Monday, February 16, 2009

THE DOCTRINE OF REGENERATION
...by Isaac Ambrose

encore presentation

In the current raging debate among evangelicals on the nature of saving faith, justification, and imputation of the righteousness of Christ (His active and passive obedience), there is also some concern as to what constitutes the nature and means of regeneration. Isaac Ambrose gives tremendous clarity to this pressing issue. May the Lord use his words to stir your hearts in praise to Him.

Grace and peace,
Steve
Col. 1:9-14


First, the necessity of it:

"Except a man be new born, he can never be saved" -JOHN 3:3. It is our Savior's speech, and he avers it with a double asseveration, " Verily, verily, I say unto thee." Again, GOD the Father thus counsels not only Nicodemus, but all the Jews of the old church, saying, " Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. 18:31. Notwithstanding all their privileges, yet here is one thing necessary, that must crown all the rest; they must have a new heart, and a new spirit, that is, they must be new born, or there is no way but death.

Nor is this doctrine without reason or ground. For, man is first unholy, and therefore most unfit to enter into heaven; " without holiness no man shall see GOD," Heb. 12: 14. And what is man before he is new born? If we look upon his soul, we may see it deformed with sin, defiled with lust, outraged with passions; and thus is that image of GOD transformed to the ugly shape of the devil. Should we take a more particular view, every faculty of the soul is full of iniquity; the understanding understands nothing of the things of GOD, 1 Cor. 2: 14; the will wills nothing that is good, Rom. 6:2O; the affections affect nothing of the Spirit, Gal. 5: 17. In a word, the understanding is darkened, the will enthralled, the affections disordered, the memory defiled, the con-science benumbed, all the inner man is full of sin, and here is no part that is good, no, not one. How needful now is a new birth to a man in this case? Can he enter into heaven, that savours all of earth? Will those precious gates of gold and pearls open to a sinner? No, he must be new moulded and sanctified.

Secondly, without this, man is GOD's enemy:
no greater opposition than between GOD and a sinner; his name and nature is altogether opposite to sin and sinners. View we those attributes of GOD, his justice, truth, patience, holiness, anger, power; his justice in punish ing the impenitent according to his deserts, his truth effecting those plagues which he has spoken in his time, his patience forbearing sin's destruction, till they are grown full ripe, his holiness abhorring all impurities, his anger stirring up revenge against all offered injuries, his power mustering up his forces, yea, all his creatures against his enemies; and what can we say, but if all these attributes are at enmity with sinful man, woe to man because of offences? Better he had never been born, than not to be new born.

Thirdly, Except by a new birth, man is without CHRIST:
for " if any man be in CHRIST, he is a new creature:" and if he be not in CHRIST, what hopes of that man? It is only CHRIST that opens heaven, it is only CHRIST that is the way to heaven; besides him there is no way, no truth, no life.

Fourthly, Except a man be born again, he is a very limb of SATAN, a child of darkness, and one of the family of hell:
Consider this, ye that are out of the state of grace, in what miserable thraldom are your souls? Should any call you servants of SATAN, you would take it highly in disdain; but take it as you please, if you are not regenerate, you are in no better case. Paul appeals to your own knowledge, " Know you not, that to whom soever you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom you obey?" Rom. 6: 16, 23. If then ye obey the devil's suggestions, what are you but the devil's servants? And if he be your master, what is your wages? " The wages of sin is death;" death of the body, and death of the soul: death here, and death hereafter in hell-fire. Alas, that SATAN should have this power on man! that he who is the enemy, and means nothing to a sinner but death and damnation, should be his lord, and tyrannize it over him at his own will and pleasure! Would any man be hired to serve lions and tigers? And is not the devil " a roaring lion, walking about, and seeking whom he may devour?" To serve him that would devour his servant, is a most miserable bondage; and what pay can one expect from devils, but roaring, and devouring, and tearing souls? So that whether we consider man in regard of himself, or of GOD, or of CHRIST, or of SATAN, he is (except he be new born,) unholy, GOD's enemy, out of CHRIST, in SATAN.

