that’s just your opinion”. No, I did not write the book; take that argument up with the author. But let’s look at what some scholars say on the subject:

A. A. Hodge (1823-1886) Writing on this matter states: The nature of regeneration is of course variously conceived by different schools, according to their various views of the nature of the soul and its relation to God, of original or habitual sin, and of divine grace.

1. Pelagians, in accordance with their view of freedom and of sin, necessarily regard regeneration as a self-determined change in the general moral course of man’s life, an act of the man himself, without any gracious assistance other than that involved in instruction and favorable providential conditions This was the teaching of Pelagius in the early part of the fifth century; and although not adopted by a historical church, it has been reproduced in various combinations by Rationalists and Socinians.

2. The Semi-Pelagian doctrine taught by John Cassian (d. 440) admits that divine grace (assistentia) is necessary to enable a sinner to return unto God and live, yet holds that, from the nature of the human will, man may first spontaneously, of himself, desire and attempt to choose and obey God. They deny the necessity of prevenient but admit the necessity of co-operative grace and conceive regeneration as the product of this co-operative grace.

3. The Mediaeval and Papal doctrine, which is practically that of Thomas Aquinas, and is hence often called “Thomism,” admits original sin and the necessity of prevenient grace, but places the efficacy of grace in the non-resistance of the subject.11. See the Council of Trent, sess. 6, can. 4, chs. v and vi, and sess 7, cans. 6 and 8. But this grace is supposed to be exercised only through the instrumentality of baptism, which acts as anopus operatum, ex vi actionis ipsius, effecting regeneration and the entire removal of sin, and consequently of guilt, from every infant, and from every adult who does not willfully resist (non ponentibus obicem).22. Council of Trent, sess. 7, can. 6; Bellarmin, De Sacramentis, 2,1.

4. The Arminian view of regeneration admits total depravity and consequent moral impotency, yet holds that man is not really responsible until there is redemptively bestowed upon him for Christ’s sake sufficient grace to re-endow him with ability (gracious, substituted for natural) to do right, which grace becomes efficient when the sinner co-operates with it, and thus effects the end intended.

5. The Synergistic view was held by a party among the Lutherans under the leadership of Melanchthon. At the Leipzig conference (1548) Melanchthon said: “there concur three causes of a good action the word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the human will assenting, not resisting the word of God.”33. Loc. Com., p. 90.

6. The Lutheran standard, the Formula Concordiae, teaches that: (l) human nature is spiritually dead; and (2) the Holy Ghost is the sole efficient agent who quickens the dead soul to life, without the least co-operation of the will of the subject; but the non-regeneration of the unbeliever is referred not to the absence nor to any deficiency of grace, but to the positive resistance of the man himself.44. Formula Concordiae, pp. 662, 666, 582, 677.

7. The Reformed doctrine teaches as follows: (l) As to the nature of regeneration: (a) There are in the soul, besides its several faculties, habits or dispositions, innate or acquired, which lay the foundation for the soul’s exercising its faculties in a particular way. (b) These dispositions (moral) are anterior to moral action, and determine its character as good or evil. (c) In creation God made the dispositions of Adam’s heart holy. (d) In regeneration God recreates the governing dispositions of the regenerated man’s heart holy. Regeneration is therefore essentially the communication of a new spiritual life, and is properly called a “new birth.” (2) As to its efficient cause: It is effected by divine power acting supernaturally and immediately upon the soul, quickening it to spiritual life, and implanting gracious principles of action. (3) As to man’s action: Conversion (conversio actualis) instantly follows, as the change of action consequent upon the change of character, and consists in repentance, faith, holy obedience, etc.55. Thirty-nine Articles, art. 10; Canons of Synod of Dordt, ch. iii, art 3; Westminster Confession, ch. x.

Regeneration According to Tim Challises’ Visual Theology says: God secretly and sovereignly imparts spiritual life to those who have been called.

J.I. Packer widely know Canadian Theologian says: Regeneration is the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His Will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature.

R. C. Sproul, in his book Chosen by God writes: 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.

I think we have defined it well enough. Essentially, regeneration is a change in a man’s condition, from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive.

Ok so now that we have defined it let us look at defending it. By now most of you know I love the writings of a bunch of old dead guys. Most anything from the era of the Puritans, to the late 1800’s I try to read avidly. So today I have chosen to use the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession, one of the earliest Baptist Confessions of Faith in America.

On one of my many internet searches for usable information I came across this confession and was pleased to see that near 200 years ago in this country stood men of sound doctrinal beliefs.

In no uncertain terms, it declares that the Baptists, who developed this Confession, believed that regeneration precedes faith and were not afraid to let everyone know it. Let me quote from section 7, “Of Grace in Regeneration”. {Please note I have chosen to use a few but not all of the original scripture verses to save time, it does not affect their message}

1. We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again

Jn. 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God

Jn. 6-7 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Rev. 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The confession makes it clear they (and I) believe scripture clearly says that only regenerated souls may enter the Kingdom of God. That in order (Ordo Salutis) to be saved one must be regenerated.

2. That regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind

Deut. 30:6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Ez. 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Rom. 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Rom 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us

It case one should wrongly think that this is come “New Testament: thing the confession includes verses from the OT too. How is man regenerated? By the LORD thy God circumcising your heart, that is giving you a new one. For the old heart of man is corrupt and completely incapable apart from God’s grace in calling upon the Lord.

3. That it is affected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth

Jn. 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jn. 3:8 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.

Phil. 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Jam. 1:16-18 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

How are we reborn, of God, of the Spirit, by His and for His good pleasure, it is a gift of God. It is all about God not us.

We can do nothing not even seek God; Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. We are totally unrighteous incapable of a righteous act apart from God; Psalm 143:2Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

4. So as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel

Eph 4:20-24 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Col. 3:9-11 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

1 Pet. 1:22-25 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

1 Jn. 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

     This is a key point which we will explore it in depth next week. Suffice it to say the writers understood that conversion (repentance and faith) is not some automaton act. No those regenerated by God will desire the Gospel.

5. And that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life

Matt 3:8-10 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Matt 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them

Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his

1 Jn 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith

The final thought set forth in 1833 was this, that all regenerated, born again, Christians will bear fruit. They will share the hope that is in them with others. We will explore this more thoroughly when we look at sanctification. For a preview you can look back at our sermon on “Carnal Christians”.

In closing I would like to go back to our scriptures from the Council of Orange who quoting the Apostle Paul said:

1 Cor 4:7 (AMP) For who separates you from the others [as a faction leader]? [Who makes you superior and sets you apart from another, giving you the preeminence?] What have you that was not given to you? If then you received it [from someone], why do you boast as if you had not received [but had gained it by your own efforts]?

1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not [found to be] for nothing (fruitless and without effect). In fact, I worked harder than all of them [the apostles], though it was not really I, but the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God which was with me.

I hope you can see it, the writer’s at the Council of Orange and of the New Hampshire Baptist Confession some 1300 years apart recognized that it is was and always will be all about God. Regeneration the new birth is needed by all and it is solely a gift of God. Man has no part in this; I / we are what we are, of God and by God for His good pleasure and Glory alone. That my friend is the unfeigned truth the message we should be declaring to all.

Next week we will look at Conversion. Until then May God greatly bless you and yours.

In HIS Service

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