Tender Your Souls:
And if the new birth be thus necessary, how should we labor to be born again? Now then, as you tender your souls, and desire heaven at your ends, endeavor to attain this one thing necessary. Lift up your hearts unto GOD, that you may be washed, justified, sanctified, in the name of the Lord JESUS; and that by the Spirit of GOD you may walk in new ways, talk with new tongues, as being new creatures, created unto good works. If you would thus wait on GOD in his way, I trust the Lord in mercy would remember you, and his Spirit would blow upon you, and then you would find and feel such a change within you, as that you would bless GOD for ever, that you were thus born again.

Such is the necessity of being born again:
And as to the generality of it, all men (or all mankind,) must be regenerated before they be saved; not one of all the sons of Adam shall ever go to heaven, except he be born again. Let your contemplations (guided by GOD's Word,) go into the paradise above. All the saints that now "walk in the light of it," were first purged by the Lamb, and sanctified by the Spirit; first they were rege nerated, and so they were saved.

27 comments:

donsands said...

Very good teaching. We were dead, but God quickened us. And the Lord God receives all the honor and glory due. We don't receive any. Not unto us, but unto You, be all glory, O Lord!
Thanks for the good words.

Mike Ratliff said...

Lisa,

1) Call upon the name of the Lord (Only happens after regeneration)
2) No
3) Monergistic
4) Prior to Repentance and Belief.
5) Predestination, Calling, Justification according to the ordo salutis, but Calling includes regeneration, the believer's repentance and belief and submission to the Lordship of Christ (true repentance).

How'd I do? :-)

4given said...

Hey Mike R., my friend.

1. Nothing. The key word is "to do". We can do nothing. That would entail works which would negate grace. Your answer would be to the question, "What does someone need to be born again?" We need to call on the name of the Lord (Romans 10) because that is how God has ordained it, though we were chosen before the foundations of the world.

2. Of course not. THerefore, we cannot raise ourselves from the dead... (Ephesians 2:5 "Even when we were dead in our tresspasses, He made us alive...") I did not choose to be born, therefore I cannot choose to be re-born. "Telling a man to choose rebirth is like exhorting a dead man to choose resurrection."-Sproul

3. Regeneration is monergistic. Salvation is synergistic. (that's going to ruffle some feathers) Salvation takes repenting and believing (working together- synergistic)) on our part that can only be done through the monorgistic work of regeneration. ( John 1:12, 13- "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." )

4. Regeneration happens before faith, after the call, in God's timing. As soon as God reveals the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ through the proclamation of the Gospel, you will believe. You will have faith.

5. the call- regeneration- belief = adoption. In a sense regeneration, beleif and adoption are almost simultaneous. I think the call can be a process over time or can happen in an instant. To me, it was over time... in retropect I can see the working of God in my life, like steps in the direction towards adoption. But it was certainly in His timing when the "light" came on... when God chose to reveal this light.

What are your thoughts on "I chose Him in His time, because He chose me before time."

May we all act like we have been resurrected and not like we are still dead.

Is it Tozer that said we are the twice born living in the world of the once born?

Terry Rayburn said...

Lisa,

You wrote, "Regeneration is monergistic. Salvation is synergistic. (that's going to ruffle some feathers)"

Excellent! Won't ruffle my feathers. Exactly biblical. A great article/tract on this subject is by John Reisinger at http://www.soundofgrace.com/aug97/godsp1.htm, called God's Part and Man's Part In Salvation.

I often give this article to Calvinists and Arminians alike. The Calvinist has his feathers ruffled at the beginning, but then relaxes as John explains it. The Arminian is drawn in by the "Man's Part", but then shocked and awed by the truth of our being as spiritually dead as Lazarus was physically dead.

Blessings,
Terry

4given said...

Terry... if it was not this way we would be a bunch of automatons... ya know?!

Mike Ratliff said...

Terry and Lisa,

I agree with you completly. Yes, until regeneration we are dead meat. After regeneration we believe and repent and submit. So in that sense it is Syngergistic, but only after and because God does his wonderful work in our hearts first. Also, our ongoing sanctification is synergistic as well. God commands and we obey or not because we are not automotons (sic)

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

jazzycat said...

Good point. It seems to me that most of these debates can be reduced to the different understanding of the source, need, timing, power, and effects of regeneration. The view that regeneration comes from God alone, is crucial, comes before faith, is powerful, and drastically changes a person will frame a person's understanding of justification, faith and other doctrines. Those that frame these issues with the belief that human decision is the controlling factor see things differently.

I am continually amazed at man's strong desire to want the credit for his salvation.

Jazzycat

donsands said...

Very good teaching by Pastor Ed. Thanks for sharing.

SJ Camp said...

Here are a few clarifying thoughts from John Hendryx at monergism.com that I think will reinforce what has already been said here and prove to be helpful in this discussion:

Synergism
Before defining Monergism, we should start on more familiar ground to 21st century man by explaining the more familiar "synergism", which the majority of our churches teach today. Synergism is the doctrine that the act of being born again is achieved through a combination of human will and divine grace. (From Greek sunergos, working together : sun-, syn- + ergon, work).

The Century Dictionary defines synergism as "...the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives."

Synergism: A Belief That Faith Arises Out of An Inherent Capacity of the Natural Man.
In other words, synergists believe that faith itself, a principle standing independent and autonomous of God's action of grace, is something the natural man must add or contribute toward the price of his salvation. Unregenerate man, in this scheme, is left to his freewill and natural ability to believe or reject God. Synergists teach that God's grace takes us part of the way to salvation but that the [fallen, rebellious] human will must determine the final outcome. It does this by reaching down into an autonomous principle within in its fallen unrenewed nature in order to either produce a right thought or create a right volition toward God. But, the Scriptures are clear that as long as the natural man hates God he will not come to Him. In this system, then, grace is merely an offer or a help but does not do anything to change man's heart of stone or natural hostility to God. This means that God will only look favorably upon and reward those natural men who are able to produce or contribute faith, independent of God's inward gracious call or spiritual renewal. This is a subtle, but serious, error that is plaguing the church of the 21st century. It is a misapprehension of the biblical teaching concerning the depth of our fallen nature and the radical grace needed to restore us.

This leads me to believe that one of the greatest challenges facing the church today is its re-evangelization. While many evangelicals may understand the doctrine of "sola fide" (faith alone), that we must place our faith in Christ to be saved, it seems many have abandoned the biblical concept of "sola gratia" (grace alone). The Synergistic Conception of "Sola Fide" therefore must, by definition, draw on nature to cooperate with God's grace as the human fulfillment of a condition. Why do people believe this? I can only guess it is because by nature we want to maintain an island of righteousness, a last bastion of pride in thinking that he can still contribute something, be it ever so small, to our own salvation. It would involve great humility on our part to admit this. If the Church took more efforts to search the Scriptures and reform her doctrine on this point, I am convinced that a great deal of blessing would be restored and God would remove much of the current worldliness in our midst.

How is Monergism Different?
In contrast, historic Christianity, as best explained by Augustine and the Reformers, would reject the above position and honor the more biblical position of monergism. This position teaches that salvation is entirely a work of God; That man can contribute nothing toward the price of his salvation and that one is saved wholly and unconditionally by grace through faith. That faith itself is a gift of God (Eph 2:8, John 1:13, 2 Tim 2:25, Phil 1:29, Hebrews 12:2, 1 John 5:1, Rom 3:24, Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27) which is not the cause, but the witness of God's regenerative grace having worked faith in the inner man. This gracious act of God was based on nothing meritorious in the individual, but rather, entirely on God's sovereign good pleasure (Eph 1:5). It was not because God knew which persons would believe of their own free will, for there are no persons which fit that description. This is because apart from grace their is no delight or inclination to seek God (in man's unregenerate nature). And since those dead in sin will not seek God (Rom 3:11), regenerative grace precedes justifying faith. God must, in effect, raise them from the dead- (see Eph 2:5, Col 2:13).

Regeneration is the Work of God Alone
To get a better hold on this concept we should first define the meaning of the term "Monergism" and then explore how it relates to the doctrine of regeneration (new birth). The word "Monergism" consists of two main parts. The prefix "mono" signifies "one", "single", or "alone" while "ergon" means "to work". Taken together it means "the work of one".

The Century Dictionary's definition of Monergism is helpful here: "In theol., The doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration - that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration."

Very simply, then, Monergism is the doctrine that our new birth (or "quickening") is the work of God, the Holy Spirit alone, with no contribution of man toward Christ's work, since the natural man, of himself, has no desire for God or holiness (ROM 3:11,12; ROM 8:7; John 3:19, 20). The unregenerate man, in his bondage, desires sin more than he desires God so as to always choose according to the corrupt desires of his fallen nature. Due to the unspiritual man's natural love of sin, and inability to save himself out of his love of sin, the Holy Spirit, in light of Christ's work of redemption, must act independently of the human will in His merciful work of regeneration, or none would be saved. Thus, Monergism is just another way of more fully understanding the doctrine of "salvation by grace alone" (sola gratia). It must be stressed that the grace of God is the only efficient cause in initiating and effecting the renewal of our fallen will leading to conversion (John 1:13).

Monergistic regeneration is God's merciful response to the consequences of our fall in Adam which has resulted in natural man's moral inability. We must be clear that it does not apply to the entire process of salvation, but only to the first step in bringing a person to faith in Christ. It is only in God's power to bring to life a person who is spiritually dead. This means that a man’s soul is utterly passive (if not hostile) until it has been regenerated. But when regenerated the disposition of his heart which once loved darkness is changed. He willingly turns to embrace the Savior since his hatred of God has been transformed to a love for Him (Ezekiel 11:19-20). In other words, God doesn't do the believing for us but empowers and restores us by the Holy Spirit to delightfully respond in faith and obedience. Man will not and cannot offer any help in renewing himself spiritually without this grace. We can do nothing spiritual, including turning to Christ in faith, apart from God's grace which is grounded in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. Later in this essay I will answer how this relates to preaching repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Note, I would like to clear up a common confusion about regeneration and justification. Regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit which brings us into a living union with Christ, only refers to the first step in the work of God in our salvation. It is universally agreed among evangelicals, myself included, that the second step, faith in Christ, must be exercised by the sinner if one is to be justified (saved). Therefore, justification is conditional (on our faith) ... but our regeneration (or spiritual birth) is unconditional; an expression of God's grace freely bestowed, for it is unconstrained and not merited by anything God sees in those who are its subjects. Regeneration and Justification, although occurring almost simultaneously are, therefore, not the same. Regeneration, has a causal priority over the other aspects of the process of salvation. The new birth (regeneration), therefore, is what brings about a restored disposition of heart which is then willing to exercise faith in Christ unto justification (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26).

PJ Dale said...

Personally, I think we would do much better in ministry (and perhaps evangelism) to emphasize discipleship in the sense of loving God and keeping Christ our first love and obedience. I somewhat mistrust the motivations of people that seem to be always obssessed with "sniffing out" any and every notion of so-called "works" regarding our relationship with God. Something is rotten in Denmark and methinks it has to do with the 21st century's fad of self-devotion.

Yeah it makes sense that we don't want to have to make any changes, do anything, obey anything or follow any truth and still be able to claim we are Christians. Guess what? Maybe such an individual is saved and going to heaven, but I am not going to (nor will I counsel anyone else to) call such a person a "Christ-one". The term "Christian" was given to folks who walked in the ways of the man from Nazareth. If you want me to call you a Christian - then get on your works - start working (obeying. "Bad" works - has to do with trying to earn enough points by doing things so that we pay for our own sin. This is of course impossible. But only in that sense is "works" bad.) Outside of someone's personal motivations for doing works so as to earn heaven by their own merits, I say works are needed in our day more than ever. (sanctified works, that is).

Yes, Luther would turn in his grave - but only the Luther pre-death. Luther hated James. But he didn't understand that James was dealing with a similar scenario that you and I deal with today in Christendom.

Go ahead, claim the name of Christ. If you have truly been born again, you will WANT TO obey - if not - I think you were converted to an idea - but no divine reality came inside your soul and literally ran out the old self off the throne.

People that want the convienience of calling themselves born-again without having to repent are foolish in the worst way. People that encourage this type of outrageous behavior are as foolish.

God even calls UNSAVED people to repent! READ AMOS!!! God held Gentile Nations responsible for their attrocities!!!

And that is the whole point!

You and I have sinned and though we water it down and dress it up, we have a heart that commits the same attrocities, if even just in the mind.

Isn't that why we need to command people to repent, saved or not!?!

Prophets don't wait around for people to get into a certain mindset regarding spiritual things. If you are killing people, you must repent! if you are sleeping with a neighbor's wife, you must repent!

"Christain" or not.

I am not saying that we approach people with harshness. On the contrary, we must have the love of God in our hearts, knowing that we are no less a sinner than those we cry out to.

When this happens, the Holy Spirit will no longer be grieved and will "move" into our midst and we will again experience renewal and revival.

REVIVAL - not of country music, not of bell bottom jeans, and not of signs and wonders that are often associated with certain moves of God. Rather, a REVIVAL of Jesus ACTUALLY BEING our first love, of ACTUALLY FEELING HIS PRESENCE in our daily lives, of ACTUALLY LONGING A DESIRING HIM FOR HIM, and no longer just what He can do for us.

This, more than anything, is truly needed in our day. Aren't we all getting sick and tired of simply turning into a crowd of watchers of a few skilled performers, using the architecture of our faith as a bacdkdrop for somebody to realize a childhood dream of being a celebrity?

We indeed need a new kind of preacher, a new kind of singer and a new kind of worshipper. A life that fails to follow the constance and devotion we claim from the platform, pulpit and pew is a double-minded one - unstable in all its ways.
If you are a leader of any kind (I know Steve is), you will agree that the problems with today's "Christian" must first be addressed in the hearts of those that lead them.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Good stuff, Steve.

scripturesearcher said...

SC

Your regeneration page is being used to minister to many, as your correspondents indicate by their
comments. I rejoice in the Lord
for your faithfulness to Him and His Word!

Persevere!

CR
Acts 20:24

Katoikei's Jukebox said...

Do you think people will be arguing about this in two million years time ?

Rick Frueh said...

"the very limb of Satan"

I love it!

SJ Camp said...

I hope we're not looking at this wonderful doctrine for debate purposes - but rather in how it brings glory to God, exalts Christ, and lifts high the ministry of the Holy Spirit in salvation.

I deserve nothing but to inherit hell and God's wrath for eternity because of my wretched heart and sin and for my own rags of my own righteousness. So this great doctrine is a wonderful source of worship and praise to the Lord for His great gift of eternal life to this undeserving vessel.

LivingDust said...

Steve - Thank you for this thread on regeneration. While I am not a seminary educated Christian, I enjoy reading these threads and posts by other readers. It is all educational.

As I read todays thread on "regeneration" I thought way back to the day when, as an unsaved, unchurched, sophomore college student, I attended a Baptist church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I did not attend church to learn about the Bible, but merely to be with my then girlfriend, now my wife, who insisted that we attend church services regularly. I grew up rarely attending church services and didn't know anything about being “born again”, let alone concepts and doctrines such as regeneration, salvation, justification, sanctification, atonement, propitiation, imputation, etc, etc. I really didn’t feel comfortable at church, because I was an "outsider", but as I listened to Dr. Barnes preach on Sunday mornings the Holy Spirit began to convict me that I was a separated from God because of my sin, actually dead in my trespasses and literally doomed. I eventually became truly miserable in my unrepentant, unsaved condition, regretting my life, destitute of any worthiness, fully understanding my depraved and unrighteous nature, empty handed before God, just a wretch, and a human being who deserved nothing good from God, just what was rightfully coming to me - death. After a while I didn’t want to go back to the church because everytime that preacher spoke from the pulpit, he seemed to be speaking directly to me. But one Sunday morning, as Dr. Barnes gave the invitation at the end of his sermon and as the congregation sang, I knew that the invitation was for me. Ten thousand chains from hell tried to hold me back, but I went forward with streaming tears of contrition and repentance, hoping that Jesus would forgive me for what I had done in my short life. Dr. Barnes grabbed me and assured me that Jesus died for my sins at Calvary, He had forgiven me and accepted me, He was raised from the dead so I could have life and I could trust Him, always and in all things. I surrendered and turned my life over to Him. I was baptized and began my walk with God.

Now, at that point in time, I really didn’t know or understand what had happened to me in theological terms (regenerated, justified, saved, etc), but I knew this – I was once doomed and had been given a pardon. The price for my sins had been paid by a Savior named Jesus.

theoldadam said...

Indeed...He does it all.

If there were just one little thing left for us to do...then that cross would have been in vain.

Katoikei's Jukebox said...

Looking at Nicodemus' encounter with Jesus, and in particular verse 15, I found John Gill's comments most enlightening; 'Whether Jew or Gentile, a greater, or a lesser sinner, and of whatsoever state and condition, age or sex; and though ever so weak a believer, provided his faith, is of the right kind: not an historical or temporary one, a mere assent to the truth of things respecting his person, office, and work; but such a faith, by which a soul sees a glory, fulness, and suitableness in him as a Saviour; goes to him, ventures on him, commits itself to him, lays hold on him, and receives him, leans and relies upon him, and trusts in him, and lives upon him; and which is the faith of God's elect; a gift of his grace, and the operation of his Spirit; and which works by love, and is attended with the fruits of righteousness: now the end of Christ's crucifixion and death is, that such an one should not perish; though he is in a lost and perishing condition in Adam, and by nature, and sees himself to be so, and comes to Christ as such; and though his frames and comforts are perishing, and he sometimes fears he shall be utterly lost; and though he is subject to slips and falls, and great spiritual decays; and shall perish as to the outward man by death; yet he shall never perish eternally, or be punished with everlasting destruction, as the wicked will: but have eternal life; not by his works, but as the gift of God: and which he that truly believes; has already in the covenant of grace, in Christ his head, in faith and hope; and has the earnest and pledge of it, the Spirit of God; and the beginning of it, which is the knowledge of God in Christ; and shall hereafter possess it fully, and in person, to all eternity: even a life of perfect holiness and knowledge; a life of never ending pleasure; a life free from all the sorrows, distresses, and imperfections of this; and which will always continue.'

Sincerely,
Eric.

SJ Camp said...

theoldadam
If there were just one little thing left for us to do...then that cross would have been in vain.

Bingo!

The Church in the Net said...

What has always blessed me in this consideration, is that Y'shua did all this before any of us were even a twinkle in our parents eye.

Yet before the foundation of the world, we were a twinkle in our heavenly Father's eye, and redeemed by the blood of Lamb, slain before the foundations of the world.

Eric.

Bill said...

Steve
Very good article on this subject. I do have a question though for you. If the idea is that regeneration is not a result of my faith, then are you trying to say through Ambrose's article here that my faith is the result of already being regenerated?

Bill

theoldadam said...

Faith is a gift from God.

It is nothing that we 'do'.

Bill said...

I know that faith is a gift from God. But isn't my being born again the result of that faith and not the other way around?

theoldadam said...

Yes, I think you've got it exactly right.

When you receive faith, you are born again.

Rick Frueh said...

I am not sure of all the exact chronology, or which came first the chicken or the egg, all I know is once I was blind, now I can see!

SJ Camp said...

Amen Rick!

theoldadam said...

Rick,

You have it exactly right!